§ Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [Monday, 4th March], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I am much obliged to (Earl Winterton) for having ceded to me the place in the Debate which he obtained by moving the Adjournment of the House last night. I 206 should like as one who has had to attempt the task on several occasions in years gone by to congratulate the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on the way in which he introduced the Army Estimates for the first time. Having said that I must pass to criticism, and I must pass on rapidly, because many of my hon. Friends wish, and are fully entitled, to take part in this general Debate. When I speak of criticism I am not thinking so much of criticism of the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made as of criticism of the case which he had perforce to put forward in the absence of a better one. The right hon. Gentleman, in common with his predecessors—and no doubt his successors—had to state this case. He had to show the House that the Government which he represents is making good progress with their plan for national security in so far as our land forces are concerned, and, if he could, to hold out reasonable hope that that process would soon be completed. That was his case, which we all know in the present year of grace was not a very easy one to substantiate. I was not, therefore, surprised to find that he adorned the main body of his speech with two accretions: he appended a long—not too long—and interesting passage on aviation, or mechanical flying. On that point I do not propose to say anything. My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) is far more competent than I am to speak about that, and it is a subject on which none but experts should speak. I may, perhaps, make this brief comment: that apparently we are not now in a position to spend profitably more than half what Germany or a third of what France is spending. That is the assumption I make. I cannot assume if the Government could spend more money profitably they would restrict the amount to the relatively small sum which appears in the Estimates.
The right hon. Gentleman prefixed to the main body of his speech a reply to a passage from the speech which the Leader of the Opposition delivered recently in the Albert Hall. That part of his speech was conceived in a more controversial tone than we detected in the main body of his speech. As the Oriental writer said, "He made the horse of his eloquence caper upon the plain of reproach." We have heard the reply of the Leader of the Opposition and we are well content to leave it at that. Our complacency was undisturbed by the interesting contribution of the hon. Member 207 for Sunderland. Indeed, I thought the hon. Member's suggestion of automatic artillery somewhat enhanced it.
§ Mr. HAMAR GREENWOOD
I asked the question whether the Leader of the Opposition or Lord Roberts suggested that the Artillery should be automatic. I did not state that there was such a thing as automatic artillery in this country, and I think the right hon. Gentleman does me less than the usual justice he does to an opponent when he says I suggested anything about automatic artillery.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I was perhaps drawn too far, but I hope the hon. Member, who has shot with me in a team, will agree I am the last person to do an injustice to an opponent. His intervention will not however lure me into elaborating a case in which we claim absolute victory by reason of the replies we have got from the right hon. Gentleman. The scientific contribution of the right hon. Gentleman, if measured by the OFFICIAL REPORT, exceeded enormously the whole amount of the speech which he devoted to the case in which we as a nation are interested—the progress that has been made with their plan for security, or our national safety. We do not complain of the additions and we do not complain of the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman treated the substantive part of his case, but I think we may say he did work some of his materials very hard. I will illustrate that by the way in which he worked the Army Reserve. Speaking on Friday on the Expeditionary Force, he said:—There has been steady progress made.He then made a comparison with four years ago—in order to avoid any political complexion, and he said:—The numbers available for the Expeditionary Force with the Reserves are 50,000 greater than was the case four years ago."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1912, col. 62.]So he brings in the Army Reserve in aid of the Expeditionary Force. When he came to the Special Reserve, he said:—In the Special Reserve there is a real shortage.Again the Army Reserve is brought in aid. He said:—I would ask the House not to think that this is a very dangerous matter, for, as I have shown, the Expeditionary Force has got a reserve adequate to its need for a long time to come.He has to use the same material over and over again, and that shows he is very hard put to it. How can he seriously tell the House that the Army Reserve is going 208 to be available for every purpose for a long time to come? The point is that, by an automatic process, the Army Reserve in the very near future is going to drop by 30,000 or more below its present strength and 10,000 below the normal strength which the Government think necessary in order that it should do its part in the whole of the machine. I think I am entitled to say that the comparisons of the right hon. Gentleman and the consolations which he asks us to derive from the Army Reserve are not very illuminating.
In this we have to look a little bit further ahead, and in doing so we must realise that the lowest point in the decline of the Army Reserve will coincide, or nearly coincide, with the moment of greatest anxiety for the Territorial Forces. He has himself said that the engagement of 80,000 of the men in the Territorial Forces will come to an end in the near future. Let us hope they will be re-engaged. We do not know whether they will or not. Looking ahead, I find that the Reserves must go down and at the same time the Territorial Force may lose many of its existing numbers. I think he has a very difficult case to make, and here again is an illustration. I do not mean to indulge in any polemical comparison between the Army as it is and the Army as it was when my right hon. Friend and my Friends behind me were responsible for it, but these comparisons are necessary when we see a steady decrease of many thousands in a portion of our Army, and when in front of us there is a gradual decrease in the numbers we shall possess. For my part I forego, and deliberately forego, any polemical advantage I could make, and I think I could make some, from comparing what we may call "our Army" with "the Government's Army," for in the speculative region concerning such matters as where our Army may have to fight and what are the troops against which it may have to fight one thing is certain, the Territorial Forces will never have to fight the old Volunteers, the Special Reserve will never have to fight the old Militia, the Expeditionary Force will never have to fight the 150,000 Regular soldiers whom we sent out of this country to South Africa to fight there. I waive all that, and I say that the gravity of the prospective decline in some branches of the forces for which the Government are responsible is a matter which we have to consider, and in attempting to consider that we have one subject of regret, of very great regret—I regret 209 that the Army Estimates have been introduced before the Navy Estimates. I thought it had become a matter of agreement between both political parties that it was impossible adequately to discuss the policy of the Government in respect to the land forces unless we were in full possession of the policy of the Government in respect to the Navy, and I think that to fall back into what I may call the slovenly habit of introducing the Army Estimates before the Navy Estimates comes with a worse grace from a Government many of whose supporters tell us that the Navy is all in all, and that those who urge that something more is needed for our Army are not legitimately entitled to criticise the provision they make in respect to our land forces.
But there is one matter for congratulation. No difference, I believe, in principle divides the Government and the Opposition in respect to the objects which we have as a nation to achieve if we wish as a nation to be safe and to preserve our place amongst the great Powers of the world. That is a matter for congratulation if it be so, and I think it is so. In order to prove that it is so I hope the House will boar with me whilst I quote a succinct passage from the words of the Secretary of State for War (Lord Haldane). I am not going to quote from one of his speeches. The right hon. Gentleman (the Under-Secretary for War) modestly disclaimed any power on his part to emulate the voluminous lucidity of his chief. I am going to quote from the considered, written, printed words of Lord Haldane, which are to be found on page 11 of his introduction to the book on "Compulsory Service":—It is that, first in the order of importance comes sea power, backed up not only by adequate oversea garrisons but by an expeditionary Army, kept at home in time of peace, but so organised that it is ready for immediate transport by the fleet to distant scenes of action, and is capable of there maintaining long campaigns with the least possible dislocation of the social life of the nation.I think I may say that the Opposition do not differ from the Government in principle as to that being a succinct and accurate account of the objects which we as a nation have got to achieve if we as a nation are to contemplate the future with any sense of security. The Navy first, and then the oversea garrisons. I make no complaint that in his speech yesterday the right hon. Gentleman never mentioned the oversea garrisons, and yet they have an importance, a grave importance.
On page 24 of the Estimates anyone can see the present distribution of our over- 210 sea garrisons, and, with some exceptions, there has been no reason in the past to criticise that distribution, because I freely admit that this party is largely responsible for it. But we cannot live in the past. Look at the East. We have—for good reasons at the time—withdrawn our Fleet from the Pacific Ocean, and apart from political considerations, although they have a great bearing upon it, and quite apart from the growth of Japan as a mighty Power, quite apart from the recent and somewhat more rude awakening of China, apart from the views entertained by our fellow-countrymen in Australasia on the question of Asiatic immigration, the mere fact that the fleet is not now in the Pacific does raise the question whether one battalion in Hong Kong, one battalion in Singapore, and one battalion in Ceylon is a sufficient garrison in respect to the East. Turning from the East we look to the South, and perhaps I may remind the House that we have in recent years questioned the adequacy of four battalions, with a detachment at Cyprus, to garrison Egypt. We questioned that and here we cannot dismiss politics from our minds. After the period of acute diplomatic tension which arose from the question of Morocco, in the presence of a war between a European country and a Moslem Power in Tripoli, it is impossible to dismiss from our minds political considerations when we look at the South and are considering the garrisons in the Mediterranean; and we do not know, because the Naval Estimates have not been introduced, whether there is or is not going to be any modification of naval policy in respect to the Mediterranean. We have seen already a great withdrawal of naval power from the Mediterranean. There is a rumour abroad that concentration is going to be made greater at Gibraltar. It may or may not be so, but whether it is so or not two battalions at Gibraltar, five at Malta, and only four in Egypt is a distribution of our oversea garrison which demands further consideration, and careful and cautious consideration, by this House. Nor does that exhaust the situation. If we look to the West and anticipate the future, we know that the Panama Canal will soon be a fact, and a world-changing fact, in all questions of trade. It may have been right to reduce the West Indian garrison, for which we were responsible, before the Panama Canal was a fact. Is it wise to have one battalion at Bermuda only, after the Panama Canal has become a fact of world-wide importance? I do not want to 211 labour that part of the case, but it is a part of the case which has to be considered.
In this matter of oversea garrisons, history repeats itself. The balance of power changes, and sometimes modern changes reveal that the great strategists of the past, like Oliver Cromwell and the sailors and soldiers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, knew very well what they were about, and the need arises not only to strengthen the garrisons you have, but sometimes to replace garrisons that you have withdrawn under conditions which no longer continue. The other observation which I must make, and to which I should like to have the assent of the whole House, is that, whatever happens, seventy-four battalions of Infantry, is the very minimum total garrison for this oversea work. That is all there are—seventy-four at home and seventy-four abroad, and of these fifty-two are in India, and only twenty-two remain for all this work of oversea garrison. If I may give an example, it is with our Empire very much as in the case of a beleagured city like Ladysmith; if the perimeter is very large, a small garrison can go to one part if pressure comes there, and to another part if pressure comes there, but you cannot reduce that garrison. So it is with us. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues may contemplate, and I do not see why they should not, the possibility in the near future of withdrawing some of the six battalions of Infantry now in South Africa and one at Mauritius. It depends a great deal upon the progress made in South Africa with the patriotic intention of adopting national service there, but this is certain, that any one of these battalions which may be borrowed from South Africa in the future is wanted elsewhere, and that the total of seventy-four may not in the near future be adequate to the requirements of the perimeter of our worldwide oceanic Empire. And what of Simonstown? I do not believe you will be able to withdraw the whole of your South African garrison or any large part of it while Simonstown continues to be what it is, an important Imperial Naval base. However, that by the way.
I now come to the next portion of our defence, the Expeditionary Force. I hope and believe that there is no difference in principle between the Government and the Opposition in respect to the objects which this Expeditionary Force has to 212 achieve—a very different question from whether it can achieve them—but if we are agreed as to the objects it has to achieve, then there is so much common ground between us, and, I hope, between all patriotic men in this country. The Expeditionary Force is the pivot of the whole plan of our defence in so far as the land forces are concerned. Everything else turns upon it. The Navy cannot be an effective weapon unless the Expeditionary Force is ready to start. That is the proposition which I lay down, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to support it by quoting once more a considered utterance of his chief. This is Lord Haldane:—To make the Navy an effective weapon we require a military instrument capable of being used in conjunction with it. This must not be a mere force for home defence. The true strategical foundation of all adequate defensive preparations is the power of rapidly assuming the offensive, of striking wherever the blow will be most effective—it may he at some distant point in the enemy's organisation.Again, no difference of opinion in principle divides the Government and the Opposition. But have we got that effective instrument, and how do we get it? We are prepared to accept that definition of objects. Do the supporters of the Government accept it, because if they do it is no longer open to them to meet legitimate criticism on our part of any portion of their plan in respect of the land forces by saying after all it is the Navy that matters. If the Navy is big enough, nothing else need concern us, and if it is not big enough we shall soon be starved into surrender. That argument must be abandoned in the House, and I hope ultimately on the platform. The Expeditionary Force is a weapon which is necessary if the Navy is to be effective for the defence of this, country. I think the supporters of the Government must abandon the plea that, in view of the many calls which have to be met, £28,000,000 is the outside sum which can, under any circumstances, be devoted to our land forces. For the sake of argument, though only for the sake of argument, I will grant that under the admirable advice which the Government can obtain from eminent soldiers, they are spending that money in the very best way. If by that expenditure they cannot make every part of their plan complete for its purpose, and adjust the plans inter se in the relationship which secures success for the whole, they will have to spend more money, and to come frankly to the House and say that more money is required if the nation is to be safe. It is the duty of the Opposition to criticise, and I, for 213 one, respectfully but firmly demur to the suggestion that the scope of our criticism is to be limited either by a sum like £28,000,000 or by the fear of being charged with a partisan spirit or a lack of patriotism if we point out, what everyone knows, that our plan is not perfect and is not complete in many of its most important branches.
The Opposition are more free to criticise than the supporters of the Government. In us revives that ancient liberty which used to characterise the whole House, and, if we abandon it, it is gone from the whole House. Again, the Opposition are less responsible. We can point out defects which exist and which the Government are almost bound to gloss over, because our words over the cable will not carry that commotion into Europe which might attach to similar words if they were used by the Government, and whether they say they have the best rifle in the world, or whether they say the Special Reserve is exactly the kind of force with which you could make good the wastage of a war within a fortnight of its declaration, I claim that the Opposition are not only entitled to discount remarks of that incurable optimism of the Secretary of State for War, but they are entitled to assert for their part what they believe to be true in these matters without being charged with a lack of patriotism. Above all, I say now is the time. Last summer we went through what I described, in the most colourless words I could find, as an acute period of diplomatic tension. Well that tension is relaxed, but it may become acute again. Is it not better to look into this matter now instead of waiting until it may become acute. We have still a naval superiority which is relatively greater than some of us think it will be in the near future, when the pre-"Dreadnought" type of ship has become obsolete. At any rate, we cannot count in four or five years' time, after what has happened in the abandonment of the two-Power standard, that our naval superiority will be relatively as incontestable as it is at the present moment.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
We cannot count upon it because of the experience of the past. We cannot say that our naval superiority will be as great in four or five years' time just as we know that it is not so great now as it was four years ago. It is obvious 214 that if a great and rich Power is building against you for the supremacy of the sea, unless you share the incurable optimism of the Secretary of State for War, you will think it better to take stock of your land forces now than at a time when you are no longer in the enjoyment of that naval superiority.
§ Colonel SEELY
I must not be taken as assenting to that doctrine in the least. It is in direct contradiction of the doctrine of the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to agree with anything from which he dissents, but he cannot contradict the statement I have made. We now claim to have a naval superiority which I say cannot be relatively so great in respect of the Fleets of other Powers in the future as it has been in the past.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I will ride the other horse. You do not deny that the period of diplomatic tension is relaxed, and that that not only affords an opportunity but ample justification for scrupulously investigating every part of the plan of your land defence, carefully examining it, and candidly admitting its defects, if defects can be discovered. Is the plan complete? I would like to quote what the right hon. Gentleman said yesterday in respect of the Expeditionary Force. His remarks as to the Expeditionary Force were almost cryptic in their obscurity. He said:—I have made a comparison with the year 1908, so as to avoid any idea that I was comparing it with the Expeditionary Force of the late Government, I find that the numbers available without Reserves are over 10,000 greater than they were four years ago, and that the numbers available for the Expeditionary Force with the Reserves are 50,000 greater than was the case four years ago."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 19l2, col. 62.]I do not know what he means. There is no mystery about the Expeditionary Force. It is supposed to consist of a Cavalry division of twelve regiments, six divisions of Infantry, Artillery, and auxiliary arms. We know that there are enough Cavalry regiments in the country to send twelve. We know that there are enough Infantry battalions to send from seventy-two to seventy-four Line battalions and eight battalions of Guards. But what is the use of telling us that the numbers available are 10,000 more than four years ago. Do you mean to say that four years ago you could not have sent an Expeditionary Force, or are you stating succinctly the argument of the Secretary of State for War that 215 unless you have ammunition columns and all the last new inventions you could not send away your soldiers at all? Our contention is that new subjects of expense must be added and not substituted for having the men ready to go who were ready to go in the past. Really we ought to know whether, when the Government speak, as Lord Haldane has written, they mean that six divisions and a Cavalry division could go, or that four divisions and part of a Cavalry division could go. We want to know which they mean. It is very important. Throughout the whole country there has been a great deal of rumour and discussion as to what, I will not say would have happened, but what would happen if diplomatic tension went beyond the point indicated by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last summer. Could six divisions go and a Cavalry division? We do not think so. If they cannot, then your plan is not complete. I do not say on this point that your plan cannot be made complete. These are the two questions we have to consider. Is the plan complete? and if not, can it be made complete? If not, what then is the duty of patriotic men? I say their duty is to make the plan complete. It can be done by increased cost. In respect of the Expeditionary Force it is not complete, but I think that, perhaps, it might be possible to complete it.
I may say a word in passing on the Cavalry division. I will come to the question of horses later on. The military correspondent of the "Times" and many others, have suggested that we could make our Expeditionary Force more effective if instead of an unwieldy Cavalry division of twelve regiments we could get back some regiments from South Africa where there are four, and have two Cavalry divisions of nine regiments each. I do not go into the other suggestions. All those who have studied the question will agree with me that to send eighteen regiments of Cavalry, relieve the Infantry who give some of their best officers and men to the Mounted Infantry, would be an effective contribution in a campaign. I would ask the Government to consider whether the plan cannot be made more complete by some such device as that, and particularly I would ask them to reflect, if it is within their power, that the four Cavalry Regiments have little opportunity of being what they ought to be and could 216 be if they are marooned indefinitely in South Africa. The Expeditionary Force cannot start without the Army Reserve. I have pointed out that the Army Reserve will fall automatically to about 106,000 in the very near future. That is a grave matter. I know that the reply of the Secretary of State for War is that he has arranged a pool to have a few more men for this or that battalion which is specially short. Again, he urges, it is "as broad as it is long" in view of the number of nine years' service men in the battalions. I reject that argument when the number of trained men is so import ant. It is doubly untrue if we consider, as I shall show shortly, what would happen when the Expeditionary Force has gone abroad. There is a way of remedying this which has often been brought to the notice of the Government, and I wish it had received more attention at their hands. At present, in the seventy-four Infantry battalions at home, the establishment is 720. In the twenty-two Infantry battalions abroad, exclusive of India, it is 840, and in the fifty-two Indian battalions it is 1,000. We ask now, as we have asked before, that the Government will increase the establishment of the Infantry battalions at home. We ask it on the ground that a battalion of 840 is a larger reserve-making machine than a battalion of 720 when you are face to face with the fact that you are dropping about 30,000 men in the Army Reserve. Is it not common prudence to increase the establishment of the seventy-four machines out of which you are going to make the Reserve? We believe that on the mobilisation of an Expeditionary Force, which starts with Infantry battalions on a peace establishment of 720, in order to have battalions of 1,000 for war you would have to take in 500 Reservists, and that untrained and immature men would be left at home. We think that 500 new faces are too many when you go to war. A greater proportion of the men ought to have been trained under the officers who are to lead them on Service. The right hon. Gentleman and his chief rely on the advice they get. I would suggest that they should ask their military advisers to advise them as to what is the best proportion—five to five, or six to four. I hope they will obtain guidance on that point and give the House the benefit of it. I submit that you must increase the Reserve, and that that is perhaps the best way to do it. The Expeditionary Force cannot 217 start without an ample Army Reserve, and it cannot start without a sufficient number of horses. The right hon. Gentleman told us yesterday that the Regular Army required 44,000, and the Territorial Force over 84,000. The Government has not done all it might have done in the matter of making adequate provision of horses. The right hon. Gentleman told us yesterday, as if it was a discovery, that omnibus horses do not exist in the same number as some years ago. Four years ago, Member after Member told the Government that the motor car had been invented. We told the Government that the county associations could not perform the work in regard to the registration of horses, because they had already more to do than they could manage. Now the commanding officer is to do the work with the assistance of the adjutant, who is the only person to give any military semblance to the Territorial Force. I say that these are dilatory proceedings, and that the plan is not complete and cannot be complete unless you have horses. The Government have been told to follow the example of other countries and have officers to certify if the horses are sound, and other officers to see if they are suitable. We have now three rifles, and apparently we are to have a fourth.
§ Colonel SEELY
There will be two rifles—the short and the long. Both of the rifles will be re-lighted as soon as possible.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I am not going into the controversy. I say that you have got three rifles between which substantial differences can be shown. Do not let us quarrel about that. If there are not three, why do you say that the adapted rifle is so much better than the unadapted rifle? What is it all about? Do you say that what I call the short rifle of 1903 is the same thing as that rifle is when you have altered the sight, put blocks of wood in the stock, and changed the bullet and the ammunition? What, in the name of common sense and the rapid conduct of Debate, is all the bother about? There are three weapons going, and there is a fourth weapon in the offing. Before another period of acute diplomatic tension comes the Government of the day should have prepared in every respect, in sights, missile, charge, and ammunition, enough for the old weapon to the day before it is discarded, and at the same time enough for the new weapon on the day on which it is adopted. And that 218 should hold good of the whole Army. I know I am making a big demand. By the whole Army I do not mean the Expeditionary Force. I do not mean four divisions armed with one kind and two divisions and the Special Reserve and the Cavalry Division with another, and the Territorials with the third. I mean that on that day when you change your armament you should have a complete armament for the whole of your land forces in this country. You never know the exact moment when diplomatic tension may come to the brink of war, if not to war itself. I know that this will cost money. I know that the right hon. Gentleman will say that in the past we handed on discarded armaments to the Volunteers; but I thought that there was a new heaven and a new earth. I thought when the Territorial Force came that we were going to look upon our Army as one. We must look upon it as one in that respect if those who enter the Territorial Forces are to take their services as a serious contribution of patriotism. Although the cost is great, I do not believe that it is as great to this country relatively as to other countries. We have wide territories throughout the world. We have a huge military police throughout the world, and coloured troops in Africa, and therefore we can turn to useful account many armaments more readily than other Powers, so that we need not chuck them on the market if we can arm the Colonial troops with them. It will cost money, but the money will be well expended.
The Expeditionary Force cannot go abroad unless it is adequately officered. There the plan is not completed. Can it be completed as in the case of the rifle and the horse? Year after year the Government discuss this or that project for getting more officers of the right type, but they never do anything. They hold examinations and sometimes make them hard and sometimes make them ludicrously easy. Still the officers do not come. It has never occurred to them that you cannot get the article which you require for the wage which secured it in the days of the Battle of Waterloo. If we are in earnest, and we are in earnest, something must be done to get the right type of officer in sufficient numbers if your Expeditionary Force is to be a reality. I believe that with goodwill you can complete that portion of the plan, the pivot on which it all turns. I pass to what will be required when the Expeditionary Force has 219 gone. You have to leave behind troops for two purposes. First, to make good what is called the waste of the war, and also for home defence. Having troops to make good the waste of the war would mean that probably within a fortnight of hostilities breaking out you would require to draft out further troops. We know what the waste of war is, that it is due not only to the killed and wounded, but to the ravages of dysentery and sickness of all kinds and the breakdown of men. The result is that drafts are required. What do the Government specify in this all-important respect? They have made a Special Reserve with a certain establishment, and they have said that that Reserve, if it came up to that establishment, would supply the waste of war for six months. It never has come up to that establishment. I will quote a few figures, which I will confine to Infantry, and for a reason. When we ask the Secretary of State for War about the Special Reserve we often find that he is talking about other things, which are necessary and admirable, but which are not Infantry. Therefore, in order to know whether the Special Reserve can fulfil the purpose for which it is created, let me give the figures for the Infantry. According to the General Annual Report, in 1909 it was 3,724 below the Infantry establishment. On 1st October, 1910, it was 9,577 below the establishment, and on 1st October last year it was 15,851 below the establishment.
I am not comparing the Special Reserve with the Militia of old days: it would be ludicrous to do so. On 1st January, 1906, the strength of Infantry was 72,374, of whom 66,453 were present at training. In the Special Reserve, on 1st January this year, there was a strength of Infantry of 50,000, of whom only 46,000 men are trained. Forty-six thousand Infantry trained in the Special Reserve is not enough to fulfil the purposes of repairing the waste of war if the Expeditionary Force is to be maintained. Then take the quality. Again I am drawing no comparison between the Special Reserve of the day and the Militia of the past, but I do invite the House to attend to the comparison between the number of the men in the Infantry battalion of the Special Reserve and the number of men—220 per battalion—who are left behind from the Regular battalion because they are not good enough to go into the furnace of war. That applies to 220 the seventy-four Infantry battalions of the Special Reserve. Your Regular battalions go abroad, and out of each battalion 220 are left behind because they are not old enough, strong enough, or trained enough to bear the rigours and hardship of war. Yet, within a fortnight, you are going to make up the wastage of war with what? With the Special Reserve. Who go into the Special Reserve? The men who were too young or too untrained to go into the regular battalion had to be left behind. That is a crucial point. The scheme breaks down at that point. It breaks in two. It is incapable of logical defence. It could not be recommended to an audience of school children if the proposition is stated plainly.
I know that the proportion of those who join the regular Army from the Special Reserve is very large. Last year it was 50 per cent. The year before it was more, and we have been told that in some battalions it was as much as 62 per cent. More than half the men or boys who go into the Special Reserve go in in order to get into the Army. Those who do not come up to a high standard are to take the place1 of those who are rejected because they are not good enough to go out to war. That is the position. It is a grave one. In order to meet it we have the incurable optimism of the Noble Lord, who told us last year that in order to strengthen the Special Reserve he was going to turn from youth to maturity and to invite a number of soldiers who had finished with the Army or the Army Reserve between the ages of thirty-six and forty, in order to give a stiffening to these Infantry battalions and make up the number. He hoped to get over 9,000 of them. He was going to add seventy-five to each of the seventy-four battalions and 200 to these twenty-seven extra battalions of the Special Reserve who are to go abroad to the Mediterranean to liberate troops who are to go to war. He whistled for them. On reading his memorandum they have not come. He still hopes. He believes that next year something will turn up, just as in the case of the rifles and the horses, and as in the case of the subalterns who cannot be induced to enter the Army. The whole plan breaks in two unless you make the Infantry and your Special Reserve a reality. If you do not, that specification of Lord Haldane is a thing that is not complete. In this respect a very grave question arises, and 221 I do not know how you are going to meet it. So much for the quality of the Special Reserve.
I pass now to say a word about the training. The seventy-four battalions which are to send men into the furnace of war within a fortnight used to have training for six months, but in order to make another readjustment of this creaking machine that has been reduced to five months' initial training. I do not think that that is enough, but how can the Secretary of State for War and the Under-Secretary think that five months' initial training is enough for these men who are going to the front in a fortnight when they pour the vials of scorn upon four months' training as being insufficient for secondary purposes? They say that four months is useless; and I say that it is intolerable that the same authority which says that five months is enough for the Infantry Special Reserve, for the seventy-four battalions, should say that in the case of the twenty-seven extra battalions of the Special Reserve who may be sent to the Mediterranean—no light task, it may be owing to changes in our Naval policy—there is only to be three months' initial training, which is much less than what Lord Roberts proposed for troops who were ready to undertake duties of a less immediate character. I do not think that that portion of the plan can be completed. With all submission, I say that you can do something and something valuable if you will increase the establishment of the seventy-four Regular battalions to a strength of 840, so as to give a large reserve of mature-trained men at the moment that you want them?
Now with regard to garrisons at home. We have very few Regular soldiers in Scotland. We have some naval bases there of enormous importance. Who is going to garrison them when war breaks out? Observe that the Special Reserve are inadequate in numbers, quality, and training; yet they have got to make good the wastage of war and find the garrisons. I do not know whether it is intended to use the Territorial Force. I want to ask what provision has been made for garrisoning such important points as those we have at home. One other point, are you sure that you could move the Expeditionary Force at the right moment, according to Lord Haldane's demands? Can you be sure that if you sent an Expeditionary Force to Europe that you would not have to send reinforcements to Egypt and perhaps also 222 to India? Is it not the case that during the South African war, when all the world was alarmed, and Asia knew we were carrying a great burden, that the mere fact that we were sending out a handful of troops to Pekin in conjunction with other Powers created a great impression. I believe that if ever you had to send an Expeditionary Force to Europe you cannot wipe that out as a contingency that you need not take into contemplation, but that you might also have not only to provide garrisons at home, but in Egypt, and it may be in India. I come to the Territorial Force. Are we to be told that it is so numerous, so good in quality, so well trained, so admirably officered, so well horsed, that we can leave the Territorial Force to resolve all the doubts which grow up in our minds when we look at the Expeditionary Force and the Special Reserve. When we listened to the admirable speech of the hon. Member for Hull last night, the Under-Secretary shook his head as though my hon. Friend was going too far, but I noticed that a question was asked to-day by my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay.
The right hon. Gentleman was asked how many men were rejected on medical grounds in 1909–10–11. No figures were available. The right hon. Gentleman was also asked how many officers and men were absent without leave from training in 1911. The answer was that there were forty-one officers and 6,700 men absent without leave. If that is the case, you cannot look to the Territorial Force to do all the jobs that are relegated to them. What are they going to do? They are to maintain confidence if the Expeditionary Force is sent abroad. That is admitted. They are to supply the garrison if the Special Reserve cannot supply them. That is admitted. They have to deter the enemy from thinking of invasion. Is that admitted? They are to defeat invasion if it is attempted. Is that admitted? I say that is a lot for such a force to accomplish. It is all very well to admit these things theoretically, and then go about the country and say, "Well, we do say that, but you would not get the men to join otherwise." You are committing those duties to the Territorial Force. They are to deter the enemy from thinking of invasion, and they are to defeat invasion. When the troops did not flock to our standard, the Secretary of State for War at the beginning of 1909, referring to 223 the late months of 1908, drew a terrible picture of what invasion might mean:—No cause touched the well-being of the nation more closely than the defence of its hearths and homes. A nation at war with them would attempt invasion as the deadliest blow it could inflict, and so a stroke at the very heart of the British Empire, and if we are not prepared to meet they might be broken up and disintegrated.The optimist, speaking in this House in the March following, said he saw with great delight that the numbers of the Territorial Force had increased since October, and he then thought numbered as many as 240,000 men. I take Infantry alone, and I take the general Annual Report which deals with the period of October before the recruits began to come in. Take the Infantry of all ranks: On the 1st October, 1908, the Territorial Infantry, taking all ranks, numbered 122,322. After the "Daily Mail" boom, and all the other theatrical devices, it had increased in October, 1909, to 171,923, October, 1910, 170,009, and this year the figures help my argument, because they are now 167,199. I ask whether the difference between 122,000 and 167,000 of the Territorial Infantry changes the whole position from what it was in October, 1908, when the Secretary of State for War pointed out to the House that owing to the weakness of the Auxiliary Force, the nation was never nearer thinking of compulsory service, whereas now, with these 30,000 or 40,000 more Territorials they find the plan of the Government for the national security is as much as any man who is not a poltroon could wish for. The crucial point of the whole matter is this: In the near future the Army Reserve is going to be 30,000 less than now. In the near future the Territorial Force may, if men do not re-engage, go back to what it was at the time the Secretary of State for War uttered those jeremiads in 1908. Meanwhile the Special Reserve is 15,088 below what you say is necessary, and will probably fall to a lower figure. The position is this: We accept the definition given by the Government of the objects which we as a nation must achieve if we as a nation are to be safe. But we say that their plan for achieving those objects is not complete. We doubt if it can be completed. We assert our right to point out the defects, the more so that in the near future it is certain that those defects in some branches will increase. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that our relative naval superiority may decline, or that it is also possible a period of acute diplomatic 224 tension may be renewed? We ask the House and the country to consider these facts and these contingencies; and on these grounds we appeal in no party spirit to all patriotic men to take up what we conceive to be the national duty of studying imparitally, and if need be generously, the problem of national safety, for which as yet no solution has been found.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
We have listened to one of those speeches with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover so frequently delights the House, and I think his speech of to-day is no exception to those to which we have listened on previous occasions. There was about it all that picturesque imagery and power of imagination which, if I may say so without impertinence, are rarely absent from the speeches of those who have the sentimental instinct. I admired the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman stated his case without, as far as was possible for anyone to do so, betraying any traces of party spirit. In beginning my observations I should like to start with those in which I feel myself most closely in accord with the right hon. Gentleman, because in expressing my sentimental sympathy I do so not only speaking from experience as a soldier, but I think I also express the view of other Members on this side of the House who are in sympathy with what the right hon. Gentleman said when he deplored the fact that the Army Estimates had been brought in before the Navy Estimates. But whether or not I complain of their having been brought in before the Navy Estimates, I look to the time when we shall have something in the nature of Defence Estimates covering the whole area of defence questions submitted to this House, so that we can freely discuss these interdependent matters of Naval and Army administration, which are inseparable from thorough organisation for war. Until we reach some condition of that kind I think our state will continue to be interesting, but certainly will be devoid of much practical effect. With regard to the very interesting survey which the right hon. Gentleman made of our military position outside these islands, I think he did not give sufficient importance to the fact that we still expect—I expect it all the more strongly now my right hon. and gallant Friend is sitting on that bench—that we shall see at a very early date a considerable reduction in the garrison of South Africa, thus making more troops available for taking 225 up those duties, ever-changing duties I admit, and as the right lion. Gentleman pointed out, in other parts of the world. With regard to the position and the numbers of the Expeditionary Force, I must confess that I think the right hon. Gentleman was practising one of those strategies of ancient and savage warfare which consisted in creating a great amount of smoke in order to conceal the operations of the attacking force. I really fail to quite follow the figures that have been put forward, though even there I find myself in agreement in regard to one point, which I will deal with later when I touch upon the Cavalry. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not feel himself in a position to take a flight upon the question of aviation, because I feel that he has the special qualification to deal with a science of that kind, which has not reached the region of exact sciences. But he did himself less than justice when he confined himself to making a mere comparison of the amounts to be expended as announced by my right hon. Friend, with the amounts to be spent in other countries. Such comparisons are, I think, futile. Happily for this country we still possess, in addition to other conditions into which I need not enter, a manufacturing power which other countries do not possess. We possess also special aptitude for seizing the ideas which are collected by nations who, perhaps, have a keener power of dealing with new questions than we have, but who are less happy in the way they apply them. I have no doubt whatever that my right hon. Friend and Lord Haldane have been well advised to limit their expenditure in this particular sphere, and to watch the developments which are taking place in other countries—and nowhere as yet can it be said that aviation has become a powerful arm of the military Service—and keep a watch upon them with the certainty that we shall be able to overtake other nations in that as we have done in many other modern developments.
The right hon. Gentleman touched upon the question of Reserve. It is impossible for me to look up any reference at the moment, but I have a distinct recollection of having heard my right hon. Friend (Colonel Seely) give, in answer to a question, an explanation of the manner in which the flow of Reserve will equalise itself owing to the measures taken recently by the War Office. I have no doubt my right hon. Friend has a method of recalling these facts, and will perhaps be able to give the information. On the question 226 of the Special Reserve and the organisation of the Territorial Force generally I hold much the same opinion now that I did at the time when the new organisation was introduced. I then stated in the House, and I hold the opinion now, that the general scheme of the Territorial Force was marked rather too much by a pedantic symmetry, by adherence to dogmatic accuracy, in the preparations of the Army and the distribution of the units. I think it has lost very considerably in that way. In regard to the Special Reserve, I pointed out, I think, at that time what appeared to me to be a really sound system of development, and to which I will refer presently. There is in all European countries what is called the organisation of reserve battalions. It has always appeared to me that the object to be aimed at in the change that was made at the time of the introduction of the Territorial system into this country was the gradual transformation of the Home Army into a force organised on a similar basis to those reserve battalions that we see in foreign countries—that is to say, all battalions with a considerably larger permanent cadre than exists in the Territorials, to be completed with enough men who are putting in a smaller number of days' service in the course of the year. I have put that system into force myself with considerable success, and I believe it is the soundest system that could be adopted in the case of a Home Army recruited on the voluntary system.
I never had any great belief in the two divisions that were made at the time of the introduction of the Territorial system, of the Special Reserve and the Territorial Force, but, together with the other points to which I took exception at the time, they were possibly inevitable, because we had to take over the old Volunteer Force, and you could not sweep the whole thing away. You had your cadres and you had to transform them. It was a difficult thing to do, and I think it has been done with extraordinary success, and I think it is most unfortunate for hon. Gentlemen to take the line of perpetually examining it and complaining that it is not developing fast enough. They pull up the plant to see if it is growing, and that is fatal to any organisation. The most fatal effect it has is that it makes those who are engaged in the work a deal uncertain as to their position and a deal discouraged with the work they are doing. I believe myself that whatever party is in office they will 227 have gradually to transform the home military system from what exists at present. I do not think you will ever in any country lay down a cut-and-dried system, and say it is going to work. It has got to be gradually developed and fitted in, and I believe that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wyndham), if he ever does come over to this side while I am here, and I hope he will be in the War Office, will find that it will have to be an adaptation and gradual evolution to a newer type. My belief is that it will be something on the lines I have already pointed out. The right hon. Gentleman was pleasantly sarcastic about the incurable optimists who sit on this side. Incurable optimism is better than youthful pessimism.
I cannot sit down without doing that which I made an endeavour to do last evening, when my right hon. Friend intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Mark Sykes). I must allude to some of the statements which were made by the hon. Gentleman. I saw him in the House to-day, and I am sorry that he has now left. The hon. Gentleman opened his speech by informing us that he intended to point out the deplorable condition of the Territorial Force. That may possibly have been the patriotic object he had in view. He said he was going to stick close to that point. Whether it was his natural sense of humour or the desire to please the sense of humour of those sitting near him, he found himself drawn away to what, I think, was a most unfortunate line of argument, and one which certainly cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed. I pass over the personal reference that he made to a very distinguished officer highly placed in His Majesty's Army, because I feel sure that it was made perhaps without consideration, and that he himself would be the first on consideration to regret it, because he must know that officers in that position are not in a position to reply. They are not here, and their very position prevents them from taking any notice of those personal references. But there is another reason, which I am sure would commend itself to the hon. Gentleman if he will consider for a moment, and that is that the reputation of an officer is not his own personal property: it is an asset of the nation, it belongs to the nation. An officer who has made a great name in the Army no doubt may in the course of his career have made, I will not say enemies, but at any rate have 228 found persons who were not of the same opinion as himself; but he has in his career accumulated no doubt titles and honours and decorations and all the baubles that ought to reflect glory on his reputation. They belong to him, but the reputation of the officer himself is national property, and anyone who tries to belittle that reputation is belittling that which is most valuable to the nation. I feel sure that the hon. Gentleman spoke, in making those personal references, without thinking, I daresay, but I think he will admit that it would not be becoming to allow such a slip to pass by. But there was another statement which he made which I view with even greater gravity, and that is when he used these words:—You will never find generals criticising if criticism has an unpleasant effect on their future. It is not to their interest to say that the thing is not a working, success."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1912, col. 143]5.0 P.M.
Such a monstrous attack as that I think has never been made upon a body of deserving officers. To say that any British officer would, for his own personal advancement, neglect to do that which he considered it his duty to do, is to cast a slur upon the whole of the officer class of this nation. There may be different opinions as to the value of the Territorial Force. The hon. Gentleman is at liberty to have his opinion as to what is the best way to raise the Force, but I do not think, from what he told us yesterday, that his method, if applied to either the Territorials or the Regulars, would be calculated to raise their feeling of pride in them solves or in their Service.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
If the hon. Gentleman rises to a point of Order I will give way, but I think I am entitled to reply to what was said. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to have his opinion as to the method and the tone that may be adopted in criticising the Force, but it is not right to say that any officer who holds His Majesty's Commission and has His Majesty's confidence, in that he holds an important command, would derogate from his office by failing to make that criticism which he thought was deserved. I pass from these unpleasant topics to look upon the deplorable picture of the Territorial Force which the hon. Gentleman attempted to draw. He told us what a soldier must be able to do. I venture to think that some of us know that better than he does. 229 He told us that soldiers must be able to walk, to carry weights, to shoot straight, and to obey orders.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
I have had nearly forty years' experience of Territorials and Regulars, and my connection with the Territorials continues to this day. Let us examine these criticisms. If, in the very wet season of the year before last, the hon. Gentleman had been taking in Wales that amusement and pleasure which, I am happy to hear he enjoys with the Territorials, he would have seen Territorial divisions performing marches which I have rarely seen equalled in the Regular Service at manœuvres, and under exceptionally severe conditions owing to the exceptional weather. It so happened that I received a letter from a kind person, not a Territorial officer, and not engaged in the Territorial Force at all, endeavouring to enlist my influence, as he expressed it, to obtain a remission of the weights that these men had been ordered to carry when they went into camp, because, as he said, they had received instructions to go in full marching order. My answer was that I knew nothing about, what the orders might be, but that I hoped he would use his influence with any Territorials in whom he might be interested, to see that they obeyed the orders which were given, as I was perfectly certain they would find that they were not so difficult as he anticipated.
There has been so much said about shooting and the rifle that I will not dwell on the subject at great length. I believe, however, that the Territorial Army to-day is far more efficient in that particular than many of the masses of foreign troops with which I have had the honour to be associated on more than one occasion. A near relation of mine, if I may be permitted to touch a personal note, was engaged in the 1870 war in raising and organising that part of the French Army which was afterwards known as the Army of the Loire, and the description which I have had from him and from officers who served as to the utter ignorance of the mobile which formed that army when they joined as to 230 the use of their weapons would certainly astonish anybody who had seen our Territorials; yet nevertheless those troops did extraordinarily good service, and wrote a page that will rank among the brightest pages of French military history. I am perfectly satisfied that our Territorials will do the same if ever it comes to their turn. As to obeying orders, I am satisfied that that is the last part of the soldier's duty the hon. Member ever learnt. Incidentally the hon. Member touched up his picture with some lurid colours representing the diseases from which the Territorial soldier was supposed to suffer. I have never heard anything like it except once in this House when I heard an hon. Member declaiming against the evils which might possibly arise from vaccination. No doubt in any great aggregation of men there will be malformations and diseases, but I deny absolutely that there is any excessive development of malformation amongst the men who serve in this particular branch of His Majesty's Service. In that part of the Territorial Force with which I am connected, I find men who are the brothers, cousins, and other relations of the men who used to serve with me, and of men who are now in the Grenadier Guards, because a large number of the men from that district go to that regiment. They are precisely the same material, and the same spirit exists in these men that has made the Grenadiers what they are. There is one disease which the hon. Gentleman might possibly have added to his list, though I do not think he will find it among the rank and file of the Territorials, namely, swelled head. One thing that officers who make these criticisms would do well to remember is that it is not only physical qualities that make an army; it is that great motive power which we know as esprit de corps. If you insult a body of troops, whatever it may be, by speaking of them in the way in which he spoke of the Territorials yesterday, you are not likely to enhance that esprit de corps. It is sympathy that the men want, and I believe that is the quality which so many of our generals, who are now commanding units of the Territorial Force, have so satisfactorily shown. They have shown sympathy for men who are endeavouring to do their duty under circumstances of considerable difficulty—under difficulties which I should be the first to join with hon. Gentlemen opposite in bringing pressure upon the Government to alleviate. No one has a right to use such language as 231 would lower, in the eyes of the people of the country, the position of men who are doing their best to do their duty.
I will dismiss the rest of this unpleasant incident and return to what is far more pleasant to me, namely, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, and the remarks that I promised to make on the question, of horses. I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's speech on our Mounted Forces. Personally I should like to see His Majesty's Government direct their attention, in the first place, to keeping our Mounted establishments at a much higher figure than at present, and, secondly, to taking some of those practical steps which we on both sides have been urging upon them for some years for the provision of horses. It is no use at this time of day telling us that the 'bus horse no longer exists. What is much more serious is that we who live in the rural districts know that the breeding of horses is becoming less. That is a very serious question indeed. We have been passed off for several years in this House from one Department to another in reference to this matter. If we addressed the right hon. Gentleman's Chief when he was in this House we were told that the question of horses was a matter for the Department of Agriculture, while if we attacked the hon. Gentleman who represented the Board of Agriculture we were told that the matter was under the consideration of a military committee. So it has gone on, and nothing has been done. Meanwhile the farmers of the country are giving up breeding horses. I know it, because I belong to a country where they used to breed a large number of horses, and horses of the kind that are required for Cavalry purposes. What is required in this country is a system of remount depots to which horses are brought at two years old. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear hon. Members on the opposite side cheer that statement. I shall be most happy if they will co-operate to try to bring pressure to bear upon my right hon. Friend. I think it is a door that is easy to force, because I believe his sympathies are with us in the attainment of some system by which we shall maintain not only the efficiency of our Cavalry, but also that superiority as a horse-breeding nation which we have so long held.
§ Sir REGINALD POLE-CAREW
Perhaps, in the first place, I may be allowed 232 to say that I cordially agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down in his idea of depots for the provision of horses for the Army. It is a question that I have often considered, mainly from my experience in India. There we bought horses from Australia, put them into depots, and used men of the Cavalry and Artillery to break them in and turn them out in condition. In this country it is a different thing, because here, instead of having older horses you have to buy them young. I maintain, however, that by buying horses, as the last speaker said, two years old, you would get them very much cheaper. That being so, they would cost very little more before they came to be four or five years old, and were fit for service in the Army. You have a large number of Reserve men, both of the Artillery and the Cavalry, and they could very well be used to look after and train the horses, and so be prevented from walking about the street out-of-elbows. I want to make one remark on the heavy taking to task, if I may call it so, of my hon. Friend, the Member for Hull (Mr. Mark Sykes) inflicted upon him by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. I appreciate the feelings of the hon. and gallant Gentleman; at the same time I wish to point out that, if there is a fault, the fault does not lie with my hon. Friend. It lies with the Members of the present Cabinet. When they use expedients to which we are now accustomed to bolster up their malpractices, and their poor schemes; when they one year have a book and the next year a speech; and when they take the opportunity of advertising the book and the speech, I confess I think it gives Gentlemen reason to think that the officers who are responsible for the book and for the speech have been put up for the purpose of helping the Cabinet.
We heard something yesterday from the hon Member for Sutherland (Mr. Hamar Greenwood), who is not now in his place, about the military correspondent of the "Times." This gentleman, we were told, was an officer of more war experience than anybody in this House. We were challenged to produce anybody who had seen more fighting than that gentleman, who is also employed at the War Office. I happen to know the military correspondent of the "Times" very well. I happen to have been on campaigns with him. I have a very great respect for his military knowledge. I am not able to write as he can. Possibly, however, I have had as much experience of fighting as he has had. And I 233 do say this: When a man who has been an officer becomes the military correspondent of the "Times," and is immediately taken up by the Radical Government, or by any Government, and given a room and access to papers in the War Office, it leads one to think that that gentleman does not always write what he really thinks to be true, but that which may happen to suit the Government that employs him. There, again, I say that the fault undoubtedly lies with the Members of the present Cabinet.
I want to come now to the observations of my right lion. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham). In his excellent and instructive speech he told us that we are spending £28,000,000 on the land Forces of the Empire at the present moment. He took up, as a matter of argument, that that £28,000,000 was being properly spent. I must confess that personally I shall try to show that I do not agree with him. I find, compared with 1905, that we spend, roughly speaking, just £1,000,000 less. How has that million reduction been brought about? By a very large reduction in the fighting strength of our Regular Army; not only a large reduction in the ranks and in the Reserves, but also in the cadres by which rapid expansion is prevented; and this, as we all know, is most important in time of war. I see also that the Government have reduced that branch of the Service which is the most difficult to create, the most technical, and that which requires the longest training—I refer to the Artillery. I think I am right in stating that the Government have reduced by £2,000,000 the pay of the Army. What do we find on the other side? They have saved £2,000,000 on the Regular Army, and they have put an extra million pounds upon what we used to call the Auxiliary Forces. This makes the total expenditure on these Forces something rather over £3,000,000.
The last speaker has a very high opinion of the Territorial Forces. I personally prefer to believe what members of that Force tell me themselves to anything that General French may say, or anybody in General French's position, or, in fact, any general officer. I hold that a man commanding a battalion, or the men in the battalion, either officers or men, are more likely to know what they are really fit for than any general officer in the kingdom. I do not blame the Territorials in any way whatsoever. I have the greatest respect for them. I have the greatest respect for anybody who does his best for the country. But I say again that the fault lies with the 234 Cabinet. If words could do it we should have an Army countless in numbers and probably invincible in the field. But the volubility of the War Secretary or even the plausibility of the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary, will not ensure the training of the Territorial Force. If you spend the money on inefficiency, which you are now doing, you are doing worse than throwing the money away. You are spending public money and causing, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hull said yesterday, a public danger. If you cannot train the Territorial Forces why keep them? In my humble opinion you should put back that £2,000,000 to the Regular Forces, and reduce that spent on the Auxiliary Forces to £1,000,000.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary, a question that I think is somewhat important, and that is whether his military advisers have ever yet decided in their own minds, and whether they have ever yet advised him or the Secretary of State for War, for what purpose we maintain an Army at all? For what purpose do we maintain our land forces? Is it to provide our garrisons in India, at our coaling stations, in the Colonies overseas? Is it to provide drafts for those garrisons, to reinforce those garrisons, if necessary, in time of war? Is it to provide as well that Expeditionary Force about which we have heard so much? In my humble experience, our present organisation is moderately well adapted for the former, but for the latter it is ridiculously inadequate, almost impossible. How are we to tell if we go to war to-morrow that we should not have at once to reinforce our troops in India, Egypt, and probably the greater part of our coaling stations as well? My right hon. Friend mentioned the very small garrisons that we keep at Hong Kong, Singapore, and Ceylon. I think he was wrong on one point. I was at Ceylon two years ago, and at that time there was not a single British battalion in that island. Whether the War Office have seen the error of their ways, and whether they have since then put a British battalion into that island, I do not know, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman opposite to tell the House. Meanwhile we have reduced our Naval force in those seas. Is it right we should leave these very important positions so inadequately guarded?
Now as to the Expeditionary Force. We were told last year that six divisions were ready to start at a moment's notice. 235 Rumour often plays us false, but rumour has it—and I am going to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether rumour is correct—that this year six divisions were not forthcoming, that only four were available. I shall be very glad to know if that is right. On the other hand, it is very doubtful whether 100,000 men or thereabouts would be of any particular use if thrown on to the Continent at a moment's notice. In any case it would be well if the right hon. Gentleman would inform us as to what will be the composition of this force of 100,000 men. I asked him to-day a question with regard to the Reserves. I asked him what I consider a very fair question. I asked him:—If any mobilisation took place in the country, how many men of the Reserves would be found in the ranks of the Guards and in the Infantry of the Line?I asked him for a purpose. We have found in South Africa and in other places that good as a Reserve man may be, good as he is when he has had time to settle down, he cannot be, and is not, as good when he first joins the ranks as the man already serving in those ranks. The least you can do, if you are going to put into the field a force so ridiculously small compared with those of our neighbours, is to see that it is perfectly equipped, perfectly turned out, perfectly ready for active service, and, more important than all, perfectly disciplined. If you put a large majority of Reserve men into these ranks when they sail from this country they must fail in discipline.
The right hon. Gentleman refused to tell me how many Reserve men there would be in the ranks. I am going to tell him, and if I am wrong perhaps he will correct me. I am going to tell him that in the Brigade of Guards alone at one time there were something like six to four, and in the line, owing to our system of treating every battalion in this country like a nursery, making it a feeding-bottle for our battalions abroad in time of peace, I tell him by that system of sucking them dry like a squeezed lemon he would probably have 70 to 80 per cent. of Reserve men in the ranks if he were going to war to-morrow. If I am wrong, I hope the right hon. Gentlemen will correct me. I say, then, if you are going, beside finding those drafts for our forces in India, finding drafts for our forces in the China Sea, and other portions of the British Empire, to reinforce these troops in time of war, and if we are to have an Expeditionary Force worthy of 236 the name we must alter our present system. Our present system is an organisation for peace, combined with a few small black wars in which we have been indulging for several years now, and not for war. What happened in South Africa? It is perfectly true that eventually we had a very large force there—but what happened? It was not a case of 100,000 men fighting, perhaps, 200,000 of the best-trained troops of Europe—it was a case of 180,000 men fighting 60,000 farmers, and it took us all our time to do it. That was the effect of our system. Our system is wrong. It is not fit for war, and if you continue in the present way, and if you are going, with the forces you now have, to carry out the scheme put before us by the Secretary of State for War, I say you are courting disaster.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman will no doubt forgive me if I do not follow him in detail in his very interesting speech. I am very willing to agree with him that some of the defects that made themselves apparent in the South African War were due to a particular system, but it was the system in force at that time, and not this system.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman might have laid more stress upon the fact that it was the system in force when the late Unionist Government was in power.
§ Sir R. POLE-CAREW
I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman my wish is not to make party capital, but simply to do the best I can for the Army and the country.
With all respect to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I think some of the remarks made in the course of his speech did not very successfully carry out his desire. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover made a reference in the opening of his speech to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hamar Greenwood) in the course of the Debate last night. I do not wish to labour this point; it is very trivial, but as the actual remarks Lord Roberts made, in reference to which my hon. Friend spoke, were not quoted, perhaps I might be allowed to quote them. The point was this. My hon. Friend said:—I do not understand what either Lord Roberts or the Leader of the Opposition meant by automatic Artillery.237 And that was followed by loud laughter from the opposite side of the House, and my hon. Friend went on to say:—These were the words the Leader of the Opposition used. He said 'automatic Artillery,' and that is the whole point.And again there was loud laughter from the Opposition. I have the words here which were used by Lord Roberts. He said:—I still maintain that our soldiers are armed with inferior weapons, for, even with the improved sights and the issue of a new kind of ammunition, our rifle is inferior to the German and French rifle. And owing to the Artillery fuse setters and sights not being up to date, our field guns are not automatic firing guns.These were the words used by Lord Roberts. I am bound to say I do not understand how he should have used the word "automatic" in that particular sense. I only want to point out that, despite the uproarious laughter of hon. Members opposite, that my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland was quite correct in using the words he did in the Debate. It is a very trivial point, I know. I did not propose again to enter the field of controversy in respect of the rifle, and I would not have touched on it but for the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover. He referred to this controversy, and he went on to claim an absolute victory for his party in the discussion that has taken place, on the strength of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition. If that be so, if it indeed be a victory, may I say, with all respect, that in my humble judgment it was a very barren victory indeed. I am bound to say I am somewhat surprised at the light-heartedness with which the Leader of the Opposition and his party have treated a situation which, if the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition at the Albert Hall was true, would be a very grave situation indeed. What has happened? May I very briefly recall to the House what the position is? On a certain day the Leader of the Opposition went to the Albert Hall and made a speech in which he said the weapons of our Army were very inferior to those of any other army in the world. These are not the exact words, but they are very nearly the exact words used by the right hon. Gentleman. In the Debate which took place yesterday my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for War replied to that speech. As soon as my right hon. Friend sat down the Leader of the Opposition jumped up and answered my right hon. Friend. Then comes the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover to-day, and 238 his reference to the discussion is this: He claims an absolute victory for the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposion in respect of that controversy, and there the matter ends.
My right hon. Friend probably has something more to say on the point. At any rate, so far as the Opposition is concerned, the matter apparently is at an end. I think if the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition were true, a situation would have arisen which would have called for, and rightly called for, a Vote of Censure on the part of the Opposition against the Government of the day. If it were, in effect, true that our Army was to-day armed with weapons utterly inferior to those of any other Power it was the duty of His Majesty's Opposition to come down to this House and to endeavour to obtain a majority in this House for a Vote of Censure on His Majesty's Ministers in this respect. Seeing that has not been done, but that it has been passed over in what, with all respect, I must call a light-hearted way, one is forced to the conclusion that the Leader of the Opposition, and those who speak with him on the opposite side of the House, do not seriously believe in the arguments they have advanced in this respect. I am not going to labour the point; the rifle was very thoroughly discussed by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary in the course of the Debate yesterday. He advanced his reasons for considering the rifle to be certainly one of the best in Europe at the present time.
That may be so. Personally, I do not think, and I never did think, that the short rifle is as good as the old long rifle, and I still continue to think, as one who has had considerable daily experience for a period of years in the use of both rifles, that the old rifle converted to a charger-loader is still a better rifle than the short rifle introduced by the Unionist Government in 1903. Various reasons have been given why that rifle was introduced. I believe the Noble Lord the Member for West Perth (Marquess of Tullibardine) hit the nail upon the head in the remarks he made last night. What I say in that respect in no way weakens the case of the right hon. Gentleman. There 239 is not much difference between the two rifles; if anything, the advantage lies with the old rifle converted, as it has been, to a charger-loader, which the Territorials now have. If any blame lies anywhere—and I do not wish to score a party point—it is in the fact that in the year 1904, when France first adopted the pointed bullet, the Government of that day did not at once proceed with the necessary developments in order to ensure a better rifle in the speediest possible space of time. I wish to say one more word in regard to the automatic rifle. The right hon. Gentleman touched very lightly upon this point yesterday. He mentioned what was said by the Secretary of State for War, referred to in such humorous terms by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, that experiments were taking place and an endeavour was being made to obtain a suitable automatic rifle. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, before he acclaims any opinion in regard to the introduction of the automatic rifle into this country, will first take opinion upon its utility, serviceability, and reliability from individuals who know what the use of the rifle in the field is. There are and can be advanced any number of theoretical arguments in favour of an automatic rifle. I do not, however, propose to detail them at any length, but I believe if the Committee had consulted Infantry officers and others accustomed to use a rifle, that the short Lee-Enfield rifle would never have been given to the Infantry. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be led away by theoretical arguments. It is said that the automatic rifle will give to the Army that possesses it the power of pouring in a hail of lead at a particular moment when it is most needed. That may be so, and I think that is the chief argument adduced by the supporters of the automatic rifle—in fact I believe it is the only argument which will hold water—but even that argument leaves out of consideration altogether a much more important consideration, namely, the strain upon the soldier of firing off an enormous number of rounds not only minute after minute, but hour after hour, and even day after day. It also leaves out of consideration the question of ammunition supply. I am not going to enter into military history or into many cases which I could quote which happened during the late war in Manchuria and elsewhere as to 240 the difficulties encountered by troops running out of ammunition at an early stage of the conflict.
Yes, but it is very much more forcible in the case of the automatic rifle. During one of the battles in Manchuria several of the Japanese divisions ran out of ammunition on the first day of the battle, and if they had been firing with automatic rifles the supply would have run out very much sooner. It is a dogmatic assertion, but I am quite prepared to say that an Army armed with automatic rifles would not necessarily possess any great advantages over an army armed with a charger-loading rifle such as we possess to-day. I hope the right hon. Gentlemen will take these matters into consideration. To my mind it is almost impossible to obtain an automatic rifle which would be serviceable, and the component parts of which would not be liable to go out of order very soon after it had been taken into the field. I pass for one moment to what I may call another technical detail of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Yesterday the Under-Secretary for War referred to the Maxim gun, and he said:—It is true that our Maxim is a very heavy gun. We are trying a Maxim very much lighter, one less than half the weight, only about 286 lbs.
I concluded that was a printer's error; but the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:—But it is very doubtful whether the advantage will be very great, because as you lighten the Maxim it becomes so much more unstable. Anyone who has tried a Maxim gun must know how liable it is to jam, and make hopelessly erratic practice.I wish to lay stress upon the arguments adduced against the lighter Maxim gun, and I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to hesitate before he makes himself responsible for the introduction of a Maxim gun lighter than the gun with which our Infantry are armed at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the factor of steadiness. That is not only a most important factor, but it is all-important. Anyone who has had any experience in firing a Maxim gun knows the enormous difficulty there is in keeping a gun of the weight of the present gun steady. If a gun of the weight of 26 lbs. were introduced, I 241 think it would be almost impossible to fire a belt without the vast majority of the bullets going very wide of the mark. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take that fact into consideration. I am not speaking from the point of view of the Cavalry, but the Infantry, with which I have served. I do not see any great reason for a lighter gun than the Maxim gun we have at present, and I do not think the weight is so serious a consideration as many people would have us believe. Let us take, for instance, the Maxim gun as it obtains on what is, after all, one of the best battle-grounds of the world—namely, the North-West Frontier of India. There is no difficulty whatever experienced by those regiments serving on the North - West Frontier of India in the hills. With the Maxim gun and its equipment on the new transport no difficulty is experienced, and I speak as one who has had some experience in that particular quarter of the world. The gun is easily taken off its mule, set up again, and can be moved quickly from one position to another, and I do not think that a lightening of the gun would necessarily add to what must be a serious consideration—that is, a greater ammunition supply. I ask the right hon. Gentleman once more to have a consultation on this matter, if he has any change in mind, with officers, non-commissioned officers, and men if necessary, who have had really serious experience of the Maxim gun in all its bearings. Of course, I do not know what influence the new rifle may have upon the Maxim gun, but I assume the right hon. Gentleman does not propose a different calibre for the rifle than for the gun.
I do not know whether the calibre is .256 or .275, but that must necessarily affect the weight of the Maxim gun. I will not pursue this subject, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give some consideration at any rate to the observations which I have made.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Colonel BURN
It is a source of great satisfaction to hon. Members on both sides of the House to hear of the improved conditions of health now existing in the Service, and also that the number of cases of drunkenness has been diminished so very greatly within the last few years. I am sure everybody approves of that, and it is a great advantage to the Service generally. 242 I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman a few questions about recruiting. Does he think we are getting the best men and the best value for the money the country pays for our soldiers? Is the right class of man offering himself for enlistment? I think myself in this country we shall always get a considerable number of soldiers who are soldiers by heredity and they join the Service because their fathers and grandfathers have been in the Army before them. They make excellent soldiers but they form a very small percentage of the men who join the Army. I should like to ask if anyone can feel satisfied with regard to the recruits who present themselves in view of the large number of rejections that have to be made by the medical officers on account of physical inefficiency and defects and ill-health in some shape or form, or due to not coming up to the measurement, notwithstanding the fact that we have a pretty low standard even now. It seems to me that the Army is to a great extent a home for those who have not succeeded in any other walk of life. Very often it is the hunger necessity that makes them join the Army in a great many cases. I think one great reason why, in these days when there are so many men going abroad to the Colonies and to foreign countries, we do not get that class of men to enlist in the Army which we should like is that their future in the Army is not sufficiently attractive. Only 10 per cent. rejoin after their twelve years' service and complete their twenty-one years. That means we lose a great many good men. It is always open to the commanding officer to reject anyone and refuse to take him if he is not satisfied with his behaviour and with his performance as a soldier, but I think, if a little more latitude were given to the commanding officers, we should be able to retain in the Service many men who are excellent at their profession. It would be to the great advantage of the Service that they should rejoin and complete their twenty-one years. A great percentage of the men when they join the Army look to making it their profession, so that they can feel that in their latter days they will get a pension, and, possibly, get some Government appointment in the Civil Service. The soldier at present has a real grievance when he is given employment in the Civil Service after having done a certain number of years, seven or twelve, in the Army, he is not allowed to count that service for the purposes of his pension. I 243 know the matter has been brought before the House on several occasions, but I think the grievance is a real and a just one.
A man who joins the Army goes soldiering in foreign lands and in unhealthy climates, leaving all those who are dear to him at home, and very often he goes on active service, with all its dangers. That man is doing the most honourable service he can do for his country, and it is the duty of the State, as far as possible, to take care of him and allow him to count the years he has served in the Army towards the pension he will earn if he is fortunate enough to get employment in a Civil Service Department at the end of his military service. The man who joins the Civil Service begins to count his service for his pension from the day he joins. The men who became State servants on the transfer of the telephone from the National Telephone Company to the State are allowed to count all their previous service with the National Telephone Company. They joined without any examination, and I think the case of the soldier, who has done honourable work for his country, as compared with their case, is unfair and unjust, and I think it ought to be righted. If something were done in this direction, and you offered the man who joins the Service some attraction in the shape of ensuring his future, you would get a very much better class of man than you are getting now. We in this country, with a small Army compared with Continental countries, ought to aim at getting the best men we can, and the only means of doing it is to offer some attractions in the shape of future employment. I am sure we all appreciate what successive Governments have done with regard to giving employment under the Civil Service to soldiers who have completed their first period or their twelve years. It is absolutely right that the State should do that. I know it has been done in the Post Office and in the police. It is not putting a big charge on the State, and I feel every penny of money spent in that direction is for the real benefit of the Service and of the men who present themselves for enlistment.
I wish to make a few remarks with regard to the horses of the Yeomanry regiments in and near London. You have an excellent class of man, keen, educated and intelligent, and you can make a very good soldier of him. He joins because he is keen, and is anxious to take some part in the defence of his country. But if you saw some of these London regiments go into 244 camp for their training on Berkshire Downs, at Aldershot, or somewhere handy, and saw the horses on which they were mounted, I do not think you would be very pleased or consider them particularly efficient. The mounting of these Yeomanry regiments is more or less in the hands of a ring of dealers. They hire these horses from people they know, and at the end of the training it is a sorry sight to look at some of the regiments when they are coming home. At the end of a recent training of one London regiment the veterinary surgeon was asked to earmark the horses he considered fit to go on service and to carry 18-stone. He could only mark 7 per cent. that he would pass as fit to go on service. I think there is a remedy for that without putting any extra charge on the State. I think chose Yeomanry regiments can be mounted on very efficient cobs without any increase in the Army Estimates. At present the dealers who supply the horses get £5 a horse, but the owner, I am sure, does not get the £5. If you increase your remount staff, say, to two officers, with the necessary number of clerks, four or five, in the office, I feel certain you could earmark and register a certain number of horses, 14.2 to 15 hands, admirably suited for the Yeomanry; and, if you gave a fee of £1 for registering those horses, I feel certain the owners would be quite ready to accept £3 for the actual training. That would only mean you would be spending £4 altogether, and the remainder of your grant of £5 per horse would pay for your remount officers and the necessary clerks to do the office work.
I think that is a practicable scheme, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider if something in that direction cannot be done. It is wrong that the system should go on as it does to-day. I do not suppose 1 per cent. of the men in these regiments own their own horses, and the dealers who cater for the horses ring the changes on two or three regiments, making one of these cobs earn £15 in the year when probably his actual value, if put up to auction, would not amount to more than a half that sum. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will allow there is something to be said for the plan I propose, and, if he will seriously consider it and see if something cannot be done, I feel he will very much improve the efficiency of these London regiments. After all, the ranks of the regiment are filled with excellent men. Their training is a charming holiday to them. They go out in the open for 245 a fortnight or so, and, coming as they do from the offices in the City, it does them all the good in the world. They want to ride, and it is an asset to the nation that they should be trained to ride. They do all their shooting at other times when they are not out for their annual training. I feel if something of this sort were done the London Yeomanry could be made far more efficient and the training they actually undergo would be very much more of a reality than it is at the present time.
In rising to make a few observations on the questions which have been raised about the rifles which are at present provided, I do so in no party spirit, but at the same time I noticed the hon, and gallant Member on the other side of the House who spoke earlier did not go so far as to say that in his opinion the rifle with which the British Army is at present armed was superior to those of foreign and Continental Powers. I question very much whether any officer in His Majesty's Army is of that opinion. I have talked the matter over with my brother officers, and personally I certainly believe it is the general opinion that we are at a considerable disadvantage owing to the very much higher trajectory which the British rifle has compared with the rifles of foreign countries. I think one can discount to a certain extent some of the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman when telling us yesterday of the advantages which our new rifle would have over the rifles of other nations. I think hardly any Continental Power has got a rifle which is not reliable. Every Continental Power is arming its forces with a rifle which is at least reliable. I do not think any great Continental Power expects it is going to suffer when it goes to war owing to a great number of jams or other causes which make a rifle not as effective as might be concluded from some of the arguments the right hon. Gentleman put forward yesterday. Taking all rifles so far as reliability is concerned as efficient, we then come to the question of rapidity of firing. The hon. and gallant Member opposite was rather with me in thinking that this question of rapidity of fire was not the only requirement in a rifle. I question very much whether we are altogether wise in putting too much value on rapidity of fire. If there are certain advantages in being able to deliver a rapid fire there are also certain disadvantages from such delivery, such as shortage of ammunition at 246 a critical moment, which might cause a far greater loss to us. Then we come to the question of accuracy. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a number of decimal calculations, but I honestly say that decimal figures are not to my mind of any great value when considering the suitability of a rifle. We are told that certain tests have been carried out with certain results. I am afraid the figures are not convincing to my mind. The right hon. Gentleman adduced certain figures showing that the English rifle, when tested, came out best among a number of rifles in shooting at a target at a short distance.
§ Colonel SEELY
Why does the hon. and gallant Member doubt the accuracy of the tests? They were carefully carried out by our own experts.
I do not doubt their accuracy; I said that I, as a practical soldier, doubted the value of the tests. They may be of great value in getting at the technical qualities of a rifle, but I, as a practical soldier, want to know whether the rifle is going to be properly sighted and whether the range will be accurately known—in fact, I want information on many points of that sort before I can come to the conclusion that the practical value of a rifle is proved. If we know the exact distance and put the rifle in a vice so as to make sure it is properly sighted, no doubt we may be able to secure better shooting, but we have to admit that at present we have a rifle with a less good trajectory—a higher trajectory—than those of foreign countries. You must judge your distance, which is not very easily done, and you lose more in accuracy than you gain by your test in a difference of fifty yards in your range. The value of a flat trajectory is something enormous and I am convinced that every practical soldier in this House will agree with me in saying that a flat trajectory is of the greatest value. When you have the responsibility of leading a company in warfare you wish to see the troops armed with such a weapon. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the British Infantryman is very well trained, and has made great advances, but I am convinced he would be at a great disadvantage unless he had a rifle with as flat a trajectory as can possibly be given him.
Turning from the subject of the rifle, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether something further cannot be done to improve the position 247 of our regimental officers. We must come to the conclusion that the prospects of the regimental officers are not all that we would wish to see them. They have no promotion. We do not see any improvement in the pay of the officers, and these and other considerations must have a considerable effect upon the minds of those who are thinking of making the Army their profession. I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should consider whether it would not be advisable to do something to alter the climax of an officer's career. We know that at about the age of thirty an Infantry officer may expect to have risen to the rank of captain. I think it is a very poor outlook at the present moment for an officer who, after eight years' service, commands a company with credit to himself, and for the good of the regiment, as well as for the welfare of the country, that he should have to look forward to another eight or ten years in command of that company before he can possible advance in rank. That must be a great stumbling block and a great drawback to the welfare of our Army. Although a great number of officers undoubtedly do stay in the Army through many years and finally come in command of a battalion, it is not altogether to the advantage of our Army that we should have men of over forty-eight or fifty years of age in command of battalions. It is too high an age. A mistake was made when the age limit for the command of a battalion was raised from forty-eight to fifty. It would have been far better to have reduced it to forty-six. We have, at the present moment, officers in command of companies over forty years of age. I am getting on to that age myself, and I am convinced that I could not command a company as well to-morrow as I did a few years ago. At that age we have not the same activity. We are not as agile, and it makes an enormous difference. When, as we now do, we have a very small Army we should have it as youthful and active as possible. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman and to those who are responsible for these matters that it might be advisable to consider whether it would not be an improvement on our present plan—if it is impossible to improve the regimental pay of our officers—to make the climax of a soldier's life the command of a company, which he might get in eight or ten years, varying accordingly whether he started below or over the age of thirty. Then the best men 248 could be selected from each battalion, regiment, or brigade, whichever might be taken as the fittest unit—for the command of battalions. The remainder should have made it the climax of their life to command a company, and they should be given a pension, which should be a retaining fee and make them available in case the nation required their services at any time. I think that possibly is the plan by which in time we might overcome this misfortune of slow promotion. Under the present scheme we must every day be losing many officers who have ambition, who possess original ideas that are of great advantage to the Army generally. They are going to seed, although many of them stick to their commands through pure love of the regiment. I wish to see better opportunities given them to rise to the command of a battalion earlier than at present they are able to do. We have made a great advance in the training of our officers. Slow promotion is the great drawback.
I should like to support some remarks made earlier in the evening as regards the number of Reserve men who have to come into the Expeditionary Force before that force is in a position to be sent abroad. I quite bear out what was said by an hon. and gallant general earlier in the evening. There is no man who has a greater admiration for the Reserves than I have. I was with a company in South Africa, and that company was very largely composed of Reserve men, and, without injuring their feelings, I think I may safely say that when it started it was not so good as one could have desired. I am convinced it is a considerable weakness to any battalion to have an enormous number of Reservists thrown into it at the moment it has to become a part of the striking force of this country. It is essential that the number of battalions at home should be increased, and I believe that is the only principle by which we can prevent passing this enormous number of Reserves on to the strength of the battalions at the time they are required to act. I commend these various matters to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers.
§ Major M'MICKING
I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman (Colonel Seely) on the very satisfactory statement he was able to make yesterday. I desire to deal with some of the points raised during the Debate. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Bodmin is not in his place. 249 I understood him to say that there had been a reduction of the Artillery in the Regular Army. It is true that the garrison Artillery has been reduced, but I believe it is also true that not a single horse or Field Artilleryman has been reduced, and that is a very important point. Reference has been made to what was termed the volubility of the Secretary of State for War. Lord Haldane has been going up and down the country trying to make the Territorial Force popular and, by his speeches, he has done an enormous amount of good work. The hon. and gallant Member also referred to our present Army system. He said it was a failure in South Africa. Our present system is what is known as the Cardwell system, and I maintain if you ask experts they will tell you that the system was most successful in South Africa, the Reservists, when called upon, came back and joined the Colours. The hon. Gentleman alluded to the length of the war as due to the defects in the system. In my humble judgment the cause of the prolongation was not what he suggested; it was largely due to the very inefficient supply of horses, and if there had been a proper horse supply the war would have been brought to a much more rapid conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover referred to the strength of the oversea garrisons. I suggest that the Infantry Battalions in South Africa are available to strengthen them if they need strengthening. I cannot understand why we keep those troops in South Africa at the present time, and I suggest that something of that kind might be done. With regard to the Expeditionary Force, I think the argument he used is something like this, that we must admit that an Expeditionary Force is essential to the Navy. I admit that. Presumably it will be necessary to fight on land abroad, and for that purpose an Expeditionary Force is necessary. The hon. Member went on to say that it was claimed that the numbers of the Expeditionary Force during the last few years had been greatly increased. I think that increase is well accounted for owing to the improvement in the organisation of the force. We all know that some years ago on the outbreak of war, when it was necessary to send a force abroad, it was necessary to break up the service batteries of Artillery in order to form ammunition columns, etc. That was a very wasteful way of doing things, but now, owing to this 250 improved organisation, we have those service batteries, and we also have ammunition columns, and the whole Expeditionary Force when it goes abroad will have each unit complete in itself.
With regard to the Special Reserve, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman commented upon the fact that they only received five months' training, and he said why should we on these benches criticise the scheme for compulsory training when to-day the Reserve only receive five mouths' training. I would humbly suggest that it is not comparing like with like. For example, the Reserve is wanted to fill up gaps in the Regular Army and to make good the waste of war, whereas a compulsory service, Army as it is put forward by the National Service League, would be wanted to fight in its own units, and that is quite a different thing. It is not fair to make that criticism, because it is comparing things which are not alike. With regard to the speech last night by the hon. Member for Central Hull (Mr. Mark Sykes), I do not intend to say a word about that part of the speech which was dealt with by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on the Front Bench below the Gangway this afternoon, but I should like to say something with regard to the conclusions which the hon. Member drew. He criticised the Territorial Force and attempted to show that it was not efficient in any way. What was the conclusion of the whole speech? To my mind the conclusion he came to in his speech was to the effect that it would be far better for us in this country to have 70,000 Regular troops rather than 200,000 Territorials. I am inclined to agree if you put it like that, but that is not the problem, and we must never forget that the Army system has been built up by the Secretary of State for War and his official advisers on a certain principle, and the main principle was founded on the Report of the Royal Commission on the War in South Africa, known as the Elgin Commission. It laid down on page 83:—The true lesson of the war, in our opinion, is that no military system will be satisfactory which does not contain powers of expansion outside the limit of the Regular Forces of the Crown, whatever that limit may be.That is the reason, I take it, for the Territorial Forces, and it would be quite contrary to the spirit of that Report were we to substitute a limited Regular force for Territorial forces. It is essential that we should have numbers at our disposal.
251 Some references have been made during the Debate with respect to the purpose for which the Territorials should be used. In my humble judgment it is quite likely that should occasion arise they might be asked to volunteer for service oversea to make good the wastage of war. That is a very important function. Some remarks were made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition with regard to the Territorial field gun, and I think the criticism was to this effect, that in the event of war the Territorials might have to meet in the field troops who were armed with superior weapons. To get a true light upon this problem we must carry our minds back to what happened five years ago. The Army was reorganised, and we had Territorial Field Artillery created, and very courageously the Secretary for War changed the Volunteer Garrison Artillery into Territorial Artillery. It was a bold thing to do, but it was done. It was a bold experiment. These men had been Garrison Artillerymen, and do you not think it would have been rather foolish to have equipped that Force with the new 18-pounder gun, that had only just been issued to the Regulars. Surely it was a wise thing in all the circumstances that the gun which had been used by the Regulars up to this should be handed over to these Territorials, so that they could practice and make themselves efficient whilst the Regular Artillery were using the new 18-pounder. I think it was a business proposition, and that it would have been unwise to spend three and a quarter millions in arming the Territorials with new field artillery before they had had any experience, and by giving them what was at that time the best field gun in Europe. Not only were these guns available, but we had in the country large quantities of ammunition, and it was a wise thing to use that up. The Territorial Artillery are quite well able to learn to shoot with their present gun.
§ Major M'MICKING
That involves a very interesting question. I seriously believe that our Navy is not only our first line but our second line of defence, and that the Territorials, if they were ever wanted, would probably be wanted outside 252 these shores, and I say frankly—it may not be the official view—they will be wanted to make up wastage in war, and their guns would be the 18-pounder. They would have to use them, and they could use them, because they would have to fill up batteries that were abroad. I think that is the answer.
§ Major M'MICKING
May I point out to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that it is not necessary to move these men up into the firing line at once. They would have heaps of time to learn the slight difference in drill before being moved up, and then they would take their position at the guns in the firing line in due course. I do not suppose that is the official view; I am simply giving my humble opinion. Also assuming for a moment that this gun was used in this country—I do not believe it is likely, but in such an event I believe this present gun would be valuable. We must never forget that in an enclosed country a very excellent weapon is brought more upon an equality with an inferior gun. You cannot get a very long range, and many hon. and gallant Members will know what it is to endeavour to take up a gun position in this country. That would be something in favour of the existing Territorial gun.
I would like to say a word or two in regard to the Service rifle. Several hon. and gallant Members have spoken about the rifle, and I will say quite frankly that I have no personal knowledge of the Service rifle, but I notice one or two things. It was assumed that nothing was being done. All these years' experiment and tests have been carried out, not only with regard to the rifle, but with regard to ammunition. I am perfectly convinced that the War Office has not been idle, and a great deal has been done; and the result is that a new cartridge has been discovered, which is a very useful cartridge; and also the new rifle is being put in hand, and in due course will be issued to the troops, and a reliable weapon I hope will be manufactured. The present rifle was issued in 1903, and it would be really of interest to know, after the remarks that have been made with regard to this rifle, how many times in a decade is it proposed to rearm the 253 Infantry of the Line with a new rifle. Is it proposed to be done every six years or so? Only in 1903 was this rifle issued, and it does seem extraordinary that hon. and gallant Members should be complaining and saying that the rearming ought to have taken place before this. In my judgment, the policy of the War Office in regard to this matter has been very wise indeed. They have gone steadily to work, and I believe they have discovered what will be a very efficient weapon. I do not know, and perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will tell us, whether the cartridge has been decided upon yet. I believe it has not. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman when he replies to tell us something about the efficiency of the Territorial batteries. I should like to know what is his opinion with regard to that and whether they are making satisfactory progress or not. As I said before, this was undoubtedly an experiment. It is, I believe, an experiment that is wholly justified, but it would be reassuring to know that these Territorial batteries are really doing good work, and in the opinion of the experts are likely to be really effective if ever they are needed for war. With regard to the shooting practice of those batteries, I am not satisfied with the fact that these batteries go only once every two years to practise. I do not think that is sufficient. This is not carping criticism; but I do think that they should, if possible, go every year. I know it is enormously difficult. It is a new scheme, and everything is new. I understand all that, but I should be glad to learn that steps were being taken to ensure that the shooting of these batteries should be improved, for Artillery shooting is vital. Batteries are of no use unless they can shoot. With regard to horses, I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that there is no difficulty in purchasing the right stamp, and that the right stamp of gun-horses are available. The right hon. Gentleman (Colonel Seely) asked hon. Members on both sides of the House whether they could furnish him with any solution of the difficulty of getting these horses in condition and have them available on the outbreak of war. That is an enormous problem. It has been suggested this evening that horses could be obtained at two years old and kept in Government depôts. I think that is a valuable suggestion. It was received on both sides with approval, but that does not altogether meet the case. After you have the horses in the depôts how ewe they 254 to be got in condition and ready for active service? I wonder if my right hon. Friend would think it any answer to his question if I suggested that a proportion of horses in the Regular Service after a certain age, say after the age of twelve years, should be loaned to the Territorial Artillery for a nominal sum. It is true they would not be available for Territorial Artillery, but they could be kept in condition and would be available for the Regular Artillery on the outbreak of war. I think the statement which was made yesterday by the-right hon. Gentleman (Colonel Seely) was most satisfactory.
One point that the hon. and gallant Gentleman made caused some considerable astonishment to me who have been an officer in the same branch of the Army myself. The hon. and gallant Gentleman made use of this argument, that in his opinion members of the Territorial Artillery would be used, not entirely for home defence, but would be required to make up the wastage of war. When we asked him if he agreed that it was a wise thing that they should be taught drill with one gun and then be asked to use another when they came on active service, he seemed to think there was no objection whatever to it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has commanded a battery on active service with the greatest possible distinction, and I should be very anxious to hear the language he would have used if he had had his battery there filled up with men who had no knowledge whatever of the gun he was employing. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also observed that there had been no reduction of the Field and Horse Artillery. I believe as far as the Horse Artillery is concerned that is absolutely correct, but I think he cannot have had in his mind in the question of Field Artillery that some batteries were largely used in order to become training brigades for the Special Reserve, and to that extent the Horse and Field Artillery have been very largely reduced by this Government. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned that as far as Ammunition Columns were concerned, in the old days, at the time of the South African war, it was necessary to break up the Service batteries in order to make up the Ammunition Column. I think on that particular point he was misinformed. I happened myself to be in the Ammunition Column at the commencement of the war, and there was no breaking up of Service batteries. The Ammunition Columns 255 were composed entirely of the nucleus which was left to them in peace time, and the remainder of the personnel was made up entirely by Reserves.
I should like to bring before the notice of the right hon. Gentleman one or two points which I think are deserving of attention. Yesterday we certainly had a most interesting and lucid statement from the right hon. Gentleman, in which he seemed to think they had already put the coping stone after building up a most excellent Army. In fact at one moment I am not sure I did not think he was the coping stone himself. But there are some who are of opinion that although it may be said it is unpatriotic to bring forward points in which we do not think the Army is quite as efficient as it should be, at the same time on these occasions if we know of anything it is our duty to bring it forward. I should like to put in a plea with the right hon. Gentleman as to whether something cannot be done for these unfortunate Garrison Artillery subalterns who are spending so many years in the life of a subaltern. I read not long ago, in a volume of Napier's "Peninsular War," a sentence which was wonderfully apposite to what happens in the Garrison Artillery at present:—The old subaltern is a military vegetable, without zeal and without hope.It seems to me the way our Garrison Artillery are being treated at present is eminently suited to turn them into a "military vegetable." I do not know the exact length of service that the senior subalterns of the Garrison Artillery have, but it is something very long, quite enough to take away any zeal and any interest they may have in their profession. It is not only in the ranks of the subalterns, but when you get higher up in the regiment of Garrison Artillery that you find they are being treated in just the same way. I have experienced that officers of the Garrison Artillery who left the Academy at Woolwich two years before me are somewhere about eighteen months to two years junior to me at present. If the right hon. Gentleman could devote his attention to doing away with the injustice that they experience the whole Garrison Artillery would be exceedingly grateful. There is another branch of officers in the Artillery who are even more deserving of attention. I refer to the district officers of the Royal Artillery. They have come through the ranks, and have been promoted to that rank because they are worthy of it, and 256 their treatment at present is very hard on them. Five senior subalterns have got over twelve years' service in that rank, and it means a great deal to them in this way. In the first place they lose annually something like £82 in pay. There is a corresponding loss of pay again between the ranks of captain and major, and it is not as if the rise in rank meant any increase in work or in responsibility, for the captain is exchangeable with the major and the major with the subaltern. For men to do the same work but get less pay is contrary to justice. It comes harder still on them, because, later on, when it comes to the time when they have to retire—I think the age is fifty-five—it means in all probability that these officers cannot possibly come to the highest scale of retiring allowance, and it means that they have to retire into civil life with £211 a year instead of £292. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into this and see if some remedy cannot be found for it. I asked him the other day why it could not be done, and he said h was simply because if you take them away at the time it would make things worse later on. I put it to him that it should be made a rule that as soon as one of the officers had earned his maximum retiring allowance he should be expected to retire then, so as to give these juniors an equal chance of obtaining the same allowance.
There has been considerable controversy about the guns. The hon. Member (Mr. Hamar Greenwood) informed us yesterday that he intended to stay here to hear if anyone would say anything against the gun with which our Artillery is armed at present. One of the remarks I am going to make is what I have made ever since the gun was introduced into the Service, and that is as to its stability. When it was first introduced I was a captain in a Horse Artillery battery which had to carry out travelling trials to see how it travelled, and we found after a very short time that you could not trust the gun not to turn over on the least provocation. I distinctly remember having to manœuvre the battery once. We went at a trot, whereas we ought to have gone at a gallop, simply because we could not trust the gun not to turn over. I believe in the Field Artillery there has been exactly the same difficulty found. In fact, only two years ago a field battery trotting along a gentle slope turned a gun over and killed one of the limber gunners. To that extent we can say that we are not satisfied with the gun. I said that at the time we made the 257 trials, and I am prepared to say it again now. Another question has arisen as to the amount of head cover which is necessary with the present gun. It is a point which was not noticed at the time, I think, because all the firing drills were carried out in the open and there was no question of firing from under cover. But when later on the gun was issued to batteries in which there was a question of firing under cover it was discovered that the flash was so powerful that in the daytime even the gun fired from behind cover could be located unless it had at least twelve feet of head cover. That is an enormous handicap, because it meant that in many a case one had to take the gun much further down the reverse slope of the hill in order to get the twelve feet of head cover so as to fire from an unseen position.
There were also remarks made about fuse setters, and the hon. Member (Mr. Hamar Greenwood) waxed somewhat facetious when he talked about "automatic artillery." He said he did not know what automatic artillery was, and the rest of his speech confirmed one in that opinion. In the first place, there was no mention made by the Leader of the Opposition or by Lord Roberts of "automatic artillery." It was very different wording, because Lord Roberts said:—Owing to the Artillery fuse setters and sights not being up to date, our field guns are not automatic firing guns.I quite understand that the hon. Member did not understand what that meant, but to any Artilleryman it is perfectly plain and obvious. For years it has been the object of every Artilleryman to get some system of automatic fuse setting. You cannot get away from the personal error which may creep in at any time when you have fuses set by hand and set by a gunner behind the limber. I do not blame the present Government for that any more than I should blame any other Government, but in the nine years that that gun has been in existence nothing, as far as I can make out, has been done to obtain an automatic fuse setter which would do away with the personal error which must creep in otherwise. The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows my opinion about the Territorial gun. He told us that it was necessary to bring that in when the Volunteer Garrison Artillery was turned into the Territorial Field Artillery. Of course, one agrees that some drastic steps had to be taken, and I should like to mention what steps have been taken. In the first place, they gave the Territorial Horse 258 Artillery the Ehrhardt gun, which is, no doubt, excellent in its way, and which, I believe myself, was the first step that we took in this country towards getting a respectable field gun. It was bought at the time of the South African war, and was issued to many of our Regular batteries. At the time that the new gun was being issued to the Territorial Horse Artillery I was adjutant to the Honourable Artillery Company, and I was consulted by several of the officers who were going to command Territorial Horse Artillery batteries, who asked me whether I advised them to take the Ehrhardt gun or the new gun. I gave the advice that I thought was right, that they ought to take the Ehrhardt gun, because I believed then, and I believe still, that it is a better gun than was going to be issued to them. It is all very well to say they took it because it was a better gun than the other; but it was a gun which was not good enough for our Regular Artillery, and yet they ask men who are not well trained to have to go out and fight, as they would have to do, with a gun which is admittedly inferior to the gun which we have for our Regular Army. It does not seem to me that it is fair either on the Territorial Artillery or on the country that such a practice should be resorted to.
As to the question of the Territorial Artillery, I should wish also to say this in an entirely non-party spirit. I would say exactly the same thing if we were in office. I wish to say also that I have absolutely no intention of being offensive towards the Territorial Artillery themselves. It is a great disappointment to me that the Territorial Artillery does not seem to have answered even the limited expectations which were formed of it when it first came in. I have read very carefully the report of the Inspector-General as to the Territorial Force with special reference to the Artillery, and I am bound to say that it seems to me to be the report of a man who felt he could not say it was really an e[...]cient force but did not wish to hurt the feelings of those who are endeavouring to make it so. That is the principle on which I should like to say a few words now. I do not wish to say a word against the officers and men who are trying to make the force efficient. They are deserving of all praise. They work hard within the limited opportunities they have. They give up the whole of their holidays in order to take up a very technical branch of the 259 Service, and it is no discredit to them to say that they are not possibly able to fit themselves in fourteen days in a way the Regular Artillery cannot do, though they are at the work every day of their life. Last year a distinguished officer who had seen them at practice said to me, "It is idle to think that they can fit themselves in the time, and if it is held that in fourteen days they are able to learn to be able to fight Continental nations, then we, who have spent all our lives in the Artillery, have been wasting our time." I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not possible to reconsider the whole question of Territorial Artillery and to turn it into an efficient fighting force by giving it a stiffening of men from the Regular regiments. I think it would be very nearly a disaster if the Territorial Artillery had to fight a Continental army.
I wish to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a grievance which I think the Regular Artillery have in connection with the fitting of themselves for their profession. Last year I called attention to the fact that in order to carry a proper supply of ammunition in the Artillery the number of wagons had been so enormously increased that no battery by itself had sufficient horses to enable the men to go and learn drill properly. If there were two batteries in one place, they might borrow horses from one another and so horse the wagons that the men would be able to learn drill. Horses are not machines, and you cannot take them out every day in the week, and certainly you cannot take them out so often as is necessary. Lord Haldane last year when I made these remarks did not happen to be in the House, but he said something about the subject afterwards. He did not quote me quite accurately and I got up and said that my suggestion was made simply because I believed that under existing conditions the Artillery could not learn their work properly if they were not horsed adequately. Lord Haldane had a cheap sneer at me when he said he had not heard any complaint as to the efficiency of the Horse Artillery. I do not think there were any complaints, and certainly they were not likely to come from me. At the same time, it seems to me utterly wrong that one battery should be forced to go through its training under the conditions which prevail when they are teaching themselves their profession and fitting themselves to fight foreign nations.
§ Mr. GUY WILSON
I cannot help feeling that the time of hon. Members opposite during this Debate has been very ill-spent. They have spent most of their time criticising their own legacy to the party now in office—I refer to the rifle. I grant that it is not a good rifle, but I think hon. Members would have spent their time much better if they had been endeavouring to obtain a guarantee from the Secretary of State as to what the new rifle would be. They all know perfectly well that the new rifle has been under discussion for some time; that some of the weapons have been made. What we really want is the best rifle that can be got. We do not want to go into the question of a weapon which we all admit is obsolete. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I do not take back anything I have said. I believe also that everybody else's rifle is obsolete. I think these criticisms are rather extraordinary, coming from the party who are mainly responsible for the armaments and the state of affairs in this country at the time of the South African war. The 16th Lancers were ordered out to South Africa, and two or three days before they sailed they had to exchange their carbines, and they went out without having fired a shot with the weapons with which they were armed. I only wish at this stage of the Debate that we should have had some guarantee from the Secretary of State that we are not going to fall into that error, and that we shall have a sufficient margin for any future mistakes we make in our rifle. I do not want to be too technical, but I would say that I believe that when you decide to re-arm a force you do not want to begin with the rifle. You should begin with the cartridge, and make the weapon to suit it. After all, at the present time there are cartridges made which give a 3,000 foot-second bullet velocity. I used one when in Rhodesia the other day. I think our rifles should have at least a 3,000 foot-second velocity. We require also that the whole of the woodwork of the stock should be in one piece. In existing rifles the stock is apt to be unscrewed and to come off. That is especially so in the mounted forces. Another thing which I hope will be put on the new rifle is an aperture sight. Those who have used a rifle know that men can be taught to shoot accurately much quicker with an aperture sight. You must also have an open sight. I was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that that point was being considered.
261 I unhesitatingly say that the men in the Mounted Regular Force require a light Maxim gun. Anybody who has had to be with an armed force carrying a Maxim gun knows that the present gun knocks a horse to pieces in no time. In the corps to which I was attached in South Africa we gave up carrying it on the horses. We carried it in a capel cart drawn by four mules. If we had a light Maxim gun we would not knock up so many horses. We would also have the advantage of being able to carry a much larger quantity of ammunition.
As to the speech of the hon. Member for Central Hull (Mr. Mark Sykes) in regard to the standard and physique of the Territorial Force, I would say that that is a matter that rests very considerably with the commanding officers. I believe that where officers do take an interest in this matter the result is very satisfactory. I know that the hon. Gentleman himself takes a deep interest in the physique of his regiment. About two years ago he carried out an experiment which, I should have thought, was for one object, namely, to prove that the Territorials were almost equal to the Regulars in physique. I do say that they are equal in every case. I wish to know what the experiment went to prove. It was boomed in the Press at the time it was made. A body of forty men went on a forced march, and that was written of in all the local papers to show what a wonderful march it was and what these men had done. It is perfectly true that the hon. Member might say it was a picked body of men, and what they did did not prove what the whole of the regiment could do. If that is so, what was the point of the experiment at all? I think it is rather extraordinary that the officer who made that experiment should now make such a bitter attack on the physique of the Territorials. I wish to impress once more upon the right hon. Gentleman that the House ought to have the fullest possible particulars and details of the new rifle before it is adopted. We do not want to go through what we went through in regard to the 1903 pattern. If the Army was re-armed at that time, it ought to have been with the best weapon. I hope we will have full particulars of the rifle, and an assurance that we are going to have a margin of safety adequate to our requirements for the future.
§ Colonel YATE
It seems rather hard on the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secre- 262 tary of State that the rifle which he described to us in such glowing terms yesterday should have been so summarily treated.
§ Colonel YATE
Yet it is obsolete. The rifles of other peoples are obsolete too, and we should look forward to a general rearming. In the end it will come to that. To a certain extent I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Kincardine as to an automatic rifle and the difficulty of fire control and I would join with him in saying that an automatic rifle ought not to be accepted except after full consultation with really experienced officers. It is more important to us to have flatness of trajectory rather than rapidity of fire. My experience is that it is a matter of the greatest difficulty to get men to take the proper elevation. First of all, the stock of our rifles is made so straight that when a man puts up his rifle to his shoulder and fires, as a man does in action, he fires automatically up in the air. I should say that the rifle should be so shaped that when the man puts it up to his shoulder to fire it will take a true horizontal direction. My experience is that the man in action who is fired at generally escapes the shot, and the baggage, animals, and people who may be a mile or a mile and a-half distant may receive it. I would like to join with the hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Major Willoughby) in what he said as regards the position of officers, ft is a matter of very keen regret and disappointment that neither the right hon. Gentleman opposite nor the Secretary of State in his memorandum has made any reference to the pay and provision of officers. This question was debated at some length last year. Lord Haldane spoke very sympathetically, and went so far as to say that it is a question which must be faced. I was emboldened then to express the hope that something would be done in next year's Estimates. These have now come, and not a single thing has been done. The Secretary of State's hopes have not been realised. We still see all these young officers appointed at 5s. 3d. a day, and at the end of two or three years a second lieutenant gets promotion, goes on for seven years at 6s. 6d. a day, and he may have ten years' service, and not have risen to what the Government so generously say should be granted as a minimum wage to the coal miner.
263 It is generally acknowledged that the pay of officers is a difficult question, but I would like to raise two or three points as to the allowances and stoppages of the officers. I have here an officer's mess bill, and the mess accounts of a regiment in England for the last quarter up to the 3lst December. Looking at these I see that the officers of that regiment had to pay for their coal no less than £12 in addition to the Government allowance. They had also to pay £16 for gas in addition to the Government allowance, which is £5 for the quarter. The Government profess to give the officers fuel, light, and fire. It is part of the officers' pay, and yet here we see that the officers to keep the mess running during that quarter have had to pay £12 for coal and £16 for gas. I would make a definite appeal to the right lion. Gentleman opposite to take this question into consideration and give the officers a proper allowance for these things. I see in the mess bill such items put down as rifle club and other things that ought to be met by the Government. Even the printing of regimental orders is charged in this mess bill. They ought to be paid by the Government. The mess allowance granted by the Government to the officers in the case of this regiment was £16 a month, and there are large charges for cleaning, washing, and other things. I would ask the Government to give the officers a more generous allowance than they get at present. I will take the question next of hire of furniture. Each officer in the bill is charged 5s. a month for the hire of furniture, a penny a day for his own quarters, and a penny a day for the mess. The Government furnish the soldiers' mess free. Why should not the officers' mess be furnished free also? There is much dissatisfaction throughout the Service at the fact that no accounts are published with regard to this furniture. Nobody knows how the money accumulated year after year is accounted for. Everything has to be paid for in full. I know of a case which occurred the other day where some things were accidentally burned and all those things had to be bought new.
All this niggardly treatment of the officers tends to bring about the shortage of candidates for the Army which is such a serious matter at the present time. I would ask that this topic should be dealt with. It is generally supposed throughout the Service that the Govern- 264 ment are making a large profit out of these charges. Another question is that of married officers' quarters. Last year the right hon. Gentleman stated that the matter would be considered in next year's Estimates. I have hunted through this year's Estimates, and the only provision I can find for married officers' quarters is £10,000 for married officers' quarters on Salisbury Plain. What is £10,000 for married officers with such an enormous garrison scattered about that bleak and desolate plain? It is things of that sort that tend to drive men out of the Service. I see no reason why married officers should not be provided with quarters just as much as the married men. Then look at the expense entailed on officers when they change their quarters. The allowance granted by the Government when a regiment changes its station is hopelessly inadequate in every way. The weight allowance is calculated without the slightest consideration to the requirements of the case, and the excess charges have always to be borne by the officers. I would also ask for consideration to be shown to the officers in regard to the band. The allowance of £160 a year is absolutely inadequate for a band fund if they are not fortunate in getting outside engagements, and the band must deteriorate unless the officers come to the rescue. There, again, a proper allowance should be given to the band so that the maintenance of those bands should not be thrown upon the officers. Everyone will agree with the testimony which the right hon. Gentleman has so generously borne to the efficiency of the officers in the Service. The officer is the most loyal servant of the Government, the mast enthusiastic and zealous man in his profession, despite the smallness of his pay. If he is treated fairly and justly in these everyday matters I do not think that the Government will find the same disinclination to enter the Service as there is at present.
For the last three years there has been practically no competition at Sandhurst. In 1909, not only was there no competition, but I do not think that there were sufficient candidates to fill the vacancies. In years gone by, when I and others entered the Service, competition was so great that there were candidates many many times over for every vacancy that was offered. I would ask the Government to form a Committee without delay to go carefully into all these questions of officers' allowances, and to see that 265 adequate allowances are made, and that a stop is put to all these stoppages of officers' pay that exist at present. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) referred to the question of Mounted Infantry. I raised the question last year, and got no reply. This year I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether Mounted Infantry is to be definitely retained as a permanent unit in our force? If it is, then it should be formed into a permanent and homogeneous corps. At present you have got a scratch lot of men under a scratch lot of officers who come together for a few weeks training, and then disperse, probably never to serve together again. In such circumstances you can neither have esprit de corps nor can you get the best or bravest work out of the soldier. If the Mounted Infantry is to form part of our permanent organisation, let it be put on a permament footing, so that men and officers can work together. As all who have experience know, to have officers and men serving together as strangers is one of the most dangerous things in the Service. Last year I suggested that Rifle Regiments should be formed into Mounted Infantry. One or two companies in each regiment should be trained as Mounted Infantry in rotation, so that in the event of an outbreak of war the whole battalion, on receipt of the order for mobilisation should be able to take the field as a complete unit. Is not that a much better method than bringing together a lot of scratch men and scratch officers who have never served together in their life? To put such a scratch lot of men under strange officers suddenly in the field on the outbreak of war appears to me to be a most dangerous thing. I hope that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Tennant) will take note of this, and will let me know what is the opinion at headquarters on the subject.
The next question which I would like to ask is, What is to be done to increase the proportion of our guns so as to give us superiority in that respect over the armies of foreign nations? The Under-Secretary the other day said that considering the smallness of our Army it ought to be the best armed Army in the, world. I suppose he referred not only to rifles but to guns as well. If that be so, it means that the Army has got five guns per 1,000 men, whereas it ought to have six guns. The German Army has six guns per 1,000 men; our Expeditionary Force has 5-point something, and the Territorial Force has three. I think it will be acknowledged that our 266 small Army ought to have a larger proportion of guns per thousand, and if the German Army has six per thousand we ought to have seven per thousand. It is a question which ought to be considered by the Government, and we shall be glad to hear whether any steps are to be taken in that direction. Among other points, I would refer to the fact that we had in 1907 a Militia, 88,000 strong. That force was abolished and a Special Reserve introduced in its place. By 1910 the strength of the Special Reserve had gone down to 70,000, in 1911 to 63,000, and this year it is only 61,000. The Army is also short by 760 officers. The Expeditionary Force may have to be mobilised any day, and in the absence of officers the Special Reserve will be absolutely useless. The establishment has gone down; it ought to be 89,000, but it is 28,000 short. The Army has been reduced by 28,000, the Special Reserve by nearly 30,000, and the Territorial Force by 50,000, making about 100,000 men fewer in the Army than there was four or five years ago. If that be the only result of the Secretary of State's administration, I think the sooner we have a remedy the better.
Then as to the employment of old soldiers. Last year the Secretary of State for War spoke very sympathetically on this subject, but again nothing has been done. The soldier leaving his regiment at the end of seven years' service is just as badly off for want of employment as he has always been. I would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to the different treatment which French soldiers receive in regard to employment. I have here the rules and regulations applying to the appointment of soldiers leaving the French Army to various posts. The little book was kindly sent to me by one of the Deputies in the French Parliament. It lays down distinctly three grades of appointments given to soldiers on leaving the French Army—the non-commissioned officers of ten years' service, seven years' service, and four years' service. In the higher grade they reserve for non-commissioned officers of ten years' service positions such as that of copying clerk and other clerkships, superior messengers, and various appointments of that description, of which there is a considerable number. Then, in regard to those with seven years' service, there are such appointments as that of postman and positions in the telegraph service. In regard to the men who serve four years there is a third class of 267 appointments. Certain conditions in the national institutions are reserved for soldiers leaving the Army. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite to take this whole matter into consideration with a view to appointing a Committee to see whether rules and regulations of this sort could not be drawn up for the British Army and promulgated by the Government, so that a larger number of appointments might be reserved for ex-soldiers of the British Army. The right hon. Gentleman said we were to have travelling kitchens sanctioned by the Army. May I further ask whether arrangements could be made for a supply of travelling water-carts to supply boiled water to the soldiers? This is one of the most important things in regard to the health of the men. I should be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman can give mo any intimation that he will give practical consideration to the points which I have raised.
I feel myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Hull who spoke of the Debate having turned so much on the question of arms. I feel with him that it is a matter of congratulation that the Government, in face of criticism, realise the necessity of a new rifle, and that they have immediately taken this matter in hand. The Government cannot be held responsible for the fact that inventions have been discovered by other nations when they have taken in hand to supply the Army with the best possible weapon. I wish to refer to the question of the pioneers who are being introduced into the Royal Engineers. As the House knows the Royal Engineers are a very expensive and a highly technical force; but there are many duties which they are called upon to do which do not demand that high technical knowledge, and the introduction of the pioneers will effect an economy in our Army which I think the nation will be pleased to see. I observe, by the Memorandum, that each Cavalry regiment has been increased by twenty horses. That is an advantage, but I am not quite sure that it is a sufficiently great advantage. When a Cavalry regiment is mobilised for war it is sometimes quite impossible to draw the horses for mobilisation at once. The horses intended for war and mobilisation must be fit horses and ready to take the field. The system of boarding out horses does not necessarily supply the whole number of horses required on mobilisation. I think the full 268 number must be available, and must be available at once. The boarding-out system might be increased in order to include light Artillery horses, which is really the missing factor in mobilisation. I would gladly see a greater increase in the number of fit horses placed on the establishment of the Cavalry regiment, because it is on the fitness of these horses, and not only on their fitness, but on their training, that the result of the first contact in war may depend. The Opposition in this Debate have really criticised the whole military policy of the Government. They contend not only that the Expeditionary Force is not complete, but that the Territorial Army is not suited to the needs for which it is required. I can only say that it is a great deal better than anything we have ever had.
Before this scheme was introduced it was a simple medley of regiments herded together into something like a command when war broke out. We have never had a concrete scheme for home defence, the defence of these islands, before. I think some hon. Members who spoke of the Territorial Force are under some misapprehension as to what the duties of that Territorial Force really are. They are not the only line of home defence in this country; they are only one of the factors of home defence under the scheme for which the Government is responsible. The real home defence of this country is in the Fleets, which are valuable, and free, and victorious at sea. If those Fleets are not sufficiently strong, and if we are not assured that those Fleets will be victorious, then no scheme and no system of Territorial Forces will be of the slightest value to this country. But if we can assure ourselves that those Fleets will be victorious, as far as it is humanly possible to foresee, then I think the Territorial Force will be amply sufficient for the other needs of defence of this country. There are only two alternatives, I think, in the Home Defence policy of this country. One is to have an absolutely superior Navy, and the other is the Continental form of conscription. I think the people of this country would prefer to put the necessary amount of money into the Fleets of this country rather than to adopt a system of conscription throughout the land. Unless you can prove to the people the necessity for conscription, I do not think it is likely to be carried into effect. Two hon. Members opposite spoke on the subject of officers. I think that is a point which does require most careful and close attention. The hon. 269 Member (Colonel Yate) mentioned that Lord Haldane last year, when he introduced his Estimates, certainly gave us to understand that the matter did deserve and would receive consideration. Then there is the question of officers' pay, and not only of pay but promotion, which affects the whole professional life of those officers who join the Force. I do not think it is possible to take one side of the subject—the pay—unless you review the question of promotion also.
I think there was considerable disappointment throughout the Army, on the introduction of the Estimates, when it was seen that nothing had been done. I hope it is not impossible that something may appear during the life of this Government which will remedy what I contend is a grave defect. Simply to raise the scale of pay to officers throughout the Army would be a very costly matter, and I am not sure that it would be a very effective or efficient thing to do. What we ought to do, I think, is to raise the chances of promotion, and thereby render the officer's career far more of a profession than it is at present. That should be considered as well as the question of pay. In the junior ranks of officers, subalterns, and so forth, it would perhaps not be wise to raise the pay of young men entering the profession, but when you come to the middle ranks of captain or major, or officers of higher grade, then you have to deal with men of great responsibility, and who are, at the same time, a valuable asset to the State. These are the ranks that ought to be considered in connection with an increase of pay. I would not give the pay simply as a general rise, because the effect would be inappreciable. I would rather give it only as remuneration to men who have distinguished themselves in their profession, whatever the tests may be that are laid down by the Army Council. I would suggest the consideration of effciency under some such heads as knowledge of foreign languages, efficiency in the dangerous art of aviation, and in other directions. I would suggest that those officers who devote the whole of their energies to making themselves efficient should have the increase of pay which may be provided in order that they may maintain themselves in that efficient condition which is demanded of them. I think that would have the effect of encouraging officers to study to get out of the ordinary ruck of regimental life, and to try and push themselves forward, not only with the view to 270 the pay which they would receive, but as well for the distinction which such acquisition would entail.
The question of the promotion system is a much more difficult one. At present, whether in the Cavalry or Infantry, promotion is only granted to officers within a very small narrow limit. The Cavalry only obtain promotion in their own regiments, and the Infantry only in that particular group system of battalions in which they are. I think that the system ought to be gradually widened, although I know that there will be objection to any suggestion such as that. The regimental officer's feeling for his regiment is very strong, but I think any officer who has managed to get on has always found that he has done so by breaking away from the regimental rule of life. He has had to strike out into the Army instead of remaining simply and solely the officer of a regiment. I would suggest that an officer joining the Cavalry, instead of joining a single regiment of the Cavalry, might well join either the Cavalry as a whole or join the different forms of Cavalry that there are, such as lancers, hussars, and dragoons, and that he might get promotion on that general list, which would give a much wider group than his own regiment. If the group were so widened I think the officer would have a much better chance of breaking through that block that there always is in regimental promotion. Not only would I suggest that an officer distinguished for efficient service should receive an increase of pay but, as under the system already existing in the Navy, that promotion might be given of a year's seniority or two years seniority to any officer who distinguished himself and fitted and qualified himself for that position. I think we should by doing this, raise the standard of efficiency in the Army, because I think it is an unheard of thing that there should be in the Army at present a sufficiency of officers to fill up the particular branch of the service in which they have entered, but that there should be regiments in that branch to which the officers refuse to go and will not be posted.
I think there would be many advantages, especially to the younger branches of soldiers, in support of such a system. I should like to ask that such a suggestion may be investigated, so that it may be seen whether there is any opposition to a scheme of the kind. In my own way I have asked a great many officers what they feel 271 in regard to the matter. Many are shocked by the innovation, but a great many of them realise that it would be to the advantage of the officer and certainly an advantage to the Army. There is one last point to which I desire to refer, and that it with regard to the appointment of the editor of "The Army Review." I think it is a very unwise thing, however capable and however useful the officer might be, to place in the War Office a man who is directly connected with the Press of this country. I think that in the event of mobilisation there would be very great difficulty to know what to do with this officer. I hope that the Government may see their way to reconsider the appointment of Colonel Ripington into the War Office. I do not think it is a popular appointment in the Army, and I do not believe it is a popular appointment amongst the Staff. I hope they will reconsider the appointment, which I do not believe is for the good of the Army.
§ Captain GILMOUR
I desire to say a few words about the position of soldiers who are leaving the Service and are not allowed to carry their Service when they go into other appointments. I really do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take some active steps to try and put those men in a better position. As a Territorial, I confess, after what has been said by some hon. Members with regard to the criticisms which have been made on the Territorial Force, that it is with considerable diffidence that I speak on this matter. I can honestly say that I believe that both officers and men of the Territorial Force have, since it has come into existence, endeavoured to put themselves upon a proper footing to serve their country to advantage. But when one comes to consider the whole question of the defences of this country, and when one realises that however much we may depend, as I think we are bound to depend, on the Navy, as our main line of defence, we are bound to confess that there comes a period in all warlike operations, if our Regular Forces are occupied in operations oversea, when, after the Navy, we are bound to fall back upon the Territorial Force for the defence of this country. While I should withstand any criticism on the Territorial Force which would decry the efforts either of officers or men to make themselves fit for the defence of the country, I do say as one of them, having worked with them for some time 272 now, that I am bound to confess that they fall very far short of that standard which we would desire to see attained. I think this is a matter which the people of this country must be prepared to take into very serious consideration. I confess at once that in anything which we may ask this or successive Governments to do we are inevitably brought face to face with the question of the cost to the country. I think it would be well worth the while of the people of this country to face a little additional cost now in order to try and allow the Territorial Force to show whether they can really make themselves efficient.
I am one of those who always thought that the greatest disability under which the Territorial Force works to-day has been the fact that there are too many of the young men of this country who do not come forward and give their services as they ought to do. Whether it is possible to have some form of universal service or not is, I think, a debatable point, and I am not one of those who wish to advocate in any sense a policy such as is pursued upon the Continent, but I do say that it ought to be more generally recognised, and I believe that the time is more nearly approaching when it must be recognised, that every able-bodied man in this country ought to fit himself for the defence of the country. We have got to deal with the material which we have at the present moment. I wish to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman as to whether he cannot see his way to make a little more liberal allowance to the expenses of officers and of non-commissioned officers who attend courses and endeavour to fit themselves in the Service. My own experience is that we have a number of young officers who go into the Territorial Force, either Yeomanry or Infantry, and start with practically no military knowledge, though they are very keen upon it. When the period comes for them to go to their courses they have the greatest difficulty, owing to business reasons and business engagements, to give a guarantee of going to the courses at a time which will suit those who conduct the courses. I think that the right hon. Gentleman, if he is going to meet the difficulty, must make those courses more continuous and must give wider scope and opportunity to young officers to go and do their courses. Equally, on the other hand, we have from time to time classes of instruction in the country. My own experience is that when one goes to those 273 courses one is told that one is to receive certain allowances. I am bound to say that the expenses of officers who go to those courses are very considerable, and have to be paid out of their own pockets. I do think that within just and fair limits, and with the items properly scrutinised, greater provision should be made whereby officers should not have to pay so much as they do at present out of their own pockets.
There is one other very important point, and one in which I have taken a great interest, and that is the question of horses. It has been indicated that provision is being made for adding twenty additional horses to each Cavalry regiment. That, I admit, is a very considerable step, but I am perfectly convinced that it is by no means sufficient. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman in what a sorry position our Expeditionary Force would have been this last summer if they had had to take the field. I am perfectly certain that he would be bound to admit that there must have been many of our horses in the Cavalry regiment which ought not properly to go abroad in the Service. I think he will also be bound to admit that there were very large numbers of horses that had to be very hurriedly purchased in order to make up the deficiency. I do not believe a system such as that is satisfactory. He has admitted, and I think everyone who knows anything about it w[...] agree, as far as the horses or the Artillery are concerned, that that is one of the matters of chief concern at present. I would say, however, that my concern in the horse question extends even beyond that particular service, and I would say to him also that the policy which the Army buyers have pursued in dealing with this horse question has by no means given encouragement to the private breeder who breeds the horses required. I quite admit the difficulties which the Government buyers have to face, and I am the first to acknowledge that in a great number of cases the farmer or the breeder of horses in this country often asks a price which is outside the power of the Government to give, but I do urge that in the future closer contact should be brought about between the buyer for the Army and the actual breeder than has been the case in the past. I am quite aware that my own country, Scotland, is perhaps not the most suitable for breeding a large number of horses for the Army, but, under the schemes now being conducted, a considerable amount of money 274 is being spent, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman—many hunting men and dealers will be able to corroborate my statement—that there are in Scotland at the present time many horses of splendid type, and if more care were taken to encourage breeders there by purchasing a certain number of horses that supply would increase. But what has been the case? During the last four or live years only some five horses have been bought for Army purposes in the whole of Scotland. One of two policies ought to be adopted—either the Government should say that it is a waste of public money to use it for the purposes of horse breeding for the Army or they should buy a certain number of horses. I have many applications from breeders throughout the country asking to whom they should apply in reference to their horses. I have advised them to make application to the Remount Officer at the headquarters of the Scottish command, but I am told by that officer that he has no power of purchasing, and that, so far as the Army is concerned, it is no use making application, because even if we did collect a certain number of horses in the country it would be impossible for the buyers to come down and buy them. I hope this matter will be gone into more thoroughly.
What measure of success has attended the scheme of putting horses out in the country? When those horses have been called up have they come back in a satisfactory condition? I think that scheme is one which can be considerably extended, though I admit it must be done under most careful supervision. With regard to the census of horses, what proportion of returns has the right hon. Gentleman received, and are those returns, in his opinion, of a satisfactory nature? I think he would do better if he employed more remount officers in preference to some of the adjutants and others at present employed. I should be the first to admit that many of the adjutants, particularly of the Yeomanry, are very well qualified to classify these horses, but I think it would be more to the advantage of the country, as a whole, to use remount officers for this purpose rather than the adjutants, and that it would be a great advantage to the corps from which the adjutants are drawn.
§ Colonel SEELY
Might I respectfully suggest that it would be a great convenience now if Mr. Speaker left the Chair in order that we might go into Committee? 275 It would be more convenient generally, and in one point it would be a convenience to those Members who have spoken, because until we get into Committee I cannot reply to their criticisms or to the questions they have put.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I very willingly fall in with that suggestion, as long as it is understood, as I think it is, that by the consent of both sides the general discussion will go on on Vote A. That is very important in order that the right hon. Gentleman may be able to reply to the criticisms that have been made.
§ Colonel SEELY
Speaking on behalf of this side, I need hardly say that that would be our view of what is reasonable and proper, if the Chairman will consent to allow that latitude, as has been done on previous occasions. I hope, however, that we may get the Votes to provide the necessary money for the year in due course tomorrow.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I have been chairman of the Officers' Qualifying Board since it started eight years ago, and I wish to urge the exceeding necessity of some measure for improving the status of officers as regards pay. I raised this question last year, when Lord Haldane not only stated that the matter had had his attention, but promised that it should have his further attention. As chairman of the Qualifying Board, I wish most solemnly to state that we have been obliged, against our will, to lower the standard year by year during these eight years. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well, and it is no use hiding the fact, that, the War Office have brought pressure to bear upon us to lower the standard, and I am perfectly convinced from some of the papers it has been my duty to deal with that men are being admitted who have not reached the proper standard of education to enable them to act as officers in the Army. More than that, I have had repeated representations, as Lord Haldane knows, from the headmasters of schools that, under present conditions, unless the prospects of officers are improved, they cannot induce the better and more promising boys from public schools to enter as competitors for the profession. The War Office are going on the old exploded system which prevailed when purchase existed in the Army. They are expecting to get officers on the same conditions as when they drew them 276 from the wealthy class. You have now to draw from the class of men who go in for the Indian Civil Service, or for the higher posts of the Civil Service at home, men intellectually and physically active, and you cannot get them. I assure the right hon. Gentleman from my own personal experience that the War Office must face once for all and boldly the question of offering an adequate living wage. A man who has served for a considerable period, say ten years, ought to have secured an income, if his work has been efficient, to enable him to marry, or at all events, without heavy drawing upon private funds, to exist. I wish to add my testimony from an entirely different point of view to that of the hon. and gallant Member who has spoken so strongly on this point.
§ Question put, and agreed to.