HC Deb 07 March 1932 vol 262 cc1573-92

I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words: in the opinion of this House, it is desirable to increase the opportunities for training and service of officers and men at sea. Before I speak on the Motion I should like to add my congratulations to the many that have been received by the First Lord of the Admiralty on his most practical speech. If Gilbert and Sullivan had been alive to-day, what a shock they would have had! The First Lord of the Admiralty has upset completely the whole of the plot of "H.M.S. Pinafore," for whatever First Lords may have done in the past this one has actually Given up his desk and even been to sea Before becoming Ruler of the King's Navee. We congratulate him upon the position he occupies and we congratulate ourselves that we have at the head of affairs at the Admiralty a man who has had so much practical experience.

I have been a Member of this House for 14 years and have been tempted on innumerable occasions to try my luck in the lotteries and other forms of gambling which this House presents to us, but this is the first time that I have ever met with success. I hope the House will believe me when I say that I should much have preferred to have been fortunate in another lottery and to have drawn "Grakle" or "Remus" in the Irish sweepstake than to find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to move an Amendment on a subject about which I dare not even attempt to conceal my ignorance, for fear of an early disclosure. Many hon. Members have had long and gallant service in the Navy, and I can almost hear some of them murmuring: "What right has he to interfere in this Debate; what does he know about service at sea?" I admit at once that these hon. and gallant Members have had long experience both at sea and also on land at different times and in different places, but I suggest to them that they have never gone through my present experience of being at one and the same moment both on land and also completely at sea.

The Amendment which I have been compelled to move owing to my fortune in the Ballot is concerned with the additional sea training of the Navy. In training the Army it would never be suggested that the major portion of the time of the troops should be spent on the Atlantic Ocean. In training the Air Force to fly it is most important that pilots should spend much of their time in the air. Yet in giving the Navy its training it seems, as each year passes, that more and more training is taking place on land and, consequently, much less opportunity is given for the training of officers and men at sea. Is that a good thing? That is the question which I am asking the House to consider this evening. Historians have written that our naval supremacy in wars of the past was due mainly if not solely to our superior seamanship. Our fleets have often conquered in the face of heavy odds both in numbers of ships and in numbers of men; and also in the face of heavy odds in weight of metal. Superiority of seamanship was undoubtedly there be- cause our fleets trained at sea whereas the fleets of our enemies kept their harbours.

The position to-day seems to be completely reversed, and whereas other Powers are giving closer attention to training at sea we are certainly giving less. The First Lord has told us that we are practically the only nation in the world which does not possess sea-going training ships in one form or another. What is the reason for that? Is seamanship no longer necessary? Is the Navy of the future to be manned by robots? Surely not. The First Lord has admitted that the discipline of the personnel has suffered by too much attention being given to weapons of war and that seagoing training for cadets and boys is to be given in the future. These two sentences would make it almost unnecessary for me to move this Amendment, but for the fact, and it is an important fact, that there is no mention in the Estimates themselves about this training.

As long as the elements remain inconstant, so long will human brain and human experience be essential in helping to combat these fickle elements. A good seaman must be ready for any emergency which may arise under the changeable conditions to be found at sea. He must have qualities of resource, alertness, courage, endurance and initiative. I do not believe that any of these qualities can be obtained without proper sea training. Ships may change but the characteristics of a good seaman remain the same, and are just as necessary in the modern man of war as they were in the old days of the sailing ship.

Why has there been less sea training of recent years? Is it due to the common desire for economy? If that is the excuse then I say that we are not the only nation which is hard pressed for money, yet we are the only nation without a single sea-going training ship. It is clear to those who served their time in the Navy many years ago that the best kind of sea-going training ship is a sailing ship, fitted if you like with auxiliary engines. That would be one of the cheapest forms of vessel to construct. I was glad to hear the First Lord advocate the sailing ship for the future training of cadets and boys in the Navy, but I was a little distressed when he prefaced his remarks on the desirability of having sailing ships, by the statement that he was only voicing his own private opinion and not necessarily, therefore, the opinion of the Board of Admiralty. These sailing ships could be produced and built at less than the price of a destroyer, and once built, the cost of running them would be far less than that of any other type of war vessel.

I do not suggest that the only training to be given in these sailing ships should be how to work a sailing ship, and how to sail; that is not sufficient. I believe it would be possible to give a general training in such a ship which would be of very great assistance to the future officer.

Life on a sailing ship would do something else beside give a general training in seamanship, which would be of immense importance; it would improve the discipline of the Navy. The First Lord to-day has told us quite frankly—I think it was an exceedingly frank statement to make—that discipline and moral had suffered in the Navy during recent years. It is quite clear to any man who has had any experience in any one of the three Services that in order to create and preserve discipline the first essential is that the officer should have an intimate knowledge of the conditions of life and work of the men he is called upon to command.

Under the present system this is very difficult. A young cadet lives in much the same way as a midshipman and is similarly treated from the time he enters the Navy. On a sailing ship, however, the cadets could live under the same conditions as the men of the lower deck and take part in all the working of the ship. This would undoubtedly be a most valuable personal experience. It would help the cadet in days to come when he would have to exercise authority and maintain discipline. The experience would all be gained upon a sailing ship without very much expenditure of public money.

It does not look, then, as though economy has been the reason for less training at sea. If it has not been a question of economy, what has the reason been? The First Lord may argue, and in fact I thought was inclined to argue this afternoon, that the complexity of modern ships and the rapid advance in weapons of war must tend to focus attention on materiel. Attention is certainly focussed on materiel in the First Lord's statement which was published a few days ago when we received the Estimates. One reads in that statement about the new experimental tank at Haslar, about the generous offer of a large telescope to the Royal Laboratory, the development of heavy oil engines for naval purposes, the construction of the experimental type of high speed compression ignition engine at the Laboratory, the use of light alloys and special heat-resisting materials, the X-ray method of examination of material, a new type of boiler, and other things of that nature. But throughout the statement one cannot see any reference at all to sea training. Of course it is obvious that much time must be spent in specialising to ensure that the various machines work surely and smoothly, but we must not lose sight, when we are thinking of all these weapons and all this material, of the man himself and of his individuality. Do not let us allow the consideration of materiel to prejudice the sea training, and in so doing, run the risk of undermining the very foundations of an efficient and a disciplined Navy.

In war things do not always work smoothly; in war things do not always work according to plan. It is then, in a time of real crisis and emergency, that the qualities of seamen are required if the machine itself is to be kept working. Under the present system both boys and Dartmouth cadets are sent straight from land, without any practical sea experience of any kind, to take their places in the Fleet. It is quite impossible for these cadets and boys to learn seamanship ashore, and they therefore joint the Fleet without that confidence in themselves which only practical experience can give. This is a very unsatisfactory way to start. Many a boy has failed in after life for lack of confidence in himself. There seems to be very little reason, at any rate very little has been given to us this afternoon, why this confidence should be denied the boy or cadet when he is entering the Navy. It is an extraordinary thing that in years gone past we had sea-going training ships. I am told that there were seagoing cadet training ships up to the year 1924, and even since 1924 up to 1930 boys went to the Third Battle Squadron to be trained. Now, even that form of training has been discontinued.

It is very difficult for a, layman who has had no experience at all of naval matters, to understand the reason for this change. From what I have said it would not appear as though economy had been the cause of this lack of sea training. While admitting that more and more time must of necessity be spent in learning the intricacies of modern inventions, still that should not mean, and it would not be a good thing if it did mean, that sea training should be considered of such little importance.

I should have thought that no one would have denied the value of good seamanship. I was glad that my right hon. Friend did not deny that value. If good seamanship can be attained, as I believe it can be attained, at very little cost and by the provision of a very few, one or two, of these sea-going training ships, the House has the right to inquire why these ships are entirely overlooked in this year's Estimates. The non-inclusion appears to me to be even the more extraordinary and the more noticeable in view of the First Lord's speech. It is curious that my right hon. Friend should have advocated as he undoubtedly did, the use of sea-going sailing ships for the purposes of training and yet he has made no provision for them in the Estimates themselves.

I have spoken only as a layman, and I suppose that if I did the right thing—I very seldom do—it would be my duty to apologise to the House for having had the audacity even to introduce this subject, but if there are other hon. and gallant Members with practical knowledge of this subject who happen to agree with the general views that I have tried to express, I hope that some of them will develop and enlarge upon my rough outline. If they do I believe that this Debate which I have started will have been worth whole. For my own part, I beg the First Lord and the whole of the Board of Admiralty to give careful consideration to the Amendment which I now move, for I honestly believe that only by granting additional facilities for training at sea will the wonderful and glorious traditions of our senior service for ever be maintained.

Rear-Admiral CAMPBELL

I wish to support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hacking) has said with regard to sea training for the officers and men of the British Navy. I regret that the First Lord is not in his place because he referred to this subject during his speech, and I should like to have had the opportunity of saying to him that, while it is a common opinion in this country that the First Lord of the Admiralty should be a civilian and not a retired naval officer, I feel that the present occupant of the office is going to be the exception which proves the rule. I am quite certain, after what he said to-day, that he is not only going to improve the training in seagoing qualities of the officers and men of the Navy, but is also going to restore that confidence in the First Lord and the Board of Admiralty which has been lacking for some time.

I spent five years in the training service, and since the War I commanded one of the sea-going training ships. We had on board, first a batch of cadets from Dartmouth College, and then, during a second period of six months, a batch of public school or special entry boys. Afterwards I commanded a training ship of 1,600 boys of bluejacket rank, so that I can claim to have had some connection with this question of training for the Navy. That is why I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend who has moved this Amendment. As regards a comparison of the cadets from Dartmouth with the public school or special entry boys, I, for one, see no reason why the Board of Admiralty should not save expense by closing Dartmouth College altogether. I found nothing at all in the public school and special entry boys—and some of them came from secondary schools—that was not superior to the productions of Dartmouth. The special entry boy who goes to sea in His Majesty's Ship "Erebus" at the age of 17 or 18, has had a training either at a public school or secondary school; he knows his own mind as to what he wants' to go in for, and that kind of boy, in my opinion, produces a far better type of officer for the British Navy. There is no other Service except the Navy which takes its recruits at the age of 14, and I do not know any reason why the Navy should be an exception.

Another reason why I advocate special entry is that I believe it to be a more democratic system, and I believe in making the opening wider for all classes to join the Navy as officers. That I think is preferable to promotion from the lower deck. We want to widen the openings for those who are suitable to become officers of the British Navy, and it is better to do so from the very start, than to have, as we have at present, promotion from the lower deck, which often leads to anomalies and discomfort. The First Lord in his speech mentioned that several committees were being set up to inquire into questions of promotion, retirement, and training affecting even senior officers and other ranks down to petty officers. He referred to these as the domestic affairs of the Navy, but I have little doubt that it was a national affair of the Navy which brought the Sea Lords to their senses and induced them to inquire into the requirements of the personnel. I am one of those who believe that the value of personnel is as three to one compared with the value of materiel. Since the War the Board of Admiralty to the best of my belief have been thinking more of materiel than of personnel, and have not given that attention to questions of training, promotion and retirement affecting officers and men of the Navy which they ought to have given. They appear to have concentrated on materiel and on such questions as seeing how high they can make guns fire, or how far they can make torpedoes go under water.

9.0 p.m.

Reference has been made to the introduction of sea-going training ships. As I have said, after the War I commanded a sea-going training ship and took a party of cadets to the West Indies. They received a jolly fine training. They bad plenty of work, but they had also plenty of time ashore and they could enjoy themselves and they could become men—and that is what we require. The First Lord referred to the training of young officers, and I presume he meant training under sail. I entirely support him in that idea. I believe that such training would give these young fellows confidence in themselves which would be of great service to them in the years to come. There may be one difficulty, and that is in finding officers for these ships. It may be found necessary to dig out some of our old Admirals—I, for one, would only be too pleased to come out—and we might also have to fall back upon that very gallant sister service, the Merchant Navy, to supply us with officers for this purpose. If that should be a difficulty, I hope it will not deter the First Lord from carrying out his purpose. I hope that he will go ahead with the project of sea-going training ships and if he wants me to command one of them, I hope he will give me at least six months notice.

The First Lord also referred to the need for training officers and petty officers in such a way as to give them the power of command. That is an essential thing. In a person who is to act as an officer or a petty officer, the power of command should be very much developed. I think that since the War we have been too much inclined to the promotion of officers, petty officers, and leading seamen purely on educational qualifications. It is not always a satisfactory method. When I was in command of a training ship I looked through the examination papers which were set in mathematics and other subjects. I am certain if I had been set those papers I should never have passed. If I had had to pass such an examination I do not think I should ever have got above the rank of able-seaman. Everybody in the Navy does not require to be a specialist. Specialists and experts are, of course, required in the Navy, but it is not necessary that all should be experts. It has been laid down that those who become experts in engineering do not qualify for the command of one of His Majesty's ships. I see no reason why those who become experts in gunnery or in torpedoes should, necessarily, qualify for the command of ships. Some of them may be fitted for command and some may not, but I do not see why any distinction should be made as regards the engineering branch, or why the fact of being an expert in ballistics or some fancy thing of that kind, is necessarily a qualification to command one of His Majesty's ships.

When I refer to specialists I am not talking about the ordinary person who knows something about gunnery, something about torpedoes, something about navigation, and something about engineering. I am speaking about the out-and-out specialist, and I think the chances are that a person who is a specialist in one thing is unlikely to be successful in another. The fact that a person has been a successful administrator at the Board of Admiralty, as a Sea Lord, and head of the Personnel or head of the Ordnance Department, is not a qualification for the command of a squadron. I think that for many years we have been too mixed up in the Navy, by mixing up specialists with people who have the power to command.

One of the things that I used to do when commanding a training ship was to give orders, which I expected to be obeyed, and advice that I expected to be obeyed, and the first day that I entered this House Mr. Speaker gave us some good advice, which was not to be too long-winded. Having spent all these years in the training service of the Navy, I am tempted to be long-winded myself, but I am going to do what I would advise others to do, and that is to shut up very quickly. One must admit, however, that during the last few years, without mentioning any special cases, we have had in the British Navy several unfortunate incidents, which we all regret, that rather reflect on the discipline of the Navy and therefore reflect naturally on the training of the Navy.

In the training of the Navy, if you want men and officers to be sailors, you must train them at sea rather than ashore. I support my hon. Friend, and I hope the Admiralty will see their way in future to give more time to training at sea rather than to training ashore. I am inclined to think that after these unfortunate incidents which have occurred from time to time during the last three years the First Lord of the Admiralty might consider carefully whether it would not be advisable to have an outside commission, headed by a civilian, to inquire into the whole of the entry, training, promotion, and discipline in the Navy, rather than these Admiralty Committees, who were simply people from the Admiralty and rather, if I may say so, having been in the Navy myself, inclined to be narrow-minded. I have found since I retired that I have been able to approach things in rather a different light than when I was on the Navy List. The training, such as it is, may not be ideal, but we look to the First Lord to make it better, and I am sure he will. In the meantime I can assure the House that the moral and discipline of the British Navy are as high now as they have ever been in its history.


In rising to make my maiden speech, I crave that indulgence which this House has always so generously given to those in a like position. I, like the right hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Hacking), feel that I ought to make an apology for speaking to this House on a very technical subject when I myself am merely a civilian, or, as some people in the Navy would consider, one stage worse even than a mere civilian, and that is an ex-soldier; but I rise for one particular reason, and that is that I might be able to hide a little of my ignorance about Royal Navy matters by talking, not about those matters which concern the Royal Navy itself, but rather of what I have heard described as "sea oddments," or sometimes, evidently in the confusion of personnel and ships, as "naval dust." By that, I mean some of those units or organisations mentioned in the Navy List and in this little book of the Navy Estimates, units like the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, the cadet units, the scout units, and those of such nature as have Admiralty recognition and, in very many cases, very valuable help from the Admiralty.

I have a little call perhaps for speaking on the subject of the training, especially of boys, because in the last 10 years or so, before I came into this House, the training of boys out of school, the complementary education of boys, though not in sea matters, has had my attention. Then again sea training does not affect only the Navy; it affects everybody in this country, on the grounds not only of safety, but also of the spirit of this country. The guttersnipe in Birmingham quite often, if he can get hold of it, will read a good yarn of the Navy, during the War perhaps, or perhaps in the time of the Spanish Armada, in preference to reading the latest gangster yarn from New York, and yet that urchin has never seen the sea, and perhaps his father has never seen the sea either, but somewhere in him there is the blood of an ancestor, many generations back perhaps, who sailed upon the sea. I hold that the love of the sea should be encouraged for all we are worth, because the spirit of this country depends so very largely upon it, and if we get away from the sea for too long there will be a dilution of that spirit, and perhaps we shall find that our proud boast that Britain is ahead of the other nations of the world is no longer true. I feel convinced that that must be prevented at all costs. We have to do all that we can to keep up the spirit of this nation and of this Empire, and I have been worried several times just in the last year or two, thinking I have seen signs that the spirit of this country was not quite up to what I thought it was some little time before.

I should be completely out of order if I went into any arguments for or against Disarmament, but there is bound to be an argument against Disarmament, and that is that the more our Navy disarms, the fewer British men or boys will be able to go to sea and get that finest of all training that the world can possibly give them. That is one thing that, whatever we may think of Disarmament, is bound to have a bad and serious effect. I am not saying that we must not disarm because of that, but I urge upon those responsible for our foreign policy that they should take that point into very serious consideration. The more the Royal Navy is cut down, the more encouragement and help must be given to other forms of sea training. There is the merchant navy, and there is the fishing fleet. We have found out, by splendid experience during the War, the type of training that those two units can give to the country, but here again they cannot be expanded, as things are, indefinitely. The size of the merchant navy and the size of the fishing fleet are governed entirely by economics, and we cannot have more men in merchant ships or more merchant ships than there is work for them to do. Then there is the Royal Naval Reserve, confined very largely to merchant ships, and to a considerable extent the same sort of thing applies to it.

Now, coming to essentially civilian organisations for training, there is a civilian organisation with Admiralty backing and help, namely, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, which is made up very largely from townsmen who are lucky enough to live in some seaport. London is a most successful centre of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve training. The Vote for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve has had to be cut down, but, as things are, I cannot ask the First Lord to put it up again, for economy is just as urgent as it was, and we must remember that every penny spent comes out of the pockets of the working man. I would appeal to the Government, however, to spend money if they can fairly do it, and to help on with their encouragement where they are able to do it. Some of the organisations that have been helped are very grateful to the Board of Admiralty for the tremendous assistance it has given them. The Admiralty cannot do everything. It cannot possibly find more money and we cannot ask it to do so. I may perhaps therefore appeal to those outside who can give of their own free will to remember that there are thousands of boys living in seaport towns who could benefit and to remember the Prince of Wales' appeal and offer their help. To the Admiralty, those organisations which have been helped send their best thanks, and they hope that that help will be continued. I ask those outside who are able to help the boys in order to train them to be good citizens, and to restore the love of adventure and of the sea, so that if there be any signs of that rot which I think I have detected, it will be stopped, and that Britain will continue to be the leading country and empire in the world. When all is said and done, it is always on the power and the might of the greatest empire in the world that the peace and prosperity of the rest of the world depend.


I want to pay my tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Wills) for his maiden speech. He shows a great grasp of the subject, and I am sure that the way the House listened to him conveyed to him a message of appreciation of the purpose of his rising. When I rise and address the Government, I am not always received with enthusiasm from the Whipsnade of the Front Government Bench, but to-night I rise to offer a tribute of congratulations to the Government. Many of us for many years have been trying to convey to Governments, of whatever complexion they were composed, the fact that national defence is one problem. So often in the past we have had Estimates from the Air Force, from the Navy and from the Army given to us at different times, when we have been debating one Service we have not been able to know the sums to be expended on the other Services. This year the Government have made a great gesture by publishing the three Estimates together. I do not plead for that Ministry of Defence which many people seem to want. I do not plead even for a closer co-ordination between the three Services. From the point of view of this House, however, some of us always consider the three Services together, so that we can see how much we spend on one relative to another. For that reason, I must convey my congratulations to the Government, because this year, for the first time—within my recollection, at any rate—the three Estimates were published together. The Government have thus shown to the world that they appreciate that the money which we spend on the Services is spent on one subject, namely, that of national defence and nothing else.


I am glad that the first words that I should speak from this Box should be words of congratulation to the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Wills) for his maiden speech. I can only hope that when my speech is finished, I shall be able to sit down with the same sense of satisfaction as my hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hacking), to whom we are indebted for this Debate, said that he never wanted to speak on this Amendment, but that it was only his ill-luck in the Ballot that gave him his opportunity. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman's ill-fortune has been the good fortune of the House, because, although he said that he knew nothing about this particular subject, yet, with the resource which he always shows in everything he does, he has raised the level of the Debate to an extremely high tone and given us views of very great interest. Some of my hon. Friends who have spoken will forgive me if I keep strictly to the terms of the Amendment, which appears to have evaded their notice, and to leave the other details to my hon. Friend the Civil Lord when he winds up the Debate.

The First Lord gave us a survey of the duties of the Navy, and he might, possibly, have added to the functions which the Navy is expected to perform, that occasional incursion into the realms of high diplomacy in which our representative at Shanghai has distinguished him- self. The result of the right hon. Gentleman's survey tends to show that the functions and duties of the Navy, so far from decreasing, are on the increase. At the same time, it is well known to anybody connected either with the Admiralty or with the Navy that the complication of material and of weapons is also on the increase. Therefore, while, on the one hand, the variety of functions which the Navy has to perform and the variety of weapons with which they have to perform their duties are on the increase, yet, on the other hand, we find, unfortunately, that the numbers of men on whom we depend is on the decrease. Until those figures can be put right, until we can come to the House and ask for an increase in the number of personnel to be borne on Vote A, efficiency must be made good by the quality of the training of the personnel which we have. To put it briefly, the smaller the Navy we have, the more efficient it has to be.

I do not know whether hon. Members realise the difficulties with which Service Departments are faced when they have to produce Estimates. I do not know that our position is quite as hard as it was in the time of the inimitable Mr. Pepys when he got his Estimates through. When the money was spent he never knew that he was going to collect it from the Treasury.

We are glad on our part to be reassured that our Treasury is, at any rate, solvent. We might rather compare it to the more spacious days just before the War, when the Estimates were framed solely on the needs of the Navy, and with no other considerations in mind. In these times we have to have one eye on the Chancellor the other eye on the various naval treaties, and, at the same time, we have to look our commitments and actual requirements squarely in the face. Fortunately, we have one incomparable asset which, happily for us, does not require Treasury sanction, and in which we will admit parity with no other nation in the world. That is the traditional love of our people for the sea and their natural aptitude for all forms of seafaring. That has led to the world-wide supremacy not only of our Navy, but of our merchant service, and Fishing Fleet, for the essential characteristics of personality and skill are exactly the same for all three branches of sea service.

These characteristics have been the basis, not only of our success in war, but of our prosperity in peace. The House will realise that, like all other hereditary instincts, they do not flourish of themselves. These instincts would be of no value unless they were properly trained and used to the best advantage. I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chorley and others that the only way in which proper training in seamanship and the development of those qualities which we want in the Navy can be achieved is by continuous practice at sea. Those naval exploits of which we are most justly proud have not been due to superiority in numbers nor to the fact that our ships were of better construction than those of the enemy, but have been due to the personality and initiative of the leaders, and to the courage and seafaring qualities of the men.

9.30 p.m.

If we like to go back more than 100 years to the time of Nelson, we realise that it was his genius and the seafaring qualities of our men that led to our great successes, but it is more interesting to us to go to more recent times. I do not think there is any more thrilling chapter in the War than the activities of those Q boats with which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burnley (Rear-Armiral Campbell) was so honourably and gallantly connected. Those boats did not depend on supremacy in numbers, or on any novelty of construction, for most of them were the oldest ships. They came to our rescue at a time of very great difficulty, and broke the back of the German submarine menace. They made the submarine wake up one morning, like the poaching fox, to find it was being pursued instead of pursuing. Those victories were not due to anything connected with material at all, but simply due to the indomitable courage, great initiative and incomparable seamanship of the men connected with them. In the jargon of the day, they established a superiority complex. What really happened was that they gained a tremendous and overwhelming self-confidence which developed by continuous practice of their profession at sea. I do not think in these times there is any fear of offending the susceptibilities of anybody in this House by using more or less bellicose similes. The boxer can get his technical instruction in training quarters, but the essential ringcraft that he must have if he is going to win battles can only be learned in the ring. The same thing applies to the Navy. The sailor can get certain very necessary technical instruction on shore, but the essential qualities which we want developed in him can only be learned at sea. I know I am only stressing the obvious, because everybody at the Admiralty and in the Navy, and everybody in this House agrees that the value of personnel is infinitely greater than the value of material. We wholeheartedly accept and endorse the spirit of the Amendment.

Now I come to what is, probably, a rather more difficult question, and that is how we are going to put the various proposals into eeffct. There was only one part of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Burnley with which I disagreed. He said he would like to have a committee set up, with civilians upon it, to discuss the whole problem of the training and discipline and the future of the Navy. It is only recently that I have found myself joining the ranks of the Navy, but I am quite convinced that the Navy is perfectly prepared to do this for itself without asking for any outside assistance. I can tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we have in fact asked advice from all sources—from all the Commanders-in-Chief—and it is extraordinary how unanimous they have been in the advice which has been given to us as to the various proposals which they would like to see adopted. It is obvious that if you are to increase the training of officers and men at sea, the fleets have got to be allowed a greater amount of cruising time.

It is very unfortunate that in the present circumstances of great financial stringency we have had to make a 10 per cent. cut in the consumption of fuel. I am glad to be able to assure the House that it is going to lead to no loss of efficiency, anyhow during the present year. We have been able to make certain savings, and the only difference will be that some of the cruises may be slightly cut down in length. That is not a cut that can go on indefinitely. It is perfectly obvious that if we are to increase the training at sea, we have got to give more time than is given now for cruising. This cruising time will have to be extended in the future if efficiency is not to suffer.

The First Lord said that one of the difficulties with which we have to con tend at the present time is a too highly organised Fleet routine, and it is suggested that captains should have an opportunity of working on their own by having independent cruises, particularly in the early part of their commission. All naval officers will agree that this is very necessary. It gives a captain time to know his ship thoroughly, and gives the officers and men an opportunity of set thing down together. There is another reason why we want to see the cruising time extended. When a ship is in a home port the men are going home on leave, courses are going on, officers are away, and one cannot get the same intimate contact between officers and men as when the ship is actually cruising; and the one thing we want above all others is that feeling of intimate knowledge one of another, and confidence in one another, that should and does exist in the Army and Navy.

Next to the training of the officers and men who are actually in the fleet the most important thing—and I am not certain that it is not equally important—is the proper training of the young entrants. I am glad to think that no section of the First Lord's speech met with greater approval than that in which he said it was intended to go back to the old system of sea training for cadets and boys after leaving their schools and before they joined the Fleet. This will be of inestimable value. They will gain an experience of the sea sense which it is quite impossible to obtain on a big ship. On a big ship, with a limited cruising time, every minute is precious, and suitable attention cannot be given to the young entrant, and as has been remarked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), these boys, whether they be cadets or not, should not merely look on and see other people doing the work but should actually do the work themselves, because it will give them an experience which they will never forget. It will do something else, and that is it will enable them to live under more or less the same conditions as the men whom they will command in later years, and give them a great insight into the feelings and needs of the men.

It was interesting to one whose connection with the sea is of very recent date to hear the approval which was given to the idea of a sailing ship being used for the training of these boys. The sailing ship is obviously the natural nursery for young men who are making the sea their profession, and I am sure that anybody who is trained in a sailing ship will get an experience and a grounding which will be of inestimable value in later years. I could not be expected, and if I were expected I could not do it, to say here exactly what ship or ships will be allotted for the purpose of training. Whether it should be a cruiser or a number of destroyers, or whether it should be a sailing ship will have to be considered by the experts at the Admiralty, who are our naval advisers, but I would tell my right hon. Friend that there is no need for any particular sum to be earmarked for a training ship in this year's Estimates if we are going to use either a cruiser or destroyers.


Do I understand from the Noble Lord that the training will begin during this financial year, even though extra cost may not have been provided for?


We hope it will. We will let the right hon. Gentleman know if he will put down a question; but certainly it is our intention that it should begin at the earliest opportunity. Whether it can be this year or not it is impossible to say. Now we come to the proposal put forward for the improvement of training. Here we are on very much debatable ground. I fear to rush in, where angels have hardly trodden, on the question of whether specialisation is being overdone in the Navy or not. The general idea as regards specialisation is that the development of the Service, like the development of an athlete, should be general, that you should be careful of over-development in one particular direction. I myself feel that the balance is rather too heavily weighted in favour of specialisation, but I would take this opportunity of disabusing the minds of hon. Members who think that this specialisation is due to the fact that many of the senior officers in the Navy and at the Admiralty have at one time or another been specialists themselves. I am quite sure that those officers, in their heart of hearts, feel that their own particular branch of the Service is infinitely the best, and that without it the Navy would be no good, and unless they had that particular pride in their branch I should not think as highly of them as I do; but the whole subject is being gone into with a completely open mind, and there is no need for any revolutionary change of policy. What will be found, I think, is that the balance should be redressed in the direction of general efficiency and the development of character and powers of leadership in place of extreme specialisation and weapon efficiency.

One or two hon. Members have asked that special attention should be given to the qualities of leadership, personality wind character when it comes to considering promotion from the ranks, That is an assurance which I am only too ready to give on behalf of my right hon. Friend. The time is getting on, and many questions were asked during the Debate which remain to be answered. When hon. Members study the Estimates and note that there are 15 different Votes they will realise how difficult it is for us to divide our resources fairly among the many services which we have to maintain, but I can assure the House that, important though material may be, the character and efficiency of the personnel is infinitely more important. I will only say, finally, not as a rhetorical conclusion, but as a sincere statement of fact, that the welfare and contentment of the Fleet and their thorough training in seamanship must and shall be the first charge on our resources.


In view of the statement just made by my Noble Friend and the promises he has made I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Supply accordingly considered in Committee.

[Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]

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