§ On the Motion to go into Committee of Supply (Army Estimates),
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Haldane) said:
My task in making the statement, which is usual on this motion, is in some respects a lighter one than on former occasions. For better or for worse the plans of the Government for Army Reform have been fully framed and the foundations laid. What I have to do today is to lay before the House some account of the progress made and being made in building upon those foundations. Before I go to the question of organisation I may perhaps usefully say something about the numbers and condition of the troops. We have had this year a singularly good year as regards recruiting. We have enlisted for the regular battalions and units upwards of 2,250 men more than in the previous year. What the causes of that are it would be difficult to say. Doubtless the difficulty of finding employment assisted, but I think that is not the only reason. The progress is not progress which has been made by any sudden start. It was manifested in previous years, and I put it down to this, that both the late Government and this Government have devoted increasing attention to the care of the soldier and the provision for his well-being. There is no doubt the Army is becoming a much more popular occupation than it was some time ago, and I trust some of the reasons which make it unpopular have been effectively extirpated.
Then I pass to the special reserve. For that, too, the recruiting has been very good. When the force was new recruiting was a little slow, but of late it has been much more rapid than recruiting for the old militia. The result is that a large number of the units are quite full, and others are rapidly filling up, out of an establishment of about 80,000, part of which is composed of men in category B, whom we cannot obtain until a little later on, we have upwards of 70,000. That is to say, the artillery and the infantry are filling up very steadily, and we are in sight of the full establishment for all these units. There again the quality of the recruit is, as far as we can judge—it is too soon to be quite sure—quite up to the level of the old militia recruit. In one sentence or two of the Report of the Director of Recruiting says this, at Page 83: "The recruits of the special 1596 reserve are generally well reported on. In several instances it was stated that a class of recruits was coming in who would not have enlisted in the militia, and the standard of education in many details is considered higher than that of the militia recruit, and recruits are readily availing themselves of the facilities afforded of obtaining instruction at the depot." The army schoolmasters have played a conspicuously large part of late. It is remarkable what a large number of men we take who, notwithstanding the great progress which has been made in elementary education, are illiterate. Of the recruits 13½ per cent. are what may be called illiterate, that is to say, they could hardly be said to have been taught to read or write. But the army schoolmaster, an official whom I have come to appreciate more and more as I have got to know the inside working of the machinery, has effected a great deal. Some 32,000 soldiers obtained certificates of education last year, and this House may know that only those who were in need of those certificates went in for them.
I should like to say a word as to what we owe to those militia officers who came over and joined the special reserve. They worked splendidly in bringing up the training of the new force to the pitch of efficiency which I believe it has attained. I pass from the regular forces and the special reserve to the territorial forces. I do not know how far the House is curious on this subject, but there has undoubtedly been—shall I make the word "boom" parliamentary, and say a great boom in territorial forces. Perhaps the House would like to know exactly what the result of that boom has been. What was the state of things when the dust and smoke cleared away? On the 1st of January this year there were 199,059 non-commissioned officers and men, and there were 8,573 officers. That was a total of 207,652 out of an establishment of about 313,000. In the last 7 weeks and 3 days ending the 25th of February the numbers had risen to 228,754 non-commissioned officers and men and 8,807 officers; that is to say, 237,561 in all; that is an increase of some 30,000. And from what we know of the recruiting that has gone since, the House may safely take it that there is a force of over 240,000 to-day. There has been an exodus amounting to 3,853 in that period. No doubt this force is getting over to some extent the prejudice that is in people's mind about soldiering. because I find that a large num- 1597 ber of those who joined the territorial forces left them to go into the regulars and the special reserve—not a great number, but a substantial number. Deducting these we get the real accession of numbers in the 7 weeks and 3 days, as over 33,000.
There is one other point which I may mention in this connection. Some persons were concerned—I was not very much myself—about the men who had engaged for only one year. There were 86,000 of them, and some people feared lest they should go. Out of that 86,000 already, although they had still nearly a month to consider the matter, 33,302 had re-engaged in varying periods from one to four years. The percentage on the 1st January of non-commissioned officers and men was 65.8, and on the 25th February it was 75.7. The percentage of officers rose from 75.6 on the 1st January to 78.2 per cent. on the 25th February. I do not know whether the House is curious enough on this matter to wish to know what may be called the order of merit in recruiting in the various parts of the country. At the beginning of the year London lagged hopelessly behind, but London has put on a spurt, and although it is not first past the winning post, it is very nearly first. The first districts are these wonderful midland districts, the north midland and the south midland—84.3 in the north midland and 84 per cent. in the south midland. Next comes London with 80 per cent. as against 54 per cent. 7 weeks before. Next is the eastern counties district with 79.2 per cent. Next is Yorkshire and Northumberland with 74.5. After that Lancashire with 74. The Highland division is 73.3. The home counties division is 72.7. The Welsh division is 72.5. The south-western district in England, what is called the Wessex district, is 72.4. Finally, at the end is my native region, South Scotland, which is 70.2 per cent. However, there was a magnificent meeting in Edinburgh last night, which aroused great enthusiasm, and I trust we shall improve those figures.
These are the figures, and I want to say something about them. They have meant a very remarkable movement, a very remarkable waking up. There are those who criticise what are called the modern methods of recruiting. I should be very ungrateful personally if I did not acknowledge my obligation to the "Daily Mail" and a number of other papers, and to the group of employers of labour who 1598 have helped. I will tell hon. Members why. Owing to the weakness of the auxiliary forces the nation was never nearer to thinking seriously of compulsory service. This movement has verified what was my own anticipation that the nation was perfectly capable of taking care of itself under a voluntary system without resorting to anything of that sort. It has established a bulwark between the country and compulsion far stronger than any bulwark that existed before. I say, therefore, we should be grateful to those who have been earnest enough about the matter to assist in making voluntary service a reality and a success in this country. Now I wish to say a word or two about the health and well-being of the troops. I do not go into the figures of the wastage, though a remarkable diminution is shown in the statement which has been circulated. There is no department of the Army to which we owe more than to the Army medical service. It was started by Mr. Brodrick in 1902, and has gone on continuously ever since, growing on the lines which he laid down, and the effect of it is that the wastage, not only in war but in peace has diminished in the most remarkable way under the direction of Sir Alfred Keogh, to whom the Army owes a great deal in this regard as the Director-General of the medical service in the Army.
There has been a very great improvement progressively in the last 6 or 7 years in the health of the troops. For instance there has been a very great decrease in the number of those invalided out compared with what it used to be. Then there has been a great decline in what I may call preventible diseases, and in places like the Mediterranean, largely owing to the work of men like Col. Sir D. Bruce and other officers in the Army medical service, Mediterranean fever and other diseases like that have almost completely disappeared. We have got to another stage, and that is inoculation against enteric. My hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford will be happy to know that our inoculations are all voluntary; but the result of that system as far as it has gone has been a remarkable diminution in the number of patients suffering from enteric disease, and very much brighter conditions for those on duty.
§ Mr. LUPTON
Can the right hon. Gentleman provide me with the details from which he gathered those statements?
§ Mr. HALDANE
I knew I had done a rash thing. I will provide my hon. Friend 1599 with full details. The most recent changes that have been made in the case of medical development are the Malaria Commission, which is doing very good work, and the organisation of the work of the Antienteric Inoculation Committee, and a very valuable Committee of Experts of very high standing, who have been sitting to inquire into the physiological effects with regard to the food and training and clothing of the soldier. They have remodelled the system of training under conditions which not only render it better, but get rid of the awful disease which we used to have in the Army called soldier's heart, which was no doubt due to the stretching of the heart due to the somewhat exaggerated mode of training. There are other things that have been done. The question of sanitary training of officers is most important, so that going on the field there should be officers who would know exactly what should be done in the way of providing conditions which would make disease unlikely. With that object examinations for sanitary purposes have been introduced for lieutenants on promotion. There are one or two minor matters which I may mention. A curious thing used to be the number of rejections of recruits because of the defective condition of their teeth. We thought that that could be to some extent obviated. Some money was taken in the Estimate for seeing whether we could in the district treat recruits for their teeth so as to make them capable of passing the medical test. About 3,500 recruits who would have been rejected last year on account of defective teeth have had them put right at a cost of 6s. 8d. each, and have been able to enlist. We also succeeded in treating 3,500 other men actually serving at a cost of 5s. 9d. each to the taxpayer. I need not trouble the House with other details. There have been various improvements in the Army medical service which have been made during the year, but I will not go into that matter now. I want to come at once to the broad question of organisation, and the changes we propose to make in organisation this year upon the foundation of which I have already spoken.
The object, of course, of organisation in an army is rapid and effective mobilisation, and that is a difficult and expensive business. Our policy has been to cut off every superfluous item, to ask why each man is there, and what each item is for, and to make the test rapid mobilisation. We have had to deal with questions of very great difficulty, and perhaps the 1600 newest question is the horse question. Passing that by for the moment with a view to coming back to it again, the principles which are applying are broadly these: To put everything we safely can on a Reserve footing—that is the only way, and it is the common practice of Continental nations; in the second place, to prepare and establish complete machinery for bringing up the Reserves and providing for the wastage of war. Time is all important in these things, and the machine must be as perfect as you can make it. As to the Infantry, the work is done. For better or for worse, the House knows what we have done for the Infantry in putting special Reserve Battalions behind the Regular Battalions. But the Cavalry were untouched. The Cavalry have the same organisation that they had in the war. The Reserve squadron, which is a machine for training drafts, broke down during the war in South Africa. We propose to apply to the cavalry precisely the same principles as we have applied to the infantry—that is to say, we wish to give the regiment a depot, just as the infantry have got their depots. The cavalry regiments are linked. The regiment at home trains drafts for the regiment abroad, but, unfortunately, there is no depot, and the result is that the depots are carried on the backs of the headquarters of the regiments. To illustrate how defective the present organisation is, the clothing of the cavalry reservists is at Pimlico. What a bad state of things that is for mobilisation. The proper course is to have it at the depot. You do not want a depot for every two cavalry regiments, one being abroad, but you do want a depot for each small group of regiments. We propose to group the Hussars, Dragoons, and Lancers together, and we propose to make six cavalry depots, one in each command, which should be the depot each of a small group. This is a particularly opportune time for that, as, owing to the withdrawal of troops from South Africa, we have 14 cavalry regiments at home linked with 14 abroad. Therefore, we can very easily at this moment proceed with that grouping, and that is what we propose to do. The depots will also serve for centres for the training of the Territorial Yeomanry. There will be a staff there who will be capable of bringing the Yeomanry into relation with the regular cavalry, and there will be a point of contact between them which there has never yet been, and we believe that will be found very useful by the Yeomanry. The whole thing has been worked out by the Army Council, with the 1601 assistance of a committee organised by Sir Charles Douglas, and having upon it General Douglas Haig and other distinguished cavalry officers, and I believe it, as far as I can judge, to be a good organisation. We also propose to add to every regiment a reserve of trained horses. We spread that over three years. We propose to take a brigade and to add 50 this year to each of four regiments. These horses will be on a peculiar footing. They will be highly trained horses—very good horses, but they are not wanted all the year round. They are to be with the regiment when they are wanted, but when they are not wanted, when there is no manœuvring and no training, we propose that they should fulfil that function which is often so much advertised for when you see in the papers that a lady, highly educated and skilled, desires a comfortable home, where she will receive her board and lodgings in exchange for light services. These highly trained horses will lodge out with farmers and others for whom they will do certain light work in exchange for their bed and board, and they will be so organised in accordance with an idea, which, like other ideas in Army matters, was made in Germany. This system has worked very well on the Continent, and we see no reason why it should not work here. It is economical, and it enables us to give at a small cost a considerable addition to the horses of the cavalry.
I may summarise very shortly what we propose to do with the cavalry. As regards machinery for the mobilisation of the cavalry, the cavalry will in future be upon the same footing as the rest of the Army. Thus cavalry depots will be formed where reservists will rejoin, and be clothed, armed, and equipped for mobilisation. These depots will also form permanent recruiting centres for certain cavalry regiments, and the recruits will be clothed and armed at them. They will also form schools for the Yeomanry of the command. On mobilisation a certain number of reserve regiments will at once be formed at the depot. These regiments will correspond to the existing third reserve battalions of the infantry of the line, and therefore the old reserve squadron will disappear. In the event of the expeditionary force being sent abroad the reserve regiments will occupy the barracks vacated by the regiments of the expeditionary force. The institution of the cavalry depots will render the existing reserve squadrons with regiments unnecessary. These reserve squadrons will be absorbed, partly in the 1602 depots and partly into the reserve service squadrons. The total establishment of the cavalry will remain approximately as before—perhaps a little higher. So much for the cavalry.
I now come to a more difficult subject, on which I have to confess to the House a modification of view—I mean the artillery. The original difficulty with the artillery was that we were short of men for mobilisation; we could only have mobilised a very few batteries of what was requisite for giving their proper equipment to the troops. We have now got the numbers to mobilise, but we have not got them at present in the best possible organisation, and I will tell the House exactly what has been the reason of a certain change of plan. When I took office I found some 13,000 or 14,000 militia garrison artillery, and I thought they could be used to form a special reserve of the artillery for the ammunition columns, and possibly even for assisting the brigade column. They were very fine men, and did their best, and I did my best; but they had one peculiarity which made it difficult—they were largely composed of fishermen, and fishermen appear to have an invincible objection to mounting a horse. I am not without sympathy with them, but that did not enable me to take account of that difficulty effectively, and the result is that I am convinced that we shall not get enough men to ride—and of course artillerymen must be able to ride—from that source to provide what we want. We considered this thing very very closely. The Army Council has been over it, and Sir Charles Douglas, the Adjutant-General—whom I regret to say we shall lose in the summer when he goes to his new command; he is a man who has rendered us very great service—Sir Charles Douglas worked out an organisation with which we are satisfied at the War Office Under our old plan we proposed to get 14,800 on a regular basis and 15,000 of these special reservists. The 14,800 were men on a six years' basis; they were more than we required to provide the drafts, but owing to the length of their service they did not provide a reserve very rapidly. Therefore we proposed to take 15,000 special reservists. We found the training brigades could not train as many as 15,000, and we should have to increase the training brigades if we were to get that number of recruits. Moreover, we found 15,000 a large number of recruits to ask for the artillery, because, though we could get them quite easily, it had the tendency to affect recruiting for the infantry. 1603 Therefore what we propose to do is this: Our idea at that time was off the 14,800 to strike 2,400 men, who would be gradually replaced by the special reserve men; but we propose now to keep nearly all the regular artillerymen whom we have in view, only that we deal with them in this way. We need to give us drafts for abroad 9,600, and, as we want long service for abroad, we propose to take the 9,600 on a six-years basis, like the artillery are at present; 5,000, bringing the figure up to 14,600 we propose to take, on what is called the Lansdowne principle, that is to say, combining long service and short service in one battalion, the long service to find the drafts, and the short service to make the reserve all in one battalion. We propose to take 5,000 on a three-years basis, which will give us a very large reserve very cheaply. In that way we shall be able to reduce what we require for special reserve to 12,000 in the first instance; afterwards to 9,000, as the reserve grows up, and ultimately to 6,000. As the reserve builds itself up, we reduce the number of special reserves, but we never reduce it below 6,000. I do not know that I need to go into details, but we require to mobilise the artillery on a war footing, and keep it alive for six months, 38,000 men for the special reserve and regulars; and this will give us 40,000. We have left a margin of 2,000. Therefore, we have got ample in this to enable us to do what we want. There is a special reason why it is important to carry this organisation out. The General Staff have been surveying our artillery establishments. They are not satisfied that we have got the right proportion of howitzers. They are satisfied it is essential for efficiency in war that each division should have a battery of howitzers attached to it in addition to the two batteries that it has at the present time. In other words, we propose to add two brigades of howitzers to the artillery. I will tell the House in a moment why. The organisation of that large mass of Special Reservists was on the old garrison militia basis. The garrison militia units were converted into the field special reserve units, to be kept at headquarters as units separate from the normal organisation of the artillery as one single Royal regiment. We propose to make them an integral part of the special reserve. As the infantry becomes on mobilsation part of the Regular infantry, so we propose that the special reserve of artillerymen should henceforth be part of the 1604 Royal Regiment of Artillery. We propose to give their junior officers and officers below field rank the rank of special reserve officers of the Regular Army. They will be trained at a depot, or rather, I should say a training brigade, instead of at their existing headquarters. That this is necessary I am convinced. Some of the officers of the Field Artillery Reserve—as it was—some of the lieutenant-colonels here came to me and said: "We cannot carry on the force. Our recruits come from a distance, and our regiments are losing their local character, and the result is that it is no longer an interest to us to have in Cornwall recruits who come from London. We consider it better and more economical to follow the pattern of the Regular Army and have one single Royal Regiment of Artillery for the future, with its special reserve, and the officers in it belonging to the special reserve of officers in that regiment."
In connection with the senior officers, the lieut.-colonels and majors, we propose to pass a Special Army Order, giving them honorary rank and passing them to the old reserve of officers. That will recognise their position and what they have done. The effect of it all I may sum up very shortly, as I did before. It is this: The artillery of the expeditionary force will be increased by two howitzer brigades, thus allowing an howitzer brigade of three batteries for each of the six divisions. Hitherto a division has had two howitzer brigades only, and the existing four howitzer brigades had to be partially broken up on mobilization and two new ones formed. An addition of two brigades will obviate this being done in the future. On the other hand, the addition of two howitzer brigades to the expeditionary force will leave us with nine brigades surplus to the requirements of the expeditionary force. The House sees there eleven training brigades. Two of them have become howitzer brigades. That leaves nine. Nine training brigades will be fully utilised on mobilization in providing the necessary training machinery for the draft of the artillery unit in the expeditionary force. You must always keep training brigades at home. They correspond, therefore, to the Reserve regiments of the cavalry, as we propose they shall be, and Reserve battalions of the infantry organisation. In peace six of these surplus brigades will be used as training brigades for the Special Reserve. 1605 We shall come to that by degrees. But six of them will be about enough to have to train about 1,000 each, and to hold as a special reserve. The transformation will be gradual, because we shall have slowly built up the reserve out of the new 5,000 three year's men. These nine brigades will be fully utilised on mobilisation. Like the cavalry the field artillery will also have six depots in the future—one, depot in each command, with the training brigade affiliated to and stationed close to each. These six depots will, on mobilisation, fulfil exactly the same functions as the depots of the other arms. For various reasons which have been already submitted, the Royal Field Reserve Artillery will be reduced in establishment from about 15,000, at which it now stands, to 12,000 in the near future, and ultimately to 6,000, 5,000 three years' men being raised with a view to meet the deficiency caused by the reduction in the Royal Field Reserve Artillery of the Army. The existing 31 corps of the Royal Field Reserve Artillery will, for all purposes of administration and training, be wholly merged in the training brigades. Is is a very much better organisation than any we have had, and, as far as I can judge, having turned it over from every point of view, it looks to me as if we had got to the bedrock of something that will not break down. It has been thoroughly discussed by the best artillery experts in the country, and they all wish it well. I hope the House will approve it, particularly as I have stated, novel as it is, it effects a very substantial saving on the cost to the country of the old artillery organisation. What you get is six batteries of howitzers, and, in addition, what you have now, a large reserve for mobilisation.
§ Mr. A. LEE
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether in this process of reorganisation the existing field artillery units disappear?
§ Mr. HALDANE
Oh, no. On the contrary, they will increase, because three at least of these training brigades which now provide a special reserve, will become brigades of regulars, and will be kept for an emergency. It will also allow the brigades to be kept at home in order to provide drafts for abroad. That will be exactly the same as every regular brigade. Consequently on a great emergency they have got their 1606 guns and men, and would be available for service. The next thing I come to is a very short one—the training of the engineers. We have considered it rather closely, and we have come to the conclusion that the existing establishment of the Royal Engineers at home is too low to admit of the units being properly trained. We have the opportunity of bringing them up to the level that is required to make the strength sufficient for training, owing to the Engineers brought home from South Africa. We propose to utilise these in this way: we increase the number of the Royal Engineers available for peace training, partly by absorbing at home the full company drawn from South Africa, and partly by increasing the Home establishment. The increase in the latter will be 338 non-commissioned officers and men.
Then the next thing I come to is the Royal Army Medical Corps. That is a thing which has given me most concern for mobilisation. As the House knows from the official statement, we have got the whole of the fighting men. We have got everything except a certain part of what I call the aneillary units. The Army Medical Corps bothered us very much until we thought of doing this. We have got a lot of surplus infantry reservists at this moment—far more than we have need for mobilisation. Well, it became clear that these men were very well trained, and they are capable of being converted, after a very short medical training, into very useful bearers and men for the Army Medical Corps. We tried it with a thousand first, and found it exceedingly popular, and the numbers filled up at once. We are now taking another thousand, so that we get 2,000 Reservists coming from the colours to take training for three months at Aldershot and become trained men, available for being drafted on mobilisation to the Army Medical Corps. It has been successful. We are also raising the requisite number of men in other ways.
§ Mr. HALDANE
Yes. Even if our reserve got to the normal we should still have enough at the right time.
Then we are also forming depots in case of war. We have got a definite scheme under which there will be six convalescent 1607 depots in the United Kingdom in the event of the expeditionary force being dispatched abroad. This will be in charge of the medical authorities. Then the House knows that Sir Alfred Keogh also worked out a very remarkable scheme for the Territorial Force, under which there will be 23 hospitals for the reception of the sick, should the mobilisation of the Territorial Force take place. The next thing I come to is the Army Service Corps. There we are reviewing the establishment. Hitherto the establishment has never been scientifically considered, but we are now reviewing all possible operations, and, taking the maximum, we get some idea of what the Army Service Corps should consist of. It is vital that we should get a proper Army Service Corps. We have a short service Army Service Corps, which is beginning to produce a reserve, and will produce a very large one in course of time. Here again we are taking in men ad interim, and in various ways we hope to get everything we require. We could manage just now if we were put to the pinch, because we have the service of Army reservists. But we want to get it into perfect shape, and for that purpose, not only have we to review the possible requirements, but also another question, and that is how much of the work should be done by the horse transport and how much by mechanical transport. It is a new idea. Last year we made a beginning. The Army Council found it working well, but are also satisfied that it is quite insufficient. Therefore, in the Estimates for the coming year we make provision for three more service companies, corresponding reductions taking place, of course, in horse transport. This will be sufficient to equip the six divisions of the expeditionary force. We have no doubt we can get the men without any difficulty. The whole thing is so new; we are in the experimental stage. I shall have more to say about it later.
The great difficulty of our Army Service Corps is that the kind of transport applied differs in various parts of the world in which you are fighting. For India, the transport here would be of no use at all, and we should not think of sending it there. In Africa it was, and would be quite different if we had to go there again. It varies according to the country you are in. We are studying the requirements of the countries where we should be most likely to need a large Army Service Corps and proving it in accordance 1608 with the requirements of those countries. We are, also, particularly in reference to Home defence, engaged in another process. A little time ago, only last January, some very interesting trials of motor-omnibus traction for troops were carried out in Essex by the general officer commanding in chief of the Eastern Command. Those trials were conducted under Service conditions, as far as possible. Fortunately, the roads were in a very bad state, the weather was very foggy, so that we had a good test. They turned out very well. The omnibuses, to the number of 24, were supplied by the London General Omnibus Company. They left the depot in the early morning and arrived at Warley Barracks at 8 a.m., where 500 men, in heavy-marching order, with their quota of officers, were embarked, with all necessary ammunition, a day's cooked food, tools, one day's reserve supplies as well as machine gun with its ammunition. Two of the omnibuses were equipped as ambulances. The whole thing was carried out under a general idea which required the rapid reinforcement of the Shoeburyness garrison, and the battalion, moving in two columns, reached Shoeburyness by noon, which was very good.
That being so satisfactory, it occurred to us that we might do something further in the way of seeing how that would work out, and, thanks to an hon. Member of this House, we had an offer to take a whole battalion in motors down to some point at the seaside. He had a great interest in the work, and he was so good as to propose that an experimental trial should be made in taking a battalion of infantry down to the seaside to meet a possible invasion. I suggested to him that, as the only successful invasion of this country, or at all events, the most successful, took place at Hastings, that place would be a very good point. As the hon. Member for Hastings made the proposal, for which we are grateful to him, my suggestion was adopted. [An HON. MEMBER: "When does that take place?"] On the 17th of this month. The next thing I come to is a very difficult one, and it is one with which we are less familiar. It is the question of horses—a very serious one. We have gone very carefully into this. We summoned experts to the Remount Department, and we turned over every plan. We are very anxious to get an increase of the supply of horses in this country which will be available for war purposes, and I hope my noble Friend the 1609 President of the Board of Agriculture will succeed in his schemes for that purpose. What is more pressing is the existing situation in regard to mobilisation? How is that to be dealt with? Some indication was given in the financial statement of what we propose, but there has been a good deal of criticism upon it, I think from imperfect information, because I hope to show the House that we have gone with a great deal of minuteness into this question, and that we have pretty nrm ground to go upon. The first thing the House should know is the bedrock fact of what is required for mobilisation. I take first the mobilisation of the six divisions and the cavalry division, with a line of communication, and for that you would require a gross total of 69,253 horses. Then we have got on our peace establishment 15,542. I have written off 10 per cent. to provide for sick horses, leaving a deficiency of 53,904. The mobilisation of the Territorial force requires 86,000 more. Therefore, if you add 86,000 to 69,000 or 70,000 you find that what you require is 156,000 horses for mobilisation. Towards that we have 15,000 peace horses.
§ Mr. HALDANE
Everything. And we have also registered a number of horses. I have increased the number of registered horses by 8,000, and we have 25,000 registered horses in addition to the 15,000 peace horses; so that we have got altogether 40,000 horses. Deducting 40,000 from the 156,000, that leaves 116,000 to be provided for general mobilisation. I am taking the worst possible case. How many horses are in the country is the question I have got to ask.
We need not be alarmed about this, because every country with an organised army is in the same difficulty that we have. The only difference is that they organise their horses. They organise the civilian horses of the country much more thoroughly than we have done. In fact, we have never tried to organise the civilian horses at all. But for many years there has existed in the Army the power on mobilisation to take horses and vehicles, of course paying compensation for their hire. There is also the power under Section 114 of the Army Act—a power which the police have of taking a census of the horses that exist in the country. That has never been scientifically or systematically put in practice; but when I came to look into the matter I found that this had been done to a much larger extent than I knew, and 1610 that they rather liked the practice, because it enabled them to get to know people about the farms and various places in the most friendly fashion. In several of the counties, more than I had anticipated, a pretty thorough census has been taken. I have been in consultation with the Board of Agriculture with regard to the number of horses in the country. The exact figures it is not possible to obtain. Various estimates have been made, and I think the House may take it as certain that there are upwards of 2,000,000 horses in the country. Of course, all these horses are not fit for our purposes, and I should write off half, to be safe, in respect of horses under five years and not otherwise fit for the sort of work we should put them to. Of the remaining million it would be safe to again write off half, in respect of horses of type that you could not suitably use even for transport or artillery. That leaves us with 500,000 horses in the country able and fit for Army purposes—a number sufficient to mobilise the Army between three and four times over. There is that satisfactory feature in the situation. The only question is not whether the horses are there or not, but whether we can mobilise them.
It is quite true that motors tend to diminish the number of horses in the country, but I have gone into that matter with some of the great owners of horse traction vehicles, and they tell me that they have been able to estimate pretty accurately the extent to which the process of diminution will go. There will always be a very large number of horses in this country available. Moreover, we are getting further and further in the direction of using different kinds of traction for Army purposes—even across rough ground and hard places, and there is a motor at Aldershot which will climb almost anything short of a precipice. [An HON. MEMBER. "Will it jump?"] Yes, I have seen it jump. We are in the beginning of these things, and there is no doubt that traction will be assisted by motors in the Army just in the same way as it is being developed in civil occupations. The question was, therefore, how to organise these horses, and we naturally turned to the County Associations and to the police, who have power under Section 114 of the Army Act. I have myself had conferences with some chief-constables, and very interesting they have been. The result was that we came to the conclusion that we would try an experiment in one or two counties to see how it worked, because we 1611 felt that if it worked well it would be adopted by other counties. I went myself to Lanarkshire, and had a conference with the chairman of the Association, the chairman of the Yeomanry Committee, the Chief-Constable, and other persons interested. Since that I have seen Lord Newlands, President of the Association, and have had much fuller conferences with the officials in London. In Lanarkshire a very admirable census had already been made by the Chief-Constable, a retired officer who was very much interested. In the census he made he even classified the horses according to age. I find that the Chief Constable in Midlothian had done the same thing; and I find that in Northumberland a very elaborate census is being taken by the County Association in friendly co-operation with the police, and they are getting most minute details as to horses. There is no reluctance on the part of the people to answer questions when the point is nicely put to them. At any rate, that is the case in the counties of which I have spoken. We are trying an experiment in a slightly different form in Devonshire with the aid of Lord Fortescue, and there again we hope to get good results. The first Return by the police, however carefully done, can only be a rough Return; but the scheme we have arranged is this, that the horses so recorded will be seen and classified by local expert committees nominated by the County Associations working in conjunction with our remount officials that we have in different parts of the country. In that way the Quartermaster-General and the Director of Transports believe that they would be able to get very good records of the horses in the country—enough to tell us how we stand in each country for mobilisation. I have taken a sum of £6,000 in the Estimates, and no doubt if we succeed we shall spend more money, because I can conceive nothing more important, from the point of view of the Army, than that this census should be as good as we can make it.
What we want to do is to go step by step slowly, taking one or two of the friendly counties first, and hoping that this thing will spread eventually to the great towns and all over the country. The next step is this: When we have the census complete the associations will have the duty of bringing the horses to certain points to mobilise, if the war has broken out. The associations' officials bring the horses 1612 to those points, and there the horses will be taken in charge by the General Officer Commanding, who will distribute them between Regulars and Territorials. We hope to mobilise the Territorials as well as the Regulars. Naturally, the Territorial Association in each county is very interested in those horses, because they may secure an arrangement to assist them in their peace training. So far as we have gone we have found a very ready response to our tentative efforts, and I hope later on to be able to tell the House more about it. The only other thing I can say about horses is that we are adding 200 this year to the cavalry horses, with a view to adding a similar number during each of three years. And at the depots, where they can be used for general purposes, we propose to add 150 horses to the general establishment. They can be availed of on various occasions where hitherto there has been a difficulty in not having them.
The next thing I come to is another branch of mobilisation; I mean the way in which the troops have been dealt with in the readjustment and withdrawals from South Africa. We have withdrawn in this year 179 officers and 4,417 men, four battalions of infantry, a regiment of cavalry, and some details. So that we have now for the first time for very many years exactly the same number of units abroad as at home. But there remains what is the weak point, and always has been the weak point in the Cardwell system, that you cannot send an expedition abroad without mobilising. By means of Section A, you can send a small expedition, but you do not like to do it, as it somewhat disturbs mobilisation arrangements. We desire to get over in an effective way that weakness, so as to be able to do anything necessary abroad without a general mobilisation. What made matters acute was that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told me that the garrison in Egypt was in an unsatisfactory condition. We knew it was, for it was not mobile.
It occurred to me that to meet the possibilities of the situation we should put that garrison in order, and make it a mobile garrison. It occurred to me as well that as we should have to provide transport and other things, and as the wish of the Colonial Office was not to further reduce the troops in South Africa for, at any rate, some time, we might use the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, and get over the difficulties attending the Cardwell 1613 system by organizing a really mobile force in the Colonial garrisons. We have done this by increasing the establishments of the four battalions in Egypt to the same strength as in South Africa. We are making the Egyptian infantry battalions 840 instead of 760. There is an entire brigade in Malta and another brigade in South Africa. There are thus three brigades, and we are providing to make them mobile. Very little is wanted in Malta, because we provide transport for them in Egypt. And in Egypt we have done this—we have increased the establishment of horses, we are increasing the line battalions to 840, converting the Royal Garrison Artillery, which was singularly unsuitable, into a mountain battery, and the fortress company of Engineers into a field company of Engineers, and the existing Mounted Infantry into a camel corps.
§ Mr. HALDANE
No, not a penny falls on Egypt. It is done out of savings over South Africa. Egypt gets this advantage, and I think we shall have made the establishment a modern one and a mobile one. It is suitable for the third of a division. We have got the third of a division in South Africa. We have got six battalions and only four of them are wanted. We have got a brigade in Malta. We are putting the proper details into Egypt, and Malta has other things ready to supplement those in Egypt.
So that we have got the structure of a new division not involving any cost, but which we have organised out of existing materials; enough to form a new seventh division and mobile either in parts or sections or as a whole. They can come together in mobilisation, and we have reserves to maintain their strength, and we have got the organisation which enables us to keep that figure up by the Cardwell system. We have now got the materials to equip small expeditions, say in the Soudan, or to deal with a matter of that kind on short notice, and without mobilising at all. This seventh Division is organised without any extra expense, and it is a distinctly useful addition to the organisation of the forces.
The position then is this, that we have got Lord Kitchener's nine divisions which he organised in India. We have got over six divisions organised at home on the same pattern with three brigades, and we have got this nucleus of a seventh division. That gives us for organisation of the British 1614 Army, notwithstanding the reductions, sixteen divisions for over-seas work, we have 14 Territorial divisions at home. That represents the plan on which we organised. I think it is a convenient pattern, and one which will make the machinery of the Army move smoothly, and above all give us a standard and enable us to prune away unnecessary men and extras in the future. There is nothing like organisation for economy. The most wasteful thing you could have is a vast mass of unorganised troops without the organisation into divisions when you can ask for what purpose is this particular work. By that means you are in a position to get economies which you never could get before. It may be that still further on we shall find an ever more exact standard by which these things can be determined.
That brings me to the work done in the year by that new body which is exercising such influence on the Army—I think for good—the General Staff. The General Staff, as the House knows, has, as its last piece of work, organised an Imperial General Staff. I need not say anything about it, but just this, that the Dominion Government of Canada, and the Commonwealth, have sent in their adhesion, and I hope others will follow. There again there is the advantage of organisation. Hon. Members need not be afraid that this is a spirit of militarism. It is rather the other way, and brings us to the position that the General Staff would be enabled, with the Colonial Governments of the Oversea Dominions, to work with a similarity of pattern and a similarity of organisation all round. So that not only should they have for their home defences the most modern scientific pattern of organisation: but there should be that possibility of co-operation in a case of great necessity, which was found to be such a real possibility in 1899. The last thing the Government had any idea of is even to suggest to the Overseas Dominion what they should do. We say:—"Here is something we have worked out; if you care to take advantage of it we can provide you with certain facilities, we can interchange officers with you, and if you will accept it it will be as good for you as for us, and we will give you the warmest welcome in our power."
For that purpose no doubt the Staff College will be a useful institution, and with a view to the future we have enlarged it by three professors and 22 students. We can now with a little change take in any extra officers sent over from 1615 the Oversea Dominions providing for their training. We have also a Staff College in India, so that we have now two, and I hope other military colleges will spring up under the influence of the General Staffs at convenient centres. The General Staff has worked this out. Sir W. Nicholson has also worked out with the Director of Military Training a complete set of plans for the home defences, and into the details of which I am not going. In the first place we have every hundred yards of coast of these islands under survey, and the allocation of the territorial units who have been trained for the purpose to defences of this section. Behind that there is being organised a central force, partly regular, partly territorial, which on the outbreak of war would be placed under its own commander-in-chief, with its own staff, and that would be able very quickly to proceed to the spot where the local force had delayed the landing of the enemy, and come there, I hope, in overwhelming numbers. I trust that the effect of that will be to render invasion still less likely than it is at the present time. I do not think it is likely now; it will be still less likely then.
Then there are the other departments of the General Staff. I have spoken of General Nicholson's work, aided by General Haig, in connection with the Imperial General Staff, and of General Murray's work, under General Nicholson, in regard to home defence. General Ewart has worked out the whole question of military operations a stage further than it has been before, and there have been constant conferences, which I think are a very good thing, between the Army and the Navy in the Committee of Imperial Defence. I will say no more upon that, but I think it right that the House should know that the Government have not neglected any opportunity of bringing the Army and the Navy together for the consideration of strategic questions.
Then there is the officers' training corps. That is, as the House is aware, under the General Staff, and consists of the supersession of the old volunteers corps and cadet corps in the public schools and Universities by the officers' training corps, the junior division being in the public schools and the senior division in the Universities. That corps was only started in last June; it has been put under the General Staff; they have not been limited 1616 in the number of officers for training; we have encouraged them in every way, and I am glad to say that we have had a very good response. There are now over 17,000 in the two divisions, which is not a bad result since last June. That will begin in the summer to give us a supply of special reserve officers, whom we shall begin to use for making up what is wanted for the special reserve battalions, and also, I hope, for the Territorial force. Another thing we have had to do is this. The House will remember that the Farwell Commission disclosed a great defect in the organisation for war so far as concerns arrangements in the field. There was no proper system of supply or transport, and finance was not attempted at all, with the result there was a very sharp Report from the Farwell Commission. We have grappled with that. It has been a difficult work; it has taken two years; but the Army Council has now worked out a new scheme, which will appear, I hope, in a few days, under the title of "New Field Service Regulations," which will provide for the conduct of operations in the field. The first principle is that we take the Commander-in-Chief and mark off the theatre of war. We say to him, "The Army Council looks after the arrangements for the troops and the care of the Army everywhere in time of peace, in the territory under our control, but in time of war we are going to surround the theatre of war with a line, and there you, as General Officer, who will be elected by the Cabinet itself to command the troops, will be supreme. You will take your general instructions, but we look to you to work everything out.' Then we say to him, "Having given you this freedom and put upon you this responsibility, we are now going to relieve you of every detail that can impede you in devoting your mind singly, without hindrance, to the operations of the war. We are going to relieve you of all considerations about transport and supply, unless it is some big question that you want to take up yourself; and we are going to give you a staff which will be able to write out your orders for you, collect all details as to the position of the enemy, and advise you; and not only shall it be able to do so, but it shall have the duty of doing so. But you are supreme, and you can take its advice or leave it." We give him a staff amongst whom the various functions are distributed: a large and elaborately worked out staff, who provide for the different heads of work which comes 1617 under the General Staff—as well as discipline, transport, and supply. The great problem has been lines of communication. That always was a tremendous problem. But we have solved that by the invention of a new kind of officer, the Inspector-General of a Line of Communication. Each big line of communication will be under the direction of an Inspector-General, whose work will be transport and supply work under the Quartermaster General, and whose business it will be to see that things come up smoothly from the base. Then there will be finance people, accountants, and the organisation which has been worked out to keep check on what is going on, and to bring up things as quickly as possible, and above all, to free the officers above him from the necessity of constantly attending to details. Then the Commander-in-Chief will not have to be responsible for the things for which the Commander-in-Chief was blamed by the Farwell Commission—things which were wholly out of his power to control, and which he ought never to have had to consider at all. Finally, on these general principles the Army Council have worked out what we call a barrack policy or peace distribution policy, the purpose of which is, instead of basing organisation on buildings, to base buildings on organisations.
Now I come to one or two things which I wish to pass over quickly. First of all, armaments. I have been asked several questions which I promised to answer about the new howitzer. We have taken a large sum in the estimates for the new howitzer, and arrangements have been made for providing it rapidly. A special committee was formed some time ago to consider designs for the new howitzer, and a trial battery of four howitzers was selected. Extensive trials were carried out at Salisbury Plain with very good results. The new howitzer is much superior to the old howitzer. To begin with, it has an accurate range up to 7,000 yards. It is a quick-firing machine, its weight does not exceed that of the field gun, and it is as good a weapon, I think, as exists in the world. The 35 lb. shell which it fires has been found to be effective both as lyddite and shrapnel That is the weapon with which we are going to arm the fresh artillery which is being added.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I cannot tell the hon. Member that at this moment. The experimental battery has been working, and I think the orders have been placed for the others. Then there is a much more difficult question, that is about the rifle. As the House knows, foreign countries are adopting a short pointed bullet, as distinguished from the long-headed bullet. There are advantages and disadvantages in that. No doubt for great masses of infantry in close formation and very near to each other, the light bullet, with its very flat trajectory is better; the velocity and trajectory are both better at short range. But at longer range it is not so clear, and a great deal of our work is work which will not take place at such short range as 500 or 600 yards. The bullet of our present amunition covers 5 ft. 6 in. height for a range of 550 yards, and at 2,000 yards it has a striking energy of 155 ft. pounds. The new bullet covers the same 5 ft. 6 in. height for a range of 700 yards—that is 150 yards more than our own—and at 2,000 yards its velocity has fallen off; it is only 142 against our 155 ft. pounds. So that there is not such a very great difference, although it may be very important in time of action. Still, we want the best, and what we have been considering is whether we can use the lighter bullet. We find that so far as pressure is concerned we can do that. If you have a large charge you must have a light bullet, and if you have a heavy bullet you take a lighter charge, That results from certain of Newton's laws, which I need not discuss here. The difficulty is this: if the rifling of the short rifle is new, the light bullet shoots well, but with the more worn rifle the results are not so good. You do not get the difference in muzzle velocity which makes it worth while to make a change. We are going on with the experiments with a view to producing, if we can, something between the heavy bullet and the very light bullet which will do for the existing rifle. But we have to look ahead constantly at what has undoubtedly been realised in Europe as to the necessity for an automatic rifle. We are concentrating our attention on two subjects. We are getting a pattern of an automatic rifle and, at the same time, if we can, including the use of a light bullet. We have, however, to remember not only that our short rifle has advantages which the long rifle has not, but that at long range our short rifle is a more effective weapon than the Continental light-bullet rifle. 1619 Now I come to another subject—aerial navigation. This question was referred by the Committee of Imperial Defence to the Army and Navy experts, who sat for a long time. Very careful inquiries were made as to what should be done. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty informs me that the Navy at present are considering a pattern of dirigible balloon. I think I know something about it, but it would not be right to go into it now. But we have rather distributed the work. The Army is going in for dirigible balloons, and we are considering the best pattern as regards aeroplanes. We have entered into negotiations with private inventors. We think that probably we have reached a stage when progress will be more rapidly made by dealing with private inventors than if we confined ourselves to the work of our own very capable officials who have not the facilities which many of the private inventors have. Therefore, this matter must take time. It will be a good while before the aeroplane is an efficient instrument in war, but we ought to be considering these things in advance. That is what we are doing at the present time, and we shall be experimenting in the coming year.
Then as regards buildings—a subject in which the hon. Member for Blackpool Division is very much interested—I have some particulars to give the House. The hon. Member has put several questions to me in regard to the provision of married quarters. I agree with him that one of the subjects which demands our attention is the improvement of married quarters, and realising that the sum of £86,000 has been put into the estimates of the year for that purpose. Of that amount £62,400 has been allotted for the construction of new married quarters, and £24,000 for the improvement of old married quarters.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The total sum we put in this year's estimates is £86,000 for that purpose. We are improving barracks at a number of places, and we think that the work of providing better married quarters should be done as soon as possible. We are also taking money for the construction of a small block at Wellington Barracks, and that, I think, is a right thing to do. We are re-constructing St. Peter's Barracks in Jersey, improving the drainage lit various places, and providing additional 1620 accommodation at various stations. We are doing all we can to improve the lighting where coal, gas or electric light is not available. We take —95,000 towards the completion of the Owen Committee recommendations about fortifications.
I wish to say a word about finance. I am strongly confirmed in my view that it is far better, in the case of the Army at all events, to have your building programme provided for on the estimates, and not to have loans for the purpose. The practices which spring up under the loans system means a very great waste of money. It is a system under which people do not consider carefully what they want and what they do not want, whereas when these charges are placed on the estimates from year to year we know exactly what we decide to spend during the year.
There is another topic which I wish to touch upon. A new equipment has been introduced for the dismounted soldier. It is believed to mark a great advance on any previously in use in our Army. There are two main features underlying the design. The first hygienic, and the second tactical. As regards the former, the object sought has been the abolition of all straps, etc., across the chest and under the arms. In consequence of the special means adopted in the disposal of the weight, the waistbelt can be left unfastened, and the coat and shirt unbuttoned to the neck without disturbing the balance of the whole. The equipment, when put together, forms one piece, and can be put on or taken off as easily and as readily as one's coat. The material employed is cotton yarn, woven into a very strong webbing dyed khaki.
The tactical end achieved in the design is the sub-division of the complete set into what may be called the marching and fighting portions. In the latter nothing is included which is not essential to the fighting efficiency of the soldier. Everything else is relegated to the marching portion, which can be instantaneously detached from the former when the soldier is on the point of going into action. In this equipment the soldier will carry on the person a total weight of 58¼ lbs.; this includes his clothing, arms, 150 rounds of ammunition, and many other items for his personal convenience. When going into action he will be given a further 120 rounds, but by relieving him of that portion of his equipment which is not absolutely necessary at such a time, he will, in spite of this addition, carry only 53¾ lbs.
§ Mr. HALDANE
We are in the happy position of being pioneers here; or, at all events, we have been followed on the same line by other countries. The American army and navy, the Italian navy, and the Dutch navy have adopted a somewhat similar equipment. Trials have been carried out in France and Russia with this equipment, with favourable results. Trials in India have also proved very satisfactory. It is understood that a trial will shortly take place with it in the Chinese army. It is necessary that it should be clearly understood that this webbing is quite dissimilar from that used during the South African War, which was not found satisfactory. The severe trials to which the new equipment has been put have convinced the military authorities that a perfectly strong and satisfactory material has been found. Although persons in the leather trade may be sceptical on this point, the action of foreign Governments endorses our choice. I do not know whether it would be of any interest to the House to see the equipment, but if hon. Members desire to see it arrangements could be made to show it.
I think the House will be interested to know what we propose to do in regard to manœuvres. In regard to manœuvres, we are getting more and more to feel the influence of the new organisation in big divisions. This year we have reached a stage where we are going to carry out progressive training with greater effect and a nearer approximation to war conditions than has hitherto been the case. We have taken a large area in Worcestershire, Oxfordshire, and Berkshire, and we shall have a month's work there with four divisions and also with a cavalry division. These four divisions will have their regular training, then their inter-divisional training, and, finally, the first and second divisions, with half of the cavalry division, will operate against the third and fourth divisions and the other half of the cavalry division. That is approximating more closely to war conditions than we have done in the past. There is another thing I am anxious to do. I am talking now of these divisions on their peace establishment, but we want to see what one of these great divisions would do when completely mobilised. We are going to mobilise it down at Aldershot, and that will be operative in the end of July. It 1622 will stretch along fifteen or sixteen miles of road on an enormous winding circuit. That, at any rate, will give us our first experience of handling one of these great new units, and it will be good for the officers who have the difficult task of managing it.
Now I come to say a few words about the Territorial Force. To begin with, as regards its training the House will realise that it is to be conducted by a more extensive staff than the old force. The time of training, it is said, is too short. So it would be if you simply measured it by the contract with the State. But these territorial officers are enthusiasts, and do a great deal more work than we put in the regulations. I learn by the reports that the training is proceeding very well. They give every assistance they possibly can, and the officers are pleased with the new instrument. The artillery will be complete by 31st March. The equipment—all but balloons and wireless telegraphy—is already being got out, and the cost is estimated at £120,000.
The rifle is being converted. It is a conversion from the later Lee-Metfords and from the Lee-Enfield patterns. The conversion consists generally in fitting the rifle with a bridge over the magazine opening to guide the charges, and also with a new magazine. The bridge and the magazine are similar to those of the latest pattern short rifle. The average weight of the rifle is 91b. 5oz. The issue of it is under consideration, an advance issue of eight rifles per battalion having already been made. The issue will probably be completed during 1909–10. I do not think that I need go into all the details. They will be issued very shortly. As regards buildings, we are getting on steadily. It is, however, a tedious process. With reference to the Cadet Corps and rifle clubs, we think it desirable that the organisation should converge to the same useful end. We propose to make the relation between them and the Territorial Force more intimate than it is at present, and we propose to do it through the instrument of the associations. A scheme is under consideration to that end. We are organising a new reserve of Territorials. We think that the men who pass through the force with a good training should not be lost. They should be formed into a reserve in order to enable us to bring up the strength of the Territorial Force from 300,000 to 400,000.
The Territorial Force will cost you more than now, but I think that the original 1623 estimate will cover it. Loan annuities are falling in. The old Auxiliary Forces cost £4,400,000. The Special Reserve and Territorials may cost £4,900,000, but on the other hand the Regulars will be cheaper. At all events, we do not anticipate any unpleasant surprises. What have we got for the money? Compared with the return of October, 1905, the figures are: Reserve, 200,000 instead of 94,000. Of course, the Regular Reserve will come down when we reach the normal figure, but on the other hand the Special Reserve will go up, and you will get about 200,000.
The outcome of the whole matter is this. Of course, the Militia are gone, but the Territorial force takes the place of the old Home Defence Auxiliary Forces. It is quite true we have fewer men in the Army as a whole, but we have organised it into two lines instead of three or four lines. The new organisation has now reached a stage where we can carry out professional training with greater effect and near approximation to war conditions. There will be the same money, but we shall get more for it.
What is the object for which this Army exists? There are two views—one is that the Army is for passive resistance, and the other that the Army, with our command of the seas, takes and makes a frontier on the enemy's coast line where you seek him out. That is a mode of defence which has been our characteristic defence throughout our history; and it is important that we should have a clear idea that that is the strategical principle on which our Army is based. To go in for an immense defence force must simply weaken the regular army. Ancient Rome fell into the state of not balancing these two things—defence and the power of initiative, and unable to stand the stress put upon it Rome fell.
That is a mistake in one way. We ourselves in our history have made mistakes the other way. Anyone who studies the admirable book of Mr. Fortescue and the writings of the late Colonel Henderson will see what would come to this country if we were to give up command of the sea, and an over-sea army that could make that command successful. A Home defence force no more than to make impossible invasion is the foundation of British strategy. This is a practical question. There was an admirable article in the "Contemporary Review" last month on "The Possibility of Invasion," written by a naval expert whose name I do not know, 1624 but who is somebody who knows his work thoroughly, and who points out the enormous difficulty of invasion, in the fullest technical details, and shows how with a very large invading army of 200,000 or 150,000, or even less, the fleets would form a target that could not escape a navy that had command of the sea. He shows that what is desirable is that we should so home-defend ourselves as to make it necessary that a big force should be the invading force which would form a certain target to our naval defence. It is well to bear that in mind, and if we bear it in mind it seems to me that we must come to one conclusion—that naval power is never effective without an over-sea army power to work with it for a country like ours, which is an Empire that has to be defended at a distance. Our first duty is to take care that the Home defence force does not drag back and starve the power of the first line.
Now as to the question of compulsory service. I am looking at these things for the moment not from the idealist point of view, but from the strategic point of view, and from my strategic point of view I have to say if you go in for building up a large Home defence army, particularly on a semi-regular basis, you will starve in every way your regular army both in men and money. I am not drawing conjectures. I am speaking from the study of such books as I have spoken—of such books as Mr. Fortescue's. The greatest harm you can do is to forget your great strategic principle, that the offensive is the true mode of defence, and that you must keep your over-sea line of your regular army intact and strong. If we adopted any different system, if we departed from that—we should do three things. We should inevitably substitute in people's minds for the true thing the idea that the army of this country should be squatted along the sea shore; the second thing we should do would be to make the regular army bankrupt in men. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] I will tell you why in a moment. Our great over-sea army must recruit upon voluntary basis, consisting of men who engage for seven years with the colours and five with the reserve. No power in the world could coerce such soldiers into taking such an engagement. That army is recruited from enthusiasts. We know that in Continental countries they have the greatest difficulty in getting volunteers, whereas with us it is perfectly easy, because it is that phase of the military career that appeals most to a lot of men who have no compulsion to make military service dis 1625 agreeable to them. Depending, as we do, on a system of getting about 56,000 recruits every year to join the regular Army and Special Reserve recruits who must take voluntary engagement for over-sea service, it would be an action of deadly peril to put that stream of recruits in danger by applying compulsory measures of service to young men between the ages of 17 and 21, who are just the people who give us that stream of recruits. To apply compulsory service in time of peace to that field would be gravely to imperil the stream of life of the regular Army; because if there is even substantially a danger to that stream of life, then, strategically situated as we are, we ought not to run that risk. If that be true, it rules out a great many propositions that have been made. I am not talking of other things. Were the nation in deadly peril, everybody would come forward, and not only so, but nobody would be concerned to dispute that if this country were invaded or were in imminent peril of being invaded, it would be the legal as well as the moral duty of every man to bear arms and repel the invader. That was laid down about the year 1635 by St. John, the counsel for Hampden in the Ship-money case, and one of the great defenders of the Commonwealth. And as late as 1803 it formed the preamble of the Act of Parliament under which the levée en masse was to be made in case Napoleon invaded this country. That rests on the common law of the land. We are not disputing that although opposed to compulsion. What we are contesting is that it would be a good thing to apply compulsion in time of peace to young men who otherwise come forward to our regular Army and our Territorial force.
It may be very right that the national duty to serve in times of supreme emergency should be recognised in our education. I have been in the East End of London, and I have been struck and impressed with what I saw in the work of the Boys' Brigades there. I have been in the slum regions, and have seen in the areas round the homes from which the boys come all that one would wish not to see, and yet these young fellows were splendid specimens of humanity, and have become so by athletic exercises and physical drill, and of the very type out of which you could very quickly organise a great reserve in time of national necessity. It may be right for the schools to do, but what I say is that the War Office ought not to touch upon the stream of life for the regular Army. Conscription I am against, not 1626 upon sentimental grounds, or any ground except strategical grounds, which are enough for me. I am against any interference with the present system of voluntary recruiting for an island like ours, and that is the policy of the War Office. Another thing is money. I saw a calculation the other day made by an association for which I have the utmost respect, because I know that those who belong to it are the most patriotic men in this country, and have the highest motives. There is no soldier to whom the country owes a greater debt of gratitude than to its founder, Lord Roberts. Lord Roberts put the extra cost at £4,000,000. I think it would be a much larger figure. I am not going into the exact cost. But even supposing £4,000,000 were added to the Territorial force, do you think the nation would allow that to be added to the Army on the one side without asking for reductions on the other? There is the regular Army to think of, and I have always thought it a good thing that we should be looked after closely in that respect. But, on the other hand, if you take off anything inevitably you lead to a weakening of the regular Army, not only in the men but in the money, and therefore on strategical grounds I am for providing against shortage of men and money where shortage is most deleterious. If this House can only come to some broad conclusion, can agree that it will hold to some fixed strategical principle, such as I have been trying to enunciate; then there is hope that progress will be made, and will be made steadily. The way to the state of things we desire may be long and difficult, but it will be something if we adepuately map it out ahead.
§ Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I am sure I envy the right hon. Gentleman many of his qualities, none more than the energy of power which have enabled him to address so many speeches to his countrymen on matters so near to its heart and to give so long and interesting an address to the House this evening. I have neither the capacity nor intention to imitate the right hon. Gentleman in the length of the remarks which I am about to make, and even if I had the power I should not entertain the wish, because although I am strongly of opinion that what the right hon. Gentleman said—all of it—was of great interest to a few Members of this House who have, to a certain extent, if I may say so, specialised with regard to military questions, a great deal of what he said was perhaps hardly equally intelligible or perhaps equally interesting to 1627 Members of this House who had not made this special study. I shall try to confine myself to what I conceive to be the larger and, in one sense, the more interesting aspects of the question. I would make a general comment upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I should be tempted to say that he had throughout dealt much more with names than with things. I regard the Army from one point of view alone, and that is the point of view of war, and I am tempted to examine everyone of the proposals that are made in this House from the standpoint of one who is asking "What would be the effect in war of all these changes which you are making?" I want to deal with one other subject than that of war, and that is the very interesting question of finance.
The right hon. Gentleman told us, and I think this is a point on which the House of Commons would like to be convinced, that for economy there is nothing like organisation. I am afraid I am compelled by that observation to conclude that there cannot be much organisation during the first year, because there will not be much economy. I think I am right in saying that after this speech and the many other speeches which the right hon. Gentleman has made, and that after, I if I may say so, considerable proofs of the success produced by the process of clear thinking in the Army we stand in this position, that we are spending this year on the Army £275,000 more than we did last year. The nominal reduction is £24,000, but the actual increase is £275,000. We are spending that sum more than we did last year, and we are some 100,000 men to the bad. I agree, if you include the Army Reserve, that would mean some £50,000, £60,000, or £70,000, but I do consider that that is a very small and unsatisfactory result, and that, after all the professions of economy, we have no economy at all, and a very serious fall in the number of men. I am not censuring the right hon. Gentleman for not having reduced expenditure on the Army. I have always said it is a dream to think of reducing the expenditure of the Army with the system which at present prevails. I do not think you can, but I think it would have been fairer if the Government had been more candid with the country, and spared us some of those statements with regard to expected economies which were intended to beguile their supporters. How have you any economy when the only economy made is the reduction of men, and so long 1628 as the present, system goes on, you will have no economy at all. There are many speeches of the right hon. Gentleman which are matters of congratulation, and I am sure I shall be the first to congratulate him upon them. He has told us that he has adopted, as I ventured to think he was bound to adopt, the principle to which the late Government attached so much importance: in regard to concurrent enlistment. He has adopted the system of enlisting men for long service and short service concurrently, and when I remember the hard words used against the late Government for venturing to suggest that system, I smile while I congratulate him. I am also interested to see that another anticipation which we ventured to make has been verified. I ventured to tell the right hon. Gentleman, now three years ago, that the experiment with the reserve of the Royal Artillery was destined to failure, that it could not succeed, and that he was mistaken in the possibilities of the situation. I have admitted, and the late Government admitted, the desirability of the introduction of short-service men into the Royal Artillery, limited by the very strict scheme the right hon. Gentleman has adopted. It is a source of gratification that he has adopted, verbatim et literatim, the proposals we made three years ago. I congratulate him on the success of his efforts in establishing a school for officers. He has showed great sagacity and great skill in endeavouring to raise the scale for officers. I am not as sanguine as he is as to the officers who will emerge from these proposals, but I do regret that, in this attempt to get a certain number of amateur officers, we shall have lost over 500 trained officers for the Army. The right hon. Gentleman told us that in carrying out this scheme we were following the example of Germany.
Something very different is done in Germany. I am perfectly certain if they thought they could take a number of boys from the public schools and universities and give them the amount of quasi-training which the right hon. Gentleman is giving, and make real officers of them, they would do it at once. But they do something very different. They take a boy after leaving school, after passing an examination, and after he is shown to be qualified physically, socially, and from the military point of view, put him into the ranks of the regular Army for a year as a private, and he comes under the full discipline of the German Army. Then, if he is satisfactory, they allow him to go for a year as an officer in a regular regiment, 1629 again under a tremendous discipline, for another year. At the end of that time they do not put him into the first rank of their Army, but allow him to enter as a sublieutenant into the territorial or land Army, which stands behind the regular Army. There is no analogy at all between that process and the one by which the right hon. Gentleman hopes he may supplement the lamentable deficiency of our officers. He is to be congratulated, at any rate, from his point of view, upon the swelling of the ranks of the Territorial Army. I have never had the slightest doubt that he would attain his numbers. I have always said I saw no reason whatever why he should not obtain exactly the same number of Territorials as volunteers. Why not? They are exactly the same people, asked to do exactly the same thing, no more and no less, and if one can be obtained I see no earthly reason why the other should not. I know he has attached great importance to bringing his roll up to the number which he desired, and I congratulate him on the success which he will no doubt ultimately attain for his full desires, and which he has already partially attained, but I am not very much enamoured of some of the methods which have been accepted for that purpose. I rather feel that compulsion in any form, except by the State, ought to he left alone. I do not at all object to the compulsion of the State. There may be a time when a great nation may have an absolute right to force its sons into its service, but I look with some suspicion upon compulsion which is not exercised by the State, but which, after all, as I believe, in this case, is the result of private confabulations between distinguished and wealthy gentlemen and the Secretary of State for War. Nor am I particularly impressed by the dragging in of the drama. I am given to understand that the whole object of the officer who wrote the play was to warn the country of the enormous danger which resulted from taking the view that war should be entered upon without sustaining its penalties, and he tried to make them understand that if you are to avoid the misery and shame which come from defeat in war you must prepare in peace. But what he wrote has been travestied, and that very play, which I should not introduce into the House at all if it had not been made the subject of public criticism and public appeal, has been utilised for the purpose of advertising the very contrary to the opinion which it was meant to convey. Neither of these methods commend themselves to my judgment, and I think on mature consideration 1630 they will hardly commend themselves to the right hon. Gentleman.
Now I come to another matter, which is not a subject of congratulation at all. I regard with some suspicion what he has told us with regard to the Special Reserve. I ask the House to inquire very carefully, not into general phrases, but into the real thing which is going on. What is the Special Reserve. It is a short-service army which is to serve in this country in time of peace, and which is to recruit the regular army in time of war. The right hon. Gentleman has purported to give us the figures of that army. Those figures are not correct. He has told us this army has already reached some 55,000 in infantry, and that, of course, is a very substantial advance towards the object he has in view. If he will go down to any of these depots where special reservists are being recruited he will learn a great deal more than he told us. If he knows it, I am sorry he did not tell the House. Here is the table he gave me the other day containing information which I had previously acquired for myself. Of the 55,000 infantry in the special reserve 37,000 are simply Militiamen who are transferred in order to finish their terms. Since that they have enlisted 25,400 men, and of these 2,200 have been discharged as unfit to be soldiers at all. Six thousand one hundred and fifty have passed on the regular Army or the Navy, and 11,000 are entered as now drilling at the depots. The total number discharged from the Reserve is 7,600, and there is a significant note to that figure which explains that out of these 7,600 a considerable number do not belong to the Special Reserve at all, but are simply passing on, like the others, to the regular Army. Of the 11,000 men still drilling at the depots a proportion, varying in different places from 50 per cent. to 90 per cent., have no more intention of going through the Special Reserve than they have of going through the Salvation Army.
I think I have demonstrated that these figures are misleading in the highest degree, and when I tell the House what this little remnant of 6,000 men is composed of they will see why I take such a strong objection. I was talking to a non-commissioned officer at one of these depots. I did not know him and he did not know me. I said: "Who is it that you get into the Special Reserve?" He said: "They are mostly them as has got some defects." I was talking to an officer, and I asked the same question. He 1631 said: "There are two classes of men. There are the men who are 1½ inches under standard, and cannot go into the regular Army, and there are the men we do not want for the line." That is happening all over the country, and it is going to happen. All these depots are infantry depots of the line, and it is the duty of the officers to take all the men they can get, for the line and leave behind all they do not want. Who are these men? We hear something about the physique of the Army. I wish hon. Member's would look for themselves and see these boys who are responding to this appeal to go into the Army for six months instead of going to the workhouse—boys nominally 17 years of age, but actually 15 or 16—and see them going through this drill. Every Army in the world except our own thinks a man is not fit to be a soldier at all until he is 20, and when he has enlisted as a soldier they say two years is the minimum period under the strongest discipline they can enforce. What do we do? We are taking these boys of 16 and 17 and drilling them for six months. "At the end of that time," one officer said to me, "we put that boy outside the door in his old clothes, and he goes." He never joins his regiment—he does not know what his regiment is till the time he is actually summoned on the declaration of war. He does not know what battalion he is to serve with. He is enlisted for general service, and may be, and under many circumstances would be, posted to a battalion he had never heard of. He never sees his officers or non-commissioned officers, and never sees, except accidentally, his comrades. And these boys, turned adrift at 17½ into the street, are to be called out, some of them with the addition of 15 days' training, and put into the front rank of the British Army in time of war.
I will not trust myself to my own judgment upon this matter. I will take an authority which the right hon. Gentleman no doubt will recognise. He told us not long ago that in accordance with the opinion of the great majority of the military advisers of the Government, battalions should be mobilised in accordance with the cardinal system; that is a continuance of seven years in the colour service is greatly to be preferred to battalions composed largely of inferior and partially trained residents, who must necessarily be inferior to well trained and seasoned men who have already gone through a substantial period of service 1632 abroad. Who are these men who could not be taken into the line battalions? These were all men who had done two years under an officer in a battalion and been subsequently called out for training, men who had some training as soldiers in every army in the world except our own. These were the men whom for some transient purpose the military advisers of the right hon. Gentleman combined to ban as unfit for placing in either of the battalions; and yet we are to be told that these boys of 16 and 17 were fit to be placed in the front line of our Army. I cannot put the House in possession of my point of view fully. One must see the kind of thing that is done in other countries, and what the battalions are that are being prepared in the great armies of the Continent. One must go down and see these boys in the depot to realise what folly it is to suppose that we can do by magic what no other nation in the world except ourselves conceives it possible to accomplish.
I have another reason for believing that this force is not a force that we ought to rely on. There is the universal opinion, stated in public documents before a great tribunal by every single one of the right hon. Gentleman's military advisers, as to what was the minimum term of service necessary to make a soldier. They say it is two years. If he turns to the report of the Commission he will find the opinion of officer after officer, some of them his advisers now and some of them his advisers in the past, everyone of them stating in no uncertain manner that two years' training is necessary to make a soldier. Are we to imagine that men of the class that we are getting, the men whom the right hon. Gentleman has appealed to to come into the Army rather than go to the workhouse are in six months of casual training to be made into soldiers? Let him go down and see these places. These men are squadded every week and drilled in little groups of a dozen. Week after week they are put into another group, passing through the six months' training. If the right hon. Gentleman can perform miracles he should tell the House, but he should give us some reason for believing he is able to perform miracles that no one else is able to perform. I ventured to express the opinion some time ago, and I have never ceased to hold it, that under this system you could not attain either the proper men or officers at all. I constantly asserted that it was impossible when you shattered the Militia force to carry on the services performed 1633 by the officers of the Militia. What has happened? The establishment of this Special Reserve is 80,000 men. How many officers have they scraped in since 15 months ago? A hundred for 80,000 men. And this is not wonderful. The wonder is that they got any at all.
Can the House realise that the lieutenant-colonel of one of these units has just received permission four times in the year to go to the depot and look at his own battalion. That is the position in which a lieutenant-colonel of a battalion stands towards the men whom he is nominally at least supposed to command. The right hon. Gentleman was driven to confess a night or two ago in answer to a question that he had given up all hope of getting these officers, and expected rather that the public schools and universities would find the officers for these Special Reserve units. He will not get them, but if he did that is the worst possible way of officering them. What is wanted is some constant connection and perpetual cameraderie between the officers and the men; but there would be nothing of that kind if you had these young men from the university turning out for 15 days in the year with a number of men whom they never saw before and may never see again. It is very remarkable that no other country in the world and no branch of any other service in this ever thought of such a way of solving the problem. With regard to this Special Reserve, which I believe to be a sheer absolute waste of public money, and a very dangerous waste of public money, by making people believe that they have an available force when they have not, it has one virtue only—it embodies a sound principle—the principle that will have to be adopted, and will certainly be adopted in this country—that of enlarging the numbers of your colour strength in this country and of increasing the period of service so as to have real officers serving with their own men. When you have done that, as you will have to do, you will have then a Special Reserve which, instead of being a useless deception, will become of some service. But that time has not come yet.
And now I come to the question of the preparation of the Regular Army in this country for the kind of trial to which it may be subjected. I would like the House to understand what is at the back of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. He told us he was going to have 60,000 men capable of going on an expeditionary force, and we are asked to admire that as 1634 a product of the present policy. You do not make the Army strong by depriving it of 18,000 or 19,000 men that are the flower of the Army and diminishing its Reserve. What has made it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to talk in this manner at all is this, that during previous Administrations there were 28,000 men added to the strength of the Regular Army—and these had been added by no effort of the right hon. Gentleman—and 39,000 men to the army in reserve, and there had also been added 64 batteries to the Royal Artillery. When you add 64 batteries to the Royal Artillery and 67,000 men to the Army it is conceded you will have a larger force to deal with than before these additions were made. Is the right hon. Gentleman responsible for one of them? What has been his contribution? His contribution has been destroying what others built. He struck 18,000 men off the Regular Army and put a number of batteries in a position in which they are incapable of rendering service. Already, happily, he has seen Low impossible it is to continue that policy. He now at last is training some of these batteries into the vitality of real military existence; but he has no right whatever to claim any merit for the increase which he now asks us to admire. He speaks of this expeditionary force. Sixty thousand is to be the total army to take part in it. Why, Sir, in the South African War, during the first five months, 155,000 men belonging to the Regular Army were sent out from this country. But, have we got any further? I do not think we have got so far. When we hear these statements about increases of the Regular Army, and the merits attached to those that produce them, we should remember, so far from there being any increase, what has happened is owing to the policy which the right hon. Gentleman is now busily engaged in undoing. I saw the other day a review of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman by an officer who has often been quoted in this House, and of whose merit he has spoken very highly—I allude to Colonel Court Repington. I observe that this officer spoke with the highest admiration of the policy of the right hon Gentleman, and said it was almost perfect, although there were some exceptions. He said the plan for reinforcing the Regular Artillery should be dropped, and it has been dropped. He also said that the destruction of 5,000 Royal Artillery was an entire mistake, and that the right hon. Gentleman ought to re-enlist 5,000 men in the Royal Artillery. The right hon. Gen- 1635 tleman said that the Territorial force was one of the noblest creations of men, and he also said that it was deficient in officers and in training; and, if you ever endeavour to make the training such as to fit the men for the field, you would dry up the whole sources of recruiting for the Territorial Army. He said that every officer knew it.
I think the Secretary of State for War is entitled to receive great credit for his organisation of the Territorial Army, but surely that is rather the position of making perfect an engine ready to work at high pressure and then being unable to supply the requisite steam. What is the use of it without the motive power which is requisite? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us who has advised him that we can face a serious war with an army raised upon these terms? Never in the history a war, going back as far as you like, has a semi-trained army held its own against trained soldiers in the field.
§ Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Does the right hon. Gentleman desire me to explain that fallacy to the House? I am glad of his interruption. Now, what are the facts? The Boers from childhood have had great experience in riding, shooting, taking cover, judging distance, and fighting. The superiority of the Boers in the field was not due to the fact that they were citizen soldiers, but because they had lived their lives under very different circumstances. I wish to point out, however, that whenever it came to serious fighting the Boers were put back. It has been said that the German Army was not a formidable organisation, but it once marched to Paris in three months, and I believe it might do it again. Conceive the analogy in this country. Imagine the invaders, after having captured all our railways, having occupied London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Edinburgh, and all our large cities, and were feeding all our women and children in relief camps upon Salisbury Plain while the Territorials, or what was left of them, were carrying out a gallant struggle in Sligo or Caithness. No, that is no analogy at all. I adhere to my original proposition, that there is no instance in the world of a untrained army holding its own with any degree of success against a trained army. Every nation in the world believes that to train a soldier properly and efficiently you must take him at 20 1636 years of age, train him under the most severe discipline, under the best possible officers, and the most elaborate organisation. Even then foreign countries are not satisfied, and there are far more long-service men serving in the German Army than in the British Army. As a matter of fact, they are doing all they can in Germany and France to induce the men to extend their service. We are not doing that at all. We think it is enough to take a boy—there are 18,000 in the Territorial Force under 20 years of age—and put him under partially trained officers and give him a fortnight's training, which is the maximum. What, in heaven's name, are we thinking of by adopting the system under which we are robbing the Regular Army of its best men and reducing that force? What do we mean by reducing oar Regular and trained force of officer, when everybody knows that officers are the one great need of our military organisation?
I admire the right hon. Gentleman's efforts. I have not a single word to say against the Territorial Army so long as it is regarded in the proper light. I have no objection to it so long as it does not rob the fighting services of the men, money, and organisation that I believe they ought to have. I think there is every danger it will be so. I think they are being robbed now. I think the prospect is that they will be still further robbed in the future. I wish the right hon. Gentleman had said a little more about the part to be played by the Navy. He said truly that invasion is almost impossible. He might have gone further. But when I see these large sums being taken by the Territorial Army, coupled with the failure to supply the additions to the Navy that I believe to be absolutely necessary, I confess I become more than alarmed. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us who the authority was that advised him that our soldiers, as organised, could hold their own in time of war against a foreign Army.
I would like to say a word on finance—an important subject. These estimates are, so far as I can judge, like nearly every other estimate persented by the present Government—absolutely fictitious. They are not the true cost of the Army: nothing like it. The inevitable cost of the Army has to be met, and it is not met in these estimates. There are hon. Members present, members of the Territorial force, and I dare say members of the County Associations, and they know as well as I do that every member of that 1637 force is crying out because they say that the sums placed at their disposal are insufficient. We have the question of the old infantry battalion of the Army. We have been told by the officer to whom I referred just now that it is in his opinion absolutely necessary that we should restore the battalions to their old establishment. We should bring them up to 800 or 900 men. I agree with him. I hope in this case, as in many other cases, it will foreshadow the definite conclusion to be arrived at by the right hon. Gentleman. I have not the slightest doubt—everybody knows it—that you will have to increase the establishment of the battalions at home.
It is not to be done now! It is to be carried forward. This alone will mean an additional £700,000 to the Army Estimates. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of building. He has spent nothing at all upon building. He is leaving it to the execution of those to come after. The theory was that you should obtain loans, and that you should have this sum reviewed every year in the House of Commons. I could see that point of view if there had been a transfer of expenditure from loans to the Estimates. Then we should have had a consistent carrying out of the policy to the conclusion.
But what has happened? That we had no increase on the expenditure on loan. There has been a reduction. Now we are face to face with this fact, which the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do, that all over the United Kingdom there are, at this moment, barrack buildings in urgent need of renovation. Some date from the reign of George II. Some were so pestilential—to use a coarse word, stank so—that we had to turn the troops out while we were cleaning out the filth.
§ Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER
You are entirely mistaken. I took the money to pull the old barracks down and to put others in their place. The right hon. Gentleman, the moment he came into office, reversed that policy.
§ Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Pardon me, I hadn't. I went down to the barracks, and found some of them in the state I have described. In Norwich, the capital of one of the most military counties in the United Kingdom, help was offered to 1638 us. My point is that the right hon. Gentleman knocked the scheme on the head, and allowed the men to go back to the same barracks.
In Ireland, Scotland—in spite of the fact that he has spent a little money there—and in England there are places all over the country where money must be spent, and in large sums. I do not know why this necessarily should only arise a year or two from now. That necessity existed three years ago.
§ Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Yes. What is the result? The moment someone is asked to conform to this appeal for continuity of policy, and take up the work of the right hon. Gentleman, the whole financial resources at his disposal will be called upon to make good the laches, the neglect, of the right hon. Gentleman.
I recognise the zeal and assiduity of the right hon. Gentleman, and his ability with regard to small points. There are always at the War Office capable and enterprising men who attend to these matters, and we like to hear of them. But we should like to have been told how we stand now, face to face with the Report of the War Commission. We were told then—everybody knew it—that the Army needed more positive, definite reforms to make it effective in time of war. Not one single reform has been carried into effect. What was important—probably the most pressing to us—was the absence of any striking force at all. We all remember what happened when we were face to face with the crisis in Natal. We could not send a single battalion from the British establishment. We cannot now. When the right hon. Gentleman told us that the new organisation in Egypt in some way provided for and would get over the difficulty, I really think he was trifling. Is that really so? Suppose we had trouble in Somaliland or in Persia, does the right hon. Gentleman think that it would be desirable to send away the garrison of Egypt. The garrison in Egypt is there for the defence of Egypt. It is no more a mobile and striking force than a body of police.
§ Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER
And when you move a brigade from Malta you have got to send troops from here. There has been no effort made at all to supply a striking force. We are always being told 1639 that we may be subjected to raids. I do not know whether that is official—I never can make out what is official—but I think the majority of authorities pronounce in favour of raids. Every Continental nation is in danger of raids, but does one of them ever dream of preparing against them in the way the right hon. Gentleman proposes? If we go to any of those countries we find that they have an organised mobilised force supported by proper fortifications, and ready to act on the first word of command. We have absolutely nothing of this kind if misfortune overtook us tomorrow; we could not put a battery or battalion into the field without mobilisation.
We have made no provision for the employment, as a matter of right, of old soldiers. The right hon. Gentleman's only contribution has been to forbid more than ten per cent. of the soldiers of the battalion to extend. What is the result? The hope is taken away of serving for pension, and there are now four applicants for every vacant place in the navy. Yet the right hon. Gentleman is casting round the workhouse doors for recruits. [Cries of "Oh!"] Yes; he sent out a circular telling the people not to have resort to the Poor Law, because they could come into the special reserve for six months. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why should they not?"] Because money should be effectively spent on soldiers who are going to serve in time of war. Lastly, the right hon. Gentleman has not provided that most important requirement—the large reserve which we know we want when the Army is fighting abroad. So far from providing it, he has done everything in his power to diminish the existing reserve. In another couple of years that reserve will melt away like snow from a bank in an April shower. If the right hon. Gentleman believes that the Special Reserve would in any way take its place I think he will be lamentably disillusioned. I have striven to put before the House what is the net result of all these changes, about which there has been such an enormous amount of work. My conclusion is that while you have saved money you have laid up a certain and much heavier expenditure in the future. You have destroyed the militia, and put in their place a smaller number of men, not a whit more competent to serve their country in time of war; you have destroyed those portions of the regular Army which were the very flower and pick of 1640 it; you have destroyed over a thousand men of the Royal Engineers, 6,000 of the Royal Artillery, you have got rid of a battalion of the Guards with its reserve, and you have got rid of eight battalions of our best infantry. I believe the right hon. Gentleman has diverted public attention to a lamentable extent from the true problem of the regular Army, and he has made people believe that an Army, which is attractive and popular, is a real Army. It is not, and to that extent he has put off inquiry into the work he has done, and made us less likely to be able to meet the enemy in time of war.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
We have had a highly interesting debate between the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the hon. Member for Cheshire as to the relative advantages of highly trained troops and patriotic volunteers. What we have to look to, as prudent and sensible men I hope, is to getting for our money the article which suits us in the peculiar circumstances of our Empire, namely, an Army paid for out of the estimates, and also a Navy, which we are not allowed to talk about on this occasion. It will not be out of order, perhaps, to ask the Secretary of State for War whether we shall be allowed an opportunity of discussing the Army and Navy together under sub-head E of the Treasury Vote. Those Members who were in the last Parliament six years ago will remember that we pressed very strongly for an opportunity to discuss the whole defence of the country. The Leader of the Opposition in acceding to that, which he deemed just and wise from the point of view of policy, stated that that item ought to be discussed not perhaps every year, but every two years, or at least within three years. We have had no recent discussion of that item, and I suggest that this year the Government should give us an opportunity of discussing the Army and Navy together. The late Secretary of State for War is somewhat satirical at the commencement which has been made with short enlistment in the artillery and at the principle adopted which is a return to Lord Lansdowne's in making a kind of long and short service, that is for the ordinary six or seven years' service and the new three years, the term of Lord Lansdownes' mode. The late Secretary of State for War regretted its disappearance last year and the year before, and its effect on the falling off of the reserves. That, I think, is the answer to his own gloomy predictions as to the future falling away of 1641 reserve. It was always certain, it is absolutely certain that if you introduce a number of long-service men, which we, curiously enough, call short-service men, of, say, seven or, indeed, eight years, it is certain the reserve must fall below the figure at which the Secretary of State for War says it must be maintained. He has given way to the fact now as regards artillery, and he is certain to give way, by the same consideration, as regards the infantry when the reserve falls. All the reforms that have been announced to-night, all those approaching variations are what is always playfully called the Cardwell system, whatever particular form it assumes in its operation since the Cardwell system was established, and which Cardwell would not have recognised in the protean forms it assumes. We now know that the Cardwell system in its essence, so far as my right hon. Friend supports it, is the system of Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of York. It is the old British Army system of linked battalions.
All the reforms introduced to-night, after all, consist in undoing something, something we have lately done; for example, the three-year enlistments I have just mentioned, the increase of the Royal Artillery, some increase of the horses to the cavalry—still so ridiculously small that in the cavalry regiments we keep we attain a maximum of cost with the minimum of result, and largely because the horses are too few to train a regiment, while the Continental armies train one regiment more cheaply than we train three. The reform commended to us by the Secretary of State of the creation of mountain artillery is only a return to what was destroyed a very few years ago; aimlessly destroyed, and a curious example of the way in which in this country we live from hand to mouth on the fancies of the moment, which become the dominant consideration in the preparation of Estimates which are enormously increased in cost by these frequent changes. We had the mountain battery system of training here. The training was good apart from the guns. It was knocked on the head. There is nothing fills me more with shame and humiliation than that India can afford to pay for things we cannot afford, and yet, on the ground that our mountain artillery in India was very good, we destroyed them in England. All these are the re-doing of things that have been undone, except one, that I confess I can hardly understand, because it is the 1642 announced creation of something which I thought had always existed in every army at least since the time of Frederick the Great. I mean the system described in the very words that were used by the Secretary of State here to-night as to the "Etappen" command, and "Lines of Communication."
I should not have taken part at all in this debate if it had not been for two or three matters which could only appropriately be mentioned on this occasion, as they are not so clearly in order as on this general motion. The first is the cost of the Army and the yearly increase. The Secretary of State said we need not expect some increases in the future, though he indicated an increase which would be necessary for the Territorial army might possibly be met by trimmings upon other points. In respect of that matter, I agree wholly with what was said by the last speaker, with a large experience of the past, that you can never make a large saving upon this Army Vote; you never can reduce what was promised by three successive Chancellors of the Exchequer of the other party in the last Parliament, you never can effect a substantial saving except by a change of system. The peculiarity of the Estimates of this year is that the automatic increase which we have always with us, if we do not change our system, is made in a manner once described in this House of a similar transaction by Professor Fawcett in the words: "What shocks me is the melancholy meanness of the transaction." Three years ago and two years ago we asked the Secretary of State for War what was going to be done with regard to the Indian contribution, and what he was going to agree to. He would not tell us, it was wrapped in mystery. But there was a belief on the part of some people at first that he was going to give up something of the claim made on India for Home charges in connection with the training of troops in these countries, and we were prepared in another debate for a good fight, in which the Secretary of State would have been made to disgorge, and when his colleague said that if he tried to get more from India, or not give up what he had got, he—Will find me a dragon in his path towards that Indian gold mine.
This time the increase here is met by an increase of a contribution which it would not be in order for me to give my reasons for thinking was far too large, which, at all events, by the admission of Members of the Government was infinitely greater than we should dare make 1643 any of the Colonies pay. That contribution is increased by the very sum fixed by Pitt and Grenville to Barras as the bribe which George III. was to pay "from the revenues of India . . . without the necessity of ever disclosing the transaction." It is the same sum— £300,000— and we are getting neither the War Office case nor the counter-case as to the adhesion of the Viceroy's Council. I repeat that all of the ways of balancing our accounts this is one of the worst; and these secret transactions against the Indian taxpayer, who already pays far more than the colonist pays for the troops received, are a national disgrace.
I wish also to refer to the recent speeches of my right hon. Friend. To-day he has roared gently; the dove of peace has been predominant in this debate. But certain speeches of his have alarmed me, and I thought that even from his own point of view they were calculated to spoil his own scheme. The weak point in regard to his proposals at the Colonial Conference was the manner in which they were treated by Australia. We have debated that matter three times; the passages are in "Hansard." I maintain my opinion that the right hon. Gentleman alarmed Australia. He was reproached for "Germanisation." Mr. Deakin said, "Our people resent anything in the nature of Germanisation." When Mr. Deakin went home he prepared a Bill, which was never passed, and he has now gone out of office. Any speech less likely to commend the right hon. Gentleman's proposals to Australia than that made at Newcastle I cannot conceive.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
They have always assented to the proposals for the General Staff. What I am referring to is the large body of troops and the system on which they are raised.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
Yes; and then, when it is for them and for them alone, to talk about "23 Army Corps," the "Army of the Empire," and so on! The words are these:—
" . . . . 46 divisions, equivalent to 23 army corps. The army of Germany had 23 army corps, and no other army in the world had an organisation so great."
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
That is what I say. I have never for a moment thought that we were going to have an Army, transportable across the seas, of half that strength. I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition said when he heard about the 167,500 men as an expeditionary force, that it was too large, and that he could not make out what was intended to be done with it. It was too large, and it is larger still now. Surely if you have an effective Regular force that can strike across the seas, as good as any foreign army—a force of 170,000—that is big enough for the interests of this Empire. It is quite as big, if it be a really good and effective force, well commanded, with a real staff, as any army that we shall ever be able competently to handle across the sea. Why talk about these 23 army corps?
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
What does it mean? The right hon. Gentleman was speaking about what was possible—what they could do if they wished.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
That makes the speech still less wise and more provocative. That is not an Army which can be compared with the German 23 army corps. We are not frightened by it, but we say that it was an unwise speech, calculated to provoke either alarm or ridicule abroad. If you talk about 23 Army corps, when you have no such Army to send across the sea, you excite ridicule. If you are prepared to have them, it raises the question whether it is a sound policy for us to have —as we are determined to have—an incomparable Fleet, which is to be greater than the combined fleets of any likely coalition against us—and at the same time an Army on this scale. I agree with the view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman to-day—he is not afraid of invasion: I am not; he believes the fleet stands first, so do we. But this 23 Army-corps speech is inconsistent with that view. It is an unsound policy, and it is not the best way to go to work to secure the adhesion of such a country as Australia. That view is confirmed by all my correspondence from Australia, written long in advance of that 1645 speech, but always describing the ill-effect produced there by speeches and arguments of that kind. The last thing I have to say is cognate. It produces a similar feeling of disturbance and distrust. It is also inconsistent with our predominant naval position, and the absolute security from invasion which our naval position confers. There is a certain tendency towards Germanic ideas in the mind of my right hon. Friend. He has said so in almost all his speeches, and if there is anything that appears to us who belong to the naval school unwise and likely to lead to unnecessary expenditure for military defence it is any suggestion of German proposals for us. There are some who believe that the Territorial force is being raised by doubtful means, but I shall not dwell upon that, for I understand that hon. Members opposite will raise it in debate. The right hon. Gentleman says this is an entirely voluntary Army. Many of us in this House, especially the older men, have been led by similar means—not legal compulsion, but social compulsion or pressure—to enlist for service in the Volunteers. But that is a means which may do much harm when you come to the working classes, whom the right hon. Gentleman is trying to attract into the Territorial force. I will give one example. We have lost the rural volunteers. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] In my constituency there were three companies, and they are all gone. The numbers for the Territorials are made up from people in the county town. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] It is so in my own part of the country. While losing these you are calling more and more for the artisans and shop assistants in the towns. Here is what is being done. What I have found is that a man is put under pressure. He is almost forced into an active form of volunteering in connection with one establishment, and very likely in his next place the employer will not hear of anything of the kind. He may jeopardise his place and be out of work simply because the employer will not allow him to get the necessary time. I am quite aware that the authorities everywhere, if cases of that kind are brought to their notice, would be forbearing. I know that there are many such cases. I doubt whether it is a good thing for the permanent existence of the Territorial Army that so much pressure should be applied. I am not by any means an extremist on that point. There are many branches of employment where no such objection could be raised, but much pressure is now being applied, especially in the case of shop 1646 assistants, and I am sure it is a dangerous and bad thing for the Territorial Army. I am convinced that it does harm. It is not my right hon. Friend's well-considered opinion that he puts before this House that I am afraid of. I am afraid of his expenditure, because I do think if we have to choose amid the different branches of our defensive expenditure, and if you spend any money on the wrong thing, it cuts off the right one, and any money spent on an unnecessary branch of war service must come off the expenditure on the Fleet. It is not logical, but it is natural, and it is human nature that it should be done. I do not contest the opinion which the right hon. Gentleman has placed before the House, but the speeches he has made in the country do stick in the gizzard of a great many of us. I believe that such speeches will do harm to the cause many of us desire to promote.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean has brought forward a very important point in connection with the Territorial force. He has referred to the action of the Alliance Assurance Company in regard to employees who join the force. Into the merits of that question I do not wish to go, because I think it is a matter between the assurance company and their employees. But I do think the members of the Civil Service who are members of the Territorial force have a real and substantial grievance against the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. The Alliance Assurance Company say that they will give a whole fortnight's extra holidays with full pay—and that is, of course, plus the Army pay—to anyone of their employees who joins the Territorial force. What ever else you may think of it, it is a generous contribution on the part of that company. What does the right hon. Gentleman do in regard to the Civil Servants who join the Territorial force? He approves of the action of the Alliance Company, but if a postman or a clerk at Somerset House wishes to have a fortnight's extra holidays what does he get? He does not get the same treatment. What is sauce for the Alliance goose is sauce for the Civil Service gander in this matter. I consider that the State ought to be a model employer, but in this case they withdraw money from the Civil Servant who wants to serve his country and do what he can to help forward the Territorial force.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
Then why does the right hon. Gentleman approve so much of the action of the Alliance Assurance Company? Hon. Members below the Gangway need not be afraid that the Secretary of State for War is getting a severe attack of spread-eagle Imperialism. It has been said that the right hon. Gentleman has enlarged our land forces to an enormous degree, and that we have a great many more men in the land forces than we had when the last Administration was in office. Nothing can be farther from the truth. I think that I am right in saying that when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon left office the Army was stronger—that there were better men in it, who were better trained—than it ever was stronger—that there were better men have heard how thousands of men have been knocked off the regulars. Not only have those numbers been knocked off, but the quality of the Artillerymen and Guards has fallen off. I admit that the Militia force was a decaying force, but it had a great position at Waterloo, Crimea, and South Africa. It was connected with the local life of counties. The county officers knew their men, and the men knew them, and in time of war the officers and the men went out together.
No one could say that this Special Reserve has these qualities. By its very constitution the officers and men have not the slightest possibility or even probability of fighting together in time of war. The Militia in 1905 was 86,000, and the strength at the present moment is only 70,000, or a clear loss of 16,000. Only 100 officers have gone into the force out of 4,000 since it came into existence. The right hon. Gentleman says that schoolboys and young men from the universities are going to fill up the gap in the Militia. How do we know that these young men and boys when it comes to a three weeks' training will continue in the force? What is the result of doing away with the old Militia? I have during this winter visited a certain number of depots. In one or two the quality of the troop was excellent but in the majority of depots it was painful to see the boys of 15 or 16 years of age. They cannot possibly be of any use for war for three or four years.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I judge from what I saw. I quite admit that some of the depots were excellent, but in the majority of cases the class of men was deficient. I should 1648 like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why he is so intent on preventing old soldiers from joining the Special Reserve?
§ Mr. HALDANE
Because he will find a place in Section B. The Special Reserve is intended for a class of young men.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
The Swiss keep their men in their active army up to the age of 40. You want men who will be able to train recruits in time of war. In 1905 the Yeomanry and Volunteers were 272,000 strong, of whom 175,000 attended camp. The substituted Territorials are 240,000 strong, or a deficiency of 32,000. The right hon. Gentleman has reduced our land forces by 82,000 men since he came into office. What has been the effect in the matter of cost? He has saved £800,000 and knocked off 83,000 men. In 1905 the Unionist Government were spending £1,400,000 on the re-armament of the artillery. Yet the right hon. Gentleman was spending £200,000 more now than was spent that year, and in spite of all this the right hon. Gentleman has very gravely neglected to look after barrack accommodation and the sanitary condition of the barracks. He very courteously mentioned that I had asked many questions on that subject last year, and he has devoted a sum of £270,000, that is £80,000 more than last year to this matter. I maintain that sum is grossly inadequate to meet the horrible state of things disclosed in the medical report of the Army. I will just give two or three extracts from the report. I think the State should be a model employer, and, mind you, the local sanitary inspector is not allowed to inspect military barracks or military camps, nor to see that the sanitary arrangements and the water supply is all that it should be. That being so, the State should be all the more careful to provide proper sanitation in those places. The medical report says:The old buildings of Cahir (1811), Fermoy (1804), Manchester (Hulme) Barracks (1799), Coventry (prior to 1794), Birmingham (1793), Chatham (unknown), Norwich Cavalry Barracks (1793) long since condemned are still in use, and though no outbreak of disease is attributable to their condition their out-of-date character and general defective sanitary state render them far from desirable habitations for troops. There are many other barracks chiefly in Eastern, Western, Southern and Irish commands reported to be in an indifferent sanitary state. In Ireland the building at Mullingar (1814) are mentioned as being old and considerably out of repair, while the Victoria Barrack hutments in Cork are referred to as delapidated buildings, rotting and full of vermin. At the Curragh the Beresford Barracks are stated to be rapidly decaying and getting beyond repair, the rooms being draughty, cheerless, and very cold in winter.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
1907. It goes on:The wooden hutments at New bridge are described as being in a condition in which anything short of reconstruction will never make them satisfactory.Though, of course, things might be worse, I think the House will admit these brracks are in a very unsatisfactory state, and we ought not to grudge the Secretary of State any amount of money to put them into a proper condition. There is one aspect of the barrack question which I think is very objectionable, and that is the condition of the married quarters.In Ireland alone it is reported that no less than 150 out of 299 one-roomed married quarters are at present in occupation as such, and this number may be taken as a fair estimate of the general condition existing elsewhere.
I maintain it is obviously wrong that such conditions should exist, and that married men should be obliged to live in one room with their wives and sometimes a couple of children. Surely Parliament, which takes such interest in social questions, and especially a Government which prides itself as being a Government of social reform, should not grudge £1,000,000 or even £500,000 to put things as they should be in those barracks.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
No, I could not give the size; but if the hon. Member will visit any married quarters in any barracks, he will see for himself. Now I turn to another aspect of the question, and one which I think ought to be very seriously considered, that is, the defence of our great naval dockyards: Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth. There is absolutely no land defence in these ports. There is a line of fortifications left in a perfectly defenceless condition. I do think this matter ought to be attended to. There is no country in the world that would consider it the best way to defend its dockyards was to leave them unguarded. There was nothing at the present moment to prevent 5,000 or 10,000 of an enemy marching straight into Portsmouth. An hon. Member laughs, but will he inform me what would prevent them? Very likely three battalions of Regulars would be there, but they could not stop them; there would be no guns, and a raid always is the occasion of a surprise. They would not give us warning so that we might have our Territorials ready. We see what is going, on in Denmark. The Danes are sensible people. They know they cannot attempt to defend their country entirely by themselves, but there is now a Bill for the erection of fortifications before their Legisla- 1650 ture, and if these are constructed they will be able to wait till the neutral Powers come to their aid. I think we are entitled to have from the Government some definite opinion as to what conclusion they have come to, and whether or not they consider this country can be invaded, or whether or not they consider that a raid can take place. Have they modified the opinion arrived at some years ago by the Defence Committee that a raid would not exceed 15,000 or 20,000 men.
I presume that the Admiralty take the view that we cannot be invaded, because unless they take that view it is criminal on their part to allow Portsmouth, Chatham, and Plymouth to be in their defenceless state. I presume that the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with the Admiralty, because if he agreed with them he would not spend some three millions of money and have an army of 300,000 Territorials in order to meet the raid. If the school prevails which says no one is to land why do we want these 300,000 men, and if the raid school prevails and 20,000, 50,000, or 100,000 troops can land our Territorial force cannot be trained in time to meet an enemy which comes upon our shores. If there was a raid or invasion we should have men trained for two years landed here, and we should oppose them with men half of them trained for eight days with two drills and the other half for 15 days a year. How can you possibly hope that 150,000 or 200,000 Territorials so trained can oppose men trained for two years? Even Switzerland considers it absolutely necessary that the infantryman should have 65 days, the artilleryman 85 days, and the cavalry soldier 90 days for training. The Secretary of State admits that we cannot meet them on equal terms, because he says one-third of the Expeditionary Force must be kept here till the Territorials can have six months' training. That gives the whole case away. Considering the changes which have taken place in the last 10 years—the size of steamships, the supply of steamships, and the organisation of the German navy and army—I think we ought to have some announcement from the Government whether they consider that a raid by any large force could take place. If they do not consider that it can, then it is perfectly unnecessary to keep up this large force of Territorials and spend large sums of money on them, but if a raid of 50,000 or 100,000 men is possible, then I say it is folly to suppose that men trained on the lines of the Territorial force can hold their own against a force of that kind.
§ Mr. J. SEDDON
Before putting one or two questions I wish to express my utter amazement at the helpless and hopeless condition of this country as judged by the speech just delivered. We shall hear a different story when it comes to the question of the Navy, and we shall be told it is that that is the real defence of the country, and we shall also be told by other speakers that the present methods of dealing with the defence of the nation are as hopeless as those described by the hon. Member who has just sat down. The hon. Member says it is necessary to defend the Empire by an enormous expenditure of money, but I believe under proper conditions there is just enough of the bull dog left to defend these shores, and I am glad to know it has come into existence in the new Territorial scheme. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that in the early discussions of this new scheme of defence I supported it and looked upon it as a bulwark against conscription, which I abominate from the bottom of my heart. I believe that conscription is wholly alien to the spirit of the Britisher, and I was more than surprised when I found the right hon. Gentleman blessing the "Daily Mail" and its methods of recruiting for his Territorial Army. I was also amazed when he gave a certificate of loyalty to those employers who are using pressure—no other word can be used—using pressure to bring people in economic servitude under them to go into the Territorial force if they are going to earn their daily bread. I happen to belong to a pretty large section of the community—the shop assistants—and the conditions of employment have lost the Volunteers a good many recruits. With a substantial reduction of the hours of labour a good many shop assistants would join the force, but I am here to protest against a man's bread and butter being made to rest upon whether he will join the Territorial force or not. I do not know what is behind the right hon. Gentleman's mind, but I would remind him of a well-known retail establishment in Edinburgh, the name of which not many years ago was a bye-word among shop assistants. At the present time in London there are a large number of these joint-stock companies with managers or under-managers who are ambitious of becoming officers of the Territorial Army. Probably the right hon. Gentleman would be delighted if the large establishments in London—Harrod's or Whiteley's—were to have heads of departments composed of officers of the Territorial Army. In the 1652 case in Edinburgh a commercial traveller came in, and when he asked for Mr. So-and-So, was referred to Colonel So-and-So, who referred him to a major, who referred him to a captain, and so on down to a lieutenant, and everyone at the head of a department had a commission in the volunteers. It may be all right for the vanity of these men, but it is an encroachment upon the rights of the individual, and any person who joins the Territorials or the Army ought to have a right to do it of his own free will and should not be under any compulsion so far as employment is concerned. I am convinced that, so far as the "Daily Mail" is concerned, the Alliance Insurance Company and all the other firms who are pretending to support the right hon. Gentleman, are doing it with no other idea than either of getting a huge advertisement or getting for themselves the position of officers in the Territorial Army. I am not one of those who say there should be no defence of the nation. Notwithstanding what may be said against the old country, I think it is still the best country, and I am prepared under proper conditions to see that it is defended, not on the grounds laid down by the scaremongers, but to defend the hearths and homes of the people. I believe under proper conditions the workers of the country would be prepared to answer the call on a volunteer basis without any compulsion at all from their employers. What is the position of the shop assistant? The great bulk of them are under no lengthy engagement, but are engaged and liable to be discharged at a moment's notice. There is at present, I regret to say, a great number who are unemployed. It has been one of the misfortunes in the changes of industry in this country that a large number have flocked behind the counters or become clerks, and as a consequence, whatever may be the state of the labour market, it can be said with truth that the shop workers and the clerks are two branches of occupation which are overcrowded to a very large extent. Young men come up to London from the country seeking experience. They present themselves at those large establishments and they are confronted by the recruiting officer. They have come there to seek their daily bread, but there is a barrier raised, and they are informed that unless they are prepared to join the Territorial Force the vacancy will be left open for someone else who is prepared to comply with the conditions. That to my mind is neither honest nor fair. If we are to 1653 have conscription, in heaven's name let us have conscription, but let it not be used to say that the right hon. Gentleman has created a force for the defence of the nation when at the base of this growing force that he is so proud of there is tyranny and an attempt made to prevent these people earning their daily bread because they will not comply with the terms laid down by the prospective employer. If we are to have conscription, let it be all round. Let not a few shop assistants and clerks who may work for the Alliance or any other firm be picked out and have the alternative of becoming Territorialists or losing the opportunity of earning their daily bread. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will live many long years and occupy his present position. I am sure he has no idea at the back of his mind that in a year or two he himself will not still occupy his position, whatever happens, as Minister of War, to build this new structure that he has laid the foundation of. I hope he will. But if he is looking forward to that time he had better build with certainty rather than with the optimism which seemed to characterise his remarks this afternoon. If it gets abroad that the bread and butter of a certain section of the workers depends on joining the Territorial Force, those who would be willing to join as free agents will refuse to join because others are being penalised. The right hon. Gentleman's present method is neither honourable nor fair. I have no doubt it is very pleasant for him to go to Newcastle and get surrounded by enthusiastic employers. It may be very nice to read in the "Daily Mail" that this pet scheme is getting volunteers by the hundred every day. But I think, if he will reflect for a moment, that the best and surest road to success is the honourable straightforward road, and if he would give an intimation that he has no desire, but rather reprobates the pressure which is being placed by employers upon their workpeople, he would do far more to advance the Territorial system than by accepting the help of those men who are doing it for a huge advertisement or to get a commission in the force. With reference to the officers, it may be that under our present conditions for the Regular Army the officers must come from the privileged classes, with a few exceptions. They have time and money, and I admit frankly that the calling of an officer or a soldier, but especially an officer, is not the play nor the pleasant life that a good many people have thought it has 1654 been, and may have been, in days gone by. I believe an officer in the Army, whether foot, horse, or artillery, has to be a man who will give attention and devotion to his duties if he is going to do anything either for himself or for the Army.
It may be that, until we get that economic freedom that I am looking forward to, when we shall have equality of opportunity, it is necessary, so far as the Regular force is concerned, to select to a large extent your officers from the privileged classes, but I do not think that holds good so far as the auxiliary forces are concerned. I think in the Territorial Army we might start on the democratic basis that, say, five years hence every officer shall pass through an examination, and that it shall be irrespective of the particular calling that he has in life. In visiting a Continental country where they have a citizen army, what struck me most was the fact that many of the officers who were at the manœuvres were the servants of the soldiers who were there as well. I had one concrete case where a major in the Swiss Army was giving orders to a non-commissioned officer, and it turned out that the major was a commissionaire at the bank and the non-commissioned officer was the manager of the bank. There is no aristocracy in brains and there is no aristocracy in bravery; and in your Territorial Force there should be, for young men willing to join, the incentive that in the course of time, by application and by passing an examination, they may, irrespective of their position in life or their means, hope to become officers. If the right hon Gentleman would allay the suspicion that men are being coerced into the Territorial Army, and if he would also support the idea I am advancing that the Territorial Army was to be a democratic force, he would get considerably larger numbers than he would get through the coercion by employers of men who are trying to earn their daily bread.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
I concur in every word said by the last speaker with regard to coercion being used to compel men to join the Territorial branch of His Majesty's forces. My belief is that as the Territorial forces become better known the compulsion will not come from above but from below. I have seen a great deal of the citizens' army both in this country and in the Colonies, and I have been intimately acquainted with a corps which was largely recruited from certain commercial houses and certain factories, and the esprit de corps created by the comradeship in 1655 these corps particularly connected with those industrial houses was such that it was an inducement to every man to come in. The employer did not intervene, but the pressure came from the men themselves, and I think my hon. Friend will agree with me that that is the right presure. It is the same kind of pressure which is exercised in the public school, the villarge club, and elsewhere to get young men to go in football teams or cricket teams. That is the form of pressure which we as Englishmen are accustomed to. I thoroughly agree that the intervention of the employer in these cases is most undesirable, and certainly should not be encouraged.
With regard to the second point of the last speaker as to the democratic basis of the Territorial forces and promotion from the ranks, there used to be certainly in the Metropolitan volunteers, and there are to my knowledge in all the great Colonial militia forces, corps in which men are only allowed to enter through the ranks, and my experience of them invariably is that they are the most efficient. There, again, I think you get the most valuable form of pressure, the pressure of common opinion, public opinion, the opinion of comrades among one another. I do not rise specially to deal with this question, which has been dealt with so much better by my hon. Friend, but I rise to express the feeling of disappointment which I believe to be shared by many Members on this side of the House with which I heard the statement of my right hon. Friend to-day, and with which I read his otherwise interesting memorandum. That disappointment arises not from anything he said but rather from what he left unsaid. There was a great deal in the statement of my right hon. Friend with which I fully concur, and of which I heartily approve. If I were merely to quote these points on which I am in the fullest possible agreement with him, if he will permit me to say so, I think nothing could have been stronger or more lucid than his statement of the strategical considerations which had governed his policy. He is not a man who is frightened by bogies of invasion. Of that I need not say anything further. Then there is one of the important questions which interest me extremely, that of the Imperial General Staff. That is a matter in which I have been engaged personally for a good many years. I believe that I was one of the first who moved in that direction 10 or 12 years ago. Therefore I rejoice to see that 1656 it is taking definite shape, and that we are having an extension of the staff college institutions. I hope that the Colonies will be encouraged to develop those institutions which they have already got, like that very valuable Kingston College in Canada, and to advance that into a local staff college.
Side by side with that I venture to hope that that which I have had before my eyes for years, the interchange of the units and officers of our distant possessions with those at home will be carried out to a greater extent than it is at present. All that seems to me to be thoroughly sound. I also rejoice to see the vast improvement that has been effected in the condition of the soldiers, and to hear the very interesting work of the medical branch under Sir Alfred Keogh, showing the result of his well-thought-out scheme, with its reduction of no less than 12 per 1,000 in the death rate in the troops in India and the Colonies, and a corresponding decrease in the number of men invalided home, and I say that the work that is being done in the War Office is better now than it has ever been. We have heard these results of the great measure of the right hon. Gentleman of two years ago, and they reflect great credit on him and those who have been associated with him. They are due, as we all know, in great measure to his own personal influence, his immense energy, his great enthusiasm, and his unfailing urbanity, which have all helped to make this Success. But what we did hope to hear something about was something that would have established a connection between the Estimates submitted to us and the general policy of the Government in relation to our foreign and Colonial policy, which has been marked by such wisdom and such moderation. There we are left wholly in the dark. The acts of the Government in the Foreign and Colonial Departments have been characterised by a peaceful tendency. That being so, why do we see in the military spending Departments a condition of things which rather recalls the stirring times not of a peaceful, but of a less peaceful Administration? There is another matter which has been passed over in complete silence. Comparisons have been made in the past by the late and the present Prime Minister, and other Members sitting on the Treasury Bench, between the military expenditure of the late Government and that of previous Governments. It has been shown again and again how in ten years the military expenditure of this country was piled up from £18,000,000 to £28,000,000, and there 1657 it remains. What we would like to know is whether the Government intends to go back at all to the more modest expenditure of former great Liberal Administrations. When are they going to begin? Perhaps it would be better for me to inquire, did they begin and end their reduction of military expenditure in 1906?
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
The hon. Member says they never started, but they did make one spasmodic attempt towards virtue in 1906, but they have relaxed ever since. [An HON. MEMBER: "And fallen from grace."] The fact is that both in this House and outside there is to-day a greater and more insistent cry for a reduction of expenditure on armaments than there was in 1906. I will not speak dogmatically, but from my own experience. In 1906 the Under-Secretary for the Colonies moved a considerable reduction in the number of men, but I did not support him then, because I held that such a Vote at such a time would have been to express or imply a doubt in the Government and in my right hon. Friend which I did not feel at that time. I do not know whether I could do that now. The right hon. Gentleman says the Government have reduced the expenditure, but I will give him credit for his reduction by-and-by. I have some doubt as to whether the belief outside this House is not growing that when the right hon. Gentleman talks about retrenchment it is not seriously meant. The Secretary of State for War says he has reduced the Army. I admit that he has carried out the promised reduction in South Africa, but as far as the total expenditure on armaments is concerned there has been no reduction.
There was, I admit, a considerable and substantial reduction during the first year the right hon. Gentleman was in office, and the lowest point was reached in 1907–8 when the expenditure fell to £27,141,000. The estimates submitted to us must be based upon the experience of preceding years, and if they show a certain figure in one year it is legitimate to accept that as a basis of what the expenditure should be in the following year. I will merely deal with this question in general terms. Looking through the Estimates given of a series of ten years and taking the various heads of expenditure, I see that in the present year, comparing them with two years ago, the decreases amount to something over £1,000,000, but they are counterbalanced by increases which considerably exceed 1658 £1,000,000, and, therefore, we remain practically in the same position. I feel obliged to say that there has been no grappling with that excessive expenditure on military armaments which was promised. I will not go into details on this point, because I do not think any useful object will be served by discussing mere technicalities. I do, however, hope that I may hear that before this debate ends from some authoritative source on the Treasury Bench what it is the Government intend to do to deal effectively with this constant chronic state of high expenditure which has been condemned by the Cabinet itself individually and collectively, and has also been condemned by the country at large.
§ Sir BERKELEY SHEFFIELD
The right hon. Gentleman said he was going to follow the example of Germany, and was going to loan out to farmers a certain number of horses during the winter months. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how, in loaning them out, he is going to assure himself that they are being properly cared for and looked after? Is he going to appoint special inspecting officers, or is he going to leave the responsibility entirely to each individual regiment? Are the officers of the individual regiments to decide on the horses which are to leave the regiment during the winter, and that are to be loaned out? Also if the farmer has a certain number of horses, or one horse, is that farmer to pay the War Office or the Department a small fee. Is it to be a sine qua non that the horses are only to be put to certain work? For, I cannot for the life of me, see that it would be a good thing for the highly-trained horses to be put to heavy plough work on heavy land, or that they should have to drag heavy waggons very many miles to a railway station, etc.
It seems to me that if some rule is not made as to what these horses are to be used for by the farmer, very often perhaps—I do not say it would occur always—these horses will be returned in nothing like a fit and proper condition.
Then there is this to be said about it: that if this loan of horses is to be done on a very large scale, I have a certain amount of fear that it will tend to make the farmer breed fewer horses—most certainly to keep fewer himself. I also fear that it will tend to supersede shire horses. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has had in his mind the effect it may have upon the individual farmer, not only in keeping or 1659 breeding, but also upon the horses that should be at farm work—the shire horses. I was grievously disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman did not mention the future supply of horses, and the breeding of them. It is an essential fact that if you are going to get horses, you must get farmers in England to breed them. I was disappointed that no remark was made by the right hon. Gentleman on the report of the Conference of 1906 on the Breeding of Horses for the Army. I would have liked to have heard some promise of future legislation to prevent foreigners coming into this country, and buying up all the eligible horses and mares that they can get hold of. I ask these questions in the hope that the right hon. Gentleman, or his representative, will see that there is something in them, and, by his replies, calm the minds of horse-breeders.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I wish to make a remark specially with reference to the subject that has been debated, or at least mentioned by previous speakers in this afternoon's debate. I mean I wish to draw attention to the fact that gradually under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the avenues that used to be open, even those few avenues that allowed the common soldier to rise above the ordinary non-commissioned ranks, are being gradually closed, and that the proportion of promotions during the term of his control, as Secretary for War, of the Army has gradually grown less every year. The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary shakes his head, but I think it is only necessary for him to look at the figures of the returns which have been given on the subject to show that my statement is quite true—that the proportion is getting less and less. It is rather surprising that that should be so, because I understand that never during the Army debates in this House has so much attention been drawn to the dearth of officers. It is a surprising thing that our Army establishment, under the control of a Liberal Administration, is becoming more aristocratic instead of more democratic.
No attempt is made to use the enormous—there must be an enormous—amount of real ability among common soldiers. No effort is being made whatever to secure that ability for the service of the army, and its organisation. Any wild-cat scheme to exploit the public schools and the boys in them, every suggestion, so long as it tends to maintain the aristocratic control of this branch of our public service, every- 1660 thing in that direction is considered, and not a single effort is being made at the present moment to secure the enormous amount of waste energy, that after a few years in the ranks finds it is utterly impossible to make a career, and therefore, I am afraid, retires in disgust.
In discussing this subject privately with the right hon. Gentleman himself he said that he could not see how this could be done without considerably raising the salaries of the officers. I do not think that that is the way to solve the problem at all. I think that you will probably find that the salaries of the officers are quite enough as they are; for however much you raise the salary the man with a private income of £1,000 will be always able to live that much above the man who has not such an income. I think the tendency should be instead of raising the salary to limit the luxuries of the men. I think that some limitation should be put on conformable to the salary paid to the officer, and that it should be understood that better opportunities will be given to the private soldier to become a commissioned officer, providing he has the ability to rise. At present there is no chance whatever in the Army for a clever, but poor, man; no opportunity is given to him to exercise his ability. Apparently the Army is managed on the assumption that a common soldier never wants to be anything else, never wants to be a commissioned officer, never wants to study military tactics or organisation, or the history of the Army, in order that he may understand his profession. It is taken for granted in all kinds of debates that take place in this House that the common soldier would prefer, as it were, to be officered by an aristocrat, no matter how incompetent he may be. I hope the hon. Gentleman will convey to the Secretary of State my opinion, and that of the hon. Member who has just spoken, that there is a wealth of ability in the ranks and among the common soldiers if only he will pay a little more attention, and that he would not have to go so much to the public schools to cajole the lads into becoming officers if only he applies himself to making the Army a more democratic institution than it is. While in Switzerland I was struck by the democratic spirit which prevails in the Army. I went into a great engineering works at Zurich, where I found that the manager was in one of the battalions, and I could not tell how it was that one of his workpeople was an officer over him. I asked him how it was, and 1661 he replied that in the Swiss Army an officer must have been a good common soldier, and that he himself had always failed at shooting, and that was the reason he had never obtained a commission in the Army. I suppose some of our officers in the English Army are the worst shots, and ability as a common soldier does not count for anything in making promotion safe. In connection with the Swiss Army I learned that if a man of special ability, who knew himself to be thoroughly competent, had been overlooked by those in charge of the particular part of the Army to which he belonged, he could actually appeal first to his commanding officer and say, "I have so many marks; I am efficient in every particular, and I wish to have an opportunity for gaining a commisson." And from the commanding officer there is appeal to the Army Council. There were 24 common soldiers who appealed to the Army Council to be given their chance to become officers. The people have some sympathy with an Army like that. But with an Army where the poor men are to do the fighting and the rich men are to be the officers and take the high salaries you are not going to have a democratic or popular Army. The day has gone by for that. Now the young soldier is educated, his ideas are altered, and it is impossible to keep him in that condition of stoical indifference which previously existed in the ranks. I am delighted it is so.
I think it is unfortunate that only 10 per cent. of the men are entitled to re-enlist again under the colours for the purpose of securing pensions. I appealed to the Minister for War the other day to see whether he could raise the percentage a little; 10 per cent. is a very small proportion. I think an opportunity should be given to the soldier to make a career, and even if he can only become a non-commissioned officer, he should have a chance of keeping with the colours so that he may, at least, having entered into the profession, have some confidence that he has a career before him, and that he will have an opportunity of continuing in the service. The other point is as to compulsory service. I have no objection to discussing anywhere the question of conscription or voluntary enlistment, and if the country decides for compulsion, we who disagree must submit. But I do object to the right hon. Gentleman and his Department introducing surreptitiously, without debate in this House, a 1662 form of compulsion which is the worst form that can possibly be adopted. If the State decides to compel citizens to join the Army, then the wealthy as well as the poor would be compelled to join and learn the goose-step. But the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman opens up a phase of compulsion which hon. Gentlemen will see is not very satisfactory, looked at from any point of view. If this goes on, what would happen would be that the poor man who has to work for his living would be forced to serve if conscription were applied to him, whereas the wealthy and independent could refuse and would consequently be in a position of safety, with their individual liberty maintained, and, under those circumstances, I consider that it is the worst form of conscription that one could possibly imagine. You could not have conscription to defend our Empire unless you kept the young conscript for four or five years, and you could not do that in this country.
When one comes to consider it, there is no necessity for this in the Territorial Army. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the Territorial Army and the whole idea of it. I supported him in this House and I see no reason for objecting to it now. I see nothing attaching to the organisation whatever but what has been beneficial and may stave off the efforts of the National Service Association to force compulsory service. It has given unity of organisation and purpose, when before it was only a sort of military scrapping. It is organised on one basis and can be used effectively for the purpose for which it was intended. Compulsion is not necessary, and the thing so far has been a huge success, therefore, I think the hon. Gentleman has been ill-advised in sanctioning in the slightest degree the coercion that has been sought to be put on the workmen to join this branch of our service by employers who employ them.