§ VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH
, in rising to call attention to the Report of Admiral Sir George Tryon's Committee on Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, said: My Lords, I wish to call the attention of your Lordships for a few minutes to the Report which has been lately laid upon the Table of the House of a Committee appointed by the Lords of the Admiralty to consider the condition of the Royal Naval Reserve. The first portion of that Report refers to the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers. It may perhaps be convenient to your Lordships that I should first, in a few words, refer to the past history of that corps. They were first raised, I think, in 1853. There was then some talk of raising a corps of 10,000 men; but the project really first took shape in 1873, at the instigation of Mr. Goschen, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, and aided largely by the very powerful influence of my noble Friend opposite, Lord Brassey. Under that influence, and the influence of many others who assisted in the matter, the corps has finally risen to a status of comprising, roughly speaking, 2,000 officers and men. I believe the limit originally placed upon it by the Admiralty was 5,000, but the reason why the corps has not increased to that number is, I think I may fairly say, entirely due to the course taken by the Admiralty; in fact, to the cold water thrown upon the movement by the different Boards of Admiralty. I wish to state that the corps has complied with all the conditions imposed upon it at the time of its formation as to efficiency—not, perhaps, as to numbers, which is one of the points of objection by the Committee, but in 502 regard to efficiency they have entirely, complied with the conditions in all particulars required of them. The corps is ready for any duty which may be imposed upon it by the Admiralty in every respect; the officers are perfectly ready, as are the men, to do anything further that may be required of them, to undergo any further examination or tests which to the Lords of the Admiralty may seem right. In looking to the Report itself, I need not go so far back in historical reference as the Report goes, though no doubt it is an interesting fact that a Coast Defence Corps existed in the time of Edward the Confessor; but I would allude to such historical matters to say that they have entirely overlooked the fact that at later periods of our history the Coast was actually defended by such forces. At the time of the threatened invasion of England, in the time of Elizabeth, when the Spanish Armada approached our Coasts, it was defeated, as your Lordships know, by the exertions and courage of volunteer sailors. And as regards another corps, which has been spoken of very slightingly in the Report, the Sea Fencibles, which were raised in the time of the French Revolutionary War, that was a valuable force which was disbanded in 1810; but Lord Nelson, a tolerably competent authority, spoke very highly of the corps, and thought it should be greatly extended. He was of opinion that the whole population on the seaboard who were willing should be trained for the Naval Service. That corps is mentioned by Addison, I think, as one of the naval defences of the country; and when they were disbanded in 1810, it was only because the naval power of France, the only enemy we had to regard, was so totally destroyed at Trafalgar that there was no longer any necessity for defending the British Coasts. Now, in referring to this Report, I should wish first to say a few words upon the composition of the Committee which drew it up. Some of them no doubt are influential men. Admiral Sir George Tryon is the chairman of it, and I am surprised that he has taken the line which he has taken with regard to the Naval Volunteers, as he had served in the colonies and has a knowledge of the Volunteer work done there, nearly the whole naval duty being done by Volunteers. That is the 503 case in Australia and New Zealand, where the whole of the naval duties are performed by about 10,000 men; and I am surprised that Sir George Tryon should say that such Volunteer sailors are perfectly incompetent and perfectly useless here. The other members of the Committee have no practical acquaintance with Naval Volunteers. They are practical men, no doubt, in other respects; but they have not had practical experience in that particular direction of naval volunteering. There are one or two naval officers, and there are two or three captains of your large merchant steamers, who are attached to the Naval Reserve, and who may perhaps have some little feeling in the matter from the possibility of the Naval Volunteers interfering with their own prospects. Now, as regards the efficiency of these corps, I believe that every member of them, and there are four of them in different parts of the Kingdom, is efficient in his duties. There is first the corps in London, which unites with a brigade at Brighton, another corps at Bristol, a corps at Liverpool, which I have had the pleasure of inspecting, and there is another corps formed for the Clyde. The officers are all men of great intelligence and devotion to their work. There are several Mem-of your Lordships' House who have taken great interest in the corps, among others Lord Ailsa and Lord Anglesey. Sir Richard Bulkeley has command of another corps. The gentleman who is in command of the force in London has given up a great deal of his time and money to it. My Lords, these corps are very inexpensive, not costing the country more than £6,000 a year, for which you have a body of 2,000 efficient men, well trained, thoroughly competent men, thoroughly acquainted with their duties. Some persons may say that 2,000 men seems a small number, but your Lordships will recollect that 2,000 trained men is actually the complement of four first-class ships. If these men are thoroughly trained and capable of fighting a ship, you may compare the Naval Volunteer Corps of 2,000 men (putting naval matters in comparison with military) to a body of 10,000 military volunteers. I want to know why, when so much is dependent on the naval strength and defences of this country, 504 the Royal Naval Volunteers are kept in such an unsatisfactory condition, although so much has been done for ordinary Volunteers? Why, when the Military or Land Volunteers are kept up to their full strength, and recognised a most valuable force, as no doubt they are, by everybody, should Naval Volunteers be deemed incapable of serving their country? They are perfectly ready to serve their country, and would at all times be forthcoming if they receive the encouragement they should receive. I do not see why they should be put in so very different a position. I will now refer to the point of expense. The expense entailed by the maintenance of this force is infinitely less than the expenditure upon the Naval Reserve. I think that each man costs the country £3 or £4 a year, perhaps a little over. The Naval Reserve is scattered over the face of the globe, and they cost per man £11 or £12 a year; but these Naval Volunteers you can lay your hands upon for the defence of the coast at any moment. They are exactly where you want them, and they are all available at any time when their services may be required. A number of meetings have been held in different parts of the country, which testify to the great popularity of the force, to the great interest taken in it, and the great desire to extend it. There have been meetings held on the Clyde, at Hull, and at others of our great commercial towns, attended by some of our most prominent public and mercantile men, where resolutions have been carried, all advocating, not only the maintenance, but the extension of this corps. At the time when there was a threatening of war, some six or seven years ago, the Volunteer Association, of which the noble Lord opposite (Earl Cowper) was President, and in which he took a very active and leading part, was formed, under the direct patronage of the Admiralty; the Lords of the Admiralty gave it every encouragement possible, and I think they communicated with it officially, but directly the scare of probable war passed away they threw cold water upon it, and the Volunteer Association died out. Now, one of the objections which have been raised by this Committee to the continuance of these corps is that the Admiralty have found no use 505 for them. I should like to know what use you could expect to find in time of peace for any Volunteer Force? Why, the Military Volunteers are, in that sense, of no use at all. But they will be of use, and they are trained to be of use, when they are wanted. It is exactly so with the Naval Volunteers. Of course, they cannot be said to be of any positive use now; but you are training up a body of patriotic men who are ready to do the work of the country when they are called upon. All these men have to go through, as I have said, a very severe examination. I have here the regulations for the officers of the corps, and they are very exacting. These men are drilled during a great part of the year; at every one of the drills the attendances are very numerous; they do all that is required of them; and those of your Lordships who have seen the corps, as doubtless many of you have, will, I am sure, say that their physique is that of thoroughgoing English sailors. On a recent public occasion, I forget which, but it was at the opening of the Naval Exhibition I think, the physical appearance of the men, their bearing, their style of drilling, and their management of their weapons, was so markedly excellent that they were mistaken by even naval officers for a body of men-o'-war's men. They have to learn their duties thoroughly; they have to go out in boats; they learn the intricacies of knotting and splicing; they handle the big guns; they are trained in the use of cutlasses and rifles. Many of the officers have passed through the Excellent, and one of them passed lately through the Vernon, obtaining a first-class certificate which, I believe, was a higher certificate than was obtained by most of the naval officers who were examined at the same time. I believe it will not be disputed that the corps, so far as the requirements of the Admiralty are concerned, and so far as the general opinion of the country, and especially the opinion of those who are competent to judge is concerned, is an efficient body which has fulfilled all the duties required of it. They are, however, perfectly ready if the Admiralty think it necessary to undergo any further test. Objections have been made, I know, to the existence of the corps; and one of the objections raised by, I think, the First Lord of the Ad- 506 miralty some time ago was, that they are not a body of seamen. I venture respectfully to say not only that this is contrary to present facts as far as we can judge, but that nothing can be more contrary to the teaching of history than such language as that. Why, my noble Friend who represents the Admiralty, and whose experience of the Admiralty goes back nearly as far as my own, must remember perfectly well that in former days we were obliged to take landsmen, before the present system of enrolment in the Navy was adopted. You had no choice, you had to take landsmen. I have seen men come aboard in long-tailed black coats; but in the course of a few weeks those men were all licked into shape, and they soon became thorough man-o'-war's-men. Going back to the old war times, when the Revolutionary War broke out in 1793, one of our well-known naval commanders, who could not get a ship manned by sailors, wrote for a number of Cornish miners to be sent him. He got the Cornish miners; his ship was manned with them; he went out into the Channel against the enemy; fought one of the largest of the French frigates, and beat her in 20 minutes. Now, these men are practically sailors. But even if they were not practical sailors, in these days, when you have divested your ships of sails and masts, you do not want your sailors to be able to work sails and ropes to the same extent as was formerly necessary in the days of sailing ships, and you have in these men a body which would be of immense service to the country in the event of war. To come to the proposal of the Admiralty. The Admiralty propose, on the strength of the recommendations of the Committee, to stop all further recruiting, and these men whose ambition it is, if not to lead a naval life, at all events to perform their duties on the water, and in matters connected with the sea, are told that they may join the Marine Artillery. That desire to servo the country afloat is one which I am sure every Government ought to wish to encourage in the population of this country, but it is proposed to turn these men into Marines! However, you cannot do it, and for this reason, the officers have consulted the men, and to a man the whole force has 507 declined the proposal of the Admiralty, and if the Report of the Committee is adopted, the effect will be that this corps will be disbanded, and the services of these men will be lost. Whatever money and time both officers and men have spent upon it will have been thrown away, and you will have produced great dissatisfaction among a body of men whose object has solely been to perform services of a public character. Now, my Lords, I wish to add that all the evidence given by those who are competent to judge is in favour of this corps. The men have been reported on in public by such competent authorities as the illustrious Duke who is in command of the Naval Reserves, by a gallant Friend of my own, Admiral Phillimore, by Admiral Seymour, and by other distinguished naval officers who have all praised them most highly. Not long ago one of the very finest sailors in the Navy, Sir George Elliot, wrote a letter which appeared in the Times, in which he speaks in the highest terms of the services of this corps, and he calls it—The most unwise act which the Admiralty could commit to disband such a corps.He has seen them; he knows what they can do, and be maintains, speaking as one of the most experienced sailors in the Navy, that these men form a corps which is highly useful to the country. In addition to this testimony there is that of a present Lord of the Admiralty; Sir Vesey Hamilton, I do not know what his sentiments may be now, but some years ago he praised them very highly. Sir John Hay, an officer whose name is well-known to every naval man, and almost, I am sure, to everyone of your Lordships in this House, says the same. Sir Henry Koppel speaks very highly of them, and in the face of such evidence as that, I cannot understand how the Board of Admiralty, when the maintenance of the corps only entails a cost of £6,000 a year to the country, should throw cold water upon it, discourage all their efforts in the future, and ignore their services in the past. I have already alluded to a fact which is known to your Lordships, and I suppose to all the naval authorities, that is that the naval force in the colonies is composed almost entirely of volunteers. It is upon a volunteer force that they have to depend for the naval defence of those 508 colonies. Why even in a country where least of all you would expect such a coarse to be taken, Russia, they have actually got a naval volunteer force! I may say that I do not exactly know its character-But surely if a country like Russia can raise a volunteer force, and if it thinks that force worth paying for and worthy of being maintained, we in England, with a larger sea-board, with a larger sea-coast to defend than any other country in Europe, should think otherwise, when you have the unanimous opinion expressed, as I have told your Lordships, by the people in every large town on that coast which has anything to lose and which has spoken upon the subject; when you have a feeling all round that coast that you should maintain this body of men who are ready to share in the naval defence of the country. Why, I venture to ask, in the face of all those facts, are the Admiralty taking this course? I do not wish to say anything more; but I hope we shall hear from my noble Friend that the Admiralty will not act upon the recommendations of this Committee's Report, but that further consideration will be given to the matter by Parliament, and especially by Her Majesty's Government, before taking so mischievous a step as is recommended.
§ *LORD SUDELEY
My Lords, this is a question which is, no doubt, of very considerable importance. It is not merely a question whether this Report of the Departmental Committee will be adopted, but whether this body of Naval Volunteers cannot be made more efficient if it is to be retained. My noble Friend has opposed entirely the Report to the Admiralty, and in that I think he is, wrong. He has also stated in somewhat strong language, that the members of the Committee which sat upon this matter were not as efficient as they ought to have been. Any of your Lordships, I venture to think, who have glanced over the names of that Committee will have come to the conclusion that it would have been absolutely impossible to have appointed a Committee which should be more efficient for this purpose, and more likely to command general confidence. Sir George Tryon, who is at the head of the Naval Reserve, is well known to be an officer who has the interest of the Service most thoroughly at heart, and certainly the 509 experience lie has gained, not only whilst commanding the Reserve but also on those colonial coasts, which the noble Viscount has alluded to, render him peculiarly fitted for determining the value of such a force as is dealt with here. Then you have some very prominent mercantile men on that Committee, including Mr. Ismay, one of the most efficient men of business I suppose that the country possesses, who is well known at Liverpool and throughout the mercantile community to have the interest of the seafaring class at heart, and who is well qualified to know the capabilities of these men. You have also Captain Angove, who is, I may say, one of the very best mercantile officers it is possible to have, who knows thoroughly what the seamen and the men to be found at our seaports can do, and what body of reserve men is really likely to be efficient. The noble Viscount says—"Surely it is good to have these men; you pay them very little; they are very loyal; they are very zealous, and it would be a great pity to do away with them." Now, I quite agree with the noble Viscount up to a certain point. There can be no doubt that these men are most loyal; they are most patriotic; they are most zealous; they are most anxious to do what they possibly can; but I cannot go beyond that. He says—"The Royal Naval Volunteers are volunteers, and why should you deal with them in a different way to what you do with the military volunteers?" My answer to the noble Viscount is, that the two forces are totally different, and I apprehend that the word "Naval" itself answers the question. Is it possible, however good a man may be, that if you give him no sea training whatever you can make him an efficient "Naval" Volunteer? The question is, is this force thoroughly efficient as a naval force? Is it a reality? Is it a force that you can rely upon to any extent in time of war, and is it not possible that the corps as at present organised might be a source of danger instead of a reliance? Having stated that, I hope your Lordships will understand that I fully recognise it as an ungracious task to say anything against this body. They come forward on all occasions that they are wanted to go through their drill, and they are no 510 doubt, as far as can be judged on shore, thoroughly efficient in it; but when it is remembered that you only take them to sea for one week in the year in a gunboat, and that that gunboat is generally anchored at night, how can it be expected that this body of men can be so efficient in time of war as to be of any real practical use for service on the sea coasts of this country? Of course, it is quite true, as some people say, that it is a very good thing to get as many men as you possibly can connected with the sea into the Naval Reserve, so that they may be qualified for defending the coast; but such a body to be efficient must have amongst its ranks a larger number of seamen, so that they can be used for service in your torpedo boats and in your harbour ships, which, it is stated, these men might be employed in? My Lords, the constitution of this body makes it purely a shore and not a sea-going force. It is composed of a large number of clerks, gentlemen who are, no doubt, possessed with a great desire to servo their country, and to do so as far as they can with the greatest efficiency and ability. Then, you have a large number of tradesmen of different classes; but throughout the entire body you have none who are trained to the sea. When the noble Viscount referred just now to what was done in former days, and when he recalled that Lord Nelson wished that we should have on our sea shores all the coast population embodied in a Reserve, he forgot that when Lord Nelson said that he was referring to our sea-going population, to the men who are accustomed to work in boats at sea, to the men who are accustomed to work in trawlers, to the men who are occasionally employed on yachts, and who know what the sea is; but I apprehend that it is absolutely futile to think that you can train any body of men who are a purely shore-going force to be thoroughly efficient as a Naval Volunteer corps without some further and better training for the sea. They may be good artillerists, but they cannot be a naval corps. It may be—it is—unpleasant to say this: it may be thought that I am wrong in endeavouring for one moment to push aside in any way a body of men who are thoroughly loyal and whose desire is to do their duty; 511 but what I maintain is, that if this body is kept up, you must give them more training at sea, and you must, in some form or other, recruit that force from people who have a certain amount of sea training. It is sometimes said that Trafalgar was fought in a great measure by landsmen, with whom our ships were manned; but Trafalgar was fought after those men had been serving in those ships for a long time; they had not been merely for one week in a gunboat. It is unfair to these Naval Volunteers to imagine that they can be as efficient as they ought to be, even with the greatest possible desire on their part to be so. The noble Viscount said these men are thoroughly competent. I do not know what he considers thoroughly competent. I should say, if a man is to be a Naval Volunteer, he ought to have had practical experience in boats, practical experience of the sea at some distance from shore; and I do not think it is possible, therefore, that you can truly say these men are thoroughly competent and efficient, and that this body is a reality if you leave them in their present position. Is it not possible to do something better with them? Is it not possible that from among the somewhat higher grade of the seafaring class, which evidently these men are intended to be, you might get a large number of men who are not exactly seamen, but men connected with the sea who are in a superior position on shore to join that body? At any rate, in connection with this matter, I think it is of the greatest importance that we should enlarge our Naval Reserve and get into it a larger body of men than we have at present. There can be no doubt that if it were desired, you could increase the Naval Reserve by, at least 2,000 men a year, and in that way you would have a most efficient body. There is one matter I should like to mention. I notice that in this corps there exists a very peculiar state of things, which I should like my noble Friend when he answers for the Admiralty to explain, and that is that in this corps there appears to be an enormous number of recruits every year—in fact, that one-fourth or one-third of the body are changed every year. Surely it seems to show that there is something wrong: either that they are not satisfied with their position 512 or that their constitution is defective. If a man has only two years or three years experience, and that would, perhaps, have given him three weeks in a gunboat, it is certainly not right either to the Service or to the man to regard him as efficient. Then it is supposed to be possible for these men to be employed in torpedo boats. There can be no doubt that in case of a naval war torpedo boats would be largely used. Now, the noble Viscount will, I am sure, agree with me that in torpedo boats especially, you want men of really strong physique, men who can stand exhaustion to a great degree, men who are trained, men who can be sent away in boats for days without feeling-it; and that if you put untrained men in torpedo boats, not only will they knock up very soon, but you have this-very great disadvantage that when men are not properly trained they may do entirely wrong things, and may even fire torpedoes into the wrong ships, or do some other act equally disastrous! Then it is said that these men might be employed in harbour-ships. That is true, if your ships were to remain in harbour; but the theory of the present day is that your harbour-ships will not always be in port, but that they shall be efficiently equipped vessels, able at a moment's notice to be sent to sea, and constituting a fighting reserve. I will not trouble your Lordships with any further remarks. I will only point out that at present the force is not all you could wish. If you decide to keep them you ought to make them thoroughly efficient, in justice to themselves and to the country.
§ *EARL COWPER
My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble Friend who has just sat down that there were some very able men upon this Committee. Three of them are distinguished officers of Her Majesty's Navy, and the Chairman of the Committee (Sir George Tryon) is a man whose name must command universal respect. But I must say I think that professional men are perhaps not always very ready or willing to admit the advantages of maintaining Volunteer forces. I am old enough to remember the beginning of the Volunteer movement in 1860, and I must say that the speech of my noble Friend reminded me forcibly of what in those days we heard over and over again from 513 distinguished officers of the Army. In spite, however, of a great deal of opposition, in spite of rather cold encouragement from the Government as a whole, in spite of difficulties in getting grants of any kind—for really, in those days, to get any increase of Capitation Grant, or, in fact, to any grants at all, however small, was like trying to squeeze water out of a flint—in spite of all difficulties and discouragements, the land Volunteer forces took root because they were supported by the enthusiasm of the people, and it was impossible to put them down. I would ask any of your Lordships, now, whether that Force is not considered to have been a great success, and whether everybody is not glad that those Volunteers asserted themselves at the beginning, and that they have continued to exist. They are now among our recognised forces of the land; they are always quoted as among the principal means we should have of resisting an invasion; and the moral effect upon the men themselves, the advantages of the outdoor exercise they get, the improvement effected by their drill and discipline, the advantage from their meeting together in what is for these young men a harmless and useful amusement, the encouragement of their feeling of patriotism, the immense good which it does to every one of them individually is universally acknowledged. Now, the Naval Volunteers are not able to make so good a fight for themselves as the land Volunteers were. In the first place, they are very limited in number. Then, too, the land Volunteers had good friends in Parliament—many of their officers were in Parliament in both houses. But the Naval Volunteer officers are, of course, a very much smaller body of men to choose from, and I do not think there are any of them in either House of Parliament. Therefore, I am afraid they will not be able to assert themselves as thoroughly as the Military Volunteers have done. These men have been praised over and over again, and some of those favourable reports of the officials who have inspected them have been quoted by the noble Viscount who has brought forward this Motion. I will not go deeply into those Reports, for I am quite aware that an inspecting officer is apt to be rather too eulogistic. I admit that when he 514 has been well received and well entertained, when he sees everybody anxious to do his duty and to do well, and he has afterwards to make them a speech—it is very often a most amiable speech. Naturally his speech must be either invective or a panegyric, and he generally falls into the panegyric strain. Therefore, a little allowance has to be made for the Report of every inspector. But I cannot believe that all these panegyrics were false. I am not anxious to refer to the pages of Hansard for the sake of reminding your Lordships of what has been said before on this subject, however interesting it might be; a great deal too much of that kind of thing is done, I think, in these days, and a great deal of time is wasted in doing it; but there is no doubt that these men have been praised very much in both Houses of Parliament. And now I come to the Report itself. As I have said, I have great respect for the men who drew it up, but I cannot say that I regard this Report as a work of art. In the first place, they never in fact examined any Naval Volunteers, or anybody connected with them, or who knew much about them or were in their favour. These men never had the opportunity of appearing and giving evidence on their own behalf, but everything said about them was said behind their back. There is a distinct animus against them apparent; everything that can be made use of against them is made use of to their disparagement. The first thing I will refer to is the requirements for the officers, which are understated in this Report. The knowledge required of these men, and particularly of the officers, before they can be efficient is very considerable indeed, more is required of them than the officers of other Services. Then the next thing is the number of recruits is stated, and a point is raised as to the large proportion of them in the corps. It is quite true that in one year there were 600 recruits, in the year before that there were 400, and in the previous year 300, but I do not think that it is very much against a corps that one-third of the whole body should have been recruited in a single year. This would mean, even if that rate continued, that the men remained for at least three years in the 515 force; and it seems to me the fact that there should be an enormous body of recruits always ready to come forward is something to be said in their favour. There is no doubt something to be said against the number of recruits, but I think there is also something to be said in its favour. Then there is a point raised about the class of recruits. As regards that point they come from exactly the same class of men as the other volunteer forces in the country, from the class, that is to say, from which you would expect them to come—the clerks, the small tradesmen, and others of the middle class in the maritime towns. I think if the corps were exclusively formed of seamen they would interfere to some extent with the naval forces. They are not incapable of learning their duties; they are almost all familiar with the sea during the whole of their lives although they are landsmen, and as has been shown by my noble Friend, men taken from the towns—landsmen—wore able to fight very well at sea. Therefore, I do not think that the class from which they are enlisted ought to be urged invidiously against them. Then another thing is, the Report goes on to find fault with the kind of service this corps performs. Objection is taken to the force that the services of its members are confined to the coast. That is the fault of the Act of Parliament under which they are enrolled. By the Act of Parliament their services are confined to the coast—it was no stipulation of theirs—and I know on good authority that these men are anxious that this restriction should be taken away. They are ready to offer their services anywhere they may be required. There was a meeting of the commanding officers held some time ago which is alluded to at some length in this Report, and those commanding officers began their proceedings—as most other bodies of the kind begin when they meet together—that is by making unreasonable requests. They asked for more money. Well, I should like to know who does not ask for more money if they think they can get it and have the chance. They asked for more gunboats to be placed at their disposal, and for a greater Capitation Grant. There was no harm in their asking, and if the Government did not choose to give them 516 what they asked for they could say so. Then they asked for higher rank to be conferred on the different commanders, a request which, I believe, they are now sorry they ever made, and which they are perfectly ready to see refused. But I do not see that because a body of men ask for things which they cannot get, and because they do not get them they will be of no use at all, which is the line of argument it seems to me that is followed. I think these men are shown to be a valuable force, and it by no means follows from their making an unreasonable request that they are useless. Now, the worst thing that has been done in consequence of the issue of this Report is that it has been followed by an order which has been sent round without any warning whatever to stop all recruiting. That is an undeserved blow in the face to these men. Not only will there be a stoppage of the recruiting, but the mere fact of the recruiting being stopped shows them that they are doomed, and in fact it goes far towards putting an end to them altogether. I have forgotten to mention the historical part of the Report. I do not know whether it is worth while to go back to the time of Edward the Confessor and what happened then; but I will go as far back as the time of the late War, when there was a body of Naval Volunteers formed amounting to 23,000 men. They were enlisted in 1798, and they continued in force down to 1810 when they were finally disbanded. A great deal has been made of their having been disbanded at that time, but I think it was, as has been very clearly pointed out by my noble Friend, because they were really not wanted any longer. Our coasts were freer then from any possibility of invasion than they have been probably at any period of our history before or since. The French Fleet, the only one which at that time existed, had been swept from the face of the sea, and those men were disbanded simply because they cost money and were not wanted. Anybody who takes the trouble to look at the Debates of that time, will see a great deal said against volunteering of all kinds. Windham, and others used to make most eloquent, weighty, and powerful speeches against the maintenance of volunteers, and as far as any question goes of volun- 517 teers taking the place of Regular Forces it was, of course, all very wise and right. Upon that point I may remark that the land Volunteers were called into existence later, and were disbanded earlier. Any argument, therefore, that might be drawn from the Naval Volunteers having been disbanded because they were found not to be useful, may be used with much greater force in regard to the land Volunteers, and yet that argument was never used in 1860, when the land Volunteer forces were once more established. My Lords, I have not much more to say. We have heard a great deal about susceptibilities in this House at various times, and very rightly too—the susceptibilities of our colonies, the susceptibilities of foreign nations. I do not object at all to those susceptibilities being regarded. I am for regarding everybody's susceptibilities; but I do think there is a special claim here that the feelings of these men should not be disregarded, these men who have always been praised for their efficiency, and who have certainly shown great steal and energy. Then it is not to be forgotten that they have also expended a great deal of money: it is difficult to find out how much, becnuse as is generally the case, it is the officers who have chiefly borne the expenditure necessary, and they are, of course, the only people who know how much they have spent, and they are naturally not willing to boast of it: but I may venture to say that tens of thousands of pounds have been spent by the officers during the time this corps of Naval Volunteers has been in existence in keeping up its establishments and in equipping the Force. Now, the question is what is to be done with these men? It is said that it is not advisable to employ these men as able-bodied seamen, that they ought not to be relied upon to go aloft, and certainly that they ought not to be employed to man torpedo boats, which seems to be a difficult duty requiring technical knowledge, but that it would be advisable to employ them as gunners more than anything else. I think that was the original intention when they started that they should chiefly be employed in working guns when afloat. This might be done—I do not know how far it is feasible, but I think a great deal might be done in 518 this direction without disbanding the corps: let them keep their uniform, which they think much better than the helmets and jackets of the Marines, and let them keep their name, even if you think it necessary to alter their duties to those which would be more congenial to their habits. But if you disband these men, or snub them, as has been done by issuing the order stopping the recruiting, or disparage them and make them feel that they are ill-used, not one of the men will, I know, re-enlist under another form. If you once get rid of them you will not get them back again, and you will besides have got rid of them under disagreeable circumstances which might have been avoided. I think it would be a great pity to lose these men. Then, what is to be done? I humbly submit that Her Majesty's Government might consider whether it would not be advisable to leave them as they are at all events for a time. After all, they are, not a large body; they are only 2,000 men, and they cost £3 per man a year, that being about the sum, taking everything into account, that our force of land Volunteers of some 200,000 men cost, and our Yeomanry, which certainly is not a more useful force, which you still maintain. Therefore, my Lords, I would humbly suggest that these men should be allowed to remain as they are at present. I think it is of importance to encourage local effort and local patriotism, and not to do anything which would appear to be a slap in the face to this force. I only wish there were more who had shown' the same local patriotism and local spirit and zeal, and I hope Her Majesty's Government may not have made up their minds to do what has been threatened, and that it may not be too late to induce them to spare these men.
§ *LORD ELPHINSTONE
My Lords, in showing, as I think I shall have no difficulty in doing, that good and substantial ground exists for the decision at which the Admiralty has practically arrived, I fear I shall have to ask your Lordships to follow me on ground over which we have travelled together on more than one occasion during the last few years. This is the fifth time on which, in one form or another, this corps of Naval Volunteers has been brought under the consideration of your Lordships during 519 the last four or five years. At the outset I wish to say that not for one moment has the zeal or the esprit de corps of the Royal Naval Volunteers been questioned, and the zeal and cheerfulness with which they have come forward at considerable sacrifice of time and money to perfect themselves in drill has been fully recognised and appreciated. We also recognise fully the ability they have shown in the matter of gun drill. I desire to lay stress on the words "gun drill" for this reason: it must be recollected, however, that proficiency in the handling of great guns will not make a seaman of a landsman. The noble Lord opposite, who can speak with great knowledge and authority on the subject, having been practically the father of the corps, and connected with it from its inception, in a letter which he has written to the Times, says: "Let us frankly admit that we are not a body of seamen." Exactly. Let them frankly admit that they are not a body of seamen, and the friction and difficulty as to their employment would disappear. It is for the very reason that they are not a body of seamen that we find this difficulty in utilising their services in the event of war. The Act of Parliament under which they are established expressly provides that they are not to be sent beyond the coasts of the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man, and their services can only be utilised outside those limits with their own consent. Now take this case; I do not say it will happen, but it may happen, and in dealing with this matter we must look at all the possibilities of the case: war breaks out and one of our coast-defence-ships has 50 of these volunteers on board; she is suddenly ordered off at a moment's notice to the Mediterranean. Any of those men can come forward and say "You are not entitled to take us for service abroad, put us ashore," and we are bound to do so. The vessel must wait; we must put them ashore, and then find other men to take their place at a moment's notice. When I called attention to that fact two years ago, the noble Viscount said—" Oh, these men are quite ready to go to any part of the world at any moment." I have not the slightest doubt that a great many of them are ready and anxious to go on service to any part of the world to which 520 they might be sent, or that the whole of them would do so, if they could, if they were required; but I would ask my noble Friend, could they go? What is the composition of this corps of 2,000 men? No less than 486, a quarter of the entire force, are clerks in mercantile houses. Could they be spared by their employers, or throw up their positions at a moment's notice and go away for an unknown time to any part of the world? It would not be fair to expect them to do so. So far with regard to the clerks in the corps. Then of whom is this force composed other than clerks? There are in it 234 men belonging to different trades and callings, of which I will give your Lordships a few examples from the list I have here. On looking down the list I see that one is a comedian, one a farmer. We have three ginger-beer manufacturers, two soda-water manufacturers. I am taking them quite carelessly. Ten watchmakers, 8 builders, 19 stationers, 12 bakers, 8 grocers, 17 shoemakers, 10 tailors, 33 warehousemen, 40 plumbers, 42 painters, 19 masons—they are very useful on board ship—four bricklayers, a french-polisher, and so on. I might go on through a long list. Well, how many seamen have we got upon this list of 2,000 "Naval" Volunteers? We have 15 seamen, and a mate, a master, and a lieutenant in the Navy—18 sailors out of the whole 2,000 who have the slightest connection with the sea! What good advice to them it was of the noble Lord opposite when he said, "Let them frankly admit they were not seamen." They are not seamen. When I spoke in this House on the subject in March, 1889, I suggested, on the part of the Admiralty, that the commanding officers of the different brigades should meet and agree upon some common course of action for the employment of this corps in time of war. They met; they sat for three days in deliberation at Spring Gardens, and they issued a Report which was sent to the Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves. Last April a Committee was appointed by the Admiralty to inquire into the whole question of the position of the Naval Reserves. Perhaps I should explain to your Lordships when I am speaking of the Naval Reserves that they are all volunteers. There are two different corps. We 521 have the Royal Naval Reserve, a force consisting of 20,000 men, all of whom are connected with the sea, and we have a force of 2,000 Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, not one of whom with the exception of the 18 I have mentioned have any connection with the sea. This Committee inquired into the whole position of the Force, and the names of the members of that Committee have been mentioned already. However, I wish to make my case complete, and I will again go over those names. Admiral Sir George Tyron was Chairman. He was assisted by Captains Rice and Hammill of the Royal Navy, by Mr. Angove of the Peninsular and Oriental Company's Service, Mr. Swanston of the Treasury. Mr. Ismay of a well-known mercantile firm, Mr. C. Rivers Wilson, and Sir Allen Young, a late member of the very corps itself.
§ *LORD ELPHINSTONE
I will come to that directly. Now, I say, without fear of contradiction, that a stronger or more representative Committee could not have been got together, and that Committee has made a very exhaustive Report upon the subject. They examined my noble Friend opposite (Lord Brassey.) He is, as I have explained before, what we may call the father of the corps, and has been connected with it ever since its formation; he was better acquainted with the circumstances of the corps than perhaps anyone else, and they examined him. They offered also to examine Sir Allen Young, but he declined. The Committee had before them the Report of the commanding officers of the corps who had sat in deliberation in Spring Gardens, and they considered that Report as an exhaustive exposition of their views. Now, it has boon objected, not only in this House, but outside, that no direct evidence on behalf of the corps was taken. But, as I have pointed out, my noble Friend opposite, Lord Brassey, was himself examined, though Sir Allen Young, a late member of it, declined to attend and give evidence. Again, it has been objected—I think it was the noble Earl opposite who raised that objection—that the corps was not represented on the Committee.
§ VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH
If the noble Lord will excuse me for a moment, Sir Allen Young had never been an acting officer of the force. He has been merely an honorary officer in it.
§ *LORD ELPHINSTONE
He is on the list of the London Brigade, and he was supposed to be on the Active List. Well, the Committee had before them the exhaustive Report of the commanding officers. It has been stated, and an objection has been raised, that the corps itself was not heard. Let me quote the words of the commanding officers themselves, in order that your Lordships may see what they say. This is the first paragraph of their Report to the Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves—Sir, we have the honour to inform you that, as directed by your Memorandum dated "so and so—"the commanding officers of the different brigades of the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers met at Spring Gardens on "so and so—" to consider how in their opinion the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers could best take part in the service of their Queen and country in time of war or in any national emergency.Mark this: They say—Having received and considered the evidence not only of the officers and members of the several existing corps, but also of gentlemen willing to raise brigades or batteries in other localities, and having conferred with the local representative committees for the defence of the Northern and other ports, we have the honour to report as follows":—Were not the Committee justified in looking upon the Report of the officers and men of the corps as an exhaustive exposition of their views? Most decidedly I say they were. Then to refer to the Report of the Committee itself. In the first place, the summary of the Report states that—The Committee are of opinion that there is no good reason for maintaining two corps of Royal Naval Volunteers, and that there is no sufficient reason for maintaining the corps raised on the system established under Act 36 & 37 Vict., cap. 77 "—that is the corps in question—"and recommend that it shall be no longer maintained. The Committee are of opinion that, if a second Volunteer Force is required, it should be established on the lines of the Royal Marine Artillery, to which force it should be connected in the same manner as the Volunteer Artillery are associated with the Royal Artillery in the Army.Then the Committee go on to give their reasons for arriving at this conclusion. They state that—The Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers are composed of men who have not, as a rule, practical acquaintance with the sea, but who 523 are attracted to the profession of sailors by sympathy and aspiration.The Committee considered among other things—Whether it can be considered a reliable force, adding, when called out, to the body of seamen available for service of the Fleet, or to the naval strength of the country.Then the Committee go on to report—The Committee understand that successive attempts have been made without avail during the last few years to mature a system of mobilisation for war under which this force should have assigned mission and duty. It has been felt that without a mission, and without a task of usefulness, a condition exists that is not satisfactory to the country, and perhaps is still more unsatisfactory to the force itself; that a solution has not been found, it is their clear opinion, is not the fault of the members or the force, to whose zeal, loyalty, and ability handsome testimony has been made from many quarters, and especially from their colleague Sir Allen Young, who for eight years was asoociated with the Loudon Brigade as its commanding officer, but it is duo to the system, and to the want of the sailor element in their qualifications.They go on to inquire what part the corps could best take in any system of mobilisation of our forces, and whether there is any part of their duty which could not be as well performed by the Naval Reserve or any other Force, and they say that the Force, as it now exists, has no actual usefulness, though that is no fault of the members of the corps, whose zeal and ability they recognise. Then the Committee go on to say that they consider the Report of the men and officers to be exhaustive of the views of the corps, and that they—Have examined the suggestions made by the commanding officers with the view to give an increased efficiency to the force. Among other things, they suggest a seagoing gunboat to be permanently stationed near the headquarters of each brigade, with a small establishment of artificers, stokers, and shipkeepers, in charge of a warrant officer and under the command of the commanding officer of the brigade.' They also suggest that facilities should be given for the corps to embark on board certain 'harbour defence ships' to be stationed at various ports for the purpose.Mark, we are to station harbour ships at our different ports for the purpose of drilling these men—The Committee recognise that all these proposals, if effect were given to them, would entail a large additional cost, and without a sufficient prospect of obtaining a satisfactory result. To adopt such measures would, in their opinion, be to commit a costly error.524 Then comes the question which has been already touched upon by one of the noble Lords: The commanding officers expressed a strong desire that officers commanding batteries should be granted a higher rank than at present.
§ *LORD ELPHINSTONE
But I wish to answer it. I wish to make my case as strong as I can. The Report states on this point of rank—We have a semi-naval force with a semi-military organisation, and to give a higher naval rank to officers in command of batteries who are not competent to fulfil the naval duties that devolve on officers holding that rank when called out for service, a rank that of not given to officers of the Royal Navy or is the Royal Naval Reserve unless they have long experience at sea, would bring us face to face with difficulties that might well arise in a time of war and be attended with serious results.They are of opinion that naval executive rank should only be given to officers on the Active List who are qualified to perform the duties appertaining to the rank they hold. No one can question that. Now, this question of rank brings me to another question which is rather an anomaly—that of uniform. First let me explain that this corps is allowed to have honorary officers attached to it. On the recommendation of the commanding officers of brigades the Government may sanction the appointment of a number of honorary officers. Those gentlemen, no doubt, contribute to the funds of their brigade; but no duty is required of them, nor are they subject to discipline. But those honorary officers may all appear as full-blown naval officers, with, of course, the distinctive marks, though they have nothing whatever to do with the Navy, nor any connection with the sea, nor in reality with this Royal Naval Artillery Corps at all. So that any one of your Lordships may come out as a full-blown naval officer to-morrow if you like, by paying for it. Then the Commissioners suggests—That there are grounds for maintaining that a Volunteer Force affiliated to the Royal Marine Artillery would prove to be not only a popular force, but from the system of training and discipline that could be easily established it would be a far more permanently valuable force than any so-termed Naval Force in which are enrolled men not inured to sea life, and who have no sufficient practical experience at sea, which experience cannot be given by Government under any Volunteer system we can devise.525 One of the suggestions of the commanding officers is that these men should be employed in torpedo boats, and the Report proceeds—Returning once more to the Report of the commanding officers, Royal Naval Artillery-Volunteers, the Committee, having considered the ordinary avocations of the members of the force, are of opinion that it is out of the question to rely on this force to afford even any part of the crew of a torpedo boat, and that it would not be reasonable to expect them to undertake duties that severely try even those inured to exposure at sea, duties that carry with them a responsibility that cannot be adequately borne save by those well acquainted with shipping audits ways, and on the due performance of which national interests of great importance and the lives of many depend; yet there are other duties indicated in the Report of the commanding officers that could be undertaken by a Volunteer Force, associated with the sea service, though not composed of seafaring men or sailors by profession.They little knew what they were asking when they asked to be sent to sea in torpedo boats. The Report then goes on to state—A Volunteer Force organised on the lines of the Royal Marine Artillery would be able to render such service as is referred to, and, in addition, the present difficulty in providing efficient and suitable officers for the command of a battery would be satisfactorily met. Such a force, eligible for sea or land service, without any restriction as to the area of employ at sea, would, in addition to sea duties, be able to render other services, such as the guarding of signal stations and the aiding the military forces in protecting our coasts. It might contain within itself a body of men skilled in telegraphy and other similar duties ready for employ in our coast signal stations; but the Committee feel compelled to recommend that while every consideration should be extended to those men who are now in the Force, it should be disbanded.Sir Allen Young was a member of that Committee, and he did not sign the Report, not because he did not approve of it or dissented from it, but he declined to sign it because ofHis feeling of sympathy with the Force, and as an acknowledgment of the support he had received from its members for many years while commanding officer of the London Brigade.There is, however, no separate Report of his own, and I am in a position to say that not only did he not dissent from the Report, but that he perfectly agreed with it. I have told your Lordships the reasons why he declined to sign it as given in his own words. Now, is the corps itself of one opinion in this matter; is there any 526 division of opinion among the commanding officers? Let me for one moment refer again to that letter from which I have already quoted. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Brassey) said, "Let us acknowledge the limited sphere of duty for which we are efficient by accepting the change of title from Naval to Marine Artillery." On the 4th July, 1889, the noble Lord made a speech in this House, in which he made use of the following words:—The Naval Volunteers should be reorganised and placed on a permanent footing as a corps of Marine Artillery.Well, I think I must call in my noble Friend once more as my witness. In giving his opinion before Sir George Tryon's Committee, in answer to Question 106, he says—I say again if you wish to have the Naval Volunteer Force maintained, I think it must be re-modelled.He is then asked if he had not expressed the opinion in the House of Lords that a force similar to, if not the same, as the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, might be retained, but on the lines of a volunteer or militia force connected with the Royal Marine Artillery, rather than as a force connected with the blue-jackets proper of the Navy; and to that my noble Friend says—Yes, that is my strong conviction; I believe it is the only solution of the problem of how to retain a body of non-seafaring volunteers in connection with the Navy.Then, in answer to another question, he says—The kind of service for which the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers have most capability is not in sea-going gun-vessels, where practically every man should be a seaman, but rather as part of the complement of vessels of a different type.Then he says again—Sending them to sea in gunboats does not seem to me to contribute to their efficiency.Then I turn to a speech made by Lieutenant Stewart, the commanding officer of a battery at Southport, on the 6th May last, upon this Report of Sir George Tryon's Committee. He said—This Report deals with our force in a very complete and exhaustive manner, and the Committee have evidently taken the greatest care in investigating our career, our character, and our services, and in ascertaining whether our corps is really of value in time of danger as a naval body, and as a part of the forces for naval defence to the country. I believe that 527 the recommendation of the Committee is the only conclusion at which it could possibly have arrived.Now, to turn back for one moment to this Report of the commanding officers themselves. They suggest being employed in various ways; and even if we desired to employ them in all those various ways from No. 1 down to No. 8. but a very limited number of them could be employed. Therefore we are expected to keep up a force of 2,000, or, as suggested, 5,000, men in order that we may employ some 200 or 300 in the various ways mentioned. It is suggested, for example, that they might be employed to supplement the crows of harbour defence ships; but those ships, as I have pointed out, are liable to be sent to sea at a moment's notice. Then they suggest that the members of the corps might form part of the crews of torpedo boats, but, as I have shown, that is quite out of the question. Another suggestion is that they might be employed in gunboats, to which the same answer must be given. Another is that they might be used in connection with the Submarine Mining Corps. My answer to that is, that we have nothing whatever to do with the Submarine Mining Corps. That is entirely under the supervision of the War Office. Then they ask that the men should be used in navigating steam vessels, whether armed or unarmed, including obsolete torpedo boats, steam fish carriers, or private yachts. To tell the truth, I do not really understand what it is they ask for. Then they suggest that the corps might be employed in relieving the coastguard, but the coastguard are the First Reserve of the Navy, although in time of peace they are employed in protecting the Revenue. I am not at all sure that people generally know what the position of the coastguard is. Their duty is not as their name implies—that of guarding the coast. The coastguard are not maintained for that purpose. The duty of guarding the coast is left very properly to the Military Authorities. As I have said, the coastguard are the First Reserve of the Navy, and in time of peace their services are engaged in protecting the Revenue. In case of war, if the coastguard were sent to sea, which probably would be the case, the Customs would have to consider what other pro- 528 vision they could make for the protection of the Revenue. The duty would then fall, not upon the Admiralty, but upon the Customs themselves to take steps for the protection of the Revenue; I mean, of course, by the suppression of smuggling. Then they ask to be employed at signal-stations, and to be trained to act as signalmen. Well, I will only say, with regard to their acting as signalmen, that signalmen, of all people in the world, require to possess exceptional technical knowledge, general knowledge of ships, and of men-o'-war, how to detect ships under disguise, knowledge of the tactics and movements of ships. Of all classes of men employed in connection with a naval force it is most important that signallers should be practical men. Upon their efficiency the movements of our ships would depend; nay, more, the movements of whole fleets would depend upon the reports received from the men at our signal-stations. I would only point out that in all organisations for war purposes simplicity is essential, and to have different systems and different bodies of men unknown to each other thrown together would only lead to confusion, and would be most detrimental. The present position is this: The Report of the Committee has been placed in the hands of the commanding officers of the different brigades, and the Report is also under the consideration of the Admiralty. In the meantime, a Circular has been issued and sent out to the different brigades, ordering new enrolments to be stopped, and that the Naval Artillery Volunteers shall not be embarked in gunboats this year, and stating that the Capitation Grant will be continued during the present year. The corps will be relieved, as far as possible, of all pecuniary engagements entered into and now subsisting that may be necessary to the existence of the force. It is stated upon the point that a small Committee will be appointed to examine into the pecuniary engagements which may be entered into by each corps, such as drill-sheds, etc., and that all just claims for compensation will be regarded, the Committee to be formed of representatives of the Department of each corps of Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, a representative of the Department of Works, and an accountant officer. Now, my 529 Lords, I have shown the composition of this corps; I have shown the difficulties in the way of employing it in time of war; I have shown the disposition of the Admiralty to meet those difficulties by calling together the commanding officers of each brigade, and I have referred at some length to the Report of Sir G. Tryon's Committee. In conclusion, I have only to say that, while the opinions expressed by that Committee will probably not give satisfaction to everybody, and could not be expected to do so, it is, nevertheless, the Report of as strong and representative a Committee as could possibly be got together
§ *THE EARL OF RAVENSWORTH
My Lords, I have very few words to say, and in saying those few words I hope I shall be understood to speak with the highest possible respect and admiration which it is in my power to express for the services and patriotic feelings that inspire this body, whose zeal and energy have deserved every thanks. To hear the speeches of noble Lords it would be supposed that the Admiralty were going to throw a slur upon this corps, and to disband it; but there is no such intention. As far as I understand, they are invited to join or become embodied in a Service for which they are perfectly well qualified, instead of being encouraged to continue in a Service for which they are not qualified, and could not by any possibility qualify themselves. The noble Lord who has just spoken alluded to a very remarkable document which is appended to this Report of the Committee, namely, the document which describes the composition of this force; and it appears to me that it contains all sorts and conditions of men except the right sort for the services which they are supposed to perform. The members of the corps are of every trade and calling in the Kingdom, except those connected with the sea, and that fact shows their patriotic feeling, and that patriotism pervades every rank. High honour has on more than one occasion been given to the corps for their zeal and energy—honour which those who join it deserve to have paid them; but the fact remains that there are only 15 sailors in their whole number. When we couple with that fact the duties which the Admiralty would call upon these men to perform, I think the House will be a little 530 startled, remembering that it is only in times of emergency and war that these gentlemen will be called upon to act at all. They are to be called upon to aid in the defence of our coasts, and for service in the adjacent seas. What is the meaning of the "adjacent seas"? That is rather a large term. It would include, I presume, the Irish Channel, the Irish Sea, the Channel, and the North Sea round to the Pentland Firth. Before I sit down I shall have a word to say about the north-east coast in reference to this matter. Very eloquent speeches have been made—I have heard them—about this corps of Royal Naval Volunteers, and what an invaluable force it would be for meeting piratical raids made upon our coasts. Well, suppose the case of war with France—I do not like to particularise in such matters, but naturally the name of France occurs to one first as the nearest of our foreign neighbours. Those raiders would issue from all the ports of France. I should be very sorry indeed to think that any such body as this of my fellow-countrymen should be exposed to such a warfare as that, because, let me ask your Lordships to consider how such raiding vessel would be manned. Their crews wouls be drawn from the inhabitants of thd French coast. That is to say, a harde race of fishermen, second to none in thy world as sailors, would be manninge those ships. Those men are, I believe, all conscripts, and if a war broke out France could command every able-bodied man upon her coasts. Those are the sort of men that our landsmen in this corps, who are not sailors, and who cannot possibly be made sailors, would have to fight. A quarter of the whole force are clerks, as my noble Friend (Lord Elphinstone) has pointed out, who are tied to their desks during the whole course of the year. The conditions of such a warfare are so very startling that I think they only need to be mentioned for their inequality to be realised. On entering this corps the members are required to go to sea for a week during the year, and on renewing their service they are not required to go to sea at all. These men, being to a great extent clerks, naturally look upon joining a corps of this kind as a most agreeable recreation, and one which enables them to 531 display those active qualities which they possess; but, by reason of their vocation, they never can be sailors. Then, that being so, are you going to trust them to defend your coasts? However well they may be trained in gunnery or in harbour work, they clearly cannot, by any possibility, by reason of their situation in life, ever become sailors. To say that these gentlemen are to be opposed by able-bodied sailors is a startling proposition. It is not fair to the men themselves. Listening to the kind of speeches that have been made to-night one might suppose that the Admiralty are going to at once disband these men and to cast a slur upon them. But, no. They are only going to be asked to do that which they can do with comparative ease and very economically, namely, qualify themselves for acting with the Royal Marine Artillery. These men can qualify themselves perfectly for that duty, and they would be an invaluable force for assisting the Land Forces in protecting our harbours and ports, or in protecting our submarine mining stations or signal-stations. All those are duties which they are perfectly qualified to perform; but, for goodness' sake, do not let us enlist for the Service of the country in times of emergency and in times of danger a body of men who cannot by possibility acquire either their sea-legs or any knowledge whatever of sea life from the necessities of the case. I think that the proposition of this Committee, whose Report has been quoted from to your Lordships so largely by my noble Friend, and upon which Report the Admiralty are about to act, is an extremely wise proposition; and I hope these gentlemen will not feel it a slur at all, but that, on the contrary, they will be encouraged by it to join a branch of the Service the duties of which they are thoroughly capable of performing, and in which they can make themselves extremely useful. I am not speaking entirely without experience in this matter. There was, I remember, a great deal of enthusiasm shown for the corps of Royal Naval Volunteers when they were started, and my noble Friend opposite (Lord Brassey) deserves every credit as pioneer of this force. I said that I should have a few words to say about the north-east coast. Naturally enough it might be supposed that the north-east coast would be as 532 fine a recruiting ground for this sort of "amphibious service"—that was the phrase used—as could be found for the protection of our coasts. That was the idea entertained by those who were interested in the movement. We formed ourselves into an Association for supporting the movement, and it was highly patronised. I may mention that our Lord Lieutenant the Duke of Northumberland joined it at once, and one of our most distinguished members was Lord Armstrong. We had several meetings, and had a great deal of discussion, but we never could ascertain, much less settle, what it was we were to do, what we were to be, and what was to be the radius of our action. It is very difficult really to understand what this force could do except that which the Admiralty now proposes to ask them to do; and I do say that a more sensible proposition I have not heard made than that of inviting the men of this corps to qualify themselves for a Service which they can perform, and to become a valuable portion of that Service with great benefit to the country instead of remaining members of a corps in which, I venture to think, they can be of very little use indeed.
§ LORD BRASSEY
My Lords, as one of the original promoters of the Naval Volunteer movement, I hope I may be permitted very briefly to state my views; upon this matter, and to thank the noble Lord for bringing the changes now in contemplation under the consideration of your Lordships. In doing so it is-necessary to look back to the circumstances in which this movement originated. We are passing through a crisis, and the continued existence of the Naval Volunteers depends on the decision which the Admiralty are about to take on the recommendations of Sir George Tryon's Committee. The Naval Volunteer Force owes its origin to speeches delivered in London and Liverpool by Mr. Goschen, at the time First Lord of the Admiralty. Mr. Goschen applied to the ports to co-operate locally with the Admiralty for coast and harbour defence, proposing that if the ports would find the men, the Admiralty would provide the coast defence vessels required. Appeals to patriotism are rarely made in vain by British Ministers. Some young men in the Port of London were 533 aroused to action by Mr. Goschen's speeches. They wanted a spokesman in Parliament and they came to me. The difficulties which Sir George Tryon's Committee have pointed out were seen from the first; but enthusiasts do not recoil before difficulties. I communicated with Mr. Goschen, and the result was the passing of the Naval Volunteer Act, and the enrolment of the four existing brigades of Naval Volunteers for the Thames, the Mersey, Bristol, and the Clyde. Now, the question we have to consider is this: Are we justified in regarding the force which has been raised as a force of practical value? It was never contemplated that the Volunteers were to be efficient as bluejackets, and they were not enrolled as bluejackets. They were enrolled as gunners, and as gunners they have proved themselves to be thoroughly efficient. In small vessels (excluding torpedo boats) and in the ironclads for coast and Channel defence, the Volunteers, led by a few seamen, would be able to undertake the greater part of the general duties. Every year a considerable number of these Naval Volunteers have been sent to sea in gunboats, and all the Reports which I have had the opportunity of seeing from the officers in command, some of whom have had three months of continuous cruising with Volunteer crews, have been most satisfactory. All those officers have spoken in the most favourable terms of the efficiency of the Volunteers. Not only may it be claimed for the Naval Volunteers that they would be efficient as gunners on board ship, but—and here I must differ from the noble Lord who spoke for the Admiralty in the opinion which he expressed to the contrary—these Volunteers would be useful for the duties which are discharged by the coastguard. If the Volunteers can be relied upon for service afloat as Marine Artillery, and ashore to take the place of the coastguard when embarked, the existence of the force is completely vindicated, and it would be equally impolitic and unpopular to disband it. I would also venture to urge that they might act as signalmen. Signalling duties have been shown in recent naval manœuvres to be duties of great importance on the coast; and, as signalmen, I cannot doubt that the Naval Volunteers could be trained to render highly efficient service, the Volunteers being, of course, asso- 534 ciated with a certain number of experienced seamen pensioners who could be told off for those duties. I entirely concur in the opinion which the Committee have expressed, that for service in the torpedo boats the Naval Volunteers would not be efficient. If in any patriotic scheme for naval mobilisation the services of these Volunteers can be utilised afloat in the capacity of Marine Artillery, and to do efficient duty ashore as signalmen in co-operation with seamen pensioners, it seems to me the corps should not be disbanded, but maintained, that corps having been called into existence in response to an appeal made to the country by a First Lord of the Admiralty. The only serious objection I have ever heard against the Naval Volunteers being called upon to perform the duties I have mentioned is that they are too good for the work, and I can quite recognise that in ordinary circumstances it would be a waste of power to employ, for instance, barristers in considerable practice, and clerks in banks to do the duties of gunners on board ship; but in the event of great emergencies arising, such an emergency as has been supposed of an enemy appearing at the Nore, I venture to say that every man who could render some efficient service, whether afloat or ashore in resisting the enemy, would be in his place and would go on active service. In considering this subject it should not be left out of sight that large bodies of Naval Volunteers, organised on the model of the Naval Volunteers at home, have been enrolled at several ports in Australia, and at Calcutta. I have myself had an opportunity of personally inspecting the fine naval brigades—as many as 500 men at a time—which have been raised both in Melbourne and Sydney, whose enrolment was due to the initiative, and to the example set by the Naval Volunteers at home. If any change should be made which would lead to the disbanding of our force of Naval Volunteers at home the effect will be felt in the colonies, and thus an auxiliary force of considerable value for many purposes and costing little would be lost to the Empire. Assuming that the services of the Volunteers are to be retained, what changes are required in the status and organisation of the force? The principal change which seems to me to be required is a change 535 of name, and I should certainly recommend that the Volunteers should recognise their true position in any practical scheme of mobilisation by accepting the change of name which is proposed for them by the Committee, from Naval to Marine Artillery. In the training of the force it seems to me that the change needed in the existing arrangements is comparatively unimportant. In the present arrangements for training the only change which I should recommend would be a short course of gunnery annually at Portsmouth in substitution for the cruises in obsolete gunboats which cost money to fit out for the service. In the non-essentials of relative rank and uniform I should recommend that the changes should be as few as possible. It does not seem to me to be at all necessary to discourage the nautical spirit by putting the Naval Volunteers into a military uniform or giving to their officers a military rank. As to the future strength, it should, I think, be raised to 5,000 by acceding to applications, which have long been before the Admiralty, for permission to raise brigades for the Forth and the Humber. The changes which I have recommended being so slight, it may be asked, Why make any change whatever if it be distasteful or likely to cause any feeling of disappointment among the Volunteers? My answer is that during my five years' service at the Admiralty I lost no opportunity of pressing upon