§ Motion made, and Question proposed.
§ 3. "That a sum, not exceeding £715,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Pay, Bounty, etc., of the Special Reserve (to a number not exceeding 91,363, including 1,300 Militia and 150 Militia Reserve), and of the Officers' Training Corps, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1913."
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I wish to ask one or two questions about the Special Reserve. I am entitled to refer to this matter; because this Special Reserve, which is a very important factor in our military system, has not been discussed for a good many years in this House, and those of us who are interested in the force, and hold commissions in it, are desirous of finding out the intentions of the Government in regard to it. We want to know, in fact, what particular rôle the Special Reserve is designed to play in our 334 military system. Let me refer for one or two moments to the history of the creation of this force. In the year 1907, when Haldane's system was introduced, the old Militia was abolished. I am bound to say that that abolition was a very doubtful experiment. You had a force that has played a great part in the history of the country. It was an old constitutional force, which was able in emergency to go out as units. In the South African war the force performed very good service. I would remind hon. Members that no fewer than 126 separate battalions of Reserve Infantry were embodied during the South African war; sixty-one served in South Africa, nine in the Mediterranean, and fifty-six did duty in garrisoning the various fortress towns in this country. The special feature of the old Militia was that they came out as units. I am not casting the slightest reflection upon the Territorial or any other force, but the point was that the old Militia could come out as units, and by garrisoning the fortresses of this country, and by maintaining the lines of communication in South Africa, by releasing a large number of Regular battalions from Mediterranean stations, it made it possible for us to send to the front a very large number of officers and men who could not otherwise have been dispatched there. The Militia was abolished. What have we got in its place? We have the Special Reserve, but how many of those battalions could go out as units and take their places with the Regular battalions in emergency at the present time? At the outside we have twenty-seven special battalions—that is to say, fourth battalions of the Special Reserve in the place of the 126 that did duty during the South African war.
I am prepared to make one admission with regard to the change which was made when the Militia was turned into the Special Reserve, namely, that the general efficiency of the Special Reserve is considerably greater than that of the old Militia. I admit that as regards the men the fact that they have to do five months' preliminary drill before they can serve in the Special Reserve and come out of training, is a great improvement. I am prepared to admit also, as regards the officers, that the fact that they have to go for six months' probationary work in a Line battalion gives them a great education, and creates greater efficiency than existed before. I am also glad to acknowledge that the presence of Regular establishment 335 officers during the training is of great advantage to Special Reserve battalions. I know there were some people who regarded that experiment as a very doubtful one. It was thought that the existence of Regular officers with older Militia officers might cause friction and trouble. So far as my experience is concerned, that has not been the case, and I gladly admit the great help that has been rendered by the Regular establishment officer. But when we come to numbers, and, after all, that is the important point, the position of the Special Reserve is most unsatisfactory. Let me give the facts. The establishment of the Militia, when I first joined, was about 130,000. As a matter of fact something in the neighbourhood of 100,000, or rather more, went out for training every year. What is the position now. The establishment of the Special Reserve, instead of being 130,000, is, according to the Votes that have been circulated this year, only 89,913, which is a decrease of 1,300 since last year. When we come to actual strength, and that is far more important than the establishment, what do we find? The actual strength is only 61,951. In other words, the Special Reserve, with this very reduced establishment, is nearly 28,000 men short at the present time. Every single battalion is short.
The result to anybody who has done his training is apparent. We have to train with skeleton companies. It is impossible to recognise nowadays what is a company and what is a squad? The establishment has been reduced from twelve companies to eight companies. At the last training, about a month ago, I was out in a big camp with five Special Reserve battalions. Every single one was under strength. The battalion that was most under strength was one of the fourth battalions, one of the twenty-seven extra special battalions which are supposed to be able to come out as units, like the old Militia did. Their establishment is 750 non-commissioned officers and men, whereas the establishment of the third battalion is only 580. The fourth battalion, which was out with us, was the weakest battalion in the whole camp. If these extra special battalions are to come out as units, how on earth are they to do their duty in relieving a Line battalion in the way the old Militia did? Their weakness is perfectly apparent. The force is really rapidly disappearing. The establishment has been cut down, and 336 the numbers do not anything like equal the establishment. I ask the Government what they propose to do, to bring up the Special Reserve to anything like the establishment that it ought to be; and what particular function do they assign to the Special Reserve under present conditions in the general military scheme of the country. The position is really most serious. The fourth battalions—these twenty-seven regiments—cannot possibly fulfil their duty of coming out as units and going abroad. They are very weak. You have increased their establishment, but you have not got the men. If they go abroad after having shed 10 per cent., we will say, of immature youths and so on, they will be battalions of no more than 300 to 400 strong.
As to the rest, the third battalions, what is going to be their position? We are told they are depôt battalions, and are going to be used as drafts to make up the wastage of war in the Regular battalions. What is the strength of the drafts they can send? The total strength of the Special Reserve at the present time is about 61,000. From the drafts that you can send to a Regular battalion going abroad you have to deduct the twenty-seven extra specials, which is really about 14,000. You have to deduct again what has been called the Special Contingent of the Expeditionary Force. According to a speech made by Lord Lucas in the House of Lords on the 15th November, 1910, 15,175 Special Reservists are required for what is called the Special Contingent of the Expeditionary Force. You have then to deduct the number who pass from the Special Reserve into the Line. According to Lord Haldane, 47 per cent, of the Special Reservists are really recruits going on from the Special Reserve into the Line. We will put them down as about 15,000. You have then to deduct another 10 per cent., who are immature lads who could not possibly be fit for drafts into a Line battalion in time of war. What is the result? Leaving on one side these twenty-seven extra special battalions, you have only about 12,000 men to use as drafts to make up for wastage of war in the course of a campaign. What do the Government propose to do? I know that last year, taking, the Memorandum which was circulated with the Army Votes, the Government proposed to increase the numbers of the Special Reserve by enlisting a large number of ex-soldiers, men who had completed their twelve years with the colours 337 and the Reserve, and so stiffening them with old soldiers. But they have not got these men. I understand they are not forthcoming. How are you going to make up your number? I confess it is very difficult to make a suggestion, but I would humbly suggest this as a possible means. I would amalgamate what is called Section D of the Army Reserve with the Special Reserve. Instead of having a Section D, those men who have served their twelve years and who can go on for another four years should only be allowed to go on for another four years if they train with the Special Reserve.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
On a point of Order. Is my hon. Friend in order in suggesting a plan of that description? Would it not be necessary to introduce a Bill to enable that to be done; and, if so, is he not out of order?
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH - BOSCAWEN
Whether it be embodied in a Bill or a Vote later on, I am not one of those who are prepared to come here and criticise generally without making some suggestion. It seems to me that I am quite in order in suggesting that one way, at all events, would be to amalgamate Section D of the Army Reserve with the Special Reserve and to enlist men when they join the Army to serve for so many years with the Colours, so many years with the Army Reserve, and afterwards, we may say, for four years with the Special Reserve. In that way, at all events, they would get some lien upon the men and they might be able to get that stiffening of old soldiers which the Government attempted to get last year, and which apparently they entirely failed to get when they put their proposal into practice. Now we come to the officers. It is really a most serious state of affairs. According to the establishment the officers of the Special Reserve, excluding the Regular establishments, are 2,843. The actual numbers, according to the Votes circulated with the War Office Memorandum, are only 1,607. In other words, there is a deficiency of officers of no less than 1,236. Some battalions are most extraordinarily weak. I took the trouble 338 to look into the case of three or four battalions the other day. One battalion I find out of an establishment of nineteen subalterns has only three, another out of a total establishment of twenty-six officers has only got eleven; another battalion, which is a fourth battalion and therefore has a higher establishment, out of twenty-nine officers has only got thirteen. What do the Government propose? Are they satisfied with that state of affairs? Are they not prepared to propose something to try to improve it? I read the other day an article in the "United Service Review" which said that the whole matter was the fault of commanding officers, and unless commanding officers got more officers for their battalions they were not worthy of their pay, and ought to be turned out.
The difficulty of getting officers under present conditions is enormously great. I spend an enormous amount of time myself in endeavouring to get officers. All the time I can spare from defending the Church in Wales and trying to induce the Government to do something for the housing of the working classes, I spend in trying to get officers for the 3rd Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment. I am better off than a good many commanding officers, but under present conditions it is very difficult, and I can tell the Government some of the reasons. In the first place, by abolishing the Militia and substituting what is called the Special Reserve you have destroyed the county connection of the old Militia force. Up to the time that the Militia was altered it was the old constitutional force of the county, and there was a large number of people who always went into the county Militia. No one knows what on earth the Special Reserve is. I am frequently asked, "What do you belong to now?" I say, "I belong to the old Militia." They say, "We thought it was abolished." I say, "It is abolished and they call us the Special Reserve." When I say we are called the Special Reserve they generally say, "Are you Territorial?" And I say, "No; we are not Territorials." They then ask, "What on earth are you?" And so you have a complete disconnection of the old county connection between the Militia and those old county families who used to find the officers for the Militia force. It is not only that. Let me give an example. The county connection is entirely destroyed. Instead of being the Militia of a particular county we are now the third battalion of a regiment which may be a very good regiment, but one 339 which has no particular connection as regards officers with that special county. To take an example, Cumberland men went into the old Cumberland Militia. They are not now the Cumberland Militia, but the third battalion of the Border Regiment. That conveys absolutely nothing to the class of men who used to go into the Cumberland Militia. Take another case—the old Denbighshire Militia, whom I used to know very well. They are now the third battalion of a very distinguished regiment—the Royal Welsh Fusiliers—but their Denbighshire connection in name and so one has entirely gone, and that is one great reason why we cannot get officers now. The best thing the Government can do if they wish to officer the Special Reserve is to restore to the battalions their old county names and the name of the Militia. I do not in the least see why a battalion should not be called the Militia of a particular county, and yet do all the functions which are assigned to the Special Reserve at present.
One great difficulty is getting subaltern officers. In the old days we used to get a great many subaltern officers, young men who came into the Militia with a view to getting into the Line. The Militia in those days, apart from Sandhurst, was practically the only way by which young men could get into the Line. That is entirely destroyed now. You can get in through the universities and through the Territorials and by various other ways. I am not complaining, and I do not think any alteration is possible; but still that is one great difficulty in the way of getting subaltern officers for the Special Reserve. Another difficulty is the six months' probation. It is frightfully difficult to get young men now to agree to go for six months to a Regular battalion. You cannot do it unless you catch a man the moment he leaves school or college. Only the other day an excellent young man, who would have done admirably for a Special Reserve battalion, came to see me in this House I was willing to give him a commission, but when I told him he would have to go for six months to a Line battalion he said it was impossible. He had just got some work in the city of an important character. He could do the month's training all right, but he could not possibly do his six months' probation with the Regular battalion first. It is difficult to make any suggestion, because I am bound to admit that the six months' probation adds enormously to the efficiency of the officer. The 340 only difficulty I have is that after six months' probation the subalterns are so infinitely more efficient than the senior officers. What I would suggest is that the Government should put the Officers' Training Corps into much closer relation with the Special Reserve. No doubt if we could catch these young men the moment they leave Oxford or Cambridge or the moment they leave a public school, and before they go into any other kind of business you might be able to get them for six months' probation. But if you miss that opportunity the chance is gone.
I can tell the Under-Secretary an experience I had. A few months ago I circularised every officers' Training Corps in the country, every public school, and each of the universities, and asked if they had any boys or men leaving the university who lived in West Kent who had been in their training corps and was willing to do a little soldiering and serve in the Special Reserve. I got a very scanty response, and was rather disappointed to start with. Some of them did not answer; but only last week I got a communication from one of the great public schools recommending a particular boy who was leaving that school who had been in the Officers' Training Corps and wanted to go into the Special Reserve; and I am glad to say I have been able to recommend him for a commission in my battalion. If the War Office could put us, who command Special Reserve battalions, in more direct communication with the Officers' Training Corps, it would make it easier to get officers in the future. One other difficulty is this. Notwithstanding all that has been done, and all the simplification that has taken place, the amount of red tape and difficulty made by the War Office is often very serious. I will give an example of what occurred to me the other day. An ex-officer brought his son to me, and asked me to recommend him for a commission in the 3rd West Kent. I saw the young man, and recommended him, and in the ordinary course he had to go before a medical board. The Board found him fit in every way, except that he had a varicocele. It was pointed out that if he had an operation the varicocele might be removed, and he might receive a commission. He went through an operation. What happened then? He had to go before another board, and he was spun in respect of general debility. That was caused as the result of the operation. That is perfectly heart-rending. On account of the rigid rules drawn up by 341 medical boards, young men who are otherwise perfectly fit, and who would make good officers in the Special Reserve, are taken from us. What are the remedies with a view of getting more officers? I have already said that one of the best things we can do would be to restore the name Militia, with the old county titles. If that were done, I think we should find officers in future as in the past. In the next place, if you want to get the number of officers required for the Special Reserve, and I understand you do want them—it is not only a case of officering the existing battalions, but you expect each of the existing battalions to send four officers to the Regular Force to make up the deficiency in the Regular battalions—you should give them a bigger retaining fee than at present.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH - BOSCAWEN
More money, exactly. What do you do now? You give a retaining fee of £20 up to the age of thirty-five. I do not know why officers after thirty-five are excluded. It is apparently thought that after that age they are of no use whatever. I do not ask a retaining fee for myself, but what I do say is that if you gave these officers a bigger retaining fee, and continued it after thirty-five, you would be more likely to get officers. I suggest that it should be increased to £30 or £40, and not cut off at thirty-five, as at present. In the next place you ought to make the life and training in the Special Reserve as economical as possible—certainly less expensive than it is now. I am not for a moment saying that life in the Special Reserve is extravagant now. Far from it. My experience is exactly the opposite. I knew a captain who could live on his pay during the training. Unless he drinks champagne every night, a subaltern can live on his pay, taking into account his retaining fee. But the Government put on officers all kinds of unnecessary expenses which have to be met, and which make the training far more expensive than it ought to be.
Take the case of bands. It may be said that is a very trumpery and minor point to mention, and that in considering the expense of the Special Reserve and the importance of their place in the general military efficiency of the country we ought not to talk of such a small matter. My belief is that the existence of a fairly respectable band in a battalion is most useful 342 from the point of view of recruiting both men and officers. At all events, the Government recognise the value and importance of a band by giving £25 a year towards its expense. That amount is absolutely inadequate. The Government give £25, and require that a sergeant drummer and eight musicians, or permanent staff drums, should be provided. With £25 a year no man on earth can have an efficient band. Then they say we can have two days' pay. That gives £21 a year, and, with £46 a year and with only eight permanent staff drums, we have got to have an efficient band during training. It simply cannot be done, and the result is that in order to maintain a band of a certain number the officers, who are better off than others, have to put their hands very deeply in their pockets. It is absolutely wrong that they should have to do that. If the Government think it necessary to have a band—and apparently they do—they ought to give an adequate amount without putting the expense on the officers, but the War Office apparently never consider these matters. They have no touch with the realities of the situation. Two years ago the Government said, "We will help you to solve the question of bands. We will make it legal for you to enlist musicians." It sounds so easy. What does it amount to in practice? You have got to enlist musicians for four years. You cannot buy them out by paying £3 discharge for each man. As a matter of fact a civilian musician will not enlist for four years. His life does not tend that way. He may be playing at the Empire one week, then he may be turned over for the Special Reserve training, and after that he may go on a ship like the poor fellows who were on the "Titanic." Their lives are so diversified that they will not enlist for four years. We cannot find them out at each training. You could buy a discharge for £1 formerly, but it is now £3. What I do say is that if the Government think it important that we should have a band at all they ought to make proper provision for it without putting the expense on the officers of the battalions.
There are various other small criticisms I would like to make. Let me give one or two examples of the way in which the Special Reserves are badly treated. I do not want to institute any invidious comparison with the Territorials whose work I greatly admire, but I want to know why a Territorial field officer should be exempt from having to serve on juries while a Special Reserve field officer is not exempt. 343 The Special Reserve field officers perform an important national function just as much as the others. I am not arguing that the Territorial officers should not be exempt, but I argue that the Special Reserve officer should have similar exemption. Take another case. A Territorial adjutant, if a subaltern when appointed, obtains the temporary and local rank of captain, but a Special Reserve adjutant, if a subaltern, remains a subaltern, and does not get the temporary rank. I should like to know why that is so. At the present moment my adjutant, who is a subaltern, remains a subaltern, but his junior in the Service who is an adjutant in the Territorial Force has obtained the rank of captain. These are no doubt small points, but all points contributing either to the efficiency or inefficiency of the Special Reserve. It is because I am most anxious in every way that the Special Reserve should be given a fair chance to make itself as efficient as possible, and to do the functions assigned to it in the Government's scheme, that I ask the Government for a sympathetic consideration of these points. I make these criticisms in no spirit of hostility or complaint. We are quite prepared to do our duty in the sphere in which we happen to be placed, but we do feel at the present moment that the force is falling off in numbers, that the difficulty of getting officers is increasing, and that we have a difficulty as to what particular way the Government intend us to act. We say that our extra special 4th Battalion are not able to do the work which the old Militia did of mobilisation, we feel that the 3rd Battalions are miserably weak, and we do think that the time has come when we ought to have some explicit statement from the Government as to what rôle in particular we are intended to fill, and that we ought to have a little more encouragement from the powers that be to make the Special Reserve more efficient.
§ Colonel BOLES
I view with some alarm the shortage and the continuous shrinkage of the Special Reserve, and I refer particularly to the Infantry. In 1909 the shortage of infantry was 3,729. In 1910 it was 9,577. According to the latest returns it was 15,851. Let it be noted that these latest returns are figures in January when the Special Reserve is at its strongest and the largest number of recruits is being trained at the depot at that time. These same recruits, some 60 or 70 per cent. of 344 whom are counted in the Special Reserve, go also to increase the satisfaction of the Assistant Adjutant-General for recruiting in making up the annual report for recruits for the Regular Army. It would be noticed that in his Army Estimates the Secretary of State for War did not lay stress upon the shortage of the Special Reserve, but merely pointed out that there were 1,800 less than last year. This is a very important matter, and the question which the War Office has to decide at the present time is: How can the Special Reserve units be brought up to establishment both as regards officers and men? It is interesting to note that in none of the speeches on the Government side in the Debate on the Army Estimates, was there a single suggestion as to how this could be done. Are we to attribute it to the fact that their whole attention was devoted to the Territorial Force, or is it because they realise—and I think everyone will agree with me that this is the reason—that under present conditions or under any other conditions short of compulsory service or enormous pay it is quite impossible.
I would like to make one or two suggestions which I do not claim will in any way bring this force up to proper establishment, but which may in some way tend to check the terrible shrinkage that is going on at present. I would urge the Secretary of State for War to give a separation allowance to the married privates in the Special Reserve. If a Territorial requires a separation allowance for fifteen days, why does not the Special Reservist require it for twenty-seven days? It is not an argument to say, though I believe it is often said, that the Special Reservist gets a bounty while the Territorial does not, because I submit that the bounty which the Special Reservist gets is given to him on account of extra risks he is prepared to run, in other words for foreign service obligations. This money, or the greater part of it, could be saved by not giving to the Special Reserve recruit, who turns over to the Line at the conclusion of the Special Reserve training and very often before the conclusion of that training, the 30s. bounty. That bounty, I submit, is a reward for Special Reserve recruit training. If a man turns over to the Line at the end of that training in what respect is he different from the ordinary man who enlist in the Line, the ordinary Line recruit, training at the depôt, on enlistment? And yet that man does not receive a bounty. Another method by which to a certain extent this 345 shrinkage may be prevented is by increasing the price for the purchase of a discharge. Three pounds is ridiculously low, when you think that the 30s. bounty which the recruit receives goes towards half of it, and I may say the Line training bounty would supply the whole of it. I would suggest that in addition to the £3 which a man has to pay to buy his discharge, he should also be called upon to refund the 30s. bounty. Perhaps it is hopeless in these days to suggest that the numbers of men who turn over to the Line should be limited annually, as it was in the case of the old Militia, to check this decrease.
Still I do not see why men should be allowed to turn over until they have done one training with the Special Reserve battalion. I lay great stress on that. I think it is most important that these men should be obliged to do one training with the Special Reserve battalion. At present the Special Reserve is largely a paper strength, since a large percentage of it is composed of recruits who have turned over. If they had to do one training, and then wished to turn over, say at the conclusion or shortly after the conclusion of the training, which I think would be the case, the strength, as at present reckoned, would be largely increased, since all the recruits joining from the end of one July to the beginning of next July would be on its books. Again, I say that it would have this effect, that the men who would join the Army would not join so young, for in many cases they would have to put in several months' service with the Special Reserve. I think this may be looked upon as an advantage by the Line battalions, for instead of getting these men who turn over in driblets throughout the year, they would get them more or less at one time.
I can assure the Committee that it would certainly please the Special Reserve commanding officer and the company commanding officers that they would have someone to command. I will be corrected if I am wrong, but I am given to understand that men employed in the Post Office, if they wish to join the Special Reserve at all, must give up their holidays to the training. While, if they join the Territorials they can train without having the period taken from their holidays. If this is the case, I only hope that it will be looked into and that those men who wish to join the Special Reserve will have the same advantages as those who wish to join the Territorial Force. My hon. Friend has referred to the shortage of officers so ably and so fully that I will not dwell upon that subject. He 346 has also referred to our bands. I associate myself with every word he said. I believe that the band of the regiment is a great asset. I am perfectly certain that it does a lot of good for training and for recruiting. The better band you have the more likely it is to get engagements in the county at flower shows, horse shows, and whatever may be going on; besides which a good band gives a regiment a good name. I urge the Secretary for War to be a little more generous with his Grant for the bands. The sum of £25 is nothing, and eight permanent staff drummers as a nucleus to the band is ridiculous. I do hope we may get a little more consideration for the bands, and that a little more will be given towards them. In the remarks I have made I have put nothing forward in a party spirit. I take a very great interest in the Special Reserve, and I am sure I am speaking on behalf of all Special Reserve commanding officers when I say that they are most willing and able and anxious to do all they can to help forward and to make the force fit.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
I should not have entered into this Debate if I had not had a very considerable experience for over a third of a century in the Special Reserve and the Militia. I know the difference between the old force and the modern force. There is no doubt about it that the modern force is very much more efficient than the old Militia. I have commanded in both, and I have some knowledge of both, and there is an enormous difference between the old force and the new. Reference has been made to the shortage of officers. When the Special Reserve was first introduced, I submitted to Lord Haldane, who was then in this House, that the regulations he made for giving the officers two years' training were quite impossible, and that he would get no officers on those terms, or not nearly enough. My words have come true, and I believe it will take some time to get the stream of men back, and get the county men to take up the work as they used to do in the old days. The Yeomanry is now much cheaper than it was, and takes a class of men who used to go into the old Militia, and the Territorials take some of them also; but, at the same time, I believe that with the increase of population and so on, there are enough men to draw from if we give them proper consideration. One of the suggestions made is that the 347 exemption of Territorial officers from serving on juries is an exemption which should be extended to the Special Reserve, who are now really treated as Regular soldiers. They ought to have, and I think they have, in many cases, exemption from serving on juries. That cannot be disputed. The hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head, but I think if he will take the point to the Law Courts he will find that it is so. I know that I was exempted from serving on juries on that plea many years ago, in the old Militia days, and I think it is the law that the Special Reserve officer is exempt from jury service. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] It is a lawyer's question, but I think if anybody cares to carry it to a Law Court it will be found that I am correct in what I say. I quite agree that we are short of officers, and I do not think that the payment of £20, £25, or £30 per year would induce men to come in. The Grant of £25 a year did not bring a single man into the Special Reserve, and I do not think that is the sort of thing which will bring officers into the Special Reserve at all.
In regard to the regimental band, I know that it is a question of great difficulty. Where you have a good band that can secure local engagements there is not so much difficulty about it, but the real difficulty is that even if they have one of the best bands they do not get enough local engagements, and even £30 or £40 a year more would not affect the matter. The only way in practice is to borrow a band from the regiments which are training at the same time, or from the Territorials. [An HON. MEMBER: "You have got to pay for them."] Yes, you have got to pay for them, but the sum is very much smaller than you would have to pay for a band of professional musicians. I think, with a little encouragement given in the way I suggest, the bands for peace establishment could be greatly improved, and could be made very much better than they are to-day. But the moment we come to the question of embodiment there is no difficulty about the band at all. The band enlists as soldiers, and stand on the same footing as the men in the Regular battalion, and the difficulty disappears. There is no difficulty once you mobilise, The difficulty is in the peace establishment, and the only way to carry the matter out successfully is by borrowing the band belonging to two or three battalions, the band of the Territorial Regiment or the band of the Special Reserve Regiment. I 348 think that is feasible, and could be done in many cases, where there are local engagements. The hon. Member for West Somerset touched on the real difficulty, that of recruiting. The hon. Member for Dudley also referred to it, and various suggestions were made. The payment of a separation allowance, the same as is paid in the Territorials is one suggestion. But we are not in the same position as the Territorials, and the case of the postmen is evidence of that. The Special Reserve man goes out twenty-eight days, and the Territorial for fourteen days. It is very easy to give a man a holiday of fourteen days, but very difficult to give twenty-eight days. That, of course, militates against the recruiting, not only of Government servants but of men employed in factories and so on. We have got to do something to remedy that. The great thing that encourages recruiting is not the future benefit but the immediate benefit a man gets when he joins. If the suggestion of taking away the 30s. from the man who leaves the Special Reserve to join the Army was partially carried out, and, say, 10s. taken and the other £1 given on joining the Special Reserve, you would get more recruits. An enormous number of those men join the Special Reserves and the Army when they are in some pecuniary difficulty. They want to get away from home, and pay some small debt, and if they knew they would get £1 or 30s. straight off you would get hundreds or thousands of recruits.
The real mistake in the bounty system at present is that the man does not get the benefit at the time of joining. If he did it would enable him to get out of his trouble. The bounties are very good in their way, and attract a good class of men, but they do not encourage recruiting. Let me give a word of warning against the idea which was advanced to-night, namely, to check them going into the Army in order to keep up the numbers. That is all very well, but you check recruiting for the Army very considerably, and you do not get what you want for the Special Reserve, that which is the backbone of it, namely, the men who are thoroughly well known to their officers. The Special Reserve battalions will have to act as units in the future. It is quite true they will send drafts to the link battalions, but at the same time they will get from them men who have served through the Special Reserve who are willing to go abroad. On mobilisation they will be very strong battalions. You want in those battalions not merely the men who serve for a year, but the men 349 who are old-fashioned Militia men, who know their officers thoroughly, and stick to the Special Reserve battalion right through. The more you get of those men the stiffer and stronger you make the battalion. The way to get the men is to give them when they join part of the bounty. It is well known that boys join a Special Reserve to see how they would like soldiering. If they do they go into the Army, and it is not the 30s. that induces them. There are a few it might affect, but if you gave that 30s. when they first joined I am quite sure it would make up all deficiency both for the Regular Army and in the recruiting for the Special Reserve. I hope that point will be taken into consideration. I have always thought a larger sum of money ought to be given on first joining. It is no good giving a man 5s. to bring in a recruit. The recruit is generally in low water financially, and if he got something which he could give to his family to help them it would be a great inducement. He could then tell his family that he was going into the Army to make his career, and he has got a very fine career before him. I think in that way the real difficulty of recruiting will be got over.
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I move this Amendment as a great number of points have been mentioned, and I desire to call particular attention to them. We have derived a great deal of benefit from the admirable speeches we have heard on the question of the Special Reserve. For my own part I was very pleased that the Special Reserve had a chance of being heard for the first time since I had the honour to be a member. Questions with regard to the Army and the Navy should be above the range of party politics. Therefore, as we are all agreed that what we want is to see the Special Reserve complete in numbers, in equipment, and in preparedness for war, I desire to approach the question from a national and not a party point of view. The former Secretary of State (Lord Haldane), undoubtedly increased the efficiency of the old Militia when he changed that Militia to what is now known as the Special Reserve. The old Militia used to go up for sixty-one days' preliminary training and a month's training. The Special Reservist came up for six months on enlistment in exactly the same way as the Line recruit when he joined the depot of the Line battalion. He then went out for three weeks' training every year. That was satisfactory. When the clean broom 350 passed over the Militia we were given Line officers with Regular engagements belonging to the 3rd Battalion, which added to our efficiency, and we were also given a larger number of non-commissioned officers. All that was very satisfactory, but, unfortunately, possibly on questions of expense, it did not last very long. I think it was only for one year, although it may have been possibly for two, that the Special Reserve recruit was trained for six months. At any rate, at the beginning of the last financial year another system came into vogue. The Special Reserve consists of Special Reserve Battalions and the extra Reserve Battalions which are the 4th Battalions. The first step in the downward path which Lord Haldane took was to lessen the period of preliminary drill for the recruits joining the 4th Battalions.
I may describe the different functions of these battalions in this way. The third battalions in time of war are to be used to fill up the ranks of the Line battalions, and to act as reservoirs for the young soldiers who are not taken out by the Line battalions to the war. The fourth battalions, on the other hand, in time of war, will go as units, either to garrison towns in England and relieve the Line battalions there, or to garrison the Mediterranean ports or to act on the lines of communication. One would think that battalions with these functions should have at least the same permanent staff as battalions which are to act merely as reservoirs for the youth of the Line battalions. But not at all. What happened on 1st April last year? The fourth battalions were deprived of their Line officers, and they have never had the permanent staff that the third battalions have. The establishment of the fourth battalions is 750, while that of the third battalions is 580, and yet the fourth battalions have a permanent staff of only twenty-seven, as compared with the third battalions' permanent staff of ninety-six. The fourth battalions have no Line officers, the third battalions have four. In time of active service the third battalions have to find four subalterns for their Line Battalion; the fourth battalions have to do the same. Since the fourth battalions go out as units, they ought at least to have the same permanent staff as the third battalions. If we are not allowed to have Regular officers—because there is a difficulty in their being in two places at once—I should like to have a larger staff of non-commissioned officers in the fourth battalions. I am 351 quite willing not to have the extra Regular officers in the fourth battalions if I can have an increased permanent staff. At present I am only asking for the same permanent staff for a battalion of 750 men as the third battalions have in addition to their officers with a battalion of 580 men.
As regards recruiting, the third battalions have a distinct pull over the fourth battalions. The fourth battalions have to be ready on mobilisation to go out as units—they have no reserve at all. What happens in regard to recruiting? Many men in casual employment in the big towns join the Special Reserve when they do not want to join the Army. They join the Special Reserve because they want to get a job at once. Under the new Regulations the third battalions take their recruits for five months on enlistment, and therefore recruits go to the third battalions in preference to the fourth battalions, where they have only three months on enlistment. There is another very important question in regard to recruiting, and that is that now that we have no Regular officers in our fourth battalions the training of our recruits is carried out by officers of the third battalion. I should like the men of the fourth battalion to have the opportunity of being trained under their own officers—that we should have the authority of the War Office to call up the fourth battalion officers. It would be an all-round benefit to both officers and men. In the old Militia days when would-be officers desired to get into the Army, and the stiff examinations caused some of them to fail, the keen men went into the Militia for a period. They do not get depot employment now because of the permanent officers of the Special Reserve. I do not quarrel with these officers, but I do say that the officers of the fourth battalion of the Special Reserve should be assured of employment in the course of the year. We ought at all events to have our own instructor in musketry for the recruits. This year I recommended an officer, but he was not allowed to do the work, and I believe it was because the War Office found it cheaper to employ some officer of a Line battalion who was a supernumerary for a short time, though, no doubt, he had to be paid out of Army funds.
In regard to the recruits there are three points which may be difficult in regard to the fourth battalion. One of them is the length of the preliminary drills. We do not get the same time as the third battalion. 352 The second point is a very important point in regard to recruiting for the Special Reserve, and that is that there is no separation allowance. Why does not the Special Reserve have separation allowance? They are the cheapest form of semi-Regular soldiers that any country can produce. They are perfectly wonderful in view of the training they get. If we read the annals of the British Army you will find the old Militia were always there, and the Special Reserve is, I believe, if anything, better. They have more education and more keenness. What does this lack of separation allowance mean? It means that instead of joining the Special Reserve the men join the Territorials. At first sight it may appear that the recruits for the Special Reserve and the recruits for the Territorials are different classes of men. In addition to these classes to which I have referred, you get another class of men who formerly went into the Special Reserve and who now join the Territorials because there is a separation allowance given to them. I should like to know if the Government would consider giving our men in the Special Reserve a separation allowance. Then there is the question of the bounty. I say to my old soldiers: "I hope you are coming back next year," and they reply: "We hope to come back next year, Sir, and for many years"; but it is difficult to get any more men because of the two things I have mentioned—the separation allowance in the one case, and that in the old Militia they got a bounty of 30s., whereas they now get £1 in the Special Reserve.
It is extraordinary how conservative in a way soldiers are even in their grievances. I find these points I have mentioned always in the way when I am trying to get recruits. I take these three points, the limited period of drill in the fourth battation compared with the third, separation allowance, and bounty as the three great difficulties in connection with recruiting. There is the fourth but minor point of drilling by their own officers. When I joined the fourth battalion many years ago we paraded 1,000 strong. This year we were 400. I do not quarrel with the pay the men receive, I pointed out over and over again that for a month's training they are extremely well paid. I think if you wanted to make out a recruiting poster you could well set forth what you pay them for the month's training. But there are one or two grievances. To touch on the point I put before I should like 353 to see a permanent staff for the fourth battalion as you have for the third, and I should like to see a chance of employment given to the fourth battalion officers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley said, the public hardly recognise the Special Reserve. They know the Army and the Navy and the Territorials, but if you speak of the Special Reserve they imagine they are some form of Army Reserve. I think there is a great deal in a name. There are even right hon. Gentlemen in this House who seem to be unaware of the existence of the Special Reserve. I studied the Insurance Act and I find no reference to the Special Reserve in its pages, nor does it state who would be held to be the employer during the training period. If the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War looks through the Act, as no doubt he has done on many occasions, he will, I think, not find there any mention of the Special Reserve in the Act. I think it is important that something should be done to have brought to the notice of the public, not only what the Special Reserve have done in the past, but that they are ready with encouragement or without encouragement to do their work in the future as carefully and as successfully as in the past.
§ Viscount WOLMER
It has been said, not only upon the other side of the House but upon this side, that in many respects the present Special Reserve is a considerable improvement upon the old Militia. I must say that I have not been able to see it. As far as my experience goes, the present Special Reserve, in regard to its annual training, is nothing but a farce, and a very expensive farce at that. I want to give a matter-of-fact account of what happens to any individual in the Special Reserve Battalion going out to training under the present system. Take my own regiment, the 3rd Battalion the Hampshire Regiment. That battalion is composed of eight companies, and it looks very well on paper. The establishment is 580 men, thirty officers, two machine gun detachments, scouts, etc. There is a battalion alleged to be ready to take the field in time of war, and said to be a very considerable improvement on the old Militia. What are the facts? How many men did this battalion parade on the last day of training this last year? There were only 270 men in camp out of an establishment of 580 men, and when it came to parade you had to deduct from that the detachments with two machine guns, the scouts, and the cooks. In the old days in the 354 Militia we had the police and the sanitary squad. Now, owing to the paucity of numbers, the police have had to be amalgamated with the sanitary squad, and therefore they have to be deducted. The result is at the end of the training not more than 200 men go on parade, divided into eight companies. I want the Committee to realise the practical difficulties of drilling battalions constituted on those numbers.
The whole of the system on which the organisation is based is on the assumption that the battalion is at least about 600 men strong. When you have only got one-third of that strength the whole principle on which the organisation is built absolutely collapses. Our companies were twenty-five men strong. The strength of a company in the Regulars is supposed to be 120. Now every company has to be divided into four sections, and those sections are six men each instead of being thirty, as they ought to be. I ask the Secretary for War what is the use of telling a solitary man to form fours? You cannot do it. In the training of the last two or three years I have seen matters worse than that, because one company has paraded eleven men with three officers to drill them. Those eleven men are expected to form two half-companies, four sections, and two squads to every section, and we are supposed to go out on parade ground and do company training. The whole thing is a disheartening farce. The officers come on parade and we are simply a skeleton army. We are forced to form up in an organisation devised for numbers three times as great as we can muster, and it is impossible for us to conduct company or battalion training on the numbers we have got under the present system. I am aware that when this question was raised before Lord Haldane said, "That was all very well, but the present Special Reserve was only a nucleus, and was only the core around which you could form an efficient battalion when war actually broke out." I wish to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that that is not the case, because the present system prevents the Special Reserve from being even an efficient nucleus. How can your men be properly trained, and how can your officers be properly trained if every time they go out on parade you have to put three or four companies together in order to do company drill at all, put men under officers who do not belong to their company, leave three or four officers standing idle if there is a surplus of officers, or put your officers to command 355 men they do not know, if there is not a sufficient number of officers? The whole system on which your organisation is built up breaks down, and when you go to war you have a mass of 200 or 300 men who have not been trained together, and who have not been allowed to work in the company unit, as it was intended when the organisation of the Army on its present basis was originally mapped out. You have not got the start to make an efficient neucleus in your Special Reserve; they are simply a conglomeration of so many men and so many officers, the number of men being absolutely insufficient in order to do company or battalion drill. The whole organisation has to be discarded, and therefore you do not get an organisation at all; you simply get a conglomeration of individuals. Therefore, I submit your present Special Reserve is inefficient and useless, even as a nucleus in time of war.
There is another criticism I want to make. Not only are you not getting more than a third of the men you want, but the men you are getting are not of the right sort. Go and look at any Special Reserve battalion out training, and you will see that three-fourths of the men are not men at all; they are simply boys, who are ultimately going into the Army, boys who are just trying to see what a military career is like. The result is that not only is the Special Reserve not a force of men at all, but you are not building up a reserve of men. The men who go into the Special Reserve go into the Army; they do not go back into civil life available for call in case of war. They simply go into the Army and the great function originally ascribed to the Special Reserve of building up among our civilians a reserve of men who have had some military training is not served when you get the sort of men you get at the present time, simply boys whose object is to go into the Army later on. In the days of the old Militia we did have a sprinkling of ancient tramps to season our battalion. I do not think in the history of the force we have ever had a sufficient number of men in the prime of life. We have never had a proper number of men in regular employment. No man can go away from his employment a month in every year without running the danger of being discharged. Of course, the ancient men have been struck out under the present system, and the result has not been to increase the efficiency of the Special 356 Reserve. It has simply been to delete a certain number of individuals from the number of Special Reservists. The result is that the Special Reserve to-day is not only wholly insufficient and inadequate in numbers, but it is composed of the merest raw boys who are absolutely unfit to take the field against any conscript army, and who do not form any reserve among our civilians, but who for the most part pass into the Army afterwards.
It has been said there is a great shortage of officers, and the merest glance at the Estimates will show that that is so. The number of officers in the Special Reserve is probably even less than is shown on paper. My own battalion happens to have considerably more officers than most battalions. It has twenty-seven officers, and several of these at the end of the training were drafted to do another training with another reserve regiment. When we are told that 1,267 officers did training last year, one would like to ask how many individual officers did two trainings. The present Special Reserve is in danger of falling between two stools. It is neither an efficient force nor an efficient recruiting ground—or nucleus in times of stress, it is in fact a very extravagant and insufficient arm of the service at the present moment.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The right hon. Gentleman has been informed by persons competent to speak for the Special Reserve that that part of our defensive system suffers from not having enough officers and enough men. I am sure there is no dispute between the Government and the Opposition as to the important place which the Special Reserve occupies in our system of defence. Even if it be argued that the other parts of that system are equally good and valuable, still the importance of the Special Reserve is more immediate. Only three years ago the Government declared this to be a matter of importance and urgency. There was a Memorandum published in 1909 which laid it down in express words that the Expeditionary Force itself was the smaller part, and that the more important part was the making provision for dealing with the wastage of war. There can be no dispute that this body suffers from a lack of officers and lamentably so from a lack of men. Thus here we have a gap in our system of defence which both sides of this House must be equally eager to fill in if it can be done. In respect of the Special Reserve we must recognise if there is that gap there is no use glazing it over.
357 The Special Reserve does not receive half the attention it deserves. It is the first attempt to embody the best ideals arrived at after the Napoleonic war. It is an integral part of Lord Cardwell's system, which was never allowed to be completed—it provides a third battalion as a feeder. There must be unanimity of affection and respect for this ancient body. There must be unanimity of effort to make provision for the wastage of war. On this question there can be no difference of opinion. I beg the Government to address itself and I promise it the support of the Opposition if it does address itself to make up the deficiency in the Special Reserve. It is admittedly of great and immediate importance to make good the deficiency of officers in the Special Reserve. We have heard it stated, and I am sure it is true, that the allocation of the post of musketry instructor makes a difference. It was suggested—I am only taking this as an illustration—that this post was given to a Regular officer because some economy could be effected. Granting, for the sake of argument, that you have to economise where matters are less important, it is not one of those places where you ought to economise. If that be true, or anything like it be true, so, too, in the case of the men. We heard it stated by an hon. and gallant Member, who, I think, knows, and it is certainly true of the old Militia, that the class who go into that part of our system of defence prefer a long to a short period of training. If, therefore, the Initial training has been cut down for the sake of economy, that is a vital error. You must not economise on officers of the Special Reserve, and you must not economise on the length of training of the Special Reserve. On this part of our defensive system, immediate as it is important, we ought to make good the defect if we can.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
I wish, at the outset, to express to the Committee and to the right hon. Gentleman opposite the agreement of the Government as to the importance of the Special Reserve, and as to our desire to fill in what he calls the gap in this part of the defences of the country. The hon. Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) opened this Debate in a most instructive speech, and I should like to express to him my thanks for the suggestions which he made. He said he would offer us suggestions, and we welcome those suggestions. I wish to 358 express the acknowledgments of the Government for them. He asked me to give to the Committee some kind of description of what was the special role to be occupied by the Special Reserve in time of war. I believe that really the hon. Gentleman does not require that information from me, because he is in possession of it himself. If he is not, he received it from the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Captain R. F. Peel), and, I think, from the Noble Lord (Viscount Wolmer). The fact is that the Special Reserve is a most important part of the Army for the filling up of the wastage of war, and for going abroad as units themselves, to which I know that hon. Members attach great importance. The hon. Member for Dudley asked me how many of the units could go out as units. My answer is, all.
§ Mr. TENNANT
All of the fourth battalions. The hon. Member also asked me a question as to the six months' probation of officers, and whether some alteration could be made in that period. The answer is that officers will come from the Officers' Training Corps. There is a special provision that if they pass the A examination they are reduced to five months, and if they pass the B examination they are reduced to three months. That makes a considerable difference.
I must say one word on the numbers of the force generally. The Noble Lord, referring to his battalion, said it was a farce, and an expensive farce. I rather regret that he should have used quite such strong language in regard to a force with which his family have been connected for a great many years. I regret that they are short of numbers, but he went on to say they were boys. The Noble Lord enjoys the distinction of having been born in the year 1887, and he might have admitted that they would improve with time. The numbers, it is true, are deficient, but they have been and are improving, and we hope we have reached bottom, though at is impossible to say. I will give one reason. In May of this year a bounty of £1 was given for re-engagement. A large number of the men will have completed their time very shortly; they were transferred to the Militia in 1908, so therefore their four years will be up at the end of this summer. We find that the £1 bounty which has been given on re-engagement has already had 359 a very considerable effect in diminishing the decrease. Again, let me say as regards the commissioned officers, that the officers' training corps system, which has only just come into force, will have very considerable effect. In 1910 298 were appointed to the Special Reserve of Officers, in 1911 304, and in six months of this year 207 up to date, which is a considerable increase, because in 1911 we only had 161 in the first six months. In 1910 we got 48 officers, and, in 1911,107 from the Officers' Training Corps, and in that first four months of this year 47, compared with 29 in the first four months of last year. We shall get more and more officers from the Officers' Training Corps as time goes on. We shall not be able to judge the full results of the scheme until 1914 or 1915.
The hon. Member (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) complained of the abolition of the Militia. I think the hon. Gentleman himself admitted that the change of the Militia into the Special Reserve was a good thing for the Militia when it was done. His colleagues also have admitted that that was so. The hon. Member for Woodbridge (Captain Peel) said that it had increased the efficiency of the Special Reserve. An hon. Member complained that the names, particularly of Territorials, had been done away with and new names substituted. He mentioned by way of illustration that the Cumberland Militia was now known as the third battalion of the Border Regiment. I do not think there is any great hardship in that, because Cumberland is not very far from the border. I do not think any fair-minded man can object to the alterations which have been made as regards names. The hon. Gentleman suggested that there might be more direct duplication of the officers with the regimental units. That is a matter which I will represent to the Secretary of State, with the view of bringing about some greater co-operation. As to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for North-West Somerset, that the Post Office should give facilities regarding the Special Reserve, I will represent that to the Postmaster-General, and see if anything can be done. We are very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) for his co-operation with us in endeavouring to complete our numbers of this force. In carrying out the reforms which are required in order that it may be brought up to strength we shall certainly ask him to help us.
§ Mr. HICKS BEACH
I wish the hon. Gentleman could have given a little more attention to, some of the suggestions made upon-this side of the House, which we honestly believe would be for the advantage of the Special Reserve. He has promised that careful attention will be given to some of the suggestions which were made. My hon. Friend beside me made one or two very pointed suggestions, one of them having reference to the granting of separation allowance to members of the Special Reserve. Surely that would be one method of increasing the numbers of the Special Reserve if he could hold out some hope that there would be a chance of the Special Reserve getting this allowance—
And, it being Eleven o'clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Resolution to be reported to-morrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Wednesday).