§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
*COLONEL LONG (Worcestershire, Evesham)
This Resolution, Sir, raises a question which, I believe, is equal in importance to any, even of the greatest factors which have to be considered in the formation of an efficient Army. There may be the most perfect organisation—on paper; there may be a considerable supply of excellent recruits of a good quality; yet, if the officers and men are not trained in accordance with the requirements of modern war, no army will be able to cope with an opponent so trained, and only after a course of both dangerous and disastrous education in the field will such an army become efficient. Last year we had the Report of a Committee on the training of officers, and a most grave and serious condition of affairs was shown to have existed in the past, and, possibly, even to exist in the present. Many distinguished officers of the highest rank—some of whom, at all events, had been in a position to bring influence to bear on the problem—were unanimous in stating that the junior 116 officers were lamentably wanting in military knowledge, and in the desire to acquire that knowledge, and they added that keenness was out of fashion. It does not seem to have occurred to these distinguished officers that it was the duty of the senior officers to see that those under them were trained to understand and to perform those duties on active service which are the very object of their existence as officers. For, if it was not for the certainty of war from time to time there would be no necessity for an Army at all, and if they themselves had been keen, in all human probability the young officers, too, would have been keen.
Many of the witnesses urged that there were not sufficient inducements to study; that there was no certainty of more rapid promotion as the result. No doubt hope of advancement provides a great stimulant to work, and ought to be a powerful instrument in the hands of the authorities for obtaining efficiency. But would any private business firm content themselves with keeping hands who did not only not improve, but who were evidently inefficient for the work they were kept to do? Does not a heavy responsibility rest on the officers in command of battalions, etc., to see that junior officers are steadily advancing towards what will mean efficiency in time of war? Does not an equal responsibility rest on generals to see that commanding officers of units under their command clearly recognise and really act up to their responsibility? And, lastly, does not great responsibility rest also with those officers who are in the highest position of our Army administration, to see. that the generals holding command make themselves acquainted with the condition of the forces in their charge, and do not hesitate to use the powers committed to them? Very considerable those powers are; no less than the power, after due report and examination, of checking temporarily or terminating permanently the career, as officers, of those under them. It has always seemed to me that, given three steps in the chain of command and responsibility—say, for argument, those of general, colonel, and captain—if the general finds that the captain is inefficient or faulty, it is the colonel that should be blamed, and even, if necessary, 117 forfeit his position. He should either have made his subordinate efficient or reported that he was hopeless; then long ago the system would have been changed and amended. This is the ordinary chain of responsibility which, from various causes, has in the past become so rusty that nothing short of the grossest inefficiency—discovered, perhaps, by accident—or bad discipline, or personal misconduct, has caused strong measures to be taken.
I noticed in the evidence given before the Education Committee, a distinguished officer holding a position of influence second perhaps only to that of the Commander-in-Chief, and directly responsible for the training of the Army, stated that under the existing system there was no possibility of the young officers studying, and it was absolutely impossible to find the time for military training. I think this was somewhat of an exaggeration, and that many young officers and senior officers have trained themselves, but he went on to mention that he had been writing much—multiplying paper—for a year or two on the subject, and had tired out two successive Secretaries of State for War. When I read this evidence last year, I could not help thinking that these masses of paper represented a defensive work thrown up by a skilled tactician to protect himself from any objectionable attack which might arise from the report of such a Committee as this on the training of officers. And I could not help thinking also that if he had adopted offensive tactics, such as are said to have been taken by certain gallant sailors when, in despair at the condition of our Navy, they said they would resign their appointments if steps were not taken to remedy the dangerous condition of affairs, he would not, as he tells us in his evidence, have had to spend six years in working at, and two years in writing about, the subject. Is it not possible that this and similar things are what the late Chancellor of the Exchequer meant when he said at Bristol that reforms were wanted as much on the military side as on the civil side of the War Office? I do not say that the paper efforts of the distinguished officer were altogether wasted, because probably they had something to do with 118 the present Secretary of State for War appointing the Committee on Training.
Whatever may be thought of the military scheme of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the War Office, and the amount of his Estimates, I think every one will agree that he has always been prepared to take the initiative, and he has not feared to face responsibility. I should like to ask what steps he is going to take to enforce a sound chain of responsibility. There may be a Director-General of training, a perfect course of instruction in drill books and regulations, and even in practical work, but it will be useless if it is not brought home to all that they are responsible for the efficiency of those below them, and that their own professional career will suffer if they do not fully recognise that responsibility, even though they may have left the position in which they made the recommendation which proved to be wrong. And this is very important. When an officer gets command of a battalion of infantry, say, which is in bad order, he knows very well that if he takes strong measures it will not only make him unpopular but it may injure his military career. For when the battalion was rotten things may have been quiet and smooth, but the path of peform, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is troublesome and stormy, and he is inclined to "let sleeping dogs lie." But whoever finds himself in that position, as I did once, should feel that he is between Scylla and Charybdis, and should realise that if he will not take the trouble at once it may fall on him at a less opportune moment.
Now, Sir, one of the great lessons of modern war is that now, more than ever, presence of mind—the power to rapidly sum up the conditions of a moment as they affect a general plan, and to follow up by prompt initiative and a fearless taking of responsibility—are the qualities which make an efficient officer. They are qualities long recognised as necessary in anyone aspiring to be a leader of cavalry or a great general. They are now as necessary in every officer, non-commissioned officer and man; and in future the first object of military training must he to develop those qualities. No doubt some men possess 119 these to a greater degree than others, but they can be developed by training in almost every one, by cultivating powers of observation and insuring a thorough knowledge of principles, with plenty of practice in applying those principles under constantly changing circumstances. The opportunities for such practice, however, have not existed as much as might be wished under the existing system. Even in barracks and in the barrack square, even in the everyday life of a regiment in quarters, habits of taking responsibility, knowledge of the art of how to gain influence over men, and so to lead them, and the knowledge of that theory which must precede practice can be obtained. But the practice necessary, before men will have confidence in themselves and use their powers boldly and confidentially in war time, can only be obtained under conditions somewhat resembling actual warfare.
In England in the past there have been various units, infantry, cavalry, and artillery, scattered about the country in isolated barracks. In many cases regiments have been broken up into small detachments, and other regiments have been so largely composed of recruits that it has been impossible to get sufficiently trained men on parade, after providing for the innumerable garrison and regimental employments, to give effective instruction to either officers or men. In answer to a question just now, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned that the battalions which went out to South Africa had 500 men ready to go, but one knows that when you come to details 500 dwindle down to a very small number on parade. The lack of sufficient trained soldiers in home battalions for the training and practice of officers, and the unavoidable absorption of all their time in elementary instruction of recruits arises entirely from our system of linked battalions. There was once an ancient people, we are told, whom a tyrant commanded to make bricks, and while he gave them straw they did make bricks; when he gave no straw they made very bad bricks. That has been the condition of the British Army in the past. They had to make practical officers, but in England they had no 120 men to practise with, and, in many cases, no ground to practise on. That is the secret of many regrettable incidents in South Africa; that is the only excuse—I do not know if it is altogether a valid excuse—of commanding officers having allowed men to be promoted who were not thoroughly trained, and the only excuse, a somewhat feeble one, why officers in high positions have failed to bring home by strong measures to commanding officers their individual responsibility when a man under them is promoted.
It may be said that promotion in the junior ranks has always gone by seniority; this is not absolutely the case, in theory at all events; promotion has been by seniority tempered by rejection. The power to reject has been too much forgotten and neglected. The Secretary of State for War has been endeavouring to supply some straw, for he is enlarging the powers of generals in the matter of training, but what advice and counsel on these matters does he receive from his military experts? How does he propose to apply it so that in battalions full of recruits, officers may constantly apply practically the theories they have acquired by study? I do not say anything specially about the training of the men, because I believe in training the officers thoroughly. You will, given time and opportunity, train the men also; but now that there are so many three-year men, I should like to suggest that although we must keep up to the full every hour of our gymnasium drill, still a great deal of what I may call the ornamental recruit drill should be done away with. We have not the time or money to expend on it. I think that men should be put as soon as possible direct to their musketry course, and their field course, believing as I do that by that means you will have immediately many more men on whom you can reckon. The training of the officers of the auxiliary forces presents some different factors. The Secretary of State for War, in abolishing the Militia Army Reserve, and starting a Militia Reserve; has probably done more for our Militia service than any modern War Minister, 121 for he has prevented their being robbed of all their best men in time of war, and opened out new avenues of hope and ambition to the senior officers of that service. But though many Militia and Volunteer officers have attained high efficiency under the old system, and have proved their worth during the late war, there must be very considerable advance in the training of the auxiliary force officers, if these forces are to be raised to the fullest efficiency of which they are capable. It is a difficult question, and it is necessary to keep always in mind that these officers are not like those in the Regular forces, giving up their whole time to the service, and any scheme to be effectual, and to attract the best men, must work side by side with their ordinary life and professions.
Probably it will be necessary to give to the officers themselves considerable choice of time and method for obtaining the necessary experience and knowledge, and to judge of their fitness for promotion by the reports of those who instructed them, supplemented by a good practical test, and examination just before promotion. This is a question which, if the Secretary of State can solve it satisfactorily, will go far to make our Militia and Volunteers thoroughly effective in their respective positions. I believe myself in that way it is one of the keys to future economy in military expenditure, because if our Militia and Yeomanry attain to real efficiency, it will be possible to do what I believe could not be safely done now, look to them for a portion of that "striking force" which the nation must possess over and above its naval supremacy if it is to be able to support and protect its commercial interests by means of diplomacy. Many allusions have been made lately to the able letter in The Times, but the public seem to have forgotten the first letter, in which the writer drew attention to the fact that we had a strategical frontier, and drew a line through South Africa, Persia, India and China, pointing out that that was our strategic boundary in those parts. The sea was the base, and when you remembered that no army, no nation, is successful which keeps on the defensive, you will have to reckon that some time 122 or other you may have to push a striking force inland from that line. I can quite understand persons at the Court of Pekin or Persia, for instance, saying "We do not care about Great Britain; we have no Navy they can take away from us, and they have no Army they can bring against us." I beg to move.
*MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)
In rising to second the Motion of my hon. and gallant friend, I will endeavour to be as brief as possible. My hon. and gallant friend has referred to the recent Report of the Military Education Committee, and having been a member of that Committee, I think I am entitled, to ask the Secretary of State for War to state what he intends to do to remedy the defects in the training of officers and men which were disclosed in the Report of that Committee. The Committee dealt with three main subjects. First, the antecedent general education of the Army candidates; second, the training in the military colleges and universities, and thirdly, with the question of training of officers, after joining the Army, and consequently with the training of the men under them. So far as we can ascertain, the Secretary of State has done nothing whatever with regard to the recommendations under the first head; under the second ho has taken partial, and, so far as it goes, satisfactory action with regard to the military colleges, and, so far as the third series of recommendations is concerned, he has taken no action at all. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will plead lack of time, but he has had this Report in his hands for a full year, and I think it is time either to accept or repudiate the recommendations of the Committee. What does this Report say? My hon. and gallant friend who moved the Motion has drawn attention to one or two of the more salient recommendations in that Report. I would call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this—Several causes appear to have combined to bring about this state of things, the gravity of which cannot be exaggerated, From the evidence laid before them, the Committee are driven to conclude that the dominant cause is that the promotion of the young officer is not dependent on the zeal and ability which he may show….Under the existing system the promotion of indolent officers is as rapid as—and may be more rapid than—that of their more industrious 123 comrades, a fact which is a sufficient explanation of the lack of zeal of which so many witnesses complain. Such was the evidence, not only of the majority of witnesses examined before the Committee, but also eighty-seven commanding officers' who were consulted, and whose opinions tend to show that' the professional advancement of the officer depends on many considerations quite apart from his professional merit or military capacity.That is a very serious indictment, but the Report goes further and shows that not only have the officers of the Army very little inducement to study their profession seriously, but that the War Office has no means of as certaining whether an officer is efficient or not. All they do is to impose certain ridiculous, perfunctory, and entirely theoretical tests upon him as to his knowledge. The present promotion examinations, of which there are only four during the whole of an officer's career, from Second Lieutenant to Field-Marshal, are wholly illusory and useless to a degree which can only be realised by those who, like myself, have had to go through them, or by those who have studied the Report of the Military Education Committee. I will not wearythe House with a description of these examinations, but the Committee dissected them exhaustively and summed up the tests as follows. Of the first examination the Committee said—The futility of the examination in A and B is notorious.Of the second examination they say—With regard to the examination in C, D, and G, the Committee are of opinion that theory is unduly exalted at the expense of practice, it being to a large extent a mere paper examination, and a test not of the candidate's real ability, hut of his power to commit to memory and reproduce on paper facts from the text-books. In this respect there has been an actual retrogression in the last few years.Then they conclude their Report with this statement—It is useless to expect a spirit of keenness for self-improvement in professional subjects if promotion he accorded to the slothful and unintelligent, if the diligent and quick-witted find that they gain nothing by those qualities, hut are liable to he left behind in the race by those having the good fortune to possess connections and interest.The Committee wish most emphatically to repeat that the only chance of a general improvement in military education—and in the consequent efficiency of the Army—lies in an honest system of promotion by merit, following upon tests conducted in an honest and practical manner, honestly reported on, and duly acted upon by the authorities.124 Well, Sir, I should like to know what the right hon. Gentleman is going to do about these promotion examinations; which, after all, form the only control at present exercised over the efficiency and the training of the officers of the Army? So much with regard to the training of the individual officer in his theoretical duties; now as regards his practical duties. It is an obvious truism, I think, that the only way in which an officer can become acquainted with his practical duties is by continual practice in the field—of course, I do not necessarily mean the field of battle—and by the actual handling of the troops whom he will have to command in time of war. It cannot be done by the mere reading of text books, by passing paper examinations, or by looking at a "War Game." What is absolutely necessary is continual practice with the section, company, regiment, or Army Corps, which he would have to command in actual warfare: that, and that alone, can fit him for the real business of war. And yet what does the late Adjutant General of the Army, the present Commander of the Second Army Corps, say about the present system? He says—and it is a striking statement to come from an officer in his responsible position:—The present system renders military training' absolutely impossible,' and also prevents the proper training of officers, noncommissioned officers and men. In these statements he is supported by the majority of military witnesses, who state that there is no continuity of instruction in the battalion, and that regimental training is necessarily defective and interrupted. Under the existing system the officer rarely sees the men for whose military efficiency he is supposed to be responsible. They are largely employed in non-military duties, such as waiting in the canteens and regimental institutes, the charge of cricket and tennis grounds, as clerks, orderlies, grooms, etc. Till this can be changed, and some expedient found for relieving troops, who should be undergoing training in their duties as combatants, from such work as above mentioned, the Committee feel that the training of the officer in the art of war must be mainly theoretical, with the inevitable result that in the opening stages of a campaign British troops must incur grave risks of disaster.There is no getting away from this damning fact—it is proved over and over again by the evidence before the Committee—that under the existing regimental system the training of both officers and men in a home battalion is an absolute impossibility. To what is this due? It is due primarily and almost entirely to the linked-battalion 125 system. That is a matter I hope to be able to go into on another occasion. I will therefore only remind the House now that, whatever the upholders of the linked-battalion system may say for it, they cannot deny that it reduces the home battalions to a mere "ragged depot," as one of the officers described it before the Committee, and deprives it of almost every quality which goes to make up a fighting unit. I wonder if the House is really aware of the actual condition of the home battalions? Lord Wolseley described them as "squeezed lemons," but that, after all, does imply a certain condition of permanency, if not of very great usefulness. As a matter of fact, however, they are mere military turnstiles, through which recruits pass in an endless procession on their way to the battalions abroad, under conditions which are as little calculated to give young soldiers a proper training, to instil into them any sense of esprit de corps, or to make them feel at home in the Army, as would a few nights in an East-End doss-house. Let me give the House a ease from my own knowledge which will show the House the impossibility of training a regiment under these conditions. In this particular case there are eight captains, four only of whom were with the regiment, three on paper, and one in India.
*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AVAR (Mr. BRODRICK, Surrey, Guildford)
At what date? Is that at the present time?
*MR. ARTHUR LEE
Not at the present moment. As the right hon. Gentleman himself has said, the present is a transitional period, and it is impossible to draw any reliable lesson from it. This is a recent case, and I shall be happy to give the right hon. Gentleman any details.
*MR. ARTHUR LEE
This did occur during the war, but the facts I am stating represent, I think, the normal condition. But perhaps I can satisfy the right hon. Gentleman by another case—I have 126 several here—of a crack regiment at Aldershot, which illustrates the normal condition of the battalions at home in peace time. How is the training of such a battalion carried out? In the month of February or March company training commences, and about the same time the battalion is expected to send 300 or 400 men abroad as drafts, with the result that the companies are depleted of every able-bodied man they possess, and start their company training with perhaps 40 men, most of whom are recruits or ineffectives. But company training has to go on, and, when it is nearly finished, a fresh batch of raw recruits come in from the depot. Just about then battalion training commences, and these recruits have to go on with it without knowing anything at all of the company training which preceded it. After about six weeks, just as brigade training commences, another lot of recruits dribble in, and they have to go through brigade training without any knowledge of the company or battalion training. Later in the year the manoeuvres come on, and another batch of recruits filter in and are expected to take their part in the movements of Army Corps without any experience of the previous trainings. This is the system under which the War Office expects an officer to train his regiment and fit his men to meet the enemies of the country. I am guilty of no exaggeration; this is no funny story, but a description of the normal system which exists in the home battalions at Aldershot, our chief military training school, and the head-quarters of the First Army Corps, which is supposed always to be ready at a moment's notice to take the field. But no other system is possible as long as we cling to the ridiculous fetish of the linked battalion system. In India the conditions are entirely different. A battalion there is kept filled up with practically all the ablebodied men that its unfortunate brother, the "squeezed lemon,"at home is able to produce, and these men are available for actual military work. All the fatigues are done by natives, and no ablebodied fighting men are taken away for officers' servants, generals, gardeners, Governors' boatmen, or any other non-military but perhaps more interesting employment. Both officers and men are available for actual military work, and 127 are able to barn their business, with the esult that the regiment becomes an efficient fighting unit.
What is the remedy for this condition of affairs? The first remedy is the very obvious one of having all fatigues, non-military duties, and odd jobs done by pensioners or reservists, who would be only too glad of the work. This would permit the so-called fighting men to attend to their proper duties. The second necessity is to develop the present Military Manoeuvres Act in order that manoeuvres may be carried out on a proper scale all over the country. I understand, however, that the right hon. Gentleman is doing something in that direction. But the primary and fundamental remedy is to abolish, root and branch, the present linked battalion system. Of course, if you abolish it you will have to put something in its place, and the only reasonable system to put in its place is that of supplying all battalions, whether at home or abroad, with recruits from great central depots, as is done with such marked success in the case of the Guards and Marines. That is a large reform, but until it is carried out the home battalions will not, and never can, in any sense of the word be effective units. The right hon. Gentleman, before he devotes his abilities to the construction of Army Corps, should give his attention to the question of making efficient the battalions and other units which will subsequently form those Army Corps.
In conclusion, I hope I have made clear to the House what are the chief obstacles in the way of carrying out any efficient training at present, and also indicated, though necessarily very briefly, the chief remedies that should be applied to the existing abuses. As far as we can judge, nothing is being done in these directions. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not content that the present vicious system should go on, and these abuses remain? At any rate, I do not think he can ignore the forcible and unanimous condemnation of the existing system by the Committee selected and appointed by himself, or the conclusions at which, after long and careful study, they arrived. In my opinion, that Report ought to be either disproved or else 128 accepted and acted upon. I beg to second the Motion.
Amendment proposed—To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'in the opinion of this House, the altered conditions of modern warfare render necessary radical changes in the system of professional training of the officers and men of our Army and Auxiliary Forces, which proved inadequate during the late war' instead thereof."—(Col. Long.)Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR A. HAYTER (Walsall)
I venture to think that whatever views we hold on either side of the House as to the military training of officers there can be no difference of opinion as to the importance of this subject; and, therefore, I think the House is under a debt of gratitude to the hon. and gallant Member for Worcestershire for bringing this question before us. Neither do I think it is possible to deny that this is an opportune moment to undertake an examination of this question, because we have just had issued the evidence upon the education and training of officers, in the form of a Blue-book, collected by a Committee presided over by the present Home Secretary, whose able Report has been compiled by the exertions of himself and the Secretary of that Committee. If we read only the opening paragraphs of this important Report we shall see that what we have reaped we have sown, and we shall see that a great deal of the very unsatisfactory condition of military education in this country is owing to the way in which the Education Department of the Army has been starved. If the House will allow me to read the figures they will see that we have for a number of years been gradually reducing the amount granted for military education. In 1890–91, for an Army of 143,000 Regulars, the amount taken for military education was £112.500, and of that the greater part was taken for a regimental schools, and the whole sum spent upon the education of officers and cadets was only £41,000. Coming to 1901–02, for an Army of 209,000 Regulars, the Military Education Vote was £119,000, and out of a total 129 Vote of £30,000,000 we spent only.£40,000 on technical military education for the officers and cadets who are to lead those men in battle, or 15 per cent. of the whole.
With regard to the expenditure on Army education there is also a reduction upon the amount granted for foreign languages. In former days—speaking of ten years ago—there was £4,000 or £5,000 granted as special prizes for officers to qualify in foreign languages, but that has dropped down now to £550. A greater change still is that we have abolished the military education department which used to be so ably carried on at Winchester House, and which cost £7.242, and we placed in its stead one single officer, under the military secretary, General Grove, at the magnificent salary of £800 a year. Directly General Grove came into office the war commenced in South Africa, and he has stated that he never had time to undertake military education at all. He rejoiced to think that one of the first steps which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State took was to appoint a thoroughly efficient officer such as General Hildyard at the head of the military education, making him responsible for the whole military education of the Army. I am glad to see also that the right hon. Gentleman has taken £6,000 additional to increase the accommodation at Sandhurst and to improve the system, root and branch, which is going on there.
Now I come to the Report of the Committee, and I would ask the House to consider how very important this statement is. On page 20 the condition of Sandhurst is dealt with, and the Committee report:—The Committee regret to report that the general condition of education at the Royal Military College is far from satisfactory. In the first place the cadets cannot he expected to derive much benefit from Sandhurst when it is clearly estahlished that they have absolutely no inducement to work. This inducement is not afforded by the number of marks necessary to qualify for a commission, nor by the fact that those who fail to reach the low qualifying standard demanded are excluded from the Army. Indeed there is too much reason to fear that even those cadets who fail to attain this standard have been commissioned none the less.That is not particularly creditable to Sandhurst, but I am quite certain— 130 and I speak as a former visitor of the military colleges—that the great error we have always made at Sandhurst is that we put a too severe examination on those who enter, whereas we put a very feeble and easy test upon them when they go out. The result is that these cadets have no inducement at Sandhurst to work. They all know that unless they commit some grave offence against discipline, or unless they are exceptionally indolent, they will be able to obtain their commissions; and we have had abundant evidence that if these young officers do not learn their profession at the college they will never learn it afterwards. I hope, from the recent appointments which have been made at Sandhurst, we shall see a complete change of all this. For the last few years the head of Sandhurst College has been looked upon as a sort of easy berth for an old officer, and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is making an effort to improve matters at Sandhurst. With regard to the professors I wish to quote a word or two from the Report. It states—That if the cadets have no inducement to work at Sandhurst, it is equally clear that the instructors have no inducement to teach. Professors appear to be selected from 7nen who desire to have a quiet billet; they are taken on probation, but of late have never been sent back.They are men who wish to retire from active work for a certain time, generally for five years, in order to obtain a berth which will not necessitate their moving their families about from quarter to quarter. They do not drill the cadets or take them into the field and instruct them, and they have no intimate touch with them, and I maintain that that is the very thing which they require. If I may say so, I think there are very serious objections to the mode of teaching which goes on. One of the most useful things a young officer can be taught is to drill bis own squad. At present they are nearly all noncommissioned officers who conduct riding, drilling and gymnastics, and they have no revolver practice, and no drill taught by the officers. The Committee lay stress upon the fact that the education in the riding school should be made equal to what is wanted in the field. I. trust that the new broom put in at Sandhurst by the right hon. Gentleman 131 will bring entirely new methods and new modes of instruction. Another point which I wish to draw the attention of the House to is that there appears to be an unanimous opinion that the University: candidates have provided us with some of the best recruits we have had. I will quote what General Groves says upon this point. He says—The best class of candidates, I think everybody will agree, are the University candidates. We get very good ones from the Militia and Sandhurst, but, taken as a whole, the University candidates are by general acknowledgment the most satisfactory.I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do all he can with the authorities at Oxford and Cambridge to secure a more steady and sufficient supply of candidates from the Universities than at present. In the regiment with which I have been connected, the London Rifle Brigade, I had a difficulty in regard to obtaining good, officers, and I put myself in communication with the Universities, and they supplied officers to my regiment for some time with great satisfaction. If the University candidates are allowed to join the Militia regiments or the University Corps they will then obtain sufficient military knowledge to enable them to compete satisfactorily at the examination. After what has been said in this Blue-book and the fact that these young officers have not proved wanting in discipline, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do all in his power to secure a larger supply of University candidates. I notice that the Committee recommend that Sandhurst should be considerably enlarged. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is now taking anything in this vote for new buildings at Sandhurst, but it would be a very great thing if we had room there for about 650 cadets. The ground there is very favourable, and considerable building might be undertaken there tolerably cheaply, whereas, if the college is to be a success, it would be of very great use to have more accommodation.
I wish to say one or two words upon the Question of officering the staff. I find that there is a general consensus of opinion that the present system is not satisfactory. I think it would be advisable to form a staff corps, and not send officers from their regiments. My own opinion is that we should do better by making a man a staff officer, and keep 132 him in that position, and let him make his career from the staff instead of seconding him in his regiment, to which he returns. There is also the question of the cavalry expenses. The right hon. Gentleman to-day made a statement with regard to that, but I wish to enlarge upon it, because I think it is of the greatest possible importance that we should not allow what is going on to continue. It has been said that you are obliged to fix a very low standard for candidates because they cannot find men who possess the means to meet the expenditure of the cavalry. Surely it would be a very good thing to summon the cavalry commanding officers and insist that the expenses should be kept within bounds, so that a man having only £200 a year besides his pay might be able to join. I notice that those joining are to receive the gift of the horse, and. there will be less changes in the uniform, and these are indications that the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to do what is necessary in this direction. We must also keep down the regimental drags and polo tournaments, and you must not allow the expenses to be so high that men of £200 a year cannot join cavalry regiments. With regard to the last opinion which the Committee expressed as to the general training, I most heartily agree. I most thoroughly and entirely agree that whatever regulations you make you will never be able to carry them out unless you adopt a system of promotion by merit. You must see that the examinations are honestly and properly carried out, but it rests with the Commander-in-Chief and the right hon. Gentleman to see that all the avenues to the highest posts in the Army are open as in other professions to the men who show industry, ability, and enterprise.
I think we must all admit the general interest of the discussion which my hon. and gallant friend has introduced. Amid the many jailing notes which are heard in this House on the question of military reform I imagine that there is one subject which, at all events, stands as an oasis on which we may all join hands. I am sure that the speeches which have already been heard have tended very much in that direction. Now I cannot approach this subject without expressing my warm 133 thanks, not only to those who have brought the matter forward, but to the Education Committee for their very valuable, prolonged, and most successful labours, and for the Report which they signed. I think anybody who has read that Report must see that, although they may disagree with some individual portions of it, that it has taken a broad and deep view of the whole subject, and put before us a series of propositions with which we must be more or less in accord. I cannot help, in referring to the Committee and thanking its members for their labours, also saying a word about one of the officers mentioned by an hon. Member, Captain Cairnes. I think the last public act in his life was the sending round of the Committee's Report for signature, and I am afraid that his labours on the Committee had much to do with his untimely death. Speaking on questions of education, it is a sad coincidence that only a few days ago there passed away also another officer of great promise, Colonel Henderson, who had taken the greatest possible interest in this subject, who had progressed far on a career of great promise, and whose name, I may say, even at the very moment he was taken ill, we were considering for a high post in connection with education. I am sure those of us who are now dealing with these subjects cannot help feeling sad that these two careers have so early closed, and deep regret at the loss of two men who in this particular line would have been able to show their brilliant talents with great advantage to the nation.
Looking at this subject of education, I venture to say there is not a single point in a boy's career, from the beginning before he enters the Army up to the time at which he commands a regiment, that his education does not require a more careful consideration and organisation than it has received hitherto. I think that the public schools have done an immense amount to adapt themselves to our more modern requirements with regard to the education of Army candidates, but I think a considerable amount still remains to be done, and I also feel that whatever we may lay down here, whatever the rules the War Office may carry out on the initiative of a Committee, or of this House, we shall not succeed in getting the full support of the educational world, unless we to some 134 extent bring the educational world into concert with us, and into council with regard to these matters. I regard that as being at the outset the most important point with which we can deal. I do not say, nor am I competent to say, how far it is necessary that there should be any considerable change for other purposes, besides that of entrance to the Army, in the old system of classical education. All I can say is that I see in the Report of this Committee, and also in the comments which have been made upon it by those who are well qualified to speak in the educational world, a very considerable wavering as to the desirability of continuing our old system of classical education up to the extent to which it has gone hitherto.
It is for the reason that I feel, that a new departure for the Army which would so very largely affect the public schools in the country would have a farreaching effect, that I should hesitate myself, even with the admirable advice which may be tendered to me by those associated with me in my Department, to state absolutely a new departure with regard to the syllabus which would be required of Army candidates. But what I propose to do at the outset, and at once, is to support the new Director General of Military Education and Training, Sir Henry Hildyard, whose appointment I think has been universally well received, and who brings to this office not only the best theoretical experience and training, but also the most recent practical experience in the field; we bring to his assistance an advisory board as suggested by the Education Committee. A great deal has been said, and some fun has been poked at me, for referring too much work to committees or boards. I am perfectly immune to those attacks. I have constituted, it is true, three or four committees or boards, and I venture to say that when my successor, however soon or however late, comes into my place he will tell me that the War Office Council, a board established at the instance—or rather which has taken its present form very largely at the instance—of Sir Clinton Dawkins' Committee, and the Medical Advisory Board, have both of them been successful beyond all expectations in forwarding the work of the Department. I quote the Medical 135 Advisory Board because that board is started precisely on the same principle as the Educational Board which we propose to establish, in order to bring the great medical establishments in the country, and the scientific attainments of civilians, into contact with our military problem, and to obtain their advice and support. That is precisely what we desire to do in connection with the education of the Army.
I propose, therefore, that the Director General of Military Education should for all purposes connected with the examination of candidates before they enter the Army, and with their training before they are commissioned, have a board consisting of the four heads of the military colleges—Woolwich, Sandhurst, the Staff College and the Ordnance College—and that he should be assisted also by two representatives of the Universities, by one selected by the Incorporated Association of Headmasters, one selected by the Headmasters' Conference, and one by the Royal Society, so that we may ensure that scientific attainments are not forgotten, and further, that there should be two nominated members, I think, by the Secretary of State, as was recommended by the Committee. I propose to leave in their hands the settlement of this syllabus of examination. I do not think that I should be expected to give an off-hand opinion, or oven a mature opinion, upon the several minute questions raised by the Committee. When the Committee decided that they would do their best to avoid a smattering of knowledge, as is at present attained by the examination, I think many people, including educationists of importance, would hold that the Committee's own definition that it was not necessary to give definite periods of history, or definite geography in the examination papers, or that the whole subject of English in itself should include both geography and history, might lead to a smattering of knowledge. However this may be, I am sure we should be on firm ground in leaving the entrance examination to be settled by the new Advisory Board, merely providing that the whole examination for Woolwich and Sandhurst for the Army and for the Militia should be held, if possible, in one examination, and that the higher the candidate gets the wider should be his choice of selection as to the branch of the Army he wishes to join.
136 Having got our candidates, I am bound to say that I think we shall require much better military training of them before they are admitted to the Army than has been the case heretofore. I do not wish to say a word on the statement of the Committee, or even on the evidence of prominent officers, as to the deficiencies in the training of our officers as disclosed in the war; still less do I wish to compare them with foreign officers, except to say that some of those who make the most confident comparisons between our officers and foreign officers, to the disadvantage of our own officers, must remember that foreign officers have, as a rule, not been tested in war as our officers have been; that our officers have been tested in very varied forms of warfare, and that, speaking generally, in our small wars we have every reason to be proud of the attainments of our officers. But at the same time there is one abiding fact that we cannot get away from, and that is that before they enter the Army, our officers do not receive the same continuous and varied training as the officers of the Navy, and that, after they take their commissions, they certainly are not called upon, or have not been called upon, to give the immense and minute attention to the profession which is required from officers of the Navy, and which officers of the Navy give with a self-denial as to the leaving of other advantages and other indulgences, which I must say is a marvel to some of us who are accustomed to greater ease in life. I hope I shall not be thought hard if I say that in the opinion of the military authorities one year at Sandhurst shall not be sufficient, and that we shall require two years at Sandhurst, as is already required at Woolwich.
We shall preserve the main avenues of entrance to the Army as they are at present, but in each case require a higher degree of efficiency and training. With regard to the Sandhurst question I need not say very much. The Committee has made some excellent proposals. Colonel Kitson has adopted practically the whole of the Committee's proposals, with the exception of the development of Sandhurst, which now produces far too small a number of officers, owing to the increase in the Army, but this difficulty can only be remedied by a considerable increase of the buildings. That is a point on which there will be universal unan- 137 imity in this House, with the sole exception of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am not without hope that I will he able to persuade my right hon. friend to take the matter into pretty early consideration. In the meantime, we have completely remodelled the course at Sandhurst. That course has become a much more practical course. There is far more open-air work; the college has been reorganised in its internal arrangements, and has a new organised battalion under proper officers, a system which appears to be working most admirably. I understand that far more attention is being given both to shooting and riding—matters to which the right hon. Gentleman called attention. But it would be useless for us to arrange for better training at Sandhurst, unless at the close of their career there the officers have some inducement to pass out well. We have already arranged that the Indian cadetships shall be a matter for competition from Sandhurst and that the same rule shall apply to commissions in the Army Service Corps. With regard to the position of other candidates on leaving Sandhurst, we are awaiting representations from Colonel Kitson, because this is a subject which is really so vital to the whole question, and Colonel Kitson and Sir H. Hildyard have so recently been appointed, that we thought it would not do to make precipitate proposals: and, moreover, it would be impossible to apply any proposals precipitately to candidates who entered under an entirely different set of conditions.
Our determination is that, unless a cadet applies himself at Sandhurst, he will not get his commission in the ordinary course. In addition, we propose that the cadets both at Sandhurst and Woolwich shall go into camp, as those at Woolwich did last year, for at least one month, and perhaps six weeks, in the summer. My belief is that the open-air experience gained at camp was not only appreciated by the cadets, but was warmly supported by the commandant, and well reported on by Sir Evelyn Wood. I have not the least doubt that in the two years at both these institutions the time can easily be spared. As to entrance through the Militia, that has hitherto been regarded as the back-door to the Army, though 138 I am not sure that the statistics would bear out that view. I once went into the statistics as to how many officers on the staff or in command of regiments had gone through Sandhurst and through the Militia; but I found it impossible to get from them any decisive evidence that less good candidates were obtained from the Militia than from Sandhurst. But we are stiffening the requirements at Sandhurst; and, with regard to the Militia, I am clear that if a less severe examination is asked for in the Militia increased military training ought to be demanded. The actual military training at Woolwich and Sandhurst will he very considerable under the new system. Most authorities are agreed that the time between the two trainings of a young man who passes through the Militia into the Line is very difficult to spend properly. We propose to fill in that time by attaching a man to some Line battalion for three or four months in the interval between the two trainings, and that the granting of a commission should be dependent not only on the good report of the commanding Militia officer, but on that of the commanding Line officer as well.
Another and most important new channel of entrance to the Army is through the Universities. I agree with everything that has fallen from the hon. Gentleman and from my hon. friend who speaks with such knowledge as to the advantage of getting University candi as dates. Personally I may be prejudiced, many people are, in favour of Public School and University training, but I regret the system by which the Army is mainly officered by men who leave the public schools at seventeen, and who lose the last two years, which is the most valuable period in the public school training. That is the period in which they have responsibility, and are looked up to by their schoolfellows. It is also the period of rushing, by cramming, through examinations. By being put into a regiment at. nineteen, or nineteen and a half, young officers are practically allowed after passing through Sandhurst to abandon all further training except in details of military work at the very age when men in the Public Schools and Universities are undergoing the severest application This is to carry the principle of professional as against intellectual training very far indeed, and has led to unfortunate results. Well, I 139 hope the House will not think I am unduly stretching in favour of the University, but I am very anxious to secure for the Army men who have had a Public School and University career, and to enable them to enter the Army on equal terms with the men who have not. We propose that a boy shall complete his period at the public school; and we shall require that before he is twenty he shall have passed the examination for Moderations at Oxford, or some equivalent examination at another University. I have had the greatest possible help from Cambridge University in this matter. The authorities there have taken up this subject in the most vigorous and broad minded spirit, and the other Universities will, I hope, follow this example. Within the next few weeks we propose to confer with the Universities as to the establishment of the new system.
Before the age of twenty the intending officer must have not only passed this test examination, but must have done six weeks' training with a Line battalion or a Regular unit at Alders hot or elsewhere. That can' easily be done in the long vacation, which lasts for three or four months. Having done this we shall be prepared to give the candidate a provisional commission at the age of twenty, and although he may return to the University he will rank in the Army from the age of twenty, instead of waiting till the end of his University career. He will be required to take honours at the University, and we shall ask the Universities to include in the honours examination two or three military subjects—tactics, military topography, and military history—and to provide proper lectures on those subjects. Any candidate who has passed with the requisite honours, and who has twice done a six weeks of military training during his University career, will be allowed to enter the Army, provided that he enters it before the age of twenty-two, as having been commissioned from the age of twenty. I believe that that concession, which has never been made before, will provide us with the very best possible class of candidate, as it will enable any father to feel that he can give the son who enters the Army the same education as 140 he would have in any civilian profession, and that his time has not been lost.
Now we come to what has been dwelt on to-day by my hon. and gallant friend—the difficulty of training officers after they have entered the Army.
*MR. ARTHUR LEE
Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to accept the recommendations of the Committee as to increasing the number of commissions to the colonies?
Yes, I hope we shall be able to do so very shortly, but at present we are in a difficulty. We have 700 officers above strength, in view of the demand for officers during the War, and until the normal level has been reached it is difficult to give even the usual number of commissions to the Militia. We propose, therefore, to continue at present the twenty commissions to the colonies, and as soon as possible to raise the number to some extent as recommended in the Report of the Committee.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
Before the right hon. Gentleman passes from this subject may I ask him whether the new system is to be extended to other Universities than Oxford and Cambridge?
Of course the same opportunities will be extended to other Universities. We have not yet been able to confer with them all, but we shall ask them to confer with the Director-General as to the possibility of instituting the sort of course we propose. We have been very anxious to permit the military training of a University candidate to be carried out in the Volunteer corps of his University, but we came to the conclusion that it would be extremely difficult to make any permanent arrangement which would be sufficient training. We must make certain that the University candidate should know something of his military work, as, when he joins his regiment there will be officers junior to him who may have served with the regiment for two years or more. We come now to the most important part of the subject. How are we to secure the efficient and adequate training of officers, having 141 regard to the extreme regimental feeling which forbids that any officer should be placarded as inefficient. The Commander-in-Chief fully recognises the force and truth of the Committee's statements on this subject. At present no sufficient incentive is given to the officer to energise. There are penalties, and one of them which has acted admirably is that practically every officer is provisionally commissioned. If after two years with his regiment a young officer is reported, in writing, by three senior officers as not likely to make an efficient and useful officer, and if that opinion is confirmed by the commanding officer, the commission may be withdrawn. That, I may say, has worked admirably. There have been cases where it has worked rather hardly, and there have been cases where it might have been applied and it has not. But, speaking generally, it has had an admirable effect; and I may say incidentally—though I do not wish to go into this subject—that it entirely absolves the War Office when we take severe measures against those who are guilty of making matters unpleasant for a subaltern when he goes into their regiment, because, if he is not likely to make an efficient officer, there is no difficulty whatever in his senior finding that out, and reporting it without subjecting him to any inconvenience. But after that is done what happens? After these two years have passed there is no power whatever to prevent an inefficient officer from going up, by seniority, side by side with the officer who is giving the whole of his heart and soul to his profession. The officers who study their profession are practically on a par with the officers who do not. Both are equally promoted; both, unless one is a conspicuous failure, have the same amount of leave; both have the same eligibility for staff employment; and both—or rather, perhaps, the officer who energises least, but happens to be popular in society, has often the best opportunity for obtaining the offer of extra-regimental employment on the staff of a Governor or some other functionary, which may take him away from his regiment for a very pleasant visit for five years, while the work of the regiment is falling on the other 142 officer. The Commander-in-Chief feels that the time has come, if possible, to put a stop to this.
The scheme which has been recently brought before him by the new Director-General, and which has been approved by the Commander-in-Chief, and which we propose to adopt, is this. In each unit an annual course of training has been prescribed, and certain months are devoted to practical field training. At the conclusion of that period there will have been an opportunity for the merit of different officers in the regiment to be weighed. We propose that three senior officers—not merely the colonel, but the colonel assisted by the two next in seniority—should classify their officers who are over one year's service in two classes according to their general efficiency, their power of training and leading men, and the state of their companies or squadrons. And in the case of subalterns we propose to introduce a system allowing a subaltern responsibility for half a company as a captain is for the whole, and a subaltern of cavalry responsibility for a troop as the captain is for a squadron. According to that he will be qualified either as efficient or indifferent. It will be possible also for any commanding officer and his two senior majors to bring before the brigadier the name of any officer of exceptional merit for special and accelerated promotion, and in such a case, which may be rare, a wide knowledge of languages will not be forgotten. The brigadier will be responsible for satisfying himself that this classification is a proper classification. Our motive is not to secure a principle of selection. This may sound absurd, but I believe you will never get selection in the lower ranks of the Army which will really tend to efficient working. If there are four men who are fitted for promotion and No. 3 is a little better than No. 1 and No. 2, you put a slur, and an unmerited slur, on No. 1 and No. 2 by promoting No. 3 in June and his seniors in November below him. Our object is to reject those officers who are not really qualified.
When there are three or four good officers, the senior of them ought to go up. That is our view. If, on the 143 other hand, there are three or four indifferent officers they will fall into the second category. They will not get promotion; they will not get extra-regimental employment; they will not get the same indulgence leave. It will lie on the colonel and his senior officers to show to the brigadier that officers who are classified as efficient are efficient; and when it comes to the question of the manoeuvres, where a great deal may he learned, the officer conducting the manoeuvres may bring before the brigadier the names of officers who have shown themselves as efficient. I believe these changes will have a wide-reaching effect on the lower ranks of the Army. We propose that the brigadier or general officer in command of an Army Corps shall, by practical examination, test the tactical power of any man in the field who is to be appointed to the command of a unit; and there will be a system of winter study with an examination conducted regimentally, but considerably under the superintendence of an officer from headquarters with military knowledge. We regard the present A and B examinations for promotion as being practically worthless; and we intend to replace them by a more practical test, in the designing and the carrying out of which the general officer commanding an Army corps will be able to appoint an officer from his own staff, and will have the assistance of an officer from headquarters.
One word about confidential reports. I believe that confidential reports rendered to the War Office are of great use in estimating the value of officers. But I believe there would be a greater use if the colonel was able, or felt himself able, to write more freely of an officer who is sitting by him at the same table. It is an extremely difficult thing to ask a man to report adversely on the man who is to sit either opposite or next to him for the next twelve months and to read out that report to him. At the same time, there is a feeling against asking him to report as it were behind the officer's back. What we propose is that a bad report shall be concurred in by three senior officers, and that the brigadier, or the general commanding the district where there is no brigadier, shall have the necessity of sending for the officer and of explaining to him the 144 points on which amendment is required. The further off you can put the unpleasant necessity of reading out to an officer a report which is made against him, the more certain you are to have confidential reports upon which you can act. Therefore, in the lower ranks of the Army, we hope in future to have a system of promotion which will be a practical one; which will, at the same time, enforce some degree of study, and which will distinctly separate between the active, vigorous, and painstaking officer and the man who means to take his profession slowly, quietly, and inefficiently; and that officer, after two bad reports, after two whole years in which he is found not efficient, will be required to send in his papers.
I agree very much with what fell from my hon. and gallant friend the Member for Evesham when he said that if you thoroughly train your officers they wilt train their men. My hon. friend the Member for Fareham alluded to a great many subjects which we have heard here on previous occasions, and on which he speaks with great authority. He wants all fatigues to be done by others in order that the numbers in the ranks may be greater. Nobody would more like to see fatigues handed over to others than I should; but every man that you call in means that you are adding to the regiment a very large staff—a staff, say, of 100 men, or whatever it may be; and this, at the moment when we are being asked to reduce expenditure in every direction, would be adding a small separate Army in order to allow the present Army to manoeuvre more freely. I do not believe that that is a proper arrangement. Of course, we shall always have the difficulty that our recruits do not come in at the same time. There will always be that difficulty so long as you have voluntary enlistment, whether you have linked battalions or depots—a system which every soldier of experience objects to, because the training by battalions, though it may not be perfect, is far better than the training at depots. I have seen every soldier of experience who has held office at the War Office—in fact, almost every soldier except Lord Kitchener—and they say, with one accord, that the training by battalion, 145 or regiment is incomparably better than the training at a depot.
That may be so in some cases, but the fact that none the less their testimony is so strong shows that they are not prejudiced in favour of the training by regiment. But take those who have commanded regiments and they will tell you the same. We cannot in this country obtain the full training we desire, either for our Regular forces or for our Auxiliaries. I hope it will not be imputed to me as neglect of the Auxiliary forces if I do not enter upon that subject now. I fully recognise its importance, and perhaps on a subsequent Motion I shall say something with regard to it. But, so far as the general training of officers of the Army is concerned, I say that we are at one with the object of the Motion of my hon. and gallant friend. There is, I believe, a determination among those responsible for the charge of districts and the commanders of Army Corps, as well as elsewhere, to see that the training of our officers at home in peace, so far as our ground permits and so far as the annual assemblage of units of the different Arms, on which we now insist whether we have manoeuvres or not, shall be conducted on far more practical and efficient lines than has been the case up to now. Our desire is not to penalise, but to provide that healthy competition which exists in so many regiments and which, in our opinion, may be extended to all. I believe this subject is even more vital to the Army than numbers, and it is certainly one which in the past has too much escaped attention.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I do not think that in the course of these discussions we are at all likely to have any matter brought before us of greater importance than this, or even of so great importance. Neither do I think that we shall have a Parliamentary conversation—for that is the nature of such a discussion as this—more satisfactory to the general sentiment of the House. We have to thank the Committee which the right hon. Gentleman 146 appointed for this admirable report. We may not agree with every line of the report, but on its main tenor and its principal recommendations I think there is substantial unanimity. There are other circumstances which, I think, we may regard with satisfaction; above all, the appointment of General Hildyard, the officer who has been selected to take the control of the education department. I am not going to enter into all the topics to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. There are only two points on which I wish to say one or two words; but they are, in my opinion, the most important points of the whole subject. The first is this question of the training of officers after they attain the rank of officers and their encouragement to the pursuit of the study of their profession. The House will, perhaps, allow me to read—it was read once before, I think, when not so many Members were present—a passage in this report referring to this subject.The Committee wish most emphatically to repeat that the only chance of a general improvement in military education—and in the consequent efficiency of the Army—lies in an honest system of promotion by merit, following upon tests conducted in an honest and practical manner, honestly reported on, and duly acted upon by the authority. So long as mediocrity is permitted to pass muster, and signal ability to meet with no substantial recognition, it is useless to hope for any valuable results from verbal amendments in the regulations. No examinations, however well planned, either of candidates before entry or of officers after joining, can of themselves make good officers. Nothing but inducements in the shape of certain reward for good work done either in peace or in war, on the staff or in the regiment, can raise the standard of knowledge throughout the commissioned ranks.All those who have watched these matters will agree with me when I say that for many years back there has been a want of courage on the part of military officers who administer the Headquarters Staff of the Army in these matters. They have been acting in the penumbra of the old purchase system. That system gave an officer a sort of fee simple of his own commission and of his position in the Army; and it is difficult to get out of the heads of most of the most influential officers still in the Army the idea that there is not some right of that sort. The country was pledged to deal, when abolishing the old 147 system of purchase, with great liberality, as I think, with the pecuniary rights of officers. That further established the idea in men's minds that an officer had a sort of vested interest in his commission, and in his right to remain in his commission and to receive promotion by seniority, unless there was some objection against him. The right hon. Gentleman has shown with considerable elaboration the system by which he thinks that this can be best overcome. I think the plan which he stated was a judicious plan, especially as regards the way in which he proposed to treat subalterns so as not to penalise individuals, but gradually to let it be felt that they were marked as not likely to pursue the career with advantage to themselves or to the service, and thus easily to slip them out of the position in which they found themselves. That I believe to be absolutely essential. Our Army differs from most armies in this, that there are many young men of spirit calculated to make to a certain extent, and up to a certain degree of responsibility, excellent officers, who go into the Army with no intention of pursuing it as a life career, but merely to pass a few of the best years of their lives in the service of their country, with credit to themselves and doing some good for their day and generation. We do not wish to do anything which will hustle young men of that sort out of the service. At the same time we do not want any example which they may set of the comparative indifference to the higher advantages of military learning to have a prejudicial effect on those who are willing to devote earnestness and seriousness to their profession. The right hon. Gentleman has a full appreciation of what I have been stating, and I can only trust that he may be able to overcome the evil.
Now I pass to the second question to which I wish to call the attention of the House, and there I am not so sure of having in every sense the sympathy of hon. and gallant Members. I turn to the entrance of officers. Are we to treat this question as if it were a mere matter of gleaning from the Public Schools and Universities, and from the Militia, the best young fellows that can be obtained? Is the avenue to the commissioned ranks in the Army to be 148 shut against any but the leisured classes? That is a crucial question. It is a question that may be treated separately, because I recognise the enormous difficulties in the way, and I recognise also that it need not directly affect prejudicially anything that is proposed in this report. Go on in your improvements; improve your methods of obtaining your young men from the Universities and public schools if you like; but I think it would be a monstrous mistake if we were to imply by such a debate as this that it was from those classes of the community, and those classes alone, that we expected to find those who should fill the commissioned ranks of the Army. One thing, of course, which can be done—and it is fundamental—is to reduce expenses. The right hon. Gentleman again is fully alive to that difficulty and has done something to cure it. I am afraid he will have to go still further. In the cavalry the state of things is even worse, because it is not the leisured classes only to whom access has practically been confined in past years, it is the rich classes. I put in a plea for a larger and wider view of the whole question. Besides these avenues to the commissioned ranks of the Army, there should be some means of men rising from the ranks in the Army, or being brought in from the more general mass of the community. Of course, a few commissions are given, as it is said, to the ranks, every year. But what are they? They are mostly commissions either given to young men, still of the leisured class, who have enlisted on purpose to obtain them, or they are given to excellent soldiers to fill certain posts as quartermasters and so forth, not in the regular line of promotion I submit it to the House that when we are at the end of this great war, in which both officers and soldiers have done so well and deserved so well of us, we ought to do something to take advantage of this opportunity and promote the general, personal, direct interest of the mass of the people in the country, not only in the Army at large as an entity, but in the commissioned ranks of the Army. When we are endeavouring by some little additional pay or comfort to get better recruits into the Army, what can we do more likely to contribute to that result than to open to them, to a degree unknown 149 before, access to the commissioned ranks of the Army?
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, Chelmsford)
I cannot help thinking that part of the curriculum at Sandhurst leaves a great deal more to be desired, and that it should be more practical and less theoretical. I understand that the cadets have to clean their waistbelts whilst their servants clean their rifles. Surely it would be more in accordance with the eternal fitness of things if the men cleaned the waistbelt and the cadet the rifle. I do not know that I quite agree with what has been stated about the University training. If one man goes to the University and serves three years there, and the other is to go into the Army and to South Africa and other places and serves three years there, and at the expiration of that time both men are placed upon the same footing, I think it is putting a premium on University training which is not right and which it does not deserve.
I might explain that the University candidate would have to gain honours at the University before becoming eligible for a commission, and he would have to put two terms at Aldershot in camp.
§ MAJOR RASCH
I am very glad to have had the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. I may, perhaps, be allowed to say a word or two as to the expenses which were alluded to by my hon. friend the Member for Walsall just now. I have always thought it was a scandal and a disgrace that a young fellow should not be able to serve in a cavalry regiment without he has a private income of £500 or £600 a year. The result of such a system is that the sons of country gentlemen, who can shoot and ride, cannot go into the cavalry, whereas the sons of South African millionaires, who are none the worse for that, go into the cavalry, but as they can neither ride nor shoot, are not much use when they get there, The mess expenses ought to be cut down, and no doubt the Government has done a good deal in suggesting that officers may ride a trooper. But it must be understood that that may must be construed as must, otherwise the colonel of the regiment will take very good care he does not. If I might say half-a-dozen 150 words as to the regimental expenses, which are so abnormally high, I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it would not be a bad plan to retire two or three cavalry colonels on half pay when the expenses went above normal. If that were done, they would soon got rid of a good deal of the expense. In my young days in the service we heard a good deal of promotion by seniority tempered with selection, but I always regarded it as stagnation by selection tempered with jobbery. I am entirely in accord with what was said about the employment of reservists. It is a very bad thing in a weak infantry battalion to strike a lot of men off duty to serve as canteen waiters, officers' servants, police, and so on. The same thing appertains to all regiments. There are cavalry regiments in which something like 80 men out of 700 are struck off the strength for these duties. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not able to employ reservists in this connection. If he had been, he would have killed two birds; he would have employed a very deserving class of men, and at the same time would have prevented men from being taken away from their duties, and so better men would be brought into the line.
*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
No one would gather from this debate what are the terms of the Resolution on the Paper, for certainly every Member of the House would have thought, before he heard the debate, that the question of the preliminary education and training of officers would have been out of order on this Resolution. The terms of the Resolution are—To call attention to the professional training of the officers and men of our Regular and Auxiliary Land Forces; and to move, That, in the opinion of this House, the altered conditions of modern warfare render necessary radical changes in the system of professional training of the officers and men of our Army and. Auxiliary Forces, which proved inadequate during the late war.And nearly half the debate has turned on the question of whether we are to obtain officers from the Universities. and what is to be the nature of their, not military but general, training before they become officers at all. As the Secretary of State for War has dealt 151 with this during the greater portion of his speech, may I make him this suggestion. Let him beware of trying to obtain from the Universities general University training in the form in which he has accepted University representation, because he will not get it. An honour degree in the third class is a very inferior training for a gentleman to an ordinary degree. I therefore beg the right hon. Gentleman not merely to listen to the University authorities, who are only too eager to swell their numbers, but to take advice of others thoroughly and practically acquainted with the conditions of training. Now let me turn to the Resolution itself. It calls attention to the altered conditions of modern warfare, and insists upon radical changes in the system of professional training of the officers and men which proved inadequate during the late war. Not one word has been said against that assertion by any member of the House, and the presumption therefore is that it is to go uncontradicted in this House. But it is a statement which needs this explanation that those who will be selected for the working of the new system will be those who have been responsible for the working of the old, and all the horrible defects which had been proved to exist in the old form of training of our Army are too likely to continue or creep in again, and we may allow ourselves to be misled by mere words.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State says he agrees with the terrible findings of the report of the Committee on Military Education, but when he comes to quote the findings he gives quite a different interpretation to that which the mover of the Amendment submits to the House. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment quoted the report as going to show that under our existing regimental and general military system men who made themselves efficient and worked hard to become good officers were penalised. The suggestion of the Committee was that the system was harming the promotion of these men and penalising them; that though they might be good officers, because they might not have shown the same good fellowship or the same keenness in regi- 152 mental sport they were penalised in their promotion. What has been in the mind of the country is, I am convinced, what has been in the mind of my hon. and gallant friend, and that is the failure, shown in the eyes of the world, as regards the training of our officers and the training of our men in South Africa, and the consequent necessity of changes in that system.
The Resolution contains some words which might possibly be misunderstood. They are sound, I believe, but I think some one ought to say something about those words. My hon. and gallant friend alludes to the altered conditions of modern warfare, and unless some one says something on that matter, it may be thought that my hon. and gallant friend gives some concurrence to the suggestion that His Majesty's Government could not have foreseen what would happen in South Africa because of the conditions of the war. The sound view of this subject was stated by Moltke as far back as 1866. He pointed out what was the bearing of new conditions of war, as from time to time they were emphasised in his time by improved rifles and improved guns, and as they have been subsequently improved by smokeless powder and quick-firing guns, Moltke's argument was this, and it cannot be controverted, that this rapid and constant improvement in the conditions of warfare and weapons gave a greater advantage to the best trained troops; that it was not the less trained who were put upon an equality with the better trained, but that the better trained got a greater advantage in war. The state of things that existed with regard to our war in South Africa was all foreseen by Moltke as far back as 1865, when he said—All these improvements in firearms have strengthened the defence against the attack, hut the attack always has the advantage, which it must ever retain. In the end, the defender must take the offensive to attain success.And then he points out that these improvements are facts of merely local importance, and that they cannot prevent the ultimate defeat of the defending army as a whole; that altered conditions further handicap the side on which the generals, officers and men are less skilled in the art of war. Some have said that the conditions of South Africa are peculiar. To some 153 extent they arc, but I venture to say that no competent observer who has watched and written on this matter, and none of the foreign observers who have written on this matter, in a manner so impartial that they are more than just to our Regular Army and the training of our Army, for a moment ventured to assert that the conditions in South Africa were so peculiarly special that they account for this deficiency in training which the South African War exposed. That war has been very carefully scrutinised by some of the most distinguished authorities—General de Negrier, Captain Founder, Commandant Painvin, and by Colonel von Lindendu, of the Prussian Military Staff. All those authorities, and all authorities who have written on this war assert the positive truth of the terms of this Resolution, that the South African War has shown in the eyes of the whole world the unsatisfactory method of our military training. It has been pointed out by great soldiers who have sat in this House over and over again that in this country there was a complete deficiency in our system of military training, and that military art was discouraged in this country.
We have discussed in this House such examples of the defective giving of, and carrying out of, orders as those of Spion Kop, Magersfontein, and Sauna's Post. But putting aside all the disasters in which either Militia, Yeomanry, or Colonial levies were concerned, and taking only those which affect the Regular Army, in the first ten months of the war, and apart from those already named, there were eleven disasters which my hon. and gallant friend could assert, taking them one by one, to be the direct result of the defective training of the Army for war. Many of those concerned the cavalry, and the cavalry have been mentioned, though perhaps not sufficiently, in this debate. The Secretary of State for War, in his explanation of the future arrangements for the Army, did not, so far as I understood him, distinguish between infantry and cavalry. I did not understand him to say how far his new system would apply generally to all officers, or how far it would be an infantry system, and how far applicable to the cavalry, or whether, in fact, all the changes were to apply to infantry and cavalry alike. Of all the failures in the South African War, that of the cavalry was the most 154 conspicuous. There is no reason what ever why the men in the cavalry should not be, as I believe they are, as good as the men in the artillery. The way in which the gunners did their duty was marvellous. None of the mistakes made by the artillery are traceable to the action of the men; on that we are all agreed. Put the men in the cavalry are of the same class; much the same reasons as lead men to go as privates into the artillery lead them to go into the cavalry; both branches of the service are extraordinarily popular with recruits, and therefore get the pick of the men. With our long service—for what we call "short service" is really long service, and would be considered very long service by Continental nations—our cavalry ought to be incomparably superior to that of any foreign Power. But can anyone for a moment suggest that they are so? The very first of the long list of disasters in the recent war was a cavalry disaster, as also, in part, was the last of the eleven in the first ten months—I mean the one known as Nitral's Nek, which led to the capture of an infant battalion, and to the censure of the Scots Greys, who were the cavalry in occupation of the neighbouring post. If you will look through these disasters, and at the occasions when we missed success where we ought to have gained it, you will find that foreign observers and those who have written with competent knowledge are justified in contending that our most conspicuous failure was in the mounted branch of our Regular Army. When we come to discuss the Army Corps Scheme we should have to repeat the objections which some of us have urged on former occasions, against believing that you can possibly use Yeomanry after fourteen days training along with Regular troops in an Army Corps. As regards the Regular cavalry itself—I leave aside the training of the auxiliary forces, though it is alluded to in the Motion—no one will deny the accuracy of the statement as to the failure of its training as displayed in the South African War.
Is it or is it not the case, as in daily conversation some of the most competent and patriotic officers assure us, that even now, against the experience of the war, an officer in the Army, and especially in the cavalry, is handicapped in his career by professional knowledge 155 and attention to his professional duties—that he is not better but worse off for being really a better officer? I cannot but think that we have an example from the very top of the tree of the neglect of the theory which is preached in this House, which ought to prevail, and which we are told is to prevail in the future. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of manoeuvres. What he proposes is most excellent, but there is no use in these manoeuvre's unless the men who do best in them gain by so doing. Is it not notoriously the fact that, after we had fought here for the Manoeuvres Act and had forced the holding of manoeuvres on a large scale, the men who did, not the best, but the worst, were preferred for important commands by the Government which passed that legislation? I know it is not altogether popular to say these things, but they are what we all say privately among ourselves. As long as that practice prevails from the top of the tree, in the Staff, and as according to the assertions made to everyone of us, it does now in the cavalry regiments, I confess that mere paper plans do not convey much conviction to my mind, and while I fully recognise the courage of the Secretary of State for War, and his desire to act upon the principles that he preaches, I say that he will have to back himself by men who are determined at all hazards to carry those principles through, because even now we see that they are not being fully applied.
§ COLONEL LOCK WOOD (Essex, Epping)
The right hon. Baronet opposite, in his very interesting speech, alluded to the great number of faults in the education of officers disclosed by the war, and spoke of the necessity of those faults being remedied. But my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War by his speech showed that he was aware of those faults, and devoted the whole of his statement to showing how those faults were to be remedied. Then the right hon. Baronet said that an officer who did the least in the manoeuvres had been given one of the highest commands abroad. Will he tell the House to whom he referred?
*SIR CHARLES DILKE
I did not say any one officer. I should have pleasure in telling my hon. and gallant friend in private the officers to whom I refer, but I think it is rather painful to mention names in public. I will, however, name them if he presses me.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
I will not press for them now. The right hon. Baronet maintained that in the South African War we, and apparently we alone, had been guilty of faults which had held us up to the derision and contempt of all foreign critics. Does he, with his extraordinary knowledge of foreign armies and foreign systems, maintain that the army of any foreign Power in the world, operating at the same distance from its base, would not have committed faults of equal magnitude? He also referred to a matter which belongs, I think, to the by-gone days when I served in the Army, viz., that an officer was the worse off for his professional attainments. Of course I never had any experience of that myself, but I do not think that that accusation can now, especially since the war, be brought against even that Department so full of faults—the War Office. I rather agree with the remark once made by the Secretary of State for War that there is more pressure put upon him by Members of the House of Commons with regard to their friends and relations than by any other class of the community. Many Members will bear me out in saying that they receive from day to day letters from constituents urging them to place their claims before the Secretary of State for War. I think my right hon. friend has shown to-night that he thoroughly grasps the situation, and that he has not only read, but digested, and intends to carry out most of, if not all, the reforms foreshadowed in the remarkable report of the recent inquiry. The hon. Baronet, the Member for Walsall, who went over a large portion of the question of the education of officers at Sandhurst, and in the Army afterwards, appears to be at one with my right hon. friend. He followed very closely the recommendations of the Committee We acknowledge that education to be thoroughly defective and 157 out of consonance with the times; we acknowledge that not only before his entrance to Sandhurst, and during his term in college, but even afterwards, the education of an officer is not fitted to present requirements. The Committee showed it most clearly, and the South African War has impressed it upon us still more.
My hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Chelmsford Division of Essex has impressed upon the Secretary of State for War how strongly we and many other officers feel with regard to the question of expense. But I believe my right hon. friend has begun to deal with this question, and that already the effects are being felt in the cavalry regiments. There is no doubt that the colonel himself is principally responsible for the extravagances. In those cavalry regiments in which there are men who devote themselves to this question the expenses are invariably below those in regiments differently situated. I like very much the idea of an advisory board to settle the syllabus of the examinations; I think the proposal commended itself to most of those who heard it. When the work done by young sailors is compared with that done by men in a similar position in the Army, it is perfectly true that the Navy shows to great advantage, and I believe it is due to the fact that at a very early stage the sense of responsibility is inculcated in the naval service. We are rapidly approaching that state of things in the Army, and the more the sense of responsibility is impressed on the younger officers of the Army the better the work will be. The question of University candidates and their concessions was very fully gone into by the Secretary of State for War. I believe it to be the ease that the University candidate has shown up extremely well in his Army career. I believe that the advantages offered by the Secretary of State for War to University candidates will be the greatest possible inducement, and will make these candidates an example to the younger men in their regiments. Consequently the Army will reap the advantage of this extended system of education. With regard to education, not only should young officers be enabled to learn foreign languages, but they 158 should also have facilities for acquiring all branches of learning. I think the House on both sides will agree that the Secretary of State for War has shown exceptional ability in grasping the lessons forced upon us by the recent war in South Africa, and if the right hon. Gentleman carries out the plans which he has foreshadowed, I believe he will reap the gratitude, not only of the whole of the Army, but also of the country.
*MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
We have had, this afternoon, a very interesting and a very satisfactory speech from the Secretary of State for War, but I would point out what the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean has alluded to, that nothing has been said upon a great part of the specific words of the Resolution before the House. The right hon. Baronet showed that nothing had been said as to the training of the officers, and I propose to show that nothing has been said as to the training of men in the Regular forces. Surely in these days of independent fighting, when companies and sections of companies are cut off from their battalions as much depends upon the intelligence of the noncommissioned officer and man as upon the intelligence and the understanding of the commissioned officer. Nothing has been said upon that point by the Secretary of State for War, or any of the speakers who have addressed the House. I should like to emphasise what the right hon. Gentleman said about the cavalry. I have been reading a book describing the operations in South Africa, where it was pointed out that while Botha's scouts were often three days in advance of the main body, the English cavalry were seldom more than one day in advance. Nothing has been said about the increased training of the cavalry, although a good deal has been said as to the education of the officers who will have to lead those men. I should like to ask whether the Secretary of State for War cannot take into consideration the possibility of doing what I think every other country does, namely, provide a school of training for non-commissioned officers.
159 Take the case of France. There, in every branch of the service there is an Ecole Militaire for cavalry, infantry, and all branches of troops, and you have nothing like it in this country, although we have great need for superior noncommissioned officers. What do they do in Germany? There they have ten special schools set aside for the training of non-commissioned officers, who are compelled to declare whether they intend to become non-commissioned officers, and if they do then they receive training in one or other of these special schools; and after they leave the service they have special advantages offered them by the State. The same system applies in Russia. In our country, with a comparatively small number of Regular soldiers, where it is essential that the non-commissioned officers should have great authority over the men, nothing at all is done either to stimulate their zeal to become noncommissioned officers or reward them when they have so become. I know that by the Army Estimates provision is to be made for some slight increase for certain non-commissioned ranks. But what is that? Either by what is offered at the moment or promise in the future there is no real inducement for a man to become a non-commissioned officer because, as a private, he gets almost the same pay as a lance-corporal. I put that as a practical point which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take into consideration.
One other thing I should like to ask the Financial Secretary to take into consideration. Taking into consideration the respective numbers, the staff colleges abroad are much larger institutions than they are in this country. Abroad these colleges are easy to get into and more difficult to get out of satisfactorily after terminating the training, and what I would suggest is, that the system in vogue in France and Germany should obtain in this country. Commissioned officers recommended by the commanding officer are eligible to go up for the staff college examination in Germany or France. If a person does not pass sufficiently high to enable him to enter the staff college he is still eligible for a staff appointment. On the other hand, the successful candidate, after passing 160 through the staff college, has to serve two years with the staff of the Army. What happens here? An officer goes through the staff college and spends a couple of months with the cavalry and artillery, and after that, unless he happens to be a particularly brilliant man, the staff of the Army knows him no more, and the time and money spent upon him is entirely lost to the country. That is not so in other countries, because an officer who joins the staff college in foreign countries has to pass a certain time with the staff of the Army, and the country gets the benefit of his training.
Nothing was more noticeable in South Africa than the absence of good officers to do staff duties. In many instances the staff officers were not there, and those who were there did not know properly how to carry out staff as opposed to regimental duties. What is the use of Army Corps or brigades unless you have staff officers? As we exemplified in the South African War there was a great want of good staff officers, and a great many of the mishaps there were due to the inability of the staff officer in charge to grapple properly with his duties. There is one other point which has not been hitherto mentioned, although it may come up on a subsequent occasion. My point is, how are you going to promote the efficiency of the officers of the Militia and Volunteers? There are a great many hon. Gentlemen in this House who command Volunteers, and it is notorious to them that the ordinary officer of the auxiliary forces is not competent to do the duty he would he called upon to do in the field. You could not have your company officers or men fitted to command without considerable training in order to make them fit to be pitted against the troops of any foreign power, and you are relying upon a broken reed if you rely upon the men and officers of auxiliary forces solely to defend us against an attack by foreign troops. I say that you will not be doing your duty if you neglect and leave on one side the efficient training of the auxiliary officers. I hope something will be done by the right hon. Gentleman, either by demanding increased attendance at drill or classes, to bring the standard of the auxiliary officer more up to the standard attained by the Regular officer.
§ MR. LLEWELLYN (Somersetshire, N.)
I desire to remind the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that what he expects from them in the way of training, drill, and so forth, is the very thing which the Volunteers are complaining of. It is important to take note that, in the hon. Member's opinion, what is required now is that they should further train the officers, and with that I cordially agree. With regard to the training of Militia officers, I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman state that the period of compulsory idleness of young gentlemen who have taken the course through the Militia will be more profitably employed by insisting upon further training in addition to the training of their own battalion. I do not think that anyone will complain of that, and I do not think the slightest difficulty will arise when the right hon. Gentleman puts that order into force. There is one point, however, I wish to mention, and it is that, in my opinion, this training should take place as much as possible under the territorial system. I do not know whether officers of greater experience than myself will agree with me when I say that nothing has worked so well, and it is advisable that the territorial system should be carried out. Young officers who do their training first of all with the Militia battalion, and are then attached to Line battalions, look forward, when their promotion comes, to promotion in those Line battalions, with the result that the men know their officers. It has proved to be of great value to have young officers knowing personally the men under their command, and I could tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House many an instance of great importance, and the great good which has resulted from a persona! knowledge of the soldiers serving under such an officer.
There is this to be remembered, it is the only time they have for the study of foreign languages. A great number of young gentlemen go abroad to perfect themselves in, or to gain a knowledge of, foreign languages, and that is of the greatest importance to themselves and to the service generally. It appears to me that that is the only period in their life they can find for the study of these 162 languages. It may be worthy of consideration whether, as an alternative to being attached to these regiments for four or five months, it should not be considered as an equivalent that they should study foreign languages abroad. I think that is a matter of considerable importance. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition spoke just now vaguely in regard to a change which he would suggest in the selection of the class from which officers should be taken. It is a very old story. I would ask him to state definitely what fault he has to find with the young officers who fought in the South African War. If there is a class who, above all others, should have a clear opinion as to who is to lead, they should be the soldiers themselves. Have they found fault with the men who were selected to lead them? I venture to say, no. The ordinary soldier may not be able to express himself so well as hon. Members in this house, but at the same time he lets those with whom he is associated know whether the men who are placed over him are officers or not. A young officer joins a regiment, and before he is 24 hours in it the soldier knows what class of man he is. The right hon. Gentleman referred to officers being of the leisured or the moneyed class. They are nothing of the sort. They are not men of idle habits, and it cannot be said that the sons of clergymen and professional men, many of whom are in the Army, are members of the moneyed class at all. If there is one class of man who came out well in the recent war it is the young officer, who went to the front very often with little experience at all—perhaps only a month or two in a barrack square. I say that of all those who deserve well of their country none are better deserving than those young and inexperienced officers.
§ MR. HALDANE
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War made a speech which was very interesting so far as it was a recognition of one or two things which had to be done. He put his finger on a number of shortcomings in the educational organisation of our Army, and then he indicated a number of projects which in themselves promise very well.
163 I confess that once or twice I have been carried away with enthusiasm for the schemes of the right hon. Gentleman, but in the end I have not found myself able to take so sanguine a view of the results, and if I express myself, therefore, with reserve about what the present plans are likely to amount to, it is not because I undervalue the zeal with which the right hon. Gentleman has addressed himself to this new scheme, but because I feel that everything depends on the way in which the new scheme is carried out. It is not enough to desire to do something for the Army. You must do something, if you are going to reform the educational status of the Army, with a large conception, and with some definite plan in your mind of how you are going to work at the subsequent stages. The right hon. Gentleman said something which gave me great satisfaction when he said that it is proposed to recognise the University element. This is all to the good, and I gather that the new Universities will have the same chance as Oxford and Cambridge; but it will come to nothing unless you provide some future for the newcomers in the sphere into which you are going to take them. It is important to contrast the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman with that which has been laid down for the Navy. The Navy has now, curiously, rather inverted the procedure of the right hon. Gentleman, and is running away from the public schools, and the old element is setting itself to train its officers from the beginning, taking them as young as twelve-and-a-half: and having been trained they are to specialise in one of three great Departments: the Executive Department, the Marines, and the Engineers. Well, that can be done in the case of the Navy, because you have three different kinds of occupation into which these naval officers can turn, one of which is scientific almost purely, one of which is to a very large degree scientific, and the third of which is of a more general character, but still admits of a special training. But while the right hon. Gentleman's scheme proposes to realise the value of brains for the first time in a definite fashion, so far as the Army is concerned, it seems to me to lack this; one cannot 164 see clearly what special application the officer who comes with the old University training is to make of the peculiar character of mind he will acquire. I quite admit that it is all to the good that he should have a training of that kind. But what occupation are you going to provide for him, what special kind for which his training has fashioned him?
§ MR. HALDANE
They are interchangeable, but there will be, nevertheless, room for specialists. I have studied the old scheme as closely as the hon. Member, and in that element there will be abundant room for the highest degree of special knowledge. There is no doubt that there are ample opportunities both in the engineering and artillery branches. I venture to say that there is not a better scientific training to be found in Europe than that which some of our highly trained officers obtain at Woolwich. But there is a want of an organised career in the Army, and there is very little opportunity for an officer to make a practical application of his training afterwards as a specialist. You have got to make your Army more a place for highly educated people. To my mind it is a great misfortune that it is not so at the present time. Even in France an officer has much greater opportunities for applying his special gifts than in this country, and in Germany, where every encouragement is given to that kind of thing, an officer has boundless opportunity of obtaining recognition of the special sort of talent he may possess. Now the position of matters that we have to face is that when a man, however well educated, goes into the Army his opportunities are more contracted than they might otherwise be. How far this state of things can be obviated it is difficult to say. In this country we spend very, much less money, and devote less attention, to what may be called the brains of the Army than is the case in other places. Our staff is not that highly trained, paid, and highly esteemed department of our Army which you find it in the Army of the German Empire. Ear be it from us to follow the pattern of foreign countries in these matters, but I think we might bear in mind that we have a great deal to learn from foreign countries in that respect.
165 Whatever the merit of our young officers I agree with my hon. friend who spoke last that those who went to South Africa showed magnificent courage and devotion. But there is one thing in which they have not been striking in the past, and that is the display of special knowledge of their profession. They have been admirable in point of bravery and in the points of gentlemen, but they have been lacking in those points which ought to make the Army a learned profession so far as the learning of warfare goes. I cannot help feeling that, however good these educational projects may be, they fall short unless you work at the other end, and provide something which people will direct their energies to. It may be that this new departure of the right hon. Gentleman in bringing in a new element from the Universities will he the precursor of a larger attempt at scientific organisation of the Army, but if not, whatever you may do in point of training will not have sufficient motive force to remedy the present evil.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
While the discussion has been sympathetic, and to a great extent appreciative, I do not think I have heard that acknowledgment of the care, labour, and intelligence which my right hon. friend has bestowed upon his scheme which I think we have a right to expect. I have been associated for many years with a number of hon. Members who, like myself, are, from former connection with it, interested in the Army, and who are known as the Service Members' Committee. That Committee has brought many points before the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War and his predecessors on matters that seemed to require amendment, but some of which seemed almost hopeless to accomplish. I may say, however, my right hon. friend has promised to carry out many of these suggestions, and that they have actually been embodied in the very scheme which he has set before us to-night. I think we ought to be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, and to recognise the great industry and intelligence which he has brought to bear on this scheme, and which, I hope, will result in an abundant fulfilment of his and our expectations. Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, many hopeful schemes have been submitted to the House which have 166 borne imperfect fruit, and it is quite right that the representative of the War Department should not be too sanguine in regard to the present. I believe that my right hon. friend is thoroughly in earnest and that he will do his best to perform all that he has promised. I was glad that my right hon. friend opposite entered a caveat against the wholesale condemnation of the young officers of the Army that, as demonstrated in the recent campaign, they were altogether wanting in training. No doubt there were a great many regrettable incidents, and there were many officers who had no training at all; but it is the height of injustice to be indifferent, insensible, or forgetful of the enormous number of cases where the utmost devotion, skill, and readiness were displayed. These officers were utterly careless of their lives in leading their men to victory. I have had the opportunity of conversing with men who had been through the most eventful years of the campaign, and I have been assured that there is no fact that has been more clearly established than the personal devotion of the officers, while the influence exercised over their men was one of the most successful features of the campaign. Men could not be got to face the terrific dangers experienced from an unseen enemy, nor could the officers have gained that control over their men unless the men had confidence in their officers.
If the debate has been somewhat discursive, I think it has been instructive. The hon. and gallant Member for Evesham referred to the difficulty of training officers on account of the depletion of the depot battalions to fill up the service battalions. I should think that by grouping depot battalions a better school for training officers might be formed. The Report of the Committee, which we have been considering to-night in great measure, is, I think, a sufficient answer to those who have alleged that the scheme submitted by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War was only put forward to gain time. It is of great interest that the position of Director General of Military Education has been restored and so ably filled. It was quite impossible that the Military Secretary to the Commander-in-Chief, who was a hard-worked and responsible individual, could give that attention to military education that is required. It has always struck me that, to a great extent, 167 the Report of the Special Education Committee was the result of pre-conceived opinions. I do not believe, having had the opportunity of seeing something of the Royal Military College, that there was any want of enthusiasm on the part of the instructors to put the cadets through their training, there or in camp, in a perfunctory way. At the same time, such positions should be given to the most active and intelligent officers and not be regarded as comfortable billets for retired officers. I question very much whether in any other Army in Europe, are the officers more completely in touch with their men than in the British Army. A great deal has been said about University training for officers of the Army. It promises very well that the University candidates should only be given a provisional commission until they have been grounded in military knowledge while completing their University education. That is not altogether a new expedient. I recollect that fifty years ago young officers of the Guards after receiving their commissions were allowed leave to finish their University course and take their degrees, and that they did as much military duty as possible during the rest of the year, so that the two branches of their education went on together.
The classification of officers carried out by a Regimental Board affords encouragement to men who are in earnest in their profession, and every man who is idle or useless is left behind. That is done in the Navy by a different process. I must say one word in reference to what fell from the Leader of the Opposition when he hoped that while we were looking forward to an improved and more instructed class of officers for the Army, it should not be imagined that the Army should only be officered by men of leisure. Now, the difficulty in the British Army of promoting men from the ranks to a commission arises very much from the very low classes from which most of our recruits spring, and, therefore, men of a superior standing ought to be attracted to the ranks. If the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting were consulted it would be found that the recruits secured continue to be contributed in an enormous preponderance by the humbler, 168 the idle, and the unsuccessful classes. The numbers who join the Army as a profession were very few, although there are young men who have not succeeded in obtaining commissions in open competition who enter the ranks, and by steady work and behaviour have obtained commissions and have done exceedingly well afterwards. I am glad to see that my right hon. friend is attracting such men by improved conditions of service, and by offering inducements which will enable soldiers of good character to rise from the ranks to a commission. The British Army in this respect is different from all other Armies, in which every young man must serve and from which there is an ample selection for officers. I cannot for the life of me see why a regimental mess should not be managed; as the mess of a ward room on board a man-of-war is managed. In a ward: room, for 2s. a day, an officer can get as good food as anyone could wish to eat, in addition to the ship rations, which are usually reputed at 1s. a day. Then again expenditure for drags and polo should not be made compulsory on the officers. I hope my hon. and gallant friend will not press; his Motion, because I think we all feel that the Secretary of State for War is taking the most energetic and thorough steps in the direction in which we desire to travel.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
I am very glad to. be able to concur in everything the right hon. Baronet has said with regard to the earnestness, care and devotion which, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War takes in developing his scheme. I think everyone on this side of the House is agreed on the one point—that he works as hard as he can; and not only is that felt in this House, but even some of the strongest opponents of his scheme, such as officers of the Army, say that that is the worst of it—that the Secretary of State for War is such a hard-working, straight forward, honest man, that he carries out his schemes whether they are good or bad; and that although they disagree with some of his proposals they give him every credit for his 169 hard work and good intentions. I am sorry to say that this debate has not been as instructive as it ought to have been as regards the point on which it has been raised. It has dealt almost entirely with the education of officers before they get into the Army. That is not the point which has been raised by the Amendment, and it is not a point which anyone would wish to raise, though I hope it will be useful to the Secretary of State for War in shortening proceedings at a later period of the Session. As far as the debate has gone it has not touched on the real requirements desired by this Motion. There are two points involved; one is the education, the training, and the practice of officers after they had joined their regiments; and the other is the training and the exercise of the men. No one, I think, has cavilled at the training given at Sandhurst. Even the training of the militia or other officers was not seriously debated because all the young officers did so very well in the war, and no one had ever said that they did badly. The regimental officers in South Africa did most excellent work. Where the falling off was was in the strategic qualities of the senior officers; who, while they were subalterns and captains were never instructed in the art of war; and consequently when they came to a staff appointment, or to command a regiment or a battalion of cavalry, were deficient in their work, and made very serious blunders.
I think we have a right to ask that there should be a reconstruction in the teaching and technical work of officers. There is not enough of encouragement, not enough of compulsion for officers to work hard at the technical part of their work. I do not mean the ordinary work of getting the men to follow them in battle, because that is regimental officers' work, in which they were most successful, but I mean strategic and commissariat work; so that when the time comes when officers are appointed to higher positions they will not only be able to take a command but to carry it out in such a way that blunders will not be committed in the field. Something, no doubt, will be learned by the carrying out of manoeuvres; but I am afraid the Secretary of State has a feeling that 170 it is better to employ senior officers and save the expense of putting them on half pay. That is a wrong principle. We should employ the young officer, the man with a future before him. That is the man we have to teach, and I would plead that officers at manoeuvres should be officers who will be wanted in the future, and not officers who are already in command. The officer who should take a division should be a brigadier; and the officer who should take a brigade should be a colonel. We will not be able to teach the old men much now. It is too late, and the time is too short. We must teach the young officer; and I hope that more will be done in future in that direction.
The other point, which is even still more practical, is the training of the men. At present the training of the men is carried on in a most ridiculous way, as was pointed out by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Fareham. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman omitted to show how ridiculous a certain part of this training is. He told us that large depots would be better than small depots. There I entirely agree with him, and I am quite sure that the linked battalion system must break down as long as it is formed of only two links. If it had six or eight links it might work, but you cannot get on with the present double battalion system. What happens at a small depô t, say a two-battalion depot? There are probably about 200 men there. There is the permanent staff of militia, various noncommissioned officers and men on the strength of the depot, partly for teaching recruits and others on rest after service in India, about twenty or thirty old hands, and, at the outside, about 150 recruits. Some of the latter have been at the depot two or three months, and others only two or three days. Half of them are employed at fatigue, and the others at drill. There are very seldom a sufficient number of men to form a company for company drill, and you will see squads of two or three walking about learning various things, from the goose step up to the use of the rifle. The result is you never get a sufficient number of men together to be able to teach them properly; and the awkward squad and the cleverest of 171 the recruits are all mixed up. I plead for the establishment of larger depots for the training of recruits. Several hon. Members have advocated it, and the light hon. Gentleman who has just spoken referred to the excellent teaching the Guards' recruits receive at Caterham. That is exactly what is required. We should have twenty or thirty recruits every week to work together. If that can be done, as I believe it can be done, by amalgamating the different regiments—you need not change their names—instead of having two linked battalions you would have six or seven; and not only would the recruits be better taught but proper company and mounted infantry drill would be taught at each depot, which is one of the things which is neglected under our present system of training; and there would be a regular company of mounted infantry attached to the different depots. That is one of the most important pieces of training, and the men should be especially trained and kept at it six months at a time. By making the units larger you will also get what has often been talked of as being very necessary for the welfare of the Army, and that is that the troops would know their senior officers as well as the regimental officers. In every foreign army a brigadier is as well known to the men as a colonel is in the English Army. There is no possible means at the present moment of a brigadier being acquainted with his men. At the present moment, according to arrangements which are being made, I understand that there are to be permanent brigadiers, who are to appear at manoeuvres. That will be the only time they will be with the men for any length of time. If we had units of brigades instead of Army Corps we should have a much sounder system by bringing the men into contact with the senior officers; and I hope something will be done in this direction.
What has been proved is that the training of our officers and men, especially the cavalry, was not satisfactory in the late war. No answer has been given to that, and no answer has been vouchsafed in reply to the question as to what will be done in the future for the training of our officers and men when they get into their regi- 172 ments. There is to be nothing except a few more manoeuvres; but that will not get over the difficulty. Something else will have to be done, and I hope that the debate will be prolonged until we. get some definite answer on the subject. Let me point out another illustration. It is suggested that if the officer is to remain at Sandhurst for two years instead of one ho will no doubt obtain a certain amount of technical training, but the fault is that it does him no good, and when he joins his regiment that technical training is forgotten. What will really happen is that when they get a regiment they will be trained to practice the theories they learned in school, and if their efforts are successful, and they show diligence, they will get promotion in the Service.
§ COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, Bootle)
I do not propose to trouble the House much upon this subject, but there are a few practical remarks I should like to make upon it. Before doing so I should like to join in the unanimous opinion as to the excellent character of the scheme which the Secretary of State has laid before the House. It is a fitting corollary to the scheme for the organisation of the Army in which the only fault I venture to find is that the Army Corps is too large a unit, and a Division would have been better. But, with one exception, the scheme put forward to-day is a fitting corollary to the other. Perhaps another point with which I am not so agreed is the introduction of the University candidate into the Army. I have a very great respect for the learning of the Universities, but we must not in the training of the mind lose sight of the training of the muscle. After all, what is wanted for the groundwork and starting-point for the efficiency of an officer in the Army? First and foremost is strength; that must be followed by a fair average intelligence and education, and, thirdly, he must be a gentleman. They are the three postulates of an Army officer, and I am a little bit afraid that after the speech of one of the Members for Scotland, in his worship of the high culture of the University candidate, it is possible that chest measurement and biceps development may be lost sight of. A very important question was dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman in his 173 reference to the treatment of the young officer after he had joined a battalion. I have always felt that in our Army we are under a disadvantage to other armies. A young officer having passed a certain examination is passed to a particular regiment. It occasionally happens that a young officer who had satisfied the examiners did not at all satisfy the officers of a particular regiment. They had to admit him into their family—a kind of patriarchal system of which the Colonel is the patriarch—and there were no means of getting rid of him when once enlisted, and therefore some of those scenes arose, which we all deplore, by which officers took means to rid themselves of individuals, which means are not to be defended. The right hon. Gentleman put forward a very right and proper way in which a case of that kind could be dealt with.
Order, order! The hon. and gallant Member is travelling beyond the range of the question of the training of officers.
§ COLONEL SANDYS
Of course it is most advisable that officers should be trained in the duties they have to carry out in the field, and I think, in the wise course proposed at Sandhurst, and also in the careful supervision of the very careful reports made upon officers during their professional career, we have a guarantee that they will not be allowed to be placed in a position of command unless they have shown themselves perfectly fit for it. With reference to the proposition of the Sandhurst cadet going into camp, I think a two years course is not too long to teach him what he has to know before he joins the service. I hope on an early occasion to have an opportunity of saying a good deal on the question of Army organisation.
*MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
With respect to the weeding out of cadets, the right hon. Gentleman can more easily get rid of cadets who are not efficient in their duties as he increases the course at Sandhurst to two years. Another welcome proposal is that Militia officers should be trained for some months in Regular regiments, 174 and a third is that University candidates should be trained with another corps instead of their own. It is very difficult to get rid of an officer once he has been commissioned; it would be much easier to get rid of him before. The hon. and learned Member for Haddington laid stress upon the mind of the Arm) -. One ought to lay stress also upon the outside training in regimental life, and the necessity to provide adequate manoeuvring grounds. I agree with the mover, the seconder, and the supporters of the proposal to maintain a large corps in South Africa, as a training ground, and in the abolition of the present system of linked battalions, if officers are to be trained, and, through them, their men.
*COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
I have very great doubt whether University men would make good officers in times of peace; in war they are a very useful addition. They certainly would not improve the discipline of troops. Another point which has not occurred to the Secretary of State is the question of expense. The best officers are the sons of officers; for instance, Sir C. Napier, Lord Wolseley, Lord Roberts. I do not believe in this lengthy preparation. A good many men cannot afford to give university training to their children. I say the first reverse in South Africa was due to an invention, which gave a decisive tactical advantage to the Boers. It was practically the same thing as what occurred in the war of 1866 when, by the introduction of the breech-loader, the Austrians, with an army probably quite as good and quite as large as that of Prussia, was wiped out in seven weeks. That was solely owing to the decisive tactical advantage which the needle-gun gave to Prussia over Austria. In this case the same thing occurred, the modern rifle with the magazine and smokeless powder was able to protect the front—
Order, order! The hon. Member is now dealing with questions which do not arise on this Motion, which is the training of officers.
Very well, Sir, I will not pursue it. I only wanted to 175 show that we must be very careful not to pull our Army to pieces too much by mistaking the causes of its early reverses.
§ Dr. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Sir, I rise to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the action he proposes to take. Those of us who have had anything to do with the training of our young men have complained mostly of the kind of military training which these young fellows have had to go through in order to get into Sandhurst; a system of training which gave rise to cramming which did no good whatever. My right hon. friend has changed all that; pedantic conundrums are not now to be put to the unfortunate victims, and, in addition, he is going to give, if I may call it so, scientific secondary education. The minds of these young men are to be directed more exclusively to their future profession, but even then the idea must come strongly back to our minds that the successful generals are born and not made; they turn up when the appropriate time comes. It is most significant that those who have been most scientifically trained in the staff college are not those who have distinguished themselves in after life. From the Return asked for by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, it appears that those who succeeded in life were not those who had had this expensive training in the staff college. I am glad to hear that the old fashion of close formation, the thin red line and other lines of old military training are to be done away with. Sir William Butler in his life of Sir George Colley, who was one of the greatest soldiers of his day, pointed out how essential it was that we should drop our old system of military training and try and imitate the Boers in this and other points by which the Boers very nearly beat us out of the field on one or two memorable occasions during the late war. My right hon. friend has done good service in altering that training.
The writer of those remarkable articles which appeared in The Times upon Army Reform said the description of certain senior officers who had been promoted 176 and got considerable kudos in the late war was—Great personal gallantry, intense dread of responsibility, agonising irresolution, utter lack of resource.This list of characteristics would serve as a brief personal sketch of more than one senior officer who has gained promotion and distinguished notices in despatches. Thorough going sense of personal responsibility is an essential reform. The only question I want to ask is whether the military authorities are sufficiently alive to the necessity of replacing the old-fashioned and obsolete manoeuvres with manoeuvres of a more practical kind, and more adapted to that condition of warfare which we have to meet in those small wars in which we are from time to time engaged.
§ COLONEL PILKINGTON (Lancashire, Newton)
I am very sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire did not elaborate sufficiently what he meant by the training of officers after they joined their regiments. It seems to me that that is really the crux of the whole question. It is the opinion in many quarters outside this House that young men are trained well up to the time they join their regiments. They get well instructed in every way, and a great deal of the Secretary of State's scheme provides for that. But what I ask him to consider, and consider very carefully, is whether he cannot remedy what I believe is a very general defect, namely, that after promising young men join their regiments many of them instead of improving, actually deteriorate. Their rate of progress before they join their regiments in military instruction and military matters generally is very much greater than afterwards—in fact, just as light is in contrast to darkness. It requires an exceedingly strong character in a young man to face the kind of influences to which he is subjected after he has joined the regiment. We all know—I think it is an open secret—that in a very great measure the amusements that belong to the military life, such as hunting, and polo, and so on, and other amusements that are not so improving 177 as polo and hunting, come first. A man who can play polo well and can go straight across country, providing that he has the other qualifications of an officer, is a better officer for these accomplishments. But young officers ought to aim at more than that. They ought to improve their military knowledge and give full scope to the worthy ambition to improve in martial science. I do appeal to my right hon. friend to give his first consideration to this matter. Everybody knows it wants doing. From his achievements since he has occupied the post, the duties of which he has discharged in such a splendid manner, I am sure he is capable of remedying this defect, and there is no more worthy matter that can engage his attention. If he can once break up the system of putting pleasure first and duty afterwards among the officers of the Army, he will have accomplished one of the very highest reforms that ever an English War Minister effected. He has faced pretty big seas and I hope he will continue to face those seas successfully, and I only ask him to give this point his careful consideration.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed:
§ Debate arising.