HL Deb 13 March 1902 vol 104 cc1222-7

asked for some explanation as to the position of Yeomanry officers under the Militia Act, and as to the state of recruiting for the Yeomanry. He said that a Memorandum had been issued by the Commander-in-Chief suggesting that Yeomanry officers who were enlisted before August of last year should resign their commissions and accept new ones under the Militia Act. It was thought by some persons that the Memorandum implied that all Yeomanry officers who did not comply with the request contained therein and come under the new conditions would be compelled to resign and thus practically dismissed. He hoped the noble and gallant Lord the Under Secretary of State for War would be able to make a satisfactory statement on that point. It was felt by a large number of officers that before accepting a new commission they were entitled to be informed what the duties would comprise. For instance, he had been told that it would be possible for Yeomanry officers to be summoned to serve on Courts-martial, to be called up for duty with cavalry regiments, and to be detailed for any other duty by the General Officer commanding the district. If so, it would make it extremely difficult to get Yeomanry officers. He urged the Government, in forming the new Districts, not to interfere more than was absolutely necessary with the recruiting areas of the old regiments. A civilian who went to South Africa with the company which he (Viscount Galway) sent out in January, 1900, and who served with them until his return last summer, had written, stating that he would like to rejoin his Yeomanry regiment. But as he lived in another county he could not be recruited. Another man wrote, stating that his greatest friends were in Viscount Galway's regiment, and that although he did not reside in the county he would very much like to join that corps. It is very hard on Yeomanry commanding officers to prevent them getting efficient men by a restriction against a man who happened to be residing outside a particular recruiting area from enlisting within that area. There was another important consideration, if the Yeomanry was to be made popular, namely, the granting of facilities to Yeomanry officers to obtain commissions in the Line direct through the Yeomanry as through the Militia.


My Lords, there appears to be some misunderstanding of the Circular sent out to Yeomanry officers. The Commander-in-Chief is most anxious that officers now serving should accept new commissions in accordance with the terms of the Circular. It is obvious that inconvenience may result from two sets of officers serving alongside one another under different obligations and conditions. I am able, however, to assure my noble friend that there is no intention of compelling officers to choose between resignation and coming in under the new Act. A refusal to come under it will not necessarily involve resignation; but all the officers from whom replies have yet been received have agreed to come under the new conditions. I am asked by my noble friend whether the particular liabilities under the new Act will include liability to be summoned to serve on Courts-martial, to be called up for duty with cavalry regiments, and to be detailed for any other duty by the General Officer commanding the District. The answer on these three points is in the negative so far as officers who are not actually embodied or called out for training are concerned. The chief object of bringing them under the Militia Act is to make them, like Militia officers, subject to the Army Act all the year round as individuals for disciplinary purposes. It is necessary to have a certain power over them in the event of their committing any military offence during the non-training period. The position of the Yeomanry officer will be exactly the same as that of the Militia officer now, and even in the present emergency no Militia officer has been called out for any military duty except on embodiment without his own consent. With regard to recruiting, by the latest returns the enrolled strength on January 1st was 17,000, of whom 2,883 have joined during the preceding quarter and 7,000 since the summer of 1901. As to the re-adjustment of recruiting areas, the old force consisted of only thirty-eight units; they are now fifty-three, and it is hoped that they will eventually be fifty-nine. The result has been that, owing to the formation of the new regiments, some of the old regiments have been debarred from recruiting in areas in which they have hitherto been allowed to recruit. There is no objection whatever to a man outside a particular recruiting area enlisting within that area, but, of course, the travelling expenses or marching money will not be paid, and commanding officers will not be allowed to offer inducements to men outside their recruiting area. Arrangements have been made that all large centres of population should be regarded as a common recruiting ground for all regiments of Yeomanry within a reasonable distance. The towns, especially market towns lying near to the border, are to be regarded as the recruiting ground for both regiments, and it will be left to the General Officer commanding the District to say what towns come within that category. Every General Officer commanding has been furnished with a statement showing the recruiting area which it is proposed to assign to the Yeomanry units under his command, and instructed to report whether the arrangements will meet the views of those concerned. The question of Line Commissions is still under consideration.


expressed his satisfaction at hearing that it had never been intended that Yeomanry officers should be compelled to come in under the Militia Acts.


said he hoped that the Government would not relax too much the regulation now in force by which men who wished to join the Yeomanry were compelled to join the regiments in their particular counties. In Lincolnshire they were in a difficult position in this respect. After much delay they had obtained permission to raise a regiment of Yeomanry in that county, but they found that between 120 and 150 of the yeomen of Lincolnshire belonged to regiments in other counties, and naturally, if the regulations were relaxed, pressure would be put on those men to remain with their regiments.


inquired whether the inconvenience which the noble and gallant Lord the Under Secretary had stated would result from two sets of officers serving alongside one another under different obligations and conditions would not equally apply to non-commissioned officers and men.


said, with regard to the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, that there were three classes of men serving in the Yeomanry—the class who could only be called out on imminent fear of invasion, the class who could be called out as soon as the Militia were embodied, and the class who came under the new Act and could be called out at the same time as, or before, the Militia were embodied. When he received the Commander-in-Chief's Memorandum suggesting that Yeomanry officers should resign and accept commissions under the new Act, he replied informing the General Officer commanding the District that he thought it unreasonable to expect officers to comply with that invitation unless they were informed of the new conditions under which they were asked to serve. As a result of that, the Law Officers of the Crown were consulted, and they drafted a Memorandum setting forth the difference between the conditions of service previous to the passing of the Act of last year and the conditions at the present time under the Act. He was now in a position to inform his officers of the nature of the obligations they undertook by complying with the request of the Commander in Chief; but he submitted that this information ought to have been supplied in the first instance. A great many extra demands were being made on Yeomanry officers. He was at the present moment serving on a Committee at the War Office, which he had been ordered to attend; but he did not believe the Commander in Chief had any power to order him to attend a Committee. He regarded the new proposals, so far as they assimilated the Yeomanry to the Militia, as a very great honour. There was not a single force in His Majesty's Service in any part of the world which deserved so much the gratitude of the whole British Empire as the Militia regiments. He doubted, however, whether it was possible to expect from the Yeomanry precisely the same services as were rendered by the Militia, as not only the officers of the Yeomanry but a large number of the men were employers of labour. The Secretary of State had pinned his faith to a very large increase of the Yeomanry, and he hoped that increase would be obtained. But the men would be of a very different class from the old yeomen, who owned their own horses and could be depended upon to turn up at the place of mobilisation fully equipped in two days. If we were to get the intelligent men employed in clerical work in large centres of population, some change would have to be made as regards length of training. He hoped in the new regulations there would be some elastic provision which would enable regiments, if necessary, to do their squadron drill at their squadron headquarters, so that the number of days' training might be reduced to fourteen.


also expressed the opinion, as an old Colonel of Yeomanry, that there should be more elasticity with regard to the period of training. He agreed that they must expect a very different class of men from the old Yeomanry. The old yeomen were generally farmers who rode their own horses, but the men at present being recruited had to hire horses, which would prevent their being mobilised, at a time of emergency, as speedily as would have been possible in former days. The number of days training ought to be reduced to fourteen. The present length of training had been very detrimental to recruiting in Somersetshire.


said that if the Yeomanry were to be largely increased the Government would have to be more generous in assisting new regiments. He objected strongly to the system that had been growing up of leaving new Yeomanry to be formed with the help of private subscription. He thought the Government ought to be prepared to put down the money, making what conditions they liked as to repayment.


With regard to the point raised by Lord Heneage, it is impossible to put pressure on men to transfer from one regiment to another. The position will be exactly the same as it is now in the Militia. There is nothing to prevent a man from serving in a regiment outside his own county, but he is discouraged to the extent that he receives no travelling expenses outside the recruiting area of the unit to which he belongs. With regard to the question of two or more classes of men serving alongside each other, I am afraid the difficulty cannot be removed except by disbanding the old force altogether and starting an entirely new one. As to the period of training, I would like to point out that there is considerable difference of opinion. I have heard several Yeomanry officers suggest that it would be better to train a regiment twenty-one days and give a certain amount of leave during that time, in order to enable small employers of labour to go home on Saturday and Sunday, pay their workmen, and see that their affairs were going on satisfactorily. I will inquire into the point raised by Lord Wenlock.