§ Motion made [19th March], and Question again proposed, "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 185,600, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1914."1228
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I rise only to ask whether the same latitude of debate which is appropriate for the business upon which we enter to-day can also be afforded when at a later date we come to discuss Vote 1? I understand that such a course will be acceptable to both sides of the House, and I trust that you may be able to fall in with that view.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Under the special circumstances, I think it is desirable that that should be done, and I will allow on Vote 1 the same latitude of discussion which is usual on Vote A.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
It was thought that this would be a convenient moment for someone representing the War Office to reply to some of the questions addressed to the War Office during the interesting discussion which we had yesterday. Upon the question of aviation I will say nothing, because my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will deal with that question later on. In reference to the reorganisation of the Artillery, not many questions were asked. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) did not even mention it in his speech. But there are one or two observations I wish to make upon that subject in reply to questions put by other hon. Members. The first thing the Committee has to recollect in connection with the reorganisation of the Artillery is that certain duties previously performed by the Artillery are now undertaken by the Army Service Corps. The duties of the 5,000 men who disappear from the Royal Field Artillery are transferred to the Army Service Corps. The carrying capacity of that arm has been increased out of all recognition. Although there is a reduction of the total number of men serving in the Artillery its fighting efficiency has increased owing to the fact that the whole of the seventy-two batteries have been brought up to the higher establishment—that is to an establishment of 158 of all ranks and seventy-five horses; in other words, an increase of sixteen men and fifteen horses. Two of the figures which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover mentioned last night I should like to refer to. He said that when the Expeditionary Force left these shores for any part of the world there would have to be subtracted 15,000 men to guard the lines of communication and 10 per cent. for the first reinforcements.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The right hon. Gentleman deducts 15,000 and 17,000, or 32,000 men that ought not to be deducted. The right hon. Gentleman dissents—
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but there are other speakers who will reply to that.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot complain of the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech though there was one breathless moment when he seemed in search of a peril. When my right hon. Friend said last night, that the Expeditionary Force could, if necessary, embark at once, he seemed first incredulous and then disappointed to be told so. He said, "We go then from one peril to another." The second peril was that we should not have 600,000 men left to guard our shores—not even 400,000, which he said he would reduce the 600,000 to. Where do those figures come from? It has never been suggested by anyone in responsible authority that either 600,000 or 400,000 were required. To think so would be absolutely to ignore the existence of our Navy.
In regard to the horse problem, I think it is important at the outset to make a distinction between the 3,000 horses that we require annually in time of peace, and the 140,000 required instantly on the outbreak of war. The 3,000 required annually to keep up the establishment are divided as follows: 1,000 for troopers' horses, 1,000 for the Artillery, and 1,000 for chargers, and for the Engineers and the Army Service Corps. We buy these in the summer, and we put them upon grass farms. The hon. Member for Pembroke asked last night what we were doing in relation to grass farms. We are taking £10,855 for the purchase of two additional grass farms. The horses are issued in the autumn after manœuvres. The remount begins his training at four and a half years, and after eighteen months' training he is placed in the ranks. Eighty per cent. of these Cavalry horses come from Ireland and the balance from the North of England. The Artillery horses we buy principally from three large dealers in the North of Ireland. The majority are four-year-old horses, although there are a few of five years. The Board of Agriculture are co-operating with us in bringing about a full supply of the best 1230 kind of horses. The horses for the Royal Engineers and the Army Service Corps come principally from the West of England and Wales. I would like here to give just one statement of the Director of Remounts. He says:—To sum up, we have no difficulty whatever in buying all the remounts we want, and there is no doubt that the Army is as well, if not better, mounted than ever it was.I would like to deal with three allegations in regard to the horses. It is first said that we should pay more for our remounts; secondly, that we should buy them at three years old and not four; thirdly, that we should buy them more directly from the breeders. I do not propose to labour the first point, for if we get what we require for £40 or £42, why pay more? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I think I know what is at the back of the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite: it is that if we paid more we should encourage the breeding of light draught horses. I will not go into the breeding question, which is a large one. I will stick to my point, and I repeat that there is no necessity to pay more if you can get what you want—and exactly the same class of horse—for the present price.
As to the second allegation—to buy the horses at three years old would not be economical. To keep them the whole extra year would cost much for accommodation, forage, etc.—a considerable amount for 3,000 horses for the year. Moreover, we should run the risks of accident and disease which are much greater when horses are herded together—as they must be in our establishments—than when they are with their owners in smaller numbers. There would be the further risk that the three-year-old horses would develop into that class of horse that we do not particularly require—for you cannot always be certain what a three-year-old horse will turn out. It is said that foreign Governments buy the horses younger than we do, and that therefore they get the pick. The Director of Remounts says that there is really no truth in that allegation: that he would like to know of a single instance—for he has never known one—he would inquire into it.
A further allegation is that if we bought three-year-old animals we could save on the price as compared with four-year-old animals. That really is not so, because a man who produces horses is generally both to believe that his animal is so deficient that it is only fit for an Army remount, and he goes on trying to get a better price 1231 until the animal is actually four years old, and then we buy him. In reference to the suggestion that we should buy direct from the breeders, I assert quite definitely that we find it much more economical to buy through the middleman. We save time and travelling expense and eliminate risk of mistakes, because even the best buyers make some mistakes, and the dealers give them back in reasonable time if they are not suitable horses, and, further, we have the certainty that we can get horses whenever we want them. We do not believe that dealers make more than an average of £5 profit on each horse. There have been occasions when our buyers attended fairs and special sales of collections of horses which have been got up by public-spirited gentlemen, at which prizes have been given for Army remounts, and our buyers have gone to these fairs, and I am bound to tell the House that the result is most unsatisfactory, because the sellers think that any kind of horse is good enough for an Army remount. The consequence is that our buyers are unable to buy these horses, we disappoint these would-be sellers, a great deal of time is wasted, and more harm than good is done by antagonising the would-be vendor. At the present moment we have twenty-three inspection officers in various parts of the country, and they are in co-operation with the Board of Agriculture, and we hope that, by bringing the advantages of our market before the breeders, we may do some good and we may get a better breed by producing from the Board's premium stallions. Another point which is made is that foreign Governments are supposed to buy horses from this country. I do not think that that is really true. It is true that some of the smaller foreign countries do buy a few horses here, but large countries do not do so.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I have got the figures, but I do not think it is desirable to give those. It is a mistake to think that many are bought by foreign Governments. The total export of horses from this country is 65,000, but only 18,000 of those 65,000 are of the declared value of £20 and upwards. The remainder must be for slaughter.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Those figures are quite accurate. They are supplied by the 1232 Board of Agriculture, who get them from the Customs. The imports of horses of the declared value of £20 and upwards were 8,000, so that the balance of loss was only 10,000 horses in a year. How very foolish it would be to stop those horses. It would really mean that instead of requiring 3,000 horses annually to keep up our establishment of 25,000, we should have to absorb the whole 10,000, which would be increasing the establishment to over 100,000 horses, and involve an increase in the Estimates of £2,700,009. I would like the hon. Member to consider the position of any country which pays large subsidies for horses breeding in its own country. How could that country go outside its own bounds to buy in large numbers? Suppose this Government were to engage in that policy, what an outcry there would be if we were to buy horses in large numbers from outside! It is obvious that any country which gives large subsidies, as all the great countries on the Continent do, for horse breeding within its own boundaries, cannot go to foreign countries and buy abroad.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Mr. TENNANT
If we were to do that there would be a great outcry properly raised in this House that we had gone outside to buy horses and so discouraged the home industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have enough."] I now come to the question of provision for war. That is a different matter. No nation in Europe has ever provided in peace time all that it would require in war time. They must always rely on filling up blanks on mobilisation from civil sources, and absorption from civil employment, and by impressing, which the House no doubt is aware can be done in cases of national emergency. We have twenty remount circles in charge of a director working directly under the commander-in-chief, with reserves of adjutants and other officers placed at their disposal. Besides that, we have also an arrangement with local gentlemen in every district who have undertaken the duty of finding these remounts for us. After allotting not more than 50 per cent. and making a further allowance of 25 per cent. to cover possible error, we find we have more than sufficient both for the needs of the Regular and the Territorial Force. This year we are adding thirty horses in stables to each regiment. In two years our Cavalry could take the field with these horses as trained 1233 and seasoned horses without the addition of any horses from civil life. The system of training and boarding out Cavalry horses is now working well. The horses are mostly in good hands, and the recent inspection showed 85 per cent. fit for the ranks immediately on mobilisation. In addition to impressment, which can only come into force on the declaration of the gravest national emergency, we rely upon the registered reserve of horses, which has been in existence for many years. A recent development has been the separation of the Artillery horse reserve, which is now specially registered at a fee of £4 per annum. It has been suggested that we do not take notice of the fact that motor traffic has done away with the supply of large quantities of light draught horses which used to be seen on our streets and country roads and lanes. We have made a special investigation within the last eighteen months, and, although it is true that there has been a considerable diminution, particularly in London, of light draught, horses, it is not true in relation to the country generally. The diminution, though serious, is not so serious as was represented. We know that passenger traffic horses cannot compete with motors. As I stated yesterday, more than 10,000 horses have been offered under this system, and the inspections for acceptance are now proceeding. We anticipate registering the full numbers, and then we shall have a reserve of 10,000 Artillery at £4 and 15,000 other horses at 10s. available for partial mobilisation without putting the Impressment Act into force.
I should like to answer one or two of the questions put by the hon. and gallant Member for Bodmin (Sir R. Pole-Carew). The hon. Member quoted from a speech of mine on 16th July, 1912, in which I said that the battalions of the Extra Special Reserve "could go abroad." When I said that I was not alluding to their numbers or strength. I was only explaining their position in the military establishment of the country, and I was not thinking of their shortage in numbers. Of course there is a Shortage in the Special Reserve, otherwise I should not have entered into conferences with the hon. Member for Dudley and others and appointed a Committee which is now sitting at the War Office. I cannot say what may be the result of the deliberations of that Committee. We have had four meetings, and no doubt we shall have a great many more. We are only at an early stage of 1234 our inquiries, and it is not desirable that we should report in a hurry. Although it is true that there has been a shortage in numbers there is a slight improvement noticeable in the last four or five months. For instance, since October, the force has increased from 55,000 to 58,000. In the month of January this year no less than 2,917 recruits joined, which is almost double what we generally expect. The figures of the Special Reserve, though bad, are not so bad as those supplied by the hon. Member for Bodmin. This force on the 1st of March consisted of 35,558. The hon. Member went on to say that we could not have more than 18,000 after deducting 10 per cent. for boys under twenty, and amongst the 18,000 he said there were a large number of those who had been rejected for service in the Regular Army, and he has already deducted 10 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), in his speech, kept taking off 8 per cent. for this and 10 per cent. for that in the force left behind until the whole force was almost whittled away, and that is rather an extraordinary process of reasoning or arithmetic.
§ Sir R. POLE-CAREW
I have asked more than once how many men there are in the Special Reserve which have been rejected for service in the Army, and I have not had any answer.
§ Mr. TENNANT
My right hon. Friend has answered that question. How is it possible to get those figures? Every man who presents himself for service is not ear-marked to show he has been rejected. The whole of the stricture of the hon. and gallant Member presented a harrowing picture of the horrible position of our forces, and it bore so little similarity to the truth that he left me quite cold. He tried to make our flesh creep and our blood curdle; but he was a long way from the actual facts in what he said, because he made his deductions of men and boys at least twice over. But if that passage in the hon. Member's speech left me cold, there was one passage which, at any rate, left me hot, in which he spoke of the military advisers of the War Office. I scarcely think it was worthy of the hon. Member to make the innuendo he did against our military advisers. What have they done? I do not think there is any other man in the House who would say that any of our military advisers prefer being members of the Army Council to acting up to the opinions and convictions they hold.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I do not think there is another hon. Member of this House who would bring a charge of that kind against servants of the Crown who are not here to defend themselves, and upon whose judgment we rely, and who, like Sir John French, have already conferred such signal benefits on this country. I hope the Committee will agree that in the Estimates which have been presented by my right hon. Friend adequate provision has been made for the land forces of the Crown.
§ Mr. AMERY
The hon. Gentleman has made a strong attack upon my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) and upon other critics of the present condition of His Majesty's Forces. The main ground of his attack was that those critics had deducted 6 and 10 per cent. and so on, and he said that if you went on doing that you whittled away the force to nothing. That is precisely what you have to deal with when you go to war. The one thing that has always impressed me most in dealing with military figures in time of war is the extraordinarily high nominal figures and the low actual figures when you come to fighting. In the South African war when the total figures showed that there were 200,000 and more in South Africa, there were only about half that number available to fight. My right hon. Friend pointed out that in order to send out your Expeditionary Force you have to take the whole of the cream of the soldiers who are actually serving in the Line, namely, all who have reached twenty, and all who have had over a year's service. That will not provide you with half your Expeditionary Force. My hon. and gallant Friend (Sir R. Pole-Carew) pointed out that many battalions will not take more than 35 per cent. of men of the Line. You will have to fill the Expeditionary Force to use up practically the whole of A and B Reserves. I have not had time to look through the mobilisation tables to see whether the hon. Member was right in his contention as regards the first contingent of drafts. With regard to the Extra Special Reserve, the twenty-seven battalions that we were told were either to go to reinforce the Mediterranean Garrison, or to go on lines of communication, obviously that means outside whatever troops were required on the lines of communication with the Expeditionary Force. My right hon. Friend reckoned them as 15,000; that is assuming them to be only 1236 500 or 600 strong. They ought, to be adequate, to be nearly 20,000; and to be full they ought to be 27,000. The right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor have both acknowledged they cannot go as they are. The battalions are not 300 strong, and not half of the men are fit for active service. It has been proposed that those battalions should be stiffened with 9,000 or 10,000 old Reservists. If they are, then those old Reservists will not be available for the 144,000 Regular soldiers supposed to be in this country. They cannot be in two places at the same time, and the people who would remain would be the weaker and the less deficient half.
Does the hon. Gentleman object to my right hon. Friend stating that over 8,000 Reservists are in other parts of the Empire at this moment, and cannot be reckoned as available for home defence until they come home, by which time, of course, other drafts will be required for abroad? The force that is left at home is the skimmed milk. It consists of those Regular soldiers and Special Reservists who, by reason of their insufficient training or their youth, are not considered fit for the fighting line. I have worked out some figures myself, and they are not very far distant from those of my right hon. Friend. I find that on last year's figures 37,000 of the Regular Army were either under twenty or of less than one year's service. I reckon that something like 30,000 of the Regular Force are not really fit for the field, and certainly more than 20,000 of the Special Reserve are in no sense fit. You have there a number of men who, although they may be useful for garrison purposes, are not useful for the purposes of field work. Again, the hon. Gentleman objected to deducting for casualties. Whenever you mobilise for war you are faced with this: There is a proportion of men who, on account of illness or accident, or for one reason or another, are unfit to take the field. They may be ready in one or two months, but they are not ready at the moment. Therefore, when you take the whole force, 313,000 Regulars and 50,000 Special Reserves, you do get a very considerable number of men who are not available, either for the Expeditionary Force or for home defence at that moment. When you have made those various deductions and have deducted those Regular troops and their fit Reservists, who are to be mobilised for field purposes in England, you have not, at the outbreak of war, much more than 40,000. Even if I give the hon. 1237 Gentleman his point about the first drafts, who are really fit for the field; and these are simply a constituent element in a body of troops and are not an ordinary force. They are short of officers and of non-commissioned officers. In 1900 exactly the same sort of troops were left behind; as Lord Lansdowne admitted, they were in no sense a field Army.
We want to know what troops can go, and, what is still more important, we want to know whether, if they can go, they are the right number of troops for the purposes of the defence of this country and of the Empire. I was immensely struck all through the speech of the right hon. Gentleman yesterday by the fact that he never told us what the Army was for. He dropped a casual remark, sotto voce, à propos of the cost of living in the Army, and said, "I have not had the time to go into the question of what the Army is for." The Official Reporter has not properly heard the right hon. Gentleman and has not given what he actually said. He never has found time to tell us what the Army is for. He told us a great deal that is interesting about the condition of the Army to-day compared with last year and previous years, and the hon. Gentleman behind also compared the Army very favourably with the old times. I have no doubt that the Army is better than it was in the old times. I have no doubt, if we regard the Army as a domestic institution, that we can be proud of its progress. We have to consider the Army not as an institution, but as an instrument for our national needs, and what we have got to ask is whether it is sufficient as an instrument for those needs in the world in which we live to-day.
I can readily perceive that the Army of to-day would defeat the Army of 1905, if they could ever meet together. But what I want to know is this, Is the Army capable of dealing with the particular concrete problems which will have to be faced in case of a conflict, the concrete problems of a conflict with a particular Power? We are not asking for anything new in that respect. The moment we come to the Navy Estimates the House insists upon a concrete statement from the First Lord of the Admiralty as to what the Navy is for and whether it is capable of dealing with the greatest possible risk which it could have to encounter, not only concrete problems, but the particular risks of conflicts which may be possible, and we ask him to go into details, often 1238 unnecessarily minute, of its arithmetical proportion to other Powers. If we do that with the Navy, why not with the Army? Why should the case of the Army be considered in vacuo, without reference to the problems which would be raised if the case of the Navy was under discussion? You do not wage war on a system of limited liability. You wage war on the basis on which you are carrying out your diplomacy. I do not want to say anything indiscreet or provocative, but it is obvious that in regard to our diplomacy we do stand in a certain position in the world to-day. The Powers of Europe are grouped in a certain fashion which has proved to be most material to the peace of the world during the last few months. What would have been the result if it had not been for the grouping of the Powers, for the knowledge that if two Powers went to war others would be drawn in, and for the realisation of the fact that contentious points which seemed to be very great to the Balkan Powers, a matter of life and death to them, and of considerable importance to Austria and Russia, had to be reduced to a more moderate scale when looked at from the point of view of the interests and the desires for peace of the Great Powers who were behind them? But these groupings are only possible on the understanding that, as all political understandings in the world are, they are to be real, that they mean something, that they are not merely an expression of goodwill. There may be contingencies, although I trust there will not be, when moral support will have to be translated into action. We do not desire to press the Secretary of State too far, but we should like to feel that the problem, whether in regard to aviation, or the Expeditionary Force, or Home Defence, was dealt with in some relation to the great facts of the world as we see them around us.
Let me take the right hon. Gentleman's statement with regard to aviation, an interesting statement which reflected credit upon the activity of himself and those who have made the corps what it is. There is one detail with which I dealt last year of which I should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman. I pointed out that at any rate in the near future the main work of the Air Corps would be reconnaisance, and would be intimately connected with the Intelligence work, and that therefore it should be associated with the General Staff. I further suggested that the result 1239 of the activities of aircraft might be to modify our whole tactical proceedings. For instance, my hon. and gallant Friend made a criticism which I think was perfectly well deserved from the point of view of present-day Cavalry tactics. He said the Cavalry were not being supplied with proper Cavalry horses, but were given Mounted Infantry cobs. It may be that the effect of aircraft in the near future will be to do away with the particular type of Cavalry work which requires these heavy horses, and that we shall find the employment of Mounted Infantry more desirable. I suggested there should be a strong aviation section within the General Staff itself to consider the bearings of aviation upon our whole tactical system. The right hon. Gentleman paid me the compliment of saying that my argument was so sound that he would have to consider it seriously. I hope he will do so and give ms an encouraging answer this time. To come back to the main point, the right hon. Gentleman dealt with aviation as if it were an adjunct of the other branches of the Army. He pointed out that in proportion to other units we were as well equipped and better than any other army in the world. With regard to the larger aircraft, he suggested that our Army had to fight in Egypt and Afghanistan, and that therefore we had to be content with a small portable form of airship. If he looks at the mobilisation figures he will sec that one of the first notes says that these tables are based on the supposition that the organisation of the force is drawn up on the basis of a campaign fought in a civilised country and in a temperate climate. Evidently a great part of his arrangements are made with a view to a campaign in Europe, and in that case his argument about Zeppelins does not apply. I notice one effect of the absence of any clear statement from the right hon. Gentleman of what the Army is for. When we raise the question of war with a distant country we are assured by arguments which assume that we shall only have to fight in Europe. When we raise an argument which turns on the possibility of a conflict nearer home, we are told that the war will be far distant.. Whenever we ask, "Have you got sufficient power of expansion for a continuous war, for a war on the same type but on a much larger scale than that of South Africa?" we are met with the reply that we have only to provide for six months; in other words, that the war will 1240 be of the European type. When we deal with a question like that, and we want to know whether we are capable of meeting other Powers in this country, or within a few hundred miles of this city, in the air, we are put off with the statement that we have the kind of airships which are most suitable in the Soudan and on the frontiers of India.
I contend that the question of the development of aerial navigation ought not to be introduced as a mere adjunct of batteries or squads. It has brought into the area of warfare an entirely new element in which there are no frontiers, and we are brought, so far as the flying powers of aeroplanes go, into the possibility of direct contact with at least two of the Great Powers—France and Germany. It seems to me vital, in view of the interests at stake, to consider, not the proportion of aeroplanes in regard both to the Expeditionary and Territorial Forces, but our power to hold our own in the event of a conflict with either of those two Great Powers. That is the only standard. Here is a new service which may revolutionise everything. If in the course of the next few years we prove to be inferior in it, everything may be in danger. Last year the right hon. Gentleman, or one of his assistants, suggested that an airship, poised at a great height could command a great area of sea, and so be on the look-out for invasion. It could not only command a large area, but it could see where every battleship is distributed, where floating mines are under the surface of the water, where submarines are going. It would possess eyes while its opponent was blind. I venture to suggest that in a conflict between sixteen men who are blindfolded and ten men who can see, the odds are in favour of the men who can see. At any rate, in such a conflict there ought not to be any great difficulty for the man who can see slipping past the man who does not know where he is going and who has to take the precaution which the blindfolded have always to take in such circumstances. If you get a formidable invasion, let us suppose the Territorial Force is sufficient as a purely land force to deal with it, what is the position to be, when it is completely watched and surveyed by hostile aeroplanes, when the position of every one of its amateur batteries is disclosed to the much better batteries opposed to it, whilst its ammunition columns which have been improvised and are lumbering up, are pointed out to the enemy's Artillery. I say 1241 the defence of this country, the defence of the sea, the position of the Expeditionary Force, will be hopelessly prejudiced in every way if we are inferior in airships in any respect compared with any Power that may come against us. I contend that in the whole of his interesting reference to aviation the right hon. Gentleman did not deal with the real point at issue, which was when and how soon we should be capable of holding our own here and in the surroundings of this country against any possible attack.
Let me turn again to the Expeditionary Force. I do not want again to go over the criticisms as to the composition of that force, and what is left behind when it has started. For what does the force exist? We know how the force happens to come into being. We know that six divisions is the number of divisions that can be mobilised, and that these battalions and units, as my hon. and gallant Friend told us yesterday, are used as nurseries for the units overseas. I do not know that the units overseas are the right number. Last year my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) suggested that our garrisons in the Mediterranean and Egypt were gravely insufficient. Are they likely to be more sufficient to-day, after the events which have happened in the last few months, and in view of the programmes of some of the Powers with fleets in the Mediterranean? At any rate, we should like an answer on that point. To come to the point of the Expeditionary Force, what reason is there in heaven or earth why a force mobilised on some definite ratio to oversea garrisons should correspond to our needs either in Afghanistan or on the frontiers of Canada or in conjunction with some ally in Europe in defending our naval security against being crushed by an overwhelming Power on land? I should like to know why are six divisions necessary? Why are not sixty divisions necessary, or why should not two divisions be enough? If we act on no principle and with no view to our necessities, we are either spending more money than we need, or else this country and the Empire are running a great danger. We want to have the problem faced. We should like to know whether, in the opinion of the Government, viewing the various main problems we have to face as an Imperial and Naval Power, the Expeditionary Force is sufficient. The general object of the Expeditionary Force has been very well indicated by Lord Haldane, 1242 who pointed out in his introduction in Sir Ian Hamilton's book that—to make the Navy an effective weapon we require a military instrument, capable of being used in conjunction with it.He went on to say:—It should be so organised that it is ready for immediate transportation by the Fleet to distant scenes of action and capable there of maintaining a long campaign.I should like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to two phrases in that admirable definition: "ready for immediate transportation," and "to distant scenes of action." That expresses the view of the War Office as to mobilisation, and also as to the Navy. You cannot send a great force immediately to a distant scene of action without compelling the Navy to make certain dispositions to make sure of its proceeding. These dispositions at once affect the whole problem of the extent to which the Navy can also look after the whole of the North Sea and prevent the possibility of invasion. Here, again, we are confronted with the same difficulty. My right hon. Friend asked whether the Expeditionary Force could be sent immediately, and the right hon. Gentleman replied "Yes." When he was asked if the Territorial Force was sufficient for home defence, the right hon. Gentleman at once entered a caveat. He said the Navy, of course, would be in its due preponderance, and available for the protection of the country. That is not the case we are considering. The case we have to consider is when the attention of the Navy is largely devoted to the immediate dispatch of the Expeditionary Force, because there are contingencies in which the delay of that dispatch, even by a week, would mean the crumbling up of the whole structure of our Imperial defence. I am trying to make it clear that the problem of home defence we have to consider is not the problem of home defence when the Navy is attending to home defence, but the problem of home defence when the Navy is attending, first of all, to the mastery of the sea and at the same time having to attend to a very different problem—that of making sure of the safety of the Expeditionary Force. What force have we to deal with those contingencies? The right hon. Gentleman made a gallant effort to minimise the deficiency in the Territorial Force as compared with Lord Haldane's standard. He suggested that it was only 16 per cent. below strength. He and other hon. Members sitting behind him suggested that the recruiting was improving, and that but for the blighting 1243 and malign influence of the National Service League that 16 per cent. would be made up. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hear a number of hon. Members agreeing with that. I should like to put one or two considerations before those hon. Members which may convince them that the decline in the Territorial Force is due to causes antecedent to any recent agitation of the National Service League, and to causes which are bound to continue.
The Territorial Force, according to the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, was to be a force with an establishment of 314,000 men upon a four years' basis. That force was in consequence to have behind it a very considerable reserve of men who had been through the four years' training, and who would be available to fill up the ranks, replace recruits on mobilisation, replace casualties, and replace those men in the Territorial Force who went abroad as an expansion of the Regular Army. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor always insisted upon the importance of the Territorial Force as a voluntary reservoir of expansion for the Regular Army. The right hon. Gentle-maintain a force of 314,000 men on a four years' basis the net annual intake of recruits over wastage—I mean by wastage sources of loss apart from the termination of engagements—must be something like 80,000 men. As the wastage in the force this year was 27,600, and, according to the right hon. Gentleman, the average for the last three years was 24,000, to keep the force up to Lord Haldane's standard it would require an average enlistment of over 100,000 recruits a year. The Territorial Force began with something like 150,000 of the old Volunteers as capital. The force, as I think the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, and has always acknowledged, did receive the most whole-hearted support from Members on this side of the House and the supporters of our party in the country. During the first eighteen months 150,000 recruits were obtained for the Territorial Force, and, in the first year of the force, the net intake, the excess of recruits over wastage, was a clear 100,000–in fact, during the boom in the first year of the force, it just succeeded in fulfilling the conditions which will be required every year in order to keep it up to strength. During the next three years that followed, the average gross intake of recruits for the Territorial Force has been 46,000, with 1244 a wastage of 24,000, so that the net intake has been 22,000 a year. On the four years basis, that means, if the present system goes on, that you could not have a Territorial Force of more than 88,000. I know there may be re-engagements. In the last year something like 40,000 men re-engaged, that is 4,000 for four years, and 30,000 for one year. But that is not nearly enough. If you take a net increase of 22,000, it means that men must serve at least fifteen or sixteen years, in order to keep the force up to over 300,000. In other words, every man would have to re-engage three times for the whole period of four years, in order to keep the force up to its nominal establishment. I do not think these figures can be contested, and the conclusion from them is that the conditions of service in the Territorial Force—the slightly higher standard demanded than in the old Volunteer Force—means a decrease which will gradually take place, which is continuous, which in spite of vigorous whipping up from time to time, and inducements offered to stay on a few years longer, will mean a process of diminution and wastage of the original capital with which the right hon. Gentleman started.
But let us take the force as it exists to-day, 16 per cent. short. He suggests that to fill up a mere 16 per cent. on mobilisation, means very much less than any other force in the world. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman, who knows something about military affairs, would have been treating this House more fairly if he made perfectly clear that the process of mobilisation is not merely a process of filling up, but also a process of elimination. When you mobilise you bring in Reservists, but you also discard a proportion, and figures have been given to show that the amount you discard in the case of the Territorials, will be very high indeed. It will absorb a very large proportion of those men on whom you rely. And how do you rely upon them? You cannot get them to accept the conditions of the Territorial Force. You rely confidently on their flocking together for an emergency. I remember a friend of mine speaking on this subject of invasion, and saying, "You need not be afraid. When the crisis comes the whole of England will flock together as one man." Another person who heard that remark said, "Yes, and be about as much use." That is the whole point. I remember the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor some time ago said, "The contemplation of large numbers by the people 1245 of this country, who are unable to take into account the question of war efficiency and war organisation necessary promotes dangerous illusions." I think the right hon. Gentleman was guilty yesterday of promoting such dangerous illusions when he talked of the flocking of ex-Territorials and National Reservists to the ranks of the Territorial Force, as really giving us the force we want. If we had got the number, does the right hon. Gentleman really consider that in respect of training and efficiency they are capable of dealing with any invasion, even on the most limited scale? He brushed the whole question of efficiency aside by suggesting that the bolt from the blue was ruled out by common consent. He did not define what strength he meant by the bolt from the blue. Does he mean 200,000 invaders, or 50,000? Supposing the standard figure accepted some years ago—70,000–is whittled down by this new Committee to 50,000, I would ask you to consider what force of Territorials under any system of training you would require to meet it. I suggest that, given even six months' training of the Territorials, and a majority of Regular officers and non-commissioned officers, the Territorial Force, to be sure of success, ought to be in a strength of three to one against picked invaders.
Under these conditions you would require a central force of something like 150,000; you would certainly require 150,000 for garrisons, and you certainly cannot neglect the provision of local forces. You cannot keep your Territorial Force between London and Birmingham, and leave the whole of Ireland, Scotland, and the North open to invasion. You must distribute your forces, and if you distribute them, you cannot mobilise them all. If the invader lands on the east coast, and is not resisted by local forces, he can cut the main arteries of communication, and put an end to any suggestion of bringing into the central force forces from the North or from Scotland. The moment you deal with these considerations you will find that 400,000 is an understatement of the force required, even if you had something like five or six months' training. Even with 50,000 as a maximum invading force, you require something like 400,000 or 500,000 men left in the country trained at least to the standard the National Service League suggests. Can anyone say the Territorial Force, however many new booms you have, will ever meet that standard? The right hon. Gentleman devoted himself, in a general way, to 1246 denouncing National Service. He pointed out the undesirability of mobilising a million men. I entirely agree. I would not mobilise a man more than is reasonably necessary, though I should be very glad to have several hundred thousand behind those mobilised to help to ease the strain and to provide for contingencies and for expansion.
I do not think any of my Friends wished to argue the case for National Service in this Debate. We have not got to that point. What we want, first of all, is to have a clear statement of the problem, and then we wish to know from the Government how they are going to meet that problem. Some of us may have decided, from a study of that problem, that there is no alternative, at any rate as regards the Territorial Force, except compulsion. But if the right hon. Gentleman will suggest another alternative under which he can get something like the force required, we shall certainly consider that alternative with a perfectly open mind. We have not got to the point as yet of discussing National Service as a Committee question dealing with the Estimates of the year. What we want is that we should, after all these years, have a little of that clear thinking of which we have heard so much, and of which such small evidence has yet been produced. What I would also urge is that the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers, taking a general view of the subject, and realising that it has to be dealt with in some way or other, should consider whether there are not certain measures which must be taken, whatever particular course you may adopt to meet that problem. It seems to me that there are two things which are quite essential, whether we have National Service or not. We have to have an adequate Army for home defence with a power of expansion, and what we must have, whatever system of service we have, is a trained staff and a corps of officers capable, not only of meeting the immediate needs of the Expeditionary Force, when it mobilises, but of our whole Army system, as it may have to expand in time of crisis. It is one of the fortunate circumstances of our island position that we have not to put down the immense force on mobilisation of a country like France or Germany. It is another consequence of our many Imperial responsibilities that, in the course of a war, we may have to put out a very large expansion of force indeed, using a great deal of improvised material. There is one part of the material which 1247 you cannot improvise without great danger, and that is the staff and the officers. That was the weakness of our staff in South Africa. What the right hon. Gentleman has to take steps to provide now is a staff and a corps of officers capable of commanding, not the Expeditionary Force and the Territorial Force alone, but all the forces which the Empire may need. Every Member of the House was, to a certain point, gratified by the statement the right hon. Gentleman made yesterday. We are all glad that he has at last taken a definite step to translate into practice, what has always been the theory of the British Army, the opportunity for every soldier to rise to the highest position. I think the measures he is suggesting are practical and sensible. I would, however, suggest that it is no good having a recommendation from a commanding officer to make a man a commissioned officer if he has not opportunities of training himself so as to qualify for his future promotion examinations, and the suggestion which I made last year, and which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith Burghs (Mr. Munro-Ferguson) has made this year, is that you should give reality to your new proposals by creating an effective non-commissioned officers' college. I would suggest that the recommendation of the commanding officer should be not for a commission direct, but for a course of study at the college. Then that those who show special qualifications should receive commissions at once and that the others should go back to their regiments with a report on their work, which would give them an advantage in the case of commissions given in the field and of promotions to appointments for which the Territorial or other non-commissioned officers are eligible. Certainly in modern war, which requires so much science, of course the scientific teaching of non-commissioned officers is as desirable as that of officers. I think in the main the right hon. Gentleman's suggestions, as regards the whole body of commissioned officers, were good. The suggestion of the Secretary of State's Scholarship, which I suppose he will extend to all the junior ranks—poor men who just scrape through Sandhurst—
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Colonel Seely)
I should explain that. What are termed Secretary of State Scholarships are for those who leave the ranks in order to enable them to take a 1248 few years' interval. It would not apply to all of them. That would mean an enormous sum.
§ Mr. AMERY
I did not mean to suggest that every officer who passed through the Military College should get the Secretary of State's Scholarship. I mean that the principle of the Secretary of State's Scholarships for good work in any particular Department should be extended to all junior officers, to enable those whose parents can just send them to Camberley and cannot afford to give them anything afterwards, still to keep in the Army and get the advantage of the higher training which Camberley gives. As regards the other ranks, the only thing I will say is that, in view of the great deficiencies of which my right hon. Friend spoke, you would have to do a good deal more than you are doing. I do not think the conditions are quite sufficient. I am glad he has introduced the principle of giving an increment not only for rank, but for length of service, because that equalises some of the great discrepancies between some of the different units and regiments in the Army. Only one further point. If it is necessary, as it has been found to be necessary in a great war, to have a great increase of staff, you must encourage men to become good staff officers. I admit that those who have staff appointments are in a preferential position, but something ought to be added to those who qualify for the staff, and steps should be taken to enlarge the Staff College and enable a much greater number of men to pass. I hope that the constant efforts of this part of the House will bring it home to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues that they ought to give a fair statement of what the Army exists for.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
We have listened to a most interesting speech and a most valuable addition to this Debate, although I do not agree with everything that the hon. Member has said, and I should like to challenge him for one thing at the close of his speech. He reminded my right hon. Friend of a suggestion that I made some years ago for a college for non-commissioned officers with a view to promotion to the commissioned ranks. I drew the attention of Lord Haldane to the system which existed in foreign armies, and urged very strongly, and I think he accepted it with sympathy, that some similar system should be adopted in this country. I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman has 1249 re-enforced what I put forward at that time, and I would recommend him to give favourable consideration to it. There was one phrase used by the hon. Member which I thought was a very fortunate one because it exactly expressed the difficulty which we find, and which I pointed out on more than one occasion. It is that which I invariably find when we are discussing questions of the Army. The hon. Gentleman spoke of discussing Army questions in vacuo. I think that exactly expresses the difficulty which we feel in that we are required to separate the Army from all other elements of defence in this country. That is a very great difficulty, and I think it is one of the chief causes of the difficulty which hon. Members opposite find, and I am afraid, make use of to the detriment of the Army. The whole of our defence depends upon the Navy, and if one for a moment forgets that fact one is bound to get led away into a fruitless discussion of mere details of very little importance. The hon. Gentleman was asking what is our Expeditionary Force for, and he seemed to have some doubt as to what should be the strength of that force, because he asked why should there be six Divisions and not two or sixty. The whole defence of this country depends upon the Navy, because if once the command of the sea is lost—by command of the sea I mean the power of destroying foreign navies and the power of keeping clear the route by which our troops or our commerce will have to travel—we are undone. In that case we have simply to be starved out without any more to do. There will be no question of invasion. It would simply be for any enemy to wait until we were thoroughly exhausted. So far as the defence of this country is concerned owing to our geographical position, it must be dependent entirely upon the Navy, and for that reason the whole of the resources of this country must, in my view, be directed to maintain the great superiority which, I believe, His Majesty's Government is determined to maintain by the Estimates of the day.
What has been clearly defined, I think, by Lord Haldane, on more than one occasion, as to the function of an Expeditionary Force, is that they shall be a complete force of a handy size which we can launch out at the appropriate moment to second the action of our Fleet, just in the same way as we sent forth our Expeditionary Force after the bombardment of Alexandria to occupy the country. But to suggest that we could have an Army 1250 in this country which is capable of undertaking the formal invasion of any great European country is absurd. It is altogether beyond the scope of our operations at any time. I think it is the forgetting of the fact that the operations of the Army must always in a certain sense be subsidiary to the operations of the Navy which has led to so much of this rather fruitless discussion of the question of the mobilisation of the Expeditionary Force. You can always raise small points as to the number that would have to be struck off this corps or that corps, and in that manner, by hypothetical deductions, you may whittle away that force to almost nothing. But how far are you advanced when you have done that? You are losing sight really of what we should ever bear in mind, namely, the maintenance of a force which is not of greater size than we shall need, and yet will always be fully capable of carrying out the duties required of it. It is not necessary for me in discussing this question to limit myself to six, or four, or two divisions. It is obvious that the strength of our Expeditionary Force must be limited by the fact that it will never be used as a main force for offence by this country.
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Sir R. Pole-Carew) in his speech yesterday made some remarks with regard to the question of the mobilisation of certain units of the Expeditionary Force, complaining that by the action of the present Secretary of State for War and his illustrious predecessor (Viscount Haldane), the numbers in the ranks now were reduced, and that consequently a very much larger element had to be brought in at the time of mobilisation. Then we got the usual number of hypothetical deductions, which added to the difficulty. The hon. and gallant Member entirely forget that which I think his experience must have taught him as to the constant relation between the number of men in the Reserve and the number of men in the ranks. The causes which have led to the variation of the numbers of men in the ranks at the present time must be sought in the alterations of the terms of service which have taken place at various times, and notably shortly after the South African war, when Mr. Brodrick (now Viscount Midleton) was Secretary of State for War. The introduction then of the short period of service produced at a certain time an excessive number of Reserves. If you have an excess of men in the Reserves, it is obvious that you do not 1251 want the same number of men with the Colours, and you must reduce them gradually in order to make the proportions equal to what you ought to have.
The hon. and gallant Member at the same time drew attention to the condition of certain Cavalry regiments at Aldershot. There I, to some extent, agree with the deductions which might have been drawn from what he said. But, unfortunately, he did not make the deductions. He only made statements ex parte, and offered evidence which I do not care to depend upon. But I will accept that evidence and believe that some of the regiments find it difficult to put in the required strength on parade owing to the large number of men employed in various services. I think this is a question which ought to have been brought forward, and I should like to know what is the policy of the Government with regard to the Cavalry regiments of the Expeditionary Force. The policy of all other countries except ours is always to maintain the Cavalry of the First Line absolutely complete. The service squadrons are always complete. The work of training recruits and horses must be relegated to the Reserve body, or some other organisation. I think that with such a distinguished Cavalry officer as the Secretary of State has in Sir John French, there is no fear that a question of this sort will be overlooked. I feel very confident that my right hon. Friend has the matter thoroughly thought out, but I should have liked to hear, in answer to the objection, something as to what is the policy of the Government with regard to the Cavalry of the Expeditionary Force. One point which was raised had reference to the number of men who are employed in various services. It seemed to me that such men so employed had no business to be on the roll of any Cavalry regiment at all. If a regiment is to be of service you want men who can ride horses, and who are constantly with their horses. The other work must be done by a separate organisation.
On the question of horse supply I must confess that the statement of my right hon. Friend was not as convincing to me as I should have liked. I quite believe the statement he made that we have all the horses we require, and that there is no great difficulty at present in finding horses. But nobody can pretend that the present course of development of mechanical traction will not have a very strong influence 1252 on the breeding of horses, and I think it is high time that the War Office went forward a little and looked ahead to see what will happen in the course of a few years, instead of being satisfied with the mere statement that at present we can get what we require. I quite believe that at present we can. But we have only got to go to some of the large shows, such as have been held lately, to see how the character of the horses has been changed by the elimination of certain classes of work for which horses have hitherto been used. Unless we look ahead we shall come to a time when the right hon. Gentleman will be obliged to get up and say, "We have been able hitherto to keep up the supply of horses, but now I am afraid things are becoming very grave." I do not press the question of prices and other points, and I fully accept what the hon. Gentleman says, that at present we have everything in a satisfactory condition, and no doubt Army officers will consider that a very wise method has been taken to add to the number of horses in the Cavalry regiments. I turn now to the question of the Territorial Force and the National Service League propaganda. I can only say, from my own experience of this propaganda in favour of compulsory service, that most regrettable results follow from it. It is the fact that in a Territorial regiment which I know very well the commanding officer has been obliged to get rid of some of his non-commissioned officers because they have been "got at," to use a term which is not infrequently adopted, by the National Service League, and those non-commissioned officers are making use of their position to deter men from joining the Territorial Service, whereas they should have been using their energy to keep up the strength of their regiment. I think it is a very unfortunate position of things.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that compulsory service would do away with the need of any inducement to get men to join, because the men would have to join?
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
I will not debate that question with the hon. Baronet, but I will put it this way. These men have accepted service under the present conditions. Are they acting loyally by their engagement in trying to deter men from entering a branch of His Majesty's service? That is the point. It is not my purpose to debate now what would be the 1253 possible effect of compulsory service. Personally I am strongly against it, and always shall be against it, because I am perfectly certain that I would sooner command a voluntary Territorial Force than I would a Territorial Force watered down by the introduction of a number of wasters forced to come into the ranks. Lord Roberts, in one of his late speeches, used words to the effect that under the system which he advocated in future there would not only be willing and patriotic men in the ranks, but every man, either for his own good or the good of his country, would be compelled to go into the ranks. Patriotic men are quite good enough for me, and I should not care if I had to serve again to have men forced into the ranks, because it would take away from them that spirit of patriotism which now inspires the Territorial Force and all the Forces of His Majesty's Service, and which inspires them because of the love of country as well as love of the Service. The question has been discussed of what should be the strength of the Territorial Force, and the opinion of the right hon. Member for Dover and of other speakers appears to be that the estimated number of 300,000 is wholly insufficient. That leads me to ask: What is the object which the apostles of compulsory service for the Territorial Force have in view? I saw it stated in a work, for which I think Lord Roberts is somewhat responsible, that what we require is a force of 500,000 men which can be launched at any time on to the Continent. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] That has been put forward. I quite believe that many hon. Gentlemen opposite possibly have views of their own about national service, but we have never yet had clearly put before us what is the considered opinion of Gentlemen who have adopted the views of the National Service League.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
For home defence only? That is just the point, and it is not exactly what is conveyed by the most distinguished speakers in favour of the National Service propaganda.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
The publication that I was quoting from is a little work called "Facts and Fallacies," or something of that sort. I think you will find in the second part of it they set out for what this force is required. They say it is for use on the Continent, and is to be trained to the standard of Continental troops. I maintain, bearing in mind that with which I began, that the whole defence of this country depends on the Navy. We do not require a force of those dimensions trained to the standard of Continental troops, because, of course, in regard to home service there must be a very considerable time during which the Territorial Force will have to be brought to a very high state of efficiency. When I was interrupted just now I was about to quote the words of Lord Roberts with regard to the use of this great force. He said: "It was to carry out our bounden duty to the Continental alliance for the maintenance of the balance of power in Europe." It never has been contemplated by the present Government, and I am quite certain it never will be contemplated by them, that we should maintain half a million of men here for use in an expedition on the Continent for the maintenance of the balance of power in Europe. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] These are the views put forward, and I have quoted my authority.
§ Sir J. D. REES
It is the Expeditionary Force which is in certain contingencies to be sent abroad, but the hon. and gallant Baronet entirely misrepresents the object.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
A speech was made on the subject at Wolverhampton only last week. It is perfectly clear. We cannot make words mean anything but what they do mean, and the meaning of those words is that we must always have an Army here for use for the invasion of other countries. They can mean nothing else. More than that, they are words which are calculated to mislead the public, because we have no such bounden duty to a Continental alliance. The Prime Minister the other day interjected an absolute denial when he was questioned by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford as to whether we had any such bounden duty. He said that there was nothing of the sort. It would be the duty of any Government before entering into such responsibility as that to make it known in this House. We have no such bounden duty. Therefore these views which are put forward have no foundation whatever, and are only calculated to upset the 1255 feelings of the public with regard to the Territorial Force, and a more unpatriotic intention than that I cannot conceive. I had a great deal to do with the old Volunteer Force, and I say advisedly that we have in the Territorial Force at present a force which is far ahead of anything we had in the long years when both Conservative and Liberal Governments were satisfied with the old arrangements. We have organised a Home Army which would be amply recruited if only those who are obsessed with the idea of introducing the Continental system will allow the system to work and the whole of the Territorial Force to develop itself as it is developing. There must naturally be a deficiency in the numbers of the Territorial Force at a certain time from the very reason of the enthusiasm with which it was first taken up. You cannot enlist 150,000 men in one year and not feel the effect of it after three years, when those who first came in may be going out. But, as has been pointed out just now with regard to the Regular Service, so it is with regard to the Territorial Force. There must be a normal, and it would be a normal of some 50,000 or 60,000 a year, which I believe will be amplified by voluntary effort.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
I have already told the Committee several times that the question of our being invaded depends on the strength of our Navy. We have got to keep up the strength of our Navy. If we do not, we may render ourselves liable to invasion, but no foreign Power in those circumstances will take the trouble to invade us, for the very good reason that they could starve us out. So this question of invasion in this connection is a perfect absurdity. I do not believe that, in any circumstances, the risk arises. We must be prepared to deal with those partial invasions, those raids which might take place on small bodies of troops, that might evade our Navy, but I do not consider that that is an invasion. When one feels strongly on a subject, he may not always put his points as strongly as he would wish, but this I do wish to maintain, that I am perfectly satisfied that the patriotism of this country will maintain all the military forces which we require, both for foreign service and Home service, and that those who go about detracting from the merits of our Territorial Force, solely for the 1256 purpose of trying to introduce or put forward an alternative, which I do not believe any Government will ever dare to introduce, are doing a very unpatriotic act.
§ Mr. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I must dispute the statement of the hon. Baronet who has just sat down, that the Navy is the sole defence of this country. The hon. Baronet apparently does not realise the distinction between the command of the sea and the control of the sea. It is quite possible to lose temporary control of the sea. During that time an invasion might take place, and it is most important that our Navy should be free to move to whatever point may be required. In order to do that you must have a very strong garrison in your sea-port towns—or it would be a suicidal policy for the Navy to leave our shores. It is only necessary to remind the House that Nelson himself fought great battles, including the battle of the Nile, at long distances from our shores, and he was only able to do that because we had strong garrisons in our sea-port towns. Reference has been made to the question of horses. That is a matter of grave importance to this country, and we cannot do better than insist that proper provision should be made. At the present moment there is no adequate provision from our point of view. The Secretary of State for War told us that he has arranged for all the horses he requires. We beg leave to state that a great many of those are paper horses, and do not exist, and if that is disputed is it or is it not the fact that the 12th Lancers came home the other day mounted on South African ponies, and that the 15th Lancers on coming home were mounted on Mounted Infantry horses? Of these Mounted Infantry horses, a great number were unable to bear the strain of Cavalry work, and already they have absolutely broken down. Some of them were shot, and others had to be drafted out of the regiment. Does that look as if we had an adequate supply of horses for our Cavalry? If not, how can the Secretary of State for War tell us that the present horse supply is satisfactory?
We look with very great uneasiness to the fact that we have actually a diminishing number of horses. For 1913–14 we have 28,849, and last year we had 31,101. Yet the Secretary of State for War states that he has increased the number of horses. He has added a very small number of horses to each Cavalry regiment, 1257 but he has reduced the number of Artillery horses by 471. These are the very horses which it is most difficult to obtain at all times, and which it would be almost impossible to get on the outbreak of war. They require a great deal of training; it takes a long time to make them fit to draw a gun. I hope the Secretary of State will be able to give us a satisfactory reply upon these points. I do not think the horses are there now, and there is no allowance for reserves to make good the wastage which must commence immediately on mobilisation. The right hon. Gentleman told us yesterday that he thought that the danger of war was not immediate, and that we should be quite prepared to meet any strain that might be thrown upon the Army in the way of horses when the time came. Why is the danger of war not immediate? Does anyone suppose that the European Powers would make these enormous additions to their armies unless they thought there was necessity for them? A practical country like Germany does not add 200,000 troops to its army for fun. European nations do not like paying for additions any more than we do. They make them because they believe that there is a stern and immediate necessity for increasing their armies to this extent. Another statement of the Secretary of State at which I was rather surprised was that Great Britain is an island and that therefore we are free from all fear of invasion. Our advantages as an island have very much decreased from the fact that transport is much more rapid and the carrying capacity of ships has so enormously increased, and that therefore a very much larger force can be brought over in very much less time than was possible formerly. It would only be necessary to lose the control of the sea for a very short time to allow a very large force to be landed on these shores.
I should like to refer to the question of aviation, which also bears on this subject, because the temporary disturbance caused amongst our fleets by a large quantity of high explosives being dropped amongst them would materially affect the question of their maintaining the control of the sea. There is also the danger to the dockyards and towns, especially at night. The Secretary of State for War told us that airships could not be used effectively in this country because it is so easy with the guns that we have got to shoot at the airships and bring them down. I should like to quote an extract from an article by Mr. 1258 Charles C. Turner, an expert on this subject. He says:—On the other hand they (aircraft) are not easy to bring down by means of Artillery. Their range—still more their exact position in the air—is extremely difficult to find at anything more than 2,500 feet altitude, and when found approximately it requires specially devised appliance worked with great skill in order that a gun may be trained and fired quickly. And aircraft will not willingly be brought within range of Artillery. Before going into the matter in more detail it is well to bear in mind two or three actual experiences of aircraft. A captive balloon pierced by thirty-eight rifle bullets in seventy-six holes was not seriously affected thereby.; at Toulon last September an air target towed by a destroyer at a range of 6,500 metres was fired at by a battery with fifty-six shrapnel on the out journey and fifty-six on the home journey without an actual hit being recorded. Experience in the Balkan war shows that an aeroplane can have its wings pierced by bullets without being brought down.Further on Mr. Turner states that—Lieutenant R. E. Scott, late of the United States Navy, got ten out of eleven bombs on a target 20 feet by 10 feet front a height of 1,000 feet. This result was due to the use of a bomb-timer and in no small measure to skill in piloting the aeroplane.I cannot understand how after that the Secretary of State for War can say that we can adequately defend ourselves against foreign airships by a high angle gun. All this points to the fact that we must have in this country an adequate supply of trained men and of trained horses. I say advisedly "trained horses." It is no good to say that we can obtain the number of horses required on mobilisation. What we want is an adequate supply of suitable trained horses. Without that we must have an immediate breakdown in our military arrangements. I was glad to hear that the Secretary of State was going to subsidise ten thousand horses at £4 apiece, but I was disappointed at his reply that those horses were to have no training whatever in pulling guns. Anyone who has had the slightest experience knows perfectly well that, if you put untrained horses into the guns, they, owing to being unaccustomed to the rumble and to the swing of the guns, become absolutely unmanageable. That was not the case with the old 'bus horses. They were accustomed to pulling a very heavy rumbling weight which frequently skidded and was very like the action of a gun. They were also accustomed to stopping and starting, sometimes into the collar and sometimes out. These horses were eminently suited to take the place of gun horses in time of war. The horses which are now being subsidised are accustomed to steady draught, and if you put them into a gun under these conditions they will be found very much wanting in utility. We were told this morning that although horses for heavy draughts were giving 1259 place to motor transit in London, that was not the case all over the country. That is not my experience. In Yorkshire many breweries which formerly supplied a large number of horses are now adopting motor traction. All over the country the same thing is happening.
If the Army is to take the field with an adequate supply of horses some other remedy will be absolutely necessary. The only remedy that I can see that is at all satisfactory is that we should go at once into the market and buy a large number of horses, which we must train and hold in reserve in time of peace. I propose that we should buy at least 10,000 horses at three years old instead of four years old. They would cost us less money; they should spend the first six months or a year in training, and they should then be turned out. There is a large amount of Government land available and admirably suited for the purpose; but, if necessary, exra ground should be obtained. The cost of maintaining these horses would be £10 each a year. They would be bought at three years old, thoroughly trained, and then turned out until the age of six. Those that were most suitable for the purpose would then be drafted into the Army, while those which were not required would be sold, and I venture to say, at an enhanced price. This is all the more necessary at the present moment because of the enormous increases in foreign armies. It inevitably follows that if the Continental Powers supply themselves with horses they must come over here and buy our three year olds. I was told the other day that they were actually contemplating buying two year olds and keeping them in reserve. Therefore, if we are to have the horses when we require them, we must buy them for ourselves now. If necessary we might even buy two year olds in order to meet the foreign competition. The expense of this would be small, and the advantage, I beg to think, would be enormous. As it is now, if we were to mobilise to-morrow we should have to call up all these untrained horses, and the wastage would be enormous. It is hardly necessary to point it out to the right hon. Gentleman—for he knows it already—that the wastage in one column alone in South Africa during the first year of the war, amounted to no less than 50,000 horses. We are told that that would not happen supposing we were to mobilise now. Why not? If you are going to take these horses out of hot 1260 stables, with clipped coats and without rugs on, and after a hard day's work in such weather as we have had lately in the North of England, make them stand in a bitterly cold wind, tied up head and heel, they would be dead in a week from pneumonia. People say that you turn the hunter out and that they do not catch cold, but that is a totally different case. You cool him gradually, and then you turn him into a field, where he can walk about. The wastage in another war would be quite as great, if not greater, than in South Africa, and the only way we can avoid this is to buy horses, to buy them now, to train them, and to turn them out, so you will have them available when required. During the period between the three years and the six years, in which they are passed into their regiments or sold, you would always have that reserve of 10,000 horses ready. That is a matter of great importance. The Secretary of State for War has an enormous responsibility upon his shoulders. I only hope that he will prove himself worthy of the trust that is reposed in him. That he will rise to the occasion, show that he has got patriotism and practical ability, and that he is determined to make the Army efficient in every detail, especially—so far as I am concerned—in regard to horses.
§ Sir CHARLES HENRY
I am certain the Committee have listened with great interest to the remarks of the hon. Member who has just sat down. I believe he speaks with considerable knowledge, and my right hon. Friend will, I feel certain, take into consideration the different points that he has raised. The few remarks I wish to offer to the Committee will be devoted to the Territorial Force. I cannot refrain from expressing disappointment that a more substantial amount has not been provided in the Estimates for this branch of the Service. It must be admitted that during the past few weeks attention in some degree has been diverted in the principal countries of Europe from the navies to the armies. Therefore, under conditions as to-day, it is imperative that some substantial means should be taken to place our Territorial Force upon a more permanent basis. There is a feeling on the Continent that the people of this country are somewhat apathetic and indifferent in regard to the conditions of the Army. I do not admit it. At the same time, it must be recognised that if our Regular Forces are to command that recognition they merit we must show that 1261 we have behind them, both in numbers and quality, a good and effective Army for Home defence. I have always been a very ardent supporter of the scheme of Lord Haldane. I think it is generally allowed that there has been shown a vast improvement on the Volunteer Force which it superseded, and that in many respects the scheme has answered our anticipations. At the same time, we cannot be satisfied when we find that the force, as propounded by Lord Haldane, shows to-day a deficiency of 50,000 men from established strength.
I believe that the real reason for these unsatisfactory conditions is that the War Office is striving to do the impossible, and that is to finance this Territorial Force on too narrow a basis. I consider that it is almost a fallacy to expect that you can finance and find the necessary means to thoroughly equip an Army of 300,000 men with an expenditure of less than three millions sterling, or at the rate practically of less than £10 per man. You are trying to run your Territorial Force on the cheap. I complain that in respect of any organisation, and especially an organisation which has to perform the duty which the Territorial Force has to, that it is false economy to run it on this system. I would respectfully urge my right hon. Friend not to be backward in demanding from the Treasury additional money in order that there may be secured a greater degree of efficiency for the Territorial Force. We have to recognise this fact—it must be admitted that human nature being what it is, people will not work for nothing. With all the desire of patriotism, if you want to get the right kind of men you will have to offer them some inducement to forego their recreation, and work in the interests of the country. You must be prepared to offer them a somewhat greater financial inducement than at the present time. Two seasons ago, when the Insurance Act was under consideration, I strongly urged that that would be an opportunity of showing some preferential treatment to the members of the Territorial Force. I am very sorry the Government did not adopt the suggestion made, which was very strongly urged by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton. I said then, and I repeat, that the approved societies would have taken those men at a reduced scale without running any risk, because all of them, from the fact of their being in the Territorial Force, are good lives, and therefore less likely to become a charge 1262 on the insurance fund. I would again urge my right hon. Friend to consider whether he cannot induce the Treasury to reconsider this matter. If you take the Territorial Force at 300,000, not more than 250,000 would be insured persons, and if all the contributions of these 250,000 men were paid by the War Office—the 4d. of the men and the 3d. of the employers—for I say the employers should receive some consideration for the inconvenience they must experience—if the whole of this insurance money were paid, it would amount to £350,000, while by reducing the contributions of the employers by 1½d. and those of the employed by 2d., half this amount would be involved, and it would be most favourably received.
I notice the Memorandum which my right hon. Friend has submitted to the House announces that the insurance contributions of the members of the Territorial Force will he paid when they are in camp. I would suggest that he should give them preferential treatment for the rest of the year. Another matter in connection with finance is that it would be an incentive if the members of the Territorial Force could receive some remuneration for the drills they put in. I do not expect, or indeed think, it is desirable to give anything for the first year, but after the first year, I think for fifteen drills, there should be a bonus of not less than 10s., and that in order to induce reenlistment they should receive for every drill payment in excess of what they receive in camp. I would also urge that the men in camp, who stay there for the whole fifteen days, should receive pay on a more liberal scale than those who remain for a shorter time. There is another suggestion I have to make, and it is, I think, rather an innovation. I have nothing to say against the county associations; I believe they have done their best to further the scheme of Lord Haldane. In some instances, in the latter years, they may have been lacking in enthusiasm, and may not have developed the necessary energy and activity. I want to offer a suggestion, and it is that the working of the county associations should be transferred to the county and borough councils. My object in advising that is that I should like to see every county council and borough council made responsible for supplying a quota of men, which should be determined in accordance with the number and conditions of the county or borough, and if they did not procure 1263 the required number they should be surcharged. That would be an inducement and an incentive to every county council to supply the requisite numbers, and it would be regarded as a matter of prestige and dignity to come forward with the necessary numbers of men.
I would like to see greater inducements given, not only in public schools but also in private schools, and that there should be a system of training useful for military purposes, and that a Grant should be given to the schools in accordance with the efficiency they displayed. I heard with satisfaction the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman in connection with army promotion from the non-commissioned ranks to the commissioned ranks. I would also like to know whether that will apply to the Territorials, as I believe it would help, if such a career was open to men in the ranks of the Territorials, and if a greater number of men were elevated from the non-commissioned ranks. Officers of the Territorial Force do not, in many instances, receive those dignities and honours, which are such an incentive in the Regular Army. I believe we have the material, and the willing material, to acquire efficiency both in numbers and in stamina in our Territorial Force, but it is absolutely necessary that it should be dealt with on a more liberal basis as regards finance than heretofore, and that other inducements should be held out also. I urge my right hon. Friend to take the matter into his careful consideration, and I hope he will also take into consideration whether the recruiting for the Territorial Force might not be done by the county and borough councils.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Sir C. HENRY
I said distinctly there should be no form of compulsion. Suppose a county council should be called on to provide 10,000 men for the Territorial Forces, and that there was a deficiency of, say, 2,000 men, my idea is that they should be charged, say, £5,000; that would go upon the rates, and it would be a stimulus to encourage recruiting.
§ Mr. LEE
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and I think, upon this point at all events, we are in agreement that neither he nor I are satisfied with the 1264 Territorial Army as it now stands. I am not altogether sure that I agree with the remedies he proposed for placing it on a more efficient basis. In the earlier part of his speech he made it clear that it would be necessary, in order to bring it up to the requirements, that an appeal should be made, not to the patriotism of the young men of this country, but to their pockets, and he suggested various ingenious and non-military expedients by which that might be done. There was a certain suggestion with regard to the Insurance Act with which I do not particularly quarrel, but his last suggestion with regard to fining the county councils, or rather the ratepayers, through the county councils, because the regular quota of recruits was not forthcoming, would not, I think, be received with any great enthusiam in most of the rural districts, where there is a suspicion, though it may be quite ill-founded, that the rates are already high enough. But I was amazed at his suggestion that this fine should be put in force without in any sense having compulsion; that is a very remarkable situation. You would fine those authorities, but you would not oblige them to pay!
§ Sir C. HENRY
If a charge were laid upon the county councils it would have to be paid, but my point is that the county councils should not have power to compel men to join.
§ Mr. LEE
It is rather a subtle distinction between compulsion and voluntary enlistment. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that something has got to be done, because the cause of home defence is of vital importance, and it has become more vitally important since the Debate yesterday. I should like to begin the remarks I have to make by offering my humble and hearty congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) for having extracted from the Government an official statement of the greatest possible importance, which has greatly cleared the air and dispersed the fog created by a recent Debate in another place; and, incidentally, I thank him for saving me from covering a great deal of unnecessary ground. We have now been definitely assured by the Secretary of State for War, speaking in the presense of the Prime Minister, and obviously with his approval, in reply to a question which has often been asked, both in this House and in another place, but which hitherto 1265 has never been answered, that the War Office is prepared, if strategic necessity should so require, to send the whole of our Expeditionary Force of 170,000 men overseas, and at once. I say at once, but, of course, I mean as soon as they can be mobilised and dispatched. That implies without waiting for the Territorial Army to receive any more training than it had already received up to that date. I regard that as perfectly right and an absolutely necessary decision, and we have got it at last unequivocally upon high official authority. It is obvious that if the Expeditionary Force is required at all it is liable to be required at once. Putting aside for the moment various doubts which I entertained as to the size and sufficiency of the Expeditionary Force for certain possible contingencies which it might have to meet, I recognise at any rate that there is needed a recognition of what after all should be a mere truism, that an Expeditionary Force must be free at all times to go on expeditions and to go whenever it is wanted and wherever it is required. That has now been established as common ground between all parties, and it is equally true if there were no Continental problem to be considered at all. We now come to the point which was touched upon by the previous speaker with regard to home defence and what is left behind. Of course the Government, in making the announcement they did, were careful to claim that they could at the same time guarantee the safety of this country against invasion not merely on a large scale, which may be more improbable, but against even small raids.
§ Colonel SEELY
No. It is very desirable to make this point clear. It would be an impossible claim to make, in our view, that we should guarantee against the small raids. What I was asked was:—With our strategical position as it is, with our naval superiority as it is, do we consider the country safe from invasion in force?My answer is "Certainly."
§ Mr. LEE
I do not suggest that you could prevent a small raid, but I understood you were prepared to deal with it if it came. Of course this is vital, and for this purpose you must undoubtedly rely, in the absence of the Expeditionary Force, on the Territorial Army. Our contention is, and has been for many years, that the Territorial Force is quite insufficient in numbers and deficient in training and equipment to carry out these duties. I am not going to go over that ground again, 1266 because I want to come to other matters. That fact raises a doubt in my mind, and it is a very serious question in view of the situation that would be created where the dispatch of the Expeditionary Force might not depend on something more than the will and intention of the Government and might depend to a certain extent not merely upon strategic circumstances in other places, but upon the temper of the populace in this country at a time which might depend, again, upon totally extraneous circumstances. We all know that the civilian population is liable to panics, and particluarly liable in the absence of what they conceive to be a proper home defence force, and, what is more, a force which they can see and not merely an alleged naval superiority. They want a force which they can actually see and in which they have confidence. I am afraid there is danger in the present condition of the Government's preparations that there might be under these circumstances a popular panic which would be liable to paralyse the whole striking power of the Navy and of the Expeditionary Force which the Government might be quite ready to send, but which the people would not allow them to send. It is for this reason that the need is even greater than has been hitherto suggested why the Government should provide an adequate home defence.
The moment might arise when we shall have to choose between sending overseas every available fighting man of the Regular Army we possess, or, failing that, we shall jeopardise not merely our position as a European Power, but indeed the very existence of our Empire. In saying this I quite agree with the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Charles Henry) that there is no possibility on our part that we should ever be called upon to invade on a large scale a Continental country. Of course, that is absurd, and has never been suggested by anybody so far as I know. We may be called upon in a contingency, which did arise not very long ago, to send abroad the whole of our Expeditionary Force, and this being the situation our complaint is that the Government is absolutely ignoring what is occurring on the Continent at this time, and they are doing nothing to strengthen our position at all on land or sea or in the air, and all that they have promised is a fresh inquiry by the Imperial Defence Committee into the possibilities of the invasion of this country. I must say a word about that inquiry because if, 1267 as suggested in the statement made by the Government, it is to be limited merely to the question of the possibilities of the invasion of this country then I say that is dealing with only a portion of the subject and not necessarily the most important aspects of the problem. I confess that I cannot help feeling apprehensions upon that one point, because it is really an inquiry into what we claim to be the shortcomings of the Government in their preparations for national defence, and yet that inquiry is to be conducted by themselves. We cannot help considering the possibility that the report of that inquiry may be in conflict with the reports which have been issued in previous years, the existing report being based upon the suggestion that in certain contingencies 70,000 foreign troops might arrive in this country and have to be dealt with. I ask the Government to consider what they think will he the effect upon the popular mind if that inquiry should report that that number of 70,000 in the opinion of the new Committee should be reduced. I do not believe, considering it is the preparations of the Government that are under examination that such a report would carry any real weight with the people of this country.
§ Mr. LEE
One reason why is that they will remember what took place at the naval manœuvres last summer. They know that in a very few hours 28,000 of the invading force were landed on these shores. I am considering what would be the effect if the result of this inquiry should be to reverse the decision which was arrived at some years ago, that we had to deal with a possible invasion of 70,000 men. Is it not obvious, considering that Continental armies and navies are relatively far stronger as compared with us than they were when the inquiries of 1905 were made, that the relative strength both of our Army and of our Navy is less, and that therefore the possibility, I do not say the probability, of invasion is also obviously greater? I quite agree that it is high time this whole question was inquired into again, but I do think it is essential the inquiry should be into the full problem, and should not be limited merely to this question of a possible invasion of these islands. The Government should follow the precedent of 1905 when the whole problem was inquired into, and 1268 they should report on two heads: First of all, what are our oversea military requirements, and, secondly, what are our military requirements for home defence? What is the number of invaders considered possible, and the number and the nature of the troops which would have to be provided to defend us against them. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, in his speech yesterday, with his usual optimism, told us that "a bolt from the blue"—I understand that to mean an invasion—is absolutely impossible.
§ Mr. LEE
At any rate, he told us that on his own ipsi dixit. We were under the impression that was the very question this Committee was going to inquire into, and yet beforehand he is telling us this matter is really chose jugée, and that we have nothing to fear in that connection. I think on the whole it would be better to wait until we get the report. In the meantime, what is he providing in anticipation of that report for our defence? The Under-Secretary earlier to-day disputed altogether that any number such as 400,000 had been put forward as the force required. I do not say the right hon. Gentleman has put forward precisely that number, but he will remember that last year, in a speech made on the subject, he took that figure as the number we had got, and, in his expressive phrase, he said:—If 70,000 invaders came here, our 400,000 would eat them up.Therefore we assume he has got 400,000. My right hon. Friend surely showed conclusively in his speech yesterday that we have got nothing of the kind. It is admitted by the right hon. Gentleman that the Territorial Army is seriously below strength. He regrets it, but he tells us there are 100,000 Territorials who have pased through the ranks and who would be quite ready—I think he said they were willing and anxious—to serve in a case of emergency. They may be willing and anxious, but we should think a little more of their willingness and anxiety if they would join the Territorial Reserve, and they have almost unanimously refused to do that. He made it quite plain in his speech, I think in answer to an interjection from me, that he was speaking only of numbers and was not referring in any way to the question of efficiency. Then having passed by what we should regard 1269 as the most important question of all, the question of efficiency, he proceeded to water down the problem of the numbers by telling us in language which I must say amazed me at the time, and which, I frankly confess, caused me to laugh, that it was a mistake to suppose it was desirable to mobilise a very large number of men, because the smaller number that was actually mobilised the better would be our chance of success.
§ Mr. LEE
The right hon. Gentleman, who likes to keep up a running commentary, suggests that he alone of all men is the one who thinks, and that his opponents are animated really, I suppose, by a frivolous spirit in considering these matters. He expects us to receive a statement of that kind thrown across the Table of the House without any explanation with all seriousness. It is too much in keeping with the past policy of this Government with regard to military affairs. They have always told us that although they have reduced the Regular Army, although they have reduced the Militia, and although the Territorial Force is less than it was, at the same time our military forces are stronger. Now we are told that the smaller the number of men we mobilise in the event of an invasion of this country the greater will be our chance of success. I hope some day he will do us the honour of explaining that remarkable proposition. I can only in the meantime say that I myself am quite unable to accept his suggestion that all is well with regard to home defence.
§ Mr. LEE
It certainly was the note running through all the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. If he is not satisfied, why is he not doing something? I am very glad to hear that he is not satisfied, because the one that has exasperated us more than anything else has been the note of self-complacency and self-satisfaction at the existence of the present system which has run through everything he has said. I 1270 am delighted to hear that he is not satisfied, and I hope in his future speeches we shall hear some further development of his policy. It is quite clear the developments on the Continent and elsewhere necessitate a reconsideration and an overhauling of our military resources, and, as I think, a very large increase to our Regular Army and a new condition of our Territorial Army. He appears to me, as far as we can judge from any memorandum or speech he has made, that he is doing absolutely nothing. There is no increase in the Regular Army; on the contrary, there is a decrease. There is no increase in the Reserve. There is no increase in the home defence troops. We are doing nothing to strengthen our command of the seas, and I hope to show we are also neglecting the new problem of the command of the air. I must confess that when I read in the newspapers which support the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends articles in which they comment almost painfully on what is being done on the Continent of Europe with the same air of detachment and contempt that a professor might feel who is examining some curious animalculæ through his microscope, I am struck with the fact that they do not seem to have any conception how intimately and terribly these questions also concern us. I am afraid they never will realise it until after the next war, and then they will be the very first to denounce those statesmen who have neglected our defences. But, of course, it will be too late. Unfortunately, at the present time, the Secretary of State for War—I am not going to say, what he said to me, that he does not think about it; I am quite sure he does think about it; but so far as we can judge from his speeches, and from the official statements which he has made, he does seem to be oblivious to the problems which he is appointed to deal with. I can assure the Committee that it is no pleasure to anyone who knows the right hon. Gentleman and who has admired his many abilities to be obliged to express, within the somewhat inadequate limits of Parliamentary language, what we feel about his recent speeches. It is his misfortune, I know, to be called to an office which by no means is a bed of roses for anyone; which very few care about, and which very few make a success of. I say quite seriously that no one wishes more than I do that he should make a success of it; but so far, I cannot help saying, he seems to approach the great task which he has been called upon 1271 to deal with in a spirit almost of frivolous optimism and an almost—judging from the speech yesterday—incredible, and at the same time an obviously genuine, sense of self congratulation.
§ Mr. LEE
I am sure it is quite unconscious. In times like this, when the whole of Europe is almost like an open powder magazine, and when a disastrous explosion might occur at any moment, it is really difficult to follow with patience some of the speeches which the right hon. Gentleman makes in the country, and here, and which he seems to think good enough. These speeches, I venture to say, whilst causing unlimited amusement among foreign critics, must make his professional advisers wince. They make us in this House shiver. He excuses the lack of numbers and training in our forces by saying we have a knack of winning. Lord Napier, I think said, that war is not an experimental art. It is a very serious thing, which can only be laboriously acquired. It is the first time I have heard from the lips of a responsible person in the right hon. Gentleman's office the suggestion that strategy, tactics, gunnery, fire discipline, and matters of that kind are a knack which can be acquired by comparitively untrained troops. Then he made a speech the other day in his constituency at Ilkeston, in which he said that the Regular Army is far better equipped with the essential requisites of war than any army in the world. Really that is a monstrous assertion. Take the air service; the question of horses; the supply of officers on mobilisation; rifles; all these things. Does he really think—he can hardly believe it—that the Regular Army is better equipped than any army of the world.
§ Mr. LEE
I can only say I do not believe there is another man in the country who believes it. Take the question of the new rifle? Where is it? We have heard about this new rifle from year to year. It has been promised, but it is still not available; and if we were to go to war now, we should have to go, it is admitted, with a rifle which is inferior to that possessed by our possible enemies.
§ Mr. LEE
If it is not, why replace it? Lord Haldane on 20th February—he was then responsible for the War Office—said:We have been at work for long devising a new rifle. This pattern has been approved, and it will be the finest rifle in the world.Where is it? We are still put off from time to time. We are told that the War Office is still experimenting. But we are still without that rifle, and we shall be without it, necessarily, for two or three years at the present rate of progress.
§ Mr. LEE
The right hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear." How can he possibly think, in view of that, that we are better equipped in all the essentials of war than any other Army in the world? Then we come to the question of aviation. I must say I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman yesterday, not merely with genuine disappointment, because I did think that he was going to make a satisfactory announcement on this particular question, but also with ever-deepening anxiety. It is quite clear again that he personally is quite satisfied with what he is doing in this connection, and that was shown by the fact that he brought with him a typewritten anticipation of the praise which we were going to give him after the statement which he produced. I have got the words here. He read this—he must admit it: "If I am asked why such a measure of success has been achieved." No one asked him the question.
§ Colonel SEELY
I want to clear up that. I had very voluminous notes, but I did not use one single word or one complete sentence taken from those notes. They were all facts and figures. I generally speak without notes. I did not anticipate praise, nor had I it in my notes. When I used those words I was looking down at the precise figures in my notes.
§ Mr. LEE
If the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied, I will leave it there. All I can say is that the situation, so far as I can judge from what he said, is far worse than we feared. It is true his statement was such that it was very difficult to ascertain what were the facts, because he shrouded 1273 the whole thing in such an atmosphere of secrecy, which, to a large extent, was unnecessary, I think. We all know it is a familiar device of Governments when in a difficulty to suggest that there is a great deal that they could tell us if they were only permitted to do so. He certainly suggested that there were vast activities in this connection of preparation for aerial defence which he was not able to disclose, and I am afraid, consequently, we were not altogether able to believe him. And this was the disappointment. I am not suggesting that in anything the right hon. Gentleman said we did not believe him. I am referring only to the vague suggestions which he held out of further preparations about which we were considerably sceptical. We had great hopes of the right hon. Gentleman in this matter if, for nothing else, on account of his own language. When he introduced his scheme in connection with this subject, on 4th March last year, it was, we thought, neither adequate nor ambitious, but it was promising on paper. I will quote his actual words:—We have laid the foundation of a plan which will ensure that this country in the long run, sooner rather than later, may be able to hold her place in the air as she has done in the centuries both on land and sea."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1912, col. 74, Vol. XXXV.]That was the plan and the promise. Now compare it with the reality, as disclosed yesterday. That plan involved the purchase of 130 aeroplanes. Where are they? We have not got them now. His highest claim yesterday was that he had 101, and although we pressed him to tell us how many of these 101 were really effective machines, he displayed quite extraordinary reluctance to tell us how many of them were available for purposes of war, and finally we gathered from what he said that the whole of these 101 were considered as part of the available fighting forces of the air in this country. I say frankly that we do not believe it. We know that a considerable proportion of them, at any rate something like 25 per cent. or more are monoplanes, the use of which was forbidden, even for practice, by the right hon. Gentleman himself six months ago, yet he suggests that these machines should be counted as part of our effective fighting forces in time of war. In his Memorandum he only claims that he has three squadrons of aeroplanes, which, I understand, means thirty-six machines, twelve machines to each squadron.
§ Colonel SEELY
It will be very much more convenient if the hon. Gentleman will not insist upon misbelieving what I said. I said eighteen.
§ Mr. J. WARD
The hon. Gentleman said it really made no difference, and that his figures were as nearly correct as possible. It seems to me that half as many again is not quite near enough to be comparative accuracy.
§ Mr. LEE
I will say, even standing corrected by the hon. Member for Stoke, that fifty-four, which is admittedly the strength at present of our available squadrons for aerial defence, is not 101, nor is it anything like sufficient. How many more has the right hon. Gentleman ordered since? He attended a banquet of the Aero Club the other day, at which he made one of his absolutely baffling speeches, in which he told the members of that club thatour progress during last year had been greater than in any one year in any other country.He went on to say—he must forgive me if this is a statement I do not altogether believe—thatProvidence had gifted us with such immense advantages. We have the skill and the brains. … We taught the whole world. … It is to the most courageous race that the victory will go. We shall not be found wanting in that essential.It was not necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to give us that most interesting and moving description of the gallantry of many of the young officers who are taking part in this work. We all know it; it is what we expect of them. We all know that they risk their lives as freely in that service of their country as they would in any other branch of the Service. Those considerations are totally irrelevant to the main question—what is 1275 the Government's policy, and what is the Government doing to provide us with an efficient force? It would be extremely unwise, if not dangerous, to suppose that we, in this country, have a monopoly of the brains or of the courage in matters of this kind. It is not detracting in any way from the gallantry shown by our own officers if I suggest that possibly equal gallantry has been shown in a country like France, for example, which has been the pioneer in the matter of aerial navigation. The right hon. Gentleman evidently considers that we have an advantage in that respect. A colleague of his in the Cabinet, the Chancellor of the Duchy, made a speech on the same occasion in which he said, to justify our lack of preparation, thatour national talent for delay had almost invariably brought with it the merit that we had been able to take the fullest advantage of the discoveries, the ingenuity, and the activity of other people.The right hon. Gentleman has made other speeches which are not altogether helpful to the Government, but surely on an occasion when he was speaking for the Government to a meeting of men interested in this industry, it was a very poor encouragement to say that.
§ Mr. LEE
Very well, it is absolutely unimportant. It was about the same time. The Financial Secretary told us last year that our military position against invasion had considerably improved owing, among other things, to our airships. When you compare these speeches with the actual position to-day, and with the actual equipment we have, whether it be for the Army or the Navy—obviously to-day I cannot deal with the Navy, although I hope to do so on another occasion—it must be universally admitted that our equipment is absolutely insufficient. The right hon. Gentleman says that there is an increased expenditure of £283,000 on 1276 aviation this year. I do not know whether that includes the Army and the Navy. I gather it means both.
§ Mr. LEE
Then on the Army alone there is an increase of £283,000. We shall have to deal with the Navy on another occasion. What is the result? Last year the right hon. Gentleman said it was necessary that the Expeditionary Force should have eight squadrons. He tells us to-day that we have three, and that he hopes that we may have two more at the end of this year, and, presumably, two more at the end of the following year—that is to say, in order to provide the minimum force he considers necessary for the Expeditionary Force alone, we are to wait until the end of next year, and that our Expeditionary Force, dating it from the time that he first took charge of this development, will have to wait three years for its necessary eyes. Meanwhile he is making no provision for squadrons or aerial equipment for our home defence Army. In his Memorandum he throws a certain amount of the blame for this upon British manufactures, in that they have been slow in making deliveries, and that there is no satisfactory engine. How could there be, in view of the lack of encouragement given to our home manufacturers by the Government to produce either aeroplanes or engines? The right hon. Gentleman recognises that now, and he and his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty are going to join in offering a prize for an engine. Why did they not do that long ago? They must know the condition of the aeroplane industry in this country, that it is not a rich industry, and that they find it extremely difficult to make both ends meet. They have had no certainty of order from the Government. It is only now, when the delay has been so clearly proved to have placed us in a dangerous position, that the War Office and the Admiralty are going to co-operate in offering a prize. How long will it be before we get engines on a large scale? The Army is still conducting laboratory experiments in airships whilst other countries already with their air fleets have command of the air. I am not going into an elaborate comparison of our strength as compared with that of other countries, but take the case of expenditure alone. Germany in the coming year is spending £1,800,000 on military and naval aviation, in addition to £300,000 which has been subscribed from private sources.
§ Mr. LEE
That the Army did not want any of these large airships, and that they had got what they required, which was two small ones. Is there any reserve? Does the right hon. Gentleman suppose there will not be enormous wastage of that kind of material in the case of war? If two airships are requested for the purpose of this Expeditionary Force in the field, does not he require a considerable extra number in order to see that the force is maintained in actual war? I went myself last summer to see these large airships operating on the Continent, and I saw this airship, the "Parseval," which I understand the Admiralty is buying. I saw it in a contest with a Zeppelin. A ship of the "Parseval" type, which was part of the military equipment of the German Army, is utterly powerless in the presence of a Zeppelin, and it reminded me, in the manœuvre which I saw, of an unfortunate grouse squatting in the presence of an eagle. It took to the ground at once and was utterly powerless to do anything in the air in the presence of this larger and more powerful airship. I am not going to press that point as against the War Office's small airships. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the airship is the business of the Admiralty. But they have not got any either. Whilst it is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers that a large airship is not required for military purposes in this country, I would remind him that these large airships, imperfect as they be in their present developments, have at any rate proved that they have a radius of action of over 1,200 miles, a radius of action which would enable an airship from the Continent to cruise practically all over these islands and return. It has also been actually proved that they are able to drop a weight approximating to one ton, and we only have to imagine that weight composed of explosives to get some conception of the moral effect—I put it no higher than that—in any country which was going through that most difficult period, the throes of mobilisation on the outbreak 1278 of war, if it were possible for these airships to appear over mobilisation centres, dockyard magazines or even the House of Commons, and what effect that would have upon our military preparedness for the dispatch of our Expeditionary Force.
The right hon. Gentleman took great comfort from the fact that we did not have all our eggs in one basket, which is quite true. We have several magazines, and we have several dockyards—we have only one House of Commons, and I would suggest that under the present control of the House of Commons it would be the last place that any enemy would wish to interfere with. But consider what is the comfort which the right hon. Gentleman offers us, that because we have many targets, therefore all cannot be hidden, and he suggests as really our only counter remedy at present, that he and his advisers have produced a new gun about which he can tell us nothing. He said it was the best in the world. Everything that he has produced is the best in the world. He is, of course, the best War Secretary in the world, and he says it is the easiest thing possible for this gun to hit any airship which could possibly come within range. From my own personal observation the Zeppelins which I saw last summer, which are painted a light grey, are practically invisible against the ordinary grey sky which we so ordinarily have in this country. I was told that the Infantry soldiers said that on looking over their rifle sights at one of these Zeppelins against the sky, they could not even see it to fire at.
§ Mr. LEE
About 5,000 feet—less than 1,800 yards—by no means an excessive range. Then it was suggested, what would happen at night? The right hon. Gentleman said, "Well at night if we cannot see them, they cannot see us." But I wish the right hon. Gentleman would extend his practical experience in flights to going up in one of his Army airships at night over a dockyard which is working, as it would be, at full stress with all its lights showing. I have been informed by competent observers that actually at night under these circumstances the target is plainer than in the daytime. Everything is outlined by the lights.
§ Mr. LEE
I have no doubt forgotten the right hon. Gentleman and his gun. 1279 Still, you cannot have these guns everywhere. Then the question is, who is to shoot? As an ordinary peaceful citizen I contemplate with some forebodings the possibility of the Territorial Artillery being called out to indulge in night practice at the Planet Venus as it hangs low on the western horizon. I think it is liable to cause a good deal of unpleasantness in the neighbouring villages and yet that is the only defence which the right hon. Gentleman has given us so far except, of course, the Home Office regulations. You must not forget that. The Home Secretary in addition to all his other difficult and counter duties has issued regulations under which all trespassing airships will be prosecuted and they are warned, no doubt after consultation with the Law Officers, that there are spring guns. Regulations of that kind may be very effective and may even cause alarm in dealing with tourists, but if you have an enemy who really means mischief, who wishes to do some damage and to create a panic in our mobilisation period by dropping explosives, does he really think that either his Home Office regulations or his guns are going to be really effective to deal with a difficulty of that kind? You can only deal with a menace in the air by counter preparations in the air and nothing on any adequate scale is being done, from his own statement. Therefore I think that we are justified in feeling real disappointment that the Government did not bring forward some substantial programme dealing with all branches of this subject, and not merely the question of aeroplanes, of which there should be a very much larger number, but also with the question of airships, if only for experimental purposes, because we have no experience in the matter at all. They are doing nothing to provide aviation stations and sheds for airships, and the costly plant which has been proved to be necessary for these on the Continent. We require in the first place a very much larger number of trained pilots and mechanics, and, secondly, we require a great deal more money than is represented by the figure in the present Estimates. We require double the amount which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to spend. We require at least £1,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman's statement on aviation was far from being the matter of congratulation which he seemed to think it ought to be. It is one which, I feel certain, will, when thoroughly understood, and when the in- 1280 adequacy of his arrangements has been properly examined by the country, cause not only a feeling of acute disappointment, but even of indignation and alarm.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Harold Baker)
I rise to reply to one or two of the points that have been raised in the course of the Debate. I am afraid that I cannot possibly reply to every question that has been asked. I shall begin by dealing with what was said by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lee) on the question of aviation, to which he devoted the larger part of his speech. The hon. Member, in his concluding remarks on that subject, did indicate some of the lines on which progress would have to be made in this comparatively new science. In the earlier part of his remarks he contented himself with a rather vague denunciation of the statement made by my right hon. Friend yesterday, and with the assertion that the state of preparation, which he said existed, did not, in fact, exist. I venture to say that the statement made by my right hon. Friend as to the progress made up to date gave satisfaction, not only to the Members of this House but in the most surprising quarters outside the House; and, although the hon. Gentleman may find some to agree with him, I think they are in a considerable minority on that point. Let me try to bring the hon. Gentleman's criticisms rather more closely to the test of facts. He dealt with the total of 101 aeroplanes announced, and asked how many of these were really effective. I can only repeat what my right hon. Friend said yesterday, that every one of the 101 is an active, operative, and working machine which could be used for purposes of war.
If you come to analyse more in detail the composition of the 101, it is perfectly true that there are a certain number of monoplanes which have fallen under the ban of the Monoplane Committee. The Report of that Committee was to the effect that they could discover no special difference in point of stability between monoplanes and biplanes, but they did recommend, as a matter of precaution, that certain alterations should be made in the existing monoplanes, and also that some alterations should be made in the case of biplanes. We have a certain number of monoplanes. The hon. Gentleman put the number at 25 per cent. of the total. It is around that figure. There is nothing easier than to convert almost all these 1281 monoplanes to the standard recommended by the Monoplane Committee, and the work on some of them is being rapidly pushed through at the present moment.
§ Mr. BAKER
They have been tested, and have been proved to be effective. I would point out that, although we have put forward this number as representing the military aerial defence of the country, the hon. Gentleman must remember that the totals alleged for France and Germany include monoplanes, and that equally their stability is as much open to attack as those mentioned by my right hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman raised some objections on this point. He then dealt with the question of squadrons, and my right hon. Friend corrected the actual number. It is quite true that fifty-four is the establishment, but fifty-four is not the strength. The strength is very much greater than the establishment. Although fifty-four happens to be the establishment, the number of effective aeroplanes is not thereby limited merely to that total. The hon. Member dealt in some detail with the question of defence, and I think that there he was perhaps not quite just to the statement put forward yesterday by the Secretary of State. He spoke of the mysterious air of my right hon. Friend, and complained of the secrecy we had observed in relation to defensive guns. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would not have pressed for information on that point. He was met by the positive assertion of the Secretary of State that the difficulty of hitting an aerial target had been proved by experiment to be very much overestimated.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), in dealing with the question of aviation yesterday, said that we were still in the period of experiment, and he seemed to imply that other nations had passed out of that period. He seemed to imply also that we alone, through the backwardness and inaction of the War Office, were still in that stage. He brought forward no evidence to support that view. He stated that France had 500 aeroplanes available, and he further asserted that ours were not the best. Has he any reason to suppose that the 500 which France possesses are the best? They are of different ages and 1282 qualities, just as our aerial fleet is composed, and to suggest that foreign nations have reached a stage in which all difficulties are solved is to falsify completely the position in that respect. We have proceeded so far as we well could in this matter. The question of engines is a very difficult one. The question of getting aeroplanes themselves is an equally difficult one. We have a total of 101 at this moment, but within a few weeks, even in a few days, that number will be considerably increased. I think the hon. Member (Mr. Lee), who has great knowledge of these matters, knows as well as anybody the great difficulty of getting aeroplanes manufactured in England and delivered when required. I do not say that in every case it is the fault of the manufacturer, but if the supply were more ready we should be in a position to provide larger figures. I pass to the question which was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for the Southern Division of Monmouthshire (Sir Ivor Herbert). If he had been in this place now, I should have liked to congratulate him on his new position with respect to the forces of the Crown. He asked whether the Government were completely satisfied with regard to the Cavalry of the Expeditionary Force. I can assure him that they are in every respect. We can produce the men and the horses for the fourteen regiments which are required without a moment's delay the very moment it is required to mobilise the Expeditionary Force. It is of course to be remembered that the war establishment and the peace establishment are not the same. The war establishment is smaller than the peace establishment, and I hope that that fact will carry conviction to those who might be sceptical and persuade them to believe that we can produce without any difficulty, both the horses and the men.
The hon. Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Meysey Thompson) raised a rather larger question of horses. He was not satisfied with the very full, and I should have thought, satisfactory statement of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary this morning. His specific complaint was that we had reduced the total number of horses in the Army, and particularly the number of Artillery horses. It is quite true that the figures on the Estimate show that in the Army as a whole, there is a reduction of over 2,000 horses. But it is not enough to allege this fact without taking into consideration the causes which have led to that reduction. There are two main 1283 causes for that reduction. One is the large reduction in the transport horses in South Africa, owing to the reduction of garrison, which is no longer required. The other is that we are gradually reducing the Mounted Infantry in this country, and the consequence is that fewer horses are needed for training. We have been training during the last few years a large number of men for Mounted Infantry duty, some 2,500 a year, and we have now a sufficiently large number, and in future years the number in training will be reduced to a little over 400, which will correspondingly reduce the number of horses required. Those are the two main items that make up the total of 2,000. With regard to the particular case of the Artillery, it is quite true that if we take the Artillery as a whole, there has been a reduction in the number, but that is because these training brigades, which never would be mobilised in any circumstances, and were never required to go into the fighting line, are no longer necessary and have been reduced, and therefore there is a reduction in the total number of horses. But in spite of that reduction, no fewer than 450 horses have been added to the fighting line of the Artillery without any reduction in efficiency in any other department.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Can you tell us something about the horses which are kept out on grass farms and which were referred to last year? What is the acreage of the farms, and the number of horses?
§ Mr. BAKER
I hope that the hon. Member will pardon me if I do not do that, because my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary went very fully into that question this morning. Now a word about the scheme of promotion from the ranks, about which a statement was made yesterday. As my right hon. Friend says, no new principle has been introduced into the Army in this matter. What we are doing is to make an old principle effective at last. In deciding what scheme should be adopted there are certain essentials which must be found if it is to have any chance of success. In the first place, you must be able to absorb and to make undistinguishable from the ordinary officer the promoted ranker at the very earliest possible moment.
It follows that until that absorption takes place, and until he becomes completely merged in all respects with the 1284 whole body of officers, he must be supported in some way or other out of public funds. The difficulty is one that has always stood in the way of promotion from the ranks. Though we had examples in the Peninsula war of men promoted from the ranks who had a distinguished career; at the same time many who were promoted from the ranks did not, because, at the outset, they were hampered by want of means, and could not continue. I found in the course of my reading a very curious instance which occurred in the Peninsula war, where a man was actually twice promoted from the ranks. On the first occasion it was because of a deed of great courage and daring that he was promoted, but he could not continue to live as an officer and at length succumbed to the temptation to sell out. Not very long afterwards he again succeeded in doing an act of meritorious aspect, and was the second time promoted from the ranks. Benefiting by the experience he had acquired on the first occasion, in some way or another he managed to continue his career. The earlier period of promotion from the ranks has always been attended with difficulty, but now by the scheme which is being framed we can secure that a man promoted from the ranks shall have every chance to establish himself in his new position, and to attain to the highest point in the career open to him.
There is one point which nobody would ever dream of losing sight of, and that is that we must not benefit a certain number of individuals unless we at the same time increase the efficiency of the Army as a whole. Put in short words, that only means we must make sure of getting the right men promoted from the ranks. The hon. Member for St. Pancras, in his speech yesterday, entered a caveat against the introduction of what he called the Sandhurst failures. He said he hoped that it would not be made a channel through which could be introduced men who had failed to get in by the ordinary channels. I quite agree, and I suggest that the danger is avoided by our proposals. We have assurance that we shall obtain the right men by means of the machinery which is being devised. We have, in the first place, in the Secretary of State's nomination, a barrier against the danger to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and not only that, but you have examinations which must be passed at later stages in order to enable a man to continue. Those examinations, in the view of those best 1285 acquainted with the subject, are examinations which it is quite proper to expect every promoted ranker to pass, and those who cannot pass will find their career cut short, and they must consider that fact before applying for entrance. The hon. Member for Leith Burghs yesterday said, with great truth, that the old class who supplied officers for the Army were no longer available in sufficient numbers. That is quite true, and doubtless prizes are offered them in other directions—in the City and in business life. We will do the best we can to attract to the Service those who have the interests of the country at heart and who desire to follow the career of officers, and under this scheme for increased pay they will be enabled, even though poor men, to live on their means. The right hon. Member opposite said that the new proposal would cost a great deal of money. It depends entirely upon its success whether it does or not. If it is a success, then it may cost money, but I think that it will be money thoroughly well spent. It is limited to certain arms and is also limited to those who satisfy certain conditions of efficiency, and if this scheme for introducing efficient officers from the ranks is successful no one will grudge the money which the Government have decided to spend upon it.
§ Mr. BAKER
It is essential that it should be abolished so as not to differentiate unfairly between the men promoted from the ranks and Sandhurst men. Instead of having second lieutenants, you will have lieutenants of different rates of pay. It is more a matter of nomenclature. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover dealt with the question what would happen in this country when the Expeditionary Force was sent abroad. He began by what he seemed to think was new, but I do not think it is anything of the sort, by extracting a statement to the effect that the Government would not hesitate if the conditions demanded to send an Expeditionary Force abroad, and then to guarantee home defence. Starting from that assumption, the right hon. Gentleman made all possible deductions until finally he said there were only some 73,000 Regulars and Reserves available in this country. He then assessed what he considered to be the needs of home defence, made the necessary 1286 subtraction, and told us that there was a deficiency of 175,000 men. Although I think he put these figures forward in a temperate way and made a great many very proper qualifications, he left such a very large margin of error as to amount to a considerable difference. He took the figure of Army Reserve as 125,000. I am assured by those who know about these things and have made the necessary calculations, that 125,000 is too low altogether, that it should be at the very least 130,000 as the normal. The fact is that there has been such a steady and satisfactory growth in Section D lately that the normal should be put as high as 130,000.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I was about to say I was contrasting the normal as given yesterday with the Estimate by the Army Council in 1909 of 116,000 with the actual, which is 145,000, and I took 125,000 as a reasonable mean.
§ Mr. BAKER
I was very careful to say that the right hon. Gentleman approached his sums in a spirit of the greatest fairness. What I am concerned with is showing what these figures really are. That particular figure ought to be increased by 5,000. I am not contradicting the right hon. Gentleman so much as correcting him in the light of information which I have received. I pass from that to what I think is a much more serious matter. The right hon. Gentleman gave the figures of the Expeditionary Force at 171,000. I leave it at that. He went on to deduct 10 per cent. for the first draft, and 15,000 for the lines of communication and garrisons. But those are already included, and there is no possible justification for deducting them again. That makes an error of no fewer than 32,000 in the right hon. Gentleman's calculation. He next deducted 8,000 for Reservists abroad. I leave that figure, because although those Reservists will begin to come back immediately the summons goes to them, the whole point of the right hon. Gentleman's calculation was the state of things at the exact moment the Expeditionary Force left these shores. Then we come to casualties—temporarily disabled and sick. The right hon. Gentleman took these at 6 per cent., or 18,000. That figure is largely in excess of that suggested by our advisers at the War Office; they think it is 3,000 out. With regard to recruits and immature soldiers also, a considerable reduction must be made in the figure taken by the right hon. 1287 Gentleman. I am assured that 10,000 must be taken off there. If these alterations, which I have not put forward in any spirit of carping criticism, are made, it will be found that the difference from the total given by the right hon. Gentleman is some 50,000.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I will not reply to the argument now, although I think there is something to be said on the other side. But the last deduction is one rather of quality, not of number. I did not deduct the immature soldiers; I only said they were not as good as mature soldiers.
§ Mr. BAKER
It is a question of quality, and how many should be deducted is a matter of expert opinion. The number which I have deducted is that which I am assured by our experts would be justified, and it is very much less than that put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. On these figures, 50,000 have to be deducted from the deficiency which he suggested. If we go on to take his alternative, namely, to count in the whole of the Territorial Force instead of merely that part which had attended camp for fifteen days, the actual minimum, on the needs as he defined them, is reduced to 15,000 men. When the matter is brought to that point, I may fairly say that everything depends upon what those needs are. I do not propose to go into that question for several reasons. The first is that, in the opinion of those responsible, it would be very undesirable to state what the exact needs are in this matter. Another reason is that this very subject is to come up for reconsideration before the Committee of Imperial Defence, and I would certainly not speculate as to what the result of the deliberations of that Committee will be. The whole of this difficulty and danger, I think, really is based on the theory of invasion in force, which we on this side of the House—and I believe military opinion—absolutely reject. The need for the enormous numbers indicated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, is a need calculated in the face of a considerable invasion. If you limit the matter, as we do limit it, to the occurrence of small raids, then even this deficiency of 15,000 men, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own figures, is so paltry that we may neglect it altogether.
The right hon. Gentleman went on in the latter part of his speech to say that important changes were taking place on 1288 the Continent. He told us of the disparity between the rate of increase and expansion of the armies as really the one thing which made war certain. I thought that was a very strange doctrine, but I am bound to say that I thought it even stranger that the right hon. Gentleman should illustrate it by the metaphor of an arch in which he said all the stones support one another. I would be the last person to accuse the right hon. Gentleman of any infelicity of language or idea, but I am bound to say that he rather diverged from his usual standard in choosing that illustration. Certainly it is not a very good metaphor for either large or small armies which are meant for use against each other, and not for mutual support. I think it might very well be applied to parties within the State in connection with military affairs. Only by the support of one another in that way can they maintain the fabric of military efficiency. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, and to other hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate, that in this question of the alleged inefficiency of the Territorial Force and the alleged backwardness of the Government in coping with that difficulty, it is folly for some of them to take up the line they do. It is folly on their part to make the Territorial Force less efficient for its work until they are ready to put something in its place. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have no chance."] There will never be any alternative to the voluntary system unless the party opposite take it up. If they do not take up conscription or some compulsory form of service it will never be taken up by this side. There will be no conscription put forward by us under present conditions. It is the duty of everybody to unite in supporting and improving the system that now exists. I do suggest that you should not destroy until you can undertake to replace what you destroy.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
I would just like to refer in opening to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's speech. It appears to me to be quite different to what was understood from the Secretary of State for War yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman assured us—very greatly to my delight—that if the occasion arose—and he did not think it had arisen yet—the Government would most certainly take steps to alter the system of recruiting, and if necessary have compulsory service—
§ Colonel HICKMAN
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman led us to infer that if the emergency rendered it necessary he would not be backward in taking the necessary steps to meet it?
§ Colonel HICKMAN
The hon. Gentleman, the Financial Secretary, now tells us that under no circumstances at all would the Government ever take that course. I had hoped to keep this question altogether out of the region of party politics. I have been attending meetings in the country, and the organisers of those meetings have taken particular care to see that both sides of politics have been expressly invited to attend. In this campaign which is now carried on by that great soldier Lord Roberts we can see distinctly from the names of the people on the platform that it is to be kept away from party politics. I can speak with knowledge of my own Constituency where at a certain meeting half of those on the platform were Radicals. It is perfectly clear from that that the people of this country, on both sides of politics, are thinking about the matter.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
They are thinking about the question and are only too glad to flock in their numbers in their readiness to hear Lord Roberts speak. Therefore it does not seem to me quite right for the hon. Gentleman, as representing the Front Bench opposite, to say that they would never take up the question at all. Moreover, the Secretary of State for War yesterday said this was a question for the people. I quite agree it is a question for the people and soldiers are now going up and down the country and putting it to the people, and I have most earnest hopes that before long the people will say, not only to the Front Bench opposite but to the Front Bench on this side, that they artist have it—
§ Colonel HICKMAN
These are the actual words used by the Secretary of State for War yesterday:—If there was immediate danger pressing upon us the Government would adopt any expedient necessary to secure the safety of the State.
§ Colonel SEELY
Let us have no misunderstanding. If it is implied that I 1290 said the Government would adopt that other method of enlistment, I never said anything of the kind. I said the Government would be bound to take action in the presence of immediate danger. I never suggested what the particular action should be.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
The right hon. Gentleman used the words, "any expedient," and he also said:—I say we are not in a position now to advocate such a gigantic change, and in the meantime we propose to do all we car with the co-operation of the men of all parties."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, col. 1094.]I leave the House to infer what they like from that. The inference is quite clear to me, at any rate. I should like to say a few words upon the question of the Artillery. The right hon. Gentleman, in the statement which he issued to the House, and also in his speech yesterday, would give us to understand that he had made the Artillery much more efficient in the last year. I beg to differ from the right hon. Gentleman, and to say that I cannot see things in the same light. I examined the Estimates for last year, and I find that the total of Field and Horse Artillery batteries to be 122. In the Estimates this year I find the number is 116. It appears to me, therefore, we have six batteries short, and with whatever twisting of words and of figures, you cannot get away from the fact that our force has been reduced by these six batteries. There has been a great deal of talk about the efficiency of the Territorial Force. I do not think anything has been said about the Volunteer Artillery, but I think all soldiers will agree in saying that it is impossible that the Territorial Artillery could be efficient with the amount of training they have. It is absolutely impossible for any Artillery to be properly trained and to be asked with any fair chance of success to meet a Continental Artillery with the amount of training they have. I will give an instance. Last year a major of a Territorial Horse Artillery battery told me what actually occurred. He was ordered to mobilise his battery on a certain Sunday; he was also ordered to carry through his shooting practice on Monday, the very next day. Could anything be more clear to us than that that sort of training is absolutely impossible? Anybody who has been responsible for superintending the practice of Artillery in camps knows that before the Royal Artillery goes to camp they have a great deal of training before them, 1291 both in gun-laying and in range-finding, and also in driving. They have a regular preparation each year before they go to their Artillery camps, and if you ask an Artillery battery which is going on one day to take over fresh horses not known by the men, and with which they have had no driving practice at all, if you ask men who have had no practice in gun-laying or range-firing that year to go and shoot the day after they are mobilised, it is quite impossible to suppose that they are in any way capable of meeting on anything like even terms any Continental enemy that may be opposed to them. That brings me back to the simple deducion that if the Secretary for War had done the right thing he would not have reduced those six batteries of Royal Artillery, but he would have brought them up to full strength, and at the time when the Expeditionary Force might be called away those six batteries would have been available to strengthen the Home Defence Force which would have been left behind. That appeared to me to be the proper course to take. Several hon. Members spoke yesterday on the subject of the National Service League, making out that that league was going against the Territorial organisation and spoiling its chances of recruiting. I am glad to hear that the Secretary of State has given up that idea, for I notice that he did not say a word about it yesterday, and apparently he has dropped it altogether. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will bear me out when I say that, at any rate, he can exonerate me from having done or said anything in the country indicating in any way a desire to depreciate the Territorials. The right hon. Gentleman knows what I have done to help them.
The hon. Member for West Renfrewshire (Colonel Greig), took up a very strong line on this subject, and he made out that much harm was being done by the National Service League in stopping recruiting. It is an extraordinary thing that while a strong compaign on this subject has been carried on in this country by Lord Roberts at the very same time, we find according to the Secretary of State for War's own figures, a large increase in the recruiting for the Territorial Force. That certainly does not look as if Lord Roberts was doing any harm to recruiting for the Territorial Force, but rather the opposite. I have heard Lord Roberts speak on several occa- 1292 sions on this subject, and he has always spoken in praise of the Territorials, and even gone out of his way to induce men to join them; so that if it were possible to arrive at that happy end which the Secretary of State said he wanted, namely, National Service by consent, Lord Roberts would be the first man to say, "if you can get it, by all means have it." I should also like to comment on the reduction of the number of men in the Army by 1,000. Last year, when the Secretary for War told us he was going to increase the establishment, in order to allow more elasticity, so that a regiment, at a time when recruiting was brisk, would be allowed to take a few men over the establishment, so as to try and keep the regiment up to its proper establishment when recruiting was not so brisk, I complimented him, and said it was a good move. I am sorry to see that this year he has now gone back upon that, and that this thousand by which the Army are to be reduced is on that account. There was something said just now about what my right hon. Friend (Mr. Wyndham) said in regard to monoplanes. The Financial Secretary to the War Office told us that my right hon. Friend found fault with all monoplanes. As a matter of fact, he objected to the Secretary of State using monoplanes in war, which, he told us yesterday, were not fit to use in times of peace. My right hon. Friend elicited from the Secretary of State that there was a certain number of monoplanes on the establishment for which he took credit in time of war which he would not ask officers to fly in times of peace, because they were not safe. I do not think that is treating officers properly. If any particular monoplane is not safe, you have no right to ask an officer to fly it in war.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
The hon. Gentleman must not get away from the point. He found fault with my right hon. Friend for what he said about monoplanes. What my right hon. Friend objected to was that the inferior ones which were not allowed to be used in times of peace should be allowed to be used in war. I am quite sure every soldier will agree with that point. The hon. Gentleman also found fault with the right hon. Gentleman for what he said about the 6 per cent. casualties. I can assure him, having had some experience 1293 of war for many years, that that percentage is not at all too high. I should myself have placed it higher. If the Territorial Force was up to esablishment or anywhere near it, or if we saw any chance of its getting up to establishment, and if we saw any chance of the proportion of men doing their full term of fifteen days' training, or anything like a large proportion of these men getting their standard test of musketry, we should not be so concerned, but it is quite clear from the figures given us by the Secretary of State in the Memorandum that these desirable results have not been attained. Something like 155,000 only passed the standard test in musketry last year, and only a similar number attended the fifteen days' training. Out of the 252,000, the total number of the force, something like 30,000 did not attend camp at all. Of course, the same men did not do both; but, I will give it at its best and say 155,000 men are efficient according to the standard. That is a very small number and is nothing like the number which the Member for Dover made out in his speech. If you are going to have such a small number, if they are to be whittled down in the way which was so cleverly done yesterday, it leaves practically nothing worth speaking about. As to the men who are left behind, the Regular soldiers, after the Expeditionary Force has gone, the right hon. Gentleman found fault with the Member for Dover's figures. He made out that these figures were wrong to the tune of 50,000 men. Whether he was right or wrong in that calculation. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that it does not matter whether it is 50,000 or 100,000. If these men are not in regiments, brigades, or divisions, if they are not in their proper cadres, with officers and non-commissioned officers to look after them and command them, such a body of men is of no earthly use. It is plain that these men should not be counted. They are men taken out of the Expeditionary Force—young soldiers, men who are inefficient who have been replaced by efficient men. The right hon. Gentleman has no right to take credit for 100,000 of this class of men as being ready to go alongside the Territorial Force and act in the defence of this country. I would rather see those young soldiers, when they had become physically fit or had reached the right age, sent as drafts to replace the casualties in the Expeditionary Force. It is quite certain, from the calculation of the Member for Dover, that the numbers of men stated as being left to guard the 1294 security of the country is absolutely incorrect.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
In the course of these Debates we have heard a great deal in reference to the Special Reserve, and I am glad that at last the country is waking up to the condition of that branch, because for many years it has scarcely been mentioned. Since the Militia disappeared, and the Special Reserve took its place, there was up to last year practically no debate upon the Special Reserve. Last year we did succeed in calling the attention of the House to the fact that no steps had been taken to deal with this very important branch of our forces, and I must say in fairness to the Government that they then immediately did take some steps. They have appointed a Committee which is inquiring into the conditions of the force, and I only regret that the Committee has not yet reported, and that it is impossible to do anything in the present year. I earnestly hope that some practical steps will eventuate from the deliberations of that Committee; otherwise the Force will disappear altogether. I hope the country will understand the condition in which the Special Reserve stands. A few years ago before the Militia was abolished, you had 126 battalions of Infantry who could come out, and did come out, as units. In the South African war 126 came out, sixty-one served in South Africa, nine in the Mediterranean, and fifty-six in garrison duty at home. In place of the Militia you have now the Special Reserve, of which only twenty-seven come out as units in the case of mobilisation. The remaining seventy-four are what are called "depot battalions." The condition of the whole force is really from the point of view of numbers very deplorable at the present time. There is a progressive decline in the numbers, and what successive Governments have done, as the numbers have fallen off from year to year, is to reduce the establishment, but we find that every single year the numbers on the reduced establishment have fallen again. A few years ago the establishment was 135,000 and the actual number was about 110,000. Last year the establishment was 89,000 and the actual numbers were 63,000. This year the establishment is 78,000 and the strength is about 61,000. If we go on like that, it is clear that the force will cease to exist altogether.
1295 Look at the condition as to the officers. The Government tell us—no doubt it is true—that there has been an increase in the number of officers in the present year. I am very glad to hear it. Even now we are 1,267 officers short. Only yesterday I looked through the Army List and found that some battalions, with an establishment of twenty-six officers, had only eleven; others on the higher establishment of twenty-nine officers had only thirteen, while more than one battalion, with an establishment of nineteen subalterns, had only three. The Committee and the country must realise that unless serious steps are taken—I earnestly hope that the Committee will enable us to take those steps, and that its recommendations will be acted upon promptly—the force cannot possibly continue. What has the force to do? There are seventy-four depot battalions. Upon the Expeditionary Force leaving this country they would be the feeders of both the Line battalions of the regiments. You would have what an hon. Friend of mine called a mob of men who would come to the Special Reserve battalions, the immature boys from the Line battalions would go to the Special Reserve. The Army Reserves who do not go straight to the Regular battalions would also go to the Special Reserve. I am told that the battalions would contain 1,400 men, chiefly immature lads from the Line battalions, and partly Reservists not immediately wanted for the line battalions. What would be the conditions of officering that force? Immediately on mobilisation every Special Reserve battalion has to send four officers to the Line battalions. When your strength of officers is nominally twenty-six, you have only eleven; it would mean that you would have only seven officers to take charge of 1,400 men. Under this scheme the seventy-four depot battalions have double duty to perform. They are not only depot battalions in the sense that they feed the Line battalions abroad; they would also have their own mobilisation stations, and a certain definite rôle, in some cases an important rôle, allotted to them in the scheme of home defence. How on earth are these two duties to be performed with a battalion of 1,400 or 1,000 men and only seven or a dozen officers?
I hope that we shall get better names for this force. Extra Special Reserve suggests the name of "Black and White" or some brand of intoxicating liquor. Take 1296 the Extra Special Reserve which occupy the place in former years taken by the 126 battalions of the Militia Infantry. They are to go out as units to do garrison duty—it may be in the Mediterranean, or on the lines of communication at the seat of war. Their condition is truly lamentable. They have a nominal establishment of 750 men. I do not believe there is one of them that could put in the field now 450 men. I have had the privilege of being out in camp several years alongside one or two of these Extra Special battalions. Last year in brigade three were depot battalions, like my own, and one was an Extra Special battalion. The Extra Special battalion had an establishment of 750. The others had establishments of 580, and yet the Extra Special battalion was the weakest of all. There is not one of them, in my opinion, which could mobilise more than 450 men, when you have to deduct your 10 per cent., or whatever it should be, and after the very severe criticism as to whittling down, I am rather afraid as to what deduction I ought to suggest. (Still you would deduct something for immature boys, who certainly could not go abroad.) I do not believe on the average you could send these battalions away with more than about 300 men. Then they have no reserve at all. The Regular battalions have their Army Reserve. They have also got what there is of Special Reserve in the depot battalions, but these Extra Special battalions, who are in the Army scheme of mobilisation, who are liable as being necessary to be sent abroad, who are part of our Expeditionary Force, who have to take their place in lines of communication, they will go out mere skeletons of battalions, something like 300 strong, very short of officers, and with no means whatever of making up the wastage of war. Therefore those few of us, chiefly on this side of the House who have served in the Special Reserve and who previously served in the Militia, have done some good in calling the attention of the country to the condition of this force. My view is that if the Special Reserve is fulfilling a useful function, and I do not see how your Army system on its present lines is to be carried out without it, then the Government must give attention to it and the country must see that somehow or other it is up to its strength. The old plan of reducing the establishment year by year and then saying you are only 10,000 short of the estab- 1297 lishment cannot go on for ever, because the force would disappear altogether. Therefore, I certainly was very glad when the Government were prepared to meet us in the way that they pointed out. I earnestly hope the Committee will report very shortly and that energetic steps will be taken by the Government to carry out their recommendations with the least possible delay.
It is with great regret that I have not been able to catch the Chairman's eye. We are now going to vote the numbers of men and this is the only opportunity we now have to point out that it is not a sufficient number of men for our Regular Army, and that is a question which has hardly been touched at all.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being Five of the clock, the CHAIRMAN, proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House of 17th March, to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at Five of the clock at this day's sitting.