§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Colonel Seely)
In rising to move that you, Sir, do now leave the Chair, I propose, with the permission of the House, to make a statement which shall be as brief as I can make it on some points of special interest on the Army Estimates of the year. I shall have announcements to make which I believe will be of particular interest to the House on more than one subject; announcements which it was not possible for me to include in the memorandum which I have submitted to the House. I propose to deal with the questions under six main heads. First of all, there is the question of aviation in which I know the House takes a very deep interest. In this matter I shall hope to remove a good many misapprehensions that for various reasons have grown up. Secondly, some points with regard to the Army generally; thirdly, the reorganisation of the Artillery following upon the return of the troops from South Africa; fourthly, the Territorial Force and the question of compulsory service and the efficiency of that force; fifthly, a point in which great interest is taken upon the other side of the House, the question of horses; and, sixthly, the question of promotion from the ranks and of officers' training bound up with it.
I regret that the Army Estimates show a considerable increase, because we naturally do not wish to spend more money than is necessary, and taking them in conjunction with the Supplementary Estimates, which the House was good enough to Vote, there is no doubt a very substantial increase upon the Army Votes. 1067 As I have indicated, there are reasons for this increase quite apart from other more general considerations. The growth of aviation is one; the Insurance Act is another—though that does not amount to very much, and I hasten to say what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has imposed by the Insurance Act he has amply made up by further Grants of a generous nature—the Pensions Vote, which always must increase; and the enhanced price of commodities, which affect all alike and especially affect the Army. In addition, there is the clothing question, which is a technical point, dealt with in the Memorandum I have submitted to the House. As soon as it was my privilege to be appointed to the high office I now hold I tried to so prepare myself as far as possible that I might present a proper statement to this House, not only on paper, but from personal experience, and I have been to nearly every command in this Kingdom and some abroad, and I am glad to say I do believe that the Army is now well administered, not only by the military members of the Army Council, the personnel of which is now changed, but by the work of the War Office itself. From the military members of the Army Council we lost Sir William, now Lord Nicholson, who was then chief of the General Staff, and whose services to this country it is impossible to exaggerate, but I am glad to say that these services are still continued, not only by the fact of his appointment as a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence, but also by the services he is now rendering in connection with the examination into our military problem in India. We have also lost the services on the Army Council of General Sir Charles Hadden, whose extraordinary knowledge of technical details, of armaments, of powder, of propellants, and all those questions on which the efficiency of the Army so much depends, has been of immense value to the State, and I am glad to think that his services are also retained as President of the Ordnance Board, which is now a more important question than at any previous time, for reasons which I shall presently show.
We have also lost in the Army Council the services of Sir Herbert Myles, who has done such great service in introducing administrative economies into the Army as a result of his visits abroad, while increasing the efficiency of the Army as a whole. Their places have been taken, as 1068 the House knows, by perhaps our greatest serving soldier, Sir John French, and also by another distinguished officer, Major-General MacDonald, who has become Master-General of Ordnance, and by Major-General Cowans, who previously served as Director-General of the Territorial Forces. I believe the Army members of the Council have devoted their whole energies to making the Army efficient, and I believe they have not failed in their task. I do not suppose any Army Council has worked in such complete harmony and such absolute absence of friction, and it so happens that I am, as Secretary of State, responsible, and I take full responsibility.
I must say one word in regard to the War Office before I deal with the six points to which I have referred. I have been in other days a keen critic of the War Office. Whether I was wrong then or whether there has been a change since, I do not know, but I feel bound to say this, and I say it with all the more frankness as I had been a critic in the past, I do believe that the War Office as a whole in its administration compares well with other great Departments, and it touches national life in almost every particular, and, where it touches it, it touches it, as the House knows, most often in conflict, but it conducts its difficult business with efficiency and dispatch, and if we may judge the criticism levelled against Government Departments or different parts of our system, I think we may say it is the general opinion—and I am sure that general opinion is well founded—that the War Office does, in the conduct of its business as a whole, show efficiency and dispatch. I will deal now with the six points, and first with regard to aviation.
There has arisen a most extraordinary misapprehension of our condition with regard to aviation, due to two causes. I hope to remove that misapprehension. The two causes are these. First, the officers engaged in the dangerous business of flying have made it a point of honour that they will never allow any of their performances to appear in the Press, and consequently most remarkable achievements, some of which I shall refer to in a moment, pass absolutely unnoticed, and it may have been assumed, and not naturally assumed, that in this very difficult business of flying nothing was being done. The second reason is that, the whole business is in itself, and ought to be, highly confidential. If anyone tries to find 1069 out what foreign countries are doing about aviation, he will find himself immediately confronted with a blank wall. We have also endeavoured to prevent other people finding out what we are doing, and in this matter we have received assistance, which I take this first public opportunity of acknowledging, from the whole Press of the United Kingdom, who have refrained from publishing matters of great importance which it was obviously proper to keep secret in the interests of the State. I do not desire to deal further with the negotiations which led up to this highly satisfactory state of affairs, but I think the House is aware, from the statement made at other times, that we now have an understanding which prevents information of real value to the State from leaking out by unauthorised communications in the Press, and I wish to acknowledge the assistance that the whole Press of the country has given in this very difficult matter. That accounts for the obscurity which has followed the proceedings of our aviation system. I hope to tell the House all that can possibly be told with regard to what we are doing.
When I introduced the Estimates last year, there were on aviation duty fourteen officers and 182 men of other ranks. Of the fourteen officers, twelve are flying officers. The next step was the formation of the Royal Flying Corps. The warrant was issued on 13th April, and the Royal Flying Corps was formed on 13th May, so the House will see there has not been much delay in starting what in effect was a new business, and that the progress has been rapid. From these statistics I exclude the Navy, which, of course, has made provisions with regard to hydroplanes, and in other respects, which my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty will advert to next week. Excluding the Navy, the total strength of the Royal Flying Corps is 126 officers and 680 men, and, whereas we had twelve flying officers a year ago, we have 123 flying officers to-day. On the quality of these officers I hope to say a word in a moment, but the advance in numbers is no doubt remarkably satisfactory. Of the 680 men we have not yet begun to train in large numbers in flying. Of the rank and file, eight are highly qualified flyers, but for the moment we have decided, as France decided in the first instance, that the officers should lead the way, and for the present the overwhelming majority of the Royal Flying Corps actually flying are the officers 1070 of that corps. Of the 123 officers who are flyers, fifty-five have passed the highest test. This test is one more exacting than that asked for from any flying officer in and part of the world. Four of our instructors of the Central Flying School have also passed this test, and the remainder have also passed, or are now under instruction. Thirty-two have now almost finished this course, and the remaining thirty-six have Royal Aero Club certificates as qualified flyers, but have not yet passed through this school. So much for the numbers on the personnel.
I come to the matériel, and it is on this point that the most misapprehension has prevailed. The Army is not in possession of any large rigid dirigible balloons, not because it is feared to face the expense in the least degree, but because it was deliberately laid down from the start that the British Army the present time does not require Zeppelins. Our Army is an Expeditionary Army; to use a Zeppelin for the purpose of, let us say, the reinforcement of Egypt, or the sending of a large body of men over the frontier to India—operations that are not very likely, but against which we are obliged to guard—to use a Zeppelin in these instances is almost impossible. This gigantic engine could not be taken there, or, if it could be, it would be with the utmost difficulty, and the provision of hydrogen for it would be an almost impossible problem. We therefore decided that the Army should have small dirigibles, which could be packed up in boxes, put on motor lorries, or on ships, and sent wherever they are required. Those we have got. We have got exactly what we meant to have, and I may say we have now three. We intended to have two, but one—the "Beta," the first we had—was small. The "Gamma" and the "Delta" are in possession, and the "Eta," which is building, will be a duplicate of the "Gamma." These dirigibles, I say without hesitation—and all who understand the matter will agree—are superior to any other kind of portable airship. They have various mechanical advantages, which I do not wish to dwell upon, because those concerned believe the secret is our own, enabling them to rise more rapidly in the air, and enabling them, above all, to avoid having to part with hydrogen when they rise, and therefore there is no necessity for re-enforcing that hydrogen when they fall. They have these advantages, which we believe are superior to those of any other nation; but whether that be so or not, the fact remains 1071 that the particular balloon which some Members of the House saw the other day is an advance upon anything which is known to be in the possession of any foreign Power.
It goes at a great speed. [An HON. MEMBER: "What speed?"] The speed is forty-five miles an hour, and for a small airship that is remarkable. Those who went to the aerial exhibition which took place the other day no doubt observed an enormous yellow object inside. It is very small compared with the big one, which filled up nearly the whole of the exhibition. That large yellow object is the dirigible balloon in possession of the Army, and it had all been packed up in small packages, put on motor lorries, and transported from Farnborough to the exhibition. We propose to continue these two small dirigibles. The Army has no intention whatever of embarking upon a policy of large dirigible balloons. We did not think that would be a wise policy; we do not think so now, and we have got what we intended to have. The main division between the Army and the Navy should be, in this matter of aerial warfare, if warfare there must be, that the Navy should take all the lighter than air and the Army should take all that is heavier than air—that is to say, the Navy should have the airships and the Army the aeroplanes. That is a natural division, because those who know most about it will tell you that the navigation and management of an airship is more like the management of a ship, and the management of an aeroplane is more like the management of a horse. The two things are more like that. There are exceptions in the case of our small dirigibles that we pack in boxes, and the exception of the hydro-aeroplanes in possession of the Royal Navy, to which my right hon. Friend will refer in his statement next week, which are, of course, heavier than air.
I have dealt with the main line of division, and now I propose to deal with the part which is specifically allotted to the Army, namely, the aeroplanes. We propose, as I stated, to have seven aeroplane squadrons, and we intend to complete five this year. A squadron consists of three flights of four aeroplanes each, with two in reserve for each flight—that makes a total of eighteen aeroplanes per squadron. This means that we shall be obliged to have at the end of this year ninety aeroplanes for the squadrons; but in order to 1072 make provision for the casualties, which are very numerous, to the machines, although not so numerous, I am glad to say, to the men, we propose to allot 125 eventually to the squadrons of the Military Wing. We require thirty-five at the school. It will be asked, "What have you got?" and I propose to tell the House. Last year, when I introduced the Estimates, we had seventeen, but to-day we have in possession of the War Office 101 capable of flying so far as we can decide. I am going to say what they consist of in a moment, but when I look back to the comments in the public Press during the last few weeks, I must confess that it has been with difficulty that I have restrained myself from explaining the extraordinary mistakes into which only a few have fallen. We have, in point of fact, made great provision for aeroplanes; we have 101 at this moment, and if there is no further delay in supply, we shall have, on the 31st May, 148. It may be asked, How does this compare with other countries? If you are to take aeroplanes in the same way as you take Artillery, as being the necessary part of an army, to be allotted in a particular ratio, we have an enormous excess over any foreign Power, if you compare our provision of aeroplanes to-day. I do not accept the view that we ought to treat aeroplanes in the same way as we treat Artillery, or that we should have the same proportion to mobilised strength as other nations; but if you do take that standard, and if you compare, let us say, the German Army with our own, and if we take the figures given by the "Morning Post" of 150 aeroplanes in possession of the German Army, and take our 100 to-day, if you do the same, that on the basis of an aeroplane being an integral part of the Army, the same as a gun and being provided in the same proportion, taking the whole mobolised strength of the two nations, we have four times as many in proportion as Germany. If, of course, you are to take the extreme case of taking our Expeditionary Force, our number would be far in excess of that and it would be six, seven, eight, or even ten times more. But we do not take that view, because we do not believe it is a wise view to take. If we had taken that view, we should have been content with thirty aeroplanes, but we have got 101, and on the 31st May we shall have 148.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
Of the 101 we have got now, will the right hon. Gentleman state how many are monoplanes that he 1073 does not allow to be flown on the ground that they are dangerous.
§ Colonel SEELY
I was coming to the classification of the machines, but I will deal with the point the hon. Member has raised now. Of these 101, a great many are machines of the newest type. We have this great advantage over our competitors, that we have more new machines than any other nation, and more than that—and here I am going to make a bold statement, which I know my technical officers will support, but which the friendly rivalry of foreign countries may not accept—we have the best aeroplane in the world, and we have several of them. We have evolved a type which is far superior to that in possession of any nation in the world. Perhaps I may be permitted to explain that, and I will come to the point of monoplanes presently. We have been for the past year conducting experiments of a secret character, in regard to which I propose to give some of the details now with regard to the manufacture of aeroplanes. It is a most extraordinarily difficult subject. The slightest change in the structure of a wing may make all the difference between success or failure, but we have had the best brains in England to work upon, and I wish here to acknowledge the services rendered to us by the National Physical Laboratory, and especially the committee under Professor Glazebrook, which has done so much to bring about this result. The Superintendent of the Royal Aircraft, who is himself a member of that committee, has carried out the work, and nothing is known here or abroad of what has been achieved. It might be thought better to keep it to ourselves, but, with the concurrence of the Prime Minister, I think it best to tell the House what we have done. The great problem of the aeroplane for the purposes of war, and especially for this country, is to have an aeroplane that will fly at great speed, but also which will fly at a slow speed, and the second is even more important than the first. The first is necessary because of the very strong winds which blow in this country, where we must practice, and, if you turn to war, where you have to go up in any weather, speed is vital, so that you may get to the place where you want to go to in a contrary wind, or even a gusty wind. But slow speed is even more essential for war in this country, and, indeed, for war in all countries, because, if you fly a machine such as has been built to fly, at about 80 1074 miles an hour, it can only land, as most of them can, at 65 or 70 miles an hour. The House will see at once that in any enclosed country the problem of landing, assuming the hedges are 150 yards apart and landing at 65 miles an hour, is such that, having to clear the hedges, you must land in the middle of the field. It may be, flying across country with these exceptionally fast machines, that to attempt to land means certain death. The problem to be solved is therefore this: Can you have a machine to fly at a great speed which can also fly at quite a slow speed, and yet remain in the air? We have come nearer to solving that problem, I believe, than any other nation, far nearer than we ever believed possible six months ago. We have now in our possession a machine which has flown—in fact it was flying about yesterday—at over 80 miles an hour, and it can also fly at 40 miles an hour, making a range of speed of 40 miles an hour, a reduction of one-half, and a thing believed to be incredible six months ago. We have also a machine which completed its test the day before yesterday, a by-plane be it observed, which is supposed to be a slow machine. We do not know yet how slow it can fly, but we know how fast it will fly. The day before yesterday, flying over a measured course very carefully timed on a series of four tests, this by-plane reached 91.4 miles an hour flying backwards and forwards with and against the wind. That means that this machine attained a speed in still air, allowing for turnings and so forth, of 100 miles an hour.
These are very remarkable achievements. I need hardly say it is impossible for me to claim one tiny fraction of credit for them, but we do claim credit for British inventive skill and genius that can work quietly and silently, saying nothing and producing these remarkable results. It may be said, "Can these things fly in a violent wind?" It is no good getting a machine that will go ninety miles an hour if in point of fact the violence of gusts, causing latteral and backward and forward disturbances, prevents you getting off the ground at all. I have some very interesting information to give to the House on that point. The Commandant of the Central Flying School—I should say at once he is a sailor, although he is under Army orders; the Army and the Navy have worked in this matter hand in hand, and that is why we have succeeded—decided that it was essential to know in how violent a wind it was possible to fly. There were many volunteers to try and see. 1075 It has been the rule of the Royal Flying Corps that nothing in the nature of spectacular flying shall ever be permitted. Not only is nothing to be said to the Press—not because we dislike the Press—they have been most good to us—but because there must be no advertisement and because there must be unnecessary risks. This was a point of real substance, and so it was tried. There were two experiments carried out. For the first they chose a day when the wind blew at its maximum violence. A brave young man—I do not give his name; we never give names—wished to go—others also wished to go—and he went. His machine was one which could fly, and did fly, at 57 miles an hour. That was its speed in still air. He took out the machine in this tremendous gale with no one to look on him and no one to know about this daring act except the commandant, the time keepers, and the other officials of the school. When the machine, facing the wind, was let go, so violent was the wind that it rose perfectly straight into the air, and then up to 300 feet did he guide it. Then for sixteen minutes he directed it straight in the teeth of the wind over a given course of 400 yards. It took him sixteen minutes to cover the 400 yards. The House will see that means that the wind must have been blowing just under the speed of the machine, which was 57 miles an hour. When we think that only a year ago people hesitated to go up in winds of 15 miles an hour, it will be seen how great an advance has been made, not only in the science of aviation in general, but by our officers in particular.
Now we take the converse case, not a slow speed showing how violent is the wind ahead, but both ways. It was decided that this was of great value, and that one must know whether it was possible to keep an aeroplane in the air flying not over an aerodrome, which the Central Flying School on Salisbury Plain practically is, but over country of all kinds. There were plenty who were prepared to take on this undertaking. They measured a distance to a point 21 miles away, to a particular gasometer which was a good mark in the air. They waited until they got the wind at great violence, a wind more violent than that of to-day. An officer, not the same officer, but another, was selected to try this test. It took him an hour and a quarter to fly the 21 miles with the wind dead ahead, and it 1076 took him four seconds under twelve minutes to come back, a speed of about 115 miles per hour on the return journey. That is a demonstration of the power of these aeroplanes, when properly constructed and with brave men flying them, which is most remarkable. All these achievements show what can be done in this difficult art. The hon. Gentleman asked me about monoplanes. If we are to classify our one hundred and one machines we shall have to classify them in various ways. Some of them are admirable machines for instructional purposes, and, on the other hand, other monoplanes which do not quite fulfil the Monoplane Committee's Report are not machines that we should wish to employ in peace; but in war, where the other dangers are so great one naturally would not hesitate to use a machine in order to secure the safety of the country if a sudden emergency arose without waiting to add those special precautions which are recommended by the Monoplane Committee, and which are now being carried out. I would put it this way: The hon. Gentleman wants to know what the hundred and one are. Suppose he said, "Can you have a review of your aeroplanes?" I could provide him with a review of one hundred and one machines, with more than one hundred and one men. It would take a long time to walk down them; they would stretch over a mile; and they would all be capable of going up into the air. Some of the instructional machines are not, of course, fast machines eminently suitable for war, but others very suitable for war involve an element of risk owing to the special dangers that we discovered in monoplanes as the result 6f accidents, which we do not wish to run in times of peace. It may be we cannot make them quite safe until we have scrapped them and put others in their places.
§ Colonel SEELY
They are all capable of flying. It depends upon what the hon. Gentleman means by "efficient." They are all efficient for one purpose or another. Some of them are not fast machines, and therefore would not be much good for the purposes of an immediate war. Others would be of peculiar value for the purposes of immediate war as fast scouters. We are not at the moment using them until we have made 1077 them absolutely safe in accordance with the recommendations of the Monoplane Committee.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
How many have you now which you would use in peace and which at the same time would be of value in war?
§ Colonel SEELY
"How many we could use in peace that would be of value in war?" One hundred and one; I cannot say any more.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The right hon. Gentleman alters my words. I said, "that you would use in peace if you thought safe?" You have told us that a certain number of these one hundred and one are machines that you would not use in peace, and I asked, "How many are there sufficiently safe in peace and of value for use in war?"
§ Colonel SEELY
The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I was afraid of detaining the House at undue length. The last thing I want to do is to evade the issue, because I believe our case is so enormously strong that I want everything to be brought out. The right hon. Gentleman's point is this: How many of these monoplanes are there which we should certainly use in war but which we do not think safe enough for use in peace? I cannot give the number at the moment, but I think it is small. Speaking from recollection, it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of eleven or twelve.
§ Mr. SANDYS
Can the right hon. Gentleman say exactly how many of these machines would be available for the purposes of military manœuvres?
§ Colonel SEELY
A very large number; practically all would be available for the purposes of manœuvres. I hasten to add that those most useful for instructional purposes would be of less value in times of war, where they might be encountered by hostile aircraft. The machines that can fly number 101; I think I have explained the point. It will be asked, "So much for what you have done in the way of remarkable achievements, but what do you do from time to time?" I saw a statement in the Press the other day, to which a very high authority drew my attention, that the aeroplanes at Farnborough were rotting away, and a picture was drawn of gloomy men who could not fly because they had nothing on which to fly. Since the days of the formation of 1078 the Royal Flying Corps, 13th May—and practically the whole of it has been done since August—the machines have flown for 1,550 hours, and 82,000 miles have been flown, that is more than three times round the world—by these officers who are engaged either in learning to fly or in conducting these experiments. I wish now to see how dangerous this would be to our officers. This is a point of vital importance. It is very unfortunate that our great success in the air has been attained by great loss of life. We have lost six valuable lives in a very short time. You may say "we flew 82,000 miles, and six valuable lives were lost," but, if you take the Central Flying School, which, of course, has the advantage that, although it is cross-country flying, a great deal of it is done on Salisbury Plain, where the difficulties of landing are so much less owing to the absence of hedges, there have been 670 hours of flying since last August, and over 36,000 miles have been flown, and of serious accidents there has been not one. I think this will be a consolation to the House, though, indeed, one must touch wood. It will be a consolation to the House that this difficult business can be conducted with such comparatively slight loss of life as compared with the dangers that were incident to it not so very long ago. I have dealt with the personnel that we have, with the aeroplanes that we have in possession, and I have indicated that we have in our judgment the best aeroplane in the world which we ourselves have devised and can manufacture in any number that we please.
§ Colonel SEELY
It is a matter of a few weeks or less. Arrangements could easily be made to manufacture a great number, far more than we should ever require and far more than is in the possession of any other country, within a short time. With regard to monoplanes the difficulty is engines, and on that point I would like to say one word. The weak point in England is that, although we have produced the best aeroplanes, and although we have many good aerial engines, they are produced in small numbers, so far as 1079 they have been yet produced, and are less efficient—if you mean by efficiency the speed that can be obtained for a given weight—than those of foreign Powers. We have decided that the best way to meet the difficulty is to offer a prize, and not only that, but to offer the promise of a large purchase of engines. I have arranged, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, that the Admiralty and the War Office shall together offer a prize for the best aeroplane engine. The details of that competition are at this moment being settled by a sub-committee of the Air Committee, of which I am for the moment chairman. We propose to give a prize, something in four figures, and to give a promise of the purchase of not less than fifty, or possibly more, engines from either the successful competitors, or from one of the competitors. All those who compete will know that if a satisfactory engine is produced, orders for at least fifty will follow. I am advised that that is the best way to stimulate this industry, and I think that, once we have got going, there is no doubt we shall find it possible to excel in the production of aeroplane engines in the same way that we have been able to excel in the production of engines for motor cars, and in the same way in which we have excelled, as I have explained to the House, in the production of the aeroplane itself.
It may be said, "Well, you leave all the bigger craft to the Admiralty; but what about the safety of this country from invasion by hostile aircraft? What about the large number of airships of great size which may come from a hostile country"—not from any particular country, for many of them have them. "What about that? That surely is your affair, in the War Office." I can only say this—the whole matter is somewhat confidential, and I would ask not to be pressed upon it. But for many months it has been receiving careful attention, and our efforts have not been without success. With regard to the fear that the whole of our stores of explosives and cartridges might be blown up, I can only say that no Power is quite so foolish as to put all its eggs in one basket, and we have not made that mistake either. With regard to the means of meeting attack, it may be that the best way in the long run of meeting attack from hostile aircraft would be to have another aircraft to do the same amount of damage 1080 to your enemy as he will do to you, and not to meet him in the air. But that is another point, and I leave that to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is more fully conversant with it than I am. But on the question of how far it is possible for one of those large engines to hover over a defenceless country and wreak its brutal will, I desire to say this, that it has been thought that the difficulty of hitting an aerial target was very great; that, first of all it would be impossible to overcome the mechanical difficulties of having a really efficient quick-firing gun, that could fire at a really high angle; that when you have got to angles of 30 or 40 or 50 degrees, the mechanical conditions of vertical fire would become almost insuperable, if it was to be accurate and rapid; and secondly, the idea was that in the absence of any range point it would be impossible to hit them. We have been for a long time conducting very careful inquiries upon these questions. I do not wish to go into details, and I think the House will not wish me to do so; but this much I may say, from the experiments, some of which I have witnessed myself, that all the mechanical difficulties have been completely solved, that the actual difficulty of hitting an aerial target at a considerable height, moving at an unknown speed, and at an unknown height, has been enormously exaggerated, and that everybody concerned has been surprised beyond measure at the apparent ease and remarkable accuracy that can be attained in firing at aerial targets.
§ Colonel SEELY
My hon. Friend has anticipated me. I was about to say that it is quite clear in our view that any idea of hovering over a battlefield or a defenceless country by day, at any height which airships can now attain, must be abandoned. But the hon. Gentleman asks, anticipating what I was going to say, "What about the approach of night?" Well, if we cannot see the airships, it will be difficult for the airship to see us.
§ Colonel SEELY
if we cannot see the airship it will be very difficult for the airship to see a particular target. Therefore I do not think we need be unduly alarmed at the possibilities of this 1081 danger. I have gone as far as I wish to go in the matter, but I intended to go thus far, because it is undesirable that the public mind should be excited over dangers which may not be so great as are supposed. But I have very carefully considered the exact words I should use upon particular points, and I can assure the House that they are used after full consideration and the fullest consultation with those who have had this very confidential matter in hand during the past few months. If I am asked why it is that such a measure of success has been achieved in the matter of aeroplanes and aerial navigation, I will answer that the real reason is because the Army and the Navy have worked together. When the statement I have made comes to be examined it will show that we have made an advance without parallel in the period named. In these two respects, among the nations of the world, we stand first. In another respect we stand second, and in yet another respect we stand third. But in no respect do we stand lower than third among the nations of the world. That I believe to be a true statement of the aerial position. It has been achieved in a short time, and it has been achieved by complete co-operation between the Navy and the Army. I hope and believe that that co-operation will continue, and that as a consequence we will be able to show a similar advance, if not in numbers, for that is a matter for consideration, but in scientific advance in the year that is to come.
I turn from aviation to the question of the Army as a whole, which I shall try to deal with as briefly as possible. I shall deal with Artillery in a moment, but with regard to Cavalry, last year we had twenty additional horses, and we have added twenty more—of course that means horses in each regiment—making a large advance on the provision made by any previous Government in the number of horses in charge of the Cavalry in times of peace. The advantage of having a large number of horses with the Cavalry regiments has been impressed upon me again and again by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and we wish to make no party score. In this we have listened to their advice. We have made provisions for forty extra horses in a year and a half in the peace establishment of the Cavalry regiments. With regard to the Royal Engineers, the number remains as before, and I have only to say that we have made a considerable 1082 advance in many technical matters connected with the Royal Engineers. We have had the advantage of the advice of a most expert committee on wireless telegraphy as applied to the Army, and here, again, the Navy has co-operated with us. The most expert advice which the Navy could find was lent to us for the purpose, and we had others, including civilians. A Committee, presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Sir Henry Norman), has made a most valuable report to us, the whole of the recommendations of which we have been able to adopt with great advantage to rapid communication on the field. With regard to the Infantry, I have nothing very fresh to add to what I said last year, except with regard to the general behaviour of the troops, to which I shall refer. The barracks are not so good as they should be, but they have enormously improved. The new barracks in Scotland and elsewhere are probably more luxurious, as a critic would say, or more fit for their purpose, as a friend would say, than any barracks in the world. Anyone who passes through Edinburgh and will look at the new barracks there will, I am sure, agree that the provision for the comfort of the soldiers is not inadequate. Of course we have not been able to do as much as we wished to do with the funds at our disposal this year, but we will continue from time to time to bring up the barracks to that high standard which we have set in the newer barracks to which I referred.
With regard to the Army Service Corps, we have introduced mechanical transport on a very much larger scale than ever before. We have been able to make provision, either by actual purchase or by arrangement in times of peace, or by arrangements similar to those which have been made with regard to horses, for the whole of what we require in the way of mechanical transport. You may wish to know whether it worked effectively during the manœuvres. The reports which have reached me show that, although it is admitted that the conditions were favourable, the work of the mechanical transport in the Army manœuvres was remarkably effective, thus justifying the policy adopted by my predecessor of relying to a greater extent upon mechanical transport for the transport of our Army. The provision of travelling kitchens is a matter about which certain Members have made representations. They have said that it was an enormous advantage to troops in the field to have a hot meal, and they pointed out that 1083 one of the lessons of the war in the Near East has been the value of providing food for your men, more especially hot food. That is quite true. We realise that, and provision is now being made for a large increase in the number of travelling cookers and kitchens. I hope in a short time to make complete provision for the whole Army, so that they may have a hot meal in case of manœuvres at some period of the day. The Army Medical Corps is deserving of commendation for its work. The best way, perhaps, to do that is to refer to the health and behaviour of the troops as a whole. The behaviour of the troops is really the most remarkable thing in the whole report. Forty-seven thousand troops were engaged in East Anglia during the manœuvres. We received reports from the local authorities, the legal authorities, and the police authorities, and I myself received a report from the Chief Constable. Forty-seven thousand men were engaged for a fortnight. There was not one single case, not of serious crime, but of crime of any kind. That is a most remarkable record. I suppose nothing of the kind would have happened many years ago, and nothing of the kind, I believe, could occur in almost any other country. That 47,000 troops should have that extraordinary record is indeed remarkable and gratifying.
At the same time that there has been this wonderful increase in sobriety and respect for the law to such a remarkable degree, so has the health of the troops improved. The figures that I will give to the House will, I think, surprise them. If we take the number of men constantly under treatment in hospital, and add those to the number of men treated in barracks, we now have a ratio of 31.83 per thousand. In the ten years between 1889 and 1898–that is, before the war—the ratio was just short of double that, almost 60 per thousand, so that in this short time we have reduced the number of men under treatment almost exactly by one-half in regard to the various diseases from which soldiers suffer. This means a great increase to our fighting strength. From this wonderful change, due in a great measure to the Royal Army Medical Corps, due in a great measure also to the spread of education, good behaviour, and good morals among the masses of our population, the result has been to add thousands of men to our fighting strength, while actually to decrease the expense which falls upon the State. The number of men discharged from the Army 1084 as invalids for the six causes of invaliding are all lower than they have been since statistics were taken. That is a gratifying record, and, while it reflects credit upon the Army Medical Corps, it reflects credit in a great degree upon the troops themselves, which perhaps will be a not unfitting prelude to the announcement I shall make at the end of my speech.
I know there are many Members of the House who wish to have further details about the reorganisation of the Artillery. When I came to the War Office it seemed to me clear that it was not the time to turn the Regular Army inside out or upside-down, but to try, so far as lay in my power, with the help of those it is my duty to consult, to increase its efficiency and readiness for war. That is the only change of importance made in the past year. It is not a large change, for the total number of fighting batteries remains the same as before. The difference is that three horse batteries are turned into three field batteries. I may be asked why do you turn horse batteries into field batteries? I think the simplest answer to that is to say that a horse battery throws a fourteen and a half pound shell, while a field battery throws an eighteen pound shell, and that in the circumstances of our Army we want more guns to throw an eighteen pound shell and less of those to throw a fourteen and a half pound shell. The House will realise that this is a technical matter for experts to decide. Upon this matter all my advisers and all the technical experts are agreed as to the desirability of this conversion from Horse to Field Artillery. As a consequence of the return from South Africa of these batteries, it was found possible to make this change, and in the fewest Possible words I will say what it amounts to. Three horse batteries cease to exist, or rather are converted into field batteries, all the training depôts, that is to say, all Artillery batteries—wrongly called batteries, for they never could take the field and never practised as such—are reduced, and a large proportion of the men set free are spread about the seventy-two field batteries of the Expeditionary Force, with the result that the seventy-two batteries are all brought up to a uniform and higher establishment than the average of their establishment before.
I have had several criticisms from hon. Gentlemen opposite, and from one hon. Gentleman on this side of the House, who say that in our Army—which should be the most efficient Army in the world, seeing that it is a small one—we do not 1085 have a sufficiently large proportion of men actually serving in the ranks, and that we rely to too large an extent upon Reservists to fill them up. I have not got so far as I could wish in that regard, but I have got some way. The result of this change will be that these seventy-two field batteries are brought up to a higher establishment as a whole than they were, that there will be 584 more men in these batteries, and, what is, I think, of more interest to those who take a special detailed interest in this question, the Artillery now returns to an "all Regular" basis. On mobilisation we shall not require the Special Reservists to fill up the Artillery. The reason is that we required 5,000 Special Reservists to drive the ammunition columns on the roads for the Artillery. These ammunition columns have now been converted into mechanical transport, and, as a consequence, the 5,000 Special Reservists are not required. There are ample. Artillery Reservists to take the place of those who are required for other purposes. As we do not require the 5,000 Special Reservists, we do not require the training depots that train them. So the Artillery returns, after a brief period to a Regular basis. On mobilisation the whole of the Artillery will be Regular Artillery.
I hope it will not be taken that I am casting any slur whatever upon the Special Reserve, because I am told that they fulfilled their functions remarkably well in the comparatively short time at their disposal; although their duties were not so exacting in time of war as those of the gunners who served the guns, still they showed remarkable efficiency, and those who have had to do with their training were remarkably impressed with them. We have decided to abandon that now. We are not really discharging any men. They will serve their time, but fresh men will not be enlisted. The total result of the Artillery changes will be that the seventy-two batteries of the Expeditionary Force will be placed on a higher establishment than before, and the horse batteries of the Expeditionary Force will be the same as before. Of surplus horse batteries there will be three less; of surplus field batteries there will be three more; of training depôts there will be less owing to the fact that their services are not required, because the men are not required in consequence of the introduction of mechanical transport. We shall have the same number of fighting batteries in the Empire, but we shall have five more batteries at home. 1086 We all agree that the total result of the changes which have taken place in the last few months is that our Artillery here on the spot, available for the purposes of war, is stronger and better than it has been before. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is it not 600 men short in strength?"] I have explained that fully in the Memorandum. Our requirements are enormously reduced owing to the introduction of mechanical transport. The men we have lost—of course nobody has been dismissed, I hope the House understands that—are the men we do not propose to enlist to take their places. They would have been required to join as Special Reservists, but we do not require them owing to the reversion to an all-Regular basis. I hope I have satisfied the House with regard to the desirability of the change with regard to the Artillery. It is not a great change or an important change, but it is a change which, I believe, will add to the effective striking force of the Artillery.
I will now deal with the question of the Territorial Force. The Territorial Force is not up to strength. It is 84 per cent. of its establishment. We regret that, and we make no secret of the fact that we regret that. I may be asked, "If you regret this shortage, why does not the Government take some immediate and drastic steps to remedy the deficiency?" If I may, I will approach the matter from a somewhat different point of view than that from which it is generally approached. I will try to tell the House quite frankly why we do not take an immediate and drastic step towards an entirely different system or the expenditure of a very large sum of money. In the opinion of the Government, in the opinion of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and in the opinion of all concerned whom I have been able to consult, the danger of an immediate and overwhelming invasion of this country, what is termed a blow at the heart, is not one which we need fear. Taking our standard of naval predominance as it is, I have the fullest confidence in saying that all the authorities I have referred to are unanimous. Therefore it is impossible for us to go to the country and say, as they can go to their populations in other countries and say, "Unless you fill up this gap of 16 per cent. you are in imminent danger of disaster." We cannot do it, because it is not true, and, in our judgment, it would not be honest. I will come back in a moment to the reasons why we regret the 1087 deficiency. I wish to be quite emphatic and frank. I speak with the full authority of the Prime Minister, of the Government, of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and of all those experts we have consulted, when I say that this overwhelming danger of a bolt from the blue, involving a paralysing blow at the heart, is a danger which is not one we need fear.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Colonel SEELY
I am very glad the hon. and gallant Gentleman has put that question. That brings me to the next particular point on my all too voluminous notes. The hon. and gallant Member says, "Why do you want the Territorial Force?" The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) clearly pointed out the reason why we need not fear this blow at the heart by an overwhelming force. We have sufficient forces in this country, both Regular and Auxiliary, to force an enemy to come in such numbers that he cannot possibly evade a naval attack. One cannot do better than refer to the clear statement made by the late Prime Minister on this subject, when he pointed out that, of course, if you carried the thing to its logical conclusion, as the hon. and gallant Member for Finsbury (Major Archer-Shee) would carry it, and supposing you had nothing in the country at all, then it would be quite easy for 5,000 troops to walk round this country at their will, as he said could have been done in the early days of the settlement in Australia. But by maintaining a certain force at a certain standard we do force an opponent to bring a force of such magnitude that if he is to have any prospect of success he could not possibly evade the preponderating Fleet that we have. Let me deal with the question of numbers before I go further on a question of invasion. We are 16 per cent. short. If the difference between 313,000 or 320,000 and our present numbers were the difference between victory and defeat or the possibility of victory and defeat, I need hardly say that the Government would take instant steps to remedy the deficiency. But that is obviously not so if you look at it for a moment. The establishment of the Territorial Force, unlike that of any other home force, is not only a peace establishment, but a war establishment. The Territorial Force has a far greater percentage 1088 of its war strength now enrolled than any Regular unit in this country—approximately 50 per cent. Oh! it may be said, your Regular battalions have their Reservists already. That is quite true. So they have. And how quickly they join was shown in the late war, and arrangements have been made for them to join more quickly still. But should we have the men to fill up the 16 per cent., apart from the question of efficiency to which the right hon. Gentleman rightly refers? Of course we should. One hundred and five thousand men have left the Territorial Force since its formation on termination of engagement. As far as we know, practically the whole of them left it, having been efficient soldiers in the ordinary sense of the term as applied to the Territorial Force. We know that the whole of them practically, because they have said so, are anxious to rejoin on the declaration of war or even in time of imminent national danger. As far as we may, we know that that is so. The deficiency to be made up is so small compared with that of other forces in this country, or still more of forces in any other country, that in point of view of numbers it really is not a matter which we could possibly regard with alarm, and in order to make that point quite clear, may I refer to the war in the Near East. There is so much that we have learnt from that war that whatever I can give the House in the way of information I shall be glad to do so if, happily, peace should shortly be made, but for the present I am debarred from drawing lessons from it for fear of appearing to favour one or the other country. But in the case of the Bulgarian Army, they mobilised from a strength of 59,000 up to a strength of 300,000–that is to say, from approximately 60,000 up to 300,000–between five and six to one. Instead of having to fill up 16 per cent., they filled up, taking the whole mobilised Army, of course—the comparison is not quite precise—not 16 per cent., but more like 80 per cent. Therefore, to get into a state of alarm and agitation for the purpose of immediate war over a shortage in numbers is a thing which is a highly inaccurate method of reasoning.
§ Colonel SEELY
Of course not. They filled up from their reservists. I am pointing out that we have at this moment in this country 105,000 Territorials who have just 1089 left the service in the same way that the Bulgarian Army reservists have left theirs. I say nothing as to their relative efficiency. That is another matter.
§ Colonel SEELY
That is just the point. The Regular Reservist or the Bulgarian reservist is earmarked and bound. Our men are not bound, and it may be that the Territorial Reserve practically hardly exists, because there is no inducement to commanding officers or to county associations to form it. The Territorial Reserve practically does not exist. The men are there and are anxious to serve, but there are various reasons, financial and other, which the chairmen and presidents of county associations know full well, which do not reflect in any way on the patriotic determination of those who lead the Territorial Force to serve their country in time of need, which have resulted in the Territorial Reserve practically not resulting in any appreciable numbers. But the men are there and are anxious to serve, and if anyone here says he knows that men have left the Territorial Force and will not serve in time of national danger I can only tell him I know that what he says is not the fact. We know that the people of our country are as patriotic as those of any other and are anxious to serve.
§ Mr. GLAZEBROOK
Was it not foreseen at the time the original estimate for the size of the Territorial Army required was made that these men would rejoin if required, and therefore now that they are 16 per cent. below what the original estimate was, even when you have the proportion who would have rejoined in any case, you have 16 per cent still below?
§ Colonel SEELY
I said that before I finish this part of my statement I shall show why the Government regard it with regret. That is one of the reasons I was going to give. We look to see a great reservoir of men, not necessarily for the purpose of the defence of the country only, but as a general National Reserve to keep the national spirit alive. I am dealing now with the question of the numbers which Parliament said there should be, and I am pointing out that on that basis the numbers will be there. Of that there can be no doubt. I say nothing of other sources of supply. There is also the National Reserve. Of course some of these 105,000 may have joined the National 1090 Reserve, but not very many, because more than half the National Reserve are Regular soldiers, and of the remaining half the great majority are ex-Volunteers and have not served in the Territorial Force. Therefore, although you cannot add the 200,000 men of the National Reserve, for you must first deduct a large number of those who are over forty-five, probably about 50,000, and again deduct the possible number who have served in the Territorial Force, possibly, to make sure, another 30,000, and again to deduct those Regular soldiers who would prefer to serve elsewhere, still there is a very large number of men in the National Reserve—ex-Volunteers and Colonials—who would be available, and who would flock to the colours. I say nothing of men who are good rifle shots, and have perhaps done some little soldiering in their time, though not enough to qualify for the Reserve or the National Reserve. To show how large that number is I may say that the members of rifle clubs affiliated to the National Rifle Association amount to no fewer than 140,000 already, so the total number of men who can shoot and who are anxious and willing to serve in time of national danger is so large that it would be dishonest to say that you must adopt an entirely new system because of a shortage of 16 per cent. of your strength. The thing would not be true. So much for the numbers.
Just one word only on efficiency. I have tried to put forward in my Memorandum the facts of the case quite frankly. It appears to be the case that, so far as figures can show, the Territorial Force shows a continued increase in efficiency. Whether it is as efficient as it ought to be is another matter, but it shows an increased efficiency in all respects. Now the question is, Do our forces as we see them fulfil the necessary conditions laid down? I have said that as regards immediate danger there no doubt in our minds, but a great many new things have happened since the problem of invasion was last considered—not perhaps matters of principle, but matters at any rate of very large detail. There is the increased size and speed of merchant ships, which is a factor on one side. There is the remarkable increase in the power and range of the torpedo, which is a factor on the other side. There is the still more remarkable increase in the effectiveness and the practical power and range of submarines. That is another factor on the other side. There are other 1091 factors which I need not deal with, but those three alone, if you add possibly to them the progress of aerial navigation, which may tell on both sides, and of course wireless telegraphy, which certainly has a bearing on the problem—on which side I will not say—all these factors are new factors.
Now I have a very interesting announcement to make to the House, which, I am sure not only the House, but the country will receive with interest and with very deep pleasure and gratification. The Prime Minister decided, in view of all these facts, to appoint another Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, as has been appointed on two occasions before, to consider the whole matter again, especially in view of the possible change in the strategic needs of this country due to new factors which might arise. The Prime Minister decided that it would be in the interests of the country that he should invite the man who, of all others, has made this subject his own, though a political opponent—I mean the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour)—to be a member of that Committee. The right hon. Gentleman accepted the invitation. He is a member of that Committee, and is now conversant with the preliminary investigations which are taking place. I may be permitted perhaps to say one personal word, not so much on my own behalf as on behalf of one other Member of this House. On 2nd August, 1906, I ventured to move that this very procedure should be adopted, and I regret to say that though I had the advantage of my proposition being seconded by the hon. Member (Sir G. Parker), although we pointed out the immense advantages of getting both Front Benches and all sides in this House to co-operate in matters of this immense strategic importance, we were, to put it bluntly, laughed out of court. Time has its revenges, but I mention the matter, not only in justice to the hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Parker) but also because any one who cares to read the debate will see that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) foresaw certain difficulties and dangers in accepting the invitation. They are just the same now as they were then, and therefore it is our bounden duty to say that we all of us, especially on this side of the House, but for that matter all people in these islands, owe a very real debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for the high, 1092 patriotic, unselfish spirit he displayed in consenting to make this new departure of a pronounced political opponent sitting on the Committee of Defence in consultation on a matter of this vital Imperial and national importance.
Perhaps in view of this announcement the House will not wish me to dwell further upon this problem except to say this, which is perhaps a new point. I have been myself accused, and others on this bench have been accused of being optimists. We have only been optimists in this sense, that we do not believe this particular danger to be the danger that we have to fear as things stand now. The fact that we are an island Power, drawing our supplies and raw material in so large a proportion from outside, gives us certain enormous advantages, coupled with command of the sea, but it also causes to us certain drawbacks. What would happen to this country in time of war is a subject which does engage the attention of the Committee of Imperial Defence, not only every week, but every day. Every day inquiries are proceeding and the best brains we can get are devoted to seeing how we can meet certain possible dangers.
It may be thought that the best way to make the country secure would be to mobilise a million men on the declaration of war—I mean trained men. We believe the exact contrary to be true, and those who have examined the question carefully, as we have been obliged to do, will see that, in view of the immense demands which will be made on the transport services of the country, upon a portion of its coal supply, upon a great part of certain manufacturing industries, upon the whole transport between ship and dock, and upon transport by sea for various naval purposes, coupled with the inevitable dislocation which must take place—in our case very small as compared with what they would be if we were not so predominant at sea—while it is not an insoluble problem, it is the greatest mistake to suppose that we can make the country safe in times of national danger by withdrawing people from their ordinary occupations and putting them in the ranks. Although I strongly believe that a country which has every roan with a knowledge of his weapons—I have always thought that, and I think it is apparent to everyone that it must be so—and has the determination to serve his country loyally if required, is safer for purposes of outside invasion than one that has not such trained men, nevertheless for this country in time of war it 1093 might well be, and often would be, that the smaller the number of men you actually mobilise the better will be your chance of success. [Laughter.] An hon. Gentleman laughs, but I can assure him that there is no excuse when dealing with the particular problem of a shortage of 16 per cent. of the Territorial Force to laugh at those who are endeavouring to make a real contribution to the scientific discussion of the problem with which everybody is now faced. I repeat that I admit to the full the desirability of having a large number fully trained to arms, quite apart from the question of the particular deficiencies there may be.
It is a great mistake to suppose that your safety lies in mobilising instantly a large Army. We think that the exact opposite is the case, and it may be that when the right hon. Gentleman opposite takes his share in the deliberations of the National Defence Committee, as I have no doubt he will—[HON. MEMBERS "No"]—he will regret the somewhat curt refusal of the point of view I have laid down. At any rate, he will regret that he did it with so little thought being given to the subject. The Government does regret that there is this shortage in the Territorial Force. I have tried to show, in as few words as possible, that though actual danger of invasion has not arisen, we said we wanted so many men. We have not got them, and we frankly called upon all sorts of people to help us to get them under the existing system. It may be urged that the simple way would be to adopt a system of compulsion, but I think the House will see that it is very difficult, in view of the facts I have stated, to say to the country, "We must adopt a system of universal compulsory service, to which you have objected for so many years, in order to raise 16 per cent. for an emergency, which, if it exists, is not immediate." I say no more than that. I frankly asked for the co-operation of all parties. The county associations have done excellent work, and the Lords Lieutenant, though they differ from us in politics in most cases, are most loyal supporters, and any suggestion that the county associations, or the vast mass of the associations in this country, are in favour of adopting another system is quite devoid of truth. I have had a number of protests from responsible persons against the idea that they are going to abandon the system of getting an efficient Army on a voluntary basis. That is not the idea of the county associations, so that we mean to support the voluntary system. 1094 We hope and believe that under it we can obtain the number of men we require.
There are great advantages in the voluntary system from the military point of view. From the purely democratic point of view there may be a great deal to be said for forming a truly democratic Army and sweeping away every kind of class distinctions. That may be so, from the point of view of the well-being of the State. From the point of view of national well-being, military drill would give expanded lungs and cultivate the spirit of obedience. From the point of view of national self-respect, it might be well that men should be trained in the command of useful weapons. For all these reasons there may be a great deal to be said for a frankly democratic system, but it means an enormous change. It does not mean just a slight turning of the screw in order to convert your voluntary process into a compulsory system. Nobody says that. Nothing of the kind would occur, and if we were to make this great change, it would mean a great uprooting of our whole military system. I think there can be no doubt that this is the most democratic country in the world, and if you are going to adopt universal compulsory military service, it means a change so great, that while I do not fear it—I do not think it would do any harm to abandon a great many of those aristocratic prejudices which are now happily dying away, as I shall hope presently to show—I ask whether, facing this thing on its merits, we are for a shortage of 16 per cent. in the Territorial Force to make so gigantic a change. It is for the country to decide. If there was an immediate danger pressing upon us, the Government would adopt any expedient necessary to secure the safety of the State. Seeing that the danger is not imminent, though grave responsibilities may press upon us when times change, I say we are not in a position now to advocate such a gigantic change, and we, in the meantime, propose to do all we can with the co-operation of men of all parties to help forward the voluntary system, under which, as applied to the Regular and the Auxiliary Army, this country has prospered well.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Is the right hon. Gentleman going to say anything about the shortage of the Special Reserve?
§ Mr. J. WARD
Is the right hon. Gentleman going to say anything about the shortage of officers, and the means of giving the soldier who is competent the chance of becoming an officer?
§ Colonel SEELY
I did propose to deal with these points. Perhaps I may deal now with the subject mentioned by the hon. Gentleman opposite, namely, the Special Reserve. The Special Reserve shows a shortage of 22,000 men, and that we greatly regret. The problem of the Territorial Force is altogether a difficult one. We must say that it is especially gratifying that all parties have worked together in the matter of the Special Reserve. The hon. Gentleman himself, and some of his colleagues not only here, but in another place, have helped us, and I wish to express publicly my acknowledgment to them for having given their time and attention to the difficult question of what is the best solution of the Special Reserve problem. I must say that we do want some further means of expanding the Regular Army. However we vary the conditions—and they were often varied during the years my predecessor was in office—we somehow do not seem to have hit upon the best plan under the voluntary system of getting the class of men willing to join the Regular Army in time not merely of national peril, but on mobilisation, in order to fill up the ranks of the First Reserve that has gone. I would acknowledge here the service rendered in this matter by Lord Salisbury, who has served in the old Militia, and also in the Special Reserve. He has been good enough to help us very much in the inquiry as to the Special Reserve. There are also many others on both sides of this House who have helped the Committee that are considering this matter. I hope the result of their deliberations, which are now approaching completion, may help to solve the difficult problem of how to fill up the gap between the Regular Army and the other branches of the Service.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Is anything going to be done for the Special Reserve in the present year?
§ Colonel SEELY
We are waiting for the Report of the Committee on which the hon. Gentleman has been sitting and giving his assistance. I have no announcement to make in regard to Special Reserve, because I thought it was wise to wait until the Committee had reported before taking a definite step. My hon. Friend the 1096 Under-Secretary of State, who has been specially charged with the matter, is of my opinion, and the whole Army Council think we would be well advised to wait until we get the considered judgment of this Committee before taking further action. With regard to horses, we have made a great advance. I would only say this: We have added a special Artillery section to the Special Reserve, and we have found it necessary to offer a subsidy of £4 per head for 10,000 animals. It has had the desired effect. So far as it has gone it has been completely successful. It is not much to give £4 per head per annum to keep a horse. It is not a satisfactory method of solving the question, but it is better than not making an effort to solve it at all. During the period of transition between horse and mechanical traction, mechanical traction has been found to suffice for civil purposes, but horse traction is necessary for military purposes, owing to the worse roads to be gone over. We must be faced with these difficulties, and I am glad that, with the provision made by the Treasury, we have been able to solve it to some extent.
§ Colonel SEELY
No, the £4 horse, of course, would be like the admirable reinforcements of omnibus horses which, some people have said humourously won the South African war. Those who were in South Africa at that time will remember the extraordinary efficiency of the bus horse. It is trained in a sense, and it is an admirable horse. It is that class of horse, we have retained at £4 per head. I am able to say that while some slight improvement in the machinery of collection has been found desirable, the arrangements for obtaining the required number of horses on mobolisation are now complete.
§ Colonel SEELY
Yes; we can supply the horses for the whole requirements of the Army and the Territorial Force. In the case of the Territorial Force, of course, there would be many horses not so suitable for the duty as we would wish. We are confident now that the actual problem is solved, though not solved as well as we should wish it. Still we hope to make further progress in that direction. I come 1097 now to the sixth point, the question of promotion from the ranks. It was represented to me, when I first went to the War Office, and pressed upon me from all quarters of this House, that promotion from the ranks in the British Army had practically come to an end. I was asked questions, and had to give answers showing that whereas in the days gone by, the days of the Army's greatest military success, promotion from the ranks was frequent; now it was dwindling, and had almost ceased to exist. That seemed not only to me, but to the Government, to be a deplorable thing from every point of view. It was not as though we had been under an aristocratic system under which no man was permitted to be promoted from the ranks at all. Far from it. The British Army has always, through all its history, regarded promotion from the ranks as an integral part of its system. Napoleon's dictum that every soldier carried a marshal's baton in his knapsack is as much part of our theory, and was at times as much a part of our practice, as it was in the French Army of Napoleon. Now it had come to an end; and why? Not because the supply of men suitable was failing. The exact opposite was the case, for by the spread of education and the remarkable increase in the standard of character and intelligence of the men in the Army, to which the figures which I gave hear testimony, the class of men suitable for promotion from the ranks has greatly increased. The reason was because it was impossible for a man to live on his pay at all. The question then presented itself, after we had made inquiry and found that was literally and absolutely true—what was to be done?
You could do three things. You could, first, reduce expenses. That we found at once to be an impossible solution. It meant taking away every conceivable luxury, drinking only water, smoking nothing. It was physically impossible for a promoted man, or any other man, to live upon his pay. And that is not surprising when I say that the actual pay of the subaltern amounts to less than £2 a week, which is less than the money received by a great many men who drive our tramcars, and who do very good and useful work, but who have not got to move all over the world as our officers have to do. For let us observe that in the case of our Army the cost of living, apart from the general rise in the cost of living, is particularly high owing to the fact that it is a moving 1098 Army. I have not had time to-day to deal with the Army as regards its purposes in Indian and the Far East, but it is a foreign service Army, and they are always on the move. The consequence is that the thing is impossible. If it was not possible there were only two other courses open. One was to increase the pay of the promoted ranker as such; the other was to increase the pay at any rate of the intermediate ranks all round, so that with great care it would be possible for such a man to live upon it. I decided against the first alternative, and I think the House will support me, because the only result would have been that the man who has been promoted from the ranks, who at the outset of his career had been regarded with respect and admiration by his colleagues, as all promoted rankers now are, would have become the subject of jealously as years went on, for the reason that, just because he was promoted from the ranks, say in the year 1913, in 1933 he would still be drawing more money than other people. That would have been an impossible solution, impossible, at any rate, for the British Army. In this House we are agreed that, whatever view we took of the payment of Members, if they were going to be paid at all, they must all be paid alike. I think the House will agree with me that there was no other solution possible than to make such an increase in the pay of intermediate ranks as would enable the officer just to live on his pay. The two questions that arose were—was the scheme a sound one, and could the money be provided? It was unanimously agreed that the scheme of making further provision for promotions from the ranks was a sound one, and I am glad to say that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have been good enough to provide the necessary funds.
§ Colonel SEELY
Yes, I think that the House is entitled to say "at last," seeing that there has been no increase in pay of officers for something like 108 years, but it may be said that you will not be able to get these officers promoted from the ranks for two reasons: in the first place, because war has now become a more exact science, and it would be a retrograde step to take men of less education and lower qualifications just in order to satisfy the supposed democratic theory of the British Army that soldiers can be promoted from the ranks. To that there is a complete 1099 answer which is twofold. In the first place, the standard of education is now so high among many of the non-commissioned officers that I am advised by those whom I have specially consulted in this matter that there are many whose standard of education is considerably higher than that of the officers who pass in from the Special Reserve. Therefore, we shall not lower the standard of education by promotion from the ranks. The second objection has been made that the Army does not like the promoted ranker. May I, with the full consent of the whole House, dispel that illusion? It comes before me often enough in my position, just as it has done before the right hon. Gentleman opposite in falling to his lot as to mine, to approve of various appointments. Always, if the case be so, it is written on his report, not in blame but in praise, "He was promoted from the ranks." Everyone remarks a man who, without any adventitious advantages, has been able by his energy, skill, and loyalty to rise to a higher position. That is peculiarly so in the Army, where we have had so many men who have distinguished themselves. I do not refer to many veterans, as I would like, but I think of one, General O'Connor, who won the Victoria Cross. Let me refer to a more remarkable case. General Robertson, the head to the Staff College, the head of the most scientific educational institute in the Army, and probably in the world, was himself promoted from the ranks.
§ Colonel SEELY
Yes. The whole principle of the Army is that we wish to see men promoted from the ranks provided we do not lower the standard. It may be said that they may not be able to afford the start. The House will see what the scheme is to enable them to live on their pay. We propose to begin with the case of the men promoted from the ranks. Non-commissioned officers and men promoted from the ranks shall receive an outfit allowance of £150 instead of £100, as al present. That will, I am advised, enable them to purchase the whole of the outfit necessary for our officers, who have to serve in all parts of the world, and at any rate give them a fair start. The scheme of increase of pay does not come into operation until after six years' service, and we propose to promote the specially selected men after three years' service. Therefore there will be three 1100 years during which they would not receive the increased rate of pay, and we are therefore following other excellent precedents and giving them Secretary of State scholarships, or special allowances of £50 a year for not more than three years to fill up the gap. Form that moment onwards the man promoted from the ranks, having received his allowance as he did before, having received this scholarship for his exceptional attainments, will be exactly in the same position as any other man in the Army. What is to happen after he has tided over his time? After six years' service—not for the first six years, because during that time, as in all other professions, parents have to provide for their children—there shall be an increase of 2s. 6d. a day in his pay for each lieutenant. After he has passed examination (C), and received his commanding officers' certificate of practical efficiency in command of men—the rank of second-lieutenant will in consequence be abolished—the lieutenant's additional rate of pay will be 5s. 3d., and after three years' service 6s. 6d., and after six years' service, in consequence of what I have said, it will be 9s. for the rest of his lieutenant's service.
Captains after three years service in that rank will receive an increase of 3s. a day, provided that their total service is not less than twelve years. Majors after twenty-four years' service will receive an increase of 2s. a day, and lieutenant-colonels command pay will be increased by from 3s. to 5s. a day. The corresponding rates in Cavalry and Infantry will be paid, but not to those who receive specially high pay at present, as, for instance, the Household Cavalry and various staff apointments. It is proposed that promotion from the ranks should be made by the Secretary of State among those who are nominated by the commanding officer, as at present, and who have passed an examination similar to that—I do not lay down the precise details—which is now passed by those in the Special Reserve. We believe that by this means we shall obtain men of great value to the Army. We must do something at the same time to keep expenses down, and, while the first part of the scheme may he popular, the second part must necessarily be unpopular, but I do not believe that we will do much by passing sumptuary laws saying that an officer shall not play polo, or do this, that, and the other thing. What we can do is to say to a commanding officer, "It is the principle of the British 1101 Army that a man shall be able to live in your regiment, even though he be a poor man. So that the expense can be properly kept down we propose to enforce that strictly." There were strong recommendations on this subject from a very influential Committee presided over by the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, now Lord Derby. This Committee strongly recommended that commanding officers should be responsible for keeping the necessary expenses of officers at the lowest possible limit. We propose to carry that out to the full, not by attempting to enforce any sumptuary laws, nor interfering with the legitimate aspirations of men to indulge in sports of a useful kind, but we do believe in carrying out the recommendations of Lord Derby's Committee to the letter. We may be asked what will be the cost of this scheme? I cannot estimate it precisely, but as soon as the full details are worked out we shall proceed to put it into effect. It will take effect, not this year, but from the commencement of next year, the 1st January, 1914. It will mean a permanent additional charge to the Estimates Of between £100,000 and £150,000 a year. I do not believe that the House of Commons will grudge the money. I have always been told that it would be unpopular to increase the pay of the officers if we did not at the same time increase the pay of the rank and file. I do not believe that to be true. The soldier's pay has been increased very often recently, and he can live on his pay. But the officer cannot. Our reason, however, for knowing that it will not be unpopular, and that it will not fail to commend itself to the judgment of the House of Commons, is that we give up the vicious old system which was open only to men of wealth, and which built up a permanent wall against the advance of the private soldier to commissioned rank.
We mean to break down that wall; we believe we can do it, with the consent of all parties, and with the consent of the Army. Under the conditions I have laid down, we cannot, of course, make promotion wholesale; it would do more harm than good if we did; but we can follow on the lines laid down, and greatly increase the number of officers, even this year. If the scheme succeeds, and the men are forthcoming—and we believe they will be forthcoming in greater and greater measure—then we mean to have a continuous scheme. Of course, it may be said it is a hardship upon a man who has been through all the difficulties of examination that he should, after all, find a man promoted from 1102 the ranks, and that, under the conditions laid down, he should be no further ahead than if he had gone through the ranks. But it is perfectly fair, as every man in the Army knows, that a man who serves in the ranks of the Army for two or three years, can be raised to the rank of non-commissioned officer, with the full approval of the senior non-commissioned officers, of the company commanding officer, of the major, and of the commanding officer, who has had to go through that hard mill, in which any offence committed in the whole twenty-four hours is recorded against a man, so that he will have at least a twenty-four hours' character, and if in addition he can show that he has the capacity to lead his section in the field, he is an exceptional man, and ought to be promoted, even as Napoleon promoted his men from the ranks, and even as in our Army, in the Peninsular War, men were promoted from the ranks. I am glad to think that it has fallen to my lot to make this announcement. It is not perhaps a great advance, but it is a substantial advance. I gratefully acknowledge the assistance I have had from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I should like also to acknowledge the help I have received from General Roberts himself, and General Franklyn, Military Secretary, who has an exceptional knowledge of military affairs; and among those whom I have consulted I include all my colleagues of the Council. I am glad to think that we have made it possible for the regimental officer, a poor man, who has borne his burden without much recognition for so many years, to keep going without drifting into financial difficulties. I am sure he deserves that recognition. Above all, I am sure that if this is adopted it will be worth doing, because it will open the door to the promotion of that brave British soldier, the British private soldier, to whom this country and this Empire owe so much.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The Secretary of State for War arranged the structure of his speech upon the plan of keeping what is most acceptable to the last. I feel that I can, on behalf of everyone on this side of the House, welcome the last announcement he has made without reserve. It has long been thought by those interested in the Army that the pay of junior ranks ought to be raised, with the corollary that all men who desire and are fit to serve in the Army should be enabled to do so, and to serve their country without 1103 doing so at their own private cost. When I refer to the other five points dealt with by the Secretary of State, then I must say that the general purport of his treatment of all those points—I include aviation—was that although there may be many things we possess, and it is eminently desirable that we should possess, still examination and investigation are all we need ask for now, since, in his own picturesque language, the danger of a bolt from the blue that would strike a paralysing blow at the heart is not a danger which we need contemplate. I set the whole of that on one side, and will, if I can follow the ground he has covered on all those points, show that there is a great deal which it is desirable that we must have if we can say that we are in any sense doing our duty to our country, as it is at present circumstanced. Let me take aviation. I do not pretend to be an expert on aviation. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman devoted so large a portion of his speech to that question. Undoubtedly it bulks largely in the public mind. It creates a new menace, and it exacts a new sacrifice from the taxpayer. The whole policy and bearing of aviation on warfare has got to be faced and has got to be solved. But, when the Secretary of State concluded that portion of his speech by saying that he would answer the question, how we had achieved so great a success, I do not believe that many who have listened to his remarks would have put that question to him.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The impression made upon our minds was that the Secretary for War had, at any rate, satisfied himself that all was well in that branch of our Service. Of course, we all admire the high courage and modesty of the brave young men who have gone into that branch of the Service, and we admire the ingenuity of British inventors and artisans; but because we join with him in this recognition, we are not going to be deluded into the acceptance of the assurance from him that all that has been done in the past is all that ought to have been done in the past. After careful examination, we cannot flatter ourselves into the belief that all is being done now that ought to be done or is going to be done in the future. As to aviation, the purport of all he told us comes under two heads—first 1104 of all under that of airships. He put them rather on one side on military grounds, but when it comes to our defence against airships we still find ourselves in the period of experiment. There is no definite statement that we have any high-angle gun now in existence, or likely to come into existence, to deal with airships.
§ Colonel SEELY
Though I expressly asked that I should not be pressed on this subject, I may say at once we have such a gun, but in the circumstances I cannot say more.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The right hon. Gentleman's interruption was really unnecessary. We are glad to receive that renewed assurance, or any assurance, however vague. The right hon. Gentleman insists on the greatest reticence in this matter, but it has been carried far indeed. This announcement is made only on the day of the introduction of the Army Estimates, and he can convey no information at all on the subject. I leave the question of airships, and I am going to deal with the question of aeroplanes, which are a matter of greater importance and urgency. There, again, when we come to the really important fact, for all the right hon. Gentleman said, we are still in the phase of experiment. Everyone knows that the framework of an aeroplane can be rapidly constructed, but it is the engine which is the important matter, and we have not yet got anything like the type of engine we need.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The right hon. Gentleman said it was impossible to make any comparison with foreign Powers. He then made comparison with Germany, which was based on information which he had read in the "Standard" or the "Morning Post." I do not think it is impossible to arrive at some comparison in this matter. I think we might have been told this afternoon more fully what is the proportion of aeroplanes to every branch of our Army—what proportion the right hon. Gentleman thinks would be needed for the Army of Home Defence as well as the Expeditionary Force, and what is the proportion of aeroplanes to the Army of France. I cannot pretend to have any official information, but I have information which comes from sources that carry authority, and I believe it to be the case that the French Government have got 500 aeroplanes, and that private persons in 1105 France have 120 aeroplanes, all ready to serve, and at the immediate call of the Government. Fifty of that total are allocated to service outside France, and, while making allowance for those which are under repair, there are some 500 aeroplanes available for the French Army at this moment. The Army in France, if we include the Colonial troops, numbers 600,000 men, and nobody can tell what the expansion would be at the outbreak of war. I think it would be more than double and less than treble. But one may say that they would mobilise, speaking in round numbers, 1,400,000 men, so that they would have one aeroplane to each 2,800 men. I say that we ought to have at least the same proportion in this country, and I believe that we ought to have a higher proportion than that. I will come to the question of proportion later on, but if you had an Expeditionary Force, with troops to keep the lines of communication, totalling 200,000, then on that basis they would want seventy aeroplanes. The troops at home would require at least 140, so that you would have to provide 210 aeroplanes on that low standard. I believe, in view of our peculiar situation, we ought to have a far higher standard, and that we should have now at least 300 aeroplanes in working order. How many have we got—one hundred and one. Of that 101 a certain number are used for instruction. They are not the best aeroplanes for war, though they could be used in war. In that total we are told that eleven or twelve monoplanes—we have not the exact figures—are not of a wholly satisfactory character. Why? Because the necessary precautions to make their use a safe pursuit have not yet been perfected. If that be true, not only are we still in the experimental stage in respect to the engines that drive those machines, but we are also in the experimental stage in respect of those precautions which must be found if we are to continue to have our gallant young men enter into this dangerous and difficult branch of the Service. I will not develop that subject any further. You have not got the number which I believe you require and you are still in the experimental stage. I pass from that to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, which he said were general remarks, about the Army. In passing, I will say this, that it is not only right and natural that a great deal of public attention should be turned to the question of aviation, but that 1106 as much attention must be turned to every branch of our military preparation. Aircraft are an addition, a necessary addition, to the Army; they are not a substitute for any portion of that Army, and if it be right, as we all recognise it is, that our provision of aircraft must be carefully examined, so is it also right that every component part of our Army ought to be tested in this House year by year, and I think, above all, this year.
The speech which the right hon. Gentleman has just made has not removed from my mind the impression created by reading his Memorandum and studying, in the somewhat scant time allowed, the Army Estimates. That impression was that, in the opinion of the Government, nothing very unusual had been happening in Europe recently which calls for any special efforts on their part. I may say at once that that opinion does not prevail outside the Ministerial circles. The Prime Minister received the other day an important document from a body called "The Defence Association," and they apparently are not satisfied with the state of affairs. The Government think it sufficient to spend a little more money and to apologise for the increase. The increase is not really £360,000 as that includes a number of automatic increases. The Government are satisfied that the numbers are considerably less than they were last year with the prospect of still further diminution. Do they really think nothing unusual has been occurring which demands some special efforts. I say that the two tests which ought always to be applied to our Army are the tests of asking what is our Army for, and is it sufficient to perform the purposes for which it exists, and to do so unflinchingly. I would say with some regard to those larger considerations that in testing the Army we must bear in mind the general diplomatic and strategic considerations of the time in which we live, and we must also bear in mind, and the right hon. Gentleman touched on this, the relations of our land forces to our other arm of defence. The diplomatic and strategic problem now presents features which undoubtedly are of magnitude and which ought to have been examined by the Government who in presenting these Estimates try to make out that they are ample to meet the exigencies of the time and the circumstances in which we live.
I do not propose to traverse at any length the ground on which I dwelt last year, but it must be clear that if the duty 1107 of making adequate preparation is greater than in recent years that then the capacity of the Army for the purposes for which it exists is of more importance now than it was then. I pass rapidly over the necessity of our Army maintaining the obligatory garrisons throughout the Empire. I pass away from the necessity our Army has to meet of finding reliefs and drafts for those obligatory garrisons, but it is evident that the duties are more important, or, at any rate, more urgent and more anxious, now than they were. I might refer to the diplomatic and strategic problems of the present moment. One need not go into them in any detail. It is quite sufficient to say that a long period of diplomatic anxiety culminated in a war which still continues, and in the creation of a new military Power in the near East, and in proposals for the simultaneous expansion of other armies on a vast scale. Those events, happening where they have happened, and leading to the consequences to which they are leading, make it necessary that we should maintain the capacity of our Army to find those garrisons, and the capacity of our Army to reinforce them if need be. The special purpose for which our Army exists, and to which I shall endeavour to direct the attention of the House to-day, is not those first two purposes, but the third purpose and the consequence which that entails.
Our Army, in addition to finding those garrisons and the reliefs for them, must also be capable, after mobilisation, of dispatching a large Expeditionary Force, large not in the terms of Continental armies, but perhaps I may call it large in the terms of our traditions and of our own resources. It must be able to maintain that Expeditionary Force in the field. It must be able to provide adequate home defence when that force has departed from these shores, and while that force is exhausting the troops which are available for maintaining it. Lastly, though this is indeed too sanguine, our Army organisation ought to be capable of some expansion through other than Regular troops to reinforce the Expedition when it has gone abroad. Although one had hoped that that was a commonplace in any intelligent view of our military situation, and was agreed to by all patiotic men, yet some doubt hangs about this the most important part of our military preparations, for the other purposes of the Army are not in dispute. I gather from the right hon. Gentleman this is not in dispute, and that he 1108 assents when I say that our Army organisation must be capable of doing the four things. That doubt has not, however, been removed in view of the ambiguous utterances of Ministers in the recent past, and the right hon. Gentleman has done nothing to clear up that doubt by his speech, the doubt whether our organisation enables our Army to dispatch a force at any time and to any place where the tactics of strategy may demand it. I define it in that way. I think the right hon. Gentleman will find I know the position he has taken up, and I am determined if I can, to do something to clear up that attitude, and to have it in black and white what is the position of the Government, and what is our position in this matter? It is no use for the right hon. Gentleman to tell me that nothing has fallen from Ministers which throws doubt about our power to send a force, I will say of six Divisions with a Cavalry Division and the details, which the right hon. Gentleman knows. The whole point, which is now enshrouded in mystery, is whether their organisation is capable of sending that force whenever and wherever it is wanted, and, after sending it, of providing for home defence, and of maintaining that force in the field.
§ Colonel SEELY
Certainly. I say there is no doubt whatever about it. I stated so last year, and I state so with as great confidence now.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
Very well. I will not go back upon saying there is a doubt, but I do not know that the right hon. Gentleman's interruption is to be taken as deleting all the utterances to which we have recently listened in another place, on the 10th February, when this very question was put, though in other words. Lord Middleton then asked the Government, speaking from the Opposition in another place, whether they could send 160,000 men out of this country and then guarantee this country safety against the invasion of 70,000 men. That must be our question. We did not get a clear answer, and in fact we got no answer at all. Lord Herschell spoke, and Lord Haldane spoke, and we were promised, as the right hon. Gentleman has promised this afternoon, a new investigation into the problem of the possibility of any adverse troops reaching our shores. That in itself tends to throw some doubt upon what was an explicit promise. Then we had a disquisition in another place, and repeated this afternoon, on the abstract merits or convenience of compulsory or voluntary service in this country. 1109 That in itself tends to throw doubt on this question. We know what you will not do. What we want to know is what will you do, if strategy demanded that that comparatively large force should be sent at once to the place where it is required, and, if you do send that force, whether you can fulfil the other purposes which must be fulfilled, on the hypothesis that the force is so dispatched. For the right hon. Gentleman to tell us that this is a matter of certitude takes my breath away. On the 10th February, Lord Haldane speaking in the House of Lords said that we might find it best to send all our Expeditionary Force abroad or to keep the Expeditionary Force at home, or only to send away four Divisions and keep two Divisions at home. Lord Haldane is an adept at losing the point which he affects to meet in the folds of his mind, but the right hon. Gentleman is not nearly such an adept. Will he tell me that the statement of Lord Haldane, that you might send six, or you might send four, or you might send none, and that your choice, which also is implied in the argument, must depend on the naval considerations at the moment—
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
Lord Haldane's words are:—It must be a matter to be decided by the circumstances present at the moment. We might find that our naval dispositions were such that, considering all the strategic positions, we might find it best to send all our Expeditionary Force abroad. Or it might be that, owing to the operations of the Fleet, there was not concentrated for the security of the country that amount of strength that we should desire, and we might think it better under the circumstances to keep the Expeditionary Force at home or only send away four Divisions and keep two Divisions at home.I say that that utterance of Lord Haldane throws doubt upon the subject to which I am inviting the attention of the House, namely, our capacity—if the dictates of strategy demand it—to send the Expeditionary Force to the place where it should be. This choice, at any rate, in the mind of Lord Haldane, really depended upon our naval position under such hypothetical circumstances. To say merely that it depends upon circumstances is really to utter a platitude which throws no light at all upon the subject. The circumstances are the circumstances which I have endeavoured to describe. Where the strategical exigencies and the plight in which you find yourself make it right rapidly to assume the offensive, can you assume the offensive in some effective form, with troops amounting in number and in training to a force 1110 which would make their dispatch an effective strategical act on the part of this country? Does the right hon. Gentleman again say "Certainly"?
§ Colonel SEELY
This is rather a curious way of conducting the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman asks me to say whether in our judgment we are now in the position, under the circumstances named, to send the Expeditionary Force abroad and to ensure the safety of home defence at the same time. That I understand is the question.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
That was the way the Government tried to ride off in another place the other day, and that is the way they are trying to ride off this afternoon. That is not the question.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I will put it again. If the dictates of strategy demand that you should send the whole of your Expeditionary Force out of the country, do you contemplate that possibility? And if [...]at possibility becomes an actuality, do you think you could maintain that force in the field and make adequate provision for home defence?
§ Colonel SEELY
I thought that that was exactly how I put it. Can we send the Expeditionary Force away "if," to use the right hon. Gentleman's phrase, "the dictates of strategy demand it," to any part of the world where it may be required; and can we under present circumstances say that the country would be safe against, an invasion in force? Yes, we can. With our strategical position as it is, and with our naval superiority what it is, do we consider the country safe from an invasion in force? My answer is, certainly; we consider that we could do that if the circumstances demanded it, and that we should be safe. It is to make security doubly sure that we have the further consideration.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I am glad to have elicited that explanation. As we now understand, if next week it became desirable from a strategical point of view to dispatch six Divisions, a Cavalry Division, and the necessary complement of guns, the Government would not hesitate to do so, whatever the state of the Reserves 1111 for maintaining the force and the Territorial Force, and whatever was the naval problem with which they were confronted. But the right hon. Gentleman now dissents.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
Then he assents. I claim to have established that the Government would do this if it were a right strategical move. I take it that the strategical moves would be decided by their military advisers, and not by the Prime Minister. I suppose that the First Lord of the Admiralty would not be allowed to overrule their view of what military exigencies really demanded. Nor do I understand that the Home Secretary would interfere. Therefore it comes to this, that we have escaped one peril which I feared from the lack of preparation, namely, the peril that the Expeditionary Force would be paralysed and not allowed to go, only to be landed in another peril, namely, that if such an eventuality became an actuality which we had to face, we should have to chance it—with what troops at our disposal for maintaining the force in the field and for home defence? I know that figures are tedious, but I must try, if I can, to exhibit to the House what would be our position on the hypothesis which we now have to take into consideration, namely, that the whole of this force is going, and that it is not to be delayed for the kind of consideration thrown out by Lord Haldane in the House of Lords the other day. The doubt is gone, and we have to face the situation which I am now trying to state. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if the Expeditionary Force went under these circumstances, there would be left behind seventy-four linked battalions, consisting of some Regulars, some Reservists not yet wanted, and of the Special Reserve, and that that would be the machine for maintaining this Expeditionary Force during the wastage of war? Will he concede that, of the twenty-seven battalions of the Special Reserve not so attached, almost every one would be required for the lines of communication or for reinforcing the Mediterranean garrisons? In fact, he would have to write off the Expeditionary Force and, except for some degree of assistance in standing defences, you would have to write off the seventy-four battalions made up of the Special Reserve, of young soldiers left behind, and of the Army Reserve not 1112 immediately required. So that for home defence you would have now eight Infantry battalions of Regulars, against seven last year, and, I think, five Cavalry regiments, against three last year, and the Territorial Force. But it is very probable that you would be called upon to send some of that scanty number of eight Regular battalions to back up the Expeditionary Force, because I do not think the preparations you have made are adequate to maintain it in the field.
May I put that into numbers? For the purposes of this calculation, I have put the Army Reserve much lower than it is at present. The number at present is 145,000, but the Army Council announced in the Memorandum of 1909 that the normal number was 116,000. We know why it is extended. The three years' system is still operating, but it is coming almost immediately to a close. We know, too, that on other grounds the right hon. Gentleman is passing in soldiers before they have completed their term of service with the Colours. That may be a good principle for increasing the number in the Reserve and avoiding the difficulty at this end; but it means bringing a far higher proportion of young recruits into the front fighting line.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
What is the good of saying "No, no"? If you pass a large number of men out of the battalions and hope that recruits will be better next year, you get a higher proportion of first year men in the battalion. I take 125,000 instead of 140,000 as a more likely number to be in the Army Reserve next year or the year after. For the Regulars I am taking the figures in the general Annual Report, which are not exactly the same as those in the Estimates. It is rather difficult to take the Regulars in this country from the Estimates, owing to the way in which they are distributed. You would have in this country on peace strength now something over 127,000 Regulars, 125,000 Army Reserve, and 61,000 Special Reserve, or 313,000 in all. The Expeditionary Force of 171,000 starts. I think you ought to take the first draft into account, as it would start almost immediately afterwards, and in fact might start with it. Take 10 per cent. for that. I must allow 15,000 for lines of communication, relief and reinforcements of other garrisons. That makes about 203,000 that you have to write off your Home 1113 Defence Force, leaving for home defence nominally 110,000 Regulars, Army Reservists, and Special Reservists. But a great many of the Army Reservists would not be in this country at the moment the Expeditionary Force left on the sudden outbreak of war. You have passed an Act enabling men in the Army Reserve who find it easier to get a living abroad, to live out of England, and there are some 8,000 living abroad. In addition there are always a certain proportion of casualties. I do not mean accidents, but men temporarily disabled and sick. You must take those on the whole peace strength in the country at the time. Is 6 per cent. too high? I do not think it is. I have seen it put much higher. So that your nominal number of 110,000 is substantially reduced. Forty-five thousand would be recruits and immature soldiers. You would have only about 39,000 men who could be called thoroughly trained and mature, of whom 11,000 would be in the Regular units, and you must write off almost the whole of the rest to maintain the Expeditionary Force in the field by making good the wastage of war. So that by this process of numbers we arrive at the fact, that in the circumstances which I have tried to depict, the right hon. Gentleman would send the whole of the Expeditionary Force abroad and be content to rely almost wholly on the Territorial Force for the home defence of this country.
What are the needs for home defence? We are told that there is to be a new investigation into the problem of raids. The Prime Minister has stated that it was well to be on the safe side—I do not know whether he has got there—and he based his calculations upon the possibility of having to meet 70,000 men. He declared there must be no nice calculation of little or more in such matters, but that you must have a large margin of safety; that we had arrived at a standard of safety; that you must have that margin, and that you must not depart from it because of a number of changes that might lead to a new investigation into the problem; having a standard you must stick to it; you cannot give confidence to the people if day by day and year by year you are always altering the basis of your problem because the factors for solving it keep diminishing in your hands. Taking three to one as the state of things—taking, let us say, 200,000 mobile troops, there must be troops for standing defence, there must be troops for the garrisons in Ireland, and for the 1114 important naval stations in Scotland; there must be garrisons in England. Put that number at another 200,000, which is a very conservative estimate. Supposing one said 200,000 mobile troops, and in addition 200,000 men for the standing defence of the country, to make myself responsible for saying that that is sufficient would be to lend myself to being hauled over the coals by any military critic of repute—and I should say deservedly so.
Six hundred thousand men is probably the right figure, and certainly 400,000 men should be available; then you must have an available margin for those ineffective for duty at the time. Altogether, this argument, upon the most conservative lines, would suggest that you need 400,000 men to defend this country, when the Expeditionary Force has gone, and that really is not to give that margin of safety which the Prime Minister says ought to be given for the security of our shores. What have we got? There are 110,000 Regulars normally. Twenty-eight thousand of them are going away to maintain the Expeditionary Force. You have got 8,000 Reservists back, I agree, and also a certain number of casualties recovering; but then you will find that you have only 73,000 men available of the Army Reserve, of the Special Reserve, and of your Regular unit. What have we to take in respect to the Territorial Force? I am not prepared to count in the recruits or men who have not done that meagre minimum of training allotted—men who have not qualified in musketry, and so on. Many of us do not believe, to meet the circumstances to which I am directing the attention of the House, that fifteen days is nearly sufficiently long, and we are not so certain that men ought not to be trained simultaneously under their own officers. If I take the Government's own specification, the number of men who have been in camp for fifteen days are only 162,000 of the Territorial Force. That is to say, you would have in numbers alone, without going into the question of efficiency, only 225,000 instead of 400,000 men, which is a low, and dangerously low, estimate of the number of men who ought to be here to protect this country if you send an Expeditionary Force of six Divisions abroad. I am quit e prepared to give the right hon. Gentleman these figures to combat his contention. We hold that he is wrong, and that it is dangerous, under these circumstances, to affect to believe that nothing has happened which calls for special effort on our part, and to try to delude ourselves—if 1115 we can—into the belief that the Special Reserve and the Territorial Force are sufficient in number and adequately trained for the vital service which would devolve upon them if the Expeditionary Force on strategical grounds should be sent away from our shores.
The training must be steady. There was a large number of men away from training in the Territorial Force last year, and that number steadily increases yearly. In 1910 the number was 25,900; in 1911, 33,500; in 1912, 34,700. There are in that force 66,000 men under twenty years of age; 120,000 with less than three years' service; 35,000 have failed in musketry; and there are 2,000 officers below the number required. Judg3d by the elementary tests of efficiency provided, you will find that the minimum training—which we think totally inadequate—is not given to these men, and and is not given under circumstances which would enable them to profit by it. We cannot share the airy optimism with which the right hon. Gentleman surveys this matter.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
Forgive me, the right hon. Gentleman said that the thing which calls for immediate action is to provide against the danger of immediate invasions. Against that we are protected by our Regulars, and by our other forces. I have at last pinned him to this point: Will he send the Expeditionary Force if strategical reasons demand that they should be sent? The Prime Minister sitting by him said it would be sent. If he had taken any other course, I think it would have been wrong, because I believe in this matter soldiers must decide the issue and they would have told the Government of the day that safety lay in the offensive defensive, and that the Government would be betraying the Empire if they did not allow the Expeditionary Force to go under these circumstances. You say 400,000 men is the estimate of those needed for home defence. Under these circumstances you have scarcely any Regulars. You have a deficiency of 175,000 in numbers alone. Instead of those who are available you have a number of men who have not conformed even with what we think the ludicrous standard of efficiency now operating in the Territorial Force.
I had intended to speak on the Special Reserve. It would appear, according to 1116 the right hon. Gentleman's Memorandum, to be very good, but it is not officered. If the Expeditionary Force goes, we must recollect that in going it will deprive this inadequate force for home defence of the officers who are absolutely necessary if the force is to be of any value for defensive purposes. The Regular Army will take away many officers, and the Special Reserve, already far below its establishment in officers, is now far below its establishment in its other ranks. We do not make it a criticism of the right hon. Gentleman or the Government that the Special Reserve keeps dwindling, or that its numbers are far less than the Militia was some years ago, but we may observe that for some reason or another we are losing a number of men who used to come in and give us their assistance. That is not our complaint. Our complaint is that you say you see things going on and do nothing, and announce your intention of doing nothing. What do you do? You revert this afternoon to the hope that Territorials who have done a week occasionally in camp and some drills will perhaps during the next few years have come back. What, therefore? The National Reserve is a useful institution. We are deeply grateful to those who compose it and help it. But will any man who knows anything about the Territorial Force or the National Reserve say that he would join 120 old soldiers who had left the Army some time ago, with boys of nineteen under the command of an inexperienced officer?
The incongruity of the proposal makes it perfectly ludicrous. You contemplate putting immature recruits with Regulars, and with the Special and the National Reserve. You are trying to fill up these vessels, which are always leaking, and telling the country, in effect, that all is well: seemingly forgetful of the fact that something far more drastic has to be done than this continual adoption of first one trick and then another to fill up the ranks as we have done up to this time; meanwhile telling the country that if they wait until next year, then all the various roseate anticipations, which are never fulfilled, will be fulfilled. You are expanding your Reserves by sending men into the Reserves after three or four years' service. There is a good deal to be said for creating a new service, but von cannot have it both ways. If you still have the Reserve, by sending young men into it, then your Expeditionary Force is not composed of 1117 mature soldiers, but young men scarcely up to the standard of eligibility. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying "No." It is so. So far as I can make out, you swell the Army Reserve by this device of saying that when the time comes you will put the National Reserve into the Territorial Force.
§ Colonel SEELY
The right hon. Gentleman has got so much that you can rightly denounce us about, that I do not think he need follow what is a pure misunderstanding. We have adopted this system to encourage the men to go into the Reserves, to enable us to take in more recruits, because under the terms of, service arranged by the previous Secretary of State, we should have had no opportunity of taking the recruits in the way we desire.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
No, I do not agree. I do not denounce the Government for having a Reserve, but I do say it carries with it some consequences which are not so good, and I abide by that opinion. I say, without hesitation, and challenge contradiction, that some minor device of saying that you are putting the National Reserve into the Territorial Force, and that you will thus take men earlier into your Reserve, is not adequate to meet the situation with which you are confronted. That is the point. Here is an imminent danger that under circumstances you admit may arise, you will be left in this country with 175,000 men less than the minimum of 400,000 required. That margin would be made up of men scarcely trained at all; men absent with leave, or without leave, from the training, men not qualified in musketry, and men who are not officered. And you think this a sufficiently heroic course to be adopted when you are confronted by perils of the magnitude suggested. As to aeroplanes, something has to be done, but the right hon. Gentleman has not satisfied this House, nor, I am sure, has he satisfied the country, that we have the aeroplanes with the engines which are required. He has done a good deal that will operate in the future in order to get some of them. I agree with that. But the question of officers is one which must fill us with alarm. Army officers are numerically far below the needs of the Army. Let me take again the problem of the Expeditionary Force. What would be left if you sent away the Expeditionary Force? If you allow for casualties, taking the deficiency of officers in the Special Reserve 1118 and the deficiency in the Territorial Force you would have a total deficiency on mobilisation of 4,266 officers, and if you contemplate a certain wastage of officers during the next six months and add that you would find at the moment that you would have a deficiency of 5,766 officers throughout the whole of the branches of the Army. And what steps have you taken? Senior cadets! Public school boys obtaining certificates! Promotion from the ranks, by all means. Supposing you get 700 promoted from the ranks in the near future, and I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman will anticipate more in the near future, and supposing you allow 500 public school boys and so forth will be available, why even then by all these wretched expedients you are left with a deficiency of 3,366 officers on mobilisation. Has this problem not got to be faced with a spirit of greater virility and resolution? Is it not sufficiently evident that sufficient numbers with sufficiently trained men cannot be available in the absence of the Expeditionary Force? Are we not courting a great danger by saying we will send out an Expeditionary Force if required and we will shut our eyes to the chasm that will be created? I think the chief danger at such a moment as this, in the light of recent events, is to watch the contraction of our Army without making any effort to extend it.
For what reason have the Government adopted and maintained this supine attitude? There is a mechanical cause. The Special Reserve and the Territorial Forces have disappointed their expectations, and they come down to the House and say they never expected to do anything better. That is a ludicrous pretext in the light of the facts I have laid before the House and of what they said themselves at the time. Then there is the political excuse that there is a body of opinion in this country, I think over-represented in this House, who believe quite sincerely that the expansion of armaments everywhere makes for war and that the contraction of armaments everywhere makes for peace. That is not true. That belief may be sincerely held in those quarters, but it is not held by the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, who are actuated by the prevalence of that body of opinion, of mistaken opinion. It is the disparity as between different armies in the rate of expansion and the disparity between different armies in the rate of contraction that makes for war, and if you have expansion in some armies accompanied by 1119 contraction in others then war becomes not only probable, but I fear almost certain. We have a heavy responsibility in this matter, not only to our own safety, but towards doing our share in preserving the peace of Europe. Just as the stability of an arch depends upon each of its component stones being able to bear its part of the strain on the whole, so does the stability of the peace of Europe depend upon the soundness and the equipoise of European armies, and if while other armies are extending we allow our Army to contract, and if, further, we attempt to disguise that contraction by substituting unsound and incongruous materials, we shall not be making for peace, but we shall be heading straight for war.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
Undoubtedly the state of affairs in Europe at the present moment lends additional interest to our discussions on the Army, and I should like to know if this is the occasion for making a revision in our military system which has been the creation of the last few years. Undoubtedly there are points in that system on which greater precision as regards information might be advisable. It has not been suggested that the Expeditionary Force is unfit or inadequate for the purpose for which it was intended. The Army Reserve—A, B, C and D—is a popular force, and it would help the Expeditionary Force to be perfected and to be able: to act. The weakness is in the Special Reserve, which should provide for wastage, and that is not a popular force, and I might point out in view of the suggestions that the whole Army system is wrong that it is an unpopular force, because of the six months' preliminary training which renders it so difficult to obtain recruits. The difficulty of obtaining recruits in the Special Reserve is because of the six months' preliminary training as well as the amount required subsequently. But I do not think the condition of that particular Reserve is satisfactory. I think that it does demand strengthening and that greater provision should be made for it. I hope there will be no undue delay in dealing with the question of the Special Reserve and no undue delay in acting upon the Report of the Inquiry which is now going on. I hope the Report may be shortly available and made public. With regard to one or two other points dealt with by the Secretary of State for War, it might be convenient to 1120 the Committee to know a little more of the details before discussing them.
Beside the Special Reserve, the only other point to which I would refer is the question of officers. As to that I think we have had a very satisfactory statement, because not only does the right hon. Gentleman provide for obtaining first-rate men from the ranks, but gives some inducement to Army officers to send their sons into the Army if the scale of pay is made better. The fact of the matter is, you cannot get the supply of officers that is required from the old classes that furnish officers. I believe if you could get officers as the Germans do from the aristocracy, trained and willing to work, probably you would get the best officers you could have. But if you cannot get officers from such a source, it is far better to get your officers on a democratic basis wherever you can find them in all ranks. The change sketched is an immense change, and I believe it is a necessary change in view of the circumstances to which I have alluded, and if carefully worked it will greatly strengthen the Army. The increase of pay to 9s. a day is hardly enough. I should have put, it at half a guinea a day for a lieutenant admitted from the ranks. He will also need an outfit allowance, and I am sure the question of a retiring allowance will have to be considered. You cannot take a man and put him on 10s. a day without giving him a sufficient prospect of a retiring allowance. If he has not got that he could not marry, and he would be at a great disadvantage. The question is rather a serious one. Then I think some provision may have to be made for the transition period, between serving in the non-commissioned ranks and the commissioned ranks, and that some provision in the form of a college might have to be made where training could be given for examination to the non-commissioned officer passing into the commissioned ranks. It is an immense scheme, and I should like to have more detail before going more fully into it. It is a far bigger thing, I think, than we realise at a first glance. It will want a lot of time, and it will take a good deal of money.
As to the Artillery, I do not know quite what the effect of the proposal outlined will be. I gather from what is said that the right hon. Gentleman will not reduce the strength of the Artillery. I think of all our arms in the Regular Forces we are probably lower on the Artillery side than on any other, I think the Artillery was 1121 over-reduced at the time when reductions were made. I am glad to know the number of batteries will be increased, and I think the House ought to be very jealous of allowing any diminution in the strength of the Regular Artillery. I gather that a Grant would be required for aviation and officers' pay, and so forth, and I hope we have heard the last of a limit of £28,500,000 for the Army Estimates. I do not know the origin of that doctrine, but I have never acquiesced in it, and I never will. It is the great weapon in the armoury of the advocates of compulsory service, and it enables them to play the First Line off against the Second Line on every conceivable occasion. I do not say any great addition is necessary to the Estimates, but there should be no arbitrary limit. I always repudiated that limit, and I hope the House will repudiate it. We are not to be told that if we want a new rifle we cannot have it without cutting down the Foot Guards in Egypt or the Inspector-General of Malta. If we want more money for aviation we must not be told to take it out of the Artillery. If we want more money to render the Second Line efficient it must not be taken out of the First Line. I hope we have heard the last of that.
I mentioned only two points with which I intended to deal, and I repeat that by far the most important point is that of supplying the wastage from the Special Reserve in time of war. As regards the Second Line, I think it is better dealt with in detail in Committee than it would be on the present occasion. I agree that the administration of the Second Line through the associations, is, on the whole, efficient. I think they are working remarkably well, and that the Territorials are much more efficient than the old Volunteers. You have an admirable organisation, and I think as time goes on it will continue to improve. What is necessary for the Second Line is a fortnight's training. I know a great many hon. and gallant Gentlemen think a fortnight is really inadequate, but I venture to assert that the great difficulty you have with the Special Reserve is to get men because of the six months' training. Does anyone seriously suppose that you can get them by six months' compulsory training in barracks? Does anyone suppose that that is a practical proposition, or a desirable one even if practical. It would give us a most unwieldy force; it would certainly depress the spirit of voluntary service on 1122 which the security of our Overseas Dominions depends. No other country has to face the same problem as we have in the way of an overseas Army. Other countries have found the expense of maintaining troops just the same as we have in the case of our overseas force. You get this enormous mass of men trained for six months in the year. I agree that if you had it you would not know what to do with them at the outbreak of hostilities. The real question is to make the existing Second Line more efficient, and to do that you must have a fortnight's training. We must also understand whether the establishment of 315,000 is a right one. I am bound to say that I look with grave misgivings on any attempt to reduce that establishment, and I would rather see it a little higher, and if it were 500,000 it would be better still. Until I have some very strong evidence to the contrary I should deprecate any attempt to reduce the establishment below 315,000, and for that establishment you want a fortnight's training, and the whole of the establishment ought to have target practice. There is a considerable percentage of the Territorial Force now returned as efficient which has never fired a shot at a range. A miniature rifle range is considered sufficient, but I have never believed that miniature rifle ranges can take the place of ordinary ranges. We are short of such ranges and we want money for them.
Fill up the ranks to 315,000 and give them a fortnight's training, and pay them for it. I know you will want a good deal of money, but I do not think it will be done except in one or two ways. One is to increase the pay and allowances for the fortnight as compared with the week. I suggest that you should give a bounty for the second week, and if you make the bounty big enough you will easily fill the ranks. Another way is to have compulsory physical continuation classes. You should make the system such as we have in Scotland optional to school boards to take physical training. You might make compulsory continuation classes a national provision. We shall have to do it before long, even if it is for foreign industrial competition alone, and part of the continuation classes should be physical training. The system in Sweden is as near perfection as you want to see it, but in this country it is extremely imperfect. Physical training should include cadet corps, in which I should put the limit at seventeen, where the boys could have their practice 1123 at the range and a summer camp. I think that is a practical proposal, and although I know there is great prejudice against it, I think it is the right thing to do. I agree with the Secretary of State that every man in the country ought to be able to bear arms and know how to use them. That is the true ideal, and if the country is in danger a man must feel a poor thing if he is not able to help in the defence. Either of those two proposals I know would cost some money, but some provision of that kind is urgently required. I do not think you will get the requisite number without some provision of that kind, and I hope the Secretary for War will say nothing to lead the country to believe, unless he has the strongest reasons for it, that this establishment of 315,000 is unnecessary, because can conceive nothing that would be more likely to discourage recruiting than that.
With the provision of ranges in addition, then I think the Territorial system on the voluntary principle would give us all that is required for the Second Line of Defence. That is, after all, the traditional system of this country under which, at any rate, we have held our own in the past. I wonder what our real military strength has been during some of the great wars in the past. I do not suppose we have ever had more than one-fourth of our Expeditionary Force under arms. I believe nothing is tending to help the Second Line more in recruiting and in exciting public interest, which is so necessary under the voluntary system, than the Red Cross organisation. The Secretary of State sounded a pæon over this organisation being entirely voluntary, but I think an organisation of that kind may be voluntary and yet its teaching may be provided for, and I think this Red Cross detachment ought to have their teaching free. Those are some of the small but important points which go to make up the success of the Territorial movement. I believe in the ultimate triumph of that movement, and I deprecate any attempt to destroy it root and branch. I hope the time has gone by when the War Office will shelter itself under the £28,500,000 limit, and give us what is required for the Reserve and for the proper number of officers necessary for the Army, either for offence or defence in connection with the military affairs of the Crown.
§ Sir R. POLE-CAREW
I have listened with great interest this evening to the statement which has been made by the 1124 Secretary for War and to the Debate which has ensued. One thing which I welcome is the additional pay to the officers. I also welcome the additional horses for the Cavalry regiments, but the only thing that has really pleased me has been the fact that the Secretary for War considers that the fewer men we mobilise, the safer we shall be. I have not been exactly disappointed with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman on the principle of "Blessed is he that expecteth nothing," because I expected very little. As a soldier I am distressed, because I feel that we have been at the brink of war on more than one occasion during the last two years. I feel that unless we prepare for war immediately, and set to work to put our house in order, when that war comes, and it will come, it will find us once more unprepared. In these days it is a very different thing to be unprepared for war than it has been hitherto. Up to this time we have only been engaged in small wars, where it has been possible to repair mistakes and to prepare for war after war has begun. That is no longer the case, for we are now face to face with conditions under which the fate of any Empire may be decided within a few weeks, and unless our Army is sufficient and efficient for our requirements it is useless. Without that sufficiency and efficiency the conditions are bound to be unfair to the Army itself, and probably disastrous to the country. I am afraid that a distinguished soldier was perfectly right when he said not long ago, "Your Army is a fraud; a fraud which is a danger to the men who are in the Army and a danger to the country."
It should be remembered that we are on a different footing with regard to our Army and Navy. With our Navy we are working more or less in the dark, because we have not had a naval engagement for something like 100 years, but we have tried our Army. We have had opportunities of testing it and finding out what our requirements are, and if such opportunities had been given to the French people probably they would not have suffered the disaster of 1870. Why cannot we take advantage of those opportunities and learn by what we have experienced I think hon. Members on this side of the House, as well as hon. Members opposite who take an interest in the Army, have cause of complaint against the Secretary for War. I am sure it will be within the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman 1125 that we have tried by the ordinary procedure of questions to obtain information first of all with regard to the horse supply, the number of animals serving in the ranks, and the supply available at an emergency. We have tried also to ascertain whether the rumour that certain batteries of Field Artillery were to be reduced was true. What I complain of is this: The right hon. Gentleman told me how many horses were serving in the ranks, but he declined to tell me how many were required. He gave me a little red book, instead of giving me the numbers, and I cannot understand why he did that. He gave us the numbers yesterday. As to the little red book, I may tell him I had it a long time before he gave it to me, and if he had studied it half as much as I have done he would know that it was just a Chinese puzzle. If I made a mistake in the number, that was his fault, and not mine. What I discovered was that, although there are under 20,000 horses now serving in the ranks, we shall require on mobilisation 44,000 or 45,000 more. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks, when we should require two-thirds more to come into the ranks on active service, that can possibly be a good thing for efficiency? The right hon. Gentleman told us that he would want 42,000. I was not so far out. I think that by increasing the number of horses in the Cavalry and reducing the number required in the Artillery it is quite possible he may have made the difference between 42,000 and 44,000. I should like to know whether those horses really are in the Cavalry or are only going to be so, because it makes all the difference.
With regard to the Cavalry, I shall give a few figures which have been put into my hands. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he will now have 568 horses per Cavalry regiment and eighty-three "boarded out." If that is the case, I think it is a very great improvement, and I am quite satisfied so long as the horses are really there. He has also told us that all the other horses will be forthcoming at a moment's notice. I asked him whether they would be trained. He said they would be seasoned. I asked him what did he mean by "seasoned," and he said they would be fit for work. Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that it takes over one year, nearer two years than one, to train a Cavalry horse? An hon. and gallant Friend of mine will speak on the subject later on. But I want to ask, if he had this number of horses at his command, why was it that when the 15th Hussars came 1126 from South Africa the other day they were given Mounted Infantry cobs? We were told the 12th Lancers were mounted on "walers." If they were African ponies so much the worse. I should like to know why this regiment was mounted on those miserable ponies, and I should also like to know what they are doing with the Mounted Infantry. Either the Mounted Infantry are required or they are not. At the present moment they are like the Special Reserve, a vanishing quantity. Although I think it is a very great improvement that we have got this number of horses in the Cavalry, or we are to have them, I must say a word or two about the personnel of the Cavalry in this country. I have here what is called the parade state of a squadron of the Cavalry at Aldershot, where of all places in the world a regiment is supposed to be ready to start at a moment's notice. What do we find? We find that the strength of a squadron is nominally 208 non-commissioned officers and men. We find that the war strength is 149 and 6 officers. We find that on that parade on the 14th of this month there were 35 non-commissioned officers and men and 3 officers. We find that of the rest there were 77 recruits in the riding school, 18 who had not commenced riding school, 22 remount riders, 6 instructors of the riding school, and 2 instructors in foot drill—that is 125. That makes, with the 35 on parade, 160 non-commissioned officers and men. But these 125 do not and cannot attend parade, and therefore they are not trained and cannot be trained for war. The numbers on parade I find on inquiry do not vary very much from day to day. There were also forty-eight who are what is called "employed men." I will not go through the whole list—recruiting sergeant, orderly garrison school, some sick, signalling class, men's cook, garrison and squadron orderlies, Cavalry school, and so on. That makes up 48, which brings the total to 208.
I fully believe that that is not an extraordinary case. I believe it is a case that is not at all uncommon. Why is it? Because our regiments at home, both horse and foot, are merely nurseries for regiments and battalions abroad. It is obvious you cannot have it both ways. You cannot have it as a nursery for a linked regiment abroad and at the same time be on a footing of preparation for war at home. As the right hon. Gentleman has gone, I must ask the Under- 1127 Secretary to reply to this point. Lord Haldane, speaking in the House of Lords, in reply to a question, was understood to say that it was correct that since he came into office since 1906 he had reduced the numbers of men serving in the ranks of the Regular Army by 37,000. I confess I did not know myself that they had been reduced so much. I knew that nine Infantry cadres had been done away with. That statement was made on the 20th February, 1912. I have looked into the returns, and I find that during last year and this year we have lost 40,000 men from the Reserves, which is the natural concomitant of 37,000 out of the ranks. That means 77,000 men. If you lose 77,000 men how is it possible to suppose that your Army can be fit here to take active service? How is it possible that the Army can be efficient for the duties they have to perform? I should like to know whether that is true, because I think it accounts to a great extent for the state of the Cavalry Regiments at Aldershot and for the state of the Infantry Regiments at home. We have had the experience of South Africa. We do know what happened when we mobilised. We know that we mobilised in the most favourable month of the whole year. My reason for saying so is that as we are nurseries for the regiments abroad there are times which are favourable and times which are unfavourable for mobilisation. If you mobilise in the trooping season, naturally your regiments are at a low ebb. If you mobilise at the end of the summer, your regiments are at their best. We mobilised in October, and therefore we mobilised at the very best moment.
I want to call the attention of the House to the figures, although I know that figures are tiresome. In 1899 the Infantry of the Line had in the ranks 800 rank and file. From this you have to deduct the recruits under one year, all men under twenty years of age, those who have not completed musketry, and those temporarily unfit. Naturally those numbers vary very much according to the time of the year, but we mobilised at the best time of the year. What was the result? We find that a very few units produced, out of the 800, 600 men. That was very good. We found that a considerable number produced 500; that a large number produced 400, and a great many from 350 to 400. What was the effect of that? In the latter case we had to send 600 or 700 Reservists into the ranks in active service. In the others, from 300 to 500 as the case may be, were 1128 needed, and the average regiment contained some 50 per cent. of Reservists in the ranks. That did not very much signify going to South Africa. We had three weeks at sea, and when we landed we had a certain amount of time for the men to shake down and to get to know their companies and officers and when we fought, we fought an enemy that at that time could only fight on the defensive; that had no power of initiative and no power of attack. What are the conditions now? Consider how changed it is now.
Thanks to Lord Haldane we have no longer 800 men in the rank and file; we have 720. That is eighty less per battalion; we are 8 per cent. worse off. What does that mean? It means that in the bulk of the regiments instead of 50 per cent. of Reservists some would have between sixty and sixty-five, a few might be better, but the average of the total would be 60 to 65 per cent. of Reservists instead of 50 per cent. Then remember that instead of having three weeks at sea and having time to shake down when they got to the other side, and instead of fighting an enemy that was practically on the defensive they would assuredly have to fight within a fortnight, possibly within a week, and would probably have to meet the best troops on the Continent. I want the House to consider whether this is safe, whether it is fair to the troops concerned, whether it is a good thing for this country. There are some, I know, who say "yes," and who point out that the Continental armies have got a similar proportion of reserves, but that is a totally different thing. The Continental armies are always kept at full strength, and although they have the same proportion of reserves, it should be recollected that they have to begin with an extremely hard training. Their fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, and neighbours, have all served in the same corps. When mobilisation occurs, what happens? They merely rejoin a family party. It is not going to a regiment that they have not seen for some time like our people. All the officers, and all of them, come from the same district; officers and non-commissioned officers; if I may so, the whole show. They come from a military atmosphere and we ourselves do not.
I should like to mention the Guards who are in a still worse case with regard to the men within the Line. Lord Haldane was good enough to reduce them. In 1899 we had six battalions of 824 strong; they were called the first 1129 battalions. The three others were the nurseries, and they had 744 men each. At that moment we had a large number of men who were on the seven years' term of enlistment. Look at what it is. Instead of having 824, the whole of the battalions have 650. That is their peace establishment. They are worse off than the highest establishment in 1899 by 174, and they are worse off than the lowest establishment at that time by ninety-four. There has been now for some time a prohibition on recruiting, and the Guards are not allowed to have a nucleus of seven years' men. I can assure you that, when you get on active service, the nucleus of seven years' men makes a very large difference, because the proportion of immature soldiers is always high. They are not allowed extensions until a man has served six months, and by that time a man knows all the hard part of soldiering and has not found out the sweet. I know from commanding officers' statements that at the present time few battalions of the Brigade of Guards could take on active service more than 450 men serving in the ranks out of 1,000, and there are many who could not take 400. The average Reservist would therefore be from 55 to 65 per cent. Few men would have more than three years' colour service and many would never have attended manœuvres. Many would have been away more than three years, and hardly any of them would know the non-commissioned officers or the officers or even their comrades. I cannot but think this very serious reduction of the men serving in the ranks of this country, both horse and foot, is false economy of the worst kind. It is one of the factors which renders the despatch of an Expeditionary Force, such as the right hon. Gentleman is always telling us he is going to send, certainly unwise, if not impossible.
I must say one word on the subject of the Extra Special Reserve. T have shown you with regard to your horse and foot that it is almost an impossibility to despatch a force fit to fight within a fortnight with any chance of honour to themselves or safety to the country. Now I am going to tell you what I consider about the Special Reserve. I find there are twenty-seven battalions, and their average strength is about 280, although they were, I think, nominally supposed to be over 700. I find that there are battalions so weak that they could not possibly be sent on active service, and yet the Under-Secretary told us only a short time ago that all the Fourth 1130 Battalions—these are called the Fourth Battalions—could go abroad. That was stated by the Under-Secretary in the House of Commons on 16th July, 1912. I should like to know where they would go, and what use they would be when they got there. You could not even send them to garrison the Mediterranean as units. You might mix them all together, but you could not send them as units. You could not possibly send them to the field of war. The Secretary of State himself told us that no Regular Reservist would be sent to them. That is the Extra Special Reserve. Then we come to the Special Reserve of seventy-four battalions, and, with regard to that, the Secretary of State, unless he was misreported, said at Dumfries in October, 1912–the Army wanted a Reserve, and that had been supplied by the Special Reserve.I should like to know the state of the Special Reserve at this moment. The establishment is 42,928. The Secretary of State has told us in his Memorandum that they have lost another 1,800 this year, and, with the deficiency of 8,746 they had before, that reduces them to 32,282. If you take, as you must take, 12,000, at least, boys under twenty, and allow 10 per cent. for wastage, the force could not possibly produce 18,000 men. That is the Reserve which is being provided for the Army instead of the Reserve destroyed by Lord Haldane. We know that amongst that 18,000 we have a very large number of men and boys who have been rejected as unfit for service in the Regular Army. Yet they are accepted in our Special Reserve in order to join the ranks of that Regular Army on active service. Why, it is an atrocity. I asked the right hon. Gentleman some little time ago how many boys there were under seventeen. He said, "None." That is perfectly true. Officially, there are none; but there is a very large number under twenty, and we know a great many of those are under seventeen. The thing is a farce. And, to make it still worse, we find that it is so difficult to recruit for the Special Reserve that they actually reduced the standard in 1909 from 5ft. 3in. to 5ft. 2in., although at the very same time the Army Service Corps were bringing up their standard from 5ft. 2in. to 5ft. 3in., because the medical authorities had reported that a man of 5ft. 2in. seldom, if ever, developed into a reasonable being as a soldier.
I should rather like to tell the House the duties Lord Haldane has given to them. First of all, on 8th March, 1910, he said 1131 they were mobile to crush invasion. Then he altered that, and said they would be fixed garrisons at seaports and train recruits. On 20th March, 1912, he told us they would be able to aid the civil power, and on the same date he said they were not mobile, because they had no transport. It would be impossible for them to aid the civil power, and it would be impossible for them to crush invasion because they have got no transport. They could not possibly form garrisons for seaports, and, literally, the only thing they could do would be to train recruits. That is what we have now instead of a reserve, and it is for this extraordinary force that we have got rid of the Militia, the Militia which gave us 124 battalions, of which sixty-eight served in the South African war, and elsewhere, including the Mediterranean, and fifty-six in the United Kingdom, thereby, as my hon. Friend has said, releasing the battalions of the Regular Army. This is the position in which the Army is now. Yet the right hon. Gentleman has the face to tell us that he can send six Divisions—that is a larger force than has ever been sent before—practically at a moment's notice, to fight the best trained troops on the Continent. When we are told so many things, what are we to believe? On 9th March, 1910, Lord Haldane was asked why, if it was so difficult to get men to join, he did not allow old soldiers who had served their Reserve time to join. "Oh, no," he said. "We do not want stiff old soldiers." He suddenly found out on 14th March, 1911, that these were not stiff old soldiers, but youthful veterans, and young Reservists, so he raised the age to forty. Then, look at the training. You have twenty-seven of the Fourth Battalion and forty-nine of the Third Battalion, seventy-six altogether, which have now been scheduled to this amount of training. They can do six months recruits drill at any time they like; in the winter, if necessary. They never see a target, of course. They can do two separate, not consecutive weeks, whenever it may please them, annually. What is the reason? It is simply and solely to catch the tramp, the tramp who wants six months' shelter and clothing. He can do his two separate weeks whenever he fancies and whenever he wants a bit of food. He never sees a battalion, he never does battalion drill, and he never does company drill.
1132 I want to know what is going to happen when we do go to war about India, what is going to happen about reinforcing Egypt, what is going to happen to our garrisons in the Mediterranean, and what is going to happen in this country? You have absolutely nobody to aid the civil power, and you have absolutely nobody but the Territorials to defend this country. This is the effect of seven years of Radical mismanagement. I say it is time this House took the matter up. We have been on the brink of war more than once during the last two or three years, and for our defensive forces to be in the state I have attempted to describe, is very nearly high treason to the State. There is one thing I must say which I have said before. I want to know, and I think the country wants to know, how it is the right hon. Gentleman's advisers have permitted this state of affairs to exist and have retained their positions in the country and in the Army. What are they there for? Are they his advisers, or are they simply a registry office. If they are a registry office, for Heaven's sake get rid of them and pay clerks to do what would be just as well done, probably better, and far cheaper. I do think this is a question of some importance. Not very long ago, there was a book or rather a periodical, called the "Army Review," which was started with a view of allowing officers to ventilate their opinions on the Army and subjects connected with the Army generally; and a very good thing it was too, because by that means some people at any rate hoped we should get independent and honest opinions which were not overshadowed by the walls of the War Office. What happened? Evidently the military heads of the Army were of the same opinion as myself. They did not fancy the idea of what they themselves permitted being objected to by other people. What was the effect? A great soldier, the first military member of the Council, wrote a memorandum to the "Army Review," in which he called on officers to recognise that the system now existing was the system they had to work, and that they ought not on any account to criticise it in any way whatever. Could anything be more foolish or more narrow-minded? If the right hon. Gentleman does me the honour to reply to any of the strictures I have passed on the War Office, I hope he will not use the argument he used on the last occasion I had the pleasure of having a spar with him. He then said, "Evidently 1133 the hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks he could manage the Army much better himself, but if he does think so, he is the only man in the House who does," or words to that effect. When I was at a private school many years ago I was always taught that that sort of repartee was called a tu quoque, and I was given to understand that it was not a very high-class argument. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember that whatever anybody who has not been tried may say or do is neither here nor there, but that he and his predecessors have been tried and have been found wanting.
I have listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down in one particular sense with astonishment. He wound up his speech by making a statement with regard to the action of the first military member of the Council in writing a letter to the "Army Review," in which I contend that he advocated what was the right policy for a man in that position to advocate to soldiers in the British Army. If it is their business to do anything, surely it is their business to accept what this House decides as being the system under which the military affairs of the country are to be controlled, and not to write objecting to that system, which it is the business of this House to change. I hoped that before the hon. and gallant Member sat down he would have made some suggestion in addition to his long list of criticisms. It is one of the curious incidents of these Army Debates that every speaker has tried to add some suggestion to the question in dispute, and it is largely due to that fact that we have had some changes in the Army system foreshadowed to-day. I read the Memorandum which was issued two or three days ago and listened to the speech of the Secretary for War to-day with pleasure and approval. I do not pretend that everything is yet right with the Army, but I believe that we are beginning to reap the advantages of the organising ability of the late Secretary of State for War, and the energy of our present Secretary of State. With regard to the provision which has been made for increased emoluments for officers and promotion from the ranks, I am sure that is received with satisfaction on both sides of the House. With regard to the Artillery, although there has been no actual criticism, I think that the reorganisation has been a wise step. I admit 1134 that it does away with six training cadres of batteries, but, on the other hand, it provides, what every Artillery officer will recognise as being of importance, that all the batteries of the Expeditionary Force have been brought up to a six-gun from a four-gun basis on mobilisation. There is nothing more disheartening to a soldier who is training his men or himself than to find himself handling a weapon he does not use in war.
The right hon. Gentleman addressed a long part of his speech to the art of aviation, and the progress made. Personally, I had no idea that so great steps had been taken in this difficult and dangerous art. I had read of the number of officers who were qualified to fly, but how it had been achieved, or the risks they had undergone to achieve it, I did not know. I wish to express a debt of gratitude to those officers for the risks they have undertaken. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir R. Pole-Carew) raised a point with regard to horses. He agreed as to the advantage of Cavalry regiments having an increase in their horse establishment. In that I am entirely with him. As to the question of the boarding-out system with respect to Cavalry horses, I should like to learn from the Secretary of State how far that system is universally approved. Perhaps when he replies he will tell us whether that system is approved by the military thought of the country. The hon. and gallant Member complained that there were not trained horses for all the necessities of mobilisation. He mentioned that we had only 20,000 trained horses in the Army at the present time, and that 45,000 were needed on mobilisation. How does he propose to produce 45,000 trained horses on mobilisation? No Army has undertaken to train Army horses in order to make up the wastage of war. The subsidies spoken of in the Memorandum for light draught horses in the Artillery is an immense advantage, and I should like to know what number of horses has been registered under that system.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
That is very satisfactory. I have one further point with regard to the horses for the Cavalry. Last year it was foreshadowed that the remounts for the Cavalry would all come at fixed periods of the year, but on making inquiries I have not been able to ascertain if that has properly come into force yet. The main 1135 difficulty of bringing it into force is that of providing farms on which these horses can be maintained until that period of the year arrives when they are to be sent to camp. I know that the question of grass farms is a question of money, but there should be a saving by being able to buy horses as three-year-olds instead of four. I specially ask the Secretary of State and his advisers to press this matter forward with the utmost dispatch. It is of importance to those who breed horses for the Army and to all the regiments concerned. I am in sympathy with what was said by the last speaker with regard to the Special Reserve. It is impossible for any man who has studied this question not to feel gravely disappointed at the lack of results under this Special Reserve system. It is of vital importance to the Army on mobilisation for war. Without it we do not see how we are going to fill the first six months' wastage which must take place. I sincerely hope that the Committee will report shortly and that we shall have their recommendations, and, so far as I can, I shall do my utmost to press the Government to take these recommendations up. The situation is not only an immediate situation. I see from the Annual Returns that the discharges from the force are an increasing factor. For instance, in 1913 there will be 2,000 discharges from the Special Reserve in addition to the discharges for last year, and again in 1914 there will be a further 2,000 discharges above those for 1913, so that this force shows a rapidly decreasing number, and it must receive a definite and clear reorganisation by the War Office.
The point to which I wish to draw special attention is the question of the Territorial Force. There again we have a deficit of practically 20 per cent. on strength, although the Secretary of State said this afternoon it was only 16 per cent. It is impossible to regard that with satisfaction. The enlistments last year were the highest since 1909, that is, the highest since the original boom year, but I see that this year the discharges from the Force are 111,000, which is 50,000 more than were enlisted in the past year, consequently we must look to a greater deficiency in the Territorial Force at the end of 1913 than there is to-day. Personally, I believe that the commanding officers of Territorial units are, in the main, glad that the boom period is going to be worked off, and that the Force is going to be a normal force with a steady 1136 influx of recruits, although that may mean some reduction in numbers. The question of a deficiency in numbers is certainly serious, and one is bound to examine the force to see if there is some inherent fault in it which may be rectified. I have been told by members of the force whom I have consulted that there is no doubt that the hostile criticism which has been made has had a very harmful effect on the force. I honestly think that until the Members of the Opposition have decided to definitely accept some other form of policy, it will be a better service to their country to back up the existing force, because I do not believe the force as it at present stands is past remedy or help. So far as I have been able to judge, the fault of the Territorial Force is that it is neither quite a War Office institution nor quite a citizen force. It falls between the two; consequently public opinion has not definitely supported it, and the War Office have not definitely taken it under their arm. It is necessary for us to make the Territorial Force more democratic before it becomes popular with the nation. We have had an example to-day of the form of democratising the Army which will be of great benefit to the Territorial Force, namely, giving an opportunity to every Territorial who enlists in that force to become an officer if he is qualified to do so. Then I understand that the Secretary of State for War proposes to allot an additional uniform allowance both to the officers of the Territorial Force and of the Special Reserve. This will have the effect of helping the officer who would be promoted from the Territorial ranks, and consequently he would be in a better position to maintain himself there if he had to go.
Then I contend that all the work done by the Territorial Force should be paid for. It is very hard that men who are patriotic and who put themselves to considerable trouble for the sake of their military desire should find themselves losing money by the fact of their being in the Territorials. There is no doubt, although there has been some advance made, that at the present time men attending drills, week end camps and musketry are not refunded the whole of their expenses, and I believe the State must undertake this responsibility. There are only two ways of solving this question of home defence in my belief. One is that there must be a personal sacrifice in the form of a compulsory system, and the other 1137 is that there must a financial sacrifice—a sufficient amount of money to get the men you need. I do not think a compulsory system is necessary in this country, but I think a Home Defence Force is necessary, and consequently I think the State must do all in its power to draw men to its fold and also pay them for all their labour. Another suggestion which has been given to me by officers of the Territorial Force is that we must devote ourselves to making the social side more attractive than it is to-day. The basis of a club is really the basis on which the forces recruiting take place, and anything which can be done in the provision of headquarters and making the headquarters more attractive to the men will certainly have a good effect upon recruiting. Perhaps the most serious point of all is the question of employers of labour. At present men who join a Territorial unit in many cases have to ask the adjutant, or even the commanding officer, that their employers shall not be informed that they have joined the Territorial Force. It is the most difficult problem possibly of all in dealing with the Territorial Force, and it applies in the main to the small employers of labour, rather than the big employers. The small employers are the least able, in the competition of trade, to allow their men to go, at any rate, for more than a week's period. Here, again, it is a matter of money. It is necessary for the State to give something like a capitation Grant to any employer of labour whose men have performed fifteen days' training in the year. I know all these matters must add to the financial expenses of the force, but still I do not see that it is going to be done otherwise.
Lastly, the force as it stands to-day must have the active support of the trade union party. As yet the trade union party have not shown any active sympathy or interest in the Territorial Force, and I would appeal to them in the interest of the country, and also, because if this force goes down and a home defence Army cannot be produced, some other system will have to be introduced; and if they are pledged, as we are, to the voluntary principle, they must support this course and try and make it a success. Another point has been brought before me in my conversation with Territorial officers. In the main, when recruits join the Territorial Force, they come there keen and willing to learn. If they are met by anything like slackness or slovenliness of instruction, they at once become disgusted. At present, owing to the short 1138 period of training which officers and non-commissioned officers undergo, it is very hard indeed to find adequate and sufficient instructors for the Territorial Force, and yet that is at the bottom of the whole keenness of the force. It may be said that the men are already asked to do as much as they can possibly. But, as a matter of fact, where the instruction is the best, there the attendance at the school of instruction is largest. I believe a start has been made in the formation of a school of instruction at Chelsea Barracks which is having a very great success. I believe if that principle were extended throughout the country—especially in the towns, where the bulk of the men can be reached—we should find a very large addition to the efficiency and knowledge of the force. It will be a cost, and a big cost, but I believe that the money would be well and wisely expended. I see by the Memorandum that the Secretary of State proposes to increase the number of staff officers who are sent to the Territorial Force. I admit it is necessary, but I wish I had seen some proposal to increase the number of non-commissioned officers who would be sent to the Territorial Force, because in the main the success of a force depends on the training and the knowledge of the non-commissioned officers. I think we must find some system whereby the non-commissioned officer ranks in the Territorial Force can be improved both from the point of view of giving better instruction to the men and from the point of view of giving greater facility of mobilisation. It struck me, and it must have struck many others too, that every year a great number of non-commissioned officers leave the Regular Army after twelve years' service. Consequently they do not go to the Reserve, but they are a loss to the Army and go into civil life. Could not some system be introduced whereby an extension of twenty-one years could be made for service in the Territorial Force? I only throw it out as a suggestion and nothing else, because I do not suppose that anyone but a technical War Office authority could say whether such a scheme is possible. But we must do something to improve the instruction, just as we must do something, and all we can, to increase the numbers.
§ Colonel BURN
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add instead thereof the words, 1139 "in the opinion of this House, it is necessary to review the position of soldiers who, on completion of their period of service with the Colours, are given appointments in the Civil Service, with the view of showing proper appreciation of their services and to encourage the enlistment of the most desirable class of recruit."
I was fortunate in the ballot in getting a place for the Motion which is down in my name, and I am very glad to have this opportunity of bringing it before the House, and my regret is that there are not more hon. Members here, because I feel certain this Motion would command considerable support from all quarters of the House. I think there is little argument which can be brought against it. I am sure the military Press and the general officers of high standing would all recommend it as being necessary for the good of the Army. We all know that the British Army is a small one. It cannot in any sense, certainly as regards numbers, be compared with the armies of Continental nations. It may be said that that is not necessary in our case, because we are an island Power, and the Navy is our first defence. But if our Army is a small one, considering the responsibilities which we have in different quarters of the globe, we know that we may have to employ that Army, and therefore it is more necessary than ever that it should be, if small, of the very best material. I do not think anyone can have looked at the Report of the Army this year and studied the figures as regards recruiting without feeling that the class of recruit, physically, is not of the right sort for our Army. We need the best of the young men, and up to now, certainly up to a few years back, we have had an excellent class of recruit. But now the standard is reduced very considerably, and if we study these figures we find that up to 30th September, 1912, there were 57,681 recruits served with notice papers, as against 65,724 the previous year. That is to say, there were over 8,000 recruits fewer in 1912 than there were the previous year. But then we come to study these figures and see that of those recruits 9,678 were rejected for physical reasons by the recruiting officer, or non-commissioned officer, and that 9,592 were rejected by the medical officer. That is to say, that 19,270 were rejected out of 57,681. That is a very large percentage, especially when you add that between the medical inspec- 1140 tion and the actual joining there was a further loss of over 5,000. So that of the recruits who presented themselves over 42 per cent. were rejected.
There must be a reason why these men were rejected, and why this immature class of recruit is presenting himself for enlistment. In my opinion, and in that of many others, the real reason is that a recruit on joining the Army does not see any possible assurance of his future when his term of service comes to an end. I am perfectly certain that if you desire to get the right class of man to enlist in the Army you must hold out some inducement to him at the end of his service so that he may feel that all these years that he is putting in in serving His Majesty may be counting to his future benefit when his Colour service is at an end. We know that this has been discussed before, but I am not quite sure that it has been adequately discussed, and surely the authorities must realise that now is the time that something has got to be done, and that the future of these men must be considered. Parents will not allow their sons to go into the service, because at the end of it it means nothing, and they have to begin in civil life entirely afresh. It means that the recruits that we have to count upon are those really a large percentage of whom have joined the Army by the compulsion of hunger and misery, and I think that is a bad state for the British Army to find itself in. I only speak on behalf of those men who during their years of Colour service behave themselves and are a credit to their regiment and to their country. At the end of their Colour service how do they find themselves placed? I grant that in the past certain openings have been offered by the Government, and they have done something in the direction of offering civil employment under the State to men who have served well and faithfully in the Army. Something has been done, but nothing like what ought to be done—nothing like what is due to the men who serve their country so well. Remember they go into the Army knowing perfectly well that they may be sent to any quarter of the globe where British troops are, and they give up much. They certainly bear the heat and burden of the day. When they go to India we know the discomforts attendant upon the climatic conditions of the country, and then there are also the possibilities of the ravages of disease there. Active service is always before the regiments in India. I dare say active service has attractions for most young men who do go there, but they 1141 have to undergo very much discomfort. They leave their own homes and all that they love behind them, and serve faithfully in countries abroad.
Surely it is necessary for the Government to do everything it possibly can in the way of retaining appointments in the Civil Service for these men. But how does the British soldier find himself as compared with his civilian brethren? Take the case of the transfer to the Post Office of the National Telephone Company. How were the telephone operators treated when they become servants of the State? I think everything was done for them. Perhaps more was done than they could possibly have expected. They had no examination to pass, and when they found themselves suddenly in the position of Civil servants, all their previous service was counted towards pension. They had great advantages over all the other entrants who joined the Government service. Then they had special advantages in that if any of those employés who came under the State were invalided within two years after being taken over by the Post Office, they had the promise of an additional allowance of one-third their annual salary, and in the event of death within five years after being taken over, the next of kin was to receive a whole year's salary. Let me point out that an ex-soldier or an ex-sailor who enters the Civil Service receives a very different kind of treatment. He must produce his credentials, and he must pass all the necessary tests. He must serve his qualifying period, and his seniority is not recognised. He has to begin at the bottom of the roll. Is that fair treatment for a soldier who has served his country? I think the soldier may well say, "It is a far better line to go in for handling the ear piece of the telephone than to shoulder a rifle in defence of your country." When the Water Board was constituted in 1902, the whole of the past service of the employés who went under the new control was to count as if they had been all their time in the service of the new authority. The Port of London Authority was created about five years ago, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a bargain with the dock and port authority under which the whole service of the employés in London was counted as service under the new authority. In the same way the Sub-Marine Companies were taken over by the State in 1889, and the employés received a similar concession after eight years' agitation. In the case 1142 of the Prison Boards in Scotland, the employés, when taken over by the State, had past services recognised for pension.
A Committee sat on this question and was presided over by a very distinguished officer, Sir Edward Ward, who has served in different parts of the world, and now occupies a high position at the War Office. That Committee recognised this very great injustice to the soldier, and in their report very strongly recommended that a change should be made in order that justice should be done to Army men in relation to civil employment. The report of the Committee says:—'A' joins the Civil Service at the age of nineteen, and 'B' joins the Army at the same age and obtains on his discharge at the age of twenty-six, a Civil Service appointment. Both men, their total service being equal, are superannuated at the age of sixty. 'A,' whose service has been entirely civil, receives the maximum pension of 40/60ths, and 'B,' not being able to count his military service, only 34/60ths of his salary. In point of fact, the longer the Army service the greater will be the disproportion in favour of the civilian. Such an arrangement as this is, in our opinion, inequitable, and rests upon a purely arbitrary basis, for Army or Navy service, with its attendant risks, should surely be regarded as at least equivalent in its pension bearing value to Civil Service; and the existence of a rule which declines to recognise the former as such, is not unnaturally viewed by those concerned, as unjust.Take the case of the police. A constable serves, say, twelve years, and if he gets employment in the Civil Service at the end of that period, he not only is allowed to count the twelve years' service as being actually under the Crown in a Civil Department, but he is allowed to count four years for every three. No one appreciates more than I do the services of the police in this country, but can it be contended by any hon. Gentleman that their services in their native land is as arduous, or anything like as arduous, as those of a soldier, who has to go abroad and serve wherever he may be ordered? I say it is most unfair treatment for the soldier, and it must appeal to everyone interested in the Army, when they know what happens when men leave the Service. They may have been non-commissioned officers, and they may be men of education, peculiarly fitted for civil employment. These men have to go begging; and how often does one see men with medals selling matches in the streets of London? I think the present state of affairs is a disgrace. Surely everyone must realise that this important question ought to be tackled, because it is for the good of the Army if you are only able to hold out to the would-be recruit that there is some chance for him, and that when he joins the Army he is commencing to count the time towards pension if he is fortunate 1143 enough to get civil employment at the end of his Army service. That would certainly entice the best class of men to throw in their lot with the Service, where they would have a very excellent time.
After all, in these days of competition, when there are so many openings for young men; when we see, year after year, the flower of our youth going abroad to try their fortunes in the Overseas Dominions or in foreign countries; when those are the very men we want to keep at home, the very men whom we should be glad to see join the Army, we feel that there is some possibility of their doing so if they only felt that there was a future for them here. I ask, with all the earnestness which I can bring to bear on the matter, for the sympathetic support of the right hon. Gentleman, because I know that he has a great interest in the Service. He has always shown himself willing to listen to real grievances, and I feel that it would be well if he were to turn his attention to this. It would not mean a very large addition to the amount of the Estimates. I am sure that it would be far better to spend the quarter of a million which hon. Members of this House voted for themselves in improving the position of the British soldier. I, for one, would have been only too glad to give my vote in any way I could to assist the soldier and improve his position. I do think that if the tight hon. Gentleman will take this matter in hand, it will make the soldiers feel that their calling is as honourable as that of any man, that it is recognised by the State, and that the State feel that the soldier is doing his duty for King and country by serving where he may be ordered. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give this his careful attention. I hope to get from him a sympathetic answer that the matter will be taken up, and that the position of the British soldier will be improved, so that he may have some hope that when his colour service is over, there is a reward for a well-conducted and well-behaved man, and this will certainly improve the recruiting in this country, and will induce the best class of men to join the British Army.
I have great pleasure in seconding this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War knows that this matter is becoming somewhat of a hardy annual. It was raised both by my hon. and gallant Friend and myself last year, 1144 and also by several hon. Members sitting on both sides. There is perfect justice in the demand which we make. I gathered from the attitude of the Secretary of State last year that he was thoroughly in sympathy with this demand, and that the only obstacle in the way of granting it was, as usual, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My hon. and gallant Friend suggested, a moment ago, that the sum which was so easily obtained by Members of this House, amounting to about a quarter of a million, might have been better used for doing away with this great injustice. I understand that this sum, £250,000, would be far in excess of the amount required, and that the sum of £8,000 per year would probably cover all the expense that would be necessary. I do not believe that the House would consider that that sum is a particularly large one to pay, especially when you take into account the position of the men who are most concerned. We feel that they have a real grievance. They see that we calmly voted ourselves £400 a year, without even passing a Bill to do it, and when they come down and ask for something which means far more to them than £400 a year means to us, to have their services for the State and country recognised, so that when they retire after serving their country both in military life and civil life, they shall have something to fall back upon which is commensurate with their services rendered to the State, what is the answer? "We give it to the civilians because it has been the practice, and we will not give it to you because it has not been the practice, and we do not like spending £8,000 upon you. Therefore, we will allow this practice to continue. Whether it is just or unjust we do not care two-pence."
In 1909 the Prime Minister was asked a question on this particular point. His answer was he could not see his way to make any alterations in the present system, but there was no explanation as to why he could not do it. I looked carefully through the debates this morning, and I could not find any answer given by the Secretary of State for War last year on this particular point. Thanks to the public spirit of my hon. and gallant. Friend, I feel that we shall have to have an answer now as to why this injustice has been perpetrated. I am talking now about a question which has not been brought forward through malice. It has been brought before me lots of times by private individuals. They have pointed 1145 out how very seriously they feel this particular grievance. They feel that persons who have served through the colour service, and who, because of their excellent character, have been taken into the employment of the State as Civil servants, have been treated, on retiring, in a manner which is entirely without any justification. Last year over 300 Members of this House signed a petition in favour of this particular alteration in the rules. Are those 300 Members going to be ignored entirely? After the long-delayed justice which has been done to officers this afternoon, I am rather nervous as to the result of this particular request. It took over a hundred years for the officers to receive any sort of recognition of their legitimate claim; I only hope that it is not going to take anything like the same time in the case of these men, for, if so, a great many of them will not want it when it is given. I am convinced, now that the question has been brought forward so prominently, that there must be some better answer than that of the Prime Minister that he is not going to do anything. I quite admit that there has been a great deal done for soliders and sailors during the last few years.
They have been led to enter into the Civil Service as porters, messengers, watchmen, and in other capacities in a way which is certainly far more creditable than was the former condition of things. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leicester, every year has called for a list of the appointments, and that list shows the position is better than it was a few years back; at the same time there is plenty of room for improvement. The latest Return for 1912 shows, for instance, that in the Stationery Office ex-soldiers and ex-sailors appointed to various positions number only 34 per cent. of the whole, which is not a very high percentage. In the Post Office, out of 66,206 employed as unestablished, only 22 per cent., or 14,912 ex-soldiers and ex-sailors of the Army and Navy were employed. It is quite true that an excellent system was inaugurated in 1897 by the late Unionist Government, under which half the appointments as established postmen and porters were offered to ex-Army or ex-Navy men. It is quite true that there may be an improvement in this direction shortly, and there is great room for improvement. Then we have the Board of Trade, which only employs 29 per cent., and I suppose the rest of the positions go to ex-butlers 1146 and ex-footmen, rather than to ex-soldiers and to ex-sailors. The Commissioners of Woods and Forests also apparently employ more ex-butlers and ex-footmen than ex-sailors and ex-soldiers.
I should like to find out what proportion of these men are likely to count for pensions. A very large number of them will not receive any pension, although they have already served their country. If that be the case, it is extremely hard on them, and certainly they have every right to raise that particular grievance. My hon. Friend referred to the fact which is so very obvious, and to which it seems to me there is no answer at all, that only quite recently the National Telephone Company transferred the whole of their staff to the State, and these men, without having passed any examination or obtained any certificates, have passed into the Civil Service. It may have been that was the only possible thing to do under the circumstances, but at the same time ex-soldiers and ex-sailors see this sort of thing happening under their very eyes; they see these new men taken by the thousands, and they ask why they should not be treated with the same sort of liberality. Their only crime is that they have served their country, and it is also their crime that they have behaved themselves during the time they were serving their country. I submit that they have every right to press forward this claim to the best of their ability, for it is a very serious grievance which these men have. It is not a very large sum that they are asking for, and it seems to me that the justice of the case demands that it should be spent.
I am perfectly certain that we shall get sympathy, any amount of sympathy, for these men from whoever replies. Sympathy, unfortunately, is cheap, and what we want is something more than sympathy—we want an explicit understanding that, if not this year, next year, these men shall have their grievances remedied. We ask that these men who receive their Civil Service appointments shall be reckoned in any future benefits which may be granted by the Treasury. It would be very unfair if those men who have already received Civil Service appointments should be left out in the cold if the Government and the Treasury determine to do away with this very legitimate grievance. I hope other hon. Members will point out this grievance, and will use their very best endeavours to force a really practical answer from one of the occupants of the Front 1147 Bench, because we have brought this question forward often enough in the House, and it is quite time some definite action was taken. This huge body of deserving men, whose characters are beyond reproach, are quite convinced that the time has gone past for talking, and they want action to be taken. No less than 300 Members of this House have signed a petition in favour of this demand, and, if those 300 Members mean anything by it, they should force their views upon the Treasury, and that Department would be bound to accept those views.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The hon. Member for Torquay who moved this Amendment, and the hon. Gentleman who has seconded it, said no doubt this subject will call forth a great deal of sympathy, but that what they wanted were deeds, not words. As regards the pension question, I think both hon. Members and the House will realise that it is not a matter on which I can give a decisive reply. It is, of course, a Treasury matter. But I should like to remind them and the House that this question was the subject of a deputation to my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Masterman). The Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote a letter to an hon. Member, whose name I do not recollect, in which he informed him that the Treasury could not make any departure from the established custom, and I think he instituted in that letter a comparison between the man who had service with the colours, the man who entered ordinary civil employment, and the man who entered the Civil Service. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said did it not seem unfair that the man who had entered the Civil Service after serving with the colours for a period should have the pension given to him in regard to his past services in the Army, while the other man should have none? The man who has got into the Civil Service may consider himself fortunate in having done so, and on the fact that his Civil Service employment is pensionable.
A Civil servant who is employed from the age of eighteen gets his pension, and the only difference is that the soldier serves his country, not as a civilian, but as a soldier, and therefore I cannot see why he should not get his pension.
§ Mr. TENNANT
That really does not arise on the point I was making, which is a totally different point. May I 1148 remind the House that pensions have always been considered to be in respect of the same service and not in respect of different services. Hon. Gentlemen acquainted with the Treasury procedure will know that that has been the universal practice which they have always followed. I do not say whether it is right or wrong, but I am quite sure it is fair that you cannot expect pensions in respect of two different services, although they happen to be rendered to the State. This is really a matter as to which I am neither competent nor authorised to give any response. I just throw out these considerations to the hon. Gentleman because I thought they would interest him. With regard to the other matter to which both hon. Gentlemen referred, they find in me and in the Secretary of State for the War Office a very sympathetic audience. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not cavil at me expressing myself sympathetically in this matter, because I have, I beg him to believe, taken steps in the past by which ex-soldiers have received employment, and I have done my best to secure that other Departments of the State should give them employment where it is possible to do so. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment alluded to some of the figures which have been published in this report. I should like the House to realise that the Admiralty, for instance, gave 97.28 per cent. of their posts to old soldiers. I see an item for the Land Commission in Ireland, including the Estates Commissioners, who gave 93.75 per cent. The Civil Service Commission have given 92 per cent. of their posts to ex-soldiers. The National Portrait Gallery have given all theirs, the Royal Irish Constabulary only one, and the War Office has given the whole of theirs, which totals 134.
The case to which the hon. Gentleman referred was the Post Office, and he rather quarrelled with that as being only 22½ per cent. That is true, but my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General has asked me to give some figures to the House. The Post Office have appointed this year 714 assistant postmen ex-soldiers, as against 693 the year before, and as auxiliary postmen, 83 as against 111; that is a diminution. [An HON. MEMBER: "Can the hon. Gentleman say out of how many?"] Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General will be able to give the figures. Then there have been no less than 626 postmen ex-soldiers as 1149 against 334, which is pretty nearly double, and sorting clerks and telegraphists, 27 as against 26, and telegraphists, 14 as against 11; the total being 1,464 as against 1,174. In addition, a number of ex-soldiers have been given employment as cleaners and labourers in the engineering department and in various temporary capacities. It is only fair to state that one of the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties is that they have so many boy messengers in the Post Office, and it is not only desirable, but the duty of anyone in the responsible position of the right hon. Gentleman to try and find employment for those boy messengers when they cease to be boy messengers, and so avoid that obvious difficulty that one so often hears about of blind alley employment. I do think it is very encouraging that we have such good figures supplied to us by the Post Office, especially in view of what has to be considered as to the boy messengers.
Another point I thought might interest the House about employment is with regard to the difficulty which soldiers, after they have left the Colours, find in obtaining employment in industrial occupations owing to the fact that they have in some cases lost the cunning of their hands as tradesmen, and therefore are not able to receive the same wages which they used to receive as skilled workers, and which they might at that age expect to receive. They are debarred from taking a lower wage by the rules of the trade union in many instances, and there is that impasse which seems most difficult to get away from. I have been in communication with the hon. Member for Deptford in the hope that he might find it possible in certain unions to make a kind of bylaw by which men who have served the Colours should be allowed to work at a reduced rate of wages, very much in the same manner that certain unions now make rules to allow men who have been injured by accident to work at a reduced rate of wages. I hope my hon. Friends who are here and who are influential with the trade unions and the Trade Union Congress will do what they can to help the War Office in this matter, because we feel it is a matter of urgency and of considerable importance. If they would allow some machinery to be introduced safeguarding their own organisation as much as they need, and I think they will be able to do so, against fraud or misrepresentation or anything of that 1150 sort, they would, I think, confer a boon on the ex-soldier. The hon. Gentleman who has submitted this Amendment will realise, I am sure, that we are most anxious to do what we can for the ex-soldier. Civilians, of course, have some claims, and we must not altogether ignore the claims of the civilian. We cannot, as they would expect, for many reasons, accept this Amendment, one being that if we were to do so the Speaker would never leave the Chair, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not wish that result to ensue. I can assure them, with regard to employment, that we are most anxious to carry out the spirit of what they have recommended to the House, and neglect no steps to attain that end.
§ Colonel YATE
I am sorry that this Motion should have met with so little sympathy on the part of the Under-Secretary. He has told us that the claims of civilians cannot be ignored. No one has ever asked that they should be ignored. Civilians have their own claims, and they should be met in the fullest way. We only ask that the claims of the soldier should not be entirely ignored, as they have been hitherto. The Under-Secretary quoted a statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he pointed out how unfair it was that an ex-soldier, having got an appointment under the State, should have a pension, whereas the ex-soldier who got a civil appointment should not. But is not that the case throughout the whole of the Civil Service? Does not every man who enters the State service get a pension, while the man who enters a bank or other civil employment does not? It is a shame that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should make such a statement. All that we ask is that the man who has served his country as a soldier, and then serves the State in another capacity, should be treated the same as another man who has served the State in one capacity the whole time. The Under-Secretary said that you could not put into the same category service for the State in two different Departments. What has he to say to the example of the policeman put by my hon. Friend? Policemen when they enter the State service get their full pension.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I do not think the hon. Gentleman quite understood what I said—that I did not think it fair that the colour-service man, if he went into civil employment, should get no pension in respect of his service, while if he entered the service of the State he should do so.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Colonel YATE
But if a policeman takes service in civil employment he gets no pension, whereas if he enters service under the State he gets a pension. I cannot understand how the Under-Secretary can maintain such an argument. He talks about abstract justice. The present system is the very opposite of abstract justice. This question is one of the utmost importance to the Army. The Secretary of State, in his Memorandum, has told us that recruiting is now so slack that the Army will be some thousands under strength on 1st April next. Is the refusal of this small act of justice likely to improve recruiting? Until men on entering the Army have some assurance that the Government will do their best to provide them with employment when they leave the colours we cannot expect recruiting to improve, and the Army will continue to be thousands under strength. The Under-Secretary referred to the Return which has been issued, especially in reference to the Post Office, and pointed out that for the last year there had been 1,464 ex-soldiers taken into the Post Office service, as against 1,174 in the preceding year. But what is that? In the Post Office there are no less than 52,000 established and 13,000 unestablished men, and of that total only 14,000 are ex-soldiers. The agreement is that 50 per cent. should be ex-soldiers, whereas the percentage now is only 22. I thank the Postmaster-General for having increased the number, but it is still nothing like what it ought to be. The number requires to be doubled, and not until the number is doubled will the promise be fulfilled. In addition to the establishment, there are an enormous number of temporary men in the Post Office service, and hardly any of them are ex-soldiers. We cannot expect men to give the best years of their life to the Army unless they know that the State will find them employment when they finish their service with the colours. I hope the question raised by my hon. Friend will receive more sympathetic treatment. It is only a question of some £8,000 a year. Anything more unjust than the reply given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer I cannot imagine. I hope the Under-Secretary will press the question until he gets a more satisfactory reply.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I do not think that hon. Members will suggest that in anything I have to say upon this subject I am in any way opposed to the proper treatment of 1152 either the old soldier or the actual soldier. At the same time, there are unquestionably two sides to the question now before the House. The speeches of the Mover of the Amendment and of the last speaker advocated in a moderate and straightforward manner the views contained in the Amendment, but the speech of the Seconder was somewhat more controversial than the occasion required. Whenever a subject of this description is brought forward it seems to be the part of some hon. Members, with their eyes particularly directed to this part of the House, to call attention to the fact that £400 a year is now paid to Members of Parliament, and to say what an enormous number of things could be done with this money if it were devoted to some other purpose. When the Navy is under discussion, it would supply so many "Dreadnoughts"; when another service is under discussion, it would do so much more. In fact, this £400 a year is a sort of magic sum with which apparently everything in the world could be done if only it were devoted to some other purpose. Wealthy Members of the House would do better if they did not continually bring in this question, because it only arouses hostile feeling against Motions which would sometimes otherwise receive general support. It may be quite easy for the Seconder of this Amendment to sit in this House and transact the business of the country without pay, but that is not the position of the Members who sit in this quarter of the House, nor of the people whom we represent.
With this particular Motion I have a considerable amount of sympathy. At the same time, the method by which it has been advocated perhaps would not bear strict investigation. Take the three cases which have been referred to. We were told by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment that when the Water Board was constituted the Board took over the whole of the old employés of the old private companies, and the services of these employés with the private company counted as service for a pension under the Water Board. A similar statement was made with reference to the Port of London Authority. They back up this case, which can be backed up without these fallacious arguments, by the case of the telephones which the State took over. Surely hon. Members can see that none of these three cases has anything whatever to do with the position. The men referred 1153 to were employed in a particular kind of work, and the State, in creating bodies for the purpose of doing this work in the future, had they not taken over these men, would have been really obliged to dismiss them, and so leave them without any living at all. They were not transferred from one form of employment to another, as in the case of discharged soldiers. Discharged soldiers are not discharged soldiers when they come into civil life, especially when they go into the postal service. They are, however, going into an entirely different kind of employment to which they had been used, and one in which in many cases they have had no previous experience at all.
§ Colonel BURN
I do not think the hon. Member is strictly correct there, because there are many soldiers—many of the Royal Engineers, for instance—who have been employed on foreign stations in the Post Office and also in telegraph or telephone work. There are many instances in which they are employed on their return home in the civil departments of the particular calling that they have had experience in in the past, and they go into them as fully instructed men.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I quite agree. I recognise, in the cases to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just referred, that he is strictly accurate. At the same time, that can only be in the case of a very small percentage of old soldiers who are discharged from day to day, and who seek employment in one of the Departments. I myself spent some two years in investigating this question of the employment of Post Office servants. I know that there were some serious complaints from some of the chiefs of the Departments, and even from some of the public, that the work in certain cases was not being done as it ought to be done. Many cases were brought before the Committee, where it was alleged that the employment of old soldiers, merely because they were soldiers, had deteriorated the service, and that the work could not be rendered with that efficiency that public work ought to be performed with. I remember that quite well. What we discovered was—and that makes the figures of the hon. and gallant Gentleman rather illusory—that taking all postal employment, high and low, and of every grade—as he will himself see—there can only be one or two sections in which they can be employed—as lobby officers, messengers, and postmen, certainly not in 1154 letter sorting, because that is a special kind of work which requires great skill and years of attention before it can be done by the ordinary sorting staff.
Therefore, you have got to look at just three or four sections of Post Office work which you can see the soldier can do fairly well with a little bit of training, these not being too skilful. These are the sections which you have got to take and work out your percentage on. Then you have the case. To make a comparison and percentage by taking the whole of the upper grades and every grade, where, I suppose, some of the men do not learn their business under seven or eight years, is absurd. I am sure, therefore, we shall do better in gaining our object by keeping to this point, which I believe, to some extent, is the same as that of the hon. Gentleman opposite. I believe we shall do better by fairly stating our case than by attempting to overstate it in any way, which I suggest has been done in the arguments which have been presented to the House. At the same time, the hon. and gallant Gentleman who put forward this Motion, and stood sponsor for it, should not forget that there is a civilian side of the subject.
§ Mr. J. WARD
Take the case mentioned by the Under-Secretary for War, that of messengers in the Post Office. It is a great complaint amongst working people at the present time that their boys are taken into the Post Office as messengers for five or six years—until apprenticeship is practically impossible—and then are dismissed. They get to a certain age when one would naturally think they should be getting a step forward in the Department that has employed them. The Postmaster-General simply puts them on the street, and takes on somebody else. That is not a satisfactory condition of things, and the civilian element have a right to consider a matter of that kind. The Postmaster-General will receive a considerable amount of opposition if he attempts to go beyond what he is doing at the present time. To claim 50 per cent. of the lower grades of employment in the Post Office is a great stroke, I imagine, for discharged soldiers. It is a thing that did not exist ten or fifteen years ago.
§ Colonel YATE
May I explain to the hon. Gentleman that the figures I quoted are not concerned with any of the higher appointments in the Post Office. This Return deals only with men holding appoint- 1155 ments as messengers, postmen, warders, watchers, park keepers, attendants, and porters. Fifty per cent. of the 66,000 places vacant were to be filled as suggested, and we have only got 22 per cent.
§ Mr. J. WARD
Fifty per cent. was decided upon, I understand, and the arrangement was come to by the Parliamentary Committee and by the Department over which the Postmaster-General presides. If the regulation of the appointment year by year since that arrangement was made is out of proportion with what was arranged, then there is cause for complaint, unless the Postmaster-General can show that there are no suitable applicants among the discharged soldiers or sailors for the posts open. He certainly should be required to give some explanation if that percentage has been departed from. There are one or two other questions relating to the Resolution which is before us which are extremely interesting—especially the discussion on one item. With reference to the speech of the Under-Secretary, let me say that under no circumstances will he be able to persuade either the hon. Member for Deptford, the Trade Union Congress, or any trade unions in the country, to make an exception in the case of the appointment for old soldiers. There is not the slightest doubt at the present time—you can take it from me as a positive certainty—that even to-day, when men are equally competent, when the old soldier is equally competent as a workman with an ordinary man for certain classes of labour, that employers, if they get the chance, knowing that the old soldier is drawing a pension, or even that a Reservist is getting his reserve pay, will use that as a means and for the purpose of paying the soldier less than the other man. Surely the Under-Secretary does not imagine that we are going to recognise a system of that sort, because I am sure we will resist it on every possible occasion. We say that the old soldier should be paid the same as any other man provided he has got to do the work, and the Under-Secretary will never succeed in convincing trade unionists that that is not a right and a sound policy.
The complaint of the hon. and learned Gentleman who last addresed the House was, in effect, that we ought to treat the old soldier better in order to encourage enlistments of the most deserving class of recruit. On that matter I think the Army should be self-contained. We must not 1156 advocate auxiliary aids as an excuse for inducing a man to join the Army. I do not think that should be our policy or that it would be a sound policy for the Army. I think it is infinitely better to carry out the policy initiated by the Secretary of State and to make the Service itself more attractive to the men. The suggestion he made this afternoon carries out the idea in a remarkable degree that we should do all we can to appreciate the Service and to encourage the enlistment of the most desirable class of recruits. I do not know we should do that by paying the old soldier a low wage while serving in the Army and giving him no chance of getting on in the Service and imagining we could make it up to him by giving him better employment when he leaves the Army. I think that is the wrong way to solve the problem. I believe a decent wage should be offered to the soldier and a decent chance should be given for his ability to be recognised by promotion, and that that is the proper way to carry out the suggestion in the Amendment. If I were in the position of hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite I would not pit the discharged soldier against the ordinary civilian. I feel you are only doing harm to the Service if you give special preference to the discharged soldier. I do not mean he has not the right to get employment if he is competent to undertake work, but if I wanted to popularise the Army I would not set the soldier against the civilian, and make it appear as if the one was favoured at the expense of the other. I would make the Service so attractive and so certain that a man could get promotion if he had ability, and then without these auxiliary aids that have been suggested decent men would join the Army if there was a future before them if they behaved themselves and showed ability to rise in the Service.
I am speaking on this matter entirely for myself, but my Friends on these benches have taken a great interest in the question, because, after all, these men belong to our class. They do not belong to the class from which hon. Gentlemen opposite spring; they are workmen. The dearth of recruiting, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite would see if he looked a little further into the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War, is due to the boom in trade. The Secretary of State for War says in his Memorandum that men will not join now because trade is so good. The moment there is a slump in trade, and our people 1157 cannot find so good a means of living in the ordinary industrial pursuits, recruiting will rise again. That has always been and will continue to be the case. These men belong to us; we lend them to the country for a while, and then they come back to our workshops, factories, and mines after their service in the Army. No one could be more interested in their welfare than we are. I am interested in the old soldier; I want to see him well paid, I want to see the Service made more attractive, and I want to see him enabled to earn his pension. A man at the present time, after years of solid service, is thrown upon the scrap-heap with his health so impaired that he cannot get employment when he leaves the Army. No further interest is taken in him. The King's Regulations are drafted in such a way that he is limited to a service a few years short of giving him his pension, as if they started with the sole idea of getting the soldier and swindling him out of every right to which he should be entitled. These are things we want to stop. While I sympathise with the object of the Amendment, which is to give better security to the soldier, I am at the same time extremely doubtful whether in pressing these claims forward in a way which would appear to push out the ordinary civilian and to injure the civilian you are acting to the advantage of the soldier. I am afraid that might recoil upon the Service and do injury rather than assist the cause we have at heart. That is my view of the situation, and I venture to suggest that the points I have enumerated are worthy of the consideration of those who have put forward this Amendment. You want to popularise the Army and to make it a popular Service. It ought to be a Service where young men of brains and ability should have a chance of rising to the top, where you could attract an enormous number of young men and make it a profession for them, not only men driven in through stress of industrial conditions but intelligent men who would deliberately pick it out as the profession of their lives. That is the reason why I have some doubts about, the actual Motion before the House, although I have every sympathy with the object of the promoters of the Resolution.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
This is an Army Debate, and I only ask the House to allow me to intervene because my Department has been frequently mentioned in the 1158 course of this discussion. I understand that some hon. Members opposite consider that not so much has been done as might have been done by the Post Office to furnish employment for respectable and industrious ex-soldiers. It is not surprising that the Post Office should figure in this discussion, because it is by far the largest employer of labour in the country, and within its ranks are more than half of the whole Civil Service. For my own part, I share the view entertained by all my predecessors that the old soldier has a very strong claim indeed to preference in selecting candidates for suitable Post Office employment. The old soldier has rendered service to the country which is indispensable, and I think the various Government Departments undoubtedly have cast upon them the duty of furnishing employment for him when he leaves the Army, wherever that can possibly be done. I did not have the privilege of hearing the speech of the Mover of this Amendment, and I only heard a part of the seconder's speech; but I understand it was suggested that when the telephones were transferred to the State that was an opportunity which should have been taken by the Post Office to give employment to a considerable number of ex-soldiers.
§ Colonel BURN
I was only quoting the case of the transfer from the National Telephone Company to the State and the conditions under which the old employés entered the State service. I was only quoting the case of those employés in counting their former service towards a pension.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
Then I have been misinformed on that particular point. But I may say that in so far as the Telephone Company service was not pensionable under the company, it is not pensionable under the Post Office, and they do not count past service unless they were pensionable already under the National Telephone Company. In some cases they were given two extra years, but if a person who had served the company for ten or twenty years was not in a pensionable capacity, that service does not count in the Post Office. The position of the Post Office has been quoted by the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Yate). I find from a Return that out of 19,000 old soldiers and sailors who are shown to be in employment, no fewer than 14,912 are in Post Office employment. So that the Post Office provides three-fourths of all the positions which are included in this 1159 Return dealing with old soldiers. The hon. and gallant Member asks how is it that these 15,000 places in the Post Office are only 22 per cent. of all the similar Post Office positions that are available, when you have undertaken to give 50 per cent. of such posts to old soldiers and sailors. The answer to that is given in footnote (c) to the Return, which states that this percentage is gradually increasing, and the arrangement made in 1897, under which half the places are offered to ex-Army and ex-Navy men, has not been in force long enough to have its full effect.
In the case of an arrangement of this kind, made in 1897, you would not expect that 50 per cent. of these positions would have been filled so soon, but that promise has been fulfilled. Of course, during the South African war there were very few old soldiers and sailors coming forward in those years, and the 50 per cent. was not maintained, but not for the reason that they were not available for the old soldiers, but because the old soldiers were not available for the places. That was only during the actual war itself, when the boy messenger problem was not so pressing, because, as we had so few old soldiers, we were able to provide places for all our boy messengers. It is only since that time that we have provided 50 per cent. for old soldiers and sailors, and we have found difficulty in employing our boy messengers. Last year fully 50 per cent. of the vacancies were allotted to old soldiers and sailors. This does not relate to part time, because we cannot send an old soldier from London to some other place in order to accept 4s. or 5s. a week for a morning delivery, but all established and unestablished full-time posts of that character are divided in the proportion of 50 per cent. to old soldiers and sailors, and 50 per cent. to other persons. I should like to quote to this House the figures. On the 31st March, 1911, there were 14,300 old soldiers and sailors employed in the Post Office, the vast majority of them being soldiers. A year later, on 31st March, 1912, the number had been increased from 14,300 to 16,500, showing an increase in a single year of 2,200. That is partly because the arrangement made in 1897 is now having its full effect and partly because there were insufficient boy messengers to fill 50 per cent. of the new posts, and so they were filled by old soldiers, and the boy messengers will be credited with them later on.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I will deal with that matter later on. The boy messenger question is a very real one. It is not right to employ boys for two years, discharge them at sixteen, after spending two of the best years of their life in the Post Office service, when it is too late to secure permanent employment in industrial work or skilled trades. When I took office I found that that was being done to the extent of 4,400 boys per annum, and every year we were discharging that number, not on account of any educational or physical defect, or unsatisfactory conduct, not because the boys themselves wished to leave the service, but simply because there were no posts open to them in the Post Office service. I was anxious to find a solution of this question, particularly because my experience at the Home Office, and in other ways, had impressed upon me very strongly the great evil of blind alley employment for the youth of the nation, and it seemed to me that the State should be freed from the stigma of providing one of the worst instances of blind alley employment for boys. I could have solved the problem immediately if I could have terminated the arrangement that half of these places as they became vacant should be given to old soldiers and sailors, hut, although I was urged to take that course, I did not adopt it. Although the boy messenger problem was urgent, I thought the old soldier also had a great claim, and I laid it down that the arrangement by which half the posts were to be given to old soldiers and sailors should not be disturbed in any degree, and that some other method would have to be found.
We have found other methods. We are reserving a number of posts for them, and we are economising in boy labour. Last year, instead of dismissing 4,400 boys at the age of sixteen for the reason that there was no work for them to do in the Post Office, the number was reduced to 426; and this year I have every reason to hope that the number will be nil, or nearly nil, and the problem will have been solved without disturbing the arrangement by which old soldiers and sailors get half of this employment. I can assure hon. Members that that arrangement will he honestly maintained, and that half of those posts will be reserved for the old soldiers as in the past. The hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Yate) asked me why 1161 I do not encourage the boy messengers to go into the Army if they wish to do so. Naturally in this matter I am very unwilling to exercise anything approaching pressure, and still less compulsion, on the boys to go into the Army. If they wish to go into the Army upon their own free choice, that is another matter; but there are a number of boys who desire by temperament the soldier's life, and it seems to me that it would be a very wrong thing if they and their parents desire that the boys should go into the Army for those boy messengers to lose their chance of permanent employment in the Post Office through going into the Army. Therefore I have made an arrangement with the War Office to the effect that, if a boy messenger does himself desire to go into the Army, when he comes out of the Army he shall be guaranteed one of the situations in the Post Office reserved for old soldiers. That has been done, and we have in all cases in which it is proper, circularised the parents of the boys for whom other employment cannot be found, pointing out to them that, whilst there is nothing in the nature of compulsion at all, if they desire to go into the Army at the age of eighteen or nineteen they can remain on as messenger boys in the Post Office until that age, and that when they leave the Army they will secure a position in the Post Office under an arrangement by which posts are reserved for old soldiers. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. J. Ward) said:—It is a great complaint among the working classes that their boys are induced to go into the Post Office, and then dismissed at the age of sixteen.I think the day is rapidly approaching when he will have to say. "It was a great complaint among the working classes," because we have already greatly approximated to the time when the problem will be solved, and I hope that time will be reached within the present twelve months. I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite and the House that, so far as employment for old soldiers is concerned, I am most anxious not only to loyally abide by the arrangement come to by my predecessor, but in every way to secure that preference shall be given to those who have deserved well of their country by rendering indispensable service in the Army.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Captain JESSEL
I understand we now get back to the discussion which was proceeding before the Amendment was 1162 moved. I should like to say with reference to the remarks made by the hon. Member for East Dorset (Major Guest) in the very able speech in which he criticised the action of the Opposition in the fact that they have not been very helpful or fruitful in suggestion, that it is not usual in the somewhat laborious process of getting Mr. Speaker out of the Chair to go too much into detail, but rather to confine ourselves to general questions of policy. I frankly confess that when I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War I was very greatly disappointed. It is common knowledge that all the great Powers of the world are largely increasing the numbers of their armed forces, and, without wishing to provoke the alarmist note, I cannot but say it was a disappointment to me to hear that something more substantial was not going to be done. When you look at the Army Estimates as a whole, you will find that the increase is some £360,000. It is true it is a great deal of money, but to my mind it has been arrived at by the old process of robbing Peter to pay Paul. What is proposed to be spent on the new science of aviation has been subtracted from various other branches of the Army Service. I must give the right hon. Gentleman credit that he was able to make a most illuminating statement about the progress of aviation. I think it will be a revelation to many of us who have been alarmed at the reports in the Press to find that we really have made so great an advance. I congratulate him upon that statement, but I fail to see that we have got very much to thank him for as regards the rest of what he said, with one exception.
When you really come down to the whole matter, you find that he has in the first place reduced the Artillery by six batteries. The military critics have often pointed out that per thousand men as it stands already we are behind the rest of the great military Powers of Europe. We have, I believe, on the present basis of calculation, five guns per thousand men compared with six and seven guns per thousand men of the great Continental Powers. Again, we find the unfortunate Regular Forces of the Crown are reduced by 1,000 men. The hon. and gallant Member for Bodmin (Sir R. Pole-Carew) referred to the fact that Lord Haldane had reduced the Army by 37,000 men, and now the present Secretary of State has taken away another thousand. We find as regards 1163 the Territorial Force that, compared with last year, they are short of 97 officers and nearly 11,000 men. There is a decrease of 1,800 men in the Special Reserve. All these things are alarming when one comes to consider how other countries are making increases in the strength of their armed forces. I should have thought this was the time, not to decrease, but to come forward with some plan for substantially increasing the strength of our forces. I think the most important declaration to-night was elicited by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham). He elicited from the Secretary of State for War, after considerable pressure, that the right hon. Gentleman contemplated sending away the whole of the Expeditionary Force from this country. That is a statement which I do not think we have ever heard before from those benches. If it is so, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman that the Expeditionary Force is now in such a position that it can be sent away at a few days' notice more or less complete in every detail. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover proceeded to criticise what was left, and in a speech which, if I may say so, was full of knowledge, he made out his case that that which was left behind was not at all adequate for the military needs of this country.
He said we were deficient by anything from 400,000 to 200,000 men. As to the Expeditionary Force the hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Member for Bodmin (Sir R. Pole-Carew), who is a high military authority, and who commanded a division in the field in South Africa with conspicuous success showed that the composition of that Expeditionary Force was by no means satisfactory. He drew illustration after illustration showing that we have more Reserves in our ranks than any Continental Army has; that out of 1,000 men per battalion the number of Reservists would be between 600 and 700 men compared with 300 or 400 in the case of the great Continental Powers. He also alluded to the shortage of the officers that would accompany that force. I know from my own knowledge from what I heard the other day that one of the regiments at Aldershot which would be one of the first to go could barely muster four companies on parade. He also drew attention to the state of the Cavalry regiments at Aldershot. These regiments were also a part of the forces that would be the first to be 1164 called for service, and he showed that out of a nominal strength, in squadrons supposed to consist of from 160 to 180 men, only thirty-five men mustered on parade. Therefore it comes to this, that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, has been riddled twice over. In the first place, as to the competition of the Expeditionary Force, by the hon. and gallant Member for Bodmin. I do not know where I have made myself clear—
§ Captain JESSEL
I will try to explain. In this very damaging speech the Member for Bodmin showed from the figures which he adduced that the Expeditionary Force was not so effective as the Secretary of State for War led the House to believe. There were more Reservists in the ranks, and it would be deficient in officers.
§ Captain JESSEL
I expected that the right hon. Gentleman would deny it. However, that was the criticism of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and in my opinion, he brought it home. And then again, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover attacked the numbers and the qualities of the troops that would be left behind. Taking these two facts in conjunction I do not think that the state of the armed forces of the Crown is such as to give the Government the satisfaction that they appear to have, when they come down to this House and tell us that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. I think from these two speeches that the public will be able to judge, and I have not yet heard from any speaker on the other side of the House any defence against those two damaging speeches from our side. That really is the whole question. Are our forces adequate, are they properly trained, are they properly efficient? If the right hon. Gentleman can convince the country on that point I shall be very much surprised, and I should like to see the criticism which will appear in the Press upon the state of the Army. Another portion of the attack made upon Members on these benches by some Members opposite was that of the Member for East Dorset (Major Guest), who again threw out a suggestion or 1165 innuendo that some of us on this side of the House, and a great many Members of the party to which we belong in this country, have gone about "crabbing" the Territorial Force. I do not see any evidence in the accounts I have read that there is the slightest suggestion that we as a party have "crabbed" in any way the Territorial Force.
If the hon. Member who made that suggestion think there is any truth behind that attack, let him consider what happened when the Territorial Force was first started. Right through the country the great county magnates, the squires, all classes of commercial men, welcomed its inception, and all did their best to make the Force a success, and that is the case to-day. I should like any evidence to be produced, which would be really satisfactory if it exists at all, to show where an attempt has been made to damage or discourage the Territorial Force. If we are not to criticise the Territorial Force because of its defects, if we have to regard it as something heavenly, because it was created by the other side, what becomes of freedom of debate in this House, and liberty of speech in the country? We all know the disadvantages and defects of the Territorial Force; that the men are not trained; that so many of them do not attend camp; that so many have not passed the ordinary musketry test; these defects are known to everybody who reads the annual report upon that force. I do deny, and I think my Friends will bear me out, the suggestion that has been made. On the contrary, we want to do all we can, and we shall do all we can, to make the Territorial Force a success, and to do all in our power to promote its efficiency. I am not going to prescribe remedies for supplying the deficiencies of that force. That task belongs to the Government. Some Members on the other side have said that we should spend more money upon it, and other remedies have been freely discussed in the country. I do want to get back to this—we all recognise that the Territorial Force has come to stay. It was a great improvement; an enormous improvement on anything that existed before. Without going into details. I should like to point out that it would be more valuable if the right hon. Gentleman would redistribute his units. In many cases in the country the old units are the same as existed in the time of the Volunteers. The basis of the population has changed, and in many parts of the country, 1166 where there is ample material for raising new units, no advantage has been taken of the natural growth of the population. I have given him a suggestion which he might well consider with his advisers. On the question of officers, there again I think the right hon. Gentleman has done the Army an excellent turn. It is true that it is 108 years since any increase of pay has been given to the subaltern ranks. Why cannot he, instead of giving jam to the subaltern ranks to-morrow, give the jam from the 1st April, rather than wait until the 1st January next year? It is disheartening to many officers in the Army that they should be put off until the 1st January next year. At the most it is £100,000.
§ Captain JESSEL
Very little more than £100,000, whereas Lord Haldane said that to increase the pay of the officers in the Army would cost very nearly £1,000,000. With regard to the policy of promoting officers from the ranks, one would think from the rounds of applause the right hon. Gentleman received from the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) and other Members below the Gangway that it was some new thing to have officers promoted from the ranks. I hope it will not be held up as a great sign of the advance of democracy because the right hon. Gentleman is going to do a little more for the officers who come from the ranks than some of his predecessors have done. What is the fact? In almost every regiment throughout the Service there are officers who have come from the ranks. In my time in the Army throughout the Cavalry regiments it was quite common to have one, if not two, officers who had come from the ranks, and splendid officers they were. I do not mean riding-masters or quartermasters. The right hon. Gentleman might, when he is doing this for those who have risen from the ranks, abolish the meaningless title of honorary captain for riding-masters and quartermasters. Promotion from the ranks is no new question. We remember a general officer, Luke O'Connor, who was promoted in the Crimea, and there was the case of Sir John Inge, who was a colonel, a Knight of Hanover, and a K.C.B. as long ago as 1798. The man who has the ability can, in the British Army, as in every other profession, rise to the top. The right hon. Gentleman said that the man who has got the credit of going through the ranks, that 1167 is to say who had not come from the working classes but from what I might vulgarly call the classes, might be encouraged.
§ Colonel SEELY
I did not say that. I did not make that distinction as to classes. I hope there will be none whatever.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Captain JESSEL
I did not mean that, and I know the right hon. Gentleman did not mean it. I understood him to refer to men who do not go to the public schools, and men who enlist in the ranks because they have no other career. I want to enter a caveat against men who fail to pass into the Army in the ordinary way, but who go through the ranks, getting a commission in that way. There is a chance of favouritism. I remember when I was serving I spoke to a sergeant about one man in the troop, and he said, "He is a jolly poor non-commissioned officer, but he will make a jolly good officer." That is not the kind of man we want to encourage under the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. Turning to the question of horses, the right hon. Gentleman said that he is going to give the Cavalry regiments forty more horses. I welcome that, but is he quite sure he is fixing the establishment of the Cavalry at the proper number? Has he sufficient men to look after those horses? It seemed to me rather extraordinary that he was going to increase the number of horses per regiment, while at the same time I find that the number of horses required for this year is actually decreased in number. The most important matter is the question of the Reserve. The right hon. Gentleman told us that there were at least 100,000 men in rifle clubs.
§ Captain JESSEL
If I may venture to advise the right hon. Gentleman, it would be not to make things too easy. Do not let a man be patted too much on the back for joining a rifle club when he might join the Territorial Force, the Yeomanry, or the Special Reserve. Where the whole thing is weak with regard to the Reserve is that when he comes to the question of men who have left the Territorial Force he does not seem to have got hold of them, or to have any machinery for catching them when they leave. Last, but not least, I come to the question of the National Reserve. There must be a tremendous reservoir of useful strength in this country if it is properly tackled. I hope the right hon. 1168 Gentleman will not put these men into the Territorial Force. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover asked us to imagine the position of any young Territorial officer in command of a company if he has twenty old soldiers who have been in the Army serving in his company. I do not envy that young officer in having to deal with men acquainted with every trick of the trade, and who know a great deal more how to do certain things, and would not be very easy to manage. We all admit that his proposal is a considerable advance on what has been done before, and will be gladly welcomed by many officers who are taking an interest in the National Reserve, who are working very hard with very little recognition. Why could not the right hon. Gentleman make skeleton cadres of these soldiers, or utilise them by putting them in the Special Reserve? At all events, he could make useful cadres of them for guarding depots and purely defensive posts when the rest of the Army is sent upon an expedition.
To sum up, I am really frankly disappointed with the statement as a whole of the right hon. Gentleman, though I admit that, like the curate's egg, it is good in parts and not altogether bad. It seems to me that the Government have not realised what an intense feeling there is in the country of alarm at the present situation. I know very well we shall be told we cannot spend too much upon the military forces because of our Navy. It is true to a certain extent that you cannot strike unless you have a mobile Army that is capable of inflicting a vital blow upon your adversary. At the end of a war a few thousand men may make a great difference to the course of a campaign. In 1878 there were 10,000 men at Malta, and the threat to take them to Constantinople brought about the Treaty of San Stefano. I think the right hon. Gentleman might have given us some clear indication of what was going to be done as regards strengthening the forces of the Army. We quite admit that his intentions are most excellent and that he gave us a magnificent exposition of the policy from his point of view, but I should really like to know whether the confidential reports of those who have inspected the Territorial Force upon their actual state as a military asset are entirely satisfactory to the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers. I say to those in the House, and I am sorry to say they have a great following in the country, who think this country should not be prepared with an efficient Army, because they 1169 think we are encouraging militarism, and that we may risk war, that they are quite mistaken in the line of argument they take up, because if this country is weak from a military point of view it is bound to incur the dangers of the very wars which it seeks to avoid. It seems to me that the greatest guarantee of European peace and the avoidance of war would be to put our military forces upon the highest state of military efficiency.
§ Colonel GREIG
I am sure none of us on this side can object for a moment to the tone of the speech to which we have just listened. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is well known for the interest he has taken in these matters, and I am perfectly certain that those of us who sit on this side will welcome to-night the first statement and admission we have had during the Debate, and during recent discussions in the country, of the fact that the Territorial Force has come to stay. With some of the suggestions that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has thrown out with reference to the Expeditionary Force, I do not propose to deal, but I should like to suggest this to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and to those who may agree with him in the view that at the present time although, as we all admit, the condition is one perhaps in which we are not wholly sure that peace may absolutely be preserved, as we hope it will be, but still whether there is any cause for disquiet on our part as to the condition of matters. It is true that there are certain Continental nations which are very largely increasing their forces, but we may take consolation from this fact at least, that if they increase their forces we may regard them as a set off one against the other. That being so, does the hon. and gallant Gentleman, or anyone on that side, suggest that we should reconsider and recast our system of defence, which was carefully thought out by the Minister for War who, all sides agreed, was one of the best we ever had, and whose proposals were adopted three or four years ago—are we now to set about recasting those proposals because we see other nations occupied in increasing their forces? What is our problem of defence? It is here that I think hon. Members opposite misconceive the position. We are essentially an island nation. We depend for our defence, as I think the Articles of the Navy put it, in the first place on our Navy. What then is the next problem of defence? It is that we should have an Expeditionary Force ready to go to any 1170 one of the confines of our widely extended Empire; secondly, that we should be able to maintain a sufficient force to guard our Indian frontier; thirdly, that we should have at our disposal a certain force for our Colonial possessions; and, lastly, that we should have a Home Defence Force for purely defensive purposes. Are we to recast that and adopt an entirely different system which would consist, in the first place, of a powerful Navy and a Home Defence Force of, say, a million or two million men, none of whom are enlisted for foreign service, because that is what even his Lordship, who has been speaking in the country, admits cannot be done with an Army largely enrolled on principles to which I will not refer at this moment.
Hon. Members opposite have been asking to-night that some proposal should be made for enlarging our forces and recasting them. We are entitled to know whether they suggest any other principles than those upon which we are going at the present time. Let me deal with the suggestion about the Territorial Force. We all admit that the Territorial Force at present is not up to its establishment. But was that establishment in the old days filled anywhere near its full amount? Turn to the numbers you find under the old established Volunteer Force from 1903 to 1907 before the Territorial Force came into being, and you find that the Volunteer establishment then was 380,000 in 1903, 370,000 in 1904, 368,000 in the next year, 366,000 and 363,000. What were the strengths under the Conservative Government? In 1903, 279,000; 1904, 281,000; 1905, 274,000; 1906, 281,000; and 1907, 278,000. That last figure represented 80,000 or 90,000 below the establishment strength. It is admitted on all hands that the present Territorial Force is more efficient than the old Volunteer Force. The able military writer in the "Times" admits that it is twice as efficient as the old force. What do you find? You have a force of 252,000 men twice as efficient as the members of the old force—efficient, not merely in the actual individual training of the men, but efficient in a very much more important direction. If hon. Members will look at the Report they will find some interesting information as to special sections, namely, the Royal Garrison Artillery, the Royal Engineers, the Army Service Corps, the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Army Veterinary Corps, and others. Many of these were absolutely absent in the old Volunteer 1171 Force. These units are nearly complete in their establishment. In fact, you have here a real Army which you had not before. We have got a Navy upon which we can rely, and which is maintained at its proper strength much more than was the case in the old days. A well-known admiral, who has retired, has stated that the condition of the Navy is such that we can sleep comfortably in our beds.
As to recruiting, we started the new Territorial Force in the boom year with 110,000. I happened to be in command at that time of a battalion, and I am perfectly convinced that, even without the boom, if we had gone along in the ordinary course, and if no National Service League had been started, in three or four years certainly, a very large number of the Territorial units would have been full. They began to increase almost immediately. Naturally, the figures dropped shortly after that, but they are now resuming the normal, and I shall be surprised if a large number of the men who joined in 1907, and who are entitled to go out this year, do not stay in the force and take service for one or two years more as the case may be. The recruiting figures this year show that 57,000 men have been taken on. That is a very much larger number than was ever taken on before in the history of this particular force. You also find now that the Territorial Force has an Imperialist Section. I think it is under Section 8 or 9 of the Territorial Regulations that these men have taken the obligation to serve abroad if called upon to do so. There are actually 20,000 men and officers in this section, and I am perfectly certain that if necessary large numbers more would feel called upon to follow their example if there were no compulsion. We are told that they are untrained and inefficient, but there is not a single one of the imperfectors or the partial inefficiencies of the corps which cannot be remedied in the ordinary way by time, patience, and money, and if Parliament is willing to do that, and all parties in the country are willing to afford their assistance there is no reason in the world why the Territorial Force should not be full and able to take on something more if it is necessary to do it. I will not speak of equipment because the wild statements have been made on this point and though everybody knows that the rifle is not the same as that of the Army, it is only a question of spending 1172 some hundreds of thousands of pounds more to give them a rifle which they can use after a week's practice just as well as the other rifle, and taking all other matters of equipment there is absolutely no comparison whatever between the Territorial Force to-day and the Volunteer Force of the old days.
Anybody who has served in both forces knows that the Territorial Force is now thoroughly well equipped. It may be that it can be improved here and there. That again is a question of money and time. Remarks have been made about discipline. Those acquainted with both forces know perfectly well that the discipline in the Territorial Force far exceeds anything that ever existed in the old Volunteer Force. Discipline depends very much on the officers, upon the adjutants and upon the permanent staff who assist, and I do urge upon the War Office that extreme care should be displayed both in the appointment of commanding officers and the employment of adjutants. I do not want to say one word reflecting upon officers of the Army. I have had a great deal to do with them in my time, and I respect them from the bottom of my heart. At the same time there are some men who do not take their work quite seriously, and occasionally in a country corps it is difficult to develop esprit de corps, and there is a tendency for the expert officer who goes there not to be so keen about the work as otherwise might be the case. It would be well if officers in the Army were to remember that the best way to make the Territorial Force a good one is to give to the Territorial Force the best of the non-commissioned officers, and not send us the worst. As to the question of increasing the numbers, I would suggest, first, stop your National Service League agitation, and in the second place you can fill up your numbers to-morrow if you will complete your system, as the able military correspondent of the "Times" also suggests, by enrolling two divisions in Ireland. Then, instead of having to send a force to hold Ireland in future, you will have there a Territorial Force who will take their part. I think there is a great deal of misapprehension as to the Territorial Force itself. The Territorial Reserve has not been filling up. Why? Some people do not even seem to know that it exists.
I would again urge upon the War Office the advisability of looking into this matter. 1173 I understand from some Members that one of the reasons why the Territorial Reserve is not a success is that it is rather an expensive force; but the real reason, to my mind, why it has not been filling up is that it is necessary for a man who wants to go into the Territorial Reserve to have attended four camps in the years preceding for two weeks on each occasion. It is almost impossible for any man to conform to the conditions, and that is the reason why the Territorial Reserve is not filling up. If there were a relaxation of those conditions it would fill up at once. Men are going out of the Territorial Force and are not going into the Reserve because they are not qualified. A large number of them are passing into the National Reserve, and you are congratulating yourselves on having a full National Reserve, while you might fill up the Territorial Force and Reserve with men under a much more complete obligation to serve. Do not encourage those particular men to go into the National Reserve, but encourage them to go into the Territorial Reserve, which is where they ought to be. I am rather inclined to think that in some form it might be a good thing to give a certain amount of pay to the men. That is no infringement of the voluntary principle. These men are under contract to serve and do a certain amount of work, as we recruit very largely for the Territorial Force from the class of men who have to give up their day's labour. I think in some parts of the country it would be wise if we had some system whereby men should receive a small sum for attendance at drill and camp. I think it would give the officers more control over the men, because they could dock the money if a man did not turn up. I think that would form a sufficiently powerful incentive. I believe it would also do something to relieve the hardship which the employers have to bear. All those are difficulties which, if this Territorial Force is given a fair start, can be got over. I think it is time this campaign of depreciation was stopped. I am not going into any recrimination against those who have carried it on. I think most of them are actuated by the best motives. I think they are wrong in their ideas, and that they would be more patriotically engaged if they attempted to make a success of the system which the country has already adopted. I would like to read a letter from a Territorial officer with reference to a Territorial company of which he is in 1174 command in my own Constituency. He says:—Locally the force has been passing through a somewhat troublous time, but personally I do not despair of very considerable improvement. In this district there are representatives of all branches of both services—naval and military. Out of a population of roughly speaking 100,000, over 200 naval volunteers, the Engineers (Electric Light) Company, two (Howitzer) Batteries, Field Artillery, one Company Garrison Artillery, and a battalion of eight companies are raised. This I should think is far in excess of what is raised in most other populous districts, and while it is extremely creditable to the patriotism of the inhabitants is not so creditable to the foresight of the authorities. However, this district has always in the volunteer days contributed a very large proportion of men from its population, and if there was a little less criticism would do so again. Constant belittling the force has a depressing effect on the men. If the young men could only be made to fancy themselves as Territorials as they used to do as the Volunteers it would give the greatest spurt to recruiting and add most materially to efficiency.I do ask hon. Members opposite if that is not good advice and a good suggestion. After all, what is it we are faced with? Either we have compulsory service or we make this scheme a success. I will say at once, and admit both as a democrat and a Liberal, I for one cannot be opposed to compulsion on principle, though I am in this particular instance. In every instance in which we have adopted compulsion there has been good reason for it, and I look at it, when anyone suggests it, from that point of view. We have adopted compulsion in sanitation, in education, in insurance. We have rejected compulsion; and the tendency of popular thought is in that direction in matters of religion. Are we to adopt compulsion in the matter of military service? What is the fact? At the present time in this British Empire of ours we raise, and keep on foot, Army, Navy, Territorials, and Marines, something like 790,000 men, all raised voluntarily. We have done that in the past, and now, forsooth, because there is a shortage in one particular force of the establishment we are told that the voluntary principle has broken down. The voluntary principle has not broken down. It has provided the best fighter on the face of the earth, and there is no reason why it should not continue to do that. Anyone who knows how men fight, knows perfectly well that the voluntarily recruited man is the best man.
§ Colonel GREIG
I have here a statement by a very important military authority:—I am entirely in favour of the Volunteer element if the training be sufficient. I would rather have a Volunteer than a compulsory service man.1175 That was a statement by Lord Roberts. Let me quote the sort of opinion that was entertained not very long ago as to this question of military compulsion. Another very important speaker said this:—To conscription in any form he was opposed. There were two varieties of conscription—universal and modified. Universal conscription for home service would bring us some millions for purposes for which they were not required. Universal conscription for foreign service was impossible. Modified conscription meant a return to the Militia ballot. The Militia ballot to-day could recognise no system of substitutes and tolerate no exemptions; but the overwhelming objection remained that the principle of the ballot was pure hazard. One man was chosen by lot to serve, whilst another by pure luck escaped. He could not think that a system of compulsory military service governed by the blindest laws of chance would ever again be tolerated in this country. …. Moreover, he was very apprehensive lest …. even the prompt enforcement of modified conscription should cause a revulsion of feeling which would sweep away the Imperialists and restore the Little Englander to power. For his own part, he saw no other way of providing an adequate foreign service army except by making the soldier's life more attractive and his place and situation more tempting. That meant increased expense. He advocated no lavish expenditure on our land forces. He advocated economy in the sense that we must see that we got value for money spent, and that we spent it wisely on the most valuable forces. At present the amount of money wasted in the Army on unsound material was enormous.The statement which I have quoted was made by the Duke of Bedford at Tavistock on 9th January, 1902. I will give one more quotation from a speech by an old Member of this House whose absence we all deplore:—With a force of 300,000 men enrolled, and 750,000 more who had passed through the Volunteer ranks ready again to respond to a national call, there could be no necessity for conscription or compulsory service in this country. Whatever Ministry might propose such a measure, he, as a Member of Parliament, would oppose it with his last breath.That was said by Sir Howard Vincent at Westminster on the 15th February, 1902. I conclude by saying that voluntary enlistment has not broken down, and it is misleading the public to say that it has. I hope that after the declaration of the hon. Member opposite, we shall have the assistance of all Members in making the Territorial Force what it ought to be and what it can be—a thorough success.
Mr. MARK SYKES
I wish to refer to the condition and the fitness of the Territorial Force to take up its position in our scheme of Imperial defence. Before doing so, I would, with all deference, congratulate the Secretary of State upon the action he has taken in regard to promotion from the ranks. Anyone with any Army experience will agree that a great step has been taken, not only to make up the number of officers, but also to give 1176 encouragement to the non-commissioned officers and the men in the ranks. The hon. Member opposite (Colonel Greig) made a comparison between the Territorial Force and the late Volunteers. Whatever armies the Territorial Force might be called upon to meet in the field, the old Volunteer Force is one it can never be called upon to face. It is more useful to compare the Territorial Force with possible opponents than with an opponent which is absolutely impossible. With regard to home defence, there is a great division of opinion. On the one side we have people, not in this House, who advocate a minimum of a million men. On the other hand, we have those who state that about 260,000 practically untrained men are quite sufficient. Between two such extreme views I think that ordinary common sense would lean towards the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), that about 500,000 moderately trained men are necessary for the defence of this country after the Expeditionary Force has left these shores. How that problem is to be met I hope will never be made a party question. If future developments show that the voluntary system cannot produce the men, or sufficient men sufficiently trained, recourse will unquestionably have to be had to another system. It is for that reason that I, who am no advocate of compulsory service, hope that compulsory service will not become a party question or be dogmatised about, seeing that it may become necessary for the whole nation squarely to face the question. Nobody can deny that, as time goes on, under modern social developments, the voluntary system becomes more and more difficult to carry out. We are recruiting the First, Second, and Third Lines for defence and for the Expeditionary Force pretty well on the old eighteenth-century lines, which have been abandoned by all other countries. The old—eighteenth century—sources of supply no longer exists. For the First Line we had a large mass of casual labour and agricultural labour. When that was exhausted the gaols were resorted to, and when the gaols and the Press Gang were no longer available, we purchased regiments of Hessians. At the present time industrialism has destroyed the whole of the agricultural and casual resources, the Borstal System has skimmed the cream of the gaols, and the Hessians have been hypothecated elsewhere. That being our old First Line, our old Second Line was the agricultural labourer and the 1177 squire. The squire is now so busy paying Death Duties; his son has gone on to the Stock Exchange or become an electrical engineer or gentleman chauffeur; while the agricultural labourer is far too busy and can not be spared for one moment—anyone who has recruited for the Territorial Force in an agricultural district will know that. Our old Third Line was first Train Bands and subsequently Volunteers officered by urban tradesmen; and John Gilpin, who once in seven years went to Edmonton, now goes every week-end to play golf, and a great deal beyond Edmonton too. Consequently, with intense work, greater luxury, more sport and more amusement among the rich people, they have less time to be officers; while among the working classes there is no doubt that high wages, trips, football matches, and cinematograph shows take away from the spare time that people used to find to serve their country or play on the village green.
Another reason is that class hatred has to a certain extent grown up of recent years. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Chancellor of the Exchequer."] I do submit there is a feeling among the poorer classes that they are being asked to bolster up a system which they are told battened upon their toil. While as regards the rich to-day they are continually being taxed—and the prelude to a tax is a good round of abuse—it is natural that the rich should be inclined to suggest that the State should look after itself. Anyhow, the eligibles for the Territorial Force are reduced. An eligible man has to combine a good many qualities. He has to be willing to join, to be fit to join, to have time to join, and then his employer has to allow him to join, and then he has to be able to go to camp for fourteen days for 14s. People talk about the force being low. The marvel to me is the number of men you are able to get to join the force under present instances. The Govern-is trenching on the good nature and patriotism of a few, and letting others who are not patriotic have a better time than those who are. Higher pay is an absolute necessity. We do not want a mercenary Territorial Force, but if we are to have a voluntary defence force the men must be compensated for the time they lose. At present the force is not as efficient as the War Secretary really believes, and even if it were it would 1178 not be sufficient for its purpose. I submit if it is not as efficient as it should be, you, paralyse the whole scheme of Imperial Defence. It either takes away the mobility of the Fleet or it locks up the Expeditionary Force. Supposing in certain circumstances we had a state of tension in Asia and in Europe it might be possible we should not be able to send to India the copious drafts it would be necessary to send of our professional soldiers on account of tension here. I think the right hon. Gentleman's theory is this: Take 266,000 Territorials—I speak in round figures—trained as fit as fifteen days' training will make them with adequate Second Line transport and supply backed by 80,000 veterans for garrison duty, is capable of dealing with a raid of 70,000 men or any development which a nation capable of sending such a force over here might carry out. By levelling down the figures given in the Memorandum to the ordinary Infantry battalion size—I went very carefully into these figures, they may not be fractionally accurate—but the ordinary battalion has an establishment of 980 non-commissioned officers and men and twenty-nine officers. We have a strength of 815 men and twenty-four officers. I submit we must deduct from these figures before the battalion marches, 100 recruits not trained at all, sixteen absentees, fifteen sick, twenty bad hopeless shots. Taking away these 150 men you have 664 men who can march. Of these 104 recruits only did a very little training; there are 200 recruits per battalion—thirty-two never come to camp for twenty months, 152 have done six days' work, and 376 have done twelve days, and 130 have not passed the standard of musketry. I think these are fair figures. The twenty-four officers are probably four ex-professionals, plus five first-class amateurs, plus four who were too busy to come out to training and eleven very young officers with very little experience. We may deduct from them one sick, two staff, two to take charge of the depôt, leaving nineteen for duty. On mobilisation you have to distribute out boots, socks, and shirts in wild haste. Some men will have two pair of boots neither one fitting him, another man will have one sock and half a shirt. Everyone who has seen a battalion mobilising knows what happens, and I submit that a battalion like that with bad Second Line transport, bad horses, bad harness, bad drivers, will be very slow getting on the march. It will march slowly and will lose men all along the line. Its officers will 1179 know little of interior economy and billetting, and that battalion, excellent and splendid though its enthusiasm may be, will lose much more men before it gets into action than a regular Continental battalion would. When it gets into action it will lose more men. The officers have not had sufficient instruction; the men do not know how to lie down quick enough, and are more exposed to bullets than the enemy. Anyone who has seen a Regular battalion conducting such operations, and contrasts that with a Territorial battalion in similar circumstances knows the Territorials are longer exposed as a target for fire. Therefore they lose more men in proportion, and do less damage in proportion. I submit that units composed of men hastily gathered together like that will not survive a general action, even though they may win one battle, but they will be no use afterwards. Waterloo proved that to be the case. I submit, therefore, that if you have in your mind's eye a second battle you will have to have fresh units or a long interval before such troops appear twice in the field. With regard to the veterans, far be it for me to say one word against them. I served in South Africa with a great number of old men, and I have had much experience of their fighting capacity. In a certain part of the Orange Free State it is known that veteran troops in the hands of young and inexperienced officers were masters of the officers, and if you put into your Territorial battalion a draft of these old soldiers the result is inevitable. You have men with eight years' service being called upon to obey people with a fortnight's service, and that is a monstrous thing to ask any old soldier to do. You cannot put new wine into old bottles, it goes sour. I am not decrying the Territorial Force, but I am asking the Government to give that force a chance. Enthusiasm, numbers and gallantry do not win battles. Only one thing can win a battle, and that is training. If anything has been proved by the war which is now going on in the Balkans that fact has. One of the combatants in the present war in 1896 formed an army which fled in panic and terror from Larissa, and they were perfectly useless at that time, but seventeen years after, under the same commanders, have taken one of the strongest fortresses in Europe, and the only difference is that in the meantime they have been trained. The Montenegrins, who are well known to be the bravest 1180 fighters, have been less successful in this war simply because they have not been trained. If European armies would be satisfied with fourteen days' training, I guarantee that the Territorial Force would be able to march from Madrid to Moscow in a succession of victories, but Europe is not content with that. I submit that the condition of the Territorial Force, as it at present stands, is an absolute danger, and it may enable the enemy to gain his purpose entirely through a separate set of circumstances. Supposing an enemy lands, and he is brought to book in three or four weeks. He may be utterly destroyed, but if he has fought even a losing battle in the precincts of a place like London or the centre of the Black Country, our victory and our three weeks hunting him out in this most complex country will take us a hundred years to recover from, and in the end the enemy may gain his purpose. On the other hand, our enemy will have gained his purpose without landing, because if the Fleet is tied up and the Expeditionary Force cannot move he may paralyse our strategy in that way. He may gain his purpose without any war at all. Those responsible for the Government of the country know the condition of the Territorial Force, and they should realise that in this way our diplomacy abroad and our whole arrangements will inevitably be crippled. That is patent and obvious to anyone who has read the Debates of the last two or three days in the House, and who knows what the feeling is abroad at this moment. I do hope that in the ensuing year His Majesty's Government will approach this question of Home Defence and decide, either by legislation or by increased finance, to give this country a Defensive Force consistent with its strategic necessities and the dignity of the nation.
§ Mr. KING
There is an important statement that has been made to-day which seems to me to have been passed over entirely without the notice that it deserves. I refer to the fact that we have been told that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) is now a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I listened most attentively when this important announcement was made, and I observed that, whilst it was cheered from this side of the House, it was received in absolute silence by the other side of the House. Why should the 1181 Members of the Opposition have no enthusiasm from the fact that the right hon. Gentleman, who was their leader and who, in the opinion, I am sure, not only of this House but of the whole country, is one of the greatest statesmen living to-day, has been called by the Prime Minister to assist himself and others in the great work of Imperial defence. I listened with great attention to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), and I was extremely surprised that he had not one word to say on this matter. This, to my mind, is the most important announcement that has been made to-day. Usually, I have a great suspicion when I see the two Front Benches in collusion, and I am not quite sure that I do not view this new constitutional partnership as something which ought to be considered and debated at greater length. Speaking from impulse, rather than from any considered judgment, I welcome this change. I believe it portends an end to the time when the question of the Army and Navy is considered a question of party politics. I believe that it indicates an approach, at any rate, from the two Front Benches to the view that questions of national defence ought to be raised above party politics in the same way as foreign policy.
§ It being Eleven of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House of 17th March, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.