HL Deb 05 April 1881 vol 260 cc691-731

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the scheme of Army Organization submitted to Parliament by the Secretary of State for War, together with the various Reports and Papers now on the Table of the House referred to in the said scheme, said, that the Papers which had been laid on the Table and were contained in the Blue Book had evidently been compiled with much care and labour. Many most competent witnesses had been examined before the Commission appointed to inquire into the question; and, though the Commission had not come unanimously to their conclusions, the House had sufficient means of forming a correct opinion. The first, and perhaps the most important, question was the length of service—a matter with respect to which it was to be feared that we might run from one extreme to the other, and that we might sacrifice, to some extent, the strength of our fighting line, in order to form a strong Reserve Force. On this point there was an undeniable difference of opinion. One gallant officer had announced himself in The Nineteenth Century an uncom- promising advocate of short service; while, on the other hand, another gallant officer, now on his way home from the Cape, had drawn exactly opposite conclusions from his experience in Afghanistan, and had said that without seasoned soldiers his march from Cabul to Candahar would have been impossible. If, as Sir Frederick Roberts said, troops were not fit for active service in India until they had been three years in the country, a large number of our men would at once have to be struck off the rolls of the effective Army. For himself, he concurred with Sir Frederick Roberts and the Report of the Commission of which his noble Friend (Lord Airey) had been the Chairman, and thought that several reasons existed for reverting, to some extent, to the long service system. The Commission proposed that the period should be from six to eight years with the Colours and six years with the Reserve, that recruits should be enlisted as recruits for six months to test their fitness for military service, and that a certain proportion of the men should be allowed to serve for 21 years. It was necessary to pay special attention to two questions—first, whether the scheme would injuriously affect recruiting; and, secondly, how far the new plan would interfere with the Reserves. These were important considerations; but he believed that the plan would work well in both cases. Another very serious matter, in which he could not approve the action of the Government, was the proposal to reduce the number of officers by about 480. It seemed to him that the officers had not hitherto been excessively numerous, and that the intended reduction was for various reasons ill-advised. An officer had more work to do now than was formerly the case, for the men were younger and demanded more supervision, and the old and valuable class of experienced non-commissioned officers was fast disappearing. Then, again, as was shown by the evidence of Sir Thomas Steele, an officer for the first two years of his service spent a great part of his time not in purely regimental duty, but in his own professional education. In short, there were many cogent arguments against reducing the number of officers. The attenuated condition of the home Establishments was also a blot on the system; and while he considered. the system of double regiments better than that of linked battalions, he thought that a still better system might be devised. As to the majors, dealt with in the scheme of the Government, he wished to ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether they were to be what was called "walking majors," or whether they were really to be fighting majors? The difference between the two was very great, for the walking major was merely a captain, called a major, but doing the company work of a captain; whereas a fighting major was disconnected from the companies, and did the work of a field officer. He regretted that a system of vaccination was not to be adopted as a check on desertion, and he still held the views which on previous occasions he had expressed in their Lordships' House on the use of the lash. Its retention was necessary, not so much that it would often have to be resorted to, as that the mere possibility that it might be would have a salutary influence on soldiers who would not be deterred from the commission of offence by the fear of any other punishment that would be substituted. No one unacquainted with war could conceive its savagery, or the fierce and turbulent spirit which it bred in the soldier; and he was of opinion that, under some special circumstances, it was hardly possible to do without the terror which the lash excited. In the late American War, General Scott determined to resort to it, instead of inflicting death for certain offences, with the result that the risk of flogging proved a more effectual deterrent than the liability to the punishment of death with the reluctance of the authorities to inflict it.


desired to refer to a few passages in the Report of Lord Airey's Committee bearing upon a question which he had submitted to the House two years ago—namely, the unfortunate or inconvenient limitation to which the Militia was by law exposed as regarded the Colonial service, for which it might be otherwise available. The passages seemed to give a striking confirmation to the opinion advanced by himself and others that the Militia ought, if possible, to be rendered more elastic and more available for the service of the country than at present. The passages stated nothing new as to fact, but indicated an opinion that such a state of things required consideration. On the whole, he said that the Committee had entered an authoritative protest against a system which locked up in the United Kingdom so large an Auxiliary Force, while the numbers of Regulars available were not larger than they were in the times of the Duke of Wellington or the Duke of Marlborough, in spite of the immense development of the country which had since occurred.


said, that he must apologize for presuming to speak so early on such a subject as that under discussion in the presence of so many illustrious military officers and others; but, as a Welshman, he must protest against depriving the Welsh Fusiliers of that ancient title, and degrading them from a national to a semi-provincial title. The Fusiliers were the senior regiment, they had seen more service, they had 19 names on their Colours, while the 41st had only 11; and surely, in these circumstances, the national and senior regiment should retain its pre-eminence. An English regiment was to be sent into Wales and called the South Wales Regiment, and yet the Welsh Fusiliers were to lose quite unnecessarily a much older territorial distinction. Of the nine Indian regiments whose distinctive titles were to be abolished, three had fought at Plassey; and, while two of them were to be amalgamated, five were to be dispersed through the rest of the Army. One regiment of the Bengal Fusiliers who fought at Plassey were to be joined with the Royal Irish, and another with the Connaught Rangers; and one of the invented titles was the West Munster, which nobody had ever heard of before as a territorial distinction, and which would, he thought, be too easily confused with "Westminster," so that people would be in doubt whether it was to be composed of wild Irishmen or Metropolitan cockneys. Those who formerly administered the Army were not content with placing Plassey on the colours of regiments who fought there; but they gave the 39th the almost unique distinction of bearing the motto "Primus in Indis." There were only two other instances in which corresponding distinctions had been conferred upon our regiments—for the siege of Namur and the gallant defence of Gibraltar. It might have been supposed that the Provinces of Madras, Bengal, and Bombay would have furnished territorial designations of sufficient importance for the Indian regiments, and that episodes in our military history might still have been associated with the regiments who took part in them; but, so far from that being done, the 39th not only lost its name, but it was to be joined with, and confer its motto upon, a regiment that had never fired a shot in Hindostan. He wished to call attention to the position of the officers of the Indian Artillery and Engineers, who, after the Mutiny, were affiliated with the English Army, and had a Parliamentary guarantee that they were not to suffer by the amalgamation. He would also ask whether colonels on the Indian list would participate in the retirement scheme? A point demanding attention was the position of colonels of the Line under the new Warrant. There would be the two classes of purchase and non-purchase colonels; and the former would have paid to the country £4,500 on the faith that they would succeed in turn to the honorary distinction of commander of a regiment, and also to the capacity for employment. There was nothing that was definite as to their position; and it was feared that when the scheme was interpreted at the Treasury, skill would be displayed in minimizing its effect, as, under Commercial Treaties, countries were placed on the footing of the least favoured nations. If that would be the case, these officers were entitled to have the £4,500 returned to them, or have the special retirement of £600 offered to them as well as the Artillery. Referring to the new rules regulating the retirement of general officers, he asked whether it was not a fact that under these rules neither Lord Hill nor Lord Hardinge could have occupied the position of Commander-in-Chief. As this system was one which would have deprived the country of the services of such eminent Generals as those whom he had mentioned, he held that the burden of proving its necessity must be borne by the Secretary of State for War, and that the onus probandi ought not to be shifted on to those who objected to the new proposals. After pointing out that in the Navy flag officers were not compelled to retire until after non-employment for 10 years, and that only half that period would be allowed in the case of generals, he illustrated the evils of the new system of compulsory retirement by reference to Sir Henry Havelock-Allan's resignation of his seat in the other House. That officer would have had to retire from the Army if he had not determined to serve immediately. The result was that he had been compelled to leave the House of Commons, where it was of the greatest importance that there should be Members qualified to speak about the feelings and wants of regimental officers. Turning to another subject, he argued that the new system of maintaining one battalion at home and one abroad left no margin for emergencies. He would only add, in conclusion, that, in his opinion, the Government was parsimonious in depriving officers of their good service pensions upon retirement. It was hard that an officer retiring from wounds or ill health should lose the good service pension his gallantry had earned. He suggested that retirement should begin earlier. It cost no more to give A and B in succession £600 for six years' service, than to give £1,200 to C for 12 years' service. Under purchase many ensigns retired at £450 and lieutenants at £700. He suggested that £600, £800, £1,000 should be given for six, eight, or 10 years' service. Subalterns would thus be able to retire before they were too old for other employments, and would make very good Militia or Volunteer officers. On the whole, he did not think the regulations of the Government as to the good service pensions would be satisfactory to the public. He wished them success in their endeavours to improve the position of the non-commissioned officers, and in securing their continuous service.


said, the noble and gallant Lord who introduced this subject (Lord Abinger) dwelt, in the first instance, upon the effects of the introduction of the short service system, and quoted from the remarkable speech delivered by Sir Frederick Roberts before he left England. In the first place, with regard to the sacrifice of the fighting line, before they attributed it to the short service system they should not forget what sort of fighting line they had before the short service system was introduced. So much had been lately written upon the question that he was unwilling to enter upon an historical account of the state of the Army under the system of enlistment which had prevailed prior to the intro- duction of short service. It was enough to say that from the beginning of the century and the Peninsular War down to the time of the great war between Germany and France there had been a continuous effort on the part of the authorities, not always successful, to keep the Army up to its full establishment. Throughout the whole of that time the condition of the recruits, in respect of quality, had been most unsatisfactory, and the hurried augmentation which in those days used to take place whenever there was a prospect of national emergency arising were, he thought, a most unsatisfactory way of increasing the ranks of the Army. In the case of the augmentation determined upon in 1870, before the augmentation was complete the Franco-Prussian War was over, and the emergency had ceased to exist. The short service was designed to obviate inconvenience of that kind; and, although the system had its faults, they must not be blind to its advantages. The Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting showed that, under short service, they had no difficulty whatever in getting annually about 26,000 recruits; secondly, it showed that the physique of these recruits was improving steadily; and, thirdly, that the proportion of soldiers under 20 years of age was diminishing steadily, and had within the past 10 years fallen something like 100 per cent; and, fourthly, that the recruits were better educated than formerly, and were of a preferable type to those enlisted in former times. He ventured to say that these facts were in themselves satisfactory, and proved, in these important respects, at all events, that the short service system had not been a failure. It was, however, impossible to shut their eyes to the fact that during the last two or three years the condition of the fighting line had very properly occasioned serious misgivings in the public mind. The original scheme contemplated 71 battalions at home and 70 battalions abroad. At the beginning of 1879 he thought he was right in saying there were only 55 battalions at home. These battalions had, owing to the practice of drafting largo numbers of men from their ranks into those of the battalions abroad, become attenuated, and the 86 battalions out of the country contained much too large a number of young and partially trained soldiers. How did that come to pass? He denied that it was the inevitable consequence of the short service system. That system, as introduced by Lord Cardwell, depended on two primary principles. The first was that, in time of national emergency, untrained recruits should not be hurriedly gathered in, but that trained Army Reserve men should be available to serve under the Colours; and the second was that a number of battalions should be kept at a high strength, so that a large force of troops should be always in a state of preparedness to leave at short notice on a military expedition. With this object 18 battalions were to be kept at a strength of 820 men. Before, however, one year elapsed, instead of 18 battalions, they had only four battalions at 820; and in 1878 the Estimates provided not for 18 battalions of 820 men, but for 18 battalions at a strength of 740 men. He ventured to say that, in thus departing from the original intentions of the scheme, they were pulling out the keystone of the arch. That was not only his own opinion, but it was that expressed in the Report of a Committee which had sat on the subject in 1878, and had met with the concurrence of his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief. There was no part of the scheme of the Secretary of State for War which pleased him more than that which provided that a certain number of battalions should be maintained at a strength even higher than that which was originally fixed, and he hoped that arrangement would be maintained. With regard to the depôts, he found from the Report of the Inspector General that the number of recruits enlisted in the sub-districts was steadily increasing and had now reached 65 per cent of the total. The noble and gallant Lord had said that the depôts did not supply proper training for these recruits; but he thought there had been some misconception as to what was the function of those brigade depôts. They were never intended to supply a complete training, but only a preparatory one for the more thorough discipline of the home battalion to which the recruits were afterwards to be transferred. It had been said, too, that the depôt buildings were insufficient; but that difficulty could be got over by hutting the men in the neighbourhood. A suggestion had been made that larger depôts should be substituted for the present ones; but he did not think such a course would be advisable, as the depôts were in existence, and it would be difficult to re-model the present machinery. A still greater objection was that discipline and order would be more difficult to maintain if a large herd of untrained soldiers were to be gathered together in one place as suggested by the advocates of these large depôts. With respect to the linked battalion system, he had great pleasure in expressing his entire concurrence in what had fallen from the noble and gallant Lord. It was better to have a double battalion regiment than the present system of linked battalions. The Committee presided over by the late Secretary of State for War had thoroughly investigated those questions, and had unanimously recommended the formation of those territorial regiments which it was now proposed to create. The provisions which had reference to the position of non-commissioned officers would, he believed, command the approval of their Lordships. The efficiency of these men was a matter of the highest importance, and it was most desirable to promote their interests and make their position a desirable one. He objected, however, to the compulsory removal of non-commissioned officers after 15 years' service. If a man entered at 20, he did not think his services ought to be dispensed with at 35. He was glad the Secretary of State had not adopted the recommendations of Lord Airey's Committee on the Army Reserves. It would be a dangerous thing to imperil the relations of employers and employed in the case of Army Reserve men. Mr. Brassey had given evidence on the subject, and had said that some employers objected to having those men in their employment, while others were actuated by patriotic motives. He thought it would not be wise to trespass too much on the patriotic instincts of employers. With respect to the changes contemplated by Mr. Childers in regimental organization, they had to consider both the efficiency of the Army and the position and prospects of the officers themselves. As to the number of regimental officers, he was glad that no considerable reduction was proposed. It was important to remember that ours was a volunteer and not a conscript Army, and that the average intelligence of the men could hardly be expected to be so high as when soldiers were taken from all classes of the population. That was one reason why he should be sorry to see the number of our regimental officers largely reduced. Another reason was one by which all thoughtful minds must have been painfully struck in our recent engagements—the large proportion of casualties among the officers due to their intrepidity, and the performance of their duty in the most gallant manner. But though the proposal of the Secretary of State would involve a slight reduction of officers, we should still have a larger number in proportion to the number of men than any other, except one, of the Powers of Europe. In the French Army there was one officer to 57 men, in the Russian one to 56, in the Austrian one to 52, in the German one to 45, and in the English one to 38, He rejoiced extremely that the Secretary of State had been able to avoid having recourse to that system of compulsory retirement of officers introduced in consequence of the recommendations of Lord Penzance's Commission. When those recommendations were made, he ventured, in his place in that House, to protest against the great injustice that would be done to the officers by requiring them, when still in the prime of life, to leave a Service to which they were attached, and in which they might have an opportunity of distinguishing themselves, and doing good work, until the question of organization had first been thoroughly disposed of. If the course then adopted had been carried out in its entirety, half the total number of officers would have been turned out of the Service at the early age of 40, and eventually 4,500 captains and 500 majors would have been retired at a cost of nearly £1,000,000 per annum. That would have been a result unfortunate for the officers themselves, unfortunate for the taxpayers, who would have had to find the retiring allowances, and undesirable in the interests of society, which would have been invaded by some 5,000 extinct officers without profession or prospects. He desired, in conclusion, to express his general approval of the proposals of the Secretary of State, which would, he believed, increase the popularity, as well as the efficiency, of the Army.


said, he would not enter into the question of the short service system, which had not been carried out in the manner Lord Cardwell intended. The radical proposals for Army organization which had now been submitted to Parliament showed that the present Secretary of State for War did not consider it altogether a success. It would be far more advantageous to discuss the present organization scheme in itself; and he proposed to go somewhat closely into its practical details. But, first, he wished to say a few words with regard to the German Army, with which our present and proposed system had been so frequently compared. All recruits in the German Army joined in November, and they were at once placed under the company officers, who had the sole responsibility of drilling them. By the end of February the recruits were inspected by the battalion commander, and were passed as fit to take their place in the battalion. They were then passed in April by the regimental commanding officer, and in May or June by the corps commanding officer. So that by the time of the manœuvres the men who had entered in November were fit not only for battalion, but for Army Corps manœuvres. But our recruits came in all the year round, and could not be drilled, therefore, in the same way as in Germany. It was clearly not possible to compare the two systems. Then, with regard to the length of service, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said that in 1866 Prussia, with men between 20 and 23, totally defeated the veteran troops of Austria. But he believed no men ever entered the Prussian Army under 20½ years of age, and none went into active service under 21. After three years they went to the Reserve, and there served four years, and in that Reserve they came back to the identical battalion and company which they joined at first. The battalion, therefore, consisted of men from 21 to 27—the finest age that could possibly be had. That not was the case in our Army. There was no use in comparing ours with the German Army because they had a system of short service; they might as well say two statues were alike simply because they were both made of marble. Coming now to the Memorandum, he would consider it step by step. First, no recruit was to be enlisted who had not attained 19 years or a physical equi- valent. That was a great change for the better, and the Secretary of State for War was to be congratulated upon it. But how was the physical equivalent to be correctly ascertained? He had read the medical evidence taken before the Committee, and it went to show that medical experience was not a safe guide with regard to age. The physical equivalent in height, weight, or chest measurement that men nominally 19 should come up to did not insure that the recruit was really of that age; and, therefore, unless care was taken we might find that our Army in India was being filled by soldiers too young to stand the trial of such a climate. In the case of soldiers in that country, it was proposed that service should be extended to seven years. That would, no doubt, have the effect of materially increasing the efficiency of the Army in India. He trusted, however, that the men, after serving seven years, would be liberally allowed to extend their service. It was of the highest importance that we should have in India a very efficient Army. There could be no greater danger to India than a weak British Army; and it was to be remembered that men of the Sepoy Army were enlisted for long service, that they were armed with breech-loaders, and that they were peculiarly skilful in musketry. With regard to the rule by which men were not only to be allowed, but to be encouraged to pass into the Reserve for nine years after three years of home service, he feared that with weak battalions the men would not be fit for the Reserve after so short a period of service. The men of the Reserve ought to be thoroughly seasoned and drilled, and should be good shots, which they could not be after only three years with the Colours. Then came the vexed question of territorial regiments. He had always been of opinion that it was desirable that the Line and the Militia regiments should be as closely connected as possible; but he was not prepared, in order to obtain that connection, to destroy the identity of every battalion in the Service. He confessed that he viewed with dislike and dread the system of doing away with the numerical titles of regiments, and giving them fresh territorial distinctions. It would be found in the proceedings of the Committee over which the late Secretary of State for War presided that it had been repeatedly stated that regiments clung rather to their numerical titles than to their actual numbers, and "that the number assigned to the regiment signifies little." However, only five officers gave evidence on that point, and the highest authority who gave evidence on the subject expressed an entirely contrary opinion. Again, how many regiments had nominal titles? He found that only 21 regiments employed them on parade instead of number's, and of these 21, eight were Fusilier regiments who would have to use numbers if brigaded together. It had been stated that, as a matter of history, the numerical titles of regiments had been often altered. On looking into that matter, he found that six changes had been made in 1748 and 11 in 1757; that 15 second battalions had been converted into new regiments in 1758; that two other changes had been made in 1798; and that, with the exception of the case of the Rifle Brigade, no change of the kind had been made in the present century. It would be absolutely necessary to revert to numbers for regiments, for the sake of convenience on parade and on active service. Supposing that instead of having to telegraph the numbers of the three battalions which had been lately prominently employed in South Africa, territorial designations had been employed, what a difference it would have made in the length of the telegrams. The 58th were the Northampton and Rutland Regiment; the 60th were the King's Royal Rifle Corps; the 92nd were the Gordon and Sutherland Highland Regiment. If he might venture to make a suggestion, the better plan would be, as 67 double battalion regiments were wanted, to keep the first 25 regiments as they were, and to give the other 42 most distinguished regiments a second battalion each, thus only destroying the identity of 42 regiments instead of that of 108. Next he approached the question of the proper strength of the battalions; and he agreed with the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) that it was most necessary to have a strong Corps d' Armée ready to take the field at short notice. He hoped no Secretary of State for War would ever reduce the strength of the battalions for foreign service. At the same time, he pointed out that of 51 home battalions the strength of eight was only 500 men, and of the 43 others 480 men. Those were simply depots to feed the battalions on foreign service, and would be able to do nothing else. With such a system 51 depôts were altogether unnecessary. Another objection to such weak battalions was that they were in various ways so reduced as to be unavailable, or, at any rate, very inefficient, in case of any national emergency. In such an event, each of them would require at least 600 men from the Reserve, and it would be some months before, with so many strangers in their ranks, they could be regarded as in a satisfactory condition. In his opinion, the weakness of the battalions was the worst feature in our military system. The system, in fact, was not that which would give us the most efficient Army, but was the best which we could afford. He was delighted to find that the pay of the non-commissioned officers would be increased, for he thought every inducement ought to be given to them to remain contentedly and happily in the Army. He desired, however, to draw the attention of the noble Earl the Under Secretary of State for War to the circumstance that the lance-corporals were to receive no extra pay, and that, consequently, there was nothing to induce privates to accept that position, which entailed a great deal of hard work and a great deal of responsibility. He must now say a few words with regard to the position of quartermasters. He was sure the Under Secretary of State for War had intended to do everything he thought was necessary for that valuable and much injured class of officers, who were, undoubtedly, placed in a very false position. He considered that, as regards rank and pension, they should be placed, as far as possible, in a position equal to that which they would have gained had they joined the combatant branch of the regiment. As, however, Colonel Alexander had so ably stated their grievances in the House of Commons, he felt he might safely leave their case in the hands of the War Office. The next question he wished to refer to was that of regimental organization. A very great and serious change was proposed to be made in the organization of the Infantry battalions. That change was not to be made, however, simply because the present organization was deemed to be faulty, but for the sake of equalizing the promotion of the different corps in the Army. Would it do so? Was it certain that the Artillery would not still have an undue pull over the Infantry? The present system of promotion, which had been in force for about 20 years, was a sort of military leap-frog, in which officers kept alternately hopping over each other's heads—at one time one branch of the Service was in front; at another time another. This was the result of piecemeal legislation. Whenever the promotion of one part of the Army was proposed to be accelerated, inquiry should first be made as to how it would affect that of the rest. Referring to the scheme of compulsory retirement, he expressed his belief that it would act very harshly indeed upon certain individuals. The intention of the proposed change of organization was to prevent that compulsory retirement; but as captains were to be allowed to become majors in larger proportions than heretofore, the compulsory retirement would be transferred to lieutenant-colonels and colonels. He did not see why the term of five years had been laid down, for there was no reason why an officer should not be, like Sir Henry Havelock-Allan, fit for active service after an interval of even nine years. Moreover, according to the present scheme for retiring allowances, the younger, and consequently, cateris paribus, the most efficient, generals would be those who would suffer most. He pointed out differences in the pay of Field Artillery and Infantry officers, and said he was unable to understand the cause of the difference. Other inequalities also deserved to be rectified, and he commended the matter to the consideration of the noble Earl. He entered his protest against the proposal that rewards for distinguished service should cease to be tenable after retirement from the Active List. The reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War wore that the officers holding them would, in the natural course of events, forfeit them when they obtained a regiment, and that they had the option of remaining on under present conditions if they pleased. But a large majority of officers now holding good service pensions would have no chance of succeeding to regiments, as, by their position on the list of generals and by their age, they must, according to actuarial calculations, die before such an event could take place. These officers were now in a position superior to those who had not received that reward, and drew £100 a-year more pay. When retired, however, the honourable distinction would be taken away, they would lose the solid advantage of pay now enjoyed by them, and there would be nothing to distinguish them from those who had not been fortunate enough to earn this special mark of Her Majesty's approbation. Whilst admitting that the retiring allowances were on a liberal scale, he trusted that present holders of the reward might be allowed to retain it when retired. He could not sit down without making a few remarks upon an article which had appeared in The Nineteenth Century, entitled "Long and Short Service." Questions had been asked in both Houses of Parliament regarding that article, and although it had not received the actual approval of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, it had certainly not met with his disapproval; for he distinctly stated, when pressed on the subject, that the clause in the Queen's Regulations forbidding officers "to give publicity to their individual opinions," &c., had been "more honoured in the breach than in the observance." Now, if that were really the case, the clause in question should be either cancelled or modified; as, otherwise, the truth of the adage that one person might steal a horse, whilst another might not look over the gate, would be brought painfully home to some officer who might be imprudent enough to follow a bad example. He would venture to suggest, at all events, that Staff officers who might in future write articles in favour of Army Reform should be ordered to confine themselves to argument, and should be strictly forbidden to hold up to ridicule and contempt all those who differed from them. In the present case it was well known that even within the walls of the War Office there were many officers who entirely disagreed with the views of the writer of the article in question. Those who happened to hold different views regarding the present Army system from the writer were spoken of in the following terms:— Condemnation of short-service system is owing to wilful ignorance, prejudice, and stupidity. It is a disease characterized by chronic grumblings and whining pessimism. This class of officer believes that the world, as far as armies and military science are concerned, stands still. They are those who would still wish to flog the soldier as the keeper does his wilful spaniel. He must protest in the strongest terms against that paragraph; it was a gross libel upon those officers who, whilst particularly disliking corporal punishment, maintained that it should be retained until some other punishment which should be equally deterrent could be substituted for it. They are naturally Conservative in their tendencies, and consequently view with great suspicion any changes effected in organization by a Liberal Government. The officers of the Army, as a rule, took but little part in politics; and the writer had no right to charge them with Party feelings, whether Liberal or Conservative. They were all anxious that the Army should be made as efficient as possible, and it was a libel to accuse them of such low motives, in order to account for their general opposition to the present Army system. An article of faith with every British soldier is that the authorities of the Horse Guards are his natural protectors, while the War Department officials are his enemies. It was scarcely necessary to comment upon the bad taste of that paragraph. The aspirations of a large proportion of our very oldest officers do not soar beyond the creation of a standing Army of well-set-up, perfectly drilled soldiers. Had they such an Army, he believed the writer would not have had any cause to complain that the present system did not meet with the favour of the large majority of officers in their Service. Regimental officers dislike short service, because it adds considerably to their daily work. Hitherto the Army has been a pleasant home for idle men; now they must make up their minds to a different kind of existence. He must make up his mind to the constant drudgery of teaching his own men, as the officers of the German Army do. Captains prefer old stupid sergeants to young intelligent ones, because the former relieved them of work that ought to have been done by themselves. He ventured to say that a more unjust or more untrue accusation was never penned. He could speak from the personal experience of many years in command of a regiment as to the regimental officers of some years ago, and he had heard from many sources an account of those who were at present doing duty in that capacity. They were, as a body, as zealous and hard-working, and as proud of their Profession as any in the Armies of the Continent. They would gladly accept the condition of the German company officer; and it was because their system was so different that even the most zealous could not help at times feeling disheartened. The German captain received all his recruits in the month of November, and before the spring drills commenced they were ready to take their place in the ranks. The full strength of a German company in peace time was 131; so that, deducting the inevitable casualties, its captain had always a sufficient number for tactical instruction during six months of the year. He knew also that the men who left for the Reserve at the end of each year would certainly come back to him until they passed to the Landwehr after four years in the Reserve. He had every inducement and every interest in the drill and instruction of the annual recruits. What a different position did a captain in our Army hold Recruits coming in by driblets all the year round—company so weak as to preclude the possibility of its ever being drilled as a separate unit—men who had completed one year's service sent away to linked battalion, never to be seen again by those who had been instrumental in instructing them! Was it wonderful that now and again a cry of despondency was heard, or that an officer occasionally gave vent to a hearty growl? His task was that of Sisyphus—no sooner had he rolled the stone to the top of the hill as a drilled soldier than it tumbled back to the bottom in the shape of a raw recruit. The writer of the article had no claim to be heard as an authority on regimental matters, for he had done but five years' regimental duty during his whole service, and only two out of them as a captain. To understand and appreciate the work of regimental officers it was necessary that one should have commanded a regiment, or at least a brigade, during peace time. There was but one passage in the article that he could heartily endorse, and that one appeared to point to a conclusion diametrically opposed to all the writer's premisses. It was to be found in the concluding paragraph— Without discipline and esprit de corps, no army can hold together on active service, or ever be worth much, and everyone who has really served in one of our regiments during war—who has commanded a company on active service—knows as well as I do that our admirable regimental system is above all things calculated to foster the growth and further the maintenance both of discipline and of esprit de corps."


said, he agreed with everything which the noble Marquess near him (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had observed in reference to the merits of short service as regarded recruiting. In England there would always be a difficulty about recruiting; but he thought it possible that the disadvantages incident to voluntary service might be lessened. With regard to the noncommissioned officers, he was of opinion that they were not old enough to keep the men in order, and that an old sergeant would keep lip the smartness of a company better than a young man could do it. The way to increase the efficiency of the Army was to improve the position of the non-commissioned officers. It would be well if some employment were to be found for them on their discharge after 20 years' service. The new scheme proceeded on the correct principle that in time of peace the Reserve should be fed by the Army, while in time of war the Army should be fed by the Reserve. He had a command at the time the Reserves were called out, and considered it satisfactory that only 2 per cent of the men were missing at first, and many of them turned up in three or four days. On the whole, he believed the scheme was a step in the right direction.


My Lords, it is difficult, at this time of the evening, for anyone holding an official position to say all that he ought to say on this subject. It is a dry subject for civilians, and, therefore, hardly one admitting of very close discussion in a deliberative Assembly. It is more a subject for discussion by a Committee, when details—many of them wearisome and seemingly, though not really, unnecessary—can be brought forward and considered from day to day. The whole question is made up of minute details, and unless you go deeply into them it is impossible to understand thoroughly this great and important subject. I say great and important deliberately, for is not the Army one of the foundations upon which our Empire rests? The Army is a very important matter in every country, but especially is it so in ours, and it will be very difficult to keep the Empire intact unless the Army is in an efficient condition. The question, I am glad to say, has been discussed to-night without any show of Party feeling. There have been strong opinions expressed, no doubt; but certainly not in a Party spirit. I hope the question will always be discussed, as it has been tonight, as a professional question. Discussing it simply as a professional question, I am in a position to express my opinions with less reserve than I should otherwise have to maintain. In my position it would not be proper even to have the appearance of antagonism to the views of the Government of the day. My Lords, a comparison has been made between our Army and Continental Armies; but, in making that comparison, it must never be forgotten that such Armies are framed upon an entirely different basis. In Russia, Prussia, France, and other Continental nations their Armies are raised by conscription; but ours is raised voluntarily. We are attempting now to have a short service Army without having the foundation afforded by the system of conscription. The absence of that foundation makes the question infinitely more difficult than it otherwise would be. But, comparing the old system of service with the present, I feel bound to say that I very much doubt whether it would have been possible to continue the system of long service, owing to the difficulties of recruiting. I must plead guilty to a connection with the linked battalion system. Being more old-fashioned than some others, and being under the impression that unless some change were made it might be difficult to get the needful number of recruits, I urged, as it was not desirable to dispense with esprit de corps, that some such system as the linked battalion system should be introduced experimentally. That system has been much criticized and abused. But there is a great deal to be said for it, and under it recruits joined the ranks in large numbers. The linked battalion system is practically the same as that of double battalions. The two systems are worked on the same principle. The real difference between linked battalions and double battalions is that the feeling of the officers in a linked battalion regiment differs from the feeling which characterizes officers in a double battalion regiment, in which the esprit de corps of the regiment pervades both battalions. In regiments which are linked a sentiment of antagonism is, in many cases, entertained. This is especially the case when one of the two linked regiments has a strong desire to be linked with a different regiment—such a desire, for instance, as has been evinced by some of our most distinguished Highland regiments. Therefore, the question arose, could the linked system continue, or ought we to make a great change? I must say that the time had arrived when we had to consider whether we should unlink or amalgamate thoroughly one with the other. I think it is to the advantage of both that the regiments should become territorial. Others think that it would be better to unlink altogether, and to have depôts—either isolated local depôts, or an amalgamated depôt, for those battalions which should happen to be serving abroad. I own I have myself a predilection for unlinking; but a change of that character would necessitate a very large addition to the establishment of the Army, and, consequently, a large additional expenditure. The noble Earl (the Earl of Powis) has referred to the question of numbering. That is, perhaps, a small detail; and I think it very likely that we shall have to come back to some sort of numbering, and this is one of those details which it seems to me will have to be modified. Turning to another point, I believe it is the feeling of all officers who have advocated a short service system that such a system necessitates the maintenance of a larger establishment than that required under the old system. The system renders more drill necessary, and by the time a man has thoroughly mastered his drill, and has become a thorough soldier, he now goes into the Reserve. Unless, therefore, you have a large number of men at your command, it will become difficult to keep up battalions serving abroad. That is a point which is not quite acknowledged by the Government. Under the short service system, then, a larger establishment of men than we have hitherto maintained will always be required. That is one of the questions which the other House of Parliament will have to deal with. My noble Friend, the noble Marquess, has said that this scheme of Lord Cardwell was not thoroughly tried. I perfectly agree with him; but why was it not carried out? Because it would require such large sums of money. No political Party is disposed to incur the risks and difficulties which a demand for large sums of money may entail. It should be borne in mind by those who criticize the working of the Reserve system that our system differs materially from foreign systems. The moment a regiment goes on service in Russia or France the Reserves come out as a matter of course. I do not see how such a system is to be introduced here; but I think the public ought to know the fact. On the whole, I cannot but think that the new scheme of the Government is fair and reasonable. The Secretary of State for War has done all that he could do under the circumstances in which he found himself. I am not going to discuss that question at length. But I am glad that the Secretary of State has agreed to the term of service being seven years instead of six, and eight years in India; and that the Secretaries of State for India and War respectively have power to prolong the term even beyond those eight years, should circumstances in India require it. These are points which show the direction in which the Secretary of State for War has been moving. I think that difficulties will arise in respect of that part of the recommendations of Lord Airey's Committee which refers to great and small wars, and provides that the Reserves shall in future be called out in wars of both descriptions. Those recommendations will be difficult to carry out in detail, as they will not be acceptable to the public, though, in my opinion, absolutely necessary. We have much more frequently to deal with small ones than large ones. Of course, in large wars both the Militia and the Reserves would have to be called out. I venture to think that the recommendations of the Committee have been largely accepted by the present Secretary of State. I do not, however, deny that we are placed in a position of great difficulty; and I think the Secretary of State has done his best in the circumstances. Then it is said that matters are not very satisfactory with respect to the men themselves. No one can deny that the men who were, sent to South Africa were not altogether as efficient as we could have wished. Well, my noble Friend must remember the position in which we were placed. We were in this difficulty. It took a great many more men than had been originally estimated for; and I cannot help thinking that it was difficult to send them in a shorter period than we did. As to the condition of the men, it is in your Lordships' recollection that a Committee of distinguished military officers, under the presidency of Lord Airey, was assembled to consider the short-service system, and where it was found to be deficient. The question was argued with much ability; and if it had not been for the recommendations of that Committee we might have been in still greater difficulty as to the course to be adopted, as it enabled the Secretary of State to modify the arrangements which had, up to that time, been in force. If you follow the course of events they entirely contradict and refute the statement that there has been any falling off in the description of the recruits enlisted. My noble and gallant Friend, who has made remarks which I have heard with great satisfaction and pleasure, quite acknowledged the difficulty about the men; but, then, that leads us back to the fact that we have no conscription, and that we cannot raise more than a certain number of men at any particular period. The recruit takes from one to three years to be trained; and we are obliged to enlist our men from day to day. When we send away 100 men, instead of having 100 to take their places, we are obliged to meet our wants by enlistment, and wait for them to be trained. That is the cause of a great deal of the difficulty; and then, in addition to that, there is the question of pounds, shillings, and pence; and it is very difficult to make the public understand that it is not just always to be finding fault with the military authorities for being unable to do impossibilities. It is no easy task to keep up a larger body of men for short service in an army of volunteers. Now, I would not have your Lordships think that I am an advocate of conscription in this country. I am not going in for anything of the sort. I always said it was impossible. But I have always been strongly of opinion that you ought to have conscription for the Militia. The Militia ought always to be kept up to its full strength. I do not care whether you call it conscription or ballot, it comes to much the same thing. I do not mean that the Militia ought to be called out to go to a foreign war; but it ought always to be in a condition to fill up the gaps in the Regular Army. On the whole, my Lords, I think it may be as well to accept the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. Then comes the question of battalion organization. There is, no doubt, a great deal to be said as to organization; but I hope that there will be no change in this respect in battalions. I am a strong advocate for eight companies, and I believe all the best officers in the Army take that view. I will now say a few words on the question of majors. The question of the majors of the Army was a question of simple justice. Out of 1,000 candidates entering the Line as officers 600 would have to be compulsorily retired as captains. Under the present regulation it is impossible to avoid this, because, otherwise, you would be doing a great injustice by stopping promotion altogether. Under the present system you have no means of keeping up a proper retirement for the Army except by compulsory retirement, and the consequence is that without it there would be complete stagnation in promotion. Now that purchase has been abolished you must necessarily retire compulsorily a much larger number of officers. I do not at all advocate the system of having a too early retirement of officers; and unless the Secretary of State for War had taken the steps he now proposes to adopt a great injustice would have been done to the great body of officers entering the Army, and we should have lost compulsorily a large number of those who are now serving; and we were, therefore, bound to find some other mode of obtaining the required promotion. We were obliged to take the course we did; and in the accomplishment of that object, in my opinion, the more decided the measures that were taken the better. Certainly it is better to do that than to lose so many good officers as we certainly should have lost. As to the general character of the officers themselves, the history of the country speaks for those of former times. We know what they have done; we know the Empire we happily possess; and we are proud of it. I believe the officers of the present day will follow their example. I believe they are anxious to do their duty, and to acquire knowledge. Their gallantry is as conspicuous as ever it was in the time of war, as my noble and gallant Friend knows. I need not assure your Lord-ships that I have all my life taken a zealous interest in the Service; and I must say I am astonished to see how much the young officers know compared with what they knew when I came into the Service. Look at the classes which they go through—signalling, musketry, and the various kinds of instruction which they receive from day to day and hour to hour, thus giving officers a knowledge in professional subjects which in former days was never contemplated. And then, as for conduct, see what they have done. It is said—"You mark the officers by their dress, and they are shot down." It is not the dress; but it is the leading. That is why they are shot down. I do not mean that the men would hang back; but it is the spirit of English gentlemen that urges them to lead on in the time of danger. Talk of the young officers being idle! It is a calumny I am prepared to deny. I am not now entering into details. I am making some general observations in my military capacity as head of the Army. The noble Earl (the Earl of Morley), who is well acquainted with this whole subject, will, in his official capacity, and with the ability for which he is conspicuous, answer on the various points brought forward. I have not attempted to go into those details—it is not my province to do so; but I wished to make some general observations on what I think the most important points for the efficiency of the Public Service. Reference has been made to the age at which officers are called upon to retire. Age is one of those things as to which men deceive themselves. They do not like to believe that they get older. It is quite true that one man at 60 or 65 is, perhaps, a less active or efficient man than another at 70. But, on the other hand, you must make some rule. In doing so you may hit some men very hard; but if you wish to have a flow of promotion, you must make rules with a view to insuring it. At a certain age a man is not so active as when he was younger; but you want to bring young blood into the Army; and unless you lay down a hard-and-fast line you cannot do what you want. Whether the Secretary of State has exactly hit the right age or not I will not pretend to say; but I think it will be admitted that his proposal is a fair one; and I hope it may effect the object in view. With regard to the system of five years' command, a great deal may be said upon it. I should like to see some arrangement by which the two lieutenant-colonels could have their fair share of command. I quite agree with the Secretary of State that what is to be done should be decided upon at as early a period as possible; but I believe the small details will be subjected to a general review before they are carried out, and that modifications will be made. I have to thank your Lordships for having heard me with so much attention. I thought it my duty to make these remarks, occupying, as I do, the highest position which a soldier can hold in this country, and having at heart the honour of the British Army; and I only hope that my observations may be of some service in elucidating a subject so difficult, so dry, in many of its details, and yet so interesting and important for the general benefit of the country.


said, he was very glad that the present discussion had taken place, although he quite admitted that, inasmuch as the number of men had already been voted, it could have very little practical effect. When the Enlistment Bill of 1870 was before the House, he had ventured to remark that that Bill gave the Minister for War carte blanche to manipulate the conditions of service as he pleased. The consequence had been that we had had constant changes in those conditions, so that the soldier was always kept in a state of uncertainty as to his position, which acted prejudicially to the Service generally. What, however, surprised him most was that the War Office should have believed that with short service, pur et simple, a proper supply of noncommissioned officers could be procured. In this respect Lord Cardwell's scheme had signally failed, as, in the present year, the first step taken was to improve largely the position of the non-commissioned officers, and to enlist them for long service with pension, of which he entirely approved. He was sorry the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was not now in his place, because he stated that the short service system had been a success, but qualified the statement by admitting that it had failed, to a certain extent, after the disaster of Isandlana, because it had not been properly worked. He wished to ask the noble Marquess what he would have done if the emergency had been greater than it was. He could not have called out the Reserves, or embodied the Militia, because he had not the power to do so, and therefore would have been compelled, nolens volens, as the Conservative Government had been, to have recourse to the pernicious system of volunteers. For himself, he was strongly in favour of calling out the Reserves in small wars. But the noble Marquess said that would interfere too much with the employment by the public of the Reserve men. He found, however, that the Reserve men, when demobilized, had no difficulty in getting back to their places on railways and elsewhere; and, therefore, he did not understand why the Government should be so squeamish with regard to calling out the Reserves when we had little wars. The noble Marquess stated that six years with the Colours and six in the Reserve had worked very successfully, whereas only seven out of 122 officers of distinction had approved of it in their evidence. He (Viscount Hardinge) attributed many of the present shortcomings in the Army to the pernicious system of volunteering, which he hoped they might never see again. It should be remembered that it was Lord Cardwell's original intention that a certain proportion of recruits should be enlisted for long service. The first General Order issued from the Horse Guards after the reorganization of the Army provided for 25 per cent of long service men. Some time afterwards a new General Order was issued providing for the enlistment of all men on short service. Now, why, he wished to know, were the plans of the War Office changed? He did not believe that any difficulty would be experienced in getting 25 per cent of the recruits to enlist for long service. The evidence, indeed, given before Lord Airey's Committee was all in favour of that supposition; and he regretted that the Secretary of State for War should not have seen his way to adopt- ing that principle, and so securing in the Army a certain proportion of those seasoned soldiers whose absence the witnesses examined before Lord Airey's Committee so greatly lamented. The want of seasoned soldiers in the ranks had been clearly demonstrated before that Committee. The evidence of Lord Chelmsford, General Newdigate, and Sir Evelyn Wood had exposed the deficiency; and it was well-known how, during the South African campaign, the young soldiers had failed to bear the hardships of long marches, even when relieved of their knapsacks. They were told that they must bear the Reserve in mind; but it seemed to him there was too great a tendency to foster the Reserve at the expense of the Line. In connection with the question of short service, it was important to consider what Lord Airey's Committee described as the "great waste" going on in the Army. We never enlisted in one year more than 28,000 men. The illustrious Duke said recruiting was going on admirably; but the fact was that this year we had only enlisted 25,000 men. Now, according to one calculation, it was necessary, in order to secure an effective addition of 28,000 men to the Army, to raise 36,000, the margin being consumed by desertions, invaliding, &c. Another calculation, based on the enormous losses between enlistment and final approval, fixed the number of men which ought to be raised at 54,000. The fact of these large margins being required would be understood when he stated that within the past six years 17,000 men had been lost through desertion, and 15,000 through invaliding, discharge, &c. Not one of those men had gone into the Reserve, and yet surprise was expressed that the Reserve should not be in a better condition. Then, again, we had 13,000 men in the Army under 20 years of age. Now, what was the remedy proposed? It was to enlist recruits between 19 and 20, of which he entirely approved; but it should be borne in mind that it was difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain the age of the recruit. You could not look into his mouth as you could into the mouth of a horse. All that could be done would be to have more stringent regulations as to chest measurement, height, and other qualifications. As a means of checking desertion and fraudulent re- enlistment, he saw no objection to the marking of recruits by vaccination. The plan, indeed, seemed to him perfectly reasonable, and he had no sympathy with the squeamish ideas which one sometimes heard expressed on the subject. Brigade depôts wore a costly and unsatisfactory contrivance, though they had the redeeming point of affording each other great mutual support. Of the 70 colonels examined before Lord Airey's Committee, only 20 were in favour of brigade depôts as they were. It was possible, he believed, to attach too much importance to the territorial connection, for the evidence of competent observers was that under the new system, as under the old, recruits would always in the main come from one class—the waifs and strays of society. The great objection to them was that they denuded the home battalions of their best men, and annihilated esprit de corps, which had been so clearly shown in the letters of "One Who Has Served." Then it was said that by their agency new districts were "tapped;" but that did not appear to be the case from the evidence of Lord Airey's Committee. Again, when the battalions became dislocated, there was no means of expanding the depôt, which was mainly insisted upon by Colonel Stanley's Committee. If we could re-organize de novo, there could be no doubt that regiments with three battalions would be the best; but after upwards of £3,000,000 had been spent on these brigade depôts, it could hardly be expected that the Government would at once sweep them away and adopt Lord Airey's alternative, which would entail an expense of £700,000 a-year. With regard to the conditions of service in India, Sir Henry Norman and other authorities had, he believed very rightly, insisted on a period of nine years, so that the soldier might remain in the country for a sufficiently long time after becoming acclimatized. For home service he would infinitely prefer eight years, as recommended by Lord Airey's Committee. He imagined that seven years could only have been adopted as a compromise between Lord Cardwell's scheme and that of Lord Airey. The additional year would be of great value. In India the expense, under the present system, of sending home the six years' men had been enormous. The expense had increased from £2,000 to 5,000 a- year. The proposal to keep the first 12 regiments at 950 was excellent in principle; but such had been the variations of our establishments from successive fits of economy that there was no security that these establishments could be maintained. And then the reduced home battalions would again become mere nurseries for the foreign battalions. Our real Reserve was the Militia, which had given, at least, 35,000 men to the Line in the Crimean War; and the Militia Reserve should at once be recruited by every possible means up to its establishment. The number of absentees from training was unsatisfactory—13,000 men were the numbers given; and the only way to check this was to insist on every recruit on enrolment being sent to the depot to be trained. Where circumstances would admit of it, they should be trained with the Line, especially the Reserve men. As the Militia was short of its establishment by 20,000 men, it would be desirable to offer additional inducements to recruiting; because it must be borne in mind that on the declaration of war the Militia Reserve would have to be deducted from the strength of the Militia Force. His fear was that the Government thought more about the Reserves than the fighting Army, and he might remind them that the Army was not made for the Reserves, but the Reserves for the Army.


said, that in the comments on the letters that had appeared in The Times signed "One Who Has Served "—who had been alluded to in the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for War as being avowedly Sir Lintorn Simmons—the Report of Lord Airey's Committee had apparently been anticipated, and, as he held, unfairly handicapped. Information had, in this instance, been withheld from the public after a newspaper had been enabled to print inspired articles on the subject. It was a dangerous precedent to decline, over and over again, after pressing solicitation, to give information on a most important subject to Members of Parliament in either House, while such information was communicated privately to writers in the public journals. The public mind had thus been poisoned against the recommendations of Lord Airey's Committee before its Report was permitted to see the light of day. He might say briefly that that Report might be regarded, first, as a condemnation of the present system as to the term of engagement for service in the Army; secondly, as a condemnation of the mode of manipulation of recruits; thirdly, as showing the unfortunate want of inducement to soldiers to attain to the rank of non-commissioned officers; and, fourthly, as an utter condemnation of the linked battalion or brigade depôt system. No one, he thought, would deny that that was the substance of the Report. As regarded the term of service and the inducements to non-commissioned officers, he entirely concurred in the remarks made by his Royal Highness the illustrious Duke. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had remarked, with great seeming satisfaction, that 25,000 men were enlisted last year; but he could not help feeling that that was a doubtful source of gratification, considering the terrible waste in the Army attendant upon those enlistments. The evidence adduced before the Committee showed that 12 per cent of all the recruits enlisted of late years deserted within three months of their enlistment; and that within 12 months of enlistment the ratio of desertions increased to something like 25 per cent. The country at large ought seriously to consider why it was that this very rapid desertion occurred. He believed there was nothing so galling to a young soldier as to be shunted and hustled from one place to another during the first few months after his enlistment. It was the amount of drill at the beginning, as well as this change from place to place—all caused by this unfortunate brigade depôt, including the linked battalion, system—that was the cause of the early desertions which were a disgrace to this country. On one point he ventured to differ from the illustrious Duke—namely, with regard to conscription, or ballot for the Militia—for he conceived it was the great glory of this country that we possessed an Army composed entirely of volunteers. Indeed, he had always regretted that the term "Volunteer" should have been given to that gallant body which was raised in the year 1859, because it conveyed the idea that the Regular Army itself and the Militia were not based on the volunteer system. He did not see why it should be necessary to have recourse to balloting in the Militia. We ought to consider all these matters thoroughly, to use every means to make the two Services popular, and to avoid the introduction of continual changes. He was convinced that the system of "territorial regiments" was the most unfortunate ever conceived, and that it would never add one effective soldier to the Army. Its only effect would be to efface all the old distinctions which soldiers held most dear, and set regiments at sixes and sevens. He trusted it was not yet too late to reconsider and abandon it, and revert to the older system which it was now threatened to replace.


said, he should not take part in the discussion were it not that he thought it right that someone connected with the late Government should say a few words on the subject before their Lordships' House. In the new scheme of Army Organization the Secretary of State for War had followed, to some extent, the steps of the late Government, and there were novel points in the scheme upon which the right hon. Gentleman was to be heartily congratulated; but there were others upon which he, for one, could not altogether agree with him. The discussion that evening had been of a somewhat desultory character, as from the nature of the subject it was bound to be; but it had served in no inconsiderable degree to elucidate the subject. The question was, did the new scheme supply the defects of the old, which were patent and acknowledged? Many questioned whether these defects were removed by the new scheme; would it supply seasoned soldiers for the battalions abroad at all times? Did it afford a reasonable guarantee that in sudden emergencies the reinforcements we should send out should consist of men of mature military age, of physical fitness, and of thorough training? The present scheme was a continuation of that brought forward by Lord Cardwell. No one could read the Localization Report on which the original scheme was founded without seeing that something was originally in the scheme of Lord Cardwell which must have dropped out shortly before the production of that scheme. The changes made by Lord Cardwell were in the direction of the imitation and the followings of foreign Armies; but the scheme was like the play of Hamlet with the Prince of Denmark omitted. Some form of compulsory service was the backbone of the foreign Army system; but it was left out of ours. There seemed to be complete evidence that originally some form of compulsory service was contemplated by Lord Cardwell. All the calculations as to the numbers of the Militia were based upon the assumption of so many men per head of the population. There were various other points that irresistibly led to the same conclusion. He heard with pleasure the illustrious Duke say that compulsory service—service in the sense of conscription—was utterly foreign to English modes of thought, and impossible for our Indian Army; but that some form of compulsory service for home battalions and the Militia might, without any undue strain upon the feelings of a free people, be admitted among us. The new scheme dealt efficiently, and in the main very fairly, with the question of Army promotion. The difficulties of former Governments had been, on the whole, very fairly and successfully met by the new scheme in this respect, and also as regarded the improvement of the condition of non-commissioned officers. As a matter of detail, he would suggest that corporals should be allowed to go until they had earned a pension. It would be a great improvement if it were possible to enlist men at 19 instead of 18, so that they might be 20 before being sent to India; but if simultaneously there were to be a diminution of chest measurement that would neutralize the other change, and we should still find men of 17 and 18 in the ranks. The main point was whether the new scheme would do better than the old in point of bringing fully developed, matured soldiers into the ranks, and he did not think it would. Under the old system the home battalions were denuded by constant drafts until they became mere skeletons of young and untrained men, and they were sent on foreign service at the very moment when they were in the most unfit, denuded, and forlorn condition. The idea of linked battalions, one at home, and one abroad, was not carried out; the stress of exigencies did not allow even Mr. Cardwell's Government to realize it. The numbers in the linked battalions at home and abroad should have been even; but that was never the case. A recent Return showed that in 1871 there was a dislocation of one battalion; in 1873, one; in 1874, three; in 1875, one; in 1876, five; in 1877, five; in 1878, 13; in 1879, 31; in 1880, 19; and this year, 19. We had now a total of 80 battalions abroad and 61 at home, showing a dislocation of 19. The dislocation of 31 battalions implied that the battalions at home became less and less able to furnish even their own links, and when their turn came for foreign service they were utterly unable to obey the call. The results of this dislocation might be illustrated by an official Report, which showed that when the 21st Regiment was ordered to Zululand it was supposed to consist of 800 rank and file. Of this number 343 had to be left behind. By drafts from various regiments the number was made up to 798; but of these 119 were under 20 years of age, and 303 of less than 12 months' service. In the case of the 91st Regiment, also, 374 men were required to bring it up to the Cape establishment, and the men were drafted from 11 different regiments. At the hour of embarkation these men were total strangers to one another. It would be well, he thought, for the public to understand that we could not have an efficient Army—numerous enough for our wants and suitable in every way—under present conditions. The conditions of an efficient Army had not been satisfied by Lord Cardwell's system, because for the money the people were willing to give suitable men could not be obtained in sufficient numbers. Unless the country was willing to pay the necessary price we could not have the best Army possible. There were three courses open to us. We must be content with a system inferior to the best, or we must go into the labour market and give a higher price for the article we required, or we must submit to some form of compulsory service, not for the foreign Army—for that, he believed, would be impossible—but for the Home Army, that was, the Militia and Volunteers. Referring to the Reserves, he asked whether any legislation was contemplated with regard to them? At present the Reserves were only to be called out in great national emergencies. The right hon. Gentleman intended to go on with the system which had been begun by Lord Cardwell. The main reason urged, he said, was that the country, in consequence of Lord Cardwell's measures, was committed to an expenditure of £3,500,000. But that could hardly be expected to have much weight with those who, like himself, had opposed Lord Cardwell's scheme. The scheme now before their Lordships was not the re-organization scheme which some of its enthusiastic admirers had promised. It was not a scheme which settled the condition of the Army for ever and a day. It was merely a scheme, good in some points, and good as far as it went, but which merely touched the fringe of this great question. It was a mere re-shuffling of the same cards, so much money and so many men, and as former schemes had broken down, so he took the responsibility of saying the scheme would break down again. Would these territorial brigades, he asked, when completed, answer their purpose? Would they draw to regiments on foreign, and especially on active service a full proportion of seasoned men, and steady-going Reserves? That was the main question, for these small wars to which he had referred might be called our normal condition. During the last 40 years we had been at war for 35 years. For 16 of these years we had two wars at a time; during eight years, three wars; and during two years we had no fewer than four wars on hand at the same time in various parts of the world. The reason why he thought the new scheme would not be better than the old one was that it depended, as Lord Card-well's also depended, upon an exact balance between the battalions at home and the battalions abroad; and if in any one year one of those wars came upon us and took one single battalion away from home to the seat of war, from that moment the whole scheme of the right hon. Gentleman would be dislocated, as Lord Cardwell's was dislocated, as at the time of the Zulu War, and the whole thing would get into inextricable confusion. It was also absolutely necessary for the success of the scheme that the establishment should remain during a term of years exactly at the same point. But neither of these two conditions had hitherto been fulfilled; and he did not see why the right hon. Gentleman should anticipate that he should be more fortunate than former War Secretaries, and that he should find successive Parliaments more compliant than former Parliaments had been. Nor did he believe that the hopes expressed by the right hon. Gentleman of the efficiency of Corps d' Armée would be realized. He felt sure, also, that there would be great difficulty in maintaining the establishments in a state of efficiency. A fit of economy would come, and then the establishments would come down, and with them the whole fabric of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. If they must have a territorial Army, let them keep the depôts at home. With reference to the proposal of the Government as to having a local Indian Army, he did not see the advantage of trying to have a scheme which on the very face of it appeared not to be an extremely useful one. As to the waste of the Army, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had not framed his Estimate with regard to the requirements of the number of recruits for the Army. Short service would only be felt in 1882; and when that time arrived it would take 38,000, instead of 25,000 men, to keep up the Army to its present strength, and the waste of the Army went on to such an extent and with such rapidity that in order to obtain those 38,000 or 35,000 soldiers they would be obliged to enlist 54,000 men. There were several respects in which the scheme of the Government was a good one; but in other directions he certainly thought there was reason to complain. He should be glad to know whether it was intended that in case of war—a minor war, not sufficient to call out the Reserve—the brigade depôts should be expanded into a provisional battalion, and whether the Secretary of State would be able to call out the Reserve Militia of a district. He did not see anything in the new scheme which would attract the private soldier to the Service. The condition of the non-commissioned officer and the officer had been improved; but that of the private soldier had been altered rather for the worse, because he was asked to extend his term of service. He approved of that extension; but we should not attract private soldiers without giving them greater inducements.


begged to thank the noble Lord who had brought forward the subject and thus initiated a most valuable debate. Many of the sug- gestions made by noble Lords of great military experience would be most useful in determining many details of the scheme now under consideration. He acknowledged that the criticisms from both sides of the House had been useful, and, on the whole, friendly to the scheme. He would, in the first place, refer to that part of the scheme which dealt with the officers. There was no intention of interfering with any officer under the Indian guarantee, as the noble Lord opposite seemed to suppose. Colonels of Artillery and Engineers in India had a better scale of retirement than English officers in the same arm of the Service; and, therefore, any improvement in the retiring pay of English officers would be inapplicable to officers in the Indian Service. One of the main objections urged against the new regulations was that general officers would be retired at an earlier age than at present. But it was absolutely necessary to have some limit at which officers in the various ranks should retire from the Service or from the several ranks. It should be remembered that by keeping one man in they kept another out. Every scheme of promotion and retirement aimed at two things—to secure that officers should be of such an age as to be able to give efficient service in their rank; and, secondly, to create such a flow of promotion as would encourage officers in the hopes that they would reach, within a reasonable time, the higher grades in their Profession. For that purpose, he did not think the rule unfair which would compel a general officer to retire from the Service after five years' non-employment, particularly when it was proposed to increase the pensions of retiring generals. The whole difficulty in framing any scheme for the promotion and retirement of officers consisted in equitably balancing the interest of officers in various positions in the Service. The illustrious Duke the Commander-in-Chief had paid a high compliment to the officers of the British Army, which he wished in the fullest manner to endorse. During all the changes which had resulted from the recent Army reforms—and changes must be harassing—the officers had loyally and energetically performed their duty. In doubling the number of majors in the Cavalry and Infantry, the Government had no desire to press on a determination of the ques- tion of large or small companies. That was a question of organization on which military authorities had not expressed a unanimous opinion; but if the large company organization were ever adopted, the new establishment of officers would be suitable for it—if not, they would, at least, save a number of captains from being compelled to leave the Service, because they had failed to obtain promotion within the period prescribed by the existing warrant. Passing to the important questions relating to non-commissioned officers and men, he should repeat what the illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge) had stated, that there was no analogy between the English and the German Army. Not only was the one recruited by conscription, and the other by enlistment; but the one had a large part of its Army abroad, while the other had no foreign army at all. The object of the recent changes was not to assimilate our Army to the German Army, but to provide a Reserve, and without a short service system a Reserve was impossible. The defects which were alleged against the short service system were that in the battalions there was too large a proportion of young soldiers; that there was a deterioration in the non-commissioned officers; that the Reserve had not grown as fast as had been anticipated, and that, in consequence of desertions, dismissals, and other causes, a very large number of men were lost to the Service between their enlistment and the termination of their service with the Colours. Some of those defects might be due to the state of transition in which the Army had been during the past nine years. It should also be remembered that the late Government had attempted to carry on two wars with a peace establishment, and he wished to know how it could have been expected that any system could have stood such a strain without showing signs of weakness; and, further, some of these defects were common to the long and short service, and could not, therefore, be fairly attributed entirely to the latter. The extreme youth of recruits had been urged as one of the results of the short service system; but the fact was that the age of the recruits was constantly rising. The average age of recruits during this year was 20 years and seven months. It was true that the growth of the Reserve was less rapid than had been expected; but the short service system had been instituted in 1870, and, consequently, the first men were passed into the Reserve in 1876 who had completed six years' Colour service; so that, practically, the system had only been in force for five years, and during that time more than 1,000 men had been summoned to rejoin the Colours. Moreover, a considerable number of men who would, in ordinary circumstances, have passed into the Reserves were still with the Colours in India. It had been suggested that a system of vaccination would be a check on desertion; but if it could not be done effectually, so as to produce a distinctive mark, no greater mistake could be made than to adopt it; and the medical authorities admitted that in many cases vaccination did not take in the case of adults; and in those cases it was obvious that it would not cause a scar by which a deserter could be identified. With respect to the length of service which had been fixed upon, he would remind their Lordships that it did not differ very materially from that recommended by Lord Airey's Committee. The regular term of enlistment would be for seven years with the Colours, followed by five years in the Reserve; and it was proposed that there should be an extra year in India always, and also in the Colonies, when the Secretary of State thought it expedient to extend the time. Recruits were not to be accepted before the age of 19. It might be desirable, if possible, to raise the age of recruits to 20 years; but then they would incur the risk of checking recruiting, or, still worse, of getting men who had failed in civil careers. They proposed that no man should serve in India before he was 20 years of age, and had had served for at least one year at home; and the statistics of mortality showed that the best length of service for men in India was about seven years. After that length of service in India, the figures quoted by Lord Airey's Committee proved conclusively that the rate of mortality and of invaliding increased very rapidly. It could further be arranged between the Secretary of State for India and the Secretary of State for War, that in certain cases, which it was believed would not be numerous, the men should be allowed to serve somewhat longer in India; but not beyond the original term of enlistment for 12 years. It was also proposed, in certain cases, to allow men in the home battalions to pass into the Reserve after three or four years. It had been asked to what regiments that principle would be applied. It would not be applied to the first 12 battalions, which would form part of the first Corps d' Armée. How far it would be applied must be left in the hands of the Secretary of State. The object was to give as much elasticity as possible to the system. It remained to be seen what the effect of the new limit of age would have on recruiting. It was an experiment which was generally admitted to be in the right direction. If it failed it would be possible to recur to the limit of 18 years; but he hoped and believed that, with the advantages to be given to non-commissioned officers, and with the other advantages held out to the Army, and with improved recruiting agencies and the greater publicity which it was proposed to give to the advantages of the Army, the recruiting would be kept up, and that in the next few years they would be fully able, as in the past, to meet the requirements of their establishment. With regard to the question of organization, Lord Airey's Committee had recommended, but not unanimously, that regiments should be unlinked. On the other hand, a few years ago an influential Committee, presided over by the late Secretary of State for War when he was Financial Secretary, unanimously recommended that the linking system should be carried to its legitimate conclusion, and that the regiments should always be double battalion regiments. That was the system which they proposed to carry into effect. There were many objections to the single battalion system; they would render necessary depôts of 12,000, 16,000, or, perhaps, 20,000 men to supply the foreign reliefs even in time of peace. Unless the Home Army was to be increased by that number of men—a supposition that was not likely to be realized—it was clear that a corresponding, or a nearly corresponding, reduction must be made in the home battalions; but the battalions now on the roster were, in the opinion of many officers, too weak already; and, consequently, the only alternative would be to reduce the number of regiments—a reduction which would amount to nearly 20 regiments 800 strong. This would clearly weaken the Army, by des- troying so many cadres which, though weak in times of peace, could, by an infusion of Reserve men, be expanded into serviceable regiments in times of emergency and danger. On the other hand, double battalions had great advantages—they would facilitate reliefs for India enormously, and would enable us to obtain the full service of seven years from each healthy man in that country. It was all important that we should have a force at home which, coupled with the regiments in the Mediterranean, would form a Corps d' Armée which would be prepared to take the field at any moment. He was somewhat surprised to hear the statement that the territorial depôts had been useless for recruiting, as the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting seemed to show the contrary. He had now endeavoured to point out the main principles on which the new scheme was based. It was not of a new or an original character. Its principles were those on which Lord Cardwell had acted, the details had been modified with a view of correcting the defects, and of strengthening the weak points which the experience of the last 10 years had discovered in the system on which our Army was organized. The most important changes were, as he had stated, the lengthened term of service and the localization scheme, both of which presented complicated and difficult problems that had not been worked out without very grave deliberation. He confidently believed that the result of these changes would be the attainment of the object they all desired—namely, the increase of the efficiency of the Army.


briefly called attention to the ill-effects of too early enlistment, and pointed out that recruits were not physically fit for service until they had reached the age of 20. However, the Army was filled with recruits under 18 down to 15 years of age, and that was the cause of the great waste in the Service. He hoped his noble Friend opposite and his right hon. Friend in the other House would direct their most serious attention to devising a remedy for this great evil.