§ [FIRST DAY'S DEBATE.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it is expedient that six army corps be organised in the United Kingdom, with the requisite staff, stores, and buildings; that a Reserve for the Militia be enrolled not exceeding 50,000 men; that the establishment of the Yeomanry be raised from 12,000 to 35,000; and that eight regiments be enrolled for garrison service."—(Mr. Secretary Brodrick.)
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
The resolution which the right hon. Gentleman has just moved is, so far as I know, without a precedent in recent years. The general 1484 and familiar practice is that the Minister, in moving the Estimates, discloses his military policy; and this was done by the right hon. Gentleman with a fulness and an effectiveness which we all recognised. But then there is usually an opportunity afforded by common agreement on some Vote or other in the Estimates for Members expressing their views upon his policy, whether in principle or in detail. But on this occasion the right hon. Gentleman moves a distinct resolution in which he embodies what he considers the main elements of his policy, and the House of Commons is invited either to agree to or to reject the resolution. There may be conveniences—that I do not deny—in this procedure both for the Government and for the Members of the House; but I wish to say distinctly that if the House accepts this resolution, either under the influence of recent emergencies and difficulties, the full bearing of which we have surely not yet bad time to realise, or actuated by some occult motive, such as sometimes sways the public action rather than the inward opinion of Members—if that should happen, neither the House nor its Members, still less future Parliaments, must be held to have in any way committed themselves or to be hampered in future judgment or action. I have no doubt that the real motive for presenting the military policy of the Government in this form is derived from a sense of the importance of the subject; for this resolution represents one-half of the claim upon which His Majesty's Government and their friends sought and secured the vote of the electors at the recent General Election. It is in he recollection of us all that there were two pleas put forward on behalf of the party opposite, which superseded and eclipsed all others. The first of these was that they were the proper persons, and indeed the only competent persons, to deal with affairs in South Africa, not for the purpose of bringing the war to a conclusion, for that had already been done, but in order to deal with the imminent and immediately urgent question of a settlement in September last. That was the first ground on which the claim was made. The other part of the claim turned on the Army. While we poor Liberals avowed with perfect honesty, 1485 but I trust with becoming modesty, that we were not altogether destitute of patriotic feelings, and that we were prepared to favour any steps that would add to the defensive strength of the Empire, Ministers and their friends declared that they were the sole patentees of military knowledge and of appreciation of military needs; and therefore they demanded that to their hands should be entrusted the task of erecting on the fragments of a discarded and discredited system a vast military organisation, the envy of the world—[Ministerial cries of "No"]—then, not the envy of the world, but yet suited to this country and to its mission among the nations. That was the claim that was made, and this resolution is the great military organisation. This it is which is put forward as fulfilling the promises and satisfying the hopes of the general election. What wonder then that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends give it the special prominence of being moved in the form of a separate resolution!
What are the main features of this great scheme? I will take them in order as the right hon. Gentleman reckons them up in the words of his resolution. Perhaps some light may possibly be thrown on the subject by a speech which the Secretary of State for War made a short time ago in the country, and in which he made a different and less technical analysis of this great Army reform. He did not enter into detail, but he stated those elements evidently which he thought would most impress his audience in the country. He claimed three points for his scheme. The first point was this, that they had recognised their responsibility, and had told the nation that they proposed to give effect to it from the military standpoint. I should find these words very satisfactory if I only had the slightest idea what they meant. They recognised their responsibility? Why, the responsibility is theirs whether they recognise it or not. They demanded the responsibility, and it is very little good to say that they recognise it. And then they have told the nation that they were going to give effect to it from the military standpoint. From what other standpoint could any effect be possibly given to a question of military reform? And yet 1486 this is the first of the three points which the right hon. Gentleman thinks are the most salient features of his scheme. The others are these. Secondly, he says that, by providing six army corps for service at home, they have fulfilled all that the military authorities desire for the protection of the country; and, thirdly, that by preparing 120,000 men for service abroad in any part of the world they were making a provision which no Government had ever submitted to this country before. I have no doubt that the worthy gentlemen who dined at Guildford went home happier and more composed in their minds than when they arrived, after hearing what the right hon. Gentleman was going to do. But unfortunately, though unintentionally, he had misled them. I am reminded by what he said of the case of a friend of mine who some years ago wished to sell his house, but who could not sell it because he demanded such an exorbitant price. No one would offer it, but he justified his demand in this way. He said, "My house is a charming residence; it is in a healthy part of the world and in a most delightful climate; and it is worth so much. But you must remember that the neighbouring town is advancing in my direction and that the building value of this property is greater. I have had it estimated and it is so much, and by adding these two sums I can get the reasonable price I am demanding for my property." The right hon. Gentleman tells these friends of his in the country that we are to have six army corps for home defence and 120,000 men to send abroad anywhere. But when the 120,000 men are sent abroad where will be the six army corps for home defence? And when the 120,000 men are sent abroad, taking with them nearly all the trained Regulars in the country, that will be the very, and the only, moment that a great force for home defence will be required. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman did not intend to mislead his audience; but it is rather strange that these should be the only two points that he thought it necessary to put before them, and I have shown that the one really excludes the other.
This statement of the right hon. 1487 Gentleman is identical with the first point in the classification of objects submitted in this resolution It is, in fact, the reorganisation of the Army promised at the Genera Election. We may put aside the subsidiary improvements, some of great and others of less importance, referred to in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—the additions to certain arms, the more rigid conditions of promotion and employment, better training, de centralisation, greater comfort for soldiers and so forth—all excellent, but after all most of them only pious aspirations and a record of good intentions! This question, not of adding the troops of an army corps, but of throwing the troops we have into a form of six army corps—this is the Army reform! Other matters are but "leather or prunella"; they are but administrative improvements of greater or less importance, and, let me add, of greater or less novelty.
I would ask, what is there here to fulfil the hopes and expectations of the General Election? What is there here to justify the title of "Army Reform" with capital letters? Let hon. Members realise what Army reform has been and can be made. Let us go back for a moment to the Army reform of thirty years ago. I was glad to hear—I have already expressed my obligations—the right hon. Gentleman speak of Lord Cardwell in the way he did; but when he said the reforms then introduced were unpopular I ventured to interject a denial of that statement across the Table, because the unpopularity at that time was confined to the party opposite, who opposed the reforms tooth and nail, and to certain narrow circles—no, not narrow circles, wide circles of narrow opinion—in the Army. The reforms were popular in the country and popular with the majority of the House of Commons. What were they? That is what I wish to recall to the House. There again we had had wars. We had had the Crimean War full of lessons; we had Sadowa full of lessons; we had had the Franco-Prussian War. As the result of a consideration of all these experiences happily, mostly of other people, these reforms were introduced. That was a great occasion, and it was met by a great effort. 1488 What was done? Lord Cardwell abolished purchase in the Army, thereby, as it was said at the time, taking the Army out of pledge, and not only securing that promotion should go not by money, but by merit or seniority, but, what was much more important, enabling the military authorities to deal with a free hand with officers, instead of being met at every point with some monied vested interest. He introduced short service with a system of reserve. He gave elasticity to the Army by enabling a man to enlist in a larger area of service than is afforded by one small town. He localised the Army to bring it into harmony with the Auxiliary forces, and enlisted on its side all the county and district traditions and associations. Lastly, I would mention that he introduced those manœuvres which the right hon. Gentleman very wisely considers so essential to the efficiency of the Army. That was "Army Reform" worthy of capital letters. No one will say, I think, that this is a reform of that kind. That was a real, substantial, drastic, vital reform, going down to the very root of the matter. Therefore, if these proposals were all excellent, they still, I think, would hardly come up to the standard of extent and importance which was indicated at the General Election.
The right hon. Gentleman does not propose, by any intention at all events, to interfere with any of those reforms that I have spoken of. I congratulate him upon it. I am sure that with his knowledge of the subject and his experience he would not interfere with them, because to do so would be to fly in the face of all our experience. We hear of the lessons of this war. Why, we could not have sent out the third or the fourth part of the men we have sent to South Africa if it had not been for the system thus introduced. Take the Reserves, who came up in the most extraordinary way, almost touching the full complement of 100 per cent. Some were, I believe, called at ten days notice and others at five days notice. They came up punctually, and when they came up they were found to be men, for the most part, in employment, allowed by the patriotic action of their employers to go on good conditions, and they turned out most valuable soldiers. Such facility 1489 did this system give the organising establishment in Pall Mall, which is so much denounced, that—I believe I am stating what is a fact—during last summer—I will not say at the most difficult or dangerous point of the fighting, but when certainly the greatest strain was put on our numbers, I doubt if there was a battalion in service in South Africa which was not beyond its establishment—in some cases greatly beyond its establishment—in actual anticipation of the 'Casualties which might occur. That is what that much-maligned system gave you. I have mentioned the relations with the localities and with the Auxiliary forces. Consider how largely that has helped you in your emergencies. Then as to the character, both of the men in the ranks and the Reserves, is there a word to be said—I will not say against the good behaviour, but in derogation of the fighting qualities of those men? I have seen estimates of them by competent authorities, not belonging to this country at all, who say they were equal to anything to be found in any European army. Therefore I complement the right hon. Gentleman on not interfering materially with the existing system. He is bound, however, where he finds weaknesses in it to correct them, and of course he will always endeavour to adapt any present system to the ever-moving requirements and developments of the art of war. But many of the changes, I am bound to say, advocated by those who are sometimes spoken of as army reformers, are changes of a purely reactionary and retrograde character; and if those persons are to be styled army reformers, then it would be as if some politician were to introduce a measure here for the purpose of restricting the franchise and re-establishing pocket boroughs, and because it altered somewhat the electoral law called it a Bill for the amendment of the representation of the people.
We are, therefore, confronted by the fact that these army corps proposals are the main embodiment of what the Government think necessary. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman says so. He said—I propose to reorganise the Army on a new system, of which the bedrock will be that the country will be divided into six army corps by districts, and each district in time of peace will have the same relative proportion to the 1490 various arms that are necessary to make up the corps, and they will be under the commanders who will lead them in time of war.That is the bedrock of the right hon. Gentleman's system. I take issue with with him on this point. I maintain, firstly, that to attempt to give rigid reality to the army corps organisation, which has hitherto been merely accepted as an administrative convention, is a mistake, as such an organisation is not suited to the practical needs of our country, either in peace or in war; and secondly, that the maintenance of three army corps, specially allotted to and prepared for active service abroad, is unnecessary and politically undesirable.
It will be more convenient, perhaps, if I take the second of these points first, because it is not a purely military question; it is mixed up with the general policy of the country. Putting aside this question of army corps, do we want 120,000 men always fit to take the field and embark upon a foreign expedition? The right hon. Gentleman says—We can no longer lay to our souls the flattering unction that we have not got to send two army corps abroad. I think the events of the last fifteen months have proved that we must be prepared to send more than two army corps.What events are these that have proved that we should have to send more than two army corps abroad? I distrust the particular lesson that may be drawn from a war which has not yet come to its conclusion. I have seen the most diverse and contradictory lessons drawn from what has occurred by most competent authorities. But apart from that we do not require any very technical means of judgment to inquire what these events can be. What has happened is this. The Government have—how shall I put it?—failed to prevent, at all events a great war in South Africa, which has necessitated the despatch to that country of 200,000 men. Therefore—this is the argument which is put forward—we must be prepared at any time for a similar demand. The last occasion when we had any considerable force to send abroad was forty seven years ago. Now we must be ready for it any year and every year. Is there anything in this war to justify an expectation that it will be repeated? It was an altogether exceptional 1491 war—exceptional in the distances, exceptional in the difficulties of the country, above all in the character of the people; for we were contending not with a brilliant and brave number of warriors, but with a whole nation, with a whole people, armed and mounted, inured to the climate, accustomed to the life. In all respects the war was exceptional. These difficulties put a strain upon our Army organisation which it was never meant to bear. I do not know where else on the surface of the globe such a state of things could be reproduced.
The right hon. Gentleman used very vague and ominous words. He spoke of complications, commitments, and entanglements. We have discussed this matter before, and I repeat what I said when this question was first before the House, that no Minister has a right to use such words without the fullest explanation. Up to this time we have never been led to expect the necessity of any such preparation as the right hon. Gentleman now thinks necessary. I could quote from memorandum after memorandum, from debate after debate, from speeches of predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman in office as Secretary for War. But the position was well summed up by the Chief Secretary for Ireland when he said that the three chief objects of our Army organisation were (1) to give the necessary drafts and reliefs to our Army in India, and for the maintenance of our colonial garrisons; (2) to be equal to the embodiment of three army corps for home defence; and (3) to have a cavalry division and troops for the line of communications for the purposes of an expedition. That is an authoritative statement of the policy—the fixed idea, the fixed objective—which, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, has been maintained for many years. We want something more than the mere dictum of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War to tell us why that objective is not now sufficient, There is a distinct change of policy. It is a most serious question, not to be dealt with in a light-hearted or casual way as a mere accidental appendage to a military debate. We are entitled to demand a full statement. 1492 I hear certain enterprises darkly hinted at for which all I can say is that 120,000 men would not be of much more use than 120. These are wild dreams, but they are invoked by the vague language of the Secretary for War. For my part I take my stand on the old doctrine once held by both sides of the House, that policy governs armaments. But I carry it a little further; because although it is true that policy governs armaments—that is to say that your armaments only require to reach the point which is necessitated by your policy—the policy and the armaments act and react upon each other; and if you increase your armaments unduly they may largely sway your policy. It may be provocative to your neighbours; and, worse still, it may stimulate an ambitious, and aggressive spirit among your own people. Therefore any proposal avowedly going beyond existing limits, such as this is, and making that advance on the declared ground of new views and new purposes—as this does—ought to be viewed with a most suspicious scrutiny. I certainly regard that as the most serious aspect of the whole question; but I shall say no more on it, having given my views in a previous debate, and will address myself to the purely military aspect of the scheme.
I ask, Has this army corps organisation anything beyond a mere administrative advantage to us in this country? Can it be made real in view of the peculiar duties and composition of our Army? It is an organisation borrowed from the Continent. Continental nations can have a fixed stereotyped organisation because they know exactly what will be wanted in the case of war. With them when war is declared the army corps is mobilised; it moves across the frontier without any modification; the country into which it goes is known; the route which it follows is known, every yard of it, and the transport and equipment required, and everything connected with the operation, are known beforehand. But if your 40,000 have to go out of this country, where do they go? Do they move across the frontier? No; they go to the port of embarkation, where they are put on board ship, and they start, for where? Why, one might almost say anywhere between Patagonia and 1493 Kamschatka, and some of the most important details of military preparation depend entirely upon this unknown scene of operations. The composition of the force may be entirely altered according to the scene of operations. Now this may be a great disadvantage, but it is a fact inseparable from the world-empire of which we profess to be so proud. I have said enough, so far as an untechnical observer like myself can say anything, on the war aspect.
Now let me say something on the peace aspect. It becomes somewhat tiresome to repeat what we all know so well already, but let me go over the familiar catalogue once more. Again, I find the new scheme totally unfitted for our purposes. We maintain our Army for the purpose of furnishing garrisons for our dependencies and colonies abroad. Does your army corps system help you in this? No; on the contrary, the necessity of constantly despatching reliefs and drafts invalidates your army corps system; and the idea of rigidity and continuity, essential to the Continental conception of an army corps, is with us impossible. Continental armies have no reliefs and no drafts. Then, we have to look after home defence. Again, it does not help you; and here I confess a personal want of technical knowledge, but I do not believe that anyone ever proposed that an army corps as such should operate for the defence of this enclosed country, and for the purposes for which we require a home army. But then it is said it will be so useful for training the troops. Look at the manœuvres which the right hon. Gentleman proposes each army corps should have in each district. There is nothing in those manœuvres which could not be accomplished now under the generals commanding districts just as well as under an army corps. Lastly, what we want in this country is a comparatively small striking force ready for any emergency. But sending from your shores a striking force of this kind ipso facto and at once disintegrates your army corps. A great many of those interested in this subject seem to think it is most important that we should be able to get together this small striking force without resorting to the Reserve. I quite see that point of view, but I would urge upon those who 1494 take that view two considerations. First I believe that no European army ever thinks of mobilising any part of its forces without calling up the Reserve. In the second place, after all your striking force could not do anything until it had the ships prepared for it; and if delay is the difficulty intended to be avoided, then I believe the men of the Reserve would be ready long before the ships.
Now, I should like to ask a few questions, because we are really ill-informed, as to the conditions and general character of this army corps system. In the first instance, I think it is only reasonable, seeing that some weeks have elapsed since the introduction of the Estimates, that the right hon. Gentleman should give us an estimate of the cost of this new system—the cost in staff, the cost in stores, and, above all, the cost in barracks, for it is one of the points that a great quantity of barracks should be provided. Then I would ask is it intended to supersede the existing organisation. We have at present general officers commanding districts, we have great garrisons in certain places, we have colonels commanding depôts—are their duties to be taken over by the army Corps staff, or is the army corps staff to be something soaring in the air above their heads? We have no information on that subject. My next question is, What are the regiments? Are they to be permanently attached to an individual army corps, or are they to move about? I am naturally rather interested in my own country; and I think the Scotch army corps is to consist almost entirely of Militia and Volunteers, but there would be some few battalions of Regulars. Will they be Scotch battalions? Will they always be the same Scotch battalions? And what will become of the other Scotch battalions? That is a fair question to ask, because I think it would be most undesirable, as well as most unfair, if any battalions in the Army were practically, definitely, and eternally assigned to home defence, with no opportunity, or a fair chance, of the distinction and variety of war. Then, as to the Staff. At present the military control of the three kingdoms is exercised, I think, by not quite twenty general officers; but the Staff of the three army corps will involve nearly seventy general officers. Is this 1495 great staff of general officers, with all the subordinate officers under them, which will be a very costly item on the Army Estimates, to be maintained during the whole year for your so-called army corps, four-fifths, at least, of whose constituent parts do not exist except for a couple of months in the year? Except when the Militia and Volunteers are out, what will all these officers be doing? Then, the right hon. Gentleman said that no officer would be appointed unless he was fit to command, and that promise was received—as one might expect—with applause in this House; but those who applauded were, perhaps, not aware that that has been the rule in the Army for a long time. No officer has for many years been appointed to the generals' list unless the Board has certified that he is fit to command in the field. If you mean more than that—that he must not only be fit, but that he shall have a special aptitude for commanding in the field, that he shall have a dash of military genius—in the first place how are you to discover that, especially if you do not, as I hope you will not, have a war every year? After all, is this genius for command in war precisely the quality that is most necessary in times of peace in an officer who has to administer and train great bodies of troops? There are other qualities far more important for that purpose than warlike capacity, and I should hope that they will be considered in making selections.
I have now nearly finished my questions about the army corps. I hope I have not wearied the House, but the questions were absolutely essential, because we have no information upon the points I have raised. The next thing that excites at once my sympathy and my curiosity is this. Are the officers of the fourth, fifth, and sixth army corps, not to speak of the men, to have no chance of war experience except in the case of invasion? The right hon. Gentleman made a great point of every man knowing his neighbour. That practically involves an a mount of stereotyped fixity which we certainly have not had hitherto. Whether it might be an improvement or not I cannot tell; but one thing I will guarantee—that if you mobilise for foreign service your three army corps, there will not be an officer worth his 1496 salt in the other three who will not ask to be transferred to them. They will all be hammering at the door of the Military Secretary, and I venture to go further and to say that the Military Secretary, if he knows his duty, will skim the best of them and put them into the army corps which are going to the front. Although I sympathise with the idea of the right hon. Gentleman of every officer and every man knowing his neighbour, and being the happier for knowing that he can rely upon him, I do not think that it will be very easy to carry out in practice.
I will now leave the right hon. Gentleman's bed rock and come to the surface features. I remark that there is no notice taken in this resolution of the substitution of Marines for soldiers in the defence of naval stations. I have already had an opportunity of telling the House my opinion of that proposal. I am a friend of the proposal so far as my experience teaches me, but I am perfectly aware that the Navy is strongly and stubbornly opposed to it. What I said before I repeat now, namely, that the right hon. Gentleman had no right to count this in as a feature of his scheme and at the same time to tell us that the Admiralty did not agree with it. On Friday last, four Lords or ex-Lords of the Admiralty vented their wrath against the proposal, and, although I should like to see it adopted if it could be, so far as my information and prejudices go. I agree that their criticisms were welt founded. The noble Lord at present at the head of the Admiralty made this extraordinary answer. He said that what the Secretary of State had stated in this House was not a representation of anything that had been definitely settled by the Cabinet, but an inspiration, a personal opinion of his own and of the War Office. That is the very thing that we complain of. It is not right for the right hon. Gentleman to say anything here about such an important matter as that without the approval of the Cabinet, or, at all events, with the knowledge that an important section of the Cabinet was opposed to it. But it will not do to say that this is only an aspiration. The right hon. Gentleman gave us the figures. There were eight battalions of garrison troops that he was 1497 going to create, fire battalions to be replaced by Indian troops, and those five were to be replaced by Marines. He added them up to make the seventy-nine battalions at home and the seventy seven abroad, so that the whole symmetry and logical coherence of the scheme depended upon those five battalions.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (ME. BRODRICK, Surrey, Guild ford)
The right hon. Gentleman is in error. I did not take credit for the five battalions to be replaced by Marines I think the whole of his indictment falls to the ground. It was purely with a desire to act quite fairly by the House in telling them what were the proper number of battalions that I mentioned the matter. If I had not mentioned the transfer of the coaling stations to the Admiralty I should have been asking possibly for a larger number of battalions than the House was aware of.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I do not think that is quite consistent. The right hon. Gentleman put it rather more strongly, for he said—If I am able to prevail, as I trust I may be, we shall then have five more battalions, making eighteen in all, available to be added for home service.and he counted these five battalions in the seventy-seven battalions abroad, which enabled him to have seventy-nine at home.
I now pass to the second point, which is the creation of a reserve in the Militia, and there I entirely approve of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. Now, Sir, I am going to say something that I am afraid may not be in accordance with the opinions of a considerable number of Members of this House who take an interest in the matter. I am going to say a good word for the old Militia Reserve. I am aware that the Militia Reserve is very unpopular with Militia officers, and anyone can make out some sort of logical case against it. But an ounce of fact is worth a pound of theory. What is the fact? The fact is that in this very war, whose lessons, forsooth, we are endeavouring already to glean, we have relied to a great extent on this much-maligned Militia Reserve. I believe that some 13,000 Militia Reservists 1498 were actually used, and the sting of the objection to this Reserve appears to me to be taken away by the fact that the men are never taken from a regiment which goes abroad, but are only taken from regiments which are serving at home. The right hon. Gentleman proposes, with a sweep of his pen, to drop out of his system this force, which has, at all events, whatever may be urged against it, proved itself a useful and trustworthy force.
Now I come to something more large and more imposing. I come to the Imperial Yeomanry. Again I have to take the catechetical course. We do not know anything about the Imperial Yeomanry. How are they to be organised? Are they to have a part in the army corps? Are they to be a separate body altogether? What are to be their relations towards the mounted infantry? Then, as to their pay; I have investigated the Army Order, and, it may be my fault, but I cannot see anything there as to their pay when they are actually out on active service. Their pay in training is stated as 5s. a day. It has always been a convenient rule that when any member of the Auxiliary forces is called out, or volunteers to serve with the Regular forces, he is paid at the same rate as the Regular forces; but if an Imperial Yeoman is to receive 5s. a day and a cavalryman is to receive 1s. 2d., I think, to say the least, that a certain amount of confusion may arise. Another point which disturbs my equanimity is that this is to be a force of Imperial Yeomanry, but the very last thing they are to be is Imperial. The word is a mere honorary title. Now, here I can understand if you have a body of men such as we have had in our Auxiliary forces, the Yeomanry and the. Volunteers, it may in cases of emergency be a very useful thing to have them volunteer for active service, and we have seen with what splendid spirit and willingness that has been done in the last two years; but to create a force and give it a title indicative of a service which it is not called upon to render, and, at the same time, to trust that when the occasion arises they will volunteer for that service—to do this in cold blood is a novelty; perhaps "an absurdity" would be too strong an expression to use, but, at any rate, it is a singular way of proceeding, which, I think, requires some 1499 justification from the right hon. Gentleman. I should like to know, also, why the particular number of 35,000 was fixed, and what expectation there is of getting that number of men, not only suitable, but with some knowledge either of riding or, at any rate, of the management of horses.
Now, let us go to another branch of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, and I think it is the last—the garrison companies. Sir, I regret this proposal. Our Army has been carefully kept up on a balance between long service and short service. Here is a method by which you largely increase the number of long-service men. In the first place, I do not know that the terms are likely to be very attractive, but they might be improved. I should also be glad to know whether it impinges upon Section B, as it is called, of the Army Reserve.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Then it is to be above that. Let us look at it calmly. Are the South European fortresses—especially in Malta—a fit place to which to relegate middle-aged men, with wives and children, for permanent and perpetual service? Does this not revive some of the worst features of the long-service system? Does it not impose a heavy cost for pensions? And, at the same time, may it not impose an unkindly fate on the men who, after a few years of continuous service in the Mediterranean, away from their friends, away from any chance of employment, and exhausted in vital strength, will be sent home and discharged on sixpence a day? At the age of sixty-five it will be increased to 1s. 6d., but will they ever reach that age? I confess the scheme does not commend itself to me on these grounds. I do not know if I may make a suggestion, which is of the most tentative kind—that if you do think it desirable to extend the service of certain deserving men in this way, would it not be better, at all events, to make them serve in a country where the climate was better, and where they would have a better future before them on leaving the service? Now, the right hon. Gentleman said that we should require twelve battalions in South Africa after the war was 1500 over. Some of us shook our heads over that, because it is quite obvious that the force to be maintained in South Africa after the war will depend entirely upon the condition of the country and the sentiment of the races at that time. If the war concludes with a promise of such terms and the exhibition of such sentiments and disposition as shall make the Boers willing fellow-citizens, even twelve battalions—and I am willing to take that hopeful view of it—even twelve battalions will not be long required. How would it do to make these garrison companies part of the twelve battalions, so that they would live in healthier conditions and they and their families would be gradually absorbed in the community in which they lived? I throw this out as a tentative suggestion to show that I have no desire to discard the idea of these elderly battalions.
Now, Sir, I leave the points in the resolution, and I must refer to other subsidiary proposals. As to the better training of the Militia and the Volunteers, I will not criticise in detail what is proposed, but I quite approve of going as far as is practicable in that direction—they must always remain the main element in our home defence. But in regard to the Militia, and especially to the Volunteers, I will say this—Is it not the case that the weak point of both forces, but especially the Volunteers, lies in their officers? You may train and drill them as you like, but if the officers have not the full confidence of the men for war purposes, you cannot have an efficient battalion. Would it not, then, be better to give up the idea, which I believe is practically given up now, of the officer commanding these regiments being a local magnate or an employer of labour? I believe that is practically a thing of the past. Would it not be possible to appoint to these commands officers who have served in the Army, who may be willing to find a field for their energies training and preparing these corps, and who would develop the best qualities of the men under their command?
Now I come to another great question, not directly raised in this resolution, but which undoubtedly lies at the root of the whole matter—that is, the question of recruiting. But the right hon. Gentleman threatened us with conscription. 1501 I have already expressed my opinion that conscription would not be tolerated by the people of this country, and, further, would not be applicable to the circumstances of this country. But surely we need not resort to conscription until we have tried all we can do by the improvement of the present system. Some plausible schemes have been put forward for higher pay. I do not know that there is much evidence to show that higher pay, such is as at present given in some corps, has any great effect in reducing the rates of desertion; and the conclusion that one must come to from a study of the Inspector-General's report is that it is not the pay that is the inducement to enlist—it is the military life, the adventurous life, and the change. Of course it may be said, and said with truth, that there would be an advantage in tapping a higher social class. I should like to see men of a higher social class enlist in the Army; but, at the same time, do not let us do that on the ground that the class from whom we take our recruits at present do not furnish us with good men; because I believe that they are in no way deficient either in stamina or in intelligence, and as they are willing to join the colours at the present rates it is easy to see that if we gave very much larger pay we should be simply throwing away money. Therefore, this is a matter to be considered with great care and deliberation. Then it is said that we take recruits too young, and there I entirely agree, if you mean immature lads. But if you enlist a man at the age of eighteen, and if you keep him well fed and well housed and disciplined for a year, he is perfectly fit for almost any purpose to which you can apply him. If you took him at twenty or twenty-one you would have to keep him a year before he could be put in the Line, so you do not gain, as you seem at first sight to gain, by going to a higher age. An old argument, which deserves to be repeated, is this—that if you take a man when he is at the age of eighteen you take him before he is settled in life, you take him before he has committed himself in habit, you take him when he is in a plastic condition of mind; whereas, if you try to get men of twenty-one or twenty-two, the majority of those who will join will be men who have for some reason, perhaps not very creditable 1502 to themselves, tried some occupation and broken down in it. Those are considerations that have been urged again and again, and so much has been written and said on this subject that it is desirable to repeat them. But if you wish to enlist men of a better class, and I am one of those who do, I should look, rather than to pay, to better surroundings in the service and to better treatment. No one has assisted in doing more for the comfort of the private soldier and to raise the standard of his comfort than the right hon. Gentleman, because he was with Mr. Stanhope, who was the greatest benefactor that the private soldier ever had. But it is not dining-rooms and cubicles only—these are very well in their way. We ought to recognise the superior standard now prevailing in living, and education, and intelligence; we ought to have less humiliating rules of drill and service; we ought to regard more the self-respect of a man when he has joined the colours. He ought to have more freedom, provided, of course, he is worthy of it—freedom from uniform, freedom, if possible, from barrack life. I would try all this before I thought of largely increasing the pay, or certainly before I should talk of resorting to conscription.
But I go further than this still. I have spoken of the reforms of many years ago, and, among others, of the abolition of purchase, This country agreed to the payment of a huge sum of money in order to open, as it was thought, a career in the Army to poor men. There was much said about the field marshal's bâton in the soldier's knapsack, and the carrière ouverte aux talents. How has that worked out in real life? I have not a word to say against the officers of our Army. I believe that they have splendid qualities, and I believe that, although more rigid professional attainments must now be enacted, they will be ready to come up to all that is demanded from them. The right hon. Gentleman told us, I think, that he has appointed a Committee to inquire into the question of entries of commissioned officers into the Army, and there is a great tendency among those Army reformers of whom I have spoken to make public schools the main avenue of access to the commissioned rank of the Army. Well, I 1503 should have more confidence in making this the main avenue for the Army if I had more reason to admire the character of the training and instruction they give to the ordinary youth of the country who pass under their hands. I am no devotee of English public schools. ["Oh, oh."] That is the result of my observations when I look at the enormous funds they have at their disposal, the splendid material they have to deal with, the cost to all concerned, and the disproportionately small result following. In any case let me point out this—that it would be narrowing further the already narrow channel, confining commissions in the Army more and more to the well-to-do classes. Why should not this noble and honourable career be open in some proportion to all who serve in the Army? I know the difficulties. There are difficulties of age, difficulties of money, difficulties of expensive living, and difficulties, perhaps, of social prejudices. But, Sir, difficulties are made to be encountered and overcome, and not that we should sit down before them with a sigh. I wish the House to endeavour to realise what an improving leaven it would be in the ranks of the Army if among those who entered from other and less ambitious motives there were the same objects, the same hopes and expectations of finding an opportunity of rising to the highest distinction in the service of their country. Thus, and thus alone, will you bring all classes, and the best of all classes, into the ranks of the Army, and thus only, so far as it can be realised, will you nationalise and popularise the military service. I have merely sought to indicate some directions in which I believe the supply of recruits can be facilitated and improved. They are humble—it may be they will be gradual—but I believe these methods will be effective.
I must apologise to the House for having detained it such an unconscionable length of time, but the subject is one of detail, and this is absolutely unavoidable. In every judicious and reasonable step which the Government may take to better the training of officers and men, to diminish the expenses of officers' living, or for the improvement of the health and conditions of service of the soldier, I will support the Government. I will support them in 1504 insisting upon the greater efficiency in our home force, on which we must mainly depend for the defence of these shores, even if that insistence involves, as possibly it might involve, a considerable reduction in numbers. But I have thought it necessary to make this statement of my views; and what I complain of in the main proposals of the Government is that they are pretentious without being effective; having an increment of military charges already enormous, they profess to give us something which is not suited to our peculiar circumstances, and show a desire and tendency to depart from that policy of peace and amity on which the strength of this Empire and the prosperity of our people depend, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'This House, while desirous of supporting measures for improving the efficiency of the Army and securing Imperial defence, is of opinion that the proposals of His Majesty's Government are in many respects not adapted to the special wants of the Empire, and largely increase the burdens of the nation without adding substantially to its military strength.'"—(Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WYNDHAM, Dover)
The right hon. Gentleman, who has just concluded an interesting speech, began it by expressing with emphasis and some solemnity the hope that no one who voted for the resolution of my right hon. friend would consider himself committed to anything in particular. The right hon. Gentleman will not mind my saying that we sometimes believe that to be one of the guiding principles of his political philosophy. At any rate he has done justice to that principle; and I waited for his speech with eager anticipation, because the Amendment which stands in his name certainly does not commit anybody to anything. It is merely an argumentative negative; and because of that it is a party Amendment; and, it being a party Amendment, the right 1505 hon. Gentleman began his speech, though I admit he did not conclude it, by something of a partisan attack on my colleague on this side of the House and by references to the General Election which did not fit very neatly into other remarks he had to make. After that he dropped into reminiscence and reminded us of glories won in Army reform by the Liberal party thirty years ago, and he praised what he called the Cardwell system. And so do I praise it. But why, if that is the case, does he draw an Amendment in terms so vague as to solicit the support of those who would, if they could, wreck the Cardwell system, of those who think the Army just right, of those who think it is too small as well as those who think it is far too big? At the end of his speech the Leader of the Opposition declared that he was desirous of supporting any measures to improve the efficiency of the Army and, though he scarcely touched on it in his speech, to secure Imperial defence. He yearns to see this thing done, but he doubts, in the terms of his Amendment, if we have found the right way of doing it. I do not deny that there is need of circumspection on such an occasion as this. I consider it is a momentous occasion. Well, objections can be urged to any points of detail in any scheme for such an important object as securing Imperial defence, and it is easy to urge objections on points of nomenclature.
The right hon. Gentleman devoted a considerable portion of his speech to the date at which he thinks the title "Imperial" should be applied to a Yeomanry force, whether it should be now or whether it should wait until some co-operation between them and similar troops in our colonies could be effected. It may also be fairly said that much of the right hon. Gentleman's criticism on the six army corps were objections on points of nomenclature. Supposing my right hon friend had said, instead of army corps, six great military commands of trained and organised troops, then some twenty minutes of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition would have been totally irrelevant. How much of substance was there in his argument when in that part of his speech directed against army 1506 corps he asked us to give, if we could, any reason for having three army corps prepared to take part in expeditions? He went on to point out that he had himself been Secretary for War and was responsible for a scheme by which he claimed to have two army corps ready to take part in foreign expeditions. So, then, the difference between us is one army corps in three. During the years the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary for War he claimed to be in a position to put three army corps in the field for home defence. I am bound to say that by comparison with his scheme these are objections on points of detail. When the right hon. Gentleman asks us to discover a reason for three army corps instead of two for foreign expeditions, our reason is that a demand for a force even greater than that has been made upon us. He says, "Oh, but that in all probability will never happen again." Well, that is a Peter Simple sort of policy: put your head in the hole which a bullet has made, for the chances are against another shot coming in the same place the next time.
The right hon. Gentleman in his speech this afternoon said, and I quite agree with him, that "an ounce of fact is worth a pound of theory," and we have had a good many ounces of fact in South Africa. The facts have made such an impression upon this nation that I doubt if the country will accept the theory of the right hon. Gentleman, or of anyone who tries to persuade us that it is wise to make no greater preparation in the future than we thought it prudent to make in the past. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the General Election. At that General Election the nation laid a charge—not upon the Government, for the Government did not exist at that time—[Oh, oh, and laughter]—well, it was in a state of suspended animation—the nation laid a charge, not on the Government, but on the great majority of the Members of this House, and on many Members who sit on the Opposition Benches, that some definite action should be taken when this House came together, in order to secure that the deficiencies of the Army should be made good, and in order to secure Imperial defence. Then the Government of the day of necessity 1507 came on the scene, and laid down the broad lines on which, in their opinion, such action ought to be taken. But the Opposition conies forward and says that those lines are not adapted to the special wants of the Empire. I call that a very serious situation, because I can hardly believe that this Amendment is moved solely in a party spirit, and the greater portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech shows that it was not so. You find yourself in a serious situation when the Government of the day, which is endeavouring to carry out the injunction of the nation at large, is told by the Opposition that the lines on which it proposes to proceed are entirely at fault. Well, are they? The right hon. Gentleman gave us a hackneyed phrase—that "policy governs armaments." The South African War has created no new wants in the Empire; it has merely revealed the extent of some of the old ones; it has merely shown at the same time defects, as I think, rather than faults, in our existing preparations, shortcomings rather than errors.
What are those wants? I should like for one moment to ask the House to consider the magnitude of one want of the Empire which we too often ignore, or dismiss too lightly, and incidentally I can answer a question of the right hon. Gentleman. The wants of the Empire—of course the first is the Navy; I may pass over that. We need the Navy to protect our shores and for the far more important purpose of protecting the great band of trade which comes to and leaves this country; for that Navy we need coaling stations and defended docks. For those coaling stations we need now, and we needed before, nineteen white battalions—that is on the joint recommendation of the Naval and Military Committee, and nobody can propose to reduce it. In India we need fifty-two white infantry battalions; we have a land frontier there, and nobody suggests that you can make a reduction there. In Egypt there were three—that is an old want of the Empire; the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors went there, and we are responsible for the addition of one battalion to go on with their good work, for we have felt that there should be one battalion in Khartum. After Egypt I come to South Africa, where now 1508 we require twelve battalions. There were two there before, but that counted as for a coaling station. That is not a new want for the Empire. We have been the sole great European Power responsible in those areas ever since 1814; and I think it is fair to say that the predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman accentuated this want of the Empire, from a purely military point of view, when they created a land frontier in South Africa. They accentuated it, too, when they entered into a treaty with Portugal which allowed Portugal to import arms and munitions of war within the land frontier which they had created, and which bereft us of any right to say no. None of those are new wants; and, if you add up the garrisons which must always be abroad, the number is eighty-five white battalions. I would ask all those who wish to attack the Government from one point of view or the other to bear in mind that that is a perpetual and peculiar burden placed on us, these eighty-five white infantry battalions, and, of course, in any case cavalry and artillery in proper proportions. If we demur to that, then it must be because we hold it extravagant to meet our obligations, and not extravagant to contract them. When the right hon. Gentleman tells us that policy governs armaments, he is right; but there is one policy which this House and this nation will not abandon, and that is the policy of letting all our colonies know that even as we went to the assistance of South Africa, so we would, if need be, go to the assistance of Australia, Canada, or India. We are a commercial people, and we often borrow our images from commerce. We talk of the credit of the Empire; but if you are not prepared for even such exigencies as I have hinted, then I suppose it is right to inflate your credit, but not right to say that you maintain it by holding securities which in the first place are adequate, but which in the second place can be rapidly realised. And it is in order that we should have assets in the shape of military defence which are adequate to sustain the credit of Empire, and which can be realised in time to save that credit when there is a run on the bank anywhere, that my right hon. friend has come forward with this scheme.
1509 I felt bound to insist on that old feature in the existing wants of the Empire, the necessity of keeping these garrisons. But another question arises on which the Leader of the Opposition touched. What is the best way to sustain these eighty-five battalions which must in any case be there? I know some people believe that there is a miasma at the War Office, and that all who enter it, politicians, civil servants, and soldiers, whether regimental or staff officers, are inspired by it in some kind of way, although they have no ground for believing it. But we ought to weigh the continuous coincidence of opinion which has prevailed amongst all who have entered that place. Rightly or wrongly, they have held for thirty years that it is a mistake to have a separate army for India and for these other garrisons; and the present Commander-in-Chief himself, who has served in a separate army, the Indian Army, told me only the other day that he thought it would be a great mistake to revive any such system. Then, again, everyone there has held, and now holds, that it is not wise to keep men for more than from five to seven, or at any rate eight years at the outside, in a tropical climate. I am convinced of that, and we need not labour the point. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean does not, I believe, advocate a separate army for India, but he does advocate a great variety in the terms of enlistment. Well, so does the Government; and efforts are being made to introduce that variety as rapidly as it can be done. Then it is held, in the third place, that the best place to train the boys, if you like, or the young men who are to go to this foreign army, is to train them in a battalion at home. It is held that that is the only way in which you can train, regimental officers at home, that it is the only way in which you can preserve the traditions of our historic regiments, and that it is the only way in which you can create reserves. But the upshot of those opinions is what is called the linked battalion system—that is to say, that you must have a sister battalion in this country for every battalion abroad. I feel bound to ask some hon. Members to consider what the consequence of that is. It 1510 means that you must have eighty-five white regiments abroad, and that unless you can invent some improvement you must have eighty-five white battalions at home. Complaints are made of the growth of Estimates, but take the date into account when they began to grow, in 1897; we had then a shortage of battalions, and we sent the Guards to Gibraltar, and were unable to make the home battalions what they should be, good training schools for our young soldiers. Now my right hon. friend comes forward with a plan by which all that will be eased. The Leader of the Opposition has criticised the formation of these garrison battalions, but surely it is no treason to the system of which he is so fond to give a modicum of future prospects to certain men who wish to make the Army their profession, and at the same time to relieve us from what would be a very great burden—namely, the addition of some sixteen battalions to the regiments of the Line. I cannot understand how the right hon. Gentleman can convey, as he did, that this is a wild scheme for augmenting; the Regular Army. There is an addition of eight garrison battalions, but on the other hand there is a reduction of three battalions which this House voted last year. [An HON. MEMBER: Four.] It comes to three; there was one of Irish Guards instead of two, and there is a reduction of two other battalions. I think that the right hon. Baronet will find that I am correct.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
I did not contradict. I said—"and minus the Militia Reserve."
§ MR. WYNDHAM
That makes a net addition of five battalions. The first question which I think one should consider is whether, under the circumstances that you have to keep this army abroad, and that the best way to maintain it abroad is to have a duplicate army at home, we ought to reverse the existing system on the ground of error. It had merits; it had the merit of training the regimental officer, it had the merit of creating a Reserve; and both those merits have been tested up to the hilt during the present war. There is not a 1511 foreign critic who has not said that our regimental officers have given a splendid account of themselves; and as for the Reserves, it is almost impossible to speak of them in terms of too high praise. An officer who was back from the war wounded told me that he had examined the slope at Pieter's Hill, where there was a sanguinary engagement, and he counted, close to the Boer trenches, the bodies of thirty-six men, all of whom were Reservists, who had gone up that slope under a terrible fire. Training was the object of this system—that you should train, in an elementary way if you please, but that you should properly train the youths who were after two years to go into the Army abroad, and properly train the regimental officer. Therefore, up to the limit aimed at, I hold that the existing system was not in error, and that it would be most unwise to reverse it and go in for some new experiment in the direction of a separate army. But I admit that beyond that limit—and here I part company from the right hon. Gentleman—it was defective; and therefore I hold, and he does not, that it ought to be developed. It was defective mainly in these respects—that we had a great many boys in the home battalions when we mobilised for war, and in many battalions as many as 600 Reservists were drafted. But the real vice which arose from that state of facts was that you could not give the home battalions in times of peace a proper progressive training. When so large a proportion of each battalion was learning the goose step it was not possible to begin company instruction, to advance to battalion instruction, and finally to brigade instruction. But those defects account for a great part of the steady growth of the Estimates during the last three years. Units have been increased and numbers have been added to each battalion in order that you might better be able to train it during times of peace, so that the raw recruit might not compose so large a part of each battalion. The second chief defect in the existing system was that it gave no training whatever to our general officers and their staff in time of peace at home, with the small exception of such training as could be obtained at Aldershot. But that again accounts for some part of the steady growth of the Estimates. It was 1512 to remedy that that large sums were voted by this House to make the camps larger at Aldershot and the Curragh, and it was for that we bought Salisbury Plain. And the third great defect, I believe in our present system is that it fails to elicit and to organise the latent military resources in our Auxiliary troops, and also in the civil population. It is not a popular opinion—but I am bound to give it to the House—that these two last defects—the failure to give training to the generals and their staff, and facilities for the practice of their profession, and also the failure to organise the Auxiliary forces in this country—are by far the graver and demand more instant remedy than the first. It is more important to get the design of your house right than to be sure that you have as much as you want of a particular material, and all the more if you have a choice of materials.
What, then, is the design of this scheme? The design is that we should have six army corps in this country. If you do not make such a change our case is that you will not make good those defects, that without some such change you cannot train your generals and your staff, and that without some such change you cannot perfect and organise the Auxiliary forces. Our scheme is that instead of one War Office which tries to do everything and therefore fails, and sixteen military districts which are left with little enough to do, you should divide the United Kingdominto six great commands, each sufficiently large to embrace the raw military material which could be progressively trained and turned into an army corps, and to provide each of those districts with generals, staff, transport, and equipment. That is the scheme. Upon that we invite the judgment of the House. Under such a scheme the troops in each command would as far as possible be exercised together in peace in their brigades, in their divisions, and ultimately as an army corps; and in those units and formations to which they would belong in time of war. That embodies a policy to be adopted at once as far as present conditions, and above all as the state of our barracks, will permit; but to be kept steadily in view in all future plans submitted to this House. The Leader of the Opposition asks how much we should have to spend upon 1513 barracks. Doubtless my right hon. friend will be able to give him a reply, but the Leader of the Opposition knows that there are barracks in this country now 100 years old which have to be propped up. If anybody doubts my statement let him go and see the cavalry barracks at Windsor. In any case you must put a decent roof over the heads of the men. In any case you will have to pay a big barrack bill. Will you build those barracks in the right place, or will you build them in the wrong place? How can you find the right places? Is it easier to do so by centralising everything at the War Office? Is it not easier to do it by getting six or seven of your best officers to attend to this great administrative question? I suppose that anybody who has read anything of the war or talked to any soldiers who have come back from the war could give the names of some six or seven generals who have proved themselves to be men of exceptional ability—in administrative work as well as in their capacity as leaders of troops; and there are some scores of staff officers. If we reject this scheme in its main outlines, what are we going to do with these generals and these staff officers? [Ironical cheers.] I understand that ironical cheer. It does not in the least daunt me. Is it a wise economy to waste all the experience which these six or seven officers and these score or so of staff officers have gained? Is it your plan? I rather gathered it was the plan of the Leader of the Opposition, because he said he wanted other qualities in a general at home from those which were useful in a command abroad. He wanted a certain amount of social tact and "go." Is it your policy to send them back to give dinners at fashionable watering places and to present prizes at agricultural shows? Is it your policy that these staff officers who have learnt something of their trade should appear as brigade-majors over blank brigades in the Army List, as so many did before the war? If you refuse this scheme, or some scheme which will utilise the abilities and the experience of our generals now that we have got a few—[laughter from the Opposition]—you will be passing a kind of Cockerton 1514 judgment against higher training in the Army. We want more higher training, and you cannot have higher training unless you allow men opportunities for practice in the higher branches of their profession. You hear a great deal of the lessons of the war. From many of them I dissent. But there is one lesson which I think we might take to heart, and that is that generals working with the same staff were able to work up some of our Regular troops, some Imperial Yeomen, some Volunteers, and some colonial contingents, into homogeneous, organic brigades and divisions. They could not do it the moment these troops arrived on the shores of South Africa. It was a Canadian who had himself fought there who informed me that "We" (the Canadians) "were quite green and not worth a rush when we landed, and it was only because so-and-so"—and he named a general, of course assisted by his staff—"took us in hand for six weeks or two months that we became a useful integral part of the division to which we were joined." Does not that encourage us to suppose that similar methods would enable us to elicit the latent military qualities in our own Volunteers and Militiamen and Yeomen at home? I think the right hon. Gentleman wishes to know why there would be six army corps, why were not three enough; and he went on to say that if three go there will be no one in their place. That is why we hold there should be six.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his information. When they are abroad they are no longer here. It is a good illustration of his non-committal attitude towards those proposals. What was the second lesson of the war? My memory is not so short as that of the right hon. Gentleman. When last year we sent, not 120,000 but 150,000 men out of this country, there was a demand made that their places should be taken by an organised force of battalions to the same number. That was not a claptrap cry made by irresponsible persons. 1515 We heard it once when a sensational exhortation was addressed to another place by a statesman who was once Prime Minister of this country; and we heard the same demand made in a calm, temperate, and closely-reasoned speech by the right hon. Baronet who sits for Northumberland in this House. His criticism was that our emergency plan was hasty last year, and expensive. So it was. So must every emergency plan be unless you will adopt some such scheme as that which my right hon. friend proposes—unless you do some of the work before the day of destiny comes. That scheme was a makeshift scheme; but it proved disappointing to those who took part in it, because you had to issue from the War Office uniform and therefore arbitrary, Procrustean, and embarrassing rules and conditions to the whole of your Auxiliary forces. Now you will never remedy that unless you so farm out the different Auxiliary forces to some of those generals whose duty it will be to study to know the various needs of the different forces in different towns and in different parts of the country. And that scheme cost six millions. Six millions of money were spent last year on this hurried, hasty makeshift, and would be spent again, whenever the same conditions arose, at the instance in all probability of any Gentleman who happened to occupy the Front Opposition Bench, and, indeed, at the instance of the great majority in this House. My right hon. friend in the Estimates he has laid before us asks for £400,000 for Militia, £300,000 for Yeomanry, and £150,000 for Volunteers—£850,000 in all. It is not a very large demand, if we are to elicit—and I believe under his plan we can elicit—some of the latent military capabilities which reside in our Auxiliary forces.
There was an attack on the name "army corps" and on the thing itself. It was said that an army corps is not suited to our peculiar needs. Suppose we drop the name for a minute. It is a convenient name for so large a command as we have in our eye, for administrative reasons. I have stated that each of these commands should be, in our opinion, sufficiently large to give scope to the administrative ability of the officer who is to be at the head of it. But let me 1516 assume for one moment that the right hon. Gentleman is right in his argument, and that we ought to organise the whole of the Home Army in divisions, who is to see that these divisions are properly trained? The general of the division himself? Who is to see that the peculiar needs of the various auxiliaries are considered; that facilities for training grounds and ranges are obtained? Is that to be done, as now, by the War Office promulgating its edicts, or is it to be done by the sixteen generals? I submit with some confidence to the House that the six best men we can find who exhibit a combination of administrative ability and of the capacity for leading troops, and who are retained, as in war, on probation, will do the job a great deal better than sixteen or twenty generals, and a great deal better than the War Office. I do not think I shall hurt the feelings of our soldiers if I say that almost all our generals and their staffs had learned before this war was learnt in India, especially at Rawal Pindi, or in Egypt with the army raised by Sir Evelyn Wood and perfected by Lord Kitchener, because there there was a man commanding something like that number of troops and attending to the administrative concerns of such a body as well as to their mere training in military science. Both Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener set great store by their transport policy, and we are bound to take their opinion on this matter. Two kinds of transport have been tried. One was tried by Lord Kitchener up the Nile, and was a brilliant success. Another was tried in the earlier part of the war, and was supplanted by the method of transport in which Lord Kitchener and Lord Roberts believed—that is, that the Army commander should be in command of the whole of the transport, and be able to wield it where he pleases. What practice will any general have in this, which is a most important virtue in the conduct of any war, unless you are to train at least some six generals in commanding from an administrative point of view the troops placed under their supervision? Taking that point, that the transport should be put under the Army leader, I should like to say a word with reference to a very able letter which appears in The Times this morning. I 1517 have a great respect for Colonel Lonsdale Hale. He taught me and showed me how to learn anything I know about military matters many years ago. But I think some fallacy underlies his comparison between ourselves and Germany. He stated that—when the Germans come to fight they will fight with a large army, of which the army corps will be the smaller fraction. They practise their army corps leaders, but they do not practise their army leaders. You, who will fight with the army corps ought, therefore, to have practised generals for divisions, but not for army corps.If we are to accept that argument we shall have no Army leaders at all. We shall have no man in this country who has been trained to attend to the wants—to provide the food and the transport for any body of men in excess of some 10,000. I think that will be a very fatal policy, and that, whether we stick to the name army corps or not—I like it and think it convenient—it is wiser to put a body of that size under one man, and make him responsible not only for their military capacity, but also for all that affects their welfare in the field. I am quite sure the remaining items in the Budget which my right hon. friend has presented—£100,000 for the Army Medical Service, £100,000 for the registration of horses, and £200,000 for clothing—will be more economically spent if we adopt this system than if we reject it and retain only the War Office, or reject it and have only a number of separate divisional leaders.
I have incidentally named nearly the whole of the sums my right hon. friend has asked for in his Estimate. There remains a sum of £60,000 to complete the total amount of the Estimate, and that is the price of these generals and their staffs, which excited some derision a few moments ago. If any part of what I have said carries conviction, surely they are cheap at that price. I am surprised that any objection to that sum of £60,000 should be taken by those who tell us that the Army ought to be a profession. You cannot have a profession unless there are some prizes at the head for men of exceptional ability. If I am not detaining the House at too great length I wish to explain this scheme, and also to show that what is called the steady 1518 growth of the Army Estimates is not such an inexplicable and wicked transaction after all. The argument is—"Well, we may give you close on £2,000,000 for this scheme; but look at the size of the Army Estimates, nearly £30,000,000." If we deduct that sum we ought also in fairness to deduct the sum of £2,300,000, which is a temporary expense in order that we may have modern guns instead of obsolete guns. I do not suppose any economist would go so far as to say we should continue to arm our fortresses with muzzle-loaders. That brings it down to a little over £25,000,000, and the recent increases which brought it up to that sum have nothing to do with an extravagant policy. The increase in the Estimates depends on the fact that we have tried to make our home battalions proper training schools for the young soldiers who are afterwards to go to India. In any case you must have eighty-five ripe battalions abroad. It is certain you cannot feed them and sustain them without having an almost similar number of men; and we believe you ought to have a similar number of battalions at home. All the rest of the expense which accounts for the steady growth of the Estimates followed from the fact that you have given these men decent housing, decent clothing, decent messing, and that in your opinion they ought to have adequate arming and adequate training. Comparisons are made with the cost of foreign armies, but they are very fallacious. My eyes were opened by the speech made by the French War Minister, M. de Freycinet, in 1898. He came to the French Chamber and asked for a special credit of £2,652,000 for guns. We should have voted it on the Estimates. But that was a Supplementary Estimate in addition to sums unstated which had been realised by the sale of Government property, which had been expected to cover the whole cost of what was obviously an enormous transaction. That never appeared in any French Budget. Nobody knows how much money had been realised by the sale of Government property before it was necessary to vote nearly £3,000,000 as an additional estimate for that purpose. The other day I was myself in France, and visited 1519 a French town which was rating itself in order to build barracks for a colonial battalion. That, again, never appears upon the French Army Estimates. But there is very little analogy between our Army and the French Army. Perhaps the closest analogy that can be drawn is between our Army and the American Army. Before the war the British soldier cost £111 and the American soldier cost £287. [AN HON. MEMBER: Including pensions.] That was before America had any foreign stations at all. I always listen with interest to those who urge that we ought to raise the pay of the soldier, but I think they should reflect on this point. In meal or in malt the British soldier has now got the equivalent, I believe, of 30s. a week. That being so, can you afford to make him compete also against the ordinary wage-earner? It is not what you give to the man himself. It is what you give to the man which will influence his relations to let him go. Men are kept out of the Army by those who wish them to remit money every week.
I have only touched some of these aspects, and I know that there are many Members who wish to take part in the debate; but I wish to say earnestly to the House that the country will be crushed by taxation if we do not turn to the best account the youth who enlist voluntarily to sustain and renew our Army abroad. We must train them before they take part in that service; we must retain them in the Reserve on their return. This policy of my right hon. friend is an organic development of Lord Cardwell's system. I am not ashamed to say so. Lord Cardwell's system made the best of the recruits at home and of the regimental officer; now we wish to go a little further and to make the best of the whole of the Regulars and Auxiliaries at home and give them a higher in addition to their regimental education. Since this is an organic development of that policy of Lord Cardwell, in which the Leader of the Opposition takes so much pride, I think that it is left untouched and unharmed by the terms of his Amendment. That Amendment presents no alternative; it represents no tradition, not even the traditions of which both he and I are supporters. I think we are uninjured 1520 by the Amendment of the regular Opposition, but I am well aware that the-scheme of my right hon. friend is exposed to the fire of two traditional schools. My hon. friend the Member for Oldham has made himself the champion of one of these schools. Their motto is, "Trust to luck and the Navy. Trust to the Fleet not only to defend our shores and our commerce, but trust to the Fleet to keep the seas during the six, nine, twelve months which would be required whilst you enlist troops, discover generals, improvise staffs, manufacture equipment, and run up huts for a large defensive or expeditionary force." [An HON. MEMBER: No.] The nation will never sanction such happy-go-lucky self-indulgence. There is another school whose battle cry is, "Where are the men?" and who point in particular to what are called the boy battalions. That school is made up of two classes. It is made up of veterans, whom we honour, but who still hanker after the Army which broke down in the Crimea, and which involved the collapse of the Indian Army with its fall. It is also made up of young, earnest, and patriotic students who have perhaps studied the armies abroad and who desire, in addition to our Army abroad on a perpetual foreign expedition, requiring 110,000 or 120,000 men, with its necessary feeders at home, a home army which shall not as now consist largely of young men in the first years of their training, which shall not as now rely largely on the Reserve and to a lesser degree on the Auxiliary forces, but which shall be at all times and at a moment's notice a self-contained force of mature men in the prime of life, withdrawn from the present emoluments and future expectations of civilian life. I understand the first school, but I do not agree with it; I should perhaps agree with the second school if I could understand it; but no one has even in outline indicated the method by which such a home army could be enlisted and maintained pari passu with the maintenance of an army abroad and the creation of a reserve at home. We are fired at from both flanks. But there are compensations. The range of the first school is too short, and the weapon, I submit, is too antiquated. The blunderbuss of the hon. Member for Oldham will, no doubt," give a 1521 sensational report; his missiles will fall short; they will not carry far enough to hit anyone, and they will not hit us, still less the opposite school; they will only plough up the foreground and kick up a little dust. So much for the peace and plenty reform of mere economy. Now I turn to the military magicians who will not explain the incantations by which they hope to evoke legions out of the ranks of the commercial classes. Their range is too far; their high velocity shells go over our heads and merely pulverise the hon. Member for Oldham. Meanwhile we are in the middle of all this, and we are constantly enduring the paper pellets of the regular Opposition's argumentative negative. We submit this scheme to the House, claiming on the part of my right hon. friend that it is a courageous, an honest, and an ingenious attempt to fulfil the solemn and peremptory injunction which was laid on this House by the melancholy experience of the present war and by the constitutional expression of the people's will.
§ *MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman must have been selected to follow the Leader of the Opposition for the reason given by the Secretary of State for War in a speech he made in March last when he said that the right hon. Gentleman, now Chief Secretary for Ireland, had on that occasion so debauched this House by his graceful oratory and the elegance of his dialectic that he had entirely clouded the points then at issue. The success which the Chief Secretary attained a year ago has been no less marked at the present time. There is no doubt that the exceedingly eloquent speech we have just heard has clouded the issues we are here to discuss. He presented the House with a certain number of ingenious arguments which are very difficult to follow, but he has not touched, in his remarks, on many of the points at issue. He has told us, in effect, that this scheme has been provided for the consideration of the House and the country in order that some offices might be found for gentlemen who have distinguished themselves in South Africa. If that were true, or intended to be believed, I am quite sure that no one on either of these benches 1522 would support it. But, further, he has declared that this scheme has been produced by the Secretary of State for War with courage and ingenuity. I must say that the Secretary of State for War deserves every credit for the courage with which he has put the scheme before the House, because it is not to be forgotten that he has been a member of successive Governments and has offered to the House successive schemes. On a former occasion he told the House that if they only provided a sufficient amount of initial expenditure in the annual estimates it would minimise subsequent war expenditure. Now what happened in this particular case? The Secretary of State presented to the House a larger War Office Budget than had ever been presented before, £30,000,000; and he does that at a time when his colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has to come down and seek for a loan of £150,000,000 for war expenditure—a demand unparalleled in the military history of the country. But not only that. At various times in his career the Secretary of State for War has informed the House that there was a necessity to reduce the artillery; he now tells us that it is necessary to increase the artillery. Again, the right hon. Gentleman said that there was no need to inquire into the conduct of the army hospitals; he now says that it is absolutely necessary to reform the Royal Army Medical Corps. Then he on one occasion told us that the whole of the War Office system was abominably bad, and he gave several instances of that, but I could give him half a dozen equally as bad at present as those the right hon. Gentleman quoted. Finally, he comes down to us and tells us that the whole preliminary education of officers must be carefully examined in detail by educational experts. It must be remembered that this is the sixth scheme of Army reform presented to the House in forty years, but in my judgment the result of this scheme is not to bring confidence, but to inspire mistrust. The House is incredulous of the officials, and the Army distrustful of the officers who will administer the scheme.
Very little was said by the right hon. Gentleman of the details of the scheme. It is very easy to see that 1523 it is founded, first of all, upon two great principles. One is the continuance of voluntary enlistment, and the other to increase the relative importance of the Auxiliary forces. We are trustees in this matter for the safety of the State and the Empire, and the right hon. Gentleman has told the House that if voluntary enlistment failed, and he was responsible, he would fall back on some sort of conscription. I am one of the very few Members on this side of the House who entirely agree with him in that respect. If it is not possible in the future to get a sufficient number of troops to defend this country and its outside possessions adequately, and the Secretary for War declares that the voluntary enlistment system has broken down, I will support him if he can show that it is then necessary to have recourse to conscription. But that time has not yet come. So far as we can judge from the scheme put forward by the right hon. Gentleman he has more than ample troops to defend the country. Two-thirds of the troops under his scheme consists of the Auxiliary forces, and they are organised for one purpose only—to resist any possible invasion of this country. Now, I think it is accepted by every person who has written on this subject that it is not probable, nor would it be even profitable to an enemy. There might be a raid made on this country by a small force striking a sudden blow at London or one of the great ports or arsenals—that an endeavour might be made to create confusion and paralyse the Army or the Navy. It is for the purpose of checkmating such a raid, and that only, that these Auxiliary forces are necessary, but a far smaller number would be sufficient than we have in this scheme. It is essential, however, that they should be highly trained, very easily mobilised, and well armed. We ought to impose more stringent conditions in order to get rid of the inefficients in the Auxiliary regiments of the country.
To turn to the question of the Regular Army, you organise your Regular forces for the purpose of defending this country, India, and the colonies from external menace and internal disturbance. Now, 150,000 men are said to be necessary for that purpose, but you have not got them. It is quite certain that the 1524 Regular Army would be committed to not less than two campaigns a year in some portion of the world. In the present year we have had three or four small campaigns in the West and South-West of Africa, and two on the East Coast of Africa. But taking it that two campaigns have to be undertaken by the Regular Army every single year, that involves a high scale of recruiting to keep the Army up to the strength of 150,000—a far higher scale than would be necessary in the case of any Continental Army. That being so, let us inquire how many recruits could be obtained. Sir Robert Giffen has declared that the cardinal defect of the British Army is the deficiency in numbers. I take it that what was meant was that not a sufficient number of recruits had been obtained according to the increase of population. In 1892 the recruits numbered 39,000; in 1896, when the population had increased, they only numbered 27,000; and in 1898, when there was a further rise in the population, they numbered 38,000. So that you cannot in any way depend on increase of population to give you your increase of recruits. If this had been a normal year there would have been no less than 30,000 men short of the establishment. You cannot rely on your getting the number of recruits obtained last year, for you have killed off in the South African War the number equivalent to the increase. There are two methods by which the War Office seek to obtain this increase of recruits—either by battalions or by individual recruits. Last year they tried the battalion system, and this year the individual recruiting system, and it is confessed that they failed to get three battalions, and these were wiped off altogether. What certainty, then, have you of obtaining these 30,000 recruits you ask for? Absolutely none. The recruiting area contains only 400,000 men yearly; but the supply for the next two years has already been anticipated by enlisting boys of seventeen, and now even enlisting children of fifteen, and yet the War Office call them men! They have conveniently discovered that, at this moment, there is no penalty for making a false answer by recruits on their attestation in regard to their age, so that there is no means of checking their age. But they had cut 1525 off the supply formerly available from the Militia, and so they look now, as they have always done, to bad trade in the country as the best recruiting sergeant. That is an unwise and short-sighted policy, for it is no better than pitting the Army against the commercial prosperity of the country.
There is another point I would like to dwell upon. The proposed proportion of regiments abroad and at home entirely depends on cutting down the garrison in South Africa to twelve battalions. I will not discuss the policy of that at present, but I would remind the House that we have got not only a white but a black question out there. It is quite certain that, as soon as the war is over, we will have to take seriously into consideration the differences between black and white in that country, and if the Government are going to cut the South African garrison down to twelve battalions I think they are making an unduly sanguine estimate. The War Office propose to obtain the South African garrison by drawing the mobile battalions from the Mediterranean and certain coaling stations, and they give as an excuse for that, and substituting for them the garrison battalions, that these will afford the zealous soldier an adequate military career. I know Malta and Gibraltar as well as any man in the House. It is quite true they are not ideal stations for training troops, but more might be made of these stations as training grounds than ever has been done. I would ask the War Office, "Do you act up to these two considerations; do you give to the soldier who retires at twenty-five a subsequent military career?" He leaves the Army at twenty-five and remains in private life until thirty, and re-enlists for ten years, when you turn him out of the Army at forty, neither a civilian or a soldier. What chance of a military career is there in that? All that you will do by such a scheme will be to increase the number of tramps in the country and breed a set of wasters. Then the War Office have forgotten the question of the proportion of married men in these battalions. They have sent out to Malta 10 per cent. of married men, but they can only provide accommodation for half that number in Gibraltar, and the case of Malta is so 1526 much more serious that I cannot obtain an answer to questions on the subject from the War Office authorities. If the War Office are going to make it part of their policy to separate husband, wife, and children in these married battalions they will not get recruits for them, for it is to be remembered that an enormous number of the men marry between twenty-five and thirty years of age, and a very serious moral penalty will thus be inflicted on a very deserving portion of the population. But there is another point. These garrisons in Gibraltar and Malta have always been used for recruiting the garrisons in Egypt and India. The First Lord of the Treasury has told us in one of his speeches that "the Secretary of State for War will have organised for the defence of her fortresses those materials useful for little else, but useful for that purpose," and that it would be quite impossible to send them to reinforce the garrisons in Egypt and India in case of necessity. It is, however, to be remembered that they are in point of numbers and organisation at least from thirteen to twenty-one days nearer to Egypt and India than this country, and how much that means we ought to have been able to learn in the course of last year.
Then, as to the question of tropical fortresses. The War Office propose to take away from these fortresses all, or at least a large proportion, of our white troops. That is quite a different scheme from that proposed in 1895. Hong Kong, Singapore, Mauritius are vital to the existence of our Empire. They are great depots of trade and commerce, and possess dockyards or repairing grounds for the Navy. The Secretary for War told us in March, 1895, that—our colonial possessions had been fortified at enormous expense. Their maintenance was vital to the prosperity of the Empire. He was quite sure the military authorities would look with suspicion on any policy likely to leave them in possession of forces not competent to fulfil the requirements they would be called on to perform.Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that he now thinks black troops are com petent to hold some of the most important naval coaling stations in the Empire? The loyalty of our Indian troops may be very sincere. I do not say it is not; but it is not unqualified, and its permanency 1527 will depend on a margin of accidents. It should not be forgotten that they are not really homogeneous with the British nation, and it is quite certain that the people with whom we might be at war would spare no bribery or persuasion to seduce them from their allegiance to us; and therefore we are running a chance of a defection taking place amongst these native troops just when defection would be most serious and disastrous. There is another thing in connection with leaving native troops as garrisons in these places. The War Office propose it just at a time when France, Germany, and other nations are strengthening their connections with the East. France has spent enormous sums in garrisoning with white troops Dakar, Martinique, Madagascar, Saigon; and in the same way in the Mediterranean at Toulon, Corsica, Bizerta, Bona, Mers el Kebir. All these stations are along the flanks of our possessions in the East and in the Mediterranean. Why should we run the chance of a large force of these garrisons making a sudden dash at our great coaling stations, or run the risk of these being captured? I should like to know how far the Colonial Governments, representing the people who live in these places, are consenting parties to this War Office scheme, and I would like to know whether the Government have consulted the Colonial Defence Committee on the matter. It may be that they have done so; but remembering their failure to obtain the consent of the Admiralty to other parts of the scheme in regard to the garrisoning of the coaling stations, unless the Government have obtained the consent of the Committee of Experts they have no right at all to come down to this House to ask their approval of the kind of garrisons they now recommend.
I am one of those who cannot altogether disagree with the right hon. Gentleman as to the division of the country for his scheme of army corps. The unit corresponds, roughly speaking, with the accommodation which now exists, and perhaps it is no worse than any other scheme. But I am bound to remember that the War Office had an earlier scheme which seemed to have been created for the purpose of showing the weakness of our position. You form first two army corps of Regulars 1528 and Reserves, and you tell us that they are to be ready to go abroad at a moment's notice. No army corps which has in it any substantial portion of Reserves can go abroad at a moment's notice. The Reserves cannot be mobilised until the last moment, for fear of disturbing public opinion at home and abroad, and consequently there must be a delay of a fortnight or three weeks before the army corps is ready to sail. Then you say that the practice of placing Reserves to make up the strength of battalions ready to take the field is observed by all foreign nations. That is true, with this great difference. Foreign nations put into their battalions ready for service a reserve of men who every other year have at least twenty-eight days vigorous training. You put into your fighting battalions a reserve on which no adequate training has been expended at all, and the result is, while foreign battalions proceed to the front with all the men properly trained, your battalions go to the front with only 50 per cent. of trained men with the Colours, plus an untrained Reserve. Then as regards cavalry and artillery, foreign nations send their cavalry regiments absolutely complete, and 75 per cent. of their artillery, whereas you send cavalry regiments with 50 per cent. of Reserve men, which your own officers tell you are sadly lacking as a fighting force. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech referred to the question of mounted infantry. He told us we ought to have more mounted troops, but he made no proposal to provide them in the Regular Army, and, as far as I can see, all the mounted troops the scheme will give us are 35,000 auxiliaries and Imperial Yeomanry. For the purposes of my argument, it does not matter whether these Auxiliary forces can be raised or not. If you really want to increase the mounted troops in the Army, and cannot afford the expense of extra cavalry regiments, you should convert one or more of the rifle regiments which are not recruited from territorial districts into mounted infantry regiments, rather than continue the system of mounted infantry companies drawn from different regiments, and therefore violating your own rule that men should serve in peace under the commanders who would lead 1529 them in war. If you raise mounted infantry regiments by this system you will have the nucleus of a force very valuable in itself, and capable of being despatched abroad the moment required with the rest of the Army.
I would only press one more point. In his speech the right hon. Gentleman made a curious reference to the fact that neither Lord Roberts nor Lord Kitchener had been through the Staff College. I hope that does not mean that the right hon. Gentleman intends to abolish the Staff College. It is true that a general is born, not made, but the number of staff officers who have to be created is very considerable, and it must be remembered that every great military nation has some institution corresponding to our Staff College. There, is the great War School, as it is called, in Germany, which turns out two-thirds of the whole of the German staff and most of the distinguished officers in Germany, and there is the Ecole Militaire in France, which serves the same purpose. I would beg the right hon. Gentleman before he does anything more than reform the Staff College to compare very carefully the work of these foreign schools with the possibility of instruction that could be given in our own Staff College. One great reason why the Staff College is not looked up to is that the position of the teachers is not adequate to the requirements of the Service. These positions are held, as a rule, not by officers of first-rate ability, but rather by second-rate men, with perhaps large families, who want positions in which they can avoid the inconvenience and expense of going abroad. In Germany the corresponding positions are filled by the most distinguished men in the service, and their teaching is held in the highest possible repute. When the same respect is paid to the teaching in our Staff College that is paid in similar institutions abroad, then something will be done, not only to establish the position of the Staff College itself, but to improve the training of the Army generally. We have often been told that our officers are stupid. I do not believe they are stupid, but they are more ignorant than the country has any right to allow. The education of an officer ought to be continued in the 1530 Army, as in the Navy, from the day he leaves school to the day he passes his examination for the highest position for which an examination is thought necessary. I would urge that we should look very carefully into the curriculum, not only of the military colleges, but also of the Staff College, in order that it may be able to produce the very best class of officer for the British Army.
§ *MR. WYLIE (Dumbartonshire)
said he had placed an Amendment upon the Paper, which he understood it was not now in order to move, approving of the proposed increase and organisation of the Regular Army, the Militia, and the Yeomanry, strongly recommending to the attention of the Government the expediency of much more largely increasing the numbers and efficiency of the Volunteer force. His principal object in putting down this Amendment was to draw attention to the position of the Volunteer forces. The enormous extension of the British Empire and the consequent increase of our responsibility rendered it necessary that our forces should also be largely increased by sea and land. He thought so far as the land forces were concerned that his right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War was to be congratulated upon the very able scheme which he had put before the House. That scheme combined all the advantages of the short service system with many advantages of the long service system, and he thought the formation of six army corps would go a great distance towards doing away with the centralising influence of the War Office, which had hitherto exercised such a baneful influence upon the British Army. The localities selected for these army corps he considered most judicious, especially with regard to the army corps to be placed in Scotland. He thought the placing of an army corps in Scotland was an example which might well be followed, so far as its coast was concerned, by the Admiralty with regard to ships, docks and dockyards, and the graceful compliment paid to the gallantry of the Scotch troops by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, in introducing these proposals, and his assigning that as one of the reasons for giving 1531 Scotland this army corps, had been greatly appreciated. If there was a defect in this part of the scheme, it was that there was no proposal to increase the mounted infantry, which in South Africa had been so effective. As for the Militia, he had on many occasions on their behalf claimed a juster recognition and more liberal treatment, and he was glad to find that their bravery in South Africa had brought them increased pay and a large increase to their numbers. He drew attention to the fact that there were four Scotch Militia battalions not in the uniform of their line battalion, and expressed a hope that, as the Secretary of State appeared to be in a liberal mood, he would place those battalions on the same footing as any other similar battalion in the Service. He believed such an act would do much for the esprit de corps. He welcomed the increase of the Yeomanry, which had become so deservedly popular owing to its gallantry in the field. He thought Lord Roberts would have no difficulty in securing the 11,500 time-expired men for the increase of the Regular Army, and that the better inducements offered to the Militia and Yeomanry would easily bring up the numbers of those forces to the required standard.
But granted that the country obtained every man named in the proposal, was that enough? He thought not. There was no doubt that with the extension of the Empire a very much larger number of men were necessary now than before, and the question was from what source were they to be secured? The proposed increase of the Militia and of the Regular Army under the present conditions was certainly the maximum, and neither of these forces could be increased except by one of two alternatives, either by conscription or by such an increase of allowances and pay as would allow the recruiting sergeant to compete with other employers in the labour market. But in the light of the brilliant results of the voluntary system in this war the country would not tolerate either of those expedients. One of the great lessons of this war was to show us that there was an enormous amount of jealousy and hostility towards us amongst the continental nations 1532 which might lead to a combined attack at any moment. Another lesson of the war went to show that a small population without discipline, but which could shoot straight, could keep a superior force at bay for a considerable time, and some people thought that the formation of rifle clubs was all that was required, but the best shots in the world without discipline were only an armed mob.
The only means, therefore, by which we could increase the defensive force of this country was by increasing the Volunteers, and he believed that the Government could, by giving proper encouragement, very easily double the number of Volunteers and add greatly to their efficiency. This was no theoretical assumption on his part. He had had considerable practical experience in assisting to raise and equip the Dumbartonshire Volunteer regiment, one of the finest and most efficient in the country; but if the county gentlemen had not liberally helped to provide the necessary rifle ranges and the drill halls, which it was the duty of the Government to provide, that regiment would not have attained its high standard of numbers and efficiency. If the whole country contributed to the Volunteers in the same ratio as Scotland, the force would consist not of 260,000 but of 450,000 men, and if in the same ratio as Dumbartonshire of 650,000. By the same liberal treatment the Government could easily raise half a million Volunteers who would not only be one of the most effective, but certainly the cheapest army in the world, because, whilst the pay and allowance to soldiers of the line amounted to £30 a year and to the Militia £6 15s. the Volunteers only cost £2 5s. per head. It was proposed to apply half the Volunteer force of England and Wales, namely, 100,000, for the defence of London alone—that was either too much for London or too little for the rest of the country. He did not think it was too much for London, but too little for the rest of the country. This part of the scheme was founded upon the idea begotten in the days of sailing ships, that any attack on this country must be on the south, but in these days of rapid steam transport he thought an enemy would probably avoid 1533 the southern part of the kingdom protected by large fleets, army corps, and volunteers, and strike at some other part. Liverpool might be a probable point of attack. The Liverpool district, which might be said to include Lancashire and Cheshire, had a population of five millions. It was proposed for the defence of such a district as that that only 30,000 to 40,000 men should be allotted, which was, in his opinion, much too little if 100,000 were required for London. The same might be said of the Hull district and other parts of England. So far as Scotland was concerned, its coast line was so extensive that it would be necessary to have a proportionate increase in the number of Volunteers. He thought, therefore, it was necessary to have a large augmentation of the Volunteer forces, on the Government's own showing. By that means the country would obtain a great number of efficient men, and the Government if they gave sufficient encouragement could easily secure half a million of men possessing much greater efficiency than at present. To carry out such an idea there should be a Department at the War Office the sole duty of which should be to encourage the Volunteer forces. In every Volunteer corps there should be a paid sergeant-major and quartermaster-sergeant; the capitation grant should be increased to a minimum of 50s., rising to 60s. for various degrees of efficiency in drill and rifle shooting, means should be given by which drill halls and rifle ranges could be provided; the facilities for drill etc., now offered partially should be given to all; and the standard of efficiency required for the forty special battalions should be insisted upon all round. If Volunteers were thus encouraged, he had every confidence that the Government could obtain half a million men whose training and efficiency would enable them to go anywhere and do anything, and they should have the courage to reintroduce their Bill of last year providing that the Volunteers could offer themselves for active service in any part of the world. In the present war the Volunteers had given a good account of themselves. In combined action they had acted with the regulars as efficiently as regiments of the line, 1534 and it was disappointing that after their brilliant record in South Africa the War Office, while proposing increases in the Militia and Yeomanry of 50 per cent. and 250 per cent. respectively, with increased pay and allowances, should seek to increase the Volunteers by less than 20 per cent., without any increase of grant or allowances, the grant in some cases being actually reduced. He had been shown a letter from the colonel of a splendid corps, in which it was stated that the War Office was—actually offering us worse terms for going into camp than at any time previously, and my officers are so disgusted that some of them want me to disband the corps.It was the old story of War Office discouragement of Volunteers.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Lord STANLEY, Lancashire, Westhoughton)
Will the hon. Member give details as to how they are treated worse than before?
§ *MR. WYLIE
They are given a less allowance for going into camp than they had even the year before last, and I should be very glad to give the details to my hon. friend when I have finished speaking. The hon. Member continued that the great Volunteer movement, which had made this country practically invulnerable, and probably saved the country hundreds of millions of pounds, and which from an educational point of view, in training both physically and mentally the young men of the country, altogether apart from its value as a defensive force, should be fostered, had had to force its way, with very little encouragement from the War Office, and against the most determined hostility of many of the military authorities. Opponents of the Volunteer system contended that many of the regimens were inefficient. No doubt some of them were, but, considering the parsimonious treatment they had received, the wonder was rather that all of them were not inefficient, and this defect could be readily remedied. Some of these military authorities had a strong hankering after conscription as the easiest solution of the recruiting difficulty. The country which had just given to the Government in its time of need 140,000 1535 fighting Volunteers would never tolerate the idea of conscription, and the advocates of that idea would have to make up their minds that the problem of increasing the land forces of the Empire must be worked out on purely voluntary lines. The Government had had its hands full in bringing to a successful issue the South African war, and in maturing and bringing forward their very able scheme with regard to the regular army, the Militia, and the Yeomanry, but it was time the War Office took up the question of the Volunteers. If that question was taken up heartily and resolutely, and the liberal treatment he had suggested, were accorded the Volunteers he believed the Government would have the support of the great majority of Members of the House, and of the country at large.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
The hon. Member who has just spoken put forward a plea for the Volunteers. No doubt some of the Volunteers are very efficient, but the whole argument against the plan suggested by the hon. Member is that the existing force must be made more efficient. The great difficulty is that very few can give sufficient time to become efficient. For all the men who can spare the time I think it is worth while for the Government to give an increased grant to enable them to become really efficient. One other defect in the defensive scheme which has been suggested is that, however efficient you have the infantry, you must have artillery and cavalry to support them, and the Volunteers do not supply that need at the present time. No doubt the regular Army will, in the course of time, have sufficient artillery to supply six army corps, though I am afraid that that is a long way off also.
Turning to the scheme proposed by the Government, the Chief Secretary for Ireland rather accused some of us of belonging to one of two parties. Most of us on this side, at any rate, do not belong to the party that desires to economise everything connected with the Army out of the way altogether. I do not think that the hon. Member for Oldham would go so far as the Chief Secretary suggested. Nor do we belong to the party that desires to spend many millions more on producing a greatly increased Army. What we do want is 1536 that the Army we have should be an efficient Army, and that we get value for our money. That is where we think this scheme will not achieve our object. We were under the impression that these proposals were put forward to redeem promises made to the electors, and to make a show of Army reform, but the Chief Secretary has put us right on that point, for he has told us that the scheme is really to find generals' places for those who have been serving in high command in South Africa, and have to be rewarded in some way when they come home. It is right that there should be generals' billets for some of them, but I am inclined to think there are enough already. The creation of six army corps, it must be remembered, does not mean six more generals. If there are the proper number of generals of division and brigadiers, it will mean an additional ninety generals, and that is a very considerable number to add. I do not suppose this scheme will ever go beyond paper, but if it did, if it was actually carried out, there would be ninety generals, including brigadiers and the staffs belonging to them. That this is not intended is shown by the fact that we are told it is to cost only £60,000 a year. Each army corps would require one general—that would besix; then there would be one cavalry brigade general and one artillery general to each army corps. There are eighteen divisions—that means eighteen commanders of division, who also are generals. For the eighteen divisions you must have fifty-four brigades. That would about bring up the right numbers for the army corps, and that would mean fifty-four more generals. That makes a total of ninety generals and 180 staff officers, giving to each general a brigade officer or a D.A.A.G. and an A.D.C.—the very lowest computation you could possibly make. The pay alone of these would amount to £140,000 a year. What we complain of is that the whole thing begins at the wrong end. You are making generals commanding army corps, but you are not making the permanent brigadiers, who are really the officers your men require to know. In all foreign armies the brigadier is almost as well known as the colonel is. There they deal in the larger unit—the brigade instead of the battalion. Before you go in for the army 1537 corps you should have the brigades and divisions made. This scheme is not a great reform. A reform means something new, at any rate, and something that will produce increased efficiency. That cannot be said for this scheme. It cannot even be said that it will effect economy without injuring efficiency. It may be claimed that it gives increased quantity without destroying the quality of the Army. This it does to a very very small extent, but at a great expense. The eight garrison regiments will be the most expensive force this country could possibly raise, with the exception, perhaps, of that ridiculous experiment of the Royal Reserve Battalions made last year. These battalions will be available only for a few years, because they will be composed of oldish men, and there will also be a great many wives and families to provide for. There has been some difficulty in getting the actual numbers, but it is reported that there are 2,000 women and children attached to the battalion going to Malta. Probably that is an exaggeration, but at any rate there will be a much greater number of women and children to provide separation allowances for in connection with these battalions than with any others. Nothing is to be done to remedy the really wasteful arrangements in the present system. The War Office is very reticent as to the working of our small depots, of which there are sixty. The number of officers at these small depôts is about 540; warrant-officers, about 180; and sergeants, 2,800. The number of private soldiers to be trained and taught by this establishment is 3,000, with 1,200 bandsmen. That is an absolute waste, but there is no attempt whatever in this scheme to make these small depots more efficient, or to use the non-commissioned officers and officers stationed there. Something is done in the way of sending them out recruiting, but much more might be done. In addition to the waste of money, the system involves a waste of recruits' energy. Recruits have to do an enormous amount of cleaning work, and cannot get sufficient time to do their other duty properly. These depôts might have been made larger, the number of officers reduced, and the Militia officers amalgamated.
1538 Under these new proposals there will be no army corps ready for foreign service until the Reserves are called out. An army corps is a good thing in foreign countries, but it takes us seventeen days—and then it is very smart work—to get the Reserves up, and before that time after the declaration of war foreign countries have fought several battles. ["No."] I think you will find that that was the case in the French war. One of the great difficulties is that in the case of war there are practically no cavalry reserves. A cavalryman, even if he is an old trained soldier, must have some acquaintance with his horse before he can be used as efficient. There is no increase of cavalry or of mounted men proposed. There is absolutely no mention of any permanent mounted infantry or any extension of the mounted infantry system. There are Yeomanry who are never to go abroad; they are to find the mounted men for the home army corps, and perhaps they will be of some use in that way, but there is absolutely no reserve of cavalry to send abroad with the first three army corps. Very little is said about artillery, and nothing at all about better equipment in rifles and guns, or about better equipment for the horses, so that they should not have to carry about twenty stone; our cavalry carry more than any other cavalry in the world, I believe, and they have suffered greatly in consequence in South Africa. The bedrock of the scheme is reorganisation, and the reorganisation consists of dividing the Army into army corps and putting general officers over the army corps. It is supposed that the troops are going to fight with these general officers, and that the general officers will learn something by handling the troops. But they are not going to command the men who will go out with them. They are to going command a number of skeleton battalions, to be filled by Reserves. When the Reserves come in they will know nothing about the generals who command them, and the practice the generals will receive will be very small. It was said that the generals would become accustomed to handling, not small bodies of ten thousand men, but large bodies of troops. That will not be the case. They will 1539 be small bodies of troops until the Reserves are called up. Except during the brief periods when the Volunteers are up for their annual camp, the bodies will not consist of more than 10,000 men. But will there be any possibility of getting the Volunteers together for big field days? Will there be manœuvring grounds sufficiently near to their camps? How are you going to get through the preliminary drills so as to work as brigades and divisions, and then as army corps, to work as a large army? It is perfectly absurd to suppose that Volunteers will have the time to go out and teach the generals by being manœuvred at some place a long way from home. Even then you would have only fourteen days in which to teach the generals.
The real difficulty in this country—and it is met in this scheme only so far as the garrison regiments meet it—is to find garrisons for abroad in time of peace. We have an enormous number of garrisons abroad to supply, and very few people seem to realise that in this conscription would not help us. Conscription cannot help us for foreign garrisons. You cannot have conscription for foreign service. No foreign country would ever stand it. Germany and France send volunteers to China and to their colonies. But there would be no difficulty, or, with slight alterations, there would be very little difficulty, in always having a large infantry force for our home needs and for home defence. The only way to meet the difficulty as regards foreign service is to adopt partially if not entirely the suggestions of the hon. Member for Fareham, that we should give larger pay to men over a certain age and to men who would be enlisted for a sufficiently long period to be sent to India. These are the men you are short of, and you will have to pay more for them. Whether you have conscription or not, it will be absolutely necessary to pay long service men at a higher rate than they are at present paid at for foreign service. The other difficulty in some battalions is the amalgamation of short-service men with the long-service men. The two classes of men create great difficulties in the working of the linked battalion system. This difficulty could be got over by 1540 carrying Lord Cardwell's great reform one step further, and instead of having two linked battalions have six. You could then have one battalion as a short-service battalion. It would be very unpopular with some people to change from battalion to battalion, but you could interchange both officers and men, and greatly facilitate the sending abroad of seasoned men, keeping the short service men at home. The short service men might also be used for the work for which you are raising special battalions at the present moment, namely, the work of the home garrisons at Malta, Gibraltar, Bermuda, and even Egypt. There is no difficulty in sending short service men those distances, and, of course, it is a great drain upon the resources of the country that has to send long service men to these places.
I do not want to dwell upon any scheme of my own, but we are always being told that there is no alternative to this proposal. It is a very odd thing, in view of the many proposals which have been made, that the Government turns a deaf ear to all suggestions, and singles out the one thing that is absolutely refused by every expert in the country. There is not a single military expert not connected with the War Office but is opposed to this scheme. The army corps proposal is not new; it is an old scheme done up again. There was a scheme of eight army corps which did not work and was given up.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
So is the right hon. Gentleman's scheme on paper, and there I think it is likely to remain. That is just our contention. To carry it out you require that which you have not got, namely, a great many more recruits, and those you will not get under present circumstances. A little piece of the scheme on paper is the eight garrison battalions. That proposal was made some months ago, and with great difficulty not quite two have yet been raised.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
Yes, but those two months were especially 1541 favourable for recruiting, because those were the two months in which you were disbanding the Royal Reserve regiments, and those regiments contained the class of men from whom you expected to get the whole of the eight battalions. If in two months after disbanding 17,000 Royal Reserves you cannot get more than 2,000, I do not think there is much prospect of getting the eight battalions in the future. His Majesty's Government are certainly the only people who think this scheme will be carried out. We are to have more generals, but have we not got enough generals already? Let us take what we have got in order to carry out this scheme. These are the best men the Army can produce. There are sixteen districts, and when you bring the numbers up to six army corps, what is to become of those sixteen districts? Surely they can oversee the training of the men. Surely sixteen generals are quite enough to look after the Militia and Volunteers of their own district. I have observed myself an instance of this kind, and I am quite sure the general in charge of a district is quite capable of looking not only after the Regulars, but also the Auxiliaries in his district. I do not believe there will be the least improvement by putting these districts with an army corps, and it will come rather expensive. It is supposed to cost only £60,000 a year, but if you are going to create these high appointments it will cost a great deal more. If you fill all these appointments up there will be ninety generals and 180 staff, and at the lowest computation of their salaries the sum required would be £140,000 a year. All this might be worth while if we were going to get any advantage by this expenditure on generals, but we shall get a mere skeleton force, and those generals will command a mere visionary army. Probably most of the men will not be able to come out at the same time, because this is not convenient for every Militia and Volunteer regiment.
It is a very important thing to have the supply train and transport thoroughly equipped, and I hope that will be done. We have not, however, seen any money allotted to that most important of all things, the supply train, and I do not think there has been one word mentioned about this matter, which is the most 1542 important factor in the new scheme. It has been suggested that the generals will be able to learn how to work the supply train under this scheme, but they will never have it under their control only at such places as Salisbury Plain. It is very necessary that a general should know something about the use of the supply train, and that is one of the things he ought to be taught. I do not think this scheme will teach the generals how to work the supply train, or how to deal with a large number of troops. I cannot see why instruction of this kind should not be given to the commander of an army corps, and to commanders of divisions, who are equally wanting in knowledge upon this question. I think there really ought to be some permanent mounted infantry established, or else a portion of the men in the line ought to be taught mounted work. If you had made it a territorial brigade instead of a territorial regiment you might have had a number of permanent mounted infantry established. Something of this kind will have to be done if you intend to have three army corps ready, for you must provide them with cavalry. In this respect the scheme is a paper one, because you cannot call it an army corps until it has got its full proportion of cavalry. I do not think there would be any difficulty if you had a certain number of men in each battalion trained as mounted infantry, because the Reserves come up and fill your battalions as soon as war is declared. There is another question which might have been made a great advantage to the sending of men into the first line, and it is that some of the Militia, if not all, should be enlisted for foreign service. It would cost very little, and you would lose very few militiamen, because a militiaman who joins now would join for foreign service in time of war, and you would be able to send out at once a large number of trained men who had been doing garrison duty to the front in charge of the officers they had been serving under, and they would be the very elite of your Army if you only carried out such a reform as that. I do not think such a reform would cost you more than 200 or 300 men out of the Militia. We do not want a great number of men on paper, but we do want the most efficient Army we can 1543 possibly have, and this reform would give efficiency to the fighting line by putting your best troops into it. It would cost practically nothing, and would be in the nature of a real reform. If the worst came to the worst, and you were in difficulties, you could send your militiamen to India to replace the regiments there, where there is a lot of garrison duty besides frontier work. A little more might be done for the Militia by avoiding the snubbing which they receive almost upon every occasion. I know the Militia is one of the forces which the War Office does not care much about. It is of no interest, and the War Office does not care for cheap forces as a rule. The Militia employ no generals and there is no promotion, and when they are considered at the War Office there is a lack of interest in this force. The great fault of this scheme is that it is only on paper, and there are two or three things in it which must remain on paper for years and years. The scheme does not carry out any increase in the Army, and it will not educate our generals, because it gives them merely skeleton armies to work with instead of real forces, and it will not provide real army corps, because they will be without cavalry. The scheme will not increase the defensive power of the country or provide you with more troops to send abroad to your garrisons in times of peace. You do not teach your mounted men, and I think this scheme is one that will be rather an injury to the country than the reform which it pretends to be. I think it is incumbent upon everybody who has his country more at heart than his party to oppose this scheme. I think upon an occasion so important, where the country is being done a real injury, if I sat on the benches opposite I should make up my mind not to make this a party question, and I would not allow myself to be carried away from the real interests of the Army by mere party consideration.
§ *MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)
said the hon. Member who had just sat down had criticised rather severely the schemes put forward by the Government, and he had criticised it as a whole. The hon. Member had at considerable length put forward certain proposals to amend the 1544 scheme. He thought, however, that the House and the Government would be more influenced by the opinion of Lord Roberts than by the criticisms to which Members had just listened. The admirable and convincing speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland had removed all doubts from his mind as to the efficacy of the Government proposals. He could assure his right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War that the courage and determination he had shown were admired throughout the Army. He was himself strongly opposed to conscription, which his right hon. friend had managed to avoid, and thought that the national burden of our Army must be borne by everyone by means of taxation. The national Army was a national burden, and ought to be borne by all. In the case of the ballot it was a kind of gambling transaction and the burden only fell upon certain individuals. If they met this burden by the ordinary form of taxation, then everybody would pay their share.
He did not think anything short of some great national emergency would justify conscription. Conscription had been tried in this country in a modified form under the Militia Ballot Act of 1831, when there was a strong feeling against it, and it was found impossible to carry it out. The men who refused to serve at that time or to find substitutes at 1s. per diem had their goods seized. To avoid conscription, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War appeared to him to have availed himself of the only alternative, namely, to strengthen the efficiency of their Auxiliary forces, and to do this he had very wisely and justly turned his attention to the Militia. He had served many years in the Militia, and should like to say a word in its favour. The Militia had done good service to the State for many generations. The victorious armies under Wellington in the Peninsular were largely composed of Militia, whose names were unrecorded in history. That force still remained the humble drudge, the Cinderella of the service. In this war thirty-five Militia battalions, comprising 24,000 men, had gone out voluntarily, and 13,000 in addition had served as Militia reserves in the ranks of the Regular Army. He had seen many officers who had been at the front, and they told him that some of the 1545 very best men they had had in their regiments had been the Militia Reserve. He believed that there were still Regular officers in the Regular Army who were inclined to sneer at the Militia, but not a single officer who had seen their work in South Africa had anything but praise for them. He wanted to encourage his right hon. friend to do his duty by the Militia, and to make them as efficient as they ought to be. As they would in future be sent out with their own officers and stiffened by the addition of the proposed Militia Reserve, he felt sure the Militia would render a good account of themselves. He would just give them one instance of what a Militia regiment could do. The A. and S. H. Militia were on active service in South Africa, and there happened to be a difficulty in getting mounted troops. At the instance of an active and enterprising captain, a mounted section was formed which earned for itself the sobriquet of the "Acrobats," but this small force soon became highly efficient, and was constantly engaged under fire as scouts in one of those advances to Lindley, and at Kroonstad the general officer commanding published a despatch, of which this is an extract—The A. and S. H. Militia leave nothing to be desired as reliable troops in action, and the mounted branch when employed on reconnoitring duties are particularly bold scouts.Having said that much, he would ask the Secretary of State for War to see that in future the equipment of the Militia was better. At present their equipment left much to be desired; in some cases it had been found that the slings on the rifles dated from before the time of the Crimean War, and that their belts and pouches fell to pieces when the pipe-clay was removed in order that they might be stained khaki colour. Lord Lansdowne said last year upon this subject: "We have been struck with the inadequacy of many kinds of stores," but that was not much consolation to them. No doubt the Militia had been below its standard for many years, and it had been the Cinderella of the forces. Lord Lansdowne said—The Militia is below its establishment, and nobody regrets it more than I do; but it has been below the establishment for many years past.1546 He had had a great many years experience of the Militia, and he could speak of its great value. He had seen young lads of seventeen or eighteen years of age join the Militia, and after undergoing their training they had gone back much improved in appearance. After following their employment at home for nine or ten months the same lads had returned to the training next year, and one could hardly believe that they were the same boys. In this way those lads had grown into men at their own expense. Their employers also spoke very highly as to the improvement they had undergone since they became militiamen, and they ought to remember that a militiaman only cost the country some £12 per annum, while a Regular soldier cost from £55 to £60 per annum. He had always found militiamen to be willing, obliging, and hearty fellows.
Turning to the proposal in connection with the garrison regiments, he found himself entirely in accord with the scheme, which seemed to him to be a most thorough and businesslike proposal. The scheme killed two birds with one stone, for it supplied seasoned troops up to a certain age for service in garrisons where it was notoriously healthy for grown-up men, while growing lads would not thrive there in the same way. He had listened with interest to the remarks made on this point by the hon. and gallant Member for the Chelmsford Division of Essex. For many years after a soldier had completed his twelve years service he might be able to do some useful work in a garrison. He felt that the scheme was not perfect, but it would be impossible to devise a perfect scheme. What he felt about this scheme put forward by the right hon. Gentleman was that it was exceedingly elastic, and could easily be extended at any time if the money was forthcoming and circumstances were favourable. There was no doubt at the present time life in the Army was not satisfactory. All the reports made by the Inspector General of Recruiting were very poor reading, more especially the last. Both the reports issued this year and last year told them that whilst the war fever was on there were ample recruits forthcoming, but the difficulty was to attract a sufficient number of men to join the Army when there was no immediate prospect 1547 of active service. These reports also state that the time was a long way off before the supply in times of peace would be greater than the demand. Under those circumstances was it not wise to try and find out the reasons for this? His right hon. friend had said that he wished to make life more tolerable for these men. Anyone who had served in a regiment knew how monotonous barrack life became. The dress was costly and uncomfortable and unpleasant for the men to wear. This, no doubt, led to a great wastage, which came to about 50 per cent. in three years.
What undoubtedly was required was a somewhat more elastic system, and this, he thought, was what was aimed at in the right hon. Gentleman's proposal for six army corps. As he understood the proposal, three of these army corps not first for active service would be largely composed of territorial regiments, and it would give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of making the conditions of service more tolerable for the soldier. In the other army corps not so immediately required there appeared to be no earthly reason why a large portion of the men should not, at the discretion of the general officer commanding the district, be allowed to go on long terms of furlough in plain clothes after they had made themselves efficient in drill. If that could be done they would find that a great many of these men would be willing and anxious to take the opportunity of earning a little money by accepting engagements in seasonal trades. In that way the men would be physically and morally better when called upon to go to the front than those who merely spent their time idling in barracks. That idea was supported by no less an authority than Lord Wolseley, who wrote to that effect in 1899 in his introduction to Colonel Henderson's book, "The Career of Stonewall Jackson." He said—This Army to be large enough for our military requirements, and adapted to the character, the habits, and the traditions of the people It is not necessary that the whole force should be serving during peace; one half of it, provided it is periodically drilled and exercised, can be formed into a reserve; the essential thing is that it should be as perfect a weapon as can be forged.That was the line he had sketched out, 1548 and he thought we should adapt our army system to the character, the habits, and the traditions of the people.
There was one point on which he would venture to make a remark. His right hon. friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, in talking of the critics of the system, described one of them as aiming his blunderbuss at the Government. If he was critical in his very humble capacity his criticism was not aimed to wound his friends on the Front Bench. Referring to the condition of the army in India the hon. Member said that was one of the subjects that would require the earnest attention of His Majesty's Government. Our system was to send out young soldiers to India after drilling them for two years. They became victims of the climate and of the scourge of enteric. The Army Medical Department report for 1898, with reference to service in India in relation to cases of enteric, showed that 91 per 1,000 of the young soldiers who went to India with one year's service took the disease, and that in the case of men with ten years service the number was only 1 per 1,000. The mortality from this cause was very striking. It amounted to 24 per 1,000 amongst men of one year's service, and ½ per 1,000 among those who had ten years service. These figures, which could not be controverted, showed that our system in India was not perfect. Every year from 30 to 40 per 1,000 were invalided home, while 100 per 1,000 were constantly sick. Our army in India numbered 58,000, whereas it should be 75,000. He thought the Secretary of State for War should encourage some of the older soldiers to go out for garrison duty in India. The present scheme appeared to him to be excellent in idea, and would provide for an army at home such as we had never had before in respect of adequate training. On that and many other grounds he gave his most hearty support to the scheme.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
The first part of the speech of the hon. Member for North Ayrshire, before he came to the part relating to the Militia, which he so much blessed, interested the House. The hon. Member appeared to vouch that Lord Roberts was in favour of this scheme. From internal reasons, which I shall 1549 presently discuss, it seems to me impossible to suppose that this can be a scheme devised by Lord Roberts. I regard it as absolutely the scheme of the Secretary of State for War and the Financial Secretary to the War Office, and it is to them that the credit is due, or the discredit. I am one of the great admirers of the Chief Secretary for Ireland and his speaking, but I do not know that anyone who listened to his speech tonight would think that his heart was in this scheme. A more half-hearted defence, for a man of his immense powers of speech, I never heard. [Cries of "No."] I do not ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to take it on my authority, but I believe the feeling I have expressed is almost universally shared. I shall try in the course of my remarks to deal with the defence which the right hon. Gentleman offered for the scheme. The hon. Member for North Ayrshire and the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant both spoke of the great courage of the Secretary of State for War in putting this scheme before the country. I confess that I myself am not able to see any courage in this scheme, because it appears to me to be a mere dressing-up of that which existed already, to constitute no new departure, and not only no revolutionary change in our military system, which some of us desire, but no sweeping change, no such far-reaching change as has been made in our military system on several previous occasions. Therefore, I for one cannot admit the courage of which those hon. Members spoke. There is a great delusion in the popular mind that it adds to the military strength of the country and even increases the numbers of the army. The speech of the Secretary of State for War at Guildford and other speeches seem to have encouraged that delusion. I was talking the other day to two very able men, one of them a member of the Government, and the other one of the ablest men in the permanent civil service, and both of them were under the impression that whatever else the paper scheme does, at all events, it increased the number of the available forces of the country. I said it actually diminished the available forces of the country—the forces enlisted for foreign service and capable of being sent abroad to 1550 face the enemies of the country. We have always had an enormous number of men ready for home service, but we want men whom we can send abroad, and that number of men is diminished and not increased by the present scheme. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant stated to-night the net increase under this scheme, and I am quite prepared to take his figure. I take it this way, we lose the Militia Reserve at present available for service abroad, and against that you put a few black battalions and a few garrison battalions. They are fewer in number than the men you cut off, and inferior in quality. Therefore, I maintain that not only is there no increase of the effective force under this scheme, but an actual diminution of the number of that force.
Now I hope that in anything I say about this scheme to-night I shall be fair, and I expect that hon. Members opposite will acknowledge the fairness of my remarks. I have always tried to look at these questions entirely irrespective of party, and I shall not be consciously guilty of acting otherwise on this occasion. I frankly admit that the one thing which does attract me in this scheme, if the Government mean business by it, is the proposal for decentralisation. We have heard talk of decentralisation in this country for a long time. I remember when the hon. Member the Secretary to the Admiralty brought that very matter before the House, before he was a Member of the Government—and I wish for the purposes of this debate he had been a member of the military and not the naval department of the Government—he, with his great knowledge, pointed out the enormous drawbacks in the way of making decentralisation in this country a reality as he desired. On the 21st of July, 1899, he brought this matter before the House, and the present Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, in reply to the hon. Member, said that it was impossible to any great extent to modify the present system, that he hoped no exaggerated hopes would be entertained of what could be done, and that the nation was not going to relax its control of the purse in military matters. That was the ground he gave against the further decentralisation of the Army 1551 system which the hon. Member for West Belfast proposed. But we who have been all our life Army reformers claim credit for having maintained the principles of decentralisation, and so far as that part of the scheme is concerned we shall give them our support now. I confess that I agree with the hon. Member for Lich-field that, up to the present time, we have failed to elicit much information on the subject. Take, for instance, the question of transport—a very costly part of the Army. There is no money taken into account for transport in the present scheme, and an enormous amount of money will be required for that. We have few facts before us as to what this decentralisation is to be. I do not wish to look a gift horse in the mouth, and I do not wish to examine it too narrowly. We have had it claimed in this House for years that with the Curragh and Aldershot commands there has been a great deal of decentralisation. We have not up to the present time had it in the least made clear to us how far these new military districts are to be decentralised. I confess that I fear there will be constant friction, and pulling backwards and forwards, and that decentralisation will present greater difficulties in those districts in which the Militia and Volunteers are to form part of the army corps than in the districts where Regular troops alone have to be dealt with. Having made that admission, I shall be most anxious to support anything in the scheme that really goes in the direction of decentralisation.
I should like to express the surprise with which I have noticed the change of tone both in the House and among the critics of the scheme outside. At first there was hardly a single man supporting the Government or generally favourable to their military views who did not say the scheme is intended to pave the way for conscription in some form. [Cries of "No."] That was the almost universal opinion. [Cries of "No."] I am speaking of what I know. I cannot speak for hon. Members opposite who say "No." It was the opinion, expressed to me in this House by most of the Members with whom I am acquainted who take much interest in the subject, and I think it was the opinion of the Secretary of State. He 1552 told us that increasing the pay of the Army would be useless in bringing in recruits, that it was doubtful whether we had not reached the limit of recruiting, and whether men could be obtained, and then he used words to the effect that we might have recourse to conscription as a last resort. This is a matter that has exercised a good deal of interest outside, and while that method may still have the support of some who, perhaps, have not given it sufficient consideration, there are few in favour of such a scheme as suitable to the particular circumstances of this country. There is much to lead to the belief that there is a rooted difference of opinion on this subject among many of those who are at the very centre of the Government of the country in these military questions. The Secretary of State has expressed a considerable leaning towards conscription. The Financial Secretary to the War Office makes no secret of his view I see his hand in the Yeomanry portion of the scheme, and I think he had a good deal to do with the military portion of the scheme. He has written an article recently on this subject, in which he says—Conscription may be a nasty pill for some to swallow; but what is in a name? Let us call it universal service….our fellow-countrymen….to be ready at all times and in all places to guard and defend the national flag.Before I dismiss this question may I point out that all these suggestions are merely putting off any settlement of the question. The Financial Secretary goes very far on this question—much further than the Secretary of State. I have quoted his view, but it is not the view of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, and I wish he had still a place in the War Office in order to develop those military opinions in which he made such rapid progress while there. When my hon. friend the Member for West Belfast brought this matter before the House the Secretary of State for War, in another place, had suggested that some day we might have to resort to conscription. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, on the 21st of July, 1899, said—No greater travesty of the speech that my noble friend did make could be imagined. One third of that speech was devoted to pouring; 1553 buckets of cold water upon the idea that we were within measurable distance of conscription.The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, if I may make one more reference to his former views, said on the 2nd of March, 1899—" Our Army must be a voluntary Army, and it must not be extravagantly dear." I confess that the present scheme, at any rate, appears to be extravagantly dear. The House must dismiss in this debate all questions of any attempt to resort to conscription. I am not objecting to that on principle. I am objecting for practical reasons. It is inapplicable to the needs of this country, and if applied, it could be applied only to home defence. I believe, however, that the most effective form of home defence is the Fleet. The scheme of the Secretary for War is a somewhat shadowy plan, of which the cost is gigantic, while the actual return to be given for it is small or nil in actual striking power. The cost of the armaments of this country is gigantic, and I have never thought that the return we obtain for the enormous cost is adequate in the case of the Army as compared with the Fleet. In the case of the Fleet we get something for the money we spend.
I am not, however, a mere economist. I want to spend a great deal of money on what I think good objects for the public service. The cost is already gigantic, and it is fast rising, and in the last few years it has been rapidly increasing without a sufficient return for the money spent. The cost of the Home Army in a normal year of peace has risen from £18,000,000 to £32,000,000, including works. We cannot usefully consider the expense during the war, because it is almost impossible to dissociate the war expenditure from the ordinary expenditure from day to day, but during the four years before the war there has been this enormous increase in military expenditure, and no increase in the number of men, In the four years from 1st January, 1895, to 1899 there has been no increase at all in the available number of men, though there has been an enormous increase of expense. The stationary nature of the Army has been caused by the inability of the Government 1554 to obtain recruits, although the standard has been constantly lowered. The cost of the Army in a normal year of peace is £29,685,000, £2,500,000 for military works, and a million spent on land forces out of the Civil Votes, making a total of £33,000,000. The military expenditure in India is from £17,000,000 to £25,000,000, according to the rate of the rupee; Crown colonies, £500,000; the self-governing colonies, £1,250,000; making a total of between £51,750,000 and £59,750,000 sterling, according to the rate at which the rupee is taken. Comparing that with the £31,000,000 which you spend on the Fleet, we see a tangible result in the Fleet; but we do not equally see the same tangible result in the British Army, and we say that the Army is very dear in regard to cost. The definite proposition which I wish to make to the House is that after making all deductions for new armaments and new comforts, as alleged tonight, there has been an overwhelming increase of cost without any increase of effective strength. But, in spite of this enormous increase of expense, and concession to the soldiers' demands, you cannot get the men, and that it is which robs this scheme of any feature of finality. The Secretary of War himself has said that though the numbers remain the same, the men cannot be got, and that it is a question whether we have not reached the limit of recruiting; and Lord Roberts made a speech on Thursday last, in which he put the dots on the i's and told us that we must adopt one or other of two remedies.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I must point out that there is a difference between saying that there is a question about a thing, and the assertion, which the right hon. Gentleman has made two or three times, that I said that it could not be done.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
Let the House consider what the facts will be. We hava had the greatest possible difficulty in e bumper year of recruiting in making up the number. And yet, immediately after the war, we shall be faced with the complete depletion of the Reserves, and with the necessity of sending three years 1555 drafts to India. Such a call will be made on the recruiting resources of the country as has never been made upon them before. If we only just got the numbers in a bumper year, with an enormous reduction of the standard, with 34 per cent. taken under that low standard, how can we expect for one moment to get the men we shall require at the close of this war? The hon. Member for the Fareham Division says, like Lord Roberts, that in order to get the men we must increase the wages, or alter the terms of the engagement, or both. It is very doubtful to me whether we must immediately raise the pay of all our regular forces; I do not think we need to do so. I entirely agree with what fell from the Leader of the Opposition on that subject. It is an observation of all those who have considered this question that it would not be needful to raise the pay of those who are willing to accept the present terms. If we are not going to raise the standard, and if we are still going to take the same boys, we can no doubt get them on the present terms. But it is as certain to me as to the Commander-in-Chief that we shall have to raise substantially the pay of a proportion of our foreign-service troops. The hon. Member for the Fareham division has worked out the figures in a way that most tells against his views; but even supposing that the cost is to be as large as he put it, of agreeing to a large increase of pay to virtually our whole regular forces, that is a small amount to what the Government wasted last year upon the Royal Reserve regiments. The Secretary of State for War in his speech on the Estimates told us it would be useless to raise the pay unless we doubled it. The men do not in a time of peace get a clear shilling a day, and the 1s. 9d. or 1s. 10d. suggested is something like doubling the present rate of pay; and I think we may admit that there is practical agreement between those who propose and those who oppose the scheme as to what we should have to expend in the case where the highest rate of pay is to be given. According to the Inspector General for Recruiting, the men preferred a short term of engagement, and I believe that by following his suggestion, by taking men for a two years engagement, we could get a large number of men 1556 who would accept the lower rate of pay, and a comparatively small number of men to take longer service, to whom the higher rate of pay would appeal. As to whether the increase should go by an annual rate or with an increment is a question of detail, and one on which the Inspector General of Recruiting could throw far more light than we can. But an average increase, such as that to which the Secretary for War has alluded, and which the hon. Member for the Fareham Division has proposed, would, I am convinced, give us what we need for our longer service—men who would not be sent backwards and forwards continually. Now, the War Office have always set their faces against this scheme. They said that it would be costly, and against the interests of India; although the Indian Government took the opposite view. If we were to try the increased pay, apart from the Indian Government, which might, in this matter, make its own arrangements, it would cost for the peace foreign service portion of our Army £600,000 a year. So that between the maximum of £3,000,000 and the minimum of £600,000 we have the whole increase of pay. The statement made by the Financial Secretary to the War Office in a speech he made in Lancashire confirms the view I have put before the House. Now, Sir, this scheme is alleged by an hon. Member to be the scheme of Lord Roberts rather than the scheme of the Government itself. Lord Roberts made a speech on the subject the other day at Salisbury, and what did he recommend? He said—"One way might be to increase the soldier's wage or to alter the terms of his engagement; or it might be necessary to try both these remedies." That was his suggestion.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
Exactly; but you are unable to go beyond what the Inspector General of Recruiting has told us, namely, whether the recruiting has not reached its limit. The present system will not raise the additional number required, and that you will have to meet, immediately after the war, a demand such as has never before been made. I confess 1557 I cannot see that it is possible to avoid the conclusion that, when Lord Roberts went to make that speech, he perfectly knew that the views he expressed with such force a few years ago now hold the field, and that we shall have to revert to the views which I and many of us in this House have frequently proposed. The Secretary of State has argued upon this subject that we are merely foolish in recommending anything of the nature of what he calls separate armies; and the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, who discussed this subject when he was at the War Office, alluded to the subject to-night very skilfully, and courteously informed the House that he had had a conversation with Lord Roberts, who had told him that he had given up the idea about separate armies for India and home defence. We know that Lord Roberts many years ago expressed that opinion very fully.—[An HON. MEMBER: You held it yourself] If I ever held it, I have not for fourteen or fifteen years, or at any rate expressed it in this House. I therefore put it out of sight. I point out that the pay question, the conscription question, or a change in the terms of engagement, all raise the question, not in the form of a separate army, but in the form of a quite separate system of engagement. If you have conscription it does not apply to the Indian Army, and that would differentiate the two systems. The Chief Secretary said that Lord Roberts had in view a greater elasticity in relation to the terms of engagement. That lies at the root of the whole question, and it is useless to come here with a scheme when you have not increased the pay or altered the terms of engagement.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but we have altered the terms of the engagement. We have agreed to a three years engagement. It is merely a question of administration; you cannot dislocate the existing system all at once.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
The three years system was tried before the war, at first with a low term of pay, and afterwards with the same terms of pay, and we helped the right hon. Gentleman to vanquish the Treasury on that matter. 1558 It was tried on a very small scale, and the Inspector General of Recruiting said that on those conditions it would never have a fair chance, but that still he welcomed it as an instalment. I am glad to hear that the Government are going to try it further. Their adventure in this direction is very slight, and their steps very short, compared with those we would have them take. Why, for example, should there be an absolute distinction between the Militia and the Regular Army. The most cautious reformers will find it impossible to justify the present rigid division between short service in the Militia and in the Regular Army. Lord Roberts has given up the views expressed on 14th February, 1881, when he said—"What we really require are two armies—a home and foreign service army. The former some sort of Militia and Reserves." But Lord Roberts retains his views as expressed in 1884 and 1892 that "eight years is too long for a man who proposes to return to civil life.… Those who do not desire to make the Army a profession should have a short term of service." One of the things which convinces me that the country will insist on trying one or other of these remedies—the increase of the soldier's pay, or the alteration in the terms of engagement, or both—is the fact of the enormous waste which takes place at the present time before they come to the Reserve. The clear idea we ought to form on this subject is that the cost is continually increasing, and that the return of the actual men available for service is not increasing. That is where the present system breaks down, and we accept the alternative put before us of increase of pay or improvement in the terms of service.
Now, the motion of the Secretary of State for War confuses the issue before the House, because it puts forward as the main matter worthy of consideration the formation of six army corps, suggesting in this way that these army corps are something of the nature of French or German army corps. The Secretary of State for War seems to me, so far as regards numbers, to leave us exactly where we were. Only the first two army corps were to consist wholly of regulars, and 1559 thus to go abroad, and he was to bring home thirteen battalions. But his Navy scheme has broken down. He substitutes for these thirteen battalions some black troops and the garrison regiment. The third army corps is a mixed corps, containing Militia and Yeomanry intended to serve in Ireland, and the fourth, fifth, and sixth army corps are composed almost entirely of Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers. Now, supposing that South Africa only needs a force thirteen battalions larger than the absurdly small force allowed for in the scheme, there will be no Regular troops available for the fourth, fifth, and sixth army corps. Some have supposed that this scheme, as regards army corps, would be different from some previous schemes, because it recognises the position of the Militia. But, in the 1875 scheme the same credit was asked for the Militia as in the scheme submitted to-night. When the scheme of 1875 was mentioned to-night the Secretary of State for War said that that was a paper scheme. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would read some of the passages in the debates of that time. We all know now that it was a paper scheme; but I confess that there is a great deal in the present scheme which leads one to think that twenty years after this it will be regarded as a paper scheme too. In 1875 Mr. Gathorne Hardy said that "the ballot in favour of compulsory service in the Militia was growing in favour," and that right hon. Gentleman put forward almost the same suggestion as the present Secretary of State for War. He said that there should be eight army corps, equal to 64 battalions of Regulars and 104 battalions of Militia, and that he would utilise 134,000 Militia. He even told us that "the very hours in the time tables had been worked out by the Government with a view to the concentration of the eight army corps." We are now told by the right hon. Gentleman that that was a paper scheme, and this leads me to think, as I have said, that this, too, is to a paper scheme. Where is the novelty, then, of this present proposal of the Government over that of Mr. Gathorne Hardy? The eight army corps of Mr. Gathorne Hardy were largely composed of 1560 Militia and Volunteers. At Guildford on 1st May this year the present Secretary for War said that "the Government would provide six army corps for service at home, and that they would prepare 120,000 men for service in any part of the world—a provision which no Government ever submitted to the country before." But Mr. Brodrick said in 1898, "We put into the field three army corps, or 112,000 men. We have 120,000 men in garrison." Where is the increase in the Regular troops now? Where is the improvement on Mr. Gathorne Hardy's system? On 2nd March, 1899, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant told us that the Government had provided "three army corps and four cavalry brigades of Regulars." Well, the expenditure of the Empire on land forces at that time was estimated by me at 40 millions, but it is now estimated at from 51¾ to 59¾ millions sterling, and there is no increase in the numbers that are vouched for to Parliament. It is six army corps that are to be provided, not on paper, as were Mr. Gathorne Hardy's eight army corps, but with their staffs and transport. The transport, however, is not provided, and it is a matter which shows how little the House ought to part with this scheme before it thoroughly understands it, that we do not know what is the expenditure in which, by this scheme, we shall be involved in future years. As regards the staff, it is curious to notice what a change has come over the spirit of the dream in the last two or three years. The Government were then taking credit with the House for cutting down the staff. The present Secretary of State for War on 25th February, 1898, told the House that—On the staffs alone we cut down £20,000 a year, and we propose to carry these reductions further.… At this moment we see our way to amalgamate two of the existing district commands.In fact, he was claiming that decentralisation was being carried as far as possible, and that he hoped hon. Members of the House would not interfere with the scheme, as all those reforms hanged together. The central position was that the staffs were to be cut down. Why are they now being increased?
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
I have quoted the actual words; I do not want to take advantage of little niggling points. The large question is, "What is the object of army corps?" The object is that we should be able to send organised bodies of troops abroad, and to furnish readymade units for war. Well, it seems to me that these army corps cannot be used as units for war, whatever transport and staff you give them, except the two which are composed of Regular troops. The transport is the heaviest charge, and the War Office does not seem to have the least idea of what the figures will be. I do not think the third Irish corps is available for service abroad as a mixed corps, which it is intended it should be. As regards the fourth, fifth, and sixth corps no one can, for a moment, suppose that they will ever take the field as organised units, ready for war, commanded by those who commanded them in time of peace. The Secretary of State for War says that you could send out an army corps composed of regiments of Militia and Volunteers—two-fifths of the latter men whose only service has been thirteen days in camp for half of them—as a corps organised for service in war. The Secretary of State believes it; but I think the hon. Gentleman is almost alone in the House and in the country in believing it. As regards the Volunteer artillery, I believe in it, if partially paid. But that is a side issue. As regards the cavalry, they are not yet raised. I do not believe you will get the men, or, if you do, that they are capable of taking their place as cavalry in the sense applied to the term in European armies. As regards the Imperial Yeomanry, we have the name, and it is said that it is a matter of nomenclature; but I think there is more in it than that. We have believed that, if there was one lesson to be learned from the war, it is the need for Regular mounted infantry battalions, and, when the Financial Secretary to the War Office argued against it, he said, with a frankness which disarmed criticism, that he admitted that all opinion was against him. That, then, has passed by. But no new mounted infantry are created, no new cavalry are created. We remain with our old short establishment of cavalry. And for all our cavalry in this new 1562 scheme we rely on the Yeomanry, which have not been obtained, and which, if obtained, will be perfectly untrained and not liable to service abroad. It seems to me grotesque to call that force "Imperial Yeomanry." I have heard hon. Members claim that, whatever might be urged against this war, it had brought the Empire together. Surely it would have been possible to take advantage of the feeling of the colonies, and while the feeling of the colonies was what it was recently, and is still, to have created a force of real Imperial Yeomanry. We have been told that a suggestion of this kind should come from the colonies themselves, but this has come from the colonies. The great colony of New Zealand, which has made greater sacrifices for this war than any other colony, has put forward a scheme. Surely it would have been possible to have sent such a man as Lord Jersey or Lord Carrington, or some other successful colonial governor, to Sir Wilfrid Laurier in Canada and to the Commonwealth Ministers in Australia to arrange a scheme to which they would agree, and come before this House with a real scheme for an Imperial Yeomanry. The scheme which is before us to-night is petty, and calculated to defeat the larger scheme which all of us had in our minds.
Now, Sir, I have done. Appeals have been made throughout the country for this House to disregard party on this question. It is easy for those who do not wish to disregard party to find reasons for not disregarding it. I can only say we should, all of us, try and avoid party as much as we can in this matter. I feel, apart from party, there are few competent men upon the opposite side of the House who approve of this scheme; but, apart from that, may we not feel the deepest regret that a magnificent opportunity has been sacrificed—a great chance has been thrown away? While we are all pledged to a thorough, sweeping, and almost revolutionary reconstruction of the Army, we have failed to rise to the hopes of the country. Is there any competent authority who really believes that the right hon. Gentleman upon this occasion has made the best of his opportunities?
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL (Oldham)
I find myself differing on this 1563 occasion from the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, and although we are on different sides of the House, I regret that I do not differ from him in the right way at all. He is very anxious to increase the cost of the Army.
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL
I have put the words down. I understand he is anxious to increase the cost of the Army in some respects, and he has delivered a speech which is of very great weight, coming as it does from one who is justly entitled to be considered a military expert. I think that the right hon. Baronet is also a remarkable instance of a very peculiar phenomenon. I have always noticed that whenever a Radical takes to Imperialism he catches it in a very acute form. That, perhaps, explains the vigorous manner in which the right hon. Baronet has defended further military expenditure at this juncture. I have no doubt the House has been powerfully impressed by the speech delivered on this side by my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I think we may congratulate ourselves on the return of the Chief Secretary to the theatre of war, in which he had previously earned such a distinguished reputation. We have heard from him a very illuminating and comprehensive speech on the Army question, and I for one have always regarded it as rather unfair that my right hon. friend, who more than any other Minister was responsible for encouraging the nation to embark on this course of military expenditure, should escape into the secluded tranquillity of the Irish Office and leave to the Secretary for War the duty of facing the storm that this expenditure has excited and is arousing. But I cannot follow my right hon. friend on this occasion as I have followed him in the past, and as I hope to follow him in the future. I wish to complain very respectfully, but most urgently, that the Army Estimates involved by the scheme lately explained by the Secretary of State for War are much too high, and ought to be reduced, if not this year, certainly at the conclusion of the South African campaign. I regard it as a 1564 grave mistake in Imperial policy to spend thirty millions a year on the Army. I hold that the continued increase in Army expenditure cannot be viewed by supporters of the Government without the-greatest alarm and apprehension, and by Members who represent working class constituencies without extreme dislike.
I desire to urge considerations of economy on His Majesty's Government, and as a practical step that the number of soldiers which they propose to keep ready for expeditionary purposes should be substantially reduced. First of all I exclude altogether from this discussion the cost of the South African War. Once you are so unfortunate as to be drawn into a war, no price is too great to pay for an early and victorious peace. All economy of soldiers or supplies is the worst extravagance in war. I am concerned only with the Estimates for the ordinary service of the year, which are increasing at such a rate that it is impossible to view them without alarm. Does the House realise what British expenditure on armaments amounts to? See how our Army Estimates have grown—seventeen millions in 1894, eighteen in 1897, nineteen in 1899, twenty-four in 1900, and finally in the present year no less than twenty-nine millions eight hundred thousand. Indeed we are moving rapidly, but in what direction? Sir, I see in this acclerating increase the momentum of a falling body and a downward course. I do not wish to reproach the Secretary of State for War for the enormous Estimates now presented. He is not to blame. The Secretary of State for War does not usually direct, or even powerfully influence, the policy of a Government. He is concerned with his own Department, and it is his business to get all he can for that Department. I must say the right hon. Gentleman appears to have done his work remarkably well. Indeed, if the capacity of a War Minister may be measured in any way by the amount of money he can obtain from his colleagues for military purposes, the right hon. Gentleman will most certainly go down to history as the greatest War Minister this country has ever had. I think this House ought to take a wider view of our Imperial responsibilities than is perhaps possible from the windows of the War Office.
1565 If I might be allowed to revive a half-forgotten episode—it is half-forgotten because it has passed into that period of twilight which intervenes between the bright glare of newspaper controversy and the calm rays of the lamp of history—I would recall that once on a time a Conservative and Unionist Administration came into power supported by a large majority, nearly as powerful, and much more cohesive, than that which now supports His Majesty's Government, and when the time came round to consider the Estimates the usual struggle took place between the great spending Departments and the Treasury. I say "usual"; at least it used to be so, I do not know whether it is so now. The Government of the day threw their weight on the side of the great spending Departments, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer resigned. The controversy was bitter, the struggle uncertain, but in the end the Government triumphed, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer went down for ever, and with him, as it now seems, there fell also the cause of retrenchment and economy, so that the very memory thereof seems to have perished, and the words themselves have a curiously old-fashioned ring about them. I suppose that was a lesson which Chancellors of the Exchequer were not likely to forget in a hurry. I should like, if I might be permitted, to read the passage, which appears extremely relevant to the question now before the House Writing from the Carlton Club on the 22nd of December, 1886, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in resigning his office, wrote to Lord Salisbury, who had pointed out the desperate state of Europe and the possibilities of immediate war, very much in the same way as he has done recently. The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied as follows]—The great question of public expenditure is not so technical or departmental as might be supposed by a superficial critic. Foreign policy and free expenditure upon armaments act and react upon one another.That has been said before in this debate, and it is what the Chief Secretary for Ireland called a hackneyed tag. I think, with as much reason, you might also call the Ten Commandments a hackneyed tag.A wise foreign policy will extricate England from Continental struggles and keep 1566 her outside of German, Russian, French, or Austrian disputes. I have for some time observed a tendency in the Government attitude to pursue a different line of action, which I have not been able to modify or cheek. This tendency is certain to be accentuated if large Estimates are presented to and voted by Parliament. The possession of a very sharp sword offers a temptation which becomes irresistible to demonstrate the efficiency of the weapon in a practical manner. I remember the vulnerable and scattered character of the Empire, the universality of our commerce, the peaceful tendencies of our democratic electorate, the hard times, the pressure of competition, and the high taxation now imposed: and with these facts vividly before me I decline to be a party to encouraging the military and militant circle of the War Office and Admiralty to join in the high and desperate stakes which other nations seem to be forced to risk.Wise words, Sir, stand the test of time, and I am very glad the House has allowed me, after an interval of fifteen years, to lift again the tattered flag of retrenchment and economy. But what was the amount of the annual Estimates on which this desperate battle was fought? It may be difficult for the House to realise it, though it is within the memory of so many hon. Members. "The Estimates for the year," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in resigning, "for the two services amount to no less than £31,000,000, and I cannot consent to that." What are the Estimates we are asked to vote now? We are now asked to vote, quite irrespective of the drain of a costly war still in progress, something more than fifty-nine millions for the ordinary service of the year.
This incident which I have been bringing to the mind of the House did not happen a century ago. It is quite recent history. The Leader of the House was already a famous Minister, the present Chancellor had already been Leader of the House, Lord Salisbury was already Prime Minister, when thirty-one millions was considered by the Treasury a demand which ought to be resisted tooth and nail. What has happened in the meanwhile to explain this astonishing increase? Has the wealth of the country doubled? Has the population of the Empire doubled? Have the armies of Europe doubled? Is the commercial competition of foreign nations so much reduced? Are we become the undisputed master in the markets of the world? Is there no poverty at home? Has the English 1567 Channel dried up, and are we no longer an island? Is the revenue so easily raised that we do not know how to spend it? Are the Treasury buildings pulled down, and all our financiers fled? What has happened to explain this extraordinary change? During the few weeks I have been a Member of this House I have heard hon. Members advocate many causes, but no voice is raised in the cause of economy. The Financial Secretary to the War Office, who above all should keep some eye on the purse strings, speaking the other night at some dinner, boasted that he was not animated by any niggardly spirit of economy. Not one voice is raised for reduced expenditure and lightening the public burden, if I may except, in order to be quite correct, the protests raised and the cries for economy from the Irish benches—economy of money, not economy of time—and even through the Irish protests for economy, I am sorry to say, there ran the melancholy dirge, "and how much as Ireland going to get out of it?" How can this tendency to extravagant expenditure be checked? The Opposition can do nothing. Of course, we shall outvote them. The House has no control whatever over Supply. The Treasury can do nothing against the great spending Departments, and in view of the fate that befell the last Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was obdurate, can we wonder that the present distinguished occupant of that office has been compelled to bow before the storm? The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave an extraordinary reason for not objecting to, but supporting, this military expenditure. He said it had been demanded, that it was popular. Expenditure always is popular; the only unpopular part about it is the raising of the money to pay the expenditure. But if that is an extraordinary reason, it is nothing to that put forward by my right hon. friend to-night, who asked pathetically, "What are we to do with our generals?" When they come home from South Africa with no more worlds to conquer they must keep their hands in, and they must be provided with an army, even if it does cost thirty millions a year, to enable them to keep their hands in, and to save them from getting out of practice. I am, I know, a very young man, but 1568 I confess I never heard anything like that before. I had always been led to believe that the generals existed for the Army, and not the Army for the generals. The phrase "happy-go-lucky self-indulgence," which was used by my hon. friend, seems to me to come in very appropriately somewhere about here. My right hon. friend is content to arm me with a blunderbuss. Well, a blunderbuss is a traditional weapon with which the British householder defends himself from those who seek to plunder him. Though it is a very antiquated and obsolete weapon, yet at close quarters, at about the range at which my right hon. friend is sitting now, it has been found very effective. I stand here to plead the cause of economy. I think it is about time that a voice was heard from this side of the House pleading that unpopular cause; that someone not on the bench opposite, but a Conservative by tradition, whose fortunes are linked indissolubly to the Tory party, who knows something of the majesty and power of Britain beyond the seas, upon whom rests no taint of cosmopolitanism, should stand forward and say what he can to protest against the policy of daily increasing the public burden. If such a one is to stand forward in such a cause, then, I say it humbly, but with I hope becoming pride, no one has a better right than I have, for this is a cause I have inherited, and a cause for which the late Lord Randolph Churchill made the greatest sacrifice of any Minister of modern times. Now, bearing all that in mind, I come to the scheme of the Secretary of State. I do not propose to consider that scheme in detail, that would be an interminable labour. When the right hon. Gentleman introduced the scheme—in a speech of surpassing clearness—it looked genuine, but in the weeks that have passed since he disclosed it to the House it has been sadly knocked about, crushed in the press, and exploded in the magazines, and has excited nothing but doubt in the country. The number of Amendments on the Paper shows the feeling of the House, and I know what some of the soldiers say about it. I do not feel equal to repeating their expressions here—but I shall be delighted to inform any hon. Member desiring information privately. 1569 It is no good mincing matters. This is not the best scheme that could be devised. I do not say that it does not contain any wise and ingenious provisions, nor that it will not give strength to the Army. Material strength is expected even in this country to follow great expenditure of money. But if the truth must be told, although this scheme involves an expenditure of nearly £30,000,000 a year, with further increases in prospect, it nevertheless leaves most of the great questions connected with Army reform almost entirely untouched. But what could be expected? The ordinary duties of a Minister are, I have always understood, sufficiently arduous. The War Office is a particularly hard job even in peace time. But we are at war. Not only has the Secretary of State to defend in this House every act of military policy big or little, but he has also to see—I hope it will not escape his attention—that an Army of more than two hundred thousand men actively engaged with the enemy lacks nothing that wealth or science can produce. Now that ought to be enough for the energy even of the right hon. Gentleman. Why, Sir, the labours of Hercules are nothing to it. But all this is not enough for the insatiable industry of the right hon. Gentleman. He must, forsooth, rearrange the internal mechanism of the War Office. He must take his engines to pieces while the ship is beating up under full steam against the gale. That is not all. No; in the few moments of leisure that fall to a public man in this country he must thoroughly reorganise and reform the whole system of the Army. Who can wonder that he has increased the quantity of his output only to the detriment of the quality, as happens to literary men? I had put down an Amendment, which it will not be in order now to move, which to my mind possesses advantages over that we are now discussing. In the first place, it removed the question from the party sphere in which it now lies, and in which it must now be decided. In the second place, it provided the Government with a means of retreat from the very uncomfortable position in which they have managed to get themselves. I do not expect hon. members on this 1570 side will agree with me, and I recognise that I am putting considerable strain upon their forbearance by the view I take of this matter, but I ask them for their indulgence while I state my view. My view is that we should have gone on with ordinary reforms which do not involve a large increase of expenditure, either of money or men, the better selection and promotion of officers, a question which the Secretary of State has shown himself willing to carry out with unflinching courage, the provision of better arms and the gradual adoption of new military material and weapons. What is called in The Times this morning the "grandiose"—that is the word for which I have been looking—the grandiose portion of the scheme should be postponed until such time as the South African war has assumed its true proportions in our eyes, and the men now in South Africa best qualified to do so have come home to give their attention to the reorganisation of the Army, and until those managing the War Office are relieved from the high pressure at which they are now working. That is a tale that has not been unfolded, and this question is now before the House on party lines. I confess I am unable to support the resolution of the Government; but the Amendment of the Leader of the Opposition does not attract me any more. His differences are differences of detail, not of principle. My objections are objections of principle. I hold it is unwise to have no regard to the fact that in this reform we are diverting national resources from their proper channels of development. It may be argued that if other nations increase their armed force so must we. If you look into the tangled mass of figures on this subject you will find that while other nations during the last fifteen years have been increasing their navies we have been increasing our expenditure on our Army, which is not after all our most important weapon. I am pleading the cause of economy first of all. But I have got two strings to my bow, or perhaps I should say two barrels to my blunderbuss. Failing economy, let us have wise expenditure. My contention is that we are spending too much money on armaments, and so may impair our industries; but that if 1571 the money has to be spent, then it would be better to spend it on the Fleet than on the Army. Of course we must have an Army, not only as a training school for our garrisons abroad, but because it would be unhealthy, and even immoral, for the people of Great Britain to live sleek, timid, and secure, protected by a circle of ironclad ships. It would have been a pleasant task to examine some of the wise and ingenious provisions which the scheme of the Secretary of State for War contains. But I have assumed a more melancholy duty to-night, one, perhaps, which would be more fittingly discharged by some hon. Member on the other side of the House. I contend that to spend thirty millions a year on the British Army is an unwise policy, against which the House must protest. Sir, at the late election I placarded "Army Reform" as large as anyone. I am pledged to the hilt to Army reform. But what is Army reform? I take it to be one of two things. Either it means the same efficiency at a reduced cost, or increased efficiency for the same cost. Perhaps it might mean greatly increased efficiency for a slightly increased cost But the one thing it certainly does not mean is a larger number of Regular soldiers. That is not Army reform, but Army increase. In, the last four years the present Ministers have added no fewer than fifty-seven thousand men to the Regular standing Army. A further increase—disguised in various ways—is comtemplated in the present scheme. Sir, it is against this Army increase that I protest, first in the interests of economy, secondly in the interests of the Fleet. I complain of the increase in Regular soldiers, and particularly of the provision of the three army corps which are to be kept ready for expeditionary purposes. I contend that they ought to be reduced by two army corps, on the ground that one is quite enough to fight savages, and three are not enough even to begin to fight Europeans. I hope the House will let me elaborate this. The enormous and varied frontiers of the Empire, and our many points of contact with barbarous peoples, will surely in the future, as in the past, draw us into frequent little wars. Our military system must therefore be adapted for dealing 1572 with these minor emergencies smoothly and conveniently. But we must not expect to meet the great civilised Powers in this easy fashion. We must not regard war with a modern Power as a kind of game in which we may take a hand, and with good luck and good management may play adroitly for an evening and come safe home with our winnings. It is not that, and I rejoice that it cannot be that. A European war cannot be anything but a cruel, heartrending struggle, which, if we are ever to enjoy the bitter fruits of victory, must demand, perhaps for several years, the whole manhood of the nation, the entire suspension of peaceful industries, and the concentrating to one end of every vital energy in the community. I have frequently been astonished since I have been in this House to hear with what composure and how glibly Members, and even Ministers, talk of a European war. I will not expatiate on the horrors of war, but there has been a great change which the House should not omit to notice. In former days, when wars arose from individual causes, from the policy of a Minister or the passion of a King, when they were fought by small regular armies of professional soldiers, and when their course was retarded by the difficulties of communication and supply, and often suspended by the winter season, it was possible to limit the liabilities of the combatants. But now, when mighty populations are impelled on each other, each individual severally embittered and inflamed—when the resources of science and civilisation sweep away everything that might mitigate their fury, a European war can only end in the ruin of the vanquished and the scarcely less fatal commercial dislocation and exhaustion of the conquerors. Democracy is more vindictive than Cabinets. The wars of peoples will be more terrible than those of kings. "Why, then," it may be said, "surely we must neglect nothing to make ourselves secure. Let us vote this thirty millions without more ado." If this vast expenditure on the Army were going to make us absolutely secure—much though I hate unproductive expenditure—I would not complain. But it will do no such thing. The Secretary for War knows—none better than he—that it will not make 1573 us secure, and that if we want to war with any great Power his three army corps would scarcely serve as a vanguard. If we are hated, they will not make us loved. They are a broken reed to trust to. If we are in danger, they will not make us safe. They are enough to irritate; they are not enough to overawe. They cannot make us invulnerable, but they may very likely make us venturesome. A prudent man insures his house against fire. We are often told this military expenditure is an insurance premium. Well, there is no doubt about the premium; we are paying that all right. But I would respectfully remind the House that the premium has been put up during the last five years, and is in fact so high now that, so far as I can calculate, in order to make our insurance policy a good bargain we should have to have a war equal to the Boer war every fifteen years. But do we get the insurance? In putting our trust in an army are we not investing in a shaky concern—in a firm that could not meet its obligations when called on? It may be said that it is not a mere question of pounds, shillings, and pence, but that it is a question of the honour and security of the Empire. I do not agree. The honour and security of the British Empire do not depend, and can never depend, on the British Army. The Admiralty is the only Office strong enough to insure the British Empire; and it can only be strong enough to do so because it has hitherto enjoyed the preferential monopoly of the sea. Moreover the provision of these three army corps ready to embark and attack anybody anywhere, is undoubtedly most provocative to the other Powers. No other nation makes, or has ever made, such a provision. And what of its effect on us? It is guite true that foreign nation possess gigantic armies and have lived at peace for thirty years. Foreign nations know what war is. There is scarcely a capital in Europe which ha not been taken in the last one hundred years, and it is the lively realisation of the awful consequences of war which maintains the peace of Europe. We do not know what war is. We have had a glimpse of it in South Africa. Even in miniature it is hideous and appalling; but, for all our experience, war to us 1574 does not mean what it means to the Frenchman, or the German, or the Austrian. Are we not arming ourselves with their weapons without being under their restraints? What I fear is that these three costly and beautiful army corps, which are to be kept ready—almost at a moment's notice—for foreign war will develop in the country, if they need developing, feelings of pride and power, which will not only be founded in actual military superiority, but only on the appearance of it. And in these days, when popular newspapers, appealing with authority to countless readers, are prepared almost every morning to urge us into war against one or other—and sometimes several—of the Great Powers of the earth, surely we ought not to make it seem so easy, and even attractive, to embark on such terrible enterprises, or to think that with the land forces at our disposal we may safely intermeddle in the European game? What is our weapon, then? The only weapon with which we can expect to cope with great nations is the Navy. This is what the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant calls "trust to luck and the Navy" policy. I confess I do trust the Navy. This new distrust of the Navy, a kind of shrinking from our natural element, the blue water on which we have ruled so long, is the most painful symptom of the military hydrophobia with which we are afflicted. Without a supreme Navy, whatever military arrangements we may make, whether for foreign expeditions or home defence, must be utterly vain and futile. With such a Navy we may hold any antagonist at arm's length and feed ourselves in the meantime, until, if we find it necessary, we can turn every city in the country into an arsenal, and the whole male population into an army. Sir, the superiority of the Navy is vital to our national existence. That has been said before. No one will deny that or thank me for repeating the obvious. Yet this tremendous Army expenditure directly challenges the principle, and those who advocate it are false to the principle they so loudly proclaim. For the main reason that enables us to maintain the finest Navy in the world is that whereas every European Power has to support a vast Army 1575 first of all, we in this fortunate, happy island, relieved by our insular position of a double burden, may turn our undivided efforts and attention to the Fleet. Why should we sacrifice a game in which we are sure to win to play a game in which we are bound to lose? For the same rule most certainly has a converse application, and just as foreign Powers by reason of their pressing land responsibilities must be inferior to us at sea, so we, whatever our effort, whatever our expenditure, by reason of our paramount sea responsibilities must be inferior to them on land. And surely to adopt the double policy of equal effort both on Army and Navy, spending thirty millions on each, is to combine the disadvantages and dangers of all courses without the advantages or security of any, and to run the risk of crashing to the ground between two stools, with a Navy uselessly weak and an Army uselessly strong. We are told we have "commitments"—not a very cheerful expression—in three continents, and that it is in consequence of these "commitments" that we must keep three army corps ready for immediate expeditionary purposes. On what principle are there to be three rather than two or eight? I had hoped that the formulation of some definite principle governing our military needs would be a prominent feature of any scheme of Army reform submitted to the nation. I suppose the principle on which the army corps have been selected is, one continent one army corps. Well, Sir, I should like to look into that. In the first place there is Asia. What is our danger there? Of course, it is an Anglo-Russian war on the frontier of India. But if anyone takes Lord Salisbury's advice—and sometimes he gives very good advice—to use large scale maps of Central Asia, they will see that any Russian enterprise against India would either have to be made with a small force, in which case our Indian Army would be sufficient to resist it, or else railways would have to be built, just as Lord Kitchener had to build a railway to Khartoum, to feed the great invading forces in the barren lands through which they must march, in which case we should have plenty of time to levy and train as many British 1576 troops as we might think fit. Then we have a "commitment" in North America—a "commitment" which is growing more able to take care of itself every day—not a "commitment" about which we need feel much anxiety. Sir, we must not, however, shrink from the responsibility. Of course, the danger which might assail us in this quarter of the globe would only be a war with the great friendly commercial nation to the southward. Evil would be the counsellors, dark would be the day when we embarked on that most foolish, futile, and fatal of all wars—a war with the United States. But if such a fit of madness should attack the Anglo-Saxon family, then I say both nations, having long enjoyed a glorious immunity from the curse of militarism, would be similarly placed, and no decisive events could be looked for until the war had been in progress for a year or two and enormous armies had been raised by both sides, and in this war, as in any other war of this kind, your three army corps would be merely the first few drops of the thunder shower. We shall be told "the lesson of the South African War must not be forgotten." "We must profit by our experience in South Africa, and be prepared next time for all eventualities." The present scheme of Army increase is justified mainly on the ground of our experience in South Africa. "We must be ready next time, says "the man in the street." Not for worlds would I speak disrespectfully of "the man in the street"; but, Sir, in the first place, I cannot help hoping "next time" may be a long way off. I trust the Government do not contemplate fighting these wars in South Africa septennially. I trust they will finish this one in such a style that future recurrence will be utterly impossible, and that an end will be made once and for all of dangers from within that continent. Dangers from without can never exist in that quarter so long as we preserve our naval supremacy. Once that is lost, such dangers would be dwarfed by greater catastrophes at home. But I will not look only to the future. I have no hesitation in asserting that even if this scheme had been carried into effect five years ago, and we had had our three expeditionary army corps 1577 ready for foreign service in October, 1899, even then the course of the South African War would not have been materially different. You would have had your three army corps ready, but would the possession of those three army corps have told the Intelligence officers and the general staff, and the Committee of National Defence that more than one army corps was needed? And even if they had advised that three army corps should be sent forthwith, that would not have been enough, for, as we know to our cost, not three army corps were needed, but six. See what inadequate security this scheme provides—if we are to embark on land enterprises against civilised peoples. The Boers were the smallest of all civilised nations. Yet this precious Army scheme, in spite of the thirty millions a year it is to cost, does not provide half the troops needed to conquer them; and if the scheme were carried into effect—as many people think it cannot be carried into effect—and the South African War were to begin over again, you would again have to call on Volunteers, Yeomanry, and Militia to alter their original contract with the State and serve beyond the seas. Yes, against this, the smallest of all civilised nations, we should have to fall back in these emergencies on the power of unrestricted sea communication, the wealth of a commercial country, and the patriotic and warlike impulses of a people not wearied of the military yoke.
The armies of Europe are bigger than those of the Boers, and cheaper than our own. France, in this present year, for an expenditure of twenty-eight millions, can mobilise twenty army corps. Germany, for twenty-six millions, gets twenty-two army corps. Russia, for thirty-two millions, can set on foot, including twenty-three regular army corps, a total force estimated at over three millions of men. And what can Great Britain do? Taught by the experience of the South African War, rich in her commerce and the generosity of her people, guided by the unfailing instinct of the War Office, Great Britain would be defended, after this scheme has been carried into effect, by no fewer than three trained army corps and three partly trained army corps; and for this she must pay two millions a year 1578 more than France, four millions a year more than Germany, and within two millions of the total cost of the whole great Russian army. But in spite of every explanatory circumstance, after every allowance has been made, one great truth glows and glares in our faces, veil it how we may: standing armies, which abound on the European continent, are not indigenous to the British soil; they do not flourish in our climate, they are not suited to our national character, and though with artificial care and at a huge and disproportionate cost we may cultivate and preserve them, they will after all only be poor, stunted, sickly plants of foreign origin. The Empire which has grown up around these islands is essentially commercial and marine. The whole course of our history, the geography of the country, all the evidences of the present situation, proclaim beyond a doubt that our power and prosperity alike and together depend on the economic command of markets and the naval command of the sea; and from the highest sentimental reasons, not less than from the most ordinary practical considerations, we must avoid a servile imitation of the clanking military empires of the European continent, by which we cannot obtain the military predominance and security which is desired, but only impair and vitiate the natural sources of our strength and vigour. There is a higher reason still. There is a moral force—the Divine foundation of earthly power—which, as the human race advances, will more and more strengthen and protect those who enjoy it; which would have protected the Boers better than all their cannon and brave commandos if instead of being ignorant, aggressive, and corrupt, they had enjoyed that high moral reputation which protected us in the dark days of the war from European interference—for, in spite of every calumny and lie uttered or printed, the truth comes to the top, and it is known alike by peoples and by rulers that on the whole British influence is healthy and kindly, and makes for the general happiness and welfare of mankind. And we shall make a fatal bargain if we allow the moral force which this country has so long exerted to become diminished, or perhaps even destroyed for the sake of the costly, 1579 trumpery, dangerous military playthings on which the Secretary of State for War has set his heart.
§ Debate adjourned till to-morrow, at Two of the clock.