HC Deb 03 July 1919 vol 117 cc1222-3

The next question that is asked is, "What are your guarantees for the execution of this stern Treaty?" I need hardly assure the House that this gave us very great concern, and that we thought a great deal about it. We were determined, at any rate, that this Treaty should not be a scrap of paper. What are the guarantees? The first is the disarmament of Germany. The German Army was the foundation and corner stone of Prussian policy. You had to scatter it, disperse it, disarm it—to make it impossible for it to come together again, to make it impossible to equip such an army. The first step we took was to reduce the German Army from 4,000,000 to 100,000—quite adequate for the maintenance of the peace in Germany. Then came the question whether that army should be a voluntary army or a conscript army. The British Delegation had no hesitation in proposing that it should be a voluntary army, with a long term of service. I will tell the House why we came to that conclusion. The first proposal was that there should be a conscript army of 200,000 men. That would have meant that in ten years you might have had 1,500,000 trained men in Germany, and in twenty years you might have had 3,000,000 armed trained men. As everyone knows, that was more or less the method by which the army which overthrew Napoleon was created in Germany—by their short terms of service passing the youth of the nation as rapidly as they could through the machine. That we did not think was disarming Germany. Therefore we strongly advocated a long-service army, which would leave the mass of the population untrained, and make it impossible for the Germans to raise huge armies, even had they got someone else, to equip them. There was always that possible danger— that, although they might not be able to do it themselves, they might be in alliance with a country which could equip them. On the other hand, if they had not the trained men, it would have taken time at any rate to accustom them to the use of arms. We had always our own experience and the experience of America. Although we had in 1914 a very considerable force, scattered over the Empire, it was a force equipped rather for defence than for offence, and, in spite of the fact that you had in the British Empire pretty nearly 1,000,000 armed men in 1914, still we were not able to put in the field an army which you could reckon upon to face a great Continental army until 1916. Why? It took time to train and to equip—to get the necessary officers, and to make ready. You could not wage a war of aggression under these circumstances.

That is why we felt that as long as you forced the German Army down to a small number, so long as you had not in Germany great numbers of men who had received even six months' training, Germany could never take part in a war of aggression. That is what we want to avoid. Those who have read the Treaty know the steps we have taken to make it impossible for Germany to have great factories and arsenals which at any moment she could turn on for the equipment of a great force. I know very well from experience that, though you can convert and adapt to warlike purposes machinery used for peaceable purposes, it takes time, and that makes a war of aggression impossible. We, therefore, regard the disarmament of Germany—the reduction of her army, the destruction of her arsenals, the taking away of her guns—as one of the foremost guarantees for peace which you could exact in the Treaty. The same thing applies to her Navy.