HC Deb 08 March 1928 vol 214 cc1310-38

7.0 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE

I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words: this House, recognising the public spirit shown by all ranks of the Territorial Army, is of opinion that further improvement in its efficiency is required, in view of its increased importance in the scheme of Imperial security. I regret that this year again we have no opportunity of discussing the Estimates of the three fighting services together. It would be a great advantage from every point of view if we were to get that opportunity. My Amendment begins by referring to the public spirit shown by all ranks in the Territorial Army. They are not regular soldiers, and the time they devote to military training is given out of their spare time, and they deserve every credit for what they do. The Secrefary of State told us that the number in the Territorial Army on the 1st January this year was about 7,000 less than it was on 1st January last year. He said that the decrease was due to a falling off of recruiting in the spring of last year in consequence of the substitution of a proficiency grant in place of the bounty; he also told us that since July there has been an improvement. If we compare the strength on the 1st January this year, as given in the Estimates, with the strength on the 1st October last year, as given in the general Annual Report on the British Army, the decrease seems to have gone on between October and January, and it is not quite clear when this improvement of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks began to take place. I should like to ask whether the decrease happened all over the country, or whether it was particularly noticeable in certain localities; also, whether there is any record of the number of recruits rejected on medical grounds? The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the reduction in the grants to county associations. I hope that the War Office will be as generous as it can be when it gets any appeals for help from county associations in the way of making suitable provision for offices, or institutes, or messes, or things of that sort. Such things add a great deal to popularising the Territorial Army and are helpful to recruiting.

Is it becoming more difficult to find suitable men as Territorial commanding officers? In addition to possessing military knowledge and aptitude to command, the Territorial commanding officer must have local influence, and must have sufficient leisure to be able to devote adequate time to his duties, and it may be that in these clays it is more difficult to get suitable men. I wonder if it has been considered, where there is a difficulty in getting suitable men, whether it would not be possible as a temporary measure to appoint a major or a senior captain of the Regular Army to command the unit until a suitable Territorial officer could be found? I know that it is done sometimes in artillery units, and perhaps it might be extended to the infantry. If it is considered in the case of an infantry unit, I hope that if a Regular officer be appointed, he will be taken from one of the Regular battalions of the same regiment, and so help to draw closer the Regular and Territorial battalions of the regiment, and to foster that regimental esprit de corps which is so desirable. A matter of this sort wants very careful handling, and great care would have to be taken not to appear to be forcing a Regular commanding officer upon a Territorial unit. It would probably be better if the initiative came from the county association rather than the War Office.

I was glad to hear about the increased help which has been given by the Regular Army to the Territorial Army during their training in camp, in regard to the attachment of staff officers and so on. It is most important that every possible help should be given to the Territorial Army in carrying out its training. The peace establishment for a Territorial battalion is given as 20 officers and 636 other ranks. The war establishment would be higher than that. That means that on mobilisation, even if a Territorial battalion be up to its peace establishment, it will want a large number of recruits to make, it up to war establishment. They will have to be trained, and that will mean a considerable extra strain on the officers and non-commissioned officers. It might be that circumstances might arise which might necessitate an expansion of the Territorial Army on mobilisation. If that were to happen, it would mean a stilt greater strain on the officers and N.C.O's. and they should receive all the help the Regular Army can give them.

With regard to musketry, has the reduction in the ammunition allowance had any bad effects? Has everything possible been done to provide more range accommodation? Of course, when reductions in expenditure have to be made, the Secretary of State has to decide in what directions those economies have to be effected so as to inflict the least possible damage upon the Territorial Army. But it would be most regrettable if anything was done to lower the standard of musketry efficiency. One of the military advantages we, as a nation, possess is the natural aptitude of our people for marksmanship. The skill of the individual soldier in the use of his weapon was shown in the Peninsular War, and again, to a marked degree, at the beginning of the late War. It would be a great pity if it were not developed as much as possible.

Is there any intention, in the event of war, of using the Territorial Army for the purpose of finding drafts for the Regular Army? I hope not, and that the Territorial Army will be used, as it ought to be used, in its own units and formations. I am asking this question because, as things are at present, there seems to be some temptation to do that for the following reason. It would take a large part of the Regular Army Reserve to bring the Regular Army up to war strength on mobilisation. If you take the late War as a guide, the rest of the Reserve will soon be used up. What will happen then? In the late War we had the Special Reserve battalions, which were used for the purpose of supplying drafts. Those have been abolished. The Supplementary Reserve contains no infantry non-commissioned officers and men. That is the reason there might be a temptation to call upon the Territorial Army for drafts to the Regular Army. If the right hon. Gentleman means to resist this temptation, as I hope he does, then how is the Regular Army to be kept up to strength after the Reserve has been used up, and before the Regular Army recruits have been trained to take their place in the ranks?

My last question is as to the supply of officers. I am very glad to see that, in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State, he testifies to the good work done by the University tutors and schoolmasters who are officers in the Officers Training Corps. Having been employed in the branch of the War Office dealing with the work of that corps, I know the good work done by those men. They have their own school work to do and, in addition to it, they undertake the work of training these cadets. Is he satisfied with the results he is getting from the Officers Training Corps in the shape of Commissions in the Supplementary Reserve and Territorial Army? I see in the Army Estimates that last year 42 cadets of the Officers Training Corps took Commissions in the Supplementary Reserve and 619 in the Territorial Army. The Secretary of State told us this afternoon that on the 1st January, the Territorial Army was only 805 combatant officers short of establishment. That is not very satisfactory, and I see from the annual report of the British Army that the Supplementary Reserve was some 1,900 officers short on the 1st October. That is not very satisfactory either. Can be indicate any steps that could be taken in order to remedy this serious shortage of officers?


I beg to second the Amendment.

I sympathise entirely with my hon. and gallant Friend in the anxiety that he has expressed as to the future of the Territorial Army. Just as much as any industry or any profession is dependent on its good name to get the proper material into it, and on good management in order to keep that material there when it has got it, so it is with the Territorial Army, and the Regular Army, of course, is in exactly the same position. The Secretary of State explained to us how the Regular Army had been working and co-operating with the Territorial Forces. On that, as a Territorial officer, I should like to say that nothing could be more admirable or better than the way in which the Regular Army have, in every difficulty and in every way, subject to all sorts of limitations, chiefly financial, helped the Territorial Forces to train and to progress. The idea is now fully established that the Regular Army is the spearhead, and the Territorial Army the shaft, and that one is of no use without the other. As my hon. and gallant Friend has just said, there is still a certain amount of anxiety and uncertainty as to the exact way in which the shaft should be used. Territorial officers and men are not quite certain whether they will be drafted as recruits into the Regular Army or whether they will be used, as they were in the late War, as complete units reinforcing the Regular Army and assisting in operations until the Regular Army has perfected its organisation to supply the expansion and the reinforcements necessary for it.

If, through making the mistake of mixing parsimony with economy, it should be that we find the shaft being gradually whittled down and the spearhead being blunted, not only the Territorial Army but the Regular Army themselves would recognise the lack of efficiency which they would be hound to suffer, and, indeed, the country as a whole would recognise it. It would be leaving us without any possible weapon of offence, but with only our shield and armour, the Navy and Air Force, for defence. Some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), would like us to drop those, too, but in the present state of progress of the, world it would be extremely dangerous to do anything of the sort while there are a million and a half bandits practising their trade in China and some hundred thousand bandits practising their trade in Mexico—to say nothing of Arabia—and while this country is still considered the only one that can keep the peace when trouble and injury are being caused to inoffensive nations abroad. Such a step will be impossible until a League of Nations has arisen determined not only to talk but to act and to police a part of the world itself. It is clear that, until this happens, it will be impossible to make a further reduction in our forces without a corresponding decrease in efficiency.

On two occasions lately, this country has very nearly been at war, once with Turkey and on the other occasion with China. On both those occasions it was not the nebulous politician, it was not the astute diplomatist of the Foreign Office, nor the winged words of Mr. O'Malley or Mr. Chen, that brought about the peaceful solution of our difficulties, but rather the tactful handling of the situation by the British commanders who were on the spot, and the fact that the troops were at the right place at the right time. That would not be possible were it not that behind this spearhead of the Regular Army there was the knowledge at the War Office that the Territorial Force was ready. As a matter of fact, on one of these occasions, some of them were under orders to take their place as the shaft to the spearhead. The part played by the soldiers could be illustrated particularly in the case of Turkey. I doubt whether it will really be known, until history is written, that this country was saved from war with Turkey by the fact that a squadron of the 3rd Hussars happened to be at an outlying post half an hour before its time. Had they been half an hour later there is no doubt that we should have been involved in hostilities to get out of which might have been very difficult. In China the tale has still to be told of what was happening there. Territorial units were ready to go and had it not been for the fact that the regular units arrived in time, there is no doubt whatever that they would have had to go. Now we have in front of us a danger in Iraq. I hope it is now passing, and that by judicious diplomacy we may pour oil among the turbulent sands or palms in order that the conflicting tribes may conflict with each other and not with us. Still there is that danger in front of us, and this is not the time at which we can talk about reducing our Army to any further extent.

I come to the big troubles which have been affecting the Territorial Army itself. They are largely caused by a certain amount of perversion—I will not say abuse—of the blessed word "economy." Where attempts at progress have been made, they have been met by a blank negative or a shrug of the shoulders and the excuse, "We simply cannot afford it." The Secretary of State has heard me in this House before now talking about Peerless armoured cars. I take that as a particular point to illustrate my argument. I have no complaint about the Peerless armoured cars in themselves until a better type is evolved, but what I object to is that the cars themselves are worn out. If my right hon. Friend had had a car which had been through the War in France, had seen service in Ireland, and had been constantly in service since, and which constantly had to be in dock and had the parts dropping out of it, he would not, under the guise of economy, have hung on to the car, but he would have scrapped it as soon as he could and got a new one. After all, the Peerless car is a comparatively simple machine. It consists of an armoured body with a rear drive fixed on to the chassis of a Peerless lorry. Surely the Army could afford to have some bodies put on new lorries. It would not involve such a heavy charge on the War Office.

There is another matter which involves the Territorial Force. and which is at the present moment upsetting them to a certain extent. It is the question of regimental tradition. Perhaps even more than the regular units, the Territorial Army values regimental tradition. In fact, they are almost entirely kept up by it owing to the nature of the Force. It is regimental tradition which keeps them alive. When I talk of units, I must, except the Artillery. The Artillery pay no attention to regimental tradition because they have a different tradition altogether, arm tradition or corps tradition, an entirely different thing. The Artillery have no regiments and no regimental traditions. As a matter of fact, the Royal Regiment of Artillery was one of the most recent creations in the Army, being formed in 1716. It never was a regiment at all and never has been, and it views these matters in an entirely different spirit.

Before that time the Artillery was run by civilian chartered companies, the last of which is the Honourable Artillery Company, now incorporated in the Territorial Army and quartered in London. That is the last of the chartered companies which used, under contract, to supply artillery to the various warring generals. The officials, who were the directors, were known as master gunners and the men were known as artists. The master gunners wore civilian clothes, which were the equivalent of the modern lounge suit and bowler hat, and the artists wore ordinary working clothes, which were the equivalent of the overalls and the beret affected by the Tank Corps. They contracted to do the work, which might be by land or on sea. If it was on sea, they put their guns in ships and fought under the direction of the captain, subject to their guild and company laws and rules; and if it was on land, they put their guns in a wagon, which was armoured, and was pulled by bullocks, also armoured. They drove their wagons slowly in front of the enemy, firing at anything they could hit. That was the inception of the tank, the earliest form of artillery. It was, in fact, an armoured fire vehicle, which is the present name of the tank. It was displaced by the development of small arms. When it was found that these wagons were no longer practicable, they produced a form of artillery such as is in use at the present day. This is by the way.

The point is that owing to the very nature of artillery they cannot possibly have a regimental tradition. Gunners are moved from one battery to another. Sometimes the personnel is put into another brigade. The guns are constantly being altered. The battery may be heavy artillery one day, and may be put on to sell-propelled vehicles on another day. Officers and men are suddenly moved from one battery to another. I believe the right hon. Gentleman is himself a gunner, his private Parliamentary Secretary is a gunner and the Chief of the General Staff is a gunner, so they will know only too well the truth of what I am saying. This practice, though excellent with artillery, ought not to be applied to other aims of the Service. Napoleon tried it. He removed the old regimental traditions which had been existing in the French Army before his time and substituted for it esprit de corps, which was the tradition of the corps and devotion to the corps commander. By doing so he did great damage to the French Army which, having slavishly copied this method, has never quite recovered. When the corps commander died or was incompetent, the men could never be relied upon to stand to their ground in the same way that the British regiments did under Wellington, held together by their regimental tradition, which has always been of priceless service in the British Army.

There are two branches of the Territorial Force about which I should like to ask questions, and I hope my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will deal with them when he replies, because the situation at the moment is somewhat obscure and difficult. There is, first, the question of the mounted units, which in the Territorials are represented by the Yeomanry. The cavalry have been reduced considerably since the War, and the right hon. Gentleman forecasted that two regiments will be reduced still further. I cannot think that this is done in the interests of economy only—I hope my hon. Friend will say so when he rises to speak—but that it is in the interests of efficiency also. If it is suggested that it is done for the sake of economy, I would point out that the figures show that a yeomanry regiment is the cheapest unit in the Territorial Army, costing £9,770 a year to maintain, and the next cheapest unit is the three-companies unit of divisional signals, which cost £10,800. It is the same in the Regular Army. A cavalry regiment costs £87,700, whereas a tank battalion costs £192,900, not including petrol, I think, because I do not quite know how the petrol figures are arrived at.

The cost of petrol per tank is very considerable. Much as I admire the Tank Corps, and wish to see them progressive, I think we cannot afford to have more tank battalions than are actually necessary for experimental purposes. It has been calculated by a tank officer that a tank costs about £1 a mile to run, including petrol, oil, the pay of the crew and the wear and tear of the track, which is very considerable. The tracks of some tanks—Vickers' tanks—it is believed, though not yet proved, will not stand up to more than 800 miles of cross-country work. On the roads they will, of course, stand up to a much greater distance, or over country like that round about Salisbury Plain.

There is, however, the point that a tank battalion is more than twice as expensive as a cavalry regiment. The expenses of cavalry, too, are represented very largely by the forage bill, and forage is grown in this country and its purchases helps the farmers to a certain extent, whereas petrol is produced abroad. At the same time one must allow for the necessity of experiments being made, and we must have sufficient mechanical vehicles to carry on, and if the reduction in the cavalry has been made for that reason, it is thoroughly justified. I must admit, however, that I am rather alarmed lest we may find in the future a great shortage of men who are fit to be brought into a cavalry regiment. Suppose, as happened at the outbreak of the South African War, that we suddenly find we need large numbers of mounted men for a particular operation. We may find that we have to put on horseback tailors and all sorts of people who do not know one end of the saddle from the other, in order to organise a mounted force at short notice, which is a very difficult thing to do. If it is necessary to reduce the regular cavalry, a corresponding reservoir ought to be formed in the ranks of the yeomanry, as part of the Territorial Army.

A certain amount has been said to-day about the uses of cavalry, in order to show that they are not obsolete, and I will not add much on that score, but I would like to refer to what the Secretary of State said about the employment of cavalry for reconnaissance purposes. Reconnaissance is the most important thing in an army before it comes to the actual fighting. There are two kinds of reconnaissance. There is strategic reconnaissance, which is the reconnaissance of large bodies of troops at a distance; and there is tactical reconnaissance, which is the reconnaissance of troops when they are deployed and ready to engage. Strategic reconnaissance used to be performed entirely by cavalry, and it was a most arduous duty. Now it is performed very largely by aircraft and, to a certain extent, by fast Rolls armoured cars, which if there are the necessary roads which they can use, can get round a flank and do valuable work in strategic reconnaissance. Tactical reconnaissance must be done by mounted troops, because it can only be effected by drawing the fire of the enemy. The enemy must be actually engaged. The ground must be reconnoitred to find out where his front is and where his artillery are and, if possible, where his flank is, and this has to be done by engaging the enemy. For this it is not possible to use infantry, because if they were engaged with the enemy you could never get them away again. You can only reconnoitre with infantry alone by conveying them along any avenues of approach which are particularly vulnerable to artillery fire; thence they would have to go forward on foot and deploy and engage the enemy, and if you get your infantry really engaged—this has happened in many reconnaissances—you find you cannot extricate them, and you are drawn into battle before you are ready. Mounted troops are the only troops which can conduct tactical reconnaissance until a tank shall be designed which can be guaranteed to get into position without falling into ambushes or getting into difficulties through there not having been a reconnaissance over that ground before.

Then there was the question of giving assistance to cavalry in their reconnaissance duties by the provision of a certain number of armoured cars. I wish to ask whether the War Office have considered the nature of the cars to be used for this purpose, because the Rolls car, which so far has not been supplied to the Territorial Force, is an entirely unsuitable vehicle, in my humble opinion, for tactical reconnaissance. It is a fast car, lightly armoured, and can stand up to a certain amount of machine-gun fire, but not very much. It is eminently suited for strategic reconnaissance, for going round a flank, and blowing up a bridge; or for hiding up behind a haystack and counting troops as they go past—as was done in the recent manœuvres—and for special jobs of that sort; but for tactical work you must have a heavier car, heavily armoured, which can stand up to rifle and machine-gun fire, and to shrapnel, too, though no car, of course, can stand up against a direct hit. Also, it must not have pneumatic tyres. In Palestine we had armoured cars operating with the cavalry, and they were never of the slightest use in tactical reconnaissance, because they could not stand up to fire without getting punctured and becoming unmanageable and having to be evacuated. If cavalry are to be supplied with cars to co-operate with them, a car should be evolved which is an improvement on the Peerless and has a- slightly better armament, perhaps carrying a small pompom, something to "knock up" machine gun nests or farmhouses, perhaps with two automatic rifles in the turrets. In any case, they must have solid tyres, and they must have a rear drive. If you get your car into an ambush, there is no possibility of getting away unless you have a rear gun, because you cannot turn round in a narrow space. All this might prove a great danger to mounted troops. I would suggest that, if it be impossible to re-form any of the yeomanry regiments, it might at least be feasible to raise a certain number of mounted troops to co-operate with the Territorial mechanical units. I think it is realised by the Tank Corps and the armoured car units that they cannot possibly operate alone, because the moment they come under fire they are quite blind; they have only a small telescope, and unless they have other troops to support them they cannot operate effectively. If a number of mounted men were permanently attached to the Tank Corps, I think this would greatly facilitate their work and help them in every way. I should like to know whether any measures are going to be taken to increase the efficiency of the existing Territorial Cavalry and the Regular Cavalry as well.

There is one thing which the Secretary of State for War did not mention about the use of cavalry, and it is that they must be expected to do long marches without any communications at all with the base. I remember what happened during a march from Jaffa to Jerusalem in 1914 when we had no wheeled transport and our supplies were dropped from the air. That is an instance in which the Air Force can be used. If you have to undertake long marches when the enemy is bombing every railway, you cannot ensure a constant flow of supplies in the same way as you were able to do in France during the late War. Your cavalry must be trained to undertake long marches without supplies. In Northern Australia, they trained their horses to do long journeys without carrying any corn at all. While I was out there, I went on an expedition in which they used some hard track cars, and I wanted to compare their work with horses that had no corn at all. The result was that the horses did 30 miles a day and the cars only between 25 and 26 miles per day. Probably a more efficient type of car may be produced that will do 30 miles a day. At the same time, I hope that the yeomanry and cavalry in this country will practise long cross-country marches.

I confess that I was rather attracted by the idea of the Yeomanry Light Tank Unit. After the War was over the yeoman came back to this country. He and his sons returned home. They took off their armour and put it in the fowl house, put their hotchkiss gun on the mantle-piece, and turned the tankette out into the field to do traction work. Of course, when the tankette is worn out they get supplies of new ones which can afterwards be converted into tanks as required. The vehicle that will stand agricultural work has not yet been discovered, but I think it is important, before we embark upon any new mechanised units, that we should be certain of the amount of work that the tank will stand. I should like to send some of these tanks to Australia to see what they can really do in the way of a long journey. Until we can get a light tank capable of doing a long journey it is no good talking about them as a strategical unit. At the present time, they can only be used as weapons when the opportunity comes, and returned to the base afterwards until another opportunity arrives.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown) mentioned the lance, and he said that he was a Lancer. I may say that I am a Hussar. I have seen infantry and cavalry in action, and, although the present modern infantry sword is just as efficient against infantry as the lance, there are occasions when it is not sufficiently long to reach some-one on the ground on the off side. I know, if we had been armed with lance on active service in Palestine, that on one occasion it would have saved the mounted troops a great many casualties. We took a position there and sustained 50 per cent. casualties, whereas, if the men had been armed with the lance, they would not have had half these casualties. There is a good deal to be said for the lance as a weapon as opposed to the sword. I would suggest as the best solution of the difficulty that one squadron in each regiment should be trained with the lance and another with the sword.

Of course, the rifle has now become quite obsolete for cavalry, and it would be far better that every man should have an automatic rifle and an automatic pistol. All our mechanical troops should have automatic pistols as well as a cutlass like the one used in the Navy. If you are going to have these armoured cars, and the men are armed with nothing but a revolver then it is completely useless. In the case of the tanks used by the Territorial Army and the Regular force, I think the crash helmet should be worn with a pit in the top or a screw, so that it may be used when under fire. During movements in the tank the steel helmet is constantly being knocked off. I suggest that these points should be taken up by the Army Council and seriously considered, because the present cavalry tin hat is the most horrible thing you can wear. I honestly believe that the Territorial Army would be very much gratified if some of these very small problems were put right. If the Financial Secretary to the War Office will assure us that the Territorial Army is not going to be subjected to further cuts or parsimony and if we can have an assurance that the Territorial Army and the Regular Army are not in danger of constantly having to serape and pinch and of losing their work, I am sure such assurances would be highly appreciated.


I wish to refer to the question of recruiting for the Territorial Army. As one who is still serving in the Territorial Army and responsible largely for recruiting a battalion in a very scattered division, one realises that the great reduction in expenditure on Territorials makes it much more difficult to obtain recruits. I would, therefore, ask those responsible if they would pay special attention to the needs of the Territorials in this respect in order to make recruiting easier. Because of the need for greater economy, it is now less easy for Commands to send battalions to camps where they will get a change from their district. It is agreed that many officers and men who attend a fortnight's camp give up their only fortnight's leisure in the year. It is, therefore, all the more important that, in order to encourage recruiting and in order to encourage a large proportion of Territorials to attend camp, great effort should be made to send them to camps which are a change from their own district, and to what are considered attractive situations. I realise that this year, and I suppose in future years, the question of expenses by rail is very important, but I hope, none the less, that attention can be paid to this matter and that recruiting will be stimulated by arranging the best camps that are possible. There is no doubt that would-be recruits pay more attention to where they are going to camp than to almost anything else. In the same way, serving Territorials who are thinking of re-engaging, would think more of this, and look forward to their camp as a holiday as well as regard it as a means of getting training and becoming more efficient.

There is also the very important question of training at drill halls in scattered districts. Unless there is a drill hall with a fairly attractive recreation room attached to it, it is not easy to encourage Territorials to come in for training from distances throughout the year. It is most important also to have a good band or fifes and drums. A great pride is taken in the band by the unit that can boast of one. The Secretary of State referred to the unselfishness of the Territorial Associations in giving up 2½ per cent. of their grant. I am sure it must be realised that with such reductions as this, a greater burden is put upon those who are interested in the battalions, and that in order to provide such necessary things as I have mentioned, the money in many cases is not readily available and has to be found from other sources. I hope that attention can be paid to the wishes of Territorials in these matters. I think we can congratulate the Secretary of State on the continued reduction in the Army Estimates as a whole, but I would ask for attention to the several points that I have mentioned.


While joining my Noble Friend in congratulating the Secretary of State on having effected economies of close on £1,000,000, which I think is the more remarkable because the non-effective Vote which is automatic and outside his control, shows a considerable increase and the effective Vote has had to be reduced more accordingly, there is one special section of the Estimates in which I do hope that further economies may not be called for. In the last few years Territorial Associations have been subjected to financial pressure of different sorts. If I remember rightly, on one occasion their hen-roosts, their reserve funds, were raided. On another occasion the clothing grant was reduced, and a third time the horse-hire grant was reduced. This time the War Office is making an over-all cut of 2½ per cent. in the total amount granted for administration, this cut amounting in all to some £30,000. The country as a whole perhaps hardly realises the value that the Territorial Army gives to it—a value for this reason, that so much of the work is done by Territorial officers and men without payment of any kind.

It is the more important, therefore, that we should keep the Territorials in the right spirit towards the War Office, because the position now is entirely different from what it was before the War. In those days the great majority of Territorials did not sign the Imperial Service pledge. Now no one is allowed to join until he has signed that pledge and has made himself available for service overseas. That adds very much indeed to the value of the Territorial Army. There is the further reason that in the old days it was not known whether the Territorial Army would be used for the purpose of expansion in case of national emergency. It is now the considered policy of the country that new armies should not be created as they were in 1914 and 1915, but that the Territorial Army should be expanded. It is all the more necessary, then, to see that our cadre of Territorials is kept in the most efficient state possible, in view of the possibility—one prays that it may never arise—that the time may come when these battalions have to be got up, first of all to war strength, and then duplicated and triplicated and in some cases even quadrupled as in 1914–1918.

I agree that the War Office has rather a strong position with regard to finance, because it can point to savings of some hundreds of thousands of pounds which had been accumulated by certain county associations up and down the country. All I can say with regard to that is that the conditions vary immensely in the different areas of the county associations, as between a thinly scattered county and a big industrial area. As regards the numbers, I was surprised to find that the strongest, London, where I happen to have been a member for nearly 20 years, administers a division and a half of some 19,000 men, and the smallest administers, not 19,000 men, but only 57, a half company. That shows the difficulty of having any hard and fast line with regard to finance. There are surpluses that some associations have accumulated, but it does not follow that because one association has many thousands in reserve, another can face the reduction demanded without loss of efficiency. In the County of London Association, the largest of all, the whole amount of the reserve is only about £3,000, and it is £3,000 short that we are to receive this year—a very tight fit.

There is one point on which the War Office may be able to give up a little help. That is in the matter of the mechanisation of artillery. We bought recently, with the sanction of the War Office, eight six-wheeled Morris lorries for the purpose of moving artillery, guns and men, for preliminary training first of all, and then to be used during annual training. I think we are the only association that has yet bought any lorries on these lines, and we used the very small balance that we had in order to pay for them. It would be of great value to county associations up and down the country if the War Office could, as soon as possible, decide what is to be the final form of these mechanised artillery vehicles. At present the contractors are not willing to put up the money, in many cases £400 or £500, until they know what the War Office sealed pattern is. The result is that no other association, or very few associations, can arrange for this form of training; but as soon as the War Office finds by its experiments with the Royal Field Artillery regulars what is the best form, the result will be of great value in the training of Territorial Artillery.

While I know that the Secretary of State cannot say what will be the position next year with regard to the Territorial Army in the matter of finance, yet it will be of great value to Territorial Associations if they can be left for a year or two with the knowledge that their hen-roosts will not be robbed nor their grants reduced.

8.0 p.m.


The majority of the speeches this afternoon have been extremely useful and suggestive, and the first speech, that of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) was no exception to the rule. I will now endeavour to reply to some of the many points raised and the questions asked. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, and the right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) referred to the number of would-be recruits who had been rejected because of physical deficiencies. It must not be rashly assumed that, because that number may be a little larger this year than last, it shows that there is any deterioration going on in the manhood of the country. There is another possible explanation which must have occurred to the House, and that is that the standard demanded by the recruiting authorities is becoming higher. At the same time, although we regret, as everyone regrets, that the general physical standard of our young men is not better than it is, yet the blame for that can hardly be laid at the doors of the War Office nor at the door of His Majesty's present Governmemt. In the case of those who are presenting themselves for recruitment, their health, for better or worse, was settled long before the present Government took office.

The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street referred to the size of the non-effective charges. He pointed out that the charges had increased, and asked for an explanation. He suggested also that careful watch should be kept upon them. I do not quite know what the hon. Member really meant to suggest that the policy of the Government should be in this matter. He cannot have meant that we should in future not provide pensions for people who have left the Service. He seemed to suggest that the larger part of this money was going to ex-officers. I would call his attention to the fact that far the larger part of it is being spent on ex-privates. We must obviously pay some attention to those who have served in the Army, and the only alternative is to give them higher pay while they are actually in the Service, and that would be a more extravagant and less satisfactory method of dealing with the question. I would also remind the hon. Member that the fact that these charges are now so high is due to previous events—due to the late War particularly—and that, as a matter of fact, the figure has reached, if not the actual peak, at any rate the district of the peak, and we hope that next year or in the years to come we shall see a considerable decline in that branch of expenditure.

The hon. Member also asked about the teachers and the educational department of the Army, how the teachers were trained and whence they came. As explained in the Estimate, these teachers are all trained at the educational centre at Shorncliffe, and everything is done to make sure that they are as fit and capable for their work as it is possible to make them. The results of vocational training during the past year have been extremely satisfactory, and that, also, is pointed out in the Estimates. The facts and figures for which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston asked could have been found by him if he had looked at page 109 of the Estimates. The hon. Member for Chesterle-Street also asked about the charge of 7s. 6d. per week made to those attending these vocational centres. I do not think that that was, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, a mistake owing to its driving away from these centres people who ought to be trained. The object of the charge is to prevent people from taking advantage of that privilege who do not really mean to avail themselves of it seriously—people who go there for a change, people who think their last six months would be more pleasantly spent at a vocational training centre, who do not intend really to fit themselves for any particular walk of life, but who are glad of a relief from the ordinary routine and discipline of the Army. That was the object of setting up this charge—to make sure that the people who went there should be really serious people, who were going there with a real purpose. So far as we can judge, it is not having any serious effect upon the system, because we have still more applications to go to these centres than we can deal with, for it is,, unfortunately, impossible for us to train all of the people who leave the Army—some 30,000 every year. We have more than enough applications, and there are plenty of people who want to go there.

Then the hon. Member asked me a question on a small point about the Kilmainham Hospital, which was taken over in Ireland, and where there are a certain number of pensioners. He suggested that economy might be effected by giving up this hospital and removing these pensioners to some other institution. The difficulty there is that these are old people who have lived all their lives in Ireland, and who have formed an affection for that country, as is not uncommon among those who have lived there for a long period; and it would be inflicting very great hardship upon them to remove them from their own country in the last years of their lives, to cut them off from their own people, and bring them to England. Therefore, I think, that whatever extra expenditure is incurred under that head is amply justified.

The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) asked me two particular questions. One was in reference to a certain disorder which took place, at Aldershot I think, on New Year's Eve, and which was given, as he rightly said, undue prominence in a certain newspaper, which, when the real facts came out, did not contradict the exaggerated report that had been published. I am very sorry that I cannot give the hon. and gallant Gentleman very much consolation on this head, for His Majesty's Government, unfortunately, have no control over that or any other newspaper. It is a not uncommon practice, I am afraid, in some parts of the Press, when they make a statement which they afterwards find to be inaccurate or exaggerated, to make no further reference to it in future. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree with me that the less that is said about this matter now the better, since any further publicity will only do harm to the regiment which both he and I regret should have been brought into this matter at all. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also asked me a question about full dress—whether anything could be done to make sure that the Regulation under which no one is obliged to purchase full dress should be enforced. Again, I find that that is very difficult to undertake. I do not think that anything that I or the Secretary of State or the Government can do will make sure that a particular Regulation is going to be carried out. There the Regulation is; everyone knows that it exists, and everyone knows that they have to obey it. So far as I am aware, it is, in the majority of cases, duly carried out and observed.

There has been a great deal of controversy this evening with regard to the future of the cavalry, and we have heard from different parts of the House different views with regard to the use of that arm. There is the old-fashioned view that the cavalry is still a valuable arm, that it can never be replaced, that it is dangerous even to diminish it. On the other hand, there is the view expressed by the bon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), a view which is held by infantrymen, and which certainly was held and strongly expressed by them during the War, that the cavalry is of no use whatever. I think that, as usual when we get two entirely opposite views, the truth is to be found between them, and it is that truth in which the Government have believed in following their present policy with regard to the cavalry—in diminishing it, but in maintaining a certain amount of it in as efficient a state as possible, believing, as I think the Secretary of State indicated in his opening remarks that, until some machine can be introduced which will carry out all the functions of a horse as efficiently as the horse itself, some cavalry must remain. I would not for a moment venture to dispute with cavalry officers, especially lancers, upon the merits or demerits of the lance. That, obviously, is a technical matter for them to argue among themselves. For a civilian, who was an infantryman, to take any line in regard to it would, I think, be most injudicious. I would, however, assure my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown) and also my Noble Friend the Member for Southampton (Lord Ansley), who are great supporters of the lance, that the decision to abolish it was come to by a Committee which consisted of military men and not of civilians, that the majority of that Committee were cavalry officers, and that lancers were represented upon it. I think that that is all I need say with regard to that particular question.

The hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Windsor-Clive) asked me various questions with regard to the Territorial Army. He asked, firstly, when the improvement in recruiting had taken place to which reference had previously been made. It began in October of last year. That is the period of the year when recruiting is usually at its best, after the beginning of the autumn, and in this year there was a noticeable improvement as compared with previous months. My hon. and gallant Friend also asked whether there was any lack of commanding officers. I am glad to be able to inform him that I learn that there is no lack of commanding officers in the Territorial Army at the present time. His suggestion that we should, where necessary, fill up the deficiency by drafting in officers from the Regular Army, is a suggestion which, of course, will be borne in mind, but, at the same time, I do not think it would be at all a popular suggestion with the Territorial Army themselves. We have the power at the present time to supply commanding officers to the Territorial Artillery from the Regular Army, and there are now four such commanding officers, but only four. We have the power to appoint 10, but, so far as I know, there is no demand for the appointment of any more.

My hon. and gallant Friend also referred to the question of musketry, and the diminution which had been decided upon in the supply of ammunition to the Territorial Army. He rightly emphasized the importance of musketry, and its value in military affairs. I am sure that everyone responsible entirely shares the view which he has expressed with regard to the importance of this department of military science, and, in making this reduction, we have been guided only by the necessity of effecting economy somewhere. That particular branch having been selected for the making of this economy, the results will be very carefully watched, and, if it is found that there is any real deterioration in the quality of the firing and in the marksmanship of the troops, we shall have to reconsider the decision and look elsewhere for our economies. We hope and believe, however, that, as a result of the way in which the ammunition will now be distributed, and the careful use that will be made of it, no real deterioration will take place in the quality of the marksmanship of the troops. My hon. and gallant Friend also asked whether it is intended to draft Territorials into the Regular Army to fill up wastage in time of war. That is not the policy of the Government at the present time. The policy would be, should war occur again, to supply such wastage, in the first instance, from the reserves, and then from the new recruits, who would, of course, be enlisted for general service. It is hoped that there would be sufficient in time of war to deal with the matter in its early stages, and that the Territorials will remain Territorials as they are at the present time—that is to say, all those who became Territorials before the outbreak of war.

My Noble Friend the Member for Southampton, in a most interesting and informative speech, in which, in fact, I think he gave more information than he asked for, referred to the difficulty in Territorial battalions of obtaining sufficient mechanical vehicles. He said, and I am grateful to him for the simile, that the Regular Army was a spearhead, but the Territorial Army was the shaft. I think that that is a sound analogy. He will, of course, realise that it is of the first importance to keep the spearhead sharp, and that, where there is competition for advantages, the better advantages will inevitably be given to the Regular Army. If the Territorials consider themselves ill-used at the present time in this particular matter, it is not through any on the part of the War Office, but is solely owing to the fact that there is not enough to go round, and that the needs of the Regular Army must be met in the first instance.

A suggestion is now being considered by the War Office to form one large pool of these mechanical vehicles, from which the Territorial Army could draw during its months of training, and which during the rest of the year will be for the service and use of the Regular Army. I hope that something may come of the consideration of this suggested solution of the problem, but it is an extremely difficult and complicated matter, and I would remind my noble Friend, and others who followed him, that, in regard to this question of what the vehicles are to be—to which special reference was made by the hon. Member for East Lewisham (Sir A. Pownall), who asked when we would arrive at a final decision—no decision can ever be final in a matter of this kind. Obviously, inventions will year by year produce new and better vehicles, and, therefore, we must proceed cautiously, and not undertake large capital expenditure upon machinery which may in a few years be entirely out of date. My noble Friend said he hoped that, in mechanising the cavalry, we were guided by principles of efficiency rather than of economy. Certainly, we are to a large extent, but, as he will realise and agree, efficiency means eeonomy. If you spend more money upon a better article, you are being economical at the same time as you are being efficient, for a better article that will last longer and will more satisfactorily carry out your intentions is always a saving of money in the long run.

With regard to the remarks of my Noble Friend the Member for Selkirk (Earl of Dalkeith) and of my hon Friend the Member for East Lewisham, with regard to the Territorial Army, I can assure them both that we have the greatest sympathy with all the objects and aims of the Territorial Army, and that if we have asked them this year to make certain sacrifices the size and importance of those sacrifices will be borne in mind. The difficulty to which the Noble Lord referred of sending troops to suitable camps is considerable. I entirely agree that one of the great attractions which induce men to join the Territorial Army is the prospect of going to a pleasant camp in a pleasant place at the right time of year, but there, again, as in all these matters, we are faced with the same old difficulty of expense. It is obviously impossible, to move large bodies of men from the North of Scotland to the South of England in order that they may spend their holiday there without incurring tremendous expense, and this question in the main, like every other question, is controlled by the consideration which controls so many of our movements, the consideration of how much money we have to spend.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston delivered a speech which was in quite a different tone from any of the others that we have heard. He thought it suitable to deliver a lecture upon the blessings of peace. Such a lecture is probably never out of place, though I am not sure that it is really relevant to a discussion of the Army Estimates. It seems to me rather as at a debate of a musical society some-once were to advocate the beauty of silence. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman considers the Russian disarmament proposals have made the League of Nations look ridiculous. That was, of course, the sole object of the Russian disarmament proposals, and I am sorry he thinks it has been entirely successful. We are all in favour of disarmament and peace. The right hon. Gentleman talked of those who delight in war. Where are those people? They are not on these benches. They are, in my opinion, nowhere in the world to-day. We all desire peace, and we all desire disarmament, but no sane man, and no wise advocate of peace, believes complete disarmament is an ideal within our reach. While we await the happy time which we can hope to see when war shall be no more and disarmament shall be complete, it is our duty, according to our policy, to make sure that our armaments shall be as small and as efficient and as cheap as we can possibly make them. It is in that belief that we are carrying out this policy and that we submit these Estimates to the House to-day.


There are certain figures in the Estimates as to the numbers and the cost of the troops in China. Can we have the actual numbers and the actual cost?


The actual numbers are 7,420. It is impossible to say the actual cost definitely at present. It will be the subject of a subsequent Supplementary Estimate.


I have taken it upon myself, as a personal duty, to congratulate the new junior appointments to the Government when they have made their first speeches. Unfortunately, my congratulations have always to be qualified to some extent. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the appearance he has made in defending the work of the Department with which he has been so recently associated. My qualification is with reference to his utterance on the question of disarmament. I hoped, having regard to his record in the War and his public utterances, that he would have been a modifying influence in the Department to which he is now attached, and I regret very much that he made that little peroration which postponed the achievement of universal disarmament as practical politics to some dim and distant date, because I think this is the most practical thing that we can do, both in home and in world affairs. It is so obviously the sensible thing to do, and why we should always postpone the right and sensible things to the dim and distant future in favour of doing the thing just now that is obviously stupid and silly and wasteful, and in this case both barbaric and brutal, I fail to understand.

I am sorry also that he imputes bad motives to the Russian Government in their offer to the League of Nations. Admittedly it is the foundation of all war that no one nation trusts the good faith of any other. The Russian people believe that all Britain's preparations in armaments, her poison gas experiments, her Air Force, her Army and her Navy are directed against Russia, and that the capitalist nations of the world are united in the League of Nations more for the purpose of protecting the capitalist system in the various countries than for the preservation of world peace or securing better relationships between the nations. It is the existence of this disbelief in the good faith of the peoples of other countries that causes all this tremendous expenditure that we are asked to vote to-night. It is just a lack of faith in the general decency of human nature. I am certain the ordinary Russian working man is very much the same in his attitude towards life and towards his fellow men as the average British working man. He wants to get on quietly and peacefully and in harmony with the working people of other countries. Assent is given to that proposition from the other side, but they go on to say, "That is true of the working people of Russia, but their rulers have malicious designs on the peace of the world," and that is just exactly what the Russian Government would say about the British Government. The Russian people will say, "The British workers are all right, but look at this Government. Look at their record in all parts of the world. Look how they have terrorised and used their armed forces against subject peoples."

This always seems to me to be a tremendous contradiction in the discussion of this issue, that we are courageous, and we make a great display of our capacity to fight because we are afraid to go out unarmed to the world and say, "We are going to stand here and take what comes to us." It is genuine courage to say, "I am prepared to stand here and let the world do to me its best or its worst." We say as a nation that we are afraid to take that courageous stand, and therefore we turn all the mechanical ingenuity we can, all the scientific expertness we can, on to making our methods of war more destructive of the people we direct them against, and attempt at the same time to carry on the operations with a maximum of safety to ourselves. In congratulating the hon. Gentleman on his promotion to the War Office I trust that, although he is taking on that responsible duty on behalf of his party and his Government, he will use his influence in the direction of persuading his associates that when an offer of disarmament is made it should be jumped at, and we should go half-way to meet it and to say any advance that any nation is prepared to make, Britain is prepared to make also, and better still that he should be in a position, when he has to appear before the House with the Army Estimates, to say, "We have been able, because of the arrangements that have been made with other countries, to cut down these Estimates altogether and the nation will not now be called upon to spend any more money in the maintenance of an Army at all." That is the type of speech that I believe would be welcomed in the House and in the country coming either from the hon. Gentleman or from the right hon. Gentleman who presides over the Department.


I am sorry I cannot join my hon. Friend in offering baptismal bouquets to the newly-born Minister. If the Government are going to have younger Members on the Front Bench it is because they want people with new ideas, otherwise, they may as well retain the dignified stupidity we are accustomed to see from the older Members on the present Government bench. We have had one of the younger Ministers of whom, having read his public speeches, some of us had very great hopes. We felt that some of the courageous speeches that had been delivered to the League of Nations Union by the present Financial Secretary to the War Office encouraged us to imagine that when he got on to the Ministerial Bench he would be prepared to carry out, or at least to attempt to pay lip service to some of those ideas that he had propagated on the public platform. Some of us are rather sneered at in this House because we say from these benches what we preach on the platform. We have to regret that the new Minister does not preach on those benches what he has preached on the platform. Once again, that peroration which has drawn both my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and myself to our feet is in line with all the oldest-fashioned speeches that have ever been made on Army Estimates. The Minister says that everybody is in favour of peace and that you cannot get anybody who is not in favour of paying lip service to disarmament. The hon. Member would hardly say in the various clubs, of which, I have no doubt, he is a, distinguished ornament, that the young cavalry officers are in favour of this. Far from it. He would hardly find Members on his own side—the armament manufacturers, for example—were in favour of it. They see in the possibilities of war, the possibilities of enormous profits such as they gained during the last war.

I want to ask the new Minister, as one who saw something of the horrors of the War, why it is that every Minister must get up and say, "Of course, we are all in favour of disarmaments theoretically; it is all going to happen some time, but we must now begin to provides as rapidly as possible for the next war." Anybody who has regard to the figures of these Estimates realizes what some of them mean. For instance, the estimates for flame gas, the estimate for poison gas, or the estimate for research into all those horrors. The Minister will get up and say, "of course, these things are deplorable and we should not have them, but if someone has them we have to have them." That is sound reasoning. You cannot send British troops into war without these things if other people have them. We know that that is logical. What, then, is the answer? The only answer is total, general disarmament. That is why the Russian proposal is not a wild-cat proposal; it is the only logical answer. Either you have to go on spending money, double the money and treble the money, if you like, that is put down in these Estimates—you have to go on with your research and on to the last word in horror of which modern chemical invention can think—or else you have to face the possibility of total disarmament. Though everybody says it is quite impossible and that we have to look to the dim and distant future for posterity to think about it, the only result will be that there will not be any posterity, because in the next chemical war they will be wiped out. It is so easy to sneer at the Russian proposals; it is so easy to sneer at those on these benches who are pacifists and to treat them as mere idealists, but I suggest that the right thing to do is to say that at least we believe it is possible and that we ought to work for it, instead of saying that it is impossible and that we must get down to the job of making the next war as efficient and as horrible as possible.

Supply accordingly considered in Committee.

[Captain FITZROY in the Chair.]