HC Deb 13 March 1924 vol 170 cc2620-2

I have tried to sketch the military commitments which we have to meet, the size of the Army with which we have to meet them, and the machines with which the Army fights. I now come to the method of training. As the House knows, the War Office has recently acquired the site at Catterick as a large training ground in the North of England. It was necessary to find some large training ground to replace the 30,000 acres we lost in Ireland. I hope to be able shortly to visit Catterick in order to get a better idea of where the troops will actually do their training. The quiet period through which the Army has passed for the last 12 months has enabled the General Staff to concentrate on training not only in the Home Commands but abroad. The principle upon which we are proceeding is to establish a doctrine of training in the first place, and for this purpose a Director of Military Training has been appointed, who will supervise the production of the Training Manuals. By the recent appointment of an Inspector of Artillery, it will BE possible to test the progress made in the absorption by the Army of this training doctrine so far as the gunnery is concerned, and the closest touch is kept between the training authorities at the War Office and the General Officers Commanding who are responsible for training the troops.

The return of troops from Ireland to their peace stations enabled the Home Army, for the first time since the War, to carry out a thorough year's training during 1923. Owing to the necessity of concentrating attention on junior leadership, training during 1923 was limited to training of infantry brigades in co-operation with other arms. During 1924 training up to divisional training will be undertaken. There will be no Army manœuvres, but a short period of inter-divisional operations between 2nd and 3rd Divisions is proposed.

There is another aspect of training on which the War Office lays great stress, and that is not the military training of the men but training which will to some extent fit a soldier to earn his living properly as a civilian on leaving the colours. The soldier is showing a great interest in the progress of education. Last October there were 1,360 candidates for the 1st Class Certificate of Education, and 69 per cent. were successful in whole or in part. That means, I hope, that we are getting a higher type of intelligence in the Army. This general education is carried on during the man's service; towards the end of his service opportunity is given for vocational training or training for a trade. Vocational training started officially on the 1st April, 1923, and is carried on at two Army centres (Hounslow and Catterick) as well as in classes in commands. The intention is to give practical training at a trade, or at some form of agriculture during the last few months of their service to well-conducted men of a good standard of education who are about to join the Army Reserve, and to long service men about to take their pension. It is intended to train some 5,000 of the 15,000 men who leave the colours every year. These figures do not include the Army in India, which has its own scheme of vocational training. In addition, opportunities are made for a soldier during the whole of his service to undergo manual training with his unit or in command classes with a view to acquiring elementary knowledge of a trade. During the last three months of their service, men are normally struck off duty for an intensive course at these local centres. The most promising are struck off for six months and sent to one of the Army centres for practical work on a larger scale.