§ Motion made, and Question again proposed, "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 186,600, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indan Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1913."
§ Mr. HUNT
I understand that the War Office has persuaded one hundred of the Chelsea pensioners to join the Special Reserve. The average age is over seventy, and one of them at least is, I believe, paralysed. I would be glad if the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary would tell us what those hundred Chelsea pensioners are supposed to be for in the National Reserve. They only go to Chelsea because they are incapable of keeping themselves outside. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us was the object to count the number of pensioners so as to be able to pretend that they had got a great many in the National Reserve to make up for and in view of the deficiency in the Territorial Force. The number of recruits even of the Regular Army has diminished since 1904 by 17,000 men. It seems to me that recruiting decreases as emigration increases. The Regular Army is short by 4,000 men, the Special Reserve is short by 30,000 men, and the Territorial Force by 49,000. Last year 32,000 of the Territorials were under nineteen years. Recruits can qualify for musketry by just shooting fifty rounds at thirty yards, and it does not appear to matter whether they hit the target or not. These are some of the men or rather boys that are supposed to be going to defend us in time of national danger. Perhaps the right 973 hon. Gentleman would tell us how he is going to make up the numbers of the Territorial Force when there are 80,000 due to leave within six months and 175,000 within eighteen months. If you keep them on you will have no Reserve, and if you get the Reserve you will have 100,000 recruits probably under nineteen years of age. I find there were 4,000 men deserted from the Regular Army and the Special Reserve last year. Should there not be an inquiry to find out the reason, considering the very severe loss in money to the country? The right hon. Gentleman, I suppose, knows that our Regular Army, Special Reserve and Territorial Force are all dwindling and the Government is doing nothing to put a stop to that and to make things any better. If the Government would do their best to provide the Regular soldier with employment when, he leaves the Service then you would have much less difficulty in getting good recruits and plenty of recruits of a good sort. Last year there were only 16,800 men holding Government appointments out of 69,000 employed by the Government as postmen and messengers, and that sort of thing. Surely all those appointments ought to be kept for soldiers and sailors, who would then feel fairly certain that they would get employment when they leave the Army. It is the knowledge that they are so likely not to get employment which prevents recruits coming forward and which causes the difficulty in getting recruits for the Army. I should have thought that the Government might at all events have done that for the soldiers and sailors, on whom our liberties entirely depend.
The right hon. Gentleman tried to make out that the flat trajectory of the rifle did not matter, or that it mattered to a comparatively small extent. Everybody who has even shot game knows what an enormous advantage a flat trajectory is. It is that with a flat trajectory the danger zone is increased: in other words, the error in sighting is reduced. If gravity did not exist, the bullet would travel in a straight line from the muzzle to the object aimed at, and every man at all ranges in the line between the muzzle and the object would be hit. The nearer we get to that the more efficient must be the rifle. The German rifle approaches this ideal far more nearly than ours, and especially more than ours would have done if we had had to fight last year. There cannot be any doubt that the German rifle is a far more dangerous and efficient weapon than ours. The 974 Secretary of State for War knew all about it in 1906, and probably in 1905, because he told us that the Germans sent us their rifle to see. He must have known also that they had a pointed bullet, which made a far more serious and dangerous wound than our blunt-nosed bullet. Yet he left us at this disadvantage for all these years. If we had had war last summer it is not only that our rifle would have been very inferior because of its high trajectory, but we should have been fighting against troops whose bullet made a terrible wound, whilst our bullet, as we proved in South Africa, made a slight wound, which healed easily and quickly. I asked a question about this matter two or three years ago, and the Secretary of State made no attempt to deny the dangerous nature of the wound made by the pointed bullet. The Under-Secretary in his speech the other day rejoiced that we were the last to adopt the pointed bullet, because it was a stopping bullet. I call that political cant and humbug. The right hon. Gentleman rejoices that for six years our soldiers would have been at a terrible disadvantage if we had had to fight a great Continental nation. The Secretary of State for War and the Under-Secretary are not appointed and paid to be international philanthropists; they are paid to provide our soldiers with the best rifle and bullet possible to defeat the enemy. For the last six years the Secretary of State has been deliberately allowing our soldiers to be at these two serious disadvantages. The right hon. Gentleman said something about hanging. If we had had war last year, and had been defeated for these reasons, I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State ought not to have been hanged. Many of our men have not got the pointed bullet even now. I submit that the high trajectory of our rifle and the non-stopping character of our bullet show that the Leader of the Opposition was absolutely right and justified in his criticism of the chief weapon provided for our soldiers by a Liberal Government after six years of office. Everybody knows that about 80 per cent. of the losses in war are caused by the rifle. Lord Haldane himself admitted that the Territorial gun was an inferior weapon to that given to the Regulars. So that in the Territorial Artillery, as it takes three years to make a skilled gunner, we should have untrained men, untrained horses, and inferior guns.
The hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Mark Sykes) showed the hopeless inefficiency of 975 the Territorial Force both in numbers and in training. How can the right hon. Gentleman expect anything else when the patriotic few are asked to sacrifice themselves under enormous disadvantages for the sake of the huge majority, who do nothing whatever to learn to defend their country, and who therefore, according to Lord Haldane himself, are not worth anything? The most absurd idea of all is that the Territorials can be trained after war has been declared. The Under-Secretary of State said that we should have 400,000 men to defeat 70,000 Continental troops. But he does not know that there will be only 70,000. Lord Haldane himself has put the number as high as 150,000. It would take 200,000 men to garrison our arsenals and various other places in Great Britain and Ireland, and you would have very few trained men left to put against even 70,000 Continental troops. What is the use of boys under nineteen years of age, who can neither march nor shoot, to stop trained Continental troops? There is no way of filling up the Territorial Force and of making it of any real use against sudden danger except that of compelling every man, rich and poor, to do from four to six months' preliminary training in the ranks. The men will then be trained before war breaks out, and not after; they will know their drill, and be able to shoot, before they enter the Territorial Force. The men of this country have to make up their minds either to serve or to perish; there is no other way. The Territorial Force at present is an absolute farce so far as defending the country against sudden danger is concerned. The hon. and gallant Member for South Monmouthshire (Sir Ivor Herbert) made a severe attack on the hon. Member for Hull, and rather suggested that my hon. Friend was suffering from swelled head. If suffering from swelled head means telling the truth, it is a little unfortunate that there are not more swelled heads on the other side of the House. I have always said that the Territorials were greatly to be praised for their patriotic efforts, but owing to their small numbers and inefficient training they are really no use for the purpose of defending us against serious invasion, and I believe that that is what they are supposed to be for.
The hon. and gallant Member for South Monmouthshire said that the general officers showed the Territorials much sympathy. I agree. I think that perhaps 976 they overdo it. Sympathy will not manufacture efficiency nor win battles. General officers are in a very difficult position. They have not got any trade unions to protect them either. If the twenty-five leading generals of this country told the country what they really think of the Territorial Force it would be a revelation. Two general officers defined their position thus: "We are servants of the War Office; we are told that we must make the best we can of the Territorial Force; it is not for us to point out whether or not we consider compulsory training to be necessary for the safety of the country." Their mouths, therefore, are closed. They are quite unable to warn the country. The military correspondent of the "Times" is in just the same position. He is employed by the War Office. He has to be very careful what he says. I know that correspondent, but that is how it is that we cannot be told the truth. It is perfectly well known if an officer says anything against the War Office, such as advocating compulsory training, that he is punished in some way if the War Office can possibly manage it.
§ Mr. HUNT
Well, I will point out to the Noble Lord how far the War Office goes. I have a friend who used to speak for the National Service League. He told me himself that he had had to give it up, because an official high up in the War Office had told him that if he went on as he had been doing it would very seriously interfere with his brother's prospects of promotion in the Army.
§ Mr. HUNT
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that it is absolutely dead true. I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman knows about it. General Ian Hamilton, hon. Gentlemen will remember, told us that his experience in the Russo-Japanese war had burnt into his mind that nothing but the best army would do. Yet he was the very general employed by Lord Haldane to publish a book backing up the untrained territorials. This general has 977 described the large numbers of men under universal compulsory training as a monstrous agglomeration of half-baked conscripts, although they would have had four to six months' continuous training before instead of after war had begun. He further said that these men would be no use against 70,000 Continental troops. About half a million of these men who had been trained and their reserves are no use. Yet 260,000 Territorials, who have had no continuous training, are to drive 70,000 Continental troops into the sea. The right hon. Gentleman, I dare say, will remember that he himself before he went over to the Radical party told us that although he had a seat to lose he was bound to say that universal compulsory military training was necessary for the sake of the country—
§ Colonel SEELY
Will the hon. Member read the rest of the quotation; it is very germane to the points?
§ Mr. HUNT
I am very sorry, I have not the rest of it here. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will say in what way what I have quoted differs from the rest of the quotation? The whole Territorial scheme is a political fraud intended to prevent the people of this country from understanding their danger. The Secretary of State for War "tells the Territorials of Glasgow that they must give their lives for their country." At Wimbledon he said "that no man was worth anything if he was not prepared to risk his life for his home." I asked the Prime Minister the other day whether, in view of the failures of the Territorial Force in numbers and efficiency, he would agree with the Leader of the Opposition to make compulsory training a non-party question, and the right hon. Gentleman refused. The Government will not even give the people a fair chance of considering whether they will adopt the only plan which can make the Territorial Army of any real use. The Prime Minister is quite willing to leave it to the House of Commons to say whether or not we should have women's suffrage, and the franchise for women, he said, would be disastrous. Lord Haldane says that no man is worth anything who is not prepared to risk his life for his country. I wonder what the Government are worth who will not even risk losing a few votes, even if the Opposition are willing to do the same. Nothing could be more contemptible than that Ministers should put the interests of their party before the interests of their race, their country, and the Empire.
978 I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether or not it is the case that some men have to take their rifles over from other men whose time has expired, and whether it is the fact that these rifles, at all events in some cases, shoot so badly that the men who have taken the rifles lose nearly a third of their pay through no fault of their own? If the rifle does not shoot straight the man, as I understand it, suffers. I should like also to refer to the confidential reports of officers, and ask whether it is not now recognised that in some cases great injustice is done. Last Session I brought forward the case of Captain Bryce Wilson. I asked the right hon. Gentleman a series of questions which he could not answer, or did not attempt to answer. I want to put this point to him now. Here was a man who had been in the Army about twenty years, and had obtained continuous good reports from his various colonels. For two or three months then he comes under another colonel, and he gets an adverse report, and his prospects are ruined. What did he do? He went to New Zealand. The Prime Minister there refused to employ him because he had been turned out of his regiment on account of this confidential report from the colonel with whom he had only been for two or three months out of his twenty years in the Army.
The War Office in this case broke their own regulations, as a copy of this confidential report was not shown to this officer till some months after it had been sent in. One of the reasons, given why this officer was turned out of his regiment was because "he had the nickname of 'Flash'—which aptly fitted him." It was a peculiar reason to give. Neither the Secretary for War nor I would have any chance of staying in our places if we were to be turned out because we had a nickname. The officer had no chance either of an open inquiry or a court-martial, though he begged for one or the other. You cannot expect to get officers for the Army when their careers can be ruined by one man without any chance of their defending themselves, An alien murderer or a foreign spy has every chance of defending himself, but a British officer of twenty years' good service has none, and you wonder that you cannot get officers! You will not get them, and you will not deserve to get them, if that is the way you are going to treat them. You are endeavouring to give the miners something like a 979 minimum wage of 7s. per day. You give a subaltern 5s. 6d. a day, and that officer has got to keep up a position as an officer. If any of the hon. Members on the Labour benches ever become officers I hope that they will put pressure upon the War Office to raise the pay of the officers to something like a reasonable amount. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his attention, and I hope he may be able to give some reply to the things I have ventured to bring forward. I do think the military forces of this country at the present time are in a very, very unsatisfactory state. They are getting worse, admittedly they are going downhill, and the Government are doing really nothing to put things right.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
I think it is difficult to recognise the Territorial Force under the description to which we have just listened. Anything more unlike reality I can hardly conceive. I should have thought that it was undoubted to any unprejudiced mind that, compared with the old Volunteer Force, immense progress has been made. No responsible person will deny it. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down speaks of his friendship with the military correspondent of the "Times." I could wish that he had given a more conclusive answer to the very valuable arguments of one who is, after all, I suppose, the first military writer in Europe. I doubt whether the case for the Territorial Force could have been better put than it has been put by the military correspondent of the "Times," and we have as yet had no sufficient answer to that case. I cannot help thinking if some of those, who evidently are inspired by genuine zeal to strengthen the defences of the country, would only throw half the energy into developing the Territorial Force that they show in attacking it, it would be on a sounder footing than I admit it is, and it would be larger in number. It is somewhat short in numbers at the present moment. I doubt whether the original estimate of what is required is sufficient, but I am satisfied of this, that it will not be by the methods suggested in the speech to which we have just listened that the force we are asked to provide will have its ranks properly filled up.
I did not rise to go into the general question of the Territorial Force, but to ask one or two questions on certain specific points and to make one or two observations on the finances of the Territorial 980 Force. The establishment Grant is not altogether satisfactory; it may be sufficient in populous centres like London or in great cities like Glasgow and elsewhere, but it is not a sufficient Grant when applied to scattered towns. You may have a county with a dozen drill halls in it, and in these conditions the Grant is insufficient. I should say, on the other hand, that the clothing Grant was sufficient; some of the Grants are sufficient, others are not when applied to certain, conditions. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take note of that. I could give full particulars, but I do not wish to detain the House. I take another point, that of the pay of the secretaries to the associations. A large sum of money, voted for the Territorial Force, has been returned to the Treasury; I think that to some extent shows the good management of the secretaries of the associations. I think they have done remarkably well. At the beginning they were paid on an absurdly low scale. I remember in one county the allowance was £72 for the secretary of the Territorial Association. The Lord Lieutenant of the county said he thought he knew a man for the job. He had been through the war, took an intelligent interest in the Territorial movement, and was in every way qualified, but as he was a stone-breaker on a certain road he did not think he would throw up his appointment to take it. In another county the local road contractor was paid £75 a year, whereas the secretary to the Territorial Association was paid £72. These scales of pay are now somewhat increased, but they are not yet sufficient, and I am satisfied that, both for the pay of the secretary and the staff and for the locomotion of the secretary, a more liberal allowance should be made in view of the admirable work done in every case by secretaries. In many cases the success, of the movement depends upon the secretary, and larger provision should be made for secretaries and their staffs. Secretaries of associations may be of great help as regards a better Reserve, and I think the War Office should do more to promote the more generous success of this movement. In some centres it has led to admirable results. In many counties it has not as yet been taken up at all. One of the counties with which I am connected has not enrolled a single man; the other county was in much the same position, but the secretary of the association took it up, I became a district officer and co-operated with him, and we have now 500 981 men in my district and 1,100 in the county. We have classified them and we find that 59 per cent. are fit for the firing line, 22 per cent. are fit for the lines of communication, and about 18 per cent. are no good for anything except that their moral influence as old and respected members of the old Volunteer and Militia forces has immense influence in stimulating recruiting, both for the first and second lines of defence. To get these veterans together and to get the whole association of the county divided into its areas with a proper officer for each, some organisation for rifle range practice and evening entertainments and affiliation with the Territorial headquarters, led to our having a very great reserve strength. We have traced all these men who have been in the Army, many of them first-rate fighting men who have been entirely lost sight of by the War Office, and that is the only way you can secure their services at a moment's notice; and to affiliate them to recreation rooms of the Territorial system is one of the ways where you can render to the Territorial Force great service and certainly provide additional reserve strength for the country in case of need.
I think there is no doubt that with the National Reserve, with the Red Cross Society and Cadet Corps system, the difficulties in the way of recruiting the Territorials should disappear by degrees, and recruiting would be stimulated if we could have a system of compulsory continuation classes in physical training. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not mean continuation classes in compulsory military training. I do not believe in it; I think the true spirit of voluntary service has never been set forth better than by Lord Roberts, Chief of the Staff, Colonel Henderson—"Stonewall Jackson." It is the spirit of voluntary service that has animated our troops in the past, and that will always continue to animate them and make them the finest troops in the world. I do not believe in compulsory service, because I think it is unsuited to the circumstances of this country, but I think if you could establish in the towns for young persons of from fourteen to seventeen years of age compulsory physical training, both for boys and girls alike, and in the case of the boys some military training as well, it would be an enormous advantage to the youth of this country and would be a considerable stimulus to recruiting for the Territorial Force. That I believe in, and would support as readily as I would oppose compulsory military service.
982 I have been led into these things by the speech of the hon. Gentleman who preceded me, for I rose only to put two definite points to the right hon. Gentleman which I believe to be of great importance to the second line of defence. I think, in order to organise a Veteran Reserve, there should be advisory officers appointed who would go round the country and put the case of the Reserves to those associations who have not as yet taken it up. There are associations who think it interferes with the recruiting of the Territorial Force. I think they are absolutely wrong, but that impression does prevail, and it is greatly stimulated by such views as those expressed by the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Rowland Hunt). A great number of associations feel somehow or other they are not doing the right thing in developing a National Reserve. I think it could be very easily shown that that movement does not in the least interfere with the Territorial movement, but, on the contrary, strengthens it.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I should like to bring before the Committee the facts as produced by the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for War as to his ideas as to what should constitute an efficient rifle. If he is going to build a rifle with the points in the order of seniority that he has mentioned, I think I can prove, both by fact and experience, and out of his own mouth, he will not have an efficient rifle. I joined the Service fifty-three years ago. I joined with the muzzle-loading rifle; I went through with the Snyder, the Martini-Henri, the Lee-Metford, the Lee-Enfield, and the Magazine rifle. I myself have been personally drilled in all these; I have fired many thousands of rounds, and my responsibilities have been to teach men under my command to fire. I have also had great experience of machine-guns in action. I mention these things to the Committee to show the reasons why I think the right hon. Gentleman is not sound in his argument as to what a rifle should be. What do we teach the men to do? Directly you have a sight which is a mechanical contrivance to enable a man in the rear of a gun or a rifle to get the object, we always teach our men that they must get their sights in order to hit; you may have one or two natural shots in a regiment or on a ship, but you have to think of the hundreds of thousands of men you have to drill, and to put them into possession of some definite knowledge and to teach them what to do when they 983 meet the enemy, and that is to hit the enemy. The only possibility you have of teaching your men how to carry out that action is to teach them to fire with their sights, and not to fire without their sights. That is the principle of gunnery and the rifle, as every hon. Gentleman will agree. The right hon. Gentleman has put reliability first; there I entirely agree. That means there should be no mechanical failures, that when you press the trigger the rifle should fire, that it should not jam, foul, or get hot, and, possibly, that it should be strong enough to stand the campaign. That is reliability. I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that is entirely a manufacturer's question, and has nothing to do with the men in the field. The first point that is important to the man in the field is to enable him to hit his object when he fires. I put reliability out of the case, because it is a question of Manufacture.
§ Colonel SEELY
Surely the Noble Lord will admit that if it comes first it is most vital. It is not a matter of the real merits of our rifle; it is a matter of the relative merits of our rifle compared with those of other Powers.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
There I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I put reliability first. That is, to ensure that the rifle, when sighted, does go off when fired and does not jam. But when you have the rifle you have to teach your men how to hit the enemy. The right hon. Gentleman put rapidity as his next point, and he says that in regard to this rapidity our rifle is quite as good as the other Powers.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
But what is the use of rapidity if you do not hit the object? The right hon. Gentleman was asked about his tests, and he stated that he had all his tests made at 600 yards. Anybody who has been in action, or who has studied action, knows that you are not going to bring infantry together within 600 yards, and, therefore, that is no test whatever. You ought to test at distances between 800, 1,000 and 1,200 yards, and that is where you will find a great loss of accuracy.
§ Colonel SEELY
No; that is where our accuracy is even greater, and at 1,500 yards it is remarkably superior to the enemy's rifle.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Then the right hon. Gentleman certainly misled the Committee. We asked him what the test was, and he said his tests, were taken at 600 yards. Has the right hon. Gentleman tested the long and the short rifle at 1,500 yards?
§ Colonel SEELY
Yes. I do not want the Noble Lord to damage his own case, but I wish to point out that my hon. Friend gave figures showing the extraordinary success of our rifle at 1,500 yards. The further you go off and the greater the range the greater the advantage in accuracy of our rifle.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I am talking of a great body of men in action, and when a man fixes the rifle in a rest to test it it is a very different thing. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman puts rapidity next, but I put trajectory, which the right hon. Gentleman underrates, as the first necessity after reliability, and I will give my reasons for this. If a rifle has a low trajectory it can be fired at 500, 600, 700, or 800 yards, and even up to 1,000 yards, without altering the sight, and that is the whole point. I remember when in India I had a sporting rifle and I killed a deer at 60 yards, and I afterwards killed a pig at 140 yards, and the sights were on both times, because it had a flat trajectory. No other principle is a good one. The right hon. Gentleman says we have an enormous overwhelming advantage in rapidity, but that is no advantage at all unless you can hit the object. I see the hon. Member for Monmouth, who was an old colleague of mine in the Soudan, and I think he will agree with me when I say that this question of rapidity can be overdone. I remember my hon. Friend being attacked by a tremendous number of men, and I remember the order being given to "Cease fire!" and then he made them fire in volleys. That steadied the men, and they got their sights on. At Abu Klea I had command of a machine gun, and I loaded and fired it myself. When I got my sights on the enemy they fell by fives and twenties and thirties; in fact, they fell over each other. Supposing I had gone on firing when I did not see them fall? That would have been a waste of ammunition. I noticed that they fell again until the gun jammed. That is rapidity of fire. I heard an hon. Member speak about the 985 automatic rifle, and he stated that it would waste ammunition. Just the same thing was said about the breech-loader, but it is a mistake to think you want to fire 300 rounds a minute. What you want to be capable of doing is when the sights are on to fire ten rounds at the rate of 300 rounds a minute. Soldiers who can keep the automatic rifle to their shoulder the same as the ordinary rifle and keep on firing ten rounds a minute when they have got their sights on would be absolutely certain of winning. I hope the right hon. Gentleman and the War Office are working away to get the automatic rifle as soon as they can. With regard to accuracy, may I point out that you cannot have accuracy if your sights have to be altered between 500 and 800 yards. You have accuracy when you have a rifle with a flat trajectory that will stop the enemy or hit the target at 500 yards or 800 yards, and the same is applicable to the stopping power of the rifle. I should have much more confidence in the right hon. Gentleman's rifle if he would agree that the first and most important thing is the flat trajectory, for the reasons I have given.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I agree that the first and foremost necessity is to get a flat trajectory rifle for the Army, because all other things are subservient. The rapidity, accuracy, and stopping power came behind the flat trajectory, which gives a man the opportunity of firing up to 1,000 yards without altering his rifle. On the other points I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but they are not so important as lightness and durability. A rifle roust have all the points he mentions, but where I disagree with 'him is that he puts trajectory fifth and the other points before it. I wish to emphasise the question of getting the sights on. Take the case of a heavy gun. In this case you have every mechanical contrivance in order to get the sights on. If I am firing with a heavy gun at a ship 3,000 yards away going twenty knots, when I look along the gun it would not be pointing to the ship at all, but the sights would be on. If you get the man to fire his rifle when his sights are on he gets a much better chance if he has a flat trajectory from 500 yards to 800 yards. All these mechanical arrangements on rifles and guns are intended to enable a man to get a sight on no matter what other influences there are to act against him. You will always have the personal error, but even 986 that is minimised with a flat trajectory, and you should teach men to aim at the target and aim at the bull's-eye. The right hon. Gentleman said they must aim low, but the first thing a bluejacket who was instructed in that way would say would be, "How low?" You must teach, him to do something definite, because you have men of different abilities, and they all form part of that great fighting machine, the British Infantry. The main armament of the British Army is the rifle, therefore you have to do your level best to obtain the best rifle you can, and you have to teach your men, whether they are intelligent or not, a definite point, and that is to fire when their sights are on. Once more I maintain, and I am not ashamed to repeat it, that a man who has a rifle with a flat trajectory who has not to alter his sight at the distances I have mentioned is in an infinitely better position than the man who has to alter his sight after every two or three rounds. The right hon. Gentleman said that high trajectory was an element, though not the most important element.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
No, I do not agree with that. What I want is a low trajectory. I want a flat trajectory.
§ Colonel SEELY
At any rate the Noble Lord agrees that reliability comes first and trajectory second.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I said reliability is a question for the manufacturer, and I agree that trajectory comes second. The two most important points are rapidity and accuracy, and you cannot have them unless the sights are on. The right hon. Gentleman says that a soldier would say, "Bother your trajectory, give me a rifle that shoots the straightest." That is a very clever soldier, but give Mm a rifle with a flat trajectory which hits at 800 yards and put alongside him another man, who has to alter his sight at 500 yards, and you will soon see which trajectory is the best and which shoots the straightest. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will explain how he makes a rifle which has to be altered at 500 yards shoot straighter than a rifle which can be fired at any distance from 400 to 1,000 yards. He says trajectory is not of paramount importance, and he says that in trajectory Continental Powers have the advantage. If that is so, 987 and if foreign Powers have a better trajectory, they have the advantage of having a rifle that will shoot straighter, better, and quicker than ours, because they have not to alter their sights. I do not care one fig about the right hon. Gentleman's tests made in a screw jack with a master gunner behind it with every class of mechanical contrivance. He says a low trajectory is an advantage if it is unaccompanied by other and greater disadvantages. Will the right hon. Gentleman let us know what are the other and greater disadvantages?
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would not mind explaining them again. Now I come to where I have got the right hon. Gentleman entirely on my side, as I can prove out of his own mouth. I expect to see him blush when I mention it. He said this, and he felt it, and meant it, and was honestly sympathetic when he said it:—We suffered a series of disasters we are not likely to forget; they burnt themselves into the mind of every soldier employed in the Boer war.He then went on to say:—These disasters were all caused by rifle fire.His next sentence was:—The reason was the Boers had a trajectory very much lower than ours.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD (reading from the OFFICIAL REPOBT)
—We suffered a series of disasters which we are not likely to forget; they burnt themselves into the mind of every soldier, and all those disasters were caused by rifle fire. The Government of the day—I left this out, because I did not want to make it a party question, and the right hon. Gentleman ought not to have mentioned it. His argument was that the Government of the day knew all this and did not alter the rifle. That is not the point. Do drop this party business. What we want is to get the best rifle now. If our Government knew that and did not after the rifle, they were to blame.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Very well.The Government of the day set about putting our house in order, and they said they would spend whatever sum was necessary to give our men the best rifle. They knew very well that the Boer rifle had a trajectory very much lower than ours.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Yet, after all this talk—Well, the talk seems to be on both sides of the House. Do not you talk on the other side, and do nothing? What we want is to have the best rifle put into the hands of our small Army. How many pages does the right hon. Gentleman want me to read?Yet, after all this talk, and with the fullest determination, the party then in power decided not to spare a copper in providing the best rifle."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1912, col. 447.]That is in the book.
§ Colonel SEELY
I think the Noble Lord must really see what I was endeavouring to show. I pointed out that the Government of the day deliberately chose a rifle which did not give so low a trajectory as that of the Boer rifle, because they thought other elements were more important, and I finished by saying, I believed the Government of the day were right in adopting the advice of their then advisers. I made no party point of it. I think so still. They did not think the trajectory the most important nor did their advisers, nor do we now.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I am prepared to knock that into a cocked hat. What did Lord Haldane say two years ago? He said:—We shall never have a proper rifle till we get one that will stand greater pressure on the breech.What did he mean by that? He meant a greater initial velocity and a flatter trajectory, and that is what you have been working at ever since. Lord Haldane knows it, and every man who has ever fired a rifle knows that a flat trajectory is an advantage over a high trajectory.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
It is an advantage with a heavy gun, with the rifle, and with the sporting gun. What the right hon. Gentleman wants the men to do is to chance. He says they must shoot low. You must aim at the middle of the target. That allows for little personal errors. You want your men to shoot with 989 the rifle the same as we shoot with a sporting gun. If you aim at a bird with a sporting gun along the top of the barrel, you miss it. You will go behind it. Your eye does it. In Ireland we are very good at throwing a stone. We throw a stone to hit a man on the point of his nose, or else to break a lamp, and it is all done with the eye. It is absolutely different from shooting with the rifle, and you have no right to have a trajectory which means that you have to alter your sight, or that when you fire the bullet it does not hit the target. A low trajectory gives you an enormous advantage over a high trajectory. I have said already that the first nation that gets an automatic rifle whereby men can put the rifle to the shoulder, get the range, and fire five or six rounds running before he recharges, will enable a soldier, if he is a good shot and if the sights are right, and he fires to the proper alignment, to stop ten men while I am speaking. It is very important, as we have got a small Army, and an Army that is very efficient—that is the Regular Army—that we should get the best rifle, and if possible get it before other nations. Get that rifle and you have another element making for peace. There is nothing that could secure peace for a nation better than if it gets a good automatic rifle, and gets it first. We have the same rifle both for the Army and the Navy. The officers in the Navy used to practice considerably more with the rifle than the officers in the sister service. I do not know whether that is so now, but I mention it merely as some claim for taking up the time of the Committee.
There is one other point I want to bring forward. I wish Lord Haldane would not make statements which are not according to facts. He says naval men laugh when Lord Roberts' name is mentioned. I say deliberately that is not a fact. There is not a single naval man who is worth his salt who has not the greatest respect for Lord Roberts. His opinions are second to none, if you count experience. Of course, if you count quill-driving at a table, perhaps his experience is not so good. His experience, his dictum, and his reasons with regard to the Army are very valuable to the country. I do not say the Government of the day is to take all that he says, but his reasons and statements should never be laughed at. I say with considerable emphasis that statement with regard to naval officers is not a fact. There is another question which, I think, is of paramount importance, and that is the ques- 990 tion of the editor of the "Army Annual." I am not going to blame the editor. I know him very well. He is one of the cleverest men we have got. He is one of the best writers of military history in any country in the world. He is extremely clever, and he would be very valuable in any position in which the Government could employ him. Neither do I blame the "Times" newspaper. I blame the Government very much for this position. It is a position which is unbearable, and this House should not allow it.
I will give my reasons. The "Times" is our leading journal. It has immense influence abroad. I have lately been to Germany, and I can assure the Committee a great many people in Germany were more irritated and more angry at that article on the German Army last autumn than at any other single thing said in this country, in the House, out of the House, or in the Press. As one distinguished officer said to me, "What would your people at home say if it were stated here that the British Navy was rotten, or words which meant that? They would be very angry, and so are we." The danger is not so much in that article. It is this. Abroad, and especially in Germany, that great newspaper is regarded as the official organ of the Government. [A laugh.] I am sure the hon. Member laughs because it is so absurd, but I am sure he will agree with me that if other people abroad think it is so it is a very great danger, and they do think so abroad. The correspondent that wrote that is an official at the War Office, and he is receiving pay, and has got a room there. I maintain that the War Office, having a man of that description, of undeniable ability, should pay him properly, and keep him there if he is to be the editor of the "Army Annual." His ability is his danger. If you have him writing for a public journal, and giving men the character he gave men in October, it will cause this irritation and provocation in Germany, which we all want to stop. If that is the case—and I can assure the House it is the case—the position of this gentleman should be altered. He should be either one thing or the other, and not both. It reminds me of the old days, which this House will very well remember, when from 1902 to 1909 we had a Press Bureau at the Admiralty. The country was bolstered up and fed up with all sorts of statements about reform. The public were misled. It was a mistake; it is a mistake, and it must be a mistake to have anything of that character in the Press. 991 The Cabinet is responsible, and the Cabinet must make these statements. There must be none of these side-issues and statements in the Press which, it is inferred, come from the Government. They are nothing but bad, and they prejudice public interests. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Hull (Mr. Mark Sykes) spoke about officers' reputation, and I can quite understand the almost angry remarks of the hon. Member for Monmouthshire, a distinguished colleague of mine in the Soudan. It had nothing to do with the officers' reputations. I agree with everything he said. What did he say? He said that officers on full pay had no right to contribute to the Press, and that they had no right to write and praise the Government, for that was every bit as bad as if they wrote and blamed the Government. If an officer criticised its authority he was, metaphorically, "on the beach," and he deserved to be. No man on full pay should do otherwise than obey orders. He might represent to those in authority that their orders were bad, but he had no right to say so to the public, otherwise he destroyed the Cabinet responsibility. I blame the Government for this. They have brought in experts to write and give opinions both on Army and Navy matters. The expert should give his opinion to the Government, for the Government is responsible, and no expert should break through old traditions, for that is bad for the Service and prejudicial to discipline. It is worse, because if a man who praises the Government gets an appointment, or a decoration or honour, it is apt to be put down to the fact that he did praise the Government, and it is a great deal worse than if he threw blame on the Government. The whole principle is unsound. I hope it will not in the future be encouraged by the Front Bench, and that we shall hear no more of it.
A distinguished officer praised the Government, and a gallant general sitting below the Gangway said it was unfair, on the part of my hon. and gallant Friend behind me, to use strong remarks about that officer, who had written a book while on full pay, and that it was unfair because the officer could not reply. What an absurd reason! He wrote on a controversial question, on which more than half the Army disagreed with him, and because somebody called attention to the gross impropriety of his having done so the reply was, "Don't touch the man; he cannot 992 reply." Of course he cannot reply. Every officer on full pay should keep his mouth, shut and his pen dry. Of all the jobs ever perpetrated in or out of this House, or in any country, the appointment of the Commander-in-Chief of the Military Forces in the Mediterranean was the biggest. It was both unnecessary and expensive. I cannot describe it in better words than those used by my hon. Friend—it was absolutely rotten; there was no reason for it at all. Of course, if people make speeches or write books in praise of the Government who employs them, and then get some appointment or decoration, officers and men put that down to the fact that the speeches have been made and the books written. I believe I have with me, in this particular, the sentiment of the whole House. Officers should simply obey orders. If they express opinions they are private opinions, which should be addressed to the Cabinet and to nobody else. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will assure the House that something is going to be done with regard to the editor of the "Army Annual," and that something will be done to prevent officers in either of the Services writing either in praise or in blame of the authority that is over them.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I do not propose to deal with one question that has been so eloquently, and I might almost say so perfectly, dealt with by the Noble Lord who has just spoken with reference to the proposal for the new rifle. I take it for granted that those who have used the rifle are quite satisfied that it meets the necessities of the case and that it is an efficient weapon for warfare. Unquestionably, as the Noble Lord explained, a flat trajectory is one of the most essential features in any weapon of that description. There was, however, one statement that the Noble Lord made in reference to firing to which I should like to refer. He said that unless you could see your enemy or your target you should not fire. I think military history affords an exception to that, and shows that exactly the contrary course was successfully pursued in connection with the defence of Plevna by Osman Pasha. I believe it is a well-known fact-that Plevna was defended on entirely different lines to those laid down by the Noble Lord. The men were directed to fire at a high angle whether they could see the enemy or not, and I believe it is generally admitted by military experts that that was responsible for the success of the splendid defence made of that place.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The hon. Member is perfectly right about Plevna, but it was a peculiar case of an inclined plane. The rifles were directed at certain points in that inclined plane.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I quite agree. Undoubtedly it is an immense advantage where you have to fire at a certain point, at two or three or four hundred yards, for the man to be able to drop his bullet at that particular point, and it may make all the difference between success or otherwise. Without being much of a soldier I confess I am interested in the rifle. But I and those who sit with me on these benches, who take any interest in either military or naval affairs, are, more interested in the men than in the rifle. We know experts ought to look after the rifle part of the business, and that it is our business to look after the interests of what is known as the "bottom dog." Ever since I have been in the House I have been obliged to bring forward, as a kind of hardy annual, one particular question. It rather reminds me of what has occurred at Congresses in the Labour movement. We used to bring forward propositions year after year, but eventually they became accomplished facts. First of all I object altogether to the attacks made, especially by the first hon. Member who addressed the House to-day, on the Territorial Force. I know it is not so much an attack on that Force. I know that hon. Members opposite are not so anxious to attack that Force, but that they do attack it with the idea of bolstering up another principle which comes behind, namely, the principle of compulsory military service. If it can be demonstrated that under the voluntary system you cannot get men to defend the country, that of course strengthens the claim for compulsory military service. But I look upon these attacks on the Territorial Force as sham attacks; they are largely fireworks. Those in favour of compulsory service realise how important it is that they should be able to prove that the Territorial Force is not effective for its purpose. Unless they are able to prove that they are not likely to be able to get the country to go the whole length of compulsory service. I take it for granted therefore that that is the main factor in the attacks levelled against the Territorial Force.
MARQUESS Of TULLIBARDINE
Is not the hon. Member aware that officers on this side of the House have done their 994 utmost to make the Territorial Force a success?
§ Mr. J. WARD
I admit that, but there are those who believe that we have never had such an Auxiliary Force as we have now, and that the old Volunteer Force, disintegrated, unorganised, and lacking unity of purpose, as was the ease years ago, bears no comparison with the Territorial Army we have to-day. No one will pretend to deny that. For that reason I am prepared to assist it to the best of my ability. But in reference to this Force I resent, as I am sure many officers in the Territorial Army who have been previously officers in the Regular Army and have done active service also resent, these constant attacks, and I would suggest to the Opposition that it will be much more effective if they fight this question of compulsory military service on grounds apart altogether from the question of the efficiency or otherwise of the Territorial Army. I admit that as long as you are not able to attack the Territorial Force there is a screen between you and compulsory military service, and that it is necessary for you to beat down that screen before you will be able to get the country converted to your ideas in favour of compulsory military service. I am not so enamoured of the Regular Army after all. I have read a little of the history of wars, not merely of our own country's wars, but wars in the world generally, and, so far as I can see, there is no clear case in the whole history of the world where, when citizens have taken up arms in land fighting, with an idea behind them, they have not won. I wish the whole context of my observations to be understood. When a citizen takes up arms in land fighting, with an idea behind him, and tumbles up against the Regular soldiers, there is no known instance in the history of military warfare where the trained soldier has not gone down before the citizen. [An HON. MEMBER: "How about the Boer war?"] I am not going to talk about the Boer war. I merely say there is no known instance where the citizen in such a case has not beaten the Regular soldier, and I throw that out for the consideration of those who are so fond of pretending and trying to convince the people of this country that it is utterly impossible for them to defend the country. I think it was the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Shropshire who stated that if you were not prepared to train your conscripts you were not in a position to defend. The idea is that no man can defend his 995 country unless he is a fully-equipped and trained conscript soldier, but I repeat there is nothing in the history of the great conflicts of the world to justify any such contention.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
Does the hon. Member remember the case of the franc tireurs in the Franco-Prussian war?
§ Mr. J. WARD
That is an entirely different question, which has nothing to do with the proposition I am putting forward. I quite agree that a Regular Army treats with scant courtesy the citizens who take to soldiering during a war, and I admit that in certain circumstances it has a right to do so. That is nothing to do with my contention that so far as the history of war is concerned, in land fighting, it is not the Regular soldier who is so certain of being able to defend his country as the free and independent citizen. [Interruption.]
§ The CHAIRMAN
May I suggest to hon. Members that they should not pursue this question too far, as it is not relevant to the Estimates of this particular year.
§ Mr. J. WARD
Acting on your advice, Sir, I will leave that subject, and I will proceed to the other point on which I wish to address the Committee. I notice in the Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State for War, explaining the Estimates, there are references made to the supply of officers. I notice there is still a shortage in the supply of officers of a very large amount. All sorts of suggestions have been made to meet this, for instance, with regard to new buildings at Sandhurst and the number of new cadets that might be found accommodation here and there. I venture to put forward, for I think the sixth time in this House, another channel by which I think the Army could be supplied with officers without all the paraphernalia and expense suggested by the building of these establishments. I know it is a sore point between myself and the officers on the other side as to whether a private soldier, the ranker, the man who has joined the Army as one of the ranks, and who has become a non-commissioned officer, say anything up to a sergeant-major or colour-sergeant, should become a commissioned officer. My suggestion has always been that these vacancies should be filled by these men. It has been suggested from the other side on several occasions, that for some reason or other 996 the ranker does not like a ranker officer, but the ranker's opposition to a ranker officer is as nothing compared with the opposition of the ordinary officers to the ranker officer. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] A similar demonstration against that proposition has taken place, on each of the five previous occasions that I have brought the matter forward, and I suppose it will continue to the end.
So far as we here are concerned in voting the supplies for an efficient fighting service, the good wishes or bad wishes of either the present commissioned officers or of the rankers ought not to weigh with us for one moment. The question for us to decide is whether in the non-commissioned ranks there is the material to fill these vacancies. I know the ranker's opposition to a ranker officer. He would much prefer to have an ignorant or an idle officer over his regiment than a fellow who has been through the ranks, who knows every trick of the trade, and who cannot possibly be deceived. That is really an argument in favour of the ranker officer, because it is a moral certainty that if you are going to have a real fighting machine then the man who has been through the ranks, and who knows the whole business from beginning to end, and who knows the tricks by which the ordinary officer is occasionally and very often deceived—sometimes, of course, he turns a blind eye, as he ought to do occasionally, to the offences of the men under him—is the man who ought to be made an officer if it is efficiency and strict and proper discipline in the Army that we are really aiming at. If you take the whole of our non-commissioned officers, from the corporals to the sergeant-majors throughout the British Army, any man who has the impudence to stand up here and say that we could not find 2,000 or 3,000 of the finest officers that could be got in any army in the world from within those ranks, really does not know what he is talking about. I know it is suggested that what we should do first of all is to raise the pay of the officer to such an extent as to allow the ranker a chance of becoming an officer. I say that what we had better do first of all is to give the ranker the chance of becoming an officer, and to make such provisions in the King's Regulations or the Army Annual Act by which we can give the common soldier a chance to rise from the ranks. I venture to say that the Army would be entirely changed, and that the character of the ranker would be entirely changed.
997 No man among the working classes joins the Army now unless he is compelled to do so by his economic circumstances. Rarely does a man join the Colours because he hopes to succeed in that direction. He knows that there is not a ghost of a chance for him to succeed at all. All the men among the working classes who want some kind of profession of this description are thereby absolutely tabooed, for the simple reason that there is no chance for them to succeed. All they can hope for is to become a sergeant-major, and there is a thousand to one chances against that. If it were understood that every man who joins the Army, provided he can show ability—I do not want a man to be promoted whether he has ability or not, although I fear that is the case now—if you were to offer to every recruit who joined the Army an equal opportunity with others, provided he could prove himself to be capable of taking a commissioned position, if it were given to him as a right, instead of a privilege, as it is to-day, I venture to say that the whole character of even the ordinary ranks of the Army would be changed from what it is. There are cases to which I have already drawn attention. For instance most officers on the other side will agree that the Gymnastic Training Corps of the Army is one of the best in the country at the present time. There are men there who have been training other officers for years. I believe they are thoroughly efficient in every way. What happens now? Very often a young officer comes down to be trained by these men, and after they have put him through the mill for from four to six months, and made him a competent man, he will be put over them at once and given a commissioned position, while the men who trained him have no chance whatever to get to that position, no matter how competent they may be. Things like that are positively disgraceful. If you really want a better class of men to join the Regular Forces, you must give a chance to the ranker which is not given to him at the present time.
In connection with that I have a complaint to make against the present Government. If one looks at the Returns relating to the number of commissions that have been given to those who have served in the ranks, one will see there was a great rise from about 1899 to 1903–4. Since 1905 the proportion has fallen off, and it is falling continuously, and yet Lord Haldane came down, and now the Under- 998 Secretary comes down here to tell me how much they sympathise with the ranker, and agree that he ought to be given a chance. But that is only one day in the year. For the other 364 days they are planning ways to prevent his getting a chance. During the last three or four years they have actually closed up one or two important channels of promotion for men from the ranks. We are often asked to model ourselves on the Swiss system. I think the commander-in-chief of the Swiss Army keeps a chandler's shop in Zurich. I know that when I was shown over the country for the purpose of studying the military conditions there, I was taken to a depot, where certain men who had been refused by their ordinary officers permission to go into the officers' training corps to prove their ability to become commissioned officers in the Swiss Army had, after appealing to the Canton Government—which every private soldier in Switzerland has a right to do—been appointed over and above the heads of those officers who did not wish them to be appointed. We have nothing of that kind here. Even if the Government wanted a man who was a non-commissioned officer to be offered a commission, I believe the Regulation is such that that could not occur unless the colonel of his regiment, or some other officer, agreed to recommend him. There is another bar, a personal bar, a bar that has nothing to do with the efficiency of the man at all.
§ Sir. R. POLE-CAREW
Will the hon. Member tell us, as the colonel is not to recommend a man for promotion, who is the responsible person who should recommend him?
§ Mr. J. WARD
I would have no recommendation at all. I know quite well that the officer wants to maintain his ascendancy over all his men, and I quite agree that that is an important power. If the chief commanding officer or the colonel of his regiment can prevent a man, by his mere will and whim, from rising, that places that man under him, and he has a control over him that he would not possess if there were some outside body who could test the ability of that man. In the Swiss Army if a common soldier thinks that he has the ability—I know officers do not think, as a rule, that soldiers should have any brains at all—he does not apply to the colonel at all. He applies to the Cantonal Government for a position as a commissioned officer. The Cantonal Government itself, whether the commanding officer of 999 the regiment recommends him or not, can put that man's abilities to the test by examination, and if they consider that he has the ability to hold a commissioned position they can appoint him to some regiment as a commissioned officer, independent of whether the colonel likes it or not. It is something of that kind that we want in this country. We do not want the chances of a private soldier who has native ability to rise from the ranks to a commissioned position, to be left entirely to the whim of his commanding officer. There should be some machinery set up, and it should be understood that the man has the right in case of his commanding officer refusing—perhaps it would be well to allow the commanding officer to recommend him—to appeal. There should be some independent body to test the ability of the man, and that is what I have been asking for for the last five or six years, and I shall continue to ask for it until at least some progress is made along the road I have suggested.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
I do not agree with all the hon. Member's remarks in reference to commissions from the ranks, but I think there is room for a great many more commissions to be given from the ranks than are given at present. Some years ago, at the time alluded to by the hon. Member, the number of commissions given from the ranks was diminished very largely, and certainly there are not, in my opinion, enough commissions given from the ranks, and I quite agree with him to that extent that there are plenty of men in the Army who could safely be given commissions, and whose presence as officers would be welcomed by the ranks. The case is not quite so bad as he stated it. After all, the head of the Staff College, General Robertson, is a ranker, and several other distinguished officers came from the ranks. In these Army Estimates there is the name of General Luke O'Connor, V.C., who was Sergeant Luke O'Connor. There are many other officers who have risen from the ranks. To my mind, the hon. Member's remarks in reference to officers not wishing the men to use their intellect and all that sort of thing only shows that the hon. Member has no real idea of what the relations between officers and men of the Army are. At any rate, he made a very strong appeal to the Undersecretary to increase the number of commissions from the ranks, and, as far as that goes, I am entirely with him.
1000 I wish to say a few words in reference to the remarks of the Under-Secretary when he made a somewhat vicious attack on the Leader of the Opposition in introducing the Estimates. He assured us, as regards the reliability of the rifle, that our rifle was very much superior to that of other nations. I do not know how he arrives at that fact, because, after all, to use his own words, they are not all fools. The German nation, the French nation, the American nation, and the Austrian nation are not likely to have a rifle which is unreliable. Then the right hon. Gentleman quoted the fact that in the South African war our rifle had been found to be very reliable, but, unfortunately, we were using a rifle which was not the rifle at present in use, and we were using a rifle which had ammunition which is not the ammunition which is going to be used now in our rifle, and that makes a very considerable difference. We are now about to use a pointed bullet with a higher charge in the same sort of a rifle. That entirely alters the situation, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot quote the Boer war as any sort of proof that our rifle with this new ammunition is going to be as reliable as that of other nations. In fact, were the rifle as reliable as that of other nations we should not be looking for a rifle with a larger and more powerful chamber, a better barrel and a stronger breech mechanism. Every other nation that is using these high-velocity charges with a small bullet is using a rifle, which is very much more powerful in all these three things, breech mechanism, chamber and barrel. If we are going to use our old rifle with this higher-charge ammunition it is extremely likely that we shall find it is not so reliable as the right hon. Gentleman states. It is a curious commentary upon his statement that on the very day he made that statement a command order was issued at Aldershol, withdrawing some of this very pointed bullet ammunition of which he was speaking. These rifles have not been in the hands of the troops using this new ammunition yet to any large extent, and before some of them have begun to fire with them one-half of the ammunition has to be withdrawn.
As regards rapidity of firing, the right hon. Gentleman said we were twice as good as any foreign Power. I should like to ask how he arrived at that statement. To begin with, our rifle requires four motions to load, unload, and load again. You have to raise the lever, draw back the bolt, put it forward again and lower it again. 1001 Several of the rifles of foreign nations have what is called a straight pull, which consists only of two motions, one backward and the other forward. Obviously where you have only two motions as against four the rapidity of firing must be greater when you do not bring the rifle down from the shoulder. The Schmidt rifle of Switzerland, and several other rifles, the Mannlicher and our own Canadian Ross rifle, one of the best in the world, all have the straight pull, and they are therefore very much easier to fire when you are firing rapidly than is our rifle. I have shot with three of these rifles myself, and I know they are at least more rapid than ours. The Swiss rifle holds twelve cartridges in the magazine, as against our ten, and even although we have ten cartridges in the magazine as against the five which are in the magazine of nearly every other nation in the world, even our own musketry regulations lay down that the men are to load in clips of five at a time and not ten. Therefore as regards rapidity of fire I do not think the right hon. Gentleman's statements were at all correct. As regards accuracy, he stated that our rifle had been fired in competition with the rifles of other Powers, and that ours came out very much ahead of other nations. In these contests our rifle is a picked rifle out of many thousands manufactured in this country, and the rifles of foreign Powers are taken haphazard or obtained surreptitiously by our agents abroad or else obtained as a presentation copy from other nations. There is nothing like the same sort of choice, so that these contests as regards accuracy cannot be relied on at all. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the Springfield rifle of the Americans or the Mauser, or even the Mannlicher, are not extremely accurate? Nearly all men who go in for big game shooting prefer the Mannlicher to any other small bore rifle; and as regards the Mauser, I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman's experience in the war would have told him that at any rate the .276 Mauser was a very accurate weapon. He himself quoted a case where he had been leading a horse and at 3,000 yards the horse was killed. That shows not only that the rifle is accurate, but also that it is a very bad thing to be led by the right hon. Gentleman.
As regards stopping power, I should like to know how our rifle is superior to that of other nations. We know, for instance, that the striking energy of a 1002 modern rifle at 800 yards—I am quoting the Ross .280 rifle, one of the best in the world—is 845lbs., whereas the striking energy of even our converted rifle with the new ammunition is only 547 lbs. Everyone who has either been hit by a bullet in war or has seen other people hit knows perfectly well that it is not the size of the bullet which matters; it is the velocity and the striking energy. And where you have a rifle of infinitely greater striking energy than another, that rifle is going to have greater stopping power. I do not agree at all with the remarks of the hon. Member (Mr. J. C. Lyttelton), who rather backed up some of the right hon. Gentleman's statements, because he said the German Spitze bullet could not have both penetration and stopping power. I had in my hand, the time he made his speech, a statement by a gentleman who was present at Woolwich, in 1909, when the German Spitze bullet was tried in competition with our old ammunition. What was the result? At 550 yards the Spitzer bullet went through the Maxim gun shield, whereas our rifle could not penetrate it at 300 yards. It does not look from that as if the power of penetration was wanting in the German Spitze bullet. As regards stopping power, everybody who has read about or seen the effects of the bullet knows that it turns over and tears a large hole. It tears so large a hole that it has been described as resembling the dum-dum bullet, which was introduced some years ago and afterwards prohibited by The Hague Convention. I am quite certain that the German nation would not keep their rifle for five minutes if there was anything wrong with it.
I do not want to go into the question of the trajectory. I think the opinions put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the other day when he minimised the importance of the flat trajectory are against the opinions, not only of every soldier, but also of every nation, against what must be the experience of everybody, and must be against the real common sense and ordinary feeling of those who heard him. There can be no doubt at all that a flat trajectory is a tremendous point in a rifle. It is practically the main point, provided you have a fairly serviceable rifle in other matters. The right hon. Gentleman said there was a certain advantage in it if you did not know the range. The difficulty is that we do not know the range in actual warfare, and that is just the time when you want to have the flat trajectory. If 1003 that is not so, why has it been the effort of every single civilised nation to get a rifle with as flat a trajectory as possible? What is really felt is that our rifle is weak in mechanism, that it has a chamber which is not suited to the new ammunition, and that the barrel is not suitable for the new ammunition, so that it is wrong in these three most important points.
The right hon. Gentleman has asked us not to make this a party matter. He does not think it should be a matter in Debate to embarrass the defence of this country. It is not, of course, a party matter, except in this way. We are obliged to look to the Under-Secretary, or whoever is responsible to this House, and to the Cabinet behind him, for seeing that our Army is properly armed. We do not think our Army is properly armed at the present time as regards the rifle, and we therefore bring these matters up in this House, as we have a perfect right to do, and as we think it is our duty to do. The Government, or rather the War Office, are aware that our rifle is not so good in certain particulars as that of other nations—we have that through the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman himself—and they are looking for a rifle at the present time to take the place of the present weapon—one with a stronger breech action, a better barrel, a better chamber, a smaller bullet, a higher charge, and a flatter trajectory. I believe they have one in the experimental stage. The indictment against the Government is not that they are not looking for another rifle, but that they are not taking stops to have one manufactured quickly now, so as to get our Army rearmed. We know that there is no automatic rifle yet in sight. The Committee who reported on this matter said that no automatic rifle was in Right, and yet we are told the same story that an experimental rifle is being issued on a large scale for tests. This experimental rifle is apparently not manufactured in any quantities, for I notice that the amount allocated in the Estimates is something like £40,000 less than last year. It does not look as if we were going to manufacture that rifle on any large scale.
As long as the Government do not take steps to manufacture a new rifle as rapidly as possible, so long shall we continue to attack them. The Army has taken in the past a long time to rearm. When we introduced the Lee-Metford of 1892, it took something like seven years to rearm the Army. I went with a regiment to Lady- 1004 smith which was armed with the Martini-Henry. I was adjutant of the regiment, and I arranged for the transfer of the Martini-Henry carbines to another arm. Seven years after that rifle was introduced part of our Army was still armed with the Martini-Henry. The carbines with which our men went on service were weapons with which they had never fired a shot. I say that that must never happen again. In 1903 we rearmed the Army with the Lee-Enfield rifle. The right hon. Gentleman told me himself that it took five years to rearm the Army with that rifle, and that it was six years before the Special Reserves were armed. The state of affairs therefore is this. In the past it has taken a very long time to rearm the Army, and the fault lies not so much with the War Office as with the Treasury and this House, because we do not sanction the amount of money necessary to carry out the rearming all at once. I would urge that the right hon. Gentleman should take steps to get a large sum of money appropriated by this House for the manufacture of the rifle on a large scale by every possible private factory and Government factory in the country, and that at the same time ammunition for the rifle should be manufactured, so that the whole Army could be rearmed at once. The danger is this. At present we have the Army armed with two different rifles, one sighted for a pointed bullet and the other sighted for a blunt bullet. The result is that we have a very chaotic condition of affairs if unfortunately we had to go to war at the present moment. It is quite true that the ammunition we have can be used with either rifle, but, of course, it must be obvious to all that to use ammunition with a rifle for which it is not sighted must have deplorable results. The right hon. Gentleman has invited us to go and see the new rifle, but he will not show it to us in the Tea Room here. The new rifle has an entirely different bore, and the old ammunition cannot be used for it. Consequently it is extremely important that the rearming should be done all at once, and that the ammunition should be ready for use and ready to issue. That can only be done if the Secretary of State for War and the Under-Secretary will take the responsibility of coming to this House and saying they must have £2,000,000 for this purpose. I believe that is what it will cost. The last rearming cost £1,500,000. The whole indictment of the Government rests on that. We want to see them go ahead with the new rifle.
§ Sir. SAMUEL SCOTT
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary a question with respect to the registration of horses. As the House is aware, during last Session an Amendment was made in the Army (Annual) Act giving the War Office power to enter anybody's stable and to register the horses, which in the event of mobilisation could be commandeered by the War Office. The War Office undertook this work, and so far as certain parts of London are concerned they have done it fairly efficiently. I wish to point out that a great hardship may be caused in connection with the registration of horses. In the first place, if you take one lot of horses, and they are replaced by the owners, there is no guarantee that these horses will not also be taken, for all horses are liable to be taken. I have one big firm in my mind in referring to this matter. I must remind the House that these are the firms which utilise the light draft horses of which there is a very great scarcity in this country, and which on mobilisation, will be most difficult to obtain for the Artillery and Army Service Corps. You will have no difficulty in finding horses for the Cavalry, but I think the right hon. Gentleman knows that there will be the difficulty in getting the horses of this class required to meet the wastage, and for mobilisation. In August last, when the war scare was on, the firm to which I refer was told that 90 per cent. of their horses were registered and would be suitable for taking on mobilisation. They wrote to the War Office and asked that some limit should be put upon the horses registered under the Act, as otherwise they would find it quite impossible, for business reasons which we can understand, to continue to keep their light draft horses, and would find it necessary to revert to motor traction. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take this matter up—I have instanced one firm, but there are a large number of others in the same position—in order to encourage the use of light draft horses. I hope he will look into the matter, and see that each firm is told the exact number of horses that will be required from them on mobilisation, so that they will be able to know where they are, and to make arrangements accordingly.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) dealt at great length in his speech last week on the duties which fall to the Special Reserve, which I am sorry to say dwindles by some thousands every year. I wish to ask how many Special Reservists are allocated to go 1006 abroad with the Expeditionary Force, because I think the Return given some time ago showed that among the numbers left in England after the departure of the Expeditionary Force there will be only 55,000 Special Reservists, while according to the Army Estimates there will be some 61,000. I turn to the Territorial Force. The right hon. Gentleman said the other day that he did not pretend that he was satisfied, and he frankly appealed to those who have power to recruit the Territorial Force up to strength. I wonder has it ever struck the right hon. Gentleman that he will not obtain the necessary recruits by appeals of that sort nor by abuse of the National Service League, of which I am not a Member. Has it ever struck him that the greatest enemy to recruiting of the Territorial Force in this country is the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War? We all admire the right hon. Gentleman's tireless energy in travelling the country. If anybody worked out the figures of the large number of prize-givings to the various Territorials which he attends, it would be found that the right hon. Gentleman holds a record in attending these gatherings, which he makes over and over again the occasion of these appeals.
What I think should be prevented is his habit of blowing hot one day and cold the next. At the prize-givings you will find that the same appeal is made by the Secretary of State for War, as by the hon. Member for Stoke, an appeal to the patriotism of all their hearers; but if we read the speech of Lord Haldane in the House of Lords we get quite another point of view. He goes down there to defend his policy and the Territorial Force, and he tells the House of Lords, in answer to Lord Roberts, that he has got plenty of men. I think that the right hon. Gentleman and his Noble Chief forget from what classes they draw the Territorials. They draw them from the employed classes. Therefore it does not rest altogether with the individual man to join the Territorial Force. He may be willing, but his employer may be unwilling. You have two factors to deal with. First of all, you have to gain the man as a recruit, and then you have to gain over the employer. In these days, when business competition is so much keener and it is a very hard struggle for a large number of employers to make both ends meet, they are not likely to let their men go away and have a burden placed 1007 upon their own shoulders. Lord Haldane will not encourage those employers who perhaps would be willing to allow their men to join the Territorial Force if they considered the defences of the country required it, but are not willing to place an extra burden upon their business. Imagine what the feelings of the man must be who, when he wakes up in the morning and gets his paper, finds that after all, as the right hon. Gentleman said the other day we have 410,000 men left in this country against 70,000 invaders. I quite agree that if we have 410,000 men ready for the defence of the country things would not be in a bad state. I do not believe for one moment that the right hon. Gentleman ever dreamt of trying to mislead his fellow-countrymen, but I have no possible hesitation in saying that the figure of 410,000 men is both misleading and inaccurate. In the first place, it is inaccurate because no deductions have been made for recruits, inefficients, untrained men, and sick. Will the right hon. Gentleman say that these paper figures, from which no deductions whatsoever are made, have any relation to the number of men whom he will have available.
§ Colonel SEELY
I am glad to say at once that we may reasonably suppose that a smaller percentage of the 410,000 men, to whom I have referred, will be sick, than of the 70,000 who will come from oversea, whatever they are. Honestly I believe that is so. I do not wish to make a point of it, but I think that it is obvious to anyone who has studied the question of invasion that sickness supervenes in a greater proportion in an army which is brought oversea than in an army which is operating in its own country. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will consider the problem I think that he will come to the same conclusion.
§ Sir. SAMUEL SCOTT
I think that the right hon. Gentleman can hardly have taken into consideration that in the first place the troops sent over would be picked men, and if this country were invaded they would be very few hours upon the sea. They would come over in fast boats and they would hardly have time even to be sea-sick. Is he also aware that on the mobilisation of Continental armies a deduction of 30 per cent. is allowed off the paper figures for sick, etc., while with regard to the 410,000 men there is no deduction made for sick, inefficient and untrained men. Therefore, I say that these 1008 figures are grossly inaccurate. I cannot believe that of actual men fit for the field he would have more than 330,000. The figures, are misleading also, because the right hon. Gentleman never gave the various duties which this force of 410,000, or, as I believe, of 330,000, would have to carry out. Lord Haldane never told us that they would have to garrison our naval bases and arsenals, and that they would have to supply a garrison for Ireland, and a garrison for Ireland, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, in time of war would1 have to be considerably increased. He did not tell us that they would have to provide troops for the defended zones, and that we might possibly have to send reinforcements to our coaling stations abroad, while even India might require reinforcements. Nor did he mention that this force would also have to make up the wastage of war in the Expeditionary Force, so that, out of the total number, as a central force, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman could give figures which would show a central force of more than 130,000 men instead of 410,000. I trust that when he comes to reply he will give some idea of how many men he will have. I would also like to ask him what steps have been taken to meet the deficiency of 1,370 officers in the three combatant branches of the Territorial Force—the Artillery, the Yeomanry, and the Infantry, irrespective of whatever may be the number short in the Army Service Corps and the Army Medical Corps? I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his speech, and the allowance of a Grant to the Territorial Force, but unless he takes up the question of employment and deals with the employer, he will never be able to get recruits for the Territorial Force. This question will have to be dealt with if this country is to have a voluntary Army. You will either have to deal with it now, or the Territorial Army will become less and less, and you will have to do it later on, or else come to some form of ballot or some form of compulsory service.
§ Mr. AMERY
There is one point in these Estimates which I think will meet with the general approval of the Committee, and that is that for the first time, though somewhat late in the day, we have a substantial allowance made for aviation. Whether that allowance even now is enough, remains to be seen. Certainly, if we take into account what the air battalion has already cost us and what the 1009 air corps of other countries cost, it is obvious that £320,000 can hardly cover the cost of 167 officers and 130 aeroplanes in the future even when the £120,000 now spent on grounds and buildings is liberated, and I think it would be satisfactory if the right hon. Gentleman would give us some estimate of the normal future requirements on this point. Another subject on which I should very much like to be informed is the peculiar position that the Air Corps is occupying as an independent body meeting the requirements both of the Army and Navy under the control of the War Office. How is that to work? Suppose that the Admiralty decides that for its purposes the only sort of machines it would really want to spend money on are either dirigibles or hydro-aeroplanes, capable of going very long distances and of carrying a large supply of bombs, while, upon the other hand, the War Office may decide that what they want is a very largo number of swift monoplanes, who is to decide how the money is to be spent? Again, as to the position of the naval wing. Are we to understand that is under the Air Corps, and that if the Admiralty wish to issue instructions, those instructions have to go through the War Office or will it be for for every purpose directly under the Admiralty? Another question is the position of the Air Corps with regard to the General Staff. The work of the Air Corps is intimately connected on its military side with the work of the General Staff. The principal work of the flying men will be scouting, and it will be essential in war for aviators to be directly under the control of the intelligence section of the General Staff. It is necessary that this Aviation Corps should be under the control of the General Staff and not of any other department in the War Office. There is a converse. The effect of aviation on the whole of our tactics and strategy is bound to be immense. I will give one instance only. The whole case for keeping up the idea of Cavalry is that shock tactics rests on the assumption that even now there are occasionally still opportunities where Cavalry can be massed, and remain undetected behind some slight folds of the ground. Will that ever be possible with aeroplanes hovering overhead? If that is not possible, it ought to be our duty to abolish the lance at once, and to abolish every vestige of shock tactics from Cavalry training.
1010 It is of the greatest importance that the General Staff should have control of aviation, and that attention should be drawn to this point from the very first in order to come to a definite conclusion. Our Army should be, among the first to adopt any lessons that can be drawn from the developments of modern science. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to assure us that the Air Corps, broadly speaking, will be under the General Staff, and that the training, as well as the intelligence section, of the General Staff will include a large number of officers who have gone through the Air Corps and know what air scouting means. The next point is the grave inadequacy of what is called our Colonial establishment. The military correspondent of the "Times," whose ability was most eloquently defended by the right hon. Gentleman the Undersecretary (Colonel Seely), reviewing the military situation on 4th March, pointed out that we urgently require at least six or eight more battalions of Infantry at certain naval bases; and that the five battalions kept in Egypt are utterly inadequate for any purpose except policing Cairo and Alexandria. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover pointed out very forcibly that the concentration of naval strength in homo waters rendered all the more urgent the garrisoning, not only of our Mediterranean stations, but stations in the Far East and in the West. The night hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for War (Colonel Seely) gave an answer to this effect—that the policy of the Government was not going to be based upon the assumption of a waning sea supremacy, but my right hon. Friend's point was that the sea supremacy has been withdrawn from certain great areas where we have important political and military interests. That question at present remains entirely unanswered. There is a further point. Apart from the necessity of having a barely sufficient garrison in our naval bases, we do need, and it is a most vital need, a surplus of permanently mobilised battalions overseas for reinforcement purposes. Under our present military system we cannot reinforce in time of peace from home without mobilisation, and such mobilisation would involve considerable hardship upon the Reservists called up, supposing they were required for six months or eight months, or a year or more. There is a further serious point, that mobilisa- 1011 tion might precipitate the very hostilities you wish to guard against.
I would like to remind the Committee of the circumstances with which we were confronted on the eve of the South African war. The whole problem was that the Boers could cross the frontier within a few hours, while we could not get men into South Africa for something like three weeks; and even after that three weeks several weeks would be required to provide the force with mules and other transport. The whole problem was how we could unostentatiously reinforce South Africa without precipitating a war, for which we knew that mobilisation would be the signal, and the Boers would cross the frontier. Fortunately, in the circumstances of India at that time we were enabled to withdraw 6,000 troops from there, and owing still more to the state of affairs in the Mediterranean caused by the insurrection in Crete and other events, we had at that time, what we have not got to-day, a very large surplus of battalions in the Mediterranean. We borrowed four battalions from Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt and Crete; a fifth battalion, which was on its way to tile West Indies; another on its way from Ireland on foreign service, besides a battalion from Mauritius. It was simply and solely due to these battalions that we were able to make any defence in South Africa whatever. But the force we got together was inadequate for its purpose, and its inadequacy was the cause afterwards of the whole failure of the main Army, which was continually behind the fair, and was continually trying to retrieve a position already ruined. Inadequate though it was, that force saved us from having to reconquer the whole of South Africa from the coast. Therefore, I do maintain that it is most vital we should have a surplus of these permanently mobilised battalions. At the present moment the only surplus we have of that kind is the force stationed in South Africa, and it is because I feel so strongly the importance of that surplus, that I protest most earnestly against the plea for a reduction of the South African garrison. I admit, quite readily, the duty of any self-governing Dominion to provide for its own defence, but as regards South Africa I would say, that as long as the Imperial Government is responsible for Basutoland and the Protectorate, so long must it be responsible, to some extent, for the defence of South Africa.
1012 The battalion in South Africa is valuable for reasons of Imperial strategy. South Africa is the most convenient strategical point in the whole Empire for the reinforcement of many most important military points. As a mere matter of sea miles, South Africa is nearer not only to Abyssinia, the Soudan, and India, and the whole of the Far East, but it is practically as near to the West Indies. What is still more important, the sea routes from South Africa to those points lie outside the zone of danger of interruption by hostile cruisers. I would remind the Committee that the reason why a considerable force was kept in South Africa was that the Admiralty specifically declared that while it could not guarantee the transport of troops from this country to India on the outbreak of war, it could guarantee the transport of troops to India from South Africa. South Africa is not only admirably situated strategically but it is an ideal station both from the point of view of health and training. I have been there several times in recent years, and I have been immensely impressed by the enthusiasm of the officers, both senior and junior alike, who spoke of the beneficial effect upon the health of young soldiers, and still more of the really splendid opportunity for training that South Africa affords. I would like the right hon. Gentleman, if he thinks it necessary to do so, to consult Sir Ian-Hamilton or Lord Methuen on the point. I am aware that to keep the necessary surplus of battalions in South Africa is expensive, but it is cheap in some respects—the manœuvres, for instance, cost only about a quarter of what they do in this country.
The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire spoke of the money spent in recent years on the South African garrison as having been wasted. I would say, on the contrary, that there is no station in the whole of the British Empire where the expenditure of a sovereign produces so much value in military efficiency. Of course, if, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover suggested, there is a special reason for three Cavalry regiments being called home to complete the two divisions instead of the one division now at home, that is a case for special consideration, and the money spent in that way might well be devoted to putting a large proportion of the South African Infantry battalions on a Mounted Infantry basis. I submit 1013 that the Government should not countenance the idea of diminishing the South African garrison. I come to the question of the Expeditionary Force. Is an Expeditionary Force of 170,000 men sufficient for the purposes of such wars as we may be engaged in? I do not know. All I say is that its strength has been fixed without any reference to our strategical requirements, and to that question no answer has ever been given, for the simple reason that there is no answer. The strength of our Expeditionary Force is fixed entirely by the mobilisation strength of those units we keep at home in order to provide drafts for all the units we keep abroad. What has that got to do with our strategical needs? Can anyone imagine that the Admiralty would fix the strength of the Navy in home waters by reference to the requirements of the Navy in the Pacific and the Mediterranean instead of by reference to the strength of Germany or of any other combination?
Surely we are entitled at some time or other to have our military arrangements based on our needs for war, and not upon our peace garrisons in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Are we to await some terrible disaster before we face that question, and face the elementary fact that the strength of the Army should be determined by its needs, and not by the desirability of completing this or that particular War Minister's scheme? But even if we do take the Expeditionary Force as it is, even if we assume that 170,000 men is just the force necessary for some great war, have we really got the 170,000 men? How many of these six divisions can we, as a, matter of fact, mobilise at once and put into the field? That again is a question to which we have never got a clear answer. To judge from some answers I received yesterday to certain questions which I put, I may be told that it is not considered expedient that the answer should be given. Expedient to whom? Expedient to our possible adversaries whose Intelligence Department knows a great deal more than the House of Commons, or expedient to the Secretary for War, who finds it very convenient to cover all these matters with the bland and shimmering haze of his optimistic generalities. What we would like to know is whether we can bring those six divisions in1o the field. As far as I have been able to ascertain myself from unofficial inquiry, at this time last year there were only about four divisions that could 1014 be placed in the field fully equipped and ready. Only the other day the right hon. Gentleman informed us that with regard to the 41,000 horses required no arrangements had been made for their collection and purchase, but that a full scheme was being worked out. We now know that the scheme is not working, but that it is only being worked at.
Obviously from that answer alone the whole of these six divisions cannot be ready to take the field. If they do, how will they be composed? Are they in any sense a homogeneous force as regards men? It is admitted that less than half of them will be men serving with the Colours, and something like 90,000 will be drawn from the Reserve. I readily agree that that is also the case as far as numbers go in the Continental armies, and that they draw upon the reserves to the extent of half or more for mobilisation. But the reserve in their case is of men who were in the ranks last year or the year before that or the year before that. There is no great gap between the reserves and the men with the Colours. They take the men between twenty years and twenty-four and twenty-five from the same villages and the same district, and they are really homogeneous. In our case the men with the Colours are separated from the Reserve by at least five years, and in the great majority of cases by ten and even thirteen years. The men with the Colours are between twenty and twenty-two and twenty-three. Of our Reserves 52,000 are over thirty years of age, and of Section D of the Reserve, which is 30,000 strong, practically the whole of them have been away from the Colours from nine to thirteen years, and have not had a day's training or have not seen a rifle during that time. Can anybody call that a homogeneous force? I know that Lord Haldane declared the other day that it might not be necessary, except in a few units, to draw upon Section D. I should like to see the right hon. Gentleman, show how that is the case. Next year, as far as I can make out, although a great number will have been away from the Colours for more than five years, A and B Reserves will be only 106,000 strong. When you subtract from that 10 per cent. for casualties, 8,000 who are abroad, the 4,000 that will be required to complete the Regular battalion at home, and the 6,000 that will be required in category B which was to have been supplied by the Territorials but which has 1015 never materialised, and with the other deductions, you will find that you are left with not more than 75,000 in A and B; so that, in other words, for the shortage of 12,000 or 13,000, you will have to draw upon Section D.
More than that, according to the mobolisation tables, the very day you send your Expeditionary Force you are to send abroad 10 per cent. of drafts for the field units, that is some 15,000 men. How are you going to do so when you have only some 14,000 or so of Section D left behind, of whom 10,000 have been earmarked for the stiffening of the Special Reserve? You have 8,000 Reserves, who I trust and who undoubtedly will in large numbers, come back from abroad. But taking these and the young men in the line you have only got about 20,000. That means from the very start you will have to come down on the Special Reserve for something like 40,000. The Special Reserve is not 60,000 strong, and from that you have got to send 15,000 of the extra Special Reserve to which my right hon. Friend has referred. So wonderful are they that after three months they can do what any other troops are only expected to do after several years. There are something like 15,000 to be sent to the Mediterranean and other lines of communication. You are left with 45,000 Special Reservists of whom 20,000 are under nineteen, or only just recruited to meet drafting requirements. In other words, you cannot even with the Special Reserve keep the Expeditionary Force going for six months. Even if you could, it means that, so far from having a homogeneous force, you will have a force consisting partly of young soldiers and partly of men who have left the Army eight or ten years before, and partly of boys of eighteen or nineteen who have had six months' training. Surely that is not a sufficient kind of force with which to face an enemy.
But even more serious than the deficiency in respect of the men is the shortage of officers. At the very outset of the war it is generally estimated we shall have in Infantry officers alone a shortage of over 600, and where are we to draw them from? Can we draw them from the surplus of officers in the Special Reserve or Territorial Force? There is a shortage of 3,000 odd in those forces. The other day Lord Haldane gave an answer to the Duke of Bedford, and I may say, in passing, that the country 1016 owes a real debt of gratitude to the Duke of Bedford for the persistent determination with which he endeavours to elicit the real facts of the military situation. In answer to the Duke of Bedford, if I can understand his answer, as it was very vague, Lord Haldane said that we should draw for that shortage upon Regular officers now seconded to other forces and upon four subalterns from each battalion of the Special Reserve. Those battalions are already 1,200 officers short out of 2,700, and you are to take 300 to make them more efficient. If you do, and if you replace the number from the general reserve of officers, what is that general reserve worth. The right hon. Gentleman told us that there were 3,000 of them of one sort and another. He did not mention their ages or how many years they had been away from the Service. But I noticed there were only 440 captains or subalterns who had been away from the Army for three years or less. I imagine if you could draw to the extent of 1,500 upon that General Reserve and another 500 from the Officers' Training Corps and other sources that that would be the most, and that will not go near filling the gaps of the Expeditionary Force and of the forces left at home.
What about the wastage of war? Lord Haldane airily said that you make up the wastage of war by promotion from the ranks. With a great deal of what the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) said I entirely agree. I believe we ought to have, to a much greater extent, promotion from the ranks. I believe that that would be a good thing, as he said, not only for the corps of officers, but also for our recruits generally. I think we have long needed something that will give a better incentive to non-commissioned officers. It would, however, be essential to have an adequate college for non-commissioned officers' from, which they could rise to a commissioned position. But all that is a matter of time, and the sooner we start the better. But you are not going to get either in numbers or in quality a large supply from the non-commissioned ranks in the middle of a crisis. You cannot be sure that a non-commissioned officer taken from the ranks without preparation would be really effective as an officer. In South Africa in many cases promotions of that sort were not altogether satisfactory owing to want of training and preparation for promotion. Promotion from the ranks properly organised is an excellent thing, and we ought 1017 to have it much more than we do now; but improvised promotion is not going to do much for the Army during a crisis. So much for the Expeditionary Force, and then what of the 410,000 men we have got? My hon. Friend the Member for Marylebone (Sir S. Scott) has dealt very largely with that, and I will not deal with the 260,000 odd of the Territorial Force since so many Members have already dealt with it. I will just mention that some 140,000 of them had a fortnight's training last year. According to the hon. Member for Leith Burghs 18 per cent., or something like 50,000, are worthy old gentlemen who exercise a good moral influence in inducing others to join. About 64,000 are under twenty years of age, and when those accumulate in 1908–9 to the extent of 160,000, leaving the Territorial Force, you will have an immense influx of men under eighteen and nineteen in the ordinary proportion of the ages of recruits.
I will leave them and deal with the 144,000 Regulars of a sort. There are 14,000 who are properly officered, seven battalions of Infantry and certain other arms. I am going further to subtract 15,000 Special Reserves going abroad, which reduces the number to 115,000, and 15,000, the first contingent drafts, brings it down to 100,000. From the 100,000 you have got to subtract 7,500 per month for drafts. Of the rest you have got 50,000 of the Special Reserve and the Regular Forces who are either recruits or immature in point of years. In any case you are not going to have anything like a sufficiency of officers, and you will have the same situation as in the case, of the South African war, when you had 100,000 left behind with no sort of organisation, and when, as Sir Evelyn Wood pointed out to the Elgin Commission, you had one officer responsible for 850 Cavalry men, and when you had seventeen officers, ten of them just joined, with each of them responsible for 4,500 Artillerymen at Woolwich. I say in the words of Lord Lansdowne in May, 1900, that you cannot by any stretch of language in any sense of the word call such a body a field force. You have got to discount them altogether. Yet this body is supposed to garrison our naval bases, to train and send drafts, to fill up the wastage of officers, to train recruits, and you will want 50,000 Territorials to garrison Ireland, and you will have to garrison Scotland. Scotland is liable 1018 to invasion just as much as Ireland. It is not a question of the inhabitants, it is a question of the strategical dangers of an immense coastline. If we stand on the defensive we have got to be strong at a great number of points. I believe 100,000 is the very outside figure of your mobile field force.
Is that 100,000 force really going to "eat up" 70,000 highly-trained Continental troops, as the right hon. Gentleman said? I do submit that neither the Expeditionary Force nor the force left at home is adequate to meet the needs imposed upon it, or corresponds in the least degree to the eloquent descriptions of the Secretary of State for War, and the somewhat more moderate description of the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary. I have not mentioned an even more important question, and that is the one question upon which the Elgin Commission concentrated attention, namely, the need for large expansion, in a great war, of men and of officers over and above the existing forces. Where are you going to get them from? You skim the officers at home in order to let your Expeditionary Force take the field, and you have not even got the officers or men to defend this country against a moderate raid. Then where are you going to get the great expansion from which you are going to supply the needs of your Army in a great war. I do submit, on these main points, that the Government, however much they can show little improvements here and there, have made no advance whatever during the years they have been in office. For all practical purposes as regards the main questions of the total numbers of the strategical arrangements of our forces, and their adaptability to our strategical needs, we stand in exactly the same position as at the time of the South African War.
§ Colonel SEELY
I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I rise at once to reply to several points which have been raised, and especially to the very vehement attack made by the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Amery). Those of us who can look back for a few years, and who remember what the history of the hon. Gentleman himself is, must rub our eyes with astonishment at the extraordinary words to be found in his closing remarks. I think I shall be able to show that his speech is a very extraordinary contribution to the Debate. We are not concerned, either when discussing the rifle or 1019 when discussing our Army, with what is its actual and possible perfect value. What we must look at is how we stand with regard to possible enemies, for the very obvious reason that any country, if they tried to get an ideal army ideally armed, could spend—and the hon. Gentleman himself better than anyone else, perhaps, could show them how to spend—£100,000,000 a year with great advantage on its army, and any small country could spend thirty or forty millions. If the hon. Gentleman would apply his mind to the question he would probably say that we could spend much more than £120,000,000 a year.
The contention of the hon. Gentleman is that we have made no advance during the past few years, and that, comparing our responsibilities now with our responsibilities then, our situation is deplorable. May I answer him out of his own mouth? He knows all about the South African war. I venture to say that no man in this House knows it better. He wrote a history about it, and a very good history too. He was there himself, and saw the war with his own eyes. He has just told us to-day, in the very formidable indictment which he made against the Cardwell system—for that is what it amounts to—that at the start of the South African war, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) represented the War Office in this House, we could not send even the small force considered necessary to reinforce Natal without withdrawing troops from all over our Eastern garrisons. [An HON. MEMBERS: "No."] He does not deny that. That was his whole point. His whole point was that in 1899 we could not reinforce Natal with a few thousand men without withdrawing troops from our Indian and other Eastern garrisons. What the hon. Gentleman said is perfectly and literally true. In 1899 we could not send 10,000 or 20,000 men, or even less than 10,000 men, to Natal without withdrawing troops from India, from Ceylon, and from other Eastern possessions. The hon. Gentleman has the hardihood to say that our position now is no better, and he seemed to imply that it is worse. I have here an envelope, addressed to him, which I have marked "Secret." I will send a similar envelope to any hon. Member who will be good enough—I need hardly make the condition—to regard it as secret. From the paper in this envelope it will be seen that if we wanted to send reinforcements to 1020 Natal to-morrow we could, without withdrawing one single man from any of our Eastern garrisons, send within a very few days, if transport were ready, 150,000 men fully equipped with arms, ammunition, provisions and stores, and reinforcements for three months to come.
§ Mr. AMERY rose—
§ Colonel SEELY
I listened very patiently to the hon. Gentleman and I must ask him to listen patiently to me. I do not often make long speeches in the House. He has made the allegation that little or no advance has been made. I do not care what he said in the way of getting a party cheer; what I am concerned with is what people abroad and elsewhere will think—
§ Mr. AMERY again rose—
§ Colonel SEELY
I wish to finish my sentence. The hon. Gentleman has made a very fierce attack upon the military preparedness of this country, which attack will have a grave reaction, if believed, upon our position in the world. I am here to say and repeat again that on the word "mobilise" being given, and if the word "mobilise" were given to-day, within a few days—and the number of days will be found in this paper, which any Member can see—150,000 men could be dispatched with all their arms, ammunition, provisions and stores, and reinforcements ready for them for three months. That marks the most extraordinary advance in the whole military history of this country. Nothing like it has ever been attempted before. It is the result of years of thought, of effort, and of expense. It has involved the cutting down of many redundant things; it has involved the setting up of very necessary things. Hut we stand today in a position quite extraordinary in offensive force compared with the position we held at the time I have named, or even six or seven years ago. When we recollect that we are comparing the position to-day with the position at the time to which the hon. Gentleman refers, when, according to the hon. Gentleman himself, we could not send 10,000 men without withdrawing troops from foreign garrisons, I say that it is trifling with the Committee to make such a charge. I turn to other points which the hon. Gentleman made. When I have sent him the envelope, I hope he will return to the attack. I welcome it. I have a certain dread that my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) and 1021 others, who, following my example of years ago, have sometimes moved to reduce the Army, may, as a consequence of what I have said, suggest that we are much too strong in offensive force. I foresee that they will use that argument as a consequence of what has happened. I think there are some ready to do it now, but I occupy a middle position. I think at least that we have disposed of the extraordinary allegation of the hon. Gentleman opposite that we are in a no better, or in a worse, position than when he rendered such distinguished service to his country during the South African war.
Coming to details, he asks what are we to do as to the shortage of officers. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) raised what he calls his hardy annual in urging promotion from the ranks. It is eminently desirable that there should be more promotions from the ranks. The hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to think that promotions from the ranks during a war were a mistake. That may be right, but the Duke of Wellington thought otherwise. The Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War made promotions from the ranks wholesale after the battle of Badajos. It is most interesting to see that he made recommendations the very same day for, I think, eleven commissions after the battle of Badajos. The Duke of Wellington gave the commissions, as can be seen from the records of the time, because the men who were recommended for commissions had rendered such gallant service that he thought they were fit for commissioned rank in His Majesty's Army. [An HON. MEMBER: "After years of war."] What does it matter if it was after years? Is a soldier less fit for commissioned rank if he happens to do a distinguished act, to show distinguished service, or to show distinguished capacity, in the middle of a war than at the beginning of a war? What the hon. Gentleman seems to think is that all the men who fought at Badajos had been through the war from the beginning. Has he any reason to believe that? If he looks at the records he will find that that is not the case.
§ Colonel SEELY
Of course they were not raw recruits. Who ever suggested that? We have at the War Office at this moment a list of non-commissioned officers suitable for commission, and a finer list— 1022 if we are to believe the officers who have reported upon the men, and I suppose the hon. and gallant Gentleman would believe them—it is impossible to conceive. They have every quality to suit them for commissions.
§ Colonel SEELY
I am coming to that point. We are in this great difficulty. Directly you propose to promote from the ranks you are brought up against this, curious dilemma. In order to avoid what is called jobbery in the Army, a succession of persons on both sides of the House have for a series of years urged us to adopt a competitive system of examination for entrance, and a continuation of examinations for promotion. Only this very day the hon. Member for Preston (Major Stanley) called in question the system of appointment to the Staff College, where we have a nomination system, enabling officers in this case who have rendered distinguished service in the field and passed qualifying examinations to be posted to the Staff College. He wants, as many others do, a purely competitive system.
What I had in my mind was, that officers may go up for examination for the Staff College and not be nominated at all; they may pass excellent examinations, but because there is not a sufficient establishment for all regiments, they cannot enter the Staff College, while officers who have passed the examination lower in the list may do so. That is my point. It has nothing to do with nomination at all.
§ Colonel SEELY
It is the same point. There is not room for them in the Staff College, because others who have passed not so high, but have rendered distinguished service in the field are appointed, and they are excluded. That is the hardship.
I was thinking more particularly of my own regiment, the Royal Artillery. There are only four vacancies one year and five another for officers of the Royal Artillery. Therefore you may have an officer of the Royal Artillery passing higher than another officer, but he is not appointed to the Staff College, because there is no vacancy for him.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Colonel SEELY
I thought from the hon. Gentleman's question that the difficulty 1023 was that the question of nomination precluded officers, but his objection is to the system. There could not be a Staff College composed entirely of Artillerymen, therefore you must divide them into classes, and have so many Infantry, so many Cavalry, so many Artillery, so many Engineers, and so on. The point has often been raised from both sides that you ought to abolish jobbery by having a system purely of competitive examination. That is strongly urged from this side, and particularly by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden), who is anxious that there should be no chance of jobbery, and contends that there must be a system of selection by competitive examination. We are proceeding upon that basis. The Army now is an Army composed of officers who are perpetually reading, thinking, writing, and trying to pass examinations. Anyone who knows the Army knows that that is so. By the very desire to ensure that you shall get officers who are fully and intellectually qualified, you make it almost impossible in time of peace for the man promoted from the ranks to hold his own intellectually in the way of examinations with other officers who have come in in the usual way. The ordinary officer now goes to a crammer, or else to a public school, where hundreds of pounds are spent in teaching him how to pass examinations in competition. Before he goes up for his promotion he in many cases goes again to a crammer as hon. Members know at great expense, so that he may pass. That is the difficulty that we are in. I commend it to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke. When we are urged, as we constantly are, to rely only upon competitive examination, it being so good a thing, may I say that even if it is a good thing, you do definitely close the avenue to the poor, except to the exceptional poor. Education is a matter, not of mere brains, but of money. In adopting this system it is a fact, a deplorable fact, that we close the avenue of promotion in peace time to all the poor, except the exceptionally clever poor. A way ought to be found out I am sure. One way is that indicated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in the House of Lords the other day. We have decided in time of war to promote on a large scale from the ranks. The knowledge that that will happen may do some- 1024 thing to mitigate the present situation—the disability under which the soldier feels he labours as compared with the great days of Wellington. The promotions from the ranks are deplorably few, and have in the past few years diminished. I can assure hon. Members who spoke on this point that we are bearing carefully in mind this particular point. Promotion from the ranks in time of war is an established fact. When we—
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he also intends to keep the pay of the officer the same as in the time of Wellington? Otherwise these men who go up from the ranks will never be able to live at all—not at the rate of a present officer at all events.
§ Colonel SEELY
Of course the question of pay comes into the problem, and must be considered with it when you are considering promotion from the ranks in time of peace. In time of war fortunately it does not arise. Afterwards it does, and in time of peace, both before and after. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary made a statement on this point, and I am very anxious not to detain the House, as I know many hon. Members desire to speak. With regard to the rifle, the Noble Lord appealed to me in one sense, and the hon. and gallant. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury appealed to me in another. In this matter of armament hon. Members opposite, if I may say so, have knocked each other's heads together in a way that absolves me from much of my task. The Noble Lord is very anxious that we shall adopt an automatic rifle—so I understand.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD indicated dissent.
§ Colonel SEELY
And the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Finsbury says he will again and again raise the matter in this House unless we at once commence to manufacture the existing experimental rifle, which is not automatic. We cannot commence to manufacture an automatic rifle, because we have not yet found one that will work. Nor has any one else! If, therefore, we follow the advice of the Noble Lord we should wait until we have got an automatic rifle—and all nations are not very far from it—and then rearm. If we follow the advice of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Finsbury we shall proceed at once to rearm with the experimental rifle—
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
That is not my point at all. I said the automatic rifle 1025 when invented will be the best possible rifle. What I asked the right hon. Gentleman was that when he is making this new rifle is to give a flatter trajectory. He knows he is going to do that, although he is denying it.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps pardon my interruption, but I only stated what the Secretary of State for War has said himself, that we should not wait for an automatic rifle.
§ Colonel SEELY
Yes, but I am attacked from one side and then from the other, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman has a more formidable opponent by his side than above the Gangway; and when the Noble Lord was speaking there were crashing cheers from the benches opposite. I think, therefore, I am entitled in as few words as I can to try to show that the arguments of hon. Members opposite, designed to prove that the Government are proceeding in the wrong direction in regard to the rifle, are mutually contradictory. We do intend always to have the best rifle of all the Powers in Europe. In my judgment we have it now. I speak not my own opinion, but that of my expert advisers.
§ Colonel SEELY
If the Noble Lord would prefer to exchange our rifle for another, which would he exchange it for?
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
The right hon. Gentleman says we have got a better rifle; is he manufacturing that rifle or making another one?
§ Colonel SEELY
The rifle in the possession of our troops is, in the judgment of our advisers, a better rifle than that of the other European Powers, but we want to have a new rifle, because we know other people, whose rifles are even worse than ours, are going to get a new rifle. We do not want ours to be the worst, but the best. I have said this again and again, but I must repeat it each time. So with regard to the question of horses. We have been charged with regard to our readiness, for war in the matter of horses. We are more ready for war than we were, but we are not, I fully admit, so ready as we ought to be.
§ Colonel SEELY
On this matter of light Cavalry horses the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite has so often addressed us. He has taken a great interest in it. He, I am sure, will be glad to know that, although we are not as ready as we ought to be, we are more ready than other Powers. There is no doubt that to stand up in this House, and to explain how terrible is the state of Britain in its unreadiness for war may be a fine thing; but it is just as well to look all round the world when making a comparison. Von Moltke himself once, when told that England was not a military nation, replied:—No, but she is a martial nation, and from my study of history I believe she has not been uniformly unsuccessful.This nation, so described by Von Moltke, is, after all, less unready than other Powers, with whom I trust we shall always remain at peace, but with regard to whom we have to keep a watchful eye. In the case of Cavalry horses, the Secretary of State appointed a Committee, presided over by my hon. Friend who is now Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. That Committee was composed of many eminent Cavalry officers, including General Allen. The Report of that Committee has been adopted practically in toto, though not in every detail, by the Army Council, and its recommendations when carried out will, I believe, greatly increase the rapidity of our mobilisation with fit horses. Under the scheme instead of, as now, horses being bought all the year round, and sent to regiments, they will be bought so far as possible in the spring or the summer, and they will then be sent, not to the regiment, but to grass farms, where they will get rid of the numerous ailments to which young horses are liable. The Board of Agriculture in this country, and the Irish Board of Agriculture, have been good enough to say that they will cooperate with us in this scheme. I have no doubt they can render us most valuable assistance. The horses will mostly be purchased in Ireland, not from any preference to Ireland, but from the Army Council's view, which is that you can get the best horses in Ireland. Having bought them they will be sent to the grass farms, and they will go to the Cavalry regiments in October after the manœuvres. Then will follow persistent systematic training. The net result will be a very considerable 1027 saving in expenditure of money as well as a great increase in the efficiency of the horses. At present it would appear that the average life of a Cavalry horse in our service is considerably less, nearly three years less, than in the case of another great nation. That is, no doubt, entirely due to the fact that we have not given them a previously long and systematic training that that other nation has given so as to get their muscles and backs trained.
§ Colonel SEELY
The minimum age should be not sooner than four years—for this reason: We do not propose, and we hope very soon to be in a position to say, that no horse shall go on mobilisation until it is six years old. We hope that it will remain on the grass farm until it is approximately four and a half. Assuming the horse in April or May to be four years, it is four and a half in October, after one and a half years' training it will be six. It will have had progressive training similar to other great foreign armies, where the training has had surprising results on the life of the horse. It is no good buying a horse young, so I am advised, partly because of the incurable optimism of the Irish farmer, who always asks more for his horse—so our buyers inform us—when three years old than he would ask for the same horse as a four-year-old. He believes that his horse will grow into a Grand National winner, and, of course, it very often does not. Therefore we do not propose to buy until about four years, because we believe that that will be the most economical system, and also the best. We have already got one grass farm, and we are making arrangements to get three more. When the whole scheme is in working order I believe that as the result of labours of my hon. Friend's Committee and those distinguished officers who have worked with him that we shall have our Cavalry not only much more ready for war than it is now, but far more ready for war than any other Continental nation.
§ Colonel SEELY
I am talking about the method. With regard to numbers, I mentioned the other day that we have added, 1028 as hon. Members know, another twenty to the establishment. We propose to increase the number of boarded-out horses, and to take further measures to ensure that boarded-out horses shall be in better condition. By taking a certain percentage of those most fit for the first reinforcement, I believe we shall have Cavalry absolutely ready to take the field. That would, of course, necessitate a pool of the horses that can be drawn upon. With regard to the Territorial Force, I trust I may be forgiven for not dwelling upon it now, as I understand an hon. Gentleman opposite will move a Resolution raising that whole point, and we shall have an opportunity of debating it on a full day which has been allotted by arrangement between the two parties. With regard to the matter of aviation, the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Amery) asked me how we were going to run a business like this common both to the Army and Navy. It is essential that there should be co-ordination between the two. How that can best be arrived at I am not now at liberty to say, but that there should be co-ordination between the Army and the Navy, so that the flying services shall remain one flying service, and not be split up into different departments or regiments or any other kind of jealousy, is vital to any air service, as has been generally recognised by those who organise similar services in other parts of the world. He asked me whether East-church would be under the Admiralty. Yes; that would mean that the Navy wing would be under the Admiralty and the military wing would be administered by the War Office. He pressed me to say that it should be under a Departmental Staff, and gave very strong reasons, if I may say so, that this air service which must, at any rate as far as we can now see, be a service of reconnaissance and scouting, should have one General Staff. His suggestions will be very carefully considered. I am disposed to think that the arguments he put forward are so sound that his suggestions would have to be adopted, and if he will ask me questions about it at a future time I should be very glad to give him a definite answer. I think I have dealt with most of the points raised in this discussion, and, of course, before it closes, if there are any other points that hon. Members raise, I shall be very glad to answer them.
§ Sir. S. SCOTT
What about the light draft horses? The point I put to the right 1029 hon. Gentleman was that he should tell us how he proposed to draw from these horses registered?
§ Lord CLAUD HAMILTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to inform the Committee how many men of the Regular Force, officers and men, would be left in the United Kingdom after the Expeditionary Force of 150,000 men have left the country.
§ Colonel SEELY
I have given the figures on more than one occasion, and they have been quoted in the course of the Debate. It is generally assumed that 410,000 is the total from which you deduct a little over 250,000 of the Territorial Force. That leaves approximately about 150,000 in the Regular Force and Special Reserve, and, speaking from recollection, about 110,000 of our Regulars and the remainder of the Special Reserve not required on first mobilisation. With regard to the question put by the hon. Barnnet as to the light draft horses registered, it is perfectly true it would be a great hardship to take all the horses from one firm. I had interviews with the owners of horses in respect to the hardship if all the horses were taken from them. We have taken steps to see that if hardship does arise when the classification is complete we will communicate with the owner as to the condition they will find themselves in on mobilisation, and by that means, and as they will have an opportunity to bring their grievance before us, we will have the opportunity of redressing any grievances that they may have. I hope now we shall be able to get the different Votes upon the Paper.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary, replying to the question asked a moment ago by my Noble Friend the Member for South Kensington (Lord Claud Hamilton), will have recalled to the memory of the Committee that he altogether failed to answer the whole object of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Birmingham. I should not have intervened in this Debate had not the Under-Secretary, acting, no doubt, within his strict rights, refused to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for South Birmingham. If he had thought it better, with a clear understanding of the important matters we are here to consider, to give way, he would not have fallen himself into the error, and he would not, having fallen into the error no doubt unintentionally, of having misled the Committee upon a matter of the gravest concern. It is 1030 essential that if our Debates are to be serious at all that the confusion which he has created should be cleared up. The hon. Member for South Birmingham at the beginning of his speech urged that it was important to have a surplus of battalions, which are mobilised in peace, battalions which can be used without calling out the Reserve. He urged that South Africa was a convenient spot in which to place such garrisons, and in support of that argument and that plea he cited the fact that at the beginning of the South African war, there then being a surplus of such battalions in the Mediterranean and other places he named, it was possible to move them to the right spot at once. And he used this further argument, also an important one, which is that it is often necessary to strengthen your garrisons in this or that portion of the world without mobilisation, because if you have to mobilise you precipitate war. I am not going to repeat the speech I made twelve years ago in this House, but the burden of it was that if we had not been able to move certain battalions to South Africa without calling out the Reserves, we should have precipitated the war at an earlier moment. That is what my hon. Friend said.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The Under-Secretary for War quotes another thing he said—namely, that the preparation of the Government is not as good as the preparation that existed some years ago. What does the Under-Secretary do? He pieces these two things together, and has the amazing hardihood to tell the Committee we could only move ten battalions to South Africa in 1899, and he goes on to assert that now he could move 150,000 men ready for war. I am glad he attaches so much importance to having the Expeditionary Force, but how can he say that that force, if it is ready to start—I am not going over that ground again—can be allowed to start if behind that force we have the state of affairs described by my hon. Friend the Member for South Birmingham in the whole of his speech, and to which not one word of answer is given. In spite of that speech, when my Noble Friend asked what force would be left in this country after the Expeditionary Force had started, the Under-Secretary gets up and says there would be 410,000 men, of which 110,000 would remain. An answer is necessary to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Birmingham, and all 1031 the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for War said about horse registration and the comparative charm of a high trajectory over a low trajectory is merely so much dust thrown in the eyes of the Members of this Committee. The object of military preparation is to prevent war, and you cannot prevent war unless you can strike a blow in war. You have an Expeditionary Force, but cannot launch that force, and other countries know you will not be able to launch it, so long as you allow that state of affairs to continue, which the hon. Member for South Birmingham has this afternoon fully and truthfully described.
§ Colonel SEELY
If I may reply, let me reply with the utmost deliberation in three sentences. The General Staff are of opinion, and the Secretary of State for War, acting upon their opinion, authorises me to say this, that we consider that when the Expeditionary Force has left this country, taking into account the relative strength of our Navy and all the surrounding circumstances, this country is safe from invasion. All questions as to the precise number of men and their quality are, of course, questions I should be very glad to answer, but the statements I have made seem to me to be a complete refutation of the alarmist suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite; and if at any time I am challenged I shall repeat the statement that it is the opinion of our advisers, in which we concur, that taking all the facts into consideration, when the Expeditionary Force has left this country, this country is free from invasion—I mean, of course, defeat in the event of invasion.
The right hon. Gentleman has given the usual answer which I think is always given to criticisms on our preparation. To the very powerful speech of the hon. Member for South Birmingham, he says we could spend £100,000,000 upon the Army if we were to have an ideal Army; but he seems to think that in existing circumstances we have an ideal organisation for the Army. He also tells us that on mobilisation we would have 150,000 men which we could send out of the country, but that is not the point. The point is when you send 150,000 men out of the country, what have you left? I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is ever going to give the number. He has not said a single word in answer to the question as to this mysterious equation 1032 between our Army abroad and our Army at home. I could quite understand there might be some equation between the two Armies. If you had the fifty battalions now in India you would also want fifty-two battalions for the purpose of maintaining this country. You have beside these twenty-two battalions in other parts of the world, and that makes it almost incredible that there should be this exact equation between the Army at home and the Army abroad; but it goes very much further. We all know these establishments are for the purpose of supplying drafts to India and places abroad, but, of course, the size of the Expeditionary Force is also based not upon strategic purposes, but upon this equation, and especially so that upon this accident of quality you get the number of this Expeditionary Force.
The right hon. Gentleman has not said a single word in reply to another challenge that owing to the drawing home of our naval forces and their concentration around this island, you would leave some of your garrisons abroad in a condition of less strength than before. I should like to know how far the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers have considered that question, because it is a remarkable thing that after all that tremendous alteration in the position of the Fleet, the position and number of these garrisons would remain probably the same, or rather worse and weaker. Moreover, if anything has been brought home to our minds during the last few years I think it is this, that the Navy cannot finish a war, that you must have an Army to drive the matter home. The lesson we have had borne in upon us by the Russo-Japanese war is one that should have left some impression upon the right hon. Gentleman's mind and those of his advisers. He has not told us how he is going to provide for the Reserve which is coming, owing to the system of two enlistments coming to an end. The Secretary of War has made, of course, many boasts in those speeches of luminous verbosity to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. That is my paraphrase of the right hon. Gentleman's phrase. I am sure it is an equally vivid one. He has boasted that he has reduced the Army largely, and that at the same time he has largely added to its strength. Now that is a thing which the plain man in the street finds it difficult to understand. I think the right hon. Gentleman said that he had added 90,000 to the force of the Army. When you come to examine this, how has 1033 it been done? We know there has been a reduction in the Army, and it is plain that it has been done largely by the change of the Special Reserve being made liable for foreign service. How does the right hon. Gentleman compare the two? In taking numbers has he ever tried to compare the value of the Special Reserve with the value of the Regular troops whom they have replaced? We have never heard any comparison made between the quality of the men. At the present moment, according to the description, the Special Reserve is one of the most amazing forces in the whole world. It is composed of all sorts of different enlistments and lengths of training. You have in the same regiment three different classes of training. You have men trained for six months who come out for fourteen days; you have those trained for five months who come out annually for twenty-seven days; and then you have those who come out after three months for twenty-seven days. This mixing up of men of different trainings is defended on the ground that these extra twenty-seven special battalions who were going to be trained for three months were going to be stiffened with Regular troops. The right hon. Gentleman adopts the same argument with regard to the abolition of a large proportion of our Regular Forces and the institution of the Territorial Army. As a matter of fact he reduces the period of training before he has stiffened these regiments. As regards officers, he considers twelve months is a short enough period to produce an officer. Not only this, but he is reducing the training of officers from twelve months to six months, not on any real military grounds, but because it is very difficult to get the officers.
Take another point in this marvellous force which is going to replace the old Regular Forces. The extra Reserve battalions are to be raised from 500 to 750, and they require more officers. Such is the extraordinary magic moving the mind of the Secretary of State for War that he increases these regiments by 250 and at the same time docks them of four of the Regular officers they had to train them. This is one of his beautiful systems of economy which he effects by taking away four officers from each of these twenty-seven battalions, spreading them out among the Regular Army, and then he makes out that he has got more officers. He told us last year that he was going to take steps to prevent these men being 1034 drafted away from the Line. There used to be a good deal of discussion about counting these men twice over, once for the Militia and once for the Line as well, but we have got over pretending that now and we get the admission that it is impossible to count them as two men. I am not aware, in spite of the promise made last year, that any steps have been taken to prevent the men who joined the Special Reserve from going on in the Line. I would like to ask a question about the Special Reservists. After mobilisation, are they going on with the old rifle with which they have trained, or with the new rifle with which they have not trained, or are there to be in the same regiment two sets of men using two separate sets of rifles? If so, what an extraordinary confusion will be produced.
The old county association has now been tacked on to the Regular depot, and has become in the nature of a military force. Consequently it is exceedingly difficult in many counties to get the old officers you used to have because they feel it is not their own regiment, but one tacked on to the depot. In this way you have lost the services of a good type of officer. That is the curious mosaic force created by the Secretary for War, and it enables the right hon. Gentleman to boast that he has enlarged the Army sent out in the Expeditionary Force to fight our battles against foreign countries. I should like to say a word or two about the position of the Territorials, because I belong to them myself, and I am very familiar with their condition. I have belonged to most branches of the Territorials, and in my old age I am still connected with the mounted force. I think the right hon. Gentleman is always confusing us by his metaphors. A philosopher ought to avoid metaphors, but the Secretary for War is always talking about this force being the third line. When you talk about a third line, the inference is that you have other two lines in front of it. That is a false metaphor, because we have to meet a situation where the enemy might have pierced through the other two lines, and where the brunt of severe fighting might fall upon what has been called the third line. The Secretary for War is always saying, "Oh, yes, you must either have one thing or the other; if you want to meet Regulars, you must have man to man." If they train for three years, and train like the Regular force, he seems to think there is no difference between this full training and the small training of the 1035 Territorials. However deficient my military knowledge may be, I do know something of the Territorials, and I should like to say that it is really absurd for anybody to pretend that there has been any great measure of improvement in the Territorials. One hon. Member has fallen foul of the generals. I am not dealing with Sir Ian Hamilton, but I do not think our generals have talked with very excessive enthusiam about the Territorial Force. They say it is an improving force. If anyone is satisfied with the word "improving" I will make them a present of that argument, but that is the most General French ever said about it.
The generals find great difficulty in criticising the Territorials. At first they had a new standard, and there has been great difficulty in applying it to the exact needs of the Territorial Force. In the ridiculously small time we have to train it is no use asking for any higher standard. It may be better next year and worse the following year, but the centre of oscillation is not going to alter very much, in spite of all the organisation you speak of with so many generals, major-generals, and brigadiers. The real value of a force depends upon the strength of the particular units, whoso value and strength again depend upon the length and the fullness of their training It would simply be magic if this Territorial Force could possibly be of much value. I am not deceived by the panegyrics passed by distinguished generals and even by colonels on the strength and value of the Territorial Force. As a member of the Eastern Division, which in the event of war might be called upon to meet the brunt of an attack, I am not pleased by the sort of attitude the Secretary for War takes up. Not long ago he said:—Such a force the Territorial citizen army could crush by sheer weight of numbers.As a member of that force I do not like the idea of crushing a force by sheer weight of numbers, because that means tremendous slaughter, and though I am ready to take my own share of the risk of being shot in a reasonable manner, I do not quite like to be treated by the Secretary for War as nothing but food for powder leading on a mass of men who have to win by exhaustion of the enemy and shooting them down. The Secretary for War talks of this mass of men as a mobile force, but after all our horses are taken by the Regular Forces I think we 1036 shall find it difficult to move these men about the country. Do hon. Members opposite realise that all these brigades and divisions, and all this panorama of organisation which has been trotted out, has hitherto existed only on paper and nothing else? Do hon. Members know that the more untrained a force is the more difficult it is for a general to handle it? If you have an untrained force and the officers are also largely untrained, then you have an almost inconceivable state of things which presents more difficulties than a Regular force. I am not going into the question of how much we attend camp, beyond saying that the very modest training we get works out at about ten days in the year. We do not even get these very small requirements fulfilled. "Ah, yes," we are told, "but you are going to have your six months' training." Speaking in 1909, the Secretary of State for War really admitted that a long time would elapse before the Expeditionary Force would leave the country, and he said that in that time the Territorial Force would be able to get through a good deal of training. He could, therefore only establish a certain value in the Territorial Force by denying the facility for mobilisation of the Expeditionary Force. He must take his stand on one leg or the other. If the Expeditionary Force can go out at once, then the Territorial Force is left untrained. If the Territorial Force has time to train, then we are not ready to send out an Expeditionary Force of 160,000 or 170,000 men at a moment's notice.
It is a rather remarkable thing, too, that, though the Territorial Force was based on the view prevailing in 1904 as to the possibility of the invasion of this country, and though in 1909 a great change came over military, and, I believe, naval opinion also, as to the possibility of a larger force coming into this country, yet no attention whatever has apparently been given by the Secretary of State for War to that change, and the Territorial Force is exactly the same in establishment and training as it was in 1907, before this change took place. The hopes of the people are raised by a large and shadowy Fourth Line, the reserves of the Territorial Force. These hordes of veterans, no doubt, are admirable people, but I do not know whether they can march. They have no guns, and they have nothing whatever to form even the nucleus of some sort of a Fourth Line. They really only exist in a 1037 sort of cloudy form in the mind of the Secretary of State for War, who would make us believe that behind the Third Line there is some Fourth Line which would be of some possible fighting value. The great difficulty operating on the minds of employers which we have all found, and which the Territorial Association have found, is not so much the fifteen days' training, but the fact that the Territorial Force may be called out for six months' training on the outbreak of war. That causes an employer to pause, because at that time he might have a great deal of work to do, and he and his loyal and patriotic friends would have the whole duty cast upon them of supporting and running the Territorial Force, as it -were, and all those who ought to have joined and done their duty would not be taking their part and would score.
The Territorial Force has been treated too much as if they were younger members of a family, to be provided with the old cast-off clothes of their elder brothers, and as if those clothes were thought quite good enough for them. We are not so highly trained as other forces, either in men or officers, and we are short in every way. It is therefore absurd that it should be thought good enough to provide us with weapons that are not the best. You will never make the Territorial Force a real force, and you will never make it recognise its own value or make the people recognise it either, until you supply it with the best weapon. You really ought to have one homogeneous Army, and supply your Army right throughout, both Regulars and the Territorial Force, with the same guns and rifle. We are told that in the last resort we are to form a reservoir upon which you are to draw to fill up the ranks in our Regular Force after the Special Reserves and the Extra Special Reserves are eaten up. If that is so, why are we not placed on the same footing as the Regular Force, so that we shall be able to take our place in the fighting ranks with the same weapons, and so that you will not have two sets of men working with different weapons, making the difficulties of supply, transport wagons, ammunition, etc., a thousand times worse. You are bound to put some sort of order upon men to join the force. The right hon. Gentleman, not this right hon. Gentleman, but the other—the worst of the two—says he is satisfied with 250,000 men for his establishment of 315,000, because in a time of war men will flock very readily to fill up the ranks. Let this force, first of all, 1038 be a full force. Let it come up to its full establishment, and do not let the right hon. Gentleman pretend, when he cannot get his 315,000 men, that 250,000 is sufficient to make it a real force. Let the right hon. Gentleman devote all his energies, all his ability, and all his knowledge, to make it a real genuine force, which will be a real Third Line and not a sham Third Line in the case of an invasion of this country.
§ Colonel GREIG
The hon. Member who has just sat down is a member of the Territorial Force, and I think we need not despair if the members of that force are at all of the calibre he has displayed in this House and elsewhere. He stated that he believed that force is not capable of improvement, but he rather answered himself when he told us at the end of his speech that the only thing necessary to make it a really effective addition to the forces of this country was to put it on an equality with the Regular Army as regards equipment and arms. Those who know something of the Territorial Force feel convinced that, as it is organised and equipped and armed now, it is an immense improvement upon the old Volunteer Force, which, even in the state in which it was then, was relied upon by the party opposite to support the defective organisation with which they were content to enter upon the South African war. We have at least now a connected, well thought out, and scientific system for the defence of the country. It has never been done on scientific lines before. Although the hon. Member for South Birmingham, who told us he would prefer a system which would allow us to have organised battalions at Cyprus and other places in preference to an Expeditionary Force, is a very great authority on strategy, I very much doubt whether that is a system we are likely to adopt in this country. A great deal too much has been made of the deficiency in the recruiting for the Territorial Force. The discrepancy between the establishment and the efficients for the last six years of the old Volunteer Force was something like 80,000 or 90,000, and yet not one word was said about the efficiency of that force. Compared with that the deficients of the present force are only about 40,000.
A great deal too much has also been said about the two weeks' training. That has been erected into a fetish. People discuss it as if that was the only training to which the Territorial Force was subjected 1039 during a year. The force is continually in training from the first day of the year to the end of the year, and the annual training of two weeks is merely the finishing touch given to the training through the whole of the year. There is a very great difference of opinion about the value of that training. When we started it was said to be the only occasion on which large bodies of men could be got together for brigade movement. Now the generals who inspect and instruct consider it best at that time to subject the Territorial Force not to brigade movement and matters of that sort, but merely to camp administration; and even company training is done now. Experts are not at one as to the value of that training. One word as to the officers, not only of the Territorial Force, but also of the Regular Army. Hon. Members forget that the percentage of officers to men in the English Army is greater than in any other army in the world. We have under the control of the officers of the English Army a smaller number of men than in any Continental army. Therefore, I think we can at least console ourselves with the fact that the matter is not so serious as hon. Members opposite would make it appear. We have up to the present endeavoured to keep this question of the Army out of party politics, and I regret very much to see an inclination amongst Members, I do not say in this House but outside, to make the question of the defence of the country the subject of party attack. If that is to take place, we will accept it on that ground, because we can at least say that all the great reforms in the Army and Navy have been due to the party on this side of the House; and, if we are to defend the present position, we are convinced, and we have made up our minds, that the present system is perfectly calculated to defend the country. To adopt any system of compulsory service would simply mean an alteration in our foreign policy, and an alteration, not only in the recruiting for the Territorial Army, but also for the Navy and Regular Army, whereas up to the present time the whole demand for men for the defence of the country has been adequately met on the voluntary system. I think it was the hon. Member for South Birmingham who said that in time of war it would be necessary to keep 50,000 troops for service in Ireland. If the measure which is proposed on this side of the House 1040 is carried, not only will there be no need to provide these 50,000 troops, but we shall have at least 30,000 Territorials from Ireland available, in addition to our present forces.
§ 8.0 P.M.
Major MORRISON - BELL
The hon. Member who has just spoken concluded by saying that in the event of Home Rule being passed it would not be necessary to have a certain number of troops available for service in Ireland. But I venture to suggest that whether Home Rule is passed or not we shall be bound to have a certain number of troops for that purpose. I would like to draw attention for a few minutes to a point which was briefly touched upon by the hon. Member for Taunton, and that is the shortage in the Territorial Force, which has been apparent for the last two or three years. We are told it is now something like 50,000 men in round numbers, and that there is very little prospect of the force increasing or of its being brought up to its proper total on the voluntary principle. The minimum now laid down for the Territorial Force is 312,000 men, and we have never been able to get anywhere near that total.
§ Colonel GREIG
What I pointed out was that under the old voluntary system we were 80,000 men short, and that fact appears to have been lost sight of.
I am a pro-Territorial, and always have been. The minimum laid down for that force by the officers of the Army Council is 312,000 men. That number has never been reached. The point is can we ever hope, under our present system, to get anywhere near that figure? There are two ways of getting the men: you must either attract them in some way by increasing their pay or adding to the amenities of the force, or you must compel them to come in. You cannot always hope to attract them by the performance of some play or by the newspapers taking the matter up. That is not a permanent way of bringing about the desired result. You must raise the amenities of the force, or you must compel the men to come in. I believe that no Minister will ever be prepared to propose a Vote for £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, which will be necessary to secure the force by means of increased pay; therefore you are face to face with the alternative method of getting them by compulsion. This has nothing to do with compelling everybody to serve. You only want to get a sufficient 1041 number for the Territorial Force. The hon. Member for Stoke referred to this subject, but I would like to point out to him how very small a burden it would be on the basis of population. There are 40,000,000 of people in this country. The minimum of the Territorial Force is put at 312,000. But, supposing we fix it at 400,000: that represents but 1 per cent. of the population. By what method could the number be secured? It could be obtained by a tale on every county. I need not go into figures, but each county would be called upon to provide its quota, whereas, nowadays one county does a great amount of work, while other counties are shirking it. Certain counties are assessed at a higher rate than others simply because they happen to have a keen Lord-Lieutenant, or officers keen on working up the forces. Why should not every county provide a number of men assessed according to its population. What would occur? Your officer would go to a village. He would inquire how many people are there in this village? The answer might be "300." He would then declare: "I must have three men." Or he would go to a town with 10,000 inhabitants, and there he would claim a quota of 100 men. The adoption of this system would not be unpopular; indeed, it would very soon become a popular part of our life.
You are now compelling people to insure for the purposes of health, why not, in the same way, compel them to insure for the national health? You are not really asking for 1 per cent. of the population, you require rather about three-quarters of 1 per cent., and if you adopt this policy everybody would be doing their share, and it would practically work out at about 5 per cent. of the men, or less than one in twenty. If one man was drawn for the duty the other nineteen men would at least have the satisfaction of feeling that they too might have been drawn, and if the man drawn grumbled the answer would toe that the others stood an equal chance with himself. This, at any rate, would do away with the feeling that the burden fell upon the men who were keen on doing their duty to their country while others were shirking it. There is another point to be borne in mind. Anyone who has had to do with volunteer camps knows how it is almost necessary to go down on the knee to employers to allow their men to attend the camp. Under the system I propose there would be no necessity for such action, and more than that you 1042 will get your men for fourteen days' camp training instead of eight days. The third advantage would be that there would be no difficulty in securing the necessary number of officers. I do not think I need go into this plan in greater detail. By compelling 1 per cent. of the population to serve you would secure that everybody takes the chance of doing the work and nobody would be allowed to shirk it. I do not believe that votes would be lost by advocating a system such as that, and I certainly am of opinion that, in the course of the next few years, some such system will have to be adopted. It would, therefore, be well for us to face the problem to-day.
§ Colonel SEELY
I understand it will take some little time to read out the Votes from the Chair, and I therefore hope we may be allowed to close this discussion now. I shall be happy to answer various points which have been raised by hon. Gentleman in the course of to-morrow. I am sorry if I unintentionally misrepresented the remarks of the hon. Member for South Birmingham. If I did him an injustice, I regret it. I was simply trying to dispel the gloom which I thought his observations might have given rise to. I hope we may now have this Vote.
§ Sir. F. BANBURY
May I say I do not quite agree with the argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite that the adoption of compulsory service must alter our national policy? I cannot assent to that, but, as time is very brief, I do not now propose to deal with the argument.
§ Question put, and agreed to.