§ Sir A. GRIFFITH - BOSCAWEN
I desire to raise a different question and one of very great importance from the financial point of view, and that is the condition of the Special Reserve Force at the present, time. My excuse for raising it on the Appropriation Bill is this: For three years this question was never discussed in Committee of this House at all. On every single occasion the particular Vote for the Special Reserve was closured. This year we had a very short discussion upon it on the Estimates—it lasted under two hours. The answer of the Government was in my opinion most unsatisfactory. The Secretary of State was not here.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
The right hon. Gentleman may have been here part of the time, but at all events he did not take any part in the Debate. Perhaps he did not think the Special Reserve sufficiently important for him to intervene. At any rate, the Financial Secretary to the War Office replied, and I feel bound to say—I do not want to be rude to him—that his answer displayed very little interest and not a very great amount of knowledge as to the position of the Special Reserve. I think we are justified, having regard to 2306 the importance of the subject, and to the fact that we got a very inadequate answer on the last occasion from the Government in raising the question again, especially as the Special Reserve was designed by Lord Haldane in his much-advertised scheme to play a very important function. As we understand, part of the Special Reserve was to be utilised as units, some of them to join the Expeditionary Force, and the rest to carry out the important function of providing drafts for the Regular battalions. If the Special Reserve breaks down, if this part of the military machine is not in proper use, the whole organisation of the Army as a military scheme breaks down altogether. It is, therefore, most important, considering our defences as a whole, that we should see that the Special Reserve and every other part of Lord Haldane's machine is in working order. I will just recall the history of this question. Lord Haldane, for reasons which appeared to him adequate—and he was supported in this House and in the other House—chose to abolish the old Militia Force. I must say that I never thought it was a very wise thing to do. What was the position of the Militia at the time this change was made? They had their difficulties, we all know, but, at all events, the Militia Force had this characteristic: it was the only force which could provide units in time of emergency or war. Old forces like the Volunteers and Yeomanry did very good service, but they could not come out as units. What the Militia did in the South African war was really rather remarkable. Of no less than 126 battalions of Militia which came out as units in the South African war, sixty-one served in South Africa, nine in the Mediterranean, and fifty-six at home.
The result was that they freed so many Regular battalions to go to the front. Whether they were in garrison in this country or on the lines of communication in South Africa, or whether they occupied important stations like Malta, Egypt, or Gibraltar, they were freed to go to the front; and if the Militia had not come out as military units, we could not have sent so many battalions to the front, by a very large number, as we actually did. You abolished the Militia altogether, and substituted the Special Reserve. What is the position of the Special Reserve now? In place of 126 units of Infantry, with a certain number of batteries of Artillery and corps of Engineers, we have a total Special Reserve which numbers only 2307 80,860 men. But the actual strength is only 57,153 men; in other words, it is 23,707 men short. It is not only a question of being short in men, but it is a question of being short in officers. Let us take, not the whole Special Reserve, but the Infantry part of it. The establishment of the Infantry Special Reserve is 63,000 odd; the actual strength is only 47,000, a deficiency of 15,571, these being the actual figures. If you take the officers, you find that out of 2,207 officers there is a deficiency of no less than 1,161. My contention is that under the present conditions, with the deficiency of men and the deficiency of officers, it would be quite impossible for the Special Reserve to carry out the functions allotted to it under the Haldane scheme. In the old days the whole of the Militia Infantry were available to come but as units. We have now only twenty-seven fourth battalions to come out as units. We have special Reserve and Extra Special Reserve, and I hate those newfangled names. Instead of 126 battalions which we had before to come out as units, we have only twenty-seven fourth battalions, and seventy-four drafting battalions. As to the twenty-seven fourth battalions their establishment is 750; but what are the actual figures? According to a statement made this afternoon in answer to a question put by me to the Secretary of State, their actual average strength instead of being 750 is only 490. From the 490 must be deducted at, least 10 per cent. for immature lads who could not serve; in other words, on the average, they would come out only 440 strong, it may be as part of the Expeditionary Force, or at all events on mobilisation.
They have got no Reserve at all. How are they going to be reinforced? The Army has an Army Reserve, and also the main part of the Special Reserve. Where are the Reserves to come from? The Noble Lord in the other House said the third battalions could reinforce the fourth battalions. How can they do that? There are also 392 officers short, taking the twenty-seven battalions. I say it is perfectly ludicrous talking of the twenty-seven battalions taking the field with only 440 men on the average, and with a shortage of officers which in the case of some battalions amounts to no less than fifteen out of a nominal twenty-eight. Let us look at the seventy-four drafting battalions. Their establishment is 580; but their actual average strength, according to the figures which have been circulated, is only 473 per 2308 battalion. From that you have to deduct, first of all, 47 per cent. who go on to the Line. If they go on to the Line, you cannot count them twice over—you cannot count them as recruits, and also as belonging to the Special Reserve. You have to deduct another 10 per cent. in respect of immature lads, and that brings the number down to 225 per battalion. In fact the whole total available for drafts is only 16,000. I am perfectly certain that Lord Haldane intended the Special Reserve to find a great deal more than 16,000 in the way of drafts. That is all you have now—27 weak battalions to go out as units—battalions of under 500 strength, and 16,000 for drafts.
The fact is the Government are allowing the Special Reverve to slip away altogether. Apparently they are not taking any steps—I am not aware of any steps they are taking—to deal with this question. If you allow your Special Reserve to be treated in this way, your whole military machine breaks down, and the Government are bound to find something else, or they must bring up the Special Reserve to its proper strength. Let us consider what the Government proposes to do Although I deplore very greatly the reduction in strength, and think it a very serious matter. I am bound to admit one improvement that was made by the new scheme: The efficiency of the Special Reserve is certainly greater than that of the old Militia. The presence of regular established officers has certainly been of great advantage, and if anybody looks back to the manœuvres in 1910, when a large number of Special Reserve battalions sent drafts to their Line battalions in order to bring them up to the proper strength, it must be recognised that the Special Reservists did uncommonly well on that occasion. That is why it is such a frightful pity that something more is not done to bring them up to strength. On the last occasion I made a good many suggestions, and I will repeat them and make one or two others which I hope the Secretary of State will take into consideration, and endeavour to carry them into effect. Possibly the wisdom of the War Office may suggest something. The War Office does not exist merely to listen to what private Members do, and surely something might be devised in the Department itself.
Here are some of the proposals that I make. Take first of all the difficulty of getting officers. That difficulty was originally due to this: Lord Haldane in his 2309 scheme provided that young men joining the Reserve had to do twelve months preliminary drill on probation with a Line battalion. I admit that in practice those who went under that probation undoubtedly made more efficient officers than those who did not undergo that drill. But the difficulty was that you could not get young men in the country with leisure to give twelve months to this drill on probation. I have interviewed many young men who were anxious to join, but when they were told they had to do twelve months preliminary drill they simply said, "We cannot do it." The situation has been somewhat eased by an alteration which has been made reducing the period from twelve months to six months, but it is far from being eased sufficiently. Only last week a promising young subaltern told me that he could not manage the six months. In view of the great difficulty of finding officers for the Special Reserve I suggest that you should get rid of the probation altogether, and lay down simply that a new officer must do three months with a Line battalion some lime in the first two years that he serves. I agree that we shall not perhaps get the full efficiency we obtained under the probationary service, but surely it is better to get more officers to fill up the ranks, as we have to do at the present time, and teach them as best we can, instead of making it almost impossible to get them at all. Look at the position. These twenty-seven extra special battalions you have to regard as units. They are frightfully short of officers now. Take the case of the third battalions. If mobilisation came the 3rd Battalion would be in a very remarkable position. In my battalion on mobilisation I should find myself in charge of 1,600 or 1,800 men, and you would have all the immature lads and an enormous number of men of all kinds thrown together from the different services. The Regular establishment of officers would be taken away and we should have to send four officers of the Special Reserve to the Regular battalion, and we should be left with something like fourteen officers in charge of all those hundreds of men. That is an absurd position, and if you are going to have efficient drafting you must provide a scheme for more officers for the Special Reserve. I make another suggestion. One difficulty with regard to Special Reserve officers is the unnecessary cost and expense which is put upon them, not by extravagant living in the Special 2310 Reserve, but by the Government pure and simple. There is the question which I mentioned before, and to which I got no answer, and that is the question of bands. I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree that from the point of view of getting recruits, not only men, but officers, it is important to have an efficient band attached to a battalion. We get now a sergeant-drummer and eight permanent staff drummers, who are drummers and not musicians, and £25 per year. Nobody on earth could run a band on those terms. The only way it can be done at all is by the Special Reserve officers putting their hands pretty deeply into their pockets to make up the deficiency, which the Government ought not to allow to take place at all. Then, again, the Government gives a retaining fee to officers. I myself never asked for a retaining fee, and, as a matter of fact, officers over thirty-five years of age do not get it; and why they do not, when you give it at all, for the life of me I cannot understand! If you are going on a system of retaining fee to endeavour to get officers, you ought to give an adequate retaining fee, and not stop it at the age of thirty-five.
I come to the question of men. One difficulty of the Special Reserve is this. No Government, and I do not say this Government in particular, because in the old Militia days it was the same, ever treated the Special Reserve or the old Militia properly. They have always been treated as a sort of stepchild for whom the Government apologise. Take the uniform, could there be anything more horribly devised than the red serges and the antediluvian helmets which the Special Reservists have at the present moment? I was in camp recently when there was a large number of Territorials, and I can assure you when they walked out they had quite a nice appearance, and they wore very smart things. The Government dole out to us these miserable, part-worn, serge things, which fit in the most baggy way, and helmets the like of which I have never seen. In my battalion I was so ashamed of them that I would not take them out last year. If yon want to attract recruits you must treat them properly, and give them a dress in which they can walk out and feel smart. You make them now absolutely a laughing-stock, and they are the very worst-dressed people in the Army. It may be said that all the work in the Special Reserve is done in khaki; but when they walkout they should gel a decent dress that would make them feel smart 2311 and proud of the corps to which they belong. There is another suggestion made by the hon. Member for Somerset, namely, that in the case of the Special Reserve the men should get a separation allowance, just as in the Regulars and in the Territorials. That should be given to all married Special Reservists who are in camp. There is no doubt about it that it is a great hardship to many of those married men who are separated for four weeks from their wives and families that they are given no separation allowance. I venture to think that if an allowance were given it would do a good deal in the way of attracting men.
I would go much further. I would like to adopt in the Special Reserve in this country a scheme very similar to some scheme in operation abroad at present. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, in certain foreign countries, I think in Germany and France, recruits are enlisted to serve first of all with the Colours, and then to serve in what you may call the Army Reserve; and, last of all, they serve in the Landwehr or Militia, Force. An attempt has been made in this country, especially in the fourth battalion, to enlist old soldiers. I do not know to what extent it has been successful; but I do know that in my own battalion we have got very few of them. I make the suggestion that you should deliberately enlist a certain number of men in this country on the understanding that after doing seven years with the Colours and five years with the Reserve that they should do four years in the Special Reserve. I think in that way you would get a regular stream of recruits from the Army every year. No doubt the old soldiers would get some extra attraction. A scheme of that kind would be of the very greatest advantage to the Special Reserve, at all events. That is the suggestion which I put forward, and it might be done in all cases, so that the time-expired man would go into the Special Reserve. I do not know whether that would result in stopping recruiting for the Army generally; but you might have a special class of recruit, and take them with that object in view; and in that way I feel sure you would largely fill the depleted ranks of the Special Reserve.
There are some other minor suggestions. One of the greatest difficulties we have is this: when Special Reservists join as recruits they are called Special Reservists, and are entered in the recruiting list as such in the weekly or monthly strength, 2312 and are sent down to the commanding officer, although many of those never go out to training at all. When they have completed their recruit drill they get a bounty of 30s., and go into the Line. It has been suggested, and I think the suggestion is a very good one, that no recruit should get that 30s. on completion of his recruit drill unless he has done at least one training in the Special Reserve. In that way you would strengthen and stiffen the battalion in camp, and I think it is only sensible that a man should not be called a Special Reservist unless he has done at least one training in the corps. I have ventured therefore to call attention, and I know some of my hon. Friends desire to call the attention, of the Government to the condition of affairs. I want to know if the Government seriously propose to do anything to mend the present state of affairs. They must be conscious that if the Special Reserve breaks down the whole scheme of mobilisation breaks down. That part of the scheme cannot work if it is so depleted in strength as at present. I want to ask the Government whether they are willing to take vigorous and strong steps to put the Special Reserve into the condition in which it was intended to be by Lord Haldane; and I desire to point out that as they have abolished the Militia, and are allowing the Special Reserve to disappear, they have taken away what was, and still might be, a very useful force in the Army. I raise this point in no spirit of hostility. I believe, myself, thoroughly in the efficiency and spirit of the Special Reserve. I believe if the Government would only give some encouragement and help, it might be made one of the most useful forces we have at the present time.
§ Sir REGINALD POLE-CAREW
I wish to say a very few words on what I venture to think is a most important subject. Looking round the House I am sorry to see that my opinion is not the same as that held by some hon. Members. I do think that this is a most serious question. It appears to me that it is acknowledged by most reasonable human beings that we maintain our Armed Forces, both on land and on sea, to police and to look after our possessions and our commerce and our food supplies in every part of the world; and to enable us to take our part in preserving the balance of power and therefore the peace of the world, and, if, unfortunately we are driven into war to fight for our homes and our country. I apologise for 2313 uttering these platitudes, but when one sees the state of these benches at present, and when one hears the speeches which are not infrequently indulged in by hon. Members and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, in which, on the one hand they object to pay, and on the other hand they apologise for asking them to pay, then I do think that the time has come when they should be given to understand what they do not now fully understand, namely, that for every nation which is self-respecting and has anything to lose, armed forces are a necessity. If they are a necessity surely it is only sensible and wise that we should try and make them able and fit for the purpose for which they are raised. And unless they are fit and able to be mobilised when the time comes, I venture to say that the money spent on them is money thrown away. I go further, and I say that in modern times any nation that is able to mobilise quicker than others, given a not too great disparity in quality and numbers, that nation will surely be the one that will win. In the Army Debates we have had in this House in the last two years we on this side of the House I think undoubtedly have had the best of the arguments when we attempted to show the faults and expose the blots in our present system. I say that with great sorrow, because I feel sure that we all in this House only wish that the training and organisation of our forces should be such as to ensure success if ever we are called on to fight. I think it has been clearly demonstrated that we cannot mobilise according to the numbers adumbrated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and we cannot do it with that rapidity which alone can ensure success. That being the case in the Regular Forces, in the Territorials we have proof that what was said in another place about two years ago by an Under-Secretary was quite correct, namely, that it was never intended to send six divisions out of this country until six months after war had begun. As my hon. and gallant Friend has pointed out, it was only on the 16th of last month that, the first time I think for three years, the House had an opportunity of discussing the Special Reserve—a most important part of the whole chain. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, that if one link of the chain is weak the whole is rendered ineffective; but I differ from him because I think there is no link in the chain that is really sound at all.
§ Sir R. POLE-CAREW
Am I the Government? What are the Government spending £27,000,000 a year for? For very little, because what they have is not perfect, and unless it is perfect it is no good. I cannot understand why the Government were in such a hurry to abolish that grand old constitutional force, the Militia. They had a nominal strength of 130,000 men. They trained 100,000 men. They found 126 units during the South African war. Not only did they release sixty-five battalions of the Line in the Mediterranean and in this country, but they sent sixty-one of their own battalions on active service in that war. Look, too, at their record. They had a grand record; they never failed to answer to the call. They always did excellent service; they were very proud of their name; they were very proud of their traditions, and justifiably so. Moreover, they had behind them a very great and valuable power, the power of the ballot, which is not possessed by the Special Reserve. Why did the Government get rid of them in such a hurry? If it was thought necessary to improve their training, to improve their constitution, and to render them legally liable for active service in the field—although they had never failed to answer the call—surely it would have been better to have given the old Militia every chance before it was decided to sweep them away. That is why I quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman opposite. That is the record of the Radical party. They are always ready to destroy and never able to build up. They are exactly the opposite of what I think Burke said was the ideal of a statesman. They have not the desire to preserve, and they have not the ability to improve. I think the Militia is a case in point.
Turning to the Special Reserve, with which my hon. Friend has dealt very fully and ably, instead of 126 battalions, what have we to fall back upon? As my hon. Friend pointed out, we have twenty-seven weak battalions, which, according to the showing of the right hon. Gentleman himself, will not produce more than 400 men apiece, and are terribly short of officers. 2315 These battalions are to be embodied in case of war, and presumably they are to perform the duties of the 126 battalions of the old Militia, or, at any rate, of the sixty-five battalions which relieved the battalions in the Mediterranean and in this country. I call that rather a tall order. When the question was put to the Under-Secretary on the 16th of last month he made absolutely no reply. He comforted himself with the thought that certain speakers on this side of the House, who had put their case very forcibly, had said, as my hon. Friend said to-day, that the training of the Special Reserve was better than that of the old Militia. Surely that might have been secured without abolishing the Militia. The Under-Secretary could not understand why a change of name should make any difference in recruiting, nor how it was that men should prefer to serve in their own county regiments and under their own county name rather than in a regiment of which they had never heard before. If that is his feeling, it is a very great pity that when the Government instituted a training school for officers they did not also institute a training school for Under-Secretaries, as the hon. Gentleman might then have learnt something about his office. The ordinary Special Reserve, as has been pointed out, consist of seventy-four battalions, and they are to provide drafts for the Regular Army in time of war. My hon. Friend has shown conclusively that when the call comes they cannot number more than 16,000 men. There are in the Special Contingent some 15,000, or thereabouts, who are to go with the Expeditionary Force. I want to know of whom the Special Contingent consists. If you have only 16,000 in the Special Reserve it must consist of somebody else. Fifteen thousand are to go. Who are they? What are they? Are they to go as regiments? Are they to be embodied? Are they to have their full complement of officers? Are they, if any of them are mounted, to have horses? In fact, where are they to come from? I think these are important questions which ought to be answered. Possibly the Yeomanry are mixed up with them. That may be so, but they are called Special Reserves. If there are twenty-seven regiments of the Extra-Special Reserve, and only 16,000 of the rest—and they very short of officers—to find the drafts for the Line, where are the 15,000 for the Special Contingent to come from? There are at least 1,200 officers short, but they have to provide officers for the Line 2316 when they go on active service. This is not an unfair description of the force for which the good old Militia has been destroyed.
The right hon. Gentleman asks for suggestions. I will give him one. Let him at once abolish the Special Reserve and the Extra-Special Reserve, and put back the old Militia. I firmly believe that it would be very much better. I have had experience of it myself. It has the power of the ballot, which may be, and I think will be, of inestimable value when the pinch comes. One thing is perfectly certain from the Debates we have had on this subject and from what we have been told, namely, that you have not one single branch of your land forces at the present moment fit to mobilise with the rapidity which alone can ensure success. This is a very serious state of affairs. The least fit of all the branches to mobilise is the Special Reserve. I will ask one more question. I have asked it before, but it has not been answered. Are the military members of the Army Council satisfied with this state of affairs, or are they not? We do not want the opinion of individual members. We do not want opinions which, if you read between the lines, can be given a very different interpretation from that given by the right hon. Gentleman. We want to know whether the Secretary of State's military advisers as a body are honestly of opinion that the present organisation of our land forces is such that it will provide 150,000 men fit in every way, with transport, horses, officers, and Reserves, for the Expeditionary Force. We want to know whether at the same time it will provide the necessary reinforcements for India and our other possessions abroad, and also give us the garrisons necessary for the safety and security of these islands. Until we get that opinion we are fully justified in telling the right hon. Gentleman that he has not done and is not doing his duty to the country. His organisation—but I will not call it his; I will call it the organisation invented by a voluble and plausible lawyer—has not come up to expectations. At the present moment it is very little beyond a sham and a make-believe, very much like the other efforts in administration of the Radical party. By that oragnisation, and by their supineness in not doing their best to improve it, they are putting this country and the Empire generally in a state of deadly peril.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Colonel Seely)
I think the speech to which we have just listened demands a reply from me at the first possible moment. I know that there are many other Members who desire to address the House on this important subject, but I think it will be for the convenience of the House ff I reply at once to the points raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir R. Pole-Carew) and also to the general statement of the case very ably put by the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen). I take first the general indictment of the policy of the Government as a whole, with special reference to the Special Reserve. I pass by the hon. and gallant Gentleman's sarcasm with regard to a voluble lawyer, by whom I suppose he meant the late Secretary of State for War.
§ Colonel SEELY
I pass it by, because officers of the greatest distinction in all parts of the Empire have united in saying that the Army has been fortunate during the last six years in having at its head a man of such tireless industry and remarkable brain power as the late Secretary of State for War, who listened, thought, and laboured to get the best opinion, and then endeavoured to the best of his ability to put forward a good military organisation in this country, built upon the foundations upon which alone he could build. It may be that the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite would have managed affairs better, but, frankly, I do not think anybody except himself is of that opinion. I will give reasons from the speech to which we have just listened. He urged, on this particular point, that it was a mistake to abolish the old Militia, and to substitute for it the Special Reserve, because in connection with the old Militia you could apply the ballot. That shows a remarkable confusion of thought. The whole object of establishing the Special Reserve, and the reason why the establishment of the Special Reserve was approved in principle by both sides of the House—apart from points of detail, upon which differences must of course arise—was that it was realised by the Committee of Defence and by every thoughtful man that the most important problem for this country was to secure reinforcements for wars oversea. Home defence has an important place in our military organisation. It is agreed on all hands, by men in all parts of the Empire who have studied our 2318 strategical problems, that our great difficulty was to have ready to our hand reinforcements for the Army that has to operate overseas. The obvious reason for that, which I stated several times, and which I now state again, is that during the last hundred years the Army has constantly been at war, but never within these Islands, and the vital problem, the one to which we must devote our attention, is the securing of adequate reinforcements to the Army when engaged in operations overseas. It was for that reason that Lord Haldane, now Lord Chancellor—and I believe in this matter with the approval of the Front Bench opposite—at least I have heard it so stated by members of that Front Bench—decided that it was right to make some sacrifices in numbers in order to secure a force which could be employed for foreign service on which the military authorities could count. That being so, what becomes of those extraordinary arguments that we should have retained the old Militia as it was because the ballot could be employed?
§ Sir R. POLE-CAREW
May I say one word? I think the right hon. Gentleman cannot have heard what I said. I said particularly that before you destroyed the Militia would it not have been better to have given them a chance—if you considered your course necessary to make them legally liable to serve overseas—before you did away with them? They had never failed you before.
§ Colonel SEELY
With great respect, I repeat that this confusion of thought is getting more confused. The whole point—and I would call the hon. and gallant Gentleman's attention to it, so that we may arrive at the real point—is that it does not matter whether you would have got the old Militia to accept the foreign service obligation; the point that he makes is that the ballot was an essential part of the Militia for compulsory service.
§ Colonel SEELY
I have never yet heard any responsible man in any quarter of the House propose, and I did not suppose I 2319 ever would have heard it proposed, that you should resort to compulsory service for service overseas. I have never heard it, and I do not suppose I ever shall, that the ballot should be resorted to; that compulsion should be resorted to for service overseas, say, on the frontier of India, or elsewhere. If no responsible man has ever proposed that you should resort to compulsion for service overseas, what becomes of the argument that the advantage of the old Militia was that you could resort to a ballot?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member must give way to the Secretary for War. If he is unable to listen to a reply, he ought not to have made his speech.
§ Colonel SEELY
I pass to a more important part of the Debate which was raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen), whose personal service in the Special Reserve gives him a special right to speak on this matter, and who has given up not only time and thought, but personal active service. Everything he says on the matter, I can assure him, will receive the most careful consideration. When he points out to us, as he did just now, that it is necessary that the War Office should have ideas of its own. I say: "Yes, we have ideas of our own, but in this very difficult matter we do welcome ideas from other sources, especially from those who axe actually serving in the force." It is quite true that the numbers are far below what we hoped they would be. We fully admit that. The reason for that, if I may say so, is not very far to seek. What is necessary for an army in the field? It is to have reinforcements in drafts. This problem of drafts is one that has come to the front since armies in their modern form began. Whenever casualties occur in battle or are caused by disease you want drafts for each battalion, say, fifty men for this, and 200 for that. What is wanted from the military point of view is that you should have these fifty men to be drafted to battalion A and the 200 men to be drafted off to battalion B. That is exactly a thing which does not suit the ideal of the average man; least of all does it suit the ideal of the average Englishman.
We are in a very difficult position then, not only because we cannot adopt compul- 2320 sion even if we would for service overseas—and we have no intention of doing so—but also because it is, no doubt, the genius of the English to co-operate together. They want to go as units. Those who remember what took place at the time of the last great war in which we were engaged will realise the special difficulty that we then had. We wanted to get drafts both from the Volunteers and we should have been glad to have them from the old Militia, but the answer always came: "We will all go together; we do not want to go in driblets." But it is just this going in driblets which is necessary for war, and it is that that the Special Reserve is designed to provide. I fully admit that we have not got the numbers that we want, and that we should be much safer if we had those numbers. I do not, however, for a moment admit that the State is in any peril because we have not got these numbers. I will never admit that. I do not believe it is so. But it would be far better if we could get them. The reason we cannot get them is because the demands of military efficiency are difficult to square with civilian needs and the civilian ideals of the people of this country. It is for that special reason that I welcome the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, when they say that they will gladly co-operate with us in any scheme to make the Special Reserve a success.
On the point that the old Militia was better, or that it would have been wiser to retain it, there is this to be said: It must not be assumed that the old Militia was in every respect a success. We all of us remember it. We remember the excellent service the old Militia rendered in war, but it had many drawbacks similar to those which have been brought before us to-day. They had not the advantage—not being liable to foreign service—that the military authorities knew on whom they could count. It is quite true that they volunteered, but they volunteered as units; and I come back to this point, that when you wanted to fill up your ranks at the front they volunteered, and they wanted, as all Englishmen want, to stand shoulder to shoulder in their organisation, and to go to the front as units. For the purpose of reinforcement the Special Reserve does fulfil military needs. For the reasons I have given the old Militia did not.
§ Colonel SEELY
Quite, and the 4th battalions are only 27 out of the total number. In the case of the old Militia they had other drawbacks. I would quote what was said by my predecessor as showing their deficiency in numbers and in other respects. I do not think anybody disputed the statement made by my right hon. Friend in February, 1907. He said:—They are deficient to the extent of a thousand decrease, and their cost is going up. Ten years ago the cost was £14 per man, now it is £22; so that while they are steadily increasing in cost per head they are steadily decreasing in the efficiency of their units. Of their battalions, of which there is 124, forty-six are not 500 strong, but that does not disclose the worst feature of the organisation. Many battalions have enlisted youths of only about seventeen years of age because they could not get into the Line. These youths would be useless for war. If we had to send the Militia abroad, and if these youths volunteered to go, we could not as a rule send those under twenty, and as a large number are under twenty the battalions are in reality much under the number of their current strength.The whole point of the attack which has been made is that we have abandoned the Militia which was a successful organisation, and have got the Special Reserve, which is not successful. What I am pointing out, what I think I have proved so far, is that the Special Reserve has definite military advantages which the Militia could not possess, in providing reinforcements for the Line, and that the Militia itself suffered from defects as grave, and in some cases even more grave, than the Special Reserve we now have. Let me quote Lord Haldane again. He said, speaking of the old Militia:—That is a deplorable state of things. This force does not yield anything like what we might have expected from the men who compose it, and who, from no fault of their own, are condemned to impotence.I believe that very emphatic statement, made by one who is in all quarters of the House, except one, regarded as a great War Minister, will be endorsed by most people. I think it shows that the old Militia had real defects, and that when we substituted for them the Special Reserve, although we have not achieved all that we hoped, at leave we have got a force which provides us with certain military advantages which the Militia had not. We parted from a force which, in spite of its public spirit, had very grave defects. Anyone who thinks otherwise has, of course, no recollection of the old Militia. One admits the greatness of its patriotic endeavour, and of its services. As to the question of numbers. While I admit that they are far below what they should be, the picture is not quite so gloomy as some may suppose. The actual recruits enlisted for the first six months of the year numbered 2322 11,261, as compared with 9,952 last year, an increase which I only hope may be continued.
§ Colonel SEELY
I am comparing like with like. What number has gone into the Army this year as compared with last year I have not got the figures by me to say, but I think I should have known if they had been abnormal. I think we may say—and it is no party matter—that it is a satisfactory matter that there has been an increased number of recruits joined the first six months of the year. With regard to re-engagement, last May we gave a bounty of £1. This has not had much time to take effect, and I, do not know whether it has had an effect, but the re-engagements of May and June of this year are 1,992, and for the same period of last year they were only 599. And that is highly satisfactory, unless there be some special reason to account for it of which I confess I am not aware.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
One reason is this: The Special Reserve was formed in 1908 and the great bulk of the old Militia transferred to the Special Reserve after four years. That four years is now up, and unless there was very large re-engagement there would be no Special Reserve at all.
§ Colonel SEELY
It was because I thought there was some special reason that I did not want to commit myself to this figure. But my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary reminds me that he gave that information on the last occasion. I may perhaps take this opportunity of saying that though I do not think I heard all he said, because there was a conversation going on in the House in view of the Debate which was to take place in the Adjournment, and it was with great difficulty my hon. Friend could make himself heard, I think it was perhaps a little unkind of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite to complain of the statement made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. He spoke to the House with the greatest difficulty, because the con- 2323 versation was loud and prolonged, but I read every word my hon. Friend said on that occasion, and it seems to me that he made the most complete and lucid statement of the case that could possibly be made at the time at his disposal. I am glad to supplement his statement in any way possible, but I say he made a most lucid and conclusive statement, having regard to the time at his disposal.
§ Colonel SEELY
I am dealing very completely with all the points raised, because hon. Gentlemen opposite are anxious that I should do so. It is true we have a very considerable shortage of officers. There are several things we have to consider, and the first is that the Officers' Training Corps will undoubtedly bring more officers to the Special Reserve, and those who come there are excellent young officers We see the fruits of the Officers' Training Corps already, and I think that very much larger numbers may come from the Officers' Training Corps to the Special Reserve. It is even suggested if we were able to do that which I think we ought to be able to do, namely, to make it more possible for men to be promoted from the ranks and to rise to the higher positions as some have done—as one very eminent officer of the Staff College has done—we might find in the Special Reserve a very suitable and congenial sphere for promoted officers when their pay is less than it costs an officer to live upon. I do not wish to commit myself to a scheme I have seen proposed in many quarters, and for some of which I have great respect, but I think we ought to keep our eyes fixed upon the necessity of enabling every soldier to think that he may have a field-marshal's baton in his kit, so that we may find in the ranks plenty of men capable of serving us in time of war. There is the £20 retaining fee, which I am advised is only for a certain class up to thirty-five years of age. After that age I am advised that retaining fee ceases. I am told that the object of that was to allow the old men to go—I am glad that my hon. and gallant Friend opposite did not take the hint—and to let the young ones come in. When you are short of officers it seems to me unwise to encourage any one to go so long as he is in health and vigour and capable 2324 of serving his country. With regard to the matter of uniforms, I confess I do not like changes in uniforms.
§ Colonel SEELY
No; but if it be the fact, as the hon. and gallant Members assures us, that the uniform is worthy of all the epithets he poured upon it, we must consider whether something equally effective, but less unattractive, cannot be devised.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I was not really referring to my own corps. What I was referring to was the full dress, both of the Regular and of the Territorial, which is a tunic. The Special Reserve only get a very ill-fitting serge jacket, and what I suggest is that they should be put into the same tunic as the Regular battalions and the Territorials.
§ Colonel SEELY
I am glad to have the explanation from the hon. and gallant Gentleman that it is not a large change that he wants, and I shall carefully bear in mind the proposals he makes. I think the Committee will realise that we have one real advantage over our predecessors in the matter of such a force as the Special Reserve. The Special Reserve provides us with men with a certain amount of training and whose names we know. In the National Reserve we have the names of men upon which we could not count before. I fully admit that we do not know how many we can count on, but we can count on more than before, and we know where they are to be found. It only shows the advantage of allowing people to form organisations and effective organisations under military influence. We pay an allowance during training, and we keep up our Special Reserve even to the present small number of 60,000 men. The National Reserve, in an incredibly short space of time, gives a total of 150,000 men, who I am told are willing to take the obligation of serving their country. That brings me to the question of separation allowance, for this Special Reserve. It is always held by the military authorities that the bounties given to the Special Reserve more than compensate for the absence of the separation allowance granted in the case of the Territorials, and I hitherto always inclined to that view. When I intimate that we will consider the point, I in no sense make a promise, because hon. Members will agree with me we must lay out our funds to the greatest advantage, and it may well be that some of those with whom I shall 2325 consult, may advise that as the sums at our disposal are limited, that they should be spent in some other way.
The second point is as regards Territorial titles for regiments. It is said that if you only allow the Special Reserve to retain their Territorial and County titles, you will find it much easier to recruit, and a special instance was given in the case of Cumberland and Denbigh. But I have looked at the Army List and I find in the Army List that in brackets that regiment is described as the "Cumberland Militia," and the other is described in brackets as the "Denbigh and Flint Militia." If it will do any good to take away the brackets, the brackets shall go, and when I say that I would not trouble the House by a statement of that kind unless I meant it to be symptomatic of changes we are perfectly prepared to attempt.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to make such a change that in these two cases the official title shall be the Cumberland Militia and the Denbigh Militia. It is not a question of putting these titles between brackets in the Army List. That only suggests to us the original title.
§ Colonel SEELY
We put them in brackets in the Army List, and we are willing to take away the brackets, but if I am asked to abolish the title "3rd Welsh Royal Fusiliers," and substitute that for the "Denbigh Militia," I doubt if that would have the support of the Special Reserve as a whole. The matter demands inquiry and more close attention, but to take away the title by which they are affiliated to their regular unit is I think going too far without much further inquiry, as this particular unit might bitterly resent being described as not being one of the battalions of that great regiment of Welsh Fusiliers. We must try and do good with one hand without doing harm with the other, and I shall be glad to receive suggestions from hon. Members in all quarters upon the matter. With regard to the questions of bands, it may seem a small matter but it leads to recruiting and the bands are a sort of centre of union in all corps of the British Empire. The special difficulty in the case of the bands in the Special Reserve has relation to the difficulty we were discussing in connection with the shortage of officers. What is easy for a unit with a full complement of officers is difficult in the case of units reduced by half. The officers always subscribe small 2326 sums towards their bands, and I do not think it is a bad custom, but the difficulty in connection with the bands is more acute when the number of officers is small, and we must consider whether we cannot do something in regard to the bands. I, for one, will do what I can to mitigate this grievance of the Special Reserve. I apologise for having detained the House for so long, but I was informed yesterday it would be for the convenience of Members if I made a full statement.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Colonel SEELY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman will find all the information with regard to that in the Annual Report. I would sooner not occupy any more time. I want to hear other hon. Members speak, and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will refer to the appropriate place he will find full information. We must have some means of reinforcing the Expeditionary Force during the first incidence of war. I conceive that no Government could very materially change the kind of force we now have. That it could be based upon compulsion we must dismiss as utterly without the region of practical politics for the reasons which I gave earlier in my speech. That you can only reinforce by units is hardly a practical proposition. Could we do so, as in some armies, I think a great many of our difficulties would disappear; but the practical difficulty of reinforcing only by units and allowing units as soon as they fall below a certain strength to go back to the base would be a policy so at variance with sound military doctrine that I do not think it would be an advantage. Therefore, something of this kind has got to be, and it is a waste of time to suggest that we should scrap the Special Reserve. That seems to me to be a policy which will never commend itself to any responsible body in this House. That more can be done to bring up the strength I admit, and I promise that the Government will leave no stone unturned to find out the real reasons which militate against the success of the Special Reserve. It must not, however, be supposed that the Special Reserve is a useless body. I have myself seen some battalions of the Special Reserve which are remarkably efficient and consisting of splendid men. That we can obtain many more of that stamp I have no doubt, but that it will be difficult and demand the co-operation of 2327 all parties is quite certain, and for that reason I welcome all the criticisms to which we have been subjected, and I trust we shall have many more valuable suggestions.
§ Sir R. POLE-CAREW
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to misquote what I said. I think, however, he gave the House the impression that I had suggested that the ballot for the Militia could be used for service outside these Islands in time of peace. I never said anything of the sort. What I suggested was that we should go back to the old Militia, when they had the very valuable power of the ballot. Every nation in the civilised globe, except ourselves, has compulsory service for service outside its own country in time of war, and there is no reason why we should not have the ballot for the same kind of service in time of war.
The reply of the right hon. Gentleman has given us some satisfaction with regard to the Special Reserve on the question of separation allowance. I am sure it would tend to improve recruiting if the right hon. Gentleman gives this matter his careful consideration. We all agree that what we want to do is to get this force up to strength. I do not want to repeat what I said the other day, but I want to draw attention to one or two questions which have not been answered by the Secretary for War, and perhaps he will ask one of his colleagues to answer them later on. One question I wish to draw attention to is with regard to the bounty. When the Special Reserve was first started the bounty at the end of the training was £1; but the old Militia used to get 30s. I should very much like to have this bounty at 30s., like it was in the old Militia. In the 4th battalions, owing to the absence of Regular engagement officers, our recruits have to be trained by 3rd battalion officers at the depôt. I should like to be able, when we have a sufficient number of recruits, to call up a 4th battalion officer. We have very great difficulty about this matter, and we had no less than fifty recruits this year before the annual training. In the old Militia there was on the establishment of all battalions a musketry instructor, but to-day we do not have one, and have to get an officer from a Line battalion. I think the old system might be restored with advantage.
2328 I do not understand in what way the Government can back up the practice of allowing only twenty-seven permanent staff in the 4th battalion, with an establishment of 750 men, and at the same time authorise ninety-six permanent staff in the 3rd battalion, with an establishment of 580 men, when the 4th battalion has to go out as a unit in time of war. With regard to training, I suppose it is too much to ask, but I should like the period of training for recruiting in the 4th battalion to be five months, as in the 3rd. Men come in as recruits who have been out of employment, and they want training for the longest possible time. I feel sure that you would largely make up the numbers if you gave the separation allowance I have suggested, and if you gave the 30s. bounty. The men want more pay, and the officers want more employment. The officers often apply for employment at the depôts during the non-training period, and all they get is one more month attached to another battalion, and that is all they are allowed nowadays. What is there to induce them to join the Special Reserve except patriotism and a desire to serve their country?
Take a lieutenant-colonel. After he has finished his time in the Special Reserve, he has no prospects at all, although he may be a very young man. I think it would be of advantage to allow lieutenant-colonels in the Special Reserve, where they are efficient and thoroughly well reported on by their generals, the prospect of commanding Special Reserve brigades during the training. I understand that the officers commanding districts now have a great many duties to perform in the way of inspecting troops and inspecting the books. I think it would lessen their duties if Special Reserve colonels were promoted to full colonels who could take charge of brigades. With regard to subalterns, there is very little inducement to them, owing to paragraph 510, under which captains go to the Special Reserve after ten years. The captains' lists are so filled up that the Special Reserve subalterns have very little chance of promotion, and under this regime there is very little chance of employment for the officers. I think they ought to be given a chance of employment at the depôt, and they should also have an opportunity of going through the courses during the non-training period. I am not sure that the course being pursued is the wise one if you want to encourage officers to join the Special Reserve. With regard to admission to the 2329 subaltern ranks, we have heard a good deal about the Officers Training Corps. It is understood that 200 of its members have joined the Special Reserve in the first six months of this year. If you keep up that average in a year they will send 400 officers into the Special Reserve.
The whole of the expenses of the Training Corps, which are £64,000 annually, are put down to the Special Reserve, as if every man in the Officers' Training Corps was a Special Reserve officer. A large number of these men in the Officers' Training Corps go into the Territorial Force, a certain number go into the Special Reserve, and a good many pass forward into the Army. The Officers' Training Corps is trained by Regular officers, and the allowance they get goes down to the Special Reserve. A much more fair principle would be to divide the £64,000 equally between the Territorial Vote, the Special Reserve Vote, and the Vote for the Regular Army. You would thus have a saving on your Special Reserve Vote of £41,000 or £42,000, and this would enable you to raise the retaining fee for subalterns to £30, which for 500 officers would amount to £10,000, and would also enable you to increase the bounty by 10s., making the total 30s., as in the days of the old Militia, and that for 60,000 men would amount to £30,000. I saw a commanding officer of a Special Reserve battalion this morning, and he was very anxious to get subalterns. He told me he wrote to the adjutant of one of the universities for a list of the men who had passed A and B. He obtained a list of them, and he wrote to seventy, but only twenty-four of them replied, and out of the twenty-four not one single one even put forward the proposition that he would like to join the Special Reserve. A letter was written to the adjutant at another university on 3rd July, and no answer has yet been received at all. Fourteen public schools were written to, and four of them replied.
I wish the Secretary of State for War would get something practical done to bring the authorities of the Officers' Training Corps to a sense of their duties with regard to the Special Reserve, as they are paid from our Vote. You have got in the 3rd battalions four Regular engagement officers, two of them probably subalterns, and, if you took your two subalterns from your Regular establishment and allowed two of your Special Reserve officers to take their places in the Line battalion, you would be giving an opportunity of employ- 2330 ment for your Special Reserve subalterns. I must say I agree very strongly with a good deal that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) with regard to the old name. I do think there is a good deal in the old name, and, if we are not to have the old name of "Militia," I should like at any rate to have a small change in the present name. In the "Gazette" to-day there is a force referred to as the "Special Reserve of Officers," as if it contained no men at all. It does not give the idea that there are any men in the Special Reserve. If you are going to adhere to the term "Special Reserve," call it "Special Reserve" and not "Special Reserve of Officers." It would show then to the ordinary mind that there are men as well as officers in the Special Reserve. We are all agreed that the main point with regard to this force is its efficiency, but the Special Reserve has always suffered from the fact that cheapness is considered before efficiency. Last night we had a Supplementary Estimate of something like £430,000 for national health. National health is important, but to my mind national existence is of still greater importance, and if you willingly grant Supplementary Estimates of hundreds of thousands of pounds for national health, I think you should at any rate allow our old estimates for the Special Reserve to be kept up.
§ Mr. AMERY
I do not propose to follow my hon. Friend in some of the detailed suggestions he has made to benefit the Special Reserve. I feel, even if the right hon. Gentleman adopted them all and spent whatever was required in doing so, he would not really meet the needs of what has been as regards the Special Reserve a progressive condition of things. The establishment of the Militia before the South African war was fixed at 130,000, and it was supposed presumably that 130,000 were required for the purposes of the defence of this country. As a matter of fact, the force was continually falling short, and at the time of the war it was at a strength of about 106,000, or very nearly 25,000 short of the establishment. It did as my hon. and gallant Friend has reminded us, extremely good service in the South African war. Though under no contract to serve abroad, it did send some 60,000 to serve in South Africa and the Mediterranean, and it did supply another 45,000 in units for home defence. After the war, from one cause or another, the actual 2331 strength declined until it was reduced to 84,000 or 85,000. Apart from changing the name, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor cut down the old Parliamentary establishment and implied that 83,000 were what was required. We now have an establishment of 83,000, and an actual strength of nearly 60,000, and I suppose the Financial Secretary will tell us 83,000 is only a Parliamentary establishment, a form of words, and that the General Staff are fully satisfied 60,000 is ample for any war in which this country may be engaged. I confess the very quotation the right hon. Gentleman gave us just now indicates that the reduction in numbers has not been compensated for by any great increase in efficiency. What were the criticisms which Lord Haldane made? One criticism was that the Militia could not be efficient because of the grave shortage of officers. There was a shortage of 1,000 officers on a strength of over 80,000. To-day there is a shortage of 1,300 on a strength of 60,000. That evidently is a much more serious situation than that which Lord Haldane criticised six or seven years ago. Again, he said many battalions enlisted youths only seventeen years of age. He bet a standard of twenty years for foreign service. You will have to make very heavy reductions if you eliminate recruits and those under twenty from the Special Reserve, and to-day you would have barely 30,000 whom you could rely on for foreign service. Even if you let them go abroad at nineteen, you have barely 40,000.
I know the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the fact that the Special Reserve are under a definite obligation to serve overseas, but he did not mention that of the old Militia Reserve 29,000 were under that obligation. I remember previously, when I ventured to remind him of that fact, he said the force was now twice as strong, implying that we had 60,000 to send abroad to-day, whereas there were only 29,000 of the old Reserve Militia available for foreign service. I ventured to interrupt him, and to ask how many of the present Special Reserve were really of an age fit for foreign service, and had been through their first period of training. He replied that it was most undesirable to publish those figures. I suppose the suggestion is that it is not desirable that they should be known to the Attachés of foreign military Powers, officers whom I have met, who possess very considerable intelligence, and 2332 who also possess, I imagine, funds quite sufficient to enable them to purchase a copy of the "Army Annual," in which all the figures are given, and from which I have drawn the deduction that, if you make the standard nineteen years and one period of training, the actual number you have got to draw upon for foreign service is at the outside 40,000 men.
The right hon. Gentleman laid great stress, and rightly so, upon the need of providing drafts. He did not tell us, however, to what extent the Special Reserve drafts were adequate for the purpose of the Expeditionary Force. My hon. and gallant Friend pointed out that, as a matter of fact the Special Reserve could only supply 16,000, or perhaps 20,000 drafts for the Expeditionary Force. Now that force requires practically the whole of the Reserve, except Section D, on mobilisation. When you take the first contingent of drafts to go abroad with an expedition you take the greater part of the available men, and after two or three big battles you will find that you have exhausted the whole of the force available for oversea service. It is true with regard to the Special Reserve we have a very little more available to send abroad than with the old Militia Reserve; but the right hon. Gentleman did not mention that among the changes which his predecessor introduced, was the abolition of a number of Regular battalions with a reserve producing capacity of something like 30,000 men.
How are we to meet a great crisis if that is all the reserve of trained men we have to put into the fighting line after the first two or three weeks of war? If I may, I will quote a few sentences from what I confess is my favourite military speech, delivered some years ago by the right hon. Gentleman in another capacity. He remarked how, after a war with a small white people within a year and a half we came to an end of our trained men and a grave state of things existed. He pointed out that at a time of war we might come to the end of our trained men, not in a year and a half, but in months or even weeks. "I know there are people who say it is unwise to make these statements publicly, because they give an impression of weakness to our friends abroad. But our friends abroad are more aware of these facts than are the people of this country." It seems to me that the situation which the right hon. Gentleman then criticised exists in exactly the same form to-day, while the danger that this 2333 country has to face has increased ten-fold. The right hon. Gentleman has rightly laid stress on the importance of the Special Reserve as a vehicle for producing drafts of single, individual men to replenish our battalions abroad. But in other speeches he and his predecessor, and those who have been described as his satellites, have again and again referred to the same Special Reserve as available for other purposes. There has never been a force so small that has been counted so many times over. I have been looking through some recent speeches during this Session. I find the right hon. Gentleman himself, only the other day, implied that the Special Reserve would furnish 60,000 drafts to an Expeditionary Force overseas. I notice he has also included them, at a strength of 60,000, among the 410,000 who are going to eat up an invading army. They are also included among the garrisons allotted to our forts and coast defences. They are included to the extent of 14,000 among the twenty-seven extra Special Reserve battalions, and they are also included in the figures of the Regular Army, because of the 28,000 recruits last year the Regular Army took 20,000 from the Special Reserve. I imagine it ad impossible to find out from any returns exactly to what extent they have been counted over and over again. But, at any rate, many thousands figure both in the Line and the Special Reserve. Adding these figures together I reckon that in the speeches delivered from the benches opposite the Special Reserve has been counted at a total strength of 200,000 men when its actual available strength is something like 40,000 men.
How are you going to meet these needs? How are you going to meet the continual decline? The real point, after all, was put very concisely by the right hon. Gentleman himself when he said that the demands of military efficiency were difficult to square with civilian needs. It is, indeed, impossible to square them if you are to get enough men for service in the Regular Army, or in the Special Reserve, or in the Territorial Force. You cannot do it if, while you are seeking to comply with these needs, you place the men willing to serve in a position of the greatest economic disadvantage as compared with the men who are unwilling to serve. As long as you have got that state of things you have a state of what I may call compulsory unpatriotism. Men may be willing to give their services, whether in the Territorial Force or the Special 2334 Reserve, even if they serve under a foreign service obligation; but as long as you put this tremendous handicap upon them I cannot imagine any minor remedies that will ever meet the case. We are face to face with two facts: the immensely increasing demand for drafts from the Reserve for the Expeditionary Force, and a much greater demand for home service. The same men cannot count for both, and, therefore, you have an ever-increasing demand with a steadily diminishing supply of men. There appears, in fact, to be a steady progress. Fifteen years ago it was 130,000; it is 60,000 to-day. Possibly that may soon become our "Parliamentary establishment," and in a few years' time we shall be told that 40,000 will meet the case. I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to admit all my contentions, but I do hope he will consider the gravity of the situation, and, realising that the present state of things cannot last, consider whether, after all, it would not be far better to reorganise before the next war comes than after.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his remarks, claimed that the Special Reserve, as it is to-day, in spite of all its defects, is a great deal more efficient than the old Militia.
§ Colonel SEELY
I do not think, with all respect to the Noble Lord, that he can put in a single phrase what it took me about ten minutes to explain.
§ Viscount WOLMER
At any rate, in the right hon. Gentleman's opinion the Special Reserve in its relation to the old Militia is neither a great deal more efficient nor less efficient. I perfectly agree with him when he said there was a great advantage in the Special Reserve being under a liability to be sent abroad, but I cannot for the life of me see how the Special Reserve to-day are in any way superior to the old Militia. I know my hon. and gallant. Friend the Member for Dudley has said that his regiment is a great deal more efficient than it was in the old Militia days. Naturally he says that, because he is in command of the regiment. I have no doubt he is perfectly right, but I venture to suggest that, if that is so, it is because my hon. Friend is in command of the regiment and not because of the new system that has come into force. The right hon. Gentleman quoted some words of Lord Haldane about the old Militia. The old Militia, Lord Haldane said, was a thousand officers short on an establishment of 90,000, 2335 and my hon. Friend pointed out that we are now 1,300 officers short on the strength of 60,000. Next, Lord Haldane said that the old Militia had many battalions less than 500 men strong. I wish the right hon. Gentleman could come out and see the battalion in which I serve, and which paraded on the last day of the training this year 270 men strong. Then Lord Haldane said that there were in the old Militia a great many youths under seventeen years of age. My experience of the Special Reserve is that it is practically composed of youths under twenty. Of course we have to remember that the old Militia was 90,000 men strong in its last days. We are now nominally about 63,000 men strong. Lord Haldane described that as a deplorable state of things, but I cannot for the life of me see that we are any better off to-day. What I want to impress on the right hon. Gentleman is the extremely disheartening effect of having to drill a battalion hopelessly under strength—only about 33 per cent. of its proper strength. The whole of the company drill absolutely collapses. It takes the heart out of officers and men to set up an organisation of a battalion with eight companies and then only ten or twenty men come out on parade to form those companies. It reduces the whole thing to a farce, and is really most disheartening to many who desire to take things seriously.
The right hon. Gentleman has asked us on this side to make suggestions as to how that state of affairs can be improved. I want to make one or two. There is one feature of the present system of recruiting which has not been mentioned in these Debates. If a recruit joins the Special Reserve he has to do six months' preliminary drill, and if these six months expire in the middle of the annual training he is allowed to go off. The result of that provision is that you start the training about 400 strong, the men dribble off from day to day, and at the end of the training you have but 100 or 150 men. You train in the summer, the bulk of the men join in the winter, and it is consequently during the summer training that the six months' preliminary drill of the great majority expires. Accordingly you see the whole force melt away. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to consider the possibilities of providing that the men shall stay to the end of their first training, at any rate, because their going away in the 2336 middle of the training deprives them of the benefit of the training and disorganises the companies and battalion as well. I have another suggestion to make with regard to battalions of the Special Reserve which are so very short. I want the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it would not be possible for him to provide that during the training of the Special Reserve a couple of hundred men from the Regular battalions of the same regiment shall attend. My point is that if a battalion goes out, about 300 or 400 strong, neither the officers nor the men get adequate training. If the Regular battalion could spare a couple of companies, each 100 strong, to go out and take part in the training of the Special Reserve battalion, or if certain sections from all the companies of a battalion were allowed to go out, they would level up the whole, and would give you a sufficient number of men that you could drill properly. The Special Reservists would be shoulder to shoulder with the Regulars. They would be improved by the example of the Regulars among them, and they would know what company training and company drill really meant. I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that he could do this without disorganising the Regular regiment. Regular officers have told me that they think it could be easily done. It might be a sham, and the men might be counted twice over, but you cannot make bricks without straw, and the result would be that your Special Reserve men would receive a better training than under the present system. The present system is such a disheartening farce that they do not learn what they ought to learn.
Another suggestion I would make with regard to the Special Reserve is that there should be a further application of the Territorial system. The hon. Member for Dudley laid great stress on the importance of Territorial Association of the Special Reserves in every county. I believe that something further could be done in territorialising the companies, if it is possible. Instructions should be issued that all the men who come from one part of the county should be put into the same company, so as to give them an esprit de corps. In that way one company would become identified with one town, or one part of the county. I believe that was tried in one case by a colonel on his own account, and was a success. I believe a little more sympathetic treatment in that direction might 2337 have considerable results. I wish to say a few words about the men who form the Special Reserve. I said that the great majority of them were boys of eighteen or nineteen. The Under-Secretary for War, in answering me the other day, said that that criticism did not come very well from my mouth, as I was only twenty-five years old myself. I do not see what that has to do with it. It does not make any difference whether I am a baby or as old as Methuselah. The point is the age of the Special Reservists, and whether seventeen, eighteen, or nineteen, or up to twenty-five is a suitable recruiting age for the average age of your regiment. I ask hon. Members to go down and watch the Special battalions doing their training. What they will see is a mere collection of boys.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I have personal experience of only one battalion, but it is exceedingly surprising if that battalion is absolutely unique in regard to its ages.
§ Colonel SEELY
There is such a wrong impression of this force that it would be disheartening if I did not correct the Noble Lord. I myself have seen many corps of Special Reserves, in which there are men of very mature age. Only the other day I saw a battalion of Special Reserves in which a great proportion of the men were old soldiers of mature age, who had served in war. They are not boys.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The right hon. Gentleman knows that no Special Reserve men are allowed to join after the age of forty. In the old Militia you had a strong seasoning of men over forty. They have been removed. The veterans the right hon. Gentleman talks about are under forty. All that I can say is that I have not seen 10 per cent of a Special Reserve regiment—not only my own regiment, but those with which we have been brigaded on Salisbury Plain and at other nice places—not 30 per cent. of these men can be said to be in the prime of life. The vast majority of them are boys who are afterwards going into the Army. My point is that not only are these boys not in the prime of life, and therefore not physically able to take the field against a foreign conscript army, but that you are not building up a Reserve, which I believe was one of the main ideas of the old Militia. The idea was that yon had a 2338 succession of men doing six years in the Militia, and then going back into civilian life, and it was thought that should war break out these men would have had something of a training and could be relied on. Now, these men are counted twice over. They join the Special Reserve as boys. Their chests broaden and they are able to pass the standard for the Army and go straight into the Army. To regard the Special Reserve at the present time as in any sense an efficient fighting unit is really only deceiving the people of this country. That is why we criticise the Special Reserve. We do not wish to run down unnecessarily any force, but we do think it is a danger that the public should not realise what is the real state of affairs. If I may say so, the great evil which has arisen from the vast amount of advertising which Lord Haldane had to give to his Army scheme is that it has been to make a great many people think that we had entered upon an entirely new era of military administration in this country, and that we enjoyed far greater safety than we really do. It is because we see these very glaring defects, which are forced upon us every summer when we go out for training, and because we try to take our part in this force, that we consider it our duty to bring this matter to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, and ask him whether he cannot do something to improve the efficiency of the force.