HL Deb 19 April 1875 vol 223 cc1202-6

rose to call attention to the subject of what is called military training in public schools and public training ships, and to urge Her Majesty's Government to promote the same. The noble Earl said, their Lordships were aware that in this country great difficulty was experienced in getting either boys or men for service in the Army or the Navy. We ought to look to this while England was at peace, because war began now before one knew what he was about, and it was brought to an end before either side had time to train new lives. He was convinced, therefore, that if boys were to undergo a simple system of military training, the country would have a better class of men. There was nothing boys liked better than playing at soldiers and sailors, and the effect of military drill in schools was to promote order, regularity, and cleanliness among boys, and was, in his opinion, the very best species of gymnastics. The system of military training was enforced in all schools abroad, and now that we had introduced the compulsory system of education here he did not see why military drill should not be introduced as one of the necessary requirements. As to the Volunteers, too much could not be urged in their favour. They came forward nobly in defence of their country; but they knew they would be of no use unless they trained, and he thought that if the boys in our public schools were placed under a certain amount of military training it would have a most beneficial effect upon their future career—but if they waited until these boys had become young men one-half of their opportunity was lost. He had read with satisfaction the proceed- ings of a deputation which a few days ago waited on the Commander-in-Chief on this subject. It was pointed out to His Royal Highness that this drill would not only conduce to the health of the boys, but would engender habits of discipline and obedience. He believed the Government was disposed to do all it could to establish training-ships for the Merchant Service, and, therefore, he hoped it would do what it could to further military training in public schools.


said, he did not intend to go into the question which had been raised by his noble Friend with reference to the position this country would be in if suddenly engaged in war—he should confine himself to the bearing of the question on the military and naval services. His noble Friend began by stating that which was not quite in accordance with the fact—namely, that education was now compulsory; because, although, no doubt, the power of compulsion was vested in the school boards, that by no means described what prevailed throughout the country. He was quite ready to admit, with his noble Friend, that the drill of the character he described was of great benefit to all boys, whether intended for the Army or the Navy, by imparting to them those ideas of order, regularity, and discipline without which it was difficult to obtain fully-qualified soldiers and sailors. This subject was by no means new to them, for the Code which was issued in 1871—paragraph 24—provided that inspection at drill under a competent instructor might be given, and that two hours a week for 20 weeks devoted to this instruction might be counted as school attendance. When, in the same year, a circular on drill was issued by the Secretary of the Education Department to Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, a memorandum was added pointing out that the arrangements for carrying out the drill must be made so as to suit the circumstances of each case. Attention was there called in the memorandum to the fact that the necessary drill could be imparted by the staff sergeants of Rifle Volunteer Corps or by members of a Militia staff, who during the greater part of the year had not much to do. It suggested that drill instruction should be given twice a week during at least six months of the year. The then Secretary for War, his noble Friend (Lord Cardwell) stated that there was no objection to the employment, with the approval of the commanding officer, of drill sergeants in schools for drilling boys; so that drill was recognized by the Government, and means were taken to have it carried out in the various schools throughout the country which chose to avail themselves of it. There was some doubt raised as to what "drill" was meant in the Article he had referred to, and in the Code this year the word "military" was inserted so as to remove all doubts, though no question "military drill" was intended in the original Code. At present, therefore, all schools might have the benefit of the drill if they chose to avail themselves of it. With regard to the Naval Service, the First Lord of the Admiralty had expressed his readiness to co-operate with the committees of the training-ships in this matter; he had visited the training-ships, and had provided ordnance suitable for gun-drill, and he was prepared to make provision for having the boys drilled on board ship. There was also now before Parliament a Bill dealing with the Mercantile Marine, which had been introduced by the President of the Board of Trade, and in that Bill power was taken to attach an instructor to drill the boys in small arm and sword exercise:—so that it would be seen that Her Majesty's Government were quite as much alive as their Predecessors were to the necessity and importance of giving proper facilities for school drill.


thought nothing could be more satisfactory than the statement made by the noble Duke as to the plan adopted by the late and extended by the present Government for encouraging military and naval drill as part of the education of the country. The noble Duke had spoken of drill as a preparation for the military and naval service; but there was very strong evidence from manufacturing districts that drill was highly valued as a qualification for persons employed in manufacturing operations. Sir Joseph Whitworth stated that a workman who had acquired the habit of moving promptly at the word of command was worth on the average at least 1s. 6d. a-week more than a man of equal manual dexterity who had not acquired the habit. He regretted drill was not more extensively introduced into our middle and higher class schools. He was aware that drill was taught in our public schools; but he was sorry to say it did not receive from the masters generally the active support and countenance to which it was entitled.


said, he could not agree with the noble Earl who brought forward this subject (the Earl of Lauderdale) that the drilling of boys at school would largely affect the recruiting for the Army. He was inclined to think that the introduction of drill into the schools mentioned by the noble Duke would not have a very great effect on the number of recruits, although it might improve very much the physical capacity of young men. In his Notice the noble Earl referred to "what is called military training in public schools and public training ships." He presumed that the noble Earl was alluding to schools of a really military character, and everybody knew that training ships had a naval character. From having had an opportunity of inspecting one of these ships, he was able to say that there was no better system of providing recruits for Her Majesty's ships. But there was this important distinction between the Army and the Navy:—it was possible, he believed, to employ a very great number of boys in ships profitably, whereas in our regiments the means of employing boys were limited. To this fact the illustrious Duke who usually sat on the cross benches (the Duke of Cambridge) drew their Lordships' attention last year. It was not his wish to throw cold water on the proposal of the noble and gallant Earl. To a great extent he concurred with him, and with the noble Duke; but he thought a small matter of this kind ought not to be allowed to divert their attention from the much more serious question which must shortly come under consideration in reference to the possibility of largely increasing the means at the disposal of the Secretary of State for strengthening Her Majesty's Army.


was of opinion that much might be done by regular drill in elementary schools to diffuse a military spirit among the people. It had occurred to him that, as before long a number of men belonging to the Reserve Forces would be scattered about in various parts of the country, the Government would do well to consider whether, if the pay of some of them was slightly increased, they might not be made available as drill instructors in schools.