HC Deb 14 March 1907 vol 171 cc335-6
*SIR H. AUBREY-FLETCHER (Sussex, Lewes),

as one who had entered the Army fifty-four years ago, urged the Secretary for War not to listen to arguments for still further reducing the Army. He was well acquainted with both Malta and Gibraltar, and the opinion of all military experts was that those fortresses ought not to be denuded of their artillery. Gibraltar was a very important strategic position. He regretted, too, the reductions that had taken place in the Guards and in infantry battalions. The result of disbanding battalions had been to make a number of non-commissioned officers lose their positions. Those in other regiments feared that their time might come. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not pay too much attention to hon. Members below the gangway who advocated a considerable reduction in the Army. The House should remember that the non-commissioned officers were the backbone of the Army. Those who had been connected with regiments now disbanded would have to wait some time before they could be placed in positions in other regiments. The House should recognise that when a young officer joined a regiment, he wished to make it his home. Many men had followed their fathers and grandfathers in the same regiment hoping to serve their time in it as their fore-fathers had done. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not do away with any more battalions.


regretted the necessity for the disbanding of those fine battalions, and submitted that the best provision possible had been made for the officers. Nobody had had his pay diminished until an offer had been made to him of an appointment as nearly as possible equivalent. As to the men, great pains had been taken to get them absorbed. The action with regard to the garrison artillery at Malta and Gibraltar had not been taken without close consideration. A Committee, appointed in the time of the late Government, had revised the whole of our garrisons as far as the Mediterranean. In many cases it found the guns were of an antiquated pattern and of no use against naval attack. The guns which the Committee pronounced useless were being taken away. The reductions were entirely in consequence of the Report of that Committee, and were advised by the Defence Committee after carefully considering the Report. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman would realise that the reductions were not the outcome of any new policy, or of any arbitrary act of his; but that they were the result of the policy laid down, for good reasons, in the time of the late Government.