§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 12. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,000, foe granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the War Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1917."
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
One day last week my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dundee (Colonel Churchill) made an interesting speech to the House. I hope he did not think, when I did not rise to answer him on that occasion, that it was out of any discourtesy to him personally; on the contrary, it was rather in order that I might make myself more familiar with the answers to the arguments which he advanced, and give him a more adequate reply. My right hon. and gallant Friend put forward certain points of principle involving questions of war strategy to which a reply could only be furnished by a member of the War Council; therefore, he will absolve me from answering on those matters. But there are certain departmental points to which I hope to be able to give some reply. There is one thing which I envy my right hon. and gallant Friend, and that is the time which he has in order to prepare his very carefully thought-out speeches. I wish I had the same opportunity. The House will realise how matters stand when I say that I was sitting at this Table at 8.30 last night, and I have been in constant attendance for many weeks past. I find that since the beginning of this Session the House has sat on fifty-two days. On thirty-four of those days there have been Army matters discussed, and 2754 it has been my duty to be present and generally to make a reply. So far, then, as the shortcomings of the reply I am about to give are concerned, I trust hon. Members will be indulgent, and that they will ascribe them not only to my native stupidity, but also, in part, to the many burdens I have to shoulder and which involve anxieties of many kinds. I shall start at once to deal with the arguments which my right hon. Friend urged as to the disparity in the Army between rifle strength and ration strength. He would, I am sure, admit at once that there must be a large number of men not actually in the trenches in order to carry on the various services which are essential for the efficiency of the fighting men in the trenches. That, I think, must be common ground between us. My right hon. Friend knows that when he was in the Cabinet great efforts were made under the régime of Field-Marshal Sir John, now Lord, French, who was then Com-mander-in-Chief—to use a familiar phrase—to comb out the young and fit men from the Army Service Corps, from the Army Ordnance Department, and from similar services in order that their places might be taken by older and less fit men. I would ask the House to remember that there is very strenuous work to be done behind the lines as well as in the trenches. The bringing up of food and ammunition for the fighting line and the loading or unloading of trucks and lighters is not work which can possibly be performed by cripples or disabled men. The combing-out process started when my right hon. Friend was a Member of the Cabinet, has been going on ever since, and is still going on under Sir Douglas Haig, and I believe great strides have been made in that direction. Any hon. or right hon. Gentlemen who have been out lately in France will be able to know that that process has been continued to the great advantage of the fighting line.
I should like the House to realise what has been involved in the Supply Department of the Army by the increasing of the Army somewhere between twelve and fifteen times its original size. It is one thing to have a Supply Department capable of bringing up rations and ammunition for an. Army of 120,000 or 150,000 men; it is a very different proposition when you come to deal with the very large Army that we have now in France. Luckily, we were not tied down 2755 by any cut-and-dried system which we had in force, and therefore we were able to advise ourselves upon the methods employed by the great Continental Armies with whom we were in touch, and to obtain from them their best points in their system of supply and to adopt them for ourselves with really very great advantage. We have been able to take the best points from the practice of these Continental Armies. By consultation with the liaison officers of the French Army we had the advantage of their knowledge of what goes on in the other Armies. I venture to think we have had a different and more difficult task to perform than even the French Army, because, let it be remembered, we have had to take our supplies from various parts of this country, from our ports, and to transport those supplies across the sea, then to take them to the supply bases in France, and that, of course, is apart from, and additional to, anything which the French Army has had to perform. Any hon. Member who consults any general of the French Army who is really cognisant of the facts of the case will obtain from him, I think, undisguised admiration of the manner in which our supply services are carried out. They are said to be the admiration of the French Army. I am glad to be able to bear that testimony to the Quartermaster-General's Department both at home and abroad. In spite of what has already been done in getting younger men out of the Supply Department and bringing them into the firing line, we have further proposals on foot, inaugurated at the instance of the War Office, to release more of the younger men and to replace them by older men. Any such process, however, cannot be carried out wholesale. I am sure my right hon. Friend will admit that such a thing must be done gradually; otherwise you incur the danger of defeating an efficient supply for the troops at the front both in regard to rations and ammunition.
I turn to another point made in this connection by my right hon. Friend. This was to the effect that to have your Army on a proper footing you should increase the strength of your battalions from 1,000 to 1,200. That means practically that you would require to raise every division, if you are committed to a certain number of divisions in the field, to 2,400 men per division in excess of 2756 anything you have now. I would remind the House that any number like 1,000 per battalion is, of course, an arbitrary figure and standard—that, indeed, all standards must be arbitrary. When complaint is made of the deficiency of. existing battalions, and that they have been reduced in strength, it must not be forgotten that if you have a battalion o£ of 1,200 strong that would be equally reduced from the standard, and that you cannot have a standard which would not be subject to reduction by the wastage of war. When we had the Secret Session, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave some figures showing the existing shortage in the British Army. That existing shortage is no doubt one of the difficulties with which we have to contend. If you have to raise your battalions to the strength of 1,200, the existing shortage would be enormously increased, and it would have to be made up from the reservoir provided by the two Military Service Acts. The House is aware that the reservoir created by these two Acts is to be used, not only for making up the existing shortage in the Army, but also for providing drafts for the wastage of war, so that you would really be trenching upon the material which is*to supply your drafts for the wastage of war. Moreover, if that were done and if these battalions were increased in the manner suggested by my right hon. Friend, it: would involve very great changes in the Supply Department and all the other Departments of the Army which depend upon the size of the division in the field. Great changes would be required in all the administrative Departments. I daresay there is much to be said for the suggestion, but I would suggest to the House that it would be highly inconvenient to make any such departure during the progress of a great war. It might be all right in peace time, but not whilst we are carrying on a great war.
The next point of the right hon. Gentleman was that we were maintaining abroad too large a proportion of Cavalry, and that we ought to convert a large part of it into Infantry. That again involves a very radical and enormous change. I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that the armies of the other belligerents in the field have not seen their way to do this, and I think if the House would compare our figures of the proportion of Cavalry to Infantry in the British Army with the proportion in the other armies 2757 in the field, it might be an instructive comparison. My right hon. Friend also spoke of 200,000 officers in the Army, each of whom had a servant. He thought that was a great wastage of fighting men. The facts are that the number of officers is approximately 120,000, including officers of the Dominions, but excluding British officers with the Indian Army. These have native servants, who are not included in the rifle strength. In the field servants are allowed at the rate of one for each dismounted officer, or mounted officer with one horse, and two for each mounted officer with two or three horses. Officers' batmen and grooms are fully armed and trained, and are avail-for duty in the ranks. They are, said the right hon. Gentleman, included in the fighting strength, but they do not count. That really, if I may say so, is not an accurate statement of the matter; if it should be accurate in any instance my right hon. Friend has in his mind it would be due to the fault of the commanding officer. It is entirely within the discretion of the commanding officer to see, or say, which man shall or shall not be used in lining the trenches. To replace these officers' servants by unfit men would mean reducing the number of effectives in the battalions and increasing the percentage of sick.
When an Army is on the move—and this is a. very important point—officers' servants and grooms have the greatest amount of work to do, possibly more and harder than any other man. At home there is quite a different proportion of servants allowed to officers. The maximum in reserve units and depots is only one servant to every three dismounted officers. All servants in reserve units and depots are, moreover, fit for Home service only, and are supernumerary to the establishment of the reserve unit or depot. In a number of cases the number of batsmen actually employed is as low, for example, as one to six officers. I do not think there is much in that argument of my right hon. Friend about servants. If they do not go into the trenches they ought to do so; if they do not it is the fault, as I have said, of the commanding officer. I dare say my right hon. Friend had a servant, and it is conceivable that when he was not employed in the trenches somebody was noting the fact. My right hon. Friend went on to deal with the armies at home. Upon his arguments here he laid great stress. He considered 2758 that we had far too large a proportion of men at home taken from the effective strength for fighting the enemy. My answer to that is that all the men at home are being either trained to be sent abroad to meet the enemy in the various theatres of war, or are being trained for Home defence and are required for Home defence. I think when my right hon. Friend or any hon. Member of this House is protesting against the numbers who are actually in training for fighting abroad he will see that there are very large reinforcements about to be sent out. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he considered there were too many men being removed from industries here, and passed into the Army, who were not really fit for fighting in the trenches—unfit men who ought not to be taken away from industries. I would say that on enlistment all men are carefully classified into seven categories according to their fitness for various military duties. Any man who subsequently becomes fit for a higher category is at once moved into another position where he can be employed in more exacting duties. I have explained to the House on more than one occasion that, in our endeavours to utilise men in the best way, to conserve, as it were, the man-power of the War and to place it in the manner in which it can be most useful to the State, we have adopted the category system. The most fit are put to what is called general service. In the second category are those sent for garrison duty abroad. The third category is garrison duty at home. In the fourth category are men sent to do certain labour on the lines of communication at home or abroad; and, lastly, is the category of those only fit for sedentary duties at home. That is the manner, I am sure the Committee will agree, in which we can best utilise the man-power, which it is very important we should do, in the most economical way we can.
My right hon. Friend said that we should organise scientifically our forces, and that we should try to fit them, as it were, into the pattern of a mosaic. I would say to him that has already been done and is in process of being done every day, and I have very great hope that, when the Military Service Act has fully come into force, every man has a job to which he is put for which he is most fitted. That is the intention of the Army Council, and that is the line we have been 2759 taking for the last two or three months. If my right hon. Friend would do me the honour of looking at a speech which I made very early in this Session at the opening of the Army Estimates, I think he will see that I then explained this very doctrine upon which I have just touched, the system under which we are working in placing men in the various categories. That was anticipating my right hon. Friend by at least three months, and I really do not think there is very much more to be said on that subject. My right hon. Friend went on to appeal to us to make the Army as fluid as possible. Again, there we have anticipated him. We have passed a Military Service Act which gives us the power of transferring men from one corps to another, and of transferring Territorials to the Regular Army. That is an endeavour to liquify our assets, which, I think, will result in the fulfilment of our anticipations. I observe that in the OFFICIAL REPORT of my right hon. Friend's speech it is stated that the average casualties are 100,000 a day. Clearly that is a misprint.
§ Mr. TENNANT
What I want to say on that point is that a large proportion of these are minor casualties, which return more or less quickly to the ranks. I think it is a mistake to consider that 1,000 a day of our soldiers are made impossible for further service in this War. That, of course, is not so.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The right hon. Gentleman further begged of us Mot to forget other reservoirs, namely India and Africa. With regard to India, I think it is a mistake for anyone to run away with the idea that you can have the whole population of 315,000,000 from which to draw for soldiers. Of course, that is not the case at all, and if the proportion of actual soldiers whom we have enlisted in the Indian Army to the reservoir available from which they can be drawn is taken into account, so far from the proportion being that which my right hon. Friend mentions, the true proportion would be about one-twentieth of the ratio which he considered was possible. But really the question resolves itself largely into one of officers, and the House realises the difficulty of obtain- 2760 ing the number of officers which would be required under the suggestion which has been made by my right hon. Friend. Something like 1,400 British officers would be required for the divisions which he suggested. Ten Indian divisions, 130 batteries, and ten regiments of Cavalry would require at least 1,400 British officers, let alone the fact that Indian officers and non-commissioned officers cannot be extemporised. But, of course, the real difficulty is the English officers who know Hindustani, and know their men. It is perfectly impossible to send out newly-commissioned second lieutenants in order to take charge of Indian native troops. Anyone who knows the Indian Army realises that. Similarly, when you come to speak of raising great blocks of troops in Africa, I am sure the House realises the difficulty there is. First of all, the immense population of Africa does not contribute an enormous proportion of fighting races, and, secondly, the want of officers who know the native races is a real difficulty. Moreover, the value of black troops is a very uncertain quantity, and I think, if my right hon. Friend will look at the foreign Press, he will see that the Germans are rather pleased at the idea of this country resorting to large numbers of coloured troops. They have large headlines in their newspapers, showing that they consider we are almost at the end of our tether in that we are going to raise great numbers of coloured troops. I venture to put it to my right hon. Friend whether he thinks it really desirable to make suggestions of that kind, which can only go to increase the confidence of our enemies. There is one other aspect of this question which, I think, ought not to be put aside altogether, and that is, if you are going to convert large numbers of natives into warriors, and large blocks of territory into armed camps, you open up a vista of considerable difficulty for the statesmen who have in future to go and govern those great territories and dependencies.
I will only say one word more and I have done. I want to say to the House from my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War that, while it is well known he has received fairly constantly members of the Labour party and others in this House, he wishes it to be known that he is always ready to receive hon. Gentlemen, either individually or collectively, who have suggestions to make to him on either the management of these vast Armies in 2761 the field, or suggestions for the successful prosecution of the War. I think the Committee realises that Lord Kitchener is a man who wishes the work done. He is not really very much concerned by whom the work is done, so long as the work is done. That is the main consideration he has in mind, and when the House reflects how largely instrumental he has been in raising the large Armies we have now in the various theatres of war, how he has shown that imagination, which he did show, in the provision for a long war of those great Armies, then, I think, the nation ought to feel that it rests under a debt of gratitude to Lord Kitchener.
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
The Committee is obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I particularly am obliged to him for the great care and pains which he has bestowed in the reply to my arguments used in the House last week. The Undersecretary has a very thankless task, a very difficult and a very uphill task, and not only is it universally known in the House, but it is a feeling very largely shared outside, that the War Office has been very fortunate in finding itself represented in the House of Commons by so courteous, skilful, and industrious a representative as the right hon. Gentleman. I am very sorry myself that he should be troubled to burden himself with arguments and discussions at a time when he has anxieties with which we all deeply sympathise. My right hon. Friend has covered some of the principal points which I ventured to bring to the notice of the House last week, but I shall make no apology for returning to the subject of the supply of men for the Army in the field, and the use made by the War Office of the supply granted by the nation. I am not going to-day to refer at length to the Indian or the African aspects of the supply of men. I do not think that the difficulty of officers is as serious as the Under-Secretary suggested. For instance, there are a great many officers in hospital here whose wounds will incapacitate them for service in the field for many months to come, but who certainly will recover, and a large number of whom, with a proper system of remuneration or rewards, might be induced to take up in their convalescence a study of the languages which, at any rate, would give you a certain number of officers—not necessarily young second-lieutenants—who would be available in five, six, seven, or eight months to come. I was contem- 2762 plating in all those matters Armies available for August and September, 1917. But I leave those two matters, though I trust they may be considered by the two Secretaries of State responsible for the Indian and Colonial Offices, and I trust that those Ministers will address themselves, not to marshalling with great skill the arguments necessary to knock out a proposal of this kind, but to test whether there is really anything to be got out of this line of inquiry or not, and then if they come to the House, having done their utmost to secure the full utilisation of our resources in these respects, their arguments will carry the greatest possible weight, and, whatever disappointment I may feel, it will be a disappointment un-tinged by rancour or reproach.
I desire to confine myself entirely to the question of men from the United Kingdom for the forces raised by the United Kingdom for service in the field, and I hope I am not going to be reproached, when I speak about the importance of man-power, for not referring to gun-power. Of course, that is another question. We shall have an opportunity of dealing with gun-power when we come to the Vote for the Minister of Munitions. But I wish to restate to the Committee the general propositions on the basis of which this subject should be approached. First of all, rifle strength is the true measure of man-power. Secondly, the proportion of rifle strength to ration strength is the true measure of the efficiency of your Army organisation. Thirdly, the war achievement of this country must be measured, not by the total number recruited, or the total number who offer themselves at one time or another for enlistment, but by the number and quality of the enemy forces you are actually holding and fighting on the enemy front. Those are the main propositions from which I start. My submission is that the proportion of fighting rifles to mouths is unduly low, so low, in fact, that it can only produce grave inefficiency and waste of men and money. The consequence of this inadequate proportion of rifle to rations strength is that we are holding in fighting a smaller number of the enemy than the resources contributed by the country would justify. Although the men in the trenches are only a small part of the Army, yet the battalions which they compose have been allowed to fall below strength in many cases, whereas they ought to be raised in strength in all 2763 cases. The right hon. Gentleman admitted the existing shortage. I contend, and the Under-Secretary for War's argument this afternoon leaves me unconvinced, that there is a great deal to be said, at any rate, during trench warfare for raising them above the establishment at which they have hitherto stood; but they are below strength, and thereby an undue strain and an unfair strain is thrown upon the fighting soldier; thereby our share in the general war is rendered inadequate both from the point of view of the needs of our Allies and the supply of men and money granted by this House and the nation.
Let us look at the position. At one end of our military system we have the country yielding willingly, though not without great difficulty, inconvenience, real hardship, much dislocation and risk, its whole manhood, its last reserves, or almost its last reserve, including men who have hitherto been kept back in some cases through very good reasons, but who must now go in spite of their reasons. You have that at one end of your military system. At the other end you have a comparatively, I would almost say an astonishingly small proportion of war-worn soldiers who compose the fighting battalions, and they are heavily burdened, severely tried and short-handed, who go back again and again month after month, almost year after year, and between these two you have an enormous multitude of khaki figures collected with great difficulty, maintained at heavy expense; the greater part of them willing and eager to take part in the War, but through want of management or organisation, or defective organisation, are prevented from being useful either in industry or in the field. That is the broad outline of my case, and it is so important that I am bound to press it and labour it in bringing it before the House of Commons.
What is the proportion of rifle strength to ration strength? The Under-Secretary said euphemistically that there was some disparity between ration and rifle strength, and there always must be. Let us see what it is a little more closely. I shall keep on very broad and general lines in this respect, but I think it is absolutely necessary that the House and the country should follow the main outlines of Army organisation. After all, the electorate and hon. Members who represent it ought to be as familiar with 2764 the details of Army organisation as we used to be in peace-time with the details of any of the old political controversies here. Broadly speaking, I believe the following to be correct. I am speaking very broadly, allowing large margins for everything I say. Half the total ration strength of the British Army is at home, and half abroad. Of the half abroad, half of it fights and half does not fight. Of the half that fights about three-quarters fights as Infantry in the trenches and in the assaults, and nearly all the losses fall on them. That is three-quarters of the half of the half, and the other quarter may consist of the Artillery and other services who come under fire and who render the most effective service against the enemy, but who do not suffer to anything like the same extent. In other words, on this calculation, which is a very liberal one, very much on the other side, for every five men who are taken from the nation at one end—I would almost say out of every six men who are taken from the nation at one end—one effective Infantry rifle is produced over the parapet at the other end. If that statement is correct, or even approximately correct, it will be seen that the Under-Secretary did not go too far when he said there was some disparity between rifle and ration strength. I am speaking of rifle strength in the trenches. I do not mean rifle strength in the trenches at any particular moment: I do not mean that at this particular moment that is the proportion. I mean the effective rifle strength of all the fighting divisions abroad, whether in or out of the trenches, whether in the front line, in support, or in reserve. I mean all the rifles of all the divisions organised at the front available for attack or defence. If I take only those in the trenches on any given day the number would be very much less. These are very fundamental facts of military organisation.
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
I am pleased that there is no dispute about that. Two bold conclusions may be drawn which I will submit to the Committee. First of all, that the number and proportion of 2765 those who actually fight ought to be greatly raised, and that it should be greatly raised by a comparatively small addition to the total aggregate; and secondly, that so far as possible able-bodied men, and especially young men employed in all those other much more numerous parts of the military organisation, ought to take their turn at the front, and not leave it to the same lot to go on continuously, and come back wounded time after time, until they are finally knocked out. In my own experience it happened to my battalion to receive a draft of thirty-five men, out of which twenty-six had been previously wounded, some of them very severely wounded, and this at a time when you can see with your own eyes going about this country that there are millions of men here and elsewhere who have never yet heard the whistle of a bullet. There are more than a million—at any rate, I should think more than two millions—of men who have not heard the whistle of a bullet. As to the sound of a shell I cannot be so accurate, because long range guns bring a good many people under their activity. I believe it is no exaggeration to say that.
Before I go further, I am going to say a word as to unnecessary secrecy about these facts. What is known to the enemy? We are glad to know what is known to the enemy, and to measure what is known one must examine and see what we know about the enemy. We know exactly where every enemy division is approximately. There was a paper published in the "Times" a little while ago which showed by name every enemy division on the British and Russian front, and I have every reason to believe that it was substantially correct. Is there any reason to suppose that the enemy is not equally well informed about us? The hostile armies lie within a few hundred yards of each other on the ground; they are able to hear each other's conversation at night, and they are continually obtaining evidence by identification in the shape of prisoners and dead bodies, and there is no doubt whatever that every German General has posted up at his headquarters the exact order of battle of the British, French, or Russian troops who may be on his immediate front. Of course, there is a margin for inefficiency and error which it is of great importance to observe, but this margin has no relation to and is not affected by the broad generalisations which are necessary for the public dis- 2766 cussion of these questions, and public discussion has become vitally important in order that the present inefficiency and the evils resulting from it should be remedied, and in order that the Army may sensibly gain if they are redressed.
Therefore the broad facts must be stated. I have unfolded to the Committee one method of measuring the realities of war, namely, the numbers at home and abroad and the proportion of ration and rifle strength, and the Prime Minister so far agrees with my conclusions. I have put them forward, and he says they are platitudes, but I should have almost thought they were paradoxes. Take another method of testing the efficiency of our military strength. We have been told publicly, and it is a public figure, that we are raising seventy divisions from the United Kingdom. We do not know how many of those divisions are at home and how many abroad, but it is quite immaterial for the purpose of the argument I am submitting how many are at one side of the Channel or the other. The establishment of a division was 18,500 all ranks before the War. I know some additions have been made since, but I will take that figure. Taking 18,500 and multiplying it by seventy, if my arithmetic is right, the total is 1,295,000. That is your fighting organisation at its maximum. Out of this how many actually fight in each division? Here I take a speculative and a disputable figure, and I daresay there may be some considerable room for argument as to the actual figure. An Infantry division of 18,500 men at full strength would produce on the average between 9,000 and 10,000 rifles, and between 2,000 and 3,000 Artillery and Engineers and other fighting units, who come under the fire of the enemy and take an effective part in the fight. If you say 12,000 fighting effectives for a division, I believe that would be held in all the Armies of Europe to be a fairly safe and generous estimate. Multiply the 12,000 by seventy and that gives you 840,000 men effective, out of which again between 600,000 and 700,000 would be Infantry rifles, on "whom all the loss of this War practically falls. It may be said that the rest of the men in those divisions are just as necessary to fighting strength as those who actually fight. I am not disputing that. Each division is a self-contained unit, with its transport and everything complete, and if in seventy divisions there are 2767 840,000 fighting effectives, there would, on the basis I am now pressing, be 455,000 indispensable ancillaries. Let us take the total figure, 1,295,000, or say 1,300,000 for short. That represents all the troops, apart from Cavalry and Corps or Army Artillery, which are included in the fighting formation of our Army at its maximum. That includes not only the fighting effectives, but those who sustain them in each division; it includes not only the divisions in the front line but those which are in support and those in reserve; and it includes not only the divisions which are abroad but the organised divisions which are at home, and that amounts to a total of 1,300,000 men. Where are the rest? If every division was abroad and at its full strength, that would account for 1,300,000 men. Now I come to another figure which has been officially stated, the gross figure of 5,041,000. That figure, I quite understand, does not represent the strength of the Army; it represents, if I understand it rightly, the total number of offers for voluntary service since the beginning of the War, offers of voluntary service to fight in the field or afloat against the enemy.
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
I understand it includes everything, even men who have come forward several times and have been rejected each time. I say that figure embodies a very impressing and very glorious fact, and I am not in the least quarrelling with it, but it is very important that it should not be misunderstood, very important, and that it should be properly explained by the Government, and I hope we shall have some explanation of it in detail. But I have to proceed with my argument on some basis or other for the purpose of arriving at a conclusion, and I am going to take an absolutely fair basis. So. instead of beginning with 5,000,000 men, which is the popular construction put on this figure—" an Army of 5,000,000 of men"—I think we should take off the Navy, I suppose 350,000. Take off the casualties, the permanent casualties. Of course, many people have been wounded several times and have yet gone back. Take off the current hospital population 2768 through active service. Take off those who have been rejected or subsequently found unfit. Take off the Dominions. Take off the Indians. I suppose all those should be taken off. Very well; make every deduction that is proper and necessary. Do not let us quarrel where there is no reason.
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
I do not think it does. I think it includes only people who fight against the enemy. At any rate, I say, make every deduction that is proper and necessary, and still, when you have done so, you have left an immense figure, certainly between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000, I from the United Kingdom. Supposing we take the lowest of all these figures as a working hypothesis. I have to avoid two dangers. One is the danger of precise statement, and the other is the danger of overstatement, in regard to these figures. I am honestly trying to give the House the main outlines of these questions without falling into either of those errors. So I take the lowest of all these figures—3,000,000. Seventy divisions at full strength at home and abroad equal 1,300,000 men, and that leaves 1,700,000 men still to be accounted for. What fighting elements are there in this great mass of men which are not included in the maximum fighting establishment of seventy divisions? There are the Cavalry, there are the Corps and Army Artillery; there are certain indispensable garrisons at home and in our fortresses, but in many cases these garrisons should be and are to a large extent made to fit in with training depots, so that they are really not worthy of separate mention as fighting elements. Supposing we take a lump figure for them all. It is a good thing to I mix them all up, so that no precise figure is discernible. Supposing we allow 200,000 in addition to the divisional strength for those units I have mentioned. With that 200,000 men added to the seventy divisions, aggregating 1,300,000, I shall have exhausted, to the best of my ability—and I have studied this question from near the top and near the bottom of our military system—all the fighting units and elements in our system, and I can go no further in accounting for our fighting forces. All the rest is at the present time non-fighting. Out of 3,000,000 there will be 1,500,000 at home and abroad, on the lines of communication, in the depots, in the training staffs in the schools, preparing or otherwise supporting 2769 the fighting formation—not the fighting men, but the fighting formation. The great thing is to block these large divisions of our fighting forces clearly in.
There are other ways of making this calculation, and I hope we shall not get into a dispute where there need be no dispute. About a year ago I had occasion to examine these kind of questions very closely, and it was then a rough general rule that a division and its share of corps and line of communication troops could be taken in the British, French, and German Army at 20,000 men. Seventy divisions on that basis would be 1,400,000 men. But then you have to make a small addition for the other fighting elements. The result of the calculations would not, I think, differ very much. You might take it either way, but it is very important not to forget that divisions have definite and precise establishments. They are not just vague fluctuating numbers; they have definite and precise establishments, and I would suggest that it is important to remember this. The Prime Minister the other day was asked a question by an hon. Friend of mine on these benches. He was asked to explain some of the figures connected with the Army, and he stated that a division, consisted of 25,000 men.
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
I will examine both the statement and the correction. The statement was a very remarkable one, and it throws possibly a curious sidelight upon the existing condition of our Army organisation. Afterwards, the right hon. Gentleman corrected it to 23,000, which was to include line of communication troops, etc. How did the right hon. Gentleman arrive at the original figures? It is quite possible that he could have arrived at it by the process of dividing the number of divisions in France into the total number of troops in that country. But that is just the evil against which we have got to be on our guard. That is just the evil element that might creep into our Army organisation, and we have got to be zealously on our guard against it. The official divisional establishment, the latest published, is 18,500. Since that certain additions have been made. The average of divisions is not 18,500, but a less figure, in spite of the additions. What has happened is that a great tail has grown up in France behind the Army, outside the fighting formation, in the depôt at the 2770 bases, and on the lines of communication, and this tail tends to grow ever larger. Part of this tail, no doubt, is of great value and importance, but numerically it deserves most searching scrutiny and vigilance from the military authorities, and also, so far as possible, from the House. How big it is already the Prime Minister's chance figure may reveal. For instance, if there were seventy divisions the difference between an 18,500' establishment and an advance to 25,000 would mean almost half a million men above the original divisional organisation. Nearly all that would be a non-fighting element, a mass of men who were not brought under the fire of the enemy, but which, nevertheless, contains large numbers of men in the prime condition of youth and military fitness.
I have no doubt that we shall have a full explanation from the Government on some of these points. I am bound to say that I think, as the year passes and great demands are made for men in the nation, it would be in our interest that the very clearest explanation should be given of the use to which our men are being put, and the results, value for money so to speak, which is being obtained for them. Meanwhile, what is the conclusion which I draw? It shall be a very modest and practical conclusion. With this vast mass of non-fighting men on your pay list you ought never to have allowed the comparatively small fighting units employed at the front to fall below strength, as has been done in many cases. Secondly, in this mass you will find, if you search, hundreds of thousands of men in the prime of military life available to raise to full strength, to reinforce, and to relieve the war-worn battalions fighting in and out of the trenches. You could have found them long ago if you had tried. You can find them now. Nothing has stood in the way of this process of replenishment of fighting battalions and the relief of men who have been wounded or worn out with the continual strain except the lack of power of organisation and proper use. I am not a great admirer of committees, though I know the Government is very fond of them indeed; but this great mass of men serving at home, soon to be swollen by the influx brought in. by the Compulsion Act—all my remarks, or practically all, are on the pre-compulsion period—this great mass of men serving at home, which is going to receive an immense accretion, it seems to me, offers a very promising 2771 field for the investigations of a House of Commons Committee. I can see no objection to such a Committee in this country. There might be objections entertained if it were to go abroad into the zone of the Army—even those are not insuperable—but there can be no reasonable objection to an inquiry limited to the United Kingdom, and if it produces good results it might be further extended. If useful principles were discovered, those principles could be applied as far as was possible and appropriate to the troops behind the line abroad. I think the Government might consider whether they would agree to a small business-like Committee of Members of this House, reporting to the House, if necessary in a secret session, on the condition of the employment of the great mass of soldiers in khaki we are paying for every day in this country at the present time.
Here, surely, also is a field for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom I am very glad to see in his place. At the beginning of the War, of course, it would have been most injurious if the Treasury had obstructed in any way the setting on foot of our military organisation, and the great measures of improvisation which were necessary. In those days the Chancellor of the Exchequer so far from obstructing expense was the principal instigator and urger of expense on a most gigantic scale, and circumstances showed that it was well he was so. But now the situation is changed. We have been at war long enough to have a complete and precise system at work, and after twenty-two months we are no longer novices and improvisers. Precision in accounting and economy in organisation are required. Money is very important. War power will be largely governed by it in the later phases of this War. The efficiency of our war effort cannot be measured apart from the expense, and I say it is the duty of the Treasury to take periodically certain soundings, by which, as it were, they can plumb the depth of our military system. Of course the Treasury cannot ask what is the right military organisation for the War Office to adopt, nor can the Treasury ask what is the true strategy in the War, but these are the kind of questions I would suggest the Treasury might ask about our military system: How many rifles are there proportionate to mouths? How many troops are there in the fighting 2772 formation compared with the troops drawing pay? How many troops are in contact with the enemy compared with the total strength? How many Staff officers are there compared with the number of regimental officers? How many generals are there compared with the number of fighting men?
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
And how do the answers to all these questions compare with what is happening, let us say, in the French Army? I think all these questions are useful and proper questions to be put by the Treasury. They may involve confidential matters, but that will be kept in the circles of the Government, and I am satisfied that a salutary and wholesome breeze would blow through our military organisation if such a set of inquiries were instituted, and that the advantage which would result in the efficiency of the Army would be greater than any inconvenience caused to various persons by being asked these questions at a time when, no doubt, they have many other things to do. I fancy the answers to some of these questions would surprise the House, and I am sure they would startle the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he embarked on that inquiry. Now, I believe the staff in this country is out of all proportion to the needs of the military organisation. I am not referring to the staffs of the fighting divisions kept in this country for Home defence, nor to the staff that controls them, nor to the War Office Staff. These are matters which really do not affect the issue. I mean the garrison staffs, the depots staffs, the training staffs, and the administrative staffs generally throughout the country.
I was given some particulars the other day of a garrison town, a very important garrison town, a seaport, but which is a long way from any danger either from air raids or sea raids, a place which I say the Admiralty would guarantee as being absolute immune from any danger of a descent by a landing from the sea. In this garrison there were from 10,000 to 15,000 troops, mostly drafts, and the plant which trains drafts which are being got ready to go to the front. There were a large number of battalion cadres, all very inadequately stocked with recruits, and the total was between 10,000 and 15,000 men. The Staff of this town comprised three generals, six full colonels, one staff captain, one lieutenant-colonel, two captains of the Royal 2773 Engineers, five brigade majors, a captain aide-de-camp, and about twenty-four I clerks. That is a very considerable force; I it could very nearly manage an army corps or a large formation in the face of the enemy, and I am told the majority of the full colonels are already drawing their pensions in addition to their full pay, something like £900 a year. There is a field in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer might walk without imprudence and with the hope of profit. OH the whole I believe it would be true to say that these staffs at home could be cut down by about one-half in expense, that is to say, partly by a reduction in number, and partly by a reduction in the rank of the persons filling different posts, and there would thereby be a large saving and not the slightest loss to our efficiency. But I do not only mean generals and staff officers in this great mass of men you have in the Home establishments; I mean the training plants and establishments generally. I am certain that if the organisations were examined and overhauled you would find an immense amount of redundancy and duplication. There are a large number of units which could contain double or treble the number of recruits they have at their disposal, and which withdraw from useful service large numbers of men who might be otherwise employed. The services rendered by pensioned officers at the beginning of the War were very valuable, but they were also very expensive. We have now an immense class of new officers.
The brain of the nation has gone into the Army since the War began. There are thousands of men serving in the Army now who managed big businesses before the War and who were rising lights of the learned professions, and who have now been in the Army for nearly two years, and have served many months in the field and have learned as much of their profession in this War as their comrades of the Regular Service; and is it not time that their aptitudes and qualities should have some recognition in the control and administration of the Army at home and abroad? After all, our original Army only amounted to eight divisions for fighting purposes. It seems hard, after such a gigantic expansion, that practically every post of the slightest consequence should be monopolised by the very small number of professional officers who belonged to the Regular Forces before the War.
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
It is so to a very large extent, and I think immense advantage would be gained by a pretty general clearance of older officers who have been brought back after having been refused higher employment in the Army, and their replacement by young and competent men of much lower rank from the New Armies, who have made their mark in business in private life, and who have done their duty in the field since the beginning of the War. I am sure there would be no difference between my right hon. Friend and myself on a matter like that. The only thing is this, it is very easy to put forward a principle but hard to get it done.
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
I am very glad to hear that, and I would not like to say anything that would obstruct that salutary process.
Now, about servants and grooms. I am surprised that the total number is only 120,000. I have never said that officers should not have servants and grooms, nor have I said that they should not fight, nor did I say that every servant or groom is a prime, military male fit for service in the trenches. No doubt we must make immense reductions on that score. Of course, where the troops are actually employed in the line—I have shown that is about one-sixth of the whole force—of course, servants and grooms employed with those forces are available with their rifles and ammunition to take part in any emergency, and may be used for duty as far as circumstances require them. But that is a very small part of the Army. There are an immense number of officers who have served behind the line whose duties do not take them to the front at all, or take their servants to the front. Then there are the officers in this country, everyone of whom also have servants and grooms. There is a very large number at the War Office. They must run into many hundreds. And all through your organisation you will find a very large number of men in their full currency of military service who are employed on this purely non-combatant work, and who could be quite easily replaced, and who must certainly be replaced in every case without a single exception, by recovered wounded men, by old unfit men, or by worn-out soldiers, who have served so long in the danger zone that they really are entitled to a period of rest. Well, I do 2775 not know how many you would find; but search this ample field. Suppose you find only 10,000 men, fit, competent men, who were employed on non-combatant jobs, and whom you were able to send off to the front. Well, I shall in that case get the blame of being an exaggerator, and you will get 10,000 men, and we shall both be perfectly content.
Now, I am aware that the deficiency in the fighting strength of units at the front has been, to some extent, reduced lately, and that leads me to ask how it has been reduced. There are various ways of getting rid of a deficiency of establishment. One way is to reduce the number of units or to reduce the establishment of units. That can be done by a stroke of the pen. Suppose, for instance, you had sixty battalions which were short of men, with an aggregate shortage of 12,000. Supposing you were to disband twenty of them and throw the men into the other forty. The Minister could come down to the House and say that the deficiency had been entirely made up, but the Army would not be stronger, because the men would count, in Parliamentary parlance, "two on a division." That device has often helped the War Office round an awkward corner, but I assert that this method has been employed to remove or conceal a deficit in the troops in the field. How extensively it has been used I do not know, but I will tell the House the story of the 9th Scottish Division. This division was the premier division of Scotland, the first division of the New Army to be raised by Scotland at the beginning of the War. In the battle of Loos, this division, with the other Scottish division, the 15th, played a very notable part. Out of the 9,500 Infantry who advanced to the attack 6,000 were killed and wounded in the battle. Some of the battalions lost three-fourths of their strength, but nearly all succeeded in achieving the task which was set them of gaining the positions—some of the most important positions—and they were only lost when they were subsequently handed over at a later stage to other troops. One battalion of this division—a battalion of the Cameron Highlanders—went into action about 850 strong. Thirty officers, the colonel, the Cameron of Lochiel, the adjutant, and 110 men, the survivors alone out of that 850, took and held the objective which they were set to take. Four successive lines were swept away, but the fifth line went on without the slightest 2776 hesitation. With these troops shattered in the first day's battle, the remnant of 1,200, collected out of the brigade of 4,000, were asked two days afterwards to make another attack, and they went over the parapet and renewed the attack with the utmost élan and good spirit.
You talk about the charge of Balaclava and the charge of the Fusiliers at Albuera, but those deeds pale before the deeds which have been done by the new divisions raised in the British Army. Needless to say, no account of their achievements, other than a very jejune account which was published many months afterwards, has reached the public, and their friends only know of their glory and of the heavy fighting in which they were engaged from private letters or from announcements of the casualties. Four battalions of this division—the premier division of Scotland—have been disbanded and merged with other battalions who were also short, and their places have been taken by a South African brigade. These battalions, who had covered themselves with glory, which had only just been created with such immense effort and labour, are swept away, their officers and men scattered and dispersed, and whatever their interests and their regimental ties were, they were brushed aside and scattered to the winds, and a Dominion brigade, which was intended to be an addition to our forces, has been put in as a mere substitute and not as a reinforcement. These were the shifts and straits to which you have been reduced in order to keep up the strength of battalions. As an administrative measure, I do not quarrel with the decision which you took in the circumstances. But what are we to think of a military organisation which, at such a time as this, in the middle of a War, breaks up seasoned battalions for lack of men, when all the time it has immense multitudes of soldiers doing nothing, or next to nothing, in its organisation at home or behind the lines?
One of the most extraordinary and disquieting features in the situation is the revelation we have had of the inner mind and outlook of the Government on these military problems by the way in which they have flourished before us and before the world the largest possible gross total of our strength. The figure of 5,000,000, to which they have given such prominence, if it really bore relation to the strength of our Armies, would be a most cruel condemnation of the system involved. In my analysis, I have scaled it down from 2777 5,000,000 to 3,000,000, taking only 3,000,000 as the basis of calculation. Even so, the contrast with what the nation has given and what is actually produced in rifle strength is, I cannot help saying, extremely unsatisfactory. The Government seem to desire to emphasise and exaggerate that contrast by every means. Surely this must produce the worst effect upon the Germans. The Germans know; they measure accurately what forces they have in contact with them. Our French Allies know what help they have by their side, and the statement of an enormous total which is out of relation to the actual output in the field does not terrify the Germans and does not comfort the French. It only makes your enemy think that you are bluffing or are very incompetent. What is worse is that you make your Allies think you have a force up your sleeve which you are keeping at home and are not putting into the struggle. The fact that the Government make a statement like this shows that they have not a complete appreciation of the military problem in all its bearings and reactions.
I shall be told that this great mass of men you have apart from the fighting units happens in all Armies, and that you always have as many men out of it as you have in it. Loose statements of that kind ought. not to pass unchallenged. It depends entirely on what you mean by "out of it" and "in it." Napoleon, I believe, said that out of every eight men five should be at the front and three should be behind. The question arises, what is the Front? We are as near the front here as a large number of troops are in France. We have an Army at the front, we have another great and growing mass of men behind the front, and then, on top of all this, we have another mass of men over here equal not only to the men at the front but to them and the men behind the front. I again suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because efficiency and economy may go hand in hand after a certain point when the creative work has been done, and now you have to refine down much to reach a fairly high position—I suggest to him there is a great possibility of redundancy, duplication and overlapping in the depots and training establishments on both sides of the Channel, which is a very fertile field into which we might inquire.
But test our organisation by comparison with other armies. We must not take the armies of our Allies, because they might object if we discussed their affairs. Com- 2778 pare it with that of Germany. I have shown that we have 1,300,000 men in divisional formation and certainly not less than 3,000,000 on our pay list. Let us look at Germany. I suppose Germany has in the field at the present time approximately 175 divisions on all her fronts. Taking the rough and ready test of 20,000 to a division, that would be 3,500,000 men. Does anybody, even the greatest pessimist, suggest that there is an equal force to that behind the German lines or that they have 7,000,000 of men on their pay list at the present time? Even that would not be the proportion. It ought to be in the proportion of fourteen to seventeen to be an exact parallel to the ratio between our fighting formations at their maximum and our total military ration strength. If it were a fact that the Germans had 7,000,000, it is clear they would have resources for continuing this War which I do not think the most gloomy prognosticator credits them with at the present time. I have not heard any figure quoted as to the German actual strength at the present time higher than something like 5,000,000 of men actually mobilised. I do not say that is the limit of their resources, but it is the only figure I have ever heard quoted of their actual mobilised strength at the present time. If that be so, it would be clear that for every 1,500,000 not in divisional formation they retain 3,500,000 at the front in divisional formation, whereas we, with rather more than 1,500,000 not in divisional formation, only retain rather lets than 1,500,000 in divisional formation. After all, all the German troops have been, or are, being engaged in their turn pretty severely, whereas, probably, a higher proportion of ours are being held back for Home defence or in other theatres where there is very little fighting to speak of. If you compare rifle strength I believe you would find this disadvantage emphasised.
There are two things to be remembered on the other side. First, I must state in fairness, before closing my argument, that there is the task of building up an enormous Army out of so little in this country, and the supreme service which Lord Kitchener has rendered in boldly and decidedly leading the nation and the Empire on to the path of becoming one of the great military Powers of the world. That must not be forgotten. No man was more reluctant, as I know well, to undertake that task, and no man saw more clearly at the time its character, its difficulties, and its magnitude. The fact that 2779 we are holding at the present time forty-five enemy divisions, including practically nothing but the best German troops and the regular troops of Germany on our fronts, that fact taken by itself is a great and impressive fact, which I am the last to belittle or to disparage. But you cannot stop there. We are fighting for our lives, and we must insist, whatever friction it may cause, on securing the utmost possible efficiency for war purposes. No past achievements of the War Office ought to be a bar, the Prime Minister must believe me, to the remedying of grave and widespread defects which exist in our Army organisation at the present time, and nothing can relieve hon. Members from their duties in drawing attention on the proper occasion to them. The second argument which must be stated when you are considering the war effort of this country, relatively to that of her Allies and her enemies, is that, in comparing the war efforts of, say, France or Germany, with our own, we have to remember that whereas their armies serve on their own frontiers or across their own frontiers, and are covering their own countries, our armies serve abroad across the seas, and we have to defend our own islands as well. We are bound to recognise that. Put do not put it too high. Do not make it the excuse for the absence of men who cannot properly be accounted for. Put it is the proper proportion. Do not let us use it as a shield and cover for slackness and inefficiency.
The numbers of good troops in fighting divisions required for Home defence are strictly limited. Before this War the Admiralty and the War Office, under the Presidency of the Prime Minister, were absolutely agreed upon what is called the 70,000 men scale of invasion. It has often been stated in this House that the Admiralty always said that if the War Office would be ready to deal with 70,000 men with light artillery the Admiralty would guarantee that no larger force would come through. I know nothing that has happened since the beginning of the War which in the least vitiates those sound conclusions on which we risked our existence in the early days of the struggle. On the contrary, one fact after another has tended to consolidate our position in this respect, and there can be no justification for retaining great masses of troops in this country either in divisional formations or as coast watchers. A 2780 reasonable provision must be made for a mobile and central force—that is a matter, of course, entirely for the Executive—but for the rest, cannot the Volunteers be made to play their part in subsidiary duties, and release men of military age wherever they may be found for the purpose of supplementing the fighting battalions?
To sum up, I submit to the Government, which has absolute power in all these matters—for after all the House of Commons has very little power and can only place matters before the Administration—that with a proper use of our resources in man-power it would be possible immediately to raise all fighting units to full strength. It would be possible in a few months to raise all Infantry battalions in the field to 1,200 strong, thus adding at a stroke 40 per cent. or 50 per cent. to the rifle strength, and at the same time it would be possible to arrange for a regular system of rotation—I do not say a universal system, but a regular instituted system of rotation by which every young man so far as possible took his share with the fighting battalion and every worn-out soldier had a turn of rest. Next year it would be possible with a proper use of our resources—if the military situation renders it necessary, and if you look far enough ahead and act in time—to increase the scale of our military operations and either to add an extra Infantry brigade to each division, or to embark upon that greater task which we must not exclude from the possibility of practical politics of raising the total number of divisions from seventy to the ideal at which we should aim of 100. We cannot survey the field of war to-day without profound realisation of the magnitude of the task before us. The continuing power of the enemy, which I mentioned on another occasion, on every front is proved to us by every telegram that comes in. We feel ourselves grappling with the most terrible foe that ever menaced freedom. Our whole life energies are required. We are trying our best, but are we at present developing the full results of the great effort made by the nation. I cannot think so. Consider the war effort made by France. At this moment the French Army is holding more than eighty divisions of the German Army on its front, a very large proportion of which are engaged in the most intense, protracted, and terrific struggle ever recorded in the history of war. But France has been engaged with this great force and with a larger force 2781 of 100 divisions at least over that great area since August, 1914, and the population of France is less than the population of the United Kingdom, to say nothing of the population of the Dominions, and to say nothing of the great resources of the British Empire. I say the nation has responded to every call, and the force which we have exerted in this War is far greater than any Ally had a right to expect or than any enemy had a right to take into its calculation; but the fact remains that full use has not yet been made and is not now being made of the nation's strength or of the Army's strength, or of the Empire's strength. We are the only great reserve of the Allied cause, and a proper use of our resources will enable us increasingly to come to the succour of our superb Ally with an Army which grows increasingly in strength and power as our latent resources are realised, and becomes a support for all the losses and exertions to which she has been put. No one who subjects the present organisation of the Army, either in the field or at home, to searching and dispassionate scrutiny can believe that every measure to that end is being taken at the present time.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. McKenna)
The right hon. Gentleman has made a speech founded upon principles which I am sure will receive general approval in the House. We are united in desiring to obtain the maximum military fighting strength from the forces at our disposal. The right hon. Gentleman has made two appeals to me and has pointed out that the argument which he has brought before the House, if well founded, leads to the inevitable conclusion that we are spending a great deal of money unnecessarily upon the Army—that is to say, that for the money we spend we are not getting a sufficient return. I should like to assure my right hon. Friend and the Committee of one fact. Every one of the figures of the numbers of men in divisions, the numbers of divisions employed, the numbers of men at home—every one of those figures when brought before me has presented precisely the same argument to my mind which my right hon. Friend has brought before the Committee to-day. If he will allow me to say so, I have been through the whole process of his reasoning, and I have endeavoured, as was my duty, to satisfy myself, when asking the Committee to meet expenditure upon the Army Estimates, that there was some 2782 good answer from my point of view to all those arguments. It is impossible for me—I do not intend to go into the military side of the question—to answer as to the military organisation in France. My right hon. Friend's main argument was directed to these two points, that the comparison between the divisional formations and the pay list shows that we are not developing anything like the requisite fighting strength in proportion to the number of men on our ration list, and, secondly, that the number of men that we retain at home, which he put, I think, at approximately 1,500,000—that is not the correct figure; he knows the correct figure, and so do I, but it is near enough for the purpose of this discussion—was in excess of the number which we ought to have. Upon the first point, the comparison between our divisional formations and our ration strength abroad, the answer is not a difficult one to find. My right hon. Friend gave the number of divisions which we have abroad, but those were Infantry divisions. When he spoke of our total strength of seventy divisions abroad and at home, he spoke of Infantry divisions only. We have in addition to the Infantry divisions the Cavalry divisions. The general attention of the Committee was rather directed to the number of Infantry divisions only, but we have the Cavalry divisions as well, which are all fighting forces; we have also the corps troops, which consist largely of fighting forces. He might have been supposed to mean, although I know he did not, that all these corps troops are mere non-fighting additions to the divisions. They are in the main fighting troops. We have, in addition to the corps troops, Army troops, which also are fighting troops, and the Committee will find, if they examine the constitution of the old Expeditionary Force, which was admitted to be as fine an Army as ever left these shores, and possibly any shores of the world, that there were only six Infantry divisions, and the total number of troops was just under 160,000. The real fact is that when you reckon a division, not as a fighting unit but as a proportion of the whole fighting forces, you must reckon it not as 18,000 or 19,000, as he says, but as 25,000.
§ Mr. McKENNA
When you take the actual Expeditionary Force that left these shores it had six divisions, and the 2783 actual number of men that went was 156,000, There you have over 25,000 as the proportion. If you divide the total of the Armies amongst the number of divisions you will get a result of over 25,000. That was true of the Expeditionary Force, and my right hon. Friend is mistaken when he supposes that that proportion has greatly increased on the development of the New Armies. That is the first point.
The second point is this: He spoke of the large numbers of men at home. Of course, the spectacle of the large numbers at home is obvious and strikes everyone. We are daily confronted with the fact that we appear to have well over 1,000,000 able-bodied men at home who, if not required to fight in France, a great many people think ought to have been left to work in the workshops and factories. That is the view which, naturally, I held very strongly, and I have therefore felt it my duty to obtain from the Adjutant-General the closest examination of the actual employment and position of every single man at home now, and I have seen the figures. When you have allowed for the number of men at home who are on the sick list, those who are now either convalescent or in hospital, because those are included in the numbers at home; when you have next allowed for the men in training who have not yet reached the position of qualified soldiers; when you have allowed for the reserves waiting to go out, when you have allowed for the divisions ready and waiting to go out, and when you have allowed for the recognised standard between the Army and the Navy of the men who should be retained at home for the defence of these Islands, you have covered the whole number.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am only making a statement on the figures as I have seen and examined them, and as I believe them to be true. The only item amongst those 2784 figures which can be the subject of controversy is the number of troops which are kept at home for home defence. There can be no controversy about the number of men who are on the sick list or the number who are already in divisional formations waiting to be sent out, or the number who are at home who have not yet qualified, and have not been under training a sufficient number of months to be qualified to go out, nor can there be any dispute about the number of men in reserve waiting to go out.
§ Mr. McKENNA
It is quite true that in the early days a great many men were taken who ought never to have been taken, but I do not think that is happening now.
§ Mr. McKENNA
It is my duty to inquire into all these cases, and I do so, and I am glad to receive any evidence of cases of the kind, as I cannot perform my duty to the House unless I do inquire; but I have satisfied myself as regards these figures, and I have covered, with the items I have given, the whole number of troops at home, and the only item which can be the subject of controversy is the question of the number of troops who ought to be kept at home for Home defence—that is, in my judgment. Upon that figure I can only state that I believe it is the same number as was agreed upon between the Admiralty and the War Office when my right hon. Friend was himself at the Admiralty. I do not think the figure has been altered. It must be remembered that, as my right hon. Friend quite fairly said in the conclusion of his speech, we are fighting this War under a difficulty which no other army has to meet. All our troops who are fighting have to go abroad, and consequently a double organisation has to be maintained. There is a supply organisation at home for all the drafts abroad, and an organisation for the whole Army, and undoubtedly the double organisation throws a burden upon our War Office which is not thrown upon any other War Office. I am simply replying to the appeal which the right hon. Gentleman made to me upon points as they affect my Department. There is one other matter I would like to mention. My right hon. Friend referred to the figure which was given in the course of his 2785 speech by the Prime Minister, namely, 5,041,000 men. By inadvertence, my right hon. Friend did not use the figure in the way in which the Prime Minister used it. My right hon. Friend spoke of the 5,041,000 men as being the military effort of this country.
§ Mr. McKENNA
If the hon. Baronet will let me finish my point he will see what I mean. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the 5,000,000 as being the military effort of this country, and said it is misleading to use a figure of that kind if it is meant to represent our effort in the field.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The Prime Minister never used the figure in that connection at all. He was speaking of the withdrawal, if my memory serves me right, of man-power throughout the Empire and throughout the whole War. When the figure is used in order to suggest that it is misleading as an expression of our military power, it is using the figure in a way in which it was never originally employed by the Prime Minister. It is necessary for us to bear in mind not only the military effort which we are making to-day in our Armies, but the total withdrawal of man-power from the nation from the beginning of the War. It was in that connection, and in relation to this country and the Empire as a whole, that the Prime Minister used the figure of 5,041,000. That truly represents the complete withdrawal from the Empire of man-power since the War began.
Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100, in respect of the salary of the Secretary of State for War.
I have often listened to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with great interest when he has dealt with figures I have great admiration for his dexterity in using figures and that admiration has not been in any way destroyed by anything I have heard this afternoon. I would like to deal with one or two points in his speech. The first is in regard to the Expeditionary Force, which he endeavoured to prove was a force which had six divisions with a fighting strength of 26,000 each. That will not bear inspection. I am perfectly cer- 2786 tain that, although you may take that rough and ready way of fixing the strength of any unit in this House, it will not carry any conviction to any man who has been in the field, and certainly not to any man who was present in the Army at the time that that Expeditionary Force went out. The right hon. Gentleman said that 156,000 men went abroad then, but I venture to say that the fighting force of the division in the field at Mons was far less than that which my right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Churchill) stated as being the average at the present time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then mentioned an official statement in regard to the general distribution of the large number of men in this country, according to figures provided by the Adjutant-General. I have not seen those figures, and I am not likely to see them, and, therefore, it is impossible for me to enter into any detailed criticism of them; but I have in my past career been obliged on more than one occasion to deal with similar problems and to try and make the best of a bad job. It is always a chronic condition, and always has been a chronic condition since I have known the Army of a fight between the establishment and the effective. The Staff has to try to bring the effective as close as possible to the establishment and to try, on every occasion when hon. Members in this House have shown any special curiosity about some particular affair or some particular body of troops, to provide some answer which will show that the difference between the effective and the establishment is not too outrageous. The last point that the Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt with was the statement of the Prime Minister in regard to the 5,000,000 men who have offered themselves for service. I agree with what he said. The impression conveyed to my mind was, as he stated, that the Prime Minister wished to express the whole effort that has been made by this country and the Empire and not to express, or to give any colour, to the idea that we actually had 5,000,000 men in the field. But there is a danger in these statements. I have argued repeatedly with hon. Members and with people outside as to the meaning of that statement, and the meaning that was evidently conveyed to the public was—and I believe it has been confirmed by the recent gracious message from His Majesty which we have been in the papers—that we had 5,000.000 men. Of course, the average man in the street 2787 does not know sufficient about the technique of the Army to be able to discriminate.
Anyone who has listened to the powerful, well-argued, well-informed speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Churchill) will not be surprised that there should be a wish in this House to express by the usual constitutional method, a certain amount of doubt in the management of the great Department presided over by Lord Kitchener. For that reason I rise to move the Motion which stands in my name, and in doing so I would point out that I have, differently from other hon. Members, limited the reduction of the salary to the formal conventional amount which is put down to express a general dissatisfaction with the administration of a Department. I have carefully abstained doing what I see by the Order Paper has been done by other hon. Members, namely, referring in any way to the total emoluments of the Secretary of State for War. I have nothing to do with, and I have no interest in, the total emoluments of any Minister. If there was a necessity to vary the total emoluments of any particular Minister, I should naturally wish that the ordinary course would be pursued and that the House would be informed of the change. Beyond that it would be for the Treasury or the Prime Minister to explain the reason. It certainly would not be either fair or generous to Lord Kitchener to refer in any way to any variation which may have been considered necessary in his emoluments. No doubt there were good reasons for any such variations, and certainly I would not have anything to do with anything so ungenerous as to question the great services which Lord Kitchener has rendered in the past and which may have been considered sufficient to justify the variation. I wish to make it clear that in this Motion I am dealing solely with the administration of the Department and not with any person. Let us get rid of the question of personality. Let us get rid of the question of magic names and other things which have been put forward as excuses for mistakes or blunders. We have to do with a Department which is the most important one at the present time. No one would minimise the immense problems there were before the War Committee of this country at the beginning of the War, nor could anyone expect that these great problems could be solved without some points at 2788 any rate being open to criticism. What we have had to-day was a picture of the present condition of the Army. I must deal somewhat in retrospect, as we are given very little official information as to the actual state of affairs. Looking back in retrospect to the past two years, I must confess that I have been impressed with the fact that our great failure has been due to the absence of a well-considered scheme at the beginning of the War, and to the absence of the capacity to take the whole problem in a broad way at the outset. We have heard much said as to the marvellous organising power of the present Secretary of State for War. I would define organising power as the capacity for making the most effective use of all the elements at one's disposal, for bringing together all the resources of energy and production, and so co-ordinating and directing them as to produce the maximum result. I do not think that it can be said that the effort of the Secretary of State for War in the early stage of the War comes up to this ideal. There was no general use made of all the elements at his disposal. He had at his disposal machinery which during the last few years had been renewed under successive Secretaries of State for War. From Mr. Brodrick down to Lord Haldane successive Secretaries of State for War had been engaged in reforms of the War Office. These reforms had been most successful, as was proved by the efficiency of the Army which was created, and also by the much greater ease with which the ordinary business of the Army in a normal state was carried on. It seems to me that a development and extension of the system already existing would have been far better than a general scrapping of the system which had been built up with so much trouble.
I will not go now into a detailed explanation of the form of War Office organisation. It is fairly well known and familiar to most Members of this House. The species of reform that was made was the setting up of an Army Council, very much on the same lines as the Board of Admiralty, making use of the experience that we have gained in various Departments, by which there was a number of able and most efficient officers placed in supreme charge of the various Departments and given wide powers of administering those Departments, while the 2789 Secretary of State for War was the President of the Council at the direction of the War Department. We have seen that from the very first that was swept away. We had once more the spectacle of a Secretary of State for War who also constituted himself the Commander-in-Chief. Members of his Army Council were no more than staff officers, obliged to do his bidding. That, I think, is one of the most serious blunders that have been made. It led to a system of centralisation which was destructive of all power of expansion at the moment when it was necessary to expand to the fullest extent of our military system. We see, and everyone who has had anything to do with the military arrangements of the last few years will have realised, how the system of centralisation was made more severe than ever it had been in my experience in the War Office. The indivual members of the Army Council were no longer free to exercise control over the several Departments. If you want to get to the end of a journey driving a team, it does not do to put the bearing reins on your team. That is exactly what was done at the War Office.
Instead of leaving the various members of that team free to carry on their work, they were simply held in an iron grasp by one personality. There was no directing scheme of policy adopted in the first instance; there was nothing to show a full grasp of the whole situation. In using the word policy, I do not refer to matters of Imperial or international interest which are usually connected with that word. I refer to a general comprehensive scheme for directing the expansion and development of our armed forces which became inevitable from the moment that this country departed from the attitude of aloofness from other nations in matters of world policy. That expansion had to be made primarily in the armed force of the nation, but equally all other forces in the country had to be brought in to play their part in the struggle for national existence. Those elements in the national existence which we have been accustomed in time of peace to regard as belonging to our peaceful development, such as our industrial resources, our economic strength based on our commerce, and our great carrying trade, had all in time of war to be harnessed to the chariot of war and made to take their place side by side with the naval and military forces. That was a fact which was wholly ignored by the War Office at the beginning of the War. There was un- 2790 due haste to crowd the ranks by any means with recruits, to swell up an imposing number without any regard whatever to the effect that it must have on the other great forces of the nation who are no less important, and even at times I would say more important than the number of men in the ranks. I say more important because we were not, as it was shown six weeks after the War began, in a position to deal with the men whom we did get. Therefore it would have been far more important that men should have been drawn much more carefully and much more slowly from industry, rather than hurried into concentration camps where it was impossible to train them, where there were not even the means of clothing and feeding them. This was inflicting a most serious injury on the future recruiting of the Army.
There was a great chance at that time for anyone who had really grasped the whole situation, to have brought home to the nation what was clear to, at any rate, large numbers of people in this country, that we could only get through this War by national effort, and that that would include the effort of every man, the whole manhood of the nation. From the moment that we were committed to war with nations which were organised fully for modern war, the only thing that could bring us satisfactorily through it was that we should go in as a nation and not merely by sending certain portions of our population to fight. That means utilising every man, not necessarily as a soldier, but in some form of utility. For this country that was the only national aim in a war like this.
There are three forces which have now become generally recognised as those upon which the whole of our success depends. First, the question of men, the fighting force; second, the question of material, the industrial force; and third, the economic force. It was with the material and the men that the War office had to deal; only in a very secondary way did the economic question come in. I will deal first with the question of material, because it was in the matter of material that we were first brought face to face with a serious failure on the part of this Department. We have never been informed officially what steps were taken, in the early part of the War, to look forward and prepare for the three years' war which it is said the Secretary, of State for War had predicted. Assuming that three years 2791 was the period in the mind of the Secretary of State for War, the thing that would strike most any man who had to organise for such a period as that would be, not so much what had to be provided at once—the people coming in—but, "How am I going to be prepared for the third year of the War?" We have never yet been given any idea as to any scheme which was drawn up for the provision either of men or of material. I have discussed this with some gentlemen friends of mine, who have had large interests and given large employment in armament factories, shipbuilding and similar industries, and I have failed to find that there was ever any calling in of these representatives of those industries.
In the early part of this War, when one would have naturally sought to think out the plans that would be necessary, I drafted a sort of scheme for what seemed to me to be the practical way of dealing with this great question—which looks to my mind far more serious and far larger than the question of men—the question of providing the Army, when once it was brought together, with all that it would require to make it into a modern, efficient machine. Because everybody who has followed the development of modern arms must have seen, what is now beginning to be realised by everyone here, that war nowadays is a sort of machine-made war in which all the deadly engines have to be prepared largely beforehand, and that they require a considerable time for their preparation. It seemed to me that the reasonable way to approach the question would have been to summon together the representatives of all our great industries—and we have the greatest industrial force in the world—to have called them together and brought them into contact with the leaders of organised labour, and then, in conference with those representatives, to have come to some understanding, after giving them a clear and definite estimate of what was considered positively necessary in order to afford some idea of the manner in which it was to be carried out. With the financial strength of the country behind the Secretary of State for War, or the Government, it ought to have been possible to have formed a combination as strong, or even stronger, than that which has done so much for Germany. It was clear that there was nobody at the War Office at that time who at all realised the 2792 magnitude of the effort that would have to be made by the industries of this country, and, therefore, they altogether lost sight of the fact that if they began by withdrawing men from industries they laid the foundation of the great difficulties that they would afterwards have to contend with. Then, again, I have never been able to trace any sort of definite scheme for the raising of the Army. I have looked with great care to all the statements made in the House, and in another place, and the only indication I can find is in the speech of the Secretary of State for War, on the 25th August, 1914, in which he says:I cannot at this stage say what will be the limit of the forces required, or of the measures that may become necessary to supply or maintain them, but the scale of the New Army which we are now calling into being may rise in the course of the next six or seven months to a total of thirty divisions,I think the whole of the original scheme of the Territorial Army provided for the raising of twenty-eight divisions, so that to talk of this as a scheme adequate to deal with the conditions created by the outbreak of the great War seems to me to be wholly insufficient. That is the only indication ever given of any definite programme for raising the Armies which ought to be created. Now we are told that we have seventy divisions, as indicated by my right hon. and gallant Friend in his speech, and all this proves that we must look forward to an extension to one hundred divisions. To save time there should be some definiteness on the subject, because, unless a definite limit is fixed, it is impossible fully to develop the necessary organisation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) struck that point in one of the recent Debates in this House, and he referred to it again and again. He said:Has the Government really considered, have they really calculated and determined, what is the proper size of the Army which they ought to have?He further said:It becomes vitally necessary to invite the Government to tell us it they have really formed any proper conclusion as to the size of the Army.Again he says:You must make up your mind as to what the size of the Army is to be.And so on—again and again referring to the same subject. I differ widely, as widely as any man in this House, from the right hon. Member for Walthamstow on the question of military preparations, but he struck a true note when he realised that we must know what is going to 2793 be organised, otherwise we cannot know how to set about organising it. And that has never been clearly faced—certainly has never been made evident to the people of this country. I believe that if the people of this country had been taken fully into the confidence of the Government, if they had been told from the outset, "This is a great War in which you have engaged," there would have been no doubt whatever as to what their feelings were, or the response which they would have made to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when he set forth, in his matchless way, the cause for which we are fighting. There would have been no hesitation on the part of the people. The people are not frightened when they are going to take on a big job. Why not have let them know the full extent of it? Why not have let them know that it was an undertaking which would require the whole manhood of this country from the very first day on which we entered into the War? I am perfectly convinced—having been brought up in the good old Whig school which trusted the people—that the people would have been worthy of that trust. That was never done. On the contrary, we had twice a call for 300,000 men, then a call for 500,000, and then another 500,000, and so on. Still, the people of this country did not realise, they were not asked to realise, they were not made to realise, what was the great undertaking which this country had to face, and what was the work which they had to get through. It is only now, after nearly two years of war, after endless Debates, and after endless pressure exerted by Members of this House, that at last it has been brought home to the country that there is in this struggle work for every man to do, and that every man must do his equal share, and discharge his part of the obligation which falls upon him.
Instead of that having been done earlier, we had a series of makeshifts. I will not trouble the House with the whole list of them. Men were transferred from this unit to another, apparently to make good deficiencies; volunteers were called for from one unit to make up deficiencies in another; powers were taken to transfer men against the terms of the contract into which they had entered; Cavalry depôts were depleted in order to fill up Infantry depôts; specially enlisted men who had engaged in the Army Medical Corps were drafted into the Infantry; every breach 2794 of contract that could shake the confidence of enlisting men was committed. My right hon. Friend brought in a Bill to authorise transfers from the Territorial Force, but he had to withdraw it, and that has only recently been made possible by the last Military Service Act. While this was going on, while all these makeshifts were being made, there was absolute secrecy—that policy of secrecy which has dogged the Government ever since the beginning of the War. It was clear that if these measures of emergency, of makeshift, were necessary, there must be something wrong, and anybody who goes about the country, and who knows how to use his eyes and ears, can very soon find out how it was wrong. In March of 1915 I myself made representations on the subject of the deficiency of men in the depôts who were required to fill up the drafts for the front. There were depôts which could not find the drafts, and the drafts had to be drawn from others. It was a system of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and it began as early as last March. Although the pressure on the industries had then begun, and although it was found that the output of our factories was being seriously injured by the haphazard method of recruiting, there was no system adopted, or even thought of, to discriminate between the various classes of workers in this country who might or might not fairly be withdrawn from industries. On the 19th May, last year, I drew attention to this fact in the House on the Adjournment for Whitsuntide. I urged upon the Government then to consider their stock of men, which they had altogether neglected to do, to form a plan based at least upon some definite data, and this data must be the number of men which we have in this country, and which we could afford to use for military purposes. In the very first week of the War I urged the formation of the National Register, by which we should know how we could allocate the man-power of this country. The whole man-power—I do not hesitate to repeat it again—the whole had to be used somewhere, either in France or in our industries.
Major-General Sir I. HERBERT
My hon. Friend was not here when the Chancellor of the Exchequer answered me, otherwise he would have found out that the 5,000,000 men have never existed as a 2795 fighting force. I hope the hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed. If he looks into the OFFICIAL REPORT of these Debates to-morrow he will see exactly what was said about these 5,000,000 men. It was a somewhat unfortunate interruption on the part of the hon. Gentleman, and I wish my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been present to hear it. At the time when I made this proposal for at least taking stock of our man-power in this country, the reply which I received from my right hon. Friend, and which was delivered with that courtesy which we all enjoy when he answers us, was this:—I am not authorised to announce any definite policy, and I daresay my hon. and gallant Friend will understand that I rail only represent the feeling which has been manifested in the observations he has made.That was after more than ten months of war, and we had not then begun to think of the supply of men that we had to carry us through the War, which the Secretary of State said was going to last for three years. But events were moving all the time. War is inexorable; it does not wait for you to make blunders and correct them, and whilst we were waiting our supplies of men dwindled away and a huge deficit had been created in our reserves We had taken on a fresh undertaking in the East. We had the Gallipoli Expedition on our hands. By the time the register had been completed, and we had taken stock of the men that we had, we had the condition of things in Gallipoli which has been described by Sir Ian Hamilton. Writing on the 16th August he said:My British divisions alone were 45,000 men under establishment. Some of my fine battalions had dwindled down so far that I had to withdraw them from the fighting line.In the March before there were not, to my knowledge, the men in the depots which had to furnish the drafts for some of those very battalions which had to be withdrawn from the fighting line. Yet no measure had been taken, and we are asked, forsooth, to give blind confidence to a Department that would allow such a condition of things as that to continue. I am not going to discuss whether the Gallipoli Expedition was wise or was wisely sent or efficiently carried out. That is not a question to be discussed here now. I deprecate at any time the discussion of strategical questions or military operations in this House because we can never have fully all that is necessary in order 2796 to form a full opinion. But I will say this with regard to that expedition, that, in my opinion, a full inquiry into it is urgently demanded and is being more urgently demanded throughout the country. The reputations of many distinguished officers are assailed, and they alone have a right to have an inquiry. The reputations of British officers are an asset of the nation; they do not belong to the individual. I maintain that it is high time now that the whole question of the Gallipoli Expedition was fully inquired into. We have a right to touch upon this question, because the Secretary of State for War is the Minister who is responsible to Parliament for all that is connected with his Department, and for the undertaking of military operations, and the furnishing of the necessary men and material to those operations are also matters which come within his Department. Whether it was wise or whether it was possible, knowing the condition of things into which our reserves at home had been allowed to fall, to send out and undertake that expedition at all is a very doubtful question, from the information which one has now.
Just about the period when the great final struggle in Gallipoli was going on there was growing in this country and in this House a very strong feeling of uneasiness as to the conditions of the supplies of men for our Army. Then began a series of questions and debates in this House on the question of altering our system of enlistment. I ventured about that very period, the 16th of September, to put to the Under-Secretary of State for War a series of questions as to the number of men it was estimated would be required and the number of Armies that would be required to prosecute the War, and for how many years that calculation had been made. It never appears to have struck anybody that if we were going to have a war for three years you must know at the outset to some extent how you are going to be provided with men in the third year. Next I asked him if all the Armies were complete to their full extent, if those Armies had a second line to their full extent, and if any of the units raised for the New Armies had been diverted from that purpose and used to furnish drafts, and, lastly, whether the units of the third line of Territorials had also been completed. We know now the answers to all those questions, which were in every case unsatisfactory. The answer has never 2797 been given officially, and I never expected it would be. We know now that the units at the front were not at their establishmen quota or nearly, and that we had not got in this country the drafts by which we could make them up, and that our third line of Territorials had never been completed, and that some of the troops we raised to form New Armies had been diverted from their purpose and used for drafts. All that is known now. It is idle to try to preserve this foolish secrecy which is being kept hanging over us and the country and by the Secret Session of this House. It was the effect of that final catastrophe at Gallipoli and of the exertions made by individual Members in this House that brought the matter to a crisis and led, in the first place, to an alteration of the condition of things in the War Office, and next to that great effort known as the Derby effort.
In the autumn some sensation was made by the departure of the Secretary of State for War on a mission, a departure which led ultimately to another sensation in the form of a prosecution of a newspaper, but all was explained to those who chose to read the signs by the alterations which took place in his absence at the War Office and the Royal Warrant which followed, and which has once more established somewht the position created in the reformed War Office and given us independent heads of the various Departments, and not merely staff officers of the Commander-in-Chief. But the question of men remains unsettled. It is well known what took place last August. Making use of that Register which had been formed with so much difficulty, Lord Derby performed a great service to this country in carrying out that which had been urged by others beside myself at the very beginning of the War—namely, a personal canvass of every man throughout the country in order to find out if he was willing to serve. If they were not going to impose by law the obligation of service the only other way was to find out from every individual man, and mark down those who would be taken from industry and leave those who would be required. I will not trouble the Committee with all the fluctuations of that period until we came at last to the first Military Service Bill, the first one which imposed any obligation of service. It was a poor Bill. I tried to improve it by including all men on attaining the age of eighteen years. The Com- 2798 mittee will remember what the answer was. It was given in this House:He (Lord Kitchener) authorises me to say this Bill will give him, by bringing in the unmarried men, all the men that he requires. It will enable him to provide the troops that the nation requires. It will enable him to do all that he can and all that is necessary to be done, to use his own words, to secure victory."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1916, col. 192, Vol. LXXVIII.]Can there be absolute confidence when there was a hopeless blunder such as that? It was never explained, and it will remain recorded in the records of Parliament. In spite of that remark, by the efforts of Members of this House and pressure that was brought from the outside, at last some sort of ordered system has been devised, and with that we must be content. It has at any rate relieved the situation, and it will make the work of organisation far easier. It will also have this effect—and this is something I would like to point out, following upon what my right hon. and gallant Friend said in the course of his speech—it ought to set free a very large number of men who have been for the past eighteen months or more engaged more or less in recruiting duty. The work of recruiting has now become automatic, and the country is relieved to a considerable extent of anxiety on that score. But there is an enormous number of men—and you have only got to go through the country and in various towns to see the immense number of young men and a very large number of them in uniform—engaged in duties connected with the old and now obsolete system of recruiting who are still connected with the recruiting staff and who might and ought to be much better employed. The result of the failure such as I have endeavoured to show in the main duty of the War Department—namely, that of the provision of material and of men—has had a remarkable effect. It has led, practically, to the creation of two new Departments—one officially recognised, the Department of Munitions. I think anyone who looks at the work which has been done by that Department in the year in which it has been in existence will say that my remarks as to the failure in the early part of the War were fully justified, and that the failure to call into the assistance of the Government Departments all the reserve of force in the industrial community of this country was mainly responsible for the failure which occurred in April last year, and for the cost of many lives in our gallant Army. There has been taken away from the War Office one of its functions, that of providing the material necessary 2799 for the Army. I think the experience of that experiment has been satisfactory. But there is this to be remembered—and I think from what I hear from those who have experience at the front this is a point that requires to be considered—the close co-operation of the two Departments in connection with the matter of material. There have been complaints about the quality of material provided. Those complaints naturally come through the military channels, and where there are two Departments concerned it is obviously more difficult to get to the bottom of the question than when there is only one. I would, therefore, in mentioning this, say that one of the points which require amendment—and I am sure there will be amendment in the course of the next year—is to get a closer co-operation between the old War Department and that which was formerly one of its branches, the Ministry of Munitions. The French, as the House knows, who have had similar difficulties, got over them by what seems on the face of it a better system, that of having a separate branch of the Department under a separate Under-Secretary, instead of a separate Department of State.
The other development has been that the question of recruiting has now practically passed from the Ministry of War to that of the Local Government Board. It is my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long), who answers our questions on most of these matters connected with recruiting. I think this a good departure. From the earliest part of this War I urged that there should be a local government organisation in the country that should undertake the collection of the men, and I hope that this may be a development which may still further be elaborated. The War Office requires to be relieved of some of its functions, and especially of functions of that kind which deal with the civil population. They will have plenty to do when they have men as soldiers in the ranks, and they have to provide for them, and have to carry on all the variety of business connected with their transference from civil life to the fighting line, and to look after them when they get there. I will not keep the Committee longer. I have kept them perhaps longer than I intended or thought I should, and I know other Members wish to speak, but I only wish to say this in conclusion: That in any criticism that I have ventured to put forward I would ask 2800 hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen to believe that I have not, and I hope I have succeeded in my endeavour, intended to cast any personal slur upon the distinguished officer who has been called to the position of Secretary of State for War. I fully admit his claims by his previous services to the respect and regard of all British citizens. But as a Member of this House and as one who has taken a big interest in all that concerns the Army, which I have served so long, I should not be doing my duty if I did not endeavour to put forward those points on which the Department—and here I emphasise again that it is a question of the Department which is presided over by an individual—has failed. I am quite certain that with the recent legislation, and the greater power that there is now for carefully co-ordinating and organising the various forces, that there will be improvement, and that we shall go on increasing our force right through so as to be able to carry us to a victorious end.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not propose to occupy the attention of the Committee for more than a few moments, but there are one or two points which were made by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dundee (Colonel Churchill) to which I feel it my duty to advert before I deal with the substantive motion put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend below the Gangway (General Sir Ivor Herbert). My right hon. and gallant Friend laid down a number of principles in regard to army organisation in time of war from which I do not in the least dissent. They were perfectly sound; they were based on good reason, and upon experience of the past. And accepting those principles, about which I do not think I was perhaps rude when I called them "platitudes"—at any rate, they are part of the common stock of all writers and speakers of greater or lesser authority in regard to these matters—accepting those principles as true and sound, I wish for just two or three minutes to examine the criticism based upon them by my right hon. and gallant Friend, and directed against the present organisation of our own forces in the field and at home. My right hon. and gallant Friend called attention—I believe he was thoroughly justified in doing so—to two apparent paradoxes, if I may so describe them, in the present situation. The first was the apparent disproportion in what he called the "ration and the rifle strength" of our forces at the front; and the second was equally striking, 2801 the apparent disproportion between the number of troops kept at home and the numbers who are employed one way or another in the various theatres of War. Both of these are points which are well worth putting forward, and which require very serious and respectful consideration, and I need not say—my right hon. and gallant Friend will believe me when I say it—that they were not for the first time brought to my notice and the notice of the Government in his speeches last week and again to-day. In fact, they have occupied our anxious attention for many months past. In regard to the first—the disproportion, striking as I agree it is on paper, between the number of troops in the fighting line and those who are behind them in support in various capacities, and in various numbers—I very much doubt, after such study as we have been able to give the matter, whether the disproportion is greater in our Army than in any of the other belligerent armies now at war. The conditions of modern warfare, and of this War in particular—for in many essential conditions, as everybody knows, this War is totally unexampled—are such that whatever may have been the proportion which an illustrious master of the art of war like Napoleon laid down in his own time, I believe all practical soldiers of experience during the last twenty or twenty-two months in the fighting that has been going on, whether it be in France or whether it be in the Dardanelles, will agree that you must allow a larger proportion—not a smaller, but a larger proportion—of men behind in support, as compared with those in front, than has ever prevailed in any previous campaign. Of that I am satisfied, and I do not think my right hon. and gallant Friend will differ from me there. I certainly have not met any officer of experience who has been engaged in operations at the front who is not strongly of that opinion.
Again, as my right hon. and gallant Friend very fairly said in the qualified observations with which he concluded his speech, our own condition in this respect is peculiar among the belligerents. You cannot really apply to the British Army, coming as it does from these islands—every man, every ounce of goods, of supplies, and of stores, having to be transported across the seas—the same measure or standard in these matters as you would to any other of the belligerents now actually engaged in the War. Nevertheless we have taken, and are taking, the most effective 2802 steps we can to see whether we cannot utilise in what I may call the fighting line a larger proportion of our strength on the field. We have in our distinguished Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, a general who is not only well versed in military history, but who is peculiarly sensitive and alive to changed conditions of modern warfare; and his eyes and his mind are, as I know from personal communication, constantly and vigilantly kept on this point. We have further, during the course of the last few months, sent to the front, to pay special attention to this particular topic, the Chief of our General Staff, the Adjutant-General, and the Quartermaster. They have all been there; they have all studied the problems on the spot; they have all made suggestions and proposals which have been carried out, with the result that I believe, as the months go on the present disproportion will be substantially reduced. This I must say—and I hope my right hon. and gallant Friend will not quarrel with me when I say it, or suppose that I am in any way disparaging his authority and being disrespectful to the value and cogency of his arguments—that in a matter of this kind, which is, after all, a technical matter as to which the ultimate decision must rest in your strategical and tactical advisers, you must in the long run accept their judgment and be governed by their advice. In regard to the other point upon which my right hon. Friend laid considerable emphasis, namely, the equal, striking, and ostensible disproportion between the large number of troops whom we retain at home, and those sent abroad to the various overseas theatres of war, somewhat the same considerations apply. There again our position is an exceptional, and, indeed, a unique one. Thank heaven we have not been invaded. I myself do not think we are likely to be. But the risk of invasion is one which we can never leave out of sight, and against which we must always vigilantly and effectually provide. In this we must be guided in our estimate by the number of troops that the Army and Navy jointly—for it is a joint naval and military matter—consider necessary to make us absolutely secure against the dangers of invasion. We must be guided by them. We cannot, we should be very wrong, if we arbitrarily cut down the figure which they regard as the safe and irreducible minimum. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already 2803 pointed out that the troops kept at home are either sick or convalescent, or are men training and not yet matured for service, or men who form the draft-supplying units for the units abroad, or the new divisions which are ready or approximately ready to go. I do not believe that there is any surplus after you have exhausted these categories. If, after the necessary provision for Home defence there is, if there can be proved to be such a surplus, I am sure there is no one more anxious than the Chief of the General Staff to extinguish it as a surplus, and to utilise it for fighting purposes abroad. My right hon. Friend said a word by way of censure or by way of criticism. He quoted one concrete illustration as to the excessive number of officers who are kept on Staff service here at home. I think that was one of his criticisms. Certainly, that is a matter which ought to be most carefully examined and dealt with. He will be glad to know that the matter has not been left at all out of sight, and that already, in the course of the last few months, or, I think, weeks, a substantial reduction of the Staffs in the United Kingdom has been effected, notably the abolition of training centres such as Salisbury, Ripon, and Aldershot. That has been effected, and will be effected I hope, with beneficial results.
I must, in passing, say one word—I am not going into figures generally, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already dealt with them—about a figure of mine which my right hon. Friend quoted, and which has been quoted elsewhere more than once, as a figure I used, I think, first of all in the Secret Session, and afterwards in the public Session, when I said that the total military and naval effort of the Empire up to that date amounted, roughly speaking, to a contribution of 5,000,000 men. That is a perfectly accurate statement. I was, however, careful to point out that it had no relation to the question of how many men we have now in the field—absolutely none! I was describing the effort the Empire has made, of the men who have been withdrawn, who are either already in the Army, including, of course, the Regular Army and the Territorial Force, and the men who are already in the Navy. Adding this to the number we had when the War started, the numbers since contributed by recruiting, both for the Army and the Navy, and from the Dominions, swell the 2804 grand total of our Imperial effort. Many of the men unhappily are dead, some of them—a substantial number—are permanently disabled by wounds, and nothing was further from my mind, nor, I think, from the understanding that the House had of what I meant, than to suggest anything more than that the figure given represented the total aggregate effort of the Empire to meet this great call upon it. I did not use the figure in any spirit of complacency. It may be that we ought to have done more, but it is a great fact. It is one of which we ought to be proud, that in the course of such a short space of time so much has been done by the combined patriotism of the United Kingdom and the outlying members of the Empire. Make that perfectly clear.
I do not in the least quarrel with my right hon. Friend's deduction from my figure. Speaking, however, about the actual strength of our forces in the field, or available for the field, I am not at all sure that he or I would at all differ from one another. There was one point made by my right hon. Friend which, I am glad to say, does not raise any controversy between us. That is the appeal which he made—which fell on a most willing ear—that as far as possible we should secure the promotion of younger men, men of brains, of freshness of eye and of experience, not only to command units in the field, but particularly to the work of the Staff. I heartily respond to his appeal, not from any disparagement of the splendid Staff officers whom we had when the War began. We had some of the best Staff officers in Europe. They served in their position of the greatest responsibility with great efficiency, but when you multiply, extend, and add to your Army as we have done in this War, a staff which was adequate for the Expeditionary Force of 160,000 men is obviously unequal to the new demands made upon it, and it can only be by recognising without routine, without restrictions and red tape, without excessive etiquette, by recognising the claims and the abilities of young and capable men that you will readily organise your armies for victory in the future.
I come to the Motion which has been made by my hon. and gallant Friend below the Gangway (Sir Ivor Herbert) to reduce the salary of the Secretary of State for War. I am rather sorry he has made it. I think the whole of this discussion might have taken place with as much freedom if such a Motion had not been made. Since, 2805 however, it has been made every Member of the House must exercise his own discretion in the matter. Since it has been made, I am bound to say, and I say it with the utmost sincerity and earnestness, that I think the Army, the country, and the Empire are under a debt which cannot be measured in words for the services Lord Kitchener has rendered since the beginning of the War. This was not, Heaven knows, a task which was sought by Lord Kitchener for himself. He was on his way back to Egypt to resume the functions which he had discharged there with such conspicuous value to the Empire during so many years. My telegram to him asking him to stay and to come and see me only reached him, I believe, as he was stepping upon the boat at Dover. He returned. He told me in the frankest possible terms of his indisposition except at the call of duty, to undertake the task which I proposed, with the consent of the Sovereign, to lay upon him. Like every good soldier, duty came first with him. He subordinated everything to that. From that moment to this there has not been one single day in which Lord Kitchener has not laboured with an assiduity, a zeal, and a patriotic self-devotion—as I can say from personal observation and daily contact with him—which are beyond all praise. I am not going to say, I do not know that I can say it of any of my colleagues, much as I respect and value them, that Lord Kitchener has never made a mistake. It was one of the most arduous undertakings which was ever laid upon a human being. I am sure there is no single critic here who is not generous minded enough to say that if there have been mistakes, it is just possible that he himself has made mistakes. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not so many!"]
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Well, we need not go into that. The charges, such as they are, which the hon. and gallant Member has brought against Lord Kitchener are charges not against him only, but against the Government of which he is a member. I have been, more than any of my colleagues since the first day, closely associated with Lord Kitchener in all that he has done. I accept and share the full responsibility. This I will say—nobody can share this responsibility—there is no other man in this country, or in this Em- 2806 pire, who could have summoned into existence in so short a time, with so little friction, with such satisfactory, surprising, and even bewildering results, the enormous Armies which now at home and abroad are maintaining the honour of the Empire. I am certain that in history it will be regarded as one of the most remarkable achievements that has ever been accomplished; and I am bound to say, and I say it in all sincerity, for that achievement Lord Kitchener is personally entitled to the credit. My hon. and gallant Friend dwelt, not unnaturally, on what he conceives to have been errors in the early stages of the War in the provision, of munitions and in the failure of our recruiting machinery. There is a good deal to be said on the other side, but I will not say it now. More prevision, some fair minded critic may say, might possibly have been shown. Errors might have been avoided. The machinery of recruiting well enough adapted, as it was, to the raising of our old voluntary Army on a small scale, as a machine had got choked, encumbered, and to some extent broke down. It was then called upon to discharge the task for which, in some respects, it was not fully adapted. I venture to say—and I hope the Committee will endorse the appeal which I make, when I ask them to say that, if you look back on those twenty-two months of war, on the strange and unforeseen emergencies, dangers and hazards which those months as they have rolled along have brought into being, of almost kaleidoscopic variety and unexpectedness, we as a nation, having started the War with a military system which had the consent of all parties in the State, and which only provided for the dispatch abroad of 160,000 men, and realising what we are doing now, both at home and in all the theatres of war—I say that, as fair-minded and fair-judging men, they ought to view the whole of this strange, and, as I say, unprecedented scene, with all its episodes and all its possibilities, and they will not be indisposed, I will not say to be indulgent and generous, but to be just and fair in the appreciation of the enormous services rendered by Lord Kitchener.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Committee has listened to a brilliant defence of Lord Kitchener by the Prime Minister, but I think he will agree that it is somewhat strange that this afternoon, with the exception of one speech delivered below the Gangway, all the time up to the present 2807 has been occupied by speakers on the Front Benches. The Prime Minister, I admit, has been very brief, but I wish he had listened to the Debate before he made the defence of Lord Kitchener. Everything, as we know, in the Cabinet has been sacrificed to unanimity, and I would ask the Prime Minister whether the Cabinet has not been unanimous on one question, and that is the question of Lord Kitchener? I do not know that any single one of his colleagues—I do not know about the right hon. Gentleman personally—has not at different stages of this War stated differently in private from what he has in public about Lord Kitchener. The Prime Minister knows that perfectly, and I ask him whether it is not a fact that at the time this great man, to whom the right hon. Gentleman has paid this eulogistic tribute this evening, went to Greece the Cabinet did not endeavour to get rid of Lord Kitchener. I challenge him to rise and deny that fact. What is the position of Lord Kitchener to-day? The Prime Minister has stripped him of every authority as Secretary of State for War. He cannot move a hand. His whole position as Secretary of State for War is different from that occupied by any other in any of the previous Administrations. If we are to have plain speaking, and I think we ought on these matters, Lord Kitchener sent a Minister to me to say, at the time of the discussion on munitions, that if certain officers were to be removed from their positions at the War Office connected with Ordnance, he (Lord Kitchener) would resign. What happened? Lord Kitchener opposed to the utmost of his power the removal of munitions from his control. The Prime Minister took the subject away and handed it over, against Lord Kitchener's wishes, to the Minister of Munitions. Lord Kitchener then fought time after time for control of the scientific branch in ordering the classes of guns and munitions, and as soon as ever he had gone to the East this branch was transferred, against Lord Kitchener's wish, to the Minister of Munitions.
What has happened with regard to recruiting? Lord Kitchener, we all know, is a great poster, and has been very successful as a poster, but what happened with regard to recruiting? Owing to the great chaos which prevailed under this so-called voluntary recruiting, which everybody, except some hon. Members below the Gangway know is no voluntary system at all, 2808 the Prime Minister hands the recruiting over to Lord Derby. What are the powers of Lord Kitchener? Sir William Robertson reports direct to the Cabinet. Lord Kitchener to-day is a mere figurehead to bolster up the system of voluntary enlistment. Now I make this charge against Lord Kitchener here. When this War broke out, he went down to the House of Lords and made a speech in which he said he was a soldier and not a politician. I maintain it is the duty of Lord Kitchener to carry out that undertaking he gave to the country. What did he do? When the Reserves fell off in August and September last year to a point which created a grave danger to the State, Lord Kitchener's duty was clear. His duty was not to have acted the part of a politician, but to have gone to the Cabinet and said, "I want certain men to keep up not only the Reserve, but the strength of the battalions at the front." He did not even tell the Cabinet in August or September what he was doing, and, although the Reserves had fallen to a dangerous point, he had not taken the slightest step whatever to go to the Cabinet and say that Conscription was necessary, and that there should be equality of sacrifice all round. Lord Kitchener made a speech in the House of Lords last week, and it is amazing, after what had happened, that he could come down and make a speech of the character he did. What had previously been the attitude of Lord Kitchener? For months and months he had never gone to the Cabinet and said, "The men are necessary, and I want you, the politicians, to find me the men, whether you have to have Conscription or not." [HON. MEMBERS: "How do you know?"] I ask the right hon. Gentleman to deny it if that is not true. I make that statement, and I know it is true. This is my charge: During the time he let the Army Reserves go down he took no steps to come to the Cabinet and say—
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The hon. Member, and many with him, have always been content with ignorance on these matters.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Prime Minister and his colleagues are on the bench, and they can reply to the statement without the assistance of the hon. Gentleman. They can perfectly well take care of themselves without the assistance of the hon. 2809 Member, who is content, like so many other hon. Members, to follow blindly anything. [HON. MEMBERS: "How do you know?"] I am not going to pursue that point further except to say this, that I make the definite charge that Lord Kitchener took no steps whatever during the critical period of 1915 to say to the Cabinet, "I am not getting the men I require, and I ask you, therefore, to go to the country and say, 'We must have a system under which we take men early, and not under this bogus system, which means the worst form of Conscription.'" Then the Minister of Munitions—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"]—I have not got any of my information from the Minister of Munitions—
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
In the early part of 1916, it is common knowledge, the Minister of Munitions—I have no personal knowledge of this fact—stood alone on this question of Conscription. At all events, the view that the Minister of Munitions took was the view the House of Commons adopted, and it is the view evidently that ought to have been taken many months previously. There cannot be any doubt about that. Let us see what Lord Kitchener actually said on the question in the House of Lords. I take the report from the "Times" of 24th May. This is what he said:On the final stage of this Bill it may be appropriate to say that its smooth and rapid passage through your Lordships' House will prove most beneficial to the Army. As soon as it has received the Royal Assent, we shall be able to regulate the flow of recruits to the Colours and get rid of those sudden fluctuations in recruiting, which were so prejudicial to military and industrial interests. … There is no doubt the Armies in the field will welcome this measure with intense satisfaction. … This Bill will enable us to maintain its numbers in a manner and degree not hitherto possible, and thus take our fair and full share in the great conflict on the issue of which our nation as a nation and the future of our race depends.That is admirable, but that was not the view of Lord Kitchener up to a few weeks ago.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Many years ago I remember the right hon. Gentleman making a speech in the New South Wales Parliament, but I must not be led away. The amazing part of this whole proceeding is that when the Prime Minister went to Newcastle and made his celebrated speech Lord Kitchener still remained Secretary 2810 of State for War. Although Lord Kitchener remained Minister for War, you had the amusing position of the Minister of Munitions coming down to the House and making a statement in which he said:We were rather late in realising the great part which the machine gun plays in this War, and I think I am entitled to say that the first time the problem was impressed upon me was by the Prime Minister after one of his visits to the front in June. When my right hon. Friend returned he impressed upon me, in the gravest possible language, the importance of supplying a large quantity of machine guns, and we immediately placed large orders at home and abroad.But Lord Kitchener had been time after time to France, and are we to have a civilian to go to France in order to find out that it is necessary to have more machine guns? We have the extraordinary position that the Prime Minister goes to France, and, with his great foresight—no one recognises his great abilities more than I do—he comes back and impresses on the Minister of Munitions the necessity of having more machine guns. What is the good of having a War Minister when the Prime Minister has to go out in order to ascertain that there is a shortage of machine guns? At that time we were losing thousands of lives—
§ Mr. TENNANT
What I did say was, that if the position was carefully considered the hon. Member would see that it was impressed upon the Minister of Munitions for the first time, and I also added that very large numbers of orders had been given for machine guns before the Prime Minister visited France.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Prime Minister impressed upon the Minister for Munitions the necessity for ordering more machine guns.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Perhaps I may be allowed to say something. When I went on my first visit to the front I was impressed, because I got my information from officers who were actually doing the fighting in the field. It was not information from raw civilians, still less from men of demoniacal genius. Every officer I met engaged in the operations said that is the thing most needed in the field, and when I came back I transmitted that information to the Minister of Munitions.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
That is exactly the point. Many of us have relatives and friends at the front who communicated to us the fact that we were lamentably short of shells and machine guns.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I know that the War Office placed large orders, but this is what the Minister of Munitions said:I wonder whether it will not be too late? Ah! two fatal words of this War! Too late in moving here. Too late in arriving there. Too late in coming to this decision. Too late in starting with enterprises. Too late in preparing. In this War the footsteps of the Allied Forces have been dogged by the mocking spectre of 'Too late'; and unless we quicken our movements damnation will fall on the sacred cause for which so much gallant blood has flowed.That is exactly what we are saying about Lord Kitchener. The charge we make against him is that he never ordered the material and he never gave the orders which he could have given until the Prime Minister came on the scene. No other country has ever shielded incompetence during this War, and wherever a general or a Minister for War has failed in his duty, out he has gone. One of the besetting sins of the Prime Minister is his intense loyalty to his colleagues; but by being loyal to his colleagues he has not been loyal to the nation. All his colleagues know his intense loyalty and, of course, they naturally appreciate it, but by being loyal to his colleagues he has not been fair to the nation. I should like to take this opportunity of saying that whilst I was speaking on another occasion during the War a word came to my mouth which I afterwards very much regretted using, in which I said the Prime Minister had stated that he would stick at nothing to win the War, and I also added that he would stick to his salary. I did not mean to suggest that the Prime Minister was in any way actuated by such a motive as that. I did not know whether to write to him and apologise, but, being a rough kind of speaker and not having the command of language like the Prime Minister and not having prepared a speech, those words came to my mind, and I thought it was a fair Parliamentary retort at the time. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept my apology.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Under-Secretary of State for War has been the butt of this House for months now for all the 2812 stupidity of Lord Kitchener. In my humble judgment there are very few Members of this House who could have done the work so conscientiously or could have given so much ability to the position which he occupies as the Under-Secretary for War has done, for he is always most courteous under criticisms of every kind and description, and I am sure that I voice the feelings of the whole of the House when I say that we all feel deeply with him the grevious injury which has befallen his son. The right hon. Gentleman has at all stages had to defend the War Office, whether right or wrong, and when he makes a mistake, as he did about the treatment of prisoners of war in Germany, it was a slip. I know cases where the treatment of prisoners of war in Germany is generous. The Under-Secretary has for months past been defending the War Office in sending boys of sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen years of age to the front. If Lord Kitchener really wishes to put a stop to this kind of thing the War Office should send out circulars stating that the official age is nineteen, and state clearly that they were not going to take boys of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen years of age and declare themselves ready to treat them as nineteen and send them to the front. I have been in favour of sending all lads of eighteen years of age. I have had hundreds of cases brought to my notice of boys of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen years of age who have been sent to the front, and some of them have been shot. I am going to tell the Prime Minister that boys of seventeen at the front have been shot for deserting in face of the enemy, and I do not feel that it is right under any circumstances to do this, although I know it is necessary that at the front we must have some form of punishment in order to maintain discipline. It is not right to take boys at such a tender age and send them out without any previous training and then if they desert to have them shot, because that is a crime and a disgrace to the House of Commons for permitting it.
I wish to ask why no steps have been taken by the War Office to issue medals or ribbons, particularly to the men who served in the 1914, 1915, and 1916 campaign? This course has been urged by men who have gone through all the turmoil and hardship of the War, and they have asked that they should be allowed to wear a ribbon, but Lord Kitchener has not taken the view that these men are entitled to have this ribbon. I was able to 2813 persuade the Prime Minister to grant a medal for Distinguished Service in the Field. With regard to another subject, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was Home Secretary for weeks he was accused in this House of failing to deal with alien enemies, and for weeks he bore all the criticisms directed against him without saying a word. But who was the man responsible? Lord Kitchener himself took away from the Home Office the administration of aliens, and alien enemy subjects who had been interned by the Home Office were released by order of Lord Kitchener. What happened? The usual log-rolling went on. People of social position went to the War Office and asked why Lord Kitchener persisted in releasing certain alien enemies. What business had Lord Kitchener to deal with alien subjects at all? At this particular period the Secretary for War actually took over the control of alien subjects when he should have been attending to munitions. Lord Kitchener has been responsible for very much of the misfortune which has tome from not appreciating the gravity of this question. If any hon. Member will look at that article in the "Times," of 27th May, 1915, saying that Lord Kitchener was an unsuitable person to remain at the War Office, he will be bound, I think, to agree with it to-day if he has any regard to facts which are true. Having, however, set up an idol in this country, the destruction of that idol in the minds of many people would be a misfortune, but the people who first called attention to this position at the War Office—I am not going to mention their names, although they are well-known to the House—are not to be criticised and held up to public odium because they rendered the great public service of calling attention to the administration of a man whose whole conduct in the management of the War, though in the question of recruiting he has had a considerable measure of success, renders him unfit to occupy the position of Secretary of State for War.
Colonel Sir M. SYKES
I never expected to speak in this Debate when I came down to the House, or I should have been otherwise attired, and I little expected that I should reply to the hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham), who has just spoken. I feel that it is not the business of a serving officer at all to attack or defend the Secretary of State for War. That is not in our province, but while the hon. Baronet has been speaking 2814 certain thoughts have passed through my mind, which I venture to lay before the Committee. It is for the Government to answer the charges that have been brought against Lord Kitchener I gather, from what the hon. Baronet has said, that he is charged with being incompetent, obstinate, and absolutely lacking in brains. All I can tell the hon. Baronet is this: Outside England, in neutral countries and in Allied countries, that is not the reputation that Lord Kitchener has, and in Germany he is feared as a great organiser who, with the assistance of others, has put a very large Army into the field. Further, in neutral countries, and I have been in neutral countries, he is certainly an asset to our credit. All I can say is that all that kind of speech does is to shake the confidence of our Allies. Right away to Basra, the Persian Gulf, Tiflis, wherever you go, his name is a name to conjure with, and the German General Staff has an excellent propaganda machine which will know exactly how to use the speech of the hon. Baronet. I will not detain the House a moment longer, but there is a quotation which comes in my mind. The boatswain in the beginning of "The Tempest," when various passengers came up on deck during the storm and gave trouble, saidSirs, you do assist the storm and mar our office.
§ Colonel NORTON GRIFFITHS
I desire to associate myself entirely with the remarks made by my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down. I take strong views on the point that serving soldiers should not criticise or take any part in a Debate such as that to which we have been listening. It is a matter for the Government and for civilian Members. My object in rising is rather to quarrel with some of the figures which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Colonel Churchill) has given this afternoon, and to bring to the attention of the Committee some practical points which I have learned by observation. I think what we have done since the beginning of this War is little short of miraculous. I am convinced that with all our faults we have made less mistakes than the Germans, and I would like the Committee to remember that whereas they were training and preparing for this War for twenty years we have been driven to create an Army as big as theirs in two years. We must be fair and play cricket. I speak now as a Member of this House. We must realise that we sent out a small Army of 150,000 2815 men without enough machine guns. If we had had twenty machine guns per battalion instead of two we should have had the Germans miles away to-day. We must play cricket. The politician, in my humble opinion, is more to blame than any living soldier to-day. Let us own up. I have been on recruiting platforms with a Member who has openly confessed that on more than one occasion he has moved a reduction of the Military Vote by 10,000 men. He wished to own up that he had made a mistake. That is playing the man, in my opinion, and the more we do that and the less we have of these personal attacks on soldiers trying to do their best the better.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee based the whole of his contention as to comparisons in figures on the assumption that the Germans have 5,000,000 men. I am absolutely convinced in my own mind—and I have studied this question very closely indeed—that if we knew the truth to-day it would be nearer 7,000,000, and, indeed, 8,000,000. It invalidates the whole basis of his argument if he is mistaken in that figure of 5,000,000, and I am convinced that he is. I listened to his speech, and I tried purposedly to imagine that I knew nothing about conditions at the front, and was a Member who had never left the House since the commencement of the War. The impression he left on my mind was that we had an Army with enormous wastage going on at the front, with large numbers of men doing nothing, and with only one man in six who ever pulled a trigger. That is entirely wrong, and I am perfectly sure that my right hon. Friend will admit that he did not intend to convey that impression. I heard some Members discussing his speech—one at the telephone and another in the Lobby—and that was the impression it left on the Committee. I venture to think it is an entirely erroneous one. My job took me to every part of the line, and I do not think there are very many yards of the front-line trenches that I have not stumped. Nobody had a job by which they could observe as much as I had the good luck and the good fortune to observe. I tried to study and to find out what was wrong and where there was a weakness, so that after the War I might assist my country by imparting my information to Members who might be taking part in future Debates. The Battle of Loos 2816 was referred to. I was at the Battle of Loos. I found out where the weakness was and why in some respects it failed, but I do not want to go into that matter. I can, however, assure the House that when there is a big attack like that there is not a single idle man amongst all the thousands of men, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee inferred this afternoon. You can take it for granted that every single man had his job allotted to him and that everybody behind the line was busy. On occasions like that the percentage is much higher than one man out of six actually in the attack, and I do wish to correct that wrong impression.
The right hon. Gentleman next lead us to imagine that there was a large number of officers' servants doing soft jobs. Many a time I have watched battalions going in to relieve other battalions—what a jam it is trying to get along!—and on those occasions every officer's servant has two men's work compared with the ordinary soldier. He goes in the trenches, moreover, with his bayonet and rifle and everything, and when there is an attack he is allotted his place and has to man the parapet. One recalls the battles of Mons and the Marne in the early days of the War, when we had to call on every single man, every officer's servant, every groom, and every man that they could scrape together, to put into the firing line to hold the position and effect the wonderful retreat we made. There was not an officer's servant doing an officer's servant's work on that occasion. It is the same when there is an advance. Admittedly, when resting and in barracks, the officer's servant has a bite of his master's dinner, and probably one or two little crusts that the average soldier does not get. It is not right, however, to say that there is a large number of officers' servants doing nothing and having a soft time.
The right hon. Gentleman also suggested that officers might be taken out of the front line and others put in their places, and so forth. Technically speaking, it is not possible suddenly to switch in one officer one week and another another week. The whole esprit de corps of a battalion is based on men getting to know their officers and the officers being there the whole time. There was one discrepancy I noticed when my right hon. Friend was referring to the strength of the Germans. He failed to take count of their auxiliaries and their servants. I am absolutely sure 2817 that the Germans have far more non-effectives than we have behind the line. But the crux of the whole argument to my mind is this: The Germans are pivoted on a centre. There is no intention probably of their advancing away from where their present line is. They have not now the intention of walking right through France, and they do not need the enormous paraphernalia which it would be necessary for them to have if they were to make such an advance. It is the contrary for us. We must be prepared—and we are prepared, I venture to say—for that, and we are as well equipped as, if not better equipped than, any Army in the world could be for an advance. I remember taking an hon. Member of this House on one of my journeys in a car. I said to him, "I want you to criticise everything you see and tell me what you think, so that I can get an idea of what your impressions are." He purposely adopted a critical attitude. The first thing he said was, "Look at all those rows of lorries; they seem to be doing nothing." I stopped at one and went to the officer in charge and said, "This is a friend of mine, and I would like him to get to know the facts. He seems to think you are doing nothing very often. Just tell us what you do." The officer convinced the hon. and gallant Member who was with me that he then had a part to play and had work to do which it took him all his time to do, without reckoning that if there were an advance on the following day his task would be much harder. My friend saw that there was no wastage in that or in any other direction.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee quite omitted to mention the question of the training of men which is going on behind the lines in France. There we have cadet schools in which officers are being turned out, and bombing schools, and all sorts of tuition is going on. Trench warfare has rendered it necessary for us to go in for all kinds of new ideas. Every day they are learning something new about trench warfare. Some new device will be discovered, and men have to be brought out of the trenches to be trained in its use. Men have to be trained in the use of hand grenades and other kinds of weapons of destruction. With regard to the statement that we have a large number of men behind the lines who are not being used, I myself was one of the party which went round trying to steal men for the new units for which I was 2818 responsible, and my greatest difficulty was to get men from units on the lines of communication on account of the enormous amount of work they had to do to keep the Army going in the field. The Member for Dundee referred to the question of recruiting natives in Africa. There I claim to have some considerable experience, for I spent over twenty years of my life in that part of the world and in handling natives. I do not agree that in this European War you could, in time, at any rate, arm and train what we call the ordinary Kaffir or African native and make him a soldier suitable for the trenches. I know there are exceptions. There are the Cape boys, who provide fine material, and there are one or two other classes of native we could use. I happen to know that this subject has received considerable thought and has been gone into most carefully. It is all very well for anyone in this House to say you have 20,000,000 natives or 30,000,000 natives; let us have 5,000,000 of them over. I venture to suggest that they would be more in the way than any good they would be.
Again, with reference to those men behind the lines, and to the suggestion that out of six only one is using the bayonet in the trenches, we must not forget that in this trench warfare we have been confronted with an entirely new aspect of war. The whole position was never contemplated by anybody, neither by the Germans nor by any military critic or anyone else. We have new branches of Service where we used to have none. We have thousands of men engaged on one class of work where we used to have none. Mining, for instance, was never dreamt of, and yet without it you cannot for one minute hold a yard of trenches. In the same way you have your railway men and you have your electrical units and all sorts of entirely new kinds of service which we never had before and which the Germans did not have before. They have now in many instances copied us and we have not copied them. I do much regret the feeling which I know was in the minds of many Members of this House that there is a gigantic wastage going on. I am not here to defend, but only to explain, the actual conditions. In the ordinary course of events every single man of a battalion of a thousand men does his day's work in the trenches at some time or another. The impression conveyed by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee was that 2819 only one in six of the men who had gone out was used in the trenches. I assure the Committee that is not so. Then we heard one hundred divisions lightly alluded to. We should all like to have a hundred divisions if we could get them and keep them up to full strength. But how are you to get sufficient men to maintain the force which we now have if we had 100 divisions. Has my right hon. Friend taken into consideration how we are to maintain the strength of those 100 divisions next year? I do think it is very important that statements like that should have more consideration before they are heard at this House. I would again emphasise that my right hon. Friend based all his assertions on a 5,000,000 basis of Germans. If those 5,000,000 men happen to be 6,000,000, 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 then the whole of his argument is entirely upset. With regard to the other charges such as the one made by the hon. Baronet who sits below the Gangway opposite (Sir Arthur Markham), I think it is little short of wicked that they should be made here. Healthy criticism is all right, but to come down and make persistent attacks on a man who has achieved wonderful results is the most reprehensible proceeding. I am perfectly convinced that if the Germans had realised that we could produce 5,000,000 men or that this country would produce 5,000,000 men, you would have had no war. I remember that when it was argued in this House that we could produce a trained man in six months the idea was laughed at. Taking it all round, I will say we cannot produce in six months a soldier to equal the two years' trained men who belonged to the little Army we first sent out and which is second to none in the whole world. I do ask the House most earnestly to give credit for all the efforts which have been made. Do play the game. Let every Member of the House take a full share of the responsibility and not keep backbiting and harping at a soldier man who has done his work right through in a magnificent way.
§ Mr. LYNCH
The question I desire to put before the Committee is this: whether they wish to win this War or to safeguard the reputation of Lord Kitchener. In the speeches such as that to which we have just listened, any kind of criticism is deprecated. I say that Lord Kitchener has no more severe critic than the Prime Minister himself, if we pierce deeper than the words and look for the acts. Before I sit down I will show that. I remember well when the 2820 Prime Minister made the first announcement of the appointment of Lord Kitchener with a certain glow of satisfaction at having secured a man of high reputation. But even then there were misgivings, I believe, in the Cabinet, at least upon the part of one more foresighted than the others. And in spite of what has been uttered in this House to-day, I would say there is largely prevalent in the Cabinet the opinion at this moment that Lord Kitchener has been one of the signal failures of the War. Those misgivings might have been justified at the beginning if, instead of merely depending upon a popular reputation, the Prime Minister had asked the question, "What are the qualities of Lord Kitchener and what are the qualities required in a Secretary of State for War at the beginning of such a vast and new undertaking as the present conflict?" He would have seen that there was nothing in the past career of Lord Kitchener which really entitled him to have that particular post. His type of mind was that of a rather slow-moving, strong-willed man, whose operations hitherto had been on a minor scale, and in which there was no suggestion even of all those new factors which have been brought about in the present War. But for a Secretary of State for War at the beginning of this conflict the Prime-Minister ought to have known that what was needed was an alertness of mind, a vision, a clear sightedness and adaptability, a force even of genius, if one can use a word which is greatly disparaged in all Government Departments. And all those qualities Lord Kitchener had hitherto given no indication whatever that he possessed. The whole course of this War has shown that he has been deficient in those qualities. Let us put him to the test. Having the man, having the qualities demanded, let us try him by the tests which are the favourite tests of the man himself. I may say I have no compunction in criticising Lord Kitchener on any subject whatever, because his reputation which made him popular was that of a man who had never hesitated for a moment to break any man who stood in the path of his own advance, and I believe that even the reputation of strength which he had gained was greatly heightened by various tales of a kind of brutality of manner which in certain quarters and amongst decadent people is mistaken as the evidence of strength. But let us see him at actual work.
2821 From the very first day of his entrance into office there was something disappointing in his conduct in the sense that whereas the public had expected from him an immediate evidence of energy and great driving power, day by day passed and the only characteristic emanating from the War Office was that of inertia. The Germans were allowed to invade Belgium after the great siege of Liøge. They were allowed to march on with no opposition except from the small and feeble Army of the Belgians, whereas a man who was really at the height of his task would have strained every nerve and at every cost thrown troops forward to stem their advance, to gain time and stimulate and galvanise our Allies, so that a bar should have been placed in the way of the Germans which might, at this epoch of the "War, have been the line of battle against the Germans. There was nothing of the kind. The position of Antwerp was known to be one of the most important of Europe. It was known from the celebrated phrase of Napoleon that it was a pistol pointed at the heart of England. Any man of common sense would have known that it was vital to the whole campaign of the Allies to have defended Antwerp to the last ounce. Lord Kitchener made no move to defend it at all. Antwerp fell, I think, on the 12th October, 1914, more than two months after the outbreak of the War, and during those two months of preparation, where the call of a position of the most vital character should have aroused every energy in his nature, he made no move whatever, and Antwerp fell. Antwerp, which might have been a bar to the German advance, so that they would never have crossed the French frontier, is now in their hands, and is what Napoleon declared it to be, a pistol pointed at the heart of England. From Antwerp to Neuve Chapelle, from Neuve Chapelle to Gallipoli, from Gallipoli to Serbia—the great names of this War—not one of them has redounded to the fame of Lord Kitchener; every one has told to his discredit. On every field and on every front we have the same story of incompetence, incoherence, and defeat.
I will give one or two cases as illustrations of the administration of the War Office. From the very first days of this War it was evident that there were being imported new factors, making this War unlike anything that ever preceded it. New machines were invented, new forms of attack devised, new conceptions shaped 2822 of the amount of material which could be thrown upon one spot and so forth, all of which were the very A B C of the military operations as understood by the Germans, but which were not understood at all by our War Office until months after the outbreatk of War, and until they were forced upon the attention even of the man in the street. It was Lord Kitchener's duty from the very first to have made adequate provisions for the supply of enough munitions of war, machine guns, and every kind of artillery. Month after month passed by, and he exhibited no quality but that quality of inertia until, on the 20th April, 1915, the Prime Minister took his memorable voyage to Newcastle, and there, speaking as the representative of the whole nation, declared that there was no shortage of munitions. He said that there had been rumours to that effect, and that it had been said that the operations not only of our Army but also those of our Allies were crippled if not hampered by the shortage of munitions, and he there declared solemnly, before the whole nation, that those statements were destitute of truth. Did the Prime Minister make that statement from his own knowledge? If so, a very serious charge would lay against him if, having discovered, after all those months, that munitions were vital, he, by that speech of his, delayed the output by several months again. The Prime Minister necessarily had no direct information of his own. He, therefore, evidently applied to the one man in the Government who was capable of informing him, and that must have been Lord Kitchener. So that we have this spectacle: For months after the War had been raging, the great war lord was not only insensible to the value of munitions, but when the question was raised by the repeated insistence of the generals in the field, he not only turned a deaf ear to their appeal, but deceived the Prime Minister himself, delayed the output of munitions, jeopardised the chances of the Allies in the War, and, in this way, indirectly caused the slaughter of thousands of brave men.
Those are some of the tests. Having seen the qualities demanded of the Secretary of State for War, and having seen the tests, let us now come to the criticism delivered upon him by the Cabinet itself, not such criticisms as those glozing words with which we are familiar, but the criticism of facts. During one period of the War the Secretary of State for War 2823 was employed as an Ambassador. During a period of the War of great importance, he was taken away from his proper functions and sent as a special Envoy to Greece. I am not aware of what success he had as an Ambassador. The reason for that selection was not at the time apparent, but soon after his return it was found that during his absence the Cabinet had had the courage to take from him the direction of ordnance. They then appointed a Chief of Staff to act independently of Lord Kitchener, so that, whereas at the beginning the whole hopes of the country were staked upon Lord Kitchener and he was given the powers virtually of a dictator, yet after this experience of his administration the Prime Minister thought fit to remove from him one by one the chief functions for which he had been selected, until now it is almost impossible to ascertain what are the functions of the Secretary of State for War. The Minister of Munitions was appointed on 27th August, 1915, more than twelve months after the outbreak of War, to supply those munitions, which were a crying necessity from the very first day. Lord Kitchener had full responsibility for munitions from the start. That office was taken from him. He had assumed in his own person all the functions of a Chief of Staff. That office was taken from him. He controlled the Ordnance. That office was also taken from him, and that is the real criticism of the Prime Minister and of his colleagues.
The favourite argument is now that Lord Kitchener has practically no functions and that therefore his retention in his office can do no harm. Can you imagine that serious men, while a war is raging which is threatening the very life of this country, can come to a House of intelligent men and say that the most important office in the whole conduct of the War may be left to a man of whom it can be said that he has no real functions left and that he can do no great harm in that position? Why the very fact that he holds that position, if he is not fulfilling the functions, is already doing harm. An army, a commando, a troop takes the complexion of the mind of its commander, even by the very fact that he is in a supreme position in the whole direction of the Army. The whole operations take the complexion of his mind, and that has been one of the causes of all the disastrous failures which we have seen, failures redeemed by the 2824 courage of the troops, a courage which makes those failures only the more conspicuous. It may be said it would encourage the enemy if Lord Kitchener were replaced. Since the outbreak of the War France has had four Ministers of War—M. Etienne (a capable man at the beginning, one who found his better function in leading troops at the front), M. Millerand, M. Gallieni, and M. Castelnau. These successive changes, each one of which has been in the direction of progress in the sense of stimulating and galvanising the Army in its work, have they encouraged the enemy or discouraged France? The operations at Verdun were so critical that the general in charge had decided to evacuate it, but the Minister of War saved the situation at the last moment and retired a capable and gallant general, but one who had lost faith in his power to hold that position. Did that encourage the enemy or discourage the Army? And when the new man, who knew how to hold and to fight and stimulate troops, was put in his place and so saved Verdun, did that discourage the French Army or the French nation? These arguments are so ridiculous that I can hardly believe even in their sincerity. The Germans themselves have again and again changed their superior officers. The Austrians have again and again changed their superior officers. Only the other day the Italians retired a man who failed to hold a front against the Austrians, and in the higher ranks of the French Army there have been scores of changes, and the only Army which has not suffered any change at all is the British Army, and I would ask, have its operations been more successful, especially in regard to the higher conduct of the War, than those of anyone else?
The argument is also brought forward that we should not swop horses while crossing the stream. It is only childish minds which are really governed by these general proverbs. Again, they are put forward not as argument, but as a mere cover to hide the face of a bad situation. President Lincoln in his day had his Kitchener, General McClellan, who before the war had the same sort of reputation as Lord Kitchener as being a first-class organiser. The war had continued for months, McClellan had made no move, or very ineffective moves, and whenever Lincoln asked him the reason he said he was organising, and he explained in high 2825 technical terms the necessity for organisation and the impossibility of making any move until the organisation was complete. After a time President Lincoln became tired of these repeated excuses and the failure to meet and beat the enemy, and he retired General McClellan and placed Grant in his stead, and from that day the cause of the North never looked back. If now a man of superior brain-power and more alert intelligence, a man of clearer vision, a man of greater foresight, a man of greater energy, were put in Lord Kitchener's place, would the cause of the British Army or that of the Allies suffer? We had here to-day figures analysed showing that whereas the effective effort of the whole Empire, as the Prime Minister called it, amounted to more than 5,000,000 men, yet, placed on any fighting front, we are unable to command even 500,000 men. That was also a difficulty which faced the North in the struggle against the South in the early days when General McClellan was organising, and he made exactly the same kind of excuses as have been made to-day by the Prime Minister for those who have defended the War Office. But Lincoln, a man of sound common sense such as I should like to see at the head of the War Office, even if not a military man, piercing to the bottom of the reality of things, saw that these arguments were losing the whole campaign. He said to McClellan, "It is no use getting that man men, because he cannot make use of them. To give him men is like shovelling fleas across a barn." And that homely illustration is true to-day of the way in which the resources of this country are being utilised.
We have seen hopes raised by the appointment of Lord Kitchener, we have seen the qualities which he has displayed and the qualities which have been demanded of him, we have seen the tests by which he has been tried and has been found wanting, we have seen the criticism passed upon his own acts by the Prime Minister himself, and we have seen these perpetual excuses put forward to account for his inefficiency and failure. To my mind the deficiencies are so great and the inefficiency so apparent, that for a full solution of this question one is forced to pierce beneath the outward show and find the real psychology, and it is something of this sort: the Prime Minister, not being himself a man of great foresight, not being a man capable of adapting his mind 2826 quickly or clearly to new conditions, clung to the reputation of Lord Kitchener at the beginning of the War as a prop to the Cabinet. If the War had followed its course as he had hoped, and as Lord Kitchener had promised, it would have been the duty of the Prime Minister to come down and to congratulate the House and the country on successive victories and on the greatness of the British Army and the greatness of its Chief, Lord Kitchener, and to bestow a benison in that inimitable manner he has of a père noble of a French comedy. But those anticipations were not justified. The appointment was a failure, as most members of the Cabinet know if they dared to speak and rise above the hypocrisies which surround the proceedings of this House. Instead of being a père noble of a French comedy giving his benison on the greatness of the victories of Lord Kitchener, the Prime Minister's role has been rather that of the chairman of a mismanaged company, who has to explain all its deficiencies to its enraged shareholders.
The question at ordinary times would be serious, but while this War is raging it is vital. During much of the discussion which took place this afternoon, one might have been a thousand miles from any contact with war, merely listening to an academic discussion. You speak about reserves and resources, but battles are not won by reserves and resources unless they are used properly. Napoleon had reserves and resources at Waterloo under Gouchy, which were never employed, and which remained too far away from the scene of action until all was lost. The great bulk of the reserves and resources of this country are being employed now in a similar way. Though this War has lasted nearly two years and may possibly last another three years—I say will last another three years if it is going to end in a victory for the Allies—yet very often it will be found in history that a campaign has been decided in the early months of its progress, even though the actual realisation of the conditions then set may have taken many months or even years to accomplish. It seems to me that the critical days of this campaign are now, and in the few months or weeks before we reach the beginning of winter. According to present progress, according to present control, and, according to the manner of conducting the War which we now see, can any man say that we are moving on to victory? Can any man, either from his own experience or from 2827 history, say that he can name one instance where a nation drifted to victory? Nations have drifted to defeat, but nations only achieve victory by having a war plan, well thought out, and by carrying that out to its determination, step by step, until each element of it is realised; by having determined the victory beforehand in their own minds, and having marched to its realisation with energy, determination, boldness and skill, and with a touch of genius. Can any man say that in this War those are the qualities which have been displayed and which are now being displayed at the British front, and that while the men have been so brave their great leaders have been adequate to command? No!
This matter is so vital that the stakes are not the reputation of Lord Kitchener or even the fame of this country. The stakes are the very existence of all these co-dominions, and the life and death of this community. I say, if on no other judgment than my own, which been justified again and again in this House, even though my speeches have not been attended to at the time, that this nation is not moving to victory. It is moving in-fallably to an unsatisfactory peace which will leave all the old troubles outstanding, which will be the starting point for new preparations on the part of Germany, and will simply prepare another shock, whether it be in five, ten, fifteen or twenty years, when this country may not be in the position which it now enjoys with the alliance of France and Russia. If the higher direction continues to foster these idols and live in these hypocrisies and to make virtues of inefficiency, in the next shock this country will come to an end as a nation once and for all. When we listen to speeches such as we have heard from the Front Bench by men who have neither the genius nor the courage to face realities, I get the same impression as when I am reading some great work of history, where one can look at the operations of mankind with a detached and objective point of view, such as the decline and fall of empires. I see one of the elements, one of the factors of that decline of empires in the defence of efficiency, in the refusal to march with the times, in the preference of old traditions and of idols instead of the great realities—energy, courage, organising power, and all that means victory.
So far I have not mentioned what has been the object of this Motion in regard to the salary of Lord Kitchener. That is a 2828 minor point. He is paid a salary which, in his function of Secretary of State for War, is not his due. The salary of Secretary of State for War surely is adequate, yet at a time when every effort is being made to press economy upon the people, and when again and again from the Government Bench economy is preached to the working man who is staking his very skin in the front trenches, and when his family are advised to live without butter on their bread, Lord Kitchener is receiving more than £1,000 above the great salary which is due to his position as Secretary of State for War. Recently when the question of science was being discussed there was a counterblast from those who advocate classical learning, and it was said that science was never able to inculcate the great examples of the glorious past of Greece and Rome. I would compare Lord Kitchener to Themistocles. If the comparison shock any of my hearers it is a disgrace to, and condemnation of, the whole of her civilisation if a great Greek who existed more than 2,000 years ago cannot be mentioned in the same breath as Lord Kitchener. The comparison is unfair. Themistocles was a man of genius, talent and vigour. He exhibited a clear plan to his colleagues and insisted upon the elements of that plan being fought out point by point until victory was attained. When victory was attained his boast was that his house was ^indistinguishable from that of the ordinary citizen of Athens. Lord Kitchener has no victory to his credit, no great organising power, no great plan for beating the Germans. He has the Star of the Garter and all the honours which can be bestowed upon him, which do not mean victory, and he has a salary higher than that which is allotted to his office.
Before I sit down I would ask you to look on two pictures. One represents the manner in which this War has been conducted hitherto. What, when we regard the whole course of the War, are the feelings which come to our mind? Are they feelings of exultation, feelings of confidence that the best is being done, and that victory is being won? No! On every side there is a feeling of inertia, which has always been impressed upon us from the beginning, a feeling of want of adaptability, a feeling of want of susceptibility to any kind of new ideas, a feeling of drifting. We have a perfect right to drive it home that if the proper man had been placed in the position of the man 2829 who incarnates the Army, so to speak, who occupies the highest position possible, at the very first moment of his entrance into office he would have given that peculiar impulse and influence which any good commander knows how to transmit and to provide. He would have galvanised every man on his staff, and his influence would have been carried through the whole nation until every man had felt the true grit of fighting through, and the spirit of victory, victory even before the realisation, the determination, and the energy necessary to make this War—and those qualities have been absent.
I say once more to enforce this lesson: We are not moving irresistibly to victory. We are drifting to a patched-up and insecure peace. It may be denied by the Prime Minister. It has been denied again and again. We have seen him standing at that Front Bench with his impressive attitude, the whole appearance of the majesty of British law shining in his countenance, making these strong granatic statements, and we have found in two or three weeks or two or three months afterwards that he has run away from the position which he stated in so magnificent a fashion, and only remembered enough of his former statements to show that what he said on the second occasion was what he intended all along. From every side there is a movement to peace. The world is tired of this War which is not progressing to definite issues. The neutrals are tired of it. America is tired of it. Even in this country the currents for peace are growing and increasing in strength. For my part I would say that the War should be fought out to the bitter end until final victory is won. Yet I would say, as another alternative, that if it is not to be fought out with more skill and more energy than are now being shown in its conduct it will be better to make peace at once, because whether peace be made now or peace be made in twelve months, if the direction of the War continues as it has been from the beginning, that peace then will be as unsatisfactory as a peace concluded now, and a peace which is not a peace of victory will be the beginning of the end of the greatness of the whole condominion of nations which has been called the British Empire. Those are the issues which I desire to impress upon this Committee. It is not a mere question of 2830 the susceptibilities of a Field-Marshal, but a question of the death or life of the whole community.
§ Mr. MORRELL
After the great sweep of the eloquent and interesting oration to which we have just been listening I feel certain that some apology is due for asking you to give attention for a few minutes to a comparatively small point of procedure. The point arises out of the Debate which took place yesterday in reference to conscientious objectors. I can assure the Committee that I am as sorry, as I am sure that my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench is sorry, that it is necessary once again to refer to this old question once more, because I recognise, as everyone recognises, the excellent tone which was adopted by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary in the reply which he made to us yesterday. In his reply he stated his evident desire to get this problem settled once for all. I am very sorry that an incident that has since occurred makes it seem necessary to call the attention of the Committee again to this subject. The incident that has occurred is the sending over of another batch of resisting conscientious objectors to the front in France. All those who have taken an interest in this question have, from the first, laid great stress on the importance of not sending these men out to France at the time when they are actually refusing military service. Of course, a great many of them accept what is called non-combatant service, and as to them I do not make any complaint. But as regards those men who, on conscientious grounds, feel that they cannot accept military service, who feel that it is contrary to their religious convictions and their deepest convictions to obey the orders given by their superior officers, I say, and I have always said, that it is wrong that they should be sent out to the front.
In the first place, because they can be of no possible use to the Army that is fighting in France. In the second place, because as soon as they get there they are liable to very severe treatment, to treatment which, I think, from their point of view, is very unjust, to field punishment, which is very severe, treatment intended for men who are in a very different position from these men. In the third place, because they are legally liable to be shot for disobedience to orders while on active service. I know that an assurance has been given on that point. At the same 2831 time, while they are out there a mistake might occur. At any rate, the law remains, and under it they are liable to be shot. Some time ago, on 8th May, seventeen of these men resisting military service were sent abroad to France. When we heard that they were going, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn and myself, and one or two others, went to the Prime Minister and asked him that this order should be cancelled. We understood then from him that he would do his best. I am not raising any question of breach of faith—that this should be done. I understand that efforts were made to prevent these men going or to bring them back, but they were unsuccessful. The seventeen men went to France, and have since been undergoing field punishments in France. They are men of high character, but men who are utterly useless from the point of view of the Army. What is the object of keeping them over there in France when they might be doing work of national importance under the civil authorities here at home?
Although we have raised this question again and again, these men are still there. There may have been technical difficulties with regard to bringing them home, but, at any rate, it seems to us if the Government mean to deal fairly with this question, they ought not to go on sending others, and that was a point which we pressed as strongly as we could upon the Government. We heard yesterday or the day before that two other batches are going to France, one a batch of sixteen from Richmond, in Yorkshire. We at once went to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secrctary for War, and we also saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has taken an interest in this matter, upon the subject. The hon. Member for West Leeds and I went personally to the War Office in regard to it, and we pointed out that this ought not to be done, and said we understood that steps were going to be taken to prevent this draft of sixteen men from Richmond, in Yorkshire, from being sent to France. There must have been a great number of Members in this House under that impression yesterday, and, because this was so, we particularly avoided raising this question on that occasion. Of course, there was no Parliamentary bargain; nothing was said in this House about it; but I do say that we were led clearly to believe that these men would not be sent. I understand that a 2832 telegram was actually sent to prevent this-batch of sixteen men going to France. If my information is correct, the telegram in some way miscarried, and these men have gone to join the other forty men who were taken from their prison in England and sent to the front in France. If it was the intention of the Government that these men should not be sent, then I think it is now clearly their duty to say that, they should be recalled from France without delay. It seems to me that if they really intend to deal fairly, as I believe they do, with this question, which has occupied the attention of the country far too long already, it might, with a little good will, soon be settled as I think it could have been settled long ago, because most of these men are perfectly willing to undertake work of national importance under civil authority. If it is the intention of the Government to deal fairly with the conscientious objector, and get this question out of the way once for all, I do ask whether an assurance cannot be given to-night that those men should be recalled as soon as possible—17 men, 16 men, and 40 men—these are the three batches. What is the objection to-giving us this undertaking, which is asked for by a very large body of opinion in this country, by the Free Churches and by all those who have an interest in this subject? What objection can there be to giving us this undertaking—that these men shall be brought back as soon as possible to this country, that they shall all be put into-civil prisons in accordance with the new Army Order, and finally put to work of national importance, if they are willing to undertake it, as I believe most of them, are. I ask my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether it is not possible for him to give us an undertaking; here and now? I ask for it on the ground that there can be no object in keeping: these men in France. I also ask for it on the ground that, so far as I can tell—though I do not want to bring charges of bad faith—this is a matter which does involve the good faith of a Minister. I do not say that any assent was given publicly, but my hon. Friends who have taken an interest in this question will bear me out when I say that we were all under the impression that these men who have been sent out were to be recalled as soon as-possible. I should very much like that assurance tonight otherwise, for my part, I shall have to consider whether to 2833 make some protest it will not be necessary to support the Motion for the reduction of the salary of the Secretary for War, which has already been moved.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member into the question which he has raised of the conscientious objector, excepting to say that although personally I have never been able to understand the mental attitude of the conscientious objector, and it has never commanded any very great sympathy from me, yet I think that where such a small body of people are involved, the kind of proceedings which take place cannot tend to military efficiency, and the effect on the troops must be bad. I think it would be reasonable if the War Office would consider a reversal of this practice, and see whether these men could not be released for munition works, where they may be urgently wanted. We have had a number of vital and important subjects raised, both in the speech of the right hon. Member for Dundee and in the speech which followed from the Treasury Bench, on which many of us to-night would like to have some further elucidation. A great many Members of this House, and a great many persons outside the House, have had the question put with great clearness in the speech of the right hon. Member for Dundee, namely, the apparent diversity between the number of the troops in the trenches and the number mobilised. We naturally do not expect the Government or the War Office to go into details, but, if the questions which have been raised are answered, it would lead to a certain amount of clarification of our minds, and I think would be very generally acceptable.
One question I should like to put is, am I right in assuming that all the troops in this country who are at present in Reserve battalions to be drafted to the front, and troops who are not trained and not attached to any division, are included in the balance, roughly, of 1,500,000, of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke? He told us that there were seventy Infantry divisions, but I would like to know, roughly, how the balance stands, and how the 1,500,000 is estimated. Is the Home Defence Force part of the seventy divisions, or is it in addition to the seventy divisions? That, of course, means a considerable number of men. It is obvious that there are, of course, in addition many services which are not part of the divisional units 2834 at all. For instance, we have the Army-Service Corps, the Aviation Corps, transports of various kinds, the Royal Army Medical Corps, and a great many other-services in France which are not part of the divisional units, but which, of course., have to be taken into consideration in dealing with the figures which we have been. discussing this afternoon. I was very pleased indeed to hear from the Prime Minister that this question is being considered and that steps are being taken to endeavour to deal with it and with some-of them on the lines suggested by my right, hon. Friend the Member for Dundee. I think myself there is very little doubt of the truth of what most of us have heard, from officers, either here or from France, that there are a great many services both, at the base and line of communication which have been carried out by able-bodied men fit to go into the trenches which could have been carried out by men not able-bodied and in some cases even by women. Therefore we have had a reserve in France of men who could, if necessary, be put into the trenches and at the same time we have heard from battalion commanders that units were so depleted that they had great difficulty in doing the work which, they had to perform in the trenches. There is another point. which has not been explained, and that is, how is it that while a. battalion at the front is immensely overworked, while at the same time we know that there are battalions at full strength in this country in reserve being trained for many months, sometimes years, and which have never gone to the front at all. That has taken place, and I think everybody connected with the work in France; is well aware of it. The military reason, of it I have never been able to understand or realise.
There is a point I would like to emphasise in continuation of the argument raised by the right hon. Member for Dundee. He-said very rightly to-night that it would be a great advantage to strengthen the-battalions from 1,000 to 1,200 rifles. The Under-Secretary of State for War, in his-reply, rejected that on the ground that you are bound to have waste, and therefore you must get under your establishment. That is perfectly true, but considering that you have staff, transport, Royal Army Medical Corps, Pioneers, and Engineers, as well as Infantry, it does not seem to follow that because you increase your Infantry battalion by 200 men that the other units of the division have got to 2835 be increased at all. The proportion of divisional transport to the number of rifles in the trenches struck me as extraordinarily high. I think the idea is one which requires a little further investigation, and difficult as it may be in war to change your formations I do not think those difficulties ought necessarily to stand in the way because it is just during war you may have to do exceptional things. There is no doubt our transport at the front is remarkably good from the point of view of providing food and other supplies for the soldiers. I have heard it criticised on the ground that it is extremely extravagant and occupies an undue number of men, and that men could be saved by reducing the number of men on each transport wagon without affecting the efficiency of the Service. That seems to me to be a direction in which certainly some combing out might be done. I suppose that it is in that direction that the high officers whom the Prime Minister has mentioned have gone to the front.
Next to that the following idea occurs to me. This problem cannot be a new one to the military authorities or the Government. It must have been before them very often. We have been at war twenty-two months. Why is it if any combing out can be done it is only being done now. Why has it not been done long ago. One of the difficulties one always feels in any criticism one ventures to make on what are technical matters is that you are always told that things are being done when they might have been done long ago. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee spoke about Staff officers in this country and the excessive number of them. I am not in a position to form any opinion, but the Prime Minister really confirmed him in his statement. He said, "Yes, we think you are quite right, and we are now dealing with it." Why only now dealing with it. It seems to me that many of these things could be done, and should be done, much earlier than they are, and what one feels is that there are many things of which one knows nothing which ought to be done and which are not being done. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister practically adopted the speech which was made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
Another important speech was made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham). He made some very serious statements, to which I hope 2836 we shall have some reply, and more especially his statement as to what the position of the Secretary for War now is considering that so many Departments have been taken from under his jurisdiction. To many it will be interesting to know who is running the War, because there is a certain confusion, owing to the changes that have been made, not only in the minds of Members of Parliament but also in the country, as to what is our war organisation. I take it that the duties of the Secretary of State for War primarily are the duties of providing the Army, providing munitions, and training the Army, and that the tactical questions in the field are either for the Commander-in-Chief or the Chief of Staff. I think the Secretary of State for War gets unfairly blamed, because people look upon him as a sort of deus ex machinâ who runs the administration of the War Office and also is responsible for every battle that is taking place. I think it would be only fair to him if some explanation were given as to what his functions really are. I also read and am informed that the Army Council no longer meet, and I would ask why a body created by Act of Parliament for the administration of the War Office ceases to operate at a time when you would think its meetings most necessary. As far as I understand our organisation, the real responsible body conducting the War is the War Council of the Cabinet. How far they really deal with tactical questions I have no information. For example, was the Mesopotamian Expedition undertaken without referring to the War Council, the Secretary of State, or the Chief of the Staff here, or was it undertaken entirely by the India Office and the Government of India? That information would give us some indication whether we are conducting a war or whether we are conducting Departmental operations. It seems inconceivable to an ordinary person that operations of that character should be undertaken by one Department without reference to the central authority dealing with matters over the whole field of operations. The same with regard to the expedition to Salonika. Was that expedition undertaken on the authority of the War Council? On whose authority was it undertaken?
There is another point that wants clearing up in justice to our commanders. What is the position of our commanders in the field? Is the direction of the campaign 2837 in France in the hands of the French Commander-in-Chief? Is our Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, in the position of obtaining orders as regards movements from the French Commander-in-Chief, or is he under the direction of the Secretary of State for War or the War Council here? I take it that the French Commander-in-Chief commands all the operations on that front. But that point has never been made clear. I think it ought to be. You hear this kind of criticism: "Why do we not do something? Why does not Sir Douglas Haig show more activity?" If he is acting under the instructions of General Joffre, and General Joffre does not consider it advisable to do anything at the present juncture, it is quite wrong for the people of this country to criticise Sir Douglas Haig as if he were an independent commander. If these points were made clear, it would facilitate a better conception of our war administration, both among Members of this House and in the country generally. Obviously everybody is deeply interested in the War. Everybody tries to take as intelligent an interest in it as they can, and they ought to be furnished with such a basis of information as would enable them to take a reasonable and intelligent interest in what Is going on. You cannot expect the country to continue in a struggle of this character, paying out its best life and resources, unless the Government from time to time really take the House of Commons and the people generally more into their confidence.
It seems strange that we cannot have a little more in the way of despatches from the front than we are getting. We have the first despatch from Sir Douglas Haig, and a more uninteresting, uninspiring document no one has ever read. We are told that sixty actions have taken place. We are not told where they took place, or what regiments took part in them. The English people might have no interest whatever in the matter. There might be nobody here with anybody connected with them out there. It is a fundamental error. Surely something could be done to improve matters in that respect. I know that soldiers are not people who naturally talk much about what they do. They are of a somewhat laconic disposition. But could they not be given a kind of descriptive -writer such as they had at the beginning of the War, who could tell us from time to time rather more of what is going on? Let the people of this country realise that 2838 the men out there are not doing nothing, but are day and night facing death and danger in the most heroic manner. People do not realise that. They seem to think that our men are sitting there doing nothing. These points are very important—more important than perhaps the Secretary of State realises. He has been for many years occupied in the East and dissociated from people in this country. I do not think he always sufficiently recognises that it is necessary to carry the people of this country with you if you wish them to continue with the same zeal and energy in this great struggle. He also has the impression which most people who thoroughly know a subject have—that people who do not know much about the subject know as much about it as they do. That is a mistake. This country will make any sacrifice that is demanded. This country is resolved to win the War. It is the country's war, nor the War Office's war, and the country is entitled to more information and to a franker and fuller statement that it has ever yet received.
The Prime Minister's speech very largely disarms criticism. Whether he was delivering by mistake an epitaph rather than an eulogy, I do not know. The method of avoidance and confession naturally acquired from long practice at the Bar renders it very difficult to make any kind of attack. If you state that you might have had more foresight, and that you have made mistakes, there is nothing more to say except this: are the people who have made mistakes and shown want of foresight the people whom the country require to go on? Does it not rather lead you to the supposition that they will continue to show want of foresight and to make mistakes? As an ordinary business man not used to conducting great affairs of state, if I had a manager who was always showing want of foresight and making mistakes, I am afraid his explanation would not be satisfactory, and I should try to get somebody who would show more foresight and make fewer mistakes. Therefore in a great crisis I do not think that line of argument will do. Nobody wants to be ungenerous, or to underestimate the facility of criticism and the difficulty of execution. But there has been no sufficient explanation, for instance, of why compulsory service was delayed for almost a year, and then afterwards we had the Secretary of State declaring in the House of Lords what a great relief it is to him and the Army that 2839 it has now been introduced. A great many of the difficulties which have been discussed this afternoon have arisen simply from the fact of your having three kinds of voluntary armies—a Regular Army, a Territorial Army, and a Kitchener Army. You have only now taken the power of sending men where you want them. You have been in the position of having one Territorial battalion at the front reduced to an establishment of 500 men, with practically all its officers gone, and there has been no reserve battalion, while there have been other Territorial battalions with three reserve battalions in depots ready to go out. Nobody can say that that is a rational way of running an army. Nobody can say that an army that allows that kind of thing to go on is properly administered. There is no reason why it should be allowed to go on. Compulsory service could have been introduced at any time the Secretary of State for War said it was necessary. The opposition to it in the minds of many people was founded on the fact that they thought, and thought rightly, that as long as the military authorities did not consider it an advantage there was no reason why it should be introduced. Many of us advocated it because we knew of these facts, and we have been amazed to find that those who are really responsible for giving information to the House were always so shy of doing so. I do hope that in future that kind of mistake will not arise, and that in future, at any rate, the Secretary of State for War will realise that the country looks to him, above all people, to tell them what is required. If he will do so I have little doubt that the country will carry out what he desires and what he asks the people to do.
There was another point that I was very glad was raised by the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield, that was the question of some kind of badge or ribbon for men who have been through the War and have been discharged from the Army. That is a point which really ought to be taken up and dealt with at the earliest possible moment. It is a perfectly scandalous state of things that day by day there are a growing number of men who, having fought for two years, come home and taken their discharge and gone back into civil life, are subjected to observations and insults because they have no distinguishing mark of having fought. I do not say that we should issue a medal 2840 now—although I do not know why medals should be issued so long after a war, that most people who have taken part in it are dead—but surely some distinction ought to be given at the earliest possible moment to those men and officers who have served their country in the way I have described. Another point has been put—the thing has been pointed out before to many of us—and that is the very hard life and danger of what you may call the trench population. It is one of the most curious paradoxes of war that the nearer you are to the danger the-less you are paid, and the further you get away from the firing line the more money you get. I should like to suggest to the Government the desirability of some-extra pay and some special recognition being given to those men who are engaged in what I may call the trench services. This matter is a hardship which, I believe, is felt very much by many of the troops, and even by many officers at the front. The Flying Corps gets special pay, I think, over the men who are on the ground for the greater risks they are supposed to run. Surely, following that line of thought, the men who risK their lives in the trenches ought to be entitled to some special kind of recognition and special kind of pay against men who are doing nothing in particular on the East Coast of England except to look at the sea until the War is over. I do not say that these men are not carrying out military duties. They are to a certain extent, necessary duties, but they are not enduring either the hardship or the dangers of the trench population; therefore, I do myself think that some form of extra recognition should be given to the men I have referred to, and for the reasons I have stated.
There is another point, and one of considerable importance, and that is the question of the release of men from the Colours for munitions work. I understand that there is still considerable difficulty found in obtaining the consent of the military authorities to release men from the Colours for munitions work. There has always been that difficulty. Surely it ought now to be diminished? I can quite understand that when the country was taking in with both hands anybody found in the street, in order to keep-up the numbers, officers, generals, and others, were very reluctant indeed to release any man, ecause they did not know 2841 how they would be able to fill up the battalion. That difficulty has now largely disappeared. It is urgently necessary to obtain skilled men for the munitions work. The importance of this work being done properly has, if anything, increased. I do earnestly hope that any difficulty that may still stand in the way may be removed. Some apprehension has been felt, I think, and has been referred to to-day of the method in which Clause 12 of the new Compulsory Service Act is going to be worked by the Army Council. The Committee will remember that Clause 12 allows the establishment of a Special Reserve. I have been told—I do not know whether or not it is true—that the Army Council propose to transfer men who are now soldiers, but under the control of the Ministry of Munitions, and working in the munitions factories, to the Reserve, to take them out of their uniform and practically to make them civilians. I think that would be a mistaken step, and it would be a great pity. A number of these men who have been lent from the Army for doing munitions work have no wish to be released from the Army and to be treated as civilians; in fact a good many of them claim, and have a very good claim, to return to their unit rather than be robbed of their uniform. They belong to something which they prize very highly; consequently, though the difficulty of working in their uniform in a factory may be a matter for consideration, think arrangements can be made to meet that point.
Another point is this—and I speak with some practical experience—the keeping of these men in uniform, and the fact that they are in the Army, has a very good effect upon the general moraleof the workmen. I myself have found, and other people will have found, that the men who have been out in the firing line and have returned home exercise a great influence on their comrades who have not been so immediately in contact with the fighting in keeping them up to the strenuous exertions of their work. When you can speak from personal experience, as some of these men can, it is much more vivid than are speeches from Members of Parliament or newspaper articles. I think that the transfer of these people from where they are now would really be a mistake, and I think that that opinion will be found by the hon. Gentleman opposite to be very largely shared both by those connected with the Ministry of Munitions and the employers. 2842 I have raised various points. I hope we shall get some reply. I feel quite confident-that to-day's Debate will do a great deal of good not only here, but in the country. I do not know that anybody in his criticism wishes to detract from what I feel are the great services Lord Kitchener has rendered in many directions. I myself feel that Lord Kitchener's original conception of a long war and the size of our Army was the idea of a master mind. If he had never done anything else I should look upon him as a man who deserved great credit from his country. It is only a man of big courage who would have ever taken that great view. Yet there are criticisms on Departmental matters, for which Lord Kitchener may or may not be responsible, but for which he is nominally responsible, and with which, like any other reasonable man, he can find no fault if they are discussed, as they have been in this House to-day, in a spirit of frankness and amity; so that we may assist in any way that will bring us to the goal of the victory for which we struggle, and which we intend to reach, however long may be the road.
§ Sir STEPHEN COLLINS
I quite agree with the remarks of the right hon. Baronet that this country ought to have more information as to what is doing at the front. Every day we hear of what the French are doing. The French people are kept well supplied with what is going on. We all deplore that so little information is given. I think we ought to know more about matters, and if there is anything encouraging we ought to be told it. We miss, of course, the old days when the war correspondents gave those glowing accounts, which they did in years gone by, that we cannot have now, but, at any rate, I quite agree we should have something different from the colourless reports to which the right hon. Baronet referred. I was also pleased to hear his closing remarks regarding the Minister for War. I rise, however, for just one other purpose. Unfortunately I was not in my place very much this afternoon—it was not my own fault—but I made bold to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member for Monmouthshire (General Sir Ivor Herbert) and I asked him something about what the five millions odd were doing. I regret I was not here to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it seems there is a little discount to be made as regards the numbers. I think some hon. Members—aye, and some right hon. Members— 2843 in the House have been rather inclined to belittle the voluntary system and the great work that has been done by the voluntary system. However, I have made careful inquiries about the speech of the hon. and gallant Baronet, and no doubt he made a useful speech in many respects. I heard a part of it, and have made inquiries from other Members who heard it, and I think that throughout the speech there was scarcely one sentiment, if even one word, of either faith, hope, or charity in it. It was all one long jeremiad deploring what should have been done and what might have been done.
Criticism is all very well, and is very useful, but when a gallant Gentleman, a soldier and an officer, gets up in his place in this House, I think he should do a little more than criticise. He should say some word of encouragement. I wish the hon. and gallant Baronet was here to listen to me, but I dare say he is better employed having his dinner. But I say, with all sincerity, I regret that a soldier should get up and speak for an hour on an occasion like this, in the midst of a great war, and make a speech which will cheer and delight the hearts of our enemies, and not say one word of encouragement for our gallant men at the front—not one word to help or cheer them on from the lips of a soldier. We can all find fault, and there are times when we should find fault. On the other hand, I believe there are many things and many points of criticism that we might hold over until after the War. Things have been done that cannot be undone, and our criticism is not going to help it now, I do not say in every respect, but in many respects. There are many criticisms throughout these Debates useful up to a point. We have heard about Gallipoli time and again until we are sick of hearing about it. Let us leave these things until the War is over, and let us, especially hon. and gallant Members, at any rate, say a word of encouragement.
§ Sir G. REID
I hope I am not intruding in this Debate. I have not had the advantage of confidential communication with Cabinet Ministers, and I am not a member of any of the War Committees in this House, and therefore I almost feel as if I am scarcely entitled to speak upon the present occasion. But I hope that I shall be forgiven if I do for a few moments occupy the attention of the Committee. I 2844 think that nothing which has occurred today will seriously affect the long life of useful service to the State which the present Secretary of State for War has devoted to the best interests of the British Empire. If I might use an expression which a very distinguished Member of this House used many years ago, those attacks upon the Secretary of State for War seem to me to resemble the foam, the idle froth, which bespatters the rock it cannot shake. The reputation of the present Secretary of State for War has stood, I think I may fairly say, very high in the estimation of the people of this Empire. I admit I have lived most of my life many thousands of miles away from the House of Commons, but I think I may be allowed to say that, during a long life in which I have paid a close attention to the important events in the history of this Empire, I have always found that Lord Kitchener was one of the best sheet anchors of the Empire in times-of stress and strain, and it is almost the only English name which excites a sympathetic echo in the ears of the Dominions, beyond the seas, and I think I may say the same of our Allies. I believe I am speaking the simple truth when I say that the name of Kitchener in the ears of Russia, France, Italy, and Japan stands for more even than that of the right hon. Baronet who represents Mansfield. There is one thing I admire-about the speech of the right hon. Baronet. It was a straightforward speech. He has said openly what I know some people have said who have not the courage to say it as openly as the right hon. Gentleman has done.
§ Sir G. REID
My right hon. Friend called the hon. Baronet that. I thought it must be a mistake, but, deferring to his longer Parliamentary experience, I made the same mistake. Just let us remember for a moment or two the two or three wars in which we have been engaged during the last hundred years. Let us go-back to the Crimea. We had there 30,000 or 40,000 men. Do we remember the horrible mess that was made in the Crimean War? Do we remember the horrible mess-that was made in the Boer War, not so-many years ago? And here we have to deal with a crisis a thousand times magnified over that. Let us begin with the Expeditionary Force. I think the way in which that Expeditionary Force was sent 2845 out by the War Office was the first good thing I have got to say for them in a hundred years. It reflected infinite credit upon them.
§ Sir G. REID
I know that. Although I have lived at the other end of the world, I am quite aware of that. I think the hon. Member (Mr. Lynch) who is moving a reduction of the Secretary for War's salary on this occasion had something to do with Lord Kitchener in South Africa during the War. We are a muddling race, and we always have been, and if the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield had only been at the War Office I think that would have been true more than ever. That is our record in dealing with wars against white races—wars which are infinitesimal as compared with this War. What had Lord Kitchener to do when he came to the War Office? What did he find? Some day there will have to be an account rendered of the state of England before this great War broke out. Some day it will be remembered that Lord Roberts in the year 1913 was the greatest soldier we had, and who has been proved by events in 1914 to be the best statesman we had. When Lord Kitchener entered the War Office all the foundations of the marvellous results of the past twenty-two months had to be laid because we had no Army except the Expeditionary Force. We had no trained citizen soldiers in a national sense, and we had no system of national training. We had no power to turn out the implements and munitions of war, and that was the position which Lord Kitchener found himself in when he went to the War Office.
I do not wish to speak of the Secretary for War apart from his great subordinates and those who have helped him so tremendously in all his efforts. I am only using his name to express my great gratitude to him and to the men who worked under him for the miracles they have worked. The English people are not people who readjust themselves rapidly, and they are rather slow in transformation, but the name of Kitchener, the prestige of his services, coupled with the patriotism of our people brought hundreds of thousands of men to the Colours. I have a perfect reverence for this House, and I admire the fearlessness and the frankness of the criticisms which hon. Members bring to bear in this serious crisis in our destiny. I have no word of animosity with 2846 reference to anything which has been said to-night, but I do feel that while we are in the midst of this tremendous struggle, those who attack the present Secretary for War should have in their mind some worthy successor. We must have a Secretary of State for War, I suppose. [An HON. MEMDER: "Have you?"] No, I am not in the confidence of Cabinet Ministers, and I do not know whether the hon. Member who interrupted was commissioned to-make some ministerial announcement. If he was, I am afraid Cabinet Ministers will be a little more careful in future in their dealings with him if they want to preserve their reputation. As a man who has been a Cabinet Minister for a good many years in Australia, it is always painful for me to-hear revelations as to what hats occurred' in the Cabinet, for this kind of thing strikes at the very root of our system of Government. That is my idea I admire the manliness of the hon. Baronet opposite. We all admire it, and we all know that he is actuated by patriotic motives. I have not a word to say against that. There is no doubt that Lord Kitchener has some serious faults, and I will mention some of them. In the first place, there is no man in this War who possesses such driving force and who has made such rapid progress with the Army who will not create a lot of enemies. Lord Kitchener is not a man who is an adept at advertising himself.
§ Sir G. REID
That only shows the standing of the Secretary for War. I would like to ask who would ever speak of a Markham Army? There is another fault about Lord Kitchener. He is a relentless and merciless enemy of the feather-bed soldier and the disloyal subordinate. That is another of the mistakes he made. There is a third. Lord Kitchener is not clever at circulating those cheap calculated civilities which enable inferior men to rise to positions to which they are not entitled.
Sir HENRY DALZIEL
The Committee has listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and I congratulate him upon having such a happy and contented mind. He does not seem to think there is any room for criticism at all on any matters connected with the administration of Lord Kitchener. I wish I could share his view. I suppose he is speaking on behalf of 2847 Australia as well as this country. There is no criticism there of Gallipoli. They are satisfied with everything, with the object, the manner in which that campaign was carried out, and the medical and landing arrangements, and the whole of Australia is satisfied with it. I do not propose to-night to intervene for more than a moment. I know there are many things which some of my hon. Friends would like to introduce of some importance, and matters of some Imperial delicacy, if the phrase may be permitted. I rose principally to ask the Committee to carry its mind back to the speech of the Under-Secretary for War. As I understood his closing remarks, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to convey an invitation to the critics of the War Office and the Government to meet not only himself but his chief in conference, in order that they might put questions which might be dangerous, so far as the enemy was concerned, if put in this House. I have always felt that our Parliamentary system is very inferior in its operation compared to Continental systems. I think it is a great mistake that the head of a Department like the War Office should not be able on an occasion like this, when his salary is under discussion, to speak in this House as well as in the other House, so long as we have not Committees on the lines of the French Chamber. Although I have spoken as often, and been as severe a critic of the Government, as any other private Member since the War began, I have never levelled my criticisms at any particular Minister. I hold the Cabinet responsible for all the acts of any member of the Government. I really think it is a mistake sometimes to divide the responsibility and to speak of a Minister as if he and he alone were responsible for any particular policy. Our Debates would be more successful, our purpose would be more hastily achieved, our attempt to stimulate the Government to greater vigour would be more successful, if we levelled our criticism at the Cabinet as a Cabinet, and held the Prime Minister responsible. That has been my view in the past and has guided my action, and it will continue to guide my action to the end of this War.
There are many things which we should like to raise to-night, but it is very-difficult to raise some matters. It might give encouragement to the enemy, and, if the reply were satisfactory, it might give in- 2848 formation which was of importance. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman, however, what was the exact meaning of his invitation this afternoon. I have listened throughout the Debate, and nobody appears to have noticed it at all. It was a very important invitation to convey, and it would be of great advantage if we could have Lord Kitchener here or in some other place where we could ask him questions, and where the answers to which would be given in secret and would not be for the possible advantage of the enemy. There are some views which might be presented from our point of view, which require an answer, which up to this minute has never been given by any Minister on that Front Bench. I need only go to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Mansfield Division (Sir A. Markham) this afternoon, when he made a sensational announcement which was not denied by the Front Bench. I ask: What was the exact bearing of the right hon. Gentleman's invitation this afternoon? Did it mean nothing, or did it mean anything? There are many Members who have asked me to ask this question, and I should be greatly obliged if he will tell us how far-reaching his statement was and exactly its meaning.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The statement which I made earlier in the afternoon was of a general character. It was that Lord Kitchener was always willing either to see any hon. Member himself personally, or a number of hon. Gentlemen collectively, who might desire either to convey information to him or to make suggestions to him on the treatment of the soldiers or on points of administration in relation to the Army as a whole, or to make any suggestion which might be useful for the more rapid and successful prosecution of the War. That was more or less what I stated earlier in the afternoon, but perhaps I may amplify it now. Lord Kitchener feels that considerable advantage would be gained it he had the opportunity of meeting and conferring with any Members of Parliament who may wish to see him to hear personally their views and to give information on points of difficulty or doubt where it may properly be given. With this end in view, he requests me to state that he would be glad to meet any Members who may wish to see him on Friday morning.
§ Mr. TENNANT
And it might be a convenience if hon. Gentlemen would inform the Whips that they intend to avail themselves of that opportunity.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. TENNANT
No, this next Friday. While I am on my feet, perhaps I may answer a question which has been addressed to me by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Morrell) with regard to conscientious objectors. I made a statement last night on their treatment under the new Army Order. There were certain men who had not been given complete release by the tribunals, but who had only been given release from combatant service, and had therefore been placed in the Non-Combatant Corps. I undertook, at the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley and my hon. Friend the Member for West Leeds (Mr. E. Harvey), that I would endeavour to see that those conscientious objectors were retained in this country and were not sent out to France, and with that end in view I caused a telegram to be sent to the Command where they were supposed or believe to be and requested the officer in charge to retain these men at home. I understand that telegram arrived too late and that the men had already been sent. My hon. Friend asks me to see that they are returned from France. My hon. Friend will realise that it is one thing to retain men in this country and it is rather a different thing to have them returned from France when they have already gone there. I, therefore, do not feel that I should be justified in making a definite promise that I will have them returned at once, because I cannot guarantee that would be done. I can only make the representations which my hon. Friend desires that I should make in the proper quarter and endeavour to see that they are returned to this country at as early an oportunity as may be convenient.
Sir H. DALZIEL
As I understand the right hon. Gentleman's very important statement, it is that the Secretary of State for War invites the Members of the House of Commons to meet him on Friday morning at half-past eleven o'clock. I do not know whether he said at the War Office or the Foreign Office.
Sir H. DALZIEL
It is most desirable that it should be clearly understood exactly what that means. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that only those who are dissatisfied with Lord Kitchener's policy are invited, or does he mean that the Members of the House of Commons are invited? The way he stated the invitation it appeared to be that anybody who was dissatisfied and wanted to know something would be welcome. It would be a great mistake if that went out, because Members would probably feel disinclined to go, and I hope he will make it clear. I rather gathered that Lord Kitchener himself had some statement he might be able to make to Members of the House of Commons which it would not be to the advantage of the country to make in public. If that is so, then I personally thank the Under-Secretary for his statement. I believe it might be possible for the Members of the House to get information that would otherwise be impossible.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I never indicated at all any dissatisfaction. That was not at all in my mind. I think my right hon. Friend has rather imagined that. The invitation was conveyed to all Members of the House irrespective of their views, and any Gentleman who thinks that any advantage would accrue from conferring in the informal manner I have suggested with the Secretary of State would be more than welcomed by Lord Kitchener. It is proposed to send out the invitation in the following terms:Lord Kitchener would be glad to meet Members of the House of Commons who may wish to discuss Army questions with him at the War Office, on Friday, 2nd June, at 11.30 a.m.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I understand what it really means is this: That any Member of the House of Commons who on Friday morning, at half-past eleven, attends at the War Office will be received by the Secretary of State for War, who will then make a statement to him on the questions that are interesting the House and the 2851 country at the present time; that any Member will be welcome, and that that will be what will take place. Is that so?
§ Sir S. COLLINS
I understand that it is not Members of the House generally who are invited. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes they are!"] Thank you.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I have listened this evening to all the speeches which have been made in support of the reduction of the Vote moved by the hon. and gallant Member for South Monmouth (General Sir Ivor Herbert). These speeches have all been made before more or less, the difference on previous occasions being that they were not replied to. On this occasion they have been met and replied to by the Prime Minister, and I think it is very much to the gain of this House and the country generally that the head of the Government should have justified Lord Kitchener, and expressed that sentiment on behalf of the Government which the great majority of this House, and the immense majority of the people of this country, feel for Lord Kitchener. These attacks on Lord Kitchener remind me of an image that was used by the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Balfour) in his book "Foundations of Belief," in which he spoke of criticism being like schoolboy's tears over a proposition of Euclid—they were the consequence of reasoning, and not conclusions from it. The natural disappointment which many people feel in this country who had believed that the War would come to an end in a very short space of time is all showered on the head of the responsible chief of the "War Office, who at the very beginning of the War made the one accurate forecast among the members of the Ministry that this War would last three years.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
If the hon. Gentleman will refer to the speech of Lord Kitchener, in the House of Lords, he will see that he never said anything of the kind.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
What I am referring to now is the undoubted forecast that was made by Lord Kitchener, and I have a letter written by Lord Esher, on 8th August, 1915, in which he points to 2852 that fact, and in which he mentions that every other member of the Ministry believed the War would be over in from three-to nine months. That shows what kind of opposition Lord Kitchener had to encounter, even in the Cabinet itself. I will read the letter. Lord Esher took the-trouble to have it reprinted and published, and I have a copy of it. The letter says:From the outset of the War, I have been thrown into the company of practically everyone of our leading statesmen, and I have found them all wrong in their" forecasts without exception. They genuinely believed in a short War. They prophesied its conclusion in anything from three to nine months. They jeered at a less- optimistic view, and hardly one of them but held that before now the British Army, accompanied by political plenipotentiaries would be marching through. Berlin."—And then he goes on to say:There was one exception in the vast host of is-calculators and optimists. That was Lord Kitchener, and to him we owe the Army we have got.That, I think, shows convincingly that that great organiser was right at the very beginning of the War, and that he was the-first to believe that the War would last three years.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Lord Esher was in a position to know for he has been on the Defence Committee, and has been shipmate with Lord Kitchener all this time; he has been on the Defence Committee with all the members of successive Cabinets besides enjoying the confidence of the Opposition Bench in the days when an Opposition existed. To pass to another point, I wish to express my absolute-agreement with what the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Sir Mark Sykes) said about the effect upon neutrals, ort Allies, and on the Germans themselves of speeches like that delivered by the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham). The speeches of the type we have heard will be repeated in the Press by those who know how to organise the-neutral Press. The neutrals do not recognise that speeches of that character represent only the froth and scum of democracy, and not democracy itself. We can apply that discount to these speeches, but it is not always easy for neutral and other nations to do so, or even for people in distant countries like our great Dominions beyond the seas. There is another evil that attaches to them, and that is in connection with the unity of the Army. The hon. Members who attacked Lord Kitchener have been the greatest advocates of the removal of the censorship of 2853 letters to and from this House. Once they have made these attacks on Lord Kitchener they are likely to become the foci and magnets for the letters of every discontented and critical officer at the front. Kinglake drew attention to that danger in the Crimean War. Letters were sent out by Cabinet Ministers to Lord Raglan, and he refused to take action, saying that the officers were only exercising the right of every Englishman, "the right to grumble." But Kinglake thought seriously of that danger. It tends to ruin the unity of the Army, and I appeal to the Undersecretary for War that he should follow the practice of the Admiralty in this matter, and censor all the letters that come from the front. They ought to be censored. It is impossible for an Army to be well conducted in the War if officers and men are to be free to discuss every grievance they have with Members of this House. We have heard a great deal about mistakes which are alleged to have been made by Lord Kitchener, and I think that the Prime Minister put them in the right scale of the balance when he brushed them aside and drew attention to the immeasurably great service Lord Kitchener has rendered. We do know this, that every great general and every great admiral has acknowledged that it is impossible to avoid mistakes in warfare. I have here a quotation that Cromwell used in special reference, I think, to this House, in which he said:As I must acknowledge myself guilty of oversights, so I know they can rarely be avoided in military matters.And Napoleon said much the same thing:Past masters in any art do not fall from the skies; every one makes mistakes at First.It is unavoidable that these small mistakes will be made in connection with the War. The Hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Sir G. Reid) mentioned the sort of thing that Lord Kitchener inherited. He inherited a War Office which was the product of sixty years of European peace. Even the important billet of Master-General of Ordnance, who had the power which the Minister of Munitions has today, had been done away with in response to the demand of the politicians and of Parliament, in spite of the protest of the Duke of Wellington. The War Office was not organised by men who knew war. It was organised on those lines which sixty years of peace might be expected to pro- 2854 duce. What was the atmosphere before that War? The first Commissioner of Works, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, a year before the War said:I can conceive of no circumstances in which Continental operations by our troops would not be a crime against the people of this country.That was a year before the War, and that is the sort of thing which was drummed into the ears of the officials of the War Office, so that men did not even consider the study of the question of a great European War, but only of the British Army on the defensive for the defence of this country. It is, therefore, little short of miraculous that a man who arrived about two days after the War broke out, taking the machinery as he found it, organising under the strain of a great War, should have accomplished the marvels that Lord Kitchener has accomplished. I confess I did feel astonished when the hon. and gallant Member for Monmouthshire drew attention to mistakes which, he said, occurred six weeks after the War had broken out in connection with the organisation of those men flocking to the Colours. It seems to me that such criticism is in itself pettifogging to a degree. Another point to which I wish to draw attention is the question of munitions. The hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield held Lord Kitchener entirely responsible, and said that nothing was done to obtain the opinions of great representatives of industry, by which I imagine he meant the great authorities who produce munitions.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
If he did not, I apologise to the hon. Member. I understood him to say distinctly that the great representatives of industry were never consulted, and that Lord Kitchener was entirely to blame.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I never said a word to-day about the captains of industry being consulted. I said it on a previous occasion, when it was not denied.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I was relying upon my memory. If the hon. Baronet did not mention it, I apologise to him. Somebody did mention it in my hearing, and I 2855 now understand it was the hon. and gallant Member for Monmouthshire. The Prime Minister, speaking on 20th April, 1915, said:In the earliest days of the War I appointed a Committee to survey the situation. This Committee's, powers and labours were directed towards making definite progress in the machinery of supply.I come to what Lord Haldane said. On 5th July, 1915, speaking at the National Liberal Club, he said:In the month of October, while he was still a member of the Cabinet, there was a Committee assembled by the Government which included Lord Kitchener, Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Churchill, Mr. McKenna and other Cabinet Ministers, and their attention was drawn to the urgent necessity to increase the supply of munitions. The changed conditions had necessitated a very large ncrease ….He went on to say:We consulted General von Donop, and afterwards we summoned the great munition manufacturers and we placed orders with them which they undertook to carry out, and which if they had been carried out would have placed this country in a position of tremendous advantage, and we should have had a very large surplus. We placed these orders. The munition manufacturers did their best to execute them. But there arose difficulties between labour and capital, which confounded all the calculations of the munition manufacturers, and that is the source of the trouble to-day.Quito recently, with my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) and others, I went to one of these munition centres, and we were taken over the great works of Messrs. Kynoch. Although we went under the auspices of the Minister of Munitions, the first assurance of the manager of the works to us was that up to a fortnight before, which would place the date about the middle of March of this year, not a single thing that that great firm had turned out had been turned out by the order of the Ministry of Munitions. Every single thing they had turned out had been on War Office orders given prior to the time the Ministry of Munitions was formed, thus showing the great orders which the War Office had placed. It has been said that it was the "Times" which drew attention to the scarcity of munitions. The "Times" correspondent's revelations took place on 14th May, 1915. I would ask the Committee, in common fairness, to read a Debate in the House of Lords of 15th March, 1915—it is too long to read here—when Lord Kitchener drew attention to his extreme anxiety in connection with this question of munitions. The 15th March would be two months before the "Times" revelations. I will only quote three lines:I can only say the supply of war material at the present moment for the next two or three months is causing me very serious anxiety.2856 And every line of that column is equally emphatic on that point.
One other thing I wish to say. Politicians are not as a rule good judges about generals and admirals, and should as far as possible abstain from criticising them. If we take the history of these things we find that Hawke was burnt in effigy on the very day that he was beating the French fleet. That was due to the excitement caused by politicians. Rodney received his letters of recall to England after he had won his great victory which saved this country in the War of American Independence. The Secretary of State, Robert Harley, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, a man who was Speaker of this Souse, criticised Sir George Rooke and Sir Cloudesley Shovel very severely. It is one long record of that sort of thing, It is better, I think, that we should leave this matter to the Government of the day. They never defended Lord Kitchener in this House, and if they really did, as I began to fear, distrust him, they should have parted with his services, but I rejoice that the Prime Minister has come forward at last and defended him on this occasion.
I desire to quote what Lord Kitchener himself said of Lord Roberts in the House of Lords:Lord Roberts' reputation as a soldier stands secure. No words of mine are needed to praise him.I think those words of Lord Kitchener might equally well be applied to himself, and that it will be said of him hereafter, as was said of the Duke of Wellington:Whatever record leaps to light he never will be shamed.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of the fact that officers of the War Office had not been sufficiently thorough in preparing their schemes of offence and defence. I cannot help thinking he is misinformed on that point. During the last ten years, since the appointments to the General Staff of the War Office, every conceivable campaign has been examined by these men, whom we have the greatest confidence in, in military circles, and but for the examinations and the immense amount of work done in these ten years the country might have been in a very different position at the commencement of the War. There was a remark made by the hon. Gentleman (Sir H. Dalziel) which appeals to me very strongly, especially in this. Debate. He says that any responsibility and shortcomings is a responsibility 2857 of the Government combined rather than the responsibility of an individual Minister. I think he might have gone further and said it is more the responsibility of the nation than of the Government only. With regard to the particular point of the crisis in munitions which took place a year ago, I think there again the Government as a whole was to blame in not conceiving the situation as we see it now. Had we known of these things we should never have started the War as we did with only six divisions, and when we come to criticise one individual Minister, the Secretary of State for War, for his action during this War the House should remember the extraordinary amount of work which has been achieved in the War Office under his direction. I served in the War Office for the first nine months of the War in close touch with a Department which was controlled very strictly by the Secretary of State for War, and I felt what a driving force he put into the whole administration. When you realise that when the War started the great bulk of the General Staff of the War Office, trained men, were allowed to go to France, and were replaced by men who were not trained in anything like the same degree, one could not help realising when working there that but for the driving force put into it by the Secretary of State for War we should never have achieved anything like the organisation we achieved. I remember quite well one day notice coming round dealing 'with the forces which the Secretary of State for War was determined to raise, and even those of us who sat in the War Office and worked there thought it was so great an increase in the Army that we were almost prepared to ridicule the idea, and to doubt whether it could ever possibly be achieved. It was achieved, although we did not think it could be achieved, and it was largely due to the Secretary of State for War. Therefore, I hope the House will remember these things when they criticise the mistakes. Possibly mistakes have occurred. When things do not go well we are inclined to get over-anxious, and to criticise those who have responsibility; but, looking back on the whole two years of the War, I doubt whether the Army or the country would have been in the position it is to-day but for the services of the Secretary of State for War.
§ Colonel YATE
I desire to raise a point in reference to what the Under-Secretary of State for War said to-day on this ques- 2858 tion of the employment of Indian and African troops in the present War. But before I touch upon that point I would like to point out that the right hon. Member for Dundee (Colonel Churchill) gave us an account of the disbandment of a brigade of Scottish troops at the front. I remember asking the Under-Secretary a question on the subject, and he told me that he hoped to see these regiments reconstituted at the end of the War, but he could not give me any direct promise that they would be reconstituted before the end of the War. I hope that now the Military Service Act has been passed the right hon. Gentleman will bear this in. mind and try, if he possibly can, to reconstitute these regiments at the earliest possible moment. They are the first line Territorial regiments of several counties in Scotland, and are the pride of those counties, and their disbandment was a great disappointment to all concerned. I hope that as soon as he gets the men he will try his best to reconstitute these regiments and restore them as they were before. Speaking on the employment of Asiatic troops, the right hon. Gentleman said he thought the Germans would regard our employment of these troops as evidence of a depletion of our sources of supply rather than an accretion.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I did not say that, what I said was that there would be headlines in the German Press congratulating the Germans upon the fact that Britain had come so far to the end of her resources that she was compelled to employ great blocks of black troops.
§ Colonel YATE
With all due deference to the right hon. Gentleman, I do not think the Germans can look upon the employment of black troops by France as though France were coming to the end of her resources. They have, employed Algerians, Moroccans, and Sengalese troops with great success. The Sengalese troops are from West Africa and have done uncommonly good service. We, in West Africa, have great bodies of troops, uncommonly good men, who fought well in the Cameroons and in the Togoland campaign, and it would be a great reward to these men if they were allowed to take part in the larger sphere of the War. I think that in all our Colonies we should try to give our subject races a chance of participating in the military operations. It makes them loyal to the Empire, and I should like to see every Colony give its 2859 quota. We have seen very good troops raised in Somaliland. In East Africa the King's African Rifles and other Rifles are now taking part in the campaign there. The hon, and gallant Member for Wednes-bury (Colonel Griffiths) told us there are certain men in the Cape who would make good soldiers. I believe that the Matabele are a fine race of men, and the Zulus also—I have not been to South Africa—and I cannot help thinking that the proposal to bring these men to Egypt to train with our Soudanese troops would have good results. Our Soudanese troops have done uncommonly good service. They are very fine men, and it would be a good thing if they were allowed to come and play their part, if they could be spared from the Soudan and their places were taken by men from other parts of Africa. We are raising our Army and sending our married men up to forty years of age abroad to the front trenches. It seems to me that it would be very much better if we were to get a certain number of young and active Africans of twenty-five or so, and prevent the necessity of sending out our older married men. I do think that the question is worth considering. As to our Indian troops, all acknowledge the spirit which they have displayed. These 70,000 men who came over at the beginning of the War had never seen snow before, and they went through the whole winter in Flanders often up to their knees in mud and snow, and exposed to cold and rain, and we are all delighted at their splendid heroism, which was mentioned by Sir Douglas Haig in his dispatch published yesterday. The way in which the chiefs of India sent their troops has been magnificent, and the behaviour of the men in East Africa, Mesopotamia, and France has proved how Indian troops can fight.
The right hon. Gentleman the Undersecretary of State for War said that India could not produce ten to twelve new divisions of troops. I agree with him. We have neither the officers nor the men. But I do think that Indian troops might have been sent to reinforce the Mesopotamian Army, who would have been with General Townshend in lots of time, instead of waiting for those two divisions sent from France. India had lots of Indian troops in India at the time. It seems to me that the late Viceroy and the present Commander-in-Chief in India became 2860 obsessed with the idea that they could not denude India of Indian troops. But Indian troops ought to have been sent to Mesopotamia in advance of the troops of the divisions which were sent from France. They might easily have done it. Every Indian regiment sent from India to fight for the Empire becomes more and more loyal. I think that all the Regular Indian troops in India last autumn might easily have been sent away, and replaced by Irregulars under their own native chiefs, with perhaps one or two British officers. All your Regular Indian troops in India could have been sent out of India and their place taken by Irregulars, with perhaps a single British officer or two in a district in charge. If the late Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief had had any imagination at all they could have sent their regiments away and there were lots of Irregulars to replace them. We have got the Nepalese troops serving in India under their own officers at the present time, and we could have raised lots of fine men in Baluchistan and from lots of Aboriginal tribes, who would have kept order in India no matter what riots occurred. They could garrison India well. More use should have been made of them than has been made. The Army sent to Mesopotamia from India was absolutely starved. I have read speeches by the late Commander-in-Chief in which he said he could never get money for the Army, and the present Finance Minister, Sir William Meyer, starved the Army year after year, and his present boast is that there is no extra tax in India. India is perfectly willing to bear her fair share of tax. We have not had the munitions which India ought to get. Then as to guns, I saw a letter from an Artillery officer the other day, who had been sent back wounded from Mesopotamia, and he said, "I am here doing duty with a howitzer battery. Oh, if only I had had that battery with me in Mesopotamia all the time! "India has not done anything in regard to our shortage of merchant ships. Look at Bombay, in the olden days we had magnificent three-deck ships built at Bombay, but now we do not hear of a single ship being built there. In that way the British Rulers in India have not risen to the occasion, and I hope sincerely that this will be borne in mind.
§ Mr. J. M. ROBERTSON
I wish to bring forward a point to which attention 2861 has not yet been called, and it has reference to church parades. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant) in replying to-day, said he considered that church parades were highly important in the life of the Army. I assume, of course, that he meant from the military point of view, and I am not qualified to discuss the proposition in that regard. What I wish to raise is this Church parades involve religious compulsion on a number of men. Their own inclination would keep then out of these church parades, because they do not believe in the religion of the Church. I think that, as a matter of equity, calls for the attention of the War Office. Early in the War I received a number of letters from Rationalists who referred to compulsion of this kind, and who said that it was a very gratuitous infliction. They have offered their lives in the service of their country, and advantage was taken of that to compel them to undergo ceremonies and services with which they have no sympathy whatever. I replied to those letters roughly to this effect, that my correspondents were risking their lives, and, as I understood, it was extremely difficult to secure any alteration in the Army arrangements. I urged on them to waive this infliction that was put upon them, and, in fact, to submit to one sacrifice more. Now that we have universal compulsion, if you compel a man to serve in the Army, the question arises: Have you any right to compel him to go to these church parades. If a man enlists voluntarily, he may be naturally called upon to submit to the usual practices of the Army. I pointed out to some of my correspondents that in this House a Member has to attend prayers in order to obtain his seat if there is a pressure on seating accommodation—an arrangement which I have always thought unworthy of this House, but one of which Members know the existence when they seek election. It is assumed that they face this imposition when they become Members of Parliament. And so with the man who voluntarily enlists. Although there should be no such imposition on Rationalists who voluntarily enlist in the form of a church parade, and who do not believe in the Church religion, still one is entitled to raise the question technically of the case of a man who enlists under compulsion, and I submit to my right hon. Friend that this is an indefensible imposition, and what we might term a religious disabilty, or any term or phrase you prefer.
2862 My right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) proposed an Amendment to a Bill in this House the effect of which was to declare that no one should be recognised as being legally a conscientious objector unless he belonged to some established or recognised religious body. The general feeling of the House, I think, was against that proposition, and I am glad the Government did not accept it. For the very reasons for which the Government did not accept it I think the Government is called upon to recognise that it has no right to force attendance at any religious service or ceremony of men who do not believe in the religion in question. If it is urged it is essential to the military efficiency of the Army, I shall venture respectfully to cast doubt on the suggestion. Indeed, if any hon. Member thinks that those compulsory church parades are of any service to religion from a religious point of view I would respectfully suggest that they are greatly mistaken. The evidence that comes to me from both the Army and layman is that all those compulsory religious services have an effect which is anything but serviceable to the cause of religion. I am pleading in a matter of the freedom of these men, which is not on the same plane at all as the other matters of conscientious objection to which we have referred. There have been few conscientious objections among Rationalists, very few. They have had to take their chance before the tribunals like other men. I am dealing with a very considerable number of men who are now serving, some under the Act and a number before the Act was passed, and who are compelled to take part in religious services with which they have no sympathy whatever. I think my right hon. Friend would agree that if you had been proposing schemes of compulsory military service in time of peace you would not have dared to advocate such a state of things as that, or have attempted to justify the forcing of religious observances on men who held no such opinions. That would be on all-fours with the old practice of forcing people to go to church. Even in the days in which that sort of thing was considered desirable it was once pointed out that there lay under the laws of England no power even in the Priviy Council to compel men to go there. Under this system of church parade—I do not know all the technicalities connected with the religious observance—but, broadly speaking, you compel men to go there. I hardly expect 2863 that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to make a reform in this respect immediately. I recognise that any alteration in military practice and discipline in time of war is attended with certain difficulty, but I do urge on him to bring the matter before the War Office authorities, and if possible to secure that conscientious objection in this matter shall be recognised, and that it shall be recognised that it is no part of military service proper to have men go to church. The sooner the Army drops the theory that attendance at church is a military measure the better perhaps it will be for the Army. However that may be, the men who are compelled to attend and who have no share in the belief—and there are many hundreds of them—are victims of injustice.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I never had time to get the statistics, but I have had a number of informal statements to the effect that the number of such men at the front is, from the point of view of some who wrote, surprisingly large, and I can safely put it at hundreds. I do not think it should be necessary to give statistics on the matter. But my right hon. Friend may take it that the number does amount to hundreds, so that it is a fairly serious matter in respect of the number involved, and it is certainly a very serious matter in respect of the moral problem that is raised.
§ Mr. PETO
On various occasions I have raised the question of the immediate issue of a medal to men who have been engaged in active service abroad, or invalided out of the Army, wounded, or passed as fit for Home service only. The last occasion was on the 22nd instant, when I gave notice that I would raise the question on the Adjournment because, as on previous occasions, I received the reply that the matter was under consideration and no decision had been arrived at. I was asked not to raise the question on the Adjournment, the Under-Secretary assuring me that only the Prime Minister could deal with the matter. To-day I put to the Prime Minister a question on the subject, and was led to believe that I should receive a most satisfactory reply. I regard the reply as the reverse of satisfactory. I put forward four categories of cases, all of which I am assured by an almost endless correspondence demand the immediate attention of the War 2864 Office. First, there are men who have been serving in the active fighting line for months and months, some for nearly two-years, and others for over a year, and are still fighting; secondly, men who have served as long or less long and have been wounded; thirdly, men who are invalided out of the Service altogether; and fourthly, men who are unfit for further active service and are passed as-fit only for duty at home. When you consider the vast area of operations, including Gallipoli, where the operations are concluded, and minor theatres of war, such as the Cameroons, where the campaign has been brought to a successful issue; when you consider that there are divisions like the 29th, of which only a bare tenth remain of those who originally attempted to land in Gallipoli; all questions of precedent drawn from other campaigns in which this country has been engaged must be admitted to have absolutely no relevance whatever. The Prime Minister's reply was to the effect that to men invalided out of the Service it was proposed to give an armlet. I cannot imagine a more inappropriate or more unsatisfactory form of recognition. Armlets have been given to Volunteers to distinguish them from civilians who have done nothing at all. They have been given to attested men under the Derby scheme. But an armlet has never been adopted in any country as a recognition by the military authorities of the nation of signal and special services in the Army.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield referred to this question, and he said that he had been more fortunate than I had been. He said that he had been in correspondence with the Prime Minister, and had got an assurance from him that in the case of the men who had rendered distinguished service a special medal was to be given. I am delighted to hear it. I shall be glad to hear that something is going to be done about it. I would like some definition of what that distinguished service means. I should like to know that every man who has been mentioned in dispatches from the beginning of the War should have some recognition other than that mentioned, and that there should be given at once this special ribbon or medal which shall form a decoration to show that the man has rendered this distinguished service. I hope the Secretary for War will reconsider this matter, for I think it was a very unfortunate suggestion put forward to-day at Question Time 2865 that the men who were invalided out of the Service, after performing active service for this country, perhaps for a year or more, should be decorated by an armlet no matter what design the authorities at the War Office might be ingenious enough to select. In my view there is only one appropriate decoration for these heroes. So long as the War goes on, and until the actual medal can be settled upon and struck, the ribbon of that medal, as has been the case for a hundred years in this country and in countless campaigns all over the world, should be the recognition of the military service. Let us take the opportunity at once of recognising the splendour of the services the men from Australia, Canada, and every part of the Empire who have all been fighting side by side with the men we have raised here at home in one common force, for one common purpose, and let them have one decoration—and that at once—which shall form an additional bond of union of these brothers in arms. Let us hear no more about armlets! I feel very strongly on this question. I was led to believe that the Prime Minister had come to the decision which would be gratifying, not only to those men, but to every civilian in the country. I hope that at the interview which Members of Parliament are to have with the Secretary for War, the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Swansea, who have also referred to this question, and other Members who are interested in the question, will take the occasion of pressing this paramount claim to recognition of an honourable nature—something in accordance with the precedents of the past—for the men who have not only been invalided out of the Service, but for those who have been fighting for month after month. I trust that we may be able to produce some effect at the interview. If we get no other decision, the Secretary of State for War will be doing a good turn to the Army which has served in the past and to its future, if we get this matter settled and taken out of those regions in which many subjects, of which we hear from month to month, are lost, namely, that they are receiving consideration from which we very rarely Lear of a satisfactory solution.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
No! I desire to ask the Under-Secretary for War as to the meeting which is to take place on Friday at the War Office. Lord Kitchener probably does not wish to meet the whole of the Members of the House of Commons, but I believe that a large number of Members desire to be present. I understand that the room at the War Office will only hold about fifty persons. Will the right hon. Gentleman, before we meet to-morrow, try and arrange that Lord Kitchener should meet the Members of this House either at the Foreign Office or in one of the committee rooms at this House?
§ Mr. TENNANT
If hon. Members will give in their names so as to give some indication of the number, I will certainly see that there is proper accommodation. I think it might be wise to use the Foreign Office, and I will ask the Secretary of State if he can accommodate hon. Members.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
My right hon. Friend (Mr. Robertson) raised an important question, to which it is, of course, impossible for the Under-Secretary to reply. I think it would be well if the question were left in the position in which my right hon. Friend has left it, because I think there are certainly a good many hon. Members of the House who think that church parades are good things, and ought not to be hastily abandoned. As I understood it—I am not a military person—the practice in the Army is that there is a church parade for members of the Church of England and one for the. Roman Catholics. I am not sure whether there is one for Dissenters or not, but I am rather under the impression that there is. If I am correct in my supposition, no person of any religious denomination suffers any harm, because if he is a member of the Church of England he goes to his own church, if he is a Roman Catholic he goes to a Roman Catholic Church, and if he is a Dissenter he goes to a chapel of that body. If that is so, I am rather at a loss to understand where the hardship comes in. It can only arise in the case of a man whom my right hon. Friend calls a Rationalist, but whom I should prefer to call an atheist. Is an atheist to go to religious service during the time he is in the Army? I do not want to enter on controversial religious matters, but I thought I would rise to make some sort of protest, at any rate, to 2867 how that there are some Members of the House who think that the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman was a question that need not have been raised at the present time.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.2868
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 22nd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at One Minute before Eleven o'clock.