HL Deb 26 May 1879 vol 246 cc1205-25

, in rising to call attention to the Report of the Militia Committee presented to Parliament in 1877, and to move Resolutions, said, that towards the close of the Session of 1875 he ventured to bring before their Lordships three Resolutions condemnatory of the brigade depot system. Considerable discussion arose on that occasion, and he was induced to withdraw his Resolutions, upon the understanding that Her Majesty's Government would prosecute an inquiry into the matter. They had redeemed their promise by the appointment of the Militia Committee, presided over by Colonel Stanley, whose lengthy investigation had, he contended, shown that the system to which he referred had not worked well. He (the Earl of Galloway) should explain that this Committee was—to use the official explanation of it—termed "the Militia Committee," for the sake of convenience, in order to distinguish it from the numerous other Committees previously appointed; and that the special instructions issued to this Committee were "to inquire into the working of the Brigade Depot System." There seemed to be some considerable confusion in the public mind as regarded the two questions of short service and the brigade depot system. It was supposed by many persons that the two systems were identical, and some excuse had been made for the failure of the brigade depot system on account of the institution of short service. It was, however, a mistake to suppose that the two systems were identical. The Short Service Act was introduced by the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cardwell) in the year 1870, and it was not until two years later that the brigade depot system was instituted. What he (the Earl of Galloway) wanted to suggest was that it was very lamentable that, owing to the Short Service Act, the troops now engaged in South Africa and elsewhere should be so young and of such limited service in the Army. But the circumstance that the regiments at home had to be emasculated in order to make up the regiments for these expeditions was due, not to the short service system, but to the system of brigade depots, which might be called the cradle of attenuated battalions. The objections which he had urged against the military policy of the noble Viscount opposite in both Houses of Parliament were directed to those parts of it which would have the effect of reducing the personnel and war material of the Army and of abolishing Purchase, his main reason for the course he took with regard to the latter question being that he saw no reason for imposing an additional pecuniary obligation on the country without a corresponding advantage being gained; whilst, on the former point, the noble Viscount had been forced himself to commence re-augmentation before leaving the War Office. He had never criticized the determination of the noble Viscount with regard to the short service system; indeed, he thought the noble Viscount had been somewhat hardly treated by those who had done so, seeing that it had hardly had a fair trial. If all those who had enlisted under it had remained in the ranks for six years—some of them had been allowed to go after three—there would not have been so much cause for complaint as existed at the present moment. He was not, however, a disciple of the system of short service; indeed, he had always disapproved of it, it being his opinion that the country should look to the Militia for Reserves. At the present moment there were 100,000 to 120,000 Militiamen in the country, one-fourth of whom were available as Militia Reserves. We could not afford to have attenuated battalions in our Regular Force to any large extent; and, there- fore, he would suggest that the Militia should be increased to the tune of 200,000 men, and that two-fifths of that number should serve as Militia Reserves, and be available at any moment to strengthen the battalions of the Line. He was emboldened to state that view on account of having that morning read a speech to the same effect of the late Lord Sandhurst. He thought the country was indebted to the noble Viscount for having attempted to combine the different Military Forces of the Kingdom. The failure of that attempt was, he contended, a matter for regret. The country was indebted to the noble Viscount for having given Queen's commissions to the officers of the Auxiliary Forces, and for having taken steps to improve their knowledge of their duties. He contended that the nature of the avowed policy of the noble Viscount during the first three years of his military administration was such as to entitle him to expect that the noble Viscount would support the first of the Resolutions which he (the Earl of Galloway) had placed upon the Paper. He proposed, with the aid of extracts from the speeches of the noble Viscount, to show how different was the plan for military re-organization which was suggested in 1872 from that proposed in the three previous years; and how the plan which eventually was carried out differed from that which the noble Viscount previously announced as about to be carried out. He proposed afterwards, as the Government had advertised their utter incompetency to deal with the question, to make a few suggestions, by the adoption of which the present unfortunate state of affairs might in a measure be rectified. He would ask their Lordships to travel back 10 years—to the "first Session of the General Reformation Parliament." The noble Viscount then said that there were in the regiments of Guards not only a general commanding the whole brigade, but also a lieutenant-colonel, who was the head of a brigade within a brigade, to which he (the noble Viscount) greatly objected, and that he proposed that a lieutenant-colonel of the Guards should in future in reality command his own battalion. Now, that very system of having an officer at the head of a brigade within a brigade was exactly what the noble Viscount instituted in 1872 all over the coun- try. The noble Viscount also stated in 1869 that he agreed that the cost of depôts was much too great, and undertook to reduce it. Their Lordships would, however, see, by-and-bye, that the cost of the depots, now become brigade depots, had by no means been reduced; but, on the contrary, considerably increased. In 1870, the noble Viscount took great credit to himself for having reduced the number of officers; but, at the present moment, in the event of real war, was it certain that we should find ourselves at all overburdened with officers in the junior ranks? That was a point on which he (the Earl of Galloway) had very serious doubts. The noble Viscount also propounded a scheme for "consolidating together the whole of our military system, Regulars and Reserves." With all due respect for his noble Friend, he could not think that our military system had really been welded together in a satisfactory way. Early in the year 1871 the noble Viscount made a statement to the effect that it was the desire of the country that all their Military Forces should, as far as possible, be formed into one harmonious body. With that view, he said, they had provided in the Estimates for a colonel and staff for each of the sub-districts; that the colonel, who was to be a kind of brigadier, would have tinder him between 15,000 and 20,000 of the Auxiliary Forces. Such was the scheme of the noble Viscount; but he regretted to say that experience showed that the brigade depot system was costly and inefficient, and that it removed a great number of officers from the command of their proper officer, and placed them under that of the commander of the depot battalion. If the comprehensive idea of the noble Viscount had been carried out, if each of the sub-districts contained from 15,000 to 20,000 of our Auxiliary Forces, there would be no occasion for more than 16 or 18 sub-districts; but, as it was, they numbered about 70. The officer in command of each of the sub-districts was to be a brigadier—meaning that he was not to have anything to do with regimental duties. Such was the scheme of 1871. In the following year, the noble Viscount referred to his declared policy of the previous Session, and his desire to combine together in one harmonious whole all the Forces provided for by the Votes of Parliament. The number of regi- ments on foreign service had, he pointed out, been reduced—a fact which enabled them to have the number of regiments at home and abroad nearly equal; and reference was made to the short service system, established in 1870, with a view to secure a competent Reserve. The noble Viscount referred, at some length, to the advantage of localizing the Forces. It identified the men with the locality; it induced men in the Militia to join the Army; it attracted recruits to the Army, and prevented the competition which had existed in recruiting between the Army and the Militia. He (the Earl of Galloway) could not help thinking that some of these objects had not been attained. The noble Viscount added that one great object of any military system in time of peace was to prepare for a state of war; and the test, he said, of a peace organization, was its ability to place as large a Force in the field as was consistent with a peace expenditure. The noble Viscount then unfolded his plan, which was very different from that he had sketched out in the previous year. It was intended, he said, that of two Line battalions united in one brigade, one should be at home, and the other abroad; that two Militia regiments should be associated with them in the same brigade, with a colonel of the Regular Army acting as brigadier; and he added that it was intended to create 66 sub-districts throughout the country—a different proposal from that which was made the year before. The noble Viscount had a great and laudable object in view, and that was the combination of the whole of our military system. He thought he might describe the noble Viscount's two propositions in this way—that, during the first three years of his administration, he had in his mind a scheme both comprehensive and comprehensible; that, in the year 1872, he still had in his mind a scheme which was comprehensible, but the reverse of comprehensive; and that the scheme, as it was actually carried out, was both incomprehensive and incomprehensible; and, without any intention of implying disrespect, he did not think that in the end the noble Viscount comprehended the conditions of the system which he had been so anxious to introduce. He therefore thought that the time had come when their Lordships and the country should fully understand something about it. It was well known that the system was adopted chiefly on the recommendation of Major General Macdougall's Committee of 1871, who, in a Memorandum which he submitted to the Militia Committee of 1876, which was considering the question, said— The advantages of linked battalions over an organization in regiments of one battalion only cannot be exaggerated, and, indeed, are not disputed. Now, only a week ago, the illustrious Duke on the cross-benches (the Duke of Cambridge) gave it to be understood that he did not see how the system of linked battalions was to be carried out; and his (the Earl of Galloway's) own belief was that if the evidence of Major General Macdougall was carefully read by the editors of the leading newspapers in this country, and commented upon by them in their journals, the brigade depot system would, within a very few weeks, come to an end. For what did the gallant General go on to say? In answer to Major General Herbert, he stated— In all cases where the two linked battalions were abroad in time of war, though it is not very likely they would be both abroad"— In his (the Earl of Galloway's) opinion, a very erroneous impression, seeing that, at the present moment, we had 85 battalions abroad and only 55 at home— Two Militia regiments would be embodied. These two Militia regiments," he added, "will practically take the place of the two linked regiments of the Line. So that, in order to carry out this system, we ought, at the present moment, considering there were 85 battalions abroad and only 55 at home, to have 15 battalions of Militia embodied and to have raised 15 depot battalions, of six or eight companies each, containing 600 or 800 men. Pressed to state what was the great advantage of the linked battalion system, Major General Macdougall finally admitted his meaning to be that an organization, not of linked battalions, but of three battalions, was "an immense advantage over an organization of regiments of one battalion"—a fact which nobody disputed. Now, a system of three battalions was intelligible; but when they were entirely dependent upon one being invariably kept at home, in order to carry out the linked battalion or brigade depot system, and when that one had to go abroad, also, the result was far from satisfactory. Major General Macdougall ended by saying— I am quite willing to withdraw my expression that the advantage of a system of linked battalions cannot he exaggerated.' Now, he put it to their Lordships, whether this brigade depot system had not, in fact, proved an entire failure, as regarded the linking of battalions? The noble Viscount had said that the sole object of our military system in time of peace should be to provide for a time of war; but he (the Earl of Galloway) would ask whether our system had not, in that respect, entirely failed also. He complained very seriously of the brigade depot system, as at present managed. As originally constituted, the brigade depot was to consist of 14 officers, 78 non-commissioned officers, of whom 16 were drummers—that was to say, in reality, 62 non-commissioned officers, and 90 privates. In order to accomplish this, the Militia Force was to be first deprived of their adjutant and permanent staffs, and thus the old Constitutional Force of the Empire was to be sapped of its very "life-blood." He wanted to point out what had been expected of this brigade depot system. The lieutenant-colonel commandant must always have a numerous staff; but his position reminded him (the Earl of Galloway), without speaking personally, of the grinder of a barrel-organ set to three tunes, and having; on its top a little animal attached by a string. There was the Regular Forces tune, the Militia tune, and the Volunteer tune. The three commanding officers of these different Forces always wanted each of his own particular tune from the same set of notes, and the lieutenant-colonel kept on grinding and pulling away at the strings, and the result was that instead of having an harmonious whole they had such want of harmony that he could only liken it to the broken and discordant hues of a shattered kaleidoscope. This formation could not take effect at once; that was impossible, owing to the existing engagements of service, especially of the permanent Staff of the Militia. After two years' attempt at carrying out the system to a very small extent, it was discovered to be utterly unworkable from the experience he (the Earl of Galloway) had of it. He, therefore, in July, 1875, brought forward his Resolutions condemnatory of it. This led to the appointment of a Committee at the commencement of the Session of 1876. Innumerable points were referred to them. He would only refer to those which came under his special notice to-night. These were five in number—the general working of the brigade depot system; the position of the commanding officer, whether Staff or regimental; whether there should be an adjutant; what number of officers and non-commissioned officers should be at the brigade depot and their specific duties; the amalgamation of the brigade depot Staff with the permanent Staff of the Militia; and the expansion of depot battalions in time of war, involving the question of a Militia depot. With regard to the first, the Committee announced that they had great difficulty in coming to a decision; much depended on whether territorial regiments should be established. On the whole, they recommended that these territorial regiments should be started. But there was diversity of view on the subject. It was a matter of notoriety that, although all the Members of the Committee were induced to sign the Report, yet a great many of the Committee did not approve of a great many points recommended in it, not thinking it to be their duty to withhold their signatures, because there was so much else in the Report which they considered would be an advantage to the public service. He hoped some Members of the Committee would speak for themselves. It was on the understanding that the territorial regiments should be constituted that the Committee recommended that the commanding officer of the brigade depot should be of a regimental, rather than a Staff character. At the present moment, he was both regimental and Staff—within the last two months the Chairman of the Committee (now Secretary of State for War) had referred to the appointment as a quasi-Staff appointment. In his (the Earl of Galloway's) opinion, the word quasi should be expunged from the military dictionary. Nothing could be too clearly defined in respect of military organization. The Committee, therefore, threw over, in this respect, the scheme of the noble Viscount. The Committee recommended the appointment of an adjutant to each brigade depot, as well as to each Militia battalion, They reported that there was no distinct advantage in the amalgamation of the brigade depot Staff with the permanent Staff of the Militia. That was another point in which they upset the system of the noble Viscount. It was intended that in time of war, when the home linked battalion was sent abroad, the depot battalion should be expanded from 100 to 600; but that was not done. There was to be a Militia battalion embodied in order to send recruits to, and the permanent Staff were to go to it in order to drill the recruits. If the lieutenant-colonel of the sub-district was to become the regimental commanding officer, who was to be the inspector of the regiment? It appeared to be an absurdity that a regimental colonel should act as inspector of his own regiment, and somebody else must be appointed as inspector. If the lieutenant-colonel of the sub-district was to be all-powerful in the regiment, the commanding officer of the Militia must subside; but if the commanding officer of the Militia was still intended to command his own regiment, there was not much left for the lieutenant-colonel of the sub-district to do. The adjutant was placed in an anomalous position, for he could not serve two masters. Things might go on smoothly when all could agree; but when they could not, difficulties were inevitable for him between his two masters. If the permanent Staff of the Militia were to remain a part of their own battalion, he could not see the raison d' être of the lieutenant-colonel of the sub-district. For the whole of the last two months 15 out of 22 non-commissioned officers of the Militia Staff of his own regiment had been employed upon brigade depot duty. Over and over again he had made applications for the non-commissioned officers to return to their own regimental duties, but without effect. If what was originally intended to have been done had been done, and if the Militia of the districts, denuded of their home regular battalion, had been embodied, he could prove that it would have been impossible for the Militia Staff to have done their duty to their own regiments, and also to have drilled the recruits of the improvised depot battalion; and he complained, further, that under the present system more than half the Militia battalions escaped brigade depot duties altogether. The whole of the work was thrown upon the remainder, and the consequence was that the non-commissioned officers of the Line naturally sought to go to those regiments of Militia where there was the least duty. He wished to show that the fact was the present system was utterly rotten, and it was quite impossible to deny it, and it was time it was shown up to the country. Their Lordships should know that it had created a large amount of dissatisfaction amongst military men. The duties falling upon many of the old non-commissioned officers were far harder than they used to be, and he had received more than one application from members of his permanent Staff to be allowed to take their discharge. He had not, of course, granted their request, as it was not his duty to permit them to go. But were welikely to increase the efficiency of our Military Forces, if we kept men in the position of old non-commissioned officers in the Service against their will? Was that the way to make the Army popular, as was so much desired by the noble Viscount when he introduced his scheme? We maintained 70 expensive commands, because occasionally we might want officers to command these two or three battalions at the time of their expansion. Was that proper economy? How were many of these brigade depot centres constructed? It had been stated, in reply to a Question he (the Earl of Galloway) had asked recently, that it had been intended, upon occasions of its being necessary to expand depot battalions, that the recruits were to live under huts and canvas. Where would our drafts for South Africa have been, if the recruits, during the last four months of inclement weather, had been trained under huts and canvas? The next point to which he would refer was the unequal manner in which the system worked. According to the amended idea of the noble Viscount, there were to be two Militia battalions at each brigade depot centre. There were 70 sub-districts, and in the case of six of these there was no Militia battalion at all at the brigade centres. At 10 brigade depot centres only were there two battalions; and at 40 only a single battalion. The result was that the brigade depot duty fell to the permanent Staff of these 60 battalions only, and the other battalions throughout the country, to the number of 73, got off got free of brigade depot duty. Was that the system which could be denominated "one harmonious whole?" The way in which another point worked was this—If the commanding officer of Militia applied for members of the brigade depot to help him in training his regiment, at one time he was told there were none to be spared, at another he found them useless on account of their inexperience. Then, let their Lordships look at the expense. The cost of these brigade depots was, according to the Army Estimates, £274,000, and this in addition to the millions of capital already expended in the construction of barracks. That was for the fighting element, £200,000; the rest, which he had proved to be mischievous, cost £74,000 a-year. He would now show the inequality of these commands. Taking each auxiliary battalion of Militia and Volunteers at 800 men each, which was rather in excess than diminution of the actual numbers, what did he find? Parenthetically, he might here allude to the absurdity of the size of the Northern district—the inequality of the districts themselves; but that was another question of itself. In two sub-districts there were two battalions only of Auxiliary Forces of 1,600 men; in 12 sub-districts, three auxiliary battalions of 2,400 men; in 12 other sub-districts, four auxiliary battalions of 3,200 men; in another 12 sub-districts, five auxiliary battalions of 4,000 men, and so on; arriving, at last, to one sub-district comprising a force of over 21,000 auxiliaries. Looking at that state of things, he thought that the general number of sub-districts might be reduced. In the Northern division, instead of 26 sub-districts, they should have five; in the Eastern, two instead of five; and in the Western, three instead of seven. Neither the Southern nor South-Eastern districts required any sub-districts; and in the North-British district they might have three sub-districts instead of eight, and in Ireland two sub-districts in each military division would be amply sufficient. For the "brigade depot" system he would substitute a "brigade and depot" system—which would imply a brigade with a number of regimental depots within it. There were other recommendations he had also intended to suggest; but the hour was too late to admit of his doing so. In conclusion, he would say that a re-adjust- ment of our military system was absolutely necessary; but his appeal for its accomplishment was not directed to the Government. They had never ceased to admit that they had no military policy of their own; but how they were to keep up their triumphant foreign policy without a corresponding military policy, he was unable to discover. In this matter of military policy, however, they were but the humble and servile disciples of the noble Viscount (Viscount Cardwell); they acknowledged him as their chief apostle in all military matters, and to the noble Viscount he would therefore appeal to initiate the necessary change in our military organization. He would ask him, therefore, to issue his imperial mandate, and to desire Her Majesty's Government at once to apply the pruning-knife to these "whimsical infinitesimals," brigade depots, the creation of 1872, in favour of the comprehensive proposals made by the noble Viscount himself in 1871. He begged to move the Resolutions of which he had given Notice.

Moved to resolve— 1. That the military system of brigade depots or sub-districts introduced in the year 1872 has proved a source of expense to this country incommensurate with its general results, and that steps should therefore be taken for their gradual absorbtion or diminution in number. 2. That the present state of our military organisation is a source of immediate anxiety quite irrespective of the extreme youth of the regular forces of the Army occasioned by enlistment for short service; and that in view of the various reports on the subject of the several Committees already appointed by successive Secretaries of State for War, this House hears with concern the intimation that Her Majesty's Government are unprepared with any remedial measures without the preliminary investigation of a further additional Committee."—(The Earl of Galloway.)


congratulated the noble Earl (the Earl of Galloway) on the able speech which he had delivered. It was a speech which contained much with which he (Lord Strathnairn) fully agreed; and he thought that it would be of great benefit to the Militia, of which the noble Earl was an excellent and efficient officer.


fully sympathized with the noble Earl (the Earl of Galloway) in the speech he had delivered; but would advise him to be satisfied with having brought that important question under the consideration of Parliament, and with the prospect of further inquiry. Unless, however, any future Committee that might be appointed was composed of entirely different material from any Committee within his (Lord Ellenborough's) recollection, further inquiry would be utterly useless. His experience was that they generally came to their labours with strong preconceived opinions. It was a misfortune that the opinions of officers who had served for a great length of time with their Colours had not nearly as much weight as those who had seen little service, and were enjoying the advantages of easy Staff appointments. He trusted, therefore, that the Committee would be composed, not of officers holding those appointments, but of officers who had commanded regiments for prolonged periods, and were, consequently, well acquainted with the requirements of the Service in all its departments, including the medical system, which had deteriorated in efficiency as regarded the well-being of the Army at large, from the ill-conceived notion of the abolition of the regimental system, unsatisfactory to commanding officers, and to the medical officers themselves. Upon the whole, however, he did not think further inquiry was necessary, since the Government were in possession of ample information, derived from the expressed opinions of officers who had commanded British regiments of Her Majesty's Service.


My Lords, without accepting literally the terms of the Resolutions proposed by the noble Earl (the Earl of Galloway), and without adopting all the opinions that he has expressed, I concur with him generally that much in our existing military organization is unsatisfactory. Two points, amongst others, have been referred to—depôt centres, and the appointment of a new Committee. As to the first, I would remind your Lordships that a very principal depot centre has been waiting its turn for a very long time—I mean a new War Office, not a temple for the fame of the architect, but a convenient Office where the several departments may be consolidated, and the business of the Army properly conducted. As to another Committee, or Commission, I had occasion, 11 or 12 years ago, to mention in this House a formidable list of Committees that had been even then held for the organization and re-organization of the War Office Departments. If the Secretary of State finds it necessary to appoint another, we must try to hope that now he will have crowned the edifice—although I confess that my confidence is a little shaken upon this point, when I notice that this Militia Committee, at the end of a Report of 107 paragraphs, state that "many questions are still untouched." And I must dispute the statement made by the noble Lord on the cross-Benches (Lord Ellenborough), that these Committees are improperly constituted. I have assisted at such inquiries, and I can assure him that those appointed entered upon the consideration of the matters referred to them in a very different spirit from that which he has attributed to us. There have been two discussions upon military subjects during the present Session, neither of them regular in point of form, as there was no precise Motion before the House. On both occasions the speakers departed from the Notice on the Paper, and plunged into things in general, perhaps unavoidably. However, I gathered from competent speakers that the present system of enlistment does not provide trained soldiers; that it does not provide qualified non-commissioned officers; and, early in the Session, the noble Viscount who represents the War Office here (Viscount Bury) stated that it was contemplated to reengage men from the Reserve, which looked like a reversal of the short-service system. He was quite right; as it is plainly necessary by some means to give stability to the battalions, whose bones have been picked clean to furnish drafts to regiments going abroad. We should have expected that the necessities of the case having been recognized, a short Act would have been passed to give to the War Office the necessary powers. It is an obvious blot on the original scheme, that whereas provision is made for calling out the Reserves at a period of great national emergency—which is not likely to occur very often—no provision is made for utilizing them in minor emergencies, which may occur frequently. However, although we might have expected that some prompt action would have been taken, we find that the course resolved upon has been to introduce a clause into a many-headed Bill that is dragging through a weary discussion, and it is doubtful when it may become law. Further, the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State recently, in an excellent official speech, showed that his Department thoroughly understands how "not to do it"—there were perfect explanations why the soldiers were young, and the sergeants inexperienced, and the legislative provisions defective; but he made only languid reference to intended remedies for recognized defects, although this particular weak spot in the system—the locking up of the Reserves—was noticed three years ago, and was the subject of much inquiry before this very Militia Committee, of which Colonel Stanley himself was Chairman. I do not follow the noble Earl (the Earl of Galloway) through the interesting details of his speech; but I prefer to give an example of the working of the existing system as it bears upon a particular regiment, the Returns of which I have been able to see. It is a two battalion regiment—one abroad, one at home; from the battalion at home, in the last six months, 352 soldiers have gone, and have been nearly replaced by recruits, some partially drilled at a depôt, some the raw article. And this is supposed to be an efficient battalion, one of the first on the roster for foreign service, or to take its place in the first line of any Army Corps that might be formed. With 141 recruits at drill, and 15 lads, its efficiency must be seriously reduced. And I may give an example of what bystanders think of the present state of things. Two general officers were present on a recent occasion in this House, and heard the views of three noble Viscounts and of other speakers: one of them near the Throne observed to me—"They may say what they please, the whole thing is rotten;" the other at the Bar afterwards said to me—" Why did not you insist on speaking, and tell them that the system is rotten?" Now, I do not say that the whole thing is rotten, because we have that good material to work upon—Royal officers and the right stuff for soldiers; but the right stuff wants keeping. There is no reason why we should be afraid of progress. I remember the change, adopted with some misgiving, from flint locks to percussion arms, and subsequent improvements, until breech-loaders were introduced. But improvement may go too fast. At Lord Panmure's Recruiting Commission in 1866, when the period of enlistment had been reduced to 10 and 12 years, renewable to 21 years, most of the witnesses were asked if they had heard any one speak well of this system. None of them had anything to say in its favour, except theoretically. Encouraged by which, the next Government reduced the term still further, and landed us in our present difficulty. I cannot help thinking that we have been in rather too great a hurry in jumping at short service. In our anxiety to create a Reserve, we have too much weakened our first line. And to reduce the system of long service with pension we have introduced something like short service with pension; and the Under Secretary of State for War further states that we must be so tender with our Reserves that they must not be worrited by anything to remind them that they are soldiers, except, of course, their Reserve pay. There is no occasion to go back to bows and arrows, or flint locks; but we may consider whether we may not have made a mistake in recent changes. All the mutual admiration that may be exchanged across the Table does not alter the fact that regiments have been sent abroad hastily completed with untrained men, and that if re-inforcements are required, they must be of the same character. The matter requires all the attention that the Government, with the assistance of both sides of the House, can give to it.


said, he did not intend at that time to go into the details of the general military system which had just been attacked by the noble and gallant Earl (the Earl of Longford), who had, as usual, spoken very plainly to the House upon the subject. It was somewhat curious that his noble Friend who introduced the subject (the Earl of Galloway) devoted most of his speech, not to an attack on the Government, but to an attack on the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cardwell), whom he (Viscount Bury) would leave to defend himself and his policy. But he had two things to do—he had to show that the Government were not unmindful of the present condition of affairs, but wore adopting the course they believed most conducive to putting matters right; and he had to show that the position was one for which they were not altogether responsible. The noble Earl who brought forward the Motion talked as if the Committee now to be appointed by the Government was to follow on the same lines and deal with the same materials as the two previous Committees. The Committee of 1872, however, was appointed by the noble Viscount opposite, and it resulted in the establishment of the brigade depot system, in the details of which there were, no doubt, grave defects. The Committee of 1876 dealt not, as had been supposed, with short service, but with the detailed working of the brigade depot system, and the way in which it affected the Militia. Now, the Committee which the Government proposed to appoint was a purely military Committee, which would deal with existing defects.' He had only to refer their Lordships to the speech delivered by the noble Earl that evening, to show how unfitted such an Assembly as theirs would be to deal with the numerous details which had been brought before them. It was acknowledged on all hands that there were defects in the way in which our recruits were sent forward, and the way in which our cadres were filled. The question was, therefore, essentially a military one, and it was a question which ought to be advised upon by military men. He understood his noble Friend (the Earl of Galloway) to say that some decision should be immediately arrived at. But he would ask how was the Secretary of State to come to a right decision unless he appealed to the military men who surrounded him upon this purely military question? The Committee which would be appointed would consist of military men of the highest standing in the country—as his right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State would take every means to assemble around him those whose opinions would carry most weight—and they would investigate, as only-military men could investigate, the details of the brigade depot system. It was for that reason that he did not propose to go into the details into which his noble Friend who moved the Resolutions did, and with which it was impossible for the House to deal. The noble and gallant Earl who had spoken last (the Earl of Longford) said that a short Bill should be introduced to enable the short service men who wished to do so to return to the Colours. There was already a measure on the Table of the other House containing a clause which dealt with this question. To introduce an Act of Parliament for the purpose of bringing back Reserve men to their Colours was a thing which was much easier paid than done, and one which would not result in any saving of time; because experience showed that there were difficulties in getting a measure through the other House quickly, and no doubt, as the subject involved grave Constitutional questions, such a Bill would most certainly be considered by a great number of Members in the other House, and would be warmly debated, and at great length. He held, therefore, that such a Bill as the noble Earl had proposed would not facilitate matters. The question should be left in the position which it now occupied. The Bill which contained the clause referring to it had been read a second time, and was at present being debated in a Committee of the House of Commons. The Government could not be justly blamed for delay, for they could not force a measure through a free House of Commons or through their Lordships' House. Any measure that might be introduced would have to be considered for a reasonable time; and the Government had therefore refrained from bringing forward such a Bill as was proposed by the noble and gallant Earl. A military Committee alone constituted the proper machinery by means of which the Government could inform themselves on the details of the question before their Lordships; and, as he had shown, the course which the Government had pursued, of leaving the question to the ordinary channels of the other House for decision, was, on the whole, the one most likely to save time.


said, he entirely concurred in the views of the noble Earl who had opened the debate (the Earl of Galloway), and in many points he could, from his own experience, corroborate the noble Earl. He could not speak of the depôt system generally; but he was strongly adverse to the system pursued in the depôthich the regiment with which he was recently connected had the misfortune to be attached. The locality in which this depot was placed was very much exposed to the north and north-east. The subsoil of the locality was wet, while the surface of the ground was composed of clay. There was no place in the neighbourhood fit for drilling in, or for the movements of battalions. He did not know whether the officer commanding the 62nd depôt was a Staff officer or a regimental officer, as he was seldom seen there, and lived many miles away from it. It was, in fact, often very difficult to know who was commanding officer at the depot. Sometimes it was the senior captain, who had not given himself leave of absence; but at other times it was the quarter-master sergeant, or the orderly-room clerk. He was glad to hear that the Government contemplated the immediate appointment of a Committee to go into the whole system of the sub-district, depôt, and long and short service systems. Under these circumstances, he did not think that further discussion would lead to any practical result; and, therefore, he suggested that the Motion of the noble Earl should be withdrawn.


said, he must be allowed to express his surprise at the remarks of the noble Duke who had just spoken (the Duke of Buccleuch). He (Viscount Cardwell) would remind the noble Duke that he was himself one of the most important Members of the Committee which sat in 1876 to inquire into the system that now existed, and that the concluding words of the Report of that Committee were highly commendatory. Those words were to this effect— The Committee trust that the conclusions which they have the honour to submit may result in the full development of the system of organization which, upon the recommendation of the highest military authorities, has been so recently adopted and approved by Parliament and by the country. He was, therefore, very much astonished to hear the noble Duke express the opinions which their Lordships had heard. The opinions of the noble Duke had undergone a most remarkable change since 1876. He did not think it was at all necessary to follow the noble Earl who had first addressed their Lordships upon the subject before them (the Earl of Galloway) into the details he had brought forward in support of the Motion; and inasmuch as the noble Earl had made copious quotations from his (Viscount Cardwell's) speeches, he should take care to trouble their Lordships very little now. The noble Earl had pointed out that in his earlier career he (Viscount I Cardwell) took a view about depôt centres which differed from that which I he supported in 1872. The explanation was this—the early opinions were rudimentary opinions, expressed in the course of discussions in the other House. When, however, he came to reduce those views into a practical form, he consulted the illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge), and a Memorandum was prepared advising how those views were to be carried into effect. A Committee was afterwards appointed for the purpose of suggesting the mode in which the work was to be done; and the views to which he referred were repeatedly considered and finally adopted, the expense necessary before they could be put into practice being unanimously sanctioned by the House of Commons, and not questioned by their Lordships' House. The greater part of the speech of his noble Friend had been devoted to faults which were found with the manner in which the system he had introduced had been carried out. But for these faults, he could hardly be held responsible, as he had ceased in 1874 to have any power or control over that system, though he might concur in some of the steps taken by the War Department under the present Government. He did not deny that there might be some faults or defects which it might be necessary to remedy; and although he should not himself think it necessary to propose the appointment of any Committee, he thought it a proper course; and if it were the intention of Her Majesty's Government, in spite of the Report of the Secretary of State, to institute further inquiry, he should be delighted to see it enter upon its labours, and trusted that it might be attended with public advantage.


asked, whether a list of the names of the proposed Committee, which had appeared in some of the military papers, was correct?


said, he had not seen the list referred to. As soon as the Committee had been selected, the names would be published.


observed, that, as a Member of the Committee to which reference had been made, he had signed the Report, because he believed the system inaugurated by the noble Viscount (Viscount Cardwell) could be best carried out in the manner sug- gested by the Committee. The Committee was appointed to carry out a system which had received the assent of Parliament, and in respect of which a large amount of money had been spent. If the question before them had been an open one, he thought it likely that the Report would not have been in all respects what it was.


said, as the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cardwell) had accused him of a change of opinion on the subject, he wished to explain that, in signing the Report, he had acquiesced in some things with which he did not altogether agree. He did so in the hope that the new System would prove to be successful; but, as the result of practical experience of it, he must say that he was disappointed in that expectation.


expressed himself satisfied with the discussion he had raised, and would withdraw his Motion.

Motion (by Leave of the House) withdrawn.