§ Order for Committee read.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE to the AIR MINISTRY (Major Baird)
I beg to move, "That Mr, Speaker do now leave the Chair."
The House will probably expect that I should report the progress which has been made in the creation of the Air Force and of the Air Ministry since it-was set up by the Act passed last Session. Before doing so, I hope that the House will allow me to draw attention to a point which, I think, is of importance. Parliament has endorsed, and emphatically endorsed, the view of the Government that the Air Force should be 958 considered and treated as a fighting force separate from the Navy and the Army, and, since we are engaged in war, it has to be remembered that the danger of drawing undue attention to any particular branch of our lighting services must be guarded against. There is no Air Force Estimate produced in Germany or in Austria, and I would venture to suggest to hon. Members the necessity, while criticising to the full extent that they may desire the operations of the Air Ministry, for remembering that we must not, either by question or by answer, give any information to the enemy which may render the task of our airmen more difficult and dangerous than it is already. I do not in the least wish to stifle criticism, but I do think it is necessary, in presenting for the first time a Vote which draws special attention to a most important branch of our fighting services, both on land and on sea, to emphasise the necessity for restraint in the matter of questions at this time.
Since the passing of the Air Force Act the ground has been explored by a strong Inter-Departmental Committee under the chairmanship of General Smuts, and matters were advanced sufficiently to enable the Air Council provided by the Act to be set up by an Order in Council of 21st December last. Since that date the organisation of the Ministry has proceeded satisfactorily. A Central Branch, or Secretariat, has been organised, a Finance Branch has been organised, and a General Branch of Statistics is in progress of formation. Establishments for the service directorates and their staffs have been prepared, and practically all out-standing questions as regards pay and conditions of service under the new Air Force have been decided. A Works and Buildings Department has been organised, and arrangements have been made whereby the Director-General of Lands for the War Office and the Ministry of Munitions is to perform, and is now performing, similar functions in respect of lands for the Air Ministry.
By the 1st February the organisation was sufficiently advanced to enable the Air Ministry to enter into conferences with the War Office and the Admiralty on the subject of the detailed arrangement for the actual transfer of the Royal Naval. Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps. It was agreed that the transfer should take place gradually. 959 Hon. Members will realise that, important as it is to set up a proper working arrangement here at home, the really vital matter is to secure that there shall be no dislocation of any sort or kind on the front. That is what we have secured. It has entailed an immense amount of work on the officers of the Headquarters Stall" of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, who have had to discharge double duties, but I can say with absolute confidence that on none of the fronts has there been the slightest vestige of dislocation due to this transference. The operations of the Royal Flying Corps and of the Royal Naval Air Service, as indeed the communiques have shown, have progressed with the same zeal and activity as hitherto. Under the arrangement which has been entered into with the Admiralty and the War Office—and may I say at once that we have received the most cordial and friendly co-operation from both those two great administrations—the full responsibility for new works and buildings has been already taken over, and the full responsibility for the technical air material administration and for movements and posting of individuals in the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps has also been taken over. I hesitate to prophecy,- but, if things go on as they are at present, I hope that early in the next financial year it may be possible to constitute the Air Force at home, and to start the machinery going.
The composition of the Air Council has been published. Hon. Members perhaps will desire to know the distribution of the duties among the members of the Council. The Council, as will have been noticed, is based upon the experience of the Army Council. It does not follow that will prove in the long run to be the wisest model, but it has this advantage, that the working of the Council and of the arrangements under the Army Council are thoroughly well understood by the vast majority of the officers concerned. The Chief of the Air Staff is charged with advising His Majesty's Government as to the conduct of air operations in all questions of air policy affecting the security of the Empire, including Home defence. He is further charged with liaison with the Allies, with the Admiralty, and with the Army Council as regards policy, operations, 960 and intelligence. Under his Department falls the subject of policy as to air organisations and establishments. The principles of training are laid down by him. Schemes of development of the Air-Force are also settled by him. Guidance as to the specifications of aircraft, engines, armament, ammunition, and other equipment, strategic and tactical dispositions of air stations, and general schemes for works and aerodromes—that covers, briefly, the sphere assigned to the Chief of the Air Staff. The Master-General of Personnel corresponds generally to the Adjutant-General on the Army Council. He is charged with the duties of raising the personnel of the Air Force, with its maintenance, both in officers and men, with the selection of candidates for commissions, and with the posting of officers and men to the units to which they belong.
Discipline and all legal questions connected therewith fall within his sphere, as well as the. arrangements. for the Medical and Sanitary Services. The Controller-General of Equipment combines the functions of the Master-General of Ordnance and the Quartermaster-General on the Army Council. He is charged with the supervision of the provision of aircraft, engines, armament, ammunition, and other equipment, in accordance with the schemes and guidance as to specifications of the Department of the Chief of the Air Staff, and the arrangements with the Director-General of Aircraft Production for tin- production of these stores, and for experiment and research to improve the designs and supply of all such equipment. The Director of Lands is charged with taking over, whether by agreement, or under the Defence of the Realm powers, all land required by the Ministry and the management and maintenance from an estate point of view, and subject to the requirements of the Air Service, of all lands taken over, exclusive if any constructional work. All constructional work falls within the. province of the Administrator of Works and Buildings. I may say that we have taken over en bloc the works and lands held by the Army Council and the Admiralty respectively in connection with the Royal Flying Corps and the, Royal Naval Air Service. The duties of the Parliamentary Under - Secretary of State combine, mutatis mutandis, the functions of the 961 Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for War and the Financial Secretary to the War Office. The duties of the Secretary to the Air Council comprise the general control and co-ordination of Air Ministry procedure and of the conduct of official business in the Air Ministry. Hon. Members will probably wish to know what arrangements have been made for securing co-operation and co-ordination with the Admiralty and the War office. The position is as follows: The Admiralty and the War Office respectively submit their requirements to the Air Ministry for aircraft. The Air Staff examines these requirements, either agrees, disagrees, or modifies, as the case may be, and decides, subject to War Office or Admiralty agreement. I should like to draw attention to this point, because it is quite new and extremely important in securing efficiency in the field. A conference in held weekly to discuss these points between the Staffs of the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Air Ministry, and the question whether a particular Air Force should be under the Army or the Navy for administration and operations is discussed, and recommendations are made at this meeting. The Air Council also has the power of laying down and recommending to the War Cabinet certain aerial operations, such as bombing, and the best means of carrying out those operations are discussed
§ Major BAIRD
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me. If he attempts to interrupt in his usual way, he is really delaying business. He will have every opportunity of talking. I honestly think the House would prefer me to proceed. I do not mean any discourtesy to the hon. Member. The Air Council is prepared to recommend to the War Cabinet certain aerial operations, the best means of carrying out those operations, obviously recommending where it is most suitable that the operations should be carried out, and whether the Army or the Navy should carry them out. The machines are specifically ear-marked for these operations, and organised for this work. That is briefly the essential distribution of work among members of the Air Council. Hon. Members can ask any questions in amplification, as I do not want to detain the House at any length 962 in describing in detail all the arrangements made. I naturally want to present a general sketch of the arrangements, which will give them an opportunity of raising any point they desire.
The Medical Service of the Air Force is a point to which I ventured to draw special attention when the Bill for the constitution of the Air Force was proceeding through this House. As is well-known, a very strong and representative Committee, under my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh University (Sir W. Cheyne), at the request of the Air Board, drew up a scheme for a Medical Service for the Air Force. Obviously, as with every other arrangement in connection with the amalgamation of a part of the Navy and the Army, it was necessary that the assent of the Army and Navy should be obtained to the adoption of any scheme connected with the change, and though I do not think any objection was felt by the Army or the Navy to the vast majority of the proposals which were submitted by this Committee—it was a very strong Committee indeed which sat under my hon. Friend—yet not altogether unnaturally, I think, in view of the heavy drain on the inadequate supply of medical men which is made by the requirements of the countless campaigns we are engaged in carrying on, I fancy the Army felt that the setting up at this moment of a fresh and altogether separate Medical Service might lead to friction and trouble.
We have avoided friction and trouble of any kind, whatever people may like to say, either with the Navy or the Army, up to the present; indeed, we have received their co-operation in countless ways. I may safely say that we have come to an arrangement which meets the views of the Navy and the Army, under which it will be possible to carry into effect the system advocated by the Committee presided over by my hon. Friend. After all, it is the system which is really of importance. As I ventured to point out to the House when the Air Force Bill was under discussion, the peculiar conditions under which men work in the Air Force, the strain, imposed on heart, lungs, ears, nose, and other organs, entails the obligation of a peculiar branch of medical investigation and research. Indeed, it is absolutely indispensable that the medical officers responsible for the care of the officers 963 and men serving in the air should specialise in that particular branch of medical science, and that they should not be shifted and changed indiscriminately from one place to another.
That, I think, we have secured, and we have secured it in this way. It has been agreed by the War Office and the Admiralty, and assented to by the Treasury, that the medical affairs of the Air Force are to be controlled by a Committee responsible to the Air Council. The Committee is to be composed as follows: The Director-General of the Naval Service, the Director-General of the Army Medical Service, the Vice President of the Air Council, a Medical Administrator of the Air Force, an Assistant Medical Administrator, one neurologist, one physician, one surgeon, one physiologist, and the Secretary of the Medical Research Committee. The Assistant Medical Administrator will act as Secretary. The Administrative Medical Officer will be given the substantive rank of Surgeon-General. and the Assistant Administrative Officer will be given the substantive rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. The Medical Administrator will nominate an executive staff of medical officers, and will arrange for the necessary clerical assistance. It will be necessary for the Medical Administrator to have discretion—this is important—to take action on any matter of urgency and on matters of detail which arise in the intervals between the meetings of the Committee. Such action will, of course, be reported to the Committee. As soon as possible the. medical arrangements of the Air Force will be centralised under the direction of the Committee. All medical appointments will be made by the President of the Air Council on the nomination of the Committee. Officers who are appointed to the Air Force medical posts will be seconded to that Force. Temporary Air Force commissions will be given to all gentlemen, whether officers or not, who are appointed to executive medical posts, with the exception of a limited number of officers to be nominated by the Committee for permanent commissions. All medical officers appointed to the Air Force will wear Air Force uniform. Those officers who are seconded from the Army and Navy will receive an assurance in writing that their prospects of promotion by selection in their own services 964 will not be prejudiced thereby. The Administrator of the Medical Service will have direct access to the Secretary of State for the Air Force, and the medical arrangements of the Air Force will be dealt with in the Department of the Master-General of Personnel. So much for the medical arrangements.
The House may desire to know some details as regards the Lands Branch and the Works and Buildings Branch. As an illustration of the necessity for caution in discussing matters in the House, I should like to mention that with a view to standing well with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture, who sometimes makes observations with regard to land taken over for aeroplane stations which he thinks might be devoted to growing corn, I invited my friend the Director-General of Lands, to give, me a statement regarding lands which, I thought, might be of interest to the House. I took the precaution of showing that statement to one of the officers of the Air Council, and he said to me: "If I could get a statement like that from Germany, I should be able to tell you exactly the number of squadrons they have in training, and how many men they were likely to have on the front against us this year."
§ Major BAIRD
I should have thought that was exactly what the hon. Member would say. Perhaps he will permit me to attach more importance to the views of the officer who gave me this information than I should to his views.
§ Mr. BILLING
[Hoy. Members: "Order, order!"] On a point of Order. Having regard to the remark which has been made, surely I am in order in asking the hon. Gentleman a question as to whether I misunderstood him in what he wished this House to understand. I should, there fore, like to ask him whether—
§ Major BAIRD
I do not want to inflict on the House any more information than it wishes to have. I am only trying to pick out one or two things which may be useful from the very wide range that has 965 to be covered. There is the Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, a very important scientific body, which has rendered important services in the past, and in which the House has shown an interest.
I want to show the House the continuity which we have endeavoured to preserve throughout the organisation which has been built up both by the Navy and the Army, by the Air Board and outside with a view to securing the greatest possible amount of co-ordination in the construction and administration of the Air Force. The Advisory Committee for Aeronautics was appointed in April, 1909, under the presidency of Lord Rayleigh, "to advise the Government on matters connected with flight, whether of aeroplanes or dirigibles." The work of the Committee is primarily research and the investigation of the fundamental problems of flight and the many subordinate questions to which they give rise. This research work can be classified as follows: aero-dynamics and engineering, the investigation of the problems of the stability of aircraft, chemical research, the examination of the material used in the manufacture of the machine, seaplane research, the investigation of the peculiar problems involved by flight over water and landing on the surface, and finally a large number of miscellaneous subjects from which we might choose at random the optical system of bomb sights and heat transmission.
We have endeavoured to keep this very valuable body in being, and to make the utmost use of its services because we cannot afford to neglect any possible means of improving the efficiency of our aircraft. The Advisory Committee on Aeronautics became in effect an advisory committee to the Air Board, and the expenses incurred in connection with it fell on the Air Board Vote. This position remains unchanged since the establishment of the Air Council, and the Committee is under the control of the Council, reporting to the Director - General of Aircraft Production as one of its members. Lord Rayleigh remains the president of the Committee, and its chairman is Sir Richard Glaze-brook. Its very distinguished membership is constantly changed, that is to say, additions are made with a view to keeping them thoroughly up-to-date and in touch with flying conditions. Closely connected with the Advisory Committee on Aeronautics is the Air Inventions Com- 966 mittee. This Committee was established when Lord Cowdray was President of the Air Board, largely at his instigation, and he took a very great interest in this branch of the subject and was largely instrumental in the creation of the Committee. Its function is to unify the functions of the aeronautical sections of the Board of Inventions and Research and the Munitions Inventions Department. The Inventions Committee is in form a Sub-committee of the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, from which its members are largely drawn, and to which it reports at the same time as to the Air Council
§ Major BAIRD
I cannot give the exact date, but it was in the course of last year during Lord Cowdray's presidency. The chairman is Mr. Horace Darwin, and it comprises many other distinguished scientific gentlemen. There is an Engine Sub-Committee, an Aeronautics Sub-Committee, an Armament Bomb Sub-Committee, an Instruments Sub-Committee, and a Procedure Sub-Committee, and, speaking from memory, I think in their last report they said they had examined over 1,100 inventions in the course of last month. The object, of course, is to ensure that inventors shall be given a fair chance. Everyone knows the enthusiasm an inventor feels for his child, and the disgust, indeed mistrust, which he feels when he is told his invention is not going to win the War. But it is absolutely necessary that some machinery should be created for thoroughly investigating these inventions, and the composition of this Committee and the work it does shows that we have got a very efficient body to deal with this branch of the subject. It has this advantage, that it is not composed completely of officials of either branch of the service or of manufacturers, nor anyone directly concerned in the invention. That is, of course, what we try to achieve, but in these days in the science of aeronautics it is very difficult to discover anyone of prominence who has not invented something which has been of use.
A very important change which has been made by the Air Council is the transfer of the control of the Technical Department of the Air Board to the Department of the Director-General of Aircraft Production of the Ministry of Munitions. 967 The proper place of the Technical Department has been the subject of long and earnest consideration, and it is an extremely difficult thing to settle. The object aimed at has been to bring the user and producer into the closest possible contact It was thought when the second Air Board was formed, and the Technical Department was put under its control in December last, that that arrangement would best meet the object in view. There was reason for thinking that because the heads of both branches of the Air Service and the Controller of Aeronautical Supplies were all members of the Air Board a Technical Department working directly under the Air Board would be in the closest possible touch with the users, represented by the heads of the two services on the one side, and the producers, represented by the Controller of Aeronautical Supplies, on the other side. There is no doubt that that system did secure close touch between the users on the front and the producers, but experience showed that in a supply of so varied and highly technical a character as that furnished by the Aircraft Production Department there were disadvantages in separating supply from design. I should like to express emphatically the sincere appreciation which the old Air Board felt for the zeal and efficiency of the officers constituting the Technical Department under its orders. Most of those officers have been transferred to the new Technical Department which has been set up under the orders of the Director-General of Aircraft Production. Under the new system it is hoped to secure the same close touch between the Technical Department and the users of the machines, while doing away with a gap which was found to be inevitable between those responsible for design and those responsible for production so long as the Designs Department and the Supplies Department were not united under the same head.
The use of the experimental stations of the Royal Naval Air Service and of the Royal Flying Corps has also been transferred to the Technical Department serving under the Controller-General of Aircraft Production, who also has complete control of the Royal Aircraft Factory. The relations between the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Munitions are, indeed, now technically the same as those between the War Office and the Ministry of 968 Munitions, with the very important difference that' the Director-General of Aircraft Production is a member of the Air Council, and consequently in close touch not only with the Controller-General of Equipment, who corresponds to the Master-General of Ordnance on the Army Council, but also with the Chief of the Staff and the Secretary of State. The maintenance of the closest possible relations between the producer and user of aircraft is thus assured, and a continuance of this state of affairs is of vital importance. In a branch of supply of the peculiar character with which we have to deal, that is something which has got to be striven after energetically all the time. It would be possible to enormously increase the output of machines probably if you were content to accept large numbers of standardised out-of-date machines, and it would be equally possible to dislocate the whole of your supply arrangements if you were for ever altering your type of machines in deference to certain demands from the front. Obviously if a machine comes out at the front slightly better than another machine which does its work most efficiently, no one will have anything to say to the old machine, and everyone will insist on having the new one. You have to hold the balance between those two views, and we hope that in the arrangement which is now being made, and in virtue of the personal relations which exist between all members of the Council, we have secured that object.
I am afraid I have made a very large draft on the patience of the House by this attempt to describe even superficially the main points in the organisation which we are setting up. I have done so deliberately and with intention, because I want, if possible, to convey to hon. Members the extraordinary complexity of the problems with which we have to deal, and the almost unlimited area of the field covered by the operations of the Air Board. I cannot, of course, say a word about the operations which are contemplated in the future, but hon. Members may allow me to survey the different branches of aerial activity which depend on the efficient working of the system set up here at home, and on which will depend that efficient working of the Air Ministry when we take over the complete control of the two services. Many people are apt to judge of the success of a day's operations in the air by the number of enemy machines brought down, and that is not 969 unnatural, because no one can fail to be thrilled by the thought of the splendid combats in the air, thousands of feet up. The work performed by fighting squadrons is the work which was described by the Prime Minister, with truth and eloquence, as that of the "Cavalry of the Air." It is glorious and an invaluable work. They keep up a constant offensive against enemy machines, in order to protect our machines from destruction. They ceaselessly scour the sky in search of enemy fighters whose task is to prevent our artillery ranging and photographic machines from carrying out their duties. They form a screen, behind which the other machines in the air carry out their work. The man in command of a fighting machine has his eye constantly fixed in the air in search of enemy aircraft—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member cannot behave himself, I shall call upon him to withdraw altogether.
§ Major BAIRD
I am endeavouring to describe the different phases of activity designedly, because I wish hon. Members to understand how multifarious and varied are the duties which have to be discharged by our men in the air. Hon. Members read daily the number of machines brought down. I do not know whether they take the trouble to add together the number, for instance, brought down in a month. I should like to take at random the month of September last year. In that month 139 enemy machines were definitely ascertained to have been destroyed by our aeroplanes, thirteen others wore destroyed by antiaircraft machine guns and artillery fire, and 122 more were shot down out of control. That is one month alone, and what that means can be left to the imagination of hon. Members. These duties are only a part of those which fall to the airmen in modern war. The airmen are the eyes of the Infantry, the gunner, and the Staff. The accuracy and destructiveness of our artillery fire do not depend merely upon brave and skilful gunners, on good guns, and on a plentiful supply of ammunition. Heavy guns will fire on an object fifteen miles away with a precision which would be quite impossible but for the boy in an aeroplane, miles away from the gun, who remains at his post high up in the skies, constantly exposed to the attacks 970 of hostile aircraft and continuous anti-aircraft gunfire, until he has directed the fire of the battery on to the target and demolished it. Realise' what that means ! This is the sort of work that is not reported, and cannot be reported, in the official communiqués, and yet this is the work which is being done daily and hourly by all these boy sat the front. Let me show the House what that means. On one day on the Western Front last year no fewer than 127 hostile batteries were successfully engaged for destruction with aeroplane observation. That was in one day. Twenty-eight gun pits were destroyed, eighty more were damaged, and sixty explosions of ammunition wore caused. While on this point let us not forget the work of the observation balloons. On the same day thirty-four hostile batteries were successfully engaged for destruction with balloon observation. I do not know—the man in the balloon or the man in the aeroplane—which is the braver man, but the fact remains that this is a most wonderful record, as hon. Members will agree, of work performed in the air.
It is fair to say that the airmen are not only the eyes of the gunners, but they are very much more. When we talk of batteries being engaged for destruction, what is meant is that a battery is ranged on to a target, and it continues to fire on to that target until the boy in the aeroplane says, "You have done it in, "or" You have silenced it," or that the gunners have gone away — at any rate, the target is no longer operative. Not only are these boys the eyes of the gunners, but they are the life-savers of the gunners and the life-savers of the Infantry too. Every one of the enemy batteries silenced means the cessation of bombardment of that particular sector of our trenches, which they were told off to destroy. It means so many hundreds less of high explosives and gas shells bursting among our men. The Infantry and the Staff are no less dependent upon the daily and hourly work of our airmen both for the preparation of our attack and for information as to its progress when it has been launched. The airman often brings back information as to the. progress of an attack more rapidly than it could be obtained by any other means.
Then, as regards the service rendered by our aircraft to the Infantry and the Staff. In the month of September last, on 971 the Western Front, 15,837 photographs were taken in the air. Hon. Members can imagine what that means. These photographers are constantly under fire from the anti-aircraft gunners, and are liable to be attacked by hostile scouts which may get through our screen of scouts. Imagine what would be the position of the Staff which had to plan an attack without the information given by photographs! Imagine also the task of the Infantry ordered to attack against the complicated system of pill-boxes, machine-gun emplacements, wire entanglements and trenches, of which all they could see would be the front-line trenches! The airmen who day in and day out fly over the enemy's front line, subject to constant anti-aircraft fire, and show by photographs the extent, position, and the character of the enemy defence works, render service of the very highest value. Bomb dropping, both by day and night, on aerodromes, railway junctions, billets, batteries, and other military points has become one of the constant functions of the Air Force essentially connected with military operations.
Last September, excluding Italy, 7,886 bombs were dropped on the Western Front, and in the following month 5,113 These are the short-range bomb operations carried out both daily and by night. The weight of bombs dropped was 238 tons. That was in two months. In addition a great deal of useful work is done by attacking troops from the air. In December 123,000 rounds were expended in this manner, and in January 209,000. In addition to firing at troops on the ground, it is the habit of our airmen to descend to incredibly low altitudes to drop a couple of light bombs when they have finished their ammunition. There is another branch of air fighting about which there is perhaps more knowledge in this country, and that is long-range bombing raids. With regard to these, judging by the discrepancy between the reports in German newspapers and the actual facts, the bombed are probably better judges than the bombers; but, in any case, our views and the views of the Government in regard to long-range bombing are well known, and were expressed quite unambiguously by my Noble Friend the Secretary of State. What people axe apt to forget are the number of raids which we have carried out into 972 Germany. I understand that there is an intention to raise this question later on in the Debate; therefore, I will not expatiate on it now, but may I point out that we have carried out eleven raids into Germany in rather over two months—that is, since the 1st of December—while they have succeeded in carrying out only eight raids into Great Britain, and that in spite of the fact that London, is a very much accessible and easily reached target than anything that we can operate against in Germany?
If I do not mention in detail the operations of our airmen over the sea—that is, the members of the Royal Naval Air Service—it is solely because secrecy is even more an essential element of this branch of air fighting than perhaps any other. The mystery of the sea envelopes in an equal measure those who fight on it, or under it, or over it. It is superfluous, and, indeed, it would be almost impertinent, to say that the House can rest assured that the enemy has the best reasons to regret the growing activities of our naval airmen, who are entitled to our warmest gratitude. Without disclosing any secret, it may be asserted with confidence that there is no one the German submarine commander is more anxious to shun than the British seaplane manned by the Royal Naval Air Service. The Commanders-in-Chief, both on the Western Front and in the other theatres of war, have borne eloquent testimony in their official dispatches to the splendid services which have been rendered by the squadrons of the Royal Naval Air Service under their orders. Their work is, indeed, beyond all praise.
No account of the activities of the Flying Services would be complete which omitted a well-deserved tribute to the pilots employed as instructors. These young officers, as I can testify from personal experience, having myself had the privilege of undergoing a course of instruction, spend hour after hour in the air, day after day, imparting their skill to a constant stream of novices, at whose hands they frequently run the greatest possible risks. As it was put to me, with bluntness but with truth, by an officer of great experience in training, "They spend many hours every fine day in the air with a young man who is doing his best, quite unintentionally, but nevertheless with disconcerting determination, to break their necks." Everyone of these instructors would 973 prefer to be on active service with a chance of showing his skill against the enemy, and they are entitled to our tribute of admiration for the way they forego the chance to which every young man aspires of obtaining praise for service in the field. Last, but not least, let me say how much the flying men owe to the splendid work of the equipment officers and air mechanics who look after the machines. No one who has not seen it can realise the ceaseless and self-sacrificing activities of these men, and the resourcefulness and skill which they display. They are prompted with the same spirit of enthusiasm and pride in their service which appears to be the birthright of the airman.
I have necessarily referred only to the Western Front. Do not let hon. Members forgot that what has been said about the Western Front applies equally to Mesopotamia, to Egypt, to Macedonia, and to every centre of operations, be it by land or sea, with which we are now engaged. If I have not mentioned any of these other theatres it is because I have already taken up too much time of the House. I have tried briefly to sketch some of the activities of the splendid service whose interests it is the duty of the Air Ministry to watch over. It is a service whose record already entitles it to the respect and admiration not only of the two great Services from which it springs, but of the Empire as a whole, for every part of the Empire is represented in the Flying Corps. Australia has its own flying squadrons, which have rendered invaluable service at the front, and some of the most efficient officers and men in all branches of both Wings of the Flying Corps have their homes in Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and India. The comradeship of the air has indeed spun one more strand in that invisible but unbreakable thread which unites all citizens of the Empire in advancing civilisation in times of peace and in defending it in war.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
May I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend on the speech which he has just made. It is a great privilege for any Minister to have been able to introduce the first Air Estimates that have ever been introduced in this House, and we are all much indebted to him for the way in which he has endeavoured to show us what the Air Services are doing. I would like to 974 thank him personally for the extraordinarily interesting speech he has delivered, which, without giving information to the enemy, has told us of the different forms of fighting which are taking place on the Western Front today. I should like also to agree with him in his request that no criticism should be made this afternoon which can by any possibility be a help to the enemy. Personally, I have made many speeches in this House on this air question, and, although I have criticised the administration from time to time, I hope and think I have said nothing which could give help to His Majesty's enemies. I intend to pursue the same course this afternoon, and my speech will be largely one of quite honest congratulation to my hon. and gallant Friend and to my Noble Friend the Secretary of State (Lord Rothermere), and to all connected with the Air Service. We can congratulate the Air Service on what they have done on all fronts. In times of peace I have criticised not only the personnel but also the supply of machines and other parts of the organisation, but I do not think it necessary now to make any criticisms of any kind with regard to our Air Service. Hardly a day ever passes without several people asking me, "Are you satisfied now, at last, with regard to the Air Service at the front?" One who strives at securing perfection can never perhaps be absolutely satisfied, but so far as anything short of perfection can go I am delighted to say that I am satisfied with the enormous advance made by the Air Service on the different fronts.
Nothing is necessary to be said and nothing, indeed, can be said with regard to the personnel. It would be impertinent to attempt to gild the lily with regard to the wonderful work, bravery, and devotion to duty of these young men to whom reference has been made by my hon. and gallant Friend. I should like also, and I think it comes within the purview of this Debate, to congratulate the Air Service upon the great and vast improvement in the defences of this country against air raids. Day by day, or night by night, when these raids come, although it is perhaps impossible to secure complete immunity, we are satisfied that the defences are infinitely better than they were a year ago, that the guns are better, that there are more machines at the disposal of the Home Defence Forces to fight the German forces, and 975 that other devices have been adopted which are making it more and more difficult for the Germans to invade us. I should also like, in giving this meed of praise, not to exclude' the Secretary of State himself, and, in doing so, I am quite sure, on behalf of many Members of this House, I may tender him our sincere and heartfelt sympathy in the loss he recently sustained. Lord Rothermere has only been a short time at the head of the Air Force. When he went there he knew very little of the Air Service. I have been in touch, as everybody knows, with what one may call illicit channels of information with regard to what goes on in the Air Service, and I can assure the House that those same channels of information, which years ago brought me disquieting statements with regard to the progress of our Air Force, are now bringing me very much better statements which lead me to the belief that there is a real driving force at the top and permeating the whole system.
I suppose my hon. and gallant Friend would hardly be satisfied if I did not say something in criticism of the speech he has made this afternoon, but not in any degree hostile criticism. I cannot help feeling that we are still largely in the same stage of transition as we were in when my hon. and gallant Friend made his speech on the Second Reading of the Air Bill on the 13th November, 1917. In that speech my hon. and gallant Friend told us exactly why it was necessary to have this union of the Air Forces under a new Order in Council. He said that while the Air Board supplied the material the Army Council supplied the personnel, and he gave other illustrations where one Department supplied one portion and the other Department another portion. Honestly I am bound to say that, as far as I can gather, that is more or less the present position, and the Air Forces themselves are looking forward to the time when the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to announce to the House the issue of Orders in Council consolidating the two forces into one. At the present moment, I think, he will admit that not Lord Rothermere but Lord Derby is responsible for the personnel of the Air Force. He is responsible for promotion and pay while the Admiralty, of course, is responsible in the same way for the Royal Naval Air Service. Three months have elapsed since the Bill passed into 976 law, and two months, or rather ten weeks, since the Air Council was created. I do not want to push the hem. and gallant Gentleman too far, but I do want him to use the utmost dispatch to secure the issue of the Orders in Council, so that we may have a real union and so that the Minister for the Air may be the real controlling factor to whom the officers of all ranks in the Royal Flying Corps may look, instead of, as at present, to the War Council or the Board of Admiralty, as their head. In addition to that there is a real feeling of anxiety among these young men to know-exactly what their position is going to be under these new Orders in Council. The House will remember that the Bill creating the Air Board was a purely skeleton measure. We passed it. because we wanted to get the Board set up as soon as possible, and we relied upon the statements of my hon. and gallant Friend, and of the Leader of the House as well, that Orders in Council would be issued and laid before the House which would give us exactly the terms under which these men are going to be transferred, or to transfer themselves, from the Army and Navy respectively to the Air Force. But we know nothing of those terms yet, and I do suggest that the time has come when the Air Service may at least press, as I now on their behalf press, that these Orders in Council shall be issued, so that they may know exactly where they stand.
My hon. and gallant Friend referred to the Medical Service. I see behind him the hon. Member for Edinburgh University (Sir Watson Cheyne), who took part in the Committee which was set up to consider the establishment of this new Medical Service. Here, again, I should think that between the Air Board and the Army there has been an accumulation of machinery set up which it would be much better to wipe out altogether. Let us have an Order in Council establishing the right of the Air Board to have a special Medical Service of its own, apart from the Army Medical Corps. My hon. Friend opposite will, I hope, speak later on with regard to technical details, and T do not propose therefore to go into them now, but I do say there is an absolute necessity for a technically trained physician to be attached to every detachment of the Air Service, I will not say at the front, because there they have the services of the Army physicians handy, but in this country. I do not think I am giving any help to the enemy if I tell the hon. and 977 gallant Gentleman that I can take him to a training detachment in this country where there are some 700 or 800 men under training who not only have no medical man attached to them, but whose aerodrome is not even in telephonic communication with a medical man. That, of course, must be put a stop to at the earliest possible moment. It is not right that this should be the case. These young men are going up and risking their lives every day in the course of their training, and they ought to have a medical man on the spot. I think, also, if there were a medical man with real scientific knowledge of the effects of the air upon young men, a large number of accidents might be prevented by the medical officer testing the men before they go up.
The question of the Medical Service leads me to the question of accidents. I do not mean accidents or casualties at the front; they are items in the War which must, of course, be faced, and they are reduced to the lowest possible minimum. I am referring, however, to casualties at home, in training. Every Member of this House who reads the newspapers from day to day must be impressed with the number of young and gallant officers, some of our own Service and some of the American Service, who have been killed in the course of training. I do not suggest for one moment that many of these accidents are otherwise than absolutely unavoidable, but I do want to urge upon my hon. and gallant Friend that there is a grave responsibility on the Air Council at the present time to consider what can be done to minimise these accidents. I do not think any advantage would be gained if I were to give the House the total number of fatal accidents last year; it was very great. I am speaking now of purely training accidents, not out in France, but among those who are actually training here, and I want to ask my hon. and gallant Friend to overhaul the system of training. I have the honour of acting on a Committee dealing with the subject of aerodromes, and I therefore know something of the question. There was a very interesting article which appeared in the "British Medical Journal" last month, and which was written by Dr. Græme Anderson with regard 'to his own investigation of accidents, he having been for three years a medical officer in the Royal Naval Service in this country. He was dealing with the statistics for six months, and in that period there were fifty-eight 978 accidents— complete crashes, all of which were fatal to the aeroplanes themselves. The House will realise that the crashing of an aeroplane means the loss to the country of something like from £l,500 to £2,000, according to the type of the machine.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Six months. These, are matters which have been published in the journals of this country. The result of the investigation into these accidents showed that one arose from defects in the aeroplane, seven through the aviator losing his head, four from brain fatigue, four were unavoidable, and forty-two were attributable to errors of judgment, and the errors of judgment generally were either in rising from the ground or in landing. I think, out of forty-two cases, thirty-eight were due to errors in landing. Now "errors of judgment" is really only another name for insufficient training and insufficient practice. It is fair to assume that if these young men had had more training they probably would not have committed these, errors of judgment— certainly not in the whole of the cases— and I do suggest to my hon. and gallant Friend that either he or the Noble Lord at the head of the Air Service should appoint a Committee to go more fully into this question, because it is one of vital importance. When speaking in this House a few years ago on the same question of accidents, they were generally attributed to faults in the aeroplanes. I am speaking, of course, of pre-war accidents. In those days the men had more time to train and more leisure, and gradually the accidents grew fewer in number. But during the War the number of accidents has increased, and I am afraid it is likely to increase, because,, instead of training on the older and slower type of aeroplane, as they formerly did, the men are now bound to train with the quicker and newer type of machine. This, puts upon my hon. and gallant Friend a very grave responsibility to consider whether the arrangements made two or three years ago, when young men trained on the slower type of machine, do not now need reviewing, as they have to be trained on quicker types of aeroplanes. I have one other smaller question as to which I should like to say a few words. The House will agree with me, I think, not only that a Medical Service should be established, but that there should also be a 979 Chaplains' Service for this new force We have chaplains in the Army and in the. Navy, and I am quite sure one of the first things my hon. Friend will do as soon as he can will be to establish a Chaplains' Service also in connection with the Royal Flying Corps. The real question—and I want to touch it very lightly this afternoon—upon which the which secret of success in the Air Services depends is the question of production of efficient aeroplanes and aeroplane engines. On many other occasions I have spoken on this matter. I have urged and urged again that the Air Services should look ahead year by year, and should not merely be content with catching up with the enemy, but should go one better, and, instead of making a 250 horse-power engine to compete with the German, they should go for a 300 or 500 horsepower engine. Production has, of course, increased enormously since we discussed this matter in the House a year ago, but although I will not give the figures, I do not think I can give information to the enemy if I say that production has not come up to the figures of the estimated engine production given to this House by the Prime Minister in July of last year. I will not give the percentage in regard to which they were below the figures given by the Prime Minister, but it was a considerable percentage, and I want my hon. and gallant Friend to see whether that percentage cannot be wiped off, and whether the figures of the Prime Minister cannot be not merely come up to but exceeded in the near future. [An Hon. Member: "Strikes!"] I have made inquiries, and I think that the strikes which have taken place could not have accounted for anything like the amount by which production fell below the estimate. Of course, with regard to strikes in this country and at this period, it is hardly necessary for any Member of Parliament to say a word as to the disloyalty, almost treachery, of any man or woman who may engage in a strike at an aeroplane factory when the life and death of these men depend on the output of aeroplanes and aeroplane engines.
On the other hand, I venture to suggest that so serious is this question of production that my hon. and gallant Friend should arrange, as I think he could do, with the Ministry of Munitions, who are primarily responsible for the output, to get more closely in touch with the 980 workers engaged in these manufactures, and that he should send some of his younger officers— perhaps some of the wounded men— back from the front right down into the aeroplane and engine factories of this country, in order that they might, heart to heart, tell the men and women working there something of the needs of the work, and the consequences of any delay in the output. I have a real faith in the working man of this country. Perhaps I may refer again here to an another article which appeared in the Press, in last week's "Observer," touching upon this matter, and in that connection I would say that we have to realise that the workman must be a partner with us in these questions, and that it is no longer possible to treat any workman, and certainly not those in one of these factories where aeroplanes and engines are being made—because this is a matter of life and death— in the old feudal spirit. I believe that if they are approached in the right spirit, and if my hon. and gallant Friend will get some of those excellent young pilots to go to the Midlands and tell these men, heart to heart, the consequences of not turning out to the very utmost of their power aeroplanes and engines the workmen of this country will respond to his call, and that we shall hear nothing more in this present year of strikes in aeroplane works. I want to concur with my hon. and gallant Friend also in what he said in regard to the Technical Departments transferred to the Ministry of Munitions, but on another point I hardly can concur. He said the people at the front were constantly altering machines, and asking for the alterations to be included. I think it is exactly the opposite.
§ Major BAIRD
I do not want to misrepresent the people at the front. What I said was that the danger was that people at the front who saw a new machine might want to discard their old machines, and might want to be supplied at once with new ones. I do not say that is the fact, but that it is a danger which has to be guarded against.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
With regard to completely new machines, I am in entire sympathy with my hon. and gallant Friend. There is no harm in telling the House what happened when I was over there on a recent visit. I was talking to a splendid squadron of men flying a particular machine. They told me that that 981 machine was the very last thing in machines, the very best there was. But while we were having tea the Brigadier said to the commander of the squadron, "Send half a dozen of your men up to"— and he named a place—'' to be supplied with "— such-and-such —"a machine." After thirty seconds the old machine no longer existed for these young men. The machine they had praised was forgotten, and they were saying, "Are we really going to have so-and-so?"
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
That is the point my hon. and gallant Friend raised, and it shows, on the one hand, the splendid esprit de corps of these men, how well they support the machines in their squadron, but how eager they are to get a new machine as soon as they can get it. What I want to guard against is the constant tinkering alterations in the hope of getting small benefits and increases of speed on existing machines. The one message that I was given to bring back, from the highest to the lowest in the Services, was, "For God's sake, tell them not to be always tinkering and trying to improve our machines. If you can give us a new one with an advance of fifteen or twenty miles an hour let us have it; but do not try to improve our existing machines by an increase of a mile or two an hour." That is the fault of the Designing Department, and I rather want my hon. and gallant Friend to put his heel a little on the Designing Department, and to try to prevent them making these constant alterations, which delay production more than anything else in the world. I want my hon. and gallant Friend to reduce the number of engines. It is no benefit to the enemy if I tell this House that at the end of last year there were actually being delivered, under contract, twenty-eight different types of engines to our Air Services, without mentioning experimental engines, which were also being constructed. Twenty-eight different types of engines, involving twenty-eight different sets of spare parts! If my hon. and gallant Friend, as I suppose he does, could only see, as I have heard, the complaints over in France and here at the great parks where the spare parts are kept, not by the thousands, but by the scores of thousands. Very large numbers of these are bound to be useless as these engines are put out of utility, and I suggest that as soon as ever it is possible my hon and gallant Friend should follow 982 the German principle of reducing the number of engines. I do not say standardise so as to prevent new improvements. Whenever I ask for standardisation I am told that that prevents new improvements; but it has not done so in Germany. Germany uses at the outside five or six types of engines. Let us use, then, eight or ten types, which would be ample, instead of the 28 different types being delivered at the end of last year.
Then I want a further output of engines. I want my hon. and gallant Friend to tell the House, if he will, that he is or he is not satisfied with the arrangements made by the Ministry of Munitions with regard to the output of aeroplane engines. It is no good our trying only to cope with the Germans as they are to-day. In that way lies no victory. I believe, and I think the House believes by now, that victory can be achieved in this War by whichever side keeps the real supremacy in the air. I do do not mean a temporary supremacy. I do not mean that we should only be able to do what we have seen done every day during the last month, the bringing down of more aeroplanes than we are losing, but I mean such a crushing supremacy as will enable us to do that over the whole of the Western Front, what my hon. and gallant Friend told us these young boys have done from day to day, completely blocking out the observation of the Gorman gunners and blinding their artillery, bombing in a ten times degree, as we have been able to do within the last six months, behind the lines. That can be done, but for that purpose I think my hon. and gallant Friend will have to make a demand from the War Cabinet, or from the Ministry of Munitions, for the allocation from some other branch of munitions work of a definitely increased number of men for the construction of aeroplane engines. I will not give the number of men in my own mind. I think I have told my hon. and gallant Friend the number I suggest. It is no good going on with our present factories. "We must increase them, if necessary double them, and for that purpose he will have to go to the War Cabinet and say that this is reaily more important now than some other branch of munitions. I do earnestly ask my hon. and gallant Friend in give his counsel in this direction, to take this matter in hand, and lo make a concrete proposition to the War Cabinet, if necessary, for the diminution of the output of some other munitions, in 983 order that this absolutely vital matter may be taken in hand, and that thousands more men may be put on to work on aeroplane engines.
I meant to say something— [Hon. Member: "Go on!"] —as to the efforts our American friends are making, and it is rather curious that they do not feel any difficulty in giving some of the figures. They appear to have no Token Votes in the American House of Commons as we have here. I do not know why we should not have heard how much we were spending and the efforts we wore making in regard to aeroplanes and air engines. Our American friends have published the fact that they propose to have several hundred thousand fitters and mechanics, and that many observers are being trained in the States, Canada, here, in Egypt, Italy, and in France. Those are public statements published in America, and they admit in their published statements that their aeroplane turn-out may be somewhat late. I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend has studied the American papers, but it is stated there—and this is a matter for us to take note of—that the aeroplane turn-out may be two months late on the period they estimated for. It is very interesting to see that they really mean very definite work in this direction, and that the first appropriation of money made by the United States Congress for this matter was for 640,000,000 dollars. That is a very large sum for a first appropriation with regard to the provision of aeroplanes, and when one remembers that in America only a year ago, when they first came into the War, there was only one factory making aeroplanes, and those only training machines, that they had not a single factory making war machines, and that they had only seventy-five officers in their Air Corps, whereas to-day in the Equipment Department alone, after eleven months of war, they have over 400 men and 1,000 civilians working in order to turn out their share and quota of aeroplanes and aeroplane engines, some idea can be gathered of what the American effort means. I wonder whether my hon. and gallant Friend would mind telling us, if he is going to reply, the position with regard to linen. The Americans are dealing very industriously with that branch of the question.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Then I will only put that in this way, that my hon. and gallant Friend should stir up both the Ministry of Munitions and the Board of Agriculture to grow more flax. There is bound to be a shortage of flax. Our American friends have noticed that, and they are dealing with the matter. I earnestly ask my hon. and gallant Friend to deal with it, or to see that the Ministry of Munitions does so. I do not know that I can ask him to go the length to which our American friends have gone, and to grow the castor oil beans in order to provide oil for the lubrication of the best engines. To show the thoroughness with which they are doing their part, I need only mention that they have sent to Bombay for these castor oil beans in order to grow the oil, so that when the time comes they shall not be short of this very necessary commodity. That show's that our friends over the water are going to do their best. But we must not rely upon them. Our primary reliance must be upon ourselves. We went into this War without the United States, and kept in it without them for two and a half years, and we are prepared to go through, even though "we do not get the help that we expect from our Allies, and are prepared to depend upon our own right arm.
I come to my final question, that of reprisals. I do not want to prevent the hon. Member who has an Amendment on this question, of such a nature that, at all events, I could not support it, from moving it, but I want my hon. and gallant Friend to be able to assure us that there is no sentiment left any longer in regard to this question, and that the Government are going to lead, and not be behind public opinion in this matter. London must be defended and is being defended very much better than it was. But I may remind my hon. Friend that when we dealt with the defence of London we were told, I think, by the Prime Minister, that we should have to submit to a possible invasion in the air and stand it, that it was impossible to bring machines from the front to defend London. Whether you bring machines from the front or keep machines here that otherwise would go to the front is the same thing. The Under-Secretary of State for War told us the other day that on one evening we had seventy machines up. I congratulate him, and I congratulate the gallant pilots who went 985 up and faced these dangers, and faced them night after night when the Hun comes over. But that involves a number of men. and a number of machines and guns being kept here which otherwise would be used at the front. That is the real object of the Germans in invading London.
The invasion of London by Germany has a definite military object, and that military object is the retention here of a large number of machines, guns and aeroplanes which otherwise might be used at the front. That object has been achieved by the Germans coming to London which keeps us using, night after night, here all these machines and men. and an. enormous mass of ammunition which would otherwise be used at the front. Does it not occur to my hon. Friend that, if we were to make the same attacks on the Rhine that the Germans make on London, Germany would have to keep machines, men and guns there, not on one spot, but along the whole of the Rhine? Every town would have to be guarded by the same number of guns and aeroplanes, and they would have to waste the same amount of ammunition as we have to do in regard to the defence of London. In other words, by instituting bombing raids on the German Rhine towns we shall ''effect a real military object, exactly the same military object which Germany has effected by keeping these machines of ours and our men and ammunition employed over here. I have been delighted within the last few days to read of the raids upon certain German towns. I do not know the population of Treves and Thionville, but I believe that it is something like from 50,000 to 70,000. Now, I do not think that that is going to affect in any degree the psychology of the German nation. It is very much the same as bombing an unfortunate town on the south-east of England, which does not have the same effect on this nation as the bombing of London. I do not mean that London is frightened by the bombing or that the spirit of the people is in the least degree frightened. The effect of this bombing on the people of London has not been to make them frightened, but to make them angry with the Prussian military spirit, which has caused these ruthless cruelties to women and children here, and in their anger they demand that reprisals should take place, certainly whenever a raid takes place here. But I am not satisfied with the 986 bombing of these small towns. I do not think it will have the psychological effect upon the people of Germany which a real, definite bombing raid upon frankfurt, Cologne, Essen, Dusseldorf, or some of the large manufacturing towns on the Rhine, would have. If we could only go over a portion of Cologne and bomb it thoroughly it would have a vast effect.
A raid at this particular moment would have a great effect on the psychology and morale of the German people. This Way-is going to be won by morale. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War, in the last sentence of his speech yesterday, referred to the morale of the people here and the morale of the people of Germany, which will come into conflict, and which will decide the War, and not the morale of the German or British troops at the front. That statement, which was the conclusion of the hon. Gentleman's speech will be the concluding statement of my own speech" to-day. The War will be won by whichever country can keep its morale longer. I think that here we are keeping our morale up. The bombing of London angers us, but does not frighten us: but from what study I have been able to make of the psychology of the German people the bombing of German towns will not anger them, but will frighten them and break their morale. It may be said that we have not the necessary machines. That undoubtedly is a sufficient answer on the part of Lord Rothermere. It is not a sufficient answer on the part of the Government, the bulk of whose members have been in office throughout the War. Everybody knows—I am giving no secrets away —that the machine upon which the Gotha was founded in an English machine, the Handley-Page machine, which has been in existence and working for over eighteen months. It is known—the information was released by the Admiralty two months ago—that that very machine flew from here to Constantinople by stages, carrying five men, with all their bedding, all their spare parts, and in addition two huge spare propellers. It carried the whole of that cargo from here to Paris, from Paris to Marseilles, from Marseilles on to Salonika, and on to the particular place from which it bombed Constantinople. It has also been made public that on the particular raid when bombing Constantinople it took seven hours to fly there and back. There you have had a machine for eighteen months. I do not know who is 987 responsible for not having built that machine by hundreds, and, if necessary, by thousands. It could have been done.
I an going to ask my hon. and gallant Friend to put these matters before the Air Council and to lay down a definite programme. It is too late, of course, for the summer offensive of this year, but if the War is to go on next year it is not a moment too soon to do it now. There should be a definite programme for the production of large types of machines with high-power engines. I do not want to go into details, but I would like the hon. Gentleman to come to the House, now that we have got an Air Ministry, an Air Council, and an Air Force, within the next month or two, and to state definitely, "We have laid down a policy which we believe will be efficient, and we believe that that policy can be carried out," and if that policy is not carried out by next year we shall be able to say to them, "You are responsible. You assured the House of Commons that you had laid down a scheme which you had satisfied yourselves could be carried out." We do not want to know the details, but we do want to say that you will be held responsible. In conclusion, I may quote a word from the responsible Minister on the question of reprisals. He said:As an Air Board we are whole-heartedly in favour of reprisals. It is our duty to avenge the murder of innocent women and children. As the enemy elects, so it will be the case of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and in this respect we shall slave for complete and satisfying retaliation.''The Air Minister had no right to make that speech unless he was in a position to carry it out. I hope that he is in a position to carry it out. The people of London have been anxious during these last few months, and particularly during these last few weeks, and they may possibly be more anxious during the succeeding months of the War when the fight is taking place at the front and the fight is taking place here, and they will be anxious to see those words translated into action. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend, if he agrees, as I suppose he must agree, with the statement of the Air Minister—
§ Major BAIRD
I have already said so. I have said that there will be no alteration in the policy as stated by him.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am delighted to hear that we are to have a satisfactory form of retaliation, and that my hon. and 988 gallant Friend and his colleagues on the Air Board will do all they can to see that we are supplied with the necessary machines and the necessary men to carry this war into Germany.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
Out of consideration for other hon. Members who may desire to address the House I do not intend to attempt any tiling in the nature of a general speech, though when the Air Force Bill was before the House I was a not unfriendly—and, I hope, not an entirely ignorant—critic of one or two of its provisions. I follow the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down to this extent, that as an officer who has had two years' experience on the London anti-aircraft defence, and who, I am afraid, did very little to encourage the dissemination of the illicit information to which he referred, I should like to associate myself with him in the testimony which he has borne to the really extraordinary advance of the Staff work in modern times. I am greatly tempted also, but I shall not be tempted to the point of breaking official reticence by his reference to the Handley-Page machine, as I happened to be in that particular place at the time.
I desire in the very brief speech which I shall make to confine myself to one particular point. Yesterday, on the Army Estimates, I was enabled to raise the question of the expenditure of a large sum of public money on an aerodrome in Ayrshire which has since been abandoned. I am very sorry that I should have to relate this curious romance, as it were, after the fashion of a serial story or a feuilleton, in penny numbers day by day, but, owing to the odd system of watertight compartments in Government responsibility, which makes so great a contribution to the lengthening of Debate, I am afraid that I cannot realise the laudable desire of the votary of the axe who wished that the powers that be I ail only one head which could be severed at a blow. The reason is this: The War Office, at a cost of about £500,000 made a. little home and presented it as a marriage settlement gift to these young people, naval and military, who have been joined in what I hope is harmonious matrimony under the auspice; of my hon. and gallant Friend and his advisers at the Air Board. In regard to this aerodrome, one would expect on the part of this young couple becoming gratitude towards a rich relative for this handsome establishment in life. But, 989 amazing to say, not merely do they omit to thank the fairy godmother, but they actually reject the proferred gift. On what principle have they abandoned that aerodrome? Surely not on the plea of sturdy financial independence, because even in these days of Token Votes I can hardly conceive a sane Department, whose acts are subject to review even by the most torpid House of Commons, rejecting money which is borne on someone else's Estimates! I do not suppose that they said, "Take your dirty money away: the Air Board fara da se." Nor again, though we hear tales of troubles with the parent of both Services before this happy union, do I suppose that the refusal to accept supply was actuated merely by the classic instance of mistrust, Timeo danos et dona ferentes. I dismiss as impossible these obviously absurd hypotheses. But we are driven from absurdity to absurdity. Did the Air Force refuse an aerial gunnery school because they did not want a gunnery school? Obviously not. Did they refuse a school because it was in a. thinly populated area? Again, no. Did they refuse the place of the not insuperable engineering difficulties?
Here we come to- more debatable ground. My information is that as regards the targets, the moving targets, these difficulties had been in substance overcome—not completely perhaps; certainly at disproportionate and unreasonable cost —that is not arguable on this occasion, and it is a matter which does not interest the Air Ministry—but I understand, and I shall be corrected if I am wrong, that the targets have been worked and inspected by brass hats innumerable. I take leave to say, though the Minister was unable to give me a precise answer yesterday on the point, that the aerodrome is, in fact, a going concern, that there is landing for aeroplanes and seaplanes, and that the targets may be made to move. I therefore dismiss the solution that the school is not ready, and that it is in an inchoate and imperfect state. It may in some respects be only begun, and therefore only partly finished, but there has already been so much throwing good money after bad that I can hardly imagine that, if it were possible to finish the job for a mere £100 or so, the Air Ministry would refuse half a loaf and start doing the work again. I ask again, Why have they abandoned it? I heard some whispers of air-pockets. Surely you could have found that out before you started. The air was 990 always there before. There is no apparent reason, but what is apparent, and not denied, is that there has been mess and muddle, hesitancy and waste. If we are here for one purpose more than another, we are here to see that there is no sloppiness in the spending of other people's money. This is a House of Commons case, and I trust they will press it to a finish.
§ Sir WATSON RUTHERFORD
I wish to say a few words upon this subject from a purely business point of view. We listened to-day with very great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who brought forward this Vote. He described to us the constitution of the Air Ministry, and I am sure that it was very necessary that the House of Commons should understand how this Ministry has been constituted. He also told us about the Medical Service, and he enumerated and described the manner in which a number of difficulties had to be got rid of between the War Office on the one hand and the Admiralty on the other. Then he told us, what I confess gave me a very large amount of satisfaction, that the Board will not neglect any means to improve construction and output. It was borne in upon me, a few months ago, as an ordinary business man in the City of London, and as a. Member of this House, that this question of the Air Service was perhaps the most important question in relation to the War, and our success in it, and, in the time it is going to last, it will probably be the most important question we will be called upon to consider. I made some inquiries as to the conditions under which success is to be attained. I found, after very short inquiry, that we had got the men. I found that both in the Army and in the Navy there were hundreds of young men who were only too anxious to go into the Air Department as soon as there was room for them. They were exactly the right material to carry out the Air Service. I made inquiries in a number of other directions, in order to ascertain what it was that prevented our Air Service from almost immediately attaining the proportions and achieving the success which, it seemed to me, that the presence and enthusiasm of these young men would otherwise have given. I found that it was merely a question of output and the efficiency of the necessary machines. I was exceedingly sorry when the hon. and gallant Member sat down, after making his speech to us to-day upon 991 this Estimate, without giving the House any indication whatever as to output, and improvement in output both as to the number and quality of the machines.
I went a step further, and thought I would make inquiries as to where and how our machines were at present being constructed, and I found that they were partly being constructed in official Government works, and very largely by private enterprise. I selected the largest private enterprise works in existence in England. I went to see for myself, and to make inquiries as to the amount of output, and the conditions under which the work was being carried on. It seemed to me that, from the business point of view, these were matters which ought to be gone into. As soon as I found out the facts, I made up my mind that at the very earliest opportunity I would bring the subject before the House of Commons. These are the facts which I ascertained. In the first place, the works to which I went are the largest private works in the country for the making of aeroplanes, and they are there making them exclusively for the Air Ministry. I found that these works had been established about three years ago, that during the last few months their output had been doubled, that it was now a very extensive place, and that the wage bill was £11,000 a week. There was a very considerable amount of activity going on in this important works, contributing very largely to the supply of aeroplanes for our Service. I endeavoured to ascertain what it was that prevented those works from turning out ten times the number of machines per month. I could give the House the figures as to the number of machines turned out last year and this year, but I understand that it is not considered advisable that these figures should be given to the public; therefore, I will not repeat them, but the number was very considerable, over one a day—well, very much more than that. I was at once informed that this particular works—and I have satisfied myself, as a business man, that it was a fact—could in three months double its present output if it had the money. I asked, "Why cannot you get the money?" The reply was, "We have got the money offered us, but we are not allowed to take it." I said, "What, you have got the money offered you to double the output of this place in three months, and your output is one-fifteenth of the 992 whole of the aeroplanes in the United Kingdom to-day, and you could double that in three months if you had the money, and you are not allowed to get it! What is the answer?" The answer was that they had got the money offered to them, that they had applied to the Treasury for permission to issue, fresh capital, but the Fresh Issues Committee and the Treasury had prevented that issue from being made, and that capital being subscribed, and therefore had prevented the output from being doubled within the next three months. I think objection had been made six or eight months ago, and they were still being prevented. I put down a question on the subject to the representative of the Air Ministry in this House. I asked the Under-Secretary for the Air Ministry:Whether the Air Ministry have refused to recommend the Fresh Issues Committee at the Treasury to sanction the proposed increase of capital of White hand Aircraft (1917), Limited; and, if so, on what grounds: whether he is aware that this concern has within a few months doubled its output; whether he is aware that the concern could readily obtain the £750,000 additional capital it desires permission to issue and has acquired the necessary land, and could again double its output in a few months: and if he will explain why facilities for so doing should be withheld, having regard to the constant wastage and urgent necessity for properly constructed machines?The answer I received a few minutes ago is this, and it is absolutely untrue, to my knowledge:The Ministry of Munitions will not oppose any reasonable scheme for raising capital by public issue." —That is exactly what they wanted to do in order to do good work, and it was refused. The answer goes on—The Ministry of weapons can meet its programme of requirements from facilities existing and arranged for, without necessity of further extensions to Messrs. Whitehead.Did anybody ever hear such an absurd reply as that? What we want to do, it seems to me as a business man, is to be able to provide an overwhelming force of properly constructed aircraft, in order that the service may carry out all these splendid works which the hon. and gallant Member has so eloquently described to-day, which are being carried out, and which could be carried out with proportionate success if we had machines enough to enable us to do so. The Ministry of Munitions, they say. could do all that is wanted. They could do nothing of the sort. The machines are at present being principally constructed by private enterprise, and I have no hesitation in 993 saying that private enterprise will construct ten times the number. I have satisfied myself, as a business man with forty years' experience in business, that two days' cost of the War—twelve millions of money—put down to-day in increasing the existing facilities for the manufacture of aeroplanes would place us, within the next three months, in such an overwhelming position of advantage with regard to this most, important service that it would help us to win this War much more quickly than we have any chance, I am afraid, of doing so otherwise. I have no interest, not a penny, personally, financially, or in any other way, in this particular concern. I simply went to it in order to try, as a business man, to get to the bottom of what it was that was preventing us from getting the necessary aircraft that we wanted, I found that the wastage of machines was something terrible, with the hundreds of machines that met with all sorts of accidents every month which incapacitated them from service, and that if we are to be successful with regard to our Air Service we must have a continuous and increasing supply of the very best possible machines. The hon. and gallant Member finished his reply to my question in this wayThe issue of capita] is asked to pay off financial liabilities in the way of advances made by the Ministry of Munitions.That is the part of the answer which I do not hesitate to state is absolutely untrue. The amount that this company ask for authority to issue is £750,000. That is the amount which friends of theirs have offered to give them and of which they have got the promise in cash in exchange for the shares. The Fresh Issues Committee refuse to authorise the issue of those shares unless the Air Board will give its support to the application. The Air Board have refused its support to the application and on what ground heaven only knows! Those that are stated here are not true in the answer which has been given to me to-day. The total amount which the Ministry of Munitions have advanced to this concern is £200,000. The sum of £750,000 is not wanted to pay off only £200,000. The other £500,000 is wanted for the construction of new works. I said to the managers of this concern, in which again I hope hon. Members will believe me when I say I have no interest whatever, "What do you suppose for a moment, or what can you suggest will be 994 the answer of this Government Department when I put this question?" They said, "We. cannot think of any possible reply, except that there may not be a sufficiently rapid advance in the construction of engines in order to engine these aeroplanes, because the engines are made in another place." That is not in this answer, and there is no reference here to engines. I said, "Supposing that was the answer," and the reply to me was, "We can make the engines and are willing to make them, and we can engine all our own aeroplanes if they would only allow us to get them constructed." I am speaking somewhat strongly upon this question, because in several directions I have found that this Fresh Issues Committee has stood in the way of progress, has stood in the way of advance, has stood in the way of business, and at the present moment is standing in the way of our success in the War. I think it is time that it was told that it cannot be allowed to continue that sort of attitude. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who is a very active member of this Committee, has been noted for a good many years in this House as one of the most successful obstructionists that we have ever heard of. On this occasion and in connection with this Committee he is simply excelling himself.
I do ask the House to believe that if we had double and treble the amount of aeroplanes to-day, the House can take it for granted and the country can take it for granted that we could man them. We should have, of course, to train the men, and we want machines on which to train them. One answer given by the Department which the hon. and gallant Gentleman represents some little time ago was this: "Do not let us proceed too rapidly with the construction of machines because they are going to be vastly improved in design," and so on. That is a complete mistake. Unless you allow the factories to go on and produce machines and get up their machinery and keep their skilled men together you will not have them in the position to produce the improved machines when you have got the improved design. And besides that you must have machines on which to teach and to train the men who are to do the work. Above everything. I am as convinced, as I stand here to-day, that it is the duty of this House to do everything in its power to help the 995 advance, the construction, the use and equipment of this great Air Service. I have been, as most of the Members have been, in London for a dozen of these raids, with the Germans coining over and drop-pang bombs upon us. That is not right. What this Service has done has shown us that it is the eyes of the Artillery and the advance guard of the Army, and it is able to tell us what the enemy is doing. It is capable of defending us by day and by night in our city, and the Service is one which must be increased. It is going to be the secret of our success, and the sooner we can get the numbers and equipment necessary, the sooner we shall be able to see something like the termination of this terrible War in which we are involved. I do say to my hon. and gallant Friend, who delivered to-day such an interesting and eloquent address, and whom we thank for all the time and trouble he has taken and the service he has given, for Heaven's sake to put aside all petty jealousy and all technical difficulties, and whatever concerns you have got to-day in England which are willing and competent to turn out the machines which can be made use of in this War, to allow no impediment to stand in the way of giving them all facilities for turning out the machines and enlarging their works for doubling their output, which many of them are willing to do if you would only withdraw the official difficulties which are at present standing in the way.
§ Sir WATSON CHEYNE
I have much pleasure, in the first instance, in joining in the praise bestowed on the Undersecretary to the Air Ministry for his remarks in introducing this subject, and I hope that nothing I may say will embarrass him, or the Ministry, for I know that they do not lie on a bed of roses. My name has been brought into this matter once or twice, and I feel bound to give some explanation of the question of medical attendance on the Air Forces. In doing so I am a little embarrassed, because while I wish to point out what, in my opinion, is the proper scheme for medical attendance on the Air Forces, I do not want, using the expression that occurs to me at the moment, to "queer the pitch" of the compromise which has been arrived at. My first connection with this matter occurred when I was in France, inquiring into 996 the question of the medical establishments of the Army last September. I received a letter forwarded to me in France stating that the Air Board were instituting a new Committee as to the Medical Service of the Air Forces, with a view chiefly to getting advice on the question of medical attendance on flying officers,, and in order to draw up a plan with that object, if it were thought advisable to do so. I was asked to become chairman of that Committee. That was work of national importance which I could not possibly refuse. As soon as I came back I set to work to learn all I could about the medical question as it affects aviators, because I, like most other people, knew little or nothing before, because it had not come my way. We had a very powerful Committee. There were there or four medical men independent of the Services, and some connected with the Services. In order that there should be no question as regards running foul of either the Army or the Navy, the directors of those two Services were invited to join the Committee, and we had the advantage of the presence of the Director-General of the Navy all the time. Unfortunately the Director-General of the Army was out of town when the invitation was sent, but he nominated first one member, and, as he was called away to Italy, a second member to take his place.
I should like to go into the medical aspects of the matter, technical though they be. The problem with which we had to deal was, of course, that of the accidents which occur in air work, and the question as to how far medical science could avert these accidents. One of the speakers to-day referred to a paper by Dr. Græme Anderson—a very interesting paper —in the "Naval Medical Journal," and also published in some of the other medical papers, describing six months' experience in an aerodrome, and the thing that strikes one at once is that during those six months only fifty-eight crashes occurred, which is very small considering the enormous number of flights, and only one of those fifty-eight crashes was due to a faulty machine. That is totally different from what it was a few years ago. When aviation first commenced all the accidents were attributed to faulty machines, but now we find that the factor with which we have to deal is not the flying machine but the human machine, 997 and so it makes the medical question an exceedingly important one. Napoleon used to say that an army marched on its stomach, that is to say, on its food supply. Now I think we may say the Army marches on the doctor, that is to say, on its health.
Let me tell you something about the medical aspects of aviation. The human being is constructed to live upon the earth; he is not constructed to live under water or up in. the air, and all his mechanisms are delicately knitted together for living under those conditions. The two chief conditions which concern us, as far as we know at present, are the atmospheric pressure and the density of the air—the density of the air especially, because, without a suitable density of the air, there is not the necessary amount of oxygen available, and without oxygen we cannot live. The actual degree of atmospheric pressure and the density of the air may be varied under ordinary circumstances within considerable limits. People may live on the sea level, or 5,000 or 6,000 feet above the sea level, and you can go from one to the other without great discomfort if you do not go too quickly, but take a little time in transit. The human mechanisms can then accommodate themselves, but of course there comes a limit. In climbing a mountain 10,000 feet high you take a day or two to do it, and in that time there is a certain amount of accommodation, and as, I suppose all mountaineers know, people get sometimes mountain sickness or mountain faintness, and many people are very glad to come down.
But the conditions in aviation are quite different. You go up 10,000 feet in a short time, and the human mechanism has not time to adapt itself, especially if you go still higher. After the aviator; has mounted some distance, he comes into air which does not contain so much oxygen as is necessary. He does not take in enough oxygen in one breath to meet the demands of the body, with the result that he begins to breathe faster. That does not suffice, and the heart beats quicker to enable more oxygen to be- taken in; and so you have a vicious circle established, until the aviator gets to a considerable height, when the heart begins to fail. He begins to lose consciousness; he may actually faint, and, although that is not always fatal, because in these modern machines there is a considerable amount of steadi- 998 ness, I am afraid a good many people never recover from that faintness, or, if they do, they find they are dashing to their doom.
Nowadays, of course, aviators are provided with oxygen for inhalation when they find it necessary to employ it. Aviators differ very much in the heights they can go without the supply of oxygen. The heart and lungs are not the only things concerned. Almost more important is the nervous system. On the earth it is customary to take things quietly. The nervous system is not subjected to sudden and violent shocks, but up in the air the nervous system is acting, quite unconsciously to the individual, of course, under great strain. The man is on a non-stable foundation instead of a stable foundation. The nervous mechanism is acting under great strain in maintaining the equilibrium of the aviator, and it is acting under great strain in many other ways. I do not know that any aviators are consciously frightened, but their nervous system is frightened, if you understand what I mean. The great John Hunter, who lived in the eighteenth century, and about whom a lecture is delivered every second year in the Royal College of Surgeons—and when my time came I spent nearly a year reading his books—spoke of the consciousness of the tissues. For instance, if a bone be broken and improperly set, the tissues build up a bridge, to strengthen the part. He speaks of that as a consciousness of the tissues. Although the aviator is not having any feeling of fear, the brain is conscious of the dangers surrounding him, and is getting exhausted in its efforts to overcome those dangers, and where the exhaustion comes specially is in a rapid descent from a high altitude.
Another important thing is the necessity of having true binocular vision, especially when alighting, and of having a very rapid reaction between the sight and the action. In fact in selecting pilots, one of the most important points to ascertain is 'whether the- binocular vision is good, and also the time it takes between the aviator seeing and taking action. Very often it has been discovered that one eye is not used at all. Many people are going about with one eye and are not using the binocular vision. That is an extremely dangerous thing. You could not allow a man to enter the Air Service unless you found he had proper binocular vision; otherwise he 999 might kill himself and smash the machine. Those are the chief troubles; but what I am speaking about relates to high altitudes—10,000 feet, and over. The troubles of low flying are not nearly so marked, as you find in Dr. Graeme Anderson's statement, from an aerodrome, where, of course, the greater number of the flights are not at high altitudes.
That is a very short sketch of the points that occur to anyone who is studying the medical aspects of aviation. The question arises, How are you going to avoid these dangers? And I should say that it is the trained man who runs greater risk than the man in training, because he goes to much higher levels. There are various ways in which you may deal with the subject. It is only in the last year or two that the study of the subject has commenced, but it is remarkable how much work has been already done. The Air Ministry have had people working for them for a couple of years, I believe. For research the first thing is to find out the cause of all these troubles—the exact cause. I have only mentioned very roughly some of the things, but they must be investigated in order to find out in what way they are likely to be remedied. For such research you want eminent men. You want physiologists of high standing and you want physicians. But you do not only want men who work in laboratories; they have to get in touch with actual aviators and learn by statistics and observation what happens to them. For this purpose the investigators need a set of trained doctors actually in contact with the aviators, to furnish the statistics and observations on which they build up the theories. That is the first thing you have got to do in considering the Air Service.
The next thing chiefly concerns the prevention o those accidents, and, of course, the first form of prevention is to keep out pilots who are likely to be subject to those troubles—for instance, men who have not proper binocular vision, men whose heart and lungs do not allow them to go to great heights, and men in whose case the reaction between sight and action is slow. One way to test that is to have a revolving drum with a light in the middle which comes out at one point. The man holds a lever, actuating a needle, and the moment he sees the light he has to move the lever. If it takes more than one-fifth of a second between the time he 1000 sees the light and the mark on the drum lie is no good for flying. There are all sorts of other ways of testing at the present time. The skilled man can ascertain to what height an aviator may go safely, and to what height he may go with oxygen, and in that way also a great deal can be done to prevent accidents by not allowing men who are not suitable to become pilots. Here, again, you need skill and special medical officers to make this examination. The question of air medicine has not yet got into the schools. It is not taught. You cannot blame anybody for that. It is quite a new thing, and there are only a few men who are working at it as yet. There are really very few men who are engaged in. regulating the admission of pilots who are doing this particular work. That is one point in the way of avoiding these accidents.
The other point in the way of avoiding them is that the medical man must be in daily touch with those with whom he is dealing, in constant association with the aviator. I omitted to say earlier that it is not only a matter of crashes and death to the aviator. There is something else. There is a cumulative effect of high flying on the aviator. A man goes up the first day and comes down again, and perhaps he is a little' elated. The next day, and perhaps for three or four days, much the same will happen, but then he begins to find that he is not quite up to the mark. He also begins to find, or other people find for him, that his observations are not quite so accurate. In other words, the aviator is getting stale. That is a vary important point in connection with flying, and the chief function of the medical man attached to an aerodrome, with a view to looking after the flying men, is to watch this point and see to the condition of his charges. Otherwise it may be that the man is sent up, and he comes down with a crash and gets killed. Of course, a great trouble is that the best men are sent up. A superior officer wants a man, and he asks the commander to send along one of his best men—it may be from a unit where the. medical man knows nothing about air illnesses; hence it may be disastrous for the man. What it wants here is a medical man with some force of character, who will say in a case of that kind to the general, "You must not send that man; it is not safe." This is, I suggest, the chief function of a good air doctor.
1001 We want doctors who love the airmen and the Air Service, who will keep an eye on them, and who do not drive the airman away by fussing about him — a medical man who forms his own opinion for himself, and probably meets the man when he comes down from the air after a flight and in a general way gets him into condition to be ready at any moment. He should be about when men are being selected for special flights to see that the men are in a fit condition to go up, and if they are not, to tell the commander that he must take somebody else. A man may have done himself pretty well the night before. It is then for the doctor to say to him, "My dear boy, you are not in a fit state to go up this morning "— not that he is seedy at all, but that he is not in the absolute state of training he ought to be. In fact, a medical man of the Air Service ought to stand in much the same relation to the men as an athletic trainer to those whom he trains. That man likes to keep his team absolutely in training, and the Air Force in this respect reeds very careful doctoring it needs a different class of doctoring than either the Army or the Navy. The thing is a new idea, a new conception, a novelty. The Army and the Navy medical men have, of course, instruction in a general way and for their special duties, but the Air Service comes under a special heading. I have heard many a doctor say that an aerodrome is a deplorable place to be sent to, for they have-nothing to do. If this work is done properly, you will need double the number of doctors at your aerodromes than at present. These are the chief points to which I wish to refer.
There are also what may be termed air diseases. There is one disease which is, in my opinion—I believe it is contradicted by some medical authorities, though there is a considerable amount of opinion in support of it—t one of importance, and that is what follows as the effect of reduced atmospheric pressure. I do not know whether any to whom I am speaking are deep-sea fishermen, but, if so, they will sometimes have noticed when they have pulled a fish up from the bottom something that looks like its stomach is sticking out of its mouth. As a matter of fact, it is the air bladder of the fish, and it protrudes owing to reduction of the pressure from that in the depths where the fish lives, allowing gas 1002 to escape from its blood and tissues and collect in the air bladder. A similar thing may apparently happen to the aviator at high altitudes. One of the things to which airmen fall victim is distention of the intestine, leading to great pain and vomiting. The cause of this condition at first puzzled the medical officers very much, but, as a matter of fact, the. intestines have become distended with gas, probably on account of the diminution in the air pressure, and he will get all right in a few days if he is only given a rest. These are the chief points, as far as I recollect at the moment, that I desire to bring before the House.
Let me draw the conclusions that ought to be drawn from these points. The first conclusion is that the study of the special ailments and disabilities of flying men is as much a special subject as ophthalmology, bacteriology, etc. This has been abundantly demonstrated by experience, and will not be disputed by anyone who has the slightest knowledge of the conditions which disable flying men. It follows as a corollary to the above that no medical man can reasonably expect to become efficient in the study and treatment of these disabilities unless he is prepared to devote the whole of his time and energy to the subject; and no medical man will be prepared to do this, unless he can be reasonably assured of the opportunity permanently to pursue his studies and put them into practice. If, therefore, there is to be a serious attempt to deal satisfactorily with the various conditions in question, most of which are at present very imperfectly misunderstood, it is essential to have a service of medical men specially trained for the work, accumulating knowledge with experience, with adequate inducements to devote themselves wholeheartedly, and permanently, or quasi-permanently, to this work. By no other moans is it to be expected that justice can be done to the flying man.
These are the arguments which convinced me that a special Medical Service is absolutely necessary, and the Flying Officers' Medical Committee came unanimously to the same conclusion. Further, it would be very illogical not to have a special Air Medical Service. You have a special Medical Service for the Navy and for the Army. You have a special Indian Medical Service. You have a special police Medical Service; a special Post Office 1003 Medical Service, and also special Medical Services for the Home Office, the Local Government Service, in connection with tile Education authorities; in fact, every Government Department has its own Medical Service except the Air Service.
I want to say something more about the present state of matters. It is all very well to say that we must have an Air Medical Service. It is not a very easy matter to institute such special Medical Air Service at the present time, because the Army and the Navy, between them, have taken all the doctors, and the question arises how on earth we are to get doctors for this proposed new service. The idea of those associated with me was that as the Army and the Navy between them apportioned off a certain number of doctors to the aerodromes to attend to the flying men we ought to take over the whole of that Medical Service in England, and thus get the doctors which the Army and the Navy are at present supplying for this work as a nucleus of a larger and more satisfactory service. This would cost the Navy and Army nothing in the way of men. Then we would get our share of the new men, and a number of men who are too old for Conscription, but who would be very keen on this work, would readily join it. Hon. Members would be surprised at the number of men who have written to me making inquiries about a Medical Air Service, good men who are at present in the Army, and who wish to join such a force. I do not think we should require such a great many doctors for this new Service at the present moment, but it is a growing concern, and as time goes on we should, of course, require more.
Another question which has been raised is in regard to the expense. It is said. "You are going to set up a new Medical Service with all the expense attached to such a Service." I do not know what the cost will be. I know that something was said the other day about an aerodrome which cost £500,000, and which was abandoned. That would have paid for the Air Medical Service. As a matter of fact, two or three hours of Government expenditure would be sufficient to pay for the Medical Air Service.
§ Sir W. CHEYNE
Let me take another point. "What is the value of an efficient 1004 aviator? I am told that he costs the country about £900 and his machine roughly costs about £4,000. If an aviator be killed and his machine wrecked, you lose, roughly, about £5,000. I do not like to make such a calculation because it is putting money value on a man's life, and I only mention it as an illustration. Let us consider how many of those lives and machines could be saved in the course of a year. Let us place the number at one hundred, and if you place the cost of each at £5,000 you save half a million of money and you pay for the expense of the whole of the Medical Air Service. I do not, however, think that the question of expense ought to have anything to do with the matter. Then there is an idea- that after the War we are going to have an Imperial Medical Service and the doctors are to be told off to different branches of the Services. I fancy also that there will be an attempt at interchange of the doctors. A medical man will be an air doctor for a time, and then he will probably be gent to some other Service. That does not help us as it is not being started at the present time.
We have been asked, ''Why cannot we go on as we are until the end of the War? "Well, I do not see anything like the end of the War in sight. In fact, I only see the beginning, if we are to get any decent terms at all, and till the. Germane are beaten and agree to put things right. With regard to what has been arranged for the Air Service, the length of time which was taken in coming to a decision did not suit my mind at all. I like to make up my mind quickly, and tick to it. You have heard from the hon. and gallant Gentleman who represents the Government what is the present stare of things, and in future the Air Service is to be in commission as it were under the Army and Navy. There is to bi; a Chairman of the Board, the Director of Naval Medical Service. The next man is to be the Director of the Army Medical Service, and the gentleman who represents the Air Service is to be a Medical Administrator. There is saying in Holy Writ that "no man can serve two masters": still less can he serve three.
§ Sir W. CHEYNE
hi that arrangement you have no permanence. Men are to be seconded, say from this Navy, for three years, and then they go back. That is 1005 not a real Medical Service. The Air Service will, however, be allowed to have a few officers with permanent rank. I was very worried over this matter all the winter, and I went to my hon. and gallant Friend and said, "I am going to move the Adjournment of the House, in order to bring the question of the Air Service before the House of Commons." I really was in earnest, because the thing could not go on any longer. That resulted in my being shown what was the compromise on this matter. I studied it and slept over it, and then I came to the conclusion that I should not be justified in advising the rejection of this compromise. Supposing we had said, "This compromise will not do." It would have taken two or three months before we should have got any further, and in the interval no medical men would have been in training. Therefore, I thought it was far better to accept the compromise, although I know some of the members of the Air Council were very keen about a special Service. This was all they could succeed in getting for the time being. I concluded that it was much better to take this compromise in the meantime, although I do not think it will work or meet the requirements of the Air Service. If, however, you get plenty of medical officers trained, that is the main essential, and it does not matter much about the administration. After the War you must certainly have a separate Medical Air Service. The Air Service is not going to be demobilised. It is going to be one of our great national assets, and people who travel in aircraft will insist that the pilots are certified by specially-trained medical officers to be thoroughly fit.
§ Colonel Sir HAMAR GREENWOOD
I want to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend who introduced these Estimates upon making a most businesslike and interesting speech. Most of us are very tired of the old-fashioned oratory, and we like statements boiled down. I, for one, regret the great bereavement which has come to the Air Minister in the Government by the loss of a second boy, this being the third Member of Parliament who has given two sons up to this great cause, for this is something which those of us who have not lost such close kinsmen are unable to appreciate. I also regret that Lord Rothermere is indisposed, and I regret the rumour that he is about to give up the position which I, for one, know he reluctantly undertook. I should be sorry 1006 to hear of him giving up his position, because I know he is an able administrator, and we would like such men who are at the head of the different brandies of our War Department to remain until the end of the War. I support whole-heartedly what has been said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just resumed his seat.. It is a positive scandal that this scientific Department of the Air Service has not got a scientific Medical Board perfectly free from the Royal Army Medical Corps. That corps has done yeoman service during the War, but the most enthusiastic supporter of it would not presume that it has within its members anything approaching the great knowledge of specialists like the Committee which was set up to advise the Board, and who unanimously advised the creation of a separate Medical Air Service. Here we have the latest development of scientific warfare, not advised by the latest and most highly skilled men in the medical profession, but still controlled, not only in the administrative sense, against which one does not protest, but in the medical sense, by doctors representing a negligible fraction of the medical profession now serving with the Colours, and by doctors who cannot possibly have, and who do not presume to have, the knowledge of specialists so essential to the maintenance of the physical and mental well-being of our flying men, and to the salvation of these trained athletes of the air on whom everything depends in this War. One must regret that the hon. Member who has just sat down did not stick to his guns. When he has been longer in this House, he will know that no Government ever yields to argument. Force alone, backed up with something like ridicule and contempt, makes a Government yield. He had a unanimous Committee behind him. He had on his Committee men whose names are world-wide in the great and noble profession of which he is an ornament. He had actually the support of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who introduced those Estimates.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
That is by the way. I am sure that he would act conscientiously, and I would like to be guided by his own right feeling in this matter. If he would express himself free from his Ministerial trammels, it would be a very interesting thing to hear a Minister 1007 so express himself. This Committee, unanimous in its Report, is held up, not by any body of professional men equal to it, but by the Royal Army Medical Corps, that is determined to keep within its own control all the great positions, all the pro motions, and the absolute mastery of this new force, with the initiation of which they have had nothing to do and in the medical arrangements for which they have, in my opinion, dismally failed. I can remember very well—I say it with great regret—that in the early days of the War pilots who had only been up a few hours were taken from Farnborough and sent to the front to fight trained German airmen. The medical examination had to be casual. All medical examinations were casual at the beginning of the War. We know now that the examination of an airman is like the examination of a great athlete. It is a matter of almost hourly consideration for his trainer, who must be a skilled medical specialist. The suggestion underlying everything said by the distinguished medical Gentleman who has just sat down is that at this moment we are sending these gallant boys—the great majority of them are mere boys—to fight Germans in the air without their being properly examined by skilled medical specialists before they make their ascents. it is a cruel thing. It is asking too much of these boys, who I repeat are now at this moment the most essential service of the Army, and who, if we do our duty and increase their numbers and the efficiency of their machines, will be one of the great deciding factors in this War.
I cannot but emphatically protest against the action taken by the Air Ministry in turning down this Medical Advisory Committee's Report and in refusing to disclose to the House—I myself have asked for it several times—the Report itself, so that we might form some opinion as to whether it should be carried into effect, or whether we should be governed in this, the latest scientific development of warfare, by the Royal Army Medical Corps, which has not produced one single atom of evidence to justify its control of this in some respects our most efficient Service. I want to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman in charge of the Estimates if it is a fact that during the year 1917 we lost more flying men in schools of instruction than we did on all the fronts? Of course, one does not ask for numbers, but I would like a specific answer on that point. I know 1008 he has a sympathetic ear for all the agonies o this War, and I would like to ask him if he realises the agony of a bereavement that comes to a father or mother whose son is not lost heroically fighting the enemy on any front, but whose son is lost through somebody's fault—it may be his own—Ido not say that it is not in the majority of cases his own fault —or it may be the fault of somebody else, or through some faulty machine, bad landing place, or other reasons ! Such a bereavement to my mind is a thing that ought to compel this House to take some action, and to do everything in its power to stop this awful casualty list in the training schools of these splendid young fellows who are killed before they ever see the enemy or have a chance to die in bringing him to the ground at the same time. There is nothing more cruel in this War than to have a man lost during his training. The Air Service is the only Service where the casualties in training are other than negligible. I appeal to the Under-Secretary to give us some hope that in the immediate future the sad casualty list in the training schools will be diminished, and that the Air Ministry is not boggling over money or worrying about the rights of farmers or the positions of haystacks in the face of the casualty list to which I have drawn attention, and the dimensions of which the hon. and gallant Gentleman must very well know.
I would like to pay a tribute to the splendid heroism and sacrifice of these airmen, not only from the Home country, but also, and I say it with the pardonable pride of a Colonial, of our Colonial kinsmen who came forward early in the War and produced airmen, I dare not say surpassing, because I believe that is impossible, but, at any rate, equalling the high standard set by the British airmen at home. It is satisfying to know that the American airmen who are coming over here in growing numbers, and who are being trained by our men in the United States, are developing an efficiency, skill, and courage equal to their instructors. There is nothing more gratifying than to feel that the English-speaking races are producing the finest airmen of any country in the world. Unfortunately, while we have this fine material to fly the machines and to fight the machines, it is notorious that the building programme of the Ministry is far behind its estimate, especially in reference to 1009 engines. I believe that there are many things -that the Ministry could not control that have resulted in this non-fulfilment of their estimate, but I hope that they will make no short-sighted estimate in the future, and that they and the Government realise—I have great doubts about this—the great potentialities of this great Air Service, and that this element of the air is the one element where we have not got that absolute superiority in numbers now, or shall have as the months go on, that we ought to have if we intend to make it an effective and one of the most decisive factors in the War. I am glad to think that here in England we produce the finest engine of any flying machine, in spite of what one may read, but we have not enough of them. It is a commentary on this and the two preceding Governments that in the fourth year of the War we are actually short of machines, and that we have men trained to fly who have not got machines with which to fly. We have got a great number of machines. We have got various kinds of engines.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I do not accept that figure, and in this Debate I think figures should be carefully ignored. I do not accept that figure, and I believe it is strictly inaccurate.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
There is nobody more able to be more "strictly" inaccurate than the hon. Member. I would urge the Government to get this engine business on a proper basis as quickly as possible, so that the supply of engines will not only be large, but will be enormous. I take the view of the distinguished speaker who has just resumed his seat. We have not begun to see the end of this War, and we never shall begin to see the end of it unless we show that superiority in every element, be it sea, land or air, which alone can command the decision.
§ Colonel C. LOWTHER
It does seem to me surprising and disconcerting, and it certainly augurs very badly for the future, that during a Debate on a Service, in whose superiority victory may depend, neither the Prime Minister nor the Leader of the House nor any Minister sitting upon that Front Bench has thought it worth while to be present. It is proof beyond measure of the futility 1010 and the almost absurd position of the private Member to-day. We are not wanted to suggest—people do not like us to advise—and as for criticism, it is regarded as a crime against the Holy of Holies. Why not adjourn after the speech of the Under-Secretary and go on to other business? We are not listened to. I am not talking of myself. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) made a speech, if he will allow me to say so, full of information on a subject which he has studied, which he has made his own, and about which he knows more probably than anybody in this House, except perhaps, the Undersecretary of State to the Air Ministry. That speech was hardly listened to. There was a sprinkling of Members in the House. Two sleepy people sat upon one Front Bench and nobody upon the other. The right hon. Gentleman was not even slumbering upon the bench at that moment. I do not think he had come into the House. The position of the private Member to-day is a very invidious one.
§ 7.0 P M.
§ Colonel LOWTHER
I shall, therefore, confine myself to one subject, and that is the defence of London. In spite of the sanguine speech of the Under-Secretary, it is an open secret that the defences of London, notwithstanding improvements, are very inefficient and very inadequate. I do not forget the joy-ride of a flotilla of German aeroplanes over the most crowded city in the world a few months ago. After they had dropped their bombs and murdered our women and children, they turned round without even breaking up their formation, and flew back to their country immune, unscathed, and unharmed. At that time I asked the Prime Minister in the House for some explanation upon that matter. I do not think I am giving away anything—because this happened in Private Session, and it is no news now, and because, I am glad to say, it is no longer the case; otherwise I should not be stating it in the House openly—when I say that he very frankly admitted that at that moment we had not sufficient aeroplanes to feed our various Armies in the different fields of battle and at the same time a sufficient number of aeroplanes to adequately defend London and our other unfortified cities. The Prime Minister went on to say that the output 1011 was ever increasing, and he promised the at the end of February or the beginning of March not only should we have a great superiority of aircraft, but that we should have more than sufficient to supply our Armies in the different theatres of war and at the same time to adequately defend London and the unfortified towns. The end of February has come. The Ides of March are almost upon us. Aeroplanes are upon us also, but I am afraid they are German aeroplanes—relays of them. Day after day, or night after night, they come.
The House will believe me when I say that I am the very last person who wants to be an alarmist. I see the absolute necessity for the civil population remaining cool, calm, and dispassionate, showing that dogged determination and British pluck of which they are capable and will always show. I do not believe that the psychology or the morale of the English nation is touched one bit by these attacks, but I do believe that the inhabitants of this country have some just ground for complaint. If it were necessary for them to bear these hardships, or whatever sacrifices are necessary, the people of London, almost more than other towns, would bear them. But why is it necessary Why should we have these repeated attacks on London and our unfortified towns? It requires but little to make them so hazardous, so dangerous, and so unprofitable that the Germans would desist from inflicting these visits upon us, just as they desisted from inflicting the visits of their much vaunted Zeppelins upon us. But I do think there is a lack of ingenuity, a lack of brains, and a lack of imagination at Headquarters. I know that much has been done. I should be the very last to heap difficulties upon the shoulders of the Prime Minister, because I know the terrific responsibility he has undertaken. But it is a matter the Government might well look into. I make it always not a duty but a pleasure to discuss this matter of the air—after all, it is the biggest imaginable subject to-day, with all that it entails and all that surrounds it—with people who know better than myself, and there are many of them. I discuss it with every scientist I have met who is either engaged in designing, planning or constructing aircraft. I have discussed it with our expert airmen, those men of matchless courage who, night after night, are facing death without advertisement of 1012 any sort. If only the Parliamentary Secretary and the other members of the Government could hear what these men have to say, if only they could hear their real views, I feel certain that the Parliamentary Secretary would not have made that admirable but sanguine speech with which he began the Debate; and I also feel certain that he and the House would pay more attention to the observations that have been made, notably by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and other hon. Members who have participated in this Debate.
I am pleased that the system of reprisals has been accepted by the Government. For months, almost for years, I among other Members advocated the system of reprisals, only to be put off with some evasive answer or to be told that it was contrary to humanity, or that it was impracticable or something of that sort. I hope that now the system has really been adopted, there will be no cheap sentiment about whole-heartedly advocating reprisals and taking them up. May I make one suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary? It is that for every attack made upon London, or upon any unfortified city, we should immediately make a counter-attack upon Frankfurt or Cologne or Dusseldorf, or some big German town worthy of making an attack upon, by which I mean a town of over 200,000 inhabitants. In addition to that, could we not notify to the inhabitants of that town, either by dropping leaflets or in some other manner, that the attack is made in answer to a specific attack upon London or upon Hastings or Folkestone, or some other unfortified town in England, in order that the inhabitants of Germany may see that the responsibility for the murder of their women and children, which we do not want, lies with the German Government, who order the attacks to be made upon our unfortified cities, and not with our Government, who, in spite of what I and other hon. Members have advocated, have been for over two years averse to the system of reprisals, because it did include the murder of innocent people? If these suggestions were seriously considered they might carry some weight. They would act as deterrents against these almost nightly attacks upon London and other unfortified towns. If also we could only have some committee who would really seriously consider the ideas of young inventors for the defence of London it would require very 1013 little to make these attacks so hazardous and dangerous that they would be discontinued.
§ Sir J. WALTON
I rise to deal with one matter only, that is the question of the aerial gunnery station in Scotland, which was debated yesterday so far as the War Office control of works expenditure was concerned, but which we were told had since then be passed over to the control of the Air Force. We were told yesterday that the expenditure as made by the War Office, which has amounted to no less than £400,000, was made without the advice being first sought of competent expert civil engineers.
§ Sir J. WALTON
I will not attempt to go into that part of the matter, which properly belongs to yesterday's Debate, but I do desire to ask on whose advice and on what expert advice of civil engineers the abandonment of this undertaking has taken place? The House is entitled not only to know by whom this abandonment was advised, but also the grounds on which the advice that it should be abandoned as an impracticable and unprofitable undertaking was given. I desire also to know what further expenditure will have to be made, in addition to the £400,000 mentioned yesterday, by the Air Force before the transaction is finally closed? We know perfectly well that possession was taken of a beautiful park and house and of farms, and that sheep and cattle were dispersed. We know, therefore, that there must yet remain to be made a considerable further expenditure for reinstatement. I understand now, if it is abandoned, that it will not be a question of purchase; indeed, I believe that purchase could no longer be made, if it were desired, under the Acquisition of Lands Act, because the matter has been so muddled that the right of acquisition on reasonable terms has gone, even if the undertaking had proved to be a success and it was wished to continue it as a permanency. That heavy claims for compensation are certain we may all rest assured. For instance, the shooting was let for £1,500 a year. I suppose that will practically be destroyed and compensation will be sought in respect of it. Then, if farmers have their sheep and cattle reinstated, at the. high prices now prevailing in the market that will mean a considerable further expenditure. I am 1014 certain that the House is only too glad that at last the impracticability of the scheme is realised and that earnest steps have been taken to close the transaction.
It is incredible that, in spite of communications from the Member for the division, pointing out how impracticable the scheme was on many grounds, and that the military Royal Engineers also reported unfavourably on the scheme—though they would not contend it was absolutely impossible to carry it out, still it has proved impossible to carry it out; they attempted to deal with and drain bogs that could not be drained and reclaimed—practically it is pretty certain that we have absolutely wasted over the undertaking, in what has already been paid and has got to be paid, £500,000. With our colossal war expenditure and the prolongation of the War, no one knows how-much longer, it is becoming increasingly a vital necessity that further huge waste of public money should not be allowed to arise. No Treasury sanction was ever got to this expenditure.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I would remind the hon. Baronet that this matter was discussed yesterday by the hon. Member (Mr. Harcourt) on the War Office Estimates.
§ Sir J. WALTON
I apologise. It was understood that the whole question could be debated to-day. That, I understand, has been ruled out of order. The Notice of my hon. Friend was put down for today, and that was my impression, and I had the information before me accordingly. But I did not intend to repeat the statements and arguments given yesterday. My real point is to ask on whose advice the scheme was abandoned and on what ground, and also if the Under-Secretary could state what further expenditure would yet have to be made to finally close this most important transaction?
§ Colonel Sir C. SEELY
I rise to support what fell from my hon. Friends (Mr. Joynson-Hicks and Colonel Sir H. Greenwood) as to the very great desirability of the Air Ministry taking note of the very serious number of accidents which occur during the course of training in England. I can quite understand that in a service so entirely new as this, which has really grown one might almost say from the beginning during the course of the War, it is impossible to avoid a very large 1015 number of accidents, but T hope my hon. and gallant Friend will report to his Board the feeling that has been expressed by those two hon. Members as to the necessity for very great care and every precaution they can rake to diminish the number of accident; which are at present occurring. I can finite understand that, under the circumstances of this War, it is difficult to ensure that the best possible machines should be used for the purpose of training, but, as she number of machines and the opportunities of knowledge in regard to them increase, I hope we may trust that every care will be taken, so far as is possible, to ensure the safety of those who are training themselves for what is such an extremely valuable and dangerous part of the defence of the country.
I wish to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman if ho can tell us what effect upon his Board the institution of the Versailles Council will have, to what extent their executive powers will apply to his Board, and what authority, if any, it will have to make demands upon him for personnel and for material, irrespective of other demands for our own services? I should be glad to know to what extent it will apply if it applies at all. The hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned the fact that the aeroplane was the one thing of which the submarine was really frightened. I hope we may trust that in the provision of aeroplanes and in the division of the duties of aeroplanes he will not forget that fact and will not forget that really the most important thing at present is to deal with the submarine Monaco. Reference has been made to the question of raids and reprisals. I do not like the word "reprisals," and I do not like the principle of reprisals. I do not think two wrongs make a right. If you really want to produce amoral effect upon the German, the real way to do it is by-destroying submarines. If by means of a sufficient provision of aeroplanes you could ensure that any submarine within ten miles of these shores was discovered and sunk within a day or two, you would produce a moral effect upon the Germans enormously greater and out of all proportion to what you would do by dropping any number of bombs upon the civilian population anywhere in Germany. I would draw his attention to that fact. I hope it is not necessary to do so because 1016 I feel that the demands of the Navy, whatever they are, for the purpose of protection against submarines should have absolute preference over almost every other purpose in the provision of aeroplanes, and I trust we may feel confident that that principle is well noticed and improved on by his Board.
§ Sir W. PEARCE
I am not quite sure whether amongst all the important problems the hon. And gallant Gentleman has to consider he realises the full importance of the master of the defence of London. I am quite sure the Germans and the German general Staff do, and they realise that the attack on London may be a very large factor in the success or failure of this War. The people of London, 10,000,000 of them are being subjected night after night to these attacks. So long as they a e quite certain everything is being dot e in the Government's power to prevent them I am sure they will display courage, out one has only to go down into the very poor neighbourhoods of London, as I do early every day, and you cannot, help seeing that it is a great strain and a real trial in this very large poor industrial population. I want the hon. and gallant Gentleman to realise that it is a matter of supreme importance, and one of the most important duties that his Department has to perform. I was very disappointed to see last night in one of the important London evening papers that the attacks were so dangerous that it would be a good thing for women and children to leave London, if these statements get into the Press they will create an atmosphere which may very possibly lead to panic, and I feed it is of the greatest importance that he poor districts should understand the every tiling possible is being done in their defence. Complete security cannot be obtained, but if they once get it into their heads that everything possible is not being done I feel so strongly that disastrous consequence will ensue that I feel bound to rise to make sure that the importance of the defence of London should not be overlooked.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I will begin with a reference to the highly interesting discourse we have heart from the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir W. Cheync), not only for its medical aspect, but because incidentally and without at all emphasising it he seemed to me to strike at the weak point in the whole position of the air defence, or, on the other hand, the possibilities of air attack of this country. With regard 1017 to the domain which is peculiarly his own, that is to say the necessity for a special medical service in connection with the Air Service, it seems to me that the arguments he has brought forward are un answerable. The institution of the Air Services had brought with it many quite new medical problems, and the French on their part have set up some highly technical, scientific methods for testing as far as possible beforehand the aptitude of air candidates. In that connection one can relate a few rather striking circumstances. Of all the heroes which the Air Service has yet produced, in France at any rate, none shine out more conspicuously, not only for dazzling courage, but for wonderful success, than Guynemer, and yet Guynemer was rejected, I am told, four times on medical grounds. When the War started he was little more than a student at one of the Lycées in Paris. He was delicate in build, of a highly nervous temperament, and had the opposite, one might say, of the characteristics which one would associate with such a daring air pilot as he proved to be. It required extraordinary determination on his part to come up again and again for examination, and at length, by his persistence, force the gates. That is one in stance where it is proved that the ordinary methods of medical examination are capable of giving a false result. Then, again, it is often assumed—
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ Mr. LYNCH (resuming)
It has been assumed almost as an axiom that no man after a certain age is capable of being an air pilot, yet we have this singular fact, that one of the most daring feats in the whole war was executed by a pilot almost forty years of age who, before the War, had no flying or military experience whatever, who was, in fact, a peaceful grocer in a French village. That is the case of the man who bombed Krupp's Works, a most hazardous and difficult undertaking, which he successfully accomplished. There is another curious incident which reinforces the argument brought forward by my hon. and gallant Friend who represents the universities; the most daring pilot may, after a comparatively short time, become so timid that he fears to ascend at all. That is the ease of a man who, for obvious reasons, I will not name, 1018 who astonished the whole world by his magnificent feats of aerial navigation. He told me at the beginning of the War that he was seeking another job, not in connection with the air, for his nerves had so given way that he was afraid to mount at all. Another gallant airman who for a time held a height record, Legagneur, one of the most skilful and daring of French pilots, towards the end of his career had his nerves so affected that he actually had to be carried by his comrades to his seat in the car, and yet, such was his real courage, that, although he had to submit to this process, he insisted that he should be so carried, and he continued to fly until he met with his death in a flying accident.
There is one point, however, on which I would beg to differ from my hon. and gallant Friend, and that is where he rather limited the number of new elements which come into play. I refer, for instance, to sudden shock and sudden surprise, quite apart from the actual physical effects of the elements in which the pilot is flying. There, again, the French have endeavoured to ascertain beforehand the aptitude of their pilots by an ingenious adaptation of means which were employed in quite another sphere of science, namely, experimental psychology. They have adapted or devised delicate instruments for testing the speed of reactions, and also the nature of reactions to sudden shocks ! I would like to ask the representative of the Air Ministry if there is anything in this country corresponding to these laboratory tests which have been set up by the French, which, at first tentatively, and now with every increasing knowledge, they have developed so as to give increasingly valuable tests? I hope that, after the weighty speech and delightful discords which we had earlier in the evening, reinforced by the strong, solid arguments, that the Air Council will resolve to give an entirely separate Medical Service for the Air Service. The hon. and gallant Gentleman pointed out the difficulties of obtaining the necessary medical men; he said that the Military Service and the Naval Service had already secured all the available, medical officers. The significance of that is, and this was what I foresaw when the Bill was passing through Parliament, that the same principle operates not only in the Medical Service, but right throughout the entire functions of the Air Service; and it is precisely that which is limiting its usefulness so far that, instead of being 1019 a great striking force; which might have been decisive in its results, it has already of necessity been whittled down until now it is little more than an adjunct of the Military and Naval Services.
I wish to say one word about the personnel to allay any apprehension, because I intend to criticise the Air Ministry. Nothing I intend to say should be taken as criticism of the personnel of the Air Service. We know the heroism, the tenacity and the dauntless courage which have again and again been displayed by the inhabitants of these Islands, but not even history could have prepared us for the wonderful exhibition we have seen in connection with the Air Service. There is nothing more alluring even for its dangers and nothing that fascinates and excites the imagination more than the contemplation of those great aerial battles where champion is pitted against champion, and where, in nine cases out of ten, the only issue is the death of one of the combatants—death of one, perhaps with glory of both. But these instances of dazzling courage and of wonderful aptitude on the part of our men has not been sufficiently seconded, and to-day in listening to the speech of the Secretary to the Air Ministry I confess to a certain disappointment. It was a good stock speech which one could have praised whole-heartedly in the piping times of peace. It was a good stock speech of the Front Bench man who, above all things, desires to continue on the familiar courses and to assure the House in the old well-worn formulae. But this is a war marching to its decisive events, and the. decision of this War means the very life of this nation and of the inhabitants of this nation. Viewed in that way, there was nothing that should have shone more prominently in that speech, delivered at such a moment, than the assurance that now at last we have a weapon so far superior to that of the Germans that we can look confidently by means of this weapon to the final result of victory. I insist again and again that that was possible, and if that was possible and yet has not been realised, the mere statement of that fact is the severest criticism which one could apply to the Government.
We are at war with the Germans, and it is not necessary to admire them, but one, at any rate, tan respect that gift of organisation which they undoubtedly possess, their wonderful faculty of working, their 1020 scientific attainments; and I think that the situation would have been worse for us now had not the Germans at the earlier part of this War been hyphotised by their own idea of the Zeppelin. But after that comparative failure of the Zeppelin one was able to foresee that, when they had realised that the Zeppelin would not produce the results they had hoped for they would turn to the other possible arm of the Air Service with all the wonderful power of their organising and scientific skill, and by concentrating upon it and by intensively developing ii, make that Service one of the most menacing kind that has come to pass. At a certain period of this War it was within the power of our Government to have developed such an Air Service that it would have been impossible for the German to have lived in the air at all, and that the mastery of the air would have been achieved just as decisively as, in the time of Nelson, the mastery of the sea was achieved. That opportunity was allowed to slip, not by direct decision, but by that fatal habit, which, I regret to see, still prevails, of hesitation, delay, drift.
The general tone of the speeches hitherto delivered have been one of congratulation and content I would recall to the memory of the House that before there was created at all this Air Council, which now is looked upon as a very palladium of our hopes, there was the same tone of congratulation and content battledored from one side of the House to the other between Ministers and ex-Ministers, or, more unfortunately still, expectant Ministers. If there had been any meaning in that tone, and if it had been really justified, then the great Air Ministry of which the Government, is now so proud would not have come into being at all. It-was called into being because it was essential, and it is necessary for me still to drive home some of the points wherein it fails.
I will touch briefly upon one or two points arising out of the speech delivered by the representative of the Government. As a representative of Ireland I will mention the neglect of the development of the Air Service in Ireland. This should not be a difficult problem at all. In Ireland you have all the facilities for producing a great aeroplane, output. You have the land and you have the labour available, and it would be a benefit to Ireland and a great benefit cut to the whole country. That ground has been almost en- 1021 tirely neglected. I would like to have a clear and definite reply to the question why that is so. There is an idea of some want of good faith in dealing with the Irish representatives, and I would like to see that notion dispelled, because it may be entirely unjustified. At any rate, I would like to see this question definitely faced once and for all. Why do you neglect that promising ground, which, if properly cultivated, would so enormously increase your aeroplane output?
Then there is the question of research and invention. Through the enterprise of one man in Paris, the famous engineer whose name is known world wide by the Eiffel Tower, the French have had for long an experimental laboratory. I believe this was set up as a patriotic work by Monsieur Eiffel at his own expense. The great advantage of that experimental laboratory is that the inventor who thinks that he has a good idea is able at a nominal cost—at the cost of some £8 or £10—to have a model of his aeroplane tested in the laboratory, aided by expert engineers, in such a way that the result is almost definite with regard to encouraging or discouraging the inventor. I do not think we have in this country anything quite corresponding to that, and if there be nothing there should be at once established, even at this late hour, something corresponding. I would even suggest there should be several of these experimental laboratories scattered throughout the whole country, not only in England, but in Scotland, for example, where men's minds are active and where a good many inventions have already been produced. Another point about the experimental laboratory is this, that it not only tests the models of the inventors, but the whole atmosphere which surrounds the institution is much more friendly and cordial than that which surrounds Government Departments in this country. Inventors are invited and encouraged, and, as often happens, if there is the kernel of a good thing in the invention which through lack of scientific knowledge or mechanical skill the inventor has associated with faulty plans, the expert engineers disengage what is valuable from the invention and by continued experiments foster it and carry it to its proper development, whereas here the tendency is often to discourage inventors. One can even sympathise with a Government Department in that respect. I have known inventors, and I have been compelled by experience to divide them 1022 into three great classes— (I.) the inspired, (II.) the inspired idiots, (III.) the idiots. I venture to say that the third class is by far the most numerous. Nevertheless, in such a vital matter as the Air Service there should be devised in this country, not merely a high and mighty intellectual scientific body, but a sort of intellectual network spread throughout the country, and this should be done so that every good and promising idea, even of a non-technical or ignorant man, could be caught and successfully fostered by having the brains of highly trained men turned upon it, so as to save it and ultimately utilise it. The hon. and learned Member who spoke earlier in the Debate said that the output of aeroplanes was controlled by the Munitions Department. But it must be remembered that the Munitions Department has grown up in association with the Army and Navy, and up to this point the Air Service has also developed as a branch of the Army and Navy, so that the tendency of the Munitions Department would naturally be to serve the Army and Navy first. There once again we have that fatal hand laid on the Air Service, which is, in consequence, unable to develop as a completely independent arm, and can only live on sufferance, and can hardly live beyond the needs of the Army and Navy.
The main point which I wish to make here, if it is not too late, is that even now the War Cabinet should rise to the height of the whole situation and see the enormous possibilities which they have hitherto neglected of establishing, building up, and fostering to unthought-of limits, a great striking arm in the form of an Air Service with quite independent functions of any Service in connection with the Army and Navy. To enforce that I will endeavour to lay down on very broad lines the main aspect of the War as we now see it. The striking forces are the Army, Navy, and Air Service. The Army has come to a deadlock. Months and months ago I suggested in this House that the Western front should be closed up, so that we might disengage a large amount of reserve energy for other work. At length the military authorities have seen the necessity for that step and for that policy. The manner in which they regard the matter shows that it is impossible to hope for any very great results on the military side, certainly not this year, and probably not for two years.
1023 Turn, then, to the Naval Service. The Navy has played a safe game during this War, perhaps too safe a game, for it has neglected many opportunities which have been presented for coming to terms with the German Navy. At any rate, by the policy which has dominated the Navy, it is clear that it is in great part acting on the defensive. The offensive may be developed in a few months, when the means, which are now being taken to cope with the submarines, will have been developed to a great extent. But at present, at any rate, and for a long time to come, the main function of the Navy will be defensive. If you have these two great arms—military and naval—acting almost entirely on the defensive, does that not give a still greater reason why we want an available arm whose resources are not yet developed to the full, and to which should be devoted all the power of thought and all the fostering spirit of the Government, so that it may be worked out eventually to the fullest extent of which its expansion is capable? Have we reached that point now? Even the representative of the Air Council in this House will not venture to rise in his place and declare that we have. It behoves us to look at this question, not merely as a matter of routine, clinging to the old groove, but to break down something more difficult, and that is the habit of mind of the Government, which is so 10th to accept new ideas. If we can break down that kind of obstruction, then the material difficulties will be seen to be of a lesser order, and we can look forward to the fact that with such an aeroplane service we should have in the air something corresponding with the Navy: not merely one type of machine, but a great number of types of machine, which could be brought into action and be co-ordinated and organised together into one great force. There would be aeroplanes corresponding to the dreadnoughts, there would be aeroplanes corresponding to fast cruisers, and there would be aeroplanes corresponding to torpedo destroyers, and if the Service were; brought to this proper development it would be possible to prevent even air raids on London. These, be it remembered, have a real military value. Take, for instance, the question of submarines. There arc many ways of dealing with submarines in which a powerful aerial fleet could help enormously. One is by patrolling the 1024 Channel, and another, which I think much more likely to be profitable, is the development of that striking arm to such an extent that the bases of the submarines could be destroyed, and it would thus be rendered impossible for enemy submarines to be constructed or to put out to sea. Then, again, if the Service were sufficiently developed the aeroplanes could be used in a direct way in naval battle. There would be no chance of running a fleet of aeroplanes into a prepared torpedo field or of blowing it up by mines, and I believe in that way aeroplanes might become important in purely naval battle.
Then on the military side there is a possibility first of all of using the aeroplanes directly as the Cavalry of the air. They would be far more effective, because far more mobile and less hampered by the difficulties of the terrain which the ordinary Cavalry have to face in direct attack on the German armies. That is only one out of a hundred uses to which the Air Service could be applied in military tactics if once the force were properly developed. It could be employed, further, in cutting the communications of the German Army, in destroying railways, in blowing up the bridges across the Rhine and the Meuse, thus forcing the armies on the Western Front to retire in order to escape the danger of starvation. It could also be employed in effective military raids. I refuse to accept the word "reprisal" in the sense in which it is often used. These raids upon London have a military value. I quite believe in any kind of reprisal if it have a corresponding military value, and I would like to see those reprisals intensified so as to become ten times the value of the original raid. But we gain nothing whatever if our idea of reprisals is that simply because the Germans have killed babes and women we must wreck our spite on them, and, apart from military operations, kill their women and babes. The only meaning of reprisals— and I think this is contained within its meaning—is such a reprisal as to produce a real military effect. Regarding the matter from that point of view, I am in favour of making these reprisals almost incessant and of far greater intensity than anything yet prepared. Remember this. One is not speaking of mere possibilities. Every element of this problem has already been solved. All that is now required is the combination of all these elements. The question of the possibility of bombing 1025 Krupp's has been solved, although I remember the present head of the Foreign Office giving us an elaborate argument in this House to show that it was hardly possible. But it was solved by the actual fact. A French aviator went there, he even descended low, he was able to choose the points on which to drop his bombs, and lie did effective work. There is this peculiar feature in the air, that the operations of one man in the air in no way interferes with the operations of thousands of like men, so that if one single aviator can fly over Krupp's works at Essen and drop bombs effectively, it is possible for a thousand aviators to fly over and destroy Essen. It is possible to have something in the nature of one continuous raid on Essen until the Allies are able to announce, "Essen does not exist."
The same remark applies not merely to fairly large towns such as Cologne and others, but to Berlin itself. The Germans are nursing themselves in their supposed security, but I believe it would be possible to work out in every detail a plan, and to give specific instructions to small squadrons each acting as if they were the only bombing party, and yet adding these squadrons together, so that one fine day we should find that Berlin had been bombarded, and so disastrously bombarded that Berlin was no longer inhabitable. Reprisals of that kind would be worth having, because they would go far to determine the issue of the War. So that T will conclude now by summing up in one or two sentences what I have had to say. Our one great avenue to victory is by the air. It is possible to obtain that victory by the air. Whatever difficulties may be interposed those difficulties are capable of solution. Therefore, the Government must even now, at this late hour, rise out of those traditional grooves and regard this matter in its true light, plant that problem steadily before their eyes day by day, that what we want is not a mere adjunct to the Army and Navy, but a great, a colossal, and, I hope, a decisive new striking force on which we can all confidently build our hopes of victory.
§ Mr. BILLING
It is an action that is not common with me in this House to congratulate hon. Members, but, if I may, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member who has just sat down on an admirable and intelligent speech. There were two things which marked his speech, the one is knowledge and the 1026 other is imagination. I think hon. Members who have had the opportunity of hearing speeches from the hon. Member in the past know that in cases where he is not prompted with knowledge at least he has that gift of the gods, imagination. In the last two years I have listened to speeches in this House, but in no case have I listened to speeches whore that gift was more evident than in the advice on aeronautical matters which this hon. Member has tendered or given the Government. This afternoon we have had another experience of an Air Debate in this House. We have seen an extraordinary interest evinced in the air in this House. We have had an audience which has fluctuated from five to twenty-five Members. Is that because they are satisfied that all is well; is it because they are utterly exhausted with the general proceedings of the House, or is it because they think that criticism of any aeronautical matter at this late date can have no useful bearing on the issue of this War? I really do not know which it is, but it fills me not only with alarm, but with disgust. If we had had a big air raid last night; if we had had, instead of two or three aeroplanes, 200 or 300 aeroplanes over London within the last few days, you would have seen a crowded House, because most probably the Prime Minister- -in order to steady a distinctly unsteady Government made more unsteady still by the public feeling which would have been aroused by such a dramatic incident as a big raid on this country—would have come down to this House, and hon. Members would have flocked here in their hundreds, for two reasons. One, because of that curse of curiosity, "which seems to be the only thing that ever fills this House., and the other because they felt that in the event of a Division being taken and their names not being recorded in favour of desperate and immediate action against our enemy in the air, it would have gone against them at the next election. If this House had taken some intelligent interest in the Debate I should not have occupied the time of the benches in referring to that point.
This afternoon has been yet another graphic illustration with one or two bright and illuminating spots—I refer to two speeches, one in particular from the hon. Member (Sir W. Cheyne), who, with all the experience that age and learning can give, exposed to the House one of 1027 the weakest spots of our Service. The only thing I regret is that he did not stick to his guns. The hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Colonel Sir H. Greenwood), rising immediately after him, explained to him how necessary it was, speaking with all that experience which he evidently has gained because, I understand, that since he has been in this House, by sticking to his guns, he has jumped from plain Mr. to being a Baronet, and then to a Lieutenant-Colonel, and. if I might use an aeronautical simile, I would say that if lie-sticks to his guns he will eventually make a bad landing on the Government Bench —that he should have stuck to his guns. I do not think there was a great deal of sincerity behind that remark, but, anyhow, it was sound advice. If the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Sir W. Cheyne) had stuck to his guns instead of that cursed compromise which is the tragedy of an Englishman's life, and is likely to be the tragedy of the whole of Great Britain— compromise, anything for a quiet life, whether it is in Market Square or whether it is here in the Council of the Nation. In times of peace it might be possible for politicians to compromise, but in times of war we can only be fighting for one thing, and that is principle. Men argue about policy, they fight about principle, and when there is a principle at stake there can be no compromise. Either the hon. Member knew that the medical history of our Air Service was right or it was wrong, and if he knew that it was wrong, I say here there should have been no compromise. He should have come down to the House and moved its adjournment. He would have found in me at least one who would have. supported him to the uttermost. I have been accused of making violent speeches in this House, but it has always been my endeavour not to strike or introduce the personal note, or to introduce any animus in any speech I have made, but when this afternoon we were treated to a dissertation from the Treasury Bends by the present Under-Secretary of Stale for the Air on an airman's outings I could not restrain myself—and T say it with all due-deference to the Chair, trusting that no action of mine will ever suggest that I have not the greatest honour and respect for it— from interfering in such n way as to suggest to the bon. Member that what 1028 this House wanted to know was not page 4 of the "Daily Mail ' on an airman's outings, but some cold space about. the Air Service as it is to-day.
First of all, I take exception to the fact that these Estimates are introduced on a Token Vote. What is the use of coming, down to the House of Commons with a Token Vote of £1,000? What does that convey to us? I suggest the Estimates would have been better introduced had we had the amount which it was proposed to expend on the Air Service announced to us here to-day. Is it £1.000,000, or is it £10,000,000? I do not think any hon. Member, if he gives this matter thought, would suggest that by coming to this House and stating that it. is proposed to spend ten, twenty, or fifty or a hundred millions—and I hold, and ! am glad to say that gradually other Members of this House are beginning to hold, the opinion that if £100,000,000 were, spent on the Air Service it would be well spent -on the Air Service, that £50,000,000 was to be spent in training great raiding squadrons to carry our war into Germany, that would not have been a more satisfactory statement than coming here with a paltry Token Vote of £1.000 and wasting the time of the House with a dissertation on what airmen do? I am quite sure the pilots to-day would far sooner hear what we were going to do for them than a long dissertation on what they are doing for us. There is not a man in this country, there is not a woman in this country, who not only knows but appreciates to the full what our airmen are doing for us. What I want to know is, what are we doing for them? Although the hon. Member for Edinburgh spoke at even greater length than was absolutely necessary for his case, he dealt with one point: which tends to lead us to the crux, of the whole question of training.
The whole question is a question of mental and physical condition. To send an ordinary medical practitioner down to an aerodrome to cool his heels where he simply sees, as the hon. and gallant Member said, he has nothing to do, is no useful service to the lighting forces to-day. A medical man at an aerodrome should be the most occupied officer in the whole of that aerodrome. He does not want to bother the pilots, but he wants to mix with them, to watch them as a specialist watches peculiar nervous cases, without, however, letting them know that they are watched. He wants to be always the 1029 guide, philosopher, and friend to all pilots, especially young ones. He wants to have peculiar medical knowledge and peculiar and special training for his work. One of the most regrettable things that could exist to-day is that, with an Air Service such as we have, we should deny it a special Medical Service, for giving the men at least common justice, and providing for their medical and physical well-being.
There are very few pilots who do not know when they are beginning to get cold feet, but there is hardly a pilot who is prepared to admit it. When he comes down from a flight, or from returning from some particularly exciting or nerve-racking experience, and feels his nerves a bit shaky, a pilot feels that if he were to say so his fellow officers would accuse him of having cold feet, and the next thing to happen would be to invalid him out of the Service because he was of no further use as a pilot. Fear of that sends many a man into the air, and is responsible for many of what we call the peace-deaths in flying. If there was a sympathetic, experienced medical man, who only needed to look in to the eye of a man when he came, down, to see that his nerve was not what it had been and if he were to simply say "stop flying for three days," it is almost impossible to exaggerate the enormous relief which that man would experience at getting the opportunity of restoring his nerve without having to admit that he gave in. That is why we want a Medical Service for the air. What little weight I can bring to bear as an independent Member of this House will be concentrated on endeavouring to get that Medical Service, because even I failed to appreciate the case for it to its full extent until I heard it this afternoon.
I come to the question of the Token Vote. Success or failure in an Air Service, as in any other enterprise in which the ingenuity of man is employed, depends not on the amount of money that you raise, but on the way you propose to spend it and how you spend it, and what many of us wished to hear this afternoon was how the money is going to be spent, how much you are going to spend, and on what you are going to spend it. He would be a capricious critic who would be prepared to say that our Air Service is not infinitely better to-day than it was a year ago, and infinitely, infinitely better than it was two years ago. But the Air Service to-day is as I would have wished to 1030 see it two years ago, and not as I would wish to see it to-day, and I hope that the House will appreciate that any criticism which I have to offer this evening is purely constructive. The which of our Air Service now is in a condition of flux similar to that in which it was when the Air Force Bill was brought in.
The hon. Member for Sunderland asked the question, which I hope will be. answered, whether it is a fact that Lord Rothermere contemplates resigning from the position of Air Minister. I have my own views on the appointment of Lord Rothermere. I knew quite well, and many other Members knew quite well, that the appointment would not meet with universal approbation. Quite a number of the old Service men and of the present Service men knew that it was something in the nature of what I might call a Press appointment. The Prime Minister knew well that if he gave the position of Air Minister to the proprietor of a popular paper who was the brother of the proprietor of many other popular papers, the Air Service would loom largo in the eyes of the public. It seems to me, if I may say so without disrespect, that the principal thing which occupies the mind of the Prime Minister is that he should get a good Press. Ws cannot beat the Germans with ink. Not only that, we cannot retain the confidence of the country with ink, no matter how much we spill. But, for all that, from what I have heard since the appointment of Lord Rothermere, he has given exceptional signs, if not of brilliancy at least of a thorough understanding of the problems, appreciating the difficulty of his own position with the multitude of counsellors advising him on a subject of which he was totally ignorant. That is a very difficult position for a man to be in, but, despite that, he seems to have had, according to my information, the strength to come to decisions to oppose even many interests which other men of less moral courage would have feared to affront, and by all accounts the position was improving steadily, and now within the last three days I have heard that he contemplates resigning. If that is so, it is only going to lead to another internal strafe, for want of a better word, to more plotting and planning as to who should succeed him.
The Vice-President of the Council is a man and an officer, who, if he be appointed to the position, would throw the 1031 whole Air Council into a series of intrigues and cabals which would result possibly in the most disastrous consequences of the whole air policy. I do hope that someone will reply from the Treasury Bench to assure us that this rumour, which has come to me from a very authentic source, of Lord Rothermere's resignation is untrue, because I do not know who could take his place with advantage to the country, and that, when all is said and done, is the one question that should occupy our minds. When the Air Force Bill was before this House I opposed many of its points to the full extent of which I was capable, but I am glad to say that though they gave themselves in the Bill powers to commit administrative blunders they have decided not to commit them. They have decided that the Naval Air Service, that is. the part of our air fleet which is essential to the well-being of the Grand Fleet, should remain under the command of the Grand Fleet, and that the part which is essential to the well-being of the Army in the field should remain under the command of the Army in the field, and they wish to build up a separate Air Force for the purpose of striking behind the enemy lines. That is well. I only hope that the other point which arose at that time will be settled in the same spirit. Yet, despite that, we find that a very considerable difference of opinion seems to exist as to the value of a striking and air-raiding force into Germany. I am not going to enter into a dissertation on the regret experienced in regard to past action. What was said then was only in the nature of a prophecy: to-day it is in the nature of an actual fact.
I do not think that the greatest optimist, not even the Prime Minister himself, who blows hot and cold through waves of public feeling, which so frequently govern his decision and judgment, can say that, taking all the fronts on which we are called upon to meet the Germans, there is any reasonable hope, in the next twelve months, of driving them back into their own country. If that be so, there is no excuse for keeping the enormous forces that we have at present on the West and other fronts. If we are to be the attacking force, then we must, at least, endeavour to be no less than two to one against the forces we are called upon to attack. If we are to be the defensive force, that is another matter altogether. If our military advisers are satisfied that we cannot suc- 1032 cessfully advance on the Western Front, then there is no excuse for keeping one man more or one ounce of material more than is necessary to resist the most violent attacks of the enemy. If we combed out the balance we should find an enormous reserve which could be utilised in largely expanding the operations of the Air Force, and I am confident, that with an adequate Air Force we might bring this War to a successful conclusion in 1018, and sooner than by any other action or decision that our political or military advisers could take. But it is not going to be done by a muddled policy; it is not going to be done by simply rushing off one month on one, policy, and then, through fear for the safety of your position, again changing that policy. It can only be done by making up your minds on one policy, and sticking to it through thick and thin.
That policy, I submit, is to standardise. Standardisation is a very serious policy even in commercial life, but when it comes to military life it is attended by even greater danger. But I put it to the Government that the time has come when it is possible to standardise three distinct types of machines which are necessary for our efficiency and for our success. The time has also come when it is possible to standardise the three types of pilots. I see time wasted in training a man as a night rider who may be fit to be a day fighter and should be trained for that. If you arc going to make a man a night-flying pilot you can train him approximately in three months. Make up your mind what you are going to do with a pilot, and train him for the purpose which he is competent to carry out. There are three distinct jobs for pilots. The first job, which calls for the least skill, is night bombing. The man has simply to be able to box a compass and read has instrument, and it is the simplest thing to teach him to fly as a night-flying bomber. Out of every 100 men you get you would probably find at least sixty of them capable of learning to fly night-bombing machines. If you find men capable of learning to do that, then teach them to do it. Make them experts in what hey have to do, and do not bother as to whether they are fighters or not, because the night-flying bombing machines are never called upon to fight at all. Then there is the question of the day-bombing machines. One of these machines requires a man of greater skill and of a totally different type of courage. The night flyer deals with an 1033 unknown danger, the day bomber deals with a known danger, an apparent danger, and this is where our Medical Service can help us so much. In the case of the night-flying bomber who deals with an unknown danger, his nerves might possibly be affected if lie were called upon to face a known danger. Again, the day-flying bomber has to fly a totally different machine, and some fighting experience is absolutely necessary, which, of course, means another type of man.
Some men rapidly develop as first-class air fighters, and other men when they become thirty or forty years of age. The man at the latter age becomes a first-class fighting pilot for the reason that he has been through all the experiences. His nerve has settled down; he has taken all risks that have to be taken, and he settles down with a steady nerve. What I want is that the Air Service should consider the advisability of training special men for special jobs, and to recognise that pilots are of three distinct types, and should be trained accordingly. With regard to observers, I do not propose to offer any remarks now. There is the question of naval observers, who require a certain experience and a certain skill. There is also the question of Army manoeuvres, where you want military experience and exceptional powers of observation. The success of aeronautical undertakings depends upon the pilot, and what I want the Ministry to understand is that they must recognise that there are certain special jobs for which they should train certain special men to carry them out.
We have the fact that we have three types of pilots, and we come to the other interesting fact that there are but four types of machines which it is necessary to standardise. The first type is the fighting machine, which I suggest should be standardised at least every month, and the drawings for that machine should only be given to firms capable of an output of at least twenty-five machines a week. If they are given a month's start and are only called upon to commence five weeks after their drawings, and if there is a competent drawing staff, or rather a competent distribution staff, they will find it possible to turn out the machines at the rate of twenty-five per week after five or six weeks' notice if there is any organisation, but that is only on the one condition that the Air Service standardises the fittings. It is 1034 foolish to say that it is not possible to build ten types of machines with the one standard type of fitting. Men claim superiority in the performance of one aeroplane against another because some gadget which they have designed is fixed on it. If the authorities came and took the gadget off they would find that the performance was just the same. What is necessary for success is that every part of the aeroplane is one working harmonious whole, and that the pilot is in sympathy with the machine he is flying, and whether you have one type of fitting or another has very little effect on the actual efficiency of either the fighting or the flying machine. The average designer likes to claim some particular point about his machine, and he adopts some elaborate form of fitting which most probably reduces the head resistance by half a square inch. Those elaborate fittings may require 500 or 600 drawings, and all previous fittings are scrapped, and the output is held up for five or six weeks, or sometimes for as many months, simply because the designer and the officials hold that a certain type of fitting must be put into the machine or the performance cannot be got out of it. That is all bunkum.
The people responsible for our Air Services to-day could simply decide round a conference table to standardise a certain type metal fitting. They could do so for four complete sets of fittings. They could have two for flying machines, and they could standardise two complete sots of fittings for observation and day bombers, and they could standardise another set for night-flying machines, and then there would be some chance of restandardising the general design of machine. It has sometimes been found that there was a rotten performance, although the designer and the engine builder and all concerned had done their best, and then they happened to bring a man down who is a born erector, and he may make a few small adjustments and put up a performance of that machine beyond anything of its type before. The true success of a machine is in the little details, and is not in any way affected by the fittings pure and simple. We come to the question of engines, and I think it is correct to say that the Naval Air Service has been employing twenty-six different types of engine and the Royal Flying Corps eighteen. I ask the four or five Members who are present just to 1035 appreciate what it means to employ forty-four different types of engines with some two or three hundred spare parts for every engine ! We may be told that some of those engines are not now used, but many of the machines still have them, and therefore the spare parts have to be kept. I pointed out the other afternoon that the Germans had standardised four types of engines. I would repeat to the House that it is possible to carry out the aeronautical programme on one type of engine providing it is good. I would suggest that if we put our faith in one type of engine the horse-power of that engine should not exceed 150—that is, approximating 150 horse-power—and that it should not be one of those high-'efficiency engines which needs artists and watchmakers to erect and which requires the very finest type of metal for manufacture. You cannot get that in quantities, and while I am the last to wish to sacrifice quality to any reasonable extent, it must be sacrificed to quantity to-day. If you had this from 140 to 150 horse-power engine of a standard efficient type, you could employ it for fighting machines with a single engine or on observation machines with a single engine. When you come to big day bombers you could employ two, and for night bombers three or four units. The Germans have very little imagination, but we would do well to copy them in some things, and in this in particular. We would do well to copy them in the methods which save the labour that we employ in the production of machines —what a Noble Lord referred to in another place as ''spit and polish":— which something like halves our output. Anyone who j had the opportunity of inspecting a German machine would find, once you had torn the fabric off, the work underneath, while efficient, was comparatively rough. Where workmanship is not necessary it is: not put in: where workmanship is necessary it is put in. If you want an example of that, how many aeroplanes have crumpled up over England through their own volition? None that I know. They put the work where it is necessary, but i there is not half the "spit and polish" in ! the German machines which we put into j ours, and that all takes time. If the Air Service would only make up its mind to one thing, namely, that it is only necessary to standardise four types -and if is possible to work an Air Service on the 1036 standardisation of one type of engine, and it must not be a high power. The Rolls-Royce to-day is a wonderful engine so long as the Rolls-Royce make it, and the tuners keep it up to the mark, but if you put it to another firm, and allowed comparatively second-class mechanics to erect and tune it, you would find it would not do the business. That is a point I want the Air Ministry to remember, particularly now when vast orders are taking place.
I would like to call the attention of the Air Ministry to the physical training which the American Air Service is now giving to its men. It was my intention to mention it in passing just now on the general training question. A pilot needs to be physically fit as well as mentally fit in every sense of the word, and the Americans are so decided on this point that they have actually appointed trainers, just as men are trained at baseball or boxing, to keep up the physical fitness of pilots and save them from hanging about and getting slack. The suggestion I make for the Air Forces would be to encourage boxing and all forms of physical sport to keep the pilots physically as well as mentally fit. It encourages them enormously, and you will not have half the trouble with blood pressure and pulse beats if airmen are physically fit, instead of simply leaving it to them to take-, what exercise they deem fit. I would like to congratulate the Air Service on deciding to abolish the old method of training, and I think we shall find in the forthcoming year that the deaths from training, which the hon. Member regretted so much, will show a marked decrease in consequence.
It is very edifying, and very satisfying, to hear half a dozen Members in this House to-day rise to press upon the Government the desirability of developing the Air Service to its utmost extent, and I am sure that if ever the time came— and that is why I regret that the Minister of State for the Air is not a Member of this House—when ho got into conflict with the Government, on a question of policy, or if ever the Government withheld from him the opportunities which be sought, and he came to the House of Commons, I am satisfied that- the House would give him everything that he sought to develop the Air Service and the air offensive to the fullest, extent. There is no excuse now for any Government saying that this House will not give their support to a great air offensive-. It was a different 1037 thing two years ago, but to-day, so far as one can judge the temper of the House, they are only too anxious that everything should be done, and I am incluined to believe that a very great deal is being done; but I would also say that a very great deal more can be done. I was expecting to hear the representative of the Air Service in this House tell us that all the questions arising out of the Air Bill in connection with the Naval and Military section had been settled, but we hear nothing about what money is going to be spent. As to the air defences of the country, I do not think even a passing reference was made. The representative implores the House of Commons to ask no questions which will be of use to the enemy. He also told us that he could not say how many acres have been taken over by the Air Service in this country for training grounds and for squadron work generally, because if he did the Germans would be able to work out what our aeronautical programme was for the coining year.
§ Major BAIRD
I said nothing of the kind. I said anybody who knew that could tell how many we had under training.
§ Mr. BILLING
Then I understand the hon. Gentleman wishes this House to believe that he said how many acres had been devoted to aerodromes in this country, the Germans could work out how-many pilots we had under training. I put it to the House that that process of reasoning is preposterous. Assuming that the Germans had no more complete method for knowing our movements than that, how can it be suggested that because it is stated in this House that we have 10,000 acres employed as training ground, it is possible to suggest how many pilots we are training thereon? It entirely depends on the system we employ to train them. The idea is preposterous. But all through this Debate there is a tendency to reticence—" Don't criticise us; we are doing our best." All I can say is that this House in this matter, as in other matters, can only judge by results. The present Air Board has had a pretty good chance. The only thing they have done so far has been to set up a noisy defence -of London, and to carry out one or two minor raids into Germany. They may have a very fine programme in view, but if anybody in their senses thinks that their noisy defence, or the hundreds of guns 1038 which we have set up in London had the effect, on Monday night, of driving off vast squadrons of enemy aeroplanes to Germany, they were never more deluded in their lives. I put it to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that on Monday night no bombing German aeroplane at all came over England. I think, if I may suggest it, that the enemy have weighed up our methods, and they have, two nights running, sent a couple of squadrons to drop a few bombs, and have, discovered that all that was necessary was, not to run the risk of sending big bombing aeroplanes at all, but only to send a couple of small flying machines with plenty of petrol and no bombs to set the circus going in London. Does any hon. Member think that if Gorman bombing machines came all the way from Flanders to London they would return without dropping their bombs? Yet we me told by the papers that no bombs were dropped. Shall I suggest why no bomb was dropped' Because there was none to drop !
We want more co-ordination in the defence. We want a complete system if we are going to use anti-aircraft guns. I suggest that the employment of these guns as a defence against aeroplanes is utterly useless, except in the case of vast raiding squadrons; then, most probably, we might disturb the equilibrium of the pilots by the noise of the explosions of which some thousands of guns was the occasion. If the ordinary small raiding squadrons want to go through the barrage lot me assure the House they will go through it. When you consider that a pilot flying 5,000 feet, when he has dropped his bomb, if he has to climb, as some of these machines have, to put it mildly, 800 or 1,000 feet per minute, has only to touch his control, and if he finds the shells bursting too near him, almost between the fire of one gun and the next he can alter his elevation from 9,000 to 8,000 pet, then you know it is not long before he is where your guns cannot possibly keep pace with him. What does the aeroplane care for shells bursting 2,000 feet above or below him? Our own pilots have told me that it rather adds to the zest of fighting and flying over London to hear the explosion and the noise of our own guns firing below. There is a considerable amount of damage done by our guns. It is the wrong principle. It is the sort of thing that we have done all through this War. We waited till we were driven into a corner, and then we set up 1039 some sort of a defence. What -we want, if I may repeat it to the House, is offence and not defence. It has been proved by experience that the best way of getting the raiders is to wait till they start for home. We know whence they start; our Secret Service is sufficiently accurate for us to rely on them for this information. We ought to go over to the aerodromes whence they start, wait up in the air 15,000 feet till they come back, and when they are landing after having done their night's work, attack them. That is the time. The most successful work we have carried out in putting these machines out of action is to wait till they return and attack them when they are landing. Our pilots know that these big Gothas, when they get within 400 feet of the ground, are almost unmanageable. That is the time for our men with their fighting machines of every type to deal with them.
If it is considered that this bombardment in London gives any satisfaction to the citizens of London, perhaps it is politic to continue it. But for heaven's sake, I do appeal to the Air Board not to be satisfied, after setting up a sort of Chinese defence of London, to think that there their duty ends. Surely we might have expected in the last six months some more substantial raids into Germany than those we have had. There is one more word of advice I should like to give to the Service before I sit down. Two years ago I pointed out to the then First Lord of the Admiralty that if it was contemplated building air fleets in any great quantity it was absolutely essential to build them underground. After all, aerodromes ought to be cut into the side of hills, and aeroplanes ought to be stored underground. As I said, it was the only means by which, in the event of a vast attack we would be ready for reply. If ever the Germans really attacked this country by air—if the War lasts another two years, and they really seriously take up the question of air fighting—the first thing they will do is to mark out our air factories—leaving the towns alone—mark out our big aerodromes, and concentrate an attack upon them upon a given night; we shall find that all these big factories we have built in certain spots, which I will not mention now, has been utterly bad policy, foolish and fatuous policy. That is, that to build vast aeroplane factories in such exposed positions. The Germans will simply 1040 come down and blow them to bits. Having done that, and practically assured themselves that our defences have beer weakened by destroying all our material, they will turn their attention to the towns. I do appeal to the Air Board to include this in their policy—that they will, for a start, build an aerodrome capable of holding a defensive fleet by cutting their way underground into the side of certain hills which I could suggest, but which I do not propose to mention here.
This is a very simple matter. You have 100,000 Russians in London eating the food of our people and doing nothing in return. Why not get hold of them? A hundred thousand labourers ought to make a pretty good start in cutting into the side of a hill. Put your aeroplanes underground before it is too late. Do the same with your aeroplane factories. If the Germans to-day had underground aerodromes in Flanders capable of holding 300 or 400 machines, what sort of a chance would we stand over here? What sort of a chance would we have, if it were possible then for them to come up on to platforms from an underground aerodrome, and launch 200 or 300 machines from the Flanders coast, of dealing with thorn? It is exactly the same in this country. But no! You will wait most probably until we are punished, until we have lost our machines by the very method which I am trying to accentuate. Then you will say, I suppose: "Now we had better think of putting our main aeroplane factories underground." Every engine factory that is dealing with engines, every aeroplane factory, particularly those dealing with the finished machines, and every aerodrome where the finished articles are waiting employment, ought to be underground. There is no excuse, except lack of imagination and lack of foresight.
I sincerely hope that this will sink into the- Air Board. I also hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Air Board gets up to reply ho will give this House an assurance that the experts—I am not referring to those who designed and completed a certain aerodrome in Scotland not long ago, but that the advice of certain experts will be taken as to the advisability of putting this project on foot. I hope he will also tell us whether the resignation of the Air Minister is pending, and whether it has been settled who is going to occupy that exceedingly important post. I should like to ask whether it is intended to raid Germany by an 1041 offensive, not simply as a reprisal? Any neutral person who was standing in the City of London last Monday would not believe that the Germans were raiding an undefended town, and I cannot imagine how you can ask them to believe that statement, because if London was not a defended town on that occasion I do not know what it was. Any town in this country, if it is of military value to us, is fair spoil for German aircraft, and we should make up our minds that we will raid German towns no matter what British interests may be there, and no matter whether members of the Government or the House of Commons have interests in German towns, those places should be raided despite any interests we may have there. I want to see a complete scientific attack carried out upon Germany through the air. I should like to see a military decision providing for putting the whole of our Armies on the Western Front on the defensive, and thus saving an enormous number of lives which otherwise would be lost. The Navy should also remain on the defensive, and we should concentrate on a great air offensive, which we could carry out at infinitely less cost both as regards personnel and material, and a much more decisive result would be attained.
The interest of this House in aviation is gradually becoming aroused, and I hope that hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon will feel that in getting up and saying a few words this afternoon they have only been doing their duty to their constituents. I hope, however, that they will understand that there is a duty even greater, and it is a duty to those who have died for this country, and are dying to-day. It is our duty to harass the Government, if it is necessary, and to even risk losing all possible chance of knighthood, or the possibility of a job, and to offend the Government, when it is necessary, in order to drive home to them the absolute necessity of concentrating on the Air Service as our first and most important arm; and if ever a decision is arrived at in this War, it will be the arm which will achieve it.
§ Captain SHEEHAN
There are two kinds of criticism—one destructive and the other constructive. But when an hon. Member indulges only in destructive criticism it is not only dangerous, but exceedingly mischievous. The hon. Member who has just spoken has occupied the time of the House with a good deal of 1042 irrelevancy when he was not indulging in destructive criticism. I hope that what he has said will be borne in mind and, if possible, adopted. I do not wish to follow the hon. Member in a weary iteration of technical details which he has placed before the House. The hon. Member remarked that, at last the attention of this House was aroused, but that did not strike me on looking round and observing the state of the House. I join most earnestly in the tributes which have been paid by hon. Members who have spoken here to the great gallantry of what is undoubtedly the fine flower of our fighting chivalry, the Air Service in Flanders.
I have had some experience of them myself. I have seen them at work under all circumstances out there, and their gallantry, their unparalleled heroism, and the manner in which they face death every hour of the day and night, is a thing which would strike pride to the hearts of everyone here if they had only an opportunity of witnessing it. Ever since I saw what could be accomplished by our Air Service I have regarded it as our most daring arm, and our best available striking instrument, and I am glad to know it is the intention of the Government to use this arm more effectively for the purposes of warfare in the future, and to concentrate with increasing strength on efforts to increase the number of aeroplanes and intensifying their efficiency. I do not propose to say anything about the disposition of that force, and I do not intend to adopt the role of an amateur strategist. I will only say that I am glad to observe that lately the Government have been taking their courage in regard to reprisals in both their hands, because war is war, and if the Germans assail our women and children here we should not hesitate for one moment about carrying the war wholly and fully into the enemy country, and hitting them back as hard as we can.
What I rose specially for to-night is that I want to draw attention to the question of national aeroplane work in Ireland. The hon. Member for West Clare (Mr.Lynch) raised the matter very briefly earlier this evening, and I want to emphasise what he said on that point. I think that in regard to the Air Services and industries of Ireland, practically from the start of this War, Ireland has not been treated fairly or equitably. Several millions have been added to the taxation of Ireland, and what has been given back 1043 to that country m the way of war employment is only a drop in the ocean as compared with the taxation which has been put upon us. That is not quite fair, and those of us who gave our services in the War, and who induced our countrymen to assist in it, have a right to demand that fairer treatment should be given to the country which we represent.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I find in the Estimates that the Department referred to by the hon. Member does not come on the Air Forces Vote. The manufacture of aeroplanes comes under the Ministry of Munitions, and it will be the Vote for the Ministry of Munitions that will give the opportunity to the hon. Member of dealing with the distribution of orders and the methods of manufacture.
§ Captain SHEEHAN
May I point out that m regard to these munitions and Government supplies we have been in -communication with the Air Board here in London on this very matter? Voluminous correspondence has passed between us as lo tin: placing of these orders, and the Air Ministry have shown that they have a direct interest in aircraft construction in Ireland.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am glad the hon. and gallant Member has put that question. I made such inquiries as were open to me, and I received the answer which I have just indicated. It is just as well we should know which is the proper opportunity for raising this question.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must ask the Minister this question: Is the manufacture of aeroplanes under the authority of his Department or under that of the Minister of Munitions?
§ Major BAIRD
I think that can be cleared up in two minutes. The Air Ministry only take over aircraft on completion at the door of the factory. I think my hon. Friend refers to some correspondence with the Department of Aircraft Production, which is housed in the Air Hoard office in the Strand, it is quite likely that the letters were headed "Air Board Office, London," but the correspondence must have taken place with the ! Aircraft Production Branch, and not with j the Air Council as at present constituted. ! it is perfectly clear that the question of 1044 manufacture does not come on the present Vote and is not a subject with which I am competent at all to deal.
§ Captain SHEEHAN
The hon. and gallant Member is undoubtedly right when he says that some of the correspondence took place with the Air Board in London. I naturally assumed that it was connected with the Department now being set up. Of course, I bow to your ruling, and, if it is a matter connected with the Ministry of Munitions, I must postpone my criticisms and suggestions till the proper time. I would, however, ask the new Air Ministry to use its influence to see that Ireland is not entirely neglected in the matter of its activities. There is no doubt that you get many of your most gallant officers from amongst my own fellow countrymen. I have a very personal interest in the matter, because one of my own sons is serving in the Air Force at the present time. Having given our services, the least that we have a right to demand is that we shall have some consideration in the matter of aircraft manufacture.
§ Mr. T. DAVIES
I quite agree with the. hon. Member who has just sat down with regard to the services of some of his countrymen in the Royal Flying Corps. I listened with some curiosity and interest to the hon. Member foe East Hertfordshire (Mr. Billing). His remarks were directed generally to criticism. If the hon. Member had devoted the same care and the same trouble to constructive policy and to helping the Air Service of the country that he has devoted during the List eighteen months to criticism, I have not the slightest doubt that he would have done great service not. only to the Air Force, but also to his country. I agree entirely with his last remark that we all wish to see this Air Force grow and to become such a force that it will speedily held to end this War. I listened with great interest to the speech, of the Undersecretary of state to the Air Ministry. He gave us a great deal of information with regard to the constitution and the work of the new Air Council, and it left him no room to go into things which perhaps would have been more intimate and would certainly have been welcomed by the House. I can bear out from what I know of the Air Service the great and unparalleled importance of the medical fitness of the men who go up in the air. We cannot put too much stress upon it. If a man is not absolutely fit to go up in 1045 the air, he ought not to go up at all. Therefore, I think in the future we ought to have a thoroughly equipped Medical Service, directed entirely and specially to the work of the Air Force. I have come across many cases of men being admitted into the Service who from a physical point of view ought never to have been admitted at all. Unfortunately, men are killed in training who would never have been allowed, if they had been properly and medically examined, as they were some two years ago, to go into the force. I suppose there have been more casualties during the last three or four months in the two or three aerodromes in the northern part of the county which I represent than in many others.
I want to draw special attention to the importance of proper medical examination. It is cruelty to allow a man with imperfect eyesight to fly at all, and it is criminal to allow a man with imperfect eyesight to be trained for night-flying, because very soon he will have a disaster and lose his life. I hope in the future, more than in the past, that the Air Ministry will see that suitable places are selected for aerodromes and for landing places. The situation of one or two of these aerodromes at the present moment makes it most dangerous for inexperienced flyers to alight. Hence the casualties we have in one aerodrome in this part of the country, amounting in one. week to twelve. This, as was pointed out by the hon. and gallant Member for the University of Edinburgh (Sir W Cheyne), is very important, because it costs some. £5,000 to train these men, and, when you have got good material, it is worth while giving them a fair chance by selecting with the greatest carp their landing places and thy aerodromes in which they are trained.
The third thing upon which I wish to lay stress is that it is almost as important that the machines which these men fly should be of the very best and should be subjected to every test possible before they arc flown. No matter how skilled a pilot may ho, if he is up 10,000, 5,000, 4,000 or 3,000 feet in the air and if a wing drops off there is nothing before him but death. Only last week one of the most skilled pilots was up on one of these machines which was supposed to be the best and latest of its kind. My hon. and gallant Friend no doubt knows of the case of the young fellow who was in this House last Wednesday week for two hours, who 1046 was one of the most skilled pilots and during the last moon when there was a German raid on London he did one of the finest things that has been done in the defence of London. Last Saturday, losing a wing of his machine, that young man came down and was dead in less than two minutes. It is important that these men, even when they are trained and skilled pilots, should have their machines thoroughly examined and tested in every way before they are asked to go up and risk their lives. With regard to the defence of London, which was referred to by the hon. Member for East Herts(Mr. Billing) and the hon. and gallant Member for the Eskdale Division (Colonel C. Lowther). who seemed to suggest that nothing is being done for the defence of London, I can say from personal experience that that defence is very different from what it was six months ago. I do not say it is perfect, but I am told by those who ought to know that possibly in a month or two, provided the Air Council takes its courage in both hands and allows those young men to do the work and give them sufficient and proper machines in good order, the Germans will think twice before they come to London. I have great hopes that, as we have stopped the Germans coming to London in daylight, we shall now stop the Germans coming to London at night. I will conclude by congratulating the Parliamentary Secretary on his introduction of these Estimates, and I hope to see him many times performing the. same duty under better auspices when the War is over.
§ Major D. DAVIES
I wish to support what the last speaker has said with regard to the Medical Services of the Air Force. The House ought to be very grateful to the hon. Member for Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities (Sir W. Cheyne), who raised this matter in a speech this afternoon. All those who listened to him could not help being convinced by the very cogent arguments he brought forward in favour of a separate Medical Service in connection with our Air Force. The Air Board, so far as this matter is concerned, certainly did start upon the right road, and their intentions were perfectly sound. They invited an Advisory Committee of the best medical men in the whole of the country to advise them as to what medical services should be utilised for this Department. As I understand it, this Advisory Committee got to work very quickly. They presented their 1047 Report, and then the trouble began, because this Report apparently did not meet the views of the Director-General of the Army Medical Corps and of the Director-General of the Naval Medical Service. The result has been a delay of two months, during which time these gentlemen have been wrangling over this Report. In the great War in which we are now engaged it is a very sad thing to find, in a serious matter of this kind, that valuable time should have been lost when these Services should have been started and all the arrangements made without the least procrastination, and that even when the Service has at last been set up, the arrangements arc simply a compromise between the conflicting views which are held on this subject.
It is a great slur on this Committee, presided over by a most distinguished medical man who is also a Member of this House, assisted by some of the ablest medical men in the country, to have asked them to spend a great deal of time and trouble in preparing this Report and then to have turned it down. We know perfectly well that this is the ordinary procedure of Government Departments when they find themselves up against a Report which does not particularly please them or meet their particular views. We had an example of the same kind of procedure in regard to the Report which was made by the Committee of Inquiry sent over to France to inquire into the arrangements of the Royal Army Medical Corps there. That Report was sent in, I believe, five months ago, and, so far as I understand, it is still being considered by the Army Council, and no steps have been taken to carry out the recommendations contained in the Report. What usually happens is that these Reports are put on one side, and a new Committee is set up which proceeds to consider the whole matter afresh, in the hope that they will produce a Report which is more in accordance with the views held by the permanent officials. There has been sufficient wrangling between the War Office on the one hand and the Admiralty on the other, with regard to all the matters connected with the air. We did hope that once the Air Board was firmly established an end would be made of all these jealousies and bickerings. But, unfortunately, this new child has been strangled at birth, and. 1048 instead of having a separate Medical Service for the Air Force, we are now to have a sort of hybrid institution which in reality will be under the control of the Army Medical Corps.
§ Major BAIRD
May I save time by explaining that I distinctly stated it was to-be under the control of the Air Council.
§ Major DAVIES
It will be under the control of the Air Council, but these gentlemen will form part of the Board and the new Director-General of the Medical Service of the Air Force will not have the freedom and control he ought to have over the personnel of this Service, and which he must, have if that Service is to be efficient and effective. After the experience of the War Office I should have thought the: Air Board would have insisted that the new Director-General of the Medical Service should have a seat upon the Air Board. The difficulties and blunders have been pointed out which have boon made because the Director-General of the Army Medical Corps was not a member of the Army Council. Why not create this new piece of machinery under the best possible conditions and take advantage of the unfortunate experiences which have been gained by other Departments in the past? I hope, after the speeches which have been made to-night in favour of the report which was sent in by the Advisory Committee, the Air Board will seriously reconsider this question. I feel sure that if they tackle the matter boldly they will have behind them the support of the majority of Members, and they will also secure a most efficient Medical Service for the Air Force. After all, it is our gallant airmen we have to think about in this matter. Their health, their live? and their treatment are at stake, and anything which detracted from the efficiency of the Service would be a great shame, and would not be tolerated by this House for a moment. I hope the Air Board will reconsider the matter after the frank statement of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir W. Cheyne). As the whole of this compromise was bound to break down in they long run, why not do the right thing now 1049 and save the trouble which would be bound to come later on in putting the Medical Service on a proper footing?
§ Major BAIRD
May I thank hon. Members for the reception they have given to the first Vote for the Air Ministry? There have been in the main three points raised in the Debate. Let me take, first, those raised in the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Joynson-Hicks), who has always shown such a great interest in air matters, and whose comments are always listened to with respect in this House. He complained that the transition stage was rather prolonged. He had hoped to see the Air Force established before now. I can assure him that there has been no undue delay. Let him realise that we have to deal with two Services, serving under two different discipline codes, with great traditions, different ranks, different rates of pay and engaged in daily, hourly, nightly service against the enemy. It is impossible to merge those two forces without fin immense amount of the most careful work, so as to ensure that, whatever else may occur when the fusion takes place, there shall be no confusion and no dislocation on the front. If my hon. Friend will bear that point in mind he will not think the time has been excessive. Then, in making this fusion, he has, first, to settle all kinds of disciplinary and financial matters with the legal authorities and the Treasury. We have then to lay down the new system, and in a perfectly clear, straightforward manner, to see to it that a pamphlet containing the regulations for working the new force will be in the hands of the officers concerned a reasonable time be fore the force comes into existence. We have now got a proof of the pamphlet, which will be distributed at a very early date throughout the whole world where officers and men of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service are now stationed, so that when the change takes place they will be aware of the position.
The Act contains a Clause which gives an officer or a man the option of reverting to his old Service during a period of three months, starting from the time when be receives notice that he has been transferred to the Air Service. No harm has really been done. I described how we are taking over, gradually, different branches of 1050 the Air Service. We have already taken over works, buildings, and land, the posting of individuals, and a few other points which arc all coming over gradually, and it is only by a process of gradual change that it is possible to carry out the transfer without confusion or dislocation. There is, of course, the other point, of housing. We cannot exchange the men who are necessary for running the joint Air Force until we have more room. All these are details of a more or less domestic character, but they are of vital importance in dealing with the efficiency of this new Service.
A point of greater importance, perhaps, which formed the subject of the most interesting speech, to which we were all delighted to listen from my hon. Friend (Sir W. Cheyne), is the question of the Medical Service. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Davies) made a more or less determined onslaught on what he called the Air Board. I think he means the Air Council. The Air Board is dead, and the Air Council has taken its place. I hope hon. Members will not confuse the two things. The Air Board was a meeting place for the Director-General of Military Aeronautics, the Director of Naval Air Services, the Controller of Aeronautical Supplies, and the Minister of Munitions, presided over by an impartial outside member of the Government. The Air Council is totally different. It has definitely the task of administering the Air Force, which is a combination of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps. The two Services disappear, so that when the Air Council is asked to carry the sins of the Air Board, I, having been a member of both, must refuse to fake that additional burden. I do not think the House will expect that we shall carry on the inheritance of a body which had a more, or less similar name. In supporting the arrangement which has been come to with regard to the Medical Service I am in the extraordinary good company of the hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Cheyne). In regard to medical matters I would plump for my hon. Friend (Sir Watson Cheyne) every time, and he and I agree absolutely. We are both agreed. He presided over a most distinguished Committee which presented a Report to the Air Board. The Air Board accepted this Report, and it formed the policy of the Air Board with regard to the Medical Service under the new organisation. 1051 That was the Air Board's contribution to the discussion between the Army Council, the Admiralty, and the Air Board before the formation of the Air Force. The Air Board were only one of the three parties to the discussion, but the other parties to the discussion having possession, which is nine-tenths of the law, were in a considerably stronger position than we were, and it proved impossible to persuade the other parties to the discussion to accept the proposals of this Committee. But what have we succeeded in doing? We persuaded the Navy and the Army to agree to a system whereby they are made jointly responsible for the supply of men and for the success of a. joint Medical Service, instead of their being, as they would have been otherwise, in determined hostility. If we had undertaken to fight them at every turn with regard to the formation of this Medical Service, what would have been the result? Hon. Members say quite rightly that this is not a matter which brooks delay. There can be no more fruitful source of delay than Interdepartmental struggles, and no one who has taken part in any of them would want to take part in another. There is nothing that is more futile or more maddening, especially in time of war, when everybody ought to be fighting the enemy, than that anyone should devote even a single second to fighting his own countrymen.
We came to an agreement whereby it becomes a point of honour for the Navy, the Army, and the Air Council to see that this new Air Medical Service is efficient. The main point is that you should have a body of medical men specially trained to deal with that particular medical aspect of cases which only occurs in people who live in the higher atmospheres and who live the life of airmen. Everybody is fully alive to that. Nobody can possibly be more fully alive to it than those who are responsible for the administration of the Air Service, and I hope the House will believe that in coming to this agreement with the Navy and Army, and securing their concurrence in the main line of action which is to be pursued, we have done the best under the circumstances. That they will give us credit for having found the best solution for an obviously difficult problem at a time when both the Navy and Army require every single medical man they can pos- 1052 sibly lay their hands on. instead of fighting with the Army and the Navy, when there are not enough men to go round,, we have succeeded in inducing the Navy and Army to incur the obligation of making a success of the special Medical Service which experience has proved is required for the Air Service. I hope that hon. Members will, at any rate, be as. generous in this respect a? they have been in other matters connected with the Air Service, and that they will give this new scheme a fair trial and a fair chance-of showing whether it succeeds. It is only for the duration of the War. After the War it must be obvious, that a separate Medical Service for the Air Service is bound to come. To insist on our starting-a separate Medical Service now would only mean that there would be no Medical Service at all while the fight is in progress, and thousands of lives might be lost that might have been saved by the adoption of a system which, at any rate, is a great improvement on anything that has been done before. It must, be remembered that we do obtain control by the Air Council over the Medical Service under the- new system. It is not fair to say that the Medical Service of tin- Air Force will be under the Army or under the Navy. It is under the Air Council but we secure the co-operation of the Naval Medical Service and of the Army Medical Service. If hon. Members will do me the honour of reading what I said earlier in the day, I think they will be satisfied ort that point.
§ Major DAVIES
Is it proposed to put the Director-General of the Medical Service on the Air Council?
§ Major BAIRD
No I will not be on the Air Council. Neither the Director-General of Army Medical. Service nor the Director of Naval Medical Service is on. the Air Council, but the administrator of the Air Council, but the Administrator of Secretary of State. In the meantime the Air Council have gone a- far as they can to make arrangement for the medical side of their work. A small staff at the Air-Ministry is continuously at work on various problems. A' the request of the Director-General of Military Aeronautics, military medical authorities have been working on special lines in regard to the Royal Flying Corps. The officers are now examined by a special medical board before they are seat for training in France. Another staff is engaged in the- 1053 medical examination of officers suffering from disabilities caused by flying. A special type of hospital has been set apart for the treatment of members of the Flying Force, both military and naval, and in addition a Royal Flying Corps hospital, which is maintained entirely by private subscription, provides accommodation for seventy serious cases and more than a hundred convalescent cases. This has been at work for more than two years, and we owe a deep debt of gratitude to those who have organised it. Meanwhile every effort is being made to give, special training for medical men so as to qualify them to discharge the peculiar functions which are necessary.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Is there provision made for examination of the men by doctors specially qualified for the purpose?
§ Major BAIRD
Yes; and that is a most important point. We are incurring considerable displeasure on the part of those responsible for collecting air pilots, because of the rigorous nature of the examination which is insisted upon. It cuts both ways. The young men complain that they have to come all the way from Edinburgh or Dublin to be examined in London by a special board. But this is justified solely on the ground that it is impossible at the present time to establish boards of specially qualified men at different centres, and it has been thought it would be far better, under the circumstances, to have the examination in London rather than incur the risk of accepting men not quite up to the proper standard.
Now I come to the question of Loch Doune. I suppose it is a breach of rule for me to mention the name of this place, but it is the place which has been referred to by hon. Members who talked about the aerodrome in Ayrshire. I will tell the House exactly what is the situation. My hon. Friend the Minister for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Harcourt) referred to Loch Doune as a "marriage present" offered by the senior Services to the Air Hoard, and he spoke of them as a kind of fairy godmother. I know that in India when a great chief desires to confer a great honour, and at the same time to bring about the destruction of a lesser chief, it is customary to present him with a white elephant, which consumes so much that the lesser chief, who dare not refuse the gift, is in due course brought to his ruin. That may not be the very 1054 best way of putting what I have to say ort this point, but we considered that Loch, Doune was a white elephant. That was the view of the Air Council, and, that being so, we felt the sooner we admitted it the better. 10.0 P.M
I may explain what happened from the point of view of the old Air Board. In 1916 the French had a school of gunnery, which enabled them to give a particular kind of instruction in gunnery, and which, led to an immense increase in the efficiency of their Air Service. That, school was visited by representatives of the Royal Flying Corps, and in order to-reproduce the same course of instruction as was given by the French, it was thought desirable that we should obtain, if possible, a similar area of ground with a large expanse of water here. The whole country was searched for a suitable site. Many places were examined. Their advantages and disadvantages were balanced, and the conclusion was reached that Loch Doune offered the best prospect of success for such an institution. As was said by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary (Mr. Forster) yesterday, the technical experts of the War Office had doubts as to the feasibility of making the school, but the Flying Service held that Loch Doune was the best place, provided that the difficulties were not insuperable, and nobody, I think, will deny that, if we were to have some place where the same course of training could be given to our airmen as the French were giving, Loch Doune appeared to be very suitable for the purpose. Works were commenced, but they proved to be far more difficult and far more costly than was originally anticipated. Up to this point I had no responsibility, but here my responsibility does come in, and if hon. Members arc looking for a scapegoat they can start with me, because I am prepared to accept responsibility for abandoning Loch Doune, and I will tell the hon. Members why that course was adopted. When the Air Council took over the buildings and undertakings of the Royal Flying Corps and the Naval Air Service, we wanted to know what it was we were taking over. We found that amongst other things Loch Doune was included, and the Administrator of Works and Buildings of the Air Council went down to look at it and I came to the conclusion that, from the point of view of the works which had to be carried out, there was no hope 1055 of completing those works during a reasonable period of time. For instance, the site could not be utilised as an aerodrome until it had been drained, and we realised that, while there was an immense amount of work required to be done, there was a limited number of people to do it —people like the German prisoners—and it did not appear to us right or proper to use that limited labour, or the equally limited material, at a place at which there seemed to be no prospect of its being ready for use during the War, although eventually it might be made into an aerodrome. Further than that, it was costing a much larger sum of money than was contemplated when the undertaking was set on foot, and we said—and I am prepared to stand by it—" We will apply to this public business the principles which we apply to our own private businesses, and we will cut the loss." If hon. Members are looking for a scapegoat, they can hang me first.
§ Major BAIRD
Yes; we saved a further waste of money. Nothing could have been easier than to have gone on with the work, and said nothing about it; but we determined that, in the national interest, it was fair and right we should face the fact that the place was not going to give the results which were originally expected from it. and we decided not to throw more good money away on it, but to forthwith shut it down. That is the story of Loch Doune, and, as I say, if there are any scapegoats, I hope hon. Members will begin with me; and when they have done with me, they can carry on with the other members of the Air Council. It is we who are entirely responsible for abandoning the work, and we unanimously decided that it ought not to be carried on.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
May I say that I think, as regards the Air Council, that is a very reasonable, frank, and straightforward statement that has been made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman?
§ Major BAIRD
Nobody will deny that the place could be made into an aerodrome, but it would take too long and cost too much to justify that being done now. That is the whole story. I apologise to the hon. Member opposite (Mr. King), who desires to move an Amendment, but I thought the House would like 1056 to have all these questions dealt with. I do not think that there are any other points that have been specially raised except this. Hon. Members have alluded to casualties, and they have attributed casualties to a variety of causes— machines, inadequate medical examination, aerodromes, and so forth. Will hon. Members please believe that there is not any body of men on earth more anxious to reduce casualties to the lowest possible limit than those responsible for the Air Services? It is not easy to say to what casualties are really to be ascribed. A very large proportion of casualties, no doubt, are due to errors of judgment, but if in time of war you try to establish different categories of casualties—fatal accidents, I mean—and to say that if there had been more medical examinations there would have been fewer casualties, or that if there had been different machines there would have been fewer casualties, is, I think, not to do anything in which there is any advantage. It is not an unnatural thing for hon. Members to do, I agree, because there is nothing, obviously, that appeals more to the feelings of everybody than the notion that these boys, showing all the spirit which we. expect a boy to show, rushing into these Air Services, and then for some reason of which they have been quite unaware—nerves, or something or other—they have suddenly found something fail, and they are killed. I think my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) said something about the casualties at home being larger than the casualties at the front.
§ Major BAIRD
Somebody said that, but I have taken the trouble to ascertain, and I can say that is absolutely without foundation. There is nothing approaching it. There are very good reasons for not giving the facts about casualties, but this, I hope, hon. Members will remember: Every year the standard of flying required in order to obtain the wings—that is, to graduate in both Services—increases by leaps and bounds. A man who took his wings last year would not necessarily come anywhere near then in the standard of this year. The standard increases all the time, and the speed of machines also increases. Yet, in spite of that, and in spite of the immense increase in the number of men under training, the per- 1057 centage of casualties is not increasing, it is, I believe, falling. Certainly it is not increasing, and I think that is satisfactory. The standard is very much higher, and I can assure the House that there is nothing which is watched more carefully, so far as anything can be watched, with all the care one would like in a Service growing as rapidly as is the Air Service than this question of training. Every step that can be taken for the purpose of reducing the risks in what must always be a dangerous and difficult art, namely, the mastery of the air—is taken whenever it seems possible. I hope I have answered all the questions which hon. Gentlemen have put to me.
§ Sir C. SEELY
Did the hon. and gallant Gentleman answer the question I asked as to the powers, if any, that the Versailles Council have over the Air Council?
§ Major BAIRD
I am glad my hon. Friend reminded me of that. Those powers are not yet defined. We have our representative at Versailles, but the exact power as between the two Services has not yet been denned. Undoubtedly, it will be in a short time.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
My hon. and gallant Friend has not dealt at all with the question of engines and production. May I ask whether Vote A cannot be postponed until Monday, when, perhaps, he will deal with those matters?
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of tin: Question, and to add instead thereof the words "air attacks against the enemy should be carried out with military objectives and in such a manner as to avoid, as far as possible, injury to non-combatants, women and children."
Some time ago I was rather surprised when someone showed me a paper in which I was described as a notorious pacifist. I hope that the terms of this Amendment will make it clear that, whatever I am, I am in favour of the vigorous carrying on of the War while we are at war. I may be, and I hope we all are, in favour of terminating the War as soon as 1058 possible, but while we are at war we must tight, and we must fight with our Air Force as well as with any other. The terms of this Amendment indicate, I think, what is already the policy of the Government, of our Armies, and of our Air Force. When we undertake military operations by air against the enemy we have in view, I believe—and we have only in view—the military objects that we can attain. That, I understand, has been the point of view which has been repeatedly stated by the Leader of the House, and I find that point of view very well stated in the words used only last night by the under-Secretary of State for War when, speaking of the work undertaken by our men on the Western Front, he said that we have, in addition to numerous raids on important points behind the German front, and constant attacks by low-flying machines on the enemy's troops and transports, undertaken a series of extremely successful long distance raids in Germany. Railway centres, factories, and other military objectives have been attacked with success, sometimes by daylight. I am glad that he gives there no colour to the cry which has been ignorantly and, I think, unwisely and even ignobly raised in certain quarters that, because the enemy, in attacking us with aircraft, have killed women and children, we should set out with the first object of attacking and killing women and children. I am glad that not only in the statement of the hon. Member yesterday, but in the communique issued now two or three times a week by the Commander-in-Chief in France, we have constant accounts of military attacks made by our aircraft, apparently, very successful in their results, but never undertaken primarily against non-combatants — women and children. Only yesterday there was a long communique from Sir Douglas Haig, in which he spoke of a hostile aerodrome north of Douai, a large ammunition dump near Courtrai, a railway station north-east of Douai, and the, enemy's billets at various parts of the front all being attacked by our aircraft. And there are further accounts, no doubt from the military point of view highly satisfactory and successful, which show that our Air Force does operate with success against the military forces of the enemy.
Why, then, is it necessary to bring forward this Motion at all? In my opinion it is necessary, first of all, in order to make our position quite clear. I hope 1059 that I shall be able to withdraw the Motion, after a reply from the hon. Gentleman to say that I am interpreting rightly the ideas and policy of the Government. I am not always here to support or indicate adherence to Government policy, but, believing that on this occasion I can do so, it gives me all the greater pleasure. I understand that this is the policy of the Government, and I want it made quite clear in connection with our Air Force, because I think that it is of value and important to us as a nation to be able now, and still more at the end of the War, to say, that, though we were under grave and serious provocation, though we saw constant attacks upon our capital, which is mainly a peaceable city without great military character or importance, though we saw our women and children killed and peaceful houses destroyed, yet our objects were military, and we intended to carry out this War from beginning to end on high and honourable lines, following as far as possible the civilised rules of warfare. There has been a very unfortunate attempt in a number of newspapers to get reprisals against enemy cities, regardless of whether they contain factories or barracks or munition works, or anything of military importance. There has been a constant demand for more reprisals against the peaceful enemy i populations. I think the quarters in which this demand has been made will some day or other be ashamed of them-selves, and I regret to say that even j ministers of religion have favoured the j policy. I think it is unworthy of themselves, and not in accordance with their religion. To those who give way to the natural instinct for reprisals in war time on the. basis of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, I would respectfully appeal on the ground that I believe they would only harden the enemy, and that we have no right to set out directly to attack peaceful populations. When attacks are made against us it does not incline us to give in; on the contrary, it makes our determination, our spirit of endurance, our readiness to suffer, all the greater, and we are all the more united by the fact of having been attacked. Still, I believe human nature is very much the same in all of us, and the psychological effect of suffering inflicted upon non-combatants here would be the same with non-combatants in enemy countries. I argue, therefore, that reprisals undertaken, not, 1060 on military grounds, but with the object of terrifying or inflicting suffering upon the civil population, would not achieve any result that could compensate us.
I have another and further reason for my Amendment, and it is that there is said in certain quarters that reprisals have been taken, and even taken frequently, by our Air Force against enemy non-combatants. There appeared in one of Lord Northcliffe's papers, a short time ago, what purported to be a facsimile of a printed bill which we were given to understand was thrown from one of our aeroplanes as they flew over the enemy country. That bill stated, in German, that the raid was made as a reprisal for the sinking of the "Lusitania." I would point out that the German was very bad, and in about- ton words three were wrong, and there were three mistakes in grammar. I took the trouble to send this to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War. He very courteously made full inquiries as to whether any such bill was ever used or disseminated by the aeroplanes of our forces, and he gave me to understand that the whole thing was a fraud, notwithstanding this facsimilewhich Lord Northcliffe's paper published, and we must speak very respectfully of him now, because he has been made a Director of Propaganda for the enemy, and yet this Bill, which appeared in his paper as to tin way in which we carried out our propaganda, was merely a fraud. I am very glad, therefore, to call attention to this, because if the information, which I entirely accept from the War Office, is correct, it shows that the newspapers of very important persons even connected with the Government are disseminating and saying one thing while the actual policy of the War Office and of the Ministry is another. I am glad to think in this case that the Propagandist Minister is wrong, and that our military authorities are right. I might give other points, but I think the fact which I have quoted is so cogent and clear and so decisive, that I need not do so. In some of the newspaper correspondent's messages which are disseminated, and, no doubt, passed by the military censor, and I dare say by the Press Bureau as well, there are statements which seem to indicate that our aeroplanes are used for reprisals against non-combatant enemies. On the other hand, as I have already shown, the official statements and the words of Ministers and the 1061 reports of the Commander-in-Chief indicate and declare to us that our objectives are military objectives. I believe it is worth while to take some trouble to see that the spirit of the people is kept at a high level, and that nothing is done in the course of our military policy which will cause offence to the highest and best feelings and instincts of our people. I believe that it is desirable in the very deepest way that we should come through this War feeling, as we look back upon it, that, though we may have had the provocation, we have maintained a high level of dignity and self-respect, and that we have not had the inclination, or, at any rate, we have not been carried away, to commit unworthy acts and to breaking the traditions of high and chivalrous men in our conduct in the carrying out of our war policy. I hope, therefore, that in his reply the hon. Gentleman will tell me that I have estimated rightly the policy of the Air Ministry, and that if we undertake reprisals by aircraft against the enemy that they are done solely with a military objective.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think it is extremely important that on this question of reprisals we should have a clear, definite, and authoritative statement from the Government as to what the policy is which the Government at the present time is pursuing. We have heard a great deal of loose talk in the Press, and, unfortunately, the loose talk has not been confined to the Press. There have been interviews, more or less authorised, with very important members of the Government which seem to indicate that our Government have undertaken a policy of reprisals against the enemy. Indeed, there was one interview with the Prime Minister on the morrow after an air raid in this country which was reported in the "Daily Mail," in which, we were told, with illustrated figures, that the Prime Minister had informed the cheering populace that we were going to give ' the Germans hell I am not opposed to a policy of that kind as a general rule, because I believe that that is necessary in time of war. But I think it is necessary that when we enter upon such policy we should clearly understand what the Government mean. Now obviously, in considering this question of air raids, the first consideration that we must have in mind is how far a military objective is being secured. There are, indeed, cases 1062 where you may be securing a military objective and, at the same time, be inflicting very considerable injury upon non-combatants. I think, in carrying out such measures, one has to have in mind a certain test, and the test to apply in all these cases is, to put it in a general way, this: Whether the suffering inflicted upon non-combatants is incommensurate with the military results which are obtained.
It is obvious that an air raid upon London is bound to secure certain military results. There is no use concealing that from our minds. We ought to be perfectly frank and candid in dealing with a situation of this kind. Undoubtedly, London is a very great centre from the point of view of the prosecution of the War by this country. It is the seat of the Government. It is largely a munition centre, and. undoubtedly, supposing you had an air raid upon London without the dropping of a single bomb at all, if it stopped all the munition works in London, and stopped all the other industries carried on here, a certain military result would be attained. On the other hand, when you consider raids as they are actually carried out, we have to look at it from the point of view as to whether, applying the test I have mentioned, the result of German action in attacking London is not really to inflict greater suffering upon non-combatants than the. actual military results which are secured. In my belief, that is exactly what happens. They undoubtedly do cause more suffering to non-combatants—I am not suggesting in actual lives lost and in wounds—but more suffering to non-combatants than the military results so secured. In a situation of that kind the Government may be entitled to consider a policy of reprisals. We have undoubtedly in other matters adopted a policy of reprisals. But when you adopt a policy of reprisals it is incumbent upon the Government to consider whether their policy of reprisals is going to have the desired result. There are only two objects of a policy of reprisals which can justify its adoption. The first is that by it you succeed in forcing the enemy to discontinue the practices of which you complain. That is the main object of any policy of reprisals. There is a second object that may justify reprisals, and that is that you may be able to cause more damage to the enemy than their measures —against which you have taken your 1063 reprisals. Assuming that we have adopted a policy of reprisals in this country—I am not quite sure whether we have or not—and I merely second this Motion with the view of obtaining an authoritative statement—I want to know whether the Government have adopted it with a reasonable prospect of attaining either of two things: Do they think, by the adoption of this policy, they arc likely to secure the discontinuance of these air raids upon London and other towns of this country, or do they think that by the adoption of this policy they are likely to cause greater damage than the enemy has been able to inflict upon us? My own opinion—and it is one which is based upon very inadequate information—is that it is extremely doubtful whether the Government, in so far as they have adopted that policy of reprisals, has been able to secure either of these objects, or whether they are ever likely to secure them.
We must, in looking at this problem, consider the relative positions of this country and of Germany in respect to the vulnerability of each. It is, we all know, much easier for the Germans to get to London than it is for our airmen to get to Berlin. I doubt very much whether raids upon towns like Mannheim, Freiburg, and other places on the Rhine are likely to be a deterrent to the German Government in continuing their policy of air raids upon London. I think it is fair to say that the population of London is not greatly moved when an air raid takes place upon Felixstowe, Margate, or Dover. In the same way, I think, we may assume that the people of Berlin are not greatly moved by an air raid which is made upon Mannheim or some other town upon the Rhine. These are relevant considerations when you have to decide upon the expediency of a policy of reprisals, because the point I am I making now is entirely concerned with the expediency of reprisals as a warlike measure. It seems to me that up to the present in this country we have not been in a position to take effective reprisals upon Germany. If that is so, we naturally ask, Is it wise for the Government of this country to announce a policy of reprisals, which in the nature of things must, from the military point of view, be ineffective? If you take that point of view, you are undoubtedly provoking additional raids on London, which are likely to cause greater danger to your capital than you 1064 are likely to inflict upon the enemy. My own view in regard to this controversy has been that the. Government in this respect, as in many others, have been too prone to yield to popular clamour without considering the military problem in all its aspects. There is no greater danger to a Government in this respect than simply yielding to popular clamour. The only consideration in coming to a decision on such a grave problem as this is what is the military effect of your action going to be? If I were assured that the Government, in coming to a decision on this question had been guided solely by the military aspects of the problem I should not have seconded the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend.
I want, therefore, first of all, a statement as to what the policy really is. I want to know whether it is a policy of reprisals such as the interesting and somewhat bloodthirsty interview with the Prime Minister would lead us to suppose. If it is a policy of reprisal, do the Government believe that it is going to have either of the results which alone can justify a policy of reprisals? These are questions which I think the Secretary to the Air Ministry ought to elucidate to the House, and if we have an authoritative statement it will be of advantage to the people of this country in clearing their minds as to what the policy is and what is its justification. At the same time, I do not think that any damage can possibly be done so far as enemy action is concerned if it is made clear that we are pursuing a policy which is based upon military considerations and those alone.
§ Major BAIRD
The difficulty in dealing with this question was indicated by the different views held by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment with regard to the importance of London from the military point of view, The hon. Member who moved stated that London was a place of no great military value, and the hon. Member who seconded pointed out, with extreme truth—
§ Major BAIRD
I think the hon. Member will find, when he consults the Official Report, that he did mention that 1065 London, in his estimation, was a place of no great military value, which obviously is the same as saying that it is a place where there live a large number of persons not engaged in the War. The two views coincide, and one does not cancel the other. On the other hand, the hon. Gentleman who seconded made it quite clear that to send aeroplanes over London, even if they did not drop bombs, would be of considerable value to the people who sent them. I should like to ascertain from the two hon. Members what 13 really in their minds. Do they or do they not want bombs dropped on German towns? The hon. Gentleman who moved displayed a great deal of knowledge of German grammar, but when I asked him to give an instance of reprisals by our aircraft, all I could ascertain from him was that our aircraft had dropped some ungrammatical leaflets, giving an incorrect version of something that they were going to do, but which they have not done, and which admittedly would not impress the Germans very much. I do not see where the reprisals came in there. The hon. Member did not describe any horrible outrages which had been committed by this aircraft. Let us come down to bedrock facts. I do not know what happens on the German side, but everybody who has been on any kind of front at all knows that within four or five miles on our side of the line there are women and children, and you cannot drop a bomb anywhere on any inhabited place without running the risk of killing women and children. Nothing is more unfortunate. When the hon. Gentleman says that he wants a declaration to the effect that our attacks against the enemy should be carried out "with military objectives," I must point out, of course, they are military objectives. We are at war, and everything that we are doing has a military objective—"and in such a manner as to avoid, as far as possible, injury to non-combatants, women and children." What does '"' as far as possible "mean? Does any man for a moment think that any Englishman, Scotsman, Irishman, or Welshman would willingly kill a woman or child— of course they would not.
§ Major BAIRD
But it is almost impossible for a man who has fought or who has friends and relatives fighting to listen with 1066 patience to what the hon. Member has said to-day. Does the hon. Member say that Englishmen would willingly kill women and children?
§ Major BAIRD
That is quite different from what I said. As the hon. Member knows perfectly well, I said that no Englishman would kill any women or children if he could possibly help it, and everybody will agree. Do not let us bandy words. It is impossible to drop bombs on any towns—German, French, or English— without running the risk of killing women and children. Does the hon. Member mean that we am not to drop bombs on German towns?
§ Major BAIRD
If that is not the hon. Member's intention, then the whole of this Amendment has no meaning whatever. I do not know whether the habits and customs of the Germans have altered —perhaps the hon. Gentleman can tell me —since the War. As far as my knowledge before the War goes, the men, women and children of Germany all lived in the same towns. If they continue to do so, it is physically impossible to drop bombs on German towns without running the risk of killing German women and children. I am sorry, and everybody who has anything to do with it is sorry for it. The whole of the towns in the Rhine Valley arc-towns where munitions are manufactured. It would be difficult to mention one where these are not manufactured. They are all objectives of military interest, and it is perfectly open to us to bomb those places, just as it is open to the Germans to bomb our places. I am sorry I cannot more clearly define the intention and policy of the Government than that, but I think it is sufficiently categorical. We have started bombing German towns. We mean to continue bombing German towns, just as the Germans bomb our towns, and will bomb our towns as long as they can. That is the policy of both countries. It is, unfortunately, one of the new phases of warfare invented by the Germans, and carried out by them. I cannot say more than that.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I confess I regret that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who represents the Government should have imported so much heat into this discussion. He said that this Amendment has no meaning whatever because it contains some reference to the killing of women and children. It seems to me that this Amendment does express a very important principle. I do not believe that there is any real disagreement on the subject, and I would like to state once again the principle which I understand is behind the Amendment, so as to find out whether it is a principle accepted by the Government. What the Amendment asks is that the Government, in directing the action of our aircraft, should be influenced solely by military considerations. The Parliamentary Secretary says, of course, that is so. because we are at war and can have nothing but military objectives. In' a sense that is true, but in a sense that rather begs the question. I would go further and say that the considerations ought to be direct military considerations and objectives. What my hon. Friend (Mr. King) objects to, and what a good many people in this country object to, is the idea that we should employ our aircraft in order to deter the German Government by the terror of the damage which they are to do to women and children. I do not believe this Government would do that, but there is an idea that our aircraft might be used, as desired by the Press, merely for revenge. That is a most objectionable theory. It was the theory which was employed by the Germans in Belgium. It is the most barbarous theory of the War, and it was not really a practicable policy. I say that you will not gain any military objective by a policy of terror or merely a deterrent policy. That is what my hon. Friend had in view in moving this Amendment, that is to say, that our military considerations should be direct and not indirect., and that we should not direct our military policy in order to exercise a psychological effect upon the German Government or the German people, but that the War should be solely carried on for the purpose of gaining direct military objectives and not for any other purpose, and not to endeavouring, by the damage that is done, indirectly to exercise such influence on the German Government that they would then be willing to stop hostilities. It seems to me that is a very important difference, that the demands made by a certain section of the Press, 1068 which unfortunately has a great deal of influence, are undoubtedly for a mere policy of revenge. That is to say that because English women and children are killed by German aircraft, therefore German women and children are to be killed by English aircraft. That is a detestable policy, and it was as a protest against it that my hon. Friend moved his Amendment. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Baird) would have done better if he had accepted the Amendment in the spirit in which it was moved—I believe it was moved in a perfectly proper and patriotic spirit—and he would have made it clear that whatever is done by our aircraft is done for direct military objects and for no other purpose whatever, and not in any sense as a matter of revenge for what may be done in the killing of women and children by German aircraft. I hope I Have made plain what I believe was the true object of the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.