§ LORD STRATHNAIRN
, in rising to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for the following Returns and Papers:—
said, that military opinion was uniform that the non-commissioned officers were the very back-bone of our Army; and short service had failed to produce them. That system had given the country boys for soldiers, and deprived the Army of the class of men from which non-commissioned officers were drawn. Some had said that short service would increase the military material that was in the country; but if this had been so we should have known about it by this time. Our best officers by no means approved of short service. In the Prussian Army, where short service prevailed, and which was, perhaps, the best organized Army in the world, such was the importance attached to having efficient non-commissioned officers that it had been ordered that all non-commissioned officers of nine years' service should receive Government employment. Young men under 20 years of age should not be taken into the 1420 Army, and that was the ago at which the conscription commenced to apply in Germany. The recruiting age in this country was 18; but it was well-known that a number of men under that age enlisted in the Army. He wanted to know why the Government had not adopted the means at their disposal for punishing fraudulent enlistment? The 24th Regiment was composed of young men; but he believed that if its noncommissioned officers had been taken from tried and seasoned soldiers, instead of mere striplings, they would have steadied the men at Isandula, and have ordered the rear ranks to face round. If that had been done, and if a sustained and well-directed fire had been poured into the Zulu advance, the result would have been different.
- "1. The Instructions given by the Secretary of State for War in 1872 to the Committee on Organization:
- "2. The number and their rank of officers of battalions on foreign service or on first appointment on the Linked Battalion system who since the 1st of April 1876 have served at Brigade Depôts, and how long; also the number of rank and file and of non-commissioned officers, being the respective strength of the companies forming the Brigade Depôts, including non-effectives, and their employment; and also the average monthly strength of a Brigade Depôt:
- "3. The number since the 1st of April 1876 of Brigade Depôt parades and drills, stating what drills, or movements under the colonel commandant of the four Depôt Companies, including the Auxiliary Forces, Militia, &c.:
- "4. The annual expense of the colonels commandant, the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Brigade Depôts actually and practically formed together, with the expense of concentration of troops, if any, travelling, officers mess, and other miscellaneous expenses attendant on the Brigade Depôt system:
- "5. The armed force, whether line, brigade depôt, first class army reserve, militia, yeomanry, volunteers, or pensioners whom the colonel commandant is authorised to inspect or call out for drill purposes in his sub-district, or for aid, if necessary, to the civil power:
- "6. The armed force and of what description in a sub-district under the orders of its colonel commandant:
- "7. Whether the first class army reserve men are concentrated in a sub-district at the Brigade Depôt stations for their seven days annual instruction, and, if not, where and by whom drilled, and in what drill:
- "8. Number of recruits since 1871 tried for fraudulent enlistment, that is for having sworn, although under age, in their attestation papers that they were of the proper age; and what steps have been taken to prevent the award of 'bringing money' for fraudulent enlistments:
- "9. Any battalion, which on account of the Linked Battalion system and of the necessity of its being at home in order to relieve its linked or other battalion at the termination of its foreign service, or on account of any other cause, has been ordered home in breach of the rules of the Regulation Foreign Service Roster before the completion of its foreign service;
- "10. Number of recruits under eight months service who have been sent out on foreign service; to what battalion in the Linked Battalion system; and where, since the 1st of April 1876:
- "11. Number of short service men not allowed to go on foreign service on account of the near approach of their term of service, and sent to the Brigade Depôt or elsewhere for the completion of their service, since the formation of the Brigade Depôt system:
- "12. A Return in continuation of a Return to an Address of the House of Lords, dated the 28th of February 1876;
- "13. Return of Double or Linked Battalions at home being stationed in the district or sub-district of their Brigade Depôt or Centre:
- "14. Correspondence, if any, relating to the men of the First Class Army Reserve being sent to reinforce or fill up vacancies in regiments in South Africa:
- "15. Any reports of the opinions of general officers commanding districts at home or in command of troops abroad of the disadvantages of the under age of the men under their command; also any report of the general officers or other officers commanding the troops, and of the principal medical officer, on the number of men who fell out of the ranks from fatigue on their march to and from the review at Windsor in 1874:
- "16. A Return of the First Class Army Reserve men who have volunteered lately, specifying whether they were in civil employment or without it:
- "17. Any Correspondence between the India Office, Her Majesty's Government, and the War Office relating to the unfavourable effects of the Short Service system on Indian finance or Indian interests:
- "18. Any Return showing whether Major Bromhead of the 24th Regiment passed a successful examination or not for a first commission,"
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, he felt some difficulty in replying to the noble and gallant Lord, because he had moved for no fewer than 17 Returns. He did not think it would be convenient for him to go into the general question of short service; indeed, he was not prepared to enter into so large a subject at that moment. He was not aware, from the Notice which the noble and gallant Lord had given, that they would be asked to enter into such a discussion, or he might have taken the opportunity of consulting with the Secretary of State, or the illustrious Duke on the cross-benches (the Duke of Cambridge). The short-service system had been adopted after full consideration, and was now in full force; and although the noble and gallant Lord had stated many of its disadvantages, he had not suggested any alternative system. With regard to the Returns for which the noble and gallant Lord had moved, most of them had already been laid on the Table of their Lordships' House, and others had been presented to the other House.
THE EARL OF GALLOWAY
considered the question of short service one of extreme urgency, and a discussion respecting it ought to be raised at the earliest possible period, in order that they might know what the real state of the Army was at the present time. There was such a difficulty in getting non-commissioned officers that, in a published letter, mention was made of an instance in which a man had been made a colour-sergeant after only 11 months' service. An important statement had recently been published to the effect that amid the hun- 1421 dreds of applicants at our hospitals, there were some of the failures of our modern military system—lads 20 years old, coming back from India damaged for life by premature and profitless service. He hoped the Committee, of which they had heard so much, was to have this subject under its notice as well as others. He should like to know, moreover, whether it was to be a Royal Commission, or a mere Departmental Committee of the War Office, and what instructions were to be given to it? The question was one of so much importance that, instead of having the same names upon these Committees, it would be desirable to expand them, so as to secure the advantage of the experience of commanding officers who had practical knowledge of the subject, and it would be satisfactory to hear that the noble and gallant Lord's (Lord Strathnairn's) opinion would be asked. In a recent despatch, Lord Chelmsford spoke in terms of praise of the good firing of the 57th Regiment in the late battles in Zululand. The explanation of it was this—the regiment was composed of many old soldiers who had served with it in Ceylon and in India. One of the great complaints against the present system was that under it we got only young lads as recruits.
pointed out that the real injury to the Service commenced when the Ten Years' Act was passed, under which the soldier was deprived of pension, after devoting the best 10 years of his life to the Service. No soldier should be sent to India until upwards of 21 years from a medical point of view, and this was a cogent reason against the short service system, both costly and inefficient, more particularly expensive in reference to distant Colonies and our Empire in the East Indies.
§ LORD TRURO
said, he was not sure whether the Rule of the House to which the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack had called attention at the commencement of the Sitting had not been, within the last few minutes, violated in a greater degree than it had been by him. He was then in Order, and would again express the hope that, as there was an anxious feeling even among military men upon the matter, the House would receive an assurance from the Government that the proposed Com- 1422 mittee would be a mixed Committee of military men and civilians.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
said, he had never concealed his opinion that the new system, both in respect to the appointment of officers and the manning, or rather "boying," of the Army was very defective. He trusted that the Committee, which was about to be appointed would give particular attention to the Army Medical Reports, and the concurrence of testimony as to the unfitness of lads under 20—the majority of the new recruits being 16 or 17—either for exposure to a tropical climate, or the hardships and fatigues of actual warfare. The medical evidence on this point alone was so concurrent that he was sure it would be accepted as conclusive. When men were enlisted for 12 years, during nine of those years they were, on the average, old enough to be serviceable; but when they were only enlisted for six years, and often allowed to pass into the Reserve before the expiration of those, they were generally of serviceable age for only three years at most in the ranks. He trusted the Government would be induced to adopt some modifications of a system which, with a large Army on paper, practically left only a small proportion of it available in the field.
§ THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE
thought that much inconvenience arose from these imperfect discussions of a technical subject, especially after the announcement by Her Majesty's Government that it was to be investigated by a military Committee. Not only in their Lordships' House and in the House of Commons, but in the country generally, was the opinion general that something-should be done in the matter. The question was, what was it that should be done, and how was it to be done? The best way was to seek, in the first instance, what were the blots in the present system. The system would be fully inquired into by the Committee, the blots in it would be pointed out by competent witnesses, who would be examined by the Committee, and who would state their opinions frankly upon Army organization. We should then be able to see how matters really stood; and the Committee would state what, in their opinion, should be the alterations or amendments. The Committee would report fully to Her Majesty's Government, and Her Majesty's Government 1423 would then be in a position to decide whether large organic changes ought to be made, or whether it was only in small and minor points that alterations were required. His noble Friend (Earl Fortescue) said he was not satisfied with the way in which the present system had been carried out. He had the greatest respect for the noble Earl, who always said what he meant; but he was at a loss to know in what respect the noble Earl thought the system had not been carried out. Nobody would be more pleased than the Secretary of State and himself if they could fill their ranks with men over 20. If anyone could show how, without conscription, but by voluntary enlistment, we could get a sufficient number of recruits over 20 years old, a great difficulty would be got over. Unfortunately, many of these recruits were only 17 years old; but if they would wait until they were 20, the War Office authorities would be only too delighted. His noble Friend, however, would find some difficulty in arriving at such an arrangement. He felt quite sure of one tiling—that unless they largely increased the pay of the soldier they could not expect older men to join the Service, and that was a subject which required grave consideration. There was no doubt that all those matters would be fully, fairly, and seriously inquired into by the Commission or Committee. The noble Earl (the Earl of Galloway) went into a number of details, on which he would have been quite prepared to meet him; but it was impossible to go into that sort of thing in their Lordships' House, and it would only be wearying to the House. In such an Assembly, details of military organization could be discussed in only a very superficial and unsatisfactory manner. He hoped that noble Lords who felt interested in these matters would be satisfied with the assurance of the Government that there would be a full inquiry into these and other grave points by a Committee competent to enter on such an investigation.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
explained, that he did not wish to impute any fault to the War Office authorities, but only to the system.
§ VISCOUNT CARDWELL
said, he felt bound to express his full concurrence with the illustrious Duke in thinking that, if there was to be an inquiry that 1424 should carry weight with it, the constant discussion in that House of details of military organization was not desirable; and, therefore, he should not say a word on the question raised by his noble and gallant Friend (Lord Strathnairn), who had brought the subject forward, further than that there ought to be a complete investigation, from beginning to end, into the subject; but in reference to what had been said by his noble Friend (Earl Fortescue) as to the ages at which soldiers were sent to India, he wished to read a passage from the Report of Lord Dalhousie's Commission, which sat in 1867, the golden days of long service. It was in these words—A return prepared for us of the ages and periods of service of men sent out as drafts to India during the last two years, between the 1st of January, 1864, and the 31st of December, 1865, shows that out of a total number of 5,622, no less than 2,093 were under 20 years of age, and 796 between 20 and 21 years. Thus there were more than one-half (2,889) under 21 years of age, and in some regiments the proportion was much greater. Out of these 5,622 recruits, 3,947 were of less than two years' service, while 2,038 of them were actually under one year's service. Of the Artillery drafts, one-half were under 21 years of ago, and one-third under 20—nearly three-fourths under two years' service, and one-fifth actually under one year's service.Now, as a rule, only matured men were sent to India. During the time of the late Government, there was an inquiry in reference to service in India, and on that Committee were the heads of the Medical and Recruiting Departments, and they provided rules in respect of the men who were to be sent out to India; and he believed those rules had been acted upon ever since, and they showed a striking contrast with the rules in force under what was called the golden times of long service. He wished to ask, whether it was correct, as had been stated, that there was a difficulty in accepting the services of men in the Reserve Force if they wished to volunteer? He could not understand that there was any difficulty; but if there was, he submitted that a strong Government could have brought in a measure to remove it; but as that had not been done, he thought the alleged difficulty must be imaginary. He supposed it was a mare's nest. It would be a great advantage to have the older men of the Reserve in the Army if they could be permitted to volunteer.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, there was a provision in a Bill now before the other House of Parliament—the Army Discipline and Regulation Bill—authorizing the Secretary of State to accept volunteers from the Reserve. As the law stood, there was nothing whatever to prevent the Secretary of State, under the Act of 1870, to permit volunteers from the Reserves joining the Regular Army, so long as the Regular Army was not increased beyond the maximum strength voted by Parliament.
THE EARL OF GALLOWAY
, in explanation, said, he could assure the illustrious Duke that he quite appreciated his advice; but the other evening he was treating on a subject of great importance, and the only way of doing so was by entering into it fully.
§ LORD WAVENEY
suggested that those Papers which had a special bearing on the subject and were most interesting should be prepared and presented to the House first.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
asked the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Strathnairn), which of the Returns on the Motion Paper he moved for?
THE EARL OF LONGFORD
said, in reference to the quotation from the Report of Lord Dalhousie's Commission as to the youth of soldiers at the time mentioned, it must be remembered that those young soldiers were received into regiments in which a large number of old soldiers were serving, and they became more efficient than in regiments composed principally of young men.
§ LORD STRATHNAIRN
pointed out that he was desirous to obtain all Returns respecting the Army Reserve, the system of education, the brigade system, and the linking of battalions. He wished to observe, further, that he considered he was perfectly right to say in that House what he thought would be for the good of the Army. He would like to have all the Papers mentioned in his Notice of Motion, and which he had moved for.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
explained that many of the Returns now asked for were already on the Table of their Lordships' House, and that some of the Papers, such as the Indian Correspondence, could not be granted.
§ THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE
wished to explain that he had not the least wish to interfere with any noble Lord bringing forward any question of this kind. 1426 What he meant was that no official Member of the Government could go into those details which might be necessary upon this occasion. If he went beyond that he did not wish to do so.
§ VISCOUNT HARDINGE
wished to know whether he correctly understood the noble Viscount (Viscount Bury) to say that the Government declined to produce the Correspondence with the India Office relating to the effect of the short service system on Indian finance? He (Viscount Hardinge) had seen no reason why such a Correspondence should not be produced. He had asked what was the comparative statement of expenses as regards the Indian reliefs consequent on short service; but he had never been able to get a satisfactory answer. That was one of the matters which bore heavily on the finances of India, and he should like to know whether the Secretary of State for India had an objection to the? production of the Correspondence?
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
said, there would be no objection to the production of the Correspondence when it was complete; but it was not complete, and that was the only reason why the Government objected to produce it at the present moment. The Correspondence was now going on between the two Departments, and if it were laid on the Table it would not tell its own tale. With regard to expenditure, there was an inquiry now proceeding with reference to Home charges. The conclusions arrived at would be submitted to the House, and then his noble Friend would have the opportunity of obtaining the information he desired.
§ Motion amended, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty for,
- 1. The number and their rank of officers of battalions on foreign service or on first appointment on the Linked Battalion system who since the 1st of April 1876 have served at Brigade Depôts, and how long; also the number of rank and file and of non-commissioned officers, being the respective strength of the companies forming the Brigade Depôts, including non-effectives, and their employment; and also the average monthly strength of a Brigade Depôt:
- 2. The number since the 1st of April 1876 of Brigade Depôt parades and drills, stating what drills, or movements under the colonel commandant of the four Depôt Companies, including the Auxiliary Forces, Militia, &c.:
- 3. The annual expense of the colonels commandant, the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Brigade Depôts actually and practically formed together, with the expense
1427 of concentration of troops, if any, travelling, officers mess, and other miscellaneous expenses attendant on the Brigade Depôt system:
- 4. The armed force, whether line, brigade depôt, first class army reserve, militia, yeomanry, volunteers, or pensioners whom the colonel commandant is authorised to inspect or call out for drill purposes in his sub-district, or for aid, if necessary, to the civil power:
- 5. The armed force and of what description in a sub-district under the orders of its colonel commandant:
- 6. Whether the first class army reserve men are concentrated in a sub-district at the Brigade Depôt stations for their seven days annual instruction, and, if not, where and by whom drilled, and in what drill:
- 7. Number of recruits since 1871 tried for fraudulent enlistment, that is for having sworn, although under age, in their attestation papers that they were of the proper age; and what steps have been taken to prevent the award of "bringing money" for fraudulent enlistments:
- 8. Any battalion, which on account of the Linked Battalion system and of the necessity of its being at home in order to relieve its linked or other battalion at the termination of its foreign service, or on account of any other cause, has been ordered home in breach of the rules of the Regulation Foreign Service Roster before the completion of its foreign service:
- 9. Return in continuation of a Return to an Address of the House of Lords, dated the 28th of February 1876:
- 10. Return of Double or Linked Battalions at home being stationed in the district or sub-district of their Brigade Depôt or Centre:
- 11. Any reports of the opinions of general officers commanding districts at home or in command of troops abroad of the disadvantages of the under age of the men under their command:
- 12. A Return of the First Class Army Reserve men who have volunteered lately, specifying whether they were in civil employment or without it.—(The Lord Strathnairn.)