HL Deb 25 May 1900 vol 83 cc1229-71

My Lords, in calling attention to the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War relating to the Army Estimates for 1900 to 1901, now upon the Table of the House, I trust I may be following a course agreeable to your Lordships. On some features in the † See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxx., Appendix I. present campaign we may, I think, congratulate the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War. It is probable that in no previous war have our soldiers been better fed and better clothed. It is certain that no British army in the field has ever been bettor doctored and better nursed. We may, I think, go further, and congratulate the noble Marquess on the excellence with which, so far as it goes, our military system has worked. But we have no excuse for missing the true significance of the war. The lesson of the war is not the failure, but the inadequacy of our military system. We have every reason to hope that the moment is not now far distant when, guided by bitter experience, we may organise a comprehensive scheme for the defence of the whole Empire, a scheme conceived, I trust, not with a view to voluminous reports, but prompt action. It is manifest that until the moment of reconstruction arrives any proposals of Her Majesty's Government must be of a temporary character. The Memorandum deals with certain temporary measures for home defence. Two of these are new departures of much present importance, and of still greater value for the future reconstruction of our military materials. The first is the formation of the Royal Reserve battalions. The longer short service endures, the greater will be the number of men in the country who have passed through both the Army and the Army Reserve. These Royal Reserve battalions will show the hold which the State can keep on this body of trained men, and their quality when they return to the colours. I hope the noble Marquess's account of the Royal Reserve battalions will justify the future consideration of a pension for men who, by serving in the Army, the Army Reserve, and in a home defence Reserve, hold themselves at the disposal of the State for twenty-five years. The second temporary measure for home defence is the partial embodiment of the Volunteer force. In February last the Secretary of State for War mentioned that the whole Volunteer force was to be embodied for a period of twenty-eight days. The extreme gravity of the situation in the early part of February is fresh in your Lordships' recollections. It was a situation upon which we do not care to dwell, but which it would be culpable to forget. Yet the announcement of the noble Marquess at that particular moment of the proposed embodiment of the Volunteer force was not received with entire satisfaction. A strong opinion was expressed by those best qualified to judge that to ask the Volunteers to serve for twenty-eight consecutive days was to demand from them a duty which they were incapable of rendering to the State. For this reason, no doubt, this Memorandum gives some greater latitude to the Volunteers. Twenty-eight days is considered a desirable period, but the capitation grant will be obtained by any Volunteer corps of which half the strength spends fourteen days in camp. Officers and men will be paid at Army rates, and for this fortnight of soldiering will receive in addition a capitation grant of two guineas a man. For those corps who did not fancy the emergency scheme an Easter outing has been provided. I regret that the original plan of embodying the whole force for twenty-eight days has been departed from, but I would suspend all judgment upon the Volunteers until the end of this year, when we shall be in a position to appreciate at their true value the services rendered by the Volunteer force to the country during the present war. We shall then be able to judge of the Volunteer force both for home defence and for foreign service. I feel sure that the Volunteer companies which have gone on active service to South Africa will do all that is asked of them. There is no doubt about that. The question is one of numbers. I understand from a statement made by the noble Marquess before Easter that sixty-seven companies were asked for for active service, fifty-six were obtained, and that 7,000 Volunteers were sent to South Africa. It was decided that an equal number of waiting companies should be maintained at home, but in March last only four such companies had come forward. It would be interesting to learn from the noble Marquess if many Volunteers failed to pass the medical examination for foreign service. The Volunteer force has never, so far as I am aware, been subject to any medical examination, and I would suggest to the noble Marquess the desirability for such an examination at the present moment. There can be no reason why every member of the force should not be required to attend at headquarters for medical examination. This attendance will serve as a roll call for the whole force. Any member not appearing should be struck off the strength. Before we commence the work of reconstruction let us be sure of the soundness of the material with which we build. If I understand the history of the Volunteer force rightly, the services of its members were originally intended to be a free gift to the nation from men who were able to afford the time and also the money necessary to make the force self-supporting. That is not the character of the force now. To some extent the Volunteers belong to the same class as the Militia and the Line. Last year this force cost the country £624,000. In this year of emergency the cost will be £1,230,000. The whole of the Militia is now embodied. Perhaps the noble Marquess could tell us the number of Militiamen now serving with the colours at home, excluding all men liable for service with the Line, and also the number of regimental officers required to complete the establishment of Militia battalions at home, excluding all officers serving away from their battalions, but not seconded. Some extra bounties are offered to men to re-engage. A system of bounties is no doubt the quickest way of securing a return in the shape of men during a time of emergency, but bounties carry with them the inseparable evil of a strong temptation to a prompt and reckless expenditure. I should prefer to see in the future separation allowances for the wives and families of married Militiamen. It is not possible for a married Militiaman to send home any adequate allowance to his wife and family during the annual training. Some changes are proposed of a more permanent character. Militia recruits are to be trained for a period of six months instead of three months—an alteration, in my opinion, of doubtful benefit. I apprehend that this doubled period of preliminary drill will cause greater loss in recruits than gain in efficiency. It is proposed to form a reserve for the Militia by allowing men to purchase into the Reserve at a low rate, and with this scheme I cordially concur, but I should add the obligation of a few days annual attendance to fire a certain number of rounds upon the range. To make that plan a real success means a distinctly new departure on the part of the War Office. It means that the War Office must make it their business to study in a commonsense manner the convenience of these men. The men should go to the range nearest their homes, and at the moment when their particular employment is least urgent. If they preferred to do so, they could fire their rounds in plain clothes, and then walk off home, or, if they liked, they could come into camp or barracks for a few days. Of course they must be paid, and, if married, they should receive a separation allowance. It is not reasonable to expect any man to starve his family because he has to give up work and go to target practice at some place most remote from his home. I gather that there is to be some alteration, but I must refer to the noble Marquess for the exact nature, in the enlistment of the Militia. There is great need of change in this direction. Your Lordships are aware that there are now three distinct conditions of service in the Militia. There is the Militia proper, the Militia Reserve, and the Special Service Section of the Militia. These are three distinct conditions of service, but the same man may engage to fulfil them all three. The Militia Reserve and the Special Service Section of the Militia offer certain bounties to men willing to incur liabilities for foreign service. But there are men who, for perfectly good, honest reasons, do not consider themselves justified in accepting the risks of service abroad. They therefore enlist in the Militia proper for home service, and refuse to take the bounties offered for foreign service. Many such men have lately found themselves over the seas without having in the past shared in the bounties offered in respect of liabilities which they considered they were not justified in accepting. Your Lordships admire the manner in which the Militia has volunteered for active service. The difficulties of Her Majesty's Government would have been vastly increased had they not done so. But I dislike the plan of enlisting a man for one service, and inviting him, I may say expecting him, under circumstances where a refusal is not easy, to change the whole nature of his enlistment. The Militia wants more than 50,000 men to complete its present establishment, and, 8,000 being returned as absent without leave and not accounted for, the real deficit is nearly 30,000. I am not in the least surprised at this deficit. On the other hand, I marvel at the strength of the Militia, considering the wet-blanket liberality of the War Office towards that force. It is proposed to raise some of the Militia battalions lately disbanded, in order that all Line battalions shall have their proper complement of Militia. Therefore, 35,000 men are required to complete the proposed establishment of the Militia. To raise this force to its full authorised strength should be one of the first objects of the military authorities. The Militia—a paid, regularly disciplined, trained, and medically inspected force—cost the country last year less than the Volunteers. This year the Militia is to cost more by a million than the Volunteers. If war, as these Estimates show, quadruples the value of the Militia, why starve the force in times of peace? The Militia is constantly informed that the War Office is most anxious to do all that it can to promote its welfare. The tongue is free, but the hand is tight. To illustrate my point, I will venture to make a suggestion to the noble Marquess. It is that Militia sergeant-majors should be allowed the rank of warrant officers. The pay and allowance of Militia sergeant-majors are about 2s. per diem less than those of a warrant officer in the Line. The widow of a warrant officer of more than five years service is also entitled to a pension, but not so the widow of a Militia sergeant-major. These differences in the matter of pay and pension are in themselves very serious to Militia sergeant-majors, but what they feel far more keenly is the loss of the rank. A warrant officer of only one day's rank is senior to a Militia sergeant-major who has held that rank for more than twenty years. I believe that on embodiment Militia and Line sergeant-majors draw the same pay and allowances, but this is not where the shoe pinches. It is the loss of the rank of warrant officer. Many Line bandmasters are now attached to Militia battalions. A Line bandmaster is a warrant officer, and, therefore, of a superior rank to the Militia sergeant-major. I admit that the duties! of a Militia sergeant-major during part of the year may be light, but during the training or embodiment they require more determination and discretion than those of a Line sergeant-major, because! Militiamen do not live all the year round under military discipline. A man who is not fit by past service in the Line for the rank of warrant officer is not fit to be sergeant-major of a Militia battalion. I venture to suggest to the noble Marquess the advisability of giving to Militia sergeant-majors the rank of warrant officers. The clothing and equipment of Militia battalions are annually reported upon by their commanding officers, with whom the responsibility rests of noting any articles unfit for service. My experience, however, is that to report an article as unserviceable ensures a voluminous correspondence and nothing more. For example, the water-bottle now carried by the Militia is of wood, and known as the Italian pattern. It has proved most unsatisfactory in the Regular Army, and for that reason has been passed on to the Militia. Yet the transference of a faulty equipment does not alter its character. I am well acquainted with some hundreds of these bottles, and can only describe them as a dummy equipment. A sham equipment is not calculated to impress Militiamen with the idea of the high value attached to their services by the military authorities. I cannot refrain from bringing to the notice of the noble Marquess a matter in connection with the clothing of the Militia. I am sincerely glad to say that it is the cause of many decent lads not joining the Militia. It is the practice of making Militia recruits succeed to the trousers of their predecessors. Trousers which have been in use in the battalion for three years must complete their fourth year of service on the recruit. I hope the noble Marquess may see his way to ending this disgusting practice, and allowing the Militia recruit new and clean clothing upon joining, the same as in the Line, especially at the present moment when the Militia is embodied. A Line recruit is allowed a blue serge frock and trousers which can be used for fatigue work, whereas a Militiaman must provide his own dress for fatigues or else spoil his better clothing, which ought to be kept clean for the purposes of drill and parades. I hope the noble Marquess may be able to see his way to treating the Militia in the same manner as the Line in this respect. The Militia takes over the cast-off equipment of the Line. That which is not good enough for the Line is plenty good enough for the Militia. This strikes the keynote not of the estimation professed by the War Office for the Militia, but of the action pursued by them towards that force. The Militia must be inferior in training to the Line. It would be very discreditable to the Line if such were not the case. It would mean that the Line wasted eleven months of the year. But action which marks that inferiority exercises a depressing influence upon the Militia and checks the development of the full value of that force. Since 1870 four Acts of Parliament have dealt with the Militia, all in the direction of making the Militia into extra battalions of the Line. As the result the Militia is now closely allied with the Line. At the present moment the Militia is certainly not being used as an auxiliary force for home defence. The greater part of the Militia is abroad and upon active service in South Africa. We are informed that the connection between the Militia and the Line is to be made yet more complete in the future. This Memorandum strengthens that connection in an original manner by severing the Militia from the Line for purposes of administration, and placing it in a separate department under the same head as the Volunteers, a force dissimilar in character and origin. Passing to the Regular Army we see a change of a permanent character in relation to numbers. It is proposed to add seven batteries of horse artillery, thirty-six batteries of field artillery, and twelve battalions of infantry, which, together with some increases of the Royal Engineers and the Army Service Corps, would represent 30,000 more men. The Memorandum shows the number of battalions at home and abroad in June last. In that statement there is a heading " battalions authorised but not yet raised;, three." Will the noble Marquess say anything as to the probable future of this heading? How many battalions will it include next year, and for how many years will "battalions authorised, but not yet raised" be added to the strength of the Army as the three here mentioned are added? If the Army and the Militia cannot be brought up to their present strength, how is it possible to add 65,000 men? The Government propose to do this, but they omit to say how. No doubt recruiting will go on briskly this year, but a temporary accession, born of a, moment of much military enthusiasm, coupled with the lowering of the standard and a larger acceptance of specials, cannot be reckoned a permanent source of supply. In the paragraph of the Memorandum relating to recruiting your Lordships will note that in 1896 there were 28,532 recruits, whereas in 1899 there were 42,700. In 1896 the standard was 5 feet 4 inches; in 1899 it was 5 feet 3½ inches. At present it is 5 feet 3 inches. In 1896 there were 18 per cent. of specials, but in 1899 specials were 34 per cent.; that is to say, one-third of the whole of the recruits enlisted did not come up to the standard of 5 feet 3½ inches, in 1899 there was a lower standard by half an inch, and, which is far more important, it was departed from to nearly twice the extent of 1896. One is inclined to ask of what use is a standard of physical development for recruits if it is disregarded to the extent of one-third of the whole number enlisted. The noble Marquess told us in February last that the number of soldiers of the Regular Army then at home was 110,000, 98,000 serving with the colours, and 12,000 in the Reserve. Since then the Eighth Division has been sent abroad. I do not know the exact number of the Eighth Division, or how many Reservists were required to bring the regiments up to war strength. There must, however, still remain upwards of 90,000 men of the Regular Army at home. If this force of 90,000 men of the Regular Army at home is in any sense a field army, why is it necessary to raise Royal Reserve battalions for home defence? Why have the duties of the Militia and the Regular Army been transposed, 90,000 men of the Regular Army remaining at home, and the Militia going abroad and upon active service in South Africa? Why has the garrison of India been dangerously depleted, and why should the military member of the Viceroy's Council not contemplate any repayment of the forces withdrawn at such an inopportune moment for India for the next six months? I fear the explanation is that the soldiers of the Regular Army at home are not men, but boys, and small boys without the strength, the training, equipment, and organisation of a field army. The Regular Army at home consists principally of details—that is, the odds and ends left behind by regiments who hare gone abroad. These details are left behind on account of their extreme youth and general unfitness. They are very numerous, but I need not detain your Lordships by describing their organisation, because they have none. The usual course of dealing with those details is to attach them to a Militia battalion, greatly to the detriment of the Militia battalion. These details, then, often amounting to more than 500 men, but with not more than three or four officers, are dumped down with a Militia battalion, and the whole mass is left to work out its own organisation. It may not be desirable to examine too closely into the quality of the men and the composition of the Regular Army now at home, but it is certainly not for the public interest to credit our present Army system with being able to carry on the war in South Africa, to maintain our garrisons all the world over at then-proper strength, and to leave a Regular Army of 90,000 men at home. The large number of the Regular Army now at home is partly explained by the paragraph dealing with recruiting. Since 1896 we have been enlisting an ever increasing percentage of the special brand of recruit. It is hardly, I think, a sufficient explanation to say that if you enlist boys of eighteen of course you must keep them at home until they reach, twenty, the age for foreign service As far as I am aware, no attempt at accuracy is made in ascertaining the age of recruits upon enlistment, or subsequently in ageing lads for foreign service. A recruit is aged not by his birth certificate but by his declaration on attestation. Many lads enlisting in the Army and the Militia are really ignorant of their age. A recruit may be a special for age as well as for size. If a boy says he thinks he is seventeen years old but has the appearance of eighteen then he can be enlisted as a special for age. I do not know how the age for foreign service —namely, twenty—is arrived at. Is the noble Marquess prepared to say that a medical officer would feel bound to pass or reject a lad for foreign service on account of his supposed age on attestation? A new term is greatly needed to describe what is now erroneously called the first Army Reserve. By the term "reserve" is meant a certain quantity of men, money, or material withheld from present use for future need. But that is not the case with the men of the Army Reserve. It is their part to supersede the immature lads of the Regular Army at home, and to proceed in the first instance abroad. The greater number of the men serving with the colours remain at home, and the Reservists take their place as the first fighting line. Hence the term "reserve" is not only incorrect, but mischievously misleading. The War Office can and does do most extraordinary things with Her Majesty's Army, but it cannot alter the meaning of the Queen's English. Soon it will be necessary to have a key to terms in use at the War Office. For instance, the Army Reserve means the first fighting line. Men of the Regular Army serving with the colours at home mean immature lads to be left behind when the battalions go on service. The Militia Reserve means a body of men belonging to the Reserve of the Regular Army. An auxiliary force for home defence means the Militia, a great part of which is now abroad and on active service in South Africa. A home station means Gibraltar, many hundreds of miles over the sea. Looking for one moment to the future of Imperial defence, I can only see a choice between three plans. The first, to risk the safety of the Empire by continuing with an Army numerically inadequate for the duties which it is called upon to perform. The second, which I regard as absolutely a last resort, to enforce conscription, the only possible form of which in this country is universal, recognising no class distinctions and admitting no system of substitutes. The last, to substantially increase the pay of the Regular Army and Militia. It is, my Lords, to an increase in pay to which I look for that increase in the quality and quantity of the raw material which the military needs of the Empire now demand. But in dealing with the question of pay it is useless to proceed by a two penny-halfpenny or even a threepenny policy, substituting for the old deferred pay an increase of 3d. per diem, giving to the Militiamen 3d. per diem for their messing, the same as in the Line, offering to the three years men 3d. extra per diem. If we are to realise the results which it is essential we should obtain, it is a question of increasing the daily pay of the non-commissioned officers and men of the Regular Army and of the Militia not by pence and halfpence, but by sixpences and shillings.


My Lords, I rise to call the attention of the Secretary of State for War to the correspondence between the War Office and a committee of the lieutenancy of the county of Ayr (21st November, 1899) relative to sug- gestions as to improving the recruiting of the county Militia, the 3rd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers. I am placed at a great disadvantage in rising to address the House after the brilliant speech to which we have just listened, but I feel that the matter to which I am about to call attention is one worthy of the consideration of your Lordships. The circumstances under which the correspondence took place are these. The General Officer Commanding in Scotland having, through the officer commanding the twenty-first regimental district, approached the Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire as to appointing a Militia Committee in the county, with the object of raising the local Militia regiment up to the required standard in numbers, a meeting of deputy lieutenants and others was held on 21st November, when a committee of the lieutenancy was appointed with powers. A sub-committee was afterwards selected to draw up a report. I wish to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that this sub-committee of the lieutenancy was composed of officers who have served for many years in the county Militia, and who were thoroughly acquainted with its necessities. I do not intend to take up the time of your Lordships by reading the report, but I will give a short resume of its contents. We began by stating that there had been a gradual decline in the strength of the regiment for many years, and after pointing out that the prosperous state of trade i was probably against recruiting, we drew attention to the present system of training Militia recruits in barracks as one of the principal causes of the falling off in recruiting. We went on to say that— At one time there were practically no cases of enlisting in the Line through the Militia; now about an average of forty men do so annually. In this district during the winter an average of about 200 men join the Militia, and attend at Ayr depôt for drill. Of these about forty enlist in the Line, only about thirty-five turn up at the assembly of the Militia, and the remainder are never accounted for. It is asserted that the public consider the training of the Militia recruits in barracks a trap to induce them to enlist in the Line, and to this end the military authorities have sacrificed the interests of the Militia. The committee recommend that the system of preliminary training in regimental depots should be abolished, and that Militia recruits should in future be trained under their own officers and per- manent staff at some place separate and distinct from the regimental depot. We then referred to the withdrawal of "bringing money" and "half bounty," formerly paid on attestation. I do not propose to enlarge on this matter, except to point out that since the cutting off of these allowances to the recruit and recruiter, and the practice of drilling recruits at the depot at any period of the year, it has been found impossible to get sufficient recruits for the preliminary drill in camp. The committee recommended the re-institution of these allowances. We also criticised the recruiting for the Militia by Volunteer sergeant-instructors and Yeomanry squadron-sergeant-majors. We pointed out that these officers think of their own regiments and not of the requirements of the Militia, and we went on to recommend that the permanent staff of the Militia should ordinarily reside in the recruiting centres throughout the county so as to become acquainted with the people and more in touch with the class from which they wish to recruit for their own regiment. We think this an important recommendation. We then complain of the clothing. As the noble Duke has referred to the trousers of the Militia, I shall not take up your Lordships' time on that part of the subject; but I consider that the tunics require just as much to be renewed as the trousers. We go on to deplore the difficulty now experienced in the county in finding officers for the Militia, and we point out that in our own county there are nearly 2,500 men serving in the Yeomanry cavalry, two and a half battalions of infantry Volunteers, and six batteries of Volunteer artillery, for which great difficulty has been experienced in finding officers. We finally recommended that no officer transferred to the Militia from the Army should be eligible for field rank unless he held a qualification by residence in, or connection with, the county, or was otherwise considered by the Lord Lieutenant to be a suitable officer to succeed to the command. These, my Lords, were the recommendations which were drawn up and sent to the General Officer Commanding in Scotland, and of which we sent a copy to the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War. I now turn to the War Office reply, which practically traverses all our recommendations, and that being the case, the committee of the lieutenancy, on re- ceiving the reply from the War Office, made up their minds that they would not proceed further with any correspondence on this matter. I, together with one or two of my friends, did not feel quite satisfied that nothing else could be done. We first hoped that this would be brought before the House of Commons, but, failing that, it has devolved upon me to do my best to lay it before your Lordships. I will now give you the purport of the reply from the Secretary of State for War. The noble Marquess, after thanking the committee with his usual courtesy, directed that we should be informed, with regard to the statement as to training Militia recruits in barracks being unpopular, that it was hardly borne out by facts or experience, as the recruiting for the battalion has not, on the whole, fallen off, 129 recruits having been raised in 1895, 181 in 1896, 196 in 1897, 220 in 1898, and 156 in 1899. But our contention is that in all probability we would have had a great many more recruits, or, at any rate, that we would have kept the recruits we already had. This is actually admitted in the next paragraph of the War Office reply, which is as follows— The number of absentees from the training is decidedly high, and no satisfactory explanation is forthcoming. The number of recruits joining the Line through the Militia is not abnormally high, taking into consideration the number of recruits raised annually. The theory that the training of Militia recruits in barracks is considered a trap to induce them to enlist in the Line is hardly consistent with the fact that the take of recruits has not diminished on the whole. My Lords, the explanation why the number of recruits who do not attend the training is decidedly high is that during the winter, when work is slack, men go to the barracks for preliminary drill, but when the summer comes, being a class who only make a convenience of the barracks during the winter, they do not come back again. We still hold to the opinion that training in barracks is unsatisfactory, and that it will not encourage men to join the Militia. The part of the War Office reply to which we take the most objection is the following— It is not considered practicable to adopt a system of preliminary training away from depots, or to train Militia recruits under their own officers at places away from the depots. The Ayrshire Regiment has been in the habit of training away from barracks for thirty-five years, and it is only during the last four years that it has been obliged to train in barracks. How can it be considered inpracticable to do what this regiment has done for so many years? I presume the stress in the sentence should be laid on the word "system," but why should there be a hard-and-fast rule? Counties differ, and why should not that course be retained which experience in the past has proved to be satisfactory? The following figures will show the difference between the two systems of training, at any rate in the Ayrshire Regiment. To begin with, in 1889 the strength of the regiment was 850, and in 1899 its strength was only 490. During all that time training occurred in barracks. But, more than that, since the adoption of the new system it has been the rule that, if seventy-five recruits could be produced at the usual time for forming camps for preliminary training, a camp might still be formed for Militia recruits under their own officers with their own adjutant and drill instructors. The last year when that number could be produced was 1896, since which all have been drilled in barracks. For the purposes of comparison I take the figures of 1896 and compare them with those of 1899. The following is the result. In 1896 the establishment was 786. The absentees and deserters numbered seventy-five, reducing the strength to or a loss of about 10 per cent. In 1899 the establishment was 610. The absentees numbered 131, reducing the strength to 479, or a loss of over 20 per cent. Although we admit that there are many causes which have tended to a reduction in the number of recruits, there can be no doubt that the drilling of Militia in barracks is the great cause of the falling off in the numbers of that force. I trust the noble Marquess will kindly give his consideration to this matter at his leisure.


My Lords, I would not trouble your Lordships with any observations this evening if I did not feel that I could say something with reference to what has fallen from the noble Lord who has just sat down which might be of interest. The regiment which was commanded by my noble friend the Earl of Galloway was 1,200 strong when I knew it twenty years ago, and it maintained its strength until the unfortu- nate regulation came into force which provided that recruits, instead of going in camp for three months or two months before the regiment came out, and being drilled by their own officers, should be sent to the depot. I will instance another regiment—the Highland Borderers. That regiment fell from 800 strong to 400 when the recruits were drilled in barracks and not in camp. On the other hand, I was able to maintain my regiment over 1,000 strong and to send it out to South Africa over 900 strong. Why was this? Because by a merciful act of Providence we could not send our recruits to the depot at Stirling, and always drilled them in camp two months before the regiment came out. The reason recruits are lost after enlistment is very easy to explain. Recruits when they come down to camp every year become known to the officers, to the adjutant, and to the whole of the staff, and by the time they are drilled they are ear-marked, so to speak, and find it difficult to desert. Militia recruits dislike being drilled in a depot, because they are not drilled under their own officers, and are looked down upon by the Line. During the whole time I had the honour of representing the county of Renfrew in another place I continually urged the desirability of the regiment having its own recruits with it, but I always received the same answer— namely, that it could not be done. But it is done in the case of my own regiment, and we always keep up our numbers. I do think that in this emergency, when we wish to get every good recruit we can for the Reserve forces, we should ask the War Office to adopt the methods most calculated to attract recruits. At present the habits of the Militia recruits are not studied; and a reversion to the old plan would, in my opinion, have a good effect upon recruiting. It may not be necessary to make a hard-and-fast rule, for in some districts colonels may find it desirable to drill in depots. But I do hope the noble Marquess will turn his attention to this question, and, if possible, revert to a system which always gave a good number of recruits to the Militia regiments.


My Lords, I venture to emphasise the necessity that exists at the present moment for adopting a scheme which may have the effect of securing more recruits both for the Regular Army and the Reserve forces. It may be hoped that some of the regiments now in South Africa will soon be coming home, and I am afraid it will be found that they will be greatly depleted by the withdrawal of the time-expired men, the men suffering from illness, and the Reservists; and an almost unprecedented condition of things will have to be faced. It must be remembered that the growing calls on recruiting will be further increased by the necessity of maintaining for some years to come a larger force in South Africa than has been usual; and it is difficult to see how the number required can be obtained except by increasing the advantages of the service, and by the British taxpayers dipping their hands still deeper into their pockets. I hope that the noble Marquess will seriously consider the question. The noble Marquess does not in the Memorandum go very far into the subject of recruiting. As has been said, we are now at the very height of the war fever, but before very long the country will get back to its normal temperature, and then it cannot be expected that much above the average number of recruits is likely to be obtained. If that is so, I am afraid it will be extremely difficult to get sufficient men to fill up the regiments now in South Africa, and to replace the men drawn from India and the colonies. I would ask the noble Marquess whether anything more definite has been decided with regard to the additional twelve Line battalions mentioned in the Memorandum issued in February. I think the country would be glad to know if it has been decided from what districts the additional battalions are to be raised, and, if so, whether those districts are selected on any regular system, or whether they are taken solely because they are the best for recruiting purposes, which, perhaps, is most essential. I am sure it is your Lordships' wish, as well as that of the country, that we should have not a phantom Army, but a most real, practical, and businesslike Army.


My Lords, I rise to emphasise the complaint which has been made of the treatment to which the Militia are subjected by the War Office, which, as the noble Duke (the Duke of Bedford) said, is extremely generous in words, but not so generous in deeds. Questions such as those of rank have been most deeply and bitterly felt by the officers of the entire Militia force. I wish to call your Lordships' attention particularly to quartermasters of embodied Militia. Quartermasters of Militia are officers who have been selected from the non-commissioned ranks for the extremely good work they have done whilst in the Army, and it surely cannot be the intention of the War Office that those excellent officers should be heavily mulcted when having to do extra duty during the embodiment of Militia. These men in nine cases out of ten have to go from home, and are crippled financially thereby. A small amount would put this matter right, and the quartermasters would be grateful. I would ask the noble Marquess to extend to them the 4s. messing allowance given during regular training, or allow them to participate in the —100 given to Militia officers when disembodied. There is another class of officer for whom I would ask the noble Marquess to do something. I refer to the officer who has retired from the Army with half-pay for ten years for service in the Militia. On the embodiment of the Militia he loses his half-pay, so that an officer who has retired into the Militia with ten years half-pay on condition of serving in the Militia if embodied, only receives nine and a half years half-pay instead of ten years, if the Militia is embodied for six months. I would suggest to the noble Marquess that the half-pay should be extended by a number of months equivalent to the period during which the regiment had been embodied I join with my noble friend the Duke of Bedford in urging that the rank of warrant officer should be given to the Militia sergeant-major. This is a point upon which the permanent staff of the Militia feel most strongly. With regard to recruiting for the Militia, I desire to bear my humble testimony to the fact that the question of preliminary drill is a most important one. I know that the War Office have been in favour of drilling on enlistment, because they are enabled in that way to induce a number of Militia recruits to go into the Regular Army. This has been fatal to the numbers of Militia recruits, and I have known many regiments to be utterly ruined by this practice. Another matter in which the Militia has been treated badly is that of tents. When my regiment was embodied on the 1st May—the weather was not altogether pleasant—we had tents issued to us at the rate of one tent for every twelve men. I believe the scale of camping equipment has been revised since, and that we are to get one tent for every ten men, but this is a most inadequate number. While one tent is supplied for every three men in the Yeomanry, one for every ten men in the Militia is considered sufficient. Moreover, the Militia are not entitled to any tent boards, although the Yeomanry and Volunteers receive them. I do not know whether this difference is due to the Militia being considered extra hardy, or whether they are not thought worthy of tent boards.


My Lords, I quite agree with what has fallen from many noble Lords with regard to the Militia; and as to drilling, I think that drilling with the regiment is of far more value than drilling at the depot. But it seems to me that in this, as in many other things connected with the Militia, and perhaps with the Army also, one great solution of the difficulty is to give more discretion to the commanding officers. If the War Office would but recognise this elementary fact, that a man is either fit to command a regiment or he is not, if they would put confidence in the commanding officer and give him the utmost discretion in the drilling of his recruits and in other matters connected with Militia management, and then deal severely with him if the results were not satisfactory, I believe the force would gain enormously. I desire to refer to the practice touched upon by the noble Duke (the Duke of Bedford) of practically compelling men who have engaged for one form of service to join in another. I am quite willing to admit—I should be the first to admit—that everyone of us is bound to engage in whatever service is necessary for the defence and the welfare of the country, but I venture to say that an Army system which can only meet occasions like the present by appealing to men to embark in a service which they never contemplated when they engaged is not satisfactory, and ought to be altered. It seems to me—although, of course, it is not intentionally so—a cowardly and unfair thing to do. You dare not ask your Militiaman or your Volunteer when you enlist him to engage for foreign service, because you know he has other ties and other duties which forbid his undertaking this responsibility, so you engage him upon one understanding and come down at a time of emergency and appeal to his moral feeling, to his sense of honour, patriotism, and courage, and you say to him, "You cannot refuse to go to the front." You call it volunteering, but it is compulsion, and it is the best men who feel the compulsion most. There are many good men who did not volunteer to go to the front, and I contend that a man who, knowing that he has those at home dependent on his labour, consents to bear the odium which may attach to refusing to volunteer, shows a great deal of moral courage, and ought to be praised rather than blamed. If such wars as that in which we are now engaged and wars of a similar kind are to be regarded as emergencies of a character to justify this course being taken, then your Army system is a bad one and should be amended. I am afraid the evil will be a very far-reaching one. The Government are now proposing to raise a force of retired Volunteers who are only to be liable for home service. This is an admirable proposition, but I can conceive some retired officers asking what guarantee have they for relying upon the word of the Government that they will only be asked to engage in the defence of their country, seeing that other home forces have been invited to volunteer for service abroad. I am sure of this, that by their action in regard to the Militia and the Volunteers the Government are endangering these very valuable forces for home defence. There are many men and officers who might otherwise feel themselves justified in joining the Militia or Volunteers, but who will feel in future that, if these claims are to be put upon them in time of war, their other duties are too important to allow of their engaging in the service. Your Lordships should remember that there is a considerable number of young men of spirit who would join the Army itself if they did not feel that there was some very good reason for their not going abroad in time of war, and therefore the very best officers you would get for the Militia you will lose if you leave them to suppose that they may be sent out of the country in time of war, practically by compulsion. I trust the noble Marquess will be able to give us some assurance that the Army system in the future will be so constituted that these dangers will not arise.


After the able and clear speech of the noble Duke, I shall limit the few remarks which I am going to make to the one branch of the service that has not yet been touched upon. I refer to the future position of the cavalry. The cavalry is referred to in the Memorandum of the noble Marquess in two lines. The noble Marquess states that— Four cavalry regiments will be formed from men of the Reserve squadrons, now in this country, of cavalry regiments abroad. That means that it is proposed to take the men from the Reserve squadrons of those regiments now in South Africa, and therefore it does not appear to me that you are adding one single man to the cavalry. You are going to add a field officer or two, perhaps, but the men will be the men who ought to be in the fourth squadrons now left at home; and, after all, they are not very efficient. They are the men who have been left at home because they have not passed the medical examination, or because they are recruits or under age. I think it would be well, if your Lordships would allow me, to state what was the position of the cavalry before the present war broke out. We then had nominally thirty-one regiments of cavalry on the foreign and home service. So far as the officers were concerned, they were more or less complete. Each regiment had its colonel, its four majors, its five captains, and about a dozen or fourteen subalterns; but in regard to men and horses, there was not one solitary regiment on the home establishment which could put two complete and effective squadrons in the field. Each regiment had, I believe, about 650 men, rank and file, but only about 400 horses, including remounts and young horses. It must be apparent that a cavalry soldier is only useful as long as he has a horse, and, therefore, the real strength of each of these regiments—the number of useful men—was limited to 400. When a squadron goes on service its strength is supposed to be 200 mounted men, besides details. Therefore, I am correct in saying that there was not a single regiment on the home service which had two effective squadrons. It may be asked, how used they to get along when there was a field day, a review, or a manœuvre? Why, the fourth squadron was broken up and the efficient men added to the other three squadrons. When the cavalry was mobilised each of the regiments was ordered to be made up into three effective squadrons of 200 men and details. A number of the men and horses failed to pass the medical examination, and at least one-third—I might say nearly one-half—of each of these squadrons, both men and horses, had to be obtained elsewhere. Where did they come from? The men came from the Reserves, and the horses from the omnibus proprietors and hunting establishments of the country. These Reserves had perhaps never ridden a horse since they left the service, and they had to ride horses which were not used to the ranks. What I want to impress upon Her Majesty's Government is that it is not more Reserve regiments that we want; it is not more officers that we want. What we do want is that our regiments shall be real regiments, and not sham or skeleton regiments. I think that before they begin to arrange for new regiments—for new paper regiments—the Government should tell us how they are going to fill up the ranks of the existing regiments. I agree with what Lord Gran by said when he told us that we must remember that at the end of the war, when the regiments come home, there will be a great depletion of the ranks, and I should like to know what preparations the Government have made with regard to the cavalry of the future. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government the other day told the Primrose ladies to prepare for a European war, or used words to that effect. If that is the case we must be prepared with our cavalry, because, even supposing our cavalry were brought up to the strength at which they were sent out to South Africa, they would still be below the strength of the cavalry in foreign brigades. There are three regiments of nine squadrons in each brigade, or 1,800 men; but the foreign brigades consist of three regiments of four squadrons each, or 2,400 men. Apart from the question that we should be fighting brigade for brigade at a great disadvantage, let us remember the immense wear and tear and strain there must be upon our men if we have to do patrol duty and scouting at the same strength as our adversary with only three-fourths of the men. It means less nights in bed and less rest for the horses. I hope we shall hear something from the noble Marquess which will show us that the Government do appreciate the state the cavalry was in precedent to the war. The present arrangement, which is supposed to be an ideal one, is that each squadron is to be self-contained, and that the squadron-major is responsible for his own squadron; but what is the use of a commander of a squadron drilling his men and taking great trouble with the bitting and the riding of his horses if at the very moment he is to embark for war he has fifty or sixty fresh horses and fifty or sixty fresh men thrown into his ranks? I think there can be no doubt that the three branches of the service which have been most neglected are the Militia, the Artillery, and the Cavalry. I do not believe that the Artillery and the Cavalry will ever be efficiently organised or sufficiently looked after until you have some department at the War Office which takes an interest in these branches of the service. It is absolutely necessary in the case of the Cavalry that you should have a thoroughly efficient and zealous Adjutant General at the War Office over that portion of the Army. Another question which will have to be considered is that at the present moment there are very few barracks in England where the whole of even a small cavalry regiment could be put up. Some are pat up at outquarters; but it must be clear that if the cavalry regiments of the future are to be thoroughly efficient and to be taught scouting, patrol duty, and the other duties incident to war, the commanding officers of those regiments must have them under their command, and be able to put them through their work in a proper manner. I will conclude by asking the noble Marquess if he can give us some more information with regard to the small two-line paragraph in his Memorandum which I have quoted.


My Lords, although I had for some fifteen years the honour of holding a commission in the cavalry, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord who has just sat down in dealing with that part of the subject, but I agree generally with the suggestions he has made. I only rise, owing to my name having been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Blythswood, in connection with the Militia Force, of which I commanded a battalion for over twenty years, to confirm what he has said, namely, that the present system of drilling recruits in barracks has proved a perfect failure, and to join with the various noble Lords who have spoken in expressing the hope that the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War will lose no time in reverting to the old system of preliminary drill under the Militia adjutant.


My noble friend Lord Blythswood, who occupies, I understand, a position of importance in connection with the Committee of Service Members of this House, reminded your Lordships just now that he sat for some time for a Scottish constituency. I am sure that during his experience in Scotland he must have become familiar with the process which I believe is known as "heckling," and I cannot help thinking that, reminded, no doubt, of the manner in which on different occasions he must have held his own single-handed against the electors of Renfrew, he may have desired to see a member of Her Majesty's Government occupying a similar position. But I certainly do not complain of the heckling to which I have been subjected this evening, and I will do my best within the limits of time I can allow myself to deal with the points to which noble Lords have referred in their speeches. I take in the first place the admirable speech, if I may be allowed to say so, of the noble Duke who opened the debate. He did not spare his criticism, but he accompanied it with the frank admission, which I listened to with the greatest pleasure, that in some respects he regarded the conduct of this campaign by the War Office as deserving of all commendation. I wish all the critics of the War Office would follow the noble Duke's example. Our experience of them is that they are apt to perform one part of their task with the utmost vigour; they look through the strongest magnifying glass they can find at our faults and imperfections, but they persistently turn a blind eye to anything that has been even moderately well done. The noble Duke asked, in the first place, for information with regard to the battalions of veterans to which we have given the name of Royal Reserve battalions. We have received 30,000 applications for enrolment in these battalions, and up to the present time about 20,000 men have actually been so enrolled. I think that when I mentioned this subject to your Lordships in February I made a rough estimate to the effect that the number of these Reserve battalions would probably stand at somewhere about that figure. I am glad to say we have received from the generals of districts the most satisfactory accounts of the quality of these men. They are described by all the generals whose verdicts I have had an opportunity of seeing as being very excellent material. I think, indeed, it is somewhat of a misnomer to describe them as veterans. Many of these men entered the Army at eighteen years of age and they left the Reserve after completing their twelve years service, which would bring them to the age of about thirty or not much more, and they certainly are in many cases men who may fairly be described as quite in the prime of life. Then the noble Duke asked me whether the result of the experiment was to encourage us to regard with favour the idea of forming a number of these men into a standing Reserve, into which they might pass after they have completed their term of seven years with the colours and five years in the ordinary Reserve, and in which they might spend thirteen years more, bringing their service up to a total of twenty-five years. That is the time at which the noble Duke indicated that they might become entitled to pensions. I am afraid that an arrangement of that kind, although it might give us a very fine body of men, would be a very bad bargain for the public. It would lead to a great inflation of the Vote which we must always desire to keep down—namely, the non-effective Vote. It was the rapid growth of the non-effective Vote which had a great deal to do with the abolition of long service, and I should be very sorry indeed to see a large number of pensioners brought on to it under such an arrangement as the noble Duke proposes. I have made inquiries as to the cost of such an arrangement, and I am told that if we were to give 6d. a day pension after twenty-five years to the whole of our ex-Reservists, we should have to add to the Army Estimate something like —2,000,000 a year. I believe that if that sum were dissected it would be found that it represents an amount of about —180 per man of such a reserve force as we are discussing. The noble Duke knows that on this occasion the men have come to us for a bounty of —22, and my own impression is that it would be a better arrangement for the public that we should, if necessary, increase that bounty rather than create a new class of pensioned Reservists. I hope the noble Duke will understand that it is not to the idea of such a Reserve, but to the great cost of such a system of pensions as he has suggested, that I take objection. Then the noble Marquess on the Bench below (the Marquess of Granby) asked me for information with regard to the new infantry battalions of which the formation was announced. Those battalions will consist of two battalions of Irish Guards, two battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers, two battalions of the Liverpool Regiment, two battalions of the Worcester Regiment, two battalions of the Middlesex Regiment, and two battalions of the Manchester Regiment. We have made considerable progress in the formation of most of these battalions. The Irish Guards, of course, have only just been begun, but in regard to the others, including the three battalions previously authorised but not raised till this year, we have an average of 370 men per battalion already, and between nine and ten officers to each battalion. I may perhaps say, as I am referring to this newly-created force, that the three new cavalry regiments which we are raising—a Dragoon regiment, a Hussar regiment, and a Lancer regiment—average 500 men and 270 horses each; and of the new batteries of artillery I am able to say that of the seven horse artillery batteries to be raised all have been raised, and of the thirty-six field artillery batteries we undertook to raise thirty have been raised, and we have in these batteries about 130 men per battery. In the case of the horse artillery batteries we have thirty-four horses out of an establishment of ninety, while in the case of the field batteries we have eighteen horses out of an establishment of sixty. That is, of course, only a beginning, but it is a substantial beginning, and I think it is as much as we could be expected to achieve in the time we have had at our disposal. Then I was asked some questions as to the Volunteer force. The number of days for which it was originally contemplated that the special camps of instruction should be held this year was twenty-eight days; but it became very evident that it would be impossible to expect the Volunteers generally throughout the country to remain in camp so long a time. The House is aware that we ended by deciding to accept a period of fourteen days, and I think I mentioned that out of 216 Volunteer corps not less than 179 have agreed to go into camp on those terms. As to the medical examination of the Volunteers, I am not able to say how many of the men who joined the special service battalions were rejected by the doctors. The examinations were conducted locally. We have not received reports, and I cannot therefore answer this question. I need not remind the House that the fact of a man being rejected as unfit for foreign service does not necessarily mean that he was unfit to carry a rifle for home defence. Under the Bill which I introduced the other evening—a Bill enabling a certain number of Volunteers to accept liability for foreign service—we shall certainly make it an essential condition that no man should be admitted to the special service sections unless he is able to pass a medical examination. I think the noble Duke is perhaps under a misapprehension in regard to this matter; I understood him to suggest that the men at present serving in the Volunteer force were not subject to any medical examination. That was the case a few years ago, but in the year 1896 we made the change which, I think, the noble Duke desires, and no Volunteer is now admitted to the force unless he is able to satisfy the doctor that he is physically sound and fit. I was struck by what was said by the noble Duke on the back bench in regard to what he conceived to be the unfairness, both to Militia and Volunteers, of enlisting them upon the understanding that they were liable only for home defence, and then inviting them to serve abroad under circumstances which might render it difficult for any but a very strong-minded man to withhold his consent. It is to meet this very objection that we propose in the Bill to which I referred just now to make arrangements that any Volunteers who really are desirous of rendering themselves liable for service out of the country should make an arrangement with us deliberately beforehand, and not amidst the enthusiasm and excitement which are likely to arise when hostilities have broken out, or are on the point of breaking out. I trust, therefore, that I shall have the support of the noble Duke when that Bill comes before your Lordships' House.


Will you include the Militia?


NO. I will say a word about the Militia presently. The first point as to which I was questioned in regard to the Militia was the number of men who are at home. That number, not counting the Militia Reserve, stands at 66,000. I arrive at it in this way. The grand total of the Militia force on the 1st of this month was 99,000. Of these 22,000 are at this moment abroad; 11,000 belong to the Militia Reserve. If you take 33,000 from 99,000 you have a total left at home of 66,000 men. The noble Duke wanted to know how we are off for Militia officers. The establishment of Militia officers is 2,531; the strength is 2,551, so that we are at this moment a little over our establishment of Militia officers. Then I must correct a rather serious mistake into which the noble Duke fell—I hope it was not any statement of mine that led him to make it. He evidently is under the impression that we have announced that in future the Militia recruit is to be trained for six months. I am not aware of any such announcement having been made. I do admit very frankly to the noble Duke that, amongst the possible measures of reform which might be introduced in regard to the Militia, I do contemplate as conceivable that the period of recruit drill should be extended. Under the present law we have the power of making that drill last for six months, but that has never been done up to the present time. My impression is that the lengthening of the course of recruit drill which has already taken place—and the noble Duke knows it has been considerably added to of recent years—has been very greatly to the advantage of the Militia force. Then I was asked questions with regard to various minor matters affecting the Militia as to which I should like to say a word. I was asked whether I would consider the propriety of giving the Militia a separation allowance during their ordinary training. That is a point which will have to be reserved for con- sideration with other points affecting the Militia force. As the noble Duke knows, the separation allowance is given when the Militia are embodied, and at this moment the whole force is embodied and is entitled to the separation allowance. I would say the same of the proposal to create a Reserve for the Militia, by which I mean, as the noble Duke does, something very different from the present Militia Reserve. That is a question which must be considered hereafter. I now come to suggestions which were made in the course of this discussion in regard to which I think we may well take action without further delay. I had occasion some time ago to look into the question of the claim of Militia sergeant-majors to warrant rank, to which several speakers to-night referred. I am under the impression that the denial of that rank to the Militia sergeant-major is a real hardship, and I am prepared, with the entire concurrence of the Commander-in-Chief, to concede that privilege to the Militia force. Then a somewhat similar matter is that which concerns the quartermasters of Militia during embodiment. The question is a very technical one, and I will not take up the time of the House by explaining the reasons for which, in my opinion, it will not be possible to put these quartermasters on exactly the same footing as the Militia officers generally. There are reasons which would incline me not to give them either the full 4s. messing allowance or the —100 received by Militia officers generally during embodiment. But I do think they are entitled to some compensation for the disturbance to which they have to submit when their battalion is embodied, and I propose that an allowance shall be made to them to compensate them for the inconvenience to which they are subjected. Then a number of minor points with regard to the equipment of the Militia were touched upon by various speakers. I was taken to task, not for the first time, on account of the water-bottles which the Militia now possess. I am told that it is not correct to describe them as unserviceable; that, on the contrary, they are serviceable, and that until lately the pattern of the water-bottle in the hands of the Militia was the pattern in the hands of the Line. I believe we have only quite lately finished issuing the new water-bottles to the Line regiments. I hope we may in time be able to make a similar issue to the Militia; but I cannot admit that the present water-bottle is quite so bad as the noble Duke has painted it. Then the noble Duke asked why, if we are as desirous as we profess to be of establishing a close connection between the Line and the Militia, we place the Militia under a special officer of the headquarters staff of the Army. He described the Militia as being under a separate head. I do not think that is quite an accurate description of the facts. Since 1871 the control of the Militia has been transferred from the Lords-Lieutenant to the Crown, and ever since that the Militia has been, like the rest of the Army, under the supreme command of the Commander-in-Chief. It is under the Adjutant-General for the purposes of discipline and under the Quartermaster-General in regard to commissariat and such matters. What has been done has been to appoint an officer of the War Office—the Inspector-General of Auxiliary Forces, whose office has lately been separated from that of the Inspector-General of Recruiting. It is the special duty of this officer to watch the interests of the Militia in all official matters. I really think that, far from being a legitimate cause of complaint, this should be regarded as evidence of our desire that a force which has traditions and idiosyncrasies of its own should have somebody in the official hierarchy whose special business it is to see that its interests are not neglected. We are on the point of adding to the staff of the Inspector-General a subordinate officer who has held office as an adjutant of Militia, and who, I hope, will be still further able to help the Inspector-General in dealing skilfully and successfully with the many intricate Militia problems which the noble Duke and others are fond of bringing to my attention. Then we come to the delicate question of Militia clothing. I am not surprised that the statement made by the noble Duke produced a very considerable impression upon your Lordships, and I must say that if it can be shown that worn clothing, dirty and disreputable in its character, is reissued to the Militia, I do not think the language used by the noble Duke is at all too strong. I should be very glad to have any allegations that he brings to my notice very thoroughly gone into; but I am afraid I cannot hold out to him any hope that we shall altogether abandon the practice of reissuing part worn clothing. The noble Lord behind me mentioned an occasion in connection with the Ayrshire Militia, when, out of 200 men who joined, forty went to the Line and no less than 125 disappeared altogether soon after their enlistment. Well, my Lords, if the whole of the clothing issued to these men and worn by them for a few days or weeks were to be discarded altogether, the taxpayers would, I think, have thrown upon them an expense which would be altogether unjustifiable. I would ask the noble Duke to consider an analogy which is probably not unfamiliar to him—I mean the analogy of domestic servants. I would be very much surprised if, when a footman leaves his service after four or five weeks, the excellent clothing issued to that personage is not reissued to his successor. Within moderate limits I think the same principle ought to apply in the case of the Militia. Each Militiaman has two coats and trousers issued to him, one suit virtually new and the other part worn, and those two suits are expected to last for four trainings, which is a very different thing from four years. The noble Duke made a suggestion that Militiamen should be given, as the Line recruit is given, a blue serge suit on joining, but I am afraid that would hardly be a fair arrangement as between the Militia and the Line, because while the recruit for the Line gets one strong suit and a second suit of blue serge, which is only expected to last him for a short time, the Militia recruit gets two strong suits. I am afraid that if the Militia recruit were to be given in addition to the two suits the serge suit given to the Line we should have well-founded complaints on the part of the Line. I must say a word with regard to the case to which the noble Lord on the back bench referred at some length— the case of the Ayrshire Militia. The noble Lord is dissatisfied with the War Office for the reception which has been given to an official letter which he addressed to us. The origin of that letter was this. We some time ago directed the general officers commanding districts to interest themselves as much as possible in recruiting, and place themselves in communication with persons of influence in their district with the object of stimulating recruiting. Acting under instructions to this effect, the General Officer Commanding in Scotland obtained from the Lord Lieutenant of the county the appointment of a committee, and the noble Lord is correct in saying that that committee was composed of very representative and influential gentlemen. The object of the committee was to endeavour to enlist local sympathy for the Militia force, and particularly to induce employers of labour to regard the Militia with a more benevolent eye than they have regarded it heretofore, and in any other little ways open to them to do what they could to raise the social status of the force. The committee to which the noble Lord refers did not condescend to any of these things, but addressed to the War Office an extremely controversial letter on various subjects, not of local interest, but of general policy affecting the whole Militia force. We were rather in hopes of decentralising the business, but the committee brought it back to us, and sent us the document of which I have spoken. I am sure the noble Lord will not suggest that we treated the communication disrespectfully. We sent back a reasoned answer, in which we pointed out that we were unable to accept some of the conclusions of the committee, and also pointed out that upon some matters of fact the committee had not been quite correctly informed. The committee were apparently dissatisfied with the purport of the reply, and summarily closed the correspondence. I think I must say the committee was at least as much to blame as the War Office, and that, having received a letter of that kind, we took the only course open to us by sending them a temperate and reasoned answer. With regard to the points at issue, the noble Lord dwelt mostly upon the objections which he has to the training of Militia recruits at the depots instead of with their own battalions during the preliminary drill. As to that, the advice which is given to me by the best military authority to which I have access is to the effect that the training which a recruit receives at the depot is a much better and more thorough training than any training which could be given to him during the preliminary drill with his own battalion, and when the noble Lord connects training at the depot with the absence of so many without leave from the Ayrshire battalion, he does not show that the two facts stand to one another in the relation of cause and effect. I am told that the population of the neighbourhood is a very restless and roving population, and it seems to me at least probable that the men, if they were enrolled and then told to go for preliminary drill with the battalion, might, when the time came, be found absent, just as they are found absent now. I listened with attention to many of the expressions which fell from noble Lords in favour of a reversal to the old practice of training, and I will very gladly consider what they have said. As at present advised, my impression is that training at the depot is the better system of the two. Then the noble Lord said something about the abolition of "bringing money." Bringing money was abolished for the whole Army because of the great abuses with which the system was connected, and I am very much afraid that I can hold out to him no hope of restoring bringing money for the Militia. Another complaint made by the noble Lord was that the Volunteer and Yeomanry staff employed as recruiters give a preference to their own corps and do not conscientiously watch the interests of the Militia force. As to that, I have only to say that there are other districts in which the same kind of staff are employed on similar duties and apparently with satisfactory results. I agree with what was said by the noble Lord as to the desirability of arranging that the permanent staff should, so far as possible, reside in the districts within which they have to look for recruits, and I am able to say that only last year we gave special instructions that where possible members of the permanent staff should be detailed to all detached towns in which there was a good prospect of obtaining a satisfactory supply of recruits. I come back for a moment to the speech of the noble Duke who spoke first. He reminded me of a speech I delivered at the beginning of the session, in which I told the House that we had about 100,000 Regular soldiers left in this country, and he said, "Why is it, if you have so many Regulars at home, that you are obliged to fall back on the Militia and to send out Militia battalions to South Africa?" I think the answer is obvious, and that from the tenor of the noble Duke's remarks he knows what the answer is. These men—they now number not 100,000 but 92,000—are of course in no sense a field army. They include a large number of young soldiers, men who have not yet reached the age of twenty and who are therefore not fit to send out of the country on foreign service. Besides that, it is this body of Regular soldiers who are the reservoir from which we have to draw the drafts in order to keep the Line battalions in South Africa up to their proper strength. We have sent out since February 35,000 men as drafts. Perhaps I may give you? Lordships, as I did on a former occasion, the number of reinforcements of all kinds that we have sent out to South Africa since the beginning of the year. We sent out in January altogether 25,000 men; February, 30,000; March, 33,000; April, 10,000; May, 7,000; and we shall probably send during the month of June 11,000 men, making altogether 116,000 men since the beginning of the year. This is exclusive of the large number of troops sent to South Africa from different parts of the Colonial Empire. The noble Duke asked me how we determined the age of the soldiers whom we send out to keep up the numbers of the forces on active service. He suggested that we took the age upon the strength of the man's own declaration. I need not assure your Lordships that that is not the case. What happens is this. The man is usually enlisted at about the age of eighteen, and whatever declaration he makes, it is the duty of the medical officer who inspects him to satisfy himself that in all probability the man really is of that age, and the twenty years, before which we do not send him out of this country, is reckoned according to the age in the original attestation. It is conceivable that there may be cases of precociously developed men who are taken a little before they reach eighteen, but it is a matter which can only be determined by the medical officers, and by their report we must abide. I was asked by the noble Marquess how we proposed when the excitement and enthusiasm of this campaign had passed away to keep up a sufficiency of recruits for the Army. I do not attempt to conceal from your Lordships that I regard that as a very grave and formidable-problem. At this moment we are, of course, getting a larger number of recruits. During the first four months of last year there were 14,000 recruits; during the first four months of this year we have taken 22,000; and I am glad to say that the number of those special recruits to which reference has been made is not increasing, but is diminishing a little. We must, of course, take into account that when the memory of these operations is beginning to fade away there may be a falling off in the number of men who offer themselves for military service. I do not think that I can usefully anticipate this evening the action which it may be necessary for us to take supposing a great failure in the supply of recruits takes place. The noble Duke examined the different modes to which recourse might be had for filling the ranks of the Army, and he came to the conclusion that there was one mode, and one mode only, by which success was likely to be achieved. He said you must pay your men more, not in pennies or halfpence, but in sixpences and shillings. It is the easiest thing in the world in a debate of this kind to vote away five or six millions of the taxpayers' money, but the matter is not quite so simple as that, nor, indeed, am I altogether persuaded that by merely adding to the pay of the soldier within the limits we can conceive we shall necessarily tap a fresh stratum of recruits. I think there are other directions in which we may perhaps venture to look for a means of attracting to the Army more men, and perhaps men of a better social class than we are able to attract at present. I cannot describe these means in detail tonight, but I will merely say that what I have in my mind are such matters as these—an improved prospect of civil employment for ex-soldiers; better and more comfortable barrack accommodation; the putting an end to degrading punishments for purely military offences; and last, but not least, alterations in the conditions of service which may adapt it more conveniently to the needs and requirements of the different classes of the population. We have to some extent addressed ourselves to all these matters, but the effect of any changes which we have made, or which we may be able to make, must necessarily be very gradual indeed. I hope, however, that we may be able by well-considered measures of this kind to do a good deal to popularise the Army, and, above all, to keep in the Army the men whom we are able to attract to it. To my mind one of the greatest drawbacks of our present system is that which is to be found in the fact that of the men who do enter the Army so large a number waste away and disappear in the first years of their service, giving us neither the full period of their service with the colours nor the advantage of their presence afterwards in the Reserve. I have now to say a word with regard to the important matter touched upon by Lord Heneage with regard to the cavalry. Of all the puzzling problems which the War Department has to deal with I do not know any that is more difficult or more puzzling than the question of cavalry organisation. We have at this moment twenty-eight cavalry regiments. They are unevenly divided, because there are ten Dragoon regiments, twelve Hussar regiments, and only six Lancer regiments. We want out of that body a cavalry so arranged that one-third shall be available for service in India, and, therefore, shall have no young soldiers in the ranks; another third at home to supply the wants of India; and we want the remainder to be at home and as fit as we can make them for immediate service in or out of the country. We have to do this if possible without a violent disturbance of the cavalry roster, which the noble Lord will admit is a delicate thing to touch; and we are, above all things, told not to lay sacrilegious hands on any regiment with the idea of turning Dragoons into Lancers or Lancers into Dragoons. We have addressed ourselves to the task as seriously as we could, and I think upon the whole, although I am far from saying that we are entirely satisfied with things as they are, we have put them into a much better shape than they were a few years ago. Under the present system in the higher establishment regiments the number is 670, as compared with the old number, which used to vary from 658 to 603.


Are those the regiments in India?


They are the higher establishment regiments at home. The number of horses in the higher establishment regiments is 465, as against a number which varied from 410 to 350. In the lower establishment regiments we have an establishment of 615 men, comparable with an establishment which used to vary from 498 to 426, and an establishment of 363 horses as compared with a former establish- ment varying from 325 to 280. I need not tell your Lordships that a change of the kind which we introduced a year or two ago cannot be brought into effect by a stroke of the pen. You add a certain number of men to your higher establishment regiment in order that it may be independent of Reserves and drafts from other regiments; but, of course, if you add these men in 1898 most of them do not reach the age of twenty until 1900; and the same thing holds good with the extra men we gave to the lower establishment regiments in order to enable them to supply the necessary drafts to regiments in India. I wish to impress upon your Lordships that we are still in a period of transition, and that, therefore, the new organisation when it was tried, and tried severely, as it was this spring, hardly had a fair chance of showing what it can do. In spite of that, I cannot admit that it deserves, even as we saw it in operation this year, the hard things which the noble Lord said about it. He described it as a sham system, and the regiments as skeletons. I cannot help thinking that the bones were rather better clothed than my noble friend supposed. Speaking of the first two brigades of cavalry, he told us that nearly half the men had to be added to them for the occasion. The fact is that the six regiments of which the first and second brigades are composed only took, on an average, 20 per cent. of men for each regiment. I think my noble friend must have been misinformed on that point.


That was after breaking up the fourth squadron.


But the Reserve squadron was never intended to go abroad. The whole point of the organisation was that there were to be three service squadrons and a Reserve squadron. With regard to the horses, the six regiments took an average of 128 fresh horses. I admit that that is a larger number than I should have liked to see added, but the noble Lord, I know, does not wish to treat us unfairly. He will recollect that at the time when we were preparing these regiments for South Africa there was a disastrous outbreak of influenza, or pink-eye, which decimated the horses in a great many regiments. One well-known regiment, the Scots Greys, lost nearly 300 horses from this cause. That spoiled our average and obliged us to draw in registered horses and from other sources a larger number of animals than otherwise we should have been obliged to call out. Lord Heneage indulged in some pleasantries about the registered horses, and especially the omnibus horses. I can assure the noble Lord that if he could read the reports which we have received from South Africa, he would find that the registered horses, and particularly the omnibus horses, which he selected as a butt for his ridicule, are spoken of in the highest possible terms; and Lord Roberts tells us that he could not have too many of them. I am afraid that the ideal of the noble Lord, attractive as it is, must remain an ideal. I do not think that under any system we shall be able to keep the whole of our cavalry complete in men and horses. The mere question of barracks would prevent it. There would always be a certain number of horses sick or untrained, and the idea of keeping the whole cavalry at such a strength of men and horses that you could at any moment send it out of the country seems to me illusory. But as soon as our system is in fair working order I hope that we shall be able to keep two brigades with a sufficient number of men and horses to enable them to turn out on war establishment at the shortest possible notice. I think I have now touched upon the more important points which were referred to by the noble Lords who have addressed the House. I only wish before I sit down to thank them for the fairness of their criticisms, and to assure them that, if I am not able to accept all their suggestions, or to agree with all their conclusions, I am ready to treat in the most respectful spirit the advice which they have given to us. It is advice which will certainly be useful to us when we come to consider the lessons to be learnt from the experience of the present war—lessons which, no doubt, will be turned to account with excellent results for the efficiency of the British Army.


My Lords, the noble Marquess paid a very just compliment to the noble Duke opposite who raised this discussion, and I think we must all feel that a similar compliment is due to the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War for the manner in which he has treated the suggestions made to-night, and for the very candid way in which he has dealt with the many questions which have been brought forward. I shall not attempt to follow him in the general discussion, but there are one or two remarks which I should like to make. In the first place, I think we must congratulate the noble Marquess and the country on the statement he has been able to make about recruiting for the Army, and on the manner in which the War Office have been able to send out drafts to support our regiments in South Africa. That is the most satisfactory statement we have heard to-night. I must express my own sympathy with the observations of the noble Marquess in regard to the proposal to increase the pay of the soldier, in which he pointed out that that was not the only way recruits could be secured after the conclusion of this war. I think it is quite possible that the measures indicated by the noble Marquess may be successful in encouraging recruits, and that the mere addition of so much money to the day's pay of the soldier may not prove such an inducement as the other inducements to which he alluded. The main part of the discussion to-night is concerned with the Militia, and I think we all recognise the absolute necessity for improving the Militia, for raising the force to its proper strength, and for doing everything possible to make it popular. The noble Marquess went through all the suggestions that were made to him with respect to the Militia. They extended over, I think, the whole of the force. There was, in the first place, the grievance, which I think is a real one, with respect to officers on half-pay losing their half-pay during the embodiment of the Militia. The noble Marquess himself agreed that the grievance of the Militia sergeant - majors should be remedied. He dealt also, in a partial manner, with the question of clothing, and I wish that he had been more decided on that point. I cannot agree with the noble Marquess that the question of clothing is a minor matter, and should be considered as such. I regard it as one of the most important matters connected with the Militia.


I think I used the words "minor matter" in regard to the water-bottles. I quite agree that the question of clothing is a serious one.


I hope the noble Marquess will also consider further the question of drill for recruits. I may mention that the three months, drill for Militia recruits was established when Lord Cardwell was at the War Office. The reason three months was fixed was that we wore then informed that a recruit for the German army only remained as a recruit for three months and was then put into the ranks. I should have thought three months drill was amply sufficient for a Militiaman before being put into the ranks. I hope the noble Marquess will not decide before further consideration the question whether Militia recruits should not be drilled with their regiments by the regimental officers instead of at the depot. It is evident that the opinion of many officers commanding Militia regiments is that the three months drill should be with the regiment. Surely they must be the best judges of that matter, and if they would rather drill their recruits, and they think that that would be for the advantage of recruiting, the War Office might very well give way on that point. The upshot of the criticisms seems to me to be—and the noble Marquess virtually admitted it —that the War Office of late has been thoroughly out of touch with the Militia force. The noble Marquess at the beginning of the session announced, I think in this House, or perhaps it was announced in another place, that an officer belonging to the Militia was to be added to the staff of the War Office, so that the War Office might be more in touch with the wants of the Militia than hitherto. That was nearly four months ago, but it has not yet been done. I understand now that the noble Marquess intends to appoint an officer who has actually served for many years in the Militia on the staff of the War Office in order to give that information which, it appears to me, the War Office does not now possess with respect to the real wants of the Militia. But these are somewhat matters of detail. Upon the three matters of principle connected with the Militia the noble Marquess has not been able to speak to-night, but doubtless, from the manner in which he has treated all the suggestions that have been made, he is quite prepared to consider them, and on some future occasion to give his opinion upon them. First, as regards the terms of enlistment for the Militia. At present the matter is in a most anomalous state. You have Militia Reserve men, ordinary Militia men, and another class, the name of which I forget. I concur with the remarks of the Duke of Northumberland on that matter, and I do not think it is right to have a term of enlistment for Militia, and then directly an emergency arises to ask Militia regiments to be patriotic enough to volunteer to serve abroad. I think that ought to be remedied. My own individual opinion is that, considering the number of Militiamen who are prepared to serve abroad in time of war, and the manner in which the regiments of Militia have volunteered for service abroad—there are thirty battalions on foreign service at the present time— it would not interfere with recruiting for the Militia if ordinary recruits for the Militia were recruited with the condition that they should serve abroad in time of war. If that is a change which j can be carried out without diminishing the number of recruits for the Militia it would get rid of the whole difficulty. Every Militiaman would be enlisted on the same principle—for service at home in time of peace and for service abroad in time of war. The connection between the Militia and the Line would be still more intimate, and there would be no difficulty respecting Militia battalions being ordered abroad if their services are required in time of war. That some way out of the difficulty could be found I feel satisfied. The present system of the Militia Reserve ought to be abandoned. That system was introduced by General Peel some time before the short service was introduced by Lord Cardwell, and it was the only reserve system we then had for the Line battalions. But now that we have the short-service system it ought to provide a sufficient number of Reserve men to fill up our Line battalions to full strength in time of war. When war takes place you ask the Militia battalions to volunteer for foreign service, but at the same time you take away their best men and put them into the Line battalions. How is it possible to expect that the Militia can be soundly and solidly constituted, and form a real force in support of the Line, if this system is continued? However, I fully admit the difficulties of the subject, and I recognise the candid manner in which the noble Marquess has dealt with the suggestions that have been made. These are matters which will have to be considered and determined upon after full consideration by Her Majesty's Government. As the noble Marquess is to introduce a Bill on Monday next with respect to the Volunteers, I shall make no observations on that part, of the subject to-night.


My Lords, I wish only to take the opportunity of expressing my strong agreement with the various noble Lords who have spoken as to the extreme importance of special attention being directed to the Militia. For many years past the Militia force has been a sort of poor relation, and very little attention has been paid to that branch of the service. I believe that there is nothing more important than to have a thoroughly efficient Militia. If, however, the Militia, were engaged to go abroad, as has been suggested, I very much doubt whether in time of peace that would not have the effect of reducing recruiting for that force. There are a considerable number of men in this country who do not wish to serve abroad, whether in time of war or not. It is not because they are not brave men, but because there are circumstances in connection with their lives which make it intolerable for them to come under such an engagement; and though the suggestion of my noble friend might simplify the problem with which we have to deal,, we shall have to deliberate very carefully before we effect a change of that kind. As. to the Volunteer force, there is a strong feeling, which is very largely shared in the country, that it will be a dangerous thing to introduce a Volunteer Reserve which can be called upon to serve abroad in time of war. The reason is this—it must be obvious to every man—that if there is a Return composed partly of men to serve in this country and partly of men who have engaged to serve abroad, it will make it very difficult indeed for men who have volunteered to serve in this country to refuse to serve abroad. It would place a man in a most invidious and difficult position, and I think it would be wiser to forego the advantage which the noble Marquess has pointed out—of knowing exactly on what number of Volunteers we could rely in time of war —rather than introduce a system which I cannot help thinking might in time of peace considerably diminish the number, of Volunteers. I admit that these are. difficult problems, and that it is impossible to find a solution which is not open to some objection. But I hope the noble Marquess will show energy in dealing with this question while the minds of men are fixed upon it. I have some apprehension as to what may happen after the war is concluded, and I am afraid that we shall relapse into a state of apathy on this matter unless the system is improved. Whatever may be our opinion about the settlement of affairs in South Africa, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that for some considerable time forces will be locked up in that country before things can return to a normal state. It is a very serious thing that with the comparatively small Army we have at our disposal we shall have new demands, not merely of a temporary kind, but an indefinite kind, for efficient troops who will be locked up in South Africa for a year or a year and six months. I am sure everyone bears in mind, who thinks for a moment about these problems, that we do not know where next we may be called upon to meet an emergency. There is India and Egypt and the Soudan, and I hope, therefore—and I have no doubt— that the Government will very carefully consider in what way they can provide the necessary forces, which will have to be of a larger number than usual for a considerable time. I hope we may not have to look forward to any long military occupation of South Africa; but as there is no certainty as to whether or not we shall have to remain there for some time, that is one of those problems to which the attention of the Government will require to be very carefully directed. I do not wish to detain your Lordships, and I will only now express my satisfaction at the excellent speeches which we have heard.