§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 4. "That a sum, not exceeding £2,780,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Grants, Pay, Allowances, Training, and Miscellaneous Charges of the Territorial Force (not exceeding 319,673 men, including 5,000 Territorial Force Reserve), and Channel Islands and Colonial Militia, including the Expense of Permanent Staff, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1913."
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Harold Baker)
I ask the indulgence of the Committee on rising to speak first in the discussion on this Vote. The task should more properly be performed by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. If it has been allotted to me, I can only take it as a tribute to the very sincere interest I have always taken in the welfare of the Territorial Force. I also remember that I once did what I imagine a great many Members of this Committee have done—that is, I wrote a book. It was the sort of book that pretends to be useful rather than entertaining, and I can only suppose that I stand here this afternoon because my right hon. 250 Friend the Secretary for War has heard of that book, but not read it. I wish to make a general statement on the position of the Territorial Force at this moment. No doubt many points of detail will arise in the course of the Debate, and they will be answered by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who has a full knowledge of these matters. Certainly, no one can complain that since last February an insufficient time has been given to the discussion of this question. We spent a considerable part of the time on the Estimates and in Supply, and we had, in addition, an evening devoted to considering the question of compulsion. Throughout all these Debates there has been a volume of criticism which has concentrated itself from time to time in the declaration that the Territorial Force is a sham. I think on one occasion we were told it was a dangerous sham, a criticism which in a more diffuse form has taken the shape of four specific allegations. We have been told that the Territorial Force is insolvent in the matter of finance; we have been told that it is insufficiently trained; we have been told that it is inadequate in numbers; and we have been told that it is unfitted for the functions it is called upon to perform. With the first two of those charges, I shall deal very briefly indeed.
On the question of finance, hon. Members will no doubt recollect that last year we increased the establishment Grants, the travelling Grants, and the horse and clothing Grants to the County Associations to a very considerable amount—to a total, I think, of about £160,000. Hon. Members also have before them the very valuable Return which was asked for by the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Dorset, which shows that, taken as a whole, the County Associations are now in a state of adequate solvency. There is a net surplus, taking the associations all through, of some £41,000. I am very glad to be able to say that the Returns for last year, so far as we have yet received them— of course, they are not yet all in—show that the improvement is not only maintained but is even increasing. On the subject of training, I shall also be very brief, because there are very few new facts to lay before the Committee. It is too early to speak about the numbers attending in camp or the efficiency returns; but I can say this, that all the reports that we received during last year show that there has been a steady 251 improvement. On the information that we have at the War Office the general standard of training in the force is very much higher than one would be led to suppose from the criticisms which are passed on it. One point in particular is very often overlooked. It is supposed that men merely comply with the qualification which is demanded from them and do their fifteen or eight days in camp and ten drills, but there are many who do very much more than that. Not of course all. On the whole, no doubt, it is not the majority perhaps. It is only the keenest, the best, and the most exceptional who do it, but there are cases, and they are not few, of men doing as many as 200 drills in one year, and that is a fact which must considerably qualify our estimate of the training of the force as a whole. That, of course, does not appear. The figures are extremely difficult to get, and would be very troublesome to make out, but I am assured by the authority most responsible that in his opinion nearly 50 per cent, do something more than is actually required of them by the legal conditions of their enlistment.
I pass from training to numbers, and I should like to go into them in slightly more detail. The statistical year is from 1st October to 1st October, and on the 1st October of last year the Territorial Force was 254,688 non-commissioned officers and men. On 1st July this year it was 261,001. That is the highest figure that has been attained in any July since the force was started. The reason is, of course, that recruiting has been very good. It has been good in spite of good trade, and good trade is never very good either for recruiting or for attendance at camp. In the quarter April-June, 1912, we had 25,409 recruits, as compared with 14,809 only for the corresponding quarter of last year; and if you take the first three-quarters of the statistical year down to June you will find that we had 52,753 recruits, as against 35,362 for the corresponding period in the previous year. Members in all parts of the House must agree that these figures are particularly satisfactory, especially, too, when you remember that this is, in the nature of things, bound to be a year of very large discharges from the force. The force began on 1st April, 1908. The Volunteers who transferred to it transferred, many, of them, with a four years' engagement, dating from April, 252 1908, and their engagement, of course, is terminated in the quarter which has just concluded. We find then, naturally, on looking at the discharges, that during the last quarter they have numbered 24,014, as compared with only 10,911 in the same quarter of the year 1911. Fortunately, though, that has been more than counterbalanced by the excellent recruiting this year, and I think, too, we may safely say the cause is a temporary cause, and one which is likely to operate in a decreasing degree in the future. At any rate, we are fairly entitled to say that that great exodus which they so confidently predicted would take place in the force has not taken place, and, on the contrary, at one of the most difficult times in its history, we are actually able to show an increase in numbers. It is, of course, not yet possible to compare the whole statistical year with the past year, because there is one quarter still to be included, and I freely admit that for the quarter which is just ahead of us we may have to face also a considerable number of discharges. We have to deal in that quarter with recruits who were enlisted, not in April, but at later dates, and if we turn back in order to get some indication of what is likely to happen to the recruits who enlisted in 1908, which, after all, is the record year of the force, I find that from July to September 11,825 recruits were taken in. Out of that number we must expect a considerable number of discharges to fall due in the quarter just in front of us, but we have safely and satisfactorily passed through one more difficult period than that which is ahead of us, and I think there is every reason to believe and hope that we shall successfully pass through the quarter which is coming.
I should like to say one word before leaving the question of numbers on the question of strength as compared with establishment. We have had perpetual criticisms on that point from the very first year in which the force was started. I wish to say plainly and definitely that so far as my knowledge goes—and I played a humble part in the inauguration of the force—it never was contemplated that the Territorial Force should reach the actual establishment which was laid down. It is for one reason absolutely impossible that an unpaid voluntary force which is organised on a territorial basis, district by district, could reach the fixed establishment. If you lay down a quota for districts, a quota which very properly is determined by strategical considerations, it 253 stands to reason that you must be prepared to face a deficit in one place and possibly have a surplus in another. I might define it in this way, that the 315,000, the figure which is so constantly quoted against us, is a Parliamentary maximum. It is the maximum number of men that Parliament is prepared to pay for, but it is not a military maximum, and it was never alleged that it would be. Lord Haldane, whose optimism is always being derided in this House, said that the utmost that it was humanly possible to get of that establishment was 98 per cent. Of course, Members may attempt to compare this state of things with the vast swollen corps which existed in the case of the old Volunteers, but those were under no Parliamentary control so far as numbers were concerned. Their maximum was not fixed by Parliament, and the maximum with which we have to deal in the case of the Territorial Force is a maximum which is fixed by Parliament and marks the limit of the number of men for which it is prepared to pay. What have we got of the establishment at this moment? There are several divisions which are over 90 per cent, of their establishment. One, I think the North Midland, is actually 97 per cent. There is not a single one which is below 80 per cent., and the average over the whole is 86 per cent. This, remember, is at the worst time in the history of the force, and it is a state of things which is bound to improve. We know quite well that, taking the country as a whole, and not taking it district by district, we are able to get more than the actual number of men that we have. Some units are already over 100 per cent, of their establishment. I am glad to be able to say that the Secretary of State is taking steps to introduce still more elasticity into the peace establishment, so that we may be able by that means to take advantage of the willingness which appears in certain districts and to counterbalance the difficulties which other districts, perhaps with equal willingness, are unable to overcome.
In considering these numbers we must remember that we have behind them the Territorial Force Reserve, which is at this moment in its infancy, and behind that again we have the National Reserve. The Secretary of State recognises that in the National Reserve we have a most valuable reservoir of trained men, and he intends, with as little delay as possible, to introduce into it the necessary organisation—I do not mean an organisation of battalions in which they will take the field, but an organisation which will keep them to- 254 gether in time of peace. I am prepared to say that even with these numbers which I have quoted the Territorial Force is quite adequate for the purpose for which it is intended. We hear so much talk of inadequacy and inefficiency, but never at the same moment to we have it considered what the Territorial Force is intended to be adequate for, and for what purpose its efficiency is to be used. What is it that the Territorial Force is actually to be called upon to perform? Many of our severest critics have in their minds a picture of a large Continental army, of perhaps two or three millions, composed of men permanently associated together, perfectly trained, fully equipped at all points and capable of instantaneous mobilisation, and against that in their minds they set the picture of a few ill-trained, ill-equipped raw levies which they call the Territorial Force. Both sides of the picture are absolutely false. It is possible, of course, that the Territorial Force may be called upon to face part of a Continental army, but in dealing with a difficult matter of that sort there is one important declaration upon it which must always be referred to. It is occasionally referred to, but I am sorry to say it is seldom accurately quoted. I mean the statement which the Prime Minister made in 1909 on the Debate on the Committee of Imperial Defence. The Prime Minister then, speaking with supreme authority on that subject, laid down that there were two conditions which must be fulfilled if this country were to be secure from invasion. The first, which he called the naval condition, was that we should have an effective supremacy on the sea. The second, which he called the military condition, was that we should have a Home Army, apart altogether from the Expeditionary Force—sufficient in numbers and organisation for two purposes: in the first place to repel what are called raids— that is to say, sporadic offensive expeditions which are so small in their numbers as to evade even the best and most carefully watching fleets, but which are not intended permanently to occupy the country against which they are directed, but only to inflict such serious damage as they can.He then passes on to the second, that is a Home Army which is adequate—to compel an enemy which contemplates invasion to come in such substantial force as to make it impossible for them to evade our Fleet."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1909, col. 1388, Vol. VIII.]He rather reluctantly indicated the figure of 70,000, saying he thought it was high, and that figure was subsequently acquiesced in by the Leader of the Opposition at a later stage of the Debate. There are the two functions which the Territorial 255 Force is called upon to perform declared by the highest authority on the best advice which is in the service of this country, and it is as an instrument for these purposes, and for these purposes only, that the Territorial Force should be judged. Criticism which ignores that is entirely beside the point. It is now three years since these principles were laid down. In the interval the Territorial Force has made, undoubtedly, a considerable advance in efficiency, but, more than that, our military position, considered from the point of view of invasion, has considerably improved in the interval. My right hon. Friend referred briefly to that subject a short time ago. We must take into account in considering this question the extraordinary development of new protective mechanism of which we can avail ourselves. We have wireless telegraphy and airships which have increased both the range and speed of our information. We have again submarines which have enormously added to the defences of our coasts. I do not intend to enlarge on that question. It is one as to which the Admiralty alone can speak with authority; but I think I am not going too far in saying that the whole question of coast defence has been entirely transformed by the development of submarines. I think we should include these new factors in any consideration of our military position at this moment. They can only be ignored by someone who has a preconceived idea of the size of which our military force should consist, and of the principle on which it should be based.
Not only have we made that great advance in mechanical advantage, but in another respect also I think we stand in a more favourable position than we did three years ago. The figure 70,000, which has often been quoted in these Debates, is after all, if hon. Members will look at the Prime Minister's words, not only the number of men who might come in one force, but the number who might come in smaller forces. We may have either to face a single force of less than 70,000 or a number of smaller forces. I freely admit that both are possible; but there are reasons at the present time for inclining to the view that what we would have to face is not one large force, but a number of smaller forces. The whole tendency of development—the whole trend of events—in the last two years has been in that direction. Instead of the Armada which we 256 expected, we must look more probably for a series of miniature Armadas. We cannot put that higher than being a reasonable probability. Every single fact of our military position is founded, and must be founded, on a reasonable probability in the circumstances. Assuming all that could happen, we have against it some 250,000 men, including the Territorial Force. The Territorial Force would be fighting for its country in its country, and is already, by a fortunate arrangement, dispersed along our maritime coasts. It is peculiarly fitted to harass and worry an invader in the circumstance to which I have alluded. An enemy coming in these circumstances will be without further supplies or ammunition, without a line of communication, and, what is even more important, without any possible retreat so far as the sea is concerned. I say for that function, which is the function laid down by the Prime Minister three years ago, the Territorial Force as it stands at this moment is adequately fitted, and it will be still better fitted next year. But in order that it may be so the one thing it does require more than anything else, is peace—peace not from an invader, but peace from its hostile critics in this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Labour Members."] There is a remarkable difference between the effects criticism may have on men and on an institution or organisation. I suppose we have all of us known in our experience a case where a man has been improved and strengthened by criticism directed against him; but I do not believe that is true of an organisation. On the contrary unjust criticism may be fatal, and even friendly criticism may be extremely harmful.
The only criticism which can do any good is criticism of a kind of which we have had too little—criticism which advocates some specific reform. I am not in any way accusing the majority of hon. Members opposite. The criticism of which I speak is criticism that takes place outside of this House. It is impossible not to admit that the Debates in this House with respect to the Territorial Force have been free from party spirit, and on the whole, free from noxious criticism. In particular I would single out the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), who truly said on the last occasion this Force was discussed that he had never said one word which would do harm to the Force of which he is so distinguished a member himself. Hon. Members who are anxious that this Force 257 should succeed can do a great deal in checking the harmful and vicious criticism that goes on outside. It is bad for recruiting, and it is extremely bad for those who are hesitating whether they will re-engage or not. It is bad also for the efficiency of the force itself. You may have men who taken by themselves, are not subject to extreme sensitiveness; but make them into a body and treat them as a body and they become extremely sensitive. That is the position of the Territorial Force at this moment. They never have made a claim to be the equals of the Regulars; but they ask to be freed from destructive depreciation. I admit that the excellence—and it is a real excellence—which exists in the Territorial Force is only comparative. There, is no intention of allowing it to stay at the point at which it is. The Secretary of State in the Memorandum at the beginning of the Estimates—a document which has not always received the attention which it deserves—says that considerable improvements have been made in the past year. There is one new point, not stated there, which I might mention, namely, that we have raised the lance ranks to the establishment of the units of the Regular Army, and by that means, we shall be able to obtain a greater number of experienced non-commissioned officers.
We are told by those whose duty carries them all over the country in connection with the Territorial Force that the general spirit and the attitude of people is increasingly sympathetic. Employers who at one time seemed to have been in difficulty about it are coming forward and cooperating in a way which I think will prove to be satisfactory, both to them and us. But the one obstacle which has stood in the way of the success of the force from the beginning lies in those who seek to change the basis on which it is founded and to substitute for voluntary enlistment a compulsory system, which would be harmful to the recruiting of our Regular Army, disturbing to the labour market, and absolutely fatal to the Territorial Force itself. There is no chance, as those who advocate it know, within any measurable time of carrying out any change of that sort. The large majority of both parties in this House and the large majority of the nation are united in favour of the voluntary principle.
§ Mr. BAKER
So long as that remains, it is only hindering and impeding the task in which we are engaged to advocate a compulsory system. I firmly believe that, for the reasons I have given, we have at this moment in the Territorial Force a force which is not only adequate to its military purpose, but which has also, to my mind, the not inconsiderable merit of being in harmony with the national character and the national tradition.
§ Mr. LEE
Before coming to serious business, I would like to offer a word of congratulation to the hon. Member (Mr. Baker), largely on the ground that he is the son of a very old friend of mine in a district which I had the honour to represent in Parliament. While I differ from him in politics, I know that everyone in that district appreciates the success which he has achieved in being promoted to his present position. Coming to the substance of his speech, which is of more importance to the Committee as a whole, I venture to say that he rather spoiled his case by attributing to those who do not hold the opinions he holds with regard to the Territorial Force a tendency to indulge in harmful and vicious criticism as to that force. I entirely disagree with most of the opinions expressed in regard to the Territorial Force, and I conceive it to be my duty as a Member of this House to express my opinions with regard to it, and I should say that to maintain the sort of silence which the hon. Member asked us to maintain would be to maintain a guilty silence, and to join in the conspiracy of deceiving the nation as to the true state of its defensive arrangements. While agreeing with his idea that what the Territorial Force needs is peace, and passing by that point which I think is apparent to the whole of the Committee, I do not agree that what the Territorial Force requires is peace so far as criticism is concerned. I think it is highly important that the Territorial Force should receive a full amount of criticism in this House, and I ask the hon. Member to remember that it is not directed against the officers and men of that force, but against the Secretary of State for War, who is responsible for the present deplorable position the Force finds itself in. It is no use trying to ride off on the suggestion that we are attacking brave men who are trying to do their duty. That is not at all the case.
We are attacking the Government of the day in so far as they do not do their duty 259 by the Territorial Force. Having said that, I come back to the head and front of the whole offending—the Secretary of State for War. While I do not hold the right hon. Gentleman responsible for all that has occurred during the past six years, I think we are perfectly entitled to attack the policy of which he is now the official exponent. He also has received a number of congratulations upon his new appointment, and while I am disposed to join in them on personal grounds, I hope I can do so also on public grounds. I happen to be one of those inappreciative individuals who have regarded the policy of Lord Haldane with very modified rapture during the past few years, and also with very great suspicion. Therefore personally I am glad of the change, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us more satisfaction than his learned and distinguished predecessor did. I recognise that in previous Debates in this House the right hon. Gentleman has been somewhat at a disadvantage. He has not been really responsible for the policy followed, and he has had to voice the opinions of his chief. I do not know whether he agreed with them or not, but it would have been extremely difficult to dissociate himself from them.
§ Mr. LEE
Then that makes my task much easier. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not maintain now in his new position some of the opinions which in the less responsible position of Undersecretary for War he enunciated in this House in recent speeches. They were well enough to amuse the House of Commons when he was Under-Secretary, but we have a right now to expect from him serious treatment of this grave and vital national problem. The Financial Secretary dealt very largely, as he was justified in doing, with details of numbers of forces, and so on; but the real big question underlying all this Territorial Army has never yet been dealt with by the present Government or any responsible head of the War Office within my recollection. At any rate, we have had no intelligible solution of the main problem. Everyone in the House knows that in the event of a serious European conflict in which unhappily we might be engaged, it would be necessary that we should, not only send, but maintain in the field an Expeditionary Force of at least 150,000 men; and that to do that 260 would absorb practically the whole of our effective Regular Army at home, and would also largely drain our second line here of the Territorial Army of officers, horses, and other things which are absolutely necessary to maintain it as a fighting organisation; and it is further admitted, I think, on all hands that that Expeditionary Force, if it was to be of any use, would have to start at once. How then is the safety of these shores to be secured against a serious raid? Various solutions have been offered. One is the naval solution. We are told that the Navy will look after that. If the Navy will look after that, what is the use of the Territorial Army? It becomes a costly luxury and an inexcusable extravagance. But, taking the Territorial Army, which is the subject of this Vote to-day, I think we are entitled to a serious answer as to how this force, widely scattered as it must be, according even to the views of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, ill-equipped, badly officered, and with no adequate training for war, would deal with a compact, fairly wedged invasion of trained Continental troops, which may, in the opinion of the Defence Committee, have a strength of 70,000 men. The hon. Member spoke about our fears that we might be invaded by several millions. He of course knows that no serious person ever put that forward. We are only dealing with what the Minister for War has admitted to be possible—an invasion of 70,000 Continental troops.
§ Mr. LEE
It is very difficult for him to-say exactly how many would come—I do not think that he has had an opportunity of settling that—but if he prefers I will say something less than 70,000 men. No intelligible solution has yet been disclosed as to how such an invasion is to be dealt with in the absence of the Expeditionary Force, and I think we are entitled to a more serious reply from the Secretary for War on this point than we have yet received. At any rate, I trust that he will not regale us again with one of those what I can only call comic opera perorations on the lines of:—Frenchman, Dutchman, little Portugee.One jolly Englishman beats all three.
§ Mr. LEE
There seems to be some difference of opinion among the Committee. I am not using the exact words. What he did say in last May was that, in the event of an invasion of 70,000 fit Continental troops coming suddenly into this country there would be left behind here 400,000 of cur troops who would simply eat up an invasion of that description.
§ Mr. LEE
Putting aside for a moment the composition and quality of those 400,000, I venture to say that it is grossly misleading to say that there would be 400,000 troops available for the purpose of dealing with an emergency of the kind. They certainly would not be available at the point of invasion or anywhere near it and the Committee must remember that in an attack of this kind the initiative will always rest with our enemies, and where the point of invasion will be is known only to them. Therefore the defending people in this country are all obliged to scatter, and we must have our disposed forces in the advantageous manner suggested by the Financial Secretary. Indeed, Lord Haldane, who is the author of this scheme, emphasised the necessity of what he called local detachments of local forces, of the Territorial Forces, scattered all along the coast-line to prepare for these chance raids; and I think he was justified in one sense, because any invader who knew his business would make a point of making feints on a wide extent over our cost simply in order to keep our forces scattered, and to keep us guessing as to what his route would happen to be. Let us therefore consider whether these 400,000 men, on whom the right hon. Gentleman relies for the defence of the coast—
§ Mr. LEE
It depends on a great many circumstances, including weather, but that is not the point. The War Office contemplate the possibility of 70,000 men landing, whether it be in a short time or a long time. The question is how to deal with them. The late Secretary of State for War, who is responsible for this scheme, shadowed forth in the House of Lords only in November last some idea of what would 262 take place, though he did not give the actual figures, and only the War Office can know what the exact distribution of the figures is. I venture to suggest that this cannot be very far from the mark. First of all, there are forts which must be defended all round the coast, dockyards, and so on. These will take at least 200,000 men of the available garrison, Artillery, both Naval and Territorial, most of the Royal Engineers, and a large proportion of the Territorial Infantry and the Infantry of the Special Reserve. Then there is Ireland. I do not think, in view of the great extent of that country, that a garrison of 40,000 men, Territorials, would be considered excessive. Then there are these local forces which Lord Haldane says are absolutely necessary for dealing with small raids. I do not think it an outside figure to say that at least 115,000 men would be required for dealing with this vast extent of coast, the whole North-East Coast of Great Britain. You thus get 355,000 men who are told off practically for what is the sedentary defence of these Islands. That leaves you out of your 400,000 men 45,000 men to constitute the training force, the central force, as Lord Haldane calls it, which is to dash at the invader the moment he arrives and drive him back into the sea, or, as the present Secretary of State for War would suggest, eat him up.
We realise that that force may be supplemented by the local defensive forces, and taking again an extremely favourable case we may add another 35,000 men to the 45,000, which will give you the biggest central force that you can get in the most favourable circumstances. Thus assuming what I believe not to be true, that there are 400,000 effective men ready, that will give you a central force to deal with an invasion of 70,000 of something like 80,000, all comparatively untrained and unorganised, badly officered, and armed very largely with weapons inferior to those of their opponents. And these men are expected to deal with and to masticate 70,000 picked Continental troops organised for this one purpose only of striking a swift, deadly blow at the heart of the Empire. Can anyone really, however patriotic he is, doubt what the result of that conflict would be? The Financial Secretary suggested that in addition to these land forces we have within the last few years an entirely new set of advantages on our side, that we have submarines; we have had them for eight years; that we have airships; how many airships have we got? The hon. Gentle- 263 man knows that we have practically got none at all as compared with other Powers. He is doing his best but practically nothing has been done in the past, and we must remember also that there have been other great changes in the situation during the last few years. Even since the time when the Prime Minister made a statement as to the result of the decisions of the Committee of General Defence there has been a great change in reference to the supremacy in the North Sea. There are factors to be balanced on both sides. The hon. Member spoke of the bravery of the Territorial Army, especially when fighting on their own ground, with their own fellow countrymen around them. I admit all that. However brave they may be, and however much bravery may be intensified, by the fact that it alone stands between their country and a great disaster, it is not fair to ask men in their position with their arms and training, and their numbers, to deal with a serious and possibly fatal menace of that kind. I have shown there can be but a bare numerical superiority. I know that the right hon. Gentleman will say, "But consider the lessons of South Africa. Think what the Boers did; how untrained they were, and how they met large forces."
What was it that the Boers did in the way of defending their country? It is true that they succeeded in harassing and making things very uncomfortable for the British Army. But what was the position of the country? The whole country was divided up practically like a chess-board. Practically the whole of their towns were in the occupation of the British Forces. The whole of the national life and industries, large as they were, had come to an absolute standstill. They were holding out in remote districts against the huge Regular Army which was brought against them. It is true that they prolonged the war by holding out; but it is really impossible to contemplate, with any sort of equanimity, a similar position, or even a faintly similar position, in this country. The analogy drawn from the success of the Boers is not worthy even of being considered; at any rate, it certainly is not good enough to fit the people of this country. If the right hon. Gentleman makes an appeal to me I quite agree with him that the lessons of that war have had far too little attention paid to them. I was reading the other day a publication—I 264 must admit I did not study it very closely—which made rather a striking case as to the lessons to be drawn. I refer to the "Army Review," and the article appeared in the January part of that periodical. The right hon. Gentleman being in the position of Secretary for War has been able to obtain the July number, which I was unable to get this morning; still, for the purposes of my argument, I may refer to the January number. I presume that the War Office will not repudiate the January number because this is the month of July.
At any rate, the "Army Review" is an official publication, the editor of which is admitted to be a very high military authority, the very best man for the job," to use the words of the Secretary for War. He is a gentleman, also, who occupies the unique position of having maintenance assured by the "Times" newspaper, under an arrangement advantageous to both; and he is enabled to move the Secretary for War in the "Times," whilst at the same time enabling the "Times" to secure from time to time information which is not available for other less fortunate newspapers. Writing in his capacity, not as "Times" correspondent, but as editor of the "Army Review" and a member of the Imperial Staff—because he is also that—he reviews a book, then recently published, on the war of 1870 and 1871 in regard to national defence, and I should like to refer to one or two passages in that review which I think are very appropriate to this discussion. He speaks about the efforts which were made by the French Government to raise a force for the further defence of their country, after the investment of Paris; and he said that everyone was ready to take their places in the ranks. He goes on to explain the arrangements which were made by abolishing every sort of exemption from military service:—The remnants of the Regular Army were amalgamated with the auxiliary forces and formed into organised bodies: and, in order to obtain officers and non-commissioned officers, all existing laws regarding appointments and promotions were suspended. Equal energy was shown in providing the necessary arms and equipment. …. No sacrifice or expense was, in fact, spared by the Government in its endeavours to retrieve the situation, so the striking result that during the period from the 15th September to the end of the war it was able to place in the field no less than ten Army Corps, complete with every requisite of war. Why was it that all this magnificent work of the Government and all the splendid bravery and patriotism of the French nation were in vain? The reply of the French General Staff is to be found in the following quotation from this book:—'It cannot be too often repeated that an army cannot be improvised. At first the ranks of the new formations were filled up with soldiers who were capable of meeting the enemy on something like equal 265 terms, but when the supply of old soldiers became exhausted, the results were at once apparent, and it may be said that, in spite of all efforts to instruct them, the men in the newly raised units certainly knew how to die but were not soldiers.'Yet in spite of that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War has the face to suggest that the available men of the Territorial Force, the callow Special Reservists, and such Regulars as are left behind from the Expeditionary Army as being unfit to accompany it, untrained and unorganised, will be able to eat up and dispose of 70,000 trained Continental troops invading this country. I venture to say that advice of that description is very foolish and indefensible, and would be simply mischievous and unpatriotic, and I repeat that I think it is high time that we should hear from the right hon. Gentleman the real truth about the Territorial Army. Then there is the point with regard to numbers. The Secretary for War told us that the numbers of the Territorial Force are quite adequate, in spite of the fact that, according to the figures he has just given us, they are short by something like 1,800 officers and nearly 45,000 men or thereabouts. I think that is the number, though I have not the figures.
§ Mr. LEE
The right hon. Gentleman says the numbers are adequate, but how can he reconcile that with the official answer which he gave on 11th March, in which he said that the establishment of the Territorial Army was naturally based on the requirements of the service for which it is intended. If the requirements of the service for which it is intended call for 315,000 men, how can 265,000 possibly be adequate? It is not, and the 315,000 is merely the Parliamentary maximum, and not the military maximum. But that is the number which the present Secretary for War told us is established on the basis of the requirements of the service for which the Territorial Army is intended. What are those requirements? I really think the right hon. Gentleman must give us some answer as to these absolutely conflicting statements. After all, the quickest way for him would be to frankly admit that the Territorial Army is insufficient in strength and is insufficient in training for the purposes it is intended to serve. He had really better make a clean breast of it, and appeal to the House of Commons and the country for whatever is necessary in order to put the force on a proper footing. I feel sure that if he makes an appeal, and 266 backs it up with a proper exposition of the dangers with which we may be confronted, there will be a response from the country. But it is absolutely useless for him to attempt to ride off upon the sort of argument which he used in a previous Debate, and say that the only alternative to the existing state is Continental Conscription and two years' compulsory service.
§ Mr. LEE
I think the right hon. Gentleman is forgetting the speeches he has, made. I do not want to detain the Committee by reading his speeches, but he said the only possible thing we can do, if once we accept the view that the home garrison of this country is open to attack by Continental troops, is, in addition to our Expeditionary Force, to have an Army trained as thoroughly as are the troops of Continental armies.
§ Colonel SEELY
The hon. Gentleman persistently misquotes me. If he looks at the passage he will see that I was adopting an hypothesis. I never said that the only possible alternative was conscription and compulsory training, and I was dealing with the hypothesis submitted by the Committee of Defence.
§ Mr. LEE
Then those are trained Continental troops. But there is another alternative, and one which he should consider, and that is not a system of two years' compulsory training, but a system of training comparable to that which the Swiss have—a much longer period of training of the Territorial Army, and the stiffening up of the force with Regular officers and non-commissioned officers, and a proper equipment and arming of that force. The right hon. Gentleman in his previous speech, said if we adopted a substantially longer time of training it would cut off completely the Colonial Forces from any co-operation with us. Really, I have not the remotest idea of what he means by that.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LEE
The right hon. Gentleman apparently denies all he said. I will guarantee to produce the passage in question, but I do not wish to detain the Committee by 267 searching back. He will be able to verify it, but that is the sense of what he said. It is absurd, of course, when we consider not only the fact that the Colonial Forces should co-operate with us in South Africa, but that the conditions of their own problem at home are necessarily entirely different from those which confront us. They are not supposed to be exposed to sudden attack by European troops. Their very remoteness increases their security, and their military organisation is not suited to this country. The right hon. Gentleman in his speeches has relied to a large extent on the magnificent qualities of our men and on the common people. We all know the excellence of the common people on whom we rely, but that has no relation to the real problem which we have to consider, and it is quite useless for us to consider any form of compulsory training until after the next war. What kind of a war does the right hon. Gentleman mean? Obviously he did not mean the next frontier war, a war on the North-West Frontier of India, but he really meant the next serious Continental war in which we might be engaged. We have got to wait until after that, but when, where, and what shall we be after that war is over? Are we really to wait until our house is burned down before we take the "extreme" step of either taking out fire insurance or providing hydrants? The right hon. Gentleman in concluding his speech ended, as I think, in a sudden burst of candour. He admitted that all was not well, either with the Expeditionary Force or with the Territorial Force. Of course all is not well and cannot be well under existing conditions. It is not well because the Government have always refused so far to face the facts. It is now for the right hon. Gentleman to face the facts and tell us what his conclusions are. I think probably he may be justified in suggesting he should have assistance. I think it is impossible to face the situation on the present Estimates. If that is the case, then it is quite clear that the Estimates will have to be increased. Whilst I am certainly one who believes, and has always held that the Navy must be our first care, and our first charge upon our finances, at the same time I hope we shall not fall into the state which was so picturesquely described by the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Amery) in his admirable speech in which he said it was folly to let 268 our success at sea be neutralised and frustrated by failure on land. Therefore, whilst these great Imperial Councils are going on, I do venture to express the hope that the needs, the absolute needs of the land services, will not be overlooked owing to the necessary interest which is taken in the Navy, and that a sufficient fraction at any rate of the great increase of expenditure on armaments, which I fear is becoming absolutely unavoidable, may at any rate be devoted to removing what are worse than weak points in our present military system, and particularly as to the Territorial Army, the defects of which are so glaring, so far as officers and men are concerned. If the right hon. Gentleman is right in the opinion which he has more than once expressed, that no kind of compulsory training is now within practical politics then I say there is no alternative but that there must be an increase in the Regular Army, and the Regular Army must assume responsibility for defending this country against the serious raid of the kind I have described, whilst supplying our striking force for service oversea. In any case, whatever may be the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman about that, surely the worst of all possible policies is to lull the country by speeches such as he has delivered into a sense of false security, and to spend millions on a force which is obviously at the present time unfit to discharge the only military duty which it could be called on to perform.
§ Mr. CROFT
There are one or two points which, from the point of view of the Territorial Force, I feel it is my duty to mention. I think no one will deny that it is very regrettable that so few Members of the Labour party have seen fit to attend the House on a discussion of this matter which is so important to the country. The Financial Secretary told us that the large majority of Territorials exceeded the minimum number of drills. He was saying what I thought was perfectly true when he told us that in some cases Territorial soldiers completed 200 drills. I think, however, in giving that information he was acting very unwisely in mentioning such an instance to the House. I should be very glad to hear what the corps is where such a performance is possible. I think that leads people to a wrong impression as to what is done in the way of the number of drills in this country. The hon. Gentleman also told us that it was never contemplated that the establishment should be reached, but I remember 269 distinctly hearing the late Secretary of State for War tell us that he wanted definitely this number of men. If what the hon. Gentleman now says is correct I would ask him why battalions were disbanded, and why the establishment is not increased in order that he can get the number of men Lord Haldane considered were necessary for the defence of this country. I invite the Secretary of State to consider, whether if it is true that in some districts you can get more than you require, the advisability of increasing the number of units in those districts which are able to furnish a greater number than is at present the case. I say, with great deliberation, that I believe the Territorial Army, although it is an undoubted improvement upon the old Volunteers, cannot show that improvement which would make good the loss of the Regular troops which have been disbanded during the last six years. I think that is the real point. We know there is an improvement, but we have gone back on the position as it was in 1906.
I must say that personally I do not consider that the training of the Territorial Army is in any sense adequate. In a recent Debate in this House it was laid down by the hon. and gallant Member for one of the Divisions of Glamorganshire that it was a soldier's duty to march, to shoot, to carry weights and to perform one or two other military necessities. I interjected, and I was not given the opportunity of replying, that in none of those cases could the Territorials fulfil those expectations. I should like to immediately say that I hold that view with regard to the Territorial Army as it is to-day and not after six months' training, when, obviously, it would be able to fulfil the various duties which are necessary for a soldier. I think that we are rapidly coming to the conclusion that if ever an invasion of this country does come that it is going to be so sharp and so decisive that it will be absolutely impossible to conceive that the Territorial Army will receive six months' training. In addition we have heard in the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Lee), which I think it will be very difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to answer, that there are 400,000 men in this country of very doubtful character on the outbreak of war. It must, I think, be admitted that you have got all your railways and bridges to be protected as well as your garrison towns. When we heard just now that the Territorial Army is to be dispersed along our maritime coasts, undoubtedly I think 270 it is absolutely impossible to conceive that the Territorial Army alone would be able to resist an invasion of 70,000 trained troops. I think it is sometimes forgotten that the Territorial Army at the present time has this very grave disadvantage. By the time you get your men to the annual training you find them not exercised together in battalions, and frequently not exercised together in companies, and sectional detachments are brought together for the first time. For the first week in camp you never get your men fit at all, and the consequence is that you do not get that amount of training which is really necessary. Anybody who has watched Territorial manœuvres and divisional training must realise that it is absolutely impossible to take men out of an office and expect them to march long distances directly they begin training. The consequence is that the training of the Territorial Army is made impossible owing to that fact in the beginning.
The Financial Secretary referred to the criticism of the Territorial Force, but he was kind enough to say by critics outside this House. Although I am proud to be a Territorial officer, at the same time I must say I think if we are not going to criticise and tell the truth, when it is so difficult for Regular officers to tell the truth, that we are failing in our duty in every respect to the country. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that a national service scheme at the present moment is impossible. It would not be impossible if he had the courage to put it forward. Not only would he carry a large number of his own party, but he would carry those on this side probably to a man. I think it is very likely if the right hon. Gentleman was to say, as he really believes in his heart, that the defences of this country are not adequate, he would carry the whole House with him. I think he has a far greater opportunity of introducing such a reform knowing that he would have the support of the Opposition. If I might make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman it is this, that the first thing to improve the Territorial Army is to try to get your army fit to camp. That cannot be done under present arrangements. I want to know whether it has ever passed through his mind that if the Territorial skeleton machine is as admirable as he makes it out to be, and which I believe frankly is admirable, is he prepared to improve that Territorial machine? There are different ways of deciding these questions. 271 Everybody may not be in favour of the proposals of the National Service League, although I find in the country that they are getting rapidly more popular, but there is a half-way house and it is this. We have got to find men in this country to resist a raid probably of 70,000 men. I do not think you could successfully resist 70,000 trained European conscript troops unless you had something like 150,000 men concentrated to meet them, and I do not think they would stop them for long with your present training.
That being the case, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has not considered the possibility of making the present Territorial scheme a universal scheme, in no way interfering with the man's profession because the Territorial Force really does not do so. You could apply the scheme generally, or if you had then too unwieldy a force you could arrange it by ballot. I believe there are two ways in which you could do this. Lord Haldane threw out a hint not long ago that we must look to the young men of the country to be trained in their boyhood. I think that is one way in which you could immediately improve your Territorial Army by 25 per cent. You are wasting the time of your drill instructors and officers teaching men to try and stand on their legs and turn about in the thirty or forty drills which a recruit undertakes in his first year. If you could have your boys taught physical and military drill on alternate days I believe you would find half this difficulty would be got over, and that you would very soon have fine material for your annual training, and would have gone a certain way in that direction. Lord Haldane's Territorial scheme is from the skeleton point of view admirable. Why is it impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to put forward a scheme by which a very much larger number of men should join that force? There is no sacrifice in Territorial soldiering. It is very good for anyone. A man does not lose his business. Most Territorial soldiers like it very much and do not leave it in a hurry. If that is so, what possible sacrifice could it be for the men of this country as a whole to be asked to go into such a scheme? It would not suit everybody; but I believe you would then have men, if not sufficiently well trained to meet the enemy on equal terms, at any rate sufficient to make it impossible for any foreign country to consider the invasion of 272 this country. From what I have seen, I do not believe that the Territorial Force is at the present time in any way adequate for the purpose for which Lord Haldane invited the country to adopt it. In the question of officers, I believe that the Territorial Force is suffering in the Infantry to an enormous extent. The officers are not the right type of men. They are not leaders of men. The right hon. Gentle man ought to turn his mind to that question, and see how a better type of officer could be got. I admit that something is being done in the public schools at the present time. It will be recognised by everyone that a battalion, officered by those who have not been through that kind of training and who are not natural leaders, although it has admirable material in the ranks, suffers. Where you have good officers even with a Territorial battalion, you see a wonderful difference. If the right hon. Gentleman really believes that national service will come after the next war—
§ Mr. CROFT
Or cannot come until after the next war, he must agree that if you cannot have national service, which in the days of his youth he so much desired to see, it would be better to have something on the lines which I have briefly sketched by which you would get a larger number of men trained. If he were to put such a proposal before the country I believe he would find that not one young man in a hundred would object to doing service similar to that of a Territorial soldier at the present time.
§ Captain CLIVE
I wish first of all heartily to endorse the appeal to the Secretary of State that he should distinguish himself in his new office by having the courage to remedy shortcomings of the force where those shortcomings are pointed out beyond dispute. I remember a comparatively small matter to which I had occasion to call attention last year, in regard to which I believe the right hon. Gentleman, in his capacity as Under-Secretary, agreed with me; but his course of action was no doubt largely influenced by loyalty to his chief. He is now chief of the Department himself, and it will be possible for him, when defects are pointed out, to admit those defects without giving anybody else away, and to set to work to remedy them. I wish to concentrate my remarks upon the abolition of the railway battalion at Crewe. It is surely obvious 273 that in all future wars railways must exercise an ever-increasing influence. One side will do everything they can to destroy the railways of the other side, and the opposing force will use their utmost endeavours to repair their railways when they are damaged. In the case of the invasion of this country, which, although every endeavour will be made to make it impossible, must be looked upon as a conceivable contingency, many people suppose that as we naturally have the whole railway service loyal to us we should have no difficulty in repairing our railways when they were damaged. But unless the railway-men are organised as a military force they have no right to act in that capacity, or to take any part in repairing the railways in time of war. In that connection I asked the Attorney-General, the other day—whether, under international law, men employed in repairing a railway injured by an invading force are liable, if they do not belong to a military force, to be shot if captured?The answer was much more definite than I had expected. The Attorney-General said:—Speaking generally, and subject always to the circumstances of the particular case, if the men did not belong to a military force and in repairing the railway were doing such acts as constituted assistance to the military operations of the enemy, such acts would come within the category of war treasons, and would, therefore, be a war crime, which may be punished by death."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th June, 1912, col. 1993.]That being the case; it is surely desirable that we should have as many as possible of our railway men organised in some military force in time of war. I mention this especially in connection with an invasion of this country. We do not hear so much about the lessons of the South African war now as we did at one time; but one of the clearest lessons of that war was that a military force cannot have belonging to it too many men who are expert in railway matters and available for railway work. I remember that the battalion with which I served in that war was twice called upon to furnish every available man who knew how to drive an engine. After that we were naturally left in a very serious predicament when, at Komati Poort, Lord Kitchener gave us an engine and enough trucks to take the battalion, and told us to find our way back to Pretoria. We were naturally unable to do so. We spent forty-eight hours doing the first 48 miles. On another occasion a different kind of railway knowledge is required. At Norvals Pont it was desired to move a battalion; an engine and trucks were forthcoming; everything was marked out, so 274 many men were allotted to each truck, and they were put on to the train. It was not until we were ready to start that we discovered that the man on the engine had been there for thirty-six hours without a break, and he declared, not unnaturally, that it was absolutely impossible for him to go on until he had had some sleep. Doubtless many hon. Members can give others instances where there were not sufficient men with a knowledge of railway matters. South Africa, however, was a country very sparsely supplied with railways. In the case of a Continental country the need would be all the more pressing. Therefore I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take the matter into consideration, and lose no time in repairing the gap which he has created by the abolition of the railway battalion at Crewe. When I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question on the subject the other day, he said:—It is not proposed to form any Territorial organisation for railway work to take the place of the disbanded Crewe battalion, but enlistment is to be reopened for the specially enlisted Railway Reserve. This forms part of the Army Reserve, and the men to be enlisted will probably be drawn from several railway companies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1912, col. 1473.]That may be good in the future. In the meantime the railway battalion at Crewe ceased to exist in March last, and, as far as I know, nothing has yet been organised to take its place. The establishment of the battalion was 600 strong, and that was a real establishment, as they not only kept up to it, but were every year over strength. They sent out three drafts to the war—the first consisting of 129, the second of 101, and the third of two sections of 25. They were uniformly well reported on, and added great distinction to the corps to-which they belonged. It is a pity that a corps with such traditions behind it should be abolished. It is not easy to ask for the retention of some corps which have been done away with because they could not maintain their strength or efficiency; but here is a corps which was not only up to strength, but over strength. Moreover, as soon as a man left the service of the railway company, he ipso facto left the service of the corps. Consequently the corps consisted only of men actually in the service of the railway and expert in railway matters. It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of such a corps in any war, no matter where it takes place. I cannot conceive what induced the War Office to do away with that corps before they had something equally efficient to take its place. This is what they did. It was organised under the Territorial system; the 275 establishment was fixed at 531 all ranks, but 60 per cent, were to be Special Reservists. No practical steps were taken by the Army Council to organise the Special Reservists, and they never came into existence. The establishment dropped to 213 of all ranks, and remained at that until the corps was disbanded in March last. The Railway Reserve also has been abolished. There is at this moment a by-election pending in the Crewe Division. The right hon. Gentleman is not so great an expert in by-elections as one of his colleagues, but I would suggest that an announcement on this question might possibly do his party some good at the pending by-election, and we would forgive it if thereby we got the railway battalion reestablished, or, at any rate, some use made of the admirable material which exists there for the organisation of a good railway battalion.
I am glad to see the Financial Secretary in his place, because I wish to comment upon some statements that he has made. I did not know that he had written a book on the subject. I will read it at once, as it will probably supply admirable material on which to comment in future Debates. I should like to congratulate him upon having so rapidly followed in the footsteps of his late distinguished leader. The bland optimism which marked the whole of his speech was not at all unworthy of his late master. The hon. Member complained very severely of the critics of the Territorial Army. I thought he looked with indignation at hon. Members on this side, but he suddenly switched off, and I found that his attacks were delivered at unknown persons outside the House. One's experiences show a considerable difference: my experience is exactly the other way. I have had to complain, and do complain, very much more, not of the severe and destructive criticisms, but of the panegyrics and eulogies that have been poured down on the Territorial Force. My ears have been filled with them. I do not, of course, wish to give personal experience of my own unit. That would seem to savour of presumption, but if I were to do so—and I could do so, because I have got the things written down, and it is stamped upon my memory—I could refer to things which have been said to me by various general officers of great distinction whose words would carry weight in any military circle. I must say these 276 have been the criticisms I have heard, and had to put up with, rather than this destructive criticism which the hon. Gentleman so very fiercely attacked. An hon. Member has already made some criticisms upon the Territorial Force, and I need hardly say that anything I can say about it is from a most friendly point of view, because being one's self connected with it, one does not wish to criticise too severely one's friends. One does, however, claim to have a certain knowledge which may not be shared by more distinguished persons. In following the optimistic principles of the Secretary for War the hon. Gentleman opposite has told us that the recruiting for recent months has been very good, We are very much accustomed to that style of argument. We are told that it is quite true that in the past you may not have been able to get more than 250,000 or 260,000 men, but you are asked to look at what is happening now, and to look at the future when you are going to have a much larger recruitment of men; that indeed there may be a surplus! It is true that the hon. Member had a saving clause in his speech, for he said that we do not know how many discharges there are going to be until October, the end of the year. That may make a great deduction in his observations. Let me examine for a moment how matters stand. Following out that principle of optimism which one has to criticise, it appears to be this: that whatever the numbers are, whatever the facts are, the right hon. Gentleman is going to say that they are the best possible. If you say, "I think you have not come up to your establishment of 315,000 men, you are thousands short," the reply would be, "Whoever expected that the men would come up to the first figure; 255,000 is exactly what we want" He will tell you that if you have what you require you do not want redundance; and that, moreover, precisely on military grounds the number is exactly what is wanted, and things generally are exactly what they should be. I do not quite share those feelings. I would like to know if there is to be more elasticity in recruiting the forces for the different units. It is obvious to those who know the matter that if you are going to have 315,000 men you must at least have an establishment of about 400,000, because the conditions of recruiting vary so much in different parts of the country that some of the units would be only very nearly up to strength, and others a great deal below. I did not quite hear what was proposed in the 277 matter of recruiting, as to whether or not more elasticity was to be given. The Secretary of State will tell us probably clearly afterwards, but I suppose he will allow in certain counties recruiting above strength. What is to happen on mobilisation I do not understand; whether some of these extra men are to be transferred to other units in other counties, because, if so, I do not know what effect that will have upon the county spirit—
The right hon. Gentleman says "No." Perhaps he will explain how the thing is to be done. Take the number of 244,688 non-commissioned officers and men. From that you have to make several deductions before you can arrive at what is the real force available, because there are special services and special duties to be performed apart from the Territorial Force, which will take 114 officers and 2,607 men. Then take those who will be engaged with the Imperial Forces, and who will be taken far service abroad, which means 1,140 officers and 19,302 men. Of course, you must consider that these are by no means the worst men in the Territorial Force. If you do have to send abroad an Expeditionary Force and rely upon your Territorial Force at home you must pretty well assume that you will lose these men. If you take all the men who on 11th October were below the ages of seventeen and eighteen, and account that the available men will be between eighteen and nineteen—for I think you can hardly rely for fighting purposes even on these "young gentlemen," as I think they were called, at between seventeen and eighteen—take these at 12,163; and that makes up altogether 34,072 who have to be taken out of the existing force of 255,000 men, leaving only roughly 220,000 available. This will be so even if you estimate that all these men are able to pass the severer medical test, which no doubt they would have to go through if they are to be called out in six months and to be turned into troops available for fighting. You get your force diminished in that way—and that is the truer way to look at the matter—and you deduct about fourteen divisions of the Territorial Force.
Out of this number we have got, I suppose, only about 145,000 men who have attended more than two camps. We cannot say how many have attended these camps for eight days or for fifteen days, but putting it at the highest, these 145,000 men can hardly have more than one month's actual 278 training. If you look at the figures of attendance in camp you find out that out of the whole force to do even this meagre amount of work, but 58 per cent, attended for the fifteen days, while the other half of the force did what is regarded as the absolute minimum of training that must be done by any force to give any sort of efficiency. Those who have been out the fifteen days know the extraordinary difficulty in getting even the very small amount of work that you have to get through done in the hustle and bustle of the time. Twenty-eight per cent, spend only eight days in camp, which I regard as perfectly ludicrous; almost useless. There is the mere question of getting the men fit for work and getting them accustomed to the routine. Thirteen per cent. were absent altogether. I would just like to make an observation or two in reply to the hon. Member who said that after all these men did a great deal of work outside the camp. That is perfectly true. A great many things are done which are not alluded to, but for the purpose of training and discipline you cannot really count this work outside. The only real work of military value, I submit—and I think hon. Members who know the subject will agree with me—is that where you are training the men consecutively and effectively in camp. That is the real and valuable work.
May I refer back to 1907, and ask what then was the training supposed to fit the men for? First of all, they were to garrison naval forts, they were to take the place of the regular garrison, of the engineers, etc., then they were to repel raids, and at the conclusion of the six months' training the men were to volunteer for service abroad. There is a great deal of discrepancy between those various duties, because if the Territorial Force has to do the work of garrisoning and repelling raids, it cannot also volunteer for service abroad. Therefore many of these different duties are really incompatible. These are very largo and multifarious duties, and I notice one other remarkable thing: that as regards some of the Special Reservists, they are not to go out as a unit, but only as a draft. I suppose the officers will be scattered to the four winds, the Regular officers probably having been taken already for the Expeditionary Force. The officers of the Special Reserve will therefore be necessary to fill up the gaps in the ordinary camps. According to the late Secretary for War we, of the Territorial 279 Force, are to go in our units, our brigades, and even in our divisions, a far more formidable and difficult thing to do than the humbler duties assigned to the Special Reserve.
May I say one word about the military value of this force? First of all, I want to show that the force has the highest moral and social value. No one, I think, could exaggerate that. There is, no doubt, not the right attitude at which one should look at a military force, but the getting people together and preparing their minds for military subjects does arouse, and is arousing, great interest in the country, and I think it is of the very highest value to interest people in military subjects. It may also be of indirect military value in interesting a great number of persons in the Army, and tending to dispel that feeling which existed in some counties—certainly in my own—that it is disreputable to enlist in the Army. I put it down to the interest in the Territorial Force that that disposition and feeling, so far as I am able to observe, has almost wholly disappeared. The next thing, as I think, is that you really cannot expect to get any very great change in the efficiency of this force. One is always being told that this force is always improving. Possibly it is. But the improvement is very, very slight. One has to be quite clear—and the Secretary of State no doubt will advise us on this subject—that we are not going to get—I do not think it is possible even with the zeal you have—to get a very much more efficient force from a military point of view than you have to day.
Remember this: on your Territorial Force really might be thrown the whole defence of these Islands. We have 420,000, including ourselves, Regulars and details, which are to be left behind after the Expeditionary Force goes. But I think that for all practical military forces it will be as I say. We know, first of all, so far as the Reserve goes, that will be absorbed. The Special Reserve will be very rapidly absorbed. The Special Reserve will have very few officers, because they will be required to fill up the gaps in the wastage of the Regular officers. Therefore the whole of the home defence will fall on the Territorial Forces. There comes the great danger. We were told in the Debates in 1909 that the Expeditionary Force will take some time to mobilise and start from this country, and that therefore during 280 that time this force will be getting stronger. That is precisely the danger, because if you have a more efficient Territorial Force it means that you will have a slower mobilisation of the Expeditionary Force, otherwise your Expeditionary Force mobilises very rapidly, and you will then have a force on which you cannot rely to defend the country against even such a force as 70,000 men. That is a very-great danger indeed, because you will find then that the movement of your Navy will be hampered by the fact that the people of this country, not having sufficient confidence in the Territorial Force, will insist that the Navy should be tied to our shores more than it should be in view of proper strategical considerations and dispositions. You must always remember this—which is a common-place—that the strongest chain has its weakest link, and that the sending-out of the Expeditionary Force and our naval dispositions do really rest upon the strength of the Territorial Force.
It is for that reason that we have got to direct our attention so closely and so-forcibly to the strength, organisation, and disposition of the Territorial Force. The only reply that we have got from the Secretary of State is this: "Oh, yes, that is all very well, but if you have not had your six months' training of the Territorial Force, the Territorial Force will be getting better every month." Of course, it is true there will be a gradual improvement. Still I assume what the late Secretary of State meant was that really until six months had elapsed—that was the minimum and not the maximum time—you could not get a force that in considerable numbers and after great sacrifice, and anyhow with delay and a great deal of trouble, that would be efficient, and that it is only after this six months' training by the best and most efficient officers that you will get the best out of that system. But how are you to have that with the existing Territorial officers? I suppose the adjutants and regular staff will be drawn away in time of war, and you are to have your Territorials trained by men who themselves have not had sufficient training.
These are, I am afraid, disagreeable facts to have to state. I should like to ask two further questions. First of all, can you mobilise this Territorial Force at all? Is it possible to mobilise one of these Fourteenth Divisions? I know, of course, that would be a purely fancy mobilisation, because they could draw their forces from every quarter, and we know what useful 281 purposes this force serves and how many people they carry upon their backs in the different fortnights of the year. How long will it take to m0obilise the Territorial Army and to get contracts fulfilled to supply all equipment? How long would it be before you could get the Territorial Army the necessary equipment for war? There are one or two other short points I wish to deal with. I know it is quite impossible to get a longer period of training under present conditions for the Territorial Forces. I recognise the immense sacrifices made by a great many men and by a great many employers also in enabling the men to get out by the time they do, therefore I do not think it is possible to have a longer period; but would it not be possible to have a longer recruiting training, as in the case of the Special Reserve? Would it not be possible to have two or three months of recruits' course, because, as hon. Members know, it is the long training at first which stamps upon the minds of the young soldier lessons of discipline, and so on, which he will never lose. I think it would make a great difference as to recruits for the Territorial Reserve, because they would be very little value if they are to go to the Reserve after four years of the present training. It is of great value if you could have a preliminary solid training. That is the first thing I should like to ask. The second thing is this, and here I speak with some hesitation, because I am not familiar with that branch, has it or has it not been shown that you can get an efficient voluntary Territorial Artillery. Knowing something about the less technical arms, I find it impossible to imagine that you can get in the short time of training an efficient volunteer Artillery, and speaking for myself and possibly for others, I would certainly have far more confidence in facing an attack if we had Regular Horse Artillery and Infantry with Regular batteries of Field Artillery, and I believe it would add 50 per cent, to efficiency and confidence. It would be like Napoleon taking 40,000 men in his own person. Would it not be better from the military side if instead of a large number of guns for the Territorial Artillery you had a smaller number of trained batteries of Field and Horse Artillery which I believe would add force and strength to our Territorial Army which we can hardly realise.
There is another point. I have seen that a large expenditure of money is to be devoted for buildings. I would much rather myself see the money going for 282 more horses and training and technical arms, and I believe the money will be far better spent than upon expensive buildings. I do not think there is a single man in the Territorial Army who has been made a more efficient soldier because he has very magnificent quarters to go to. Then again how very ridiculous it is to have to meet men armed with swords if you have not got them yourselves. I know well that theorists explain how you descend from your horses with great rapidity, seize your rifle, and drop these men coming on you with swords when about ten yards away. The thing is absolutely childish. The mere moral fact that you know men are coming on you with swords makes the difficulty of getting off your horse extreme, and makes it almost impossible to get hold of your rifle, arrange your sights, and so on. Fifty things happen when these men are coming upon you. This must happen in enclosed countries over and over again, and if you are not going to give us any weapon of that kind it would be better to have cycles, so that we may be able more rapidly to retire when the German Uhlans come down upon us. Then, as to the National Reserve, are we to rely upon it as supplementary to the Territorial Force? I had a question asked me the other day as to whether the National Reserve should be used in collecting stations for horses and wagons in case of Territorial mobilisation. I answer that naturally by asking other questions. I want to know in time of peace who these men are, in order to be able to instruct them. Secondly, can you rely upon these men detailed in time of peace, coming in in time of war, and would they be under the command of a number of officers each commanding a particular unit?
Incidentally this raises the whole question of horses, because, of course, if the Yeomanry can bring their horses you do not want collecting stations of old National Reservists to do it for them, but if their horses are to be taken on mobilisation by the Expeditionary Force they will either be served by the Remount Department or in some other way, and collecting stations may be required. I should like to have an answer as to what use you intend to put the National Reserves to in time of war. My last point is this. An hon. Member opposite spoke about compulsory service. I am, of course, a supporter of compulsory service. It is ludicrous to draw the distinction which the hon. Member did between the compelled man and the voluntary man. The compelled man forgets he 283 is compelled after three days. Everyone would like to go through the discipline of military training if he knew what it was. There is a certain amount of inertia about a man in regard to this matter, but give him the necessary shove and you will find him as keen, or keener, than the voluntary man. I am sorry the hon. Member has repeated the old tag, or inspiration, if you like, which he has got from his late chief, that because you would have some sort of compulsory training in this country for home defence therefore you are not going to get your stream of men for your voluntary Army, that is to my mind the height of absurdity. I believe it to be exactly the other way, and as far as we have seen it in the Territorial Force the fact that a man serves makes him interested in military subjects. I believe it would be far easier and more honourable for men then than it is now to enlist in the Regular Army, and so far from having the stream of men dried up, I believe it would swell and increase so that you would be able to take far more men than now into your voluntary army.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down referred to the subject of buildings for the Territorial Force. I do not know whether buildings are necessary or not in this favoured climate in the South of England, but in my own country we should be very ill off I believe, and are very ill off still, without proper buildings, and I should be very sorry if the War Office assumed that a very considerable addition of buildings were not necessary for the Territorial Force. There are some matters as to details of administration on which I understand there is to be an inquiry by the War Office, and therefore I do not propose to go into them with one exception, and that is the question of local ranges. The want of local ranges is one of the disadvantages under which the force suffers. After all training in shooting is the first need of the Territorial Force. The position now is that the onus of finding the ranges is placed upon the association. The onus of passing them is placed upon the military authority, and under such stringent regulations that no engineer officer venture to pass any range, and the force are without ranges in the country. I believe the War Office ought to take into serious consideration the matter of creating a limited number of central ranges where you could have week-end shooting 284 under camp, because, after all, the cost of getting to local ranges is often as great as getting to the distant ranges. You may get along very cheaply upon tramways or railways, but when it comes to sending men by road to local ranges, as you often have to do, the cost is very great, and I doubt whether the cost of sending men to regular ranges will be so great as it is assumed to be. One of the most serious questions affecting the Territorial Force is this question of shooting facilities, because it is not worth having a force at all if you do not teach it to shoot. Some reference has been made to-day to a half-way house in regard to physical training. I believe something more might be done in the way of drill in the schools. It is a most difficult subject, because it is not one in which the military authorities can intervene, and it is one in which the education authorities must have a perfectly free hand. The conscientious and other objections taken to any drill being given in the schools are very great, but I think there might be a great extension of physical training in the schools, and with that there might go a certain amount of drill. If school training is to become of real value it is a question of physical training between the age of fourteen years and seventeen years. That is the most critical period of life, and in the urban districts especially in regard to the habits of the youth after leaving school at fourteen and before they reach seventeen. If you go beyond that you get into the industrial difficulty, but between fourteen and seventeen years of age there ought to be facilities for physical training under a proper system of gymnasia throughout the country and the boys should have drill in which' shooting might form a part. In Scotland we have educational authorities with power to provide compulsory continuation classes, but those provisions of the Education Act are a dead letter. At the same time physical training might be instituted accompanied by drill for the boys between fourteen and seventeen years of age, and this matter deserves the most serious attention of the country, because I believe it would lead to more recruiting for the Territorial Force.
I do not think the present number of the Territorial Force is satisfactory, because 250,000 are not enough. I doubt whether 315,000 are enough, and I should like to see the total reach 500,000 men. Undoubtedly everything possible should be done to achieve that end. I am not one of those 285 who attach such deep importance to the fear of invasion. We have not been accustomed to invasion in the past—in fact, it has rather been our custom to invade—and I very much doubt, although the Territorial Force in numbers is low, and the training somewhat deficient, that there is any serious risk of invasion in this country. At the same time I believe it would make us feel infinitely more secure if the ranks of the Territorials were filled up to 315,000, and still more if the number reached 500,000 men. I say this all the more frankly because I am an opponent of compulsory service. I do not think compulsory service is possible in this country. I do not believe in it, and I think it is wholly unnecessary. I am afraid the Army Estimates will have to be permitted to expand somewhat beyond the figures at which they have stood for a long time, and I think we shall have to spend more money on the Territorial Force as well as a little more upon the Regular Army. We cannot be tied down absolutely to the figures as they are now. I wish to mention two Services to one of which a very small Grant is given and to the other none at all—I refer to the National Reserve and to the Red Cross. We should give training facilities between the ages of fourteen and seventeen and compulsory physical training with some drill for the boys. This and the influence brought to bear on recruiting for the Territorials by the National Reserve and the influence brought to bear upon recruiting for the Territorials through the Red Cross organisation will do much to fill the ranks of the Territorial Force. I do not think that the one shilling per head given for the National Reserve is adequate, and to ask for a bounty of one guinea is quite unnecessary.
It costs about one shilling to provide the correspondence for each recruit and other expenses, so that the whole of the one shilling allowance is spent upon enrolment and registration in the first year. The cost of administration is considerable, and a great deal of work has to be done if the National Reserve is properly organised. I think that a Grant of two shillings would meet the requirements. As to the character of the National Reserve, in one part of Scotland they have been classified and 60 per cent, of them have been found fit to serve Certainly I believe that one-half of the National Reserve would be available in a time of emergency. That is a force which is exercising the most excellent effect upon recruiting for the Terri- 286 torials. As regards the Red Cross, where a county has been well organised it possesses invaluable machinery, and it has a good influence upon recruiting for the Territorials. I think there ought to be a £5 Grant for each effective detachment of the Red Cross, and it should be paid through, the Association. It may be said that this is a voluntary service, and that therefore it should meet its own expenses; but, after all, the whole of the medical organisation depends upon it, and where should we be if the Red Cross movement were not carried out by volunteers? I think this should be a Grant going through the Association. Some further encouragement should be given to filling up the cadres of the National Reserve all through the country, and additional provision should be made for the physical training of the youth of the country.
The Financial Secretary for War told us that the recruiting for the Territorial Force this year had gone through the most critical period of the year, and that the numbers had increased during that time. I am speaking from memory, but I would suggest that the hon. Member's statement is not quite correct. I think it is a fact that the larger number of the recruits of the Territorial Force in 1908 joined in June and July, and therefore the effect of those who may have gone out will not be felt yet, and consequently the force has not gone through the most critical part of the year in regard to enlistment. I wish to say a few words about the Territorial Horse and Field Artillery. I am not doing this in any party spirit, although I am approaching the subject with a feeling of disappointment. I am speaking on this subject as an artilleryman of some twenty years' service, and I am disappointed that the Territorial Artillery has not reached the standard which at one time I hoped it would be able to reach. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am making no attack whatever on the officers and men belonging to the Territorial Horse and Field Artillery. I agree with all those who say that they have done wonders with the limited opportunities they had, and I agree that one ought not to do anything to wound their feelings when they are spending all their time and abilities in trying to fit themselves to a most difficult task. I was adjutant of the Honourable Artillery Company, and in that company we were able to turn out two efficient batteries of our own of a very high standard of training. It was 287 my belief then that given the opportunity other batteries might achieve the same efficiency. I have been obliged to revise my opinion, because other batteries did not get the same opportunity as the Honourable Artillery Company. In the first place, there is the question of the officers. It is no good denying that Artillery work is highly technical and takes a considerable amount of training. The officers of the Honourable Artillery Company were efficient because they all came through the ranks, and we did not promote a man to an officer unless he knew his work thoroughly.
In the case of other batteries I know they have had to get whoever they could to go in as officers, and therefore the officers are there nominally to teach the men. To make things worse, if those batteries are called out for active service their adjutants are taken away and the result is that the man on whom the Commanding Officer has been relying all through peace time is taken away just when his services are most required. I quite agree that anyone who condemns the Territorial Artillery ought to make out a case against it. I would ask first of all whether there is any prominent officer who has given an impartial opinion who has been able to say that the Territorial Force and the Field Artillery are up to the standard they should be? In reading the report of the Inspector-General of the Territorial Force I noticed that he was very careful as to what he said about the Territorial Artillery. He said that they had improved. Without wishing to say anything disparaging to the Artillery I would say that it would have been a very bad look-out if they had not improved. The Inspector-General further said that they would require a longer period of training than other troops, to make them efficient, and I think that is apparent to everybody. I would ask whether the right hon. Gentleman could possibly find a single eminent Horse or Field Artillery officer of the Regulars who would get up and say that the Territorial Artillery is up to the standard it should be. When I ask if any Regular Artillery officer can give that guarantee I do not wish to say anything disparaging of the Master-General of Ordnance in this particular case, although I would not accept his opinion, because I happen to know that the Master-General of Ordnance has had no connection with Horse Artillery for twenty-eight years, 288 and at that time, when a battery went out to shoot, they used to shoot at a target of the size of this House, and anyone could look over the site to see if the gun was laid, and if they hit the target they cheered. That is the officer whose opinion, I suppose, in the deliberations of the Army Council, carries great weight on Artillery matters.
We have other evidence on this matter. I take the letters written by the officer who has recently retired from the command of the Territorial Horse and Field Artillery in the London district. I am sorry to say I have not got the actual quotation, but this is the sense of it: "The Horse and Field Artillery, certainly in the London district, were not up to the standard they should be." He pointed out that, as things were, he did not see any chance of their coining up to that standard, and he said, "If you do not send your batteries down to practice every year, but only every alternate year, it is very easily possible a man may be in the Territorial Force for four years, and during the whole of that time never see a shot fired." That is perfectly ridiculous to anybody who knows anything whatever about Artillery. A man cannot be properly trained until he has been down with the battery and seen a live shell fired. That is one officer who ought to know a good deal about the Territorial Horse and Field Artillery, and that is his opinion. I also knew another officer who had considerable experience in Horse and Field Artillery, and who still takes an interest in these matters. He told me he went to see three Territorial batteries practising. They were going through a very simple scheme, though they certainly had to fire behind cover, which, it is generally supposed, they would have to do in actual warfare. The best battery got off its first gun forty-five minutes after getting into action, and the worst battery fifty-five minutes after getting into action. His only comment was that, supposing Infantry had been advancing, and allowing they went two miles an hour, by the time they got off their first shot the Infantry would be through the battery and a mile the other side of it. That was not the first year of their going out. It was the last year's training. It really does seem there is no possibility, with the limited opportunities you have of training the Territorial Artillery, of getting them up to standard in the matter of rapidity of fire, and, if you do not get rapidity and accuracy of fire, then 289 your Artillery is only a source of danger to your own side. One of the arguments used in favour of the Territorial Artillery—I rather think the Secretary of State has used it himself—is that we should not have a very large amount of artillery against us in any invading force. I believe that is right. I believe any force sent over here will not be sent with a large amount of artillery. Why is it, then, we have such a large amount of Artillery in the Territorial Force? We have much more in the Territorial Force in proportion to numbers than any other Army. What is the object of having a very large amount of only partly trained troops? Is it intended to overwhelm hostile artillery by mere numbers? Unless your men can shoot, and shoot accurately, you have no chance whatever of overwhelming hostile artillery by mere weight of numbers. It seems to me it would be far wiser and better in every way to reduce the amount of Artillery in the Territorial Force, and to make absolutely certain that what you have is absolutely of the very best. It is no good thinking you are going to get the best Artillery unless you are continually working at it. Take any senior officer of the Regular Artillery, and I am perfectly certain, if he were asked, he would say he was annually learning something and could never learn too much of his work. Is it not ridiculous to suppose you are going to get men to learn as much in a fortnight's training, as other officers learn the whole year round? I feel sure it would be far better if, instead of these large masses of Territorial Artillery, we could have a smaller number on a regularly trained Artillery footing to act with that force. If you wish, do not have the battery with its full equipment, but at any rate let us have the nucleus by which we can give an efficient Artillery to our Territorial Force.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that the work of the Artillery, and especially the Horse Artillery, is not mainly directed against artillery. The first objective of Horse Artillery is to get at the enemy's Cavalry if you can; and, again, one of the principal objects of Field Artillery is to assist the Infantry when they are driving home their attack. Anybody who has seen the result of a premature shell from their own side on Infantry or Cavalry will realise what it means. I do not wish to put the matter flippantly in any way, but the only word which I can think of to describe it adequately is to say it makes both Cavalry and the Infantry extremely "gun-shy." You cannot expect either Cavalry or Infantry 290 to push their advantage at the critical moment, or even to push on before this, unless they are perfectly certain when they need them the Artillery are going to be there to support them with all their power. I would conclude by asking the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot see his way to having a committee of Artillery officers serving in the Regular Army who can go at all times and see all these different batteries at practice, and who will be allowed to report freely and fully upon them. If that committee reported the Territorial Artillery was not up to the standard it should be, and if the right hon. Gentleman then took his courage in both hands and did away with the Territorial Artillery, I believe he would not only have done the right thing, but I believe he would have done the bravest and best possible thing for the Territorial Force.
I want to present one very serious aspect of the question of the provision of ranges for Territorial shooting, and that is the Sunday aspect of it. I do not think the House or the nation quite realises the extreme difficulty of getting the Territorial Force through their shooting. In London and in many big places it is almost impossible for the Territorial to qualify himself in shooting. There are two alternatives if he is to get his proper amount of shooting. One is to provide ranges, and the other is to take Sunday for the purpose. That is a plain statement of the fact, and the tendency to resort to Sunday shooting is growing, unnoticed I think by the people of England, a Christian people who owe, and know they owe, a great deal for their place in the world to our national love for Sunday and our national observance of Sunday. We are deliberately putting ourselves in this position. We are saying to ourselves the Territorials must be trained, and there are only two ways of doing it. We must either spend money or break the Sunday. A good many Members of the House know I had forty years' service with the old Volunteers, during eighteen years of which I was in command of the battalion, so I know something of the subject about which I am talking. I saw a letter the other day from a young man, an average good young man who liked to go to church on Sunday, especially in the evening, and he wrote to his father saying, "You know I am in the Territorials, and I have got to get my shooting done. I have not been able to get to church on Sunday evening for the last three 291 Sundays, because I am obliged to go shooting." Everybody knows that condition of things is perfectly true, and yet there is no compulsion. I want to say perfectly frankly how well the War Office has met this difficulty. My quarrel is not with the War Office. I know they do not want to encourage Sunday shooting; they have said so. The last time the matter was mentioned in this House a very sympathetic answer was given by the representative of the War Office. I want the House to realise the position into which we are drifting. There is no compulsion; there ought to be no compulsion, and everybody says there shall not be any compulsion. We know perfectly well if a Regular regiment went shooting on Sunday there would be mutiny, and the War Office would uphold the men against the commanding officer who ordered them to go shooting on Sunday, and would quite rightly uphold them; but, when you have to get your men through their shooting, and when, if you do not get them through it, you do not get your Grant or make your men efficient, of course there is a strong moral compulsion on these men, and, so long as there are no ranges, there must be a strong moral compulsion on the men to go shooting on Sunday.
We are told that an integral part of the week-end camp is the Sunday service, and that men go to that service who do not go to Church at other times. That may be so, but that is not the object of the weekend camp. The object is the shooting, and it very often gets to Sunday practice. It has been advocated that the ranges should be open on Sunday. That means compulsory markers. It means compulsory service for them, and their Sunday is taken away from them. It may be said you can get volunteer markers, but how are you going to get it done with volunteer markers? Fewer men will get through their shooting, because the volunteer marking will not last long. It is said these week-end camps are for the purpose of week-end practice. The men have to be conveyed back, and that means Sunday transport, and all the other concomitants of travelling on Sunday. What is the next thing? People go out to see the men shooting on Sunday, and refreshments have to be provided. I ask anybody who is acquainted with what goes on in connection with Sunday shooting in Switzerland, if they are not perfectly well aware that the afternoon is observed as a village 292 festival, involving a considerable amount of Sunday labour. If, therefore, we go in for these week-end camps, and for the opening of the ranges on Sundays, it will be but another step in the weakening of that observance of the Lord's Day which, I believe, the English people in their hearts wish to see continued, whatever their practice may be, because they realise that the weakening of the observance of the Sunday will involve a weakening of our position in the world. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not encourage this movement. Of course, nobody knows better than he that if you are to have good Territorial shooting and efficiency it is a question either of money or of the desecration of the Sabbath.
§ Colonel GREIG
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member into the discussion of the question of Sunday shooting, but I would suggest for his consideration whether, after all, a young man who goes out for an hour or two on the Sunday might not attend a service in the camp and then proceed to fit himself for the defence of his country. I am not sure whether in the long run you would not get more young men to attend religious services on Sundays by bringing them down to the ranges than you would if they remained in town.
At the ranges near London which are opened on Sundays there are no Sunday services. They are merely week-end camps.
§ Colonel GREIG
It would be a very good thing indeed if the neighbouring clergy, should the custom extend, would take an interest in the men at the ranges. I am perfectly certain that their services would be welcomed. I want to say a few-words on some of the criticisms we have listened to this afternoon. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Peel) expressed opinions of which none of us on this side could reasonably complain. He showed that he takes a keen interest in the force of which he is a member, and he did not level at it the sort of criticism which we too often hear outside this House. He did suggest that the force had not reached that standard which we all hope it will attain, but, on that, we are all agreed; those who are the firmest believers in the Territorial Force quite recognise that it has not, and may not for some time, reach the standard we wish it to. What is the use of pulling up a plant every few months to see how it is growing? Yet that is the sort of treatment which has been accorded 293 to the Territorial Force during the last few years. We can all remember how, when they were first started, the County Associations were said to be utterly unworkable machines, and yet they have proved a magnificent success. We have heard very strong criticisms to-day against the creation of an Artillery Force for the Territorial Force. One hon. and gallant Member speaking with considerable authority, declared that he was not fully satisfied with that branch of the force, but I would like to call his attention to the fact that, in the statement of the Secretary for War this year, a new departure was indicated under which a large supply of Regular Artillery officers will be available for the Territorial Force, and I believe that will be most useful in improving that branch of our Territorial Army.
Next as to the recruiting. It was prophesied that we were going to have a very large exodus from the force at this time of the year. I hope that that prophecy will be falsified. A certain number of men will go out, but experience is showing that many entertain so much affection for the force that they will prolong their service and thus prevent any enormous exodus. The chief spot where recruiting is most unsatisfactory is in London itself. In the county of London there is a shortage of 4,000 or 5,000 men. I am not going into the causes of that, but I would suggest that hon. Members who really have at heart the welfare of the Territorial Force should bring their influence to bear on young men in London, of whom there are many, who might either take commission or go into the rank and file, and serve their country in this way. It should be pointed out to them that in this force there is plenty of room for them, and if our bosoms are swelling with patriotic emotions it is as well it should be brought home to the minds of our young men that here is the opportunity for them to prove their patriotism. I was sorry to hear the hon. Member who spoke last deprecate the expenditure of money on buildings, because I believe that that is one of the things that will help to make the force increase. You must have good headquarters for various reasons. You want the social element introduced, and it is not denied by anyone who knows anything about the matter that the introduction of this element does not deteriorate the force at all. I am glad, therefore, the War Office are pursuing a perfectly wise policy by providing good headquarter buildings.
294 Next I come to the National Reserve and the Territorial Reserve. The public are not quite clear in their minds what these two bodies are. Many think that the National Reserve is really the Reserve of the Territorial Force. Of course that is not so. The real Reserve of the Territorial Force is the Territorial Reserve, which, unhappily, at present, is very small in London. I indicated a week or two ago some of the reasons for that. I pointed out that the initial qualifications were so stringent that a number of men coming out of the Territorial Force could not comply with the conditions, and, therefore, were unable to enter the Territorial Reserve. Men are asked to undertake an obligation of service in this force, whereas in the National Reserve it is not the case. I think every encouragement should be given to join the Territorial Force Reserve even as a primary duty, and that priority should be given it over the National Reserve. At the same time I agree with the hon. and gallant Member who said it was extremely important to give a little more money to the National Reserve as the amount now given is not adequate to cover the expense. It does not enable them to launch out into schemes for the provision of drill arrangements and miniature ranges, and I am convinced, seeing that we have plenty of good material, if a shilling a head more were given it would relieve the committees in the boroughs who are working to keep up the Reserve of a good deal of financial anxiety. There has been a good deal of unfair criticism of the force, and it is that which is doing a great deal of harm. I do not want to repeat ad nauseam what has been said in these discussions, but it must be admitted that some of these criticisms are not fair and are not calculated to do the force any good. There was a speech delivered by Lord Willoughby de Broke at Haileybury College which was certainly not animated by very good feeling towards the force, and even Lord Curzon said:—Because we regard the Territorial Army as hopelessly inadequate for the purpose—in equipment, officers, training, Artillery, and transport, in all that makes a force formidable - we members of the National Service League advocate the replacement of the Territorial Army by a National Army or Citizen Force.I do not think such criticisms as these are either fair or right. They have been repeated to-night to some extent by an hon. Member who spoke from the Front Bench opposite, and these were some of the adjectives he used: "Untrained," "unorganised," "immature force," "widely 295 scattered," "ill-equipped," "badly officered," and "no experience of war." Let me ask what question the hon. Member was addressing himself to. He assumed the invasion of this country by a force of 70,000 trained soldiers from the Continent. He assumed that our own Expeditionary Force of 150,000 men had gone abroad. But where had they gone? Had they gone on an expedition to the Antipodes, or had they gone to the country with which we were at war, and to which surely the same considerations would apply? It would have to be assumed in that case that our 150,000 trained men had been landed on the shores of our enemy.
§ Earl WINTERTON
There are two millions of armed men in Germany, and they would swallow up our Expeditionary Force.
§ Colonel GREIG
I do not wish to enter into that question, but I would point out that we are not likely to send a force of 150,000 men anywhere, on the Continent or elsewhere, to engage in a European war unless there are other people in the business as well as ourselves. You must assume that if your 150,000 men have gone anywhere they have gone to the country with which you are at war. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Then I would ask what nation there is on the Continent, except France, which during a period of peace extending over forty years past has had any experience of war? I suggest that hon. Members must really reconsider the fundamentals of this problem. They are assuming everything against England. They assume that our Navy has disappeared; that our 150,000 men are abroad; that all the rest of the Regulars have disappeared, and that the poor Territorials are standing in a state of blue panic waiting for the landing of this trained Continental army. I do not believe that that is quite what would happen, nor do I believe that hon. Members opposite think it would happen. What are the remedies proposed for the present system? Everybody agrees as to the desirability of improving our Territorial Force, but I waited in vain this afternoon for one single suggestion as to how it was to be done. One hon. Member suggested the Swiss system, and another hon. Member suggested the programme of the National Service League. I say quite frankly, as regards the programme of the National Service League, that I do not believe it will produce anything like so well trained a 296 home defence Army as the present Territorial system. Take the League's suggestion of four months of training service and then weekly camp for the three years following. What do you get in the Territorial Force? It is useless to say that a man does not get training outside the camp. Hon. Members opposite seem to think that the camp is the only valuable thing for the Territorial Force. I take an entirely different view. I know that the camp is most valuable, but to say that the Territorial is not trained because he does not give the whole of his fifteen days to camp is really not consonant with the facts. The man is in constant training all the year round in all properly organised regiments, and the amount of training he gets, not only at camp, but at Easter and Whitsuntide, if his heart is in his work, will give him in four years' Territorial training quite as much as any man would get under the programme of the National Service League. Therefore I dismiss that suggestion. The other suggestion was compulsion. Will any responsible Member get up and say that they are prepared to suggest compulsory service for this country?
§ Colonel GREIG
The hon. Member is about the only one. Hon. Members opposite had the opportunity of doing it after the war. They had a general in office who has since been in favour of compulsory service; they had the nation in a mood to adopt it much more than they had ever got it, or are likely to get it, yet they abstained from doing it, knowing at the time that they had a force which, according to their own ideas, did not do a camp of seven days. In the face of that their own responsible Minister, the late Leader of the Opposition declined to have anything to do with compulsory service. Why should they ask us to pass it?
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
Is the hon. and gallant Member aware that the Secretary of State for War himself said that we ought to have compulsory service then, although he does not say so now?
§ Colonel GREIG
I shall leave the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to answer for himself. I have no doubt that if he did advocate anything of that sort it is perfectly explainable. The fact remains that hon. Members opposite, when they had the opportunity and the circumstances were far more favourable 297 than they have ever been since, when they had officers in office who are now in favour of it, and who could have taken the responsibility for it, did not do it. Another suggestion is that the Estimates should be increased, and that we should increase the Regular Army. The whole merit of the present system is that we have a system organised in something like a scientific way. Let me read a passage from an important organ, which reflects the views of hon. Members opposite:—By transferring money from services which were superfluous to those which were necessary we have been able to double the hitting power of the first line. By rendering the Special Reserve liable to foreign service we have given ourselves the hope of maintaining the first line in the field during six months of serious war. We have organised public spirit throughout the counties by means of the associations, and ill the Officers' Training Corps we have initiated a movement of much promise for the reinforcement of the commissioned ranks. In place of the volunteer chaos we have an organised force in the second line of real value in time of emergency, and, had public feeling been less irresolute and less easily led astray by people incapable of constructive policy, we might very easily have added largely to the numbers of the second line. Never at any modern period of our history were we more formidable as a Military Power than we are to-day. We have the first Army created by soldiers that the country has ever possessed since the Middle Ages, and we have every reason to be proud of it, cavil as politicians may.That is from the "Times" of some time ago. It accurately represents views which, until recently, were quite acceptable to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I believe that if you treat this force fairly, criticise it as much as you like, tell your friends to come into it, do not continually suggest new methods of watering, treating and pulling it up by the roots, I am quite certain that if the necessity did arise—and I have never said that in no circumstances it might not be necessary to have compulsory service although I am sure at present that there is no need for it—the best interests of this country will be served by working on the lines we are now following.
§ Mr. BAIRD
Every speech I have ever heard from the Front Bench opposite always inclines me to send in my resignation as a Territorialist. I am bound to say that all the speeches I have heard today, including the speech of the Financial Secretary—whom I congratulate upon his promotion—have shown no exception to the rule. The hon. Gentleman has fallen into line with the traditional statements from that bench. Nothing is more discouraging to persons who are anxious to have, not necessarily a Territorial Force, or any particular kind of force, but an efficient armed force for this country. I do not understand why hon. Members take it as a personal insult that we who belong to the Territorial Force, which they do not, 298 criticise it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh! oh."] I have looked through Dod, and I find there are fifty-seven Members who sit on this side of the Committee who belong to the Territorial Force, and only thirty-seven Members from the other side of the House.
§ Mr. BAIRD
That is so. We criticise the Territorial Force because we belong to it, and know something about it. We do not confine ourselves to reading reports, statistics and articles from newspapers and other publications. I criticise it from the point of view of an ex-diplomatist, I cannot look upon our aimed forces, naval and military, as capable of being separated into watertight compartments. You have got to have an armed force, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, when there is a diplomatic difference, for it is arms, and not arguments, that weigh then. We had an example of that in the trouble which occurred in the year 1908, when all was going on well until the allies appeared in shining armour. That is bound to happen. In criticising the Territorial Force, I do not say one word against the men of that force. I think they are worthy of the greatest possible praise, because they do their utmost, under the most discouraging circumstances, to discharge a duty which is a fundamental duty of everybody in this country. I complain that it is impossible in the present circumstances, with the stress of competition both in peace and in war, for men to devote the necessary time to train themselves to become efficient unless that burden is shared equally by the whole nation. Take the example of an officer who also happens to be a Member of this House. He has to make up his mind whether he will miss a few Divisions and cut a bad figure before his constituents, or whether he will go off and do his training. He probably splits the difference, and does half his training, and then puts in his Divisions. Will anybody deny that his primary duty is to make himself efficient? If it were looked upon as an obligation it is just as important to discharge as paying the taxes, there would be no question as to his missing a single day's training. I do not see why you should have military service on a different footing from any other service which has to be rendered to the community by those who constitute it.
The hon. and gallant Member who spoke last said that when this party were in 299 power there was an officer commanding who was in favour of military service, but that our party did not take advantage of the frame of mind in which the country found itself to carry compulsory service into effect. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member has followed the history of our party lately. If he has, he has noticed that opinions are changing, not only in regard to military service, but on other matters as well, and opinion in the country is changing in an equally satisfactory way in regard to all these matters. I hope we shall have the honour of introducing, one of these days, a Service which will be a real military service, which will be respected, not only in this country, but abroad. Nowhere would greater relief be felt if we had a real system of military training in this country, by which we could develop to the utmost extent the undeniably magnificent material we possess, and nowhere would such action arouse a more, satisfactory feeling than among our friends and allies on the Continent. That is a matter of the utmost importance. Nowhere would such a proceeding be viewed with greater disappointment than among those who, for the moment, do not see eye to eye with us. This is a serious matter. I am bound to say that, noticing the sparse attendance on the benches opposite, it is difficult to persuade oneself that hon. Members opposite do think this a serious matter. I do not think we can be satisfied with the present stale of affairs. No officer of the Territorial Force who is a civilian, who is an ordinary individual, with other avocations in life, and who looks upon it as a duty to belong to whatever form of irregular military organisation is open to him, can be satisfied with the present state of affairs.
Although I said that the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues always inclined me to send in my resignation, still I shall continue to serve, if I can, with any organisation, even if it were only with the Royal Bodyguard in Scotland, which, armed with weapons with a rather high trajectory, is no doubt very desirable from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view. I am asking for a better opportunity to develop those latent talents which we possess, in order that we may have full effect if called upon to use them. The predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman who, I am thankful to say, is now-transferred to a sphere where his talents 300 will find better scope, evolved this lawyer-made army, which enjoys no respect whatever abroad, and very little respect in this country. It is for that reason that I venture to criticise it. To come to specific instances, the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Greig) asked why we did not introduce compulsory military training when we were in office. He has a fantastic notion as to the disposition of the Regular Forces and the employment which would be allotted to the Territorials. It is perfectly impossible to foresee where you have to send your Regular Army, because that will depend largely not only on the state of affairs within the Empire, but the state of affairs at the seat of war and the disposition of allies. The Regular Army, too, cannot be dispatched until the Territorials are in a position to take their places at home. That is the source of danger. It is perfectly impossible to advance that contention. When you come down to details you are entitled to ask why a humble individual like myself—a Territorial officer in command of a squadron—is dissatisfied with the present organisation. You cannot get more people than you have now, and if you did get them you could not train them under present conditions. In many cases certainly the men and the non-commissioned officers are probably better trained than the officers. That is a frightful source of danger. I do not know whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had time to peruse a book to which I will call his attention. Does he remember this passage—The most promiscuous murderer in the world is the ignorant military officer.When one sees—as all of us have seen—troops manœuvring down into an ambush which, if they had had a little more experience, they would certainly have avoided, and when one thinks what that means if we were at war and men were shooting with bullets in their rifles, you are bound to admit the truth of that statement. The most intelligent man in the world cannot become an efficient officer unless he has an opportunity of training, and what opportunity under present conditions does a man have of becoming efficient? It is impossible for a great many people to give up the time, even if the machinery were available; but the machinery is not available. Look at the conditions which an officer has to discharge in order to get his commission: Forty drills, of which twenty must be performed before the annual training in camp, or twelve working days with a Regular unit 301 before training in camp; the annual training in camp with his unit, and a recruit course in musketry. You take that man and put him in charge of thirty or forty of his fellow countrymen who probably know a great deal more about the job than he does himself. I consider that is an iniquitous state of affairs, and you are not entitled to send men out under those conditions. Everyone knows what the subsequent training of the officers is. He has to attend drill before training in camp, and he has to go to camp two or three days before his regiment goes out. He can do anything up to three drills in a day, and a drill must not extend less than an hour. The annual training in camp is a most inadequate performance. You go into camp, your day of assembly and your day of departure are dies non; you have to have two Sundays, you have to put in troop drill, squadron drill, regimental drill, field firing, and of course a field day; and the result of it all is that every day when you come home into camp you realise that errors have been committed which ought and would have been avoided if there had been more time to learn the job. I guarantee that is the experience of every keen Yeomanry officer. You cannot look upon annual training as a refresher course, because there is nothing to refresh. If men who join the Territorial Force had gone through an efficient period of training it would be a different matter, but they have not done so, and consequently they are learning all the time, and it is a case of the blind leading the blind in nine cases out of ten. I think the men are better trained than the officers; and certainly the training of the non-commissioned officers is magnificent in a great many cases; but it is like the man who did his two hundred drills in a year. How many are there? And for one who has done that cannot we say that ten men have done no drills in a year? That is a question to be considered.
Then there is the question of armaments, and on that I re-echo what was said by the hon. Member (Mr. Peel). I should like to know something more about the Hampshire Carbineers. It reminds me of the advice given in an old book on equitation for dealing with a weary horse, where it is laid down that it is a good thing to strike him on the head with thicky clubby and speak to him in a terrifying voice. I will grant, for argument's sake, that the Hampshire Carbineers have terrifying voices, but where is their thicky clubby? And if you are going to charge 302 it is the thicky clubby which counts more than the terrifying voice. I think we are not properly trained to engage in charges. I remember an occasion when I had the honour to gallop before an officer who commanded a brigade on Salisbury Plain, and the Hampshire Carbineers were also engaged, and against them were the Scots Greys. There was an encounter on the slope of the hill, where the Scots Greys played with the Carbineers like a cat with a mouse, and I will undertake to say that the Scots Greys would have played with any other Yeomanry regiment.
§ Colonel SEELY
In order to dismiss the point about my own regiment, I say at once that this particular body of men did serve very gallantly in the South African war.
§ Mr. BAIRD
No one will regret more than I do that the right hon. Gentleman should misrepresent or misunderstand me. There was a certain proportion who served in the war, probably the same proportion as we had in our regiment, and they were the backbone of the regiment. I mentioned the Carbineers because I happened to see them, but I have no doubt that the same thing would have occurred in any regiment. Supposing the Scots Greys had been a foreign regiment, that is where the trouble would have come in. If, instead of going down to see manœuvres or to visit the Fleet at the Government expense, we were sent over to go and see foreign armies and navies, there would be something more to be said for it. I wish to take up the suggestion of the hon. Member (Mr. Peel). It is a monstrous thing to have a man on the top of a hill where he is likely to be attacked by other people and to have nothing but his clubbed rifle to defend himself with. He ought to have a short bayonet or something of that kind which he could use instead of only his rifle. Then there comes the question of mobilisation. That has been gone into very thoroughly and no one has worked harder than the very efficient staff which runs the Territorial Force at the War Office. The difficulty of all Territorials, both officers and men, is the question of discipline. By lack of discipline I do not mean that they are insubordinate. Anyone who has served in a regiment knows that that crime is practically non-existent. But it is the fact that, not having been drilled and trained, there is not that faultless punctuality, that automatic performance of duties and drill and all the rest of 303 of it which can only come from discipline and training. You may have to occupy a town where there may be 4,000 Territorials in billets, each with a fiver in his pocket, scattered about in the town and then you try to enforce discipline! That is a point which deserves consideration. It is necessary that some attempt should be made to provide accommodation, hutting, or whatever it may be, in order that you should have your regiment under your hands and not scattered about in billets. In war time when the whole country is excited, and when it is a question of minutes and not weeks or months, as it was thought or rather said there would be, for the purpose of training Territorials, that is a matter of some importance.
There is another point. One of the first duties of regimental quartermasters is to fill up the soldier's pay book. Among other things you have to say whether he is entitled to efficiency pay or not. The qualification for obtaining efficiency pay includes the possession of a third-class education certificate. For the moment it does not exist, and it is not fair to disqualify men from efficiency pay. These are details of importance. It is not a pleasant thing to criticise the military forces of the country on which the safety of the country and the successful diplomacy of the country primarily rests. I look upon the Army primarily as an instrument of peace and not an instrument of war. It is only an instrument of war when diplomacy has failed, because there is not a strong enough force to back up your diplomacy. If you keep your armed forces up to the proper standard of strength that is the best guarantee for peace that we can possibly have. But you will not get that by playing. It is no use saying we have an Army when we have not, and it is no use leading out a number of men who can wear putties and shoulder a rifle, and say, "There you are, you have a trained Army." That is not business, and it is because it is not business that I call attention to it. Will the House forgive me if I read an extract from a speech made by the German Chancellor in the Reichstag so late as 30th March, 1911? He said:—If a nation will not, or cannot, spend so much on its armament that it can assert itself in the world, it moves into the second rank, it falls back into the rôle of a supernumerary. There will always be another and a stronger ready to take its place in the world. We Germans, in our exposed position, are, above all others, obliged to look this stern reality fearlessly in the face. Only thus shall we maintain peace and our existence.304 I do not think there is a word of menace in what fell from the German Chancellor on that occasion. I think these words ought to be spoken by every self-respecting nation in the world, and it is because I do not think any British Government, certainly not the present Government, has approached the question of the military forces from the point of asking what is absolutely necessary, telling the country what is the cost, and ascertaining whether the country agrees or not, that I urge this matter on the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. The present Government have not found the slightest difficulty in spending money in other directions. Some right hon. Gentlemen opposite boast of the amount of money the Government are spending, and glory in the fact that we are a rich country and can afford it. I never heard anything of this sort in connection with the Army. I doubt very much whether there is not a feeling that there is a certain amount of unpopularity in spending money on these services. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway seem to think that unless there is compulsion in connection with the measures they support they are like an egg without salt. They want compulsion for land purchase and to drive men into trade unions, but they are against compulsory military service. If it is to be for the advantage of the country that more money should be spent on the Territorial Force, I do implore the right hon. Gentleman to realise that we, at any rate on this side, are ready to back him up and support him, not only with speeches, but with votes, if he will put before us a scheme which the people can conscientiously support. We believe that the scheme now before the country with respect to the Territorial Force is totally inadequate.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
My object in rising is, if I can, to focus the attention of the Secretary of State on points which have been urged but which neither he nor his predecessor has ever met. I hope he will not complain of me for pointing out defects which undoubtedly exist in our home defence. We on this side approach the question with reluctance. The criticism, even if it were captious, which it is not, which will hurt and may destroy the Territorial Force is anything in the nature of make-believe. We all agree that we have got to encourage throughout the nation a sense of national responsibility towards the Territorial Force, and in the Territorial Force a sense of responsibility 305 towards the nation on the part of every man and every unit. You cannot have that if you have an atmosphere of unreality hanging over some of the main features of your scheme, and if you allow officers and men to get filled with the suspicion that they are being made fools of or that they are making fools of themselves. I dare say the right hon. and gallant Gentleman remembers that his Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge came round on a great occasion and asked an outpost, "What are you?" and the answer was, "I am a—fool, and if it rains much more I am going home." You run the danger of making the members of the Territorial Force think that they are fools or that they are being fooled if you encourage them to believe that they know more than they know or that they can do more than they can do. First of all as to numbers, it gives an air of unreality to all our proceedings if you are told one day that the establishment is a certain number and next day that that is the Parliamentary maximum. It gives an air of unreality to find a period of complacency following upon a period of alarm.
It gives an air of unreality to the position to have no adequate statement as to the purpose for which this force exists. Do we not all agree as to the purpose? You must have a standard to work up to. You yourselves say that the force ought to be able to prevent an invasion, or a raid, by 70,000 men or by a number of smaller forces. You can say 69,000 if you like, but stick to it, and make the men believe it is for a force of that kind that they should be prepared. You may say that is a remote contingency, but we say that it must be guarded against, however remote. In the first place, the remoteness of the contingency varies directly with the efficiency and the number of the Territorial Force. If you let it down the contingency becomes nearer and nearer. The second point is that you must discourage any Power from thinking that an attack can be made successfully, and you must have a force of such numbers and efficiency that you can take the offensive rapidly, that being the only sound foundation of defence. If your diplomacy is not supported by some proportion it buckles and may bring about a European war. Therefore the number of the Territorial Force is not a matter for Parliamentary dialectics. We should face the question frankly, and we should say that we will do all in our power to get up the requisite numbers. We ought to know what are the numbers really required for 306 the whole problem which has to be solved—the garrison in Ireland, local defence, and so forth—before you come to the central body.
I will only enumerate the other points. There is unreality in regard to the instruction of officers. We know that they do not receive enough instruction. We know that the Yeomanry school gave better instruction than the officers receive now. We know that it did not cost a fabulous sum, and we ask, if the training of officers is to be a reality and not a sham, that they should be better instructed. It is not sufficient that the officers should know their work—and they often do not—but it is also necessary that they should be able to teach. Therefore a school for officers is a necessity if the forces are to be a reality. Another point is the question of horses. That has not been coped with in connection with the Regular Army, and it has not been dealt with in the Territorial Force. The suggestion has been made as regards the Regular Army that you mean to take horses that are six years old. Why do not you make some arrangement for the Territorial Force? It is notorious, I think, that the Territorial Force is not horsed now. You make jokes about it, but it is not a matter for laughter at all. At present you make four regiments depend on the same horses. Why do you not appoint three or four ex-officers to make terms on a large scale for the mounting of the Territorial Force? Why go pouring into the pockets of dealers money for horses until you have paid five times their value? There is an air of unreality about this, and we cannot believe that you are in earnest unless you address yourselves to the matters which year after year have been brought to your notice. It is the same in regard to ranges. You are trying but not succeeding to provide the necessary ranges. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that you will not get the Territorial Force to consider themselves seriously if they have only Territorial Artillery. Everyone knows that if a raid came, the force would not have a full complement of Artillery. Therefore everybody ought to infer that there will be more Artillery with the Territorial Force. As to training, I will not speak at any length, but I would say that fifteen days are not enough. Will you do away with the unreality arising out of the idea that eight days are enough? The Government must set their faces against employers who bully men out of camp at the end of eight days. A man in my own regiment 307 came to me with his discharge and stated that unless he went back after eight days, instead of fifteen days training which he wished to perform, he would lose his post. The men cannot learn firing in the field if they always play with blank ammunition. One of the hardest problems in connection with modern warfare is accurate shooting. If you only do it with a bit of paper, you will never solve that problem. The only way to learn field firing is with the use of real bullets. It is unreasonable to ask men to go into action with real bullets for the first time, and to face real bullets in the rifles of their opponents for the first time. It is risky to put a little paint on an unseaworthy vessel in which your fortunes, and perhaps your lives, are going to be embarked on the voyage.
§ Colonel SEELY
It may be convenient to the Committee that I should now rise to reply to one or two points which have been raised in this Debate. I certainly do not complain of any of the speeches made from either side of the House, with two exceptions. I take exception to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee), for reasons which I will endeavour to show, and I take some exception to a criticism of a member of the Army Council, a most distinguished officer, which was put before the House in an otherwise very interesting speech by the hon. Member for Preston (Major Stanley). With those exceptions, I must confess that the Debate has been most informing and interesting to myself, and I really believe that good cannot but come of the very valuable suggestions which have been put forward by hon Friends of mine on this side and by hon. Gentlemen on the other side, with regard to the force in which most of them are themselves serving, and to which so many of them give up time and energy for the purpose of assisting it. But I want to come to the point raised in the vehement speech by the hon. Member for Fareham. He put forward a very serious case. As I understand it it is this. First of all he said war is possible; secondly, he said that the Expeditionary Force may have to go abroad, let us say, in order to avoid any difficulties, to the defence of some distant possession like Egypt, against a barbarian foe, which no doubt is conceivable. But he takes the case that our Expeditionary Force may go, and then he says that 70,000 possible enemies from somewhere—it does not matter where—may come, and for these three things you must be prepared. Now he says a fourth 308 thing, that the troops left behind cannot compare with the 70,000 of the enemy who come, that the latter will be a compact body of the most highly trained troops in the world, and as he said in a recent speech, they will go through what is left here like a knife through butter, and therefore they will be able to strike a paralysing blow at the heart of our Empire.
I say at once that we deny that position absolutely. I cannot be too emphatic on that point, speaking not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of the Army Council, the Board of Admiralty, and the Committee of Defence, and I have no doubt that the Member for the City of London will support us. And what is more, I am going to put it to the Committee that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, although he has put forward this view, does not himself believe it in the least, because if, a patriotic man like him, he believed it, if he thought it was possible under the arrangements which have been made, when these three things would coincide, for the enemy to strike a blow at the heart of the Empire, he would be scorning delights and living laborious days, drilling every man he could find, getting others to do the same, and trying to arouse the country to a sense of its danger. Instead of that, he leads a happy, useful, contented, and not very strenuous life for a whole long year and more, and then comes down here and asks us to believe this amazing doctrine put forward to-day that we are absolutely at the mercy of our foes. I deny that absolutely, and if I believed it for one moment, needless to say, that I would not be standing here at this box, nor would any of the Army Council be away from his post. If our position was one of such imminent peril I am perfectly certain that none of our colleagues would remain here for one moment. We would go out and denounce the system which exposes us to such danger. I will give the reasons why the Committee of Defence deny entirely the view of the hon. and gallant Member. First of all, it is almost inconceivable—I think I may put it as the view of the Committee of Defence, that it is inconceivable—that so long as we have the command of the sea at all the supposed 70,000 men can all land in one place. That is inconceivable, or, to be more cautious, I would say almost inconceivable so nearly inconceivable that it is not a danger that any sane man would wish to provide against when we have other dangers which we must also meet.
For this reason: it is true that the submarine was invented at the time when 309 the hon. and gallant Gentleman was himself at the Admiralty, but, at all events, the submarine has advanced in a more striking measure I suppose—I say that on authority—than any other naval matter during the same period or probably in any period. The advance in the number of torpedo boats and in the accuracy of their fire has increased also with the same extraordinary rapidity, the consequence of which is, I am informed, that the difficulty and danger of this small Armada, as my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary put it, of 70,000 men—which, ex hypothesi, would have artillery, as otherwise indeed it would not be a very formidable force—the difficulty of this force of 70,000 with their artillery, and all the ships which that would take, in coming across in a body while we hold command of the sea, and eluding observation and landing all in one place, would be so great that the thing is almost inconceivable. I say that and I challenge denial from any competent authority There is one thing which no doubt is possible. I trust we shall know more of it as time goes on. I can assure the Committee that we are endeavouring to arrive at the truth of this matter, but it is most difficult to find out the truth of these matters of war. Yet we must try. What appears to us to be undoubtedly conceivable is that a small force of the enemy, unaccompanied possibly by artillery, which is so difficult to land, one or two ships, might elude observation and might have time to disembark. I put it now to the Committee, whether the number be only one ship, or two, or three—I deliberately now dismiss the proposition of the whole 70,000 landing in one place—when once landed they cannot be reinforced at the point of debarkation. Therefore anything in the nature of a gradually growing force getting more and more powerful until at last it is hurled against the force we have left in this country, and delivers a death blow, is inconceivable so long as we hold command of the sea. If once the force is disembarked at a certain spot upon the coast, it is apparent to everybody, and does not require stating, that of course a cordon will be drawn around it by our submarines or torpedo boats, or destroyers, which would make it utterly impossible for that part of their fleet to be reinforced. These considerations lead us to this conclusion, that it would be perfectly possible for an enemy to inflict grave damage upon us in the way perhaps of blowing up some important fortress or dock.
§ Colonel SEELY
I think that that would be a very difficult procedure. The kind of force that could escape our Navy while we have command of the sea would find it very difficult to attack one of the naval bases. Therefore the truth of the matter is this, that the more mobile and the better distributed your Territorial Force is the less damage these raids will do the country should we ever unfortunately be involved in war, and therefore, while we absolutely deny that there is any possibility so long as we hold command of the sea of our receiving a paralysing blow at the heart, we fully admit that we must work and work hard, to make our Territorial Force more efficient and more mobile and better distributed, in order to counteract not any of the terrible dangers I have described, but the real inconveniences and the minor dangers which these raids might cause in time of war. I hope that the Committee will forgive me for speaking with some emphasis on this matter. Everybody in this country knows that if there was the least risk of being exposed to this terrible danger the hon. Gentleman himself would be the last to say so.
§ Colonel SEELY
I submit with confidence, that, on reflection, the hon. and gallant Gentleman would agree with me that he would be the last to say so in public. He would come at once in private and say, "I am very dissatisfied with this terrible danger which exists in case the enemy comes, and you must take measures at once to remedy it, and if you do not take such measures then, as a last resort, I may have to tell that terrible danger to the world." I was told by a Gentleman from a friendly country the other day that nothing aggravates them more than reading in the speeches in this House, both in Army and Navy Debates, that we are on the verge of ruin, because he said it showed conclusively that we had absolutely made up our minds that we were in no danger whatever. I do not take too optimistic a view. I do take the view if it be an optimistic view, that our arrangements are such that we should assume they do not involve any risk of absolute disaster, but I do say that we must work hard to improve the arrangements we have made in order to avoid what might ultimately become disaster if 311 there were any prolonged war. Turning to the particular points which have been raised, I should say a word if I may as to the alternative to the Territorial Force. I do not wish to make any attack upon the hon. Member for Preston, but I do wish to make a defence of the person whom he attacks. He spoke of the Artillery of the Territorial Force and found great fault with it, but he said that that was not to be wondered at seeing that the chief Artillery expert at the War Office was the present Master-General of Ordnance (Sir Charles Hadden). It is perfectly true that it is many years since Sir Charles Hadden commanded a battery in the field—
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member did not say that it was not to be wondered at. What he did say was that the Report from the Master-General of Ordnance as to efficiency would be discounted because of the great development of recent years.
§ Colonel SEELY
We will put it that way. In any case it placed a very grave reflection upon this officer, and I wish to assure the Committee that in the opinion of my predecessor, and certainly of myself, and I believe also of all those who are acquainted with this highly technical question of the proper armament, Sir Charles Hadden has unrivalled knowledge, and he has unrivalled industry and the country has every reason to be grateful for the eminent services which he has rendered; and if it be true, as I believe the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fareham will be inclined to admit, that in many respects we have the finest Artillery in the world, and in all respects it is one of the finest Artilleries in the world, it is largely due I think to Sir Charles Hadden and the work which he has done. On the point of the Territorial Artillery, the hon. Member for Preston asked me would I appoint a Committee to go out and inspect the Territorial Artillery. I answered that we Eave an Inspector-General of Forces and, we have exceptional knowledge concerning it. Major-General French went out every year and inspected the Territorial Force and the Territorial Artillery. Here is his Report, the last report we have, which I will lay on the Table of the House.The advance made in general efficiency during the past two years and especially during this year by Territorial units"—That is the Horse and Field Artillery.has been surprising. I do not hold in any way with the disparaging remarks constantly inside in the Press and elsewhere as to the supposed inferiority of this arm 312 in comparison with the Infantry of the force. So far sis I am able to judge the advance has been greater in the former than in the latter. It is not generally realised that on the creation of the Territorial Force the Field Artillery of to-day was created practically de novo, the previous knowledge of transfers being confined practically in all cases to Garrison Artillery knowledge, and, therefore, valueless to a mounted corps; whereas, in the case of Infantry, no such transition took place, the change involved was almost solely change of name. It is also generally admitted that Artillery is the most difficult of all arms to improvise.General French is of opinion that the advance in the Infantry has been surprising, and certainly that is a result of my own humble observations in going about the country. From conversations I have had with various military officers in regard to the Artillery units, one or two have told me the same thing, that the advance has been amazing compared with what they conceived possible. I do not say that it is by any means perfection, but I do say that the Field and Horse Artillery of the Territorial Force are very valuable units which would be able to give a very good account of themselves. Another point which was raised has reference to the Yeomanry, and the hon. Member opposite reminded us of the incident of the Scots Greys. Territorial Cavalry can never have much chance in a combat with Regular Cavalry. I entirely agree with him, and least of all should I be disposed to doubt it in the case of such a regiment as the Scots Greys, with its splendid efficiency. I do think the Yeomanry have justified their existence, even since the Territorial Force came into being. It has received the highest reports from those who have inspected it, not overdrawn, and it shows that it is undoubtedly a highly efficient mounted force, considering the short period of training it has had. I agree, and my advisers agree, that the Yeomanry should have a second weapon of some kind, but I am not prepared to state exactly what form the weapon should take.
§ Sir SAMUEL SCOTT
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the German Cavalry have been given a new arm?
§ Colonel SEELY
I could not say offhand, but when last I was at the German manœuvres I observed that they had a sword, but I will inquire into the point raised by the hon. Baronet. The other point of detail which was raised has reference to Sunday shooting. Nobody will fail to sympathise with the view of the hon. Member for West Dorset in his plea for the maintenance of the sanctity of Sunday. I need hardly tell him that both 313 I and the War Office hold that view, and this is the principle we have laid down: There has always been Sunday shooting for the last twenty years. The difficulty is in getting men to perform the necessary musketry for efficiency, and that is the reason why so many men go to Sunday shooting. Lord Haldane—and I, too, take full responsibility—laid down these principles: first, that the shooting should be confined to places where it does not cause disturbance and distress to the locality. Secondly, it should be confined to the necessary practice for efficiency; that is to say, that you shall not have at the ranges a system of shooting matches going on all day. Thirdly, that it shall be absolutely voluntary for everyone, not only in theory but in fact, and we have taken special means to see that no man is compelled or even induced by any means to go and shoot on Sunday if he has an objection to it. If we had only enough ranges to avoid Sunday shooting altogether, I am confident the House would agree probably that to be the best of all, but so long as these difficulties exist they have to be coped with, and we have laid down conditions which I believe will keep it within proper limits. Moreover, we have tried to arrange for a religious service to be held before or after the shooting, and there is really no doubt that more go to church than they would otherwise do.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us exactly what the Financial Secretary meant when he spoke of greater elasticity of the establishments?
§ Colonel SEELY
I was coming to that in my remarks. We do propose to have a greater measure of elasticity in our establishment. That elasticity would not be an interchange between county and county, but only within the county itself. I am not prepared now to say exactly what form it will take, although, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, there is only one form really, to allow one unit to recruit far beyond its strength, while another unit would go below its strength, but I do not want to carry that too far, because it might cause a great deal of inconvenience. Now we have got our scheme properly established we can now with advantage to the force have a certain greater measure of elasticity. One word with regard to the National Reserve which has advanced so surprisingly in number since my predecessor last addressed the House. The National Reserve is a military asset of the 314 greatest value. If we do not lay down precisely what we should do with it in time of war it is just because we are advised by those who have been concerned in raising the National Reserve, the county association, that to lay down a rigid rule would defeat the very object in view. What we propose to do is to encourage the National Reserve to perfect its own organisation, not to try and check it at all in getting its commandant and, if need be, its own company commanders and commanding officers. But to make it quite clear we do not want this to be a third line Army, which would only compete with the Regular Force and the Territorial Force. You want an organisation of that kind, with one hundred men under a captain, and that has been a feature in Army organisation ever since the dawn of history. It is a natural thing that the organisation of the National Reserve should spring up in order to keep the register going and to keep the interest going; therefore I welcome the further organisation of the Reserve, provided always it is fully understood that that will not be their fighting organisation in time of war. If the National Reserve would agree to take an obligation something in this form I think it would be of rare value to the State. If every member of the National Reserve, in the event of national peril, were to say, "I will place my services at the disposal of the military authorities for service within these Islands," I think that would be a real advantage, and would not, I think, appreciably diminish the number.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Colonel SEELY
I agree with the Noble Lord. I know it has, but it has not been generally done. If the obligation is taken I think it would be of great advantage. It may be said, What would they do? A great many of them would rejoin the Regular Army. Many might join the Territorial Force, and some of them might be of enormous value in the different localities in the event of those raids which have been spoken of. Nothing can be more valuable than a force of this kind highly localised, able at once to give warning, and to concert measures for avoiding disaster. The question of uniforms for the National Reserve is one of difficulty, not only because of the expense, but because if we gave uniforms to the men of the Reserve I think the men of the Regular Reserve, who have to serve 315 all over the world, might think it a little hard that the men of the National Reserve should have the privilege of wearing the uniform while they had not that privilege. We should, if we can, make every use of the National Reserve, and in a moment of national peril they would possibly be of inestimable value to the State. It was asked by the right hon. Gentleman why we do not lay down distinctly our numbers. I have endeavoured to lay down definitely the numbers in this respect, that the more we have properly placed the safer we shall be within reason, but we are not satisfied with having 40,000 or 50,000 men short, and we are still less satisfied in having nearly 2,000 officers short. I agree with the view that those who have special privileges and advantages in the country, well-to-do young men who have not joined the force, that it should be looked upon as a disgrace that any well-to-do young man who is healthy and strong should do nothing for the defence of his country. I know I will carry the whole House with me when I say that there is a great deal to be said for the man who does not join the Territorial Force because he has his daily work to do, but in the case of the class to which I refer there is no such excuse practically, and I appeal to them to come forward and to at once fill up the officers' ranks in the Territorial Force. What is the alternative to making a patriotic appeal? Two alternatives have been put forward which I wish to examine. The first alternative, which was put forward by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee), is to get rid of your Territorial Force, and substitute a much smaller number of a fixed addition to the Regular Army. We rule that out altogether for two reasons. In the first place, owing to the enormous expense. I have said that an attack on these shores must of necessity, owing to modern strategy, be a dispersed attack. Therefore in order to have any chance of meeting that attack you must have, not only a mobile force, but a dispersed force to do what the Territorial Force is intended to do. An addition to the Regular Forces of that kind would involve us in millions of pounds expense. I made a sort of rough estimate, and I only give it as a kind of figure for people to turn round in their minds; but I conceive, that that policy to save us from attack and from all interference along the coast would cost us £10,000,000 per year. If you had nothing 316 but Regular troops maintained for that purpose on the same scale as your Territorial Force, not in numbers, but on the same scale of fighting value. The other alternative put forward is, if you cannot induce them to come in, to compel them to come in. That is the suggestion put forward quite boldly by several hon. Gentlemen in this Debate. Much has been made of a speech that I have made. I have never dealt with it yet because I did not think my own particular views of ten years ago were of sufficient importance to put before the House. As it is so constantly raised, I think perhaps it is just as well that I should make my position clear, as I now hold the office of Secretary of State. In the year 1902, on returning from the South African war, I was very much impressed with the fact that a certain number of men came out with the later reinforcements who practically knew very little. One whom I remember probably did not know how to handle a rifle. That interested me so much I believed then, although frankly I do not believe now as I have said over and over again, that the principal military danger was the number of men who knew nothing about rifle shooting. I do not believe that now. I am convinced that is an erroneous view.
There are other military dangers far greater than that. We have got, as we know, in the National Reserve an immense number of men in this country, men whom we really could put into our firing line for many many months or even years of war, men who know all about handling a rifle and know a great deal about drill. What we do want is better organisation in many departments, those things which the right hon. Gentleman brought before us, to always have the best gun and the best rifle. That is more important in my view. I do not believe if you adopted compulsion to-morrow on the Swiss system, with its four to six millions of expense to this country, even if the country accepted it, that you would increase your force as you would by spending the same sum in other ways. More than that, I am convinced it is impracticable and need not be discussed, because no great party in the State shows the least sign, not the least sign, of taking it up, and for the obvious reason that you have got a great body of opinion against it. You have got many of the best brains in the Navy bitterly hostile to any form of compulsion, and you have got many of the best minds in the Army 317 as bitterly opposed to compulsion for home defence in the case of the Navy, because it would divert money from the vital necessity of sea supremacy, and in the case of the Army because they believe it to be a faulty strategical conception to create a large Army limited to home defence, seeing that for the last many hundreds of years, although we have had to fight for our lives, we have never fought a battle within these islands against a foreign foe. Those are the reasons which weigh with us. I am not saying whether they are right or wrong. You have all this great body of opinion against compulsion, and frankly I think it is an idle dream to talk of it now as an alternative to our system of voluntary service.
I believe I have made forty-nine speeches in support of the principle of a voluntary Army on military grounds. I am not going to repeat the arguments now except to say that everything that has happened in modern warfare has tended to make a voluntary army more likely to win than a compulsory army. The strain upon men now, and upon their nerves, with smokeless powder and rapid firing is, I think all will admit, greater than in the old days. Therefore it is more important to eliminate the unwilling from your army than it was in the old days. In the old days we heard that if the front rank would not go on the rear rank would push them on. If you have unwilling soldiers that is a greater danger to the army than it used to be. A voluntary army has enormous advantages which we ought not to lose sight of. I cannot engage in a campaign such as I have been invited to do to-day in favour of compulsory service. I honestly, if I believed that was where the safety of the State lay, would not hesitate to do so. I am quite sure myself, and my hon. Friends on this side would not hesitate if we believed so. I do not believe it is, and therefore we must lend our minds to the practical work, and appeal to our countrymen to induce them to undertake the patriotic duty of serving their country.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I am glad we have had a Debate on the Territorial Question, and especially to hear the views of the right hon. Gentleman on the question of compulsion. He gave us a definite standard by which to judge the Territorial Force, and it is by that standard I am going to try and judge it now. I think in the whole of his speech he avoided the main point at issue, and which he laid down himself, namely, the question 318 of numbers and the question of the efficiency of the training with due regard to the work to be done. The Financial Secretary did deal with that point. I take first of all, the right hon. Gentleman's own test of numbers. He admits, I think, that we might have a raid of 70,000 men under certain conceivable circumstances. I am going to say this, in order to show that I take no very biassed view one way or the other on the subject, that I am frankly one of those who is not in a very ghastly fright of invasion. I admit, certainly, if it did come we should probably be in a very serious fix in this country. I certainly do not take the view of the right hon. Gentleman on the question of invasion. He stated it would be a comical situation. I do not think it would be.
§ Colonel SEELY
What I said would be a comical situation would be if our Expeditionary Force were leaving the country at the same time as a force of 70,000 were approaching these shores, and if the two sets of transports passed each other in the sea.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I think if the right hon. Gentleman will recollect further the question was if our Expeditionary Force was going to other parts of the Empire. I do not think now that we have not got Heligoland that it would be likely that the two forces in these other circumstances would meet or pass. I do not think there is anything comical in it. My reason for saying that I do not think we are likely to have an invasion in this country is this. Though we might be afraid of invasion in this country, I think other countries would be absolutely terrified at the thought of invasion of their countries. If we were going to fight any continental nation it is almost inconceivable we should take on any of those countries single handed. All the countries that we could possibly be afraid of have very large land frontiers, and it seems inconceivable that we should pick a quarrel with them unless we had got a strong ally which would probably have a frontier contiguous to the country we were fighting. It is obvious those countries would try to invade each other first if A invaded B it is not likely that it would at the same time seriously invade B's ally C. If B managed to invade A first, then A would have plenty to do without invading C. and if we lost command of the Sea it 319 would not be necessary to invade us. The real point at issue is that we have been told that in certain circumstances we might have an invasion of 70,000 men, and that is what we have got to prepare for. Lord Haldane, when he started the Territorial Force, laid it down that we should have an establishment of 315,000 Territorials. It is quite conceivable, as the Financial Secretary said, that he rather over-stated than under-stated; but at the same time I do not think he over-stated to the enormous amount of about 55,000 men. Our present Secretary of State is, I think he will admit, in this position, either he has got to admit now that the numbers are not adequate, or else that the Establishment is a great deal too big. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell me whether he thinks the establishment is too big, and, if so, why he does not reduce it, and why during the whole of this time he has been saying to the country we ought to have a force of 315,000, and why, if that was wrong, he does not cut it down, instead of going to the expense of organising it? On the other hand I would also like to ask him, if he thinks the force of 315,000 necessary, how he proposes to get the whole of that force? Does the right hon. Gentleman think that a force of 315,000 men is necessary for the Territorial Force?
MARQUESS Of TULLIBARDINE
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me how it is possible, as it seems impossible under the present system? I would far rather see him get them under the present system than compulsorily; but I should like him to tell me how he proposes to do so. I think we should have an authoritative statement from the right hon. Gentleman on that point, because he has himself shown that we have got otherwise something like 80,000 fewer soldiers now than we had ten years ago, when Continental navies were not so strong as now. I think it was the Duke of Wellington who stated that Napoleon's presence in the battlefield was worth 40,000 men.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
Whichever said it the fact does not alter my argument. I want to know if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that a certain colonel in the Wax Office is worth 320 80,000 men? Otherwise I cannot put the facts he has mentioned alongside certain speeches he made some time ago. If he cannot get the numbers he wants, then, so far as I can see, what he has got to do is to try and improve the training of men. I want to ask him why really it is that he has changed his mind so greatly now from that speech of his which he mentioned a few minutes ago, and which he made some ten years ago. At that time he said:I, myself, speaking as a Member of Parliament with a seat to lose, say plainly that I consider it to be extremely desirable that it should be obligatory for every male in this country to be trained to arms.He has not yet told us how it is that he has changed his mind, and why he does not now think it necessary that such training should be obligatory. Is his present seat now quite secure. The real point is that the right hon. Gentleman came fresh from the war in South Africa, where he had seen the appalling dangers that may happen to any country from sending out untrained troops. We both know perfectly well the kind of untrained troops we had to deal with in that war.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
But the right hon. Gentleman did not deal with organisation the other day; he dealt with regiments like the South African Light Horse. He talked about a handful of farmers holding up the British Army, especially in Natal. At that time, when he was fresh from the war, he was all for compulsory training, and supported the idea that the Regular soldier was a necessity. Now we hear no such views. He referred to the South African Light Horse. Personally I saw every single action in which that corps was engaged at that particular time, and there were other regiments, such as the Bethune's Mounted Infantry, Thorneycroft's, and the Natal Carabineers. I think he meant the Imperial Light Horse, but it does not alter the facts of the case. Supposing the South African Light Horse were as wonderful as he says, and that the others I have menioned were as good. He must remember that it was at the beginning of a war in a country which these men knew perfectly well. They knew the method of warfare, and the majority of them had learnt every single thing which the right hon. Gentleman only wishes he could teach the Yeomanry in this country. They were all first-class horsemen; they were accustomed to using their eyes and their rifles. They were naturally trained 321 soldiers, and accustomed to look after themselves, and many of them had spent most of their lives fighting. It is not right for the right hon. Gentleman to say that these men went out without any training, and that therefore town-bred boys at home can go without training. That is what it amounts to. It is a very dangerous line of argument to take up. These men had had years and years of training. The right hon. Gentleman also forgets that that particular regiment had one Regular officer or non-commissioned officer for every thirty men. Therefore they had the training and leading of Regular officers. They were much better than any of our Territorials at the present moment, and yet it was thought necessary that they should have Regular officers on a far higher scale than our men can possibly get at present. Therefore it is folly to compare these men in a special place with our Territorial Force who may have to stand alone against a Continental foe and would be engaged long before we could get assistance from these other regiments. Our men have not had the same training; they are not accustomed to look after themselves. Some of them have hardly seen a horse before they join the Territorials. It is impossible to compare them. Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa were as good as the South Africa Light Horse? Does he think that the Imperial Yeomanry at the beginning of the war were as good?
§ Colonel SEELY
I would not dream of making any comparison, but I would ask the Noble Lord to draw a mental picture of the first Yeomanry that went out and to remember what Lord Methuen said about the Imperial Yeomanry.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
The less the right hon. Gentleman talks about Lord Methuen and the Imperial Yeomanry the better. They nearly cost that general his life. It is impossible to say that our men have sufficient training. One excuse given was that the Dominions and the Colonies do not think it necessary to have more training. Surely we are not to have the whole of our Army policy dictated by the Colonies and Dominions, who have not, or at any rate do not realise that they have, the same serious situation to face that we have. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was quite fair the other day when, to support his argument, he said that in Australia they have a very short period of sixteen days' drill and 322 eight days' camp. The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is not the full state of the case. He himself, in a reply to the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Hunt), said that in Australia they had eighty-two days' training as cadets, followed by sixteen days for seven years—112 days for all arms, except artillery and engineers, and for those two arms it is increased to 175 days. If he will give all the boys in this country six months' training when they leave school he will be able to make a comparison with the Australian boy. The right hon. Gentleman also omitted to tell us that they have compulsion in some of the Colonies and Dominions. He said that he wished to take a lesson from the Colonies. If he takes a lesson from those Colonies which have really considered the problem and have dangers to meet, he will find that they are ahead of us in the training given to their citizen soldiers. I should have very little to grumble about if he was able to bring in the same regulations that they have brought in. What does the War Office do in regard to the boys of this country to help the Territorial Force? The Boys Brigade and the Boy Scouts are forbidden to use a drill hall under the control of the War Office. Does he think that that is the way to encourage boys to enter the Territorial Force?
§ Colonel SEELY
That is so important a statement that perhaps the Noble Lord will send me details of the case.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I am quite accurate. I am certain it is a very big mistake to treat them this way. I know why it was done. It was because they would not be militarised and absolutely follow the training of the War Office. It was in the dark days of the attempt at over-organisation when the Territorial Force began. The right hon. Gentleman says that compulsory training is not within the range of practical politics until after the next war, and that as we have to prepare for the next war, we may save talking about compulsory service. I am not expressing an opinion upon compulsory service. After all, the right hon. Gentleman is responsible for that meanwhile. As we know, he can always give his own independent opinion, because he is not like the First Lord of the Admiralty, tied by the leg by the admirals. He knows quite well that he is under no necessity to take the advice of the Army Council. He can give his own opinion. And it would be a very good thing, I think, 323 if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us whether he is expressing his own opinion or that of the Army Council. Then, of course, we should know how to value that opinion; to put a greater or less value upon it. But he talks about waiting until after the next war. Surely that is an extraordinary statement to make. You can read it two ways. Obviously what the right hon. Gentleman meant to say was that the people of this country do not realise the danger they are in. They do not realise how untrained they are compared with trained troops, and until they have been hammered it is no use talking about it. I cannot read it in any other way. But that is a wrong attitude for any Secretary for War to take up. It is quite possible that the people would pay no attention to it. But the Secretary of State does really believe in compulsory service.
MARQUESS Of TULLIBARDINE
We know he made this statement:—Not by spending money on ships, although the Navy must always have our first care; not most assuredly by shouting about Imperial greatness, but by personal self-sacrifice alone can this Empire be maintained. I go further. I believe that if all these warnings fall upon deaf ears, at no distant date this Empire, of which we are so proud, will fall to pieces, and that this nation will be humbled to the dust.
MARQUESS Of TULLIBARDINE
Of course, the right hon. Gentleman agreed with it when it was spoken. He says he agrees with it still. I do not know whether he believes that it is wise that it should be obligatory that every male in this country should learn the use of arms, for he also said that in the same speech.
§ Colonel SEELY
I think I have explained frankly and fully to the House how this matter stands; and I hope this House will no longer be wearied with these unnecessary details. I still believe in personal self-sacrifice if necessary. I do not believe in compulsory service. I do not propose to advocate it. I have said so again and again.
MARQUESS Of TULLIBARDINE
The right hon. Gentleman talked like this when he was fresh from the war, but now the memories of the war are wiped out. Now that he is in, we will say, no danger of losing his seat, his mind is entirely changed. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the Swedish system is all wrong. A few years ago he said that for countries like Sweden 324 and Switzerland a certain system was necessary, and that we might learn from it that we might have a force of 3,000,000 men for £6,000,000. Perhaps he has changed his mind about this also. It is of course very difficult to know what to do under these circumstances when he keeps changing his mind; for I support the right hon. Gentleman, and am anxious to support him.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
These personal reminiscences are very interesting, but I do not think they are quite in order.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I intend to take your ruling, Mr. Maclean. I had really finished. I was only replying to a point which had already been raised in Debate, but I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman that training is of the first importance; that it is well to teach the people that their first duty is to fight for their country if necessary, and if they are properly trained and armed then the necessity will probably never arise. I want to remind him that words similar to those I have quoted were used by the French in the sixties. Curiously enough, they got exactly the some word—that it was impracticable. Then came '70 and '71 and humiliation and defeat, and then came conscription in France. The Territorial Force has in it the makings of a splendid force. But we do not want it inefficiently trained as it is at present. Where really the great danger lies is that we do not warn the people that the training is not sufficient. It is quite impossible to train a Cavalry soldier in a fortnight. I have myself got a strong and efficient corps to a certain degree—I am not going to say it is due to my training, because the men were to a great extent trained when they came to me. They take a great interest in their work, and they had already learned their lesson like the South African Light Horse did, before they joined the corps. Nobody will blame the right hon. Gentleman if he will point out the weak points. The Territorial Force is a force that I like, and that I wish to 325 remain with as long as I can, but they are only partially trained. The truth has got to be brought home to the people. It is not fair to say they are such a magnificent force, and that they will take on anybody or everybody. Many connected with the corps are anxious to do everything they can towards its efficiency, but the difficulty is when you try to give the willing man a somewhat longer training his place may be snapped up in civilian life by the unwilling man. What we want to do is to put an equal burden on the unwilling man, or to give some extra reward to the willing man, so that those willing to serve their country shall not have put on them burdens when they are trying to do so. That is really the point I wish to make. I speak my own personal experience when I say that the Territorial Force are really not sufficiently trained as they are at present to meet a Continental force. I would far rather, if necessary, see fewer men, but well trained. I do not want to see an untrained mob in preference to smaller forces properly armed and perfectly confident. We can then let our Regulars go out and we do not mind where they go. As it is we cannot have confidence in this country if things go on as at present.
§ Mr. ARTHUR STRAUSS
I rise to complain of the order given by the Secretary of State for War which must have a very serious effect on recruiting in this country. I refer to the disbandment of the Paddington Rifles. This order has caused the greatest possible indignation in in the locality; indignation which is daily increasing. The men who belonged to the corps look upon the order as a slur upon them, and an insult after the infinite trouble they have taken during the last two years. The battalion consists of a strength of 560 men. That is an increase of 230 in the last two years. In addition to which about 115 men during the last three years have joined the Regular Army. I mention these figures because it was on account of the strength of the battalion that, as I understand it, the order for disbandment was given. As regards the camp again, last year out of 490 men 414 went to camp for the first week. It is quite true that in the second week that number was considerably reduced, but when I asked the Under-Secretary the other day whether he had inquired into the cause of the reduction, which was well known in Paddington, he told me he 326 not done so. It seems me rather strange, that such a drastic measure as disbandment should be taken without first making the fullest inquiry into the cause of the reduction of this camp. The real cause of the battalion not having attained its full strength I admit that in spite of the effect of the local committee the numbers are unsatisfactory—is undoubtedly the unsatisfactory state of headquarters. The attention of the county association as well as the War Office has been called to that over and over again, not only by the local association, but also by the adjutant, by the colonel, and by others. Nothing was done. The armoury was in a dreadful state. The rifle racks were full of mildew; the sanitary arrangements of the headquarters were disgraceful, and would not be permitted in any private dwelling; and as for the rifle range it could hardly be called a rifle range, because the wet was coming through the roof and the place was dripping with water and men could not properly lie down to shoot. The fact has also been forgotten that while probably the progress of recruiting was slow during the last year, during the last three months before the order was signed no less than eighty-five recruits joined the battalion, and on the very day on which the order reached fifteen or twenty recruits more were anxious to join. So much for the feeling in Paddington; but the question is much wider than one simply of locality.
The Secretary for War will admit that it is of the utmost importance that the county association and the local association especially should work in harmony with the War Office, and unless that is accomplished the whole Territorial movement must ultimately fail. What has the War Office done in respect of consulting and conciliating the county association? Early in October a communication reached the London County Association that the battalion was not satisfactory, and giving intimation that it might possibly be disbanded. Thereupon the county association immediately appointed a sub-committee to thoroughly investigate matters independently. They went to Paddington and made full inquiries, and then handed in a report to the War Office after full investigation, to the effect that the whole blame of the numbers not increasing fast enough was owing to the unsatisfactory state of the headquarters, to which attention was directly called; that the spirit of the corps was excellent, and that the efforts made by the local 327 association could not be better, and that finally they considered disbandment would be a grave mistake. I believe these were the very words. That was on 28th November. It took the War Office six weeks to answer the letter. Early in January the County of London Association received a reply, in which it was stated that there would be a conference on 19th January to discuss this matter of disbandment. That conference never took place. A sort of informal discussion, I believe, took place between the secretary of the county association and the authorities of the War Office, but no Conference was held, and the next step which was taken was a message sent to the county association that the corps would be disbanded on the 20th May. Anyhow, on the 20th May, news reached the London Association. The Paddington Association asked the War Office if they could not suspend the Order before the matter was discussed with the War Office. The answer was a letter of the 13th June. As soon as possible after that, the 13th June, there was a meeting of the London County Association, in which this matter was discussed, and the following resolution, which was adopted, was sent to the War Office:—That in the opinion of the Territorial Association of the County of London the action of the Army Council in disbanding the 10th Battalion of the London Regiment against the well-considered recommendations of the association is not warranted by the facts as stated by them and is calculated to strike a severe blow at the authority of the association, and to militate against the active co-operation of the local authorities in raising and maintaining the Territorial Forces in London. The association are of the opinion that the whole matters should receive reconsideration by the Army Council.The very same evening I raised the question on the Adjournment of the House, and I asked for reconsideration. Unfortunately the Secretary of State for War was enjoying himself elsewhere, conducting his electioneering campaign. The answer of the Under-Secretary, given in the name of his chief, was that the door was closed. So strong was the desire expressed on both sides of the House that the matter should be reopened that at last the Under-Secretary declared he never knew the door that was closed that could not be reopened. What happened as regards the County of London Association? The next communication was on the 28th June, fifteen days after they passed their resolution, in which it was stated in reply thereto:—I must inform you it is now impossible to rescind the decision of the Army Council, which was only reached after most careful consideration of all the circumstances.328 So that the resolution was absolutely ignored and flouted, and this created the greatest indignation amongst the members of the County of London Association. What about the Paddington Association? They were asked to meet Lord Haldane on the matter early in June. On the day on which the meeting was to take place Lord Haldane was no longer Secretary of State for War, so it was not possible for them to meet him. Then they asked to see the Secretary of State for War, but, though I am sure it was not his fault, he could not receive them. Then, after his return to this House, the right hon. Gentleman received one or two letters, and it was only this morning, I believe, he consented to receive a deputation from the Paddington Association. What I complain of is that this decision, which was a very important decision, and an insulting decision, should have been taken in view of the resolution of the County of London Association, which declared from the beginning, in the most explicit terms, that it would be most detrimental in its effect upon recruiting, and that this decision should have been taken before receiving a deputation from Paddington. The action of the War Office in coming to this decision is certainly calculated to damage recruiting in London, especially where recruiting is of the utmost difficulty, and I would urge strongly upon the Secretary for War that he should not take action which is resented by the County of London Association. As regards the Paddington Association and the excellent spirit which was shown by the people of Paddington, I think the right hon. Gentleman might now decide to give them headquarters, and if he does I am sure he will find the local committee ready to pay half the expense of the necessary alterations. This would enable the Paddington people to show that spirit of patriotism which they are so anxious to show.
§ Colonel SEELY
I will not now enter into the question of the Paddington Rifles, because I shall have great pleasure in meeting a deputation on this subject on Friday. I am most anxious to work in cooperation with the county association and other public bodies, and we shall welcome any patriotic assistance they can give which will conduce to military efficiency. I would respectfully suggest to the Committee that it might be convenient if we now pass to the Special Reserve Vote. Although the Territorial Vote has been 329 discussed on several occasions, very little has been said about the Special Reserve.
§ Mr. HUNT
He said they would be sure to try. The right hon. Gentleman also said that it is a very good thing to eliminate the unwilling. What the right hon. Gentleman is doing under this scheme is eliminating an enormous number of willing people who are anxious to serve but cannot do so because the conditions imposed will not allow them. That is the real state of the case. On the 4th July this year the right hon. Gentleman said:—I know that the hon. Member opposite is anxious that we should adopt a system of compulsory military training."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1912, col. 1403, Vol. XL.]Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:—I think all will agree that that question is out of the range of practical politics until after the next war, and as we have to prepare for the next war now we ought to save our time talking about compulsory service.That is what the right hon. Gentleman said when he had a seat in the Cabinet of the King, but in 1902, when the right hon. Gentleman was an ordinary Member of the House, he said, in speaking of our military weakness, although we had at the time he was speaking 80,000 more serving soldiers than we have now:—That universal compulsory military training was extremely desirable, and five-sixths of our people would welcome it.Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when we are in comparison with other nations so very much weaker at sea than we were ten years ago, and therefore so much more in need of a well-trained Army for home defence, how it is that he now goes dead against the very policy he advocated so strongly ten years ago, when we are in a worse position than we were then, when we have less soldiers, and in proportion far less ships? I ask, can it possibly be for any other reason except that the right hon. Gentleman puts his politics and his prospects and salary far before the safety of his country? The Army is now in his charge, and it is in his charge that the military safety of the country has been placed. I am really sorry to be obliged 330 to put the matter so plainly, because, after all, the right hon. Gentleman is not only a soldier but he is a white man associated with our best military traditions. The only reason for this I can think of, is that the Radical microbe is so powerful that it corrupts even our very best soldiers. As we have got 80,000 less serving soldiers than in 1902, I suppose our margin of safety must be made up in some other way. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Those are all matters of general military policy, and they are not at all relevant to the Vote we are now discussing.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HUNT
Is it out of order to mention a Radical paper? [HON. MEMBERS: "Try again," and "Give it up."] As I cannot go into the question of Napoleon and Wellington I may perhaps say that I cannot agree with the Secretary for War in the comparison he made in regard to our Territorials. An hon. Member has already shown how men who live the wild life in our Colonies have learned a great many of the duties of war, and that remark applies to the Imperial Light Horse of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman noticed in the "Times" a few days ago that 20,000 cadets had joined the ranks of the militia in Australia. It makes an enormous difference to the training of men when they have had years of teaching just at the time when they are most likely to learn. Really, in proportion to the number of people in this country we ought to have 200,000 trained cadets ready to go into our home Army every year. The right hon. Gentleman said:—The Government is taking every precaution for the safety of the Empire.331 I ask, is the Territorial Force really adequate for the defence of the country? Does he really mean to tell us that? The right hon. Gentleman laid it down that 70,000 men might be landed, but that the landing of a larger force was inconceivable. On 8th March, 1909, Lord Haldane said between 70,000 and 100,000 was the force we must guard against. He gives us another 30,000 men. Then the right hon. Gentleman said we depended on our submarines. Does he remember that a submarine is practically blind, and that one was injured by a yacht when we were looking on the other day in the daylight? The right hon. Gentleman practically says 70,000 men cannot be landed in this country in one place. If they are landed in two or three places near enough to join when they had landed, it does not make much difference. The right hon. Gentleman says this invasion by large numbers of men is impossible. I would remind him that Napoleon said in war the unexpected usually happens. The late Secretary of State for War persuaded Mr. Fortescue to write a separate volume dealing with the defence of this country. Of course, he is a very well-known man and a very good historian. This is what he says:—The true basis of any organisation for defence is national training.Lord Haldane himself, in introducing the Army Estimates of 1909, said:—A nation in arms is the only safeguard for public interests.If that means anything, it means the late Secretary of State for War wanted every sound man to learn enough to defend his country. You spent on the Territorial Force last year £1,000,000 more than you spent on the old Volunteers. You have got less numbers, and, as far as anybody can tell, they are no better trained, although I am bound to admit their organisation is better. You have pinched £1,000,000 away from the Regular soldiers to give to this Territorial Force, which is really no better for fighting purposes than the old Volunteers. It is admitted the Territorial Force is full of defects. You are about 2,000 officers short, and they are resigning at the rate of ninety-four a month. After four years you have got no reserve, and now you are attempting to make out the National Reserve is going to take their place; but it will not, because you are afraid to ask them to serve under Territorial officers and non-commissioned officers. There has lately been a recruit- 332 ing boom. I daresay it has been very well managed, but I want the House to look at the result of it. Your Territorial Artillery is supposed to be of some use, but take the 6th Battery of the Second London Brigade. In order to make up the establishment of 145 non-commissioned officers and men 120 recruits had to be brought in this year. What use is that battery going to be for the next year or two with nearly all the men recruits? I want to ask about the discipline in the Territorial Force. There were forty-one officers and 6,700 men odd absent altogether from camp in 1911, and, as I understand, no punishment at all was meted out to them. How can you possibly have discipline when you are afraid to enforce it because the force would dwindle? What has been done to get rid of the defects pointed out by Sir John French? Has the Yeomanry training been longer? Do they train at all except when in camp? Sir John French asked this question:—Are nine days enough for learning fire tactics, fire discipline, rapid mounting and dismounting, mutual support, advance to and retirement from position under cover, security, protection, scouting, despatch riding?All that is done in nine days—the very thing that Sir John French complained about. Sir John wanted the Field Artillery trained longer. I want to know whether the Government have done anything in that matter. The real fact is that the Government cannot remedy the really important defects pointed out by the Inspector-General of the Forces. The right hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well, and so, too, does the War Office. They dare not tell the country, and for very good reasons, because they would either have to find more money or they would have to go in for compulsory military training. That is how the case stands. I want to call the attention of the Government to this matter. Surely it is a perfect scandal that the House of Commons, which has charge of the public purse, should vote its Ministers in some cases thousands of pounds a year, and its Members £400 a year, while a subaltern in the Army has to put up with less than £40 a year, after paying his mess bill.
§ Mr. HUNT
I apologise. I got over the line in my forgetfulness. The only way in which to get a satisfactory Army for the defence of the country is to make the people realise that it is the duty of every sound man to learn enough to enable him 333 to defend his country, his women folk and his children in times of national peril. Even the late Sir Henry Campbell-Banner-man went so far as to say that this is more important really than anything else. Why the Government will not face it, I cannot understand. There would be no opposition from this side of the House. I asked the Prime Minister the other day if he would inquire of the Leader of the Opposition whether he would agree to make this a non-party question. He refused, although he has said he is quite willing to make women's franchise a non-party question. I think it is a very bad sign when any party takes up such an attitude, and puts justice and the safety of the country far behind its own party political prospects. Yet that is what right hon. Gentlemen opposite are now doing. They know perfectly well that if they wish to have a really good well-trained and sufficiently numerous Territorial Army, suitable for home defence, they must see that their men are trained from four to six months, and thus ensure a regular supply of trained men to fill up the gaps in the Army each year as it comes round. Surely that is a reasonable proposition. It is said that the National Service League have no plans. That is our plan. We want to fill up your Territorial Force and to make it a success, and I am absolutely certain you cannot do it in any other way than that which we propose.
§ Question put, and agreed to.