§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by 1,000 men.
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Brigadier-General Croft) into the details which comprised the greater part of his speech, but I would refer to the opening parts of his observations and those with which he concluded, as well as to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the new Chairman of the Liberal War Committee (Major-General Sir Ivor Herbert). It is strange indeed to find hon. Members of this House still asking the War Office for an estimate of the number of men they require. We have had these estimates asked for time and again, but no estimate has been given, and it is unlikely that any will be given. The failure to obtain estimates in the past might have been a lesson to hon. Members not to encourage the War Office to demand further men, but rather to insist that the War Office should make the best possible use of the men it has. It is in reference to that that I desire to move the reduction of the Vote which I have placed on the Paper. I believe that at the present time our Government are making a wasteful use of our armed forces. On former occasions this allegation has been made, and it has been put forward in this House already in the course of the present Session, but up to the present time no answer has been vouchsafed by any responsible member of the Government. On the first day of the Session I drew attention to the useless and wasteful adventure at Salonika, and I then asked for a statement of policy from the Government. Since then hon. and right hon. Members have made a like demand, but with no better result. My right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. McKenna) referred to the subject in one of his speeches, and a very able and remarkable speech on this subject was made by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), but, in spite of all these things, the only statement we have heard in regard to the Salonika 82 Expedition has come in this House, and it is to the effect that there is nothing to say about Salonika.
But it is very significant that while the Government tells us there is nothing to-be said about it, they expressly forbid comment and criticism on the expedition in the public Press. It is therefore only in this House that it is possible to discuss and criticise that policy, and, if possible, to secure a modification in the action the Government are taking. There has been one exception with regard to this veto upon comments on Salonika, and I find in a periodical called "New Europe," published last week, a defence of the Salonika Expedition. Apparently the Government policy is that all criticism and all-attacks are to be banned, but if any writer is prepared to defend the expedition then there is no embargo whatever upon its publication. What is the defence which has been put forward of this expedition? We have, as a rule, long disquisitions on the respective merits of what are called the Eastern and Western policy. A certain number of people who are alleged to believe that a decision can be reached on the Western front are described as extreme Westerners, and it is alleged of them that they are of necessity opposed to any expedition in the East, no matter what its merits may be. On the other hand, we have people who call themselves Easterners, who say it is absolutely necessary for this country and her Allies to counter German ambitions in the East, and what is called the design to link up-Berlin with Baghdad they say must at all costs be checked, and that the only way to do that is by sending an expedition to Salonika.
Has this expedition to Salonika, at any time since it went there—I think it was in October or November, 1915 —really seriously threatened the German communications with Constantinople or Baghdad? It certainly did not do so in 1915, and even during the slight advance in the autumn of last year there was, I think, no reason to believe that either Germany or her Allies felt that their communications with the East were seriously menaced. Indeed, at no time during the whole of that period have the German communications been seriously menaced. But we have to deal with the situation as it now is. It is common for the defenders of the expedition to say that had it been undertaken in the early months of 1915, or had it been pressed when it was advocated by 83 the present Prime Minister, or had it been undertaken before the invasion of Serbia, or pressed forward when Roumania entered the War, substantial results would have been achieved. My hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo put forward a very strong case to show that the expedition had been systematically starved by the War Office against the will of the late Cabinet. That indicates that the expedition was undertaken by the late Cabinet under somewhat peculiar conditions. That it was undertaken unwillingly, we knew from the circumstances of the resignation of the present First Lord of the Admiralty from the late Government. At that time there was revealed hesitancy and indecision. We also know that during the remainder of the life of that Government the expedition to Salonika was a constant source of division among its members; and because there was division among the members it can hardly, I think, be alleged that it was the military who succeeded in starving this expedition. If there has been any indecision, then the responsibility for that indecision must rest with the responsible head of the Government.
But there has equally been indecision since the late Government fell. We were told when the new Government came into power we would have an immediate and definite decision and that something would be done in the East at last, that Serbia would be rescued, and that Roumania would receive assistance. We were told that one reason for the present Prime Minister's visit to Rome was to see that the forces in Salonika were adequate, succoured, supported, and reinforced. But has that been the result of the Rome visit? I think the most significant statement which was made in regard to the Rome Conference appeared in a leading article in the "Times," to the effect that the Conference had been completely successful, which indicated that nothing was to be done for Salonika. We know, indeed, that certain reinforcements have been sent out since the new Government came into power, but these reinforcements have simply increased the burden which this expedition has cast on the country and have done nothing whatever to make the force in Macedonia a strong and adequate fighting force. It is common ground that this expedition, unless it is reinforced, can be of no military value. This is the situation. We see the expedition, as it were, apparently hung up and capable of effecting nothing. In view of that 84 we are entitled to ask what is the military view of the present situation. We are entitled to know what the military advisers of the Government think should be done in regard to this expedition. It is now common property what the earlier military view was. We know that the late Lord Kitchener was opposed to it. We know that the present head of the General Staff was opposed to it. We know that General Munro, who was on the spot, was equally opposed to it. It is, therefore, only fair we should be told what is the present view of the General Staff. During the later days of the last Government there were stories going about among those well in the confidence of the present Prime Minister to the effect that he had asked for great reinforcements, and that the late Government had shown incapacity to take action and had turned his proposals down. Indeed, I believe that was one of the reasons for bringing that Government to an end. But is it not the case that his proposals for reinforcements were turned down by the General Staff, and not by the Government at all? It is important that the House and the country should know of these things, because they are all important factors in enabling the country to come to a decision upon the value of this expedition. It is not only on these grounds that I allege that this expedition is a useless drain upon our resources. I have much stronger grounds. We all know now how serious the shipping problem in this country is. Twelve months ago, when I first raised this question, my speech was received with derision and contempt. In those days nobody believed that shipping could be a serious problem to this country. Transport, it was often thought, was a matter which could be played with with complete impunity. When I suggested then that we were in a state of partial blockade hardly anybody would believe it, but we have seen month by month since March of last year that blockade increasing in stringency. We had a serious warning by the late President of the Board of Trade in November last, when we were told of the necessary steps which must be taken in regard to food supplies, but the gravest warning of all was the speech of the Prime Minister a week ago. No graver warning has ever been given to this country, and in face of that warning we have the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who represents 85 the Liberal War Committee, coming here and talking about the absolute, paramount importance of bayonets in this War. Ships are far more important than bayonets. Sea power is of far more importance than man-power to this country, and it is because the present Government and the late Government have, by these useless military adventures, reduced our transport facilities, that they have menaced our sea power. There could be no greater symptom of the failure of British sea power than the fact that at present you are sending supplies overland through France and Italy. That is not a triumph of organisation; that is the measure of your necessity, and it is because of the reckless demands upon the man-power of this country by those who talk about scientific organisation that we are reduced to these straits. This Salonika Expedition is now a large expedition.
In the defence of the Salonika Expedition, which occurs in the periodical which I have mentioned, and which I assume has passed the Censor, the figure of 500,000 is given. These, of course, are not all British troops, but it may be said that for every British soldier who is sent there four tons of shipping are required. You may take it as a certainty that over 1,000,000 tons of shipping are at the present moment withdrawn from supplying this country with food and with the necessary raw materials in order to supply this Army which is held up uselessly in the hills of Macedonia. But that is not all. We know that the Mediterranean is infested with submarines. Nearly all our merchant ships are now warned off the Mediterranean. The situation is so serious that all your supply ships and your transports going to Salonika have to be convoyed, and you are thereby taking away destroyers which would be useful in hunting the submarines simply for the purpose of convoying the transports and the supply ships for the Salonika Expedition, so that in two ways you are weakening your sea power. You are, in the first place, directly withdrawing ships which are absolutely essential for maintaining the home supplies of this country, and, in the second place, you are weakening the Admiralty's power of dealing with the submarine menace.
When such an indictment can be made against this expedition under present conditions, I think that this House is untrue to its trust if it allows that case to go without answer from a responsible 86 Minister. The situation is far too serious. We may talk glibly of taking another 1,000,000 men into the Army, we may talk of amateur schemes of increasing food production, we may talk also of the building of standard ships. All these things are as dust in the balance. The fact stands revealed that if you could release 200 ships to-day from Salonika you would relieve the tension of this serious situation at home. If that is the case, why should the Government not give an answer to the House and to the country as to its reasons for maintaining that expedition on its present scale? Why should it, on the other hand, be allowed simply to muzzle opinion and to silence criticism? This Government has made great play of its frankness and of its candour. The First Lord of the Admiralty came and told us the other day that he, for the first time, was going to tell us the facts about the submarine situation. He has told us some things, but he has not made a great addition to our knowledge. In this, as in other Departments, the practice of the present Government is not unlike that of its predecessor. It is very careful not to disclose anything which is inconvenient to itself. That, I believe, will be the practice of every Government, but that is no reason why private Members of this House should not insist in the public interest on full disclosure.
It is nonsense to believe that the people of this country cannot stand the truth, and it is equal folly to believe that full disclosure would convey anything material to the enemy. After two and a half years we surely have had enough of that fiction. We may take it for granted that our enemies know a great deal more than the average man in this country or the average man in this House; that there is very little which the average private Member could communicate to them. I believe, however, on the other hand, that the people of this country can stand to be told the truth. They have not been afraid to face disagreeable facts when disagreeable facts have been disclosed, and their temper has not been unlike the temper of ancient Rome, when the Senate announced in the Forum that the Republic had suffered a great defeat, and when the same body passed a vote of thanks to the demagogue who had lost a great battle on the ground that he had not despaired of the Republic. These examples would appeal to the people of this country. It is because the situation is grave that I think its gravity should 87 not be hidden and should not be covered up by a general statement. We have here a concrete instance. We have here the case of an expedition which is very largely at the root of our difficulties, and because it is at the root of our difficulties we ask the Government to make a full statement, and, if they cannot make a defence, then to reverse a policy which is so disastrous to the country.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
No one can quarrel with my hon. Friend for drawing the attention of the Committee to the grave question of military and foreign policy which has occupied the most interesting and powerful speech which he has delivered. The Army at Salonika is certainly a factor in our military arrangements which touches, as he has so well pointed out, not only the man-power problem, but the tonnage problem, and which affects both of these problems to a very marked degree. All enterprises in the Balkan and Turkish theatres are limited by the carrying power of our mercantile marine. In 1915 great and dazzling opportunities, all of which were lost, were presented to us in those theatres. In those days decisive results could be obtained by armies whose size was not beyond the limits of our available carrying power, but from the moment that Bulgaria entered the struggle against us, and the Germans obtained a through route to Constantinople whereby they could organise the forces of the Turkish Empire effectively and sufficiently for war, from that moment it was obvious, or it should have been obvious, that the size of the armies needed to achieve a result exceeded the carrying power which we should have at our disposal, and a very great revision of opinion and of plans from that moment became necessary. It ought to have been frankly recognised that our successful amphibious intervention in this theatre on a great scale had passed, and that this method of influencing the main decisions of this war was no longer open. There is no reason to suppose that these facts, which were apparent since the autumn of 1915, and have been fully apparent during 1916, will lose any of their force or power in 1917 or 1918. On the contrary, we shall steadily require, to achieve any decisive—I do not say effective—results in those theatres, to use larger Armies with a tonnage which, from many points of view and from various causes, will steadily 88 diminish. That is undoubtedly the situation which exists to-day, and which my hon. Friend has called attention to in his able speech.
Having said so much, it is not at all easy for anyone not possessed of the fullest information —which only the Cabinet has—to advise as to what course should be taken at the present time. We have not to deal with a situation in which, or as if, we could blot out all that has happened, and could choose to-day whether we would or would not like to have a great Army at Salonika. We have to deal with the fact that there is a great International Army there, with the history of that Army and the obligations which it has necessarily contracted. The problem is one of the utmost complexity and gravity, and it involves considerations of honour as well as considerations of military and diplomatic importance. We have to consider the position of Monsieur Venizelos. That remarkable man, throughout the whole of this great War, has shown the utmost wisdom and courage in all the counsels he has offered to his country, and has shown himself not only a wise statesman in regard to Greece, but has evinced a perfect grasp of those great international and human issues which are at stake. He has claims upon the Allies which certainly one cannot conceive that honourable Governments would brush aside or be unmindful of. We cannot possibly look at this question as if we had a free hand in dealing with it.
Four great Powers, of which we are one, and three minor Powers, are, as my hon. Friend knows well, involved in the operations which are proceeding there. It is not possible, however clear the arguments may appear at the present time to those who feel themselves perfectly free to take a new view—it is not possible to treat this question as one which can be swept aside by a few bold and decided gestures. Neither is it a question which lends itself to reproaches and recrimination. I was very glad that my hon. Friend did not in any way mar the cogency of his speech by making, in the light of after-knowledge, reproaches upon the past. When the whole story of the Salonika Expedition is made public, as I trust some day it will be, it will be found to be a very long one, and full of all sorts of unexpected tangles and complications. Certainly it is not one which lends itself to terse and dogmatic judgment from anyone. It is quite impossible that any 89 Government should be insensible to the force of the arguments which, for instance, my hon. Friend adduced this afternoon. They readily occur to all of us, and we must assume that they will present themselves with increasing force as the months go by. I share very fully the view which the hon. Member has expressed that the House would do well to consider these questions in connection with the War and in connection with the supply of men and the general policy of the country more carefully and more fully than it has done in the past. I myself believe that the institution of Secret Sessions, which are so frequently adopted in France with great effect, would enable us to give a much fuller and more careful examination to these matters than have hitherto been possible. In regard to any speech made on these military matters during the course of the War there are two considerations which have to be borne in mind. First of all, that information should not be disclosed that benefits the enemy. I agree with the hon. Member "who has just spoken that it is really not a very likely contingency. As he says, the enemy have very good information on a great many subjects, and detailed military and technical information is really not required by the House of Commons to discuss the broad issues of policy with which they would probably deal. Therefore, I do not think that a Secret Session would lead to the disclosures of information given in Secret Session to the enemy. It would be possible to conduct the Debate without touching upon these matters of secret information which it would perhaps be unwise to discuss.
There is another fact which one always has to bear in mind in speaking in time of war. It is very difficult to know where to draw the line between fair criticism and overstepping fair criticism. We do know that things should not be said which encourage the enemy or discourage our own people or our own Armies. It is a very difficult question, but that difficulty is entirely removed if the House meets in Secret Session with no reporters present. The Government can keep their own technical, military, naval, and diplomatic secrets, and the broadest discussion can be indulged in without the country being unduly alarmed or our troops being discouraged or our enemies gaining a lot of material which they can quote to 90 hearten up their own people. Therefore I am much in favour of a discussion of that character. The House of Commons would be to blame and failing in its duty if upon all these great questions connected with man-power, the supply of men, and our military policy, they do not insist upon some serious discussion in which the Ministers could take part, and in which hon. Members could really address themselves to questions in which the life and fortunes of the country depend. In the absence of such a secret discussion, the best attitude which in my humble judgment the House can take in regard to the question raised' by my hon. Friend, is to make the Government feel, that in the absence of fuller information the House does not desire to fetter any action which they may take, and that hon. Members will not make reproaches if that action should be difficult to reconcile with the course which has been taken in the past. The Administration have enough difficulties to face, and they ought not to be deprived, by any criticism or reproaches for the inconsistency of their policy or a change in their policy, of the benefit of any measure which they may think necessary.
Perseverance is usually described as a great virtue, but it has two aspects. Perseverance with an eye on the future; perseverance towards a definite objective is a great virtue; perseverance with an eye on the past is an equally' serious vice. I hope most earnestly the House will return to these topics before the Session is much older and that we shall hear from the Government some serious and responsible statement upon the question. The question of the Army at Salonika and the number of men we should have for the service of the year is affected by another very important consideration—I mean the assistance which India gives us and how far it is possible to supplement our resources in man-power from our Asiatic Possessions, and particularly India. I referred to this matter last year. It is, I know, a course which is usually unwelcome to the House to make quotations from one's own speeches, but I should like to remind the House, for it illustrates my point, of the serious consequences which follow from our not attending to these things. What I ventured to say to the House about this time last year was:What part is India going to play in 1917 if the War should be continuing then?91 Then I went on:What is there to prevent you if you start now—munitions are not going to prevent you —from taking ten or twelve new Indian divisions or their equivalent ready to throw in in 1917 wherever they may be most effective and most needed? Are you really going to allow the fate of India to be settled in this world-struggle while she is represented only by the Tigris Corps, whatever it is, and a few detachments at other points? There are i315,000,000 people in India and less than 100.000 men in the line. It is a wrong to India. It is wrong to Europe. I say to the Government, Do it. Do it now. Do it at once. Start to-night. Make your plans for your Indian Army of 1917."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1916, col. 2026, Vol. LXXXII.]That was a year ago. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India, his Department, and his Council have fought an astonishing rearguard action, and have been driven back slowly, foot by foot, in regard to the utilisation of the resources of India. It must be admitted that they have defended every position with tenacious skill. They have refused for many months to give India the opportunity of assisting financially in the War. That opportunity has just been accorded to India. They succeeded in delaying the application of compulsory measures to the white population of India for nine months after they had been introduced here. We all remember how-well my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Commander Wedgwood) pressed this matter in the House before we separated last November, and the asperity with which his questions were answered by the Secretary of State. It is a fact, and we ought to recognise it, that the policy of the India Office, of the Secretary of State, and of the Council has had the effect of largely shielding India from the horrors of this War. Her economic development has proceeded. Railways and public works, for purely peace objects, are proceeding at the present time.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
No; they are not proceeding at the normal rate. Her enormous manhood is practically untouched. She has a financial surplus, and her military expenditure has hardly been increased during the War. She has, I believe, no what is called dead-weight, unproductive debt. Of course, in a material sense, all this is a great benefit to India; but there are serious losses to set against these material gains. This was India's great opportunity. This was her chance of establishing her title deeds 92 by taking a notable part and an effective part in proportion to her strength and her people in this great world-struggle. It was also our chance to allow her to share our burdens, to share our fortunes, and to share our counsels. Is there any reason to suppose that India would not have responded? If there had been an appeal, having regard to the different conditions prevailing in India and the native mind, if at the same time there had been a kind of effort and pressure which has been applied in so many other parts of the British Empire, and has been applied in this country, is there any reason to suppose that the people of the Indian Empire would not have responded?
On the contrary, the whole spirit of India has been manifestly in favour of great exertions on behalf of the common cause at this time. Everything shows it. The ardour of the princes, the loyalty of the people, the fidelity of the Indian troops wherever they have been employed, all show that there was not only a readiness to do all that has been done, but a latent feeling which could have been appealed to, and through which greater efforts might have been effected. But the Secretary of State for India and his Council have taken the great responsibility of drawing a curtain of official correctitude and complacent departmentalism between the aspirations of the Indian people and the needs of the British cause.
If this time last year, when I pleaded with the Secretary of State—and that was late enough, in all conscience—he had endeavoured to raise only half the divisions which I then urged upon him, not without making some inquiries before as to what was reasonably practicable, we could now have relieved for service in France 70,000, 80,000, or 90,000 British troops from Egypt, from Salonika —the French have several native divisions in the line at Salonika—and possibly even from Mesopotamia, although I am not sufficiently acquainted with the composition of that force to say whether that could be done. But, at any rate, that which I am saying now would certainly have been done if the measures had been taken this time last year, when they were first asked for, and when already the need of them had been apparent for a very long time. You would have got 70,000 or 80,000 men at the most moderate computation—that is to say, twice or three times as many as they are now trying to scrape from agri- 93 culture, munitions, and the industries of this country. I think it was a great responsibility to take. It is no use throwing statistics and official excuses at our heads in this matter. I am tolerably well acquainted with the Departmental conditions which prevail in this country. I remember what we were told last year, and I see what is being done now, which absolutely stultifies everything that we were told last year. Even now that immense pressures have compelled action, have forced the India Office into action, have forced the Secretary of State to bow to the storm which was about to break—even now, I say that this action which is taken, tardy though it is, is not adequate, that a greater effort is needed, and is possible, and that if there is neglect and failure this year, as there was neglect and failure last year, then the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman will be even greater than it is to-day.
What applies to India applies to Africa, too. There, again, measures have been taken at various times which could well have been taken this time last year, and from which we should have derived immense benefit if taken last year—measures not only with regard to fighting men, but with regard to labour of all kinds in the zone of the Army, and, whatever opinion may be entertained about the use of African fighting men—I know some hon. Members entertain a strong opinion on that—there can be no objection whatever in any mind to their employment for labour—or, at least, I should have thought not—behind the lines to relieve other men for the fighting service. If the House of Commons this time last year had devoted itself resolutely to this question of manpower, and had gone into the whole subject and discussed it with something like the vigour they discuss a great controversial Bill in time of peace, you might have had the equivalent in one form or another of 200,000 or 300,000 men you have not got to-day. If you devote yourself resolutely to this question now, you will have next year 500,000 or 600,000 men; but if you allow this question to drift, you will find yourself deprived of them next year, and where are you going to find men to fill the ranks of your Armies? When I look back on what I ventured to say to the House last year—I do not refer to this subject in order to boast of superior foresight—I say quite frankly I have a feeling of despair, because it does seem 94 to me that the House of Commons, by not grappling with these questions, by not following them up with intense attention and even ferocity, is allowing power to-slip from its hands and is allowing itself to be made a useless addition to the Constitution. Can you wonder that on every side you see the power and influence of this House menaced, when you see it is the one place where these great questions are left with scarcely any discussion, except, perhaps, a few perfunctory speeches from the Treasury Bench.
I hope the House will permit me to-touch on a few more points connected with, the question of man-power. I admit most gladly the immense improvement which, has been made in the utilisation of the men whom the War Office already have under their control in the field Armies and the Armies at home since General Macready became Adjutant-General, assisted by that most able officer, General Geddes. An immense system of substitution has been worked throughout the Army at home and abroad with a view to liberating fit young men for the fighting-line, and their replacement by substitutes less efficient—wounded men and others—behind the line. I am told—it is not an official figure, but I believe it is fairly accurate—that between 20,000 and 30,000 officers' servants alone were found capable of being moved up as drafts to support the fighting battalions. Now we see that the Volunteers are being assigned a real function for the defence of this country, and that women are being utilised in large numbers also to discharge certain functions which they perfectly well can discharge behind the lines. But there is no-reason at all why this should not have been set on foot earlier, and it would have been set on foot earlier if the House of Commons had studied the question with resolute attention.
There is only one point in connection with the man-power at the disposal of the War Office on which I wish to make a comment at this moment, and that is in regard to the great masses of Cavalry which are kept in France. Out of all the enormous masses of Cavalry which are kept there-only one squadron was found an opportunity for tactical use during the whole campaign of 1916—in fact, since I last mentioned this subject. What is true of the Cavalry applies also to the enormous number of horses which are kept with the Armies in France. I suppose that the-carrying capacity of our mercantile marine 95 is strained very nearly as much to supply the horses in France as it is to conduct the Salonika expedition. At any rate, enormous demands are made not only on manpower—because the horses all employ precious man-power—but also on the food of this country and on our limited tonnage. It does seem to me that, when you survey all this, the use of only one Cavalry squadron in exceptional and almost fantastic circumstances in 1916, is rather a small dividend to pay on this enormous expenditure of money, food, tonnage, and man-power. Of course, if the orthodox military view should prove to be correct, and that at some moment in the future great masses of Cavalry will gallop through a gap in the lines, leaping trenches and barbed wire, scrambling over the shell-holes and craters, making a way through the Artillery barrages, and gaining open country beyond—or what is assumed to be open country beyond—and, having got there, are able to achieve permanent and decisive results, then we shall all frankly admit that all this expense will have been justified. There is, however, to be noted that the power of even a few rifles and machine guns to bring large bodies of mounted men to a standstill continues quite unabated, and consequently, on the Russian front, where there are large gaps in the line, where the fronts are not continuous as in the West, and where great bodies of Cavalry have frequently penetrated, on both sides, far beyond the lines, no decisive and scarcely any important, result has been achieved by the mounted men. I say if, at the end of the War, it is true what some people have always contended that the utility of horse soldiers in the West finished when the trench lines became continuous from the mountains to the sea, and that no effective opportunity for their use has been presented—if that is the result when we get to the end of the War, then I say we shall have suffered all the time very serious injury through the waste and misdirection of a portion of our limited resources.
There is another matter in which the military authorities in France have been somewhat slow to appreciate the conditions under which war is now carried on, and that is in the provision of light railways and tramways, and by their undue reliance on motor transport, which, with an immense consumption of money, men and petrol, yields results which can never compare with those which can be reaped 96 from the use of rails. That is being patiently and painfully remedied, and it is very much to the credit of the present Prime Minister that, when Secretary of State for War, he should have been able to insist, in spite of formidable opposition, on a great development of railway policy in France, and on the changes of personnel which were necessary and indispensable to give effect to it. In fact, you may say that in railways, as in heavy guns on a gigantic scale, and in the provision of tanks and other mechanical additions—in fact, in all these great man-saving processes—civilian influence and civilian thought have painfully but eventually triumphed over the orthodox professional views, to the great advantage of our fighting men, and the prospects of oar cause. It is far better to speak the truth about this sort of thing, and to face the real facts, than to live in that world of ceremonious fiction which has been rendered so fashionable by a certain class of writers in the Press. Sir William Robertson said the other day, "War exposes frauds." War certainly should dissipate delusions, and there is a number of delusions which, it is greatly to be hoped that the course of this War will dissipate. You may, if you wish, believe that all generals are geniuses, and all civilians are half-wits unless they happen to be journalists. You may, if you will, believe that the military and naval commanders always give clear and resolute opinions, and that politicians are always timid and procrastinating. You may believe, if you like, that our misfortunes in this War have been due to our neglecting to follow expert advice. You may believe, even, that all the Ministers who left the Government the other day were incompetent, and slackers, and that all who remain are warlike and heaven-born men of action. You may believe that if you like, but remember Sir William Robertson says that war exposes fraud. I demur altogether to the view put forward in many powerful quarters, not inside, but outside, this House, that all we have to do is to gather and sweep together every fit man in the United Kingdom who can be made to shoulder a rifle and rush them forward into great battles such as those which we fought on the Somme. The vital part of the problem of man-power is frugality of its use. The French learned this terrible fact after the fighting in Champagne in 1915. Then the word was spoken, Il faut 97 ménager les hommes. That has been accepted as a governing condition of French generalship ever since. We see in General Nivelle, in whom so many hopes are centred, an officer who, by the perfection of his arrangements, by the great employment which he makes of the machinery of attack and organisation, has been able to achieve most striking results with comparatively small loss of French life.
Machines save life, machine-power is a substitute for man-power, brains will save blood, manœuvre is a great diluting agent to slaughter, and can be made to reduce the quantity of slaughter required to effect any particular object. Generally it is not considered in the simple use of force but in the adroit augmentation and application of force. A great manœuvre of war, the kind of manœuvres for which the great generals of the past were rendered famous, bear the same relation to the ordinary application of force as the pulley or lever in its ordinary application to power. Past commanders won fame by novel and unexpected methods. In the first two years of this War there were great possibilities of manœuvres, both geographical and mechanical, and there are still great possibilities. I say this to the Committee, and it is quite necessary they should view the solid facts of the situation, that unless manœuvre devices—I use the word in its widest and not in its narrow sense—can be called in aid of our man-power, I do not see how we are to avoid being thrown back on those dismal processes of waste and slaughter which are called attrition. It is not easy to see how, with the present forces, we can expect this year to obtain decisive results from mere attrition. Those results may come from other quarters. They may come from internal conditions in Germany, the chance of accident in war or new forces coming to our aid, but the balance of forces on the fighting front at present is not such as to offer any prospect of speedy victory as a result of a straightforward process by an exchange of lives however pertinaciously that is adopted by the Command, and however valiantly and devotedly the sacrifices are made by our brave troops. That is surely a very serious fact. Who always begin a campaign each year with a feeling that we have got very much larger Armies than we had before. It is true that our Armies have steadily increased, but the balance of forces on the 98 fighting front now is not such as to justify any supposition that a mere process of mutual attrition is going to produce decisive results—1 do not wish to state that more definitely or precisely than I have done in the words I have used.
What I do hope is this: I hope that whatever the Government do they will proceed upon a clear-cut policy. I hope they will not commit themselves and their Armies, or, so far as they can influence them, allow their Allies, to commit themselves to a vast policy of attrition on a gigantic scale unless they are absolutely certain that they will be able to pursue it to a point where it will become decisive. I hope that they will not launch out on vast offensives of the kind we had last year unless they are certain that the fair weather months at their disposal and the reserves they command relatively to the enemy are such as to give an indisputable result. Unless a decisive final blow can be struck it is better to develop our superior resources wherever inequality of the fighting line may be. The resources behind the fighting line are enormously in favour of the Allies, and it is better to develop those resources patiently until the moment comes when a decisive blow can be struck. In any case, if a policy is to be adopted, let the end be fully studied and let us be sure that who do not embark upon it unless we can carry it through to a result which will be achieved proportionate to all our sacrifices. In any case it seems to me it would be very foolish not to make our preparations now for the campaign of 1918. Success may come, success will come, but we have no right now to count upon events turning decisively and immediately in our favour. We have no right to build on that assumption, and now I say to the Government and the able representatives of the War Office who are here to answer for the Department, where are you going to get the preponderance you need in 1918? There is no large preponderance now. I do not believe you will get from this country alone, even if you ruin its agricultural and maritime interests, that preponderance which is needed to cope with the kind of warfare which is now going on.
We must avail ourselves of manœuvres which involve risk. We must avail ourselves of mechanical aids which require intense exertion of thought. We must 99 also avail ourselves of the native resources of the Empire and of the population resources wherever they can be found for the infinitely varied tasks which are open, and on which we can lay claim. We must use all these methods simultaneously and to the highest pitch if we are to avoid next year the same outlook as that which confronts us to-day. I said last year to the Indian Secretary, "Do it now." I say again to the Government, who are making great exertions and who are doing a great deal and who naturally feel the weight and burden of the difficulties with which they are confronted, you must begin now with your preparations to obtain a preponderance in 1918. You must use the manhood of the whole world; men of every race and clime must serve behind the lines, and where possible within the lines, according to their quality, not in tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands must be brought in. In this way alone can you free your offensive divisions for that period of rest and change which is vital to them if they are to be able to conquer.
You must make all your Armies play their part in holding enemy forces on their fronts. With regard to the Salonika Army I have heard it said that the Germans describe that as their best internment camp. There may be some truth in that, but it is well to remember that it takes an array of a quarter of a million to guard that internment camp. Every employment of force must be scrutinised by the proportion of the enemy which it is holding at a given time on their front. Then you must utilise machinery at its highest form. It would be a fatal thing to reduce our output of machinery and weapons by taking the skilled men who are working with our Army and sending them off to work in the trenches. But the skilled production of weapons of war must proceed at its very height. All these devices which multiply the powers of the human arm and save human life must be studied and adopted. Then you must look boldly for new fields and new methods of manœuvre. The Armies and foreign policy must go together on that question. We can make a certainty of 1918. You can get no results in this War short of eight or nine months or very likely twelve months, but you can get great results after such a period of time, and we can make a certainty in 1918. There is still time for 100 that. Do not let us always be behind the march of events. We are doing in 1917 what we ought to have done in 1916 and even in 1915. Do not let it be said when 1918 arrives that we find ourselves in agreement at last with all those measures which it would have been proper to have taken in 1917.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Colonel YATE
I cannot attempt to follow the right hon. Gentleman in all the subjects he has dwelt upon in the great address he has given us. I must say when he talked of man-power I found myself so much in accord with some of the points he made in regard to it, that I could not help wishing I could have heard him speak with, as much vigour on the subject in bygone years when he was in the Government as he has spoken now that he is out of the Government. With regard to man-power, it is the vital question before us at the moment. I entirely agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said that we must make use of all the man-power in our Overseas possessions, wherever they are. I should like to refer to the different sources from which we can draw. There is one source nearest home which has not been drawn on adequately at all. In the papers the other day we saw it reported that the Military Service Act had been applied to the Channel Islands. Is there any reason in the world why the Act should not be equally applied to the Crown Colonies in the Mediterranean? I refer especially to Malta and Cyprus. If we look at the population of these places, we find that there is a civil population in Gibraltar of nearly 20,000. in Malta of 228,000, in Cyprus of 294.000.
We have raised here in England an Army of 5,000,000 out of a population of 45,000,000 at the outside, or not including Ireland, 40,000,000. That is one in eight of the population. Now, supposing the Act applied to the Crown Colonies in the Mediterranean, and we took one in ten of the population, we should have a force at our disposal of no less than 54,000 men. That is the Mediterranean alone. In Malta, with a population of 228,000, if we called out one in ten of the population we-should have a force at our disposal of 22,800 men. Malta has local Militia and local Artillery; Militia Infantry and Militia Artillery. I would give those in Malta who wish to volunteer for military service every chance to do so, but all the remainder might be formed into labour battalions, and brought over to do their 101 share in France or wherever required to relieve the British labour battalions now working there for service at home where labour is so much in request. Cyprus, with a population of 294,000, would give us a force of 29,000. There has been an increase in the population of 20,000 since the census of 1911—a most remarkable increase. Of those 294,000, 56.000 axe Mahomedans; there is no reason why we should not raise Mahomedan troops or labour battalions in Cyprus any more than in Egypt or in India, but if you raise Mahomedan troops you must take care that they have not to fight against Turkey.
Turning to Egypt, I would ask the Under-Secretary of State for War whether, although we cannot introduce the Military Service Act in Egypt, we could not call upon Egypt to protect its own frontiers? We see an enormous number of British troops, mostly Yeomanry, held up defending the western oases of Egypt against the attack of the Senoussis. I ask him whether he does not think the time has come when Egypt should raise its own troops, and should be in honour bound to garrison the western oases of its own country? This would permit of the British troops which are held up there being brought back for service elsewhere. Then, again, the canal is an international concern. We have to garrison it, but has not the time come when the canal might be garrisoned and defended by troops from India? In India the Military Defence Act has just been brought into force, and orders have been given for making service for Europeans compulsory; also to raise an Indian force for internal garrison duty. That measure ought to have been taken two years ago, but we only trust it will be pushed through now with all possible speed. I ask whether arrangements could not be made for local defence battalions to be raised in India which should free regular Indian troops required for Egypt, Mesopotamia or East Africa. I am delighted to see that the question of raising irregular troops in India for local defence has at last been brought to fruition, and I hope they will be raised and trained with the utmost expedition? possible. India did magnificently in the early stages of the war. She sent us a splendid body of 70,000 troops in the autumn of 1914, just when we were in most want of men, before we had had time to organise 102 our New Armies. Those Indian troops did heroic service for us all through the winter of 1914–15. What those men went through we never knew. I remember an officer who saw the Sikhs in the trenches speaking of their feet as being so swollen that they could hardly bear the weight of their bodies upon them; they could hardly crawl. As to the Ghurkas, an officer told me it required two men to pull out each of the men in the trenches who were standing in mud almost up to their waists. These Indians can stand heat and they can stand cold, but they cannot stand cold and wet combined. Yet they stuck it in the trenches in a way that the Empire ought to be grateful for.
As regards Africa, I desire to support what was said by the hon. Member for East Dorset, who told us on Thursday last of the number of African Labour Battalions employed in France. He told us that five times the number could be easily obtained, and why should not these men be enrolled and brought over to France and the other theatres of war, so as to relieve the British Labour Battalions now employed there, and permit them to return home, where labour in every industry is so much in demand? I see no reason either why a brigade or even a division, of South Africans should not be enlisted in South Africa and sent over to India to be armed, drilled, and disciplined, and used for internal defence, or service in Mesopotamia, as required. The experiment might well be tried. We want men, and what I do ask is that a real attempt should now be made by the Government to organise the man-power of the Empire, not only the man-power of the British Isles, but the man-power overseas.
I should like to thank the Under-Secretary of State for War for the statement which he gave us about the volunteers the other day. He told us they were going to supply them with overcoats and were going to pay their fares for musketry and training work. Both of these will be welcomed by the Volunteer Force, on whose behalf I thank him for the concession, which I hope will be given at once. Once they have rifles the volunteers will feel that they can be of real use. He also said that he was appointing adjutants to act as county adjutants and group adjutants. I am not quite sure of the difference between the two, but the colonel commanding battalions of county regiments must have some other officer with 103 him to help him to do his work. I ask him if he will give to the County Commandant a Staff officer, otherwise it would be difficult for him to get through his work if he has the whole county to look after. The Financial Secretary told us the other day the steps we are taking to provide maintenance allowances for the families of married officers below the rank of major in cases of necessity. I ask him to see to it carefully that the rules regarding these cases of necessity are very widely drawn. These cases of necessity are not only numerous, but also heartrending. I have a letter which arrived this morning. Here is an officer appointed for Home service at the beginning of the War, and I know he has done excellent service. He writes me:All my pay has been stopped as I have been ill for over three months. We are utterly penniless, as I have no private means. I have applied to the Prince of Wales' Fund, but that does not apply to officers. I have written to the Officers' Families Fund, but have had no reply.He has now been sent from hospital to his home, where his wife is devotedly nursing him. He writes:I hope to be on crutches next week, but I shall not be fit for work for another two months. I have not 10s. left in the world. If I am unable to get temporary help our home will be sold; that will be the end of everything.These cases are continually arising. I do not know whether this officer has any children, but he is married, and he is penniless through an accident, having broken his leg. I trust that the maintenance of junior officers will be taken into consideration.
Sir H. DALZ1EL
I think it will be generally agreed that the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle) has raised an issue this afternoon of very great importance. I think the occasion is one which might well have called for a declaration of importance on the part of His Majesty's Government in regard to the future of our policy in Salonika and elsewhere. The appearance of the Committee this afternoon suggests that even the House itself does not realise the important issue that is under consideration at the present time. Slowly we are getting light upon the real military situation, far too slowly, and a great deal too late. But I think in a very short time the people of this country are likely to realise the seriousness of the present position much more than they have done at any previous time of the War. That is largely due to 104 the Government, the late Government particularly, in regard to the general management of the War. Take the position in regard to Salonika, which has been raised. We have not yet had up to the present moment any full complete statement of policy on the part of either the late Government or the present one. I do say that the time has gone by when private Members of this House can sit in silence and have denied to them the most elementary facts in regard to the military position. I do not know who is going to reply this afternoon. I imagine and anticipate it will be the Under-Secretary for War, than whom there is no more popular Under-Secretary or even Member of the House, or no one more able to deal with the situation. But with great respect to him, the issue this afternoon is one that ought to be replied to by a member of the War Cabinet. The War Cabinet, and the War Cabinet only, are in the position to give information to this House, which this House is entitled to have, before it allows this Vote to pass. And I do beg of this Government that they will not follow the precedent that was set them by the late one, and try to treat the House of Commons with absolute contempt in regard to the vital issues of this War. We are entitled to have a Cabinet Minister to reply to a question which is of great Cabinet importance, because it is a member of the Cabinet who alone can know the various changes which are going on from day to day in regard to the situation at Salonika and elsewhere, and who alone is entitled to speak as to the military policy of the future and in its wider and more important aspects. Therefore, I regret that the Government have not thought fit to have a Cabinet Minister to reply in the first place to the very able speech delivered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, which called for reply, and to the subsequent speeches which will no doubt be made in this Debate.
There has been a good deal of mystery about Salonika, so far as the House of Commons is concerned. Does the House of Commons know the number of casualties there? We have had no very frequent communications in the Press or elsewhere as regards what is going on to-day, and it is practically a barred zone, so far as military information is concerned. That ought not to be. I hold in my hand a secret communication which is sent to practically every important newspaper in the country. It gives minute details of the 105 state of things in the different positions on our military front. I do not know why that has been issued. It cannot be used, and I think information which is given to ordinary journals ought to be given to every Member of the House of Commons. It will not do to tell me that hon. Members can go to the War Office and there seethe military position. I believe they are allowed to see it with an official standing over them, and they are not allowed to take notes. My hon. Friend (Mr. Macpherson) need not shake his head, for Members have told me that that is the process gone through. I do plead that any information which is given practically broadcast to the newspapers of the country ought to be available to every Member of the House of Commons, or otherwise stop the communications that have been sent, because they ought not in my opinion to be in a more privileged position than the Members. What information have we had from Salonika during this year? Very little indeed. The expedition itself has never been fully justified to this House.
Take the kind of view which the Government have taken, and which I much regret, with regard to the character of the information that is being supplied to the people of this country in regard to Salonika. I saw with amazement the other day an official photograph sent to the newspapers to publish. Was that a photograph of our Army in Salonika? Nothing of the kind; but a photograph of the graves of our British men who had died in Salonika—an official photograph taken for the Government and issued by the Government. So, therefore, what we get is the photograph of the graves of our brave men. I say that that in itself ought not to be published. I calculated the number of tombstones according to the space of the photograph, and, as far as I can see there is no fewer there than from 15,000 to 20,000 men. When you issue the tombstones I want you to tell me what is the purpose of doing so, and when we are getting any other information. We all know that the graveyards do not show the losses we have had in that part of the country. I have made no calculation from any secret information I have got, but I am prepared to say—and I am only speaking as a guess —that we have lost and had almost as many casualties in that part of the country as we had in the whole of the 106 Boer War. My hon. Friend can deny that if it is not so. There is a great mystery, and, so far as we can see, no really great purpose has been served up to the present time.
I plead, therefore, and I plead earnestly, to the Government to take the House more fully into their confidence and the country more fully into their confidence with regard to these vital questions in the issue of this War. The suggestion has been made today by the right hon. Member for Dundee that we should have a Secret Session to discuss these matters. If we cannot get the information that we ought to have as the representatives of the nation upon the conduct of the War in public, then by all means let us have a Secret Session. There is a great deal too much mystery about a Secret Session. Germany is as well informed in regard to our whole position and its aspects, naval, military, and domestic, as almost any man in this country. That has been proved from time to time. To say that we are going on after two and a half years' war with absolute secrecy with regard to matters which may determine the fate of our country is being asked to give up too much. I, therefore, hope that the Government, as they have been more frank than the previous Government in regard to the naval position, will be utterly frank in regard to the position of man-power and the military position generally. I take the view that the situation is a serious one. I have done my share of criticism since the War started, and I say deliberately, with the facts in my possession, I was never more pessimistic at any moment of the War than I am at this moment. I am not complaining of the present Government. They undoubtedly are doing in many directions everything they can do—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"]—in many directions everything they can do, I think so, in order to win this War. I do not say I agree with them in everything, but I agree with them in the spirit that they are determined to do everything they can within their power. But they have come into a terrible legacy of things waiting to be done, which everyone knows should have been done at least two years ago; and there are some things which time cannot give us the opportunity in order to put right. That is the trouble which the present Government have got. They have to bear a terrible responsibility. They have to face issues during the next I three months that may alter the whole 107 political and military situation. I would say to them this—let them take the people of this country into their confidence, and let the people of the country know the situation and let them know how to face; the difficulties that arise. And in that way, and in that way only, can they possibly carry us to victory.
§ Mr. DILLON
While I differ from the view held by the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle) as to the policy of the Salonika Expedition, I desire most thoroughly to support his appeal for some information as to the policy and justification for that expedition, and as to the question, to which I think we are entitled to an answer—Where do we stand to-day? Is that expedition going to be maintained, with the great sacrifices which have been so clearly put forward in the course of this Debate, or is it going to be abandoned? If it is going to be maintained, is it to be treated, in the language used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, as an internment camp for Germans, or is it to be made an efficient instrument in carrying on the War? The attitude of the Government in this matter is, I venture respectfully to submit, entirely without precedent in the history of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said that the House of Commons was treated with absolute contempt. I am afraid there is a good deal of foundation for that charge, for a long time—for the last two years—and this particular instance appears to me to be beyond all record, and I have a very long recollection of the House of Commons. On the 20th of February I spoke on this Salonika question in the course of the Debate on the Third Beading of the Appropriation Bill, and I made a series of very, very serious charges, which were given more publicity in the Press than is commonly given to speeches by private Members. They were extremely serious, and I invited the Government to contradict them, if untrue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Leader of the House, spoke later, but never said one single word in reference to any one of those charges.
In a sentence or two I will venture to repeat the charges that I made. In the first place I said, and I think I proved, that since the present Government came into office the censorship has been enormously increased in severity, and that it 108 had been increased on lines wholly inconsistent with the statements made by the Prime Minister himself, both in this House and when he spoke in Carnarvon the other day, that he was in favour of allowing the people to know all about the War, and not to conceal it under the cloak of mystery, which had been thrown around it in the past, and to know all the adverse circumstances of the War. Instead of that being the case, the censorship has been carried on to an extent during the last two months quite unparalleled in the whole history of this War. I stated in the Debate to which I have referred, that Roumania went into the War under the severe pressure and persuasion by the Allies, and on the distinct faith of an offensive promised by us in Macedonia under the leadership of General Sarrail. I stated that when the hour for that offensive which had been promised to Roumania, and on the faith of which she came into this War, came, that General Sarrail was perfectly unable to give her substantial assistance or to carry on the offensive which we had pledged ourselves to give. The right hon. Member for Dundee spoke about honour. He said, that this question of the Salonika Expedition was a tangled question, and that considerations of political and national honour are bound up in it, as well as considerations of military tactics. I quite agree, but what about our honour and Roumania? What has become of that? If I am met in making these statements by the plea, as I have been met before, that there is no use in going back on these matters, I wholly deny that. If we had any grounds for believing that the same blunders will not be committed in the future as have been committed from the very beginning of the Balkan troubles, then I admit there would be a great deal to be said for the contention that there is no use in going back on discussions of what occurred in the past. What ground have we for believing that the same controllers of policy who landed us into all these blunders in the past and who have brought about the; state of disaster which to-day exists in the Balkans will now turn over a new chapter and adopt a wise policy? The Prime Minister himself, in the very first speech he delivered as Prime Minister of England, declared that the Balkan situation was the result of a series of blunders and that it was a muddle from beginning to end. Then he askedWhat is the use of going back?109 The Prime Minister may have had his own views. I dare say he had. It is rumoured that he was always in favour of making the expedition to Salonika a reality and of redeeming our pledges to Roumania. But he belonged to the Government. So did the present Leader of the House, and many members of the present Government belonged to the same Government who, according to the present Prime Minister, had up to this very hour passed from one blunder to another until the whole situation in the Balkans had been reduced to chaos. Therefore I re-echo what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, that the House of Commons will be false to its duty and to the country, and would deserve to some extent the contempt continually poured upon them in the popular Press of this country now, if they allow this question to go by without some demand for further information. I put the question clearly, and I hope the Government will be able to tell us the answer: Is it or is it not a fact that we pressed Roumania to come into this War, and that we gave her distinct pledges on the condition that she came into the War which we were unable to redeem? Is it a fact that General Sarrail, for months and months before Roumania came into the War, had told his own Government and our Government that, owing to the way in which he had been treated and his expedition had been served, he was not in a position to make an effective diversion in Macedonia? These are categorical questions, and I assert, according to my information, that this is a correct description of what occurred.
Since I spoke the other day a fact has come to my knowledge and a document has fallen into my hands which support enormously the strength of the case I then made. First, I have been assured, on what I conceive to be excellent authority, that the generals in command of Russian Armies on the Roumanian frontier warned their Government and our Government of the fatal results that would follow if Roumania came in, and that General Brussilov and all the great tacticians of Russia were opposed to the entry of Roumania into the War. If that was so, they being on the spot and having told our Government and the Russian Government that they were acquainted with the character of the Roumanian troops and their equipment and the character of the great disaster which would happen if Roumania came in, that they were op- 110 posed to it, and that it would interfere with their plans, which at that moment they were carrying out with great success—who overruled them? We are entitled to know if that statement, which is made on very good authority, is a fact. Here is another very remarkable and most interesting document. This is a private letter which has been published in three leading German newspapers and published broadcast over Germany. It has been handed to me by a friend who cut it from one of these newspapers. I am not in a position to say whether or not it is an authentic document. If it is not an authentic document, it ought immediately to be repudiated and contradicted, because it has obtained publicity over the whole of Europe. If it is an authentic document, Lord Hardinge ought to quit the Foreign Office at once. Here is the document. Remember that this has been published broadcast all over the world and is only unknown to us in England:Foreign Office, 21st July, 1916—That was the very time when the great advance was going on in France, and when the question of Roumania coming in was in the balance—My clear George,—"George," I understand, is Sir George Buchanan, our Ambassador at Petrograd.My dear George,—Your private telegram of this morning announcing the retirement of Sasonoff is decidedly depressing. It is very unfortunate that at a moment like this a change should be brought about, especially during the progress of the negotiations with reference to Roumania coining into the War—negotiations which will probably have a satsfactory result. It is astonishing what an evil role is always being played by these Russian reactionaries. I am glad you sent your telegram to the Czar, and hope that it may prove effective. Benckendorff seems at present to be very depressed on account of the difficulties which he experiences in his financial arrangements with McKenna. There is a real bother about money which he wants to get from us in order to maintain the rouble exchange. McKenna, like all financial people, is narrow-minded and pedantic, and asserts that the rouble exchange is a question which docs not concern the War. His opinion is a false one. It is possible that we may have to intervene in order to convince him in case no agreement is reached. The negotiations with Roumania appear to proceed satisfactorily, but I shall not be convinced of their success until I see Roumania's declaration of war; for Bratiano is one of the most evasive fellows, and always has been. Even at this moment ho is endeavouring to wriggle out on the alleged pretext that our offensive at Salonika is not everything which he desires.
§ Mr. DILLON
Signed by Lord Hardinge—that is to say, I have told the history of this document, which is published in the three great German news- 111 papers, and, I assume, has been seen by some of our Ministers. The letter continues:Yet he must recognise that Roumania will not obtain the enormous tracts of territory for which she is striving as long as she does nothing to secure these. I still hope that everything will go well within the next few days. Everything is going well in Flanders; we have masses of men and munitions, and by all accounts the Germans are suffering very heavy losses.If it be true—I do not say whether it is true or not, because I am not in a position to say so, although it looks rather like it—that Lord Hardinge wrote to Sir George Buchanan that private letter, it gives a most appalling idea of the operations of our Foreign Office on this occasion.
§ Mr. DILLON
The War Office may have been acting in concert. The next charge I made was that the weakness of General Sarrail, which made it impossible for him to give that support to Roumania by a counter-offensive which apparently we had promised and pledged our honour to give, was due to the activities or the want of activity on the part of the War Office and that they had carried on—I repeat it now —from the day on which the French General came over and addressed the British Cabinet, a boycott which deliberately starved, obstructed, and crippled General Sarrail's forces, and that General Sarrail has sent in, placed on record, and carefully preserved, the successive detailed protests which he forwarded to this country and to France against the way in which he was being treated which made it impossible for him to take the offensive, He had no proper roads. I had that myself from an officer who rode along the entire front of our lines early in the month of May last. I asked him when the advance was going to take place in Salonika and he said:My dear Mr. Dillon,—There is going to be no advance. There are no railroads, no roads, and the country is of such a character that it is utterly impossible to bring up any kind of gun except on the back of a mule. The mule paths are very bad, and a very small force can hold the whole Salonika Forces. There is not the smallest notion of an advance.That is the situation. The point I want to make clear is that I charge the Government—they ought to clear themselves from the charge—that knowing all that and having brought about that condition of things deliberately, or rather the War Office having brought it about deliberately, they then brought pressure to bear on Roumania to come in, and promised, 112 making it a condition of their coming in, that they would make an effective offensive in Macedonia, when they knew perfectly well that no such offensive could be made. I come to the next point in my charge, which is that last autumn, when my friend, Dr. Dillon, wrote a series of telegrams and letters warning this country of the condition of things in Salonika and of the condition of General Sarrail's Army, all those telegrams and letters were heavily censored or suppressed. There was one in particular which ought to have reached this country before Roumania came in. In that telegram he explained the position in Salonika and said there could not be any effective offensive and that Roumania ought not to come in. He drew attention to the disasters that followed. All these telegrams and letters are censored. During that very same time Colonel Repington, the "Times," the "Daily Mail," and the "Morning Post" were encouraged or allowed to go on writing about the Macedonian situation or the Roumanian situation to delude the people of this country and to persuade them by false statements and by misrepresentations as to the truth of the situation that all would go well in Roumania, and, as the Committee will remember, to work up such a public opinion in this country that the public were excited and delighted when they heard that Roumania had come in. That is a use of the censorship which is simply infamous. To suppress a man who is telling you the truth if it is unpleasant, to encourage and give every scope to men who are telling falsehoods, and to set the whole of the country into a fool's paradise is a perfectly monstrous thing. The Government are bound to give an explanation of on what principle or for what purpose they allowed such a use to be made of the censorship. When the Roumanians came in that process was continued to an even greater degree. We all remember what happened after the War broke out. The Roumanians, misled, as I believe, by the promise which I assume we had given of a powerful offensive from Salonika, and misled also by the statement made by our Foreign Office that unless they took possession of Transylvania and the other districts which they looked to obtain they would not get them, poured the whole of their arms across the Carpathian Mountains and seized upon a portion of Transylvania. This country was nursed in a perfect fool's paradise by magnificent 113 statistics in the "Times," "Morning Post," and other newspapers, of the overwhelming onset of Roumania and the disaster and smash of the German and Austrian armies, until the public, I believe, thought we were on the eve of the conclusion of the War. At that very moment Dr. Dillon was writing letter after letter to newspapers here and sending telegrams warning the public of England that they were in a fool's paradise, and that to his own knowledge great German armies were being collected which would fall upon the Roumanians before long. They were all suppressed by the Censor, whereas Colonel Repington, who was the prophet, the accepted military expert and instructor of England, was allowed to have his optimistic letters printed in the "Times," describing the tremendous onset of the victorious Roumanians. In doing this they left their southern frontier wholly unprotected, with practically only small guards, and to their horror and surprise—and it was a surprise —the Bulgarians attacked them. So outrageous was the conduct on the part of these gentlemen, who call themselves Westerners, and who have conspired all along to destroy the Salonika Expedition and make it worthless, that when the Bulgarians fell in force upon the rear of Roumania, overran the Dobrudja, and seized Costanza and the great bridge across the Danube, what did I read in Colonel Repington's letter? He says in one of his dispatches in the "Times":The Dobrudja which the King of Roumania has always attached for too great tactical importance to, but which the Roumanian generals consider to be a matter of very little consequence, has been overrun by the Bulgarians. But that will make very little difference to the result of the War.I myself do not pretend in the least to be a military expert, but I do pretend to some slight common sense, and I must say some military men are not always infallible even when they occupy the position of military critic of the "Times," and having this information at my disposal from private sources I raised this whole question on 15th October in the House of Commons and I expressed the opinion that the situation was much more serious than the "Times" allowed. Then, to my amazement, Colonel Repington honoured me with a special reply. Here is what he said:Circumstances, as Mr. Dillon himself recognises, do not allow us to enter into details for the moment, but I believe it to be true that at Salonika, as on the Somme and on the Russian front, the conditions laid down by Roumania"—114 Observe that he knew and he knows all the secret transactions of the War Office. He has their sympathies and he knows that Roumania had laid down conditions—I believe that the conditions laid down by Roumania before she took the field were fulfilled by the Allies, and continue to be fulfilled to the present hour.I believe that to be an absolute falsehood, and I am confirmed in that belief now, and yet the censorship never interfered with them, and the "Times" and the "Morning Post" went cheerfully on declaring that the Roumanian danger was not a serious danger at all. Here in the "Times," Colonel Repington again declares:Possibly the bulk of these reinforcements are Turkish.…The Dobrudja is a separate and not a vital theatre which the Roumanians can afford to lose without great hurt.It did not require a military expert to-know that that was humbug and false and it was cruel, because the moment the Dobrudja went and the Costanza and the bridge across the Danube, the cause of Roumania was lost. That fraud was kept up deliberately for six weeks until Bucharest fell. These learned military critics, who treat us poor outside ignorant laymen with such scorn, contended that all would be set right and that the whole fortunes of the War in Roumania would be set right. I said then that if we allowed Roumania to be overrun we should undoubtedly prolong this War to a terrible extent, and I was denounced by all these military critics as, in the first place, an ignoramus, which I admit I am in military matters, but also as a pessimist who took too gloomy a view. What happened? Bucharest fell, and I believe it has added a year to the duration of the War, for I am as convinced as I am of anything under the sun that if we had kept our pledges to Roumania, or kept Roumania out of the War, who should be close upon the end of the War at this moment. It was the fall of Bucharest, and the consequent impulse given to the Germans by the conquest of Roumania—the first great resounding victory they had had since their defeat in France—that enabled them to raise their population up again to face the continuation of the War. I have here an article by the military correspondent of the "Manchester Guardian." I do not know his name, but I judge that he is a military officer of a friendly neutral Power. I judge these military gentlemen, being unable to judge them from military knowledge myself, by results. Colonel 115 Maude used to bring the War to a conclusion every week. He did well for a time, but he has disappeared now, and has lost all his occupation. Colonel Repington, of the "Times," stands condemned by results on this Roumanian question. Here is what this gentleman says in the "Manchester Guardian" on 26th October, at a time when Repington and company were declaring that all was going well:The situation in the Balkans is very serious. If Roumania is overrun the great fortress of the Central Empires will gain in strength, both strategically and economically. The increased food supplies will enable Germany to hold out longer—So they will, of course.She will build more submarines and more Zeppelins. She may resort to new methods of warfare.Is not that prophecy fully borne out by what has happened? Since Bucharest fell and since Roumania was overrun she has built more Zeppelins and more submarines and has resorted to new methods of warfare. She has dared great additional risks, because she was able to encourage and lift up the spirit of the people by the conquest of Roumania and of Bucharest. The writer goes on to show that the French and the Russians are not in a position to give more men, and thatIt is therefore to Great Britain that the Allies must look for the immediate reinforcement of the forces of General Sarrail, which would enable him to make an energetic attempt towards Adrianople and the railway to Constantnople, thereby not only cutting the communication with Turkey, but also diverting some of the enemy's troops from Roumania.He goes on to say that, in his judgment, that is not a side theatre, but one of the most important theatres of the War, and if the Allies do not take steps accordingly they will live to repent it. I pin my faith to that. It has turned out to be accurate. Bucharest fell. There cannot be the slightest doubt to anyone who is as close an observer as I am of the proceedings and the temper of this House that it was Bucharest and Roumania that gave the finishing stroke to the late Government. That being so, I think we are entitled to demand and, to keep demanding until we get some satisfaction, not from the Under-Secretary for War, whom we all like and who is a most efficient Under-Secretary, but he is not in the Cabinet, what is the policy of the Government in this matter?
Tied up closely with Roumania is the question of Greece. Last month, when I was discussing this matter, I said that according to my information the state- 116 ments spread broadcast in the "Times" and elsewhere that the Greek situation had been cleared up and satisfactorily settled by the Roman Conference were utterly without foundation, and all the information I have received since bears that out. The Greek situation is not cleared up, and, as far as my information goes, it is just as it was and full of danger. In fact, if I am to believe a telegram which has been placed in my hands to-day, and which has been denied publication in Paris, coming from the Venizelists in Salonika, begging that the people of this country would open their eyes to the terrible situation in Greece—
A passing general reference is permissible, but the question of Greece, I think, is well beyond the scope of this Vote.
§ Mr. DILLON
Surely a question which vitally and perhaps urgently affects the safely of our soldiers in Salonika—
The hon. and learned Gentleman knows quite well that any questions he addresses on that subject at Question Time are always addressed to the Foreign Secretary and replied to by him. It is outside the scope of the Vote. The Roumanian question, of course, is well within it.
§ Mr. KING
Is it not the fact that no censorship on news is now exercised by the Foreign Office, but, on the other hand, a very strict censorship on all news is exercised by the War Office, and if it is a question of the censorship of Greek news, is it not more to be debated on the Army Vote than on the Foreign Office Vote?
I do not know how the censorship is exercised, but I know that questions of policy in regard to Greece are outside the scope of this Vote.
§ Mr. DILLON
I will reserve that for another opportunity. I will content myself now with saying that according to my information, and I think it is good information, the position of our troops in Salonika is still one of great danger, and the situation with regard to the men who have gallantly joined our troops, the Venizelists, is worse than ever, and they are at the mercy of a camarilla paid by Germany, which is an abominable state of affairs. I would again ask the Government, and I think we are entitled to press for an answer, what are the 117 principles on which the censorship is conducted in this county? I am entitled to say—can I not truthfully say, after what I have read?—that the censorship is conducted now in this country on these lines, that certain newspapers which write on lines acceptable to the Government get full scope, no matter how false their information is, and if it be false it must be known to the Government that it is false, while other newspapers which tell unpleasant truths are shut up and censored and compelled to be silent. I think that is an abominable condition of things, and it is idle for Ministers to come here or go to the country and say they are in favour of letting us know all about the War. As long as that system is in force they are not in favour of letting us know all about the War, but they are trying to make the public of this country live in a fool's paradise.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Perhaps the Committee will find it convenient if I intervene at this point to answer some of the arguments which have been raised in the Debate. I think the Debate divided itself very conveniently into two parts. The last part, which was the more important, dealt more with questions of Colonial, foreign and home policy, and very little with matters which concern the War Office. The first part of the Debate dealt with purely administrative points, mostly small points, the largest of which dealt with agriculture. I propose to take the last part first. This House is accustomed to speeches from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-West Lanark (Mr. Pringle), and as an old Friend I should like to congratulate him. I will do him the credit to say that he was the first to raise these matters in this House. I have heard his arguments before on this subject, and I must say he has put them to-night most cogently. Probably the excellence of his speech may account for the brilliance, if I may respectfully say so, of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill). Everybody who has spoken on this part of the Debate made it perfectly clear that although they would like to hear me I was not the person to answer these questions of high policy. I think they are right. This question has been raised on the Shipping Controller's Vote, and it has been raised on at least three or four occasions. It was raised in a special Debate set apart, if I remember rightly, and I think it would 118 not become me, even if I were able, to reply to the various arguments which have been adduced in regard to this subject.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I should like to emphasise one point. The hon. Member for North-West Lanark dealt, as I said, with this question of high policy, and he was immediately followed by the right hon. Member for Dundee, who, in the first part of his speech, made an appeal for a Secret Session. I must say that I agree with him. I think that questions of that sort ought not to be discussed on the floor of this House except when Parliament is meeting in Secret Session.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I cannot tell my right hon. Friend that. I rather fancy it may be. If it is the intention of my right hon. Friends and hon. Members who have spoken to press this subject, if no reply is given on this particular point, I venture to think that it may come to this—that if the Government is pressed to give their view on this question of high policy and strategy, it may very likely be given in Secret Session. Of course, I am not the Leader of the House nor of the Government, and consequently I cannot say. The right hon. Member for Dundee said that I could not reply to this because I was not possessed of Cabinet knowledge, and that the question was one of the utmost complexity and delicacy. I think I ought to leave this question of high policy as my right hon. Friend says. Coming to the question of man-power which my right, hon. Friend raised, he put forward only one specific case of the abuse of manpower. He referred to the use of Cavalry at the front. As he knows very well, nobody knew what forces at the beginning of the War would be most used. Cavalry, it is true, have not been much used, but they have the barest minimum of men looking after them behind the lines. If we were to take them to this country the question of transport would be almost insuperable. We had not at any time sufficient transport to effect this. To show that we are alive to the proper view and the proper estimate of Cavalry, I may point out, as my right hon. Friend knows, that all the Yeomanry that we had in this country who have gone to the front have gone without horses. I must say this for the Cavalry, who are attached 119 to their own particular branch of the profession and their own traditions, that the loyalty and gallantry of these men whenever they were asked to leave their own regiments and their own horses and go into the muddy trenches is one of the finest things that has happened in the course of the War.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to point out how he had, a year ago, emphasised the need for this country to use the man-power not only of this country, but throughout the Empire. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend did me the honour to read the short reply I made to some observations by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset (Captain Guest) on Thursday. I then pointed out what we had done in this respect, and how we were utilising native forces all over the country. I pointed out that in France at the present time we had very fine battalions of native troops, who were comfortably housed and well looked after and were doing excellent work. I understand that we are not only hoping to keep these men usefully employed in the various theatres of war, but we are to have an enormous increase from all parts of the Empire from our native resources. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Melton Mowbray (Colonel Yate) also emphasised that point. He raised a further question with which it would be rather delicate and difficult for me to deal, which is largely a Foreign Office question, and that is as to how we could use native Egyptian troops for defensive purposes in Egypt. He also raised the question of the utilisation of the native resources of our Crown Colonies in the Mediterranean. I think that is a very difficult question, but I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that I will bring it before the Army Council and the Colonial Office, whenever I have the opportunity. The right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel) rightly emphasised the desire of the House to know what is happening in the East. There is one observation to which I think I ought to reply at once. He rather suggested that we should have a continuance of the meetings between the Secretary of State for War and the Members of this House upstairs, if we do not have a Secret Session I know that my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War is only too anxious to meet Members, not only of the different groups in the House, but all Members of this House, at any time when they feel 120 they would like to have more distinct information than it is possible to give within the limits of a question and answer in this House, or within the limits even of debate. The last speaker on this branch of the Debate was the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). He has raised this subject a great many times, and I hope he will forgive me for saying that he knows that particular branch of foreign policy as well as any hon. Member of this House. I regret very much the action he took in reading a letter from Lord Hardinge to Sir George Buchanan.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
That may be so. I think that any Member of the Irish party ought to read a letter like that with great hesitation. I am not quite sure as to the genuineness of the letter; but in any case it was a private letter, and I should like to ask my hon. Friend whether he had the permission of Lord Hardinge to read that letter?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I understand it was not published in the Press of this country. I am quite certain that even if it was published abroad, and whether the letter be genuine or not, it was never published in this country. Accordingly, I should have hesitated long before reading that letter, and I should first of all have inquired whether the letter was genuine before I read it to the House of Commons. Now I come to the points raised by the right hon. Member for South Moulton (Mr. G. Lambert), who was very anxious about the question of agriculture. I think I explained in the speech I made the other day, and the Secretary of State for War made similar references to agriculture in another place, that whatever it is possible for us to do, consistent of course with the efficiency of the Army, we should be prepared to do for agriculture. My right hon. Friend is one of those who regards the tribunals as a military body. As a matter of fact the tribunals are nothing of the kind. They were created in order to stem the tide, as was then thought, of the Prussianising influence in the British Army. They were created as civil tribunals to decide questions of fact between the civilian element and the military, and to introduce prejudice by calling them military tribunals is not fair either to the tribunals or to the War Office. What is the position? If you want a 121 thing well done locally you appoint a man by the common-sense selection of the people, by vote or otherwise, to look after local interests. These men have been appointed in order to safeguard the interests of the community, the interests of agriculture, and the interests of other industries. We appointed these men because they were known to be men of public note and public value in that particular part of the community. Not only is that so in regard to the local tribunals, but also in regard to the appeal tribunals; and when my right hon. Friend comes forward and blames the War Office for what he regards as the stiffneckedness of the tribunals, I think it is unfair, and he ought to blame somebody else.
He also said that we were taking away from agriculture 30,000 men. As a matter of fact we are not taking 30,000 men. We were told that 60,000 men were available. We arranged, not to take these 60,000 men, but to take 30,000 men, and that arrangement was come to at the War Cabinet, which not only looks after the man-power of agriculture, but the man-power of every other industry in the State. We were told that we could get these 30,000 men, and I think we should have been very great fools indeed, particularly on the authority of the War Cabinet, if we did not try to get them. As a matter of fact, the moment that we realised that there was such an outcry on the part of agriculture in the country, we never fulfilled our desire to have these 30,000 men, but we stopped at 10,200, and we are leaving the others for agriculture. In view of these facts, and in view of other efforts we have made quite recently, where we are trying as far as possible to get back from the Army skilled men, such as cowkeepers and ploughmen, and that we have already sent 2,400 of these men to the various districts, I think that my right hon. Friend dealt too hardly with the War Office in ascribing the whole cause of the absence of men to that particular Government Department. He poured ridicule upon the statistics which we produced. He tells us that we published statistics showing that 250,000 men had gone into the Army from agricultural districts. The hon. Baronet the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) at once saw the point. It is not really into the Army; they have gone to munitions as well. Let my hon. Friend go to agricultural districts in the South of Scotland. He will find near there the largest of munition factories, and that every single 122 able-bodied man has left the neighbouring farms and gone to munitions, because, as my right hon. Friend realises—and I say it in no offensive way, because he is a farmer, and a very fine farmer—the farmers refused to raise the wages of the men, and consequently, being tempted by wages which could be earned near at hand, naturally they rushed wherever possible, able-bodied men as they were, and boys, too, into the munition factories.
My right hon. Friend again went on to pour ridicule on my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War. He told us that in 1902 my Noble Friend was Financial Secretary to the War Office. He went on to say what did he know about certain things, and referred to a person called Julius Weil. All this was to show that my Noble Friend knew nothing about agriculture. If my right hon. Friend is going to argue like that, the retort is very obvious. He was Civil Lord of the Admiralty, and if he laughs at my Noble Friend's agriculture, I am afraid that others might laugh at his Admiralty. His second point was that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office did not deal specifically in his speech with the cases of illness in Mesopotamia and Salonika. So far as Salonika is concerned I do not deal very fully with it, because I had the extreme good fortune of knowing before I started that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bethnal Green (Colonel Sir M. Wilson) who himself looks in good health, has told us that the health of the troops was excellent. That seemed to me as good an argument to meet arguments in the Debate as any which I could put forward. My right hon. Friend ended with an appeal to have no more distant expeditions. That, again, is a question of policy which it is not for me to deal with, as my right hon. Friend quite recognises. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Monmouthshire (Sir Ivor Herbert) put forward a very strong plea, but it is a plea that is an attack upon this country for its lack of organisation in the essential industries not during the War, but long before the War. As I understand it, the whole point of his argument was that we were so unprepared. I do not think that is the fault of the War Office. I think myself that if any Government Department has made preparation, not only in regard to the present position but to the future, the War Office has done so. I think that I am right in saying that from the very beginning we took a long 123 view of the matter, and having prepared for the first year of the War we were actually prepared for the second year, and when my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee talks about preparations for 1918 I can assure him that the War Office is continuing that policy, and that, so far as men, munitions, and everything else is concerned we are looking well in front.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
May I remind my lion. Friend of the definite question: What was the cause of the falling-off in the supply of men under the Military Service Acts, and what were the measures which were being taken to remedy it?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
As my hon. Friend knows, these causes vary from time to time, but I could suggest one or two to him. One was, no doubt, the action of the tribunals in certain places where the tribunals would not send the men into the Army. Then, again, the very best men, the men who were most fit, rushed into the Army in the beginning, and you are coming to the end of your selection In reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir H. Dalziel), it would be a source of delight to my Noble Friend the Secretary of State to meet not only the group of which the hon. Baronet (Sir Ivor Herbert) is chairman, but any of the Members of the House, in a Committee Boom of the House of Commons upstairs, to discuss questions which we cannot ourselves discuss on the floor of this House. In reply to the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend (Major-General Sir Ivor Herbert) with regard to recruiting in Ireland. I am one of those who have a very great admiration for the Irish soldiers and for Ireland, and I am convinced of this, that what the Irish Nationalists' party cannot do for recruiting nobody else can do.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I know myself two or three hon. Members of the party of the hon. Member for East Mayo who did a great deal to help recruiting after they had shown themselves very gallant soldiers in the trenches in France. My hon. and gallant Friend (Brigadier-General Page Croft) asked the War Office to pay-more attention to the method of calling up men and the desirability of giving men, particularly in the industries, a greater amount of notice. 124 I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that it has been the practice of the War Office to give to the men in the various industries as much time as possible. We have always given a reasonable amount of notice, and I am quite certain that as time goes on, with industries so cramped for men as they are at the present moment, we will do our best to fall in with the wishes of the industry and the people-employed in it. It must be remembered that all those questions are now under the joint review of the Director of National Service and the War Office. My hon. and gallant Friend asks, "Why do you not utilise all the man-power of the country, and not merely that of certain age?" As my hon. and gallant Friend knows very-well, the Director of National Service has now got the opportunity of asking volunteers of all ages to come to his assistance. What the future may be so far as National Service is concerned it is not for me to say, but meanwhile every man between the ages of seventeen and sixty-one has got the opportunity of serving his country.
His last point was with regard to volunteers. I thought that I made a very full statement on that on Thursday, but I am anxious to make quite clear the point which my hon. and gallant Friend raised. He drew particular attention to the statistics which were given with regard to the number of Territorial officers and new officers who were sent to the Staff College as compared with the number of officers in the Regular Army. I think that his point is a very fair one. I think that the figures may show that at the present time the Regular Army has really got a greater percentage there than the other forces. But we have all got to remember that the Regular officer enters the Army as his profession. It is his bread; he loves his work, as it is his life's work, and he tries to work harder and better than any other man. I have also been asked with regard to the distinction between various adjutants in the volunteers—I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Melton Mowbray (Colonel Yate) asked the same question—which we were going to give the volunteers. I am glad to say that we are going to give them adjutants, among them Regular soldiers who are on sick leave from the front.
We cannot promise that the adjutant will stay with the Volunteer Forces permanently, but what we have arranged is this: we can guarantee him for six months, and if at the end of that time he 125 is well and strong and fit to go on active service, he will be allowed to go back again. As I understand the system, you will have a battalion adjutant, a group adjutant, and county adjutant, a group being a collection of two or three or four battalions. I think that its] equivalent would be a brigade in the ordinary Army. Then the group arjutant would be in the same capacity as a brigade major, a man who would be a right-hand man or the staff captain of the group commandant. I hope that I have made that clear. Then I was asked two specific questions with regard to the nature of the work of the volunteers. That is rather a difficult question of military policy, but my hon. Friend will remember that Lord French, with a very competent staff, is at the head of the volunteers, that the Duke of Connaught also takes a very great interest in the formation of the volunteers, and that Lord French's competent staff will, of course, be the agents of military policy so far as the volunteers are concerned. I have no doubt that a great deal of control will be given to local commandants. As I understand, the volunteers will not be mixed up with the Royal Defence Corps or any other corps of the old Army utilised for Home defence, but will be by itself a single and unique corps, and I am hopeful that very soon Section A will be entirely equipped, and will be a very good fighting unit. I have endeavoured to meet all the points that have been raised in the Debate, but if I am asked to meet any further points raised in the Debate I shall be very happy to do so.
§ Mr. HOLT
I am very glad to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place, and I hope he will be able to give a large section of the Committee satisfaction on a point on which it has had no satisfaction at all. A very large part of this discussion has been concerned with the expedition to Salonika, and some very important speeches have been made by, among others, my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark, by the right hon. Member for Dundee, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy, and others, and the Under-Secretary of State in reply has told us that he is not in a position to give any answer as regards matters of policy raised in connection with Salonika. That is what most of us knew beforehand, that this expedition is a matter which could only be dealt with by a member of 126 the War Cabinet, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will now think it fitting: to tell the House whether he proposes, some time during to-day's Debate, to give any answer on the point raised in regard to Salonika. In order to avoid waste of time, I do not want to recapitulate what has been said, but I desire to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is going to give an answer to what has been said on the subject by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, or whether he prefers a fresh Debate on it on another occasion, or proposes to adopt the suggestion of a Secret Session of the House, so that it may have a full opportunity of debating the whole subject. If the Committee allows this Vote to pass without having either a definite reply from the right hon. Gentleman, or the promise that an opportunity to discuss the subject, with a statement by a member of the War Cabinet, will be afforded in the very near future, then I say that the Committee will be allowing itself to be regarded as absolutely impotent, and will utterly fail in its, duties towards the constituencies in the country. If this House is to have any self-respect amongst the people whom it represents, it must be allowed to get to the bottom of this most important matter. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what he proposes to do, and if he will do that, I shall not attempt to belabour the question at the present moment.
§ Sir J. D. REES
There was one important subject to which the Under-Secretary did not reply in his speech. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee laid about him with great impartiality, and amongst other things castigated the Government of India. The Under-Secretary did not reply to that. I venture to do so, because it is perfectly regrettable that on a day like this any stricture should be passed on the Government of India. The Secretary of State announced to-day the most generous and courageous action taken by the authorities with regard to India that has happened in my lifetime. Only last week there was announced most generous concessions in favour of British officers in the army of India. The right hon. Gentleman opposite distributed praise and blame without any misgiving. He classified Ministers as workers and shirkers, and he divided mankind into geniuses and asses. I think it really should be considered whether he is justified in taking such a serious line as 127 regards the Government of India. He remarked upon their not having sent over to the War a larger number of troops, forgetting that they have not arms, and that there was not transport, and that there is none at the present moment, to send troops from India or from Africa to help us in this great conflict. He said that it was only now that the Government of India had announced a great loan to this country for the War, overlooking the fact that they have expended some £35,000,000 in paying the troops while they were serving out of India. The Government of India have also now raised a loan of £100,000,000 to assist the home Government. In spite of this, my right hon. Friend attacked them with a great deal of asperity, and I am quite unwilling to let the occasion pass without defending them to the best of my ability, especially now that the countervailing duties are going by the board. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Secretary of State and the Indian Council were forced by public opinion into helping in the War. That is an unfair attitude to take towards the Secretary of State and the Indian Council. He knows that India was not until now financially in a position to enable them to help, but since they have reached that position they are helping. The House will remember that the finances of India have been prejudiced by the sentimental and deplorable action of this House depriving them of the revenue which they got from opium.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I hope you will excuse me, Sir. I only trespassed for one moment, but as the right hon. Gentleman was allowed to attack the Government of India, I am merely defending it. However, I have no intention of going further. I repeat, that on! a day when the action of the authorities towards India has proved to be most generous, I have the utmost objection to any attack being made, which I think will not hold water. I have no intention of dealing with strategic questions. I believe myself thatMen serve apprenticeship to every trade,Except the critics, who are ready-made.Much of the criticism passed to-day upon the authorities with regard to Salonika and other matters, is not, I think, based on actual knowledge or experience, and I shall endeavour to avoid a subject on 128 which I feel that I myself have no title to address the House, and in which there has been, I think, that perseverance towards the past which the right hon. Member for Dundee so strongly deprecated. The question which I wish to bring before the House has reference to the tribunals and their action. A gentleman, Mr. C. A. Andrews, who lived at East Sheen was refused exemption by the Mort-lake and Barnes Tribunal on the ground of conscientious objection, and it had never been known before that he w as a conscientious objector. When he became liable for service there was was an appeal to the Surrey Tribunal and the Central Tribunal, who dismissed the appeal. Nevertheless, this man was subsequently exempted on the ground—will the Committee believe?—that he suffered from acute agora-phobia, not amounting to certifiable insanity. Ho had not made complaint of having suffered from agoraphobia, a Greek word meaning a fear of open spaces.
§ Sir GODFREY BARING
On a point of Order, Sir. Is the hon. Gentleman in order in referring to a decision of a local tribunal, who do not come under this Vote? I respectfully submit that the War Office has no control over the tribunal.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I certainly think that this has nothing to do with the War Office or the Army Votes at all. The questions in relation to tribunals do not come under the Army Vote.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I did not venture to take up the time of the Committee for one moment without asking whether the subject would be in order.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman did make some remark, I recollect now, but I presume that he is sufficiently acquainted with the Rules to know that questions relating to the tribunals are not matters with which the War Office are concerned.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I will postpone the subject. I have persisted in bringing it before the House, and I will go on until I do get it brought forward in some way for consideration. I think it is an extremely bad case, and on another occasion I hope to be in order in bringing it forward. Would I be in order in bringing it forward on the salary of the Secretary of State?
§ The CHAIRMAN
There is no action of the War Office in regard to these cases which could be brought forward on this Vote.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I will refer to the matter on another occasion, for I am anxious to get it before the House, and I will persist until I do so.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I wish to elicit, if I can, from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he intends to respond to the invitation given by the hon. Member (Mr. Holt) to make some reply from the Government upon the question of policy in reference to Salonika. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee urged the House very strongly to discuss these matters of policy, but the Under-Secretary for War, in his reply, deprecated the idea that he was in a position to reply to the various speeches made on that subject. Therefore I think we should have some intimation whether the Government can give us information on this subject now or at some future time; if so, when, and whether by means of a Secret Session or otherwise. My right hon. Friend was not in the House when the Under-Secretary for War intimated that he himself agreed with the idea that this matter should be dealt with at a Secret Session. He was not in a position to say whether the Cabinet shared that view. I do not venture to express any strong opinion when the best time would be for the Government to decide, but I do think that the matter is of such great importance and interest to many Members of the House that it would be very unsatisfactory if the whole of the War Office Votes were to pass away without some opportunity of discussing the matter. For myself I shall be content with saying that I think it would be very undesirable that the idea should get about on this subject that independent Members of the House to any large extent share the views which have been expressed this evening by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton. Those two Members have in very strong terms expressed the opinion that, apart from the difficulties of carrying on the Salonika Expedition, the actual merits of that part of the War have been very much overrated, and they intimated pretty clearly that in their view the expedition ought to be abandoned The right hon. Member for Dundee dealt with the subject in a very judicial speech, and I do not think he intimated any very strong opinion on that point. Of course, on a matter of this sort anyone occupying an independent position must necessarily 130 speak with very great care, and I can only touch on the subject with such information as I have gathered from sources open to all the world.
I differ very strongly indeed from the view expressed by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle) with regard to the expedition. I realise, as I am sure we all do, the very great difficulties in carrying on that expedition, both from a military, and from a shipping and transport point of view. But, nevertheless, I am strongly of opinion that the Salonika theatre of war is second to none in importance for gaining the ends for which we are now fighting. I do not believe that any decision which can possibly be reached on the Western front alone can gain for us the objects for which we are fighting. I believe very strongly if we were to defeat the Germans on the Western front with even more decisive effect than I am afraid there is any immediate prospect of our doing, if we did abandon the Salonika Expedition and the Germans were given practically undisputed possession of the Balkan Peninsula, we could by no possibility attain our war aims. The Germans would be glad to make very considerable sacrifices on the French frontier, because they would feel that they had gained so much for which they were fighting in the Eastern theatre of war.
Even from the military point of view I think the hon. Member for Lanark appears to miss the significance of the expedition. He approached the subject from the point of view of man-power. He spoke of the difficulties which were being caused by taking so many men from agriculture, and he suggested that that might be avoided if the Army were withdrawn from Salonika. I think the hon. Member put the figure of 500,000 as representing the whole of the Allied Army in the Salonika theatre of war. Suppose, for the sake of argument, those 500,000 men were taken away from Salonika to-morrow. What would be the result? They could only be taken away by sea transport, they could only be brought laboriously round to France and landed for use on the Western front. It would involve the use of a tremendous quantity of shipping. The operation would also take up much time, and, seeing that our enemies possess interior lines, the result would be that while they would have an equal number of men now held up by the Salonika Army set free for use elsewhere, long before our 131 men could be placed on the Western Front their men would be operating either against Russia or on the French Front. Consequently from the mere point of view of man-power, the abandonment of the Salonika Expedition would be sheer madness.
Some of the results would be very far-reaching. First, we should be finally abandoning our Allies in the Balkans, and we should be giving up any hope of being able to redeem the pledge given by Lord Grey that we would restore Serbian territory to Serbia and place at their disposal the whole resources of our Empire for that purpose. We should be absolutely giving up any hope of supporting our friends and proteges in Greece, to whom we are under special obligations. We should be enabling Germany to get the whole of the Balkan Peninsula into her own hands, and to use the Grecian Archipelago as a perfect nest for submarines. The Central Powers would become dominant in the whole Eastern Mediterranean. We should endanger our position in Egypt, and we should be giving up all hope of destroying the German idea of dominion from Berlin to Bagdad. The hon. Member for Lanark asked when during the War had the Salonika Expedition ever seriously interfered with the German communications with Constantinople? I agree that so far as we have gone we have not been successful in interfering with those communications. But many of our war aims have not yet been successfully achieved. Still we hope by staying there we shall be able to interrupt those communications, and even cut them permanently, and, at any rate, the presence of our forces at Salonika constitutes a continual menace to those communications. If we were to withdraw them not only would it mean despair to our Allies in that district, but it would give to the Germans a prospect of the permanent retention of their dominion over the Turkish Empire, both in Europe and in Asia. Possession, we are told, is more than nine points of the law, and it seems to me almost inconceivable that we could hope by any victory in the West alone to succeed in driving German dominion from the Turkish Empire in Europe and Asia Minor. Although in one sense a breach in our lines on the Western front might be fraught with infinite disaster and danger to the French and to ourselves, I submit that, from the point of view of achieving 132 our War aims, the Salonika theatre of operations is not less important than the Western Front.
§ The CHANCELLOR Of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)
I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) will have quite understood that it was not from any lack of courtesy that I did not at once rise to say a few-words in reply to him. But I have more than once hesitated whether I should say anything upon this subject of the Salonika Expedition. I have hitherto refrained, for the simple reason that I do not feel there is anything it is possible for me to say to the House which would be in the least interesting for the House to hear. This is obviously a question not so much of the past as of the present and of the future, and I think the House must see it is quite impossible for the Government to give any indication at all of what our intentions are in regard to this force. I have heard in the course of a previous Debate an hon. Member ask the simple question, "Is the force at Salonika intended to be offensive or defensive?" I am sure the Germans would like it very much if I were to give an answer to that question, and it is precisely the point upon which it is impossible for me to give any hint or statement. In listening to the speeches I have heard the same line of argument put many times. There is one section of hon. Members who, of course, have more freedom in talking on this subject than I have, who have taken the view that we ought to abandon the Salonika Expedition. There is another set of hon. Members, represented by the hon. Member who has just spoken (Mr. R. McNeill), who thinks it is one of the vital operations in this War. I am not going into the merits of the expedition, but I wish to point this out to the House: We are engaged in this War with many Allies, and the policy of the War cannot by any possibility be the policy of this Government alone. Therefore, even if we took the view which some hon. Members have expressed that this expedition is useless it does not follow that we could act in any other way than we have acted. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill) put the case quite clearly when he pointed out that we must act in concert with our Allies. The Allies have taken upon themselves certain obligations which it is necessary for us if we can to fulfil.
133 Let me point out what must be obvious: that if by any chance this expedition were withdrawn, the first result would be that the whole of the Balkan Peninsula would fall into the hands of the enemy, and those who have helped us from the beginning would be at the mercy of our enemy. We know precisely how they would treat them. It is quite natural the House should desire to have an opportunity of frankly discussing the subject, but I do not think it possible.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I should be very unwilling to have a Secret Session unless there was a very strong body of opinion in this House which desired it, and I do not think that even in a Secret Session we could discuss this question quite frankly.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
That I do not know, but I do think it would be very dangerous for us to discuss it. I think my hon. Friend will see what I mean. We could discuss the general line of policy of the Government so far as that policy is directed to the attainment of objects which are quite plain and about which there is no doubt. But we could not possibly discuss the policy if there is any doubt at all as to the use which is going to be made of the force at any particular period of the War. I recognise as strongly as anyone, as I expect my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham recognises, the disadvantages to us of the expedition, and I think my hon. Friend who spoke last (Mr. R. McNeill) did not exaggerate the difficulty when he pointed out the tonnage which would be required to bring the troops away. Of course, one of our difficulties arises from the amount of tonnage needed for keeping up the supplies to that force. But I can assure the House that all these considerations are as fully in the minds of the Government as they are in the minds of Members of this House. I am sorry I can say nothing more explicit on this subject, but perhaps I may add it has been one of our difficulties that the Allies who are interested in Greece and in the Balkan Peninsula have not always taken the same view as to the policy which ought to be adopted. But I do believe that now we are carrying out a common policy and the main 134 object of that policy for the moment is to make sure that if our German enemy chooses to advance against us there we shall not run the risk we would have run a few months ago of being attacked from behind. That is a great gain. There has been some discussion about Roumania. Some observations were made by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) who I am sorry is not now here. But it is really impossible for me to deal with the subject which he has raised. I was told he said that Russia was against Roumania coming in.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think he said it was the Russian General Broussiloff who was against it and not the Russian Government.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
All I am prepared to say in regard to Roumania is that no threat of any kind was used towards Roumania to induce her to come in, and, although her coming in has proved so disastrous to her and has inflicted losses upon Roumania which the Allies would have done anything to prevent, I do not think that in itself prevents the Allies welcoming the assistance of Roumania. I hope the House will agree with me this is not a subject upon which any member of the Government should talk and will therefore excuse me from saying more.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think I owe an apology to the hon. Member for Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) for calling him to order just now. He has since shown me evidence that the decision which he wished to discuss was one given by an Army medical board and not by the tribunal, and he is therefore entitled to raise the case.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I feel sure that if my hon. but impulsive and inaccurate Friend opposite had not forced your hand, Sir, the case would have long since been concluded. The fact is—and I should point out that I am bringing this case forward, though it is not in my Constituency, with the complete consent of the right hon. Gentleman who sits for the constituency—from the answer given me by the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench, that this Mr. Andrews was called up and was specially examined by each member of the medical board separately, when it was found that he was unfit for 135 any form of military service, and he was accordingly rejected. But my point is that really in this ease it is necessary for the War Office to criticise the action of the medical board. I know that seems a rather large order, but many great precedents have gone by the board during the War, and I want to know if the War Office really adds agoraphobia to the list of complaints which excuse the sufferer from active service? Equally well every thief in the country might claim exemption from going to gaol on the ground that he suffered from the contrary complaint of claustraphobia, or fear of confinement. I apologise for putting this horrid hybrid word before the House, but it is the recognised nomenclature. Here is a man who, when he is called up, develops a complaint and he is forced to go before the board. He had it from a local practitioner that he was not well enough to appear before a board because it sat in an open place—a large room, I suppose. He was called up, but finally was specially examined by the medical board, which found him unfit for military service because he suffered from agoraphobia, not amounting to certifiable insanity. I have now a man urging me to bring before the House a claim for exemption because he cannot travel by train without serious suffering, and, following upon the Andrews precedent, he thinks he ought also to be exempted. I think it would be comic, if it were not, to my mind, rather tragic. I beg the Financial Secretary to remember that when a man who is well-to-do and apparently strong and well behaves in this manner and gets an exemption it has a seriously prejudicial effect upon recruiting. Has any poor man obtained exemption on the ground that he suffered from agoraphobia? What would he be told if he came, without specialists from Harley Street, distinguished alienists, and the like, to help him to claim an exemption? I think he would not get it, and I submit that this man should not get it, and I ask the Financial Secretary to give me some answer which will satisfy me better than that which he gave me; and I hope that he will not be deterred in this case by medical etiquette from dealing with the actual merits of the case.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
After the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer obviously no good purpose could be served by discussing the Salonika Campaign, and I 136 desire to draw the attention of the Committee for a moment to a question of Army administration here. I do so with a certain amount of misgiving, because I feel strongly that any serving officer ought to be extremely chary of attempting to criticise in any way the War Office administration. I desire not to criticise, but I hope to bless to a certain extent, and also to correct and amplify a statement of the Financial Secretary in the excellent speech he made last Thursday. It is in connection with the feeding of the whole of the Army here at home. During the last eighteen months the Army at home has entered on a new era, chiefly due to the enthusiasm of regimental officers, but to a very large extent due also to the enormous efforts that have been made by the branch at the War Office known as "Q.M.G. 11, General Landen." Under that branch regimental officers for the first time during the last year have been made to feel that they are trustees for the country for everything the Army issues, whether in cash or kind. Eighteen months ago it was often said by the senior officers, "Why make a fuss about it? If the country does not want the soldiers to have this, why not cut it off at the source?" The obvious answer is that all the country requires is that the men should belong to the best fed Army in the world. The country says. "Here is a standard which will satisfy everyone, and we look to you to utilise the whole of this as trustees, with two main obligations—first, that the man should be handed over to the Army in France a physically fit fighting man, and, secondly, that it should be done at the least cost to the country." As the Financial Secretary was able to tell the House, so well have regimental officers responded that a saving in cash and cash value amounting to something like £4,000,000 was made last year. The one detail on which I wish to correct the Financial Secretary, if he will allow me, is in connection with the final stage of the man's food, and by that I mean the whole of the by-products. Last year it occurred to responsible officers in one command, which consists of twelve counties—but, of course, I cannot mention the number of units—to alter the system which prevailed by which every commanding officer was allowed to dispose of all the by-products, and that it should all be dealt with comprehensively by the Headquarters of the Command, and that the by-products of hundreds of thousands-of troops should be dealt with by one large 137 contract. That was arranged and carried out in all camps for three months, and in the one camp it was taken one step farther. A certain camp was found with 40,000 troops, and there was no sale whatever for their by-products. Owing to the intervention of one individual officer what was called a waste eliminating plant was established in camp for the production of glycerine. The War Office, after three months' negotiations, were unable to sanction the erection of this plant, and where I want to correct the Financial Secretary is on this point. In his speech on Thursday he said that one plant had been set up and that another was going to be erected in France, and that the one had been so successful that orders had been given for others. I do not want to lay any blame whatever, but the fact remains that had it not been for the exertions of an individual officer and the Ministry of Munitions the War Office could show no Vote at all on which the expense of this plant could be carried. The usual combat went on using subject as shuttlecock and minute as battledore, and no end of officers did what they could, and the Financial Secretary, from the personal point of view, whenever he was approached was as charming as he always is, and, from the official point of view, as accessible as he always is, but owing to the want of initiation and imagination it resulted in having to go to another Government Department. That other Department, the Ministry of Munitions, took the reasonable line of a new and untramelled Department and said, "Satisfy our advisers that this will produce glycerine in order that the output of shells may be increased, or at any rate maintained, and then we will hand over the cash." Within eight days, I think it was, the cash was forthcoming, and the plant was erected. In the first six months it produced, after paying the troops the full market price of everything delivered, an average per month of 600 cwts. of pure tallow, and that at a profit of £250 per month. At the end of six months £1,200 was produced, and those responsible at the War Office said, "No, this money has been made in trade." I must inform the Committee that one individual officer made himself responsible, and ran the show as a civilian, which was wholly reprehensible from his position as an officer, but the only possible way under the existing system of the War Office by which this could be done. I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not lay 138 blame on any individual at all, but I deplore the system under which a new thing of this sort, initiated from a civilian source, could not be got through. I agree that in the middle of a great war you cannot scrap the whole machinery from an administrative point of view, but what I deplore is that there is still a system in force at the War Office by which a scheme of this sort could not possibly have been got through unless an individual officer or a civilian or another Government Department came to the assistance of the War Office, and that at a time when you have at the War Office Ministers like the Under-Secretary and the Financial Secretary, who are all out to help, and at the same time at the head of administrative branches of the War Office keen, zealous, and enthusiastic officers, who are doing all they can in their own branches, but co-ordination and co-operation have not been screwed up to the necessary point. It is obvious that in a disciplined service like the War Office you cannot expect the elasticity of a business firm, but I mention this incident to show that the War Office might have lost an extremely useful, economical, and effective new enterprise if existing rules had not been broken.
May I say to the Financial Secretary that the speech he made the other day is likely to be of the greatest help to a large number of officers who, I know, for the last eighteen months have been doing all they could not only to improve not only the standard of living, but the health of the troops under their charge. They have saved an enormous amount for the country. But this matter goes further than the actual feeding of the man. It has been my privilege to be able to watch the actual results in respect of a very large number of troops both here and in France. It is an extraordinary fact that the units which have turned out the most efficient drafts have cost the country the least. Efficiency and economy, therefore, go hand-in-hand. If one stops to think for a moment it is obvious that if you screw up the administrative side the best results are bound to follow. You get officers who, from the administrative point of view, look at the man merely as a product, and the Home Army as a manufacture, so to speak, training, and draft battalions, to be turned out at the least cost and as physically fit as possible. The atmosphere in which this has been done has been produced by the Financial Secretary, who, 139 after all, is the Minister responsible. The speech he made a few days ago will galvanise into further activity the whole Army. I hope to see a tremendous improvement even on the results of the past year. In conclusion, may I point to a certain lack of co-operation and co-ordination in administration. It is not for me as an individual to push this, nor is this the time or place to go fully into that matter, but I long for the day in the War Office when, paradoxical though it may seem:—Minutes shall cease from passing, And files go by no more.
§ Mr. PETO
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken has made a plea for a little elasticity, so that we may get the advantage of the initiative which, he has shown, has been of such immense value in the particular case he quoted. Before I proceed to my main observations, may I make one remark in regard to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's very able summing-up of the Debate on the larger question of our Eastern and Western military operations? Nearly all hon. Members in the House who have criticised the present Government have done so on account of the largeness of its size and the multiplicity of its Councils Yet in a Debate like this we have one of the most delicate parts of the diplomatic side of the War solemnly put before the Committee, and a proposal made that we should debate, in secret or in public Session, those matters which really should only be controlled by the most limited few that you can possibly make responsible for the conduct of the War. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said more. He said we in this country and the Government itself wore not free in these matters; that they, of course, had to co-operate with the Allies. Again I say, can we have a more complete answer to those claims for publicity which are always being put forward in this House. If we go in for that extreme form of democratic rule in the middle of a war, we can only produce disastrous consequences. At this time of the evening, when most hon. Members are dining, I find myself with the singular privilege of being able to have a little heart-to-heart talk with my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who preceded me said quite truly that there was no man more accessible or receptive than the Financial Secretary.
140 I want to talk to him for a moment or two on the subject he touched upon on. Thursday last: the question of the competition—the inevitable competition, as I admit it must be—between the agricultural requirements for labour and the military requirements for soldiers. It is quite inevitable, and it came in the very earliest speeches made in the Debate to-day. The right hon. Gentleman the-Member for South Molton referred to-it from an agricultural point of view, I want to hold a more even balance between the two great demands, and to make one or two suggestions to the hon. Gentleman which, I really think, if he will take them into consideration before he finally hands over this question of substitution to the Director-General of National Service—as he said he was going to do—he may find helpful. He can hand over the suggestions. Some of them have already been made in this House. They may help to save us from what I regard as a really disastrous result during the coming season and in respect to the future of agricultural production in this country. The Financial Secretary, after referring to what the War Office had already done in sending ploughmen and the like to different parts of England, said:Fifteen thousand Class W men have been promised by the War Office as substitutes. That is in addition to the 18,000 who are being found by the Home Forces. These men are being organised into agricultural companies, and will be placed at the disposal of the War Agricultural Committees in the localities where labour is most urgently required."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1917, col. 2188, Vol. XC.]What I want to point out to the Financial Secretary is that we do not want agricultural companies and we do not want military battalions to carry on agricultural operations. What we want is what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has been asking for in another respect, a little elasticity in the arrangements with the War Office, or whatever Department is going to take the matter up in the future; above all some give-and-take between these two great demands. When the present Prime Minister went to the Ministry of Munitions the munitions supply for the Army was utterly deficient. He had to organise a new supply on a new basis after it became apparent that the greatest possible output that could be produced in the country would be required. He had to-take power to bring back from the. Army the men required for this essential purpose. Things change greatly in the course of war, and have done so in the course of 141 this War. The demand for food in this country is likely to be as serious a factor in the conduct of the War as was the demand for shells eighteen months ago. To have one Department like the War Office considering themselves absolutely in a position of authority to demand men indiscriminately—because that is what it comes to—from agriculture, is really a very serious position indeed. Now the tribunals cause an extremely unequal distribution of the available labour, and yet when I go to the Director-General of Recruiting and point out some extreme cases I have had brought to my knowledge, he says that these cases have been decided by the tribunals, and there is no power to go behind the tribunals. I say the same body that has produced this unequal distribution cannot possibly be looked to to equalise it. That is the first thing. The second is that if we are to carry on agricultural production in this country you must give the responsible authority, the Department of Agriculture, the power to revise the decisions of tribunals in extreme cases where it is shown that a mistake has been made in taking away some essential man.
I want to give a few instances to show this unequal distribution. A gentleman who owns a small estate in the extreme south-west of Somersetshire wrote me only two days ago to say that in his opinion in that part tenant farmers ought not to be on tribunals at all. He said that when going round the farms the other day with two tenant farmers to make a report they said straight out that they meant to draw up a Report to show the extreme shortage of labour though there was none. He says, with regard to his small estate, the major part of which he cultivates, that one of his tenants has three bachelor sons and his carter's bachelor son all exempted. His other tenant has a bachelor and a youth, seventeen years of age, more than he had before the War. I ask you to contrast that with a case from Wiltshire which I have brought to the notice of the Director-General of Recruiting. Here we have a case where both the agricultural representative on the tribunal and the representative of the Board of Agriculture for the district have written to me to say that a great mistake has been made in the decisions arrived at by the tribunal. The facts are these: Here is a farm of over 800 acres, with a breeding flock of 500 ewes, with horses and the rest, of course, all in proportion, where the man 142 who is reputed to be the farmer is a hopeless dipsomaniac. He had three brothers, who died at the ages of forty-one, fifty-one, and fifty-two. He has a son only twenty-two years of age, who has been the effective farmer for some time. There were sixteen labourers on the farm before the War. He is now left with four men, three of whom are warned for military service, one is a man over military age, and, in addition, there is a boy who has just left school. That is on 850 acres of land. There is no shepherd to look after the flock, and I hear a pitiful tale of the condition of things in consequence. The shepherd has gone into munition works at double the wages ever paid in any agricultural employment. I make that frank admission. I say in a case of that sort there ought to be somebody for the Board of Agriculture who could rectify that at. once, so as to prevent those 850 acres going derelict during the coming season. That is the first point I want to make, that we must have some elasticity in these matters. The final word ought to be with the people responsible for feeding this country, and the Board of Agriculture ought to have a Department concerned specially with labour on the land, which ought to be a sort of ultimate tribunal to decide whether men are absolutely essential.
The next point is this: The War Office gives substitutes in the case of very essential men. They are supposed to be there on the farm before the men are taken away. As a matter of fact, great pressure is brought to bear on the men. I am told they are warned to be at the barracks on a certain day, and I have had cases brought to my notice showing quite clearly that it is impossible for the farmer in the vast majority of cases to keep the men and prove to them that they have the right, over and above the order of the military authorities, to keep them there when the military authorities say they ought to go to the barracks to report. In the theatrical world no understudy would think of playing a part without having seen that part played by the principal actor or actress. That is far more essential on a farm. There is a chance of these substitutes being of real use if they are able to see exactly what work they are expected to do. I should like to see them given a month to go round the farm, and eight days as an absolute minimum before a man is taken, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman, before he hands over this question of substitution to the National Ser- 143 vice Department, to make it an absolute rule that none of the remaining men in agriculture are called for service until a substitute has been on the farm for at least eight days. In support of that I should like to call attention to this fact. The Chamber of Agriculture, immediately after that fatal 17th January, when the 10,000 men first began to be taken up, many of these men being the absolute linchpins in the coach, passed this resolution:This council regrets that agricultural labourers have been called up for military service before adequate arrangements had been made for the provision of efficient substitutes, and views with alarm the effect that this will have on the food supply of the country.Cases were quoted to give illustrations of that point, and one gentleman who spoke in the debate said that, "The action of the authorities during this week was a gigantic and irretrievable blunder," and more to that effect. I do not complain about the numbers taken. I do say that they are taken in many instances from the wrong places, that there is no power in the hands of the Board of Agriculture to give a final decision where specific cases are brought to their notice, and the third thing I want the right hon. Gentleman to consider is this: All over the country there are a very large number of men who were either passed for class C 3 or who have been wounded in the War, and are more or less crocked. I can give one case in particular of a man who has only one eye, having lost his other eye in the War. He is detained in the 13th Devon Works Battalion, whereas on the farm, where he knows all the work, where his knowledge, quite apart from eyesight, which is quite good enough for agricultural work, although no good for military purposes whatever, is absolutely essential. His three brothers have already gone. One has been killed in the War, and two are serving in France, and this man is detained on digging work, or something of that kind, whereas the large farm to which I have just referred is hopelessly under-supplied with labour, and, still more, with supervision, which would make the employment of the labour which can be brought to the assistance of farmers of really rapid and effective application to the land. Surely there ought to be some means of bringing quickly out both the men who are not fit, and have not been passed fit for any active military employment, and men who are detained in these works battalions.
144 Another case I can quote is that of a man who has a small farm of his own of 30 acres at Bletchley. He was wounded in 1915 so severely that he was, for a whole year, in hospital, his principal wound being a very bad septic wound in one of his legs. He is now able to walk about, and feels that he can work his 30 acres, there being no one to work it except the chance help of neighbours. What has happened to him? He is kept at Hythe doing work, as reported to me, which any ordinarily intelligent woman could be trained to do in a week. That is wrong in the present position of food production as an absolutely essential factor in carrying on the War. I ask the hon. Gentleman to look at this question not from the point of view of labour battalions, not as a mere question of counting heads, or as if this was a military problem, because it is not, but I ask him to look at it as a question of taking away the actual man who may be working a little or a big farm upon whom the working of that farm depends. Let him look at this question from a point of view which shows some discrimination, introducing a little elasticity, and recognise in the system outlined by the Financial Secretary that when his military battalions go down to certain districts they should remember it is not advisable to introduce cast-iron into a delicate machine, where it is necessary that you should have more elastic material.
I have given notice of a specific case. The point I want to make is that for two years nothing has been done in the case of a particular non-commissioned officer, Sergeant Perrett, who committed, I will admit, a grave offence against military discipline early in 1914, when the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment was at Gibraltar. The case has been brought to the attention of this House and the War Office. The present Colonial Secretary raised the question on the 11th March, 1915, and then the hon. Member for Berwickshire, who was Under-Secretary for War, promised that he would look into the matter. A long correspondence ensued, and finally, about the 20th October, the case was turned down with the usual result that nothing was done. I want to take the Committee through the facts. This is the ease of a man who enlisted in 1903. He arrived at the rank of sergeant in 1913, after ten years' service. He was made gymnasium instructor in 1914, but he had an unfortunate difference with his company sergeant-major coining from India, and it is necessary to say what happened. The 145 company sergeant-major, who was already unfriendly to this man, came down to Catalan, a place near Gibraltar where there were forty men under an officer, and stated that he wanted some coal. The sergeant said there was no coal to spare and what was there would be wanted by the detachment coming in, and no other remarks were made at the time. Two or three days afterwards those forty men were relieved of their guard at that particular place, which was handed over to another detachment.
A case of small-pox arose in the detachment, and in consequence the men were marched back and were kept there until well on into the evening in the broiling sun, and they were not allowed to go into the barracks or fall out. Sergeant Perrett telephoned to get an order that these men should be allowed to go into the barracks, dismissed, or go back to Gibraltar, and he finally asked whether they would be relieved on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, and he was told to stay where he was and keep his men there. I admit this sergeant said that these were not reasonable instructions. He said, "Give me any reasonable instructions and I will obey them." And over the telephone came the message, "Consider yourself under arrest." These facts have not been given before, and it was under those circumstances, while suffering under a burning sense of injustice, with twelve years of an absolutely blameless career, this man took two or three drinks of a concoction called brandy. This man was without a stain upon his character and not a single mark against him in twelve years, and the result was that he broke his arrest and was drunk. He was reduced to the ranks in May, 1914. In June, 1914, he obtained his discharge, and on 5th August, 1914, he rejoined. On the 7th he met his late company commander, who said to him, "Perrett, are they not going to give you back your sergeant's stripes?" This officer went back to the commanding officer and put forward a strong recommendation that Perrett should be reinstated in his former rank.
On the 13th August Perrett went out with the Expeditionary Force, was through the retreat from Mons, and in constant fighting, and was only absent four or five days with a poisoned foot, due to taking part in those historic marches. Near Neuve-Chapelle he was hit with a high explosive shell which nearly severed his right arm. He had to lie out in the open all night, and afterwards it was 146 found necessary to amputate his arm, and he was not expected to live. All the same, he pulled through. He was discharged from the hospital in January, 1915, and he went to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. Long) and said that he had been recommended for reinstatement in his former rank, and was very soon going to be dismissed from the Army, and asked if anything could be done to help forward his case. The right hon. Gentleman wrote to the General Officer Commanding, who said that it was contrary to the Regulations, and nothing could be done. I will read to the Committee the actual recommendation on the 30th December, 1914, from the commanding officer of this non-commissioned officer. He writes to the Staff Captain, No. 8 District, Exeter:I have the honour to submit the case of No. 3212, Private J. W. Perrett, 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, for the most favourable consideration of the Officer Commanding No. 8 District. This man served nearly eleven years in the Wiltshire Regiment, and was highly thought of for keenness and smartness and general trustworthiness. He was first promoted non-commissioned officer 21st February, 1905, eventually being promoted to the rank of sergeant, 1913. He was reduced to the ranks at Gibraltar, 18th May, 1914, for drunk and breaking escort, this crime being the first and only regimental entry in his period of eleven years' service. He was relegated to Army Rserve, 3rd June, 1914, rejoined on mobilisation, 5th August, 1914, proceeded to the front with the Expeditionary Force. He has now returned incapacitated for work owing to the loss of his right arm, blown away by the bursting of a lyddite shell in the trenches at Ypres on 20th October, 1914. The arm was blown off at the shoulder joint, and as there is no stump the medical authorities state he cannot have an artificial arm attached. Under the circumstances, inasmuch as he must now be finally discharged from the Army, his first and only regimental entry causing his reduction from the rank of sergeant will tell heavily against him when his pension is considered, and I would ask and strongly recommend if it be possible that his case may be weighed with a view to reinstatement in rank, so as to improve his position as far as can be. It is deeply to be regretted that most of the officers who can testify to his worth have either fallen in the field or are not available. Further, I am of opinion that had this man joined the battalion in which he was well known, it is more than probable he would have received promotion on joining or in the field.That is from the colonel commanding the depot of the Wiltshire Regiment, and the colonel commanding the 1st Wiltshire Battalion says:I agree with the commanding officer of the depot, Wiltshire Regiment, in recommending Private J. W, Perrett be reinstated in his former rank.Dealing with the case as I have now put it before the House, on the 11th March, 1915, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. Long) said:When I heard of this case I wrote to the general officer commanding and begged him to take the matter into consideration. He told me he 147 could not do so because it was contrary to the Regulations. I say that the country wants not only to help men with money but in every other way, and if there is a Regulation that stands between this man and the reward to which he is so justly entitled it should be swept away. I say that a Regulation of this kind is an injustice, is unreasonable, is an anacroni3m during a war like this. I say it ought to be the business of someone at the War Office to see these things do not occur.For two years this matter has been constantly brought before the attention of the War Office, This Regulation apparently still exists. When the change of Ministry took place about November last I brought the matter to the attention of the present Secretary of State for War. He asked me to let him have the whole case before him in writing. I did so. He said it would assist him very much in going into it. That was on the 7th December last. On the 21st December I received this letter, which I am sure the Committee, whatever they think of its form, will at any rate agree has the merit of being definite:Dear Peto,—I am directed by the Secretary of State to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, re. J. W. Perrett. By his instructions I have inquired into the matter, and am informed that the request cannot be granted. I return to you the documents herewith.—Yours faithfully, George Stanley.I ask the Committee to remember that after the offence for which this man lost his rank he has been engaged as an instructor at a school of Cadets in York-shire and that the loss of his rank has caused him to have diminished authority and less usefulness than he ought to possess for the country. Moreover, it is a constant and daily reminder of the one mistake that he made in May, 1910. It has not been washed out by any expenditure of blood or by the loss of his arm in fighting in the War. I ask the Committee to contrast that with the case of Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington. I welcomed, as I am sure every member of the Committee welcomed, the announcement on the 20th October that Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington had been given a chance of wiping out his offence. After his brave conduct in fight-in the Foreign Legion of France he received two distinctions from the French Government, the Medaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre, and finally he received back his commission from His Gracious Majesty. We welcomed that statement, but I ask the Committee to consider what was the mistake in each ease. In one case, in a fit of intense irritation against what appeared to be the unjust conduct of a 148 non-commissioned officer only just one degree above him in rank—his company sergeant—a glass of brandy was taken, a momentary indiscretion, folly, anything you like to call it, was committed, nobody concerned but himself and military discipline I agree; the other case, a whole battalion of His Majesty's Army might have been surrendered to the enemy, would have been surrendered to the enemy, I do not believe from lack of courage, but from want of discretion. And, after all, one man is a lieutenant-colonel and the other is an ordinary sergeant, a non-commissioned officer. One has his chance of making expiation, of being restored to the rank in which he served His Majesty before, the other, who has lost his arm, in spite of the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand, in spite of every representation that has been made to the War Office for over two years is not given the chance, because we are told it is contrary to War Office Regulations. I ask for a little elasticity in a war like this. I ask that these things may not be repeated from mouth to mouth. I ask that a man who has fought and bled for his country and lost his arm after twelve years of meritorious service in India and in other parts of the Empire may not always have to-repeat the same story: "A commissioned officer gets his chance to go back again, but if you make a mistake when you are only a Run-commissioned officer you never get a chance to make good, no matter even if you have lost your arm." I hope we shall get an answer from the right hon. Gentleman. I hope he will tell me—as I have been forced to state these facts here in the House after having done everything I could to get what I will not call justice—that is a matter of opinion—but that the hon. Gentleman will tell me some wisdom will be brought to bear on the decision of these matters at the War Office, that some human sympathy, some discretion, some sense of proportion, will be introduced into this flat-iron military rule. Surely I may now hope that he will tell me—not only in respect of the particular man whose ease I have pleaded—that at least he is in agreement with me that there should be no discrimination and no distinction between the ranks of non-commissioned officers and the commissioned ranks in the Army.
I do not intend to detain the House for more than a few minutes. I want to direct the attention of the Committee to one or two points arising 149 out of the speech made by the Financial Secretary the other day. We are engaged in voting 5,000,000 men for the Army. The hon. and gallant Member who spoke just now said that it was our duty to send these men into the Army fit, that it was our first duty to see the men who fight are fit physically, morally, and in every way to do the work that we have engaged them to do. My hon. Friend who has just sat down has given an illustration of one of the causes for unfitness on the part of some of our men. I want to speak for a minute or two on that point; I was informed the other day, in reply to a question I put, that during last year between one and two million gallons of ale were supplied for consumption for our troops. I have asked from time to time what quantity of rum has been supplied to our troops, but I have never got a definite reply. I do know that the facilities for obtaining drink are very much greater than they need be or ought to be. I do know that it has a most deplorable effect on the character of large numbers of young fellows who have joined.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Do I understand the hon. Member is referring to the small quantity of rum which is supplied?
I am speaking on the general question of wet canteens in this country and in France. I heard a most pathetic story from one of the hon. Member's colleagues the other day of a young fellow who joined the Army from a total abstaining home. Through the rum ration he was induced to partake for the first time of intoxicating liquor, and was subsequently drummed out of the Army for drunkenness. A short time afterwards that information had to be conveyed to his broken-hearted parents, who were desirous that he should find some other field to wipe out his disgrace. We have by the provision of wet canteens in connection with various camps deliberately damped down the patriotism of many of the inhabitants of the Dominions, and caused many a mother to hesitate to allow her son to join in Canada and elsewhere. I have that on the evidence of more than one officer of the Canadian troops. I think it a great pity that we cannot, if we must provide these facilities for men in our own ranks and recruited in our own country, at any rate place those young fellows who come from dry territory, where they have never been subjected to the temptation, in camps where, at any rate. 150 drink is not kept during the period of their occupation. That is one point which I think is very important. I believe that if we took action along those lines we should stimulate recruiting in the Dominions, and we should, at any rate, remove an objection that at first had a tendency almost to stop recruiting in Canada.
§ 9.0 P.M.
I do not know whether they have their own arrangements, but I do know that Canadians are supplied with drink which they were not allowed to have under their own Government and in their own territory and which they never could have got until they came to this country. It is well known that the provision of drink has a tendency not only to make soldiers less effective and less resisting to hardship and exposure to which they must be subject in the course of campaigns especially, but it makes them less capable also of restoration from wounds and detains them longer in hospitals. Any medical adviser of the Government could tell them that, and that they are almost-afraid to operate on soldiers having severe wounds which require operations if they have been known to have previously indulged in alcohol. If the Government would do something to increase the restrictions to prevent soldiers from obtaining alcohol, at any rate, in quantities, we should he saved many humiliating pictures in our own streets in London and on the railways, and we should be adding largely to our manpower. As has been said this evening, it is important that we should make our men fit and keep them fit, and in order to do that we should eliminate the causes of unfitness.
I desire to refer to one other point. The Financial Secretary, in his speech last week, gave us a very optimistic account of the health of the troops. I think it is true that this War has been waged with less disease of a certain class than ever before.He told us one of the roost remarkable phenomena is the almost total disappearance of enteric fever, that dread scourge which in former wars had decimated our Armies even more effectually than the efforts of the enemy."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1917, col. 2184, Vol. X C]He went on to say that the total number of cases on the Western front of the 151 typhoid group was 4,571. He compared that with what happened in South Africa, where nearly 60,000 cases were admitted to hospital, with 8,227 deaths, which, he pointed out, were four times as many—that is, the deaths—as there were cases in France up to the 1st of November last. It is a very remarkable fact that during the first six months up to January, 1915, of this War only 112 cases altogether arose of typhoid, which is absolutely unprecedented in the history of the world. In all former wars no sooner had the troops been brought together in large numbers than typhoid and similar diseases spread amongst them, and in South Africa that was, of course, far more fatal than the bullet wounds. Why was that? An hon. Member suggested the other day that the reason was the magnificent service of our medical men in inoculating those troops against typhoid fever. That is the claim put forward.
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument in my own way. It is very remarkable that during the first six months when we had from a quarter of a million to three or four hundred thousand men in France only 110 or 112 cases arose and a very large proportion of those men had not been inoculated. Inoculation only began seriously two or three months after the War had broken out and a very large proportion of the troops in the first six months gathered together in France were without inoculation and did not catch the disease. Why was that? The reason was because our sanitary corps of officers had prepared the way by removing the causes of those intestinal diseases, of which typhoid is one, thus bringing about the result I have named by removing the causes. What happened in South Africa? I am dealing with this matter, because although I think it is right to be optimistic, and I am glad the hon. Member was, it is also right to have some proportion in our optimism and to see that it bears some relation to the facts. In South Africa you had hundreds of thousands of doses of anti-typhoid serum inoculated into the men and yet those 60,000 cases of typhoid arose, with 8,000 deaths. Those men when protected by that process died like flies. Why? There they had not been preceded by sanitary science and you had not removed the 152 causes and thereby prevented the disease arising. I am quite prepared to admit that inoculation will protect any man against a disease which does not exist. I am also prepared to contend that if you remove the cause of a disease the disease will not arise. The Financial Secretary the other day did not tell us, what is the fact, that in Gallipoli, where the troops are very much less numerous than they are on the Western front, where I suppose they never exceeded 250,000—I do not know what the number is—no less than 27,891 cases of intestinal trouble of various kinds arose. Why was that? No troops on earth were ever inoculated so definitely and with so few exceptions as the troops in Gallipoli. They consisted very largely of New Zealand and Australian troops, every man of whom had been inoculated before he was sent out. It arose simply because the conditions which created the disease were there. There was no proper system of drainage, and there was a shortage of water.
I do not know how many of them died. I am giving the figures which were given to me by the Financial Secretary in a letter dated 30th October. In the case of Gallipoli, he admitted, there were 27,891 cases, 17,873 of which were dysentery, 1,490 pyrexia—
Will my hon. and gallant Friend permit me to proceed—8,103 were cases going by the alias of paratyphoid, and 425 typhoid. It is very remarkable that the number of typhoid cases is so small. For a number of years we have been perfecting the serum against typhoid, and it is essential that the credit of this serum should be sustained. Large financial interests have grown up behind it. The manufacture of these serums is an important business, and there are great financial interests depending upon its perpetuation. Curiously enough, on 1st January this year, the serum which has been so successful during the whole of this period was discontinued and a new serum has been introduced for the Army. I wondered how it was these figures came out in this extraordinary way until I came across a report of two officers whose duty it was to investigate these matters. These were officers who had sent to them cases clinically diagnosed by the medical 153 officers attending them as typhoid. They examined 325 cases, which, under any previous conditions, would have been diagnosed as typhoid and reported as typhoid, as the cases in South Africa were. They explain in a most ingenuous way that whenever they got a case of typhoid from an inoculated person they regarded it with suspicion. The names of these officers are Lieutenant Colonel Martin and Major Upjohn. Whenever they got a case from an inoculated man they regarded it with suspicion, and so they succeeded in discovering that out of the 325 cases 300 were not what the medical officers attending the cases thought them to be, and only 25 were actually typhoid cases. That is a very extraordinary state of things. It means one of two things: either that our medical officers into whose charge we have committed our soldiers are so ignorant and incompetent that they do not know the diseases of the men they have to treat, or that the bacteriologists are throwing dust in the eyes of the public, and that these Returns upon which the whole credit of the system is based are falsified; or it means that the bacteriologists themselves do not know their business. You cannot get away from one or other point of that dilemma. Therefore I ask the Committee to suspend judgment as to the value of these figures until after the War when it becomes possible to have some outside non-medical statistician to examine both the figures themselves and the conditions under which they have been circulated, so that we may get at the truth in regard to this matter. Why do I say that? It was important that our men should be fitted as soon as possible for their duties in the field. What does this practice mean? It means that every man who can be persuaded—there are many men who can be forced indirectly though not legally to undergo this operation—is made incompetent for his duties for at least a fortnight.
I have had correspondence from large numbers of these men. During the intervening period they can only perform light duty. If they are put to strenuous exercise they are only capable of performing it with dangerous results.
I contend that it is. I have plenty of evidence that in most cases it is. It means that each man is practically incapacitated from his training for ten days. An Army of 5,000,000 men means 50,000,000 days that might be used for exercise taken out of the life of the soldier. That is not all. It is not only once that these men are inoculated. Sometimes it occurs again and again. This morning, quite unexpectedly, I received from Salonika from a young friend of mine who was formerly in the service of my firm and with whom I have kept in correspondence, this letter, showing how he believes in this practice. He says:I am very well, and just recovering normal from vaccination, which has lasted six weeks. I am of the opinion that my baby girl will not be done. Since joining the Army I have been inoculated six times and vaccinated once.During the year and a half since he joined the Army his active service has been made imperfect by this great waste of time, which personally I believe to be quite unnecessary, because nothing can resist disease like a healthy body, and the proper thing to do is to remove the cause of the disease, as our sanitary officers have done so successfully. Look at the waste of time and the number of men you have lost, who, when entering the Army, have been incapacitated and have had to be turned out of the Army, many of them thrown on the world as wrecks, incapable of earning their livelihood in civil occupations. Tens of thousands of men might have been serving if this practice had not prevailed. I want to express my gratitude to the hon. Member and his predecessors and colleagues for having mitigated, to-some extent at any rate, the old harsh, cruel treatment meted out to men who had a conscientious objection to this practice, and for having made it possible for them to retain their legal right, which in so many cases has been overridden by their officers. They have made it possible for men who really disbelieve in this practice to keep their blood pure and serve their country with a whole skin, and to a large 155 extent they have mitigated that treatment. But the evil still exists. The objector is still often denied leave and is often put to do fatigue work, and is differentially treated in various ways, but I am hoping that will disappear altogether. I am sure it is not in accordance with the wish of my hon. Friend, and whenever I have brought a case to his notice I believe he has looked into it. But I have had news only to-day of a rather alarming character. In one of the camps in this country the Hereford Regiment has lately been inoculated. I am told there has been a sudden outbreak involving from 700 to 800 cases of serious illness, and there have been a number of deaths. I do not know whether my hon. Friend can give me any information on that?
I will see my hon. Friend on it afterwards. May I suggest that as far as possible subjection to this practice shall be really what it is legally, an absolutely voluntary act on the part of the soldier, and that the officers shall be discouraged from putting any pressure upon the men, so that they shall have a chance at any rate to serve their country in perfect health, without having their blood poisoned by the introduction of diseased matter from other human beings, and I am perfectly certain that if that is carried out in the spirit a great deal of discontent, a great deal of harsh treatment, and a great deal of ill-health will be saved, and our man-power will go much further than it would otherwise.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
I should like to refer to the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Peto) on behalf of the soldier he referred to. Speaking simply as a Member of the House who has not paid any attention to the case before and has heard the details for the first time to-day, I should like to say how much impressed I feel, and I am sure everyone here must feel the same, at the severity with which the case has been treated. I am sure the feeling in the House will be that when a man has served his country, often through periods of extreme danger, for more than eleven years, and has lost an arm, so that his capacity for active employment is almost entirely interfered with for the rest of his life, we may all agree that we should be extremely glad if my hon. 156 Friend on the Front Bench is able to see it in the same way that the Committee sees it, and hope that the man will have his rank restored to him as far as possible,—altogether I hope—and that he will be left in such a position that the closing years of his life may be passed in tolerable satisfaction and comfort.
The point I am anxious to bring before my hon. Friend on my own account is one which on a former occasion he said his office would consider, namely, the question of the expenses of the staffs of volunteer bodies throughout the Kingdom. These expenses, which have to fall largely on the personal expenditure of the Colonel Commandant and the officers of his staff, if the work is to be well and efficiently done, make a heavy call on their private expenses. I should like to suggest that it might be possible for all these officers whose duties are spread over a whole county to have a free pass given them over all the railways of the county they have charge of. In the county I have to do with an endeavour was made to get all the railway companies to give free passes, but it was pointed out that the railways are now under the charge of the Government and it would fall on them to issue free passes. I hope the War Office will be able to act on this proposal The expense in reality would be a small one.
The other point I have to refer to is what we have heard this evening with regard especially to the Salonika Expedition. It is quite evident that there are two bodies of opinion in the House, those who think the expedition was absolutely required and those who are prepared to find fault not only with its inception, but with its present position and the results that they think are to be looked at. On these occasions I am very much reminded of the Scottish proverb, that it is no use keeping a dog and barking yourself. I really think if public opinion in this country would direct itself towards the understanding of a principle of that kind it would save us a great deal of trouble. It seems to me that all the military developments we have been so intimately concerned with for a long time have been seriously interfered with by various classes, in the country, the slackers who remain at home and say, "We are going to stay here till we are sent for"; the shirkers, for whom I do not think anyone here has any use at all; and the worst of all, in my mind, the crabber. Surely when all these serious things are 157 going on every day we might abstain from finding fault. Napoleon, Wellington, and those sort of people may be looked upon as great authorities in military matters. I forget which of those great authorities said that the greatest general is the one who makes the fewest mistakes. During the South African War, it you travelled anywhere in a third-class carriage, you would be sure to fall into the company of men who would tell you how to put a stop to the Boer resistance in a few weeks, and you found to your very great sorrow that these men, endowed with natural military genius, who ought to have been Field-Marshals or Admirals of the Fleet, were only commercial travellers. No doubt their opinion was just as good as ours, but they confined it to third-class carriages. We are apt to desire that our opinions should be spread over the whole world, and they do not do anybody any good, except, perhaps, the enemy. I cannot help wondering whether any hon. Member here to-night is capable really of understanding, or even forming an opinion, upon the campaign that is going on at Salonika. It strikes me that we might leave that to the War Office, and the generals and the efficient men who are brought up to this sort of thing. We might satisfy ourselves of the truth of the proverb I have quoted, that if you have somebody acting for you you should leave him to carry out the work to the best of his ability, and if he is a failure you should have the courage to make a change.
Those who sit still and do not talk too much are apt to begin to understand the atmosphere of the House of Commons. I will tell the Committee what this Debate has brought strongly before my mind, especially when we got on to the question of Salonika and the whole question of the conduct of the War. We had an excellent speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in which he carefully refrained from saying anything—which I think was perfectly wise. The question remaining on my mind —and it must be present to other hon. Members is, where is the Prime Minister? How long are we going on in this House without the advantage of communication with the Prime Minister? It has always seemed to me that the Prime Minister has two great objects in life, one is to be, whenever possible, in the House of Commons, and to understand the views, the wishes, and the objects of the House of Commons, and the other is to be able to communicate with the Crown as to the 158 opinion and decisions of the House of Commons. How can the Prime Minister do either of those things if he never comes here?
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
I feel I am raising a large question, and I can only say, speaking for myself, and I have no doubt I am speaking the view of others, that when these questions of Imperial and national policy arise, we want to be advised and informed by the man who has been chosen to represent the country and the House of Commons, the Prime Minister.
§ Colonel Sir HAMAR GREENWOOD
With reference to the last remarks of the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Ainsworth), I want to say that the Prime Minister of this country, and now of the Empire and largely of the Allies, should come down to this House when great questions of policy are raised, and should not waste his time in dealing with matters which, I think, can be dealt with by Under-Secretaries like my hon. Friend (Mr. Macpherson) or other members of the Government, who can speak with greater Departmental knowledge than the Prime Minister has time to acquire. I want to speak in reference to some other remarks which fell from the hon. Member for Haggerston (Mr. Chancellor), who indulged in his hardy annual of introducing into this Debate the question of inoculation and vaccination, and, as he suggests, the intemperance of our troops. I have been inoculated, and have not suffered that poisonous effect which the hon. Member suggests is the result of inoculation. The ordinary man or officer who is inoculated suffers no ill effect whatever. In cases where a man or officer is in an unhealthy state he suffers slightly or in some degree from inoculation, to his own betterment, and the more he suffers the more clear it is that he required that inoculation. If there is one thing more than another which has been proved in this War it is this: that inoculation is all but an absolute protection from typhoid.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
The statistics given from the Front Bench many times go to show conclusively that the lives of 159 men have been saved by inoculation from the ravages of typhoid.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
Sanitation has always something to do with it, but vaccination and inoculation are two things that have more than justified their use in the colossal Army which is now on the various fronts. With reference to what the hon. Member said concerning drink, I want to join issue with him, especially as I happen to be a man who does not indulge in any alcoholic liquors. I am bound to say that the more I see of men who do, the more sad and solemn they appear to be and the more cheerful I, appear to be. When the hon. Member suggests that by taking the minute rum ration which is occasionally issued to men in the trenches, at the discretion of the colonel, the individual soldier is going down the slippery slope of ruin, I protest against such an exaggerated statement. First of all, no soldier is compelled to take it. Secondly, this rum ration is issued on rare occasions, entirely at the discretion of the commanding officer, who would be the last man to jeopardise in any way the physical, mental, or moral fibre of the men under his command in a front line trench. The hon. Member referred to wet canteens in terms which show clearly that he cannot have had any personal experience of these regimental institutions throughout the country, least of all at the front. The regimental institute in camp, however large or small, is under military control. It is regularly visited by officers under the colonel, and by the colonel himself, and on the slightest sign of intemperance the place is shut up, and the persons guilty are dealt with as men can be dealt with under military control. If you could put this country under a system of wet canteens, you would have the country consuming less alcohol than it does now, and there would be less hard drinking. The drinking in my experience is very small in proportion to the enormous number of men that are in camps of various kinds. In every camp there is an alternative to the wet canteen. You have the Church huts of various kinds, you have the Y.M.C.A. huts, and all forms of recreations and amusements, and to suggest that soldiers are compelled to go through some process of compulsory-gulping of alcohol is wrong.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
The suggestion is that the wet canteen is a place where these soldiers roll up in large numbers and come away intemperate, wrecked in mental, moral, and physical fibre, and not as good as they would be without the wet canteen. That is the suggestion.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
He said that the wet canteen degenerated the soldier. That was the gist of it. I protest against that. In reference to the remarks of the hon. Member, I can speak with great sympathy there. The Canadian Government is very jealous of the Canadian soldier, not only in this country but at the front, and the War Office has nothing to do with the Canadian soldier in his barrack, hut, or camp life. The regimental duties of these soldiers are under the control of the Canadian Commander, quite apart from the War Office altogether, whether they are here or in the British lines on the Western Front. The Canadian Government is very jealous of the control of the Canadian soldier, whether in Canada, England, or on the Western Front, and if they have a wet canteen it is because they want to have it, and not because it is forced upon them by an autocratic War Office or some British general. Though I am myself a lifelong teetotaler, yet if a soldier at the front feels that he wants a little alcohol, I am the last man to interfere with that—first, because I think that he is entitled to nearly everything he wants, for the whole Empire depends on him, and, secondly, because I know the drastic military supervision with which all these matters are controlled, and it would be impossible for him to indulge too freely in the wet canteens here or in the canteens abroad, or in the little estaminets, where no spirits whatever are sold, and where the wines and beers are so feeble in their alcoholic powers that no harm can come to any soldier who indulges, as he does in those places, moderately. Speaking generally, there never was an Army in history, whether at home or abroad, that was more sober, more willing to be sober, or more drastic in its discipline in the interests of sobriety, and to suggest anything like overindulgence in rum rations is the last thought that would occur to anybody who had the smallest experience of the facts. I have always thought that in these matters it would be an excellent thing if the Govern- 161 ment could make up its mind to send to the front for a week, in the deep salient trenches, these hon. Members who find fault with the Army. They would come back with their minds cleared of this exaggerated nonsense about over-indulgence, and filled with pride in these splendid men who deserve more than we could ever give them for the hardships through which they have gone and the hardships they may face.
And now a word in reference to the War Office generally. It is a curious thing that the War Office, more than any other Department of State, gets criticised by certain Members of this House and by certain persons outside. I think that the reason is that the War Office is blamed for mistakes in policy with which the War Office has nothing whatever to do. The War Office, from the first, is the only Department that realised the need for men in this great War. And when Lord Kitchener spoke of raising an Army of 3,000,000 men I can remember that everybody laughed at him. But from that day to this the War Office has seen clearly that we must number our armed forces by millions if we are to equal the armies against us, let alone overwhelm them in a decisive victory. The War Office has-seen this and has advised Conscription, which was adopted by this House under the preceding Government The War Office was supported by the last Government in the establishment of tribunals, local authorities for administering it, who have done their work splendidly, on the whole. They are made up of hard-working, self-sacrificing men in the localities, whose popularity is jeopardised, whose work goes without reward, and whose stern duty often brings upon them criticism which is ill-deserved. Those tribunals during last year passed 60,000 agricultural labourers for military service, exempting them until 1st January this year. The tribunals who did that are tribunals of farmers who are interested in farming.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
This is a military matter. The War Office is represented before every tribunal.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not know what was said on another day. I am just dealing with what is before me now.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
This is concerned with Vote A, for raising men. Men are raised through the tribunals, which are attended by a military representative of the War Office. These tribunals, representing agricultural interests, passed 60,000 men for service. It was cut down to 30,000 men, and out of the 30,000 men only 6,200 have been taken. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ten thousand."] Ten thousand were called, but I believe that only 6,200 have been taken. It is not the fault of the War Office. It is that of the farmers and agriculturists, who foresaw the need of manpower in other walks of life. The business of the War Office is to get men through the tribunals, the institutions set up and appointed by this House; and to condemn the War Office for carrying out this very stern duty is, to my mind, mixing up again the administration of the War Office with the policy of a particular Government. I myself believe, taking it all in all, though exceptions are bound to arise in raising an Army of over 5,000,000 men which is always growing, that the War Office are carrying out an almost superhuman task fairly, justly, and with splendid results, though here and there many hard cases may occur. The great result of having these magnificent Armies in the field, splendidly equipped, with fine moral and under good leadership, is a great tribute to an overworked and over-criticised Department, in which I myself had the honour to serve for a short time, which, I think, ill deserves most of the ill-considered and all but ignorant criticism that is bestowed upon it.
I was much interested earlier in the evening in listening to the speech of the hon. Gentleman below me and on the other side of the House who complained of the cast-iron system in vogue at the War Office and of the want of elasticity in the War Office regulations. While admitting that from their point of view they made good their cases, I have to put before the Committee that my complaint against the War Office is of an exactly opposite character. War Office Regulations have been made, but when it suits that Department they regard them 163 as absolutely cast iron, without any elasticity whatever. When it does not suit them to observe and follow those Regulations, they ignore them completely. It will be within the recollection of this Committee that many months ago Irish Members had to complain of the fact that Irishmen who had joined the Army either at home or in this country, in a great many instances, were not allowed to join Irish regiments. We also brought forward case after case of Irish units in France being transferred to English or Scottish battalions. While we were told that it was not always possible to regulate this at once under military necessity in France, we did succeed in getting the pledge and guarantee from the Government and the War Office that, so far as possible, at home at least, Irishmen when they expressed the desire would be sent to Irish regiments. As I understand that was put definitely into the Regulations of the War Office, and I want to tell the representative of the War Office on the Government Bench now that the Regulation has been grossly and shamefully ignored.
I am not going to say much about Irish recruiting, but within the past few months a very special effort has been made to recruit men in Ireland for the Mechanical Transport department of the Army Service Corps, and that effort has so far succeeded that over 700 men have been got in various parts of Ireland for mechanical transport. They were brought over to this country to a camp outside London, and after a couple of months' training hundreds of these men were turned down from mechanical transport, and were sent into Infantry battalions. When they asked to join Irish regiments they were flatly refused. I say that is the kind of thing that has occurred in hundreds of cases, in spite of the War Office pledge, and it is going on to this very day. I hope the Under-Secretary, who is responsible to this House for the administration of the War Office, will look into this matter, and see that the pledge given to the House of Commons is kept at the War Office. I say there were hundreds of these cases. Let me read to the House only two letters which I received through the post a few days ago from a man who makes complaint in regard to this matter, and I will give this case to the Under-Secretary 164 himself. The letter is dated 17th February, 1917, from Swindon:—Sir,—In the month of October last, in response to an urgent appeal made by the military authorities for the M.T. of the A.S.C., I offered my services as driver at the City Hall, Belfast, and proceeded to Grove Park, London. At the end of two months I was compulsorily transferred into the Infantry. I at once applied as an Irishman to get put into an Irish regiment, which I have been refused. If, when enlisting, I had known I would be transferred into the Infanry, and into an English regiment, I would have at first joined an Irish regiment. I beg to appeal to you to use your influence to get me transferred into an Irish regiment, when I will be able to fight alongside my fellow countrymen.The second letter is dated 19th February, two or three days later, and, strangely enough, is also from Belfast. It is from the father of a man:Dear Sir,—I heard from a friend that you received an assurance from the Government that no more Irishmen would be transferred to English regiments against their will; therefore, I would like to tell you of my son, who, in October, joined the Army Service Corps, and after a few weeks was changed to an English Infantry regiment. He would not have joined had he known that this was before him. I wrote to his commanding officer claiming him, for he is only seventeen years of age, or as an alternative to get him into the Royal Irish Rifles. Without avail. I now presume on your kindness to see if anything can be done either to have him returned to the Army Service Corps or transferred to an Irish regiment.My information is—and I heard of it long before these letters and similar letters reached me—that there are hundreds of these cases of men who were practically secured for the Army on the false pretence that they were for mechaical transport, but who were turned down after a few weeks training and shoved into English Infantry regiments, and refused permission to join an Irish regiment. I would like to know from the Under-Secretary what is the explanation of that. This Regulation was made at the War Office, and the assurance to which I have referred was given to the House of Commons. Does it mean that the hon. Gentleman, who is supposed to speak for the War Office, has no real power there, that he is turned down by these Army officials in the War Office, as has been too often the case with his predecessors, and that he is not able to enforce the Regulation which the House of Commons was told would be put into operation?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
In every single case that has been sent to me the man has been transferred into an Irish regiment.
I will be perfectly satisfied if the hon. Gentleman will tell me that in cases of this kind where men have been refused who have applied for Irish regiments, they will be transferred
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I cannot say that, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that in all such cases that have been sent to me the men have been transferred to Irish regiments.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that statement, and I trust that as the result of it he will see that these cases are dealt with on the same basis. I hope that the fact will become known to these many hundreds of men who have been turned down when they applied to join Irish regiments. There is only one other matter to which I wish to draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman. I wrote him a few days ago relative to a statement made by Captain Gate, of the Travelling Medical Board, recently, at a place in the Rhondda Valley. The statement was made to the local member of a miners' lodge of the South Wales Miners' Federation, and it was to the effect that there were in America 2,000,000 Irishmen ready to fight against the United States if the United States went to war with Germany at this moment. I want to tell the hon. Gentleman that that statement has caused very serious indignation among the Irish community in South Wales. They bitterly resent it, and look upon it as an attempt on the part of an official of the War Office to stir up hatred, passion, and prejudice against the Irish community. I hope that this charge against this captain will be fully investigated. In the first place, it is a scandalous falsehood, and for any man to make a statement of that kind in the circumstances is so utterly wrong that I consider justice will not be done unless the whole thing is probed absolutely to the bottom and, if the officer is found guilty, he should then be dismissed from his position.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Major NEWMAN
I want to ask the Under-Secretary for War what is the exact present status of an officer holding a temporary commission? Evidently his status is changed when he gets a permanent commission. As the Committee will remember on Thursday last, we were told that Lord Derby had set up a Committee, to be presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill), which was to inquire into the various anomalies of promotion, not only in the Territorial Force, but in the New Army. The terms of reference to the Committee are pretty wide. I hope that the Committee, in addition to inquiring into those terms as regards officers of the New 166 Army and the Territorial Army, will go into the cases of officers, either of the New Army or of the Territorial Force who have been placed in the Reserve against their will, although medically fit for work in this country. I came up against a case the other day where an old soldier who had served in the ranks of a Yorkshire regiment and had reached the rank of quartermaster rejoined, was appointed quartermaster and went out to France. He was taken ill and came home, but when he got better he was attached to one of the Reserve training battalions. After a short time he was suddenly informed that he was going to be placed in the Reserve, and that man, who had served so many years as a Regular soldier, was chased out of the battalion, though there were in that battalion five or six officers who had never been at the front, and who were perfectly fit. That should be inquired into. May I ask another question? Why should a quartermaster not be allowed to rise above that rank? He cannot become a Staff officer. He can never wear the red tabs. He cannot command his battalion. I came across a case the other day of a quartermaster who was the only senior officer left of his battalion, of which he took command when they were on the advance. He kept the command for several weeks, but was suddenly superseded by a man junior to himself, who was made temporary major over his head and took the command. He was superseded simply because he was a quartermaster.
But the real question I want to get at is the status of an officer with a temporary commission. Several cases have been brought to my notice of officers who have been dismissed the Service and denied all right of inquiry. Of course, as the Under-Secretary knows, under the Royal Warrant, Article 527, it is provided that an officer who has been guilty of misconduct may at any time be called upon to retire or resign his commission should the circumstances of the case, in the opinion of the Army Council, require. The Committee will observe he may be called upon to resign. Surely, if he is called upon to resign, he ought to be in a position to say, "I want an inquiry, and I will not resign until my conduct has been gone into and reasons shown why I should resign." But, as far as I can make out, a temporary officer has not this protection at all. He can be called upon to resign his commission, or, what is worse, he may be dis- 167 missed without inquiry being given him at all; and, as a matter of fact, he may be dismissed at something less than a month's notice. I have had several cases of this sort brought to my notice. I am going to give one, not the worst by any means, but one which I personally investigated, I do not propose to give the names unless any hon. Member presses for them.
This is the case of a married man over thirty years of age, a noted athlete, who occupied a good position in the City at the outbreak of the War, and who, like many others, immediately volunteered and enlisted in one of the crack London battalions, the Queen's, Westminsters. He served in it from September, 1914, to March, 1915, when he was given a commission, and shortly after, in view of his athletic record and skill, he was sent to Aldershot, thoroughly trained there, and became a gymnastic instructor and an instructor in bayonet fighting. This was in November, 1915, and his battalion went abroad. Just before they went he was promoted captain. He served a winter in the trenches, and one day, in March, 1916, he was asked to see his commanding officer. He did so, and his colonel told him that he had become so gloomy, so depressed, and so morose that, in his opinion, he was not competent to do justice either to himself or to his men, and, as they were in the trenches within a hundred yards of the Germans, the colonel told him he would have to make a report to that effect to the general officer commanding the Brigade. The officer was naturally very much upset and surprised, and he at once, in accordance with the King's Regulations, wrote through his commanding officer to the general officer commanding asking for an interview. It was granted him, and he duly saw the brigadier who had received the report of the colonel. The officer gave his explanation, and then asked if, providing it was decided that he must go home owing to his depressed condition, the brigadier and the colonel, as they knew him to be a competent man to instruct the troops in bayonet fighting, would recommend him for an instructorship at home. The general officer commanding brigade said he would, and the officer thought the matter was as far as it could be all right. He went back to his lines, and in two or three days he was suddenly informed by the adjutant that he had been dismissed 168 from the battalion and must leave the battalion lines. He had to leave his hut, and for several days he did the best he could behind the lines, and atone time lie was in danger of being had up as a spy. After a few days of this terrible treatment he was informed that he was to go back to England and report to the War Office. On his way back to the railway station he was unfortunately thrown out of a mule cart and severely hurt, his arm being badly damaged. When he got back to England, as soon as he was fit enough, he formally reported to the War Office that he had arrived and went back home again. A few days afterwards he received notice from the War Office that he was going to be gazetted out and that his services would be dispensed with. He at once wrote and asked for an inquiry, but was told that he had had his chance of an inquiry when in France and that the case could not be reopened now, and that within two or three days he would be gazetted out. Sure enough, on 13th April, he was gazetted out. All this officer had was a five minutes' chat with his brigadier, who told him he would recommend him for an instructorship at home, because he thought the case was rather a hard one. I may mention that in this interview with the brigadier his colonel said, "As far as your personal courage goes, there is nothing against it, and if it was a question of man to man against the enemy now you would be a man who would do good fighting, but it is against you that you have fallen into a state of depression." He was given no chance of an inquiry at all, but simply had a five minutes' interview with the general officer commanding brigade and this promise, and the general officer commanding brigade reported the case to the general officer commanding division, who put it up to the Commander-in-Chief, and it was sent back, I presume, to the Army Council, with the result that the man was "outed" without any attempt at giving him the chance of an inquiry.
But more than that has happened. He was dismissed the Army, and was once more a civilian. He was laid up for some time with his bad arm and general shock, but he recovered, and one fine day the recruiting officer sent round to say he was once more to be called to the Colours. He appealed to the local tribunal and showed his certificates from the doctor, and the tribunal gave him six weeks' exemption. He came again before them, and again was able to show that his arm 169 had not made a complete recovery, and they again gave him a further term of three months' exemption, but that was too much for the military representative, who at once appealed. He went before an Appeal Tribunal, and the military representative won his case, so that now this ex-officer is waiting to be called up any day as a conscript. I put it to the Committee that it is not fair. Here we have a man who gave up a good position in the early days, of the War, when men were badly wanted, and enlisted as a private, got his commission, rose to captain, went to the front, served his winter in the trenches, and got this unfortunate opinion formed of him by his colonel, with the result that he was deprived of his commission. He was then called up again by the military authorities, and, in the course of a few days, if something is not done, will again find himself in the ranks, not as a volunteer, but as a conscript.
I have given that one case, but I can give even worse cases where these temporary officers are dismissed in a most arbitrary way with no appeal whatever. Something ought to be done by the War Office to meet this sort of case. To my mind, where an officer has been deprived of his commission, not by reason of misconduct, he should not be called upon by a recruiting officer at all, or, at any rate, the recruting officer should not call him up without the direct leave of the War Office I quite admit that at the present moment a general officer commanding brigade or a general officer commanding division cannot perhaps give the time that lie ought to these cases and may perhaps come to hasty and even unjust decisions, but if that is so, there ought to be some sort of court of inquiry or appeal, sitting at the War Office or elsewhere, to which these officers could bring their cases. All the documents would be obtained from France, and the court would decide whether or not the decision given by the officer at the front was right. I submit that the question of these temporary commissions ought to be inquired into, and unless something like this is done these cases will go on growing in numbers, and there will be a feeling of disgust amongst the officers of the New Army which ought not to arise.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
The first point to which I desire to call attention is the question of promotion in the Regular Army. In former wars substantive pro- 170 motion was granted on a war basis. Owing, however, to the introduction of the system of acting-rank, there are many officers who do not receive the promotion they deserve. Take, for instance, the case of a colonel of a battalion who is made a brigadier-general, or is given the command of another battalion, or is told off for instructional or other home duties. What happens? In a very large number of cases it is pretty evident that the colonel will never return to the command of this battalion. The major or some other subordinate officer is appointed to the command. He goes out and has all the responsibility and danger of the position. If he is wounded while in acting-command as colonel or lieut.-colonel, and is invalided home, he at once reverts to his old position as major, and loses entirely the temporary rank of colonel. My attention has been drawn to a very large number of cases where majors of twenty to twenty-five years' service have in this way been given command of battalions. They have been in command for some considerable time at the front, and yet they have never achieved the substantive rank of colonel. I am not going to suggest that if there is a casual vacancy in the command of a regiment that the major or other subordinate officer who has been called upon to perform the duties of the colonel should at once be given substantive rank. But where you find, as I think you will find, that in a very large number of cases the actual colonel is not likely to, probably never will, return to the command, I do venture to suggest to my hon. Friend that the major or whoever it is that is in de facto command of the battalion should be given substantive rank with all the privileges attaching thereto.
There is another point. That is the question of weeding out men who are on the lines of communication at the front. Many who are fit for active military service are in the position of orderlies and doing hospital work, are military police clerks, batmen, and in other non-combatant positions. They should be put into the firing-line. A very great and needed improvement, I believe, has taken place in this matter. There is no doubt that a year ago there were a very large number of young and fit men who were stationed on the lines of communication in one part or another. They were put into the fighting-line. I shall, however, be glad to hear from the Under-Secretary that this process is still going on. Perhaps the hon.
171 Gentleman will also tell us what progress has been made with the formation of a woman's corps in France? In France, as in England, there is, no doubt, a very large number of duties that women could perform either quite as well, or possibly in many cases better than men. If the proposed corps is formed—and I believe it is in course of formation—it will undoubtedly release a very large number of fighting men. My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes referred to the case of Mr. Perrett. He was reduced to the ranks, rejoined immediately after the War, and was wounded. He was declared to have done most valiant service. It has been urged that he should be restored to his former rank. Unfortunately, before he was actually restored, as I think he ought to have been, he was discharged from the Army, and when the case was brought up again we were told that, inasmuch as he had been discharged from the Array, there was some technical difficult—I venture to think a purely technical difficulty—in restoring him to his former rank, and that therefore the application could not be entertained. If the position is this, as I venture to think it is, that a complete case had been made out before he had been discharged for restoring him to his former rank, and if, owing to some neglect, or some delay, at the War Office—my hon. Friend opposite was not there at the time—this man was not restored to his former rank before he was discharged from the Army, the fact of that neglect or delay at the War Office ought not to deprive him of his right to be so restored. Therefore, I do beg of my hon. Friend to get over this technical difficulty, and to restore this man to the rank, which by common consent of his colonel and all who knew him, he was entitled to receive. There was a case mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham of a very extraordinary kind. It was the case of a conscientious objector, whose conscientious objection failed, and he was then exempted from military service because he was said to be subject to a disease, which to me, at any rate, up to the present moment is unknown—the disease or complaint of agoraphobia, which, I think, interpreted in the vernacular, means cowardice.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I should have thought there were plenty of places in the Army where that could be avoided, and probably if he went into the front line trenches he would find that particular complaint would not stand in his way. A bogus conscientious objector is bad enough, in all conscience—a contemptible form in which to evade his country's service—but a gentleman who, when his bogus objection has failed, sets up the disease of agoraphobia, or dislike of open spaces, is a person to whom, I think, no tribunal ought to show any undue leniency, and I would ask my hon. Friend to have that case reviewed, with the assistance of a competent medical authority, and to send this gentleman to a place where his particular troubles would not prevent him from fighting. There is just one point, which is rather more in the sphere of my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, to which I want to refer, and that is the question of sick pay of an officer who is temporarily incapacitated owing to a disability not caused by the performance of his military duty. I understand in that case, by an Army Order, he may be allowed sick leave and pay for a period of three months and no more, and if he is not well at the end of three months his sick leave and pay stop.
That seems to me a somewhat unreasonable limitation, all the more so when compared with the case of civilians employed by the War Office who, with none of the dangers and anxieties of active service, when they are ill are given full sick pay for six months, and if at the end of that period they are not well it is within the discretion of the authorities to give them further sick leave at half their salary for another six months. Why a soldier or an officer who become ill can only be given three months' sick pay while a man at home, in comparative comfort and safety, should be allowed six months and a further period at half salary for another six months I cannot understand; arid this appears to me to be an anomaly which I hope my hon. Friend will remove.
With regard to the question of savings, I am sure the House was gratified to hear from the statement of my hon. friend last Thursday that large and substantial savings had been made with regard to rations all over the United Kingdom. I think the men who introduced and carried out those changes are deserving of the thanks of the nation for having stopped this wasteful expenditure and saved these 173 very large sums. I want to know if my hon. Friend is able to give some comparative estimate as to the savings produced in the different commands. To ask for the actual figures I am aware would show the number of men, and this might be undesirable, but ray hon. Friend might be able to give, say, the proportionate savings per thousand men, so that we might compare the success which this savings movement has met with in the different commands throughout the Kingdom, and then we should be able to give credit to those commands which have effected the most savings, and in that way had proved that they possessed the greatest administrative capacity. I think if those figures were given it would produce a healthy rivalry between the different commands in the United Kingdom to see who could effect the greatest amount of savings consistent with the proper feeding of the troops. Those estimates would be of interest to the House and of value to the persons concerned, and I should be very glad if my hon. Friend could see his way to give us that information.
§ Mr. FORSTER
The Under-Secretary for War will reply to the major portion of the Debate, but I will answer one or two specific questions. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. Butcher) has asked me to publish some figures from the different commands in connection with the saving effected in these commands. I have some figures, but I am not sure that they are very valuable or directly appropriate, and I am rather loth to publish figures which might appear to favour one command or reflect adversely upon another command, unless the basis is strictly comparable. I will, however, look into the matter, and if it can be done it shall be done. Of course the figures are too long to publish except by way of circulation with the Votes. My hon. and learned Friend asked me another question with regard to the period of sick leave on full pay for officers who are suffering from illness or disease not due to military service. He stated the rules with regard to the officers holding temporary commissions who were suffering from disease not due to military service correctly. They do get a period of three months' sick leave on full pay, and after that their pay stops. My hon. and learned Friend compares their case with the case of the civilian in the War Office. Their case is not comparable with that of the civilian. Let me tell my hon. and learned Friend what the position 174 is. The cases of the officers of the Regular Army and of the Civil servants in the regular establishment of the Civil Service are comparable. In the case of the officer of the Regular Army who falls sick he gets sick leave on full pay for twelve months. It may be extended to eighteen months. The civilian who is on the regular establishment gets sick leave on full pay for six months, which may be extended to a further six months on half-pay. That is the Regular officer and the regular Civil servant. Then you have the temporary officer, who is dealt with as I have described. If he suffers from illness or disease due to military service he is treated like the Regular officer—that is, he gets eighteen months on full pay. If he suffers from disease not due to military service, he gets full pay for three months. The temporary civilian employed in the War Office gets sick leave on full pay not for six months, but for six weeks—that is to say, half the period allowed to the officer holding a temporary commission. Roughly speaking, therefore, the officer gets twice as much sick leave on full pay as the civilian in either case. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Colonel Weigall) spoke a little while ago and said at the beginning of his remarks that he wished to correct and amplify what I had said on Thursday. I noticed the amplification, but I listened in vain for the correction. My hon. Friend, whom I am very glad to see in his place, has done a very great deal, and so have other Members of this House who have served in similar positions under the Chief Inspector, Quartermaster-General Services. My hon. and gallant Friend has done a very great deal in this direction and spoke with some feeling in regard to the difficulty and delay in erection of certain glycerine plant at the camp to which he made reference. He spoke with an intimate acquaintance of the Departmental difficulties. I think it will be obvious to everyone that when you are starting an entirely new business it may be that the scheme appeals to everybody, and where you have some question as to whether it is going primarily to benefit munitions or the War Office, then I submit it is a proper subject of negotiation between the two Departments as to who should pay for it. I think that is the history of the delay which occurred in connection with the erection of this plant, and I am sure that nobody rejoices more than 175 my hon. and gallant Friend and myself that the plant has been so singularly successful.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
I would like to say that the information I have had respecting the Western Command is that a great deal has been done to reduce the amount of waste that has occurred at the camps, but I would like also to say in connection with that matter that you cannot get a comparative table dealing with the various commands or depots. It is absolutely impossible to do so. You might get a report from a certain depot which indicated that a saving had been effected and that might be caused by the extremely bad cooking and which might result in the men being obliged to use some of their pay to buy food in the canteen or outside. The Army representatives ought to do their best to get better cooks. Less than forty-five minutes ago I was speaking to two soldiers who told me that whilst the supply of food at a depot in Ireland was extravagant they really could not eat 25 per cent, of it owing to the cooking. Within seven weeks they were moved to a depot where there was 50 per cent, less food and it was sufficient because of the cooking. Thus it is absolutely impossible to get a comparative table of results between depot and depot.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
The hon. Member's complaint lies against commanding officers. Every command in the United Kingdom now has opened schools for cookery. They are supplied with all the instructors that the Army can give them, and, in fact, the whole field of instruction is as wide as it can be. As long as you send keen, alert, intelligent men to be trained your cooking will improve. I am afraid up to now what has been the practice in regiments, when they have a slovenly, dirty soldier, is to say, "Do for goodness sake make him a cook, and we will never see him again '"
I would not like to condemn commanding officers as strongly as the hon. and gallant Member, but I quite agree with the condemnation. In the direction of cooking I think a great deal of economy can be effected. In connection with the Financial Secretary's Department I have received a large number of complaints regarding the abolition of working pay for men in the Army who are really doing the work of skilled engineers. Up to December last those men received 2d. 176 per hour working pay, but from the 1st January that pay has been stopped. Those men are working longer hours and probably harder than men who are doing military duties. They contend, and in my opinion rightly, that they ought to continue to receive working pay. They are doing extremely valuable skilled work which can only be done by skilled men. I appeal to the Financial Secretary to take the position of these men into his sympathetic consideration. I know that a great deal can be said in favour of the argument that these men are soldiers, and that therefore their services ought to be utilised with the best possible advantage to the nation. If these men are really doing important work, and working longer hours than men putting in a number of drills, those services ought to be recognised.
The question of promotion and the manner in which young officers are dealt with was referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Major Newman). I have had quite a number of instances given to me—I do not give the names—where young officers trained for two or three or six months in this country and then sent to the front have been called on, in one instance after seven days and in another instance a couple of months, to resign their commissions as officers. In one instance a young officer, who is in the Artillery, never had charge of a section in this country, but when sent over to France he was put in charge of a section and in some way or other technically failed to perform the duties he was expected to perform. My point is that the judges of these men are, generally speaking, old military men who have been accustomed to dealing with young officers who have probably had two or three years' training in connection with their work. Some of these young officers have been trained under high pressure without the full knowledge of what they were expected to perform, therefore, if it is found that they had been insufficiently trained they ought not to be called upon to resign their commissions, but ought to have an opportunity of making good and an opportunity for further training. I have come in contact with one or two of the men who are acting as judges upon these young men. Some of them do not understand company drill themselves, but they can, practically speaking, ruin the career of men in the Army. The men may have been bank clerks, solicitors or 177 accountants who are sent out. If they fail, in the opinion of these military men who think they know something, they are called upon to resign their commissions. If the men who are acting as judges are unable to put a company of men through company drill, they are not fit to be judges. Unfortunately there is a very large number of these men in the Army at the present time. It is not only the military career but the civil career of these young men which might be ruined. For that reason they should not be told that they have failed to perform their duties, unless an absolutely unprejudiced tribunal has heard their appeal and inquired into the full particulars of each case. I have several cases in my possession where the officer who has made a report with regard to a second-lieutenant had not had the second-lieutenant under his command at all. Such a man is not in a position to judge the capabilities of these young men. I know that the hon. Gentleman is desirous of seeing fair play meted out to these men, and I hope he will see to it in future that these young men have a fair chance of proving that a mistake has been made with regard to their capability to perform military duties. I do not ask for anything further than that.
Several cases have been sent to me in which men have been pitchforked into higher positions over the head of men who really ought to have those positions. One case was sent to me—I do not know whether I should mention the name—in which the Earl of Shrewsbury has been pitchforked into a position over the head of a senior officer, and he has been given certain opportunities or certain privileges which are not conceded to the ordinary officer in the Army. This ought not to be. If the Earl of Shrewsbury is not entitled by merit to the position he holds, he ought to go out and give the man who is entitled to the position an opportunity of filling it. The hon. Gentleman (Sir H. Greenwood) stated that the Army Department was the only Department that realises the position. It realises the position to this extent that it got all the men it possibly could, irrespective of whether they would be serving their country better by remaining in the positions they occupied than if they served the Army. With regard to the tribunals, in my opinion they have endeavoured so far as they can to perform the duties allocated to them fairly and impartially; but when we compare the 178 decisions of the tribunal in district A with those of the tribunal in district B, those who go fully into the matter have to come to the conclusion that they differ so widely in the decisions they arrive at that either one or the other must be wrong. What we want in connection with the Army and the men required for the Army is more co-operation and co-ordination between the War Office and the various Departments dealing with the supply of labour. I only wish to say, in conclusion, that whenever I have brought a case before the Under-Secretary of State or the Financial Secretary they have given it the most careful and sympathetic consideration they possibly could.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I will deal first with the case mentioned by the hon. Member (Mr. Peto) and others. I have nothing to object to in the tone and temper of any of the speeches which were made. I have had an opportunity of going into the various statements which have been made. I consider it an extremely hard case, but there is this Regulation which was mentioned by the General Officer Commanding. The facts appear to be as they were stated by my hon. Friend. Unfortunately, this soldier asked for his own discharge in pre-war times; then he enlisted again. The contention which is made in support of the Regulations is that he had his opportunity, during seven months of the War in France, of regaining his stripes on his own merits. It was perfectly possible for his commanding officer at any given moment—the non-commissioned ranks were greatly depleted—to restore his rights and privileges. But that was not done. The analogy, therefore, is not the same as in the case of the officer who has been mentioned, who had had no discharge and who made good. It was quite within the prerogative of the King to restore him to his old rank. I have had to state what is the official view of this case. In view of the representations which have been made, I will try to reopen it and bring it to the notice of the Secretary of State, to see whether, in the very exceptional circumstances, such a hard-and-fast regulation cannot be in some way modified.
With regard to the question raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Butcher) I have a great deal of sympathy with the case of the man who is acting Lieut.-Colonel at the front and may, for 179 weeks and months, endure the dangers and difficulties of the position of full commanding officer, and yet, should he be wounded, he has immediately to go back to his former rank. A great many cases of the kind have been brought before me. I am hopeful that the Committee which has been appointed will consider that as a very special case. I will not go any further than that, but I will make it my duty to see that such a case as that will be brought before them for consideration. With respect to the other point raised, I cannot state exactly the figures, but they are very high. Of the number of men who have been taken from the non-combatant services at the front and placed, when they are physically fit, in the firing line, we are doing our level best not only at home, but in France, to get men who are physically fit into the firing line. In regard to the women's corps we published the terms on which they will be used at the front, and I have no doubt that in the course of a few days we shall be able to make a public announcement of the work exactly for which we shall require these women at the front. They will be able to relieve able-bodied men who will be able to go to the firing line. In regard to the rather technical point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Major Newman), I know the case intimately, and I would like to assure him that a temporary officer in the New Army has every single right that is enjoyed by an officer of the Regular Army, and he cannot be dismissed in the summary way suggested by the hon. and gallant Member. I can assure him that before an officer is dismissed a report has to come from the colonel to the brigadier, then from the brigadier to the Divisional officer and so on to the Commander-in-Chief in France. If he appeals—I speak with knowledge of this particular case—it comes before the Army Council. No officer can be turned out of the British Army in the summary way suggested. He can only be dismissed or asked to resign when his case has been considered and decided against him by three members of the Army Council. My hon. and gallant Friend tells me that this officer was a very morose officer.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I ask the hon. and gallant Member, who has been at the front, would he like to be led by a man of 180 that caliber? It is all very well to come to this House and denounce a certain system and a certain commanding officer, but you must remember that a commanding officer is very often a kind-hearted fellow and the last thing he wishes to do is to oust a young officer. But if he thinks it is necessary in the interests of the men it is his obvious duty to report against the officer. I happen to have been one of the three members of the Army Council who considered this matter. My hon. and gallant Friend tells me there is no Court of Appeal. There is. We have considered this case, not only once but twice.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
No. I did not see the officer. Even in civil life the Court of Appeal never sees the appellant. It is a system of the Army which has been in existence for years. It always has been the case that every officer whose conduct is in question can appeal under the Army Act. Before he can be asked to resign or be turned out of the Army he has got his chance of appeal, and a very sound appeal it is. We do not turn a man out except for very good reasons.
§ Major NEWMAN
This officer did appeal while in France and he was told by his brigadier that his appeal would not be considered.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I cannot say about that. All I know is that no such statement was made. All the facts were placed before me and my colleagues. We take a great deal of pains and devote a good deal of attention to considering fully every single case. I think that these were all the points which my hon. and gallant Friend raised.
Mr. T. WILSON
Is an opportunity given to the appealing officer to bring any fresh evidence before the Army Council?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Certainly that was done in this particular case. Not only did we decide once, but we decided twice.
§ Colonel Sir C. SEELY
Could not the man in the old days have the right to appeal to his Commander-in-Chief? Was not that a much better arrangement?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I do not know. Here you have three against one. Then you have the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief in France.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
His commanding officer sees him. The last point raised by the hon. and learned Member for York was about agrophobia. I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that this conscientious objector was very carefully examined by a very distinguished medical board, and that he produced to this board wonderful medical certificates from distinguished men, and it was really impossible to decide otherwise. This agrophobia, which I heard of for the first time, this hatred of open spaces, is a disease which, though I understand it is not certified, renders a man quite incapable of performing any duty connected with the Army. In reference to the points raised by the hon. Member for North Galway (Mr. Hazleton) I can assure him that all the individual cases receive the very careful attention of the commanding officer, but any individual cases which are sent to me will be considered.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I do not know anything about the facts, but if the hon. Gentleman will communicate those facts I will see that they are carefully investigated.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I would appeal to my hon. Friend to let us have this Vote. An opportunity for further discussion will be given next week, I think, on the Report stage.
§ Mr. KING
I cannot give way. It is not the case that I am the only Member wishing to address the Committee. About 182 half an hour ago six Members rose, which would only have left the five minutes for each Member to speak. A great deal of interest is taken in this discussion, and I wish to speak on a most important subject. Last Thursday I gave way to the hon. Gentleman on the distinct understanding that I should be allowed some opportunity on to-day's discussion. This has not been allowed to me and I cannot give way now.
§ Mr. BUTCHER rose in his place, and claimed to move "That the Question be now put," but the Chairman withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question. Debate resumed.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 12th February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at One minute after Eleven o'clock.