HL Deb 16 May 1881 vol 261 cc518-43

rose to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to cause a re-consideration of the proposal to efface the present numerical and other distinctions in regiments of the line and Militia by the substitution of novel (so-called) 'territorial' titles, inasmuch as this proposed substitution is known to be viewed as subversive of esprit de corps, and is in consequence most distasteful to the officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates generally, whilst it has not the advantage of increasing the Army by a single additional trained or untrained soldier; the proposed re-organization being moreover practically but a fuller development of the present twin (or linked) battalion system which the Report of Lord Airey's Committee has already proved to have been attended with the most disastrous results. The noble Earl said he gave Notice of this Motion so long ago as the 7th of April; he did it on his own responsibility, and there was nothing in it of a Party nature. In 1875 and 1879, during the reign of a Conservative Government, he had brought forward Motions on military matters in a similar manner, solely in the interests of the Army and of the country. Four days after he gave Notice of the present Motion, there appeared in the newspapers an epitome of the General Order of the War Office to carry out the scheme of Army Re-organization, embracing the establishment of the territorial system. He had found among several friends of his own extraordinary ignorance as to the meaning of these territorial arrangements; and he should, therefore, venture to give some explanation of the matter. It was 10 years since Lord Cardwell, as Secretary of State, started the scheme of pairs of battalions, whether double or linked. The basis of the scheme was that there should be one battalion at home to be the feeder of its twin battalion abroad, and this arrangement had continued down to the present time. At the same time, it had been thought desirable to establish a local connection between the Militia regiments in the district in which these pairs of battalions of Regulars were supposed to be localized; two Militia battalions were affiliated to two battalions of the Line, making the third and fourth battalions of the brigade, or, as it was now to be termed, the "territorial" regiment. That change was simply nominal, except in regard to the change of uniform and the change of title. As the General Order came out on the 11th of April, it might be thought that his Motion was a day after the fair, but that was not a fair way of looking at it; indeed, he regretted that it would he a part of his duty that night to show that the Secretary of State for War was open to the charge of unfair dealing in the matter—first of all on account of the way in which he had treated the Report of the Committee presided over by the noble and gallant Lord on his right (Lord Airey); and, secondly, in having stated that this proposed re-organization was simply what was proposed by his Predecessor in Office. To appreciate the position in which the question stood, it was necessary to trace it chronologically from its origin; and this could be done most conveniently by giving an epitome of the evidence of Mr. R. A. Knox, Estimate Clerk at the War Office, before the Militia Committee presided over by the late Secretary of State for War, at the time of his holding the Office of Financial Secretary. The Committee was specially appointed to inquire into "certain questions that had arisen with respect to the Militia and the present brigade depôt system in connection with it;" and it was important to bear this fact in mind, on account of Mr. Childers now attributing the initiation of the proposed system of "territorial" regiments to Colonel Stanley, his Predecessor at the War Office. Mr. Knox began by saying that, in March 1869, in introducing the Army Estimates, Mr. Cardwell said he had a strong disposition to favour a system of shorter enlistments. In the end of the same year great pressure had been put upon the Indian Government by the Home Government to reduce public expenditure, and in consequence the Indian Government had offered to send home seven Infantry and four Cavalry regiments. Ultimately, after much discussion at home, it was decided to reduce the number of companies as well as of battalions in India; and the result was that there were to be 50 regiments of Infantry alone in India, instead of 52, and eight companies in each, instead of 10. At the same time, it was determined to withdraw a certain number of battalions from the Colonies, the result being that whereas in 1869, 46 battalions only were at home, in the following year the number at home was increased to 68, and of course there was a corresponding decrease in India and the Colonies. In the same year the short-service system was introduced, with which, however, his Motion had nothing to do. In 1871, Mr. Cardwell explained why he abolished depôt battalions. But this Mr. Knox explained in his evidence was the real commencement of the twin—or double and linked—battalion system, which, he said, was the forerunner, and not the sequitur, of the brigade depôt system; and he continued to describe it thus— In the plan that was proposed to the Indian Government in 1870, to effect the reductions in their military expenditure, the plan of linking the battalions of the Service where the regiments did not consist of two battalions was fully drawn out, and I will just read briefly what the plan was. This was in February, 1870—'The principle attempted to be carried out in the following scheme is (1) that the Infantry shall be composed of regiments, each consisting of two battalions, within which service shall be interchangeable for both officers and men; (2) that the normal distribution of those regiments shall be one battalion at home, and one abroad, which would take their tours of foreign service alternately; (3) [this was one of the advantages pointed out of the scheme, says Mr. Knox] that the cadre of the home battalion be so organized as to admit of a second battalion being detached for service, and yet a strong cadre left at home for depôt purposes. The plan in its perfection can be at once worked in all regiments possessing two battalions, one of which is at home and the other abroad. As regards the other battalions, if it may be assumed that before long the number of battalions serving at home and abroad will be equal, one battalion at home could be permanently attached to a battalion abroad as its reserve and depôt, and to alternate with it in its tour of foreign service.' Mr. Knox adds—'Under this arrangement eight companies of the two-battalion regiments would be on foreign service, and 12 companies on home service.' This was in 1870, before the Memorandum of His Royal Highness or the Report of General Macdougall's Committee. In order to start this two-battalion system, a plan was started in the Short Service Act of 1870, which (he says) 'may be described almost as general service for the enlistment of men.' In 1871 Mr. Cardwell explained why he had abolished depôt battalions (in language, as it seemed to him (Lord Galloway), but too curiously applicable in every detail to his own subsequent invention of brigade depôts) in these words—'That system was costly, it was inefficient, it removed the officers from direct subordination to their commanding officers, and placed them under the commanding officers of the depôt battalions. Now it is proposed to establish training centres for the Regular troops and the Militia upon the local principle.' He then explained a proposal to appoint colonels to command large bodies of from 15,000 to 20,000 men. The permanent staff of Militia and Volunteers were to be utilized by these colonels, who were to be colonels commanding of Militia, when the latter were not out for training. Militia and Regular recruits were to be trained together. Militia recruits to have longer training. Billeting of Militia at this time also was objected to. More Regular battalions at home entailed a necessity for more barracks. It was considered, therefore, a convenience was thus afforded to carry out what was wished, of establishing a more intimate connection between the two Forces; 'and thus,' said Mr. Cardwell, 'follows the principle laid down by Mr. Pitt in 1803, that all the instruction of the Militia Forces should be given by the Army.' So far up to 1871 (inclusive), the principle of short service and localization was determined on—that is, identifying with each locality the recruiting and training of Regular, Reserve, and Auxiliary Forces. In 1872, the mode of carrying it out was explained definitely by Mr. Cardwell, and at the same time the brigade depôt system introduced. The chief points were thus notified—'Association of two battalions of Regulars, and two of Militia; the two battalions of Regulars having 20 companies, giving technical strength of one battalion of eight companies for foreign service, the same for home service, and one battalion of four companies, which you can mak into a third battalion or a depôt.' Mr. Cardwell, in 1872, explained in the House of Commons 'that in consequence of further withdrawals from the Colonies and abroad the number at home was 71, and abroad 70 of the 141 battalions of Infantry of the Line;' adding, 'it is intended that of two Line battalions united in one brigade, one shall always be abroad and one always at home. The two Militia regiments will be associated with them in the same brigade.' He (Mr. Cardwell) continued—'That the permanent staff of the two Militia regiments will be associated with the local depôt, and when present interests cease, the new permanent staff was to be appointed from the battalion which constitutes the depôt. Army Reserve men and Pensioners in each district were to be attached to the depôt centre for payment, training, &c. Infantry Militia battalions to be placed under canvas at their respective depôt centres. Line and Militia recruits were to be sent direct to brigade depôts for their recruit training.' Adding—'The object sought to be attained by this arrangement is that the battalion at home may serve as a feeder for the supply of casualties in the twin battalion of the same district serving abroad.' After further questions and answers, A. 22, page 5, Mr. Knox saysô'The plan which was in the mind of the Secretary of State in 1871–2 did not include brigade depôts at all; it simply included an idea of dividing the country into large sub-districts commanded by a colonel on the Staff to superintend recruiting and inspect the Auxiliary Forces. In 1870, estimates provided for 17 colonels In 1872, estimates provided for 30 colonels In 1873, estimates reduced to 15 colonels On page 8, in reply to Questions 66–8, by Sir Garnet Wolseley asking whether the intention had not been to amalgamate eventually the linked regiments, and designate them as one corps, and whether The Army List was not changed with that view in its form, Mr. Knox admitted all this, but said it was found inconvenient for reference, and was therefore changed back again. Thus, up to 1872 (inclusive), had been formulated a system embracing (1) twin battalions; (2) short service enlistment; (3) brigade depôts. Short service was not part of to-night's question. The twin battalion, whether double or linked, was the one and same principle—requiring one battalion always abroad, the other always at home. Brigade depôts may be shortly described as the localization principle, to be carried out by a fusion of the training machinery, and, in consequence, destroying the single battalion (whether Regulars or Militia) as "the tactical unit." This was all started in 1873. In two years the Militia found it was suffering from the effects of the new organization, and set up a howl of lamentation which resulted in the appointment of a Committee which reported in November, 1876. Here he wished to point out that Colonel Stanley, then Financial Secretary at the War Office, and Chairman of this Committee, prefaced a question which he put to Mr. Knox by a remark which showed that the whole object of the appointment of the Committee was to inquire into the evils from which the Militia was suffering. He said—"This question of the brigade depôt is only referred to us as far as the Militia is concerned." The two chief points which the Committee of which Colonel Stanley was the Chairman recommended were—first, that the Militia battalion should have returned to it its Adjutant, Quartermaster, and permanent Staff, in order to have it restored as a tactical unit; and, secondly—he was quite prepared to admit this much—that the double or twin battalion system having been established, as far as the Infantry of the Line was concerned, the two Militia battalions of the district should become the third and fourth battalions in direct association with them, thus forming in each district a regiment composed of two battalions of the Line and two of the Militia. But the Committee further said that where both battalions of the Line were abroad at the same time the normal establishment of 100 men at the depôt should be expanded to 600, and that, if necessary, one Militia battalion or more should be embodied. It should also be remembered that that Committee was empowered to report only as to improvements in detail on the system established, not to recommend its reversal. The Report was made in November, 1876; and in 1877 the noble Viscount (Viscount Cranbrook), then Secretary of State for War, acted on tin advice of the Committee as to restoring each Militia battalion as a tactical unit by giving it back its Staff. The recommendation about the "territorial" regiments came to nothing; and it might. therefore, be fairly argued that the proposition could not have found favour with Viscount Cranbrook. In the spring of 1878 Colonel Stanley became Secretary of State for War; but he did not attempt to introduce "territorial" regiments. He wished their Lordships to bear in mind that Mr. Cardwell, when Secretary of State for War, always urged that the sole object of the new system was to insure that the country should always be prepared for war; and this it was most important to bear in mind in arguing the merits of this question, for it was too apt to be lost sight of. This time, in 1878, indeed, was the first opportunity of testing the new system. But what happened? Two years ago there were two small wars on our hands, the Zulu War and the Afghan War; but in both cases there was a universal outcry against the wretched state in which our battalions had to be sent out. There were innumerable Returns called for on the subject; and, as their Lordships must remember, on both sides of both Houses the subject was continually brought forward. He himself, among others, brought the subject under their Lordships' notice; and his special argument was that the breakdown was far more attributable to the twin battalion, with its sequitur the brigade depôt system, than to the short service system. After he had spoken, the Duke of Buccleuch acquiesced in his remarks, upon which Lord Cardwell got up and said he was surprised at the noble Duke's acquiescence, because he was one of those who signed the Report. The noble Duke said it was perfectly true he had signed the Report— But the result of his experience since 1876 had disappointed his expectation that the new system would prove a success. Lord Limerick, who also sat on the Committee of 1876, said on the same occasion it was true that he also had signed the Report;" but if the question bad been an open one"—in other words, if they had had to report on the advisability of the system itself—"the result would have been different." The real fact—as told him by Members of the Committee—was that there was so much recommended in the Report that was good that no one liked to decline to sign it. But there was a further fact, which was that though the "territorial" system was recommended by the Committee, anyone who read the evidence would find that Sir Garnet Wolseley was the person who was really anxious for that system. Sir Garnet Wolseley had at that time carried out the Red River Expedition—a bloodless campaign—with great credit to himself; he had afterwards marched to Coomassie through a mass of jungle, in very difficult circumstances, fighting his way up to that city with yet greater credit to himself, having rightly estimated exactly the number of days it would take. He was thus, at this particular moment, at the zenith of his fame, and it was only natural that his opinion at the time should be taken in preference to any other. Anyone who went through the evidence would see that the Report, as regarded the "territorial" system, was his child alone. His reason for dealing fully with that part of the subject was that on the 3rd of March last the Secretary of State for War having at length been induced to promise the production of the Report of the Army Organization Committee on the following morning, had announced that his Predecessor's Committee in 1876 had recommended the complete fusion of the four battalions—two of the Line and two of the Militia—into one territorial regiment; and he was, therefore, now anxious to point out that, although attributed to Colonel Stanley, as Chairman, the scheme was in reality that of Sir Garnet Wolseley. It might be, naturally, further asked why the changes recommended in 1876 had not been carried into effect up to this time, if Colonel Stanley was so anxious to act upon his own supposed recommendation. But too much stress, it must be admitted, should not be laid on his not having adopted it during the time he was Secretary of State for War, for he found on his hands, in 1878 and 1879, the Afghan and Zulu Wars. Shortly after the late Secretary of State for War came into Office there were constant complaints of the Unprepared condition of our Forces; and Colonel Stanley evidently doubted whether the establishment of territorial regiments was likely to prove the true remedy for that unfortunate state of things. He, on the contrary, appointed a Committee, as strong a Committee as could possibly have been chosen, to inquire into the subject. It was worth while to notice the treatment received, not only by that Committee, but also by Parliament, at the hands of the present Government. The Blue Book in which this Report was published contained great quantities of important evidence, and the Report itself displayed the deepest and most copious knowledge of military matters. That Report was received by Colonel Stanley during the last few days of his tenure of Office; then came in March, 1880, the Dissolution of Parliament, and, though Parliament re-assembled in April and sat on into the second week in September, the Report still remained in the hands of the Government, in spite of the constant remonstrances of political friends and foes in Parliament. On November 1 The Times published the first of a series of articles on Army Reform, which bore evident marks of inspiration, and this continued at intervals until the tardy production of the Report early in last March. He did not blame a journal for anxiously endeavouring to be well informed; but it was extraordinary, to say the least of it, that the Report should have been so long withheld from Parliament after it had been practically communicated to The Times, and even after the production of the Report their Lordships had further just reason to complain. Notice was given in that House that attention would be called to the Report by Lord Abinger on the 20th March, scarce a fortnight after its production; but the debate was postponed for a fortnight at the special request of the Duke of Argyll, at that time a Cabinet Minister, as his Grace suggested, "for the convenience of the Government." The discussion was therefore fixed for April 4; but before that day arrived was issued, bearing date the 1st of April, Mr. Childers's re-organization scheme. That was treatment of which both the Committee and the Members of both Houses had a just right to complain. The Secretary of State for War had in some cases accepted the recommendations of the Committee in a modified form. In adverting, however, to the proposal for abolishing the system of linked battalions, the right hon. Gentleman said— I must refer to this part of their Report with some qualification; because, however eminent may have been the gentlemen who constituted the Committee, their opinion on this question was not sought in the official reference to them, On the contrary, they were told 'that there was no intention on the part of the Government to depart from the general principles of re-organization which had been accepted by the country since 1870.' This was not a pleasant way of alluding to what a Committee of distinguished Officers evidently considered to be the most important part of their Report. Mr. Childers went on to remark— I find, however, that at the last moment, when five-sixths of the Evidence had been taken, and when the Committee were on the eve of preparing their Report, a note, in an unofficial form, of which there is no record in the War Office, was received by the Chairman of the Committee, saying that they were not 'precluded from touching on' this question. Whatever may have been the authority for this note, I must decline to treat the recommendations of the Committee on this head, in which they were not unanimous, as other than the personal opinions of a body of officers for whom, as individuals, I have the greatest respect"—[3 Hansard, cclix. 195.] Within the last three days he had been authorized by his noble and gallant Friend who presided over that Committee to say that on various occasions he went on various points for more direct authority to the Secretary of State for War, and that the right hon. Gentleman's special instructions were, that the Report should be made as wide as possible. It had been alleged that the note was an unofficial one; but his noble and gallant Friend would inform their Lordships that he not only received a verbal sanction from the Secretary of State to go into this question, but that, in order that there might be no mistake, a note was sent to him by the permanent Under Secretary corroborating that sanction. But if further proof be wanted on this subject, reference need only be made to Clause 14 and the following paragraph of the Instructions to the Committee, signed by the Secretary of State for War— Clause 14 (n.) Lastly, as being a matter closely connected with the above considerations, it would be well that the Committee should place on record their opinion whether the present organization of battalions and companies is, on the whole, the best for the purposes required for the English Army, both at home and abroad. The Committee may further report upon any other question that may be raised, during the investigation, in connection with the above references, and they may call for any Papers or Returns which they may deem necessary. War Office, 20th June, 1879. (Signed) FRED. STANLEY. In regard to the remark of Mr. Childers "that the Committee were not unanimous on this head," he might point out that this could only refer to Sir Patrick M'Dougall, who, having been Chairman of the Localization of Forces Committee, was bound to put a good face on the matter and to support the system of linked battalions. For Sir Patrick was the only dissentient to unlinking; and even he (whose opinions on Army Reorganization the noble Lord quoted at great length) admitted that the system of linked battalions had not worked well, though he excused its shortcomings on the ground that it had been "unfairly weighted," making, however, this remarkable admission, that— It is only in time of peace that the number of battalions at home can balance the number abroad; and yet it was acknowledged that it was this basis upon which the system was dependent for expansion in time of war. Their Lordships would see, therefore, that too much importance ought not to be attached to the so-called want of unanimity on the part of Lord Airey's Committee. He must now ask permission to quote several passages from the Report of the Committee in support of his argument. On reference to paragraphs 21, &c., on page 10 of the Report of the Committee, it would be seen that the original scheme—that was, Lord Cardwell's—could never be carried out—namely, "that one battalion should always be at home, and one always abroad," on account of the distribution of battalions from year to year, which would be best shown by quoting the following extracts from the Report of the Committee, of which paragraphs 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, and 30, 31, 32, 34, were thus analyzed—

At Home. Abroad.
1872 70 71
1873 70 71
1874 69 72
1875 70 71
1876 69 72
1877 68½ 72½
1878 64 77
1879 (Feb.) 59 82
Defects of scheme as worked are that even in time of peace the demand for men to supply the battalions on foreign service cannot be met from the depôts, and recourse must be had to the linked battalions, which are thus deprived of their best men; the recruits being transferred, after few weeks at depôts, on to home battalions, and then on to others, unsettles their minds, their interest in obtaining good opinion of officers lessened, discipline and regimental esprit de corps both suffer—no knowledge of one another between men and officers must prove fatal. In time of war these defects are intensified, and battalions first for service are rendered inefficient. A call for volunteers from the Reserve may be ineffectual (as proved in June, 1879, when 11 sergeants, 19 corporals, and 1,039 privates only responded at a most favourable opportunity in every way); but in any case the men not immediately available. These defects caused by varying distribution of numbers of battalions decreased in their strength. No source left available whence the men required for war could be supplied but by taking volunteers from battalions at home. They in turn when wanted become skeletons. He must ask permission further to read, in extenso, paragraphs on page 42—namely, 263, 264, 265, 266 (as well as paragraph 27 in the Summary) on Linked Battalions— We cannot close our Report without referring to a question which, being intimately connected with the present organization, has been pressed upon our consideration in the evidence we have taken, and has a most important bearing on the efficiency of the Army. In the early part of our Report (in 25 and following paragraphs), we pointed out the evils which have arisen from the system in force of linking battalions, by which the battalion at home is practically converted into a depôt for its affiliated battalion abroad, having to furnish drafts for its maintenance to such an extent as to be utterly subversive of efficiency and of that esprit de corps which is essential to the constitution of a good and effective corps for service in the field. (264.) We pointed out that under this system the field for the selection of non-commissioned officers was restricted, and that the efficiency of the battalions first on the roster for foreign service was seriously impaired. (265.) We have expressed our opinion (paragraph 170) that it is essentially necessary that the weak battalions at home should be in a condition to receive the men of the Reserve when called out on emergency, so that they may be got into good working order without delay; but we are of opinion that this cannot be the case so long as the home battalion is the depôt of its affiliated battalion abroad. The evidence, also, as to the conduct of the young battalions employed in the Zulu War has clearly shown that under the existing system there is a deficiency of that solidity which is due to a thorough knowledge of the various members of a corps, including officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates, of each other, and of that feeling of comradeship which is a great motive in causing men to stand by each other with firmness and resolution in the hour of trial. (266.) The result of the evidence we have taken has been to impress strongly upon our minds the absolute necessity of some decided measure being taken to re-establish to the utmost that esprit de corps which formerly bound men of the same regiment together as a family having common interests and such strong ties that the honour and credit of the regiment was dearly cherished. by each individual composing it. This feeling not only tends to efficiency in war, but to promote good discipline and conduct in peace. After much consideration, we have come to the conclusion that it can only be re-established by unlinking the battalions, by which we mean that the officers and men should, as formerly, belong to separate units, and not be transferable from one to the other. We are aware that this measure, according to the scheme for organization we have proposed, will be attended with expense; but so strongly are we impressed with its necessity, that we unhesitatingly recommend it, and are decidedly of opinion that the expenditure will be more than compensated if, by this means, a proper feeling of esprit de corps can be restored. This expenditure will be caused by the necessity of maintaining larger depôts, but will be compensated, in great measure, by the considerable additions it will bring to the Reserves, and their more rapid growth. Such brigade depôts as shall not be converted into training depôts should be used for the head-quarters of Militia regiments; for training the recruits of the Militia; as recruiting centres; and as centres for the Reserve men residing in that subdistrict. The establishment of a depôt from each regiment in each district will not be necessary, and the staff of the brigade depôts should be reduced to such an extent as will suffice for the duties which will remain to be performed thereat. (Summary 27.) With a view to prevent the frequent drafting of men from one regiment for service in another, to the cessation of the system by which one regiment serves as a depôt for another, and to the re-establishment of esprit de corps in, and efficiency of, regiments, the present system of linking should be done away with.
  • (Signed)
  • AIREY (Chairman)
  • J. L. A. SIMMONS
  • P. L. MACDOUGALL Generals.
  • H. W. NORMAN
  • H. HUTTON Colonels.
  • T. G. BILGE
He fearlessly challenged the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman said that if the large scheme was adopted they should repeal their legislation and undo their policy. That need not be the case, for, practically speaking, they need hardly disturb the existing organization. "They should," said the right hon. Gentleman, "alter the whole system of brigade enlisting." Well, he asked whether it was not easier to enlist men for one particular regiment than for more than one regiment? Again, he said that they would "confuse the right and seniority of every officer appointed within the last eight years." That was simply an effort of the imagination.


wished to point out to the noble Earl that it was not usual in that House to read from a written speech.


said, that to read a speech was not his habit. He had copied quotations he meant to rely on, thinking that it would be more convenient to read them from the manuscript in his hand than from the Blue Book. He had confined his reading to quotations and figures. If the noble Earl looked at the paper he would see that it consisted of memoranda which, legible to him, would be quite useless to anyone else. The subject was one of great importance, and he held that it was the bounden duty of every Member of Parliament who believed that a grave wrong was about to be done to the country to rise in his place and protest against it. The figures he was about to quote were taken from the revised Estimates of the Secretary of State for War, and the result of the detailed statement was that 68 depôts would have establishments for the training of about 3,530 officers, non-commissioned officers, and men. The total cost of the 68 brigade depôts, without including recruits, would be £184,167 without rations, or, including rations, £250,000. By the scheme proposed by his noble and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Committee, the cost would be under £150,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said that by his scheme the first 12 regiments for foreign service would have 950 men, and 150 each for their depôt, or 1,100 men. But under the larger scheme the number of men would be the same—they would keep 300 for furnishing the battalion abroad, and have 800 in the other battalion, whether linked or separate. The right hon. Gentleman said, with respect to territorial regiments, they proposed that the two battalions of the Line and two of Militia which now formed a territorial brigade should henceforth form territorial regiments with a common depôt. Then followed a statement of, as he would call it, a general dislocation as to the Scotch regiments, with the addition that "the other two depôts—Edinburgh and Ayr—would remain unchanged." His noble Friend opposite said that no increased expense would be attached to the change. [The Earl of MORLEY dissented.] What the noble Earl said in reply to his having moved for a Return of the expense to the country and individual officers incidental to the proposed changes—and he was now quoting from Hansard—was that the expense of the proposed changes would be very slight, as only badges and facings would be changed this year. The more important changes, such as alterations in the colour of uniforms, would be deferred till the next issue of clothing. A Return would be misleading. As to the officers, he did not really see how it could affect them very much. Such was the noble Earl's reply. He had himself got an estimate of the cost from Messrs. Hobson—a moderate firm in Little Windmill Street—and it appeared that the alteration in the Scotch regiments would cost the officers £49 5s. per head, and in the English regiments £18 2s. 6d.; while the cost to the country in their behalf, or else to the individual officers themselves, of the one brigade with which he himself was associated—namely, the 61st, at Ayr, would be over £6,000. This was for the officers alone of one single brigade to be converted into a "territorial" regiment. The Opinion of officers on the subject generally might not, perhaps, be thought worthy of consideration, after the treatment recently experienced by those distinguished Officers who had framed their Report as the result of the most exhaustive evidence; but he would quote some opinions of non-commissioned officers and privates as to the proposed amalgamation of Infantry regiments, the abolition of their numbers, and the extinction of their regimental individuality. A corporal at the 52nd Light Infantry, a remarkably fine and intelligent man, said— I am quite sure nothing would cause more general discontent than doing away with the numbers. What would my regiment be without its number? It is only by its number that it is known in history, and if the number is taken away there, will be no connection between the regiment and its history. A corporal of the 6th Regiment, a fine young fellow, an Irishman, said— Is it take away our numbers? Sure, then, we would be only Militia. They have taken away half our facings, and when the number is gone the history of the old regiment will be gone too. A sergeant of the 52nd, a smart young fellow, said— I have heard of some changes, but didn't hear till now that we were to lose our numbers. That will be bad. But you see, sir, they have left us the stripes on both arms yet. A sergeant of the 69th said— These changes will cause great discontent. We hate the 41st already because we are to be joined with them. A colour sergeant of the 22nd said— I couldn't bear to leave my regiment for any other, and I should not like to leave my battalion. I should resign my stripes sooner than go to the other battalion. I am quite ready to go anywhere to-morrow with my own battalion. I wish they would send for a sergeant from each regiment, and ask him what he thinks of these changes. A private of the 73rd said— I am a Londoner, and I don't want to be a Highlander and to wear the kilt. I know my regiment was the second battalion of the 42nd; but that was many years ago, and we don't want to go back. He held in his hand several other quotations, all of the same import, which it would be unnecessary to read. He might add that he had also received sundry growls by letter as to specific changes; but that was not his point. He wished to show that both the country and individual officers would be put to great expense in order to create general dislocation and fresh re-allocation, which would take a century to learn, and all that to perpetuate a system which had proved to be rotten and to have broken down by the Report of the Committee appointed specially to investigate the subject after taking voluminous evidence. To continue and perpetuate this system in its intensity was simply to court fresh disaster. He imagined he would be told in reply that the new organization would give au aggregate increase of 2,792 in the number of men, as suggested by a curiosity Memorandum emanating from the War Office. He denied it, and requested proof. Neither Lord Airey nor General Sir Lintorn Simmons admitted it, for there was nothing in the proposed re-organization that could supply more men. It was said that there would be an advantage in a regiment being kept abroad longer—namely, for 16 years, and that it would be more economical. But it was no economy. The regiment would have changed nearly three times over in that time. If they had to send out 1,000 men in one regiment, or live drafts of 200 men each, the expense was the same. He might be told that the House of Commons had passed the scheme; but he utterly denied that the House of Commons had had an opportunity of really discussing it; and he had seen in the newspapers that the scheme had been challenged by Notice of Motion in the other House, although no opportunity had yet been afforded for discussion on the point. He doubted also the wisdom of raising fresh suspicions in the minds of the Militia as to their becoming Line soldiers. He begged to apologize to their Lordships for the length at which he had spoken. He thought, however, that he had proved the proposed scheme of re-organization to be, in detail, ridiculous as regarded the changes in uniform, and, in principle, unsound, unreal, and unpopular—he might almost have added inhumane. But that was a question which came under the head of the "Waste of the Army," with which he would have a further opportunity of dealing. In regard to the length of his speech, he must plead the importance of the subject; and simply ask them to consider the serious state of matters now on the shores of the Mediterranean, and the equally serious state of things across the Irish Channel. He asked, then, whether this was a time well chosen for taking away from regiments those traditionary numbers and special distinctions in dress to which they had been so long accustomed, of which they were so justly proud, and which they still so dearly cherished? Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to cause a re-consideration of the proposal to efface the present numerical and other distinctions in regiments of the line and militia by the substitution of novel (so-called) "territorial" titles, inasmuch as this proposed substitution is known to be viewed as subversive of esprit de corps, and is in consequence most distasteful to the officers, noncommissioned officers, and privates generally, whilst it has not the advantage of increasing the Army by a single additional trained or untrained soldier; the proposed re-organization being moreover practically but a fuller development of the present twin (or linked) battalion system which the Report of Lord Airey's Committee has already proved to have been attended with the most disastrous results.—(The Earl of Galloway.)


admitted the great importance of the subject introduced by the noble Lord. The noble Lord had gone at great length into the history of Army Organization since Lord Cardwell's scheme was framed, 10 years ago; and he trusted that the noble Lord would acquit him of any discourtesy if his answer did not extend to the same length. He doubted whether his noble Friend fully appreciated the great difficulties which surrounded questions relating to the organization of the British Army. The important fact must be always borne in mind that more than half our Army was employed in foreign service—50 battalions of Infantry being permanently stationed in India, and 20 in the Colonies; and that these battalions were annually kept up to their full strength by drafts from home. This fact lay at the basis of every scheme of organization. The problem to be solved was how to keep up a sufficiently large Force at home, and, at the same time, to feed the Army abroad. The scheme now criticized was based on no new principles; it was the logical consequence or development of Lord Cardwell's original measure. That measure rested on two important principles—namely, first, the organization of the Infantry of the Line in double battalions; and, secondly, the localization of those battalions connected with Militia battalions at the brigade depôts. The first principle was carried into effect by "linking" two regiments in cases where they had not a double, or, as in the Rifle Brigade and 60th, a four-battalion constitution, the object being to facilitate the relief of foreign battalions. The second principle had for its object the union of the Auxiliary and Regular Forces, and the improvement of recruiting in all parts of the country. He could assure the noble Lord that the Government was very grateful to Lord Airey's Committee for the ability and industry with which they had conducted their inquiries; and, so far from depreciating the importance of their Report, the Secretary of State, he was glad to say, had been able to adopt, in a great measure, the most important recommendations of that Report. He had not been able to adopt their suggestion that all the linked regiments should be unlinked, and that we should revert to a single-battalion organization. On this point the Committee were by no means unanimous. Moreover, another Committee, presided over by the late Secretary of State for War, and composed of several distinguished Officers and Members of this House, had three years previously recommended a distinctly opposite course—namely, the formation of territorial regiments, consisting of two Line and two Militia battalions. With this conflict of authorities, the Secretary of State was bound to consider the two proposals on their merits. The noble Lord had attributed all the difficulties in completing battalions for service in South Africa to the linking system. He was at a loss to understand how he arrived at that conclusion. If, as the noble lord appeared to wish, all regiments had had but one battalion, fed by a depôt at home, would the difficulties then experienced have been avoided? Far from it; the battalions on active service would equally have been made up to their full strength by volunteers from other regiments. There would have been no other source from which the men could have been drawn, for it was clear that the depôt formed only when the battalion was ordered on foreign service could not have furnished them. The true cause of all these difficulties was to be sought, not in the system of double-battalion regiment, but rather in the fact that that system had not been worked out in the manner which was suggested by those who, in the first instance, recommended its adoption. The regiments at the top of the roster for foreign service were all far weaker than they ought to have been. Instead of having 18 regiments of 800 men, these regiments were only at a strength of 740; and, moreover, in consequence of the opinion given by the Law Officers of the Crown, the late Government did not at first consider that they could accept the service of volunteers from the Army Reserve. In consequence of the weakness of the regiments, large numbers of men were required to raise them to war strength; and as the Reserve men, even as volunteers, could not be employed, these men were drawn from other battalions and regiments at home—a most unfortunate proceeding, but one which was constantly resorted to in former days—in the days, for instance, of the Crimean War—and for which the new organization was by no means responsible. Indeed, he (the Earl of Morley) might fairly say that, had the linking system never been introduced, the difficulties in the way of preparing the battalions for the war in South Africa in 1879 would have been even greater than those which they had actually experienced. Further, he might quote the case of the two four-battalion regiments—namely, the 60th and the Rifle Brigade. The comparative case with which battalions of these regiments were prepared for service was an argument for going further in the direction of large regiments than was now proposed, rather than of adopting the course suggested by the noble Lord. He admitted that the linking system had not worked quite satisfactorily—there had been a certain amount of friction, there had been found a want of unity of sentiment in many cases between the two linked battalions. It was impossible to remain in the present position; we must go forwards, or back—back to single battalions, or forwards to consolidated regiments of double battalions, with the same constitution as the first 25 regiments of Infantry. The noble Lord quoted from a speech of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the objections to reverting to the old organization—namely—"You would then have to repeal the whole of the localization scheme. You must break up the first 25 regiments, the 60th, and the Rifle Brigade, into single battalions; and you would practically have little or no use for the depots, on which nearly £3,500,000 had been expended." In spite of the noble Lord's argument, he ventured to think that these were very strong arguments against such a course of proceeding. There was, however, another way of regarding the question. To supply the annual reliefs for battalions on foreign service a very large number of recruits would be required—the estimates varied from 16,000 to 20,000; and if, as was now proposed, no soldier was to be sent to India with less than one year's service, the latter figure would probably not be much above the mark. These men would, according to the noble Lord's scheme, be posted to the depôts of the battalions abroad; whether in small depôts, or in battalions, or at large training stations, as proposed by Lord Airey's Committee, it was not necessary now to inquire. These recruits would be quite useless for home service. The question would then arise, By whom would the expense be borne? It was not likely that any Government would impose this burden on the Indian Exchequer; and, on the other hand, it was doubtful whether this country would pay for an army of recruits useless for service at home. No doubt, the difficulty might be met by including these 16,000 men in the Home Establishment, and treating them as supernumerary to the service battalions. But if the home battalions were to be kept at their present strength, this would mean a very large addition to the Home Army; and he asked their Lordships whether there was any probability of the House of Commons assenting to such an addition? If, on the other hand, the Home Establishment could not be increased to such an extent, the only possible means of finding place for these depôts would be either by diminishing the strength or the numbers of the home battalions. It was admitted on all hands that the home battalions could not be reduced in strength. Consequently, the only alternative left would be to reduce their number, and to find room for the 16,000 men in the depôts of foreign battalions. They would be forced to destroy at least 20 battalions of Infantry. Was that the best way to strengthen the Army? For the sake of reverting to the old organization, they would destroy 20 or more regiments which, though weak in times of peace, could, in a case of national emergency, be developed, by means of the Army and the Militia Reserve, into thoroughly efficient battalions. This argument appeared to him (the Earl of Morley) conclusive. For these and other reasons the Secretary of State had determined to adopt the recommendations of Colonel Stanley's Committee. The Report of that Committee had been adopted without a dissentient voice. The noble Lord had hinted that certain Members of that Committee, who were colonels of Militia, and also distinguished Peers, had signed the Report because some of the recommendations would benefit the Militia, not because they agreed with the territorial system—which was, after all, the great principle on which all the other recommendations were based. He could not accept such an explanation; it was not likely that the noble Lords in question would have taken such a course. Had they entertained at the time the opinions attributed to them by the noble Lord, they would have qualified their assent, or they would have explained their views in Supplementary Reports, as was done by several Members of Lord Airey's Committee who differed, in principle or in detail, from the Report of the majority. Without such qualifications, the Report stood as one which was adopted unanimously by a strong and able Committee. Now, with regard to the question of esprit de corps, he (the Earl of Morley) was far from undervaluing the importance of esprit de corps in the Army. It was a sentiment which he honoured and respected in the highest degree, and one to which as little violence as possible should be done. But respect for this sentiment might be carried a little too far, if it were allowed to prohibit any changes of organization which were, in other respects, for the good of the Army at large. Moreover, he would ask whether these changes would, as the noble Lord foretold, destroy all esprit de corps in the Army? He should be extremely sorry to think that these anticipations would be realized. Every effort had been made to preserve, in each case, the badges and distinctions in which the various regiments felt a just and an honourable pride. Every effort had been made to associate together regiments which were connected together by local or other ties. In some cases, no doubt, a certain amount of self-sacrifice would be required; but these cases had been brought within the narrowest possible limits; and even if in these cases the old associations were, for a time, weakened, he hoped and believed that, in process of time, an enlarged esprit de corps would grow up in the territorial regiments which it was now proposed to create. Many persons, he was aware, considered this a fanciful theory. A sentiment of this kind could not be created in a day; but even now, though the local system was as vet scarcely in thorough operation, experience showed that this enlarged esprit de corps was being gradually formed. In the Appendix to the last Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting would be found the answers of 64 colonels commanding depôts to the question—"Is a local connection beginning to establish itself? "Fifty-four of these officers gave affirmative answers, and only five directly negative answers. That could not but he regarded as highly satisfactory. The noble Lord referred to the expense which would devolve on officers in consequence of changes of uniform. On that subject he (the Earl of Morley) could only say that arrangements would be made to render this expense as light as possible; and in cases where regiments which had now scarlet uniforms were converted into Rifles or kilted regiments, the Secretary of State for War would be prepared to give the officers some pecuniary assistance, the amount of which was now being considered. While speaking of the officers, he would point out that in double-battalion regiments they had this not inconsiderable advantage—they could, if they wished, exchange from the home to the foreign battalion, or vice versâ, without losing their places in the regimental list; whereas, if an officer exchanged from one regiment to another, he was placed invariably at the bottom of his rank in his new regiment. He had listened attentively to the speech of the noble Lord, and had not heard an argument which proved that the single-battalion organization was better suited to the peculiar conditions of the British Army than the organization which now existed, and which it was proposed to consolidate. Not one of the defects which the noble Lord deplored would be met by the retrogressive policy which he proposed. It might be argued that an organization of regiments, consisting of three or four battalions, would be more elastic and capable of adapting itself to sudden emergencies than a double-battalion system; but to contract regiments to a single battalion, resting, when abroad, on its own depôt, would, he maintained, be a step in the wrong direction. Such a course would render it impossible to carry into effect the new system of supporting our Indian and Colonial Army, which he (the Earl of Morley) had explained on a previous occasion. The object of this new system was, as far as possible, to insure the Indian Government that the men sent out to them would serve in that country for a full term of seven years. The efficiency of the Indian Army would thus be promoted, and a very considerable economy would be effected—a matter of very great importance. It would be effected by retaining the battalions for a longer period in India, and supplying their deficiency by annual drafts, rather than by relieving a large number of battalions. He had already shown that by reducing the number of battalions annually sent abroad as reliefs from eight to four the constitution of the Army at home would also be improved. It would, in these circumstances, be much easier to keep the regiments first on the roster up to their full strength, ready for any sudden emergency, without suddenly pouring into their ranks a large number of young and half-trained recruits, a course which obviously diminished their efficiency. The system which he was now advocating would, he believed, at the same time, facilitate our foreign reliefs, and would tend to improve the constitution of the home and foreign Army. It would promote the union which it was most desirable to establish between the Regular and Auxiliary Forces; it would stimulate recruiting throughout the country, and would, by degrees, form an enlarged esprit de corps in the territorial regiments, without obliterating the associations which these regiments cherished. If these proposed changes were for the good of the Army at large, even though at first they might be at variance with the feelings of some individuals, he could, with confidence, rely on the public spirit and patriotism of officers and men to accept them, and to assist loyally in carrying them into effect.


urged his noble Friend behind him (the Earl of Galloway) to be content with the expression of opinion which he had elicited from the Government, and not to push his Motion to a division, especially as the House was almost empty, and as the changes referred to were actually being carried into effect under a General Order recently issued. There were, no doubt, several noble Lords who would have liked to address the House on this subject; but other occasions would certainly arise on which they would be able to do so. For his own part, he would only point out, in reference to the speech they had just heard, that while the noble Earl assumed that existing defects in the organization of the Army were about to be remedied, the adoption of the territorial system would not in the least help them to attain that end. The great difficulty was to obtain men. By the new system they would not get any greater number. Another difficulty was—seeing that there were to be 71 battalions at home and 70 abroad—that the dislocation of any single battalion would dislocate the whole. The new territorial system would dislocate them in exactly the same way. The scheme of the Secretary of State for War had many good points, which deserved a fair trial, and that trial would have been given it in the most complete manner if the linked regiments had been left together, and not changed into territorial regiments, which, he maintained, entirely subverted the regimental plan upon which the British Army had been successfully based in the past. He did not believe that the territorial system would succeed, and he thought it was a step which might hereafter have to be retraced; but the responsibility meantime must rest with the Government, and he would advise his noble Friend not to divide the House on the question.


remarked, that the noble Viscount (Viscount Bury) had not correctly appreciated the remarks of his noble Friend (the Earl of Morley). The system of territorial regiments was not an invention of the present Government, but had been handed down to them from their Predecessors in Office; and he was surprised at the objections raised to it by the noble Viscount, because it was the recommendation of Colonel Stanley, the late Secretary of State for War, under whom the noble Viscount had served. As regarded the difficulty of meeting Colonial wars, their Lordships ought to bear in mind that it was not upon the territorial system alone, or indeed principally, that the Government relied. The development of that system was only one of a series of measures which had been introduced by the present Secretary of State for War; and it should be remembered in these discussions that we were now in a much better position as regarded Reserves than we had ever been previously. He agreed with the noble Viscount that it would be inconvenient to prolong the debate, and would only add that their Lordships might rely upon the Secretary of State for War endeavouring to meet the various difficulties of the situation to the best of his ability, and that he would do his best to preserve the esprit de corps of the regiments.


did not complain of the course which the Government had pursued in adopting their own scheme in preference to that recommended by the Committee over which he presided; but he thought that there were just grounds for complaining that the Government had unduly delayed the publication of their Report. He believed that if it had been produced sooner, the system would have been different from what it was now. He had great doubts whether the present system was anything more than an experiment.


said, he had intended to speak upon this Motion; but, looking at the state of the House, he would reserve what he had to say to a future occasion. Too much stress had been laid upon the Committee over which Colonel Stanley presided having recommended the formation of territorial regiments. The double-battalion system had not at that time been tried and failed. The weak point of the system was that when the home battalion acted as a feeder to the one abroad, it became absolutely unfit to be employed on active service. It would require about 600, or even 700, Reserve men to bring it up to war strength; and it would consequently be some time before a battalion so composed could possibly be fit to take the field.


protested against the doctrine that if a civilian met a soldier in the street he was not at liberty to inquire of him how he liked the Service, his regiment, and his uniform.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

House adjourned at half past Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.