§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £10,101,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Pay, etc., of His Majesty's Army (including Army Reserve) at Home and Abroad (exclusive of India), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1906."
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER,) Belfast, W.
I must apologise to the Committee for intervening now, but I think they will excuse me when I recall the fact that the debate last night was concluded by a very important speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I think it would be almost discourteous on my part if I were not to attempt, at any rate, to establish some case in reply to that which he put before the Committee last night. I am quite sure it would be most unsatisfactory to me if I were to allow the Committee to accept all the propositions of the right hon. Gentleman and to assume that there was no reply to any of them. I think there is an ample, a sufficient, a complete reply practically to every proposition the right hon. Gentleman advanced. I do not for a moment expect that hon. Members will agree to everything I have written or said, but I do think it is a reasonable proposition that they should make themselves fairly acquainted with the substance of my communications, whether written or spoken. I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman has been too much occupied to do me this honour. The right hon. Gentleman dealt in the first place with the question of the infantry of the Line. He spoke of the injury that might be done—would be done in his opinion—to the battalions of the Line if any of them were placed on a short-service establishment, and he adduced reasons which led him to 334 take that belief. I want to examine those reasons.
He told the Committee that in the proposals I have laid before the House the battalions of the Line would be compelled to spend no less than eighteen years of their existence in India, and that great medical difficulties would arise by the prolongation of the service of the men in India. He said that the idea of extending the service from seven to nine years was a mistake, that it would infallibly produce certain evil consequences, and that it was therefore to be condemned. I am going to ask the Committee to judge of this matter. I am going to give them the facts as they appear to me and ask them whether the verdict lies with me or with the right hon. Gentleman. In the first place, the idea that any proposal I have ever made to the House involves the retention of the men in India for a longer period than that for which they have hitherto been retained is an entire mistake. I do not suppose the Committee is as familiar with these matters as I am, but the right hon. Gentleman is. He knows perfectly well that under the existing system battalions remain in India fifteen, eighteen, and even as long as twenty years. A battalion has only just returned from India which has been there for over eighteen years. I do not regard that practice with favour. I think it is an unfortunate practice; but to suggest that any alteration which I have ever proposed would either perpetuate or accentuate that practice is an entire mistake. On the contrary, the moment you set the battalions free from the double-battalion system you are in a position materially to abbreviate the period of service abroad. That is not an assertion of my own. It is the result of a calculation made with the greatest care, and the thing is easily explained. If you have a battalion which is dependent merely on a depot, you can remove that battalion as a battalion, from this country to the Colonies, from the Colonies to India, and can bring it back again. When you are sending out, as we do now every successive year, drafts to that battalion, the number of men involves exactly the same amount of transportation as the transportation of the battalion itself, and 335 it has been one of my principal inducements in submitting these proposals to the House that we can institute a system by which a battalion can go from here to India, that it can be removed from India to, say, for instance, the Cape as a battalion, and that it can be brought back on a reduced establishment from the Cape to this country as a battalion, and that by doing so you will greatly reduce the period of Indian service, which is now imposed.
The right hon. Gentleman said we were making a great mistake in departing from the seven years period of service. I do not know whether he was relying upon his recollection or whether he was dwelling on his present knowledge. But I venture to suggest to the Committee that he was absolutely misinformed with regard to this question of seven years service. The proposition is that some revolutionary proposal is being made whereby a longer period of service than seven years is being imposed on the soldier, that the change will involve great disadvantages in health and discipline, and that it will greatly prejudice the chance of the soldier obtaining employment on his discharge. What are the facts? For years past the service of nine out of ten soldiers has been not seven but eight years. At this moment, out of the whole of the Army, no less than 155,000 men are serving for eight years and upwards, as against 111,000 men who are serving for a less period. If it be true that that service of seven years is so detrimental to the Army, we shall have to make revolutionary changes greater than those I have suggested, because—let the Committee mark the figures and then say how they are going to change the matter. Are we to make a break in a practice which has grown up enormously to the advantage of the Army? Who tells us that the Army is any the worse for the fact that 155,000 men, or by far the larger proportion of the Army, are serving for eight years? No one. Does any one tell us that we should alter that system? No. And if the right hon. Gentleman will look at the figures he will find that for one man who is serving seven years there are four men who are serving for eight years. Therefore, I think he was a little behindhand in regard to his knowledge of the actual facts when he was suggesting that we 336 are making a great departure in proposing to establish nine years service.
The right hon. Gentleman, as I understand, is an advocate of a return to the seven and five years period of service. There, again, I want to test his statement. If he is an advocate of such a return, accompanied by a reduction of the number of battalions—because that, I think, is an accepted axiom on the other side of the House—I want something a little more specific. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman, in the first instance, that if you do return to the seven and five years system you will have a Reserve entirely inadequate to your needs. Let us suppose that we adopt the further suggestion and reduce battalions. I do not want them to specify the particular number of battalions which they wish to abolish, though I should like them to throw the handkerchief so that we might know which is to fall. It is, I think, a fair thing to say that this reduction of Regular battalions is the accepted doctrine not only of the Leader of the Opposition——
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I sincerely welcome the admission that the right hon. Gentleman does not accept the view that we ought to have a reduction of Line battalions, and I entirely exclude him; but he will not deny that that doctrine has been accepted with alacrity and is being insisted on with great determination by some very influential members of his Party. Now I want to know where you are going to begin. Do the Committee desire to abolish the Gordon Highlanders or the Seaforth Highlanders? Do the Irish Members wish to get rid of the Connaught Rangers? This is the particular application of the doctrine. If you are going further than the reduction of fourteen battalions, I presume you must have some limit to your destructive energies; and I suggest that we should limit it to thirty battalions, including the fourteen of which I have spoken. Are you going to get rid of the Dublin Fusiliers, the 100th Canadian Regiment, the Highland Light Infantry, the North Staffordshire Regiment? I might quote the whole list. That is the whole point.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The hon. member for the Isle of Wight asks who proposes it. That is exactly what I want to get at. I do not propose it; that is quite clear. Either it is proposed or it is not. I was told it was the policy of the Opposition to economise by reducing the Regular Army, and I want to know whether they are serious or not. Let us suppose that we can eliminate the element of controversy, for I think there might be some controversy if you were to propose to abolish the Gordon Highlanders, or some public objection to getting rid of the Highland Light Infantry. I will confine myself to the reduction of fourteen battalions, about whom there has been a certain amount of consensus of opinion. We have 156 battalions of Line infantry in the Army; of those fifty-two are in India and thirty-six are, or shortly will be, after the reduction of one battalion, in the Colonies. Suppose you get rid of fourteen battalions; then, after providing for the existing garrisons of India and the Colonies, you will have fifty-four battalions only for the purpose of relief and reinforcement in case of war. Now, is there any evidence at all, theoretical or practical, that fifty-four battalions, fifty-four units, will satisfy our Imperial needs in time of war? If that be true, all I can say is that it is in direct contradiction to every single scrap of evidence I have ever seen since I took office. I suppose it will not be desired that we should return to the position which was so greatly complained of during the war, when the whole Regular defence of this country was entrusted to eight battalions of the Line. Let us say that you enlarge that number to sixteen. With your sixteen and your fifty-four battalions you will have a very slender measure of reinforcement for the Army of India. But let us go a little further and suppose that, with the hon. Members opposite, you are going to abolish thirty battalions of the Regular Army. What would happen? You would have, in the event of war, for the whole purposes of war, for the reinforcement of your Army in India, your Army in the Colonies, and the defence of the United Kingdom, only thirty-eight 338 battalions of infantry. Is that what the Committee desire? Would they be really content with that result? And that is not the end of it, for the moment you begin to reduce the battalions, you reduce the Reservists of the battalions, and you would reduce them at a very rapid ratio, much more rapid than if the whole of the Army were concentrated in this country. Battalions abroad are not producing a large Reserve; it is the battalions at home; and directly you examine the figures you will find that you will be lamentably and increasingly short of Reserves—not to furnish reinforcements in time of war, but to mobilise your battalions so as to enable them to go to war at all. I think it is fair that the Committee should formulate their opinions upon a problem of that kind; it is the kind of practical problem with which I am trying to deal. I need hardly point out that this will involve the entire destruction of the linked battalions. Personally I regard that, for the purpose of drafting, as a pure advantage, though I am not quite sure that the Leader of the Opposition so regards it. But this is certain—that if you decrease the number of battalions at home and retain the number of battalions abroad, the system of linked battalions for purposes of drafting falls to the ground instantly.
§ *SIR LEES KNOWLES (Salford, W.)
I am not at all certain that there is a consensus of opinion in the House as to the abolition of the fourteen Line battalions. There is the alternative proposal to reduce the number of men in the battalions from 1,000 to 500, and so to avoid the abolition of the battalions, and the esprit de corps attached to them.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The very next remark I was going to make was in exact continuation of the hon. Member's line of thought. What I suggest to the Committee is that it is a far more profitable operation, if you are going to insist on this reduction, to reduce the battalions to such strength as will enable us to economise while retaining the power of recruiting Reserves and the power of re-creating the battalions in the event of war. You would effect the same economy as if you reduced half the number of battalions, and at the same 339 time you would reserve the cadres. The right hon. Gentleman made some remarks on what he alleged to be the shortage of the Reserve under the proposal I have made. I was unable to trace the origin of those remarks; I do not know where he got them from—certainly not from me. I think he suggested that there would be a shortage of some 66,000 men on the Reserve; that is an absolute delusion. There will be no shortage on the Reserve; there will be a surplus on the Reserve. Among the figures I presented to the House I gave a figure of 90,000 men of the infantry Reserve, but it was limited by the conditions which I imposed upon that Reserve. If you were to take the existing Reserve conditions, instead of having 90,000 you would have, under the cheapest terms ever proposed in the British Army, an increased Reserve of 150,000 men. I hope, then, that we have heard the last of this suggestion that the Reserve, even under the conditions I propose, is inadequate.
The right hon. Gentleman suggested that I had made some modification in the views I have suggested to the House in regard to the Militia; but that is a misconception. The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that I have entertained certain views with regard to the Militia, and I confess I entertain them still. I think the Militia ought to be made, and can with great advantage be made, the main, possibly even the sole, future component of our territorial Army. Yes, but I never made that proposal to the House of Commons. I am addressing myself to the charge made against me by the right hon. Gentleman last night, that I had modified in any particular the proposal I had made to the House. I believe I was right at that time in supposing that the scheme, which I confess I still favour, would not have found equal favour in the eyes of the House of Commons, and I never did propose to the House any serious modification of the Militia force. I said then, and I say now, that it was essential to eradicate from the Militia those units which were clearly of no advantage; but at the same time, I have said over and over again that, in deference to what I believed to be the general feeling of the House, I should not pro- 340 pose any substantial alteration in the Militia. The proof of that is to be found in the fact that we have taken for the Militia Vote this year precisely the same sum that we took last year. Therefore it is a little hard that I should be charged with having withdrawn or altered the proposals which I am represented as having made to the House with regard to the Militia.
I noted the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that he was in great doubt as to what would be the effect on recruiting for the Militia of the proposal to render the force liable to foreign service. I do not share the doubts of the right hon. Gentleman. I was present at the debate on the Militia Bill in another place, and I heard one Militia officer after another get up and say that this proposal would be regarded as a claim both by officers and men. Still, it will be important to see the result of this proposal, for upon it depends whether or not we can make effective use of the Militia.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The right hon. Gentleman says that there is no change in his mind or in his intention, or in any proposal which he has now submitted to the House, from the original proposal with regard to the Militia which he laid before the House last year. Lord Lansdowne thinks differently, according to the extract from his speech on the Militia Bill which I read to the House last night. I quoted it for this reason. Lord Lansdowne speaks in the name of the Government. We complain that in this House we hear a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman thinks and desires and wishes, but we do not hear anything at all of what the Government are determined to do. Let me read again what Lord Lansdowne said—We have, then, to consider from that point of view what is the proper place of the Militia, and I am glad to believe that in the opinion of most of us the proper place of the Militia is that it should form a part of that Army which in times of peace remains at home, but which in times of national emergency shall he available for use in the field beyond the limits of these islands. I have no doubt that if my right hon. colleague had these data to work upon he would have been justified in doing what I believe in his original proposal he desired to recommend to Parliament—that he would have preferred 341 that the Militia should be merged in the short-service Army of which we have spoken in these debates. But sentiment counts for a good deal in these questions, and it became obvious to us that a measure of that kind would have done great violence to the sentiment of a force which we greatly honour and which commands the esteem of the country. Therefore we propose that the Militia should retain its identity and that it should not be merged in the short-service Army, but that, on the other hand, it should be so framed, so equipped, and so officered that it should be fit when occasion arises to take its place alongside the best troops of the Line for the purposes of foreign service.We have here two contradictory conceptions of the position of the Militia. The first, Lord Lansdowne says, was originally put forward under the authority of the Government by the Secretary of State for War; but they have given that up and adopted a different course. Will the right hon. Gentleman now say that he is one and the same person in this respect as he was last year?
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The interpolation of the right hon. Gentleman gives me the opportunity of referring to the Papers with regard to the Militia which I laid before the House. The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
There was never anything more open to this world. I never concealed from this House that it was my desire to have the Militia included in the short-service Army. But I never made the proposal to the House. In the Memorandum which I submitted to the House, I said that a change of the magnitude which I suggested could only come about after a much fuller public discussion than had yet been given to it, and that therefore no sweeping alteration in the Militia was at present contemplated. I never made any other proposal to the House; I have had no reason for withdrawing any proposal which I did make, 342 and Lord Lansdowne has accurately described the position. My hon friend the Member for Portsmouth spoke yesterday about the impossibility of making the Militia a territorial force. That seems to me a paradox. The Militia is essentially the territorial force of the country. If I have received one, I have received numbers of communications from great country towns saying that if we could form these territorial battalions they would place at our disposal all the resources of the locality. If you say they have already done so under the existing Militia arrangement, I say they have not. But I am confident that the moment you start these territorial battalions you will have the whole local feeling and sentiment on their side.
§ MR. REGINALD LUCAS (Portsmouth)
If you merge the Militia in your new territorial regiments the Militia, as Militia, ceases to exist.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I will tell the hon. Member about his own battalion in Hampshire. That battalion at the present moment is being bled at every point. In that battalion there are 156 men under twenty years of age, and there are 164 men disqualified under existing rules from service at all. The total strength of the battalion is 463 men. Does the hon. Member think that battalion would be better or worse if it were relieved from the pressure it is now under? I will tell the hon. Member exactly what has happened. The recruits of that battalion have been drawn out by the Rifle Brigade, by the Royal Marines, by the stokers of the Royal Navy, and, above all, by the Volunteer corps. Does the hon. Member really think that that battalion would suffer at all if it were made a territorial battalion, and it had not only barracks established in Winchester, but had full access to the traditions and activity of the Army?
§ MR. REGINALD LUCAS
If the right hon. Gentleman says that we, as battalions, are not worth having, there is nothing more to be said, and we must go, but, if you merge us with territorial regiments, we shall no longer exist as a Militia unit, and all our sentiment, traditions, and 343 esprit de corps, as Militia, disappear; we shall be a totally different institution. I do not say this ought not to be done if it is necessary, but do not let us be told it is the same thing.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
There never has been any question and there is no intention of merging them in another battalion. I have left the opportunity to a certain number of Militia battalions to accept the responsibility if they desire, and I have ample evidence that apparently I would get battalion after battalion to accept the responsibility proudly.
Let me come for a moment to another item, the question of the Volunteers. The right hon. Gentleman attacked me for quoting certain figures with regard to the Volunteers. I believe that what I have proposed for the Volunteers would lead to an amelioration in their condition which has never been suggested for them, and would put them in a position that has never been approached both for standing and efficiency. In what I said about the internal condition of the force I was but quoting statements of its officers. I said nothing in malice, I exaggerated nothing. All I claim is the right to examine the Volunteers in the light of reason and common sense, just as we examine every other branch of His Majesty's forces.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the ''blue-water" school and said that he belonged to the "silver-streak" school. Well, if we are liable to be invaded, we must have the kind of troops which will enable us to face the great Continental nations. Will any one suggest that we should reorganise the Volunteer force so that it may be able to meet the troops of those nations? If they had to meet a French, a German, or an Austrian army corps should we really organise our Volunteer forces as we are organising them now? Should we not give them transport, cavalry, guns, training, corresponding to that of the troops against which they were likely to be engaged? I want to know whether we really believe in this theory at all. I do believe in it, though not in the exaggerated form the right hon. Gentleman attributed to me. If hon. and right hon. 344 Gentlemen opposite do not believe in it let them accept the logical development of their views. There is no half-way house in this matter.
I must say I have been impressed by what I must call the uncompromising unreality of this debate. I have taken but a small part in it. I spoke yesterday and I am now endeavouring to reply to the Leader of the Opposition to-day. Therefore, if unreality exists I am not responsible for it. I still feel we are not in contact with the realities of the situation at all. I still think we have had no suggestion from either side of the House.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
If they have any suggestions to make. We have not had any one get up and say, "I believe that our Army as at present constituted is fit for the protection of the country in the absence of the Navy; I do believe the training we give them, their organisation, is perfectly satisfactory."
When I state the results of my examination into the condition of our different forces I know it is not popular. It is not agreeable to receive the criticisms of hon. Gentleman on both sides, but I know that is not only my fortune, but will be the fortune of every Minister who stands in this place and ventures to look facts in the face, to test the real fighting value of our aims. The moment you venture to suggest that this or that branch of the Army requires investigation, or demands reform, you are met by an indignant chorus of reproach. I am old enough to remember that there was a certain Marshal Lebœuf in a neighbouring country who told the French people that everything in the French army was ready to the last gaiter-button. It was my fortune to see that country, within a year from the 345 time that statement was made, invaded and devastated by war, and the French people had to pay the price for accepting that statement. I have not the slightest doubt that the Marshal's statement was exceedingly popular. I am certain that the Chamber applauded him loudly. From the personal point of view nothing would be more satisfactory to myself if I were able to slate that, according to all the information at my disposal, I am convinced that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. I do not think so; nothing will make me think so; I believe any one in my position will feel it to be his imperative duty to probe into the condition of every branch of our forces, and must be prepared for what I was prepared for, criticism, much of which no doubt is just; but a good deal of which I venture respectfully to say is not only unjust, but uninformed. I would take the opinion of the Committee. I ask if the gravamen of the charge that is laid against me can be sustained; I ask if I have not met the Leader of the Opposition on every single point; and I ask the Committee to say that there is not only a good deal to be said on this side, but that the enormous weight of experience and fact lies on this side.
§ MAJOR SEELY
said he begged to move again the reduction of £1,000,000 moved the previous day by the hon. Member for Oldham, although he was fully aware that his hon. friend the Member for Sheffield was anxious to move a reduction dealing specifically with the Volunteers. He thought it was only right that in setting up this reduction of £1,000,000 some reply should be made to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. In spite of all the lucidity of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War they did not know what the right hon. Gentleman was driving at. He was not going to follow the right hon. Gentleman through all the various parts of his speech in reply to the Leader of the Opposition; but he would only take three heads so as to show the right hon. Gentleman the difficulty the Committee found in trying to understand what he intended to propose. The right hon. Gentleman turned to the Leader of the Opposition and said in regard 346 to the Reserves and the number of battalions and the general reduction, "I have made my position perfectly clear. You say, 'go back to the old seven years and five years system.' I propose, on the other hand"—and the right hon. Gentleman forgot he was speaking in the presence of the First Lord of the Treasury, whom they were all glad to see in the House—"I propose that we should have a long-service Army which should provide us with the necessary men for India, and also a home-service Army providing us with a Reserve." Quite so. They knew the right hon. Gentleman proposed that; but was it going to be done? The right hon. Gentleman would perhaps tell them—for, after all, the Committee would see that the whole thing hung together—that he proposed to convert the Militia into a kind of home-service Army. Nothing could be plainer. There were a great number of officers of Militia in the House who viewed with great concern that proposal, as was shown during recent debates. Some thought it wise and some thought it foolish; but all of them wanted to know. He could give the names of many commanding officers of Militia regiments who assured him that they could not obtain officers or men for their corps because of the state of uncertainty they were in. But when the Leader of the Opposition mentioned this the right hon. Gentleman said: "No, no; I propose to do this when I am allowed; but certain people will not allow me to do it." What a ridiculous state of affairs! Did the right hon. Gentleman propose to do it at all? And if so, when? But, if he did not propose to do it, what about the short-service Army which he now told the Committee he was not going forward with? The right hon. Gentleman fell foul of the Leader of the Opposition because he proposed to return to the seven years with the colours and five years with the Reserve, and said that that would never provide an adequate Reserve for India, which the short-service Army would provide. But if there was not going to be a short-service Army were they to have any Reserves at all?
§ MAJOR SEELY
Well, they were. They had got it at last. Now, since they were assured that they were to have a short-service Army—which many hon. Members disapproved of—the Committee would be glad to know definitely, here and now, when they were going to have this short-service Army—not the Militia. Could the right hon. Gentleman tell them; or could the Prime Minister tell them, when this short-service Army was to begin? There was no reply. There would be no reply. They all knew that the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, which had many merits, was not approved of by the War Office over which the right hon. Gentleman had control. They knew that the right hon. Gentleman's proposals in regard to the Volunteers had not the approval of those concerned with the Volunteer Department of the War Office. They knew, or at any rate, they heard, that the Committee of Defence would not agree to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. Well, it did seem to him that it was time that there should be an end to all this mystery, this concealment, this evasion. If they were to have a home-service Army and a Reserve, they could not enlist men for nine years service and three years in the Reserve and put off the formation of the short-service Army to the Greek Kalends. If they were to have a home-service Army the House of Commons ought to be frankly told that they were. Many hon. Members believed that the formation of a home-service Army would be a death blow to the Militia, and the Volunteers would probably, in the long run, absolutely fail to produce the result which the right hon. Gentleman and all of them sought, and pave the way to a military system wholly unadapted to our needs. They were told that a home-service Army was going to be formed.
§ MAJOR SEELY
said that, as his hon. and gallant friend had just remarked, it was not on the Estimates; and it was a most irregular procedure for the House, the previous night, to pass the Second Reading of the Army Annual Bill, seeing that we had an entirely new Army.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that the hon. and gallant Member was under an entire misconception. There were a number of battalions now which could be utilised for short service. There was no necessity for a change in any way.
§ MAJOR SEELY
said they were now beginning to get at the facts. This was surely a most extraordinary suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman. The Secretary for War said that he would proceed to form a home-service Army without any reference to the House of Commons, and that there were in this country battalions corresponding to a home-service Army. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that he had, on the sly, been enlisting men for two years? [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh, oh!"] He immediately withdrew the words "on the sly" in any offensive sense. He merely wished to show the absurdity of the suggestion that the right hon. Gentleman could form a short-service Army without communication with this House, and that he could enlist men for two years with the colours and six in the Reserve. What about the drafts for India? Were they going to be affected? Of course, this was an entirely new departure. Such a revolution in our military system had not been heard of since the days of Pitt; and the House, naturally, did not want to have a knowledge of it by a kind of side wind. It was not only the effect of the home-service Army on the military problem of the country, but its effect on the Militia and the Volunteers that had to be considered. The right hon Gentleman tried to make the House believe that he now proposed to form a short-service Army, against which many Members seriously protested, without reference to the House, and which was to take the place of the Militia. Were they to have two home-service Armies—one to take the place of the Militia, and another to be set up in five months time when the drafts for India were needed?
Then, in regard to the foreign-service Army, there was an absolute point of disagreement. The right hon. Gentleman had invented an entirely new school of his own. They had had the blue-water school and the War Office school. Now they had the Clacton Beach school, which 349 said that a few dinghies could land a force on these shores and that we should have to surrender to the enemy in six days. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh, oh!"] The right hon. Gentleman did say that competent naval officers had said so.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
was understood to say that he was bound to confess that the extreme naval view had adopted that statement; but he never had.
§ MAJOR SEELY
said that that was the extreme naval view, and the right hon. Gentleman had stated it with approval. But the right hon. Gentleman himself adopted the view of a possible raid of 5,000 men as a maximum; and the Committee would be glad to know if that was the view of the Clacton Beach school. He protested against the surrender policy. It was no part of his proposal to go into this at any length, but it did seem to him that the suggestion of the Committee of Defence that in the event of this country losing command of the sea they would surrender within six days was most disgraceful.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
Has the right hon. Gentleman the smallest proof that the Committee of Defence had ever laid down such a proposition?
§ MAJOR SEELY
said he had only the statement of the Secretary of State for War. The theory propounded by the right hon. Gentleman was that if we lost command of the sea——
§ MAJOR SEELY
said he was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that it was not a contingency to be discussed, because he, for his part, thought it was a very proper contingency to discuss. If the evil day ever came and we lost command of the sea temporarily our proper course was not to surrender but to labour andsufferuntil werecovered it. [Laughter.] He would beg those who laughed to remember that he had on his side those who had studied the question deeply and also those who had studied naval strategy 350 in all its bearings. His point was that while invasion might or might not become more or less likely or possible, a blockade had become absolutely impossible. When it was remembered that the whole of the Japanese fleet found it impossible to blockade the narrow entrance to the harbour of Port Arthur there was something to be said for the theory that the starvation of the people of this country was an impossibility, and the steadfast qualities of our people did not lead them to regard lightly the policy of surrender. The idea that if they lost command of the sea they were to abandon all the causes they held dear was one he would never endorse. [A voice: No one does.]
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I strongly object to the hon. Gentleman's remarks. This is neither the Vote nor the occasion for the hon. Gentleman to give his favourite version of the views of the Committee of National Defence.
§ MAJOR SEELY
asked how it was possible to discuss Vote 1 of the Army Estimates and what men were to be obtained until they had arrived at some kind of agreement as to whether the men were required for this country or not. It was very easy to say this question should be discussed on item "E," but the Committee had been put off discussing this matter for over a year by such statements as that. The Committee passed last year provisional Estimates on the understanding that the whole matter would be put right in the course of the year, and they now found themselves in a greater state of obfuscation than they were last year. He applied to hon. and right hon Gentlemen to say, Did any one know what the War Office proposed to do with the Militia? Did any one know what was intended to be done with the home-service Army? The right hon. Gentleman in his speech had attempted to show that all reductions were impossible On 351 the other hand the late Chancellor of the Exchequer said large reductions were essential.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I did not say no reductions were possible. I said if the House intended to maintain the Army in its present condition there could be no reduction.
§ MAJOR SEELY
said the right hon. Gentleman had said the only possible way of reducing the Estimates was by the reduction of the home-service Army. That was not part of the scheme when these Estimates were produced. Therefore on the scheme produced it was impossible to make reductions. Economy had been assented to by both sides of the House and yet they could not proceed with the reductions because they did not know what was intended with regard to the home-service Army, the Militia, and the Volunteers, and what was to govern the policy of the Government on this question. It was no good doing anything until they knew what was wanted, and if the Government would give some lead the whole Committee would be grateful. He trusted that whatever school of thought governed the policy the Government would never admit that they belonged to the school of surrender. He begged to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £9,101,000, be granted for the said Service."—(Major Seely.)
§ *SIR CHARLES WELBY (Nottinghamshire, Newark)
said he did not cavil at the delay which had taken place in carrying out the schemes which the right hon. Gentleman had put before the House last year. He was, on the contrary, grateful for it, because it had given the country time to grasp and consider those important and far reaching proposals. He confessed that the right hon. Gentleman was something of an enigma to him. When he listened to the general statements of principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman he found himself in general agreement with them. When he pointed out our peculiar position as an island power, when he pointed out the very limited danger of invasion 352 and the necessity of our keeping our Army up for the purpose of warfare abroad, and when he pointed to the Indian frontier as the main source of danger he was in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. But when the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to his concrete proposals based on those broad statements of principle, then it was impossible to reconcile the principle with the proposals made. He was now referring particularly to the proposals with regard to the Regular Army. He found himself to a large extent in agreement, with the Militia policy which the right hon. Gentleman now put forward as against that put forward last year, assuming it to be a genuine scheme to improve and strengthen the Militia force, but he could only approve of it on condition that the plan of home-service battalions should be dropped. There was no room in our military system for both. It was extremely difficult to follow the right hon. Gentleman in regard to his proposals for the Regular Army. For the first time it was recognised that the Regular Army existed for war abroad only, and yet our small Army was to be divided into a home-service and a foreign-service Army. That proposal was, moreover, not compatible with our obtaining a large and efficient Reserve, which was our great need at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that his home-service battalions would have a large Reserve, large in numbers no doubt, but of very young men insufficiently trained, who had only seen two years service in the ranks and no foreign service at all. On the other hand, the general-service Reserve would be trained men, but quite inadequate in numbers. The right hon. Gentleman insisted that the chief business of the Army in the future was the defence of India against a European Power, and yet he gave this country a force far less efficient for the purpose than that which we now possessed. The Government had declared that in their deliberate opinion it was necessary to have not less than 100,000 men ready to be sent from this country to reinforce the Indian Army and to make the frontier of India secure, such a force would include some seventy battalions of infantry, and how would they be provided under the right hon. Gentleman's scheme? 353 There would be a certain number of Guards and general-service battalions, perhaps thirty in all, and for the remaining forty the right hon. Gentleman would have to fall back upon the home-service battalions. The composition of these had been so fully exposed that it was unnecessary to deal with it at length. They contained only a very small proportion of long-service men, while as for the remainder, about one-fourth would consist of boys of from eighteen to twenty years of age with less than two years service with the colours and no experience outside these islands, and the rest would be men from the Reserve, but still young men who had not served outside these islands and who had not the training which would fit them for service in the field.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said it was not contemplated that boys of eighteen to twenty years of age should be sent to the Indian frontier. The battalions would have the same composition as obtained in any army in Europe.
§ *SIR CHARLES WELBY
said his point was that the battalions would consist mainly of Reserves, which the right hon. Gentleman did not deny.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
remarked that the hon. Member stated that the men would be from eighteen to twenty years of age. That was not so; the battalions would be composed of men above twenty years of age.
§ *SIR CHARLES WELBY
said the right hon. Gentleman was making the large assumption that he would get his recruits at the age of nineteen. But even assuming that, and that he sent no man until he had served one year with the colours, the men would not be more than twenty-one years of age, and the great bulk of the Reserves would be young soldiers with little military experience. Battalions so constituted would be vastly inferior to the battalions now available, and he would like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman whether his military colleagues in the Army Council were fully satisfied as to the efficiency of the battalions for that particular purpose.
354 He was glad to note a tendency in certain quarters to go back to the principle of the Cardwell system, in the virtues of which he had always been a believer, though he was perfectly conscious of its shortcomings. The more he saw of these new schemes which appeared and passed away with bewildering rapidity, the more he was convinced that the Cardwell system was, on the whole, the best and the most adapted to the requirements of the country. If, however, the best was to be made of that system, there must be an adequate number of cadres, and he entirely agreed with the Secretary of State that our Regular Army was none too large. To praise the Cardwell system in one breath and in the next to advocate a large reduction of battalions was altogether inconsistent. Hitherto the Cardwell system had been perpetually overstrained, but there were circumstances at present which would give it a better chance than it had had yet. New battalions had been added, and the Secretary of State had been able to prevail upon the naval authorities and the Council of Defence to admit the possibility of withdrawing a certain number of battalions from colonial stations. These things greatly simplified the problem. The most cogent criticism against the Cardwell system was that in the form in which it had hitherto existed it did not yield a sufficient Reserve according to modern ideas. It was indisputably true that a system of seven years with the colours and five in the Reserve did not yield a sufficient Reserve, and to meet that fault the three years and the two years enlistments had been proposed. In his opinion that was beginning at the wrong end. The way to increase the Reserve was not to reduce too much the period of colour service, but to lengthen the period of Reserve service. The fault of the Cardwell system was that it engaged the men for twelve years, and so lost hold of them at the age of twenty-nine or thirty, when they were in their full fighting power. He would like to see men engaged for twenty-one years, with a colour service of six or seven years, and a Reserve service of fourteen or fifteen years, with the Reserves so classified that as the men got older and more advanced in their Reserve service their liability to active service 355 should be proportionately diminished. As to whether the men would engage for twenty-one years, his view was that the period of colour service affected the question far more than the period of Reserve service, and as he understood it was now the view of the War Office that it was almost as easy to get men for nine as for nine as for three years he could not believe that a period of six or seven years with the colours followed by fourteen or fifteen years in the Reserve would act as a deterrent.
He had the greatest horror of amateur schemes with regard to the Army, and, if he might say so without offence, that was the main blot on the scheme of the Secretary of State. It was the scheme of an amateur—an able and enthusiastic amateur with a great knowledge of the subject, but still an amateur, and the weak point was that the right hon. Gentleman had not the best opinion of the Army behind him. That was where the present scheme differed from the Cardwell scheme. The late Lord Card-well did not invent his own scheme. He called together the best of the young and progressive school of officers he could find, such as the present Lord Wolseley and Lord Cromer, and they hammered out a scheme, and then, having satisfied himself that it was sound, he made himself responsible for it. Only in that way was it possible to arrive at any firm foundation for a final settlement of the problem of Army organisation. If there was one thing the Army sorely needed at present it was a final settlement of this question. He should vote against the Amendment because he believed it was altogether unreasonable and impracticable, but he earnestly hoped that Members would not be told that by voting these Estimates they had committed themselves to certain principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, to the division of our small Army into two parts, or to the creation of short-service battalions which, besides being ineffective in themselves, would be absolutely fatal to the Militia.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
believed that it was only by carrying a substantial reduction such 356 as was now proposed that the House would be able to bring to an end the present waste in the management of the Army or to secure any effective reform. It was now known that the Army was required not for the defence of these islands, but for the defence of the Indian frontier, and he suggested that the Secretary of State should tell the Committee definitely upon what the provisions of the Government for the defence of the Indian frontier were based. Any attempt to consider as a whole the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman was unreal until the Committee knew what the requirements were and upon, what they were based. The Secretary of State had said that he was endeavouring to meet the demands not of the Council of Imperial Defence, but of the Indian Government. Those demands changed with every Viceroy, and frequently with the Commanders-in-Chief. One Viceroy would get on the mountains in the direction of Tibet, Afghanistan, or Persia, while another would remain behind the natural frontier of India, extending railways, laying out the necessary camps, and providing for the defence of India within its natural frontiers. Upon which of those policies was this scheme based? One Commander-in-Chief, like the late Sir Donald Stewart, would uphold the defensive policy, while another would march through Afghanistan and into the territory of another Power on his way to Moscow. Which of those policies was to prevail? These were not questions which could be decided permanently by the Government of India, they must be decided by the Council of Defence, and it was only by the Council of Defence laying down a settled policy and Parliament approving of that policy that there could be any fixed principle upon which to base the number of Regulars that should be kept. That was a serious consideration in regard to which the House had had no definite information. Upon that policy depended whether the white garrison to be maintained for the defence of the Indian frontier should be 75,000 or 150,000. Which of those numbers did the Government seek to maintain? It was not only the question of the number of Regulars; it was also the question of the time there would be 357 to prepare for the defence. If they waited near the Indian frontier there would be plenty of time to train the troops and send them out; but if they were going to advance into the territory of a neighbouring Power, 150,000 Regulars able to march at once would be necessary. That was why so much depended upon the settlement of the policy, and why he thought the right hon. Gentleman was wrong in deprecating discussion in the House of Commons.
With the criticisms of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the Auxiliary Forces he generally concurred, not because he thought expert opinion was not of great value, but because it had been directed very much to the maintenance of Regular troops. At the same time it could not be that the Committee of Defence disapproved of the present system of Auxiliary Forces, and that they were in favour of increasing the Regular strength and reducing the strength of the Auxiliary Forces, or else the right hon. Gentleman's proposals would have been more adequately supported. Either the Committee of Defence had not approved of that policy, or the Government had not supported the Committee. He believed that, generally, the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman towards the Auxiliary Forces had been most unfortunate. In his own experience of the Volunteers and the Militia, service both by officers and privates was readily given—in the Volunteers especially, and to some extent in the Militia. It was felt that they were wanted and the service was therefore readily given. He thought the Volunteers and the Militia had got keener of late years because the relations between them and the Regulars had become better. But if the right hon. Gentleman taught the country and the Regulars to look down on the Auxiliary Forces he would take the life out of the movement. The Volunteers and the Militia had both been increasing in efficiency of late years, especially in the mounted corps and the artillery, which were the two branches of which alone he had any experience. These branches would become more efficient still. It was not merely a question of reducing inefficient units. In that they all agreed with the right hon. 358 Gentleman. That was one thing, and to reduce efficient units was another, and under the right hon. Gentleman' scheme it might quite well become necessary to reduce efficient units. He was opposed to that general idea because, after all, the right hon. Gentleman ought to be able to save £1,000,000 a year from the Army Estimates. He could not save that out of the £2,000,000 devoted to the service of the Militia and Volunteers. It was a very small proportion of the £2,000,000 he could save. The saving ought to be made on the £28,000,000 spent on the Regulars, and on the expenditure on military works which brought up the cost to nearly —35,000,000. He believed the Auxiliary Forces did great good in stimulating the martial spirit of the nation and in saving us against conscription. We should concentrate on reducing the number in the Regular force, which could be done if we had a clear conception what our Indian frontier policy was to be. It was on that the country expected a saving to be made.
§ Sir HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said he had been anxious to move a separate reduction in order to call specific attention to the question of the Auxiliary Forces for they should not be confused with the upper branches of the service, and in that way to evoke a definite and distinct expression of opinion wholly independent of foreign policies.
§ Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
If I may, I would make an appeal to the Committee and the Government whether it would not be desirable to take the division which was postponed last night in order that the hon. and gallant Gentleman may address himself in a clear and detached way to the question which he wishes to bring before the Committee. I think that would be for the convenience of the Committee.
§ COLONEL BOWLES (Middlesex, Enfield)
I should like to say that there are Members who wish to speak on other questions besides the Volunteer question.
§ *SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER (Wiitshire, Chippenham)
I understand it will still be open to hon. Members to 359 speak on the broader question even if this Amendment is removed by a division.
That is so, certainly. Supposing the Committee came to a decision on the Amendment it would be open for any Member of the Committee to raise any further question or to raise the general question.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
said he was perfectly ready to give way if the Committee desired. It seemed to him that many hon. Members were unwilling that the division should be taken now. As to the treatment of the Militia and Volunteers the great difficulty they had to complain of was the absolute uncertainty which prevailed with respect to the policy of the War Office and the Secretary of State for War. The right hon. Gentleman had been so good as to address the Committee five times on the Army Estimates. He had made speeches of considerable length which were no doubt full of details. Speaking for himself he (the hon. Member) did not really understand where they were in regard to the Militia and Volunteers. In the Memorandum which the right hon. Gentleman had laid before the House he proposed definitely to reduce the Volunteers by some 45,000 men, and thereby bring them down to a maximum strength of 200,000, which he considered as absolutely sufficient for the defence of these islands so far as the Volunteers were concerned. It was upon that issue that he was anxious to take the opinion of the House, because he knew from sources of information which were open to himself and to other hon. Members that there was the greatest dissatisfaction in many quarters with that proposal. He wished to say at once that he had no authority whatever to represent the whole of the Volunteer force. All that he had ever contended in this House was to have been very much interested for upwards of thirty years in the Volunteer force and to have had command of a very large regiment in that body. As to representing the whole of the Volunteer force, he had never laid claim to any position of that kind. It was not necessary for the Secretary of State to say, as he had done, that he did not look upon him as the representative of the whole body. At any 360 rate, he represented a considerable body in the Volunteer force, and he would say, on behalf of that body, that they were anxious to co-operate in every possible way with the Secretary of State, but it did seem strange that the right hon. Gentleman in laying his proposals before the House of Commons should asperse either the condition of the Volunteer force at the present time, or do wrong to that service in the past. He had no doubt that the observations of the right hon. Gentleman came from him in the heat of debate and in great excitement. His language was very fluent, and perhaps words escaped him which exceeded the meaning he was anxious to give to them.
There was one matter on which he hoped the Committee would have fuller information. On February 23rd the right hon. Gentleman said—It has been suggested that the Volunteer force is by itself an immense contribution to the Army in the field. That is a delusion. I am not blaming the Volunteers, who have other calls and duties to meet.Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to give certain particulars in connection with the South African War. On a recent occasion he quoted the Report of the Inspector-General of Recruiting for the year 1900 as his authority for what he had said with regard to the Volunteers. The following extract was also from that Report—In consequence of the duration of the war in South Africa, and the additional forces sent to that country, a considerable number of special corps or units were formed during the year, either to take the place of troops sent to the Cape or to themselves proceed on service abroad.The special measures were as follows:—361 Surely that was a very material and effective contribution from the Volunteer force for service in the field, and hardly merited the aspersion which was, east upon it by the Secretary of State. Then yesterday the right hon. Gentleman repeated an allegation which caused very considerable pain to a large body of men when he stated that of the Volunteers who came forward for service in South Africa no less than 33 per cent, were inefficient for military service. This was what the Inspector-General of Recruiting said—
- "1. A large number of Imperial Yeomanry were enlisted.
- "2. The City of London Imperial Volunteer Regiment was raised.
- "3. Service companies of Volunteers for each regiment in South Africa from their affiliated Volunteer battalions at home were sanctioned.
- "4. Volunteer waiting companies were formed, the men of which were at once passed to the reserve until their services were required.
- "5. Volunteer Medical Staff Corps were formed for service in South Africa as well as for home service.
- "6. Royal Engineers and Electrical Engineer Volunteer Companies were formed for service in South Africa."The strength of the detachments furnished by the Volunteer units varied according to the number of the Volunteer units affiliated to the Territorial Line Regiments. The total raised was 11,648, of which over 8,000 proceeded to South Africa by the middle of May; the remainder were sent out later as drafts, or belonged to the waiting companies, being passed temporarily to the Reserve until their services were required.The number who volunteered for the Infantry Volunteer Service Companies amounted to 20,929. Of these, there were rejected—
- "a. For want of physique or on medical grounds, 3,528.
- "b. As not complying with the regulations as to efficiency, 3,333.Leaving fit for active service of those who volunteered, 14,068.The regulations with regard to efficiency were of a very serious character. The men required to have two years service, to be single men, and to be marksmen. He was unwilling to institute comparisons between one branch and another, but he must remind the Secretary of State for War that his predecessor stated in 1899 that no less than 30 per cent, of the men who had enlisted in the Regular Army were found on medical examination to be ineffective in the field. It was really unfair for the Secretary of State to take a portion of the Reports of officers in high command and responsible positions, and quote them to the House as conveying an adverse opinion of the military authorities in regard to the Volunteer force.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
said he was coming to these officers presently, but he should like to read to the Committee 362 one final extract from the Report of the Inspector-General of Recruiting—A consideration of these figures, and the early dates on which the Yeomanry and City of London Imperial Volunteer Regiment were able to embark, is a striking testimony to the untiring zeal and public spirit displayed by the members of the Imperial Yeomanry and Mansion House Committees and the members of the Auxiliary Forces.The Secretary of State never took the trouble to turn over the page and quote the opinion of the Inspector-General on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman referred yesterday to the opinion of Colonel Mathias, a very distinguished officer, now commanding the 75th Regimental District at Aberdeen. He also quoted Major-General MacKinnon, an officer who had the complete confidence of the entire Militia, Volunteer, and Yeomanry forces. He himself had had no communication with Major-General MacKinnon, but he had every reason to believe that the state of uncertainty which existed greatly hampered the work of his Department. Major-General MacKinnon, in the opinion which was quoted, was careful not to say that the opinion was formed after he had seen the City Imperial recruits. The opinion he afterwards formed——
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER rose to speak, but
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT,
declining to give way, said his right hon. friend was very kind in interrupting. He was anxious not to be unfair to him in any way. They all knew his zeal, and they read with delight the speech he made at Liverpool when he said he was a most sympathetic person towards the Volunteer force. He only wished the right hon. Gentleman would give the House greater evidence of the continuance of that feeling if it was still unchanged. He should have liked to hear the right hon. Gentleman quote the opinion of General Douglas, the present Adjutant-General, and a member of the Army Council. He would be astonished if General Douglas, the Adjutant of the Scottish Volunteers, came forward and said 40 per cent, of that force was inefficient in physique. He was an officer connected with the Volunteer force. He agreed that they had heard exceedingly 363 little of the opinion of the Army Council and a great deal of the opinion of the Secretary of State for War, but he thought it would be more effective if his right hon. friend quoted the opinions of experienced military members of his own Council. No doubt some men, at the time of their enlistment, were wanting in physique, but everyone connected with any military body would admit that a very considerable improvement took place in a few months in the physique and development of those men. It was untrue to say that Volunteer officers took anybody, good, bad, or indifferent. That was done with regard to the second and third contingent of Imperial Yeomanry sent to South Africa, but it was not done in any properly conducted Volunteer corps. He was astonished that this inefficiency, if it existed, had only been so recently discovered. The Commission appointed by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor to inquire into the Militia and Volunteer forces, a Commission presided over by the Duke of Norfolk, took quite a different view. That Commission examined a considerable number of witnesses and expressed their opinion that the Volunteer forces had had a great effect in educating the people of Great Britain to look on the Army as a national institution, whilst it had broadened the minds of the Regular soldiers, and they deprecated any change which would modify the spirit which their status authorised, or any fundamental change in their position. He could not understand why the Secretary of State for War, who had only been at the War Office some twelve or sixteen months, should insist in reducing the number of men in the Volunteers when men were offering to serve from all parts of the country.
As the Prime Minister was in the House he would venture to make an urgent appeal to him to take some notice of the very strong feeling prevailing in this country with regard to the reduction of the numbers in the Volunteer forces. He asked his right hon. friend to look at the Report of General Miles and note his view of the question, which was that to curtail their numbers and make them into indifferent soldiers was the worst of all policies. The right hon. Gentleman was the President of the Committee of Defence. 364 That Committee had arrived at the opinion that an invasion of this country was very unlikely and that we could depend upon the Navy for our safety. That was the opinion of the English people 100 years ago, but when they saw a great invasion being prepared in France a great panic sprang up and 300,000 Volunteers were enrolled. That scare died out and the Volunteers were neglected until 1859, when another scare took place and Volunteers were again enrolled. The United States of America had taken advantage of the lessons of the South African War; they were 3,000 miles from the nearest European State and yet they had taken steps to render invasion of their country impossible. Was this country doing the same? We were only twenty-one miles away from the nearest Continental State, and that we should be dependent on these theories—for they were nothing more—was, he thought, absurd. The South African expedition was to be a military promenade, in the course of which we were to walk up and take Pretoria, and it was thought that 5,000 men would be an unusual number to send out for such a purpose. We sent out altogether 400,000 and spent £250,000,000. He urged his right hon. friend not to do away with the Volunteer force but to put an end to this extraordinary uncertainty as to its future. The growing want of officers was a thing that the right hon. Gentleman had admitted he was responsible for. A farthing on the income-tax would give the Volunteer force all that was suggested by the Duke of Norfolk's Commission, the Report of which had been in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman for nine months. The right hon. Gentleman approved of that Report, but not a single thing had been done to give effect to its recommendations. He appealed to the Government to stop this bickering at the Volunteer force which rendered such good service in the late war and which was so anxious to work with the right hon. Gentleman, but which could not stand the sneers of the right hon. Gentleman. He assured the Prime Minister that the country was attached to the Volunteer force. There was an almost unanimous feeling on both sides of the House that the recommendations of that Norfolk Commission 365 should be given effect to and that the Volunteer force should be kept up. They did not desire to do anything at the expense of the Militia and Regulars. All they wanted was fair play for the Volunteers.
*SIR J. DICKSON POYNDER
said the Volunteer force was so inextricably mixed up with the whole of our military system that it could not be detached and had therefore better be discussed with the general question. The Estimates of £30,000,000, he, thought, were susceptible of a large reduction. He did not propose to say or enter into anything in the nature of a political attack because he believed, and most Members of the House believed also, that the problem of the military defence of the Empire was far too important, and its practical solution far too urgent to allow it to be made a battleground of Party politics. He, however, felt quite justified in examining the scheme and criticising what had taken place in the past, what was taking place now, and what the Committee was given to understand would take place in the future. The policy now put forward for Imperial defence was radically different to that laid down two years ago. It was then laid down by the Secretary of State that a large Army was necessary for this country, partly for offensive purposes abroad and partly for defensive purposes at home. Now, there was complete reversal of that scheme. It was now laid down that the Regular Army should be, in the main, a foreign-service force, for garrisoning our dependencies and foreign possessions; and that as regarded our home defence the Navy was deemed sufficient to protect us from invasion. With great respect, he ventured to say that both those principles erred on the side of the extreme. Formerly, too much stress was placed on military organisation; latterly, too much stress had been laid on naval organisation for home defence. It seemed to him that there should be some intermediate course between the two. There was too much risk involved in the extreme blue-water theory. He recognised that our naval establishments should be maintained at the highest possible efficiency—equal to the two-Power standard; 366 and that every one in the House would approve of the opinion of the Committee of Defence that the naval and military services should be in closer association than they had ever been before. But the scientific principles laid down by the Secretary of War seemed to fail to realise the difference between the dangers attached to the invasion of this country and blockading it. To realise the Secretary of State's contemplated catastrophe of capitulation, he anticipated a successful blockade of all our ports by a foreign navy; this was a highly improbable contingency.
In the military defence of the Empire the main principles ought to be, first of all, a highly-organised Regular Army to garrison our foreign dependencies and possessions; second, a highly-organised Army, known as a striking force, ready at a moment's notice to proceed to any part of the world with its transport; and third, ail unlimited mass of men in this country trained to arms for home defence and also to act as the first real Reserve in the event of our being committed to a great war abroad. How were these ideals to be earned out under our complex voluntary system? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had instituted a system of nine years service for the foreign garrisons; and a home short-service system. The results were so far satisfactory that a large number of recruits had been obtained of a very much better standard than in days gone by. The whole difficulty, however, was that the nine years service automatically decreased the number of Reserves. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that after nine years service the men should fall into a three years Reserve; but he, himself, thought that that Reserve period of service might be profitably extended to six or eight years. He confessed that he did not understand the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman's home-service Army. Last year it was understood that the home-service Army was to be practically substituted for the Militia. This year they were led to believe that this force was to be blended with the Militia; but he ventured to think that whichever method was adopted the important object of a large Reserve could not be realised. It seemed to him that to attempt to have 367 a foreign-service and a home-service Army would, under the peculiar commercial conditions of this country, spoil the recruiting for both.
The Secretary for War believed that a small number of well-paid, highly-trained men was better than a large number of incompletely-trained men; but, in his opinion, we should have, in this country a large number of men, however incompletely trained, ready to be called upon for service in the event of a great war. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was an alarming proportion of the Militia and Volunteers who were not serviceable for war and, therefore, were a chronic and useless strain on the resources of the country. How was that position to be rectified? The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was to substantially reduce the Militia and the Volunteers. But that proposal ran counter to having a large mass of trained men in the country. If a large proportion of these forces were inefficient, something should be done to increase their efficiency, instead of recruiting men of poor physique. If the system of medical examination was insufficient it should be strengthened up. Even if, in the early days of such strengthening up, the numbers of the forces were reduced, that would only be temporary; but, for goodness' sake, do not let them reduce the numbers of these forces permanently. If necessary, much more money should be spent on the Auxiliary Forces of the country so as to increase their standard of efficiency and make them, in time of emergency, susceptible at short notice to a much higher state of efficiency and thereby equal to any call that might be made upon them. In that way the country would have, at the shortest possible date, a large body of Reserves ready to take the field with the Regular Army. The Bill which was to be passed to render the Militia available for foreign service would be sufficient for that branch leaving England in time of war; but much further encouragement could be given to the Volunteers to make a large proportion of them efficient for times of emergency. The War Secretary talked of reducing the number of Volunteers, but not of raising the standard. He would suggest that instead of 200,000 they should have 500,000 Volunteers. They were the 368 cheapest item in the whole Army service. This curtailment of numbers was very unfortunate. They had already seen a reduction in the numbers of the Imperial Yeomanry, which was not only a useful, economical, and most admirable mounted force, but one that had done excellent service abroad. In spite of that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to reduce it from 35,000 to 27,000. Not only would the aggregate number be stereotyped and limited, but the regiments and squadrons would also be stereotyped and limited. That would have a most unfortunate effect upon a force which, in the limited period of three years, had proved to be an economical and useful branch of the service.
At present both forces were short of competent officers. Those willing to-serve could not devote sufficient time to ensure military competence. Suggestions had been made that these Auxiliary Forces should have Regular officers to command them, but there were considerable objections to that plan. If they were to place Regular officers in charge of these units they would immediately check the ambition of junior officers, because they would realise that they could not become commanding officers. They would further, by bringing in a man unknown to the district, put a check on recruiting. If they wanted more competent officers in these battalions in order to raise the standard of efficiency, he would suggest that they should place one of the officers in the Regular Army as second in command, but with wide and extended powers. Such an officer could work in close co-operation with the senior and junior officers, and he was confident that such a scheme would add immensely to the use of those forces.
A method of establishing reliable Reserves must include a reduction in the Regular Army. In all there were 156 battalions, of which something approaching 100 were appropriated to garrisons abroad and our foreign possessions. So long as they insisted upon the Cardwell system being maintained they would have to maintain the remaining battalions. It appeared to him that if they could co-ordinate their depôts and arrange for a central depôt 369 into which to draft men for the Regular foreign Army and the striking force, and to have under that central depôt a group of minor depots for Auxiliary training, they would probably produce sufficient men for the foreign Army and the striking force, and at the same time substantially reduce the number of battalions. There would thus be given an opportunity for very considerable reductions, some of which would have to be ear-marked immediately for the higher price to be paid for the Auxiliary Forces of higher standards. By this method the foreign Army would be reduced to the smallest limits, and every man ought to be physically strong and ready for a time of emergency. The Leader of the Opposition struck a very important note on the previous night when he reminded them that men who entered the Army and served for nine years had at the end of that time reached a period of their lives when it was extremely important that they should be assured employment. It was one of the most important and urgent requirements in the Army, especially with a nine years service, that every man on the expiration of his service should, presuming he was of good conduct, have employment assured to him. An analysis of the Poor Law returns of the different counties would show that a serious proportion of the recipients of relief were formerly in the Army. The return of 1904, for Wiltshire, showed that 37,000 vagrants were relieved, and that nearly 5,000 of the number were old soldiers; when it was remembered that many of the recipients of relief were professional vagrants, it would be realised that 5,000 was a very large proportion of the remainder. The matter was so important that it would be worth while having a Return prepared showing the number of vagrants relieved in each county and the number of old soldiers included therein. He thought if the right hon. Gentleman would accept the suggestion made from all corners of the House with regard to the Auxiliary Forces, he would have an Army able to meet all national and Imperial demands.
§ *COLONEL LEGGE (St. George's, Hanover Square)
expressed his sympathy with the Secretary of State for War, who 370 not only had to meet criticisms from within and without the War Office but was also expected to give his attention to the gossip of regimental messes and military clubs as retailed to the House. The right hon. Gentleman, however, was not singular in that respect, but had illustrious predecessors in his office who had been treated in like manner. When an old soldier rose to address the Committee on the topic of the Army he was always told that he was prejudiced against the Auxiliary Forces. On his own behalf he begged to deny that emphatically. He had the greatest sympathy with the Auxiliary Forces and he had no prejudice in favour of any particular branch of the service. He had served both in infantry and cavalry; at home and abroad, in peace and in war. He had been adjutant of a school of instruction for officers of the Auxiliary Forces (Militia and Volunteers), had also been an adjutant of Yeomanry; he had filled the post of instructor of musketry, and therefore he hoped he would not be accused of betraying feeling against any branch of the service if he said anything to which his hon. friends could not assent.
With regard to the Army scheme it seemed to be generally admitted that the object for which a Regular Army was kept was not the defence of these islands but the defence of the Empire, and they had to bear in mind that whereas in Europe our only land frontier was Gibraltar it was very different with regard to Asia, Africa, and America. The first thing to be decided was the number required for the Regular Army. He wished the question, of Army policy could be withdrawn from Party politics, and he hoped that before the debate was concluded some general agreement would be arrived at with regard to the standard of the Army. That must be based in the first instance on the garrisons kept abroad. They had 75,000 in India, and 61,000 in the Colonies and Egypt, making a total of 136,000, and the question arose as to the number of men that ought to be kept at home in order to augment those forces in the event of war breaking out. It did not seem to him, looking at it from that point of view, that they were asking for an excessive force. In the case of war they 371 would want to double their garrisons, and would require a force equal to the present garrisons for reinforcements. The question was how to obtain those additional men. They had tried the original long-service system and had found that there was no Reserve. Then they bad tried the short-service system and found that it gave them a Reserve but no first line. When in 1899 the War Secretary had to mobilise the Army it was not up to strength by 14,000 men. They would have to keep up an Army with a moderately long service for foreign purposes, but at the same time with a short service for the purpose of Reserve. Although our previous system was not perfect and did not give all the men that were required, it was perfectly sound in that men were enlisted for seven years with the colours and for five years in the Reserve. That did not apply to the whole Army at home, where the Secretary for War had the power to pass men into the Reserve at an earlier date. He could not help thinking that some extension of that system would meet the requirements and would be preferable to having two terms of service. They also wanted a reserve of officers. At present the state of things was very unsatisfactory. The reserve was composed chiefly of officers who had retired from the Regular service on pensions or gratuities, and either voluntarily or compulsorily. Those men who retired voluntarily did so because they had had enough of soldiering, and the compulsory section retired because soldiering had had enough of them. That system was not satisfactory; it did not supply a reserve of young officers. When the Reserve officers were called out in the late war, the majority of them were field officers or captains and there were no subalterns. There was the third class of officers who retired on account of age. When they were turned out of the service they had to pass another five or seven years in the Reserve, and surely if a man was unfit on account of age to serve in the Regular Army he ought not to be kept in the Reserve.
He welcomed the proposition made in another place to make the Militia liable to be called upon for foreign service, There was nothing unconstitutional in 372 that provision, and he believed they would be quite ready to undertake that responsibility. There was no utility in keeping any force at home unless it was liable to be called upon for service in time of war. With regard to the training of the Militia he thought the present time allowed was not sufficient, and if the condition of going abroad in time of war was to be imposed the period must be increased. It would be too late when war broke out to train the force. As everyone would agree, peace time was, from a soldier's point of view, the time in which to prepare for war. Very little had been said in regard to the Yeomanry. Their case was a very peculiar one, inasmuch as in 1901 they were placed under the Militia Act. Were they to be made liable for foreign service in the same way as the Militia? The Yeomanry came forward extremely well in the South African War. The Imperial Yeomanry were formed partly from the existing Yeomanry, partly from the Volunteers, and partly from civilians. The first contingent had some training before they went out, the second contingent had none, but in spite of that the latter contingent rendered good service in the war. They could not depend on the theatre of war, however, for the training of our soldiers. He did not wish to lay down any hard-and-fast rule as to the amount of training a man should have. They knew the rule with regard to soldiers generally, but the Yeomanry were a superior class of men. They could all ride before they entered the Yeomanry, and no doubt they required a shorter training than was necessary for ordinary recruits. But the idea of training could be carried too far, as was shown in the case of the rider of the winner in the French Grand Prix, who when drawn for one year's compulsory service was put in an infantry regiment on the ground that he could not be taught to ride in less than three years. As to the Volunteers, he should like to see that force brought up to a very high standard of efficiency. He was told that any reduction in their numbers—and he believed a reduction must be effected if they were to be made more efficient—would lead to the loss of seats in this House. He thought that 373 could hardly be true, but if it was, it was a serious matter, because it meant that the Volunteer force was more a political than a military organisation. Whatever force we had, and whatever that force might be, it was necessary that it should be properly organised, properly trained, and liable to serve out of the country in time of necessity.
*LORD HENRY BENTINCK (Nottingham, S.)
said that he appreciated the point of view of the Secretary of State for War in regard to the Volunteers, for if it were true that there was a large percentage of the force not fit to go abroad on active service the right hon. Gentleman could not be blamed for reducing them in an attempt to get value for his money. However the Volunteers were regarded—whether as a means of home defence, or a possible Reserve to draw upon in time of hostilities abroad—it was impossible to regard the proposed reduction as otherwise than a means to obtain efficiency in the future. If the results of the proposal were only to have a stricter medical examination for recruits, the inevitable consequence would be that a larger number of Volunteers when they came forward in case of emergency for active service would be able to pass the doctor. Thus we should have a larger number of Volunteers fit for service than hitherto. He trusted, however, that the Secretary of State for War would not drive the matter of reduction too hard, but would content himself with stricter medical examination. The Volunteers were a cheap force, and the House of Commons would be only too glad to vote an increased sum for them. Personally, he would be glad it the right hon. Gentleman would give an assurance that something was to be granted in compensation for what he was taking away, and especially that he would pay regard to the recommendations of the Duke of Norfolk's Commission that it ought to be a cardinal doctrine that no Volunteer should be put to any expense with regard to his service.
As to the proposal to merge the Militia into a home-service Army, the Secretary of State for War had been accused of wishing to destroy the only machinery which we had for raising a large body of troops 374 in case we were engaged in protracted hostilities. He believed that instead of destroying that machinery the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman would very largely increase its efficiency. In case of war on the North-West Indian frontier, for instance, we could at once send out a large number of home-service Reserves to reinforce the active service battalions, while at home we could expand battalions into brigades, and fill the brigades with the remaining Reservists and all the ablebodied Volunteers that came forward. That force could be officered by officers of the Regulars and the competent officers of Militia and Volunteers. Thus instead of sending out a great number of weak ill-trained units commanded by ill-instructed officers we should have a force which could be easily knocked into shape and sent out homogeneous and effective, commanded by officers who knew their business. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would press forward his proposals.
§ *COLONEL BOWLES
said that, personally, he should have liked this Vote to be put down at a later period of the session so that it might have been preceded by the discussion of the Vote for the Committee of Defence. To discuss properly the question of the Army it was necessary to know to what purposes the Army was to be put, and that was a matter which came up more prominently in connection with the Committee of Defence. Consequently, the present discussion would have been far more valuable had Members been in possession of the views of the Committee of Defence. He desired to speak with regard to the two branches of the service which with he had been connected—the Volunteers and the Militia. He could not help feeling that the new scheme for the Militia would be beneficial to the force, but he greatly regretted the remarks of the Secretary of State with reference to the Volunteers. One of the main reasons why the best possible material was not obtained for the Volunteers was that there existed, with regard to that force, the same uncertainty that prevailed throughout the whole of our military system, and until an end was put to that uncertainty there would always be a difficulty in the way of proper 375 recruiting. But perhaps the most important factor of all was the doubt as to the purpose for which the force was to be utilised. The Volunteers could be utilised either as complete units or as a feeding force for the battalions of the Line. If the latter was intended there was not so much necessity for the high training that would otherwise be essential. At present Volunteer officers worked under great difficulties; they were not given that scope to which they were entitled in the way of military schools or those conveniences to attend such schools which would be so great an advantage to men with a limited amount of time for military education. When these considerations were taken into account, he regarded it as a matter of surprise that the Volunteer force had succeeded as well as it had, in spite of the War Office and of the Secretaries of State for War. The whole question was one of such uncertainty that it was impossible to give a proper and logical vote without knowing the basis on which the Committee of Defence desired the country to act.
§ *SIR LEES KNOWLES
said he certainly could not vote for any reduction of expenditure upon the Army. Speaking as one interested in Volunteers he was sure that his hon. friends who had taken so much interest in the Volunteers would take their blow like men, and would do their best to live up to the expectations of his right hon. friend and the War Office. Upon the 8th of August last he endeavoured to defend the fourteen Line battalions which his right hon. friend now proposed to disband. He hoped, however, that he would reconsider that proposal, and decide not to disband them. Those battalions had worked hard and had acquitted themselves with great credit. They had attached themselves to the older battalions of the Line and had worked up a magnificent esprit de corps, and he thought it was very hard upon both officers and men that the War Office should think of disbanding them. It should be remembered that the officers had left other regiments in order to join those fourteen battalions, and if they were disbanded those officers would have to pin other battalions, and there would be all the cost of their uniform and other expenses. He had suggested a solution 376 as an alternative to disbanding them, and it was that they should be reduced from 1,000 to 500 men, then they would keep their staffs, and at a moment's notice, if necessary, would be able to increase the numbers and again raise those battalions to 1,000 men apiece if war broke out. It would be a great blow to the territorial system and esprit de corps if these battalions were disbanded.
With regard to the Volunteers he did not think the Committee really appreciated that the Volunteers were volunteers. They could not say to them "go" and "come" in the same way as they could say it to the men in the Line. With regard to the proposed reduction he was afraid it would do a great deal of harm to the country, especially when they were now hearing a good deal about the necessity for physical training. Personally he would like to see every man serve a certain length of time in the Voluneers, the Militia, or the Regulars in order to get that physical training. If they reduced the number of Volunteers they would prevent a certain amount of that physical training. At present they had to submit to a medical examination, and if necessary that examination might be made more strict. Colonel F. Haworth, of the 3rd V.B., the Lancashire Fusiliers, had been quoted as having stated that if the Volunteers were examined by a doctor 25 per cent. of them would be rejected. He had written to the colonel upon this point, and he had been requested to say that what he meant was that the Volunteers would not reach the high standard of medical efficiency which was required by the men in the Line. When people were talking about Volunteers it was generally forgotten at what age men joined the Volunteers. In the above battalion with which he was connected as second in command the average age was nineteen years and the average standard height five feet five inches. A boy could join the Volunteers at seventeen and a-half years of age, and this was very different to what it was fifteen years ago, when the average age was twenty-three years and the average height five feet seven inches. The bulk of the Volunteers were now merely immature youths, but in time they would gradually become fit men. There were Volunteer battalions 377 and Volunteer battalions. His hon. and gallant friend the Member for Sheffield spoke for the crack London corps, but he was speaking for a corps composed principally of working men and artisans. They must not expect to get the same standard all through the different corps. The standard required of Volunteers for home defence was not the standard required for the Regulars, because the latter had to serve in India, and by the regulations the Line man was not sent on foreign service unless he had attained a certain mature age. Who fixed these regulations and standards? Not the Volunteers. They only enlisted their men according to the requirements of the War Office. Why, then, should they say that a large percentage were enlisted who would not pass the examination necessary for the Line? Why should they? They were not expected to serve abroad like the Line men, but they passed the examination that was necessary for their particular work.
It was said that the Volunteers enlisted into the Militia in order to pass into the Line, and that they stayed in the Militia until they became fit for the Line. He desired to say from personal experience that that was not so, because he had examined the figures and he found that an equal number of Volunteers passed into the Line and an equal number into the Militia. It was not the case that they passed from the Militia into the Line. The men as a rule joined the Militia when out of employment, and he knew that every inducement was put forward to persuade them to join the Line rather than the Militia. One point which appeared to have been overlooked was that they had a very large percentage of old soldiers in the Volunteers. He thought it would astonish a good many hon. Members if they were to see the number of medals worn by the members of Volunteer battalions. In his battalion they had a man who had won the V.C., and there were a large number of excellent soldiers in the Volunteers who could not be described simply as ordinary Volunteers. With regard to active service companies, he conceived the idea of them himself, and he believed it had emanated from him because he had had a correspondence on the subject with Lord 378 Wolseley in 1899. When it was being discussed as to how many volunteered for South Africa it ought to be remembered that only unmarried men were eligible, and they were obliged to be marksmen; and further than that, no officers were wanted except an occasional captain or subaltern. So far as he was concerned personally, he offered his services in any capacity, military or civil, without costing the State one penny. He was thanked for his patriotic offer, as it was described, by the War Office, but he was not examined medically although he thought he could have given points in athletics to a good many of his friends. People were very often mislead with regard to Volunteers. As to the statement that some of the Volunteers did not offer their services, and would not go out, until 5s. a day was offered them in pay, he wished to say a few words. His district sent three active service companies, and he knew that some of those men who offered their services when the pay was 5s. were men who were rejected when the pay was 1s. per day, and they were afterwards accepted at 5s. a day. That was an absolute fact, and it was very hard that mud should be thrown at the Volunteers and the statement made that they only went out when 5s. a day was offered them. He would not object if they would only hear both sides of the question.
He would like to say one or two words in regard to the reports upon these Volunteer active service companies, and he would read an extract from the history of the Lancashire Fusiliers, where it was stated—On the departure of the active service companies a very appreciative order was published by Major-General Wynne, C.B,, commanding XI. (Lancashire) Brigade, at Blood River, October 12th, 1900:—On the departure of the Volunteer companies for England, the general officer commanding desires to place on record his appreciation of the good services they have rendered while serving with the Regular battalions of their regiments (in South Africa. Their arrival in April last was a welcome addition to the brigade, and the cheerful and efficient manner in which they have always performed their duties has proved them reliable soldiers.And. Lieut.-Colonel C. J. Blomfield, D.S.O., commanding the 2nd Battalion 379 of the Lancashire Fusiliers, wrote, recording his appreciation of the excellent work done by the Volunteers mid stated—Officers, non-commissioned officers and men have shown a most soldierly spirit throughout, bearing privations and hardships with cheerfulness, and evincing on all occasions the greatest keenness and zeal. The commanding officer is convinced that the close association on active service will cement more strongly than before the spirit of good fellowship and comradeship between all battalions of the Lancashire Fusiliers.He could give the House further illustrations if they were necessary. He trusted that the War Office would grasp the situation. They all remembered the old fable of the lion being saved by the mouse. Now the fable in regard to the Volunteers seemed to be reversed. The Regular Army went out to South Africa, and were in difficulties, when the Militia, the Yeomanry, the Volunteers, the Colonial troops, etc., went out to assist them, and at any rate they did a great deal to bring the war to an end. Now that the mouse had saved the lion the War Office desired to put its paw down and crush the mouse. He did not mind the Volunteers being screwed up as regarded efficiency. He asked the Committee to remember what some of the regiments had actually to keep up. They had to make payments with respect to headquarters, ranges, and camps and the constant attacks made on the Volunteers and the endless uncertainty which prevailed were extremely unfortunate. If the root of the evil was the desire to introduce conscription let them know it, but, at all events, so far as the Volunteers were concerned, mend them or end them: but, let them know their fate.
§ SIR ELLIOTT LEES (Birkenhead)
said he wished to call the attention of the Secretary of State for War to the lack provision for mounted riflemen. It was necessary to make further provision for meeting such a crisis as we went through five years ago, when we had to improvise an Army almost equal in numbers to a Continental Army—an Army of 500,000 men. It could not be said that the same emergency would never occur again, for it was easy to conceive that such a contingency might be forthcoming in the future. It was very easy to improvise 380 good men for the ranks from the superior material in the Volunteers in the case of a crisis. In modern warfare practically no drill was required. Drill could be learned by any intelligent man in a few days. Very high discipline was required, but that discipline was very much more readily implanted in the superior class in the Volunteers who came forward to assist heir country in time of crisis. This remark applied to those who volunteered in the really dark days of the South African War. They very rapidly acquired the necessary discipline, and more especially those who found themselves serving with and under men whom they knew, and whom they had been accustomed to respect and support. But two things were necessary if we were properly to avail ourselves of the large supply of superior material the nation possessed First of all there must be men to instruct it, and, therefore, we must have a large supply of officers, and, above all, a large supply of trained non-commissioned officers.
He did not like to hear of the large reduction which was proposed in the Volunteer battalions, because the men who joined the Auxiliary Forces were those who came forward to serve the country in time of war. He would regret any reduction in the permanent staff attached to the Auxiliary Forces. He would rejoice to see an increase in the establishment of non-commissioned officers in the Regular Army, so that in time of crisis there might be a large number of thoroughly trained men available for the training of those who came forward in time of crisis. The men who volunteered might be good representatives of the physique of the nation, but at the same time they might be men who had had absolutely no previous training whatever in rifle-shooting. He could not see any reason why all boys should not be taught at school such an amount of accuracy in rifle-shooting as would be useful to them in case of their services being afterwards required in war. Although boys at school could not be trained to anything like Bisley efficiency in shooting, they could be given some idea of how to handle a rifle which they would never forget all their lives. It was generally admitted that the experience of the Boer War 381 and the Russo-Japanese War proved the enormous importance of mobility. On the outbreak of war there would always be a very great demand for mounted rifles, and he wished to know whether sufficient provision was being made for giving the requisite supply. At present our cavalry were being trained very largely in the use of the rifle. He thought they owed a great deal to Lord Roberts in that respect. Personally he believed that in modern war there would be a great demand for mounted riflemen. At present the mounted infantry were trained as companies attached to the infantry regiments. He could not think that that would give a satisfactory result in time of war. The company of mounted infantry would probably be the pick of the regiment, and as every mounted man would be asked for in the field by the general in command, so as to form great corps of mounted rifles, the infantry regiments would be deprived of the services of their best men when they most wanted them, He believed that if occasion demanded a much larger number of Yeomanry than before would volunteer for service abroad. He thought that the Secretary for War should try the experiment of training one of the light infantry regiments in mounted rifle work either at Aldershot or Salisbury Plain.
§ MR. BILL (Staffordshire, Leek)
said that as he had served thirty-five years in a Militia regiment, of which he was now honorary colonel, he would not like to be silent in the discussion on this Vote. Last year the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had told the House that the Militia could not be left in its present unsatisfactory condition, that prompt measures must be taken to level the force up to the standard of the Line, and that the period of training should be prolonged. Now, he asked the right hon. Gentleman, what he had done to carry out his own suggestions? All those who took an interest in the Militia would sympathise with him in his desire to suppress regiments which were inefficient in point of numbers of officers and men, and to amalgamate weak regiments belonging to one county. The right hon. Gentleman said last year that two years training were insufficient to produce efficiency in the 382 Militia. The regiments in his constituency were recruited from potters and miners, and any scheme which demanded two years for recruiting and training instead of two or three months would never be successful in obtaining the men who now joined the Militia. It would be just as difficult to get officers. The Militia had never recovered from the wastages occasioned by the South African War. Many men passed through the ranks into the Line; many were killed or died, and many left their regiments because it was not possible for them to run the risk of having to go out for a two years period of service. He would suggest that in this matter the Militia should be kept on practically the same lines as at present, but they should have longer recruiting training, and every three years at least there should be a longer annual period of training. Above all, there should be an end put to the present uncertainty with regard to the position of the Militia. If the War Secretary or the Army Council could suggest a course by which the Militia could be utilised by being made co-ordinate with the other forces of the Army and the officers made acquainted with what they had to do, they would come forward in all parts of the country and fill the gaps at present existing in the Militia force.
§ *MR. MORRELL (Oxfordshire, Woodstock)
said that although he was unable to fully support the views advanced with regard to the training of boys at school, though having much sympathy with the Clifton College Engineering School, still an experience of over forty years in connection with Volunteers in public schools, and the class corps and the Universities, told him that something special ought to be done with regard to the so-called class corps. They complained of a shortage of officers and were asked to find a trained Reserve. He did not hesitate to say that a Reserve trained in elementary work of all arms of the service, and treated at drill not as privates but in the rôle in rotation of sergeants and officers capable of going forward in any time, ought to be watched with care; and such, he believed, was to be found in the University corps, or 383 could be raised there. They had athletic and intelligent young men there who would train on very quickly, but as it was desirable to have competent adjutants and trainers in order to make the best of the good material found in those corps, he could not support a reduction in money grant, but thought he might urge its better application. These young men trained should soon fulfil. almost any requirement of the Army in the field, and could be quickly made into efficient officers in any Army. He had for some time the command of the Oxford University Corps and had trained young fellows as officers in many different directions. He had often a dozen men aiming at the Regular forces attached to the corps while keeping their University terms, and most of the officers held the P.S.; this seemed the nucleus of a school for trained reserve as officers. If the War Secretary were to put before men of that standard while at the University an opportunity of dealing not alone with drill but with the different sections of work required in the field, he would find that interest would be developed, and that the men who voted drill alone a bore would give a great deal of care and attention to a wider scheme of work. This class of men ought to be considered in any scheme for a remodelled Volunteer service. The Universities, Inns of Court and class corps might work together on similar lines, and be a source whence all arms might draw half-finished material to work up to meet shortage of officers. He would especially note mounted infantry, cyclist, machine gun—service rifle and small bore—scouting, mapping, signalling, tactics, bridging, half-scale earthworks. Education on
§ most of these lines was of value in the University work as well as in that for Army service. Knowledge of the applied science attached made men fit and servicable, handy men for the country either at home or in the Colonies. If there was a possibility of doing something of this kind in the college training, these men would never be set aside, unless to put on another plane for special attention. It was clearly reasonable that special consideration should be given to the Universities as centres of education forming a trained reserve of officers available for the auxiliary corps generally, yet who would be capable of assisting in a special way when called upon to furnish juniors for service with Regulars in the field.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
called attention to the equipment of the West York Artillery, who were at the present moment armed with sixteen antiquated muzzle-loading guns. He had put several Questions on this subject to the War Secretary, but up to the present no satisfactory reply had been given, and it appeared that there were no modern guns available for this corps. He would request the right hon. Gentleman to try and bring this question to a conclusion. A feeling of uncertainty was not fair and it impaired the efficiency of the corps. They ought to be properly equipped if they were required, and if, on the other hand, they were not required they should be informed of the fact.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 191; Noes, 234. (Division List No. 101.)387
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.)||Brown, G. M. (Edinburgh)||Cogan, Denis J.|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Condon, Thomas Joseph|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)|
|Allen, Charles P.||Burt, Thomas||Crean, Eugene|
|Asher, Alexander||Buxton, Sydney Charles||Crombie, John William|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Caldwell, James||Cullinan, J.|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Cameron, Robert||Dalziel, James Henry|
|Benn, John Williams||Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan|
|Black, Alexander William||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Delany, William|
|Blake, Edward||Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.|
|Boland, John||Causton, Richard Knight||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Cawley, Frederick||Donelan, Captain A.|
|Brigg, John||Cheetham, John Frederick||Doogan, P. C.|
|Bright, Allan Heywood||Clancy, John Joseph||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)|
|Duffy, William J.||Langley, Batty||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Edwards, Frank||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries|
|Elibank, Master of||Lawson, Sir W. (Cornwall)||Richards, Thomas (W. Monm'th)|
|Ellice, Capt E C (S. Andrw's Bghs||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Ellis, John Edward (Notts.)||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Emmott, Alfred||Lewis, John Herbert||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Lloyd-George, David||Roche, John|
|Fenwick, Charles||Lough, Thomas||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Lundon, W||Rose, Charles Day|
|Ffrench, Peter||Lyell, Charles Henry||Runciman, Walter|
|Findlay, A. (Lanark, N. E.)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Samuel, H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Mac Veagh, Jeremiah||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Shackleton, David James|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||M'Crae, George||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||M'Kean, John||Sheehy, David|
|Freeman-Thomas, Captain F.||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||Mooney, John J.||Slack, John Bamford|
|Gilhooly, James||Morley, Rt. Hon. John (Montrose||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Gladstone, Rt Hn. Herbert John||Moulton, John Fletcher||Spencer, Rt Hn. C. R. (Northants|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Murphy, John||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Grant, Corrie||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Newnes, Sir George||Sullivan, Donal|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Harcourt, Lewis||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Tennant, Harold John|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Thomas, D. A. (Merthyr)|
|Harrington, Timothy||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||Tomkinson, James|
|Harwood, George||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Ure, Alexander|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W. )||Wallace, Robert|
|Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Healy, Timothy Michael||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||Wason, J. C. (Orkney)|
|Higham, John Sharpe||O'Dowd, John||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Holland, Sir William Henry||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Horniman, Frederick John||O'Kelly, J. (Roscommon, N.)||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)|
|Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||O'Malley, William||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Jacoby, James Alfred||O'Mara, James||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Johnson, John||Parrott, William||Wills, A. W. (N. Dorset)|
|Joicey, Sir James||Partington, Oswald||Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk, Mid.|
|Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Paulton, James Mellor||Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Perks, Robert William||Woodhouse, Sir J T. (Huddersf'd|
|Joyce, Michael||Pirie, Duncan, V.||Young, Samuel|
|Kennedy, Vincent P. (Cavan, W.||Power, Patrick Joseph||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Kilbride, Denis||Price, Robert John|
|Kitson, Sir James||Priestley, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Major|
|Labouchere, Henry||Rea, Russell||Seely and Mr. Charles Hob-|
|Lamont, Norman||Reddy, M.||house.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Bignold, Sir Arthur||Cayzer, Sir Charles William|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Bigwood, James||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)|
|Anson, Sir Wm. Reynell||Bill, Charles||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Bingham, Lord||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. H. O.||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Arrol, Sir William||Bond, Edward||Chapman, Edward|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Boulnois, Edmund||Clive, Captain Percy A.|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Bowles, Lt.-Col. H. F. (Middlesex||Coates, Edward Feetham|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Brassey, Albert||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Coddington, Sir William|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Brown, Sir A. H. (Shropsh.)||Cohen, Benjamin Louis|
|Balfour, Rt Hn G. W. (Leeds)||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Butcher, John George||Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glasgow||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)|
|Barry, Sir F. T. (Windsor)||Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ.||Craig, C. C. (Antrim, S.)|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Cripps, Charles Alfred|
|Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton)||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred.||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edw.|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton||Purvis, Robert|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kenyon, Hon. G. T. (Denbigh)||Pym, C. Guy|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hn. Col. W.||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Davenport, Wm. Bromley||Kerr, John||Randles, John S.|
|Denny, Colonel||Keswick, William||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Kimber, Sir Henry||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Dimsdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Joseph C||Knowles, Sir Lees||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Lambton, Hon. Frederick W.||Ridley, S. Forde|
|Doughty, Sir George||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Doxford, Sir Wm. Theodore||Lawson, Hn. H. L. W. (MileEnd)||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Lawson, J. G. (Yorks, N. R.)||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r)||Leveson-Gower, F. N. S.||Rutherford, John (Lancashire|
|Fielden, Edw. Brocklehurst||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Finlay, Sir R. B. (Inv'rn'ss B'ghs)||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Samuel, Sir Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.|
|Fison, Frederick William||Lowe, Francis William||Seely, C. Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Sharpe, Wm. Edw. T.|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Lucas, Col. F. (Lowestoft)||Shaw-Stewart, Sir H. (Renfrew|
|Flower, Sir Ernest||Lucas, R. J. (Portsmouth)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Forster, Henry William||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W.)||Macdona, John Cumming||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Maconochie, A. W.||Smith, H. C. (North'mb. T'neside|
|Gardner, Ernest||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Garfit, William||M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.||Spear, John Ward|
|Gibbs, Hon. A. G. H.||Majendie, James A. H.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.)|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fred'k.||Malcolm, Ian||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Gordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Stroyan, John|
|Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H E. (Wigt'n||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Gordon, Maj. Evans (Tr. Hamlets||Maxwell, W. J. H (Dumfriesshire||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.|
|Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Milvain, Thomas||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Graham, Henry Robert||Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Montagu, Hon. J. S. (Hants.)||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Green, Walford D. (Wednesbury||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Tuff, Charles|
|Greene, Sir E W (B'ryS Edm'nds)||Moore, William||Turnour, Viscount|
|Greene, H. D. (Shreswbury)||Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow)||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs)||Morpeth, Viscount||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Guthrie, Walter Murray||Morrell, George Herbert||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. H.|
|Hain, Edward||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Hambro, Charles Eric||Mount, William Arthur||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E. (Taunton|
|Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nderry||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Welby, Sir C. G. E. (Notts.)|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Muntz, Sir Philip A.||Whiteley, H. (Ashton und.Lyne|
|Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th)||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Heath, Sir J. (Staffords. N. W.)||Myers, William Henry||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Helder, Augustus||Nicholson, William Graham||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W,)||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Parker, Sir Gilbert||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Hogg, Lindsay||Parkes, Ebenezer||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Pease, H. P. (Darlington)||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Horner, Frederick William||Pemberton, John S. G.||Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H.|
|Hoult, Joseph||Percy, Earl|
|Howard, J. (Kent, Faversham)||Pierpoint, Robert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham||Pilkington, Colonel Richard||Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|Hozier, Hon. James Henry C.||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Viscount Valentia.|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Plummer, Sir Walter R.|
|Hunt, Rowland||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ *MR. MALCOLM (Suffolk, Stowmarket)
said he regretted it was necessary to move a reduction of £500 in the Vote in order to call attention to an injustice 388 and an indiscretion on the part of the War Office in regard to their treatment of Highland regiments. In the course he was taking he claimed that he was humbly following the steps of his right hon. friend the Secretary of State 389 for War who, when he sat on these benches, brought forward grievances under which he believed the different branches of the Army and Navy were suffering after having made his own personal investigation and after obtaining private information which led him to believe they were substantial. He wished to call attention to the Army Order of 6th January, 1905, and the effect of its promulgation upon the morale of the Highland regiments. That Order dealt with the grouping of regimental depôts under separate and new commands, and it was of the Scottish command that he wished to speak, and more particularly of the Highland and the Lowland groups. The Highland group had all the Highland regiments in it with the exception of one, and that regiment was the second senior regiment of what he might call the Highland Brigade, a regiment whose military prowess was not surpassed in history, and which was the proud possessor of more battle honours than any other regiment in Europe. It was the Highland Light Infantry which it was now proposed should be omitted from the Highland group. It was this regiment whose grievance the right hon. Gentleman said he did not understand.
He would explain that grievance to the Committee. In the first place, after a close investigation, he was prepared to state that the Highland Light Infantry contained as many Highlanders, if not more, as any other regiment in the Highland Brigade. He wished emphatically to say that no Highlanders objected to the Highland Light Infantry temporarily serving with the Lowland regiments; they would equally object if they were grouped with the Guards or any other regiment whose traditions and history were foreign to that of the Highland Light Infantry, and they asked that this regiment should be grouped in its proper place in the Highland Brigade. Therefore they asked for the cancellation of this Orders so far as it affected Scotland; it had given great offence throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. They also desired to have an official assurance that from now onwards the Highland Light Infantry should be classed as a regiment in the Highland Brigade, and that there should in future be no question as to to whether it was a Highland or a 390 Lowland regiment. Nobody knew better than the Secretary of State for War the value to recruiting and to general efficiency of preserving in a regiment the historical and territorial distinctions of that regiment. He remembered that in Liverpool last year the right hon. Gentleman set himself up as the great evangelist of territorial traditions, and he declared that he would do all he could to maintain and preserve them. If his right hon. friend thought he knew the value of such traditions and memories for English and Irish regiments, then he could tell him what he knew, and what many hon. Members knew, namely, that the Scottish people, and the Highlanders especially, revered their martial memories with a fervour and intensity which perhaps was not known on this side of the border. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that this was some newfangled fable, but he could assure him that it was a grievance of long standing. These grievances dated back to 1881 when Mr. Childers removed the Highland Light Infantry depôts from Fort George to Hamilton. But Mr. Childers accompanied that removal with an assurance that there would be no difference made in the Highland status of the Highland Light Infantry. That assurance was more grateful to the ears of Highlanders than the totally erroneous statement of the Secretary of State that the Highland Light Infantry were in all essentials a Lowland regiment.
§ MR. MALCOLM
said the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Highland Light Infantry were recruited mainly from the Lowlanders, and that statement was totally inaccurate. At that time there was a considerable outcry against the removal of the Highland Light Infantry, and it had continued ever since. If the Secretary of State for War took the same trouble now to discover what the feelings of these regiments were as he took when he sat on these benches, he would find beyond all possibility of contradiction or doubt that a very considerable feeling existed in Scotland upon this point. But, it might be asked, Why was it, in face of all this 391 discontent, that recruiting had not fallen off? The reason was that since the year 1881 there had been a great influx into Glasgow of West Highlanders in consequence of the increasing poverty and agricultural depression, and now about three-fifths of the Glasgow population was Highland. Not only the Highland Light Infantry but other Highland regiments drew more recruits from Glasgow than from any Highland area. Therefore it was no argument to say that this regiment alone was now mainly recruited from the Lowlands. The second occision upon which the Highland Light Infantry considered themselves aggrieved was during the South African War, when the Highland Light Infantry were removed from the Highland Brigade in order to make room for the 2nd. Battalion of Gordon Highlanders at the instance of General Sir Hector Macdonald. This was considered to be an insult to the Highland Light Infantry. That insult might have been voluntary or involuntary, and he believed it was involuntary. Nevertheless there was a real feeling about it and the wound rankled still, and this new Army Order made it sting all the more. Therefore Scotsmen found themselves complaining against this unnecessary laceration by the War Office of Scottish feeling. They noticed with alarm these periodical onslaughts of the War Office upon the Highland Light Infantry, and the public were beginning to imagine that the Highland Light Infantry was not a Highland regiment at all. The other day the Lord Provost of Edinburgh asked that a Highland regiment and not a Highland Light Infantry regiment should be Quartered at Edinburgh. That was an illustration of the public idea at the present time, owing mainly to the action of the War Office. And, having stated that he believed the Highland Light Infantry to be composed mainly of Lowlanders, the right hon. Gentleman did have the courage of his opinion, and he grouped the Highland Light Infantry with Lowland regiments, making it part of the permanent arrangement under the scheme of July 14th of last year. The other day the right hon. Gentleman told them that the regimental depôts were to go, so that the Highland Light Infantry would be under one roof 392 with Lowland regiments. It was firmly believed that, those two groups having been made in the North and South, the officer commanding each group would be responsible for, and have control of, the promotion of officers and men up to and including the rank of captain. It was also firmly believed that he would make the officers and men of each group interchangeable. That would only be adding insult to injury. The officers and men of the Highland Light Infantry had nothing but pride in serving with Lowland regiments, but they would very much object to being interchanged with the Lowland regiments. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would pay attention to the protest he now made on behalf of a great number of Highlanders, a great number of Celtic societies, and old members of the Highland Light Infantry. It was a protest which was widely supported. He earnestly hoped the Secretary of State would be able to give them the assurance they asked, that the Highland Light Infantry should remain part of the Highland Brigade, and also that he would find it possible to administer the regiment from Perth, and not from Hamilton in the Lowland group. He had been assured by officers in high position, who had lately been removed from the War Office, that no administrative difficulty would arise. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State both knew how nearly unanimous Scottish feeling was on this point. They knew what a wealth of material had been supplied to the Empire by Scotsmen ever since the Union. They were keen Imperialists, he was sure they would allow that only a lukewarm Scotsman could possibly submit to this grouping of the Highland Light Infantry, and they would agree that a bad Scotsman could never make a good Imperialist. He hoped the Secretary of State in his reply would not belittle this question and say it was a matter of mere sentiment. After all, sentiment ruled the world. Patriotism was sentiment, reverence was sentiment, and esprit de corps was sentiment. It was for sentiment that we celebrated Trafalgar, Balaclava, and Ladysmith. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman's answer would do something to assuage the feelings he had wounded. He begged to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £10,100,500, be granted for the said service."—(Mr. Malcolm.)
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
assured his hon. friend that he was as sensible as he of the importance attaching to all sentiment connected with the Army and more especially to that of Scotsmen. If there had been any fault in this matter it had not originated with himself. Ho did not suppose that his hon. friend seriously imputed to the War Office, since 1881, a desire to put a slight on the Highland Light Infantry, which was one of the most distinguished regiments in the Army, and had, he believed, more names on its colours than any other regiment. Such an idea would not enter the mind of any sane man, let alone anyone connected with the War Office, which contained many Scottish soldiers. Since he had been at the War Office he had succeeded, in many cases, in doing justice to regimental feeling. The hon. Member was really under a misapprehension. There had been no change at all; the Highland Light Infantry depôt was placed at Hamilton in 1881, but for war purposes they were not dissociated from any Highland regiment. They were, and must be, intrinsically a Highland regiment. The Report of the Esher Committee recommended that for administrative purposes certain districts should be assigned. Those districts, for the necessary buying of forage and stores, must be geographically adjacent or self-contained. It was necessary to divide Scotland into these administrative districts. As a matter of fact Hamilton was in the Lowlands and the Highland Light Infantry had been put into that district for administrative purposes. If he could, he would gladly suggest any other nomenclature that might be more agreeable to Scottish feeling, but they could not get over the fact that Hamilton was in the Lowlands.
And, if being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.