§ SIR L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS' STATEMENT.
§ Order for Committee read.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
I have followed the course that I took last year, and I have circulated with the Estimates a very full Memorandum in which I have reviewed the events of the Army year. I hope, therefore, that I can shorten my speech to-day. This year, I am asking for a vote on Vote A for 153,500 men. This is 13,000 less than last year, when the Vote was swollen by the numbers of men required to cover the mixed Brigade which was sent from India to China, and by the men called up from Section A of the Reserve to join British Units going to China. These factors alone account for 9,000. Among the other decreases, there is a reduction of about 1,500 Colonial and Indian troops, due to the transfer of Aden from the War Office to the Votes of the Air Ministry, to reductions in the garrisons at Bermuda and Sierra Leone, and to economies in the administrative services, principally in the Royal Army Service Corps and the Royal Army Medical Corps.
The total money I am asking the House to vote is £41,050,000 compared with £41,565,000 last year. This shows a net decrease of £515,000, just over half a million, but the true saving to the British Exchequer is much more. It is £1,000,000. This is due to two causes; we are receiving from the Exchequer as an Appropriation-in-Aid of the expense of the troops of the Rhine, £500,000 less than last year. The bulk of this will accrue to the general credit of the Exchequer, but in order to get my reduced total, I have had to reduce expenditure by this half million, as well as saving the £500,000 of actual reduction in the Estimates. In the second place, there is a gain to the Exchequer in connection with the Middle East. Army charges there last year fell 1262 on the Colonial Office Vote. This year the charge, which amounts to £200,000, falls on the Army Vote, and thin charge also has been brought within my reduced total. In addition to these sums, I have had to make substantially larger provision for the rise in the Non-Effective Votes, the growth in the Army Reserve, and increased expenditure at Singapore.
I do not propose to go through each Vote separately, but I will explain how the savings have been arrived at. Broadly speaking, there are three causes for the savings. First, there is the reduction in numbers. This is partly due to the reduction in establishments; we have been steadily pursuing our policy of economy, and we have found means of reducing the number of men we required, particularly in the administrative services, without, I hope, impairing our efficiency. But recruiting has also, I regret to say, failed to come up to requirements, and as there is a heavy run-off of men whose time is now expiring, and we expect to start the new year 2,500 men under establishment, we cannot hope to prevent the widening of the gap between strength and establishment. To this extent 1928 will be subnormal, and increased provision under this head may be anticipated in 1929. The Territorial Army similarly had a strength, on 1st January last, 7,000 below that of the year before, and though we do not expect this falling-off to continue throughout the year, it is only necessary to make provision for a maximum of some 2,500 less than last year. The total reductions in respect of numbers amount to some £416,000.
Under the second cause, I group the fall in prices of various supplies, the lower cost of living, which is associated with the same cause, the reduction made in the soldiers' rate of pay in 1925, which is having a cumulative effect, and the fact that there is one pay day less in the financial year. The second group of these causes contributes nearly £800,000 towards the reduction in expenditure. The third saving is obtained by a ruthless reduction in the Vote for New Works and Lands. There has been a reduction here of nearly £250,000. This is such a saving that I am afraid I cannot hold out hopes of being able to repeat it in another year.
1263 In perusing the Estimates, hon. Members will find that in almost every case the totals of the individual Votes differ from those of last year. Some of the heavy increases and decreases in the individual Votes are only apparent, as a number of these are due to the transfer of provison from one Vote to another consequent on the transfer of certain duties between the Quartermaster-General and the Master-General of Ordnance. The re-allocation of duties between these two members of the Army Council has introduced a number of counterbalancing charges into certain of the Votes. I can, however, summarise Votes in one sentence; they appear to show only a reduction of just over £500,000, but in fact the taxpayer is relieved by over £1,000,000. The reduction in expenditure, therefore, amounts to over £1,000,000, and this follows upon a continuous reduction year by year ever since 1921. I think hon. Members may feel disposed to join me in thanking the military members of the Army Council, and, indeed, the Army itself, for the assistance they have given in obtaining this result.
For some years past I have been gradually introducing changes into the Army which have been necessitated by the advance in the science of mechanical traction. On the introduction of the Army Estimates last year, and also in 1926, I described the trials and experiments with track, semi-track and wheel-cum-track machines, and compared the uses and performances of these vehicles with the six-wheeler now extensively adopted. I told the House of the partial reorganisation of the Cavalry, the Artillery and the Infantry, which have been initiated to utilise mechanical vehicles, but I have never been in a position to do more than explain the tentative and experimental work that had been commenced. I think, however, the time has now come when, with the experience we have gained, I can state more fully the aims of the Army Council in the reorganisation now in progress, and state the policy I am pursuing.
The additional mobility and carrying power of mechanical vehicles along with the striking force of tanks, are creating a revolution, not in the principles of warfare but in the application of those 1264 principles, just as the advent of the motor car has transformed the conduct of business life and even the social life of the nation. Last year we carried out at Tidworth a most interesting series of experiments with the mechanical force, consisting of a tank battalion, an armoured car company, mechanised artillery, and the Somerset Light Infantry mounted in six-wheel lorries. The immediate object of the experiment was to test the possibilities of an armoured mechanised force designed for action as a self-contained formation, and to find the best composition of the force and to evolve tactics for its use. Its first problem was to settle what auxiliary units must be associated with a tank battalion, which was treated as the main assaulting force, in order to enable the commander of the force to strike his enemy with the maximum of speed and effect. The General Officer Commanding, in reporting upon the work of the force, said that the results had exceeded his expectations. He said that they had learned more by the actual experiment than they have learned by years of speculation.
Psychologically, the effect on training has been very marked. The mere fact that something new is actually being done has put new life into all units; even the experience of being attacked by the mechanised force was exhilarating and stimulating. It was a pledge of progress. Of course, it is too early yet to say anything positive about the outcome of the experiments. There is room for much speculation. It may be that, ultimately, very few soldiers will actually march on their feet great distances to battle; they may be carried by air or in motor vehicles, much as their brothers in civil life are progressively ceasing to walk, and are using other and more speedy methods of progression. It may be that the divisional organisation with its proportions of Cavalry, Artillery and Infantry, will have to be changed, and that other and smaller groups of men in various kinds of mechanical vehicles, with tanks, will be found to be the best units upon which to build a larger force. Although these speculations are permissible, they relate to the future rather than to the present, and, meanwhile, we have to maintain the forces we know to be valuable until by experiment, by trial or error, we are satisfied that something better can be substituted. So we are 1265 asking for money to continue the experimental mechanised force at Tidworth, and throughout the year further experience will be sought in the nature of the machines, in the organisation of mechanised units and in the methods of their employment.
Of course, if I were a free man—I mean, if it were not necessary to keep expenditure within very narrow limits—I would create the new formations before I reduced or converted the existing ones, but I am not free to follow that course; I have to make continuous reductions in existing expenditure, in order to find money for experiments and research and even for equipping some units with new and expensive vehicles and armaments. I am more handicapped than a business man, because I have no capital account. I cannot expend capital and replace it over a number of years. I have to make the purchases each year out of a reduced yearly income, and consequently I have no room for adventures. I have to bring about savings which mean reductions in present units before I can find the money for the new equipments. The policy we are pursuing is gradually to convert existing formations which were organised without reference to mechanical vehicles into formations based upon the increased mobility and fire-power given by the use of the internal - combustion engine, whether it be used in aeroplanes, or in land armaments or transport.
We are gradually applying this policy to all the arms of the Service First, I will state the policy with regard to the Cavalry. I tried last year to show that a strengthened and a modernised Cavalry is still necessary, and I see that many writers in the Press proclaim that the day of the Cavalry is past, and that they denounce me as weak and wasteful because I do not immediately disband all Cavalry regiments. They have, no doubt, been watching some of our cross country mechanised vehicles and, without any just appreciation of the uses of Cavalry, they have let their enthusiasm for the machines run away with their judgment. I would remind the House why Cavalry have been and still are required. Before the Great War it was generally accepted that the duties of Cavalry comprised the services of obtaining information and providing security for the Army. In other words, whilst 1266 one body known as the independent Cavalry of the Army made it their duty to seek out the enemy and maintain touch with him until the Commander-in-Chief was able to form and execute his plans for bringing the enemy to battle, the protective Cavalry of the Army afforded the necessary protection against a surprise attack during the approach of the Army to the battlefield. When the enemy was forced to retire the Cavalry, by use of the sword, endeavoured to turn the enemy's retreat into a rout. In the contrary event, the Cavalry, by use of their mobility and fire-power, were expected to cover the withdrawal of their own side. In the prolonged siege warfare on the Western Front in the Great War the part played by our Cavalry in the earlier and later stages of the conflict was completely overshadowed by the larger and more important happenings in 1915, 1916, and 1917, whilst the experiences of the Palestine campaign show that in certain countries and against certain types of forces Cavalry is still an effective and necessary force.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the advent of the aeroplane and the tank, coupled with the enormously increased power of rapid-firing weapons of all natures, have had a serious influence on the ability of the cavalry to perform nowadays the tasks which were expected of them prior to 1914. War has changed and will continue to change, but it is always necessary to find your enemy and to take precautions against a surprise attack. Reconnaissance, therefore, is necessary. Long-distance reconnaissance can, weather permitting, be done by aeroplanes, and at medium distances aeroplanes are of great advantage, but close reconnaissance, especially in a country affording some cover, must still be done by troops capable of speedy and silent movement over difficult ground, and in the face of opposition. Let me emphasise the full significance of the word "capable." The horse and man to-day are no more bullet proof than they were formerly, while the delaying power of even the smallest body of troops acting on the defensive, if equipped with machine guns on the modern scale, has increased to a degree upon which I need not dilate. The execution of any reconnaissance connotes the possession of 1267 power to penetrate a hostile defensive screen. In the face of opposition of this description, which we are certain to meet in any future war, it will be impossible to achieve this penetration by forces unaccompanied by armoured vehicles of some description.
Our problem, therefore, in considering the future use of cavalry, is to produce a force which will still be capable of carrying out its old accepted role of gaining information and affording security in the face of modern weapons, to such extent as these requirements cannot be met by the use of aircraft. It should not be forgotten, also, that the British cavalry does not know where it may be called upon to operate. The cavalry of a purely European Power knows its terrain and it can be equipped and trained accordingly. The British cavalry must be ready to play its part, whether in Europe or elsewhere, under widely different conditions. I am satisfied that horses cannot be abolished altogether, for as yet we have no machines which can take the place of the horse for all purposes and in all countries. We have machines which, by bearing some part of the load hitherto carried by cavalry, can assist the cavalry, rendering it still more mobile and increasing its fire-power, and we have armoured cars which can assist the cavalry to penetrate a hostile defensive screen. We believe that the problem is best solved for the present by the reorganisation which I will outline.
As hon. Members know, the cavalry has been largely reduced in recent years. The Household Cavalry has been reduced to two regiments, slightly strengthened in numbers, and the cavalry of the line has been reduced from 28 regiments to 20 regiments. There are five regiments in India and three regiments in Egypt, one on the Rhine, and 11 regiments at home. The Army Council do not consider that we have any surplus of mounted units, and it is not therefore intended to disband any unit. During the past year we have completed the reorganisation, on a two-sabre squadron basis, of the 15 regiments at home, on the Rhine and in Egypt. As I explained last year, the organisation of a line cavalry regiment has been altered to comprise two sabre squadrons and a 1268 machine-gun squadron, which we are mechanising, instead of three sabre squadrons. The mechanised squadron consists for the present of six-wheeler lorries, carrying eight machine guns in peace and 16 machine guns in war. Six wheelers will also carry the first line transport. But we hope to improve on the lorries; we are trying to find lightly-armoured vehicles, but some time will probably elapse before we are successful. Part of the load hitherto carried by the horse has been transferred to the lorries, and the men now ride two stone lighter.
I have not been able to include in this year's Estimates all the money required for the equipment, but I hope that it may be completed in the course of a few years; meanwhile, so far as the 11 regiments at home are concerned, there will be enough lorries provided for training purposes. The reorganisation will economise in men and it will increase the range of action of the cavalry by reducing the weight they carry, and by improving the first line transport, and the additional machine guns will add immensely to their fire power. I have already mentioned the necessity for including armoured vehicles in our cavalry formation, in order that they may be able to penetrate the enemy's defensive screen. We want to strengthen the cavalry by adding one armoured car regiment per brigade, and we propose that two cavalry regiments shall exchange their horses for armoured cars. When this is done, a cavalry division will consist of two cavalry brigades and two regiments of armoured cars with their artillery. I had better say at once that the regiments which will be converted into armoured-car regiments will retain intact their titles, their privileges, their precedence, and their identity as regiments of the Corps of Cavalry of the Line, and I am confident that we can rely on the regiments concerned to maintain their high tradition of efficiency and esprit de corps, in the new conditions which will confront them. We believe that by carrying out this policy, we shall have made the best use of modern machines to enable the cavalry to fulfil a role for which, at least in some countries, they are still indispensable.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I am going to ask my hon. and gallant Friend not to press me upon that point to-day. I do not want to announce the names of the regiments until the regiments themselves have been notified. As machines improve we can extend the process of substituting mechanical mounts for horses, and if it should be that eventually some genius produces the perfect substitute for a horse, our mounted troops will no doubt then willingly accept the substitute. I may say that that substitute is not yet in sight. With the artillery the difficulties are not so great. Heavy and medium artillery is being mechanised entirely; two brigades of the Army Field Artillery are mechanised; some batteries are tractor drawn, and one battery is mounted in self-propelled vehicles. The rest of the field artillery is still horse drawn. We have hitherto been obliged to keep more batteries of horse-drawn field artillery than we wished, because India required horse-drawn artillery and was not willing to take mechanised units, and it was necessary, therefore, not merely to provide horse-drawn units for service in India, but also to keep the corresponding units at home to furnish drafts and reliefs for those in India. We have taken money in the Estimates for mechanising one additional field brigade for further experiments. I intend to pursue the policy of converting horse-drawn into mechanised units as soon as money can be made available The Royal Horse Artillery and the Light Artillery, which used to be called the Pack Artillery, will remain for the present with horses and mules.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
As I have said in the Memorandum, the battalions of foot-guards and of the infantry of the line at home and in the Colonies are being reorganised into a headquarter wing and three rifle companies and a machine gun company of 16 machine guns on the Colonial establishment, and 12 machine guns on the home establishment. Four anti-tank guns will be added as soon as a satisfactory gun can be devised. The ancillary arms of the Service have naturally to conform to the greater speed of the principal formations, and consequently motor transport has to be provided for 1270 them. Considerable progress has been made in the mechanisation of the engineer and signal units.
I believe the Army is eager to progress, but I am bound to be cautious; it is just as easy to be carried away by the apparent case with which mechanised vehicles, on parade, without opposition, carry out spectacular manœuvres, as it is to be disheartened and underrate the possibilities of an armoured mechanical force, if we dwell too much on the limitations of the machines now provided. We have added to our knowledge year by year; we have learnt enough to adopt a definite policy, and we shall learn more by this year's exercises at Tidworth. I have no doubt that the policy which we are pursuing is the right one. We have determined at the earliest possible moment to utilise to the full the inventions which have been proved useful in civil life, but we have to adapt them to military uses, and we have to adapt the Army, with its ancient traditions and its historic regiments, with their invaluable esprit de corps, to the new conditions.
I will now turn to the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army, as hon. Members are aware, is now organised and trained. so far as conditions permit, on the same lines as the Regular Army. It is of great importance, therefore, that the contact between the Territorial and the Regular armies should be as close and continuous as circumstances allow, and increasing efforts are made to foster personal relations. For instance, during annual training Staff College students have been attached to Territorial formations, to their mutual benefit. The students got an opportunity of practical handling of troops, and the Territorial personnel are brought into contact with the latest developments of military science. Regular battalions, also, are encouraged to take a practical interest in their Territorial battalions and to send a proportion of their officers and non-commissioned officers to camp with them. The same arrangement is encouraged, too, in the case of units other than infantry, with equally good results. A large proportion of Territorial brigades last year also made use of Regular officers for the instruction of machine gunners and signallers. I think these forms of assistance from the Regular Army are much appreciated by 1271 the Territorial Army, and encourage a feeling that they are not being treated as amateurs. At any rate, it is a significant fact that the number of officers in the Territorial Army on the 1st January was higher than at any date since the reconstitution of the Territorial Army in 1921. In the combatant branches there is a shortage of only 805 on an establishment of 6,630. This shows, I think, that the Territorial officer to-day feels he is getting a military training that is really interesting and worth commending to his friends.
As regards other ranks the position is not so satisfactory. The abolition last year of the training bounty and the substitution of a proficiency grant gave a serious set-back to recruiting in the spring, and from March to July of last year there was a heavy fall in the intake of recruits, compared with the corresponding months of 1925 (the figures for 1926 being abnormal owing to the General Strike). Since then there has been a gradual improvement which will, I hope, be maintained, as this year I have no disturbing announcement to make with regard to the Territorial Army. There is a small reduction due to the abolition of some veterinary units which can be improvised on mobilisation; and the process of mechanisation in Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers and Royal Signals units means some reduction of establishments also. The administrative grants to associations are being reduced by about £30,000, equal to 2½ percent., and I should like to take this opportunity of saying how warmly I appreciate the spirit in which County Associations generally have accepted this necessarily unwelcome "cut." Some saving had to be found, and they have not tried to shift the burden from their own shoulders.
Hon. Members will have observed that these Estimates do not contain any provision for the additional cost of the troops in China who are in excess of the number normally stationed there. We are following the practice of previous years in presenting Supplementary Estimates so that the House may be aware of the extra cost involved in the despatch of additional troops to that country. I should not, however, like to let this opportunity pass without a tribute to the good work and good behaviour of the 1272 troops sent at short notice to China under conditions of service where were exceptional. I have already told the House of the admirable manner in which the men of Section A of the Army Reserve responded to the sudden call on their services. The last of these returned home a few weeks ago, and I am sure that Members of the House and all the wider audience to whom my words may come, will be ready to do what they can to help to employment or re-employment these men who have rendered so useful a service to their country in time of emergency.
I propose now to say a few words about my visit to India this winter. Let me repeat that the units of the British Army in India are under the command of the Commander-in-Chief in India, Field Marshal Sir William Birdwood, and they are administered by the Government of India, and that consequently. I had no jurisdiction and no official position in relation to the troops in India. I only repeat this to avoid anything I may say being considered an encroachment upon the province of the Government of India. I spent over a week at Quetta, Rasmak and Peshawar, and I visited most of the posts on the Indian frontier. I stayed with the General Officers Commanding and I saw most of the British units and many of those belonging to the Indian Army. I am most grateful to them for their kindness and for the useful information they gave me. It does one good to visit the real outposts where living is hard, where no one pretends there is any luxury or much comfort, and where officers and men alike are always on the alert, ready and waiting for whatever may chance to be their lot. I also visited a number of other stations, where I saw British and Indian units, some belonging to the Field Force, and others part of the internal security troops. At Delhi, with General Charles who accompanied me, I had some satisfactory conferences with the Commander-in-Chief and his staff.
The first difficulty we had to tackle arose from the reorganisation of our cavalry at home. The five regiments in India are still on the old three sabre squadron basis. I was anxious that the reorganisation of the British cavalry should proceed in all the regiments, and that all should have two sabre squadrons 1273 and a machine gun squadron to be mechanised as soon as possible. If the regiments in India had remained on the old formation, there would have been difficulties about reliefs and drafts, and moreover the training would have been different. I am glad to say that the Commander-in-Chief, after some discussion, readily agreed that the British cavalry regiments in India should be reorganised on the same basis as those in England, although the machine gun squadrons of those regiments will not be mechanised at present.
We had a similar difficulty with the field artillery. India was not willing to receive a mechanised brigade; as we continue our policy of mechanisation of the field artillery, we should have been in great difficulties; indeed, we should have had to delay mechanisation and keep horse-drawn brigades for India with reliefs and drafts. The Commander-in-Chief has again met us. During the next trooping season we shall be at liberty to send either horse-drawn or mechanised artillery as we please. We had discussion also upon other aspects of mechanisation, and its effects both upon the British and Indian armies, and there were other matters of mutual interest upon which we had informal and unofficial exchanges of views. I am grateful to the Commander-in-Chief and his staff for the way in which they have met us over the cavalry and the artillery, and if that were all that had been accomplished, my journey would have been well repaid.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The speech to which we have just listened has been very interesting and satisfactory, inasmuch as we have been told that there is a reduction of £500,000 in this year's Estimates, and, according to the statement made by the Secretary of State for War, there is really a reduction of £1,000,000 in the expenditure. To that extent, I think, the War Office and the right hon. Gentleman are entitled to the congratulations of the House. I think it can be said that the progressive reduction in the Army Estimates for many years now, as compared with other Services, has been carried out so quickly that the War Office is entitled to the appreciation of the House. But after all is said and done, the right hon. Gentleman is asking for £41,000,000 for the purposes of defence and offence, and this aster a war 1274 which shook civilisation to its very foundations. It is true that we may find some consolation in the fact that, in comparison with other armies of the world, our Estimates are not large and our numbers are very small. For all that, these Estimates outline possibilities of destruction that make very sad reading for those who seriously consider the future well-being of the world.
Of course, it is not for us to discuss policies this afternoon. When these decisions have been once taken it is necessary for us to see that we get proper value for the money that has to be called for, and the money that has to be spent. For the purpose of maintaining 153,000 men during the coming 12 months we are asked to spend £41,000,000. There is a very significant fact which is worthy of the attention of the House, the War Office and the country generally, and it is that 84,000 recruits offered themselves last year and out of that total about 28,000 were accepted as meeting the standard of physical fitness required for Army purposes. We have to put side by side with that the fact that the Minister has stated that the Army is below standard and that there is need for further men. There were 28,000 men accepted, or 33 out of every 100 accepted for service during the past year. I ask the House to consider what must be the real state of affairs among the great civilian population in this country if we see a continually increasing standard of physical fitness demanded in the men who year by year offer themselves for service. Last year the proportion accepted was 35 per cent. and this year it is 33 per cent.
I do not intend to labour this question. We can take all necessary steps for maintaining the efficiency of the Army; we can spend money for the maintenance of that efficiency; but it is to very little purpose if we allow social degradation and our standard of life to be lowered until we have results such as we see in these recruiting returns. Coming as I do from the homes of the masses of the people, I say definitely that, as far as I can see, there is very little hope, in view of the present standard of life, of an improvement in that direction during the next few years. It is necessary once more to emphasise that of the £41,000,000 we are spending this year there is over 1275 £8,000,000 non-effective. That £8,000,000 goes to the payment of pensions, half-pay and the maintenance generally of those to whom we have committed ourselves. It is true that the nation through Parliament, has incurred obligations that it ought to carry out, but I say frankly that when I looked through the Estimates dealing with non-effective charges I came to the conclusion that possibly there was a need for careful review of our future commitments in respect of non-effective charges.
There is one significant fact: As expenditure goes down in the Army Estimates, the non-effective charges increase not only in comparison but in fact. It seems to me that there is need for careful review, and more than ever because of the increasing mechanisation of the Army. I have not had time to examine the figures as to the relative numbers of officers in the higher and lower grades as compared with pre-War days, but I think it would be true to say that the advance of technique and the need of more technical men will increase by comparison the number of officers and higher grade officers as compared with pre-War days. I have been wondering, in view particularly of the increasing mechanisation, just where we are likely to go in the matter of non-effective charges for pensions and that kind of thing. I should say that unless there is very strict attention given to that matter we are going to incur in the future obligations that will be a real danger to the ultimate efficiency of the Army itself. I want to make one point quite clear. Of course we have to keep our obligations to those to whom we have committed ourselves, but, taking a long view over a number of years, it seems to me of importance that there should be, either by Departmental Committee or by Select Committee, a very careful investigation of the committals of the Army and of Parliament over a number of years.
As one looks at the report on the Army itself, its moral, its standard of education and its physical standard, one finds that there is room for a good deal of congratulation. One never likes to compare the modern soldier with the old-time soldier. The old-time soldier, of course, had his virtues in spite of the vices that were very often apparent. But, really, the bearing of the soldier to-day not only 1276 points to a standard of self-control, but is a tribute to the results of his education in addition to his training. I understand that we are asked to spend over £1,000,000 on education. We see the soldier bearing some of the signs of the money spent on his education, but I wonder just what value we are getting for the money spent in that way. I am in a somewhat dual position. As the Secretary of State knows, my right hon. Friend the late Secretary for War was compelled to leave the House, and I was called upon to deal with the Estimates in a general way when in the ordinary course of events I should have had to deal with matters in much more detail. I repeat that I wonder just what value we are getting for the money spent on the education of the soldier. There are very large numbers of schoolmasters—non-commissioned and commissioned officers. When the Financial Secretary to the War Office replies I hope he will tell us whether the schoolmasters, the supervisors and the inspectors, are people who have had training in the particular profession to which they are now called. It is necessary that we should get full value for our money in that direction and avoid the possibility of making the educational service a sort of plum for some non-commissioned officer or officer who may have had no training for that particular class of work.
Then there is the question of the training of men when they leave the Service. It has always been emphasised that if we are to recruit the right type of men they must be assured that they are not going into a blind-alley occupation. I wish to congratulate the Secretary of State and his staff at the War Office on the fact that they have moved the Catterick Camp down to Chisledon. That change was promised two years ago, and I appreciate the fact that it has been carried out. Then there are the other camps for training. I say frankly, however, that there is one thing about the new phase that I do not like, and that is the charge made to the ranker soldier when he wishes to be trained. Those charges are raised to 7s. 6d. a week. I fear that they put the training of the average ranker almost beyond the limit of his means; it is too high a proportion of his pay for that class of work. I do not know what is the proportion down at Chisledon or at Hounslow, but it appears 1277 to me to be absolutely necessary in the best interests of the Army that every stimulus should be given to the average soldier, when he finishes his service, to train in these camps. That is one of the very useful pieces of work that I was really proud of when I had the honour of filling the office of Financial Secretary to the War Office. I trust that this new Chisledon effort, with its possibilities of training three or four times as many men as it trains now, is not going to be allowed to degenerate because of the charges that are made.
I see that on page 276 of the Estimates there are charges for Kilmainham Hospital. The normal establishment of that hospital is 137 and the present number is 46. I understand that what happened was that this hospital was, for certain reasons, still left under War Office control when the arrangement was made with the Irish Free State. There are 46 in-pensioners, and the cost for their maintenance is £279 15s. 6d. per pensioner. I believe they are being well looked after, but I would ask the Financial Secretary whether it would not be possible to care for these in-pensioners just as well by transferring them to other hospitals, and to dispose of this hospital, for which there is an annual maintenance charge of £8,000, and in the long run I believe something like £13,000. That is all that I wish to say on those matters, but there is one very important subject to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer this afternoon, namely, the question of the reorganisation of the new duties as between the Quartermaster-General and the Master-General of the Ordnance. I cannot speak with intimate knowledge of that subject, and, indeed, I question whether there is anyone in this House who can do so unless it be, possibly, some officer who happens to have had special knowledge and training in that direction. I cannot attempt to speak with intimate knowledge of this matter, and, indeed, when the Earl of Cavan, the late Chief of the Imperial General Staff, says that he only speaks as a layman on a matter of that description, and when well tried soldiers and officers of long experience speak upon it with considerable qualification, it behoves me to speak very guardedly upon it. It is very difficult, when one reads the discussions on 1278 this matter, to see just how far the complaints and criticisms arise from the effects of the changes upon the status of the various officers in the commands concerned.
One knows from experience, and one can sympathise with him, that the highly placed officer is very sensitive about any change in his status, but this can be said about the discussions that have gone on in connection with this reorganisation, that there has not been that narrowness, there has not been that pettiness of which one has sometimes read in connection with reorganisation in Army services in days gone by. Therefore, I am not at all affected by the cricitisms in that direction, but Sir Charles Harris, who was the Permanent Financial Secretary, has criticised it from the point of view of the possibility of an increase in cost. Then there are those who, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, have criticised this reorganisation from the point of view of its actual effect in time of war. I do not wish to enter into those arguments at all, but, having read many of the Reports of Select Committees or Commissions which have sat to consider Army matters, particularly after wars, and particularly that of the Esher Commission, and having followed as well as I could the material which the right hon. Gentleman has placed at our disposal—which is rather limited—and the arguments in the Press generally, it does seem to me that there is a possibility of the civilian, of the House of Commons, getting into the hands of the expert. You have the technical adviser, and this mechanisation seems to be tending more and more to put, not only the average civilian who takes some interest in these matters, but the War Office itself, and the right hon. Gentleman, too, very much in the hands of experts, and to make a certain phase of Army organisation very dark and difficult to understand from the point of view of just what value we are getting for our money.
It does seem to me that there is something in the point that has been made by certain newspapers, and also by Lord Haldane in another place, that it is a very important matter, not only from the point of view of the effect of these changes upon war organisation, should war unfortunately come, but also from the point of view of the cost to the 1279 nation, that we should have some assurance, at any rate, that we are not being asked for money on a large scale for something that in the long run will, perhaps, not give full value for the money spent. I think, therefore, that there is something in the request that is being made for an inquiry. It is an agreed fact, and all Commissions after wars have proved it, that the civilian, on patient investigation, has very often had to save the soldier from himself. Therefore, I suggest personally—I do not put it forward as a proposition of my Friends at all; I make this suggestion personally—that, from the case that has been made by those who have criticised this reorganisation, without regard to the special status of the Master-General of the Ordnance or the Quartermaster-General, although, to one who has tried to understand the results of the changes, some of the things that have been done seem rather strange, but from the point of view of the nation, it seems to me that there is some need for an inquiry.
Before I close, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman one question. He said that we have reduced the number of soldiers in China. May I ask him if he could tell us, through the Financial Secretary, or could he tell us now, how many soldiers there are at present in China, and what is the present cost of the maintenance of these men out there? We all must congratulate ourselves upon the good conduct of men who are operating in difficult circumstances, and we should like to pay tribute to that, but I should be very much obliged if the right hon. Gentleman could answer this question, as it is of great importance for the purpose of future discussions on the Estimates. May I now, in conclusion, come back to this one point, that we vote this £41,000,000 for Army purposes because, if we need an Army at all, we feel that that Army ought to be efficient and effective for its purpose; but, if we are to fulfil that object, perhaps the gravest fact that this House has to face to-day is the statement made in the General Report on the British Army—a statement which is not only of importance to the Army, but is of great importance in regard to the civil life of this country—that only 33 out of every 100 of the youth of this country who offered them- 1280 selves for enlistment were found to be physically fit for that purpose.
Major-General Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his very interesting statement—probably the most interesting statement that we have had on Army Estimates for some years. It had the great advantage of being extremely lucid and short, but there is one thing which the right hon. Gentleman skated over, and of which I think the House has not, perhaps, fully appreciated the significance, namely, the extraordinary changes which are taking place in the Army to-day, and have taken place during the past year. I venture to say that no more drastic and revolutionary changes have taken place within the Army since 1904 than have taken place during the last two years, and particularly since the 1st October of last year. We have seen the various letters which have appeared in the "Times," criticising, some of them most favourably and others unfavourably, the reorganisation which has taken place within the Headquarter Staff of the War Office in relation to the very difficult and controversial matter of the Staff of the Army in the field. It is quite realised that, with the rapid advance of mechanisation in the Army, it was right and proper and necessary that some re-grouping of duties should take place in consequence, and, therefore, the placing of all the mechanised vehicles under one head, not only for design but for control in every way, is, I think, very desirable. But when that is translated into alterations of the Staff in the field for war, you come to an entirely different pair of shoes.
I am not one of those who criticise what has been done for peace. I know that there is the disadvantage of various workshops, that is to say, the workshops of the Master-General of the Ordnance, dealing with mechanised vehicles, and the workshops of the Quartermaster-General under the Army Service Corps, dealing with the vehicles that they control. That, at home and in time of peace, is a matter purely of administration, but when you come to putting mechanised vehicles under a new Staff Officer in the field, not only as regards design but as regards control, then I think you are up against one of the fundamental errors of 1281 which the Esher Committee pointed out the existence in our Army organisation in South Africa. You get, under the new organisation, a new Staff Officer in the field under the Commander-in-Chief, a deputy of the Master-General of the Ordnance. He now becomes a fourth principal Staff Officer in the field, and, undoubtedly, he has as much right of access to the Commander-in-Chief as the Chief of the General Staff; and in the Field Service Regulations it is laid down that the Chief of the General Staff will—not may—co-ordinate the working of the other members of the Staff, that is to say, the Adjutant-General, the Quartermaster-General, and the Master-General of the Ordnance. I can quite understand that the time of the Chief of the General Staff will be more than taken up with examining the various administrative details which will be put before him, because it is laid down that he must co-ordinate, he must look into the various propositions put forward by the other members of the Staff.
Worse than that, however, you get a conflict of responsibility between the new officer, that is to say, the Master-General of the Ordnance, and the Quartermaster-General. The Quartermaster-General in war, up to the time of this change, was not only responsible for the provision of supplies and also for bringing on the various munitions of war, but he had the wagons and the various vehicles under his control to move them. Now there seems to me to be a change, in that the Master-General of the Ordnance now controls the special vehicles which are attached to the various fighting organisations—that is to say, the mechanised vehicles—and he has also to deal with the various movements of those vehicles from the base up to the front. The Army Service Corps meantime have the movement of supplies. He has his own vehicles to hand, and I can easily see the usual conflict as to what shall go up to the front line. Anyone who was on the staff during the late War knows the great conflict that went on as to whether you should send up stores or food. That was co-ordinated and run very properly under the Quartermaster-General, and I have yet to hear that that system suffered any breakdown. In the early stages of the War, there was a considerable amount of friction owing to 1282 congestion and lack of communication from the various bases with the front.
After that got into real working order at the beginning of 1916, things went on much more smoothly, and now you are going to alter that system, which stood the stress of war, and bring in another system without any proper inquiry from those who had the working of the old system. When anyone is engaged in improving a machine or a factory, it is naturally understood that those who are working the machine or carrying on the factory are consulted before alterations are made. But here I understand the chief staff officers and those who had the principal say in the working of the staff machine in war were not consulted before this change was carried out. I quite realise, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out upstairs, that the Army Council have the responsibility in the matter, but surely some inquiry ought to have been made from those who have had experience of the working of the machine. Before such a very serious alteration in our organisation was carried out, we ought to have had some impartial inquiry, like that of the Esher Committee, which would have been able to sift the evidence without mixing up conflicting interests. If we go into a large war again, the Commander-in-Chief will undoubtedly have to make alterations in the present system.
I notice in the instructions issued, it is said that an administrative officer may be appointed to ease the Commander-in-Chief of the burden by co-ordinating the other members of his staff. There will then remain the Chief of the General Staff and the chief administrative officer. If this is going to be the plan for war, surely it ought to be carried out now, because it is so difficult when you go to war to realise whether it is going to be a small or a big war, and the great advantage of running one type of organisation is that people get accustomed to it, as they had done before the last War. The difficulties of administration on the field only come up under great stress, and during the stress of war you cannot change. It is during the extra strain put on administration that it breaks down. Possibly there is a good deal to be said for this change, but I do not see why such a fundamental change should 1283 be carried out against the advice of very distinguished officers without proper investigation.
As regards the War Office side of the change, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he contemplates the Master-General of the Ordnance always being drawn from the same arm of the service, the Royal Artillery, because for the last 100 years it has always been an artillery officer who has been Master-General of the Ordnance. The interchangeability of staff officers was laid down not very long ago as absolutely fundamental, so that the staff officer should learn the difficulties of each branch of the staff. Then I should like to ask how far are the Master-General of the Ordnance and the Major-General of Artillery to be the same person. I understand the organisation has this economy, that the two will be thrown into one. You will thus get the extraordinary state of affairs that the Master-General of the Ordnance, who is responsible for the provision of the sinews of war, will be the same man who inspects and reports on those sinews of war to the Commander-in-Chief. I cannot imagine a worse form of inspection than a man inspecting his own deeds and his own production. It is most important that if there is to be that synchronisation of the Major-General of Artillery and the Master-General of Ordnance, some other method should be adopted of inspection so as to provide the guarantee of a sufficiency of material.
Under the new organisation, I take it, the store holding, that is the heavy stores, will be in the hands of the Master-General of Ordnance in the field. If so, it seems to me a great deal of friction will be created as to when and how those stores are to be moved and where they are to be housed. During the War, at Calais and Boulogne, we had the greatest difficulty in knowing which were the right stores to house in the most get-at-able position and which stores it was more important to send up, because there was never sufficient transport to send up everything. I should like to be reassured as to how far this will be under the control of one man, and not in the hands of all. I think Parliament had a right to be consulted before these very radical 1284 changes were carried out, and certainly ought to have had the advice of a Committee. I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's remarks on the Cavalry Division. I thought that was a move in the right direction. The combination of the fast-moving vehicles, the mechanisation of part of the force and keeping horses for the other, is perfectly right, and it will be with great interest that we shall hear his Report next year as to how far we have advanced and how the lessons have been learnt.
I should like to ask how far the change in the making up of the Division affects drafts abroad—I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman was able to persuade the heads of the Indian Army to come into line with us in our new organisation—and how far will the linked regiments of India he able to give the necessary drafts. The more we keep in line with India, the better it will be for the Service as a whole. We suffered from that in the War. The Indian units came over with arms and ammunition of a different type and we had no spare parts for them. It is most important that we should keep every part of our Army in India or elsewhere on the same basis and with the same arms. I was glad to hear there is such a big number of our regular officers going to the Territorial Force. That is one of the points we laid down in 1919, when we had a Committee to consider how we could more closely connect the Territorial Army with the Regular Army. The more we can keep touch between them, the better it will be for both.
With regard to China, I am glad to see the garrison is being reduced. Service in the contained area of Shanghai is extremely irksome. From the reports I get from friends out there, I learn that the troops are under a tremendous moral strain. They are cooped up and have very few facilities for amusement outside the ordinary football and things close round their cantonments. The surroundings of the various places where they have to sleep are full of the usual Chinese smells. Altogether it is a demoralising area, and I trust, if we are going to keep any Force there at all, we shall turn the men over as frequently as possible. After all, you have a first-class station at Hong Bong, and there is no reason why we should not make a 1285 quick turnover, certainly not allowing any units to remain longer than a year. I hope the reports are thoroughly sound from the point of view of health. I know, the right hon. Gentleman appreciated that very great difficulty before they went out. We have to be very careful to see that they have adequate hospital equipment.
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman did not see fit to touch on Iraq. No doubt we are in a position of strain there at present. How far have we got the troops it will be necessary to send there ready, and are we going to draw on India or on home for that?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The hon. and gallant Gentleman had better ask that question of the Air Minister on Monday.
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
Air Marshal Ellington will be there, and you could not have a more competent Commander in the field. All the same, undoubtedly the Air Minister will have to call upon the War Minister to provide the men to hold the post. It is all very well for the Air Force to say that they can handle the position, but they cannot rest, unfortunately. When you get people holding positions or protecting places like Basra, undoubtedly they will have to come to the War Minister. I only suggest to him that he will relieve our minds by saying that he knows what is required and also what he can do in the matter. It is a very serious thing, as we all know, to be thrown into warfare in that climate, especially up and down the Gulf there. It will be a very difficult operation, and I hope that things will mend and that we shall not be required to send British soldiers to that part.
There are two questions I should like to ask the Financial Secretary to answer when he replies. One is a question which affects my country. Round about Christmas and the New Year festivities, a battalion at Aldershot was suddenly reported as having become extremely riotous, and their conduct was reported in certain sections of the Press as very deplorable. I understand that their honour as a well-disciplined regiment was entirely vindicated when the matter was investigated by a committee of inquiry, and I hope that a short statement will be made by the Financial Secretary to 1286 show that the War Office recognise this, because it is felt, not only in the Highlands where this regiment is recruited, but amongst every one who is connected with the regiment, that some injustice has been done by the publicity which has been given to their supposed misdoings, while no publicity was given to their exoneration and to their conduct, which was proved to be grossly exaggerated. I hope that for the regiment's sake, and for the sake of Scottish regiments, some remarks will be made by the Financial Secretary.
Last of all, may I ask him to reassure officers that it is not necessary for them to provide themselves with full dress? I do not want to single out units, but I know about what I am talking. Officers over and over again have been told, "Well, I know it is not recognised by the Regulations, but you have to get it." The result is, either they actually purchase full dress, or they hire it, which is worse. I think that some statement ought to be made to show those officers that the Regulations and rules laid down by the War Office are intended to be carried out, otherwise it is not necessary to have these rules and Regulations. There is a great deal of, what I might call, undue pressure put upon young officers and others to get what is not authorised. Authorise it, and let them have it by authority, but do not say, "Oh, no, do not get it" and then have this undue pressure. I know my hon. Friend will do what he can in the matter. I can only say that I hope the new organisations which have been indicated by the right hon. Gentleman will prosper, and that next year we shall have interesting reports as to their further development.
§ Brigadier-General CLIFTON BROWN
The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) admitted that he felt some apprehension as to the new changes in the Army, and I must say that when I first looked at the Estimates the thought that struck me was, "Are the lessons of the Great War applicable, and, if so, how far are they applicable to the present situation? "Strategically—yes; tactically—no, not altogether. I will not pretend to say anything about the strategical point of view except to emphasise the very great 1287 importance of a combination of the General Staff and the Navy and Air Staffs. Anyone who happened to see the film "Through German Eyes" the other day—and a good many hon. Members went there—could see on the map what "strategy" means, and the great necessity for it. It meant much to the German Empire. It means much more to a scattered Empire like ours. I am very glad that the Secretary for War and the Minister for Air have both been out to those parts where, possibly, a combination of our three defence forces is necessary, and where high political considerations also come into the picture. But I think that when we come to the tactical point of view we are entitled, and it is very necessary, to ask how far the present organisation, or reorganisation, is safe and is meeting the case.
I am one of those who believe still, though the lessons of the War taught us to make use of mechanical movements, that, in an Empire like ours where we have very different conditions from those which existed on the Western Front, changes in the way of mechanical vehicles and so forth must be made gradually. My fear is, that the infantry and the cavalry and the old arms are being changed too quickly to new ideas which were not really the true lessons of the War. I think it must be admitted that in countries like India, Egypt, and Iraq—and, after all, these are the places we have to watch at the present moment, because, owing to our enemies and other combinations, a, force may be required to defend our interests there more than at home—the forces are bound to be framed on a different model from anything on the Western Front. They are bound to be more mobile. They cannot have the same arms to assist them, they cannot have gas, for instance, or any arms which cannot move in those countries. You are bound to come back more to the position which obtained 30 years ago of the man and his weapon. Incidentally, having come to the weapon—and I suppose I am the only Lancer in this House—I think that proper consideration has not been given to what has been done by the War Office in doing away with the lance. I know that many of my hon. Friends here who are Hussars may not agree with all that I say, but the lance has rightly 1288 been called the "queen of weapons," and it has proved itself the queen of weapons both in war and in sport.
I received the other day from an old sergeant-major of mine a description of a little episode in most unfavourable circumstances at the beginning of the Great War. The Secretary for War stated, as the role of cavalry in retreat, that "they covered the retreat with their sabres." I do not think that if he had been trained under the late Field-Marshal he would have obtained the whole of the marks in an examination for the description he gave. But I will give the case of a squadron of Lancers covering the retreat, about which my old sergeant-major wrote to me the other day:I am sure that anyone who witnessed the charge of "C" squadron on the 28th August, 1914, would never think of taking away the lance. Had our men been armed with the sword instead of the lance, the Germans being hidden in corn-sheaves, I do not think a dozen would have been killed. I believe I am right in saying 68 were killed by the squadron… Again, on the Marne, we had a very successful show against their infantry in which the lance came out on top.It is perfectly obvious that people trained to ride horses at full gallop, whether they are after wild animals or wild men, find a lance a far better killing weapon than the sword. I will relate another episode, which is perfectly true. The cavalry have very often been used to clear the streets during rioting, and in Ireland at one time as a squadron of swordsmen went down a street, the Irish threw glass bottles from a wall, and the squadron had to go away. They sent out a squadron of my regiment and the men simply took their lances, which were longer than the swords, and poked the rioters under their feet, and backwards they fell. It is a great blow to all lancers to have to give up their lances. I am glad to see that, at least, the Indian Army are retaining the lance, and that is another reason that we ought to retain it. It, is a far more useful weapon than the sword.
The other matter to which I want to draw attention is the organisation of a British Cavalry Regiment. You have two sabre squadrons, one machine-gun squadron and a Headquarter wing, and I venture to think that any commanding officer in charge of a regiment has now 1289 an impossible task in manœuvring his regiment either in the field or in wartime. First of all, if you can have two cavalry squadrons, the same staff and the same amount of officers are taught cavalry work quite distinct from other manœeuvres. You have at the present moment laid down in the organisation so many farriers in, the cavalry regiment, though they only have half the number of horses to shoe, and you have no mechanics to do the cars or the mechanical part of it. I want to know whether the farriers are also trained mechanics, and, if so, how can they possibly be trained to shoe horses and mend motor cars as well? I think that it is a most wasteful way of doing things. You are giving two or three jobs to a man who knows only one job, and he must be good at one or the other—either mechanics or the cavalry work. When you get your machine-guns, you make troops or squadrons, take them away from the regiment and Brigade them as a separate unit. That is what occurs in war.
I am glad to hear that the armoured car is to be attached as a unit to a Brigade or to a Division. That is the sort of organisation we ought to have for all the cavalry regiments, instead of making them into two or three different arms. The chief fear that I have for this reorganisation in the Army is, that the War Office have not made up their minds what they want and what they want to do. They keep on trying experiments, and it is very dangerous to try experiments on men who may be sent out to risk their lives in a real war. It is quite time that they made up their mind what they do want and what kind of organisation they require, instead of continuing to change, especially as far as the cavalry is concerned. We must not forget that the Army is a fighting weapon, and that it is not a weapon to be shown at military tournaments. Although the War Office have done away with the lance in the field, they allow it at military tournaments. If the lance is to be kept as a military weapon at all, it should be used not at military tournaments or other shows, but in the field. A further criticism of the Estimates is that the number of our fighting men has gone down. What counts in the field are fighting 1290 men, and it is time to keep the organisation on a fighting basis and not on a training or experimental basis.
§ Mr. TINKER
We do not criticise the Army because it is an Army. We desire that such Army as we have shall be efficient. The question of the efficiency of the cavalry has been raised by the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken. His speech reminds me of a speech which he made last year. He dealt with exactly the same point last year, in defending the efficiency of the cavalry. He stated that the cavalry were all right if they did not meet barbed-wire.
§ Mr. TINKER
I will quote from the speech which the hon. and gallant Member made last year. He said:I view with great suspicion these proposals to do away with one squadron in every regiment and mechanise the first line of transport and part of its armament. I think the Secretary of State seems to forget what cavalry is. It is not a collection of men marching with motor cars pushed here and there. A cavalry man is a man and his horse combined together with a very nasty bit of steel which he has in his hand, and if you get in the way he will stick you with it."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 7th March, 1927; col. 919, Vol. 203.]
§ Colonel CLIFTON BROWN
I think it is my speech which the hon. Member is quoting, and not the speech of my brother.
§ Mr. TINKER
The speech from which I am quoting was made by Colonel Clifton Brown, and when I heard the name of "Clifton Brown" called, I thought it was the hon. and gallant Member who made the speech last year. I confused the names, and I beg the pardon of the hon. and gallant Member. We maintain that the cavalry is not an essential part of the Army. If we are to economise, we must do away with redundant services. There is not the slightest need at the present time for cavalry. The mechanisation of the Army and the changed character of warfare have made cavalry unnecessary. In the old days there was need for cavalry, but there is no need for it to-day. The Secretary of State for War pointed out last year that he had not sufficient data to deal with the question of the cavalry, 1291 but that he hoped in the ensuing 12 months to obtain data and to see what could be done to reduce the cavalry. I expected, in view of the fact that the Cavalry was reduced from 28 regiments to 20 after the great War, that there would have been a greater cut below the existing 20 regiments; but we find that, although the Army has decreased in numbers by 13,000, there has been a fall of only 55 men in the cavalry service. One sees at once that the Secretary of State for War intends to retain that arm of the Service. I hope he will accept my assurance that, although we want a very efficient Army, we do desire that the service which is no longer of any use should be abolished. We have in this House a number of cavalry leaders, with the idea in their minds of what a horse has done in the past, and because of that they claim that we must retain the cavalry arm. Anyone who went through the last War must realise that the horse soldier was of very little use. [HON. MEMBERS: "Palestine!"] I agree that they were of use in Palestine, but can any hon. Member deny that in France and on the Belgian front when the cavalry were brought out time after time they were sent back, and were not of the slightest use.
§ Mr. TINKER
Even in Palestine and Mesopotamia now, with the Air Service, cavalry is of no use whatever. In olden times, when we had to send out the cavalry to discover things, it was because we had not an Air Service. Now we have an Air Service, and for reconnaissance purposes the cavalry is no longer needed.
§ Lord APSLEY
The Air Service admit that they cannot do technical reconnaisance. You cannot draw fire with a reconnaissance from the air. Silence is essential in reconnaissance and strategical reconnaissance can only be done by mounted troops at the present moment.
§ Mr. TINKER
I disagree with the hon. Member. I have seen a bit of this sort of warfare, and before I saw it, I had the idea that the cavalry were essential. You can send reconnaissance parties out without horses and draw fire much more effectively than by sending out horse soldiers.
§ Mr. TINKER
Yes, in Palestine. There are one or two Members on these benches who have been out. Had I not known something of this subject I would have remained silent.
§ Major ROPNER
I did not mean for one moment that the hon. Member had not been out. I was merely asking for information.
§ Mr. TINKER
It has been said that reconnaisance work has to be done in silence. Reconnaissance by a man and a horse cannot be done in silence. It can be done much better without a horse. Of course, with a horse you can get away more quickly, but at the present time with machine-gun fire so deadly, when a horse and man goes on reconnaissance the horse soon goes down. My point is, that we should not retain any arm of the Service which has practically become extinct. As we pass from stage to stage and with the different inventions coming along, we have to drop something or we shall never effect any economy in the Army Service. I wish to impress upon the Secretary of State for War and his staff that they should not be influenced so much by the views of hon. Members opposite who have been in cavalry regiments and who wish to retain that spectacular side of the Army. I agree that for recruiting purposes it is most attractive. When the trooping of the colours takes place, there is no more impressive sight than the vast array of horses, but on the effective side the cavalry to-day is not, of the slightest use. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take heed of our views in regard to this matter, that he will realise we desire an effective fighting service, as long as armies are needed, and that we want the redundant parts abolished.
§ Colonel HOWARD-BURY
I am afraid that I cannot agree with the views of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). I was not a cavalry soldier but an infantry soldier.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Colonel HOWARD-BURY
In India, in Palestine, in Iraq, in Egypt and in other distant countries you are bound in the future and always to use cavalry, and I think it would be a very great mistake if we were completely to do away with cavalry regiments. The Secretary of State for War has told us that he is experimenting this year by converting two regiments of cavalry into armoured car sections, and two regiments of cavalry are to be utilised for the purpose of reconnaissance; but until we can get silent reconnaissance, until machines can be made to work silently, they cannot take the place of cavalry.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he is economising to the extent of £1,000,000. Looking through the Estimates, I see £500,000 of economies, and I can only surmise that the other £500,000 is due to less money being received from the Treasury. The sum of £1,500,000 for troops in Germany has been reduced to £1,000,000, and at the same time one of the causes given for the reduction in numbers is "Reduction of the British Army on the Rhine"; so that, anyhow, there would be a cause of reduction in expenditure owing to the reduction of troops on the Rhine. I am very glad to see economy effected and to see the War Office looking after the pockets of the taxpayers, and I think they have done it very well on this occasion; but I hope that they are cutting down non-essentials and not cutting down essentials.
When I look at the figures for the Army and see that for this year the figure is over 250,000 less than in the year before the War, and then I look at the staff at the War Office and see that, it has increased from pre-War days, I do think that there is some chance there for economy. I put a question to the Secretary of State for War last year with regard to the military prison at Working, which I am glad to know has been closed as a result of my question. Every prisoner in that military prison was costing the State to keep him there more than it costs to educate a boy at Eton, and the prisoners probably would have remained there had it not been for my question. I am sure that in various staffs there are people who are dug in in soft jobs, and if people would only look into 1294 these cases and discover them, certain economies might very well be effected.
I notice that the number of recruits for the Army is 2,500 below the present establishment strength. When I was in Ireland the other day I met a number of ex-soldiers, and they said to me, "Our fathers and our grandfathers served in the British Army. We have Army traditions and were brought up in Army traditions, and there are a great many of us who would like to serve the British Army to-day." Would it not be possible for the War Office to come to some arrangement with the Free State Government, and either officially or unofficially, with members of the British Legion in Ireland, or with the British Legion Associations, by means of which these most excellent recruits, who are desirous of serving in the British Army, could come over and serve? The Free State Army to-day is more of a militia than an army, and, naturally, these men are anxious to serve in the British Army. There are parallel cases which I might quote. For instance, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, who has just come back from India, knows that we raised 20,000 troops from Nepal, on condition that neither missionaries nor travellers were allowed to go into the country. Nepal is an independent country, but the recruiting officers are allowed to go there and the recruits make good soldiers. Could not some parallel arrangements be made for recruiting in the Irish Free State? If so, we should get an excellent class of recruits.
With regard to the Territorial Force, I was sorry to see a drop in the strength of the Force although the number of officers has increased. I think that decrease is very much due to the change over from the bounty to the proficiency grant. I am glad that the tide is turning and more recruits are coming in. The Territorial Army is the cheapest second line of defence that any country could possibly have. I was sorry to find that the Secretary of State thought it necessary to deduct 2½ per cent., or £40,000, from the grants to the Territorial Associations, and, in addition, is taking away £21,000 from the training grants, which is still more serious. The time of training is short, and there are many other opportunities for reduction rather than taking away money which would 1295 provide for these essential training times, of which the Territorial soldiers have so few. There is another small point, which I raised last year—whether the ugly title of Colonel- Commandant is to be abolished and replaced by the term Brigadier? Last year I was told that when the Army Estimates came up for consideration the change would be announced. Possibly, it has slipped my right hon. Friend during the course of his most interesting speech. With regard to the alteration in the infantry battalions, I heard a criticism the other day of the four anti-tank guns which are being given to infantry battalions, and I was told that their effective range is only 80 yards. I do not know whether it is true, but that is commonly current in the Army at the moment. I see that the new Imperial Defence College has been started. Will this conflict with the duties of the Staff College? I should like to hear more about this College. Is it for the purpose of training officers of the Army and Navy on questions of Imperial defence; and will it in any way overlap the training that is given in the Staff College? I will not trespass on that very difficult question, over which the Secretary of State skated so lightly, namely, the alteration in the position of the Quartermaster-General. I hope that during the next year every opportunity will be taken to test this new organisation, and that when it has been thoroughly tested we shall have an inquiry on the lines of the Esher Committee, without bias as to whether it is a success or not.
There is to be an extra staff officer in the field. I look rather with suspicion on an increase in the number of staff officers in the field. The Secretary of State says that there is to be no extra expenditure, and that means that some redundant staff officers will be done away with. That could be done in any case in the cause of economy. I hope my right hon. Friend will have a careful inquiry into this matter, on the lines of the Esher Committee, on tactical routes and other routes, with exhaustive experiments. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having taken into account the advance of science in warfare and at the same time the pockets of the taxpayer 1296 in the Army Estimates he has produced this year.
I desire to join in the apprehensions expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) in regard to this reorganisation at the War Office and in the field necessitated by the advance of mechanisation. Before considering the Army Estimates, this House, and the outside public, should be far more fully informed as to what led up to this reorganisation, the Committee which inquired into it, and the evidence which was given, which in the mind of the Army Council justify the change. We are given some idea in the Memorandum which has been issued, but the reasons are set forth somewhat sketchily, and after nine years' service on the Quartermaster-General's staff during the War and in peace time I remain rather unhappy and unconvinced by the arguments advanced in support of the change. For the benefit of those Members of the House who may not be absolutely conversant with the duties of the Quartermaster-General up to this change, let me say that he has been responsible for the provision, inspection, maintenance, distribution and repair of all mechanically-propelled vehicles held on Army charge. He carried out those duties through the two branches of the Army, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and the Royal Army Service Corps, and in the course of time the Quartermaster-General collected around him officers of great experience and skill, and built up a system which, I think, everyone will agree stood the greatest test of all in the War.
Now, apparently, we are going to scrap that system, and before this drastic step is taken, I think tlis House and the country should know more about it. Why is the step being taken? Is it because of this rapid growth of mechanically-propelled vehicles, armoured cars, tanks and their concomitant transport vehicles? Is it because this growth is inclined to give the Quartermaster-General's department too much control? From the statements which have appeared in the Press one is inclined to suspect that this fact has guided and influenced the Army Council. Some years ago, just after the War, an effort was made to bring about what has now been effected, but owing to the number of general officers on the Army Council and the Departmental 1297 chiefs in the War Office, who had just come back from the War full of experience and knowledge, very capable, that effort was cramped and stifled. The Army Council set up a Committee to inquire into the whole position. They knew that mechanisation had to come, although they could not have known that it was coming so quickly. But the Committee was set up, and I suggest that this House should be taken into the confidence of that Committee. We should know the evidence which was given, and the findings of the Committee. They should be published so that all the world could see them and be convinced that the Secretary of State is taking the right step in making this change.
Why has the Army Council changed its mind since those days? I put forward this suggestion with supreme diffidence, but is it because there are four members of the Army Council who have actually no war administrative experience? If that be correct, as I have reason to believe it is, then it is a serious step to take against the preponderating advice of the Army Council, and this supposition more than ever confirms my view that the views of the Committee should be made public. What does the new proposition really mean? We know for what the Quartermaster-General has been responsible in the past, how well he has carried out, his duties and how well he has administered his Department. What is to be the future? In the future the responsibility is removed from the Quartermaster-General over all mechanically-propelled vehicles not actually on the strength of the Royal Army Service Corps. In effect, we are setting up two controls. In the first category there is all mechanically-propelled vehicles not on the strength, and in this you have the first line infantry, which means that you have to hold mechanical transport depots for the Army Ordnance Department, who are charged with the responsibility of looking after the first category of machines, and also depots charged with the responsibility of looking after Royal Army Service Corps vehicles on Royal Army Service Corps charge.
You have dual control, dual responsibility, dual expenditure and, I suggest, without any corresponding efficiency. You are creating an increasing number of staff officers, one in the field, which the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose 1298 has mentioned, and you are increasing the Ordnance staff officers under the control of the Master-General of Ordnance at the War Office. I cannot see the necessity for such staff officers. The Quartermaster-General found it unnecessary to have them in the past, and I do not see why it should be necessary to have them now. I am one of those who are not satisfied that the Master-General of Ordnance is required at all in peace time. He was the product of the Esher Committee, but they had no idea that a war of such dominating size was about to break on the world, and as soon as the War started the Ministry of Munitions took over the work of the Master-General of Ordnance. Should another war break out, the same thing would happen. The Master-General of Ordnance at the War Office is redundant at the present time. It is all very well to criticise, and I know that it does not lead very far, but I want to make a few constructive suggestions which, I think, will make for efficiency and economy. I have no doubt that the Secretary of State has probably considered every one of them and turned them down for reasons which he may consider are very adequate.
I would reduce, first, the cost of the War Office by starting at the head. I would have a Major-General as director of artillery munitions, and not a Lieut.-General on the Army Council, as is proposed under the new regime. I would then put all the ordnance factories under a civil member of the Army Council. They are civilian establishments, maintained by civilians, and they should be run as a business proposition by a civil member of the Army Council. That civil member could administer these ordnance factories through the Director-General of Ordnance Factories. Then I would leave all questions of research to the Director-General of Artillery. That would leave the provision, maintenance, care, and inspection of all mechanically-propelled vehicles with the Quartermaster-General, as in the past. This, I believe, would lead to economy and increased efficiency, and would not disturb the system which we all know and which has proved to be one of the most satisfactory the world has seen.
I would mention, in conclusion, two facts of which, perhaps, the Secretary of State is already aware. This system 1299 when first proposed was opposed by two Quartermasters-General during the War. It was also opposed by the Quartermasters-General in France and Palestine. Therefore, with such weighty opposition to the proposals—and in this matter I share the opinion of other hon. Members who have spoken—I think this House ought to make its voice heard and that such another Committee, as the Esher Committee, ought to be set up to consider this whole question, and all its implications, before these Estimates are adopted.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I would like to intrude for a few minutes, perhaps at the risk of interfering with the flow of technical knowledge and advice which has been tendered to the House, to offer a few remarks on these Estimates from the point of view of the people in this country who think that the world might be carried on quite successfully, without the same amount of expenditure as that which we now incur on armies and navies. I put forward my views with the utmost respect for the people who hold extremely opposite views, on these benches and on the other benches. I listened to the speech by the Secretary of State and to one or two of the speeches from the other side in which lances and bayonets were spoken of as if they were the instruments of a parlour game and as if the pushing of a bayonet or a lance into the body of a human being and extracting the internals, was something that we might consider just as calmly as a movement by one of our favourite football teams. I submit that this manner of dealing with our disputes is a method of barbarism which ought not to appeal to us in the twentieth century; and that it would be much better for this country and the world at large, if the wonderful brain power and industry of the Members who have been guiding us this afternoon, were diverted to the saving and improving of human life rather than human destruction. I am sure if we could have a demonstration on the Floor of the House of what all this means, there would not be the same amount of applause for the providers of warlike requisites. If we could, for instance, have a demonstration on the Floor of the House of a person being bayoneted——[Laughter.] I put forward that suggestion respectfully. If from among the 1300 hundreds of thousands of lives that are destroyed on the battlefield, one person could be brought to the Floor of the House——
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I am assuming that for such a nationally beneficent purpose, the people who are so fond of war for others, would provide the necessary victim for a demonstration of that kind. I think if, from among these hundreds of thousands, we could have one person who would volunteer to endure here exactly what had to be endured in France, or if we could go out on the Terrace and see human beings, probably women and children, being bombed, there would be less enthusiasm, and indeed less respect for the promoters and the engineers of war. I submit that this is a year in which it would have been creditable to this country if we had made some real contribution to the cause of universal peace. There is not the slightest contribution in the statement which has been submitted to the House. It is quite true that there is to be a reduction of £500,000 in the amount to be spent on armaments this year, but the cheapening of war and the abolition of war are two quite different things; and what we should be devoting our attention to, is, not so much the cheapening of war, as the elimination of war from the world's processes.
The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the number of the Regular Army was to be reduced by 13,000. Unfortunately, I had to leave the House for a few minutes in the course of his speech and I am not sure if he also pointed out that the Army Reserve is to be increased by exactly the same number. Indeed, the number of persons to be trained for killing during the present year is to be greater than the number in training last year, because not only is the Army Reserve to be increased by the number by which the Regular Army is to be reduced, but the supplementary force is also to be increased. It is worth while emphasising the fact that when all this is going on, the ordinary industrial population of this country is physically deteriorating. One can read in the report submitted by the right hon. Gentleman himself that there has been a falling-off in recruiting for the year.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
That, perhaps, would be a more hopeful sign, if it were due to the fact that the number of people applying for admission to the Army was actually less than the number required. But we have figures on record showing that, of 83,814 who applied last year, 50,396 were rejected as unfit. Those figures have been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) but I think it will do no harm to repeat them because they reveal an appalling situation—a situation which influences the fate of this country far beyond the bounds of the Army. What is happening here? In a time of peace you are taking the cream of the industrial population and putting it for training behind barrack walls, and you are sending back into industry the sixty per cent. of applicants who have been rejected. In 1928, the future of Britain is not going to be determined on the battlefield. In 1928, the future of Britain, to a very considerable extent, will be determined in the workshops of this country. It is in the workshops of the country that you will be meeting Germany this year and not in France or Flanders; and you are sending the rejects, the men who are unfit for military training, into the workshops to fight the destinies of Britain against the free men of America and the more physically fit people in other parts of the world with whom this country is in industrial opposition.
We read in the same report something else of great interest to the people of this country. There has been a great deal of criticism during the past year of the attitude of the Government towards the trade unionists of this country and towards the standard of life of the working class. We read in this Memorandum about what is called vocational training—that is the training which soldiers receive to prepare them for civil life when their period in the Army ends. One would like to know a little more about this vocational training. For what period are the men trained and how does the apprenticeship which they undergo, compare with the apprenticeship of the same class of people in the same trades in industry? It would be interesting to know if this vocational training is improving or depreciating the standard of craftsmanship of the people of the country. 1302 I think we are entitled to an answer to these questions—how many hours per week and how many weeks are men trained, say, to be bricklayers; what training have they had by the time they are turned loose in the industrial field; are the trade unions invited to co-operate in the training of these people; are the trade unions recognised in the matter at all, or, is it the fact, as I believe it is, that the men on the Government benches here who are appealing to this side for industrial co-operation are actually using the Army to break down the apprenticeship system and generally lower the standard of craftsmanship of the industrial population?
We would like to know also to what extent the Employment Exchanges are used for the placing of these men, because the Employment Exchanges were set up by the Government, and we expect the Government to patronise them as well at the private employers. I find that a booklet has been published, entitled "Guide to Civil Employment for Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen." It would be interesting to know where the vacancies are in industry to which these men are guided. Could not that information be extended to the industrial population? It would be interesting to the 1,000,000 men who are now walking the streets unemployed. Another remarkable piece of information in the Memorandum is that a scheme which was in existence for sending soldiers and their families to Western Australia has been scrapped. What has happened to Western Australia? Only about a week ago I took part in a discussion here, when we were being urged to send 1,000,000 of the industrial population of this country to Australia under the Empire Settlement scheme. We are now told by the Government that, having tested Western Australia, they find it quite unsuitable for emigration and have scrapped their scheme for sending soldiers and soldiers' families there.
The point I wish, principally to deal with is this. For what reason is an Army of this size required in a time of peace? Of whom are we afraid? Are we afraid of attack and, if so, from what quarter is the attack expected? Are we expecting, for instance, that America will attack us if we reduce the size of the Army? It is positively unthinkable that, even if you reduced the size of the Army 1303 to half of what is proposed this afternoon, America would take advantage of that reduction to attack Great Britain and make us a subject race. Nor can it be supposed that we are afraid that France will attack us. France is our friend and ally, and one cannot contemplate, in view of the history of the past few years, France using its army to attack a country like ours if we had a small standing army. There is no evidence at all anywhere that you need the large army that you are asking us to provide to-day. Germany is helpless. Mussolini is our friend. We are the great admirers of Mussolini. He is the great friend of this country, and I am sure that if this country was in danger, Mussolini would be one of the men who would rally to our support.
Is it that we are afraid of an attack from Russia? Why, Russia is the one country in the world that is leading us to-day into the paths of peace—[Laughter]——I can quite understand hon. Members opposite laughing, because the Russians have made all your speeches about disarmament the laughing-stock of the world. Your League of Nations, all your proposals for disarmament., and your professed love of peace are held up to ridicule by the simple, honest proposals of the Russians. [An HON. MEMBER: "They have an army of 3,000,000!"] The hon. Member opposite says there are 3,000,000 Russians trained for war, and that we have only perhaps a tenth part of that number in this country. Does that not make the Russian offer all the greater? The Russians come forward and they say at the League of Nations, where you are supposed to be discussing disarmament, "We are prepared here and now to enter into a universal agreement for the total abolition of armaments." You may say it is bluff, but why not call their bluff? Would it not be one of the heaviest blows that you could deal at the honesty of the Russians, if you asked them to make good their pledge, and they quibbled or withdrew their promise?
But they have been complete and detailed in their proposals. They have said they are prepared to abolish armaments, the manufacture of armaments, anything relating to armaments, their imports and their exports, and dealing with them in any way, and all that within 12 months, 1304 on condition that you indicate that you are prepared to do likewise; or, they say, "As a test of our honesty, we are prepared to spread the disarmament over a period of four years." What can you lose by taking that on? If they, in the first year, refused to scrap one-fourth of their Army in return for your having scrapped one-fourth of yours, the process could then be stopped. If they kept their pledge and scrapped the fourth of their Army, could you not then, with greater confidence, enter into the next year and scrap the second quarter and, in that way, bring us towards universal peace? Why should you not respond to an appeal like that? From an industrial point of view or from a human point of view, there is everything to be said for that policy, and not a word to be said against it.
With the enormous influence that Britain wields to-day among the nations of the earth, it gives it an opportunity of contributing to permanent and universal peace in a manner that would gain for it a glorious position among the nations of the earth and in the history of the world. I do not think there Is anything more noble that any nation has done in history than Britain could do here by responding to the appeal that has been made from Russia towards the total abolition of the instruments of war among the human race. Britain, if it responded, would become automatically the world's saviour and the world's benefactor. Why should we refuse to take the little risk that there would be in gradual disarmament, when, if successful, it would enable us to bring a blessing to the world such as we have never contemplated in our political dreams?
Look at it from another point of view. We have been listening to and reading all sorts of sneers at the agnosticism and the anti-Christian views of the Russians during the past nine or ten years. It is not the agnostics, it is not the anti-Christians, who are standing up for war. It is the anti-Christians who are telling us that we should not have poison gas, that we should not have bayonets, that we should not have lances, that we should not have mechanised armies, human armies, or any armies at all. It is the despised Russians who are asking us to respond to principles which we have always claimed to be Christian principles, 1305 and it is the Christians who are objecting, it is the Christians who say that we cannot live on this earth, we cannot manage our daily affairs, we cannot carry on our international relations without the means of killing men, women, and children. That is the Christian doctrine. You can reject the Prayer Book, but you cannot reject Militarism. You can claim to be Christians in words, but you refuse to be Christians in deeds, and in these things it is deeds that count. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]
These holiest people are coming forward and asking you to practise what you preach, but rather than run the risk of losing an ounce of your prestige, your profit, your wealth, or your position, you insist on the maintenance of a system which periodically drives the nations into war with one another, sends millions of people who have no quarrel with each other on to a battlefield to take each other's lives, to determine quarrels about which they know nothing, about the elements of which they have never been told, and which they will never understand; and, at the same time, you presume to pay reverence to the Prince of Peace. I submit that this does not place Britain in an honourable position. Britain could become more glorious if it practised its Christian principles and said to these people in the Eastern part of Europe: "We are prepared to join you in the elimination from the path of life of these instruments that have proved so horrible in the past, and to make an honest effort to run this world of ours in the 20th century without the destruction of human life or the shedding, of human blood."
§ Brigadier-General CHARTERIS
I should like someone much more capable of doing it to have followed the right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) in the remarks he has just made, but the Committee will, I hope, forgive me if I say one or two sentences about them. I often wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman really realises the full implication of what he is saying. Even as he passes from one sentence to another, I doubt if he realises the utterances he makes in his own speeches. In the speech to which we have just listened, he began by saying we were taking the cream of our industrial population and putting them into the Army, or Navy, or 1306 Air Force or the Territorial Force, and then he said he believed that in so doing we were affecting our position in the markets of the world. Not content with that, the right hon. Gentleman objected to the Army returning this cream of our industrial population back to industry when they have finished their service. Surely the negation of logic could hardly have gone further.
He said he wished to see this year a year of peace, and that Russia had made a gesture of peace, to which we had. refused to respond. Is he really as ignorant as he appears? Does he not realise that the whole history of Europe, not only for the last 12 months, 18 months, or two years, but ever since the War, teems with instances in which Russia has endeavoured to arouse strife? Has he sat here and heard the answers to questions about China? Have they not penetrated his mind? Has he not heard about India? Does he not know what is happening there in regard to the Russians?
§ Brigadier-General CHARTERIS
I shall be very glad to inform the hon. Member. It is quite well known that Bolshevik agents are endeavouring, unsuccessfully, I am glad to say, to penetrate India and to raise trouble there. Is the right hon. Gentleman also ignorant of the size of Russia's Army and of the number of men under arms in Russia? Is he not aware that for a foreign nation which has increased its armed forces far beyond what can possibly be necessary for defence to go to our own nation, which has kept its armed forces only within the limits of what is required for defence, and then to say, "Diminish a quarter of your Army, and we will diminish a quarter of ours"—can he not realise, if anyone could believe in the bona fides of Russia, that such an offer could only result in placing our country at a disadvantage? Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that Russia can be trusted to fulfil any single promise, by whomsoever made or by whomsoever signed in her name? If he does. I believe even hon. Members of his own party will not follow him in that belief.
He comes into this House and pours scorn on our Army and talks of the 1307 suffering it inflicts, but he forgets the suffering that is inflicted in identical disputes by intimidation not only on men but on women and children. It leaves him unaffected. He raises no voice of dissent then. It is only when the right hon. Gentleman fears that some of the evil which he would willingly inflict on others may be inflicted on him that he talks of the beauty of peace. When the right hon. Gentleman comes and talks in this House of being ashamed of his country, I am reminded of a story told of the late Dr. Page. In the early stages of the War, one of his countrymen went to him and said: "I am ashamed of my country," and Dr. Page responded: "Sir, I can assure you the feeling is reciprocated."
I have listened in the earlier part of the Debate with, perhaps, not so much interest but a great deal more instruction, to the remarks of hon. Members with regard to the main proposals in the Estimates which we are now considering. I regard the two main proposals as, first, the reorganisation of the offices and, secondly, the mechanisation of the Army. I join at once with those hon. Members who have congratulated my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War on the general results which have attended his efforts at combining economy and efficiency. There remain in my mind two doubts. I have a doubt whether this reorganisation of the offices is, on the whole, the best solution of what is admittedly a very difficult problem. I differ entirely from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) in regard to the retention of the whole of the mechanical transport under the Quartermaster-General. I, like him, had some experience of staff duties during the Great War. The Great War threw up many great men. Not the least of these men was the Quartermaster-General in France, and even then, before mechanisation had arrived at one quarter the distance along the road that it has now travelled, the task of the Quartermaster-General, great officer as he was, was as much as he could bear; and I do not think that, if that same officer or any officer who was closely concerned with the conduct of affairs in France were asked whether he would advise that the 1308 whole of the mechanical transport in all its forms should remain under the Quartermaster-General, and that he should also remain burdened with his other duties, he could not accept that as a sound solution. This is not something of which hon. Members can follow the full intricacies, and I am only going to make one suggestion.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot go a step further in the process, a step which has already been indicated in his White Paper, and say that in the field we should have definitely a chief administrative staff officer parallel to, and co-equal with, if it be possible for these officers to be equal, with the Chief of the General Staff. It is in that way that the solution lies. You cannot multiply staff officers in the field indefinitely and still maintain the freedom of action which the Commander-in-Chief must have. You cannot allow him to have a large number of heads of departments to control without restricting his actions. Anyone who was in France during the Great War would realise that the solution which would be most effective, and which we have to come to in time, and which it would be better if we could accept at once, is that of a chief administrative staff officer. If that be accepted, all the other difficulties which have been mentioned appear to me to fall to the ground.
With regard to mechanisation of the two cavalry regiments which are going to be transformed, this is a subject on which I think hon, Members as a whole are probably not as able to offer an opinion as are members of the Army Council. At the same time, the House with its recent knowledge of the Great War must realise that the whole tendency is undoubtedly towards the removal of the horse from the work at present cast upon it. I do not agree with my hon. Friend who spoke from these benches that there will always be work for the cavalry. I do not think any human mind is entitled to say that, but I do say from my knowledge of conditions in the East, that at the present moment you cannot do away with all cavalry. We have to advance slowly, and if the right hon. Gentleman on occasion resists the pressure of the Army Council, who may desire to go faster, he deserves the approval and support of the House.
1309 There is one other point with which I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to deal when he replies, and it is a very important one to the Army though it is not reflected in the Estimates. It concerns the supply of officers. I am impressed by the fact that, from all I hear, the supply of officers coming forward for commissions from Woolwich and Sandhurst is not as large as it should be, nor can the candidates be said to come up to the intellectual standard that we would desire of officers joining the Army. This is again a very difficult problem. One obvious way to increase the supply of officers, as of everything else, is to increase the price or pay to the necessary extent. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether the same result could not be obtained by lowering the age at which candidates are asked to leave their public school to go into the two Military Colleges. I have heard it stated by men who ought to be in a position to know, that the public schoolboy at the age of 14 and 15 is very often anxious to go into the Army. Later on, for reasons which are obvious and natural, at the age of 16 and 17, when in his holidays he sees the greater freedom of civilian life, discipline may cease to appeal to him, and he desires to go in for other branches of life. Another practical consideration is that parents have spent a large amount of money on the education of their boys up to the age of17½ and if a boy at that age shows any inclination to go into industrial life, which will probably reduce the expenses of the parents, there is a tendency for the parents to encourage him to enter the industrial field. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether an investigation cannot be made as to what would be the effect if the age of entry into Woolwich and Sandhurst were reduced to 16½. it is at that age that the Navy takes boys out of public schools, and it invariably gets a good supply of boys. It may not be because of the age only, but it is a remarkable contrast that, while that is so at the age of 16½ with regard to the Navy, military schools, when they begin to call for candidates at 17½, do not get so good a supply.
With reference to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about India agreeing to accept the alterations which are desirable for reasons of drafts and other 1310 reasons, I do not think that the small amount that has been done in that way at present is likely to cause any unrest so far as the position of the Army in India is concerned, but that is a point which requires watching very carefully. The right hon. Gentleman no doubt realises that there may come a time when the armament, equipment and organisation required at home may be different from that which is required in India. That being so, having regard to the problems India may have to face, she must take preference. The Estimates appear to me to have achieved as fully as possible the desirability of combined efficiency and economy.