HL Deb 05 March 1903 vol 118 cc1479-537

My Lords, it will be in the recollection of your Lordships that, on the occasion of the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne, my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition (Earl Spencer) made the remark that the question of Army reorganisation was a serious one, and that we ought to know what His Majesty's Government proposed to do. The reply of the noble Duke the Leader of the House was that the views of the Government upon the subject would be expressed on the introduction of the Army Estimates in the House of Commons. I am bound to confess it struck me, when I heard that remark, that the Members of your Lordship's House would hardly be content to receive the information that they had a right to demand through the medium of a small deputation of Peers, perched in mid-air and bundled in a small gallery of a House to which they did not belong, in which they were not permitted to speak, and were especially, on the introduction of a subject of taxation which they were constitutionally prevented from discussing or amending. I therefore offer no apology to the Government for putting down the Motion that stands in my name as the most legitimate way of obtaining information with respect to Army organisation, which not only the House of Lords, but the nation is most anxious to receive. My Motion reads as follows: "To move to resolve that in the opinion of this House His Majesty's Government should re-consider their scheme of military organisation, having regard to the experience of the war in South Africa, and to the naval and military requirements of the Empire."

The experiences of the war seem to me to be so interwoven with the new scheme of Government, indeed, they are almost the raison d'ê tre of the introduction of this scheme, that I shall ask the permission of the House to say a few words on the experiences which the country has gained from the war in South Africa. I may say at once that the first experience of the Government when the war broke out was a very satisfactory one, for they had the entire and undivided support in the prosecution of the war of a resolute and united country. That is not questioned, and I think it shows that there was some injustice in the torrent of abuse and invective poured on the devoted heads of the Party to which I have the honour to belong, a Party which, in their worst time, certainly constitute a large portion of the voting power of the country, and which, I think I can honestly say, would, if the opinion of the nation was now taken, be found to be in a very considerable majority. I admit that there are a number of our fellow-countrymen who look upon all war as a crime, and therefore they are in honour bound to oppose it: but we the small band of Liberal Peers who have tried to keep the Liberal flag flying in this House, and who, I venture to think, represent the great majority of Liberal opinion throughout the country, have had nothing to do with that small section. It is, of course, true that we opposed the policy of the Government before the war broke out, but we did so, not because we considered that the grievances of our fellow-countrymen in the Transvaal were imaginary or immaterial, but because we honestly thought that of all the ways of remedying those grievances—and there were a great many ways of remedying them the worst possible way was to adopt a bluffing policy, which was absolutely certain to lead us into war.

So much for our experiences before the war. I now come to our experiences when the war broke out. and when the Boers successfully overran defenceless Natal. We on this side of the House were then led by a Statesman whose value to to the country has, I think, never been sufficiently recognised—I refer to the late Lord Kimberley—and who put the case very clearly when he said that war was not our solution, hut that, as war had been declared on this country, it was useless to discuss whether the Government were driven into it, whether they had drifted or blundered into it, or whether, as some people thought, they deliberately chose war. We had not to discuss that, but to face the fact that war had been declared. We had hoped that the policy of colonising by ball cartridge had disappeared with the days of the Third George, but we were mistaken. Sentiment said it was hateful for a great country like England, with all its christianising and civilising influences, to go to war with two small farmer States whose heroic resistance in the cause of their liberty and independence has justly won them the admiration of the whole civilised world.

"But," said Lord Kimberley, with his stern, relentless logic, "you must put sentiment on one side, you are at war, and in war there is no half-way house. It must be short, sharp and decisive, and the country must fight, and fight with all its might, if it is not prepared to see Natal and the Cape Colony become the forfeit of the Colonial Secretary's most unfortunate diplomacy." Lord Kimberley told us that our duty was threefold—firstly, we must vote as many men and as much money as the Government required; secondly, it was our duty to see that the war was efficiently conducted, and that our over-worked, underpaid, badly-fed, uncomplaining, brave and humane troops lacked nothing; and last and most important of all, Lord Kimberley said it was our bounden duty not to say or to do anything, either in the House or on the platform, that would by word or deed harass or embarrass His Majesty's Government.

I claim, my Lords, that we have faithfully carried out the instructions that that great Statesman gave us. I think I can go further and say that we came to the rescue of His Majesty's Government at a very critical and dangerous time. The House will remember that in the early stages of the war, when we heard of terrible catastrophes, there was a most determined attempt made by a strong section of the Ministerial Press and Ministerial supporters to try and drive a high-minded, honourable Statesman out of public life. We would not touch that proposition with the tongs. We remember the glorious example that was shown us by the greatest of English Queens—her courage under difficulties, her belief in her people—and we regret that the agony and distress of that terrible time no doubt shortened the last days of that valuable and beloved life. We saw the patience of the people of this country, their determination to overlook any mistakes of general officers or of Statesmen, and we said it was better far that we should live through this terrible time than join that portion of the great Unionist Party who showed themselves weak, volatile, and hysterical, desiring to hound an honourable Statesman out of public life at the first symptom of danger or of national stress and storm. So much for what happened during the war. I claim, and I think I can claim truly, that we did our duty to our country. We ask for no thanks, we ask for no credit; we did our duty; and now the question I have to ask this House is, can it be truthfully said that the Government of the country did theirs?

I should like to have a decided answer to this question. Whose fault was it? Was it the fault of the Government, who had a majority, with their Irish allies, of 250 in the House of Commons, and a majority of nearly 600 in this House? Was it the fault of our soldiers? Was it the fault of the Opposition, which has been called disorganised and impotent? Whose fault was it that it took 448,000 men from all parts of the Empire throe years, fighting for their lives, at the terrible cost to the country of £250,000,000, to defeat the two nations of Boers, whose complete war debt was but £4,500,000? Whose fault was it there was such a dreadful butcher's bill? And lastly, whose fault was it that four battles, of which Magersfontein was the last, had to be fought before the British forces had been supplied with what was necessary for a successful offensive movement? We bring this serious indictment against His Majesty's Government. We say they did not have sufficient courage to ask the country to provide them with the necessary amount adequately to prepare for the great struggle which they said was inevitable, and which they knew was approaching, and that the whole of the early part of the campaign was spoilt by the political considerations which entailed what were called the unfortunate incidents in Natal. If that is challenged I have only to point to the evidence that was given by Sir Ian Hamilton before the Commission presided over by my noble friend Lord Elgin. Again, we say that His Majesty's Government showed most remarkable ignorance and inability to judge the conditions of South African warfare. As proof of that I need only point to one instance, which will ever be remembered by the people of this country. We were at war with men who were born and bred in the saddle, and yet, when Australia offered this country at that time of trouble a legion of horsemen, the wires flashed back this message, "unmounted men preferred."

I come now to the time when Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener, at a moment's notice, took charge of the operations. What happened then? We had to face, at a time of war, the creation of an army which ought to have been got ready as soon as the Government realised the seriousness of the undertaking, and that was, of course, at the moment war broke out. What was the result? Every single branch of the Service broke down, and what had we to rely on? We had to rely on the might and majesty of the great British fleet, whose power owes so much to the initiation and courage of my noble friend behind me (Lord Spencer), on the patriotism of our colonies and the courage and endurance of our troops; and last, but not least, on the efficiency and the resource of the mercantile marine, to pull us through. There was not one single branch of the service which did not break down, and it is enough to make the boldest man shudder to think what would have happened if, instead of being engaged in a war with the Boers, we bad been at war with one or two of the first rate Lowers. Where could we have got our supplies? We had to ransack every country in Europe and America to get provisions and munitions of war. which, probably, had we been engaged in war with one of the Great Powers, it would have been impossible to obtain. One would have thought that this experience would have taught the Government a lesson, and that some manoeuvres on the line of Boer tactics would have been ordered, as has been done in France. One would also have thought that some great scheme of protection for this country would have been brought forward, and that we should have been able to feel perfectly safe and sleep securely in our beds, whatever emergencies might arise. I think that is very far from being the case at present.

Two years ago Mr. Secretary Brodrick brought in a scheme of Army Reform based on an Army Corps system. It was well received by the House of Commons, though it was at once most adversely criticised by my right hon. friend Sir H. Campbell Bannerman, one of the best War Ministers this country has ever had. How is that scheme regarded at the present day? It has been most fiercely attacked by a great section of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons, and the defence that Mr. Brodrick made a fortnight ago may be briefly summarised in this way. He said: "I claim to have done fairly well. I will tell you what I have done. I have raised the standard of height of the militia from five feet two inches to five feet three inches. I am also able to inform the House that recruiting is very brisk, and that last year I was able to obtain 52,000 recruits." Well, that sounds very well, but the wastage of the Army requires 50,000 recruits every year, and therefore, in a time of exceptionally brisk recruiting there was only a surplus of 2,000 above what ought to be the normal condition of things. Mr. Brodrick explained that recruiting was brisk because he had ameliorated the condition of the soldier, abolished the petty stoppages to which he had been subjected, made him more comfortable in camp and in barracks. I am afraid that is not the only reason why men are joining the ranks at present. There is a great scarcity of work and men are unable to obtain employment. We hear the most heartrending stories of men who have fought and bled in the service of their country, and who have been turned adrift and can get no employment whatever. Therefore, I venture to think that this briskness of recruiting is somewhat due to those grim recruiting agents—General Want and General Distress.

Then Mr. Brodrick goes on to say he has added 50,000 men in five years. I suppose that is perfectly true. But he has lost 70,000 Volunteers by this scheme, which was to have re-organised the Army and placed it on a better and more efficient basis. Therefore, I wish to ask the noble Earl the Under Secretary of State for War whether, when it is said that the Government have 50,000 more soldiers, they are counting all the men who have been enlisted at the recruiting depots. Can he give us a return of the numbers of recruits who have dropped out of the ranks by desertion, or by being cast by the regimental surgeons when they joined the regiments as being unlikely ever to make efficient soldiers?

I should like to ask the noble Earl another question. We are told by Mr. Brodrick that the Army ought to stand at the figure of 259,600 men. Now, why ought the Army to stand at that figure? I want to know, does the Army stand at that figure or does it not? And I should also like the noble Earl to tell us what is the numerical basis on which the Secretary of State calculates the strength of the Army as it ought to be. How does he arrive at his totals? That is what the nation wants to know. Does he quote from the Estimates for 1904, which have not yet been laid upon the Table? If he does, of course it is perfectly useless to try and check his figures. Or docs he arrive at his estimate from a calculation worked out up to the day of his speech? Because, if so, that calculation ought certainly to have been laid upon the Table of the House. Or does he base his figures on the Estimates of the present year? If he calculates them on the Estimates of 1903, the situation is more fogged than ever, because on March 5th, 1902, Mr. Brodrick said the Army Establishment was 250,000. The Army Estimates of last year state it to be 293,000, and on February 24th of the present year Mr. Brodrick stated that the strength of the Army was 271,000, as against the 293,000 in the Army Estimates. Vet he states that at present he has 12,000 men over strength. it seems to me that the figures fog everybody, and we should be doubly indebted to the noble Earl if he could give us some information as to how the Secretary of State arrives at his totals.

In 1879 the British Army cost £18,000,000, while on last year's Estimate it cost £30,000,000—that is to say, there has been an increase of £12,000,000 in the cost of the Army. Thus the Estimate for 1902 exceeded that of 1897 by considerably more than a moiety of the 1897 Estimate. On this I have another question to ask, a question which was put by that fearless critic, Mr. Winston Churchill, in his able speech on the Amendment the other day in the House of Commons. Mr. Churchill asked this question of the Prime Minister, which, by accident, or perhaps intentionally, was not answered—namely, Is the 1902 Army in proportion as much better than the 1879 Army, as the sum of 30,000,000 is greater than 18,000,000?—and if the noble Earl replies in the affirmative I would respectfully ask him, in what respect is it better? The Militia are an inch higher I know, but is the Army better in material, is it better as a fighting force, is it better officered, has it better guns?

I shall only touch upon the fringe of the much-disputed Army Corps question. I understand that there are a great many Peers anxious to speak on that matter, and they will be able to address your Lordships with much greater knowledge and authority than I can pretend to possess, but I would point out the three great disabilities of the Army Corps system as it seems to me. The first objection to this great, huge, Army Corps system is that it interferes, as a rival both in money and in men, with the efficiency of the Royal Navy, which is, of course, our great line of defence. Secondly, it also outrages and dislocates the National finance; and thirdly, it strikes at the root of patriotism and at the root of the Volunteer system. When I say that it strikes at the root of patriotism, I should like to give one single example. During the war there were in the Orange Free State—which I think had a population of about 72,000—some 18,000 fighting men. I know they might be called an armed mob, but still they were strong enough, courageous enough, and sufficiently well trained to—to use an Australian expression—for a period "stick up" the whole British Empire. In Natal, the Colony that was invaded and devastated, with a population almost as large as that of the Orange Free State, they only turned out 3,000 Volunteers. What was the reason of that? It was that there was no Standing Army in the Orange Free State, and the men had to rely on their patriotism and on themselves, while in Natal they relied on the assistance of a great fighting army.

Reports are widely circulated to the effect that ever since the present Secretary of State for War accepted the seat of office, he has most resolutely determined to do every single thing in the office himself, and thereby he has reduced the confusion which formerly existed in that department to a state of absolute chaos. Your Lordships will remember that the Prime Minister, at Liverpool, seemed to think there might be some danger in this arrangement, and, in speaking of reforming the small Defence Committee, which at present consists of political amateurs, he recommended a collective authority of efficients. That is no new idea. We have heard of that proposal before. The Prime Minister devoted the first portion of his speech to exposing what he called the crudity and absurdity of a well-known proposal of Lord Rosebery's, while he devoted the second part of his subject to an apotheosis of the so-called absurd and crude suggestion in an exaggerated form. There are some people to whom this rather dangerous state of affairs seems to give a certain amount of grim amusement. We road in the papers that the Colonial Secretary, speaking of the political state of affairs in Cape Colony, said it reminded him somewhat of comic opera. I should like very respectfully to ask how the light hon. gentleman would describe the spectacle of Mr. Brodrick and his Six Army Corps—corps which exist only on paper, and are as visionary as the eight phantom kings who passed before Macbeth in the witches' cave—posing as the balance of power in Europe. If the position in Cape Colony was described as comic opera, I suppose the present position of the War Office, with its chaos and confusion, would be described as an amusing burlesque, or even as a roaring farce. But I am bound to say that that is not the way the Liberal Party, and, I believe, the nation at large, look upon the state of things as they exist at present. They think that this is not only a melodrama, but that if it is permitted to continue it is most probable that it will end in a ghastly tragedy, both abroad and at home. For I cannot conceive anything more likely to produce a terrible political crisis at home—indeed, I do not think I am going too far in saying I know of nothing that might more easily produce a democratic revolution—than for the proud and combative people of this country to find themselves in the vital matter of their defence sacrificed to the ignorance and the incompetence of the members of the self-styled patriotic Unionist Government, to whom, with so much liberality, Englishmen have entrusted the safety, and even the very existence, of the Empire of which they are so proud and of the country they love so well. I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.

Moved to resolve, "That, in the opinion of this House, His Majesty's Government should reconsider their scheme of military organisation, having regard to the experience of the war in South Africa, and to the naval and military requirements of the Empire."—(The Earl Carrington.)


My Lords, it has always appeared to me that one of the chief lessons of the war was the need of an expeditionary force which could he dispatched by the Cabinet without the delays caused by mobilisation. The first hostile act of the Transvaal Republic occurred on October 2. Parliament met on October 17, the Reserves were called out, the Militia embodied and mobilisation commenced. All this took time. It meant answering the enemy's ultimatum by a procedure which entailed a delay of three weeks. That is not a very prompt or powerful resistance to offer to an ultimatum, but the delay is of great advantage to the enemy. The ideal expeditionary force would be one for the Cabinet to dispatch without mobilisation and the delays which are consequent thereon. At the present time this force would be represented by the First Army Corps at Aldershot. But that Army Corps could not be sent on service without mobilisation so long as we enlist so many immature lads; nearly three-fourths of the men serving with the Colours will have to be replaced by Reservists who, after their absence from the ranks, will be somewhat rusty, as well as strangers to their officers and non-commissioned officers. Thus the great principle enunciated when the Six Army Corps Scheme was devised, that exactly the same officers and men who were to serve abroad in time of war would be trained together in time of peace, will not be very strictly adhered to. I think there is a consensus of opinion that an expeditionary force of the kind I have described would be the most useful force we could possibly have, but it is absolutely certain that with our present military administration the expeditionary force I have indicated is impossible of creation; it would mean the dislocation of the whole of that administration. But if our military administration prevents our having the one force which everyone agrees will be the most useful, it will be well to re - consider that administration. In this country we have all the advantages which are due to our insular situation. That is not so abroad, where our frontiers are adjacent to those of great military nations. The Prime Minister has justified the maintenance of three Army Corps of Regular troops in England for the defence of the north-west frontier of India. I agree that it would not be well to leave the defence of that frontier to the Indian Army alone, but surely England is no longer the proper base from which to defend India. It would be better done from South Africa, which, in the first place, is three weeks nearer in point of distance. It will be always necessary to maintain a large body of troops in South Africa. The objection, of course, arises on the score of the great expense, but if we used South Africa as a base for the defence of India, it would be reasonable to expect the Indian Government to contribute something towards its maintenance. It might also be possible to transfer part of the garrison now in India to South Africa, where the climate is excellent, and there is ample scope for that training, the great importance of which has been fully demonstrated. A scheme like this Army Corps Scheme, which fails to provide us with the one force most requisite for our Imperial needs, seems to me to be obsolete.


My Lords, I apologise to the House for having hesitated to rise to reply to the Motion of he noble Earl, but I cannot help thinking that noble Lords will sympathise with me in the feeling that prompted me to hesitate. I really do not know what I have got to answer. The noble Earl has put down a Motion which has been advertised throughout the Press of the country; people have talked about it, and it was understood that a great attack was going to be made on my right hon. friend the Secretary of State's policy, and that I should be put to the greatest possible difficulty in answering that attack. The noble Earl for twenty minutes gave us a most interesting discourse upon the position of the Liberal Party. He explained to us what their attitude was before the war, and told us what Lord Kimberley had advised the Party to do. For about ten minutes he spoke about the Army, and during five of those minutes he put a series of conundrums—more or less algebraical problems—in connection with the British Army, and then proceeded to close his speech with a personal attack on the Secretary of State for War. I confess I shall be surprised if your Lordships take the view that is worthy of the wording of the Motion which the noble Earl has placed on the Paper.

The noble Duke has referred to one or two points in connection with Army administration which I will deal with later. I feel that I should like to be able to tell the noble Earl, as Mr. Balfour told Mr. Asquith, that he had put the question of Army administration in a nutshell, and to reply to him on some definite and clear point. Mr. Asquith in his speech said that not so much depended on the division that was to be taken as on the tenor of the debate In your Lordship's House both these factors have their independent significance. It has often happened that the House of Lords has shown itself more independent of political or Party considerations than the House of Commons. Your Lordships have no local caucuses or political contests to consider, and the public therefore feel that the division and the debate in this House will help to settle a long controversy concerning Army administration, which has been carried on in a somewhat confused manner, and which the noble Earl has in no way helped to elucidate, and they hope to gain some light from the attitude which is adopted by your Lordships. The noble Earl has asked me to state whether the number of recruits given by the Secretary of State includes those refused by the Medical Board.


Whether the gross number of men recruited is given, or whether the number of men dropped through desertion or through being declared medically unfit is taken into consideration.


My right hon. friend gave the number of recruits taken during the last year, and, of course, the Army system is such that of these recruits some will be cast aside on account of illness, some on account of bad conduct, and some on account of drunkenness. The total of 52,000 men does not mean that we have got that number of soldiers who will be absolutely efficient. I believe the points on which the public wish to be directed, and the points which I and my right hon. friend the Secretary of State would like the decision of this House upon, are three. First, is the limit at which my right hon. friend the Secretary of State has fixed the establishment of the Regular forces of this country too high? Secondly, assuming that it is not too high, is the Army Corps organisation the most suited for working out and developing the Army's fullest capacity? And thirdly, if it is the most suited, has the Government done everything in its power to make that Army Corps system effective? Those are the three points of importance. As regards the question whether the regular establishment is too high, it would be presumption in me to attempt to give the House any strategical reasons for the necessity of having three Army Corps for foreign service. The Prime Minister stated the other night in the House of Commons what the Cabinet policy was, and he referred to the necessity of having a large number of soldiers ready and available for service in India. I can only say from the short experience I had at the India Office, and the knowledge which I was then able to gain as to the requirements of India, I am perfectly confident that the Prime Minister only expressed the feeling of every man who is at all capable of expressing an opinion as to the requirements that might arise in certain eventualities.

Well, my Lords, it is stated that we do not want an Army to send abroad, that we can rely absolutely on the Navy, that the Navy is to take the offensive, and that no Army can possibly be required. It is perfectly true that the Navy will take the offensive, and that in nine cases out of ten the Army will be only supplementary to the Navy, but there are cases in which the Navy will be supplementary to the Army. We have had experience before now of sudden and unexpected demands made upon us. We had to send a large number of men to America during the War of Independence. We had to send 200,000 men abroad during the Napoleonic Wars; in the Crimea we had 150,000 men abroad; during the Indian Mutiny we had a force of 96,000 men abroad; and in the South African War, 350,000 men. That shows, I think, that we may at any time find it necessary to send a force abroad; and I am bound to say that when I listened a few nights ago to Lord Rosebery's speech on the Venezuelan question, when he told us of the antipathy, rancour and jealousy of Europe against this country, I could not help feeling that instead of three Army Corps we ought to be in a position to send abroad considerably more. If the noble Earl holds the opinion that the hatred of this country is so great abroad, he will hardly vote against the proposals that His Majesty's Government have put forward for securing a force sufficient and fully trained for any possible emergency. I venture to say that the duty of the Secretary of State in considering this matter of the number of men we ought to be in a position to send abroad, has been not only to consider the probabilities, but also the possibilities. He has had to take the advice of his military advisers, and the military authorities are unanimously of opinion that we cannot possibly do with a smaller number of men than are contained in the first three Army Corps for service abroad.

I should like to say a word or two with regard to the Intelligence Department. That Department has been strengthened, and the status of the Director-General of Military Intelligence is second to no one of the military heads at the War Office. It is the desire of the Secretary of State to strengthen that Department in every possible way. As far back as November last he appointed a Committee, of which I have the honour to be Chairman, to consider the requirements of the Department in the future. That Committee has just completed its report, and there are certain recommendations contained in it as to the increase of the establishment provided in the Estimates. The Committee of National Defence has as one of its members the Director-General of Military Intelligence. That will no doubt throw a considerable amount of extra work on the Intelligence Department, and for that reason we shall have to consider whether or not extra officers should be added to the strength of the Department. There is one point that I should like to make clear to the House. It is that the Intelligence Department, which has in the past been very much criticised, is not by any means lacking in those qualities in respect of which it is supposed to have been deficient. It is not right for me to anticipate in any way the Report of the Royal Commission, but I think I may say, from the knowledge and experience that I have had and the papers I have seen since I have been at the War Office, that the Commission will not find that the information that was provided by the Intelligence Department prior to the South African War was lacking in judgment or in accuracy. I think it is only just to the distinguished officer who was then at the head of the Intelligence Department that that statement should be made. The Intelligence Department has been brought so much before the public, and so much is expected of it in the future, that I venture to assert that the advice which the Intelligence Department will tender will not be in the direction of a reduction of our Regular forces, but rather the contrary.

I come now to the second point—Is the Army organisation best suited to our military needs? Now, there are certain points which I would like to bring before your Lordships' attention with regard to Army organisation. The first object of the Army Corps system is to decentralise work, to provide for the better training of officers in the highest duties of administration and command, to give better facilities for the organisation of troops for expeditionary purposes, and to assimilate conditions existing in peace to those existing in war. The noble Earl has told us that this system interferes with recruiting for the Navy. I do not know on what evidence he has made that statement, and I should like your Lordships to disabuse your minds that the Army Corps organisation has any connection with the number of men we have at present, or will involve the country in any extra expense. The only difference in the cost of the present system as compared with the system of the past is that one or two generals and their staffs are added to the establishment of the Army. It is really a misnomer to talk about the Army Corps as a system; it is merely a question of the distribution of troops. This system of distribution of troops has existed in India for many years, and has been found to work admirably. Assuming, as I have stated, that it is necessary to send three Army Corps a broad, it is necessary to have these troops highly trained and efficient. I do not think it matters whether we call them Army Corps or by any other name.

You have only three places—Aldershot, Salisbury Plain, and Ireland—where any body of troops can be trained. Therefore, if you divide a force of three Army Corps, which consists of 135,000 men, into three parts, one-third would have to be trained at Aldershot, another on Salisbury Plain, and the other third in Ireland. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that you should have a general in command of each of those three districts, and whether they are called Army Corps or commands is really immaterial. What are the advantages that an Army Corps organisation affords? It gives greater facilities for training, and security that the proper proportion between the various arms and departmental services is permanently maintained. In 1888 the Government took stock of their military resources, and found that though they had an Infantry sufficient for three Army Corps, they were lacking in Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, and Departmental services. Now we have a definite organisation to work up to, and I honestly believe that the system which has been adopted by the Secretary of State, with the full support and hearty co-operation of the military authorities, is one that will prevent deficiencies such as I have referred to being overlooked in the future. It is generally admitted that one of the great evils of the past Army administration has been centralisation—centralisation which it is no exaggeration to say has filtered from the War Office down to battalions and to companies. By the present scheme decentralisation is encouraged, and after a little time I believe the War Office will have been relieved of many petty and daily routine details which could be far more effectively and conveniently performed by the generals and their staff officers on the spot.

Then there is another point where I think it will be admitted that the Army Corps system will be of great use. It will teach officers that initiative and independence, which it is perfectly impossible for them to show on active service if they have not been encouraged to display it in time of peace; and if the Army Corps organisation is now, after so much has been done towards giving effect to it, to be done away with, it is absolutely certain that we shall revert to the old system of centralisation with all its attendant abuses. It has been alleged against the Army Corps system that it is incompatible with the power of rapidly organising a comparatively small expeditionary force, say from 5,000 to 25,000 men, for immediate despatch abroad. The contrary is the case. In 1888 we had an Army Corps system. That seems now to have been forgotten, but that system only came into force on mobilisation. Therefore, when it is said that it will be inconvenient to detach a given number of troops from one Army Corps for foreign service, the same argument might equally have been applied to detaching a certain number of troops previous to the present scheme. An Army Corps consisted in the past of a given number of units on mobilisation. If you had to send a certain number of troops abroad, so many units had to be taken away from the Army Corps, with the consequence that when you had to mobilise the Army Corps it would be minus the units that had gone. We claim that under the present system that difficulty will not arise, because, if at any time say 10,000 or 12,000 men are taken away from the First Army Corps for service abroad, there will be no difficulty in replacing those men from the Reserve nucleus that we have of 40,000 British troops in the country, or it may even be completed by auxiliary forces, who would naturally fall into the duties they had to perform far easier if they had the example of the remaining part of the Corps. I could pursue that point a good deal more in detail, but I do not wish to trouble the House at too great length.

It has been asked—What is to be the position in this country after the first three Army Corps have gone abroad? Well, the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Army Corps will remain as the Field Army for home defence. The noble Earl has accused me of having said that these Army Corps were chiefly on paper. It is perfectly true that I made that remark, but I now have the opportunity, which I gladly avail myself of, of explaining in detail what I actually said in addition. I said I did not understand what the charge as to the Army Corps being paper Army Corps really meant. I said— If you are referring to the first three Army Corps, I suppose yon mean that they cannot go on active service unless the Reserves are called up, and inasmuch as the Reservists are not actually serving with the Colours, they are to that extent on paper. I said, as regards the last three Army Corps— If the fact that they consist largely of Auxiliary forces—Volunteers and Militia, who are not constantly in barracks and not constantly attached to the Corps—is what you refer to when you say they are on paper. I agree that they are chiefly on paper; but when the Secretary of State introduced the scheme he stated perfectly clearly that the last three Army Corps would comprise 60,000 Volunteers and Militia. Some 25,000 to 30,000 men of the Regular troops will form the nucleus of the last three Army Corps, and will constitute the Field Army for such duties as they may be called upon to perform.

It has been said that the Auxiliary forces quartered in the southern part of England are not included in the last three Army Corps. That, again, is perfectly true, but they have the most important duties possible allocated to them. They form on mobilisation the bodies of troops that will do garrison duty and be quartered in the three most important dockyards—Portsmouth, Devon port and Chatham—and it would be folly to include these troops in an Army Corps which is purposely for field service, when their duties are of an absolutely contrary nature. The Auxiliary forces in the southern part of England are trained in peace time for those garrison duties which they will have to perform in time of war. Whatever maybe said as to the Army Corps organisation. I have not the slightest hesitation in affirming that this is the first time in our history that a serious attempt has been made to organise the Auxiliary forces, and to teach them the duties in peace time that they will have to perform in war.

I come now to the third point which I raised—Have the Government done what they could to make the Army organisation effective? and on that point I would call your Lordships' attention to the fact that it was only two years ago that this scheme was proposed and sanctioned by Parliament. In the nature of things the war in South Africa has delayed the return of troops which are necessary to the completion of these Army Corps. The First Army Corps only lacks one battalion of infantry; but barracks are not yet available for all its units, which for some time will have to be stationed in other commands. The moment these barracks are ready the First Army Corps will be complete. The Second Army Corps lacks three regiments of cavalry and six battalions of infantry, for which barracks are not yet available. Four Guards battalions will join from London on mobilisation under normal arrangements, and they have in addition two battalions as surplus. The third Army Corps lacks one cavalry regiment, three batteries of militia artillery, three heavy batteries, and two battalions of infantry, but they have five surplus batteries. The Fourth Army Corps only lacks in Regulars three batteries now in South Africa. The Auxiliary troops are complete except for six militia batteries, and there is a surplus of seven battalions and one cavalry regiment belonging to the First and Second Army Corps. Consequently the general who commands the Fourth Army Corps will have actually more troops under his command than any of the other generals. With regard to the Fifth Army Corps, the Regular and Auxiliary forces are complete, except for three batteries of Militia artillery. Two of the Regular batteries are at the present time quartered in Ireland. The Sixth Army Corps lacks twelve battalions of Royal Artillery, now abroad, and has three quartered in Ireland. The other Regulars and the Auxiliary troops are complete except for six militia batteries, not yet raised, and there is a surplus of one cavalry regiment and one infantry battalion belonging to the First Army Corps. I think that gives the House a clear idea of what the position of the Army Corps is at the present time.

The only other point I would like to draw the attention of the House to is the exact establishment that we have, and to which the noble Earl referred, viz., the 259,000 men. That figure, given by the Secretary of State in the House of Commons, included the troops in India. It is suggested that we should reduce our forces by 20,000 or 30,000 men. If it is contemplated that it would be necessary at any time to send out three Army Corps for service abroad, it would be folly if we attempted to reduce by 20,000 or 30,000 men our existing forces. Take the Home Army of this country at 150,000 men, and the Reserve at 60,000; that gives a total of 210,000 men. From this we must deduct 13,000 for garrison duty, 15,000 sick, and 30,000 recruits, 4,000 depots, and the first three Army Corps 135,000, making a total of 197,000. On mobilisation that would leave us a force of 21,000 men as the nucleus of our three Home Army Corps. If the first three Army Corps were sent abroad we should only have sufficient recruits left in this country to send out our first line of drafts. If it is necessary to have this Army Corps for service abroad, I think the House will admit that it would be folly to consider a large reduction until we have greatly increased our Reserve.

Before sitting down I should like to point out to the House what it will be pronouncing if it gives a vote to-night adverse to His Majesty's Government. It will, first of all, declare that the Government have not done what it could to make the Army Corps organisation effective. I admit that that is a matter of opinion. I have done my best to give your Lordships the facts, and you have them before you. Secondly, it will pronounce that the scheme of Army organisation is not suitable to the requirements of the country. Well, I maintain that if the House comes to that decision, it necessarily follows that someone should be prepared to put forward an alternative scheme, because it does not seem to me fair to the Government to condemn one scheme without putting forward another. It may be statesmanlike to condemn one scheme in favour of another, but it is not statesmanlike or common-sense to condemn one scheme in favour of nothing. I maintain that it must be one scheme or another, and any noble Lord who has not made up his mind what scheme he advocates for the British Army, is not, in my humble judgment, entitled to vote against the Government this evening. Thirdly, by giving a vote against the Government, the House will pronounce that the Regular force organised for service abroad is too large for the requirements of the Empire. The House, if it takes that line, will be coming to a very serious decision, and will be practically directing the Government to reduce the strength of the Army. If that course is adopted, what will the world say? The noble Lord has referred to the lessons of the war. Well, if we now cut down our Regular forces, I think the world will say that the only lesson that this country has learned from the war in South Africa is that we had too large an Army, too many troops, too good an organisation, too powerful equipment for the responsibilities of this country. That is what I believe will be said if the course proposed is taken, and I venture to hope that the House will reject the Motion.


My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down concluded by proposing a very strange constitutional doctrine to the House. He says we are not at liberty to vote against the Government scheme, even if we think it is a bad one, and even if we can prove that it is a bad one, unless we produce to the House a cut and dried scheme which we may consider a better one. Surely such a doctrine has never been heard in Parliament before, that we who are out of office, and who, I suppose noble Lords opposite will say, have not much chance of getting into office very shortly, should ourselves formulate a complete scheme, or swallow any scheme presented by His Majesty's Government. I shall have a word to say later with regard to another astounding suggestion of the noble Lord, that if we vote against the scheme of the Government, foreign countries will think that the only lesson we had learned from our experiences in South Africa was that we had too large an Army before the war broke out. The Motion of the noble Earl behind me asks that the Government should reconsider their scheme of military organisation, having regard to the experience of the war in South Africa and to the naval and military requirements of the Empire. Surely we have a right to know, before we are asked to sanction this Army Corps system, or even to increase the Army to the extent suggested, in what position the Army stands to the Navy. Before we know that, we are not in a position at all events to unreservedly endorse all that the noble Earl says about the necessity of a larger Army. I noticed that the noble Earl did not say one single word in reference to the statement of the noble Earl behind me, that this scheme was no longer popular in Parliament or in the country. Is it not strange, if this scheme is such a good one and one that proposes an increase in the Army, it is not even popular with the Service Members?

The Secretary of State for War drew a pathetic contrast between the rapturous reception of this scheme two years ago and its condemnation now. It is perfectly true that two years ago when he introduced this scheme it was extremely popular with his own supporters, but we saw through it at once. We never gave our adhesion to the proposal, but the Secretary of State is perfectly right when he says that a very great change has come over public opinion, for the scheme is now generally condemned as wasteful, extravagant and inefficient. The Government profess to be very much surprised at this, but it seems to me that the change is perfectly natural and one that might have been expected. What happened was this. The nation temporarily lost its senses in a delirium of war fever. During that delirium the scheme had only to be big enough and expensive enough to secure acceptance. The bigger and the more expensive the scheme, the more popular it was. The Government are now reaping the natural result of yielding to popular clamour. This disaster following momentary popularity, is well deserved, for this was an ill-digested scheme produced in a time of frantic excitement. The country was angry with the Government for saying that the war was ended when it was only half through, and they found it necessary to conciliate public opinion by bringing forward a scheme of Army reform. This led up to a very dangerous situation. There is no course more calculated to produce reaction against even moderate and necessary expenditure on the Army than to force down the throat of the already overburdened taxpayer a scheme of Army reform in which he does not believe and in which Parliament does not believe. You are doing your best to pull tight the purse-strings of the nation, and to prevent the nation coming forward liberally and supporting a satisfactory and well thought-out scheme of Army reform. The noble Earl spoke of the three Army Corps going abroad. I should like to know where the noble Earl contemplates sending these expeditions.


I was referring to a remark that was made the other night during the discussion on the Venezuelan question, and I said that if it was true as to the hostility of foreign powers three Army Corps would not be of much assistance to us.


That is what we say. Your scheme is a great deal too big or too little. The noble Karl says that the military authorities are unanimously of opinion that the Army Corps system is a good one and that the increase in the Army is absolutely essential. I do not defer to military opinion in this matter. The size of an Army is a matter that must be decided on policy. If you tell us that you are going on an adventurous policy of landing Army Corps on the Continent, you must have them three times as large as you have now. The noble Karl wont on to say that there were certain specific reasons why the Army Corps system was the best, and the first and principal reason was that the system was necessary in order to decentralise the administration of the Army. But why? I cannot understand why it should be necessary to have this system in order to decentralise the administration of the Army. Look at the difficulties you will get into. The Hythe School of Musketry is attached to the Second Army Corps, but it supplies the whole Army. Who is to have the control of the school? Again, it was stated by the Prime Minister that the Army Corps were extremely desirable, because we might have a good deal of work to do in India. He said it enabled troops to be sent to India in an organised condition, hut I would point out that in India the Army Corps consist of native troops, stiffened with British. The English Army Corps sent to India would have to be denuded of those recruits who had not been twelve months in the Service, and you would then have to do away with this precious Army Corps system. You would have to denude your Army Corps of a great many of the men composing it if you wanted to send it to India, and in that case I do not think you would be any better off with this new system. Then we are told that the Army Corps system is essential because we are to train the Volunteers. But is an Army Corps necessary for that purpose? I do not think His Majesty's Government are particularly happy in what they have done with regard to the Auxiliary forces. The Auxiliary forces do not seem to be very pleased with the existing state of things, and I think the Government would be very wise if they took the advice of Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, who said that what we ought to do with the Auxiliary forces was to put them into hard training for a little while, and after they have gone through that, exact very much less training from them.

I am glad to be able to come to a topic as to which I am in complete accord with the noble Earl. I think the first thing His Majesty's Government ought to have done, as the result of experiences gained during the war, was to have greatly increased the Intelligence Department. I venture to think that if the Government had only condescended to take the advice of the Intelligence Department they would have got on very much better in South Africa. The extraordinary thing is that the Department, with such a small sum of money and such a small staff at their disposal, were able to get such valuable information with regard to the Boer armaments before the war, and it is to be regretted that that information was not made use of by the Government.

We ought, I suppose, in any Army scheme to take to heart the lessons of the war. I am only going to suggest that there are two important lessons that ought to be taken to heart. The first is the great superiority, under modern conditions of warfare and with modern weapons, of defence over attack. This is a very important matter, and I should have thought that the superiority of defence over attack having been demon" strated to such an extent in the late war would rather have led His Majesty's Government to the conclusion that so far from its being necessary to strengthen the Home Army, we might be able to somewhat decrease it. The second lesson is a more far-reaching one—viz., that the cultivation of intelligence is necessary in every rank, from the highest to the lowest. In the first place, what you have to do is to get as intelligent recruits as you can; and, in the second place, to cultivate their intelligence while they are in the ranks. The noble Earl said a good deal about recruiting, but surely it is no very great triumph to have got 52,000 recruits—4 per cent. over requirements—considering the state of the country at the time. I refuse to express my opinion as to whether recruiting is or is not in a satisfactory state until I know what sort of men these 52,000 soldiers are. I am afraid that the evidence on that point is unsatisfactory, for recruiting officers report that the recruits who were coming forward were extremely illiterate, and an officer commanding one of the large depots said the main cause for these young fellows enlisting was hunger, short time employment, and low wages. With the volunteer system of recruiting every Government is, of course, under this difficulty. When trade is bad recruiting is brisk, but the class of recruits you get in these circumstances are just the men who in subsequent years fill the ranks of the deserters and the army prisons, and you are better without them.

Then, again, it seems to me that the recruiting regulations are very faulty, I mean with regard to insisting upon a character with recruits. On that point I must say that the remark of the Secretary of State struck me with amazement. Mr. Brodrick said, "Enquiries as to character have been instituted with considerable advantage in many districts." Why not in all? The Commander-in-Chief the other day wrote a most scathing letter condemning the system of taking recruits without good characters. But here we have the Secretary of State stating that in many districts some regard is paid to the character of recruits. The inference is that in many cases no regard at all is paid to the character of the recruits, and I cannot understand how the Commander-in-Chief could have been flouted in this way by the Secretary of State. It is perfectly true, as the noble Earl has stated, that steps have been taken to encourage recruiting. The attractions include better pay, better barrack accommodation, and less barrack-square drill. This is all very good as far as it goes, but I do not think, even with regard to the comfort, convenience and cleanliness of barracks, that we have gone nearly as far as we ought to go. The other day I went over several common lodging houses in London of the lowest type, and the superintendent of one of them told me that they compared very favourably, both from the point of view of cleanliness and the way in which they were kept, with the London barracks; and, if I may mention it in this connection, he said that the military authorities had approached him to ascertain the best means of extirpating bugs, and he had been able to give them some very good advice in this direction.

What I complain of is that recruiting is not encouraged by any effort to improve the general education of the soldier while in the ranks. I have time and again called the attention of the House to this subject. I was told when I last brought forward the subject of the education of the soldier for civil life that the experiment had been tried at Woolwich and had failed. The Woolwich experiment was in 1899, four years after the Report of the Select Committee on Employment for Discharged Soldiers and Sailors, who said it might be possible to educate the soldier in a trade during the winter months, but that it would be quite impossible in the summer. That was the opinion of the Select Committee appointed to enquire into this subject, but, instead of following this advice, the authorities at Woolwich begin the experiment in March, when it was bound to fail because it was beginning at the wrong time. But in order to make certain that it should be a dead failure the authorities made no enquiry at all as to the state of the education of the soldiers they sent into the trade classes, and the consequence was that they were sent to classes where the education given was so much above their heads that it might as well have been given in the Hebrew tongue. We have had the education of the officer scathingly condemned, but the ignorance of the private soldier is as great a scandal. The old system continues. Initiative and suppleness are drilled out of the soldier. We profess surprise at the difficulty in finding employment for discharged soldiers. Contrast the Army with the Navy. The men in the Navy are known as handy men, and the soldiers as helpless men. Our sailors are handy because they have been trained to suppleness and taught to exercise their intelligence.

If you get your 50,000 recruits they will not be of the right sort and no effort will apparently be made to improve them. If the scheme is pressed the Army will probably be below the establishment and will certainly be inefficient. But then we are told we shall have nothing to do but go in for conscription, and the country will then get plenty of excellent recruits. On that point I am glad to think that up to the present, at all events, His Majesty's Government are standing firm. Only the other day the First Lord of the Admiralty reminded his audience that conscription for foreign service does not obtain in any European country, and I was glad to see that Major Seely in the House of Commons had the courage to say that conscription is a counsel of folly. But for two years past we have been flooded with letters in the Service Press advocating conscription, and I think these gentlemen have no wish to make voluntary recruiting a success, but would welcome its failure as paving the way for conscription. If you refuse to fit the soldier for civil life, if you will stiffen his muscles and stunt his intelligence, if you insist on sending him back to civil life a worse man for civil employment than when he joined the Colours, the Government scheme sooner or later means conscription, and as you cannot get conscription it means that your scheme will fall through. I say that it is reasonable to ask the Government to reconsider their scheme. It was not wise to introduce a large scheme of Army reform during the war. The scheme was got up in a hurry in deference to popular clamour, and during the delirium of war fever. That was not wise, but I do not think the country expects too much of the Government. I do not think the man in the street acknowledges any great intellectual superiority on their part, and I do not think that anybody is in the least surprised to find that the Government did not escape the infection of the war fever. We have been reminded by the Prime Minister that his Party have been making Imperialistic speeches for four years. We do not think hardly of them for that. Many besides Ministers have done that, but when everyone is returning to his senses I think it is reasonable to hope that Ministers will not be the only persons to persist in their errors. It is excusable for Ministers to succumb to a temporary fit of lunacy with the majority of Englishmen, but it is inexcusable for them to boast that they still stand where they did four years ago, though every one else has recovered his senses. National defence is not a subject to be trifled with, and I hope that in considering it Ministers will put away every atom of false pride and obstinacy, and will not, by adhering to their expensive and ill-advised project, run the risk of pulling tight the purse-strings of the nation. I trust that by taking this scheme back they will show that in the matter of national defence they are worthy of the confidence of the people.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken has thrown down a challenge to your Lordships on the subject of the Army Corps system. Its effect upon the Volunteers has been referred to. I myself think that this is the first system that has been produced which takes into reasonable account the Volunteer force. Volunteers in themselves are very useful men, and Volunteer officers are to he obtained in large numbers if they can be intelligently looked after. The instances where the Volunteers broke down in the late war were entirely due to their not having the right class of people on the staff to manage them. It has been proved that many thousands of men can be secured to fight for their country provided they can be intelligently staffed. This Army Corps system, by producing a definite scheme—

[The noble Lord here abruptly resumed his seat amid sympathetic cheers from both sides of the House.]


I am sure the House listened with particular interest when the noble Lord who has just sat down rose to address your Lordships. The name of Lovat's Scouts has become a household word, and although my noble friend has ceased to speak at this moment I hope we shall soon have a further opportunity of hearing his views on this subject. I am sure the services he has rendered to the country will always be gratefully remembered. I think it might be expected that any Member addressing your Lordships on this occasion ought to have the qualification of some experience in military matters, either the experience of service in the Army or official experience in connection with the administration of military affairs, and I believe that all the noble Lords who have spoken up to the present come within that category. But although I cannot claim any such qualification, I should like to explain that I rise not so much in the capacity of a critic as that of an inquirer, I might say an anxious inquirer. I quite admit that inquiries very often imply certain criticism, and I admit that the first inquiry I should like to make may come under that head. The question which has been in my mind is as to the principle on which special travelling allowances are made, or are not made, in certain conditions. We have all admired the manner in which the vast number of troops were conveyed 6,000 miles across the sea to South Africa, but I wish to call attention to a much humbler kind of transportation. A man applied for military service in Aberdeen, and was accepted. Aberdeen is a most desirable place, but it has one disadvantage, that it is a considerable distance from London, and that the railway fare is therefore expensive. The man I am referring to had passed a preliminary examination as to his fitness for service and travelled to London to have his full admission arranged for. But when further examination took place in London it was ruled that owing to some defect in his teeth he could not be accepted, and he had to bear the loss of his railway fare. When he got back you may be pretty sure he did not keep his experience to himself, and such treatment as that cannot but have a bad effect on the class from which you hope to draw recruits.

The question which interests me most of all is that of the Volunteers. My noble friend who opened this debate stated that there had been a diminution during the past two years in the Volunteer force of 70,000 men. That, surely, is a very serious fact. I listened from the Peers' Gallery in the House of Commons the other day to a statement by the Prime Minister in which he emphatically declared that it was his intention to do all that was possible to improve and make efficient the Auxiliary forces. But when we hear of a diminution of 70,000 men we cannot help thinking of the old expression, "improving a thing off the face of the earth." I want to know the method and the principle which will be pursued in this matter. I am sure that Volunteer officers are not afraid of demands for increased efficiency, hut their attitude is rather this, that they are confronted with the difficulty of combining compliance with the regulations with the corresponding necessity of securing the adherence of the Volunteers to the new conditions. I have a letter in my hand from a Volunteer officer in which he states that he is receiving serious complaints to the effect that he is requiring too much time to be devoted by his men to the work. He has found it necessary to give a special camp allowance of two shillings a day, in addition to the War Office allowance, and concludes, "if the present regulations are not modified I have no doubt that the membership will decrease very considerably." One cannot help thinking that by some careful rearrangement something might be done to meet some of these difficulties. Of course, if the object is to reduce the total number of Volunteers I can conceive that there might be something to he said for that. If it is really the intention of the Government that there should be a smaller but a more efficient force that policy should be avowedly expressed, because a sort of indirect process of diminution has a discouraging effect, and you cannot be sure that the process secures the survival of the fittest. Therefore I hope we shall hear something further as to the principle and method which it is proposed to continue with regard to the Volunteers.


My Lords, I should like to direct the attention of the House to one or two points which, as regards the disposition of the forces of the Crown, I think are more important than the cost of a journey from Aberdeen to London, and more nearly relate to the Motion of the noble Earl. The noble Karl the Under Secretary said there were three points upon which the Government would be glad to have a decision—first, whether the establishment of the Army is too high? Secondly, whether the Army Corps system is the best for the distribution of the troops? And, thirdly, if it is, whether the Government have done their best to carry out that system? As regards the first point, it seems to me that that is hardly a question for the Government to put. Surely they are responsible for the numbers in the Army. It is the business of the Cabinet to advise the country what they consider necessary for the safety of the Empire. It is undoubtedly open to the Opposition to challenge that advice, but the Opposition had to accept the Estimates which were put before the House of Commons last year, and we must assume that the numbers that were voted were those which the noble Earl and his colleagues thought to be the right number. I do not understand his asking that question at this moment. I do not think that anyone who has had any interior acquaintance with the administration of India would dare to get up in his place and challenge whatever the Cabinet may say is necessary for the defence of the Empire. It is perfectly well known, I imagine, to all those who have held high administrative posts in India, what the numbers are which the Government of India say they must have if an attack is made on the North-West Frontier—that is to say, what extra number of English troops from England India must have in addition to the troops at present in that country; and I am perfectly certain that His Majesty's Government have had that in mind. Therefore, so far as I am concerned, I am quite satisfied with the number which His Majesty's Government have said are necessary, and I sincerely hope they will not yield to any pressure to reduce those numbers.

Now as to the question of the Army Corps system. The name Army Corps is given to those bodies to which the War Office wish to devolve some of the detailed work which hitherto has occupied too much attention at Headquarters, and I think it is a better name than the alternatives—division, district, or group. I admire the courage which the Secretary for War has shown in carrying out, against much adverse criticism, a scheme for the decentralisation which has been called for. When the transition stage, which always does produce some confusion, is over, I believe there will be greater expedition in dealing with matters of detail. It seems to me hypercritical to challenge the system which Mr Brodrick has introduced, which has been called for for years, and which, I believe, will in a very short time result in considerable expedition in dealing with the many questions that arise in connection with the Army. I hope the Government will not hesitate to ask for what is necessary in respect of the Intelligence Department, for I am sure that even with double its strength the Department could not work out all the requisites for the successful conduct of a war in all the countries where there may be a chance of having to fight.

At the beginning of the South African War I believe not a British officer was capable of estimating the number of troops necessary to guard our lines of communication, so that we might strike at the Boer headquarters; but this was done by a German officer who wrote to The Times in November, 1899. He pointed out that the number of troops we then had in South Africa were quite insufficient to enable us to compete with the Boer army at the strength at which we calculated it, and which he believed was under-estimated, and further that we did not possess anything like enough troops for the lines of communication. He stated the numbers which he considered would be necessary, and those numbers were at least double what we then had in South Africa, and even his estimate eventually proved not to be enough. But what struck me as very curious was that no British officer had made anything like an accurate calculation of the number of troops required for the lines of communication in order to enable us to reach Johannesburg. I am certain of this, that if the Intelligence branch had been big enough they would have given attention to a point of this kind, with the result that the Government would have been better advised on this point than they were. Comparisons have been made as regards the size of the Intelligence branch of the German Army and the size of our Intelligence Department. I wonder what the size of the German Intelligence branch would be if they had the risks of war in all parts of the world that we have. I can imagine that it would be a great deal larger. I therefore hope that the Government will see their way to adequately equip this important Department. I think it would be imprudent to place too much dependence on the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, notwithstanding the strengthening it has received by the addition of several expert advisers. The members of the Cabinet who are on that Committee are all busy men with their own Departments to attend to, and I cannot believe they will be able to find all the time that is necessary for the accurate study of the large and intricate questions that will come before them.

There is one question of great importance to which I hope it will be possible for the noble Marquess the Foreign Secretary, or some other member of the Government, to give some reply. The question is, "Is it best for the Empire or not that the whole of these Regular troops should be barracked in England?" A scheme has been put forward in The Times in which it is suggested that a large force might be stationed in various parts of the Empire. It is a very bold idea; I think myself it is rather crude, and that if it had been subjected to detailed official criticism—to that criticism which knows how many are the needs of the Army—probably it would not have seemed so sound to its author as he thought it when it was propounded. But there is one place, where he suggested that troops should be stationed, that seems to have a great deal of wisdom behind it—and that is that there should be a considerable force, possibly an Army Corps, stationed in South Africa. This, of course, is exclusive of the force which it is necessary at present to retain in South Africa, but which may be reduced in time. One of the points that will inevitably occur to anyone criticising that scheme is the question of transport, in ease these troops are required in any other part of the world. It is an undoubted fact that there is no part of the world where transports can he so easily obtained as in England, and therefore the Army Corps that is to go abroad can he put on the necessary shipping quicker in England than anywhere else. Hut in this case—and it must he remembered that one of the reasons for this large force of Regular troops is the defence of India—the propounder of the scheme in The Times assumes the Canal is closed, and therefore that all the transports will have to go round the Cape. In such a case. if it were possible to station an Army Corps in South Africa, I do not think there would he any delay as regards shipping, because the transports could he engaged in England, probably fitted up with some portion of their fittings and stores, call at the Cape, at Port Elizabeth, Durban, and London, pick up their troops, and go on to India without loss of time. That advantage seems to me to apply to an Army Corps stationed in South Africa more than to one stationed in any part of the world. The troops would have far greater facilities for training in South Africa than they could have in this country, and their physique would he greatly improved there. I hope we may receive an assurance that this is a subject which will receive the attention of His Majesty's Government. It is impossible for me to support the motion of the noble Earl opposite, because I believe it to be absolutely unsound from the point of view of the necessities of the Empire.


My Lords, at this late hour I do not intend to detain your Lordships for many minutes. I think it is impossible in this question of Army reform not to refer to a debate which took place the other night in the. House of Commons, as this debate is to a certain extent a continuation of that discussion. I find myself, speaking from the point of view of a soldier, almost entirely in agreement with what fell from the noble Lord, the Financial Secretary to the War Office. His scheme, if I remember rightly, was one of modified compulsory service at home and voluntary service abroad. Such a scheme, from the point of view of the soldier, is the one solution of all our difficulties. First of all it solves the problem of recruiting, which the present scheme makes no attempt whatever to touch. It also solves the question of expense—it is cheaper—it enables you to train the Militia and Volunteers, and to bring them to whatever state of efficiency you please. It even solves the question of recruiting for the Navy, which, although it may be quite satisfactory at the present time, will, I think, one day afford a problem which may cause the Government of the day some uneasiness. Speaking from the point of view of the citizen, I realise that any system of compulsory service is now absolutely out of the question.




Because when the Government of the day two years ago had the opportunity of giving us a really sound military system they wasted the opportunity and foisted the present scheme on the country. There are two men in this country who have had the chance of putting our Army on a sound basis—the noble Marquess the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the present Secretary of State for War. Whether they were overruled by other members of the Cabinet or not it is impossible for outsiders to know, but they allowed their opportunity to go. What I complain of in the present scheme is that it makes no attempt whatever to solve the problem of recruiting. I quite agree with what fell from the noble Earl the Under Secretary, that it does not matter whether you call these Army Corps, or brigades, or divisions; it is entirely a matter of detail. Hut it is of importance that you should have a scheme which enables you to get men. The present scheme does not do that. The Secretary of State for War stated in the House of Commons the other night that recruiting for the Army was progressing favourably, but the difficulty of obtaining recruits for the infantry still exists. The Secretary of State told us that the infantry at the present time was only 2,600 below strength, but I should like to ask whether the Government expect in the coming recruiting year to keep their forces up to that figure, and whether at the end of the recruiting year they will not be more than 5,000 men below the strength in the infantry alone.

There was another rather important point in the speech made by the Secretary of State the other night. He told us that for the infantry we had ceased recruiting "specials." The standard now is: height, 5 ft. 3 in., and 32 in. chest measurement; nothing below this is a "special." I do not know whether the noble Earl, the Under Secretary, can tell me what the standard was before the war. I have reason to believe that the standard at the present time for recruits is not the same as that which existed before the war. Naturally if you reduce your standard you will have no "specials" at all. That is perfectly obvious. Perhaps it is not fair to call it a trick on the part of the Secretary of State to make this statement to the country, but at anyrate it is to my mind rather a slim form of Parliamentary tactics. Turning to minor reforms introduced in the present scheme there is one which I think will not tend to the efficiency of the Service—that is the regulation which enables men to stay out all night in plain clothes. In no other walk of life would young men be allowed to stay out all night. Take the undergraduates at Cambridge or the cadets at Sandhurst; it would be entirely out of the question. There is a line written by Mr. Rudyard Kipling, and a very true one, that Single men in barracks ain't exactly plaster saints, and you may enact the introduction of cubicles, you may go further in the same direction and enact that flower boxes be placed in the windows of all barrack rooms, and china ornaments on the mantel-pieces, but still you will not do very much to elevate the moral tone of the recruit. What will happen will be that you will get your recruit coming back in the small hours of the morning either sodden with drink or having spent the greater part of the night in doubtful company.

There is one other point I should like to touch upon, namely, the dress regulation; and after the criticisms I have endeavoured to make it is a pleasure to turn to a subject on which I am able to offer my congratulations to the War Office and to His Majesty's Government. Their efforts in this direction are really deserving of the highest praise. It is impossible to overrate the skill, care, ingenuity, and the fertility of imagination that have been brought to bear on this very important question. Possibly to some of us it may be a matter of regret that this care and thought expended in the year 1902 on the inscription on a button, or on the pattern of a forage cap that looks as if it had been made in Germany, was not in 1901 given to the enrolment and enlistment of mounted troops to send out to fight our battles at the Cape. I wish to touch for a moment upon the question of the relations between the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State for War. It appears, as far as one can judge at present, that this system can hardly be termed satisfactory. I do not wish to imply that the relations between the Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief are not of the most cordial description. We have been told that they are. Hut the other day we had the incident of the Newmarket election, where the decision of the Commander-in-Chief was overruled by the Secretary of State. As the noble Earl the Commander-in-Chief is present in this House, I will say at once, with all due respect and sincerity, that it is difficult to imagine a Secretary of State for War being unable to get on with him, famed as he is for his charm of disposition. But it seems to me that a system can hardly be a good one which does not remove all possibility of friction and prevent the recurrence of such an incident as the one to which I have referred. We must admit that it is possible that a Commander-in-Chief may one day be appointed who has not the charming disposition of the noble Earl, Lord Roberts, and that there should arise a Secretary of State who does not possess the fascinating personality of the present War Minister. And it seems to me that you ought to have a system which will obviate the recurrence of such scenes as we saw not so very long ago in your Lordships' house.

Finally, I protest against this scheme because I think it is unfair to the Army. In the British Army there are regiments which have records such as no other army or regiment in the world can equal. I ask your Lordships whether it is fair to those regiments to fill up their ranks with men of the size you are now enlisting. I protest against it on that account. I am aware, as every thinking Englishman must be aware, that our Navy is the first line of defence. But, after all, it is only fair to judge by results.

Since the Battle of Trafalgar, although the British Navy has done splendid work in small actions, it has fought no very great war. Your Army during that time has fought and conquered in every part of the world. For that alone you owe it a debt of gratitude, and for that reason, if for no other, I ask you to register your vote against a scheme which is unfair to the people of this country and unfair to the Army which has done so much to build up this great Empire.


My Lords, the Motion is an official declaration of want of confidence on the part of His Majesty's Opposition in His Majesty's Government, and I ask your Lordships whether, in the whole of your experience, you have ever known such a Motion followed up by such a debate? Has any one single speaker on the other side attempted to deal with the real subject—"The naval and military requirements of the Empire?" The only allusion there has been to the military requirements was in the very brief speech of the Duke of Bedford; there has not been a single word about the naval requirements. I protest that it is not consistent with the dignity of this House or of Parliament that such a Motion should be followed up by such a debate. I would say, in the first place, that at the beginning of this question—not the end of it—is the Navy; and here you have an Opposition which you would imagine, so far as the speeches in this House are concerned, did not know that the Navy existed. Lord Rosebery, who I am sorry to say has left the House, is always endeavouring to stimulate the Government to a proper view of their duties in these matters. We have had the gospel of efficiency preached to us until it has become a little stale; but here we have the Opposition and, I presume, Lord Rosebery coming forward to support a Motion like this and not a word said about the Navy or the naval requirements of the country. I will not go behind the arguments that a certain section of political speakers are fond of delivering themselves of in respect of that Armageddon that might come if all the Powers of the world were to combine against the Navy to defeat it. I do not think such a discussion would be profitable, and I for one do not belong to the checkmate school. I do not believe that a man is beaten until he has been either killed or taken prisoner.

But for the purposes of this debate I ask your Lordships to take this as the starting-point—that the true defence of this country, and of the whole Empire, is its naval power, and that the invasion which we have to contemplate and take into reckoning in connection with the military system is only such an invasion as is possible so long as our naval power remains intact. I am not going to proceed from that basis to consider how many Regular troops must be kept in this country for the purpose of repelling such an invasion. And why? Because I believe that you should begin at the other end and calculate what are the number of Regular troops you will require for the Imperial defence of the Empire outside this country. You have to provide a garrison for all the coaling stations and the ports we hold. You have to provide a garrison for South Africa. You have to provide that force which is always, sooner or later, required for minor expeditions. And, beyond and above all this, you have to provide for the defence of India. When you have calculated on the basis of those requirements, I believe you will find that the number of Regular troops required in England to enable the Army to fulfil Imperial obligations in India and the Colonies is amply sufficient, with the auxiliary forces, to deal with such an invasion as I have suggested. If your Lordships agree with that basis of calculation, I ask what are you to do with those Regulars thus proved to be required and with the Militia, Yeomanry and Volunteers? I suppose we are all agreed that that force ought to be organised in the best possible manner, and not left in the position of a mere collection of disjointed units. I suppose your Lordships will further admit that there cannot be within the kingdom too much decentralisation in the way of relieving the War Office from all work of organisation and administration which can be placed on some other official shoulders. Then, I ask, wherein does the Army Corps system fail in fulfilling those requirements? I ask, also, will it be denied that the Army Corps system can provide reinforcements for India in time of need? Lord Monkswell tried to make out that because the Indian Army was organised in rather a different way from the British Army, therefore there could be no place in an Indian emergency for reinforcements by Army Corps. What is there to prevent an Army Corps being sent to India as one complete unit? I also submit that it would be possible to take out of an Army Corps, in a complete unit such as a division or a brigade, any expeditionary force which might be required for small emergencies abroad.

The system of Army Corps may be good or bad; it may be possible to suggest a better plan. But I submit that the burden of proof, which rests upon the Opposition, to demonstrate that the system fails to supply what is required in the interest of the Empire has broken down. For supplying the reinforcements for India, for the formation of a first-class Army Reserve, for the maintenance of garrisons, for the fitting out of small expeditionary forces, and for decentralisation, the Army Corps is a convenient unit. Why, also, is it not convenient for the Militia, the Yeomanry, the Volunteers, and the Regulars intended for the defence of our shores to be worked in Army Corps? I protest that the whole discussion on our military system has gone off the rails owing to the undue prominence which is given to the question of Army Corps. The real point is whether the men required for the purposes of the Empire can or cannot be supplied under the system; whether there are too many Regulars, and whether it is a sufficiently elastic system. The noble Earl who introduced the Motion made the amazing statement that the Army Corps system interfered as a rival with the Navy both as to men and as to money. On what authority does the noble earl make that statement?


On the authority of common-sense. If there are two people in the market, each wanting as many men as they can obtain, it is obvious that they will compete; and that they both will try to get as much of the public money for their particular service as they possibly can. Therefore they must be mutually prejudicial.


The Army Corps system has not interfered in the slightest degree with the Navy, either in men or money. The Board of Admiralty have received from the Government all that they require in the way of money and men. The question of the Committee of Defence has also been referred to. The Government do not claim that the Committee of Defence as re-constituted is going to cure all the evils it is intended to meet off-hand; but we do say that it is a Constitutional departure of great importance. Hitherto the exports, naval and military, have not been members of the Committee of Defence. They have been simply called in to advise when required. Henceforth they will be integral members of the Committee, and will have the same status and the same rights as the politicians. The Committee will thresh out all questions affecting national defence, no matter what time or labour may be involved:; and their decisions will be recorded and handed down from one Government to another, so that in respect to all matters which come before them there will be absolute continuity of record. But to return to the Army Corps, the only criticism I have heard of the system is that it is not complete. I entirely agree that the Army Corps system should be completed by the addition of the absolutely necessary services. What should be aimed at is not numbers, but quality. The Army should be so composed and so organised that, whatever its numbers are, those numbers shall be real men, ready to be put into the field in any emergency. The indictment is a. root-and-branch indictment against the Army system; and the real gist of it has been the numbers. The Government stand on these principles—the Navy first, the Army sufficient for its Imperial needs and organised in all detail. The Government have adopted the Army Corps system because they think it lends itself to these requirements, and I altogether fail to find how the criticisms we have up to the present heard have in any way destroyed that position.


My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that this is a highly important matter, and that it is; right that we who challenged the Mouse with a Resolution should say something more with regard to the reasons why this Motion has been put down. The First Lord of the Admiralty has rather taxed this side of the House with not having brought forward an argument of sufficient weight. I do not see that the other side have done very much more. We had an interesting speech from a very distinguished Yeomanry officer and an ex-Under Secretary for War, for whom I have very high respect, Lord Harris. We have had now a very able speech from the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty; but I quite admit that the House has not responded with speeches to the call we have made as eagerly as we rather hoped it would have done. I am afraid I shall not be able, particularly at this hour, to stir up or revive interest in the matter, but I must endeavour to put the case as it seems to me. In the first instance, let me say that the history of the opposition to the plan of the Government shows that this is in no sense a Party question. Take what happened in another place. The whole brunt, or nearly the whole brunt, of the discussion was borne by supporters of His Majesty's Government, although, no doubt, there were members of the Opposition who took part in the debate. I rejoice that this is not a Party question. We have enough of Party questions; and, although we may think it right to attack the policy of His Majesty's Government, it is not we only who do so, but some very able men who know a good deal of the subject. It is as important a subject as could possibly be brought before Parliament, not only important with regard to the immediate question of the defence of the United Kingdom of India, of the colonies, and of the coaling stations, but important because of the way in which it influences interests of great moment to this country. It affects political interests: it affects moral interests; and it affects very greatly the financial interests of this country.

Sufficient prominence has not, I often think, been given in these debates to the one point of paramount importance, the necessity of knowing what is the policy of His Majesty's Government, with regard to foreign affairs, but also with regard to the colonies. We know the famous saying of Lord Beacons-field in this House (I had the honour of hearing it) when the question of Afghanistan and India was discussed. He said:—"The key of India is in London." What was the meaning of that? It meant that the foreign and colonial policy of the Government decided and regulated these important issues. I do not for a moment say that His Majesty's Government share the extreme view which, I am sorry to say, from time to time within the last few years has been held in the Press and by Members of Parliament and others with regard to what should he the policy of this country. There has been a great deal of what is called war fever; a military spirit has been evoked; and there has been a great tendency to desire that we should seize upon countries, that we should go to war, and that England should be put with regard to its Army on the same footing as many of the great countries on the Continent. I deeply regret it. Such a policy is wholly opposed to the best political interests of this country, and I am exceedingly sorry that such a spirit should be encouraged. I am not going into the question of the South African War and our policy with regard to it. All I will say is this: that I most devoutly hope, and I trust your Lordships share that hope, that we shall not for many generations have to endure the struggle and privations and responsibilities which that war has brought upon us. I sincerely trust that we shall not have to have recourse to the gigantic, patriotic, and noble efforts that were made not only by the citizens of the United Kingdom, hut in South Africa and in other colonies to support the forces of our Sovereign in a very severe campaign. From what I heard in another place from the Prime Minister, I conclude that he refused to adopt the views to which I have referred. I do not know whether the Secretary of State for War agrees with the Prime Minister; but in a remarkable statement which he made before the Colonial Conference he certainly used words which might be interpreted as indicating that we were likely to require forces such as we had sent into South Africa. He said we had only to look at the illustration of the late war to recognise that the arrangements now being made were under, rather than over, the mark.

The noble Lord very properly alluded to the Navy; but it is satisfactory that the position which must be occupied by the Navy in our system of defences is acknowledged on all hands. I will venture to read what the noble Lord himself said at the Colonial Conference, or contributed as a memorandum. He said:— The sea is all one, and the British Navy, therefore, must be all one; and its solitary task in war must be to seek out the ships of the enemy wherever they are to be found and destroy them. At whatever spot, in whatever sea, these ships are found and destroyed there the whole Empire will be simultaneously defended in its territory, its trade, and its interests. If, on the contrary, the idea should unfortunately prevail that the problem is one of local defence, and that each part of the Empire can be content to have its allotment of ships for the purpose of the separate protection of an individual spot, the only possible result would be that an enemy who had discarded this heresy and combined his fleets would attack in detail and destroy those separate British squadrons which, united, could have defied defeat. That admirably puts the position, and we ought to bear it in mind. It appears to me that in this scheme it has been for the moment overlooked. It does not seem that the first line of defence has been sufficiently considered, and that the Army scheme has been formulated as if that line of defence had never existed. That is why I for one cannot subscribe to the eulogiums that have been passed on the scheme. The scheme is not consistent with what is the best system for the defence of the United Kingdom and the Empire at large. I at once admit that we have to find the forces. First of all we have to find forces for India, for the Colonies, and also for South Africa—I am afraid much larger forces in the latter case than hitherto. We have also to find forces for the coaling stations, and I must in this congratulate the First Lord of the Admiralty on the decision which I see he has made for the Government, that the coaling stations are not to be put in charge of the Marines. Besides that we have other duties to perform. We have to find a sufficient force to feed those forces abroad. Then we must have a certain force to assist the Navy in striking a blow abroad, if it is desired to do so—that was laid down by the First Lord of the Treasury the other night. We need also to have a certain force to help to strengthen or stiffen—if you like to call it so—the defensive force of the country. But, my Lords, what I maintain is this, that the Government have not relied sufficiently on the auxiliary forces, which must be the bulk, or the majority, of forces on which we must depend for our defence. These are the Volunteers, the Yeomanry, and the Militia. I will say something presently about the Army Corps; at present I am only going to deal with numbers, because after all I admit that it is one of the principal things whether you have over done the numbers that you require. I conceive that you have. It is very difficult to find out what has really been done. I see various statements made with regard to what Mr. Brodrick's plan was when he introduced it in 1901—what it was then and what it is now. This is not an easy matter to follow. I do not know whether it is worth while going into it, but it would certainly be interesting to know how the two statements which Mr. Brodrick has made can be entirely reconciled. Now in 1901 the Secretary of State for War says this: The net result of our proposal is this. We free a very considerable body of Regulars from garrison service for field service. That I believe has gone to the wall.


No, no.


I thought that referred to the five battalions released from the coaling stations.


No. It refers to the men of the garrison regiments.


I certainly thought that this referred to the battalions for the coaling stations, but the plan for the garrison regiments, is a very excellent one. Mr. Brodrick further said— We make up our Militia to war strength; we provide adequate artillery and mounted troops for all our Army Corps; we train better the Volunteers, who are to be given special grants. We shall have an additional number of Regulars—namely, 11,500; we shall have 50,000 more Militia in the new Militia Reserve; we shall have 25,000 more Yeomanry; and we shall have 40,000 more trained Volun- teers. The net addition under my scheme will be 126,500 men, and that, even allowing £ 60,000 for the staff of the new Army Corps, will be achieved by an expenditure of a little under £3,000,000. The other day the Secretary of State for War made a statement I cannot reconcile with this, and it is certainly important. I do not know whether his statement refers to the plan as laid down in 1901. He said— It is absolutely impossible to charge to the Army Corps Scheme more than 5,000out of the 54,000 men added to the Regular Army in the last six years. I thought that referred to the first plan introduced in 1901.




I am glad to be corrected. With regard to the Militia I cannot ascertain the position. Perhaps the noble Marquess who is to speak later (indicating the Marquess of Lansdowne) will tell us whether the Militia Reserve has succeeded, and whether we have got the number it should reach. I wish entirely to approve of, and I should like to give my commendation, for what it is worth, to that scheme, because I have had in my time considerable experience of the Militia, and I know that it will be an enormous thing for the Militia to feel that they are not always training men who are to be drained off towards the Army. I therefore welcome the plan which has been started. My Lords, with regard to the Volunteers I may be prejudiced in their favour. I was one of the first Volunteers who raised any men at all in the year 1859. My noble friend beside me (Lord Wemyss) and I were the first who instituted rifle shooting and made it one of the arms and pastimes of this country, a matter which I think has been of enormous importance to the country and the Army, and has enabled us to go through wars with far greater success than we ever should have done, simply because these men got better arms and more skill in their use. Instead of adding to the Volunteers my noble friend says that they have been diminished by 70,000. No contradiction is made to this. With regard to the Yeomanry, I am glad to think that we have now a considerable force. But we have not anything like the number that the Secretary of State for War promised us. He said there would be an addition of 35,000 Yeomen. Well, there were 10,000 originally, and I think now we are about 14,000 short of the number promised. I should like to have these points explained, if it is worth while, to-night, because they are points of considerable importance as bearing upon the whole of this subject.

My Lords, I must now refer to the Army Corps. Up to the present I have hardly used the term. I was rather glad to hear in the debates and read in the papers that the term "Army Corps" is dying a natural death—that is, disappearing. Certainly the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty did vivify the term to some extent, and at another moment he said the term is of no use at all. I hope the term will not continue long. I do not myself think that an Army Corps, which is supposed to be a congregation of troops under particular generals, with all its organisation, is at all suited for what we require in this country. What is the use of an Army Corps which has been trained by officers, if, when it is sent abroad and the moment it lands at Cape Town, or wherever it is sent, it is at once dispersed. I have heard it stated that there was an Army Corps sent out to South Africa which had been carefully trained and held together, but the moment it landed there was a cry for assistance everywhere, and all the regiments were scattered before the noble and gallant Earl Lord Roberts went out, and never saw each other again. Take another point with regard to Army Corps. Suppose the Army Corps that are to go abroad are to be in the South of England. If there arises a necessity for sending those three Army Corps abroad, the whole of that part of the country will be denuded of Regular troops. What will happen then? It is the very part of the country which you want the generals and soldiers to know something about, because if there should be such a thing as a raid, it would be made, as I imagine, on the South of England. The result would be that not only would all the generals and troops trained in the South of England, with such care and pride, be scattered, but all the Army Corps in the rest of England would be moved and changed in order to reinforce the South of England. I do not want to dwell long on Army Corps, because I believe that Army Corps are nearly exploded.

I quite agree with the First Lord of the Admiralty that we really have to consider whether the troops demanded for the Regular Army are excessive. We are in a more difficult position as mere critics, because the Government have all the expert opinion as to what is required for the Army and Navy, but from the information which comes to our ears, and from what I hear, it seems that even supposing that 120,000 Regulars are sent away, the Regulars remaining in En gland would be far more numerous than we required. If that be so it is a very serious matter. The question of finance in this country is becoming a very grave one indeed. You cannot exaggerate the importance which the financial position of this country is now assuming when we think that a few years ago—I forget how many—we were astonished if the total of our expenditure amounted to £100,000,000. Now, when we have an increase in the public expenditure of all sorts—Civil Service, Army, Navy, etc.—it amounts to the same sum. I do not for a moment say that this country, with its great resources, is going rapidly Into bankruptcy, but I think this enormous expenditure may bring very serious disasters upon us. It therefore behoves everybody who has the interest of the public at heart, and who is in public life, to investigate this expenditure, and scan every item most narrowly, so that we should not fall, as sometimes happens after we have been obliged to spend great sums, into carelessness about expenditure. This is sometimes the case in private life, and I think it is also the case in public life. We have been obliged, I do not say unnecessarily, to spend millions and millions during the war, and the public have become accustomed to hearing of five millions for this, ten millions for that and twenty millions for something else, and they may have be- come careless about economy, and that. I think, may lead us to very grave results.

There is one thing I ought to refer to; no doubt it is a matter of great importance because it was referred to by the Prime Minister in a very powerful way the other night. It seemed to me as if it were very much of an afterthought. This scheme seemed to me at first to be based entirely on Home defence, but when the attack on it became serious it seemed that India was brought into far greater prominence in order to defend the scheme of the Government and the reserve which they demanded. No one would wish more than I do to see that a proper defence of India is secured, and that everything is done to secure our frontier, but unless there is something very serious behind—some question of policy—which I sincerely trust is not the case, I cannot for the life of me understand why at the present moment a greater force is required for the defence of India than was needed a few years ago. I do not pretend to have a great knowledge of these matters, but one has to hear what experts say regarding them, and I cannot see why it is that a great line of defence, the North-West Frontier, is not stronger now than it was a few years ago. My Lords, so far as I know, the experiences of the war in South Africa have shown us that defence is a much more easy thing now than offence, and that the new system of guns, with their enormous range and great penetration and power, has added enormously to the power of defence. Surely that ought to count for something on the North-West Frontier. We know that a great deal has been done on the other side, in Central Asia, with regard to railroad communications, but have we not had the same thing on the other side of the Frontier? Is not the approach to the North-West Frontier from our side enormously improved and increased? I cannot myself really believe that we are in a very much more dangerous position and are requiring more troops in India now than we were a few years ago.

There are one or two other points, but I hardly like to dwell on them. I must apologise to your Lordships for having kept your Lordships so long, but I did not like to let this debate on such an important subject go by without saying something, and I only trust that His Majesty's Government will realise what a serious position we are in financially and in many other ways, and if they feel that some retrenchment should take place under this scheme, I sincerely hope that they will make it. There is one word with regard to that; we have not heard of it to-day, but it was much pressed in another place, and that is that the scheme was so arranged that any Government, if they desired to retrench could easily do so by cutting off a certain number of men, and thereby a great expense. There was rather a curious answer given to that indirectly last night or the night before by the Postmaster-General. There was a question of a Vote for police in South Africa. The Government admitted that the police were no longer wanted, but what did Mr. Austen Chamberlain say? He said that Lord Methuen said that the police were not any longer wanted, but that it was impossible to get rid of them because they were enlisted for a certain term, and we could not get rid of them. Would not that be the same in regard to men raised under this scheme (There is the further question of barracks, which will have to be built at an enormous expense. We must remember that the Regular forces require barracks more than the Auxiliary forces. Of course, if it is essential to have this number of men, you must have barracks in which to put them. I sincerely trust that this debate, which has not been so prolonged as at one time we expected it might be. will bear some fruit at all events, and that we may induce the members of His Majesty's Government to consider seriously this question, which is of such absolutely vital importance to the country.


The noble Earl, during the course of his speech, reproved us gently on the ground that we who sit on this Bench had done but little to contribute to the information which was desired by the House. I think our answer to that is that it really was not until my noble friend Lord Harris rose that any question seriously calling for explanation from us was raised by any of the speakers who addressed us. We had from the noble mover a speech of the most extraordinarily discursive character, of which all I need say is that just as we imagined he was approaching the termination of a lengthy and somewhat irrelevant preamble, we found that he had come to the end of his remarks, and resumed his seat without saying a, word really germane to the subject of his Motion. My Lords, as I referred to my noble friend Lord Harris, I will endeavour, although I am afraid somewhat imperfectly, to answer the two questions he put pointedly to me. He asked me whether, in the reconstituted branch of the Intelligence Department, it was likely that special attention would be paid to the important question of lines of communication in times of war. I am not able to say what special prominence will be given to that subject, but it seems to me to be perfectly obvious that it is one which the Intelligence branch will think it necessary to deal with.


What I intended to ask was whether there was some chance of the Intelligence branch being adequately increased to meet the needs of the Empire. I merely illustrated what I said with regard to what I think is a very weak branch, by pointing out that it was only a German officer who showed us what was wanted in that direction.


The Intelligence branch has already been strengthened: the position of Director-General has received greater recognition, and I am confident that the Government will see to it that this most important Department is given the place it is entitled to in the hierarchy of the War Office. The noble Lords other question related to the opportunities afforded to officers of training and learning their profession. There, again, I am able to say that the office of Director-General of Education and Training has been lately created, and" I feel no doubt whatever that the matter will receive the attention it deserves. Although those points are interesting, it was not until the First Lord of the Admiralty addressed your Lordships that the attention of the House was directed to what I conceive to be the questions which deserve our consideration—the strength of the forces which the Government consider essential to the service of the Empire, and the manner in which those forces should be organised. The noble Earl opposite suggested that the number of Regular soldiers which we desire to obtain was excessive, and said he could not help thinking that the number had been fixed without sufficient consideration of the position of the Navy in our system of defence. He went on to say he understood the number had been taken with reference to our requirements for Home defence. Now, my Lords, I contradict both those statements.


I did not quite say that. I said the Government had not sufficiently considered the Navy tin framing this scheme.


That I altogether dispute. Our position with regard to the Navy has been correctly defined by the First Lord; we regard the Navy as our first line of defence, and we are fully alive to the fact that the position of the Army in our system must be in a sense subsidiary to that of the Navy. The noble Earl asked us whether we are able to define the policy in support of which this large number of soldiers is to be maintained. I scarcely suppose that the noble Earl, when he asked that question, expected us to explain to the House and to the public the different military contingencies, whether upon the Continent of Europe or in more remote parts of the world, which these military forces are intended to provide for. What we can say, however, is that those contingencies have of late received a great deal of attention, and that military opinion is, to the best of our belief, convinced that a smaller number than that which we have provided for would not be adequate for the great liabilities of the Empire. We have this important fact to bear in mind, that during the recent South African war we required for service beyond the sea, not three Army Corps, but the equivalent of six Army Corps; and I think he would be a bold man who would take upon himself to say that three Army Corps of Regular troops are an immoderate provision for the responsibilities which we recognise.

The noble Earl threw out to the House the suggestion that we might rely more than we did on the auxiliary forces. There is no part of my right hon. colleague's scheme that commends itself more to me than that which assigns to the auxiliary forces a position of increased prominence in our system of defence. But, my Lords, when the noble Earl tells us that we should at once content ourselves with a reduced force of Regulars, relying more than heretofore upon the auxiliary forces, I am tempted to remind him that such a change obviously requires a very great amount of increased attention to the efficiency of those auxiliary forces. My Lords, are we able to say that that standard of efficiency has already been attained by our Militia and Volunteers which would enable us to sweep away by a stroke of the pen one, or, perhaps, two, Army Corps, and to rely, in lieu of them, on the Militia and Volunteers? A part of the Regular troops are indeed maintained for the purpose of service at home in order to do what is commonly described as stiffening the auxiliary forces, and the total number of Regulars taken for that purpose, is, I believe, about 25,000. Now, is that an inordinately large number? I can recollect, it is not very long ago, when my military advisers used to protest in the strongest way against our counting any auxiliary forces for the purposes of the three Army Corps in which our military forces were then organised. In those days the utmost recognition that was accorded to the auxiliary forces was that there should be a modicum of auxiliaries introduced into a very large force of Regulars. Now it is the other way—a modicum of Regulars to stiffen a very large force of auxiliaries. That seems to me to be a sensible and prudent way of setting to work.

But there is another reason why it would be in the highest degree imprudent to weaken the total of our Regular forces at home. I refer to the weakness of the Army Reserve at this moment—a weakness that is obviously due to the extension of the service of so many of our Regulars during the war. The Army Reserve at this moment, I believe, stands at about 60,000 men. This is not nearly sufficient. I am sure the noble Earl opposite will not contra- dict me when I say that to my mind the strength of the Army Reserve is the very backbone of our military system. He and I remember the days when doubts and suspicions used to be cast on the Army Reserve—when we were told that the men would not be found when they were wanted, and that even if they were found they would be rusty and useless. The South African war brought with it many disappointments, but in that respect, at any rate, we were not disappointed. To my mind by far the most satisfactory incident in the history of that memorable campaign was the manner in which, at a few days' notice, 96 per cent. of the Army Reserve came forward and took their place in the home battalions. The noble Earl asked me a question with regard to the progress that has been made in the for mation of the Militia Reserve. The noble Earl, like a great many military critics, is a little impatient; because the Bill forming the new Militia Reserve only passed into law in December of last year, and it is almost too soon to expect that it should as yet have produced any very imposing results.

I listened with satisfaction to one observation made by the noble Earl when he dealt with the calls which the Regular battalions at home have to meet. I think he is the first speaker who touched upon that point in the course of the debate. We require those Regular battalions at home, not only in order to use them upon occasion for service beyond the seas, but because they are the feeding units of the Regular battalions which are abroad. Here, at any rate, you have what may be described as a scientific basis for the strength which you retain at home." It may be a matter of conjecture whether you are likely to want a force of a particular size, let us say, on the Indian Frontier: but it is not a matter of conjecture when you have to take into account that you have 80 odd battalions serving in India or in colonial garrisons, and that those 80 odd battalions have to be effectually and regularly supplied with the necessary drafts. One great advantage of the approximation between the number of battalions at home and the number of battalions abroad which we have always desired to maintain is that it gives us what we believe to be infinitely the best way of supplying a steady and efficient stream of recruits to the battalions abroad. You may, if you like, say that instead of having battalions at home to feed the battalions abroad you. should have depots at home. Depots are' in certain circumstances useful enough; but, although a depot does not require so large a number of men as a home battalion, although it is a cheaper thing, its results are beyond all question much less satisfactory. It is a much less good school for the training of recruits, and it is above all not a military unit which you can put into the field like those home battalions of which I spoke a moment ago, which when their Reserves have been added to them become such a valuable military asset in the defences of the country. Therefore I ask the House to remember that we want this considerable number of Regular soldiers at home, not only for service beyond the seas, but because they are the reservoir from which the battalions abroad are kept full and efficient.

I shall say one word only with regard to an alternative arrangement that has been recommended on high authority, and which, I think, found favour with my noble friend, Lord Harris. I mean the suggestion that we should keep a large part of these Regular troops, let us say an Army Corps, not at home, but in South Africa. The proposal is one which at first sight is a most attractive one; but I am afraid that when you come to examine it closely it presents a great many drawbacks. These battalions which you are going to keep in South Africa are, I understand, to be considered. part of the Home Army, and to be kept on the home establishment. Look what would happen. A war breaks out in India, and you want to send 20,000 men from South Africa. Those battalions will be full of young soldiers. You may say that the South African ports are nearer to India than Portsmouth and. Southampton. That is quite true, but those battalions will be useless for service in India unless you draw from Portsmouth and Southampton the Reservists belonging to them, and with- out whom they would be absolutely unfitted to take service in the field. I cannot bring myself to believe that such an arrangement might not lead to very serious confusion, and I am sure it would lead to very considerable expense. I may tell your Lordships that a preliminary examination, at any rate, has been made of a scheme of this kind with the somewhat discouraging result that we are advised that every man produced by such an arrangement would cost about £50 per head per annum more than he costs as a recruit produced under the present system.


Per annum or for the term of his service?


Per annum, I understand. I do not know that that calculation includes the provision of barracks, which, obviously, would have to be supplied upon a very extensive scale on the spot in South Africa. Nor do I say anything as to the effect of such a change in our system upon the popularity of recruiting. We know that a recruit will stand a certain amount of foreign service; but if you tell him when you engage him that half his service is to be spent in South Africa and half in India I am greatly afraid that many of them would turn their backs on the recruiting sergeant. I will not trouble the House except for a moment upon the question of Army Corps organisation, because my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty seems to me to have said all that was necessary upon that subject. I have no doubt—and I think it has become perfectly clear—that a great deal of prejudice has been created by the use of the words Army Corps. I do not know whether any other designation could be substituted. I notice that a colleague of the noble Earl's, speaking elsewhere the other day, gave his hearers a definition of an Army Corps in these words:— An Army Corps," he said, "is a collocation of military units, under certain dispositions, under a certain hierarchy of military control."(Laughter.) That may be very correct, scientifically, but it strikes me as a little cumbrous.

This collocation of military units is an arrangement under which, as my noble friend very truly says, you can, if you please, detach portions of the larger military organism, and use those portions with just as much freedom as you can use them at the present time. Nor, again, is it fair to saddle this Army Corps organisation, as is sometimes done, with the whole of the additional expenditure that has grown up of late years in this country. I believe that, when you deduct the additional expenditure occasioned by increasing the number of soldiers, by increasing their pay, by increasing the reserve of stores—a most important matter—and by improving the terms offered to the auxiliary forces—when you have taken these things, and also such matters as the increased interest on loans, you will have accounted for the greater part of the increase of ten or twelve millions which has grown up during the last few years. The noble Earl asks whether he is to understand that this Army Corps organisation would admit, in years to come, of a possible reduction of the numbers which we at present propose to retain in the service. I do not want to answer that question too confidently; but it does seem to me to be perfectly reasonable to anticipate that, when the Army Reserve has grown to a proper and respectable total—and I think under the new system of three years engagement it will grow to a very much larger total than it has reached before—when that time comes it may possibly be within the power of the military authorities to employ a smaller number of men with the Colours, and to rely upon a larger number of men serving in the Reserve. But for the present, for the time with which we are concerned at this moment, it is our intention to adhere to the numbers announced to Parliament, and to the organisation which it has been proposed to give those numbers. We believe that the numbers are not excessive; we believe that the organisation is appropriate to the requirements of the country.

On Question, their Lordships divided:—Contents, 15; Non-Contents, 51.

Ripon, M. Aberdare, L. Farrer, L.
Acton, L. Monkswell, L.
Carrington, E. Ribblesdale, L. [Teller.]
Spencer, E. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Sandhurst, L.
Burghclere, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Gordon, A. (E. Aberdeen.) Denman, L. [Teller.] Tweedmouth, L.
Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.) Shaftesbury, E. Blythswood, L.
Devonshire, D. (L. President.) Stanhope, E. Braybrooke, L.
Strafford, E. Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Ailesbury, M. Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Chesham, L.
Bath, M. Verulam. E. Cottesloe, L.
Lansdowne, M. Waldegrave, E. [Teller.] Harris, L.
Winchester, M. Hylton, L.
Bangor, V. Kenyon, L.
Pembroke and Montgomery, Churchill, V. [Teller.] Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)
E. (L. Steward.) Cross, V. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Clarendon, E. (L. Chamberlain.) Goschen, V. Lawrence, L.
Denbigh, E. Knutsford, V. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough)
Derby, E. Rathmore, L.
Feversham, E. Addington, L. Redesdale. L.
Hardwicke, E. Alverstone, L. Shute, L. (V. Barrinqton.)
Northesk, E. Ashbourne, L. Suffield, L.
Onslow, E. Ashcombe, L. Wimborne, L.
Roberts, E. Avebury, L. Windsor, L.
Selborne, E. Belper, L. Wolverton, L.

House adjourned at ten minutes before Nine o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.