HC Deb 13 March 1912 vol 35 cc1185-227
Colonel YATE

I beg to move, "That this House, whilst appreciating the organisation of the Territorial Force, and fully recognising the patriotic spirit of its Members, is of opinion that it should be supplemented by a system of national military training."

I wish to move this Motion in no sense whatever in a party spirit. It is a national question—a question for the nation to consider, a question of national safety and of national security. The proposal for national training I know is supported by Members both on this side of the House and on the other side, and also by a very large number indeed of people of every shade of political opinion throughout the country generally. I think the question must certainly be taken up before long. The anxiety that is manifested throughout the country regarding national safety speaks for itself. I do not think the country will continue to rest satisfied with the present conditions. I am speaking solely to-night of the Territorial Force. The Regular Army is an overseas Army, an Army enlisted for foreign service, and it is and always must be a purely voluntary Army. I wish to speak to-night about the question of national defence as connected with the Territorial Force. I think the whole country thoroughly appreciates the genius of the Secretary of State for War in his organisation of the Territorial Force. It was a masterly stroke of genius for Lord Haldane to bring into being the county Territorial Associations, and to give the administration of the Territorial Force into the hands of those associations. We all admire the organisation of the right hon. Gentleman in dividing up the Territorial Force into brigades and divisions under Regular officers. That is real business. The organisation, so far, is complete. What we now have to do is to provide the necessary number of men and the necessary amount of training. In considering this question of the Territorial Force, I cannot do better than commence by taking up a pronouncement that I heard from the Secretary of State himself at Leicester two months ago. Lord Haldane went to Leicester specially to address the Leicestershire Territorials on the subject. Of the 17,000 men who comprise my division, 8,000 or more live in the town of Leicester, so that I was particularly interested in the question. These men, both in the town and the county of Leicester, are so zealous and enthusiastic and so well has the county Territorial Association done its work, that the Leicester Territorials, at the time Lord Haldane addressed them, were up to 98 per cent, of their strength, and I have heard since that they are up to 100 per cent., and even in some cases 102 per cent. Leicestershire in this respect has set an example to the whole of the counties in Great Britain. If every county in Great Britain however had followed the example of Leicestershire still the safety of Great Britain would not be assured. This is through no fault of the men themselves. We all recognise the grand spirit of duty and patriotism that animates every man who enlists in the Territorial Force. The country owes a great debt of gratitude to these men and the country acknowledges that debt; but the point is this. The burden falls unfairly on the patriotic few, and what we have to do now is to case that burden. Lord Haldane, in this address, first of all pointed out one very important point. In speaking to the Leicestershire Territorials, he said:— The Territorial Force is in the nature of an insurance premium against the worst disaster that could befall labour in this country, that of a state of affairs arising in which factories and workshops will be swept away under an invasion by a foreign foe. I was specially pleased when I heard Lord Haldane use those words. If there is one thing more than another which is certain, it is that the working men of this country have not yet realised the terrible hardships and sufferings that they would be exposed to in the case of a war of invasion. They have not yet realised that it is they who would be the first to suffer on such an occasion. Just as the working classes are the first to suffer in an industrial war, like that in which we see ourselves engaged now, so it is that they will be the first to suffer in any war of invasion should it ever come about. I trust, therefore, that Lord Haldane will continue to impress this on the people of the country wherever he goes. Our working classes have no knowledge whatever of what war means. They have no idea of the sufferings the French peasantry went through in the War of 1870 even at the hands of a great civilised foe like Germany. Lord Haldane, when he first introduced his Territorial Force scheme, placed this insurance premium at 314,000 men trained for fifteen days in each year. We have never yet been able to get these 314,000 men. We have now got only 264,000, of whom the engagements of no fewer than 94,000 expire this year. Last year the recruits numbered only 39,000; the year before they numbered 42,000. How many will join this year it is impossible to say, but we can only safely reckon on some 40,000 or 45,000 men coming forward. How many of these 94,000 four-years' men will reengage this year it is also impossible to say, but we are face to face with the possibility of finding ourselves about 100,000 men short of our insurance premium number. I say this is a danger to the nation. Of these 264,000 men that we have now, only 155,000 did fifteen days' camp this year, and all, I think, will admit that a man who has only done one week—that is, six days' training—is unfit for service in the field. If it takes 264,000 men to give us 155,000 men who have done their fifteen days' training, it is clear that it will take 528,000 men to give us the full 314,000 men who have done their fifteen days' training. That means that we have to double our numbers. Where can we do that? Is it possible to do it under the present scheme. I emphatically say, no. On the contrary, we may find ourselves 50,000 shorter than we are at present. Not for a moment do I agree that 314,000 men trained for fifteen days is sufficient for our needs, but the point is that our present scheme will not give us even that.

I say again, this is not a party question but a national question, and, speaking on behalf of the working men of this country, the men who in case of invasion will have to bear the brunt and on whom the greatest hardships and misery will fall, they have a perfect right to demand from the Government a practical measure for complete insurance, and that they have not got at the present moment. Not only this country but the whole Empire realises the necessity for change. The present system in this country has been in existence for four years, and the county associations, landlords, employers of labour, and all people of influence have done their best to help on the scheme during that period. After four years' trial, the only result is that we have neither a sufficient number of men nor a sufficient amount of training to secure the safety of the country.

Let us see what our overseas Dominions are doing. In Canada there is a Minister of Defence going about the country organising the boys in cadet battalions and the men in regiments of Militia for national defence. In South Africa we have the same thing going on. In Australia and New Zealand we see that a definite scheme has been brought in by Act of Parliament, providing for all boys from fourteen to eighteen being trained, and also for the training of all men from eighteen to twenty-one. I have got here a Reuter's telegram, which states that in New Zealand the first annual training has just been held, that the attendance was good, that the men were enthusiastic, that the total number of cadets was 38,000, and of Territorials 31,000. That is out of a population of 1,000,000. Here, in England, Scotland, and Wales, we have a population of 40,000,000, and if we were to take as much pains to defend ourselves as our brethren across the seas we could have 1,250,000 men under arms and 1,500,000 boys under training. I just mention this to show how earnestly our brethren overseas are taking up this question, and how little we are doing to follow the good example they are setting.

There are two aspects in which I would ask the House to consider this question of national training. The first is the question of national physique; and the second is the question of national defence. I think all will allow that under the present stress and strain of industrial life in our great cities we are gradually losing our national physique. Our recruiting returns alone prove this. Of the men presented for enlistment this year, I see that no less than 44 per cent. were rejected as unfit. I say that is one of the saddest signs of the times. We have made the mental education of our children compulsory, but we have done nothing to make their physical education equally compulsory, and I say it is as absolutely necessary for us to arrange for their physical as for their mental education. All parents realise that a boy drilled and trained in his youth is enabled to start life with a sounder body and a better chance of success than if he had not had this training. All the working men I have talked to on this subject acknowledge and realise the advantages of some sort of training for their sons. It is true that we are giving a certain amount of physical training in the elementary schools at the present time—training between the ages of twelve and fourteen—but we have done nothing whatever to arrange for securing a continuance of this training.

What I have to suggest is the formation of cadet battalions for the national training of our youths from fourteen to eighteen, thus following the lead given by the self-governing Dominions overseas. I would apply this rule not only to boys at school, but to every able-bodied boy in the Kingdom, whether at school or not. Beginning with the schools, I would go to Eton and Harrow, and I would thus prove that we in our endeavours are not wishing to put an extra, burden on the poor, but an extra duty on the rich. So far as the boys attending schools are concerned, the question is very simple. What we have to arrange for is the training of boys who are not attending school. This difficulty arose both in Australia and New Zealand, but it was overcome there, and it can be equally overcome here. On this point we have the support of Lord Haldane himself. I have here the report of a speech which he made at the Royal United Service Institution on 29th March, 1911. Speaking about boy cadet training, he said:— It is an admirable thing that cadet corps should have progressed as they have progressed, but what is necessary is that the third stage should come when the State should recognise that as part of the education, I think the compulsory education, of the youths of the country, some kind of physical training of an organised character, should be included along with the mental discipline which is essential to fit people for the work of life. Lord Haldane further on, referring to the period between fourteen and seventeen years of age, said:— The Board of Education is extending its activities. It is a body which has an enlarged future in front of it, and if we can only keep this distinction between national service, which is a question, however you may look at it, with which the War Office must deal, and national training, which is a thing in its earlier stages at all events for the Board of Education to deal with, then I think you have lines along which, if you choose to proceed, you will find the friction and the prejudice which you might otherwise have to encounter reduced to a minimum, and your path made a pretty smooth one. I say let us proceed along these lines. We want national cadet training for the youths between fourteen and seventeen, and national military training for our men between eighteen and twenty-two. By all means let the Board of Education attend to the training of the youth and the War Office to the training of the men, but, I say, let us train. So much from the point of view of national physique.

As to the question of national defence, my proposal is that every able-bodied man, high and low, rich and poor, should go into camp in the summer of his eighteenth year with the local Territorial unit, and that he should be liable for further short training, if required, for the next three years, as in the Territorial Force at present. I purposely say "if required," for every man would not be required for further training. The number required would be laid down each year, and arrangements would be made accordingly. The result would be twofold. In the first place, every man in the country would be started in his career with a sound and well-trained body, and, secondly, he would be sufficiently trained to take part in the defence of the country in case of need. Expenditure on these lines would result in the greatest social reform of the age and no money spent upon it need be grudged. It would solve the question of national physique and national defence as well. Let us now consider how we stand as regards the question of national defence. Let me again refer to Lord Haldane's speech, as reported in a local newspaper. Talking of the Territorial Force, he told us that that force was the main instrument for defence, to deal with possible raids and possible invasion on a large scale. I would ask the House to remember these words. Here Lord Haldane distinctly acknowledges that the Territorial Force is the main instrument for defence, and he admits the possibility of raids and invasions on a large scale. The Regulars he puts more or less out of count. It is important to remember that this is the justification Lord Haldane gives for the Territorial Force. He went on to tell us that of the fourteen Infantry Divisions with their Artillery, and the fourteen mounted brigades, ten of these divisions and eleven of the mounted brigades were assigned to the defence of the coast, leaving four divisions and three mounted brigades which he said were to form a central corps consisting of Territorial units with a certain number of Regulars added, and this so-called central force was to come to the rescue of any place where the enemy was attempting to land. That is the main line of defence given by Lord Haldane against a possible invasion by 70,000 of the most highly trained troops on the Continent. We are to have one Territorial Division on the spot, and four more in reserve ready to come to its help. When we look at this I doubt myself, after taking all the necessary deductions into account, whether each of those divisions would number over 12,000; so that leaves a total of 60,000 untrained men to oppose 70,000 highly trained men which it is supposed it is possible for the enemy to land on our shore. To talk of that as a national defence is to impose upon the credulity of the nation. So much for the Territorial defence.

Consider now the question, of the number of Regulars who are supposed to help. In the Returns supplied by the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State he told us that in addition to the 264,000 Territorials we should have another 145,000 odd Regulars or a total of 410,000 men remaining in the United Kingdom after the departure of the Expeditionary Force. It may be that that number will be remaining in the United Kingdom, but I would like to consider for a moment what they would consist of, so far as they can help the Central Reserve Force that Lord Haldane talks of. Take his Return. The Cavalry is given as 9,626 men. Of the fourteen regiments of Cavalry in Great Britain at the present time twelve would go abroad with the Expeditionary Force, and only two remain behind. We all know that probably a large number of the horses of those regiments will have to be taken away to make up the strength of the twelve other regiments proceeding abroad, so that of the 9,000 men left behind very few will have trained horses, and there will be very few officers. The result will be that those men will be of comparatively little use as Cavalry. Take now the problem of the Royal Horse Artillery, and the Royal Field Battery numbering 8,487 men. Exactly how many batteries remain at home is not stated, but we all know that none of the batteries at present in the kingdom have the full supply of horses for all their lines of wagons. The consequence is that a large number of horses would probably have to be taken away from home batteries to horse the lines of wagons with the batteries sent abroad.

Whatever happens these 8,000 men will not be very mobile. We all know that both these Cavalrymen and Artillerymen will have to be sent abroad to make up vacancies in the Expeditionary Force. Consequently neither of these two forces will be of much advantage so far as regards that Central Reserve Force of which Lord Haldane talked. Coming to the Royal Garrison Artillery and the Royal Engineers, with 19,492 men, we have got Lord Haldane's own word that those men will all be required to man the fixed defences. Therefore they will be of no use in the Central Reserve. Then, with regard to the Army Service Corps, the Army Medical Corps, the Army Ordnance Corps, the Veterinary Crops, Army Pay Corps and Military Police, I do not know why these men are put in the list at all. It must be simply to fill up the list, as they have got their own special duties to perform. I would therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite whether this Return, attempting to show that we have 410,000 troops available for home defence after the departure of the Expeditionary Force, is not an absolute sham? I am sorry to say so, but it appears to me that this Return is likely to deceive people in this country into the idea that they have an adequate defence when they have not got it. Remember that in all these figures no deductions have been made for recruits, inefficients, untrained men, and sick. That is all in a small printed note at the bottom of the Return, and these men would comprise the majority of the Whole. For the right hon. Gentleman to say, as he said the other day, that we should have 410,000 troops ready to eat up any 70,000 foreigners who attempted to invade us is to my mind absolute nonsense. I am sorry to say that it is more than nonsense. I think that such a statement is dangerously misleading. Therefore we may take it that, except for the manning of the guns at our forts, the Regulars remaining at home after the departure of the Expeditionary Force would be of comparatively little account in resisting invasion.

Now consider the case of the Territorial Force "our main instrument of defence," as Lord Haldane acknowledged it to be. Of the 265,000 men about 145,000 are under three years' service, and probably the majority of them have only attended two camps—that is, they have only had a total practical camp training of from twelve to twenty-four days, as the case may be. A man with that training is not fit to take the field, and it is not fair to put him there. I have endeavoured to get from the right hon. Gentleman the actual number of men in the Territorial Force who have fired their full course of ball cartridge on an open range at 500 yards under Service conditions, but I utterly failed to get any really definite information. The right hon. Gentleman gave me a Return which I have here. I will leave out all the recruits. I think everyone will acknowledge that the recruit is not qualified to take the field. So far as I can understand this Return, 94,000 men are all who have qualified in musketry, but I am not at all sure that all these men have qualified with ball cartridge on an open range or whether they have qualified by what is called its equivalent in an enclosed range of thirty yards in length. No one can say that a man who has not fired a full course of ball cartridge on an open range is trained to take the field. As to the danger of operating with men who do not know how to shoot, I will quote what the right hon. Gentleman said on this subject ten years ago:— I tell you I have found myself in command in face of an enemy of men who with every other good military quality could not shoot, and did not pretend to be able to shoot. Those I saw, and they were many, were excellent men and anxious to do their duty to the fullest extent of their power, if necessary with the sacrifice of their lives; but many of them could not shoot for the simple reason that, they had no opportunity of learning to do so, and had never realised that as Englishmen it was one of their first duties. I myself, speaking as a Member of Parliament with a seat to lose, say openly that I consider it would be extremely desirable that it should be obligatory for every male in this, country to be trained to arms. I also believe that five-sixths of the people of this country would welcome such a proposition. I am strongly in favour of this matter being put before the public quite frankly. Our countrymen should be told that the danger is imminent, that it can be easily overcome by their own personal exertions, and that in no other way can it be overcome. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said ten years ago, and I can only hope that he will adhere to that. I hope also that he approves of my putting the matter quite frankly before the public to-day. I will ask hon. Members to consider the con- ditions under which we stand at the present time, and what our military forces are wanted for. Our forefathers defined this by saying that the Army was needed for the safety of the United Kingdom, for the defence of the possessions of the Crow[...] and for the preservation of the balance of power in Europe. It has lately been laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir E. Grey)— that a policy which contemplates a balance of power in Europe to which we were not to be a party, is not a possible policy now. We are therefore now in the position of having a definite national policy, a policy approved of by both the parties in the State, a policy which I think I may fairly describe as a policy for the support of the entente cordiale. We know definitely, with that policy definitely before us, that if war were to break out on the Continent we would be committed to sending off our Expeditionary Force at any moment. War on the Continent does not give time for preparation. Our Expeditionary Force would have to leave these shores within ten days, or it would be too late altogether. We have had nothing like it since the days of Waterloo. I believe the country does not realise what it means. It means that we must have for home defence a force of such numbers and so well trained that on the day war breaks out it could take over the whole of the land defence of these islands. The case briefly is this: the Regular Army has as much as it can do to keep the Expeditionary Force at its full strength when that force is abroad on service. We require a Territorial Force for home defence of sufficient numbers and sufficient training to be able to take over the land defences altogether on the day war breaks out. We cannot get that Territorial Force without some system of national training. As to what that system might be, let me refer to that great writer who has so often been quoted here, the military correspondent of the "Times." I have here a copy of a lecture delivered by him before the Military Society at Aldershot three years ago. After expressing his opinion that, if the General Staff were not satisfied with the numbers and training of the second line, then there was no escape from the conclusion that the time for national training had arrived. He proceeded to say:— What do you mean by national training, and what sacrifices does it entail? Then he went on to say:— I see no reason to dissent from the view of the National Service League, that it means three to four months' initial training during the summer in camps for recruits, and a fortnight's training afterwards over a short term of years. That is my proposal exactly. We in this country will not have conscription. What is conscription? It means taking a man from his home and putting him in barracks in a Regular regiment, keeping him there for two, three and four years, as in France, Germany and Russia. We will not have conscription; we do not require conscription; what we require is national training, and without that national training I see no possibility whatsoever of our Territorial Force having sufficient numbers or having sufficient training on the day war breaks out to take over the land defences of the kingdom. Finally, I will quote the words of the military correspondent of the "Times" of 4th March:— The writer's view of national service is that it is desirable on military and social grounds… In view of the general position of England in the world, and the stupendous armaments which may be arrayed against her the basis of her military power is not broad enough, and it can only be broadened by the training to arms of a large number of the population. Are we to be the very last of this self-governing community to recognise this extremely elementary truth? Australia, New Zealand, and now South Africa, are adopting the principle of national service, and are making strenuous effort to carry it out. …. The mere application of the principle of the South African Defence Bill to our conditions will go a long way to secure these desirable results; and it is not beyond our power, or against the tenets of any political school, to apply to ourselves principles of defence which have been almost unanimously accepted by the democracies of Australia and New Zealand, and are now in debate in the Union Parliament. Those words I most cordially endorse.


I beg to second the Motion.

This Motion has been submitted in an admirable speech by the hon. and gallant Member. I feel acutely my own lack of that expert knowledge, that wide range of acquaintance with the subject, which he and others can contribute to the discussion. But I think that civilians, as well as military Members, have their duty in this matter. We are bound to have our opinion, framed on our study of the history of Europe, framed upon our views of the state of European politics, framed on the conditions on which our Empire is fixed, and framed on what is likely to make for the welfare of this country. We know this one thing, that danger may come from any quarter. That is common knowledge. The only thing we can predict with almost absolute certainty is that the danger, when it comes, will not vouchsafe any longer warning than history tells us has been vouchsafed in the past I would ask the House to consider at once the fact that we are the only great European Power which does not train its general body of citizens to take some part in the operations of war. That, in itself, is enough to give matter for grave consideration. It is one which the civilian may estimate just as well as a military man. I am quite aware that the advocacy of national military training is not likely, as matters now stand, to be accepted as a plank in its platform by any political party. But there is a great body of public opinion throughout the country which is strongly convinced of the necessity of this national training, and we, who share that conviction, will, I am sure, in the judgment of the House, be considered to be only doing our duty when, actuated by no party motives, and at the dictates of no party organisation, they bring the proposal forward for the consideration of the House, and ask for it a patient hearing and a balanced judgment. Surely this is a question which may be advocated from no party motives, and non-party subjects are not so frequent in this House that you should not now ask for a little consideration. If no political party at this moment adopts this view as a part of its avowed creed, may it not perhaps be wise for any party, which has a regard for its own consistency, not to be too rash in its condemnation to-night, We know not what changes and contingencies may come upon us, and the most confident amongst us cannot be quite sure of what is in store for his party in the way of rapid development of opinions. That the view which we advocate may not now be popular proves, perhaps, that we allow our convictions to weigh with us more heavily than our interests. It does not prove that the view is wrong, and I am convinced that the view is less popular with Members of this House than it is with the constituencies that send them here. I think it would find enormous support in the country if the country were free to express its opinion on the question. I am not going to urge the and topic of personal inconsistency against any hon. Member of this House so as to introduce any acrimoniousness. The right hon. Gentleman (Colonel Seely) knows that about ten years ago he and I were closely associated in the affairs of a Commission of which I had the honour to be a member, and of which he was one of the members. I think he agreed with me then.

Colonel SEELY

I do still on that point.

9.0 P.M.


I am very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's agreement goes further than I hoped or anticipated. There have been, both amongst hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in this House and amongst experts outside changes in the opinions that were then held. For those changes they may have thoroughly good grounds, and I would speak of them with all respect. I think though we are entitled to ask for an explanation of those changes. History has much to teach us, and I shall venture to touch very shortly only upon one example, not without its special lesson for us. In the United Provinces of the Netherlands in the seventeenth century we see a Power curiously like our own. They, from a small and insignificant corner of North-Western Europe, held, by force of enterprise, a vast colonial empire, stretching across the world from South America, Africa and the East Indies to Java. In their hands was the greatest part of the carrying trade of the world. They were the centre of commerce, and the Bank of Amsterdam dominated the money markets of Europe. Their fleet seemed invincible; and they felt secure against invasion as long as they could flood their dykes and expose to the invader vast tracts of impassable water. They had built up their marvellous power on the basis of citizen training for war; and it is to the abandonment of this military training under the stress of eager money-making that Sir William Temple, Ambassador to the States for many years and thoroughly acquainted with the country, attributes their rapid fall. Before the century was run their carrying trade had been ruined by Cromwell's Navigation Laws. Their fleet was defeated. Invasion became easy in spite of what had seemed to be Nature's barrier. They were left to be for more than one generation the battlefield of Europe. We cannot, of course, argue with those who consistently oppose all armaments, and who deem that a man is morally deteriorated by undergoing military training. Of those who hold these views I would speak with as much respect as possible and with as much toleration as is consistent with the safety of this nation and the Empire. But they are as much opposed to the Secretary of State as they are to us. We must both leave them out of account. I am not prepared to accept arguments like those of a former distinguished Member of this House, Mr. Harold Cox, who met a similar proposal by saying that no man was bound personally to be a defender of his country; he did his duty equally well if he paid others to fight for him. Not a very dignified or virile argument at the best, but one which at least could serve only if we did pay our defenders. But according to the Secretary of State a constituent part of our defending force is the Territorial Force, which is not even paid its out-of-pocket expenses. We are not paying other people to fight for us. We are asking other people, at a great sacrifice, to perform a duty which we shirk for ourselves. No country can distinguish so clearly between defensive and offensive warfare as we can. In France, in Russia, in Germany, the defending force may before it knows it, by the accidents of warfare, become an attacking force. Our insular position enables us to define with certainty and to circumscribe within fixed limits the sphere of defence. And training for it rests, to my mind, on three great arguments. First, the enormous benefit, moral, physical, intellectual, which it would bring to the rising generation. I confess that, looking through all the work in which I have spent my life, this was the consideration which first brought me to be an advocate of national military training, and has kept me faithfully to that view. Can anyone doubt that such training will enormously raise the self-respect, the moral weight as citizen, the dignity and worth of life of those who now too often run to waste? What would it be to the wastrel of the street corner if he could have a few weeks or months of well-ordered and disciplined life, at no cost to himself, in which to learn habits of cleanliness, self-control, and physical regeneration? What measure of paternal legislation, intended to coddle or compel him into temperance, would equal that of teaching him the lesson of wholesome living which this training would give? That is a lesson which would not be confined merely to closing public-houses; it would implant in him a vigorous principle which would remain with him all his life. If there is a submerged and down-trodden element in the nation, would not this help to redress their wrongs? If I belonged to the party below the Gangway opposite, there is no measure which, in the interests of those I represented, I would press with more zeal and urgency.

Secondly, I would urge, as another argument, the cruelty of your present method. If we have a Territorial Force, it is be- cause we think it may some day be necessary. When that day comes, we know that the nation will have to summon all her citizens, trained or untrained, to prepare for war. I do not envy the Minister who would have to compel tyros, with no training, to meet seasoned troops on battlefields that would be for them veritable shambles. I would urge, lastly, the injustice of our present system. Is it fair to ask patriotic men, who sacrifice time, labour, and opportunities in life, to look on while the selfish sluggards, who recognise no responsibilities of citizenship, supplant them in the race of life? Is it fair to the public-minded employer? Does he really recognise now the burden he may be incurring? If you mobilised the Territorial Force to-morrow for six months, what would be the feelings of the public-spirited employer if he found his business hopelessly crippled for the benefit of his selfish compeer?

I have introduced, I hope, no personal acrimony into the Debate, and have kept party spirit out of my words. I speak from earnest conviction, not only of the necessity, but of the attendant benefit, of what we propose, and of the injustice, the waste, the possible cruelty of our present laissez-faire system. I ask the House to consider dispassionately whether there are not sound reasons why we should follow the admirable example shown by practically all of our Colonies? They are not ruled by Conservative instincts, or dominated by class privileges or prejudices. They know, perhaps better than we do in our old country, the foundations upon which sound citizenship rests. Could not both parties combine to go together at least a certain length? You hold your Territorial Force to be a good thing. I have no power to criticise it as a military man. I cordially agree that, so far as I can judge, it is a good thing—so far as it goes. All we ask you now is to make that good thing co-extensive with the nation. If you do we will cordially work with you, and do all in our power to help you.


I rise as an out and out opponent of this proposal. It has been the pride and glory of England that we have always depended on a voluntary Army. We have won all our great battles with a voluntary Army. The hon. Member opposite (Sir H. Craik) expressed the belief that the great body of public opinion was in favour of national service. I beg most respectfully to differ as far as my experience goes. I have mixed with working men all my life. I have known meetings where those who are promoting this national service have, addressed working men, and the workmen have, by a large majority, been, altogether opposed to the introduction of such a system. The hon. Gentleman referred to Germany. Is it not a fact that tens of thousands of Germans run away from Germany and never go back in order that they may escape national service? [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] If you ask the majority of German working men you will find that they are against the system. They hate it; they loathe it; they detest it. The great majority of them will gladly be out of it if they had the opportunity. That is the reason why so many thousands of Germans leave their country. Instead of helping our people, instead of giving them higher morality and a better intellectual calibre, I think it would have just the opposite effect. In my opinion it would be a curse to the working men, and I believe that the great majority of Labour Members would say that the working men of England are against this proposal. It would be a menace to other nations, and would bring us into entanglements. We depend upon our Navy; we do not want a great Continental Army. Many hon. Members opposite do want such an Army; they want every man to serve. I give them credit for their patriotism, but I believe they are wrong. I hope the day is far distant when such a system will be introduced, and I trust that the Undersecretary will stand up boldly and condemn the proposal. We are proud of our voluntary Army and of what they have done. If this proposed system is introduced, who, after all, will pay? It is the workmen who will have to pay. Hon. Members said, "Look what help it will give to the unemployed," but I say that the workmen will have to bear the burden. I condemn this thing altogether, and I hope that this Motion will be rejected by a large majority.


I should, in opening, just like, in a few words, to reply to the speech of the hon. Member opposite. He made an allusion to the Napoleonic wars, and suggested that our victories then were won by a voluntary Army. I should like to remind him that, as a matter of history, our forces at that time were raised under the Ballot. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Press Gang."] If we had the ballot in operation at the present time there would be no necessity for what is suggested in this Resolution. He went on to say that the Germans are leaving their country in very large numbers every year to avoid military service. If the hon. Gentleman would just consult the figures of emigration from Germany and emigration from England, he will see that his contention is not absolutely correct. He referred to the feelings of the constituencies in this matter, and said that the working men were generally against it. I should like to tell him my experience in this particular line, which may be some guide to other places. At the last General Election my opponent fought me on this very subject. In every speech he referred to it. The greatest thing he had against me was that I advocated what he called "conscription." I welcomed these challenges with open arms. I answered my opponent speech by speech—and I am here to-night!

The hon. Member opposite talked about there being no necessity for our having what he called anything like a Continental army. None of us have advocated anything of the sort. We have not dreamt of such a thing. All we are trying to do is to support one whom somebody has called the real War Minister—that is, the Foreign Minister. He has told us that it is necessary for us to have a military force to send on to the Continent to keep the balance of power. For that reason we are supporting the present War Minister and the Undersecretary in their very manifold endeavours to a sufficient and adequate Expeditionary Force When we have this Expeditionary Force leaving this country to preserve the balance of power in Europe—a force which the Foreign Secretary tells as is absolutely necessary for our national safety—we must have troops at home to defend this country in case of a sudden emergency. We have the Territorial Force for this. All we are endeavouring to do is to see that this Territorial Force shall be of sufficient numbers and sufficiently well trained to carry out the duties required of it. I want to support the action of my hon. and gallant Friend on three grounds. In the first place, I do so because I think in the late debates on the Army Estimates we have from this side of the House clearly shown that under the voluntary system we shall never find sufficient men.

Colonel SEELY

indicated dissent.


The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. He also shook his head at me the other night when I think I sufficiently demonstrated to the House the gradual dwindling year after year of the number of men in the Territorial Force. I do not think that the Under-Secretary answered that point when he spoke afterwards. Then a second reason is that a voluntary system will never give these particular men sufficient training to carry out the work required of them. The third point is that it has been adequately shown that under this voluntary system we shall never get sufficient officers. We might ask, what is this home defence army for? It has been laid down that we want this Territorial Force to defend the country against a sudden raid when the Expeditionary Force is away. Lord Haldane last year, in answering Lord Roberts in the House of Lords, compared their two contentions. He said:— Lord Roberts was asking or considering what was logically possible, while he himself was only considering what was reasonably possible. Any ordinary citizen, when he wants to insure his house against fire, does not consider what is reasonably possible, but insures against what is logically possible. Any nation that wants to take proper care of her interests and safety will agree with Lord Roberts. It has been laid down that 70,000 men is the force that we may have to defend our country against. I would venture to point out that these figures are arbitrary. In the first place, they were started in the Council of Defence, as Lord Roberts has told us. He has told us that at a certain Defence Committee meeting some five or six years ago he said the lowest possible number that any enemy would dare to land on these shores with any chance of success would be 70,000, but Lord Roberts never said they would not land more men if they could. Therefore I think it is very arbitrary to say that 70,000 men is the number that would come. If 70,000 men, following Lord Haldane's contention, was logically possible six years ago, there has been a very great change in transport possibilities during that six years. According to the experts of the Admiralty it would not have been possible, or probable, that any enemy could have landed more than 70,000 men; they would have needed so many ships, and would have taken up such a large portion of the sea that their fleet would have been easily discovered and attacked.

Circumstances have changed. We have seen a tremendous development in the size of liners. It would be quite possible now for ten to fifteen of these enormous liners to be congregated together at a port of embarkation in the North Sea, and—whereas it was logically possible only for 70,000 men to be dispatched six years ago—it is reasonably probable that 200,000 men could be transported to our shores now. [A laugh.] An hon. Member is pleased to laugh, but Lord Roberts has said—and I think he has gone into these subjects pretty well, and most Englishmen, and at all events all soldiers, will believe what he says—that any one of these big liners could carry from 10,000 to 15,000 men a short distance. If you reckon up the number of men coming up by one ship and multiply it by fifteen or so, you will get not far short of 200,000 men. The wars that we may look forward to in the future will come very suddenly. They may come, very likely will, when we have trouble abroad—either India, Canada, Australia, Egypt, or elsewhere. It is quite possible that when, owing to trouble abroad, our Expeditionary Force has been sent to some native war, say, that our Fleet may be decoyed away by strategy. It is quite possible, and it is quite possible also that the Germans, looking out for the main chance, must sacrifice half their fleet in damaging ours in order to gain a few days wherewith to send the transports over and land their Expeditionary Force. Then we have to rely upon what the Under-Secretary for State has said is available—410,000 men. I should like to examine what these 410,000 men are a little more fully than my hon. and gallant Friend did. There are something like 110,000 in the Special Reserve. I think the Under-Secretary will agree that that is something like what he told us the other evening. It may be a little more.

Colonel SEELY

The Special Reserve is 150,000.


What are these people composed of? It seems to me that the large majority of them are immature boys who belong to the regiments of the Expeditionary Force gone abroad, and whose places have been taken by Reserve soldiers because these boys are not old enough or physically strong enough to go on foreign service. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will dissent from that. I wish to go a little further, and I would ask him to tell us when he replies how many regiments with officers in them will be available into which to put these 110,000 men, because any soldier will tell him it is perfectly useless to have a mob of men unless you have regiments and officers and staffs to command them, and that a mob of men, whether Regular soldiers, Militia, or Special Reserve, are no earthly use unless they are properly organised in regiments, brigades, and divisions. Then we may ask, and I dare say the right hon. Gentleman will tell us later on, how many of these 410,000 men will be required as garrisons in the different forts and such places, and how many men will be required for lines of communication, and how many men will be required still to remain in Ireland? For it is possible that the enemy may not only raid this country but he may also raid Ireland, and may I ask where is your 410,000 men to go and grapple with the enemy?

Lord Haldane said six years ago that his idea was a million men when he started this Territorial Force, but he had to put down his establishment at 314,000 men as a limit, and I believe he put that down because he believed it was the limit he could get under a voluntary system. The real limit is more like 264,000 men, which is gradually dwindling, and only half of this 314,000 men, as proved by last year's figures, got fifteen days' training. Can we afford to wait six months to have these men properly trained to render them fit to take on a European enemy, because it seems to me one or two things must happen: either the Expeditionary Force must wait for six months until the Territorial Force is properly trained or else, if they go away, they leave us with a force not capable of doing the work required. On this subject there have been three Royal Commissions. I am not going to quote the opinions of these Royal Commissions because most of them have been carried out in the changes of the Militia and Volunteers into the Special Reserve and Territorial Forces. But there is one sentence at the end of the last Royal Commission's Report which I think is most pregnant. It is the summing up of the Royal Commission, and these are the words:— And that a Home Defence Army occupied in the absence of the whole or greater part of the Regular Forces to protect this country from invasion can be raised and maintained only on the principle that it is the duty of every citizen of military age and sound physique to be trained for national defence and to take part in it should the emergency arise. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon having followed the Royal Commission on other issues, and I advise him now to follow upon these last recommendations. What we are asking for is that all boys shall be trained from the ages of fourteen to eighteen, and that on reaching the age of eighteen they shall go through from four to six months' training, according to the parts of the Service to which they belong. By this means we should have something like 400,000 men a year, and we should have effective recruiting for the Regular Army. One of the points that Lord Haldane and General Ian Hamilton put into their book was that they were afraid if we had this national training we would not be able to get sufficient recruits for the Regular Army. We exposed that here in this House, and after that Field-Marshal Lord Grenfell exposed it in the Press.

I maintain if we had that national service we should have plenty of officers, whereas at the present time we have great trouble in filling up the ranks with officers, not only for our Regular troops, but for the Territorial troops; also we have limited establishments. If every young man in the country was bound by law to go through a certain amount of regular military training, if he had to go through the ranks, we should soon have plenty of good men and plenty of Army officers. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that if we had this national service we should have no trouble in finding officers, and we should have an unlimited reserve in time of war to fill the wastage of war, which we have not at the present time. It appears to me that the Secretary of State for War and the Under-Secretary are in somewhat the position of the old French writer, who said:— If we cannot get what we like, we must like what we can get. I think the best preparation and the best insurance against the risk of war is preparation for war. If we are prepared for war and have sufficiently large and well-trained forces to meet every possible eventuality our enemies will give up the idea of attacking us, and the natural consequence will be they will give up building fleets against us, because they will see no possible chance of attacking us, and then, in the ordinary course of events, we should be able to reduce spending money on our fleets and save a lot of money in addition to advantages you would have morally and physically in this country, as has been sufficiently shown by the Seconder of this Amendment. I merely add that if the present Chancellor of the Exchequer would use his undoubted eloquence to incite the ardour of the youth of the nation for patriotic motives instead of rousing their lower passions to obtain the property of others he would go down to posterity as a benefactor to his country, instead of what I fear he is regarded at the present time as a destroyer of its prosperity.


This Debate is one upon national military training, and I want to express the view the Labour party has formed upon this subject. There can be no doubt whatever as to what is the considered and decided opinion of organised labour on this question, because on a number of occasions during recent years the great trade unions and political organisations of working men, which constitute the Labour party, have met and debated this question. The proposals coming before these congresses did come from the labour side, and the decision arrived at showed how very small the minority was in favour of any system of military training, and by overwhelming majorities the accredited representatives of at least 2,000,000 working men in this country have decided against the proposal now before the House. We regard such a proposal as unnecessary for geographical and military reasons, and because, even in the opinion of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, for the defence of this nation and the Empire's interests we must look to our Navy.

I could understand the position of those who put forward this Motion if they did not insist at one moment upon spending more millions on our Navy as the price of our national safety, and then at the next moment come forward and say our Navy is inadequate, and therefore we must turn every man in this country into more or less of a soldier. The millions we spend on our Navy may not be profitably spent, but our conclusion is that if we cannot secure safety at the price we now pay some better system and a more efficient and economic spending of this money should be devised. There is no need whatever to endeavour to turn the whole country into more or less of a barrack yard, putting a rifle into the hands of every worker with the expectation that sometime or other he will be called upon to use it. National military training, as it is termed in the Resolution, is in our view a process of enormous waste. I would like to ask clearly what is meant by those who have spoken from the opposite side of the House on this point. There is no consistency or sameness whatever in the arguments they have put forward. Is this proposal meant merely to supplement our existing Territorial system? The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Hick-man) told us, with considerable weight and military experience, that it does not do merely to train men to arms, because you must have regiments, brigades, and divisions.


I was alluding to what remained of the Regular Forces after the Expeditionary Force had left England.


We believe that this is really the thin edge of the wedge in that larger plan of conscription which the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution had not sufficient courage to fully acknowledge. I think the whole experience of militarism and the history of nations show that it is not much use bringing out men to train for a few weeks in the year for a sort of sham or boyish military holiday, putting them in camp, and then sending them back to their homes and to their work. We have come to the conclusion that the real plan behind this proposal is a scheme for dividing men into brigades, regiments, and divisions, and that would necessitate the erection of hundreds of other barracks up and down the country, and it would necessarily mean implanting into the minds of the working classes of this country more of the regimental idea and more of the nature of the soldier. It would, in short, mean extending the Vicious system of militarism which has already gone beyond the limits which modern civilised nations should tolerate. There is another question I should like to put. Are hon. Gentlemen opposite proposing to put a rifle in the hands of every man in Ireland? Is this military training to extend to the millions who are set down as disloyal subjects of His Majesty the King? Are they proposing to train every working man who is now in a state of industrial revolt to shoot at a time when many hon. Gentlemen on the other side appear to be encouraging methods designed to shoot at the strikers? We have had questions in this House quite recently indicating the spirit that soldiers must be ready to overawe and repress those who dare to strike for a minimum wage or for better conditions of existence.

We attach considerable importance to the extension of that world peace propaganda, which, in our view, is doing much more to effect the good destiny and the higher civilisation of nations than any proposal such as this which is now before the House. There are a great many social questions which stand in greater need of attention than this plan to train men to the business of a soldier. Your very efforts to obtain paid soldiers prove the strength of our case, because 44 per cent. of the men who submit themselves for enlistment in the Army are rejected as unfit. We suggest that we should begin any plan of better physical training in the workshop and in the home. You will not have men fit to carry a rifle unless you treat them well in their place of employment, give them adequate rest, sufficient wages, and homes with better sanitary conditions in which to bring up their families. These are far more urgent and crying topics of the hour. The factory and workshop conditions of this country are absolutely incompatible with any notion of the establishment of a system of national military training. If I can form a correct notion on the subject, I would say that the more countries like Germany and France have come up to the point of being commercial and industrial nations, the more their peoples have come to hate and detest the systems of conscription which prevail there. In certain small countries in the world military training may, on its merits, be defended. If you take a country like certain portions of South Africa formerly was, or Switzerland as it now is, you may very well bring forward sufficient arguments to make up a case in favour of this Resolution, but in the world's workshops like England, commercially situated as we are, ours is not a country in which you can justly fit a plan of this kind.

Then there is this view. Some millions of working men in this country have discovered they are merely in lodgings here, and that all this talk about Empire and about the defence of our shores is so much empty language to them. They have no Empire and they have no country. They find that the very surface of our soil is in the possession of a privileged few, and that the mines and mineral wealth beneath that surface is similarly owned. They find that they have no property rights and no material share in all these so-called blessings over which our flag flies, and they are coming to say, if they are to be compelled to defend the Empire and to fight for the country, you will have to give them a little more of the Empire and some of the soil of the country. Organised labour, therefore, is strongly opposed to any proposal of this kind, and I would suggest that hon. Gentlemen opposite should have the real courage to bring definitely forward in express terms their proposals for conscription.


I rise to support this Resolution in exactly the same spirit as was shown by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved it. I have not the smallest desire to criticise or to disparage in any way the officers or men of the present Territorial Force. Indeed, from the point of view of efficiency, the results which they have managed to achieve up to the present are extraordinarily satisfactory, considering the opportunities they have been given. I should like to emphasise the fact that we who believe in the principle of national service take no exception to the qualities or the results of the Territorial Force as it exists to-day. All we ask is that they should be given fuller and more ample opportunity to develop those qualities and to improve upon them. The speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is typical of what we have been accustomed to meet in the way of opposition to our scheme. Hon Gentlemen opposite, because we venture to suggest that present system of training does not provide either sufficient numbers or sufficient opportunities to the present members of the Territorial Force, appear to imagine we are trying to pass some sort of slight upon the officers and men who compose that force. I can only say I do not believe that view is shared by any really thoughtful member of any rank in the Territorial Force itself. Speaking for the Yeomanry, I honestly believe that the real grievance which that branch of the Territorial Force has to-day is the fact that directly the regiment begins to settle down to work and to feel its feet, and directly horses and men get really fit to carry out their duties the camp is broken up and they are sent home. That argument applies even with greater strength to the Infantry, because, unfortunately, so very large a percentage of the men are only able to go out for a week instead of the full fortnight.

After all, hon. Gentlemen opposite have got to remember that the average member of the Territorial Force is a fairly intelligent and well-educated person. He takes a keen interest in his work, and he has a pretty clear idea of the duties which will be allotted to him in the event of the outbreak of war. He knows, at any rate by repute, what sort of soldiers he will have to fight against, and in South Africa he has had bitter experience of what the results of inadequate and insufficient training have been. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else telling these men that a fortnight's training minus two Sundays, minus a day for marching out and a day for marching in, minus possibly an afternoon for brigade or regimental sports, and minus perhaps two or three days which our weather makes impossible for the purpose of proper instruction, is sufficient to prepare them for the work they have got to do. Their common sense tells them, however proud they are of the force in which they serve, and however much they may try to make use of the opportunities given them, that those opportunities for training are absolutely and ludicrously inadequate. Of course, we know there are other opportunities in the course of the year for developing and amplifying the training of which the fortnight's camp is the nucleus, but no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman himself, who has the command of a Yeomanry regiment, that in the widely scattered districts from which the Yeomanry are principally recruited, it is practically impossible for a very large proportion of the men to get to the squad headquarters and to attend the lectures and other courses of instruction we endeavour to carry on. It is absolutely notorious that the range accommodation at the disposal of the county associations is quite inadequate to carry out the proper courses of musketry instruction for a regiment of Yeomanry or any other Territorial unit. Indeed, I find it exceedingly difficult to believe that any hon. Member, who looks upon this question without party prepossession, and simply as an ordinary citizen, can really conscientiously be satisfied with the present position of things in regard to our Territorial Force.

What is the position? We have been told by the Noble Lord the Secretary of State for War, that the smallest number of men which he requires to carry out the duties which he proposes to allocate to the Territorial Force is 314,000. His Territorial scheme has already existed long enough to stand on its own legs if ever it is going to do so. Its opportunities for training are such as I have described, and yet we find the force is at present, or was at the beginning of the military year, nearly 50,000 men short of even its inadequate establishment of 314,000. The right hon. Gentleman cannot be surprised that there is a very large and growing body of opinion, not only among those who write—of course I do not—and call themselves experts on military matters, but among the members of the Territorial Force itself, that their opportunities for training are absolutely inadequate, and that their numbers fall far short of the strength to enable them to perform the duties which will fall upon them in the event of war. In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman opposite is by virtue of his position a sort of apostle of the voluntary system and cannot be expected to do anything in the other direction, and in view of the fact that this Territorial scheme is the outcome of what I think we all admit to be one of the most industrious and fertile drains in the War Office, and quâ scheme, from an organisation point of view, is a very considerable improvement on the old Volunteer and Militia system; and yet we find it falling hopelessly short in the opportunity it gives for training. I say we are bound to give sympathetic attention to the views put forward by so very many high military authorities, and by what, I believe, is a constantly increasing body of civilian opinion in this country, that some form of universal military service, such as is outlined in this Resolution, is, not only inevitable, but absolutely urgent.

Hon. Members who believe in the principle have followed with the greatest possible care and interest the controversy which has taken place on this subject in the Press and on the platform, and more especially the interesting Debate that occurred recently on this question in another place; and though, of course, Lord Roberts' scheme, which I believe is only meant to be a tentative one, may possibly be open to criticism and amendment in certain details, I have never seen any successful attempt made to controvert the broad general principles upon which we who believe in national service base our claim. What are the chief arguments which strike the lay mind? I do not pretend to be qualified to deal with the purely military aspects of the case. First, we are told that the adoption of any such scheme as has been described to-night will have a bad effect on recruiting for the Regular Army. Next we are told it would disturb and dislocate the labour markets; and, lastly, we are asked to accept the sentimental suggestion that the idea of compulsion is foreign and distasteful to the English national character.

I will take the first question—the effect of universal national service on recruiting for the Regular Army. Speaking with great diffidence, and from my own limited experience in recruiting for the Territorial Force, and repeating also the views of Regular recruiting sergeants with whom I had an opportunity of talking, I can only say I believe the exact opposite would be the case. The more you familiarise the people of this country with the actual duties and circumstances of military training, the more you make the Army a real and intimate part of the life of the nation, the more likely you are to succeed with your recruiting. Take the case of anyone who has tried to recruit for the Territorial Force. You find that once you start the ball rolling in a certain district it goes along on its own momentum. Once you get a man to join, and he finds he likes the Service, he tells his friends, and he becomes the nucleus of a small local recruiting movement in his own particular locality. The more widely and universally that is applied the truer it is found to be. The more you bring the real condition of military service right home to the people the more likely you are to get a sufficient number of men for your Army.

10.0 P.M.

Then we are told that this system will have a bad effect on the labour market and on trade generally. I venture to say that under our present system far more hardship is caused and far mere invidious distinctions are drawn as against those employers who are so patriotic as to give their men an opportunity of going to the annual camp and those employers who take advantage of the opportunity—far more actual hardship is caused to them by the present system than would be the case if the burden of service were more widely and universally distributed. As regards the labour market, I am certain, as has been the case in all great Continental countries where the extreme form, which nobody on this side advocates, is adopted—where conscription is carried into effect, the labour markets have responded better than they do in this country to the systematic and regular and universal demand which is made upon them. I believe that such a systematic and regular demand is far more healthy from an economic point of view than the spasmodic and capricious ways in which masters and men now meet the situation. It is absolutely true to say the improvement in the national physique and in the habits of order and discipline among the people of the country—which some Members opposite seem to sneer at—do real good to the working classes, and in the end very largely increase the efficiency of labour for the manufactories of this country.

We are told we are not to have anything which savours of compulsion. We are told of some mysterious horror in the minds of Englishmen at the mention of compulsion, and certain sections of the Press tell us that by compulsion what they are pleased to call the rights and liberties of Englishmen are going to be interfered with. I believe if we heard a little less about the rights and a little more about the duties of citizens of this country we should be a great deal better off. As to compulsion, surely in the last resort the compelling instinct of self-preservation is the hope of our system of national defence. I believe the average citizen would prefer a thoroughly universal scheme of national training to the compulsion which in the last resort would become inevitable in case of the imminence or possibly the actual presence on our shores of a body of foreign troops. For these reasons I heartily support the Resolution moved by my hon. and gallant Friend, and I honestly believe that any Government which has the courage to bring in a scheme of Army reform based on general lines of national service will receive a far larger share of support, both in this House and in the country, than any hon. Members here have any idea of.


I need hardly assure the House I should be the last man to approach this question in that spirit which was deprecated by the hon. Member for Glasgow University—the spirit of looking down on the soldier. I am one of those who hold that every man is better for having been a soldier. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to see that hon. Members opposite agree with me. I hope they will agree with me further when I say I should be very glad to see a very much larger number of my countrymen enjoying that which I consider the greatest advantage I have ever enjoyed myself, namely, serving His Majesty, but as I have served him, as a volunteer who served him for the love of the thing, and who can honestly say he has never made a penny out of it. I believe it is in that way that we can get a really efficient Army. I listened with great interest to the speeches from the other side, but I confess that I have never clearly understood what was the proposal hidden under the term we often hear, "universal military training." Is it to be military conscription or is it not? In the course of the recent Debate my right hon. Friend the Member for Leith Burghs (Mr. Munro-Ferguson) elicited some cheers from the benches opposite by expressing sympathy for what he described as a system of physical training continued after school age, a sort of continuation class in physical training. That is not military training. There is no doubt that the first thing you require in order to make a good soldier is a good physique, and the physical training no doubt would prepare a man for military training, but in itself it is not military training. Some years ago the late Lord Salisbury spoke of the defence of this country by means of organised rifle clubs. Rifle shooting is a very excellent thing, and an excellent item in the training of a soldier, but it cannot in itself be described as military training, and it could not be put on a level with military training. I gathered from the hon. and gallant Gentleman who introduced this subject that his idea of a system of military training is that it should consist of three months' training for all the male subjects of His Majesty who had been collected together in camp. I gather likewise from the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South Wolverhampton (Colonel Hick-man) that it was to be for boys from the ages of fourteen to eighteen. It does not appear whether this system of military training is to be in addition to or to take the place of a regular military organisation, such as the Territorial Force, whether this collecting of immature boys of fourteen to eighteen for three months in camp is to be the force on which this country is to depend. That does not appear. I was at some difficulty to understand the eloquent appeal of the hon. Gentleman (Sir H. Craik) when he spoke of the enormous moral benefit which was going to be derived by those who are the submerged wastrels of the country by this means. Surely those whom we should designate as the submerged wastrels of this country are not generally to be found among the boys of fourteen to eighteen. The men he evidently had in his mind were those who have sunk down from being useful members of society until they have become, as he describes them, wastrels. These are some of the discrepancies of this system upon which I should like to have more information. I have no prejudice whatever against military training, and I have no prejudice whatever against the soldier—very much the contrary. The hon. Gentleman stated that no party is at present prepared to make this policy a plank of party platform, yet the hon. Member (Mr. Fleming) urged very strongly that the party to which he belongs should make it such a plank in the platform.


I only said that any party which did introduce this measure would gain a good deal of support for it.


I have known one case since I have been in the House of a Member who held precisely the opinions of the hon. Gentleman, and he did give up his seat in order to test the feeling of his constituency upon this very question. I need not recall what the disastrous consequences to him were. I can only recommend hon. Gentlemen opposite, and they will not think I do so with any arrière-pensée, to go and do likewise.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Hickman) spoke of the difficulty of obtaining officers, and seemed to think that would be overcome by this system. I wholly fail to see how, by collecting boys from the public elementary schools of the country into camps for three months, you are going to make any body from which you can take the commissioned officers of this country. There may be amongst these boys a good many who would make good officers, but I think it is a wholly impractical way of meeting the deficit of officers. I vastly prefer the policy which has been initiated by Lord Haldane and carried out with such excellent results, of harnessing to the defensive machinery of the country those institutions and organisations which are part of our daily life. By making use of the public schools and universities of the country he has taken a practical step to fill this deficiency in the officers' corps, and I think any development in that direction would be of the greatest possible use both to the Territorial Force and to the Regular Army. We have in the Territorial Force and in the Special Reserve cases where, by making use of the daily avocations of men and putting them into those arms of the Service where those avocations are of special service, you gain a vast amount of practical experience which can be applied to the defensive work of the country. That, again, I think is a far more practical way than to rely upon the haphazard method of collecting small school boys and putting them through their annual three months' drill.

Colonel YATE

If the hon. and gallant Member is referring to myself, I must say I never suggested that a school boy should be taken and put through three months' drill.


I understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman to give as his definition of what his system of training was that which had been given in the lecture delivered by the military correspondent of the "Times." In that extract which the hon. and gallant Gentleman read out that was the definition given.

Colonel YATE

I think the hon. Member is making a mistake. My definition of what I propose is that we should have cadet training of boys from fourteen to seventeen, whether at school or not, and that a boy on attaining his eighteenth summer should go into camp, and then start on his civil life.


What I wished to know was the proposal that had been made. I confess that through no fault of my own I was unable to hear the early part of the hon and gallant Gentleman's speech. I understood him to accept the definition of national training which was given in the extract he read out from the lecture delivered at Aldershot. I am sure he will acquit me of any desire to misrepresent him. The hon. and gallant Member for Wolverhampton taunted the Government with taking up a view which was in accordance with the French adage, "If you cannot get what you like, you have to take what you can get." I have a very clear recollection—though I do not know that I could put my finger on the quotation—of having read something very similar to that in one of the dispatches of the Duke of Wellington in which he was complaining of the drafts sent out to him. He said, "If the Government will not give me Regular troops, I must try to do what I can with the Militia." With such a precedent as that before them I do not think my hon. Friend and the Government will do far wrong. I am quite certain that in the mind of the great Duke there was the feeling that if you want to have a really efficient Army you must have an Army that has its heart in the work. You will not get that by any other method than by voluntary enlistment. Perhaps he may differ from me altogether, but I take some little exception to what fell from the hon. Member for Oldham when he spoke of the way in which conscription for the Army—not a sort of diluted conscription—is viewed in foreign countries. I have had a good many opportunities of discovering the feelings of the men who have served in the army in Germany, Russia, and France—men occupying all sorts of different positions. I can only say that I have never yet met a man who had a bad word to say of his military service, but many of those engaged in the hard labour of coal mines and ironworks told me that they looked back to the days they spent in the army as among the brightest of their whole existence. That is the fact, but nevertheless it is not an argument which can be applied to the system advocated by hon. Gentlemen opposite, because the great fault I find with it is that it is neither one thing nor the other. They seem to be afraid to advocate a system of compulsory service for the Army, and they would pass off upon us a sort of diluted system on the chance of training boys for the Army. Let them beware lest they do take away from these boys the taste for military work, and rather try to make them good voluntary soldiers. I hope hon. Gentlemen will do me justice to believe that I look at this question from an entirely detached position. I have no strong prejudices one way or the other. I should like to hear all that can be said in favour of this, because I am anxious that everything that can be done should be done to strengthen the Army, but I cannot say that I have heard anything which has converted me to be an advocate of the system of compulsory training.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken stated at the beginning of his speech that he was of opinion that every man was the better for being a soldier, and so far as he was concerned, it was the greatest advantage that he had ever enjoyed. That seems to be more an argument for the point of view which we favour than for the side for which he is speaking at the present time, and his criticism of the actual scheme suggested by my hon. Friend Colonel Yate, the Mover of the Resolution, was somewhat diminished in value owing to the unfortunate fact that he was unable to be here when my hon. Friend made his speech. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman in his reply will make clear this evening why he changed his views on this very important question since he made that speech at the United Service Institute, to which allusion has already been made. The position may be summed up very briefly. It is the function of the Territorial Force to protect the country against invasion. Therefore, the very existence of this force is a proof of the fact that our military authorities admit that invasion is possible. What we have to ask ourselves is, therefore, whether the Territorial Force is in a position to protect us against this invasion which the military authorities admit to be possible? Without going into any of these figures with regard to numbers of officers, attendance at camp, and so forth, the very fact that it is acknowledged that the Territorial Force requires six months' embodiment before it is fit to meet Regular troops is in itself sufficient to condemn the whole system. The right hon. Gentleman rather dramatically produced in the House a secret or sealed envelope which, he stated, when it was opened would explain the plans by which 150,000 men, fully equipped with arms and ammunition and provisions, could be dispatched to the seat of war within a few days; within a few days is the whole point of the argument. That is to say, there was an admission on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that in the event of war, time is all-important. If, therefore, according to his own admission, the attacking force is to be of any use whatever, it must be ready at any rate within a few days after the outbreak of war, on what grounds can he submit that the defence force, which is equally if not more important, need not be ready for six months after the war had begun? Of course we should never get this six months, and on that ground alone the whole system by which the right hon. Gentleman and his party stand is utterly condemned. The present system is condemned, not because the material of which the Territorial Army is composed is not satisfactory, but because the training and the numbers are insufficient, and when we come to consider the question of training and numbers we are at once placed on the horns of a dilemma. If we increase the training, automatically we reduce the numbers; if, on the other hand, we decide to increase the numbers, then we are faced with the situation that we have got to diminish the training. The system itself surely is shown to be unworkable. The only way in which we can place our home defence upon a satisfactory basis is by adopting a system of compulsory military service. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved this Resolution pointed out, the training of able-bodied men for military service comes in the end to a question of principle. Assuming that a sacrifice on the part of the individual is demanded, though in my opinion the benefits far outweigh the disadvantage, how far are we justified in calling on the individual to make a personal sacrifice for the benefit of the State, and not merely for the benefit of the State but in order to preserve the actual existence of the State? Surely in such circumstances we are justified in calling upon the citizens of the State to make any sacrifice which may be necessary in order to preserve its existence.

We enforce obedience to the law (in many cases against the interests of the individual) because we believe that obedience to the law is necessary to the safety and security of the State. We enforce payment of taxes against the will of the individual because we know that payment of taxes is necessary in order to keep the State going. We admit the principle of compulsory education not merely for the benefit of the individual, but because we believe that a certain standard of education is necessary in the interests of the whole nation. In fact, in any civilised community the interests of the individual must, where it is necessary, be sacrificed to the interests of the State. But in this case, so far from being a sacrifice it is an advantage to the individual, and it is an advantage to the nation. To give our country this system of universal military service is to give it that sense of discipline, the absence of which or the weakening of which in the opinion of many people is one of the gravest features of our national life at the present time. This system of national training will improve the physical qualities of the whole race. In my opinion a system of universal military service would do more than anything else to break down that barrier of mistrust and misunderstanding which unfortunately exists between many classes of the community at the present time. It would, in my opinion, bring about a better feeling amongst all sections of the community, because all classes of society under a system of universal military training would be united, high and low, rich and poor, in the common service of the State of which they are citizens.

Colonel SEELY

The Motion brought forward by the hon. and gallant Member opposite, in a speech to which we all listened with interest, is one some parts of which the House would gladly accept; but, on the other hand, its real meaning is: Are we to abandon the voluntary system of recruiting our armed forces and turn to the compulsory system instead? That is the real point on which we are divided. If it is a question as to whether it is desirable that boys, when they leave school, should have some further physical training, I for one agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman, and many of my hon. Friends on these benches agree with him. The Prime Minister has himself said that further physical training for boys is most desirable. I know that the President of the Local Government Board is strongly of the same opinion. He has stated so. I think, in fact, that the whole House is at one on that point. But the whole question is: Are you going to compulsorily recruit the Territorial Force or some other force at the same time. I think we must see that this is the real point. Let us consider for a moment what are the real differences between physical training and military training under some form of compulsion. If the object of the Motion is to improve the physical qualities of the race, I would point out how hopelessly inadequate is any system of compulsory military training, based on military needs. In the case of Switzerland, according to the latest figures I have been able to obtain, they rejected 47 per cent. of their population in the year to which those figures apply as being unfit for the arduous duties of war. If we are to use the powers proposed to be conferred by the hon. and gallant Member's Motion for the purpose of making a military machine as indicated by the last speaker the Member for Wells and by another hon. Gentleman opposite, then it would be absolutely useless for the purpose of physical training. If I had the honour to represent the War Office, the first question I should ask would be: Are these men intended forward If they are, then they must be only of the best, physically, as in the case of Switzerland and other Continental armies. Then we must reject the same percentage as Switzerland and as Germany, for Germany rejects a very large proportion, and the very feeble, whom you ought to try and uplift in physical well-being, whose chests ought to be expanded and whose lungs ought to be improved, are the very people you must of necessity leave out of your scheme. What I do beg the House to observe is, if the object is physical well-being, that compulsory military training, if it is to be of military use, is quite useless for that object.

The Seconder of this Motion, the hon. Member for Aberdeen University (Sir H. Craik), and one or two other hon. Members, indicated that they would like to know what my personal views were in the matter, and quoted speeches I made. I do not think the personal views of ten years ago of Members are of much interest to anyone, but I am glad to take the opportunity of saying to the House, as I think probably many Members hold the views I held then, that I hold precisely the same views that I always held on this subject. The hon. Gentleman said that he and I were concerned in a Commission, and he asked me was I still of the same opinion as I was in those days. Yes, Sir, I am strongly of the same opinion. What was this Royal Commission. It was a Commission to inquire into the physical training of children in elementary schools. In the course of that inquiry, at which I gave evidence, we found in one town in Scotland—it was the town of Dundee—that so many of the children were utterly underfed that the medical officers reported that it was hopeless to give them any physical training of any kind. The only thing for the poor little mites to do was to sit still, because their feeding was so miserable that they could not possibly profit by any physical training, however carefully given.


Free Trade.

Colonel SEELY

I think that shows that the hon. Gentleman wishes to change the issue. We are discussing the Motion on the Paper, but I should be glad to discuss Free Trade if there were time. What was it that was before the Royal Commission? The question was—was it desirable that you should give physical training to the youth of this country, and, incidentally, was it desirable that the children should be so fed that they could profit by the physical training? I urgently put forward the view then, as I do now, that you ought to do both. I repeat that statement now, and I make a present of it to the hon. Gentleman, who, if he will look back into his past, I think will remember that he has forgotten something. If it is a question of consistency, I venture to say that my record is cleaner in this matter than that of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, but I only mention that in order to point the complete difference there is between physical training and military training. I turn to the military side, and I am of opinion with the hon. and gallant Member for Monmouthshire (Sir Ivor Herbert), that military service does no harm to anyone, but does any man good. I rejoice to think that there are many serving with the Territorial Force, and I only wish there were more. By all means let us encourage men to serve by every means we can. The question we have to decide in this matter is this—shall we abandon the voluntary system because it is alleged it gives us inadequate training and inadequate numbers, and, instead of continuing to induce, to reverse our process and compel? I think I have stated it fairly. That is the issue before us. On that particular point I wish to address one or two arguments to the House. First of all, if we reverse our policy and adopt compulsion for at least a part of our military forces, would it assist our Naval policy? We live in an island. Our first line of defence and offence is the Navy. Would it assist the Navy if we had a compulsory system? I venture to assert that it would not. I have read most of the literature on this subject. Indeed, I suppose I have made more speeches in defence of the voluntary principle than any other Member of this House. But I have never seen it suggested that you should man your Navy with compulsorily enlisted men. Therefore you would gain nothing that way. You would not get your men any more easily. The real naval problem to-day, as we all have reason to know, is not only the problem of men and of ships, not only of the courage of the men and the quality of the ships, but of the money that you have to spend on them. We have not unlimited money. We fortunately have more, in spite of Free Trade, than any possible rival, but we have not unlimited money.

What would be the cost of any scheme such as that suggested by the hon. Member in opening the Debate, with four months' training and, I presume, a "refresher" course, because he would not wish to put forward troops who for years past had never seen a rifle. [An HON. MEMBER: "A fortnight."] I recollect what the hon. Member said. He said they ought all to be trained for four months, but with regard to subsequent training he did not lay down any particular period, and some would not require to be trained at all. I do not think he will adhere to that statement. All his friends who take his view that compulsory service would be an advantage agree that you must have a period of service after the initial training. My advisers, who have been good enough to go into the finance of the matter, tell me that for any such system if universal, even allowing for the rejection of the 47 per cent, who might be not quite good enough to take their place in the fighting line—if you are going to have any physical advantage in it you must eliminate so many, and the cost will therefore be greater—the extra cost would be no less than £8,000,000. That is over and above what we spend now on the Special Reserve and the Territorial Force, the cost of which is now a little under £5,000,000. We should have to spend on the new force about £13,000,000. In other words, you would have to spend £8,000,000 extra, or the cost of four "Dreadnoughts" every year on producing this new kind of Army. Therefore I say from the point of view of the Navy it would do us no good but it must do us harm, because it would not assist you to recruit in any way, and it would cost you the price of four "Dreadnoughts" a year.

The next question I have to ask is would it assist our general military policy as a whole, not the policy of the defence of this country but our general military policy. It is perfectly true that you might have to fight in this country. It is true that a raid or even an invasion in the long run might be attempted. But one has to look at probabilities, and I believe it is a fact that for hundreds of years there has been no serious conflict with a foreign invader in these islands. [An HON. MEMBER: "Monmouth's raid."] I mean serious fighting. There has been no serious conflict with a foreign foe in these islands for hundreds of years, whereas we have had to fight overseas all the time. Therefore, what we have to look at is not fighting in these islands, but fighting overseas. Would this compulsory scheme help a foreign service Army? I contend it would not help, but damage it. But does anyone suggest that you could recruit your foreign service Army by compulsion? I think there is not one man in this House that does. Then the question is, would the fact that you recruited your Territorial Force, or some such similar force, by compulsion help your foreign service Army? The general impression of those best qualified to judge—and this must be purely a matter of speculation—is that it would not. One reason—amongst many—put forward by more than one military authority is that the man who had had a dose of soldiering—not a very large dose, perhaps—would not be, so keen as to enlist for a further period, to serve in any part of the world. He would say: "I have done my bit, and I now return to my wife and family," or, if he had not a wife, to find one. That is the view put forward by those who know the English people very well, and it is held strongly by many of our advisers at the War Office. Therefore that compulsory system, far from helping, would hinder in the enlistment of men for the foreign service Army.

This question has been often debated. I do not know that we can ever get finality. On 12th July, 1909, in the House of Lords, there was a most interesting Debate, in which most of the leaders on the Unionist side took the view that compulsory service would not help foreign enlistment. The most striking statement was made by a man with whom most of us on this side differ profoundly on every subject, but who admittedly is one who has made a close, intense, and careful study of military history—I refer to the Duke of Bedford. He said this:— I agree with the Secretary of State for War that a compulsorily raised home service Army is incompatible with a foreign service Army on a voluntary basis. Let the House observe that this distinguished military critic goes much further than I go, and says that, the scheme suggested by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Yate) would not only be injurious, but is incompatible with a foreign service Army on a voluntary basis. Therefore if the Duke of Bedford be right, and if we cannot have a foreign service Army on a compulsory basis, there is no man in the House who will say that you had better obtain your compulsory service Army for home defence, for it would shatter your foreign service Army. I do believe that the Duke of Bedford is nearer the truth than those who take the view of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Now we have to encounter the question, Would this course give you an Army more likely to win? It was suggested by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells that I had changed my views on this subject. I can assure him that I have, again and again, over a series of years, done my best—very imperfectly, perhaps—to point, out the dangers of a compulsorily enlisted Army, and the immense advantages of a voluntarily enlisted Army. I know the speech that the hon. Gentleman is reading. I went over to Ireland to deliver a speech for the Military Society, and tried to show how fatal would be a system of compulsion for this country, and also that it had been so in the past. The reasons that I have been adducing for many years past are not in the least inconsistent with the passage from that speech that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton is now reading. The reason that I have for holding this view is one that I think most soldiers will agree with on consideration. It is very desirable, in my view, that every man at some period of his career should not only be physically trained, but should learn how to shoot. If I had my way every little boy after he left school would be physically trained, and during the process of this physical training I am strongly of opinion it would be a very good thing for him if he learned the elements of how to aim along a gun. I think it is good for everybody, and I remain strongly of that opinion. But now the question is whether for a fighting force it is better to have a compusorily enlisted Army or a voluntary Army; and that is where the party point comes in, which has been made and refuted during the course of this Debate, as to whether the fact that Captain Kincaid Smith only got a few votes when he stood in favour of compulsion. The fact that very few hon. Members of this House will vote for this Motion—at least, I believe that to be the case—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—because they believe their constituents to be opposed to it—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] May I make my point? I think everybody ought to do what he thinks best and right—but the military point of view comes in from the fact that it is admitted that an immense number of people in this country, we believe the majority of the people of this country, are strongly opposed to this principle of compulsion. That being so, in your compulsorily enlisted Army an immense number of recruits would be unwilling soldiers, and if we were to take the offer made by the distinguished officer to whom I have referred, who stood upon this principle, there would be a great majority of unwilling soldiers who would strongly object to the principle of compulsory service. Is an army in which there is a large proportion of unwilling soldiers likely to succeed in war?


What about Germany?

Colonel SEELY

I am glad the right hon. and learned Gentleman made that interjection. Does he mean to suggest that there is the same proportion of people in Germany who think compulsory service un- necessary, undesirable, and unreasonable as there is in this country? Can he find a number of people, some of whom I quoted to-night, who formally object to it, and can he find in the German General Staff any number of distinguished officers who protest against it?


I could find a large number of Socialists in Germany who protest against it with just as much vehemence as the right hon. Gentleman.

Colonel SEELY

What has that got to do with it? Here in this country the great majority and the men of all parties who have studied this question—not one of one party, but of all parties, the Conservative party, the Liberal party, the Labour party, and the Irish party—the overwhelming majority in each one of them are against it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We shall see tonight who are opposed to this system of compulsory military service. Therefore I think we make good our case that this country stands alone, not only in its military and naval needs, owing to its insular position and world-wide Empire, but also in the overwhelmingly greater proportion of its people who are opposed to compulsory military service. For that reason, if you had compulsory military service you would have a greater proportion in the ranks that would be unwilling soldiers. I ask the House to look at this fact. The problem of war in the future—completely revolutionised with smokeless powder and in so many other ways—will not be so much to eliminate the unfit as to eliminate the unwilling, and will any soldier deny that by a system of voluntary service you eliminate all people who do not like war in times of peace. Of course there will remain the people who look upon war as such a horrible business, and although they may like it before they engage they do not like it when they get there. At least the voluntary Army will have the enormous advantage of eliminating at the start all those who seriously believe they ought not to join, and who think that the whole thing is a mistake. If you attempt to fight your battles with a force recruited on a compulsory basis, with British and Irish public opinion as it is, you are rushing straight to disaster, for you will fill your ranks with a number of people totally opposed of the necessity of your scheme, whether on naval or foreign service, army grounds, or grounds of general policy, who say, "This is a wrong thing, we are opposed to it," and they will not fight so well. It is true that we did adopt compulsion in the past. There have been three occasions when this country did engage in war over the sea with compulsory enlisted armies, and every one of them ended in disaster. [An HON. MEMBER: "Trafalgar."] I did not say anything about our naval forces. Every one of those land battles ended in disaster, but we have not been uniformly unsuccessful, and so long as we stick to the principle that one volunteer is better than ten pressed men, which is more true now than when the words were first spoken, so long as we stick to the voluntary principle, even if we have to resort to more expenditure, so long shall we continue to be what we have been up to now, a victorious nation.


The right hon. Gentleman has made a great point of his necessities. He said he was in favour of general training, but not of a great military force. At one time he commended the Swedish system, giving training sixty-eight days in the first year and twenty-two days in the second, the Engineers and the Artillery for a longer period. He suggested that in this way we might have 3,000,000 men at a cost of £6,000,000. He said at the end of his remarks:— I am certain you can convert people to this view, and I go further. I believe, if all these warnings fall upon deaf ears, at no distant date this Empire of which we are so proud will fall to pieces, and this nation will be humbled in the dust. I will now deal with the right hon. Gentleman's argument about a system which, he says, eliminates the unwilling. Sir Ian Hamilton pointed out that 77 per cent, of our soldiers are compulsorily recruited by hunger and unemployment. I think, if we have a universal system, the great majority of them will be willing to join. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that because there is a division of opinion now—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"]—if universal service were passed by a free people the soldiers of a free country serving under a law passed by a free Parliament would be less ready to face the enemy than the troops of Germany. I think that is a most unwarranted aspersion on the character of the nation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"]—


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

And, it being Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.