§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I very much regret that it is necessary for me to refer to-day to subjects which I have already brought to the notice of this House. I confess I had hoped they would have been dealt with by the War Office long before this, and would have rendered any further reference to them unnecessary. The Government have, on more than one occasion, notably through the mouth of the Prime Minister, expressed their thanks to Members of the Opposition individually and collectively for the services which they have from time to time rendered during the last few months in support of their policy and the plans which they have adopted for the War. In reference to this matter I am certain I can speak for every one of my hon. Friends with whom I usually act, and I believe that, for once in my life, I might even go further and speak for every Member of the House who is not seated on the Treasury Bench, when I say that we do not desire, and we do not think we deserve, thanks for anything which we may have done to assist the Government in their great national work. To whatever party we may belong or whatever may be our individual calling, we look upon it as a very great privilege, which we are proud to avail ourselves of, to be asked to do anything, however small, at a time when our nation is in difficulty and our Empire is confronted with so great a crisis. We neither desire nor deserve thanks.
I do not know whether in what I am going to say next I can speak for hon. Members opposite, but I am satisfied that I am speaking for my own side and for many outside this House, altogether 1572 irrespective of party, when I say that, while we do not desire thanks or recognition in any form for what we have done, we do hold, and hold very strongly, that we have not received from the Government during the last few months the recognition to which we are entitled as Members of the House. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, speaking the day before yesterday, described our position here as almost a farce. He said that, for his part, he would prefer that the Government should bring in a sort of Henry VIII. Bill giving them absolute powers and constituting themselves, what they really are—dictators in the present situation. In the position in which we find ourselves, when we are called upon to take part in Debates which appear to have little if no practical result, we are, I think, entitled to complain that the Government have not recognised up to this moment, and, so far as we know, have no intention of recognising, the expressed opinions of Parliament, even when it is clear, as it has been on many occasions, that the opinions are shared by almost every section and, I might almost say, by every Member of the House, with the exception only of the Government Bench. I could enumerate, if it were necessary, many subjects to which this description applies. I could refer to the aliens question, upon which opinions were expressed from all sides of the House, and upon which opinions have been expressed outside this House. I believe that the Government stand alone in the view they take as to what their policy ought to be in regard to this great question. The House of Commons has spoken as plainly as the House of Commons can speak. They have done almost everything. The one thing they cannot do, and which I hope that they will not do at this or any other time, is to carry their criticism of the Government to the extreme length of a Division in the Lobby. I appeal to those who have, as I have, a long recollection of the practice and custom of this House, and I say that it has been the invariable rule for Governments to act when they have found that the feeling of Parliament was opposed to the proposal which they had made; they have not waited for Divisions.
I could enumerate cases in which Governments to which I myself have had the honour of belonging, have made proposals, some of them dealing with the Army, which they have found, when they were brought under 1573 the fierce light of Parliamentary discussion, did not receive the support of Parliament. It did not require Divisions to force the Government at that time—normal peace times—when there was no truce, to take action to alter and in some cases to entirely remodel their policy. If that were right, and if that were the almost unbroken rule in normal times, when the critics of the Government had all their weapons bright and ready to their hands, how much more ought it to be so when those weapons have been voluntarily and temporarily laid on one hide and when all we can do is to urge upon the Government the views which we hold, and explain to them the reasons why we believe that their policy is wrong When we find that our views in principle, if not actually in detail, are generally accepted in the House—
§ Mr. LONG
The hon. Gentleman who interrupts hardly followed what I said. I said, "when we find." If we do not find our views shared, my proposal falls to the ground. When we find that our views are shared in principle, it may not be in de tail, we are doubly and trebly entitled to expect at the hands of the Government the treatment which we have received in times of peace and in all normal times when Debates take their ordinary course; and for my part I regret immensely that on these particular questions to which it will be my duty to refer, the Government have not taken their cue from the evident sense of Parliament. It is not only the sense of Parliament, but it is the strong view of the people of this country. The people of this country are ready to find money, even by the sack, and they are prepared for the time being to withhold their criticisms even if, as they think, it is unwisely spent, but they are unanimous and heart-whole in their desire that everything that money can do shall be done for those magnificent fellows who are fighting so gallantly for us on French, Belgian, and other soil to-day. Is this wish of the country being acted upon by the Government? I have brought up case after case in which I have shown that injustice of the gravest kind is being done to the soldiers in the field. That injustice has been increased one hundredfold by the events of the last few weeks. I regret that it should be necessary for me to deal with these questions at all, and above all to deal with them in this particular way.
1574 I want to express my regret—this refers not only to the War Office—that there has not long ago been a Committee of the Government known to us all by name whose duty it would be to supervise the proposals and the policy of the various Departments and to see that they harmonise. There can be no such Committee, because at this moment the policy of the different Departments is absolutely inconsistent. Let me give one example. The War Office are constantly urging the necessity of additional aid in making the necessary provision for the troops in the field. We were discussing yesterday or the day before a Bill brought in at the last moment—the House knows that is a procedure which can only be justified in times of great national emergency—and we were told that the need for this special Bill was so to command the resources of the country as to be able to add to our supply of the munitions of war. We know that the Treasury have issued special orders in regard to financial matters. Within the last week—I only give this as one example—the Treasury have addressed a communication to the London County Council as to the issue of loans by them, and have desired them to restrain their ardour and to be as chary as they possibly can. Why? In the first place, because every penny we have got is wanted for the prosecution of the War, and, in the second place, because all the labour we can get is required in order to produce the munitions of war.
At the very moment when the War Office and the Treasury are doing this, the Local Government Board write to the local authorities and urge upon them the immediate expenditure of money upon very important and desirable works which would absorb a very large amount of the identical labour which the War Office tells us they are seeking in order to provide the munitions of war. Could anything be more hopelessly inconsistent? I see the President of the Board of Education (Mr. J. A. Pease) there. The same thing, I am informed, can be said of the Board of Education. At this very time when we want to concentrate all our thoughts and energies and resources upon the prosecution of this War, other Departments of the Government than the Treasury, the War Office, and the Admiralty, urge upon the local authorities the expenditure of money on labour which could very well wait until the War is over. 1575 Could anything more than this inconsistency show the necessity of a Committee of the kind I have suggested. I hope the Ministers now sitting opposite will not fail to convey to their colleagues this suggestion, because I am confident, if it were adopted, it would materially improve the conditions under which we are working.
I come now to the War Office itself. I have said that, by their policy, they have not made things easy for us here, and in some respects they have made them very unsatisfactory indeed for the soldier in the field. Some weeks ago I said in this House it was a very great pity the Government did not take Parliament more into its confidence as to the general state of affairs. I watch, as I have no doubt other hon. Members do, the statements in the newspapers with the greatest possible care. I read several papers in the morning and what is the result? Does anybody who reads the communications in the newspapers—the telegrams and so on—feel when he has sought information from a good map that he really knows what is actually going on and what is the position of affairs? I venture to say that not one man in a hundred can give a really intelligent account of what is going on. The information afforded is of the most meagre description.
One piece of information might surely be given us: we have asked for it repeatedly. We have been invited by the Government to aid them in getting recruits and we have responded to that call. The work has, I think, been well done by all classes in the community. We are asked to continue it, and if the Government would treat the country as intelligent grown-up people instead of as children, and very stupid children too; if they would say to them frankly, "We believe the forces which the Germans are going to put into the field number so many, and in order to meet them we have determined to raise so many men," it would be better. But they have decided otherwise, and I accept their decision. I do not now ask them to tell us the number or recruits they require, but they might inform us what they estimate to be the forces of the enemy, and then, instead of relying as we do on the calculations made by distinguished men here and abroad, and making the best deductions we can from them, we should, if we had the Government statement, at 1576 all events know, as sensible people, what, in the view of the Government, we have to face in this way, however the War may be prolonged. I cannot understand why the Government should not take us into their confidence and give us this very small bit of information. It could not add to the resources of the enemy, as, whether it be correct or otherwise, the enemy have got their men and would not reduce the number because we had made a bad calculation We should know what it is we are working for, and, with that knowledge in our possession, we could give more intelligent help in recruiting than we do at present. This ought not to be treated as a matter of mere amusement by the Members of the Government present; it is a serious proposal and embodies the views held by a large number of people outside this House. I hope that even now it will receive consideration at the hands of the Government.
I made a suggestion to the War Office the other day, and no steps have yet been taken to adopt it. I cannot understand why. We are told—and there is no secret about this—that there is, I will not say a scarcity of officers, but a need for a larger supply of officers for two purposes—to fill vacancies unhappily created in our gallant regiments at the front by the lives so splendidly given by the commissioned ranks on the field of battle, and to supply officers to aid in the training of the New Armies at home. We are entitled to ask the Government whether they have exhausted all the means at their disposal to obtain these officers. I say they have not. The other day I called the attention of the War Office to what I regard as the hopeless failure of the system controlling recruiting in this country. What is going on in almost every town of a reasonable size—of, say, a few thousand inhabitants? You will find there two recruiting officers—one recruiting for the Regular Army and the other for the Territorial Army. I said on that occasion, in regard to 95 per cent. of the men joining either of those two branches of His Majesty's land forces, they are joining for active service and not for service at home, and to maintain two distinct organisations in order to enrol them is a waste of men, material, and money, and produces an immense amount of confusion.
But it goes even further than that. You have not only two sets of recruiting commissioned officers—fighting men, young men who ought to be on the field of battle 1577 and are longing to be there, and who are, instead, doing work which any one of us old men could do just as well—but you have also got a system which is wholly bad and wholly unnecessary. You have got two recruiting sergeants standing on opposite sides of a street no broader than the floor of this House, one of whom gets 2s. 6d. for each recruit he secures while the other sergeant gets nothing. What is the object of this? Surely if a half-crown is given to the man who gets a recruit for the Regular Army it ought in justice to be given also to the man who recruits for the other Army! Look at the result. You have two recruiting sergeants standing there in their uniform. They are like two vendors of a popular ware; they are doing their best to urge the advantages of each particular system; it is like that kind of account-keeping which I, as a poor landlord, always hated. I always said to my agent when he told me that so many pounds had been spent under heads A, B, C, and D, "What does it matter to me; it all comes out of my pocket? I only want to know how much has been spent." All this recruiting is for the Army; you want to get as many men as you can. Why, then, employ six, eight, or ten officers and non-commissioned officers when two or three could do the work? You have scattered all over the country hundreds and thousands of old soldiers—both of commissioned and non-commissioned rank—who would readily come forward to-morrow and do the whole of this recruiting work. It is not so very difficult. I am familiar with recruiting regulations. I know the old custom of the War Office has been such that a recruit cost nearly his weight in pens, ink and paper. Most of these documents might easily be dispensed with. We old fellows surely are quite capable of seeing that a man writes his name on a sheet of paper, of passing him from room to room, and of handing him over to the doctor! Why this should be done by a gallant soldier who is longing to be taking his part in the fighting in France passes my comprehension.
We have suggested to the War Office—but they have taken no notice of it—that they should first get rid of every officer of fighting age now engaged in recruiting and use them either for the work you have in hand abroad or for the training of men at home, which is very urgent. We have suggested, further, that you should amalgamate your recruiting systems; take the 1578 men from one source and distribute them, as they desire or as you may require, as between the two different Forces—the Regular and the Irregular. We maintain that this would result in very great economy. So much for the officers engaged in recruiting. This is not all. The War Office are still engaged in purchasing horses. This is a subject which is very familiar to mo. I have urged the War Office ever since I remember that a soldier, per sc, is the worst person in the world to send out to buy horses, and the War Office know well that a soldier is not the man to do this kind of work. Twenty years ago, or more, when the War Office began to hold manœuvres on a very large scale in this country, they went about the country carrying on mock warfare and necessarily did a good deal of damage to property. As soon as the manœuvres were over what happened? A body of officers—"cocked-hats," as they were irreverently called by the farmers—descended on the district and proceeded to assess the damage done.
I remember discussing the matter with one officer whom I found doing this work. He said, "What do you think of that field, Mr. Long? I am told by the farmer who keeps it that we have done it a great harm because our troops have been over it, and he wants a considerable sum in compensation." I said, "You are strange to this part of the world, Colonel?" He said, "I am. I have been sent down here by the War Office." He did not wear a cocked hat, but he had a cap with a good deal of gold lace on it, which appealed just as much to the farmer. He said. "What do you think?" I said to him, "I would call your attention to the fact that the tract of country which you point out is supposed to be a field of turnips, but as a matter of fact, owing to the great drought at the end of the spring which preceded this autumn, there is hardly a turnip to an acre, and I do not believe that if the whole of the Artillery in the British Army were to go over that field it would do more than a few pounds harm to it." He was greatly obliged to me for the information, and I have no doubt that the amount of compensation paid was a great deal less than it would have been if he had not been informed of the facts.
§ Mr. LONG
He heard a great deal about it from me, because I happened to know him. The hon. Member's interruption 1579 points to another important consideration. In dealing with these matters you want men who have local knowledge, not only of the land, but of the people on it. As a body farmers are as upright, honest, hardworking and straight as any other body in the country. But farmers vary, as do every other class, and some of them try to get the best, particularly of gentlemen in gold-laced hats. At the time of which I am speaking compensation for these purposes was assessed by a body of staff officers. We called the attention of the Government to the folly of that system. What was the result? After a very long time they abandoned it and adopted the present system, by which men who are used to the work of fixing compensation, who know what they are doing, who do for the War Office the business they are used every day to do for themselves, are called upon to do the work which they can do, and do it far cheaper than it could ever be done by any officers. Take the question of the buying of horses. Why do you assume that an officer is a good buyer of horses? He may be a very good judge of horses: he often is. He may be a very good horseman: he often is. But that does not mean that he is a good buyer of horses. You want to go to the same kind of man to whom yon would go if you were buying anything else, a man who knows what he is going to buy, and, above all, knows the method of the trade in which he is engaged and the people who are engaged in it.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
Those are the men we have got.
§ Mr. LONG
If only the right hon. Gentleman's practice equalled his speech, we should have no complaint to make. He says, "Those are the men we have got." You have got officers on the other side of the Atlantic buying horses—a sufficient number of officers to fill a division of His Majesty's Army. You may say they are the sort of men you have got; that they are good judges of horses and capable men. So they are. But does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the officers the War Office sent out to the United States of America and to Canada were conversant with the American system and the Canadian system of buying and selling horses, or, above all, that they were acquainted with the men who have been all their lives engaged in this trade? I do not think he will advance any such claim on behalf of the 1580 officers they have sent out. I will make him a present of his statement, and will allow, for the purposes of argument, that these officers have all the qualities that they require—full knowledge, intimate acquaintance with the extremely clever people who are the sellers of horses, not only in America, but also here; that they have all these gifts, that they are hard-fisted, and that they know how to deal with people who will take the skin off your back if they have the opportunity. Then I come back to my original question. Why, when he wants officers in the field or for training men here, are officers doing work in Canada and America which can be better done by business men? The right hon. Gentleman's interruption shows that he does not appreciate what is the real foundation of my charge. It is that, while you complain that you have not got munitions of war, that you have not got labour to produce them, and that you have not got officers to do the work they have to do, either abroad or here, you are not taking the necessary steps you ought to take, and that when you have not exhausted all the available material you have got for all these major purposes—purposes for which the officers have been trained—yet you have a number of officers scattered all over the world who ought to be working in France or here at home training troops.
I come to another question we have raised here, one about which I regret there has been some misunderstanding. I mean the maintenance of the fundamental difference between the professional and the amateur soldier. I am very sorry that this question was raised in a way which made it appear, although it was not so intended in any way, that it was connected solely with the appointment of one particular officer. I think I may claim the right to remind the House that I raised this question some time before that appointment. On the day that I raised it I had learned, for the first time, of the appointment to a Brigade of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ilkeston Division (Brigadier-General Seely), and I carefully said that my remarks would have been exactly the same had it not been made, because I had arranged to make them long before I knew of his appointment. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite thought they detected in my action in regard to this matter some undue bias because of the politics of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ilkeston Division. I can assure them 1581 that they were mistaken. In their mistake, not unnaturally, one of them said the same remark would apply to the Marquess of Salisbury, who also holds a brigade appointment. If I were to debate this question on the ground of the claims or merits of individuals, I do not believe that I know, among these amateur brigadiers, two men you could find who more deserved their promotion than Lord Salisbury and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ilkeston Division. As amateurs they have worked hard at soldiering as a temporary occupation for a period of the year. They have done their best to make themselves efficient. Therefore, I should not select either of them if I were going to discuss this question from the personal point of view.
Let me go further. I know a great number of these brigadiers, and do not hesitate to say that, so far as my acquaintance with them goes, by far the great majority of them belong to the same party in politics to which I belong. Therefore, the views we seek to urge have no connection whatever with the political views of these able gentlemen. What we contend is that the War Office has been gravely, unduly remiss, in allowing these plums of the Army to be given to the men who are only amateurs, instead of giving them to professionals. We have nothing to do with the individual, but we ask is it true that your supply of the trained article has run out and therefore that you are compelled to fall back on the amateur? We know that your answer must be in the negative. There is not a man in this House who thinks of the people in the neighbourhood in which he lives who cannot lay his hand upon one or two, and sometimes many more, officers of right age and ripe experience who would be able to take the field to-morrow, and who have had many years' training in the Army, but who have not had the opportunity. This is a great War, and our soldiers, whether they have served as officers, non-commissioned officers or men, have covered themselves with glory and have won our gratitude and our affection, and they will fight to the end, whatever we do here and whatever mistakes the War Office makes, as they have fought from the beginning. But surely we ought not to rest upon that knowledge and, taking advantage of it, let them, because of their patriotism and public spirit, suffer if we can prevent it!
May I ask the House to remember that when these men joined the Army they 1582 naturally and properly looked forward to the time when some of these plums may, if they have deserved them, fall into their lap? What do you think must be the feeling of these men, who have given the best of their lives to the Service, who have adopted all the suggestions made by Governments and by Parliaments and spent their money upon expensive preparations for examinations and made themselves familiar with all the most recent developments of tactics and of strategy, when they know that they are fit for these appointments, when they see these appointments become vacant and find that they are denied to them and are given to those who, however efficient and however capable they may be, have only given a fraction of the time which they could spare from other occupations to the prosecution of the military art? It is not fair.
It is not playing the game. It is not treating these men as they are treating you. They are giving you of their best. They are serving you with all their hearts. They are giving to you and to their country their lives, and all they ask is that you will remember that they are professional soldiers, that the Army is a great profession, and that its plums should be reserved for those who are its real and active members, and not distributed amongst those who would be glad enough to go into the field in altogether minor positions where they might, and would, do excellent work, but who ought never to be allowed to filch from the professional soldier the advantage which his training and his loyalty and his knowledge entitle him to claim for himself. It is not on personal but on public grounds that we urge this case upon the Government, and I say to them that while it is absolutely and literally true that our officers and non-commissioned officers and men will go on fighting as they have done, yet it is also true that if they see that your policy towards them is one of kind words but of neglectful actions, they will feel a bitter consciousness that they have not been justly or fairly treated, and they will come out of this War feeling that the Army is no profession for the man who is prepared to give to it his best, but who, when the time comes, will receive at its hands none of the rewards which the Army is able to offer.
The same comment applies to the regimental officer. We have acknowledged here, and are ready at any time to acknowledge, the magnificent services which Sir John French and the other distinguished 1583 officers who are serving under him have rendered. We know that Sir John French has rendered services which we can never sufficiently acknowledge. But if Sir John French had had ten times his ability he could not have done what he has done if it had not been for the regimental officers. I believe that in no war which has occurred in the whole history of the world has so much responsibility and so much trial fallen upon the regimental officer. Remember that you have been holding with your little Army a long line of trenches, and remember what that trench fighting is. It is not the glorious form of fighting of the olden days, when the general and the colonel and so on were able to control and direct the operations. Here you have miles and miles of trenches filled with bodies of men, almost each little section carrying on, on its own responsibility and by the aid of its own wits and its own training, the work of the Empire. The generals can do little after they have given the actual orders and made their dispositions.
It is to the regimental officers that you owe the glorious record that our Army has won in this campaign. And how have you treated them? How are you treating them now? You are breaking their hearts. You are teaching them to feel that the Army is no place for them. You are making them realise that, although you pay lip service to them here, you will not do them the common justice that they ask. I will only take one Cavalry regiment as an example of all. There are plenty more which can be described in exactly the same way. The establishment of the regiment is a lieutenant-colonel with four majors, eight captains and so many subalterns. There are regiments fighting in the field now which have been fighting for the greater part of this campaign with no lieutenant-colonel, and instead of four majors there are three, or two. What happens? It means that the work of the lieutenant-colonel is done by a major. All the responsibility, all the anxiety and, what is to him a minor question which he never considers, all the extra expense fall upon the major. The captain is doing major's work and the subaltern is doing captain's work.
Yesterday we were discussing the action of the Government in regard to the taking over of industrial undertakings, and Gentlemen on the Labour Benches naturally raised the question of the payment of the men. I ask this House what would happen to the Government, even in these times of 1584 truce, if in the works which they are taking over men were doing foremen's work and receiving the wages of day labourers and you were paying those employed in responsible posts, on the successful management of which the whole output of that factory depended, at the rate of ordinary workmen without responsibility at all. Labour Members would act together and would demand at your hands the cessation of such an unsatisfactory state of things and you would concede it without a moment's hesitation. But because the Army have no united body of men, because they will not ask, because they will not complain, because they fight and never think what your treatment is going to be until afterwards, you take advantage of all these splendid characteristics and you let them work there in France without the rank to which they are absolutely entitled. If there is such a thing as a claim to anything their claim is absolute to this promotion and you will not give it to them.
I said at the beginning that this condition of things which I described in a previous speech had been made ten times worse by what has happened recently and I will tell the Government why. The whole blame rests with the War Office here. In the course of the last few weeks they have had published Sir John French's dispatch and his list of honours. About these lists of honour everyone knows, ever since the days of the Duke of Wellington, the publication of dispatches and the granting of honours cause a great deal of very natural criticism and comment. I believe that never in the history of the world has the regimental officer received fairer treatment or fuller acknowledgment at the hands of the Commander-in-Chief than has been the case in this War. We all know what is the system tinder which these great rewards are given. No Commander-in-Chief in the world can keep his eye on the whole of his Army when it is in action. No Commander-in-Chief in the world can tell who ought to be the recipients of the various honours. There is only one way by which this most difficult task can be performed, by procuring from the officers commanding your Armies, down to brigades and regiments, the names of those who, in the opinion of the commanding officers, have made themselves most deserving of reward.
The most casual study of these reports will show anyone what is the fact, that commanding officers vary, as other people vary. Some have a more far-seeing eye 1585 and a more generous appreciation of the the deeds of their subordinates than others. If you take a report containing the lists of four or five regiments you will find that in one regiment there are eight or ten names given and in another two or three. Does anyone believe that that is because there has been a smaller number of men who have done gallant deeds in the other regiments? No. For aught you know there may have been even more men. The commanding officer takes a different view of his duties. All the Commander-in-Chief can do is to take the lists as sent to him, examine them, criticise and look into them, and discuss them and make his best report, and splendidly has that work been done. What have you been doing in the War Office? You have been allowing regimental officers to serve in subordinate ranks when they are as much entitled to their promotion as you are entitled to your monthly cheque from the Treasury for your services. Then what has been the result? Every officer who is fighting in France or in Flankers now and who at the beginning of the War was senior to officers who have got rapid promotion in Sir John French's list of honours has gone down by so many places in the list of seniority in the Army to which he belongs. It is a cruel injustice which is bitterly resented, as I know from letters received from the front. These officers are not jealous of the recipients of rewards. They are thankful that their merits have won these distinctions. They feel no grievance against anybody, and still less do they feel any jealousy, but they do feel a real grievance with respect to the War Office, which has sought an inactive line and allowed promotion to remain in abeyance to this day, with the exception of a few brevet lieutenant-colonels—promotions which have no value whatever. In fact, they are worse than of no value.
The commanding officer of a regiment cares for his regiment, but officers resent brevet rank. It only rewards the officer, because it carries no consequential promotion. You lay down that a regiment is to be commanded by lieutenant-colonels, but, you have had majors commanding regiments for months. Why do you not make them lieutenant-colonels? When I applied privately as to the reason for this, I was told that it was because of the Treasury—that old Buffer. I hope I made the "B" quite plain. The Treasury will not allow the War Office to 1586 do this. I am not going to challenge the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's statement here, but we really are in a very great difficulty. We are obliged to get our information as best we can. The other day we brought up the question of compensation and pressed for an answer. We were told that the Treasury would not admit the principle for a moment. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer came down here a day or two afterwards and said, "We are going to pay fair and reasonable compensation." Can you not agree with the Treasury with regard to this question of promotion? I am absolutely certain of the cases to which I am referring, and there are scores of them. They are not to be counted by twos or threes. These cases could be taken up and considered by a Committee of three, consisting of, say, the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for War, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I will undertake to say that in half an hour the whole thing would be done. Why should you have men in France and other parts where we are carrying on war doing work that properly belongs to higher ranks? They have done this for months, bearing the heat and burden of the day without getting the promotion to which they are entitled. You are paying them on a lower grade, and if they think that they are not getting the promotion to which they are entitled, while you may do something at the eleventh hour by way of giving them justice, you cannot restore to them the position of which you have deprived them. You cannot by any means in your power undo the great wrong you have inflicted upon these men who have been fighting for the country, and who have done splendid service. Their commanding officers speak in the highest terms of their services, and what is their reward? They have been left by you not only where they were, but, as the result of your system, they are in an absolutely worse position than they were in before they went out to the front. Is that treating these men fairly?
As regards their pay, I do not know how to talk. I think it is almost impossible to discuss it. I have got a letter here from a colonel—a distinguished officer who has been badly wounded. He was invalided home, and he has been two months in hospital here I say that the War Office system of pay is bad. That gallant officer, after two months' suffering is not yet convalescent, but on account of the War Office 1587 system of pay, he is fined £40 by a grateful country for the services he has rendered. You have docked his pay. That is the way you deal with officers financially. I know of another case of an officer who was shot through both legs and who was shot badly in the forehead. He was invalided home. His only chance of restoration to health and activity is a prolonged and pensive system of medical treatment. How does the War Office treat him? It cuts his pay down to a little over one-third, leaving him here at home wounded and struggling to get well with the thought ever present to his mind that a grateful country which talks so glibly of his services, deprives him of his money. I ask that the same—I will not say kindness—but the same justice should be meted out to noncommissioned officers.
Here is a case to which I beg the attention of the War Office. I know this case myself. I know the man, and he is as fine a fellow as you would wish to meet. He served eleven years and eight months in a regiment. He found himself in Gibraltar. Everybody knows that that is a station which imposes a heavy strain on the health of soldiers. He had a difference with his colour-sergeant, and the colour-sergeant put him under arrest. What did he do? He had never had a mark against him before; he had gone steadily up, having been instructor in musketry and instructor in the gymnasium. He is a first-class man, but when he was put under arrest he broke his arrest, and got some atrocious stuff which made him drunk. He has never been tried to this day for insubordination, but because he broke his arrest and got drunk he was fined by the commanding officer and reduced in rank. He claimed his discharge, and two months ago, after he had left the regiment, he rejoined and went straight to the trenches. His work in the trenches was so gallant that his company officer offered him his sergeant's stripes. He replied, "No, Sir, I would rather not take them. Having served all these years without a mark against me, I ask that I should be restored to the rank which I formerly held in my regiment. If I have done well for my country, my sentence might be wiped off the slate, and I might be restored to the position I held before." The company officer agreed with him, but he was killed.
He was succeeded by another company officer under whom this man continued to fight. He was badly wounded by being 1588 shot through the shoulder and the chest. He lay for twenty-four hours in the wind and rain, and finally he crawled into a place of shelter. That officer confirmed the recommendation that this man should be restored to his original rank. I am assured that his colonel confirmed the recommendation. When he came out of hospital his arm had been cut off, and he is now walking about at home. He has no grievance. He is grateful to the Government for the increased financial allowance they have made to him. He is not troubled about money, because, whatever this House or the War Office may do, country landlords may be trusted to look after such cases. He knows that he is secure. He has no misgiving, but he does want one thing. He wants it more than I can describe. He wants, if the country thinks that he has done his duty, to be restored to the position he formerly occupied. When I heard of this case I wrote to the general officer commanding and begged him to take the matter into consideration. He told me he could not do so because it was contrary to the regulations. I say that the country wants not only to help men with money, but in every other way, and if there is a regulation which stands between this man and the reward to which he is so justly entitled, it should be swept away. I say that a regulation of that kind is an injustice. It is unreasonable, and it is an anachronism during a war like this. I say it ought to be the business of someone at the War Office to see that these things do not occur.
It is no good telling people that these are matters which had Lord Kitchener's approval. I have been head of a Department, and I know that there is no department in the world which, even at an ordinary time, can be carried on by the head of it dealing with matters of detail himself. He is obliged to rely upon subordinate people, and all these matters to which I have referred come under the control of subordinate people. The man responsible for denying to this man this small measure of justice is rendering a bad service to the Army, for the future as well as the present time, and is doing very little to aid in the successful prosecution of the War. I pray the Government to look into these matters without a moment's delay. In reference to the question of the officers, I know that my own son is one of the officers concerned. I do not bring the case forward because it is in his interest, but because I am 1589 compelled to do so. But because it is my own son I am not going to refuse to fight a case which I believe to be a just one, but I may say that is only one of many. There are scores of others which are dealt with in this way. On the last occasion the right hon. Gentleman told me that what was asked could not be done because you could not employ a brigadier. Let the House remember that you have created all of a sudden a vast Army which has risen from 120,000, to say, three or four times that size in France. That means that everyone of your subordinate commands has had to be very largely increased Where you had ten Brigades you now have fifty or sixty or perhaps a hundred. The War Office tell us that they cannot give these promotions, because after the War is over they will have too many officers of senior rank, and they will not be able to employ them. That is no answer to make. Finish the War, do justice to the Army, and then come to the House of Commons and ask them to help you if you have any problems of this kind to face, but do not, because you are afraid of problems in the future, inflict criminal injustice on either the commissioned or non-commissioned ranks of the Army.
There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer. That is the question to which I referred before, of the National Reserve. I cannot understand the attitude of the War Office in this matter. The men concerned are working men, small tradesmen and men of that kind. They entered into a contract with the Government that they would be willing to serve for two purposes—for Home defence or for service abroad. For one they were to be given a pink and for the other a blue card, which they had to sign. It was the War Office who devised the system, and it was the War Office who appointed the officials to carry it out. Owing to mistakes, which one can easily understand, these cards were never sent out. In one particular case which I have investigated myself in the town of Westbury in my own county, the reason why the cards were never sent out was because the local commandant in his enthusiasm hurried off and joined himself, the men were sent to other parts of England, and he forgot all about his duties in this respect and never issued the cards, and therefore they were never signed. Have these men failed you? Has one of them failed you? Has one of them 1590 declined to go where he was sent? Have not they been doing their duty ever since they were called upon? Did not they come at once? Was there one man missing? Have they been dissolute, disobedient, or drunken? No, they have been doing their work, at one time of the utmost importance, of guarding your railways, bridges, and canals. To every one of them you promised to pay £5 for service for Home defence and £10 for foreign service. What is the reason that you have not paid that money? The reason is that they never signed the cards which your officials never sent to them.
Could there be anything more con temptible in the way of administration by a great Department? How many of those poor fellows are there? What are you doing? I am not going to take account just now. The time will be hereafter. But you are spending money, you are pouring it out, building huts in bogs and marshes, and putting up buildings which no human being outside of Bedlam would try to do, without first of all making roads. You are trying to establish camps, and then you find that you have forgotten roads, drainage, and water supply. You have not taken the trouble to ask a single local man whether the place was a bog or what it was, and you are paying £5 for work which you could have got done for 10s. The Financial Secretary told us the other day of certain huts which only cost £13. They are not finished in nine cases out of ten, because they have not done anything to provide roads, drainage, or water supply.
You are spending money in this way. You are throwing it away. I know the pressure of your work. I know that you have had to expand a small Department suddenly into a big one. You have had to provide for an enormous Army instead of a small one. I am not throwing these things in your face. I know that mistakes of this kind are almost inevitable. I think that you might have avoided some of them. You might even avoid them now. You might now effect economies before it is too late. But if you are going to spend money, and spend it profusely, over camps and other places, you have no right to try to make something appear on the other side of the ledger by making these economies out of the pockets of these hard-working men. That is what you are doing. You are depriving these men of their few pounds bonus and resting yourself upon this miserable fact that these cards were not signed. You have had the services of 1591 these men. If these men had not come I could quite well understand your attitude. But that is not the case. You have not pretended that that is the case.
I have seen the whole of your War Office correspondence with General Somebody or other at the War Office. I raised the question here. The Prime Minister was then present. He said that he would look into the matter and he gave what appeared to us to be a very favourable reply. A friend of mine took up the question and corresponded with the War Office. They said that the Prime Minister and I were talking about two totally different things, and that the Prime Minister understood one thing and I another. The War Office appears to take a somewhat low view of a Prime Minister's intelligence; it was not mine. I should have said the Prime Minister is above, and not below, the ordinary standard of intelligence, and yet, apparently, we are told, he could not understand this very simple proposition which I explained, and he thought, when I was talking about National Reservists not being paid £5 or £10 for their services, that I was talking about Territorials or something else. I could not accept that officer's description of the Prime Minister's attitude. He certainly very largely held the view that these men were being underpaid. Of course he made no promise. I am not suggesting that he did, but I say that if you take advantage of your autocracy, or your position, for the moment unassailable, if you resort to these injustices against these men, you will be doing a grave injury to the fighting forces of this country, and you will be bringing on the good name and the fair fame of this country a vast amount of discredit.
The same thing applies to the question of the pay of officers. I could quote the Prime Minister's statement. I could show, if necessary, that under the new system so far from increasing the pay you have actually decreased it. There are cases where a second lieutenant gets an increase, and a lieutenant gets an increase, and after seven years' service his pay is actually reduced. In many of the upper grades of the Army you boast that you have raised the Service pay, and yet, actually under the new scale, when a captain rises to a certain point at which he becomes a major, you take 1d. a day off his pay. I will not delay the House by going into details of these matters now, but I will give the right hon. Gentleman 1592 the cases, so that he can have them in his hands when he comes to reply.
These cases are so extraordinary that one is compelled to think that they must have been settled in some place when reason does not prevail. It is almost incrdible that such mistakes should be made. It is no good for the Financial Secretary to the War Office to say that these things are not so. They are so. My statements come from the officers themselves. I prefer the statements of the man who receives the cash to those of anyone else. Undoubtedly, the system has been to reduce the pay of officers in certain cases. I apologise for the time which I have taken. I assure the House that I have not trespassed, as I have done, so unduly upon their time, because I am anxious to make a statement of this kind, or still less because I am anxious to make a speech. I have put these cases before the House, because I believe in my heart and conscience that this country desires at this moment that justice should be done, and that all ranks should be fairly and properly treated. I believe that the general feeling is that, if necessary, we should err on the side of generosity. I say that to save money by robbing men of pay which is due to them, by depriving them of the bonus which you have distinctly promised them, on account of some technical error for which they are not responsible, and by depriving soldiers in the field today of the promotion which is their due, and which they ought to have received long ago—I believe it is the War Office who are charged with the work—is a negation of everything that this country is asking for at the present time. I do pray the War Office, not to treat this matter again with the neglect and contempt which it has hitherto exhibited, but to give it real consideration, because I believe that is in the interest not only of the Army but also in that of the fair fame of this country that our soldiers should be fairly and honourably treated.
§ Colonel YATE
I am proud to be allowed to say a word in support of the position put forward in the thrilling speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long). The case which he has presented is one in which we must all acknowledge the justice of the claims which he has put forward. There are one or two cases to which I may refer. The first is that of the recruiting officers. From my own experience of the recruiting officers who are now about the country I am perfectly 1593 certain that there are hundreds, or I may probably say thousands, of old colonels like myself, over sixty years of age, who could do this recruiting business just as well as the men of thirty and thirty-five who are now engaged on it. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about officers abroad in Canada purchasing horses. A Canadian friend of mine told me that the British War Office is a sort of gold mine for Canada, and that the prices which are being given for Canadian horses are out of all proportion to their value. I do not want to dwell on those points, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for War to give his attention for one moment to a question about which I spoke a month ago—the question of regimental officers. It is a month since the Under-Secretary of State promised that the regimental vacancies should be filled up. What has been done? I put a question to the Under-Secretary only yesterday, and all he could tell me as to what has been done during the last month was that promotions to fill the places of officers taken prisoners or missing will be gazetted as rapidly as circumstances permit. I was glad to hear that, but I must say that circumstances are permitting of very slow promotion. I have watched the "Gazette" very carefully, and very few men have been gazetted during the last month. Then, again, the right hon. Gentleman told me that promotion in the place of lieutenant-colonels appointed brigadier-generals is still under consideration. We always understood that the Under-Secretary, on 10th February last, definitely promised that in the case of lieutenant-colonels promoted to be brigadier-generals the officer who took over the command of a battalion should receive full pay and rank on appointment.
§ Colonel YATE
We all took it as a promise. However, the question is still under consideration, and has been under consideration for a month, and no definite solution has been arrived at. May I ask why? Is there any reason why the question could not have been settled long ago? I cannot express the disappointment which this delay is causing officers at the front. As the right hon. Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) said, the regimental officer is the mainstay at the front; he is the man to whom we owe everything; he is the man to whom we owe the glorious 1594 record won in this War, and to use his own words, "Here you have men, men who are leading our troops in the grandest possible manner, and yet the Government refuses to give them proper pay." My own old regiment is one of those concerned, and a captain has been in command of it ever since November last. But it is not only in one regiment, for in a dozen regiments a captain has been in command since November last, and during all those months has been deprived of any pay or acknowledgments of the duties he is performing.
I may state that in some cases a captain of one battalion has been posted to command another battalion, and surely he deserves the rank and pay of the appointment which he has been sent to hold. Money is being poured out in this country, as the right hon. Member for the Strand has just said, yet you refuse to give the regimental officers, who are the mainstay of the Army, the pay due to the rank of officers holding the position of commandant and second in command of their regiment. Necessarily they should have the pay attaching to the rank to which they are appointed. I hope the Under-Secretary of State, when he comes to reply, will inform us that this question is no longer to be kept merely under consideration, and that a settlement will be reached. In speaking on this subject may I express my regret at the reply which the Under-Secretary gave to my question the other day, as to whether any increase of pay is to be given to officers in the near future? The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that an increase of pay had been given last year. We know that, but it was absolutely infinitesimal. Why, in some instances, the result of that was, as was brought to the notice of the House the other day, that some officers found themselves worse off by a penny a day than they were before. I would like to recall to the House the memorable speech of the Prime Minister on the 16th November last, regarding the insufficient pay of officers. The Prime Minister said:—I am sure that the grievance of the officer who cannot live on his pay, and must either get into debt or be supported by his parents and friends from extraneous sources, is a reproach to the country, and ought to have been remedied long before, for it becomes increasingly urgent and scandalous when men are laying down their lives for the sake of their country.Those were the words of the Prime Minister, who went on to say that the Government had—got the matter in hand, and will not delay to propose remedies.1595 What are those remedies? So far as I can gather from the reply of the Financial Secretary for War to my question of the day before yesterday, it was the Army Order of the 24th November, and that Army Order relates almost entirely to officers promoted from the ranks, and applies to no officers above the rank of captain. The Army will welcome that Order, but I may point out that the Prime Minister's words excited great hopes, and I trust that this Order does not mean that nothing is to be done for majors or lieutenant-colonels. A captain of the line will now get, under the new Order, a maximum of 14s. 6d., but why is a major to be limited to 16s. a day? I ask the Under-Secretary to think of this question, and to think of the Prime Minister's promise regarding the grievance of the officer who cannot live on his pay. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was to be left over until the end of the War. Why should it be left over until the end of the War? There are lots of retired and unemployed officials, well acquainted with the subject, who might be called together to inquire into it and formulate proposals. There was no difficulty in the appointment of a Select Committee to consider the question of separation allowances, nor has there been any difficulty about the consideration of officers' pensions and allowances. Why should this matter be delayed until after the War?
Officers at the front at the present moment are in the greatest difficulties, especially married officers. One of those difficulties is the question of insurance. Here is the case of a married man. About twelve years ago he insured his life for £3,000. The annual premium was £63 15s. His pay was 16s. a day, less 1s. in the £ for Income Tax. That officer is now in a new service battalion, but he is liable at any moment to go back to his own battalion at the front on the old pay of 16s. a day. His whole pay is £277 12s. a year. Out of this he has to pay not only £63 15s., his ordinary insurance, but additional insurance amounting to five guineas per cent. on the £3,000, making a sum of £157 10s., or a total of £221 5s. out of his whole income of £277 12s., leaving him a balance of £56 7s. out of which he has to feed himself at the front, and provide for his family at home. The officer, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, cannot, even if he has money invested, sell out now without loss, and the result is that he has 1596 to borrow money, and I am told that money cannot be obtained under 6 per cent. Therefore, he will probably have the debt hanging over him for years and years. The Prime Minister himself has stated that it is a reproach to the country that an officer cannot live on his pay. I ask the Under-Secretary to consider this question, and remove this reproach before the end of the War. The Secretary to the Admiralty stated on the 11th February that the Admiralty were considering the advisability of approaching the insurance companies with regard to naval officers. I would ask the Under-Secretary if he cannot approach the insurance companies on behalf of the military officers also.
§ Mr. GOULDING
I wish to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the question of commissions in the New Army. It is one in respect to which a great deal of anxiety is existing, because it is believed there is a veto against colonels of service battalions issuing the necessary recommendations for promotion from the ranks in service battalions. If that be the case, it entails an injustice on patriotic men who wished for temporary commissions in the Territorial Force. A great many members of the Territorial Force, when the War broke out, instead of joing the Territorial Force thought they were doing best for the State by joining the New Army, and in many of those cases, at the time of their patriotic action, it was understood that they would be in no way hindered from getting promotion. Here is one case in the North of England where a circular was issued to old public schools and university men:—All who are awaiting results of their application for commissions should at once enlist in this force (the New Army). The very fact of their having enlisted in these battalions will increase their chance of obtaining commissions later on. The War Office will place no hindrance in the way of obtaining a transfer if a commission is obtained further on.
§ Mr. GOULDING
It was a circular issued in the North of England to public or county schools, and university men. I regret to say that there are certain service battalions who resist very effectively any promotion from the ranks for those commissions, and the colonel absolutely declines to consider applications for commissions. They are notably the 18th, 19th, and 21st Royal Fusiliers (Public School Corps), the 16th Middlesex, the 10th Fusiliers, the Honourable Artillery Company 1597 (1st battalion), the London Rifles (1st battalion), and the Royal Warwicks (Birmingham contingent). Officers commanding these regiments have systematically put obstacles in the way of men applying for commissions; in some regiments they have actually declined altogether to see them.
§ Mr. TENNANT
When the hon. Gentleman says that this is done "systematically," does he mean that the commanding officers always take that course, or does he mean that it has occurred recently?
§ Mr. GOULDING
Yes. The right hon. Gentleman will see I am not stating anything that I cannot prove. This is not a case of a Public School Corps, for, of course, there are other service battalions in which individuals have had their applications for their commissions signed by the colonels. But I have been informed by a number of public school men that several of the colonels have absolutely declined to see them at all. Some of those who were fortunate enough, as they thought, to get before the colonel, the instant the word "commission" was mentioned, the sergeant-major came to the rescue—"Rightabout turn, march!" They received no consideration, whatsoever. I myself have endeavoured to verify these statements. Colonels who I know are in need of capable and qualified men to serve in their regiment have been asked to sign the papers necessary to get a commission; and I have written to colonels myself, and I have several of their letters, but I think two of them which I have here will satisfy the right hon. Gentleman. The first answer is this:—The general officer commanding this brigade has received verbal instructions from Lord Kitchener that no further men in the brigade are at present to be recommenced for commissions. Under these circumstances, yon will see that it is impossible for me to grant your request.Here is one of several from colonels, which I will read. Though there is need of these men, yet this is the reply:—I beg to inform you that I cannot grant the necessary recommendations for these men to take up commissions in the battalions under your command, in consequence of the general officer commanding the brigade having received verbal instructions from the Secretary of State for War that no further men are to be granted commissions from this brigade for the present.I do hops that the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his observations will be 1598 able to explain away that mistake and that misunderstanding, and that the conditions under which many of those men joined originally in the New Army are not to be swept away, and that there is to be no embargo on promotion in those particular regiments.
I am not here to find fault with the difficulties of the officers commanding. I perfectly understand their position. I perfectly understand that they do not want to see their battalions depleted of the efficient officers under their command, but I also see a very distinct danger if all promotion is stopped, for not only is there injustice caused and discouragement given to the men, but there is also stagnation in those regiments. I cannot say what takes place in other regiments besides those. I have mentioned, but I am told that this embargo and veto does exist, and I suggest it should be removed and that there should be the possibility of promotion for able and capable men wherever they are serving. That officers are wanted, we all know, and the right hon. Gentleman I notice bows his assent to that We know, too, that many colonels are applying for men, and the necessity is also indicated by the "Gazette," which shows that 500 commissions are issued weekly. I am informed that several of these men who are applying for these commissions are men who, as I say, purely for patriotic motives at the beginning joined the New Army instead of going into the Officers' Training Corps. Many of them are men who have been very distinguished both at school and in college, both in learning and in different fields of sport. Several of them are blues of our universities besides being scholars, and some of them captains of our best football and athletic teams.
Why are those men coming forward? They know there is a shortage of officers, and they feel perfectly confident, while they are in this struggle to take their part in the service of the State, that they are not giving their best services in the ranks when they have the training, character, and ability, and the power of leadership to enable them to serve the State better in positions as officers. The right hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, do me the justice of agreeing that I have not attempted to bring this matter forward in any contentious spirit. I know perfectly well that the War Council in the formation and creation of this New Army have had terrible obstacles and difficulties to get over. 1599 They have got over those difficulties with the greatest credit to themselves, but I am equally certain that it is not right, as a matter of justice, as a matter of common sense, or as a matter of good business working, that you should close the avenue of promotion to any capable man in any single battalion in the country.
There are men serving in the battalions in the humblest spheres to-day who have all the capacity for leadership, men who come from the public schools and who had the self-sacrifice in the beginning to join, and those men should not be sacrificed for any red tape. I may tell the right hon. Gentleman that I have in mind several cases of men who joined quite early after the War broke out who had been in the Territorials, and in positions in the Territorials. The very instant they joined the New Army nolens volens they were given promotion as corporals or sergeants. Those who were with them in the Territorials, or who were serving with them in the Public Schools Officers' Training Corps before the War, and who by a different approach are giving their services to the country, have got their commissions, while the men who were their leaders and instructors, because they went into the New Army units early, still remain in those positions, and the door to promotion is entirely barred. That cannot be right and cannot be good for the Army, and it cannot create the spirit which you should have—namely, that every single man in the Service is to be given the opportunity of sewing his country to the best of his ability. I am perfectly willing to give the right hon. Gentleman some of those names. They are not few, but there is a great number of splendid fellows resting to-day under this injustice. They wish to get the opportunity of giving the full advantage of their ability to the country. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman when he comes to reply will say that there is no truth in the statement that the Secretary for War has stopped Commanding Officers from signing the necessary recommendations for commissions for men who are in their opinion capable of promotion.
§ Colonel DALRYMPLE WHITE
I desire to mention one or two points. The first has been dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. Walter Long) and refers to the placing of wounded officers on half-pay. 1600 I know a case where an officer gave up a very good staff appointment to go out to the front, where he was badly wounded, and he is now put on half-pay. He is a very poor man, and it is a material matter to him, quite apart from the injustice. The other point I wish to mention is with regard to the promotion of what are known as Special Reserve Officers. In my own experience, since the War started, many of these young officers have joined, men of twenty-eight, thirty, thirty-five, perhaps even up to forty years of age, who form most splendid material, and are the very men well qualified to lead men in the field. They are men who, though they joined for the purposes of the War, would in many cases wish, now that they have taken up the soldiering career, to remain on as officers after the War. We may very likely want those officers very badly after the War. How are you persuading them to stop on? You are saying that they are to get no promotion at all. A man of perhaps thirty-two or thirty-four years of age may have joined on the 5th of August on mobilisation as a second-lieutenant in the Special Reserve, and may have gone out in September or October. Meanwhile he gets no promotion, while boys who may be at Sandhurst in October or November go out also, and, since promotion is very rapid, some of them may be promoted as lieutenants, and thus take command of the company over the head of the older man, who is far more qualified to do so. That is not an encouragement to the men to whom I refer to stop in the Army. It may be perfectly true that you do not wish to block what I may call the higher ranks of lieutenants and captains with men whom you may not wish to retain after the War, but in that event you could give them temporary rank and make them temporary lieutenants or captains, and if either they are not satisfactory or you do not wish to retain their services after the War you could dispense with them. I know that, unless you do something of this kind, you are going to lose very valuable officers for the future, in addition to inflicting what is certainly a grave sense of injustice in their minds by not giving them the temporary rank to which they are entitled.
There is one other point which I have some diffidence in mentioning, because it is perhaps an administrative matter, and it may be said that I am not as well qualified to judge of it as those who are on duty at the front. I do, however, think that perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may pay 1601 some attention to it. There are a certain number of men, I am sorry to say, not as many as we would wish, who have gone through the whole campaign, and I am now speaking of private soldiers and noncommissioned officers. Those men have had to undergo a strain unequalled in any previous campaign. That nerve strain through which they have gone has, in many cases, made them physically unfitted to continue at the front without some rest. I had a case of the kind brought to my notice only the other day. There are a few men allowed back on five days' leave. It was reported to me by a lady who works in connection with the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association that there was a man in my regiment back on five days' leave, that he was due to return last Saturday, and that he was absolutely unfitted to go back to the front. He seemed to be in a half-dazed condition, suffered from most acute headaches, and really was broken down. Acting on my own responsibility, I said that the man should go and see my regimental doctor. The man himself said he did not wish to go, because his spirit was so good that, he said, having got the five days' leave, he did not want to abuse it. I sent word to him that I was sure the matter would not be treated in that way if the medical officer certified him unfit, and that they would give him further leave. The man did not appear to be examined, and I presume his spirit was so good that he returned on the Saturday. I wrote to the commanding officer, telling him that I understood that the man was not physically fit, and suggesting that he should have him examined by the doctor. I think it would be a very great matter if those men could get a furlough of one or two months at least, and I believe there is a considerable number of men available in all regiments to take their places. If they got that furlough, you would have the men better fitted for their duties on their return, and you would not be losing your trained soldiers, but would get better work out of them when they went back to join their battalion. While the matter may not come quite within the Department of the right hon. Gentleman, I trust that he will mention it in the proper quarter, as I think it would be a very valuable course to adopt, and I am sure the Army would not lose by it.