§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
I wish to say a few words about the mobilisation of the Army. [Laughter.] That may be a matter to laugh at by hon. Members opposite, but I feel that the Secretary of State for War will know that any remarks I have to make on that subject are not made in any party spirit, but only for the purpose of trying to do some good. It is a painful fact, comparing our Army with those of Continental countries, that whereas we would take from three to four days to mobilise, they take only from three to six hours. It is easy to understand that a regiment can be mobilised more quickly on the Continent, where the regiment gets its reserves from the country surrounding the particular place where the regiment is, because these regiments are always kept in their territorial districts and the men who form the reserves in them live in those districts; and it is more difficult to mobilise under our system, by which troops move continually from one place to another and are very seldom in their own territorial basis. I understand that what obtains with us is this: When an order for mobilisation is given, the Reserve men go to their depot. They do not go at once to their regiments. I suggest that it would simplify matters very much and save a great deal of time if it could be arranged that men should go straight to their regiments instead of going first to their 2698 depots, and having two journeys instead of one. I understand that the railway warrants to take those men to their depots are usually in possession of the men, and it might be objected that when the regiment is moved these warrants would have to be altered, but this could be easily got over. The place of destination on the warrant could be left open, and the men could be informed when the regiment is moved. All those warrants could be put through the post to the particular depot and altered there when the regiment is moved. If these Reserve men were sent straight to their regiments, instead of to the depot, at least one day would be saved on mobilisation. There might be some question raised as regards expense, but the only difference would be that you would have to keep the clothing and equipments of the men with the headquarters of the regiment, instead of at the depot, and that might entail the building of mobilisation stores at the headquarters of the regiment, so that there might be certain expense in moving those particular stores when the headquarters of the regiment are moved from one station to another. I do not imagine the expense would be very great. At any rate, if the expense was to some extent greater, the efficiency of the Service would be so much improved as to be worth the money.
One most pressing point with regard to mobilisation of the Army is the question of horses. I understand that the Regular Cavalry and Artillery are at the present time ready for mobilisation, and that they have their quota of horses, but the difficulty lies in finding light draft horses for the Territorial Artillery. Owing to the increase in motor traction light transport horses are practically leaving the country and are not being bred. I imagine that foreign countries suffer even greater difficulties than we in finding these light draft horses, because motor traction is increasing on the Continent just as it is here, and they want a much larger number of horses than we do, and are coming here to England and Ireland trying to buy our mares and taking them away. It is quite necessary that we should take some steps to keep these mares and breed this particular sort of horse in this country. I would suggest that the Secretary of State instead of buying horses of four and five years old, or the few horses that he now buys at three years old, he should buy at two years old all good fillies who would be suitable for breeding this particular class of horse, and leave those 2699 fillies with the farmers who owned them, paying a proportion of the price which was to be paid on eventually taking them over. Those farmers would be able to breed one or two foals from those mares before five years of age, and then at five yeans of age they might be taken over for work, and when finished their work they might be returned to the farmers. The point is that if a young mare breeds at two or three years of age and up to five years and has foals then she is much more likely, when her period of service is over and she has finished her work, to breed after twelve or fourteen years of age than she would be if she has not already bred at an early age. If some arrangement of that sort were come to to encourage the farmers to keep the mares in the country it would be doing a great service to the Army. I understand as regards the Territorial Army that on mobilisation all they have to hope for in their Artillery are very heavy draft horses, which are not looked upon as suitable for Artillery horses. This is simply because the light draft horse are so scarce in the country that they would not be available, as they would be all taken up by the Regular Artillery. The Territorial Artillery would be very much handicapped in operating against a foreign enemy if they only had very heavy horses, and it would not be fair to ask them with such horses to compete against foreign Artillery.
This consideration accentuates what I have been saying as to the necessity of taking some steps in order to keep the mares of that particular class in this country. As regards the horses of the Yeomanry regiments, I am told there are only a very few regiments in which the horses are actually owned by the troopers themselves. Such regiments as the Durham Scouts and probably the Scottish Horse and, I think, the Shropshire Yeomanry are the only regiments I have heard of in which anything like a fair proportion of the horses belong to the men. What happens every year when these regiments go out for training is they get their horses by contract with certain dealers who hire out the horses. At the end of the training of a particular regiment those horses are used again, and it may be that they are used for three, four or five other regiments. No particular regiment has any hold over those horses, and on mobilisation, if any particular regiment wanted any of those horses, there would be a scramble for them. I understand 2700 that the Secretary of State has improved very much in efficiency the registration of horses. He will agree with me that it is very far from being perfect. Anybody who lives in the country knows how very imperfect this registration is yet. As I understand, the adjutants of Territorial regiments and of Yeomanry go about finding out all the horses there are and registering these particular horses, and then remount officers judge to whom these horses are to be allotted on mobilisation. I submit that it would be very difficult to trace these horses. There is nothing to stop a man who has five or six horses down on the remount officers' books from selling those horses, or selling any particular horse of those which are described in the books, and therefore at the time of mobilisation it might very well happen when the authority, whoever they are, go for these particular horses they will not find them there, but they will find a very inferior class of horse instead of the good ones which they expect to see. You cannot get these things done perfectly without spending money, and if this is forth doing at all it is worth doing well.
The only possible way of getting people to keep horses as registered and ready to turn out on mobilisation is to give them some retaining fee, with the understanding that they would be bound to find these particular horses for that retaining fee when the time comes. Suppose you want something like 60,000 horses to complete your mobilisation and if you paid £5 a horse as a retaining fee, so that the man would be bound to have that particular class of horse when the time came, it would only cost £300,000, which is not a very large sum to add to the £26,000,000 or £27,000,000 on the Estimates; and if for that £300,000 you could ensure a certainty of getting the horses in an efficient condition on mobilisation it would be worth it. In reference to the National Reserve, I asked the right hon. Gentleman a few questions on this subject last week, and did not get what I thought a very satisfactory answer. In effect, at present in the National Reserve the names are only taken down. There is no obligation on the man to serve at all. The name is simply taken down, and that is all that is done, with the exception of a shilling being paid for registration, and also that 10 per cent. of the men in a particular district get rifles so that they may go and practice when ranges are available. I do not see what good this force would be on mobilisation if you have 2701 got to wait for the crucial moment before you find out whether the man can work or not, or whether he is willing to do it. If this force is ever going to be of any good to us at the time of need—and that time will come quickly if it ever comes at all—everything ought to be ready beforehand, and they ought to know how many men will be fit and willing to serve in the ranks as soldiers, to serve in the transport, in the telegraphs, in the post office, the motor traction, and all other particular services which might be required. If those men were asked at present whether they would be willing to take such service we should find that their patriotism would not fall short of what we require.
Then the Secretary for War told me last week that there was no arrangement whatever made as regards arms, equipment or clothing. Anybody who serves as a soldier must know that if the clothing is not ready and if the equipment is not ready, it takes a very long time to mobilise any important body of troops. It is absolutely necessary, in fact, if you are to have an efficient body of men, to have clothing, equipment, and arms ready for them. I would suggest that at the particular headquarters of regiments, arms, clothing, and equipment should be ready for times of mobilisation. It has been represented to me by people who take a great interest in this particular service that the men do not want money, but that what they do want is some opportunity to meet together under the same roof, so that they may feel that they belong to the same regiment or something of that sort; and it has been suggested to me that if the Government grant a small amount, say, £2 or something like that per head—it would not amount to a great deal in the aggregate—it would do something in the way of providing headquarters for each particular regiment of men, and which could eventually be turned into clubs, where the men could meet and keep up their esprit de corps, and where you could provide storehouses for arms, equipment, and clothing. This would all tend to efficiency, and I think that if the Secretary of State consults those officers who are at the present moment serving him well in raising and organising this particular corps, he would find that the specal points which I wish him to carry out in order to make the service efficient, are those which I have mentioned.
§ Colonel BURN
I am very glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War in his place, and I should like very much some information as to mobilisation in the event of the order being given for it. I think it behoves us to see how we stand as regards other foreign, nations. Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite may laugh at mobilisation, but we think that rapid mobilisation is the most important point in modern strategy. We have seen in the past, when the Rhine was crossed in 1870, or, in 1877, when the Danube was crossed, and when the passes of the Pyrenees were seized by the French, and British ships held the ports, how delay in mobilisation meant ruin. I very much doubt if the arrangements for transport on mobilisation of the Expeditionary Force overseas were as complete or anything like as complete in the year 1911 as they were relatively complete in 1811. I say relatively. The right hon. Gentleman laughs. I think if he looks into it he will remember that between 1805 and 1815 we could send Expeditionary Forces from the Himalayas to Charlestown or from Java to Cadiz, and now we find the greatest difficulty in mobolising six divisions, despite the fact that we have a population of 44,000,000 or 45,000,000, and notwithstanding all the magnificent progress we have made in mechanical and industrial arts, and also in steam. What does mobilisation mean? Mobilisation means the passing of our armed forces from a peace footing to a war footing, and mobilisation of the unit means its being complete in personnel, horses, and everything that pertains to war. I should like an answer from the right hon. Gentleman, who is much interested in the Yeomanry Force, and who has large experience of that force in fact, as to when the Imperial Yeomanry would be complete in horses on the order for mobilisation being given. I should like to know whether our Special Reserve would be mobilised. I speak of the Infantry alone, and I do not take into consideration the necessary supply of horses, guns and ammunition. In the scheme of defence of these Islands, as laid down by the Secretary for War, to meet a foreign enemy attacking this country, if it is to be successful, we must be able to mobilise and concentrate in a central position, ready to radiate to any threatened quarter or direction and at the same time threaten the flanks of the enemy.
For mobilisation, secrecy and celerity mean everything. The success of Lee and 2703 Jackson in the American War may certainly be put down to this. Now that it is possible—and we know it is possible—that mobilisation may be ordered, we desire to be assured that our house is in order. Those of us who have had experience of mobilisation know what it means—chaos, confusion, hurry, worry and scurry; that is the state of affairs in this country—that has been our past experience. Surely we may hope for better things. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Yes, and we do hope for better things. We have the experience of foreign Powers, and we know what they can do. When war was declared between France and Germany on 15th July, 1870, in sixteen days the Germans mobilised 1,000,000 men, 2,000 guns, and 130,000 horses. More recently we have seen that Russia moved to Korea by the Trans-Siberian Railway 1,100,000 men, 1,600 guns, and 260,000 horses. The most important thing we have to tackle in these days is the horse supply. I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether he is satisfied with the state of affairs in regard to that in the event of an order for mobilisation being given. We know that the horses have been registered with the assistance of the police. The police are very excellent men, they do their duty admirably, and we have nothing but praise for them, but I do not think that the police are really judges of horses, and unless this horse supply is undertaken in a thorough and practical way we shall find ourselves wanting when the time comes. What I want to know is whether the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to have a census made of horses. That is the first point for decision. We want to know where we stand; we want to know, in event of foreign complications, what horses we have got in this country and what, are our resources.
As the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Hickman) mentioned, one class of horse on which we depended very much has disappeared owing to motor traction. It is not an easy matter to collect a number of horses in this country, nor can it be done without proper organisation in time of peace, so that there shall be no rush and scurry when war is declared. What we must have is a census of horses in this country, and we also want a thorough classification of the horses so that they may be apportioned to each arm—Cavalry, Artillery, and Mounted Infantry. When that is done we shall then 2704 be in a better state, but that cannot be accomplished without extra organisation. I urge the right hon. Gentleman for the welfare of the Army to appoint remount officers to visit the horse-producing counties and districts of the country. They should be given power to make lists of horses that are available, or that are likely to be available within the next year, and this must be repeated from year to year, so that we may have horses fit for work and available in time of war. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that this is not an easy task. You may go over stables and stables, and what percentage of horses do you imagine you would get out of those stables fit to go into active service? We all know what happens with horses that are not fit. They go to the front and crack up in a very short time, so that they only hamper an Expeditionary Force. If a proper classification were made, I think it would be more possible to provide the necessary horses for the Army on the order for mobilisation. If our Army were mobilised in that way, we should want, to complete the Cavalry, and batteries, and to bring the regiments up to war strength, something like 44,000 or 45,000 horses.
If we are to mount the Territorial Force, which is absolutely necessary, we should want not less than 80,000 or 90,000 horses; that is to say, on the outbreak of war you have to provide 136,000 horses. At the end of a fortnight you would have to supply a percentage—say 20 per cent., that is 26,000—in order to replace casualties. That, I maintain, is absolutely necessary, and in order to get a total of 156,000 or 160,000 horses, you would have weeks and months of hard work on the part of the officers apportioned to the various districts, because you will find that of the horses which are examined by competent officers, not more than 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. of all the horses available would be actually fit to go on active service. The only thing is to know what horses we have got available, and what are likely to be available at the time of war. All that is not easy of accomplishment, but if it be done thoroughly, everything will go easily and smoothly on mobilisation. We must have all these points settled and arranged beforehand. We must have our census taken; we must have our collecting stations near the railway, so that horses may be moved to the places of mobilisation with the least loss of time and the greatest ease. All those places of mobilisation must be set down. 2705 What we want more than anything else in this country is that greater responsibility should be given to general officers commanding, so that they should not have to write and wire to the War Office to answer every single question, but that they should be able to act on their own responsibility, a responsibility which any general officer would be ready and willing to accept. I think that this horse question is a very serious one, and needs the special attention of the right hon. Gentleman, who I hope in his reply will not roll off a string of figures and tell us that all is well.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Colonel Seely)
If I may interrupt the hon. Gentleman, I desire to say that I cannot roll off a string of figures, because it is only ten minutes ago that I received notice of this Debate. I am very sorry to cause inconvenience to hon. Members, but until then I had received no notice whatever of this Debate, and I am unable to give any figures.
§ Colonel BURN
I can quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman cannot give his figures on the spur of the moment. What I do ask is that he should give his close attention to this matter because I fully realise the great importance of it, and I am sure that everyone who knows the condition of the Service in this country will back me up, and I am perfectly certain that I have the whole of the Army at my back when I say that this is a difficulty which has got to be met. There is another matter, and that is that on the mobilisation of the Expeditionary Force twelve companies of Mounted Infantry have to be created as "Divisional Cavalry"—one company of Mounted Infantry being equal to a squadron of Cavalry. We have also to create three battalions of Mounted Infantry (nine companies) to help to form two "Mounted Brigades" with three available Cavalry regiments. This makes twenty - one companies of Mounted Tnfantry, and to form the Mounted Infantry you take the best men from the Line battalions. Anyone who has soldiered knows what a loss that is to any regiment. There is a scheme which I think might possibly help matters, and that is if you were to bring three, if not four, of the Cavalry regiments which are now in South Africa back to this country; that would ease very much the drain on the Infantry regiments in order to form Mounted Infantry battalions. When things have settled down in South Africa I do not 2706 know whether the right hon. Gentleman considers it is absolutely vital that four of our Cavalry regiments should be kept out there. At any rate that is a consideration which he can think over, and surely if it is possible to bring them home it will be a distinct advantage in the event of the forces having to be mobilised for war.
If we could have, as I say, a little more decentralisation, a little less red tape, a little less of the War Office in our Army, if we would allow the general officers to lay down the principles of their own particular command, to be approved of by the War Office, and to be left to carry out on the order being given for mobilisation. I think that would be a great advantage to the Army and to the country generally. Coming back to the Germans we know that the first German Army Corps which is now at Konigsberg, can mobilise in every detail in three days, and that the French 18th Army Corps now at Bordeaux, can mobilise in two and a half days. I should very much like to know if we consider that our Army Corps would be able to mobolise in anything like that time. There used to be in the Army Book a scheme for mobilisation. I have seen it, but I do not think it any longer appears there. That scheme was a complicated one, but it was perhaps a good thing as it showed that a scheme had really been worked out with some possibility of it being put into operation in the event of war. All the orders for mobilisation should be laid down beforehand. Celerity is of all things the most essential, and all the orders should be simple, clear, and unmistakeable. I have seen the 1912 edition of the Regulations for Mobilisation, and I confess that the explanation of the terms used and the preparatory measures are in almost as puzzling language as if they were Clauses of the Insurance Act.
This is no party question. All things appertaining to the Army and the Navy should be lifted out of party conflict. It is for the good of our country and all sections should join hands for the benefit of this country and our Empire. I am sure that I myself, and all of us who sit on these benches, would willingly co-operate in any possible way in order to make things easier and simpler in time of war: that is to say, as regards registration of horses in our own districts, the classification of them, and giving to those officers in charge of the different districts every help and assistance that lies in our power. 2707 I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will think over these remarks I have made and will really take them to heart and see what can be done in order to ensure this country being mobilised in the quickest possible time and being able to compete with foreign nations. I do not desire the slavish imitation of one Power that has been mentioned by speakers on both sides, and by more than one of the Front Bench speakers; but I say if we see other Powers in Europe whose plans are good, and who are able to carry out mobilisation and preparations for war, in the quickest possible time, then let us copy out of their scheme what is good. I think that must appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, and, at any rate, let us hope that he will consider these matters and give us some assurance that the preparations for mobilisation in this country shall be put on a sound and practical basis.
§ Sir CHARLES HUNTER
It is a very difficult matter really to know what is to be done in the case of mobilisation as recorded on paper, because it is only in war time, or on the prospect of the outbreak of war, one really begins to see how those schemes which appear, on paper, work. We have done it in the case of a brigade or division, but beyond that we have very rarely proceeded in our mobilisation scheme. In war time it would, of course, be necessary that every man, every gun, every horse, and all the impedimenta connected with modern armies, should be accumulated and ready to be put in working order. Last, but not least, we must recollect that we must have proper staff officers. I especially drew the attention of the late Secretary of State for War to the shortage of staff officers in the whole of the Territorial Force. I addressed a question to him as to the number of staff officers that would be available in the Territorial Force on mobilisation. The answer was that the number would be that usual on mobilisation in every Regular Division of the Army, and he told me that in every division of the Army they had six aides-de-camps and eleven staff officers, making seventeen in all, and that the Territorial Force in its present state had six staff officers in a division. I referred to the Army List to see who they were, and I presume the right hon. Gentleman will admit that the Army List is efficient. I found those six staff officers, and the only ones available, consisted of a second-rate staff officer, and 2708 they included two brigade majors, whom you cannot really include as divisional staff officers, because they are concerned with administration and training. The only other two were the sanitary officer and the medical officer. I should like to know if the right hon. Gentleman includes the medical officer and the sanitary officer as staff officers. There is no other army in existence where the medical officer and the sanitary officer are included in a proper staff.
When we consider that the Germans have eighteen staff officers and the French have seventeen staff officers for every division, it stands to reason that if ever there was a force that really requires more staff officers it is the Territorial Force, and it is undoubtedly in the Territorial Force that that deficiency is more pronounced than in any other. I also asked the right hon. Gentleman when he became Secretary of State for War the number of staff officers available for the Territorial Force. He told me that it was impossible for him to state exactly what number there were, but the number would be made up from the Reserve of Officers. The Reserve of Officers are not men qualified to take staff officer-ships. They have been out of the work for a long time, and in modern war, if it should come, it is a very scientific business, and you must have the most highly scientific trained men at your disposal. Moreover, I can see no earthly use in making these absurd statements in this House in answer to questions about staff officers, including medical officers and sanitary officers. That may deceive a few people who are not interested in Army matters, but it only becomes a laughing-stock to every regiment in the British Army, and it does not deceive for one moment the hon. and gallant officers who have served in the Army, and most of them with staff appointments for a number of years. I only hope that the Secretary of State, in his answer, will give the country some definite statement as to where the six staff officers are to come from. We want men who are highly trained, and neither the late Secretary of State nor the present Secretary of State has yet been able to give any definite statement as to where they are to come from.
§ Mr. AMERY
I wish to support my hon. and gallant Friends in drawing the attention of the House to the great importance of this question of mobilisation. I do not wish to say anything about the question 2709 of the adequacy of our forces for the strategical needs of this country. I shall simply take the forces which we profess to put into the field in time of war, and ask whether at the outset of war you could put them into the field in a condition fit to fight and march, for that is what mobilisation means. Let me take first of all the question of the Expeditionary Force of six Divisions. Can we put those Divisions into the field in a state of readiness to march and fight at all comparable to the state of readiness of the Continental army we might possibly have to encounter? Let me remind the House of what mobilisation means in the case of an army like the German army. It means that you discard the youngest recruits, you call up the men who have just left the Service, in the last two years, and you have an absolutely homogeneous body of men between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-four or twenty-five who come from the same villages, who have been neighbours and schoolfellows together, and who have served in the ranks and know each other thoroughly, and who are in the prime of life. Those men come directly under the non-commissioned officers and officers who trained them in the last two years. The need of extra officers and expansion is met by an arrangement under which places are filled up by men who served in the ranks of the particular regiment for a certain time, and who are selected by the officers and who have gone through special training with those officers. The result is that you have an absolutely homogeneous body of men, among whom there is not a single stranger and not a single man, at any rate in the ranks, five years older than another.
Compare what we have got. We go into the field first of all with a grave shortage of officers. There is, as my hon. Friend pointed out, a very grave shortage of staff officers to begin with, and there is a very grave shortage of officers in the ordinary ranks. We propose to meet these deficiencies by all sorts of expedients. You call up seven hundred non-commissioned officers, thereby weakening the corps of non-commissioned officers, on whom so much depends, on the very occasion when they are most wanted. You call up raw cadets from the military colleges. You call up young men who have certificates of the Officers Training Corps. You throw all these people together in the field and you ask them to work together and to go into a great battle within a period of time in which you would not permit a team of foot- 2710 ballers, however good to begin with, to play a match together. The worst might be mitigated if your men were an absolutely homogeneous body. But of what will your men be composed, when you go into action in the first fortnight or so of war? You take 37 per cent. or 40 per cent.—in many battalions it is much less—of young soldiers who have been with you for a year or more, and who know their training, and who, at any rate, may be classed as up-to-date soldiers. You add the Reservists, of whom the best, it is true, have only just left the Service and are trained, but who are separated by at least five years from service in that battalion, who know practically none of the men, and very few of the non-commissioned officers or even of the officers. That is at the best. But among the Reservists there are an immense number who have left the Army from anything from five to thirteen years, and who are anything from ten to twenty years older than the men with whom they will serve shoulder to shoulder. Of our 106,000 Reservists, 52,000 are over thirty-two years of age. You cannot by any stretch of language call that a homogeneous body. I have no doubt whatever that if you gave them six or eight weeks they would shake together and be ready to meet anybody. But you are not going to be given six weeks. You may have to take a force like that into the field in the first fortnight of war, and it is not fair, either to the officers or to the men, that that should be. Imagine the plight of a boy fresh from Woolwich put in command of a section of men, three-fourths of whom have not seen the rifle or anything of the recent training of the Army, and another one-fourth of young soldiers who have never seen him—a body of people entirely strange to each other, for a great part entirely strange to the work they have to do, and you ask them to face death within a fortnight of coming together!
Then there is the very serious question of horses. An Army is not mobilised unless it can move, and it cannot move, at any rate so far as Cavalry and Artillery are concerned, unless it is provided with horses. There, again, let me remind the House of what mobilisation means with nations on the Continent. They are prepared in the first place to spend large sums of money on breeding horses themselves, and in giving bounties and gratuities to farmers and others to breed horses of the requisite stamp. They keep a large staff 2711 of qualified experts going round the country continuously registering and classifying. They provide by law that when the order for mobilisation is given every owner of a qualified horse has himself to bring that horse in to the local centre, where the horses are examined and drafted off to the units. There you have a means by which, in a day or two, the largest army in the world can be properly equipped with its horses. We have a much smaller Army; we have prided ourselves on being the first horse-breeding nation in the world; and yet we have no adequate arrangements, and we do not even attempt to spend the necessary money for this purpose. We had the experience of the South African war, when more than 400,000 horses were killed off simply because we had not fit horses to begin with, and millions of money were spent. You had in 1910 a census of horses in general, carried out by the police, but you had no real classification as to the fitness of those horses for the particular purpose for which they are wanted. Last year we had an emergency classification by Territorial adjutants. I wonder how many of those Territorial adjutants were really capable of making such a classification, and what that classification is worth? What we require, and what we have not got, is a really efficient staff of experts to keep up a continuous classification and reclassification of the horses in this country. We want to spend money to see that farmers can provide the necessary horses, and we ought to have a provision in the Army Act by means of which, on the outbreak of war, on the publication of the mobilisation notices, every owner of such a horse would at once bring it to the nearest local centre.
This is a very big problem. We require, on mobilisation, 44,000 horses for the Expeditionary Forse, 18,000 for the Regular soldiers left behind in this country, and 80,000 or 90,000 for the Territorials, or about 150,000 horses altogether; and we shall want 30,000 every fortnight to keep them going. So much for the mobilisation of the Expeditionary Force. Then there is the question of the force left behind. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken more than once of the 410,000 men left behind in this country who are going to eat up any invaders. But no army can eat up an invader unless it is mobilised. I would like to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a phrase in a Memorandum by 2712 his predecessor in February, 1907. The then Secretary of State for War, when he was still fresh to his work, said:—The contemplation of large numbers by the people of this country, who are unable to take into account questions of war efficiency and war organisation, necessarily promotes dangerous national illusions.I think that the illusion about these 410,000 men is a very dangerous one. A large part of the 410,000 is composed of inefficient recruits and boys, and another large part of people whom we are already reckoning in the drafts who may have to be sent abroad in the first few weeks of war. Whatever the numbers are, those numbers must be efficient to play their proper part in the defence of this country. I quote again the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. Lord Haldane, in dwelling on the organisation of the Territorial Force, pointed out that that force isdesigned to enable the Regular Army and the Navy to operate with greater freedom at a distance from these shores in places where the defence of British interests may require them.Does not that imply that the force left behind must be able to take the field efficiently in this country to meet an invader? Yet, what is the condition either of the Regular Force or of the Special Reserve left behind or of the Territorials? With regard to the Regular Force and Special Reserve, you have a handful of officers left with a certain number of men of the Special Reserve, a certain number of recruits and immature boys of the Regulars, and a certain number of Section D Reserve. You have a handful of officers who will have to cope with 1,000 or 1,500 men, with practically no non-commissioned officers. Can it be said that that is a suitable force to prepare recruits and drafts, and at the same time to undertake the task of defending this country? Are the Territorials likely to be able to take the field if their adjutants are going to be scurrying about finding horses for the Regulars and fighting other Territorial adjutants for the division of those useful remounts which are to serve three or four battalions in succession? How are they likely to be ready to take the field within the first few weeks of war? Even if you imagine that there are no necessary deductions to be made for your naval garrisons, for coast defence, for Ireland and Scotland—which will leave you less than 100,000 men fit to take the field and march—will not a force of that sort, once engaged in marching and counter-marching, with a really well-organised opponent, on the point of contact be reduced to one-half, one-fourth, 2713 or one-tenth of its nominal strength? As far as I can make out, the 410,000 men left in the country on the outbreak of war would be in precisely the same condition as the 450,000 whom we had in this country after the South African war had been going on for a few months—a force which everybody at that time realised could not defend the country, and that at a time when the Navy had not a single call upon it in any other direction; a force which Lord Lansdowne, the then Secretary of State for War, described as being in no sense an Army fit to take the field. Surely we cannot consider that our mobilisation arrangements at this moment are in any sense adequate? Again, when you consider mobilisation, yon have not only to consider the immediate position; you have to consider the immense demand for officers, men, and horses which begin with the very first weeks of war. Lord Haldane, when he first laid down his scheme, said:—Our investigations to date show that on mobilisation, including the numbers required to meet wastage for six months, nearly 3,500 officers and some 75,000 men will be required for the Special Contingent.To-day we have instead of 3,500 officers, 1,600, and instead of 75,000 men, 57,000, of whom barely 40,000 have had any training, or are of the very minimum age to enable them to take the field without breaking down. Moreover, Lord Haldane's calculations were made only as regards furnishing the Expeditionary Force. Since then we have been told that a considerable proportion of these drafts, 14,000 or 15,000, are to be sent to the Mediterranean or elsewhere with the Extra Special Reserve battalions. That reduces the drafting strength by 15,000, and it increases the requirements for drafts, by the fact that these regiments would also have to be supplied with drafts if they have to serve at all. These calculations have also left entirely out of account the fact that all your garrisons, and, above all, your forces in India, may require drafts. Is it likely that any opponent would go to war with us without making a determined effort to see that we had trouble elsewhere? Is it likely that those elements, which are at all times ready to think of the possibility of trouble, would not choose that precise moment in which to give us trouble? What with the hill tribes in India, or difficulties in Egypt, or the besieging of some Mediterranean garrison or some other contingency, all our forces oversea are likely to be requiring drafts 2714 at the same moment as the Expeditionary Force will require them; but we have not, as a matter of fact, got drafts enough to keep the Expeditionary Force for two months, if we had two or three serious battles at the outbreak of war.
I suppose we shall be told that the Territorial Army is going to supply this particular requirement. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, in the Memorandum which I have already quoted, said that the Territorial Force was to exist for the "support and expansion" of the Expeditionary Force. What is to happen to home defence when that force goes abroad to "support and expand" the Expeditionary Force? We are simply faced here, as in so many cases, with the counting of men over and over again. We have a squadron at Gibraltar which is supposed to be in the Mediterranean and in the North Sea at the same critical moment. We have the Special Reserve counted over and over again; we have the Territorial remounts serving three or four battalions. Is it not time we did really think of the necessities of war, and ask ourselves what is going actually to happen at the outbreak of war, when men can only be in one place at a time and are seriously wanted there? I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think I am speaking from any party point of view or in any captious spirit. I know that he has a great deal to attend to. I know he has to deal with the military system as he found it. I am not blaming him for the military system as it exists to-day. I am not trying to make any party point out of the matter. I wish in the time when hon. Gentlemen on this side were in power they had introduced the changes that I should like to see introduced; but I do think the time has come when we ought to leave all minor questions aside and really concentrate on this great problem of national military efficiency—a problem that has become all the more serious for this country now that we are so hard pressed at sea. I do not want, to repeat arguments which I used the other day, but I do feel that unless we can provide an adequate force for the home defence of this country and for a counter-stroke abroad, we shall have to face a problem of additional Naval Estimates of probably £30,000,000 or £40,000,000.
The complaint I would like to make of those who sit on the opposite bench is the tendency which they show, instead of 2715 facing the situation, to try and find arguments by hook or by crook from soldiers against proposals made on this side. We have had Sir Ian Hamilton's book produced at the instigation of Lord Haldane. Now we have in the "Army Review" an extraordinary article produced by some officer—I think I happen to know who the officer is—in order to prove that the existing system for home defence is adequate and that it does in fact give you as large a force practically as any system of national service would give you at a far greater expense. I am not complaining of the fact that arguments are brought forward against national service. I hope they will be brought forward. This country has no right to embark upon any great experiment of the sort until the matter has been thoroughly thrashed out. But I do object to dishonest arguments brought forward under the auspices of the War Office in an article like the one I refer to. There is only one particular argument to which I wish to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. The article I refer to makes out that our present Territorial Force gives us very nearly the same strength as national service would. It makes it out in this way: It says that the proposal of the National Service League would give you a force of 400,000 men, 80,000 of whom are ear-marked as drafts for foreign service; therefore you have 320,000 men, or only 7,000 more than the establishment of the Territorial Force, and only 45,000 more than the present strength of the Territorial Force.
That argument entirely omits to state, first of all, that the 400,000 men of the National Service League scheme do not include any men in their first year's training, and do not include the 150,000 of the first contingent; but do include men, every one of whom has had his four, five or six months' training, and is over nineteen years of age at least. It is a homogeneous force of men between nineteen and twenty-two, fully comparable in fact, apart from the length of training to a Continental army. The Territorial 275,000 men includes at most 150,000 men who come up even to the absurdly low standard of efficiency required of the Territorial Force. The article omits to say anything about the National Service officer as compared with the present Territorial officer. It also omits the fact that these 400,000 men under national service could be increased indefinitely by simply calling 2716 upon more years' contingents. The 400,000 men are made up of the first three contingents of men. If you call up the fourth contingent you will have 530,000 men; if you call up the fifth you will have over 650,000 men. If you call for contingents in the way that every Continental army does you will have very nearly two millions of men. It is monstrous to try to make out that the force you can get by calling upon the best picked manhood of your nation, who have had a regular training of four or six months, is in any way comparable to the force which you get under the present haphazard system. The officer who wrote this article never deigned to point out that the 80,000 men under the National Service League proposals, who will be assigned for overseas drafts, will be all men over nineteen years of age; every one of them with experience and training at least as good as that you give now to your Special Reserve; whereas the present Special Reserve are only nominally 60,000 strong, and would not actually be able to put more than 30,000 men in the field, comparable in any sense to the 80,000 of the National League proposals. These 80,000 men, by a little extra expenditure of money, could be increased indefinitely. I have never complained of opposition to the proposals of the National Service League. I do complain, as a matter of fact, of the use of political pressure and official favouritism at the War Office in order to induce officers, who know very much better than to write that sort of article, and the use of the influence of promotion and of officialdom in order to make officers of the Army from the highest quarters downwards try to pretend that they believe things that they do not believe. At least that is my experience of the officers I have met. It is time that we seriously faced the situation. Let us face it in a non-party spirit—but let us face it! Let us realise the great difficulties which are involved in the constitution of this Army, in the necessity of retaining a large force of voluntary soldiers for overseas defence; but, for Heaven's sake, do let us face it.
§ Colonel YATE
I am not going to touch on questions which have been raised by my hon. Friends, but I want to put forward one or two practical points for the consideration of the Secretary of State for War in respect of the mobilisation of the Territorial Force and the National Reserve. I would like the Secretary of State to tell me what arrangements have been 2717 made by the Government to prevent a man who joins the Territorial Force losing his employment on mobilisation. I look on this as one of the most important points that we have to settle. Patriotic men who do enlist ought not to be worried about that aspect of the case. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will take the question up, and take real steps to secure that men who join the Territorial Force shall have their appointments reserved for them on mobilisation. I have raised the question before, but I have never been able to get an answer. The greatest difficulty that the Territorial Force is suffering from at the present time, and would suffer from on mobilisation, is the want of officers. That difficulty is increasing, not decreasing, every day. What we require to get officers for the Territorial Force is to catch the boys on leaving school, but before you can catch the boys there are two difficulties to face. The first is that of expense, and the second that of the time that the young officer can give to the work. An officer, on joining the Territorial Force, is faced with an average expense of £50 for cost of uniform. The Government allows him only £20. If the Government wish to get officers for the Territorial Force they will have to raise the outfit allowance from £20 to £50. The only pay an officer gets is when in camp or at some course or school of instruction, and this rarely covers his mess bill If we want these officers to make our Territorial Force efficient on mobilisation I think we must give them increased allowances, for a company officer must also spend a certain amount on his company
Again, as to the time an officer must give to his soldiering. It is unfortunately the fact that it is not the wealthy, leisured classes that we get to join the Territorial Force. I wish it was. As a rule it is the business man with his career before him, and only a limited amount of leisure at his disposal. This man has his own career to think about, and if he takes to soldiering he is necessarily debarred in a great measure from all other amusements, such as cricket, golf, etc., that young men like to have. The expense increases year by year, and the work is becoming more and more serious. The knowledge required by the officers to carry on their duties increases year by year. On joining there is, first of all, the month's "school," then all the various other courses an officer must pass to enable him to instruct his men. All this 2718 is followed by regimental and brigade tours, lectures, etc. In addition, there is the company training, range firing, camp, etc., so that the young officer's duties are almost continuous from one year's end to another. If things are not remedied the shortage of officers will go on, for busy men find it too much for them, and, I am sorry to say, many of them give it up. Poor men cannot afford to join the force because their expenses are not paid, and so the shortage goes on. The difficulties must be faced if we are to get the officers, and they must be properly paid, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will not face the question and try to find some means to increase the pay, the outfit allowance, and so on.
The same thing applies to the medical officers. I am told there is great difficulty now in finding these. Doctors cannot afford to give the short time their profession allows them for holiday to military duties, and men cannot be expected to sacrifice both business and pleasure without some quid pro quo. If there is to be no national service there must be an adequate inducement to serve. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us whether he cannot discover some means to improve the conditions of the officers. I would suggest that lieutenant-colonels who take up the onerous duties of commanding battalions or units should be made J.P.'s, whilst, as an inducement to young officers to join, a more liberal outfit allowance should be given, say, £50, renewable every five years on condition of efficiency. These suggestions that I put forward, I believe, would go a long way to induce officers to join. Something must be done. It is necessary to be able to put before a youth some substantial advantages as the reward of service, and it should not be beyond the power of the Secretary of State to find that substantial inducement. As to the men, there is another suggestion I should like to make. I am glad to say that in Leicestershire, a portion of which county I have the honour to represent, the units in the county are practically full. Leicestershire has set a splendid example to other counties in this respect. This will continue, I hope, if the annual camps are made pleasant as well as useful. Where possible they should be held at the seaside. The great difficulty that has to be got over is the difficulty with the employers of labour in getting leave for the men for the second, and the most important, week in camp. Some inducement must be given 2719 or some acknowledgment made to employers to allow their men the second week's leave—for the second week's training is essential for the efficiency of the force. If employers are not to be compelled to let their men go, then they must be paid to let them go, and the country must boar the cost. These are all practical points. I dare say the right hon. Gentleman has considered them, but he has never told us what conclusion he has come to. I hope he will be able to give us some definite answer.
It is no good saying there is extra cost. Whatever it is it must be faced. The men are short in numbers, and we must see if anything can be done to remedy it, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not shirk facing these questions. I may say here that I entirely disagree with the Financial Secretary to the War Office when he stated the other day that it never had been contemplated that the numbers of the Territorial Force should reach the fixed establishment of 315,000. The hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary said that that was a paper maximum, but I must protest against that; that number was fixed, and I do not think we could possibly accept the Financial Secretary's statement that it was a mere paper figure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith Burghs the other day said that the numbers ought to be raised to 500,000. In that I most cordially agree. I also agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he spoke of the necessity of compulsory training for boys from fourteen to seventeen years of age. Lord Haldane himself admitted this, and he stated it was a question for the President of the Board of Education, and I do trust the right hon. Gentleman the present War Secretary will follow in Lord Haldane's footsteps and will use his influence with the President of the Board of Education and initiate some system of national training, not only for the boys in the schools, but also for those who are not at school as well. I hope he will begin with Eton and Harrow and thus show that we are not going to put an extra burden upon the poor, but an extra duty upon the rich.
There is one curious thing with reference to the National Reserve. I received a very valuable letter the other day from a former member of the Canadian North-West Frontier 2720 Police who served through the South African war. He writes to say he has just received the South African war bounty. He tells me he came to England and disposed of it for £250. "Truly a magnificent recognition," he says, "of services to the Empire from the patriotic Dominion of Canada." He goes on to say he would like me to tell Mr. Borden how much he would like to thank him for what the Canadian Government has done for the men who fought for the Empire. And he asks me to see Mr. Borden and wish him every success. I have just mentioned this to show how patriotic service is treated in the Dominions abroad in contrast to the way the National Reserve and others are treated at home. Well, this old North-West Frontier policeman goes on to talk about the National Reserve, in which he is enlisted. He feels very strongly on the matter, and I only mention it at all because here is an outsider who comes and sees things for himself, and in his view reflects the general opinion, and he says, "It seems to me from the speeches made from the Government side of the House that there is a distinct effort to use the National Reserve as a set-off against the shortage in the Territorials." He then asks me two questions. First, What steps have been taken for the National Reserve to secure for them uniform, rifle, and ammunition, and, secondly, if no such steps have been taken, whether the Government will consider the question of providing them at once, so that the men now coming forward in the interest of national safety might be ready for mobilisation in twenty-four hours? These are questions of importance, coming from a man who has had experience of war.
In Leicestershire the National Reserves, like the Territorials, are growing stronger. There is already a full battalion of men under forty-five years of age and another half battalion of men between forty-five and fifty-five. What is done to encourage them? What the members ask is that they should be taken, seriously, and should not be treated as a mere paper force, and that they should not be held up merely to be flourished in the face of the House of Commons to show that all men that can be required are registered, and to show that there is no possible need for national service. These are questions put by members of the National Reserve. The men would like to do something; they would like to know that they do not merely exist on paper. 2721 In Leicestershire the members of the National Reserve would much prefer to undertake liability to serve in an emergency, and that the duties they will be called upon to perform should be clearly defined. I should like to have some information from the right hon. Gentleman upon this subject. I also suggest that in return for the service these men are prepared to give some privileges might be given to them. Exemption, for instance, from service on juries would be a very valuable privilege, and would be much enjoyed by the men and it is also suggested by many of those concerned, that service in that Reserve might count for long service and good conduct medals. These things are valuable and would be very greatly appreciated by the men, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to do something to recognise the service of these men. At present the county associations can only spend one shilling per head upon registration and half of that goes for badges. The first thing necessary is a general parade of the whole force; that cannot be done on account of the expense. If a belt was given or a bandolier or something of that sort it would not be out of place. Some encouragement ought to be given to the men to keep up their firing; a small retaining fee, for instance, might be given to men who fire a certain number of rounds. Anything of that sort would do much to induce the men to keep up a certain standard of efficiency. A certain number of rifles might be allowed, and it should be made clear that a liberal separation allowance will be allowed on mobilisation, and, in the case of accidents, wives and families will be well provided for. I simply wish that the members of the National Reserve should know that it is recognised that they are portion of the defensive force of the country; they want to prove it is so, and they want to know that they have some real business before them on mobilisation.
The Secretary of State for War told us that the National Reserve as a military asset was of the greatest value and he asked them if they would undertake service. The National Reserve are quite willing to do so if they only got something definite before them; if they were told, for instance, that all men under forty-five years of age on mobilisation would be sent to join some unit of their own service, or that those under fifty-five would be sent to garrison ports or to guard bridges, railways, and stores. That would be definite, 2722 but nothing definite is told them; I hope some definite work and some definite orders will be put before them. They would feel proud to be members of a useful living force. An hon. Friend asks me to raise the question of compulsory cadet training, but the right hon. Gentleman has stated that there is no intention of adopting cadet training, and he went on to say, "I am not aware that military cadet training was a part of the policy of my predecessor in office." That was part of Lord Haldane's policy, because he distinctly advocated it and said it was something to be undertaken by the Minister of Education. Yes, Lord Ilaldane was entirely in favour of it. You will find that by reference to his last speech at the Royal United Service Institution. I ask the right hon. Gentleman again to take these matters into his consideration and to see if something cannot be done. I look upon it as the most important thing there is before the country, and I hope the points which I have brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman will receive his consideration.
§ Colonel SEELY
Certain hon. Gentlemen who have spoken—and I except the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down, to whom I shall endeavour to reply—preface their remarks by saying that this matter of organisation was one of great and vital importance to the country and the Empire. I fully agree, and I may be permitted to comment on the fact that if they regard them as of such vital importance, it is a little strange that they should have sprung Debate upon us without any notice whatever to the Minister responsible who has to reply to the particular points raised. Various questions were asked involving strings of figures, and one hon. Gentleman was good enough to ask me not to quote too many. I have made every inquiry, and I find that no notice whatever was given to me or my colleague, and that no notice was given through the Whips. Of course, so far as the Minister is concerned, it may be a great convenience for him to say that he had no notice and that it is impossible for him to reply fully, but in the interests of businesslike discussions, I may be permitted to protest against a matter of this kind, in discussing without notice matters of this character, because if no notice is given it is impossible that a reply in any sense adequate can be put forward. What the reason for this course was I do not know, or whether it was due to a statement in the "Times" of this morning that 2723 I was gone on the Continent, which statement I may now say was greatly exaggerated, but whatever the reason was I respectfully protest against it as being a course which makes it impossible to give full and satisfactory definite replies to definite questions. The particular points raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down are matters which we have discussed frequently before, and I can answer his questions without previous notice. He asked me about the allowance for Territorial officers. He says £20 was not adequate. I do not think it is an adequate amount, but there is only a certain amount of money to go round, and you have got to act within certain definite limitations, and you cannot go beyond the Estimates. This is a matter demanding careful consideration, and I will consider it. The other point was that in order to encourage Territorial officers, commanding officers should be made Justices of the Peace. I do not agree. As to the judicial aspect I doubt whether the Lord Chancellor would favour the view, not because I do not think that the officers are not most admirable men and excellent officers, but because it is quite plain that a knowledge of military art does not by any means imply a knowledge of judicial procedure.
§ Colonel SEELY
I said I would consider one point raised by the hon. and gallant Member, but I have said I would not consider the other. I will consult with the hon. Member opposite with a view to finding out whether there are any other means of increasing the supply of officers in the Territorial Force. With regard to the National Reserve and its organisation, I have been asked to state definitely what that Reserve is for, and whether we intend to definitely organise it. If I am asked to state whether we are going to create a third Army for foreign service I do not think that would be a wise military policy. Of course, we could organise a National Reserve into battalions, brigades and divisions. The force approaches 150,000 strong, and it is organised. I know this could easily be done, but I do not think it would be sound military policy. The National Reserve is a thing which has grown of itself. The complaint against it is that we have given it no official encouragement. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. 2724 If we have given it no official encouragement it cannot be complained of us that we are wrong in not fully organising it. I regard it as a force of great value, and in time of war it would be of immense service to us. Of that there can be no doubt. I do not, however, agree that it is necessary to organise it into battalions, brigades, and divisions.
§ Colonel SEELY
That would involve their taking a definite obligation. I have consulted a great many persons with regard to the National Reserve. Mr. St. Loe Strachey, who has had a great deal to do with the National Reserve, believes, that if you try to do things too quickly and go to each man and say, "Will you guard that railway, and undertake to do that on mobilisation? Will you undertake to form part of the transport? Will you guard the lines of communication? And will you take dispatches, and be a cyclist when the day of battle comes?" You may kill this force. If Mr. St. Loe Strachey is right it would be unwise to try to go too fast in this matter. It is growing, and it will be a great advantage; but if we try to accomplish this too quickly and jam it into a mould of our own making you may destroy it. We cannot provide £2 a head and clothing and other things, because the cost would be enormous. We could not do any such thing until they are organised in the way in which we have said we will not organise them. That expenditure would not be justified. No such scheme could possibly justify such an expenditure in the initial stages of many hundreds of thousands of pounds. There are more important matters which press for solution. With regard to mobilisation, this is a vitally important matter of which, as I have said already, I have had no notice. The question has been put in a more definite form than it has ever been put before. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Colonel Hickman) told us we were no better prepared for war now than we were in 1811, and he said we could not send so many men as we did then, and they would not be so well organised. I think that was the substance of the hon. and gallant Member's speech. I have been able in the shore period since the hon. and gallant Member spoke, to refresh my memory as to what took place in 1811. Our Expeditionary 2725 Force now consists of over 160,000 men. I can again assure the House that that force would be ready in as short a time as any similar force would have been ready three years ago, or at any previous time in our history; that it would be able to take the field with proper provision of arms, ammunition, and horses, and it would represent an enormous advance on anything we have yet seen in this country. Do not lot me be taken as stating that everything in this force is perfect, because much remains to be done, and I hope the House will assist me in doing it; but when hon. Members say that we are worse off than before, that is a most fantastic aberration from strict accuracy.
The hon. and gallant Member has had his turn, and he had bettor listen to the right hon. Gentleman's reply without interruption.
§ Colonel SEELY
I repeat that that is a fantastic aberration from strict accuracy. We are enormously better prepared than we were a few years ago, and great advances have been made. I know it is a little difficult to convince hon. Members as to the great advances made without going into full details, which no country has ever published or ever will publish; but the published statements of our military advisers should carry conviction apart from my own statement and they show that we have made a great and real advance in our readiness for war, so far as the Expeditionary Force is concerned. If hon. Gentlemen will look at page 11 of the Army Estimates they will see that we have 366,987 men liable for foreign service. I know some of those are young, but I was reading only the other day a complaint as to the large number of boys who fought in the battle of Waterloo. We have an Expeditionary Force of 160,000, and that force will be ready in a shorter time than before. I have been looking up the year 1811, which has been mentioned by the hon. Member opposite, and I find in that year there were sent to the Peninsular 46,000 men, and in the year 1809 the number was 22,000 men. A statement was made in the following April in regard to the necessity for further reinforcements. In the year 1810 there were apparently in the line of battle 34,000 men at Torres Vedras. That, of course, is including all the sick and those holding the lines of communication. In 1811 it appears there were altogether in the Peninsular 56,000 2726 men, and in a very interesting minute made by the Duke of York he said that there were available 60,000 men. That was considered sufficiently important in those days to note as a very important advance in military efficiency. Now we say that we have 160,000 men available out of a possible 366,000 for foreign service. In the face of those facts how can any hon. Member in this House get up and say that we are not so ready for war as we were in the year 1811? I ask the House to take warning as to those statements, and not believe the persistent statements which are being made on this point to the effect that this country is going to the dogs. Again and again we stand here and say we want more things done and that this country has made great advances in her readiness for war, and again and again a fresh line of attack is taken. We are told that this is done in a non-party manner, and that this question should be treated in a non-party spirit, and yet hon. Members tell us we are not so ready for war as we were in 1811.
§ Colonel SEELY
At that time we had the European armies leagued against us. Have we got that to-day? No. I should say that relatively we were far stronger, but that was not the point made in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Wolverhampton. I say that we are doing all that is necessary to ensure the safety of the country.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is attributing to me something I never said at all; I never made any allusion to 1811.
§ Colonel SEELY
I absolve the hon. and gallant Gentleman from all blame, and I am afraid that I must fasten the blame on the hon. Member for Torquay (Colonel Burn). The hon. Member for Torquay informs us that he said "relatively," but whether he said relatively or not, both statements I absolutely deny. The question is, Are we doing what is necessary for the safety of the country? I believe we are. We are told that this is a non-party matter, and it is quite clear that it ought to be so regarded. If anyone says that great improvements could be made in our Army, I reply at once by saying that that is so, but we have got to survey the whole field of naval and military defence and other great matters that press upon us. Taking all that into consideration, I believe 2727 that adequate provision is made for the defence of our Empire. Our military policy in this country depends in a great measure upon our diplomacy. I know it is difficult to discuss these matters at any length, or to discuss them adequately on an occasion like this, when other subjects are pressing for discussion, and when the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary cannot be present having had no notice of this Debate. Taking a survey of the whole field, and regarding this for the moment as a Committee of Imperial Defence, which the House of Commons in the last resort is, I say that we are making adequate preparations for the defence of our Empire. Great advances have been made, and must continue to be made, in making ready for war; but on the whole, I believe, our military advisers have served the country well, and should the hour of danger ever unfortunately come, I do not think we shall be found wanting.