§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
rose to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War who had stated that " we had a mobilisation scheme under which it is hoped we could mobilise as quickly as could any Continental nation; " whether he would, to test our military home defensive preparedness, give notice to one of our military " commands "—chosen by lot the day notice is given— to take the field, self-complete in all respects, with all possible speed; Alder-shot and the Curragh being excluded from the chance selection.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have only a few words to say in support of the notice standing in my name on the Paper. I wish to remind your Lordships that last year you unanimously passed a Resolution that in the opinion of this House it was desirable that our land defences should be at all times such that no nation would ever think of a hostile landing on our shores. The other day I pointed out how quickly foreign nations could mobilise, and my noble friend, in replying to me, said that we had a mobilisation scheme under which it was hoped we could mobilise as quickly as could any Continental nation. I think your Lordships will admit that, considering that we spend £29,000,000. and that your Lordships have agreed that our home defence should be such that no nation would ever think of a hostile landing on our shores, we 474 should know what our state of preparedness is, and that my noble friend should test his mobilisation scheme in the same way as the Navy has just tested naval mobilisation, under which men called out unexpectedly were mobilised ready for service within twenty-four hours. We want the same test in regard to our military preparedness. I beg to put the Question standing in my name.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
My Lords, my reply to my noble friend must, I fear, be in the negative for several reasons. In the first place, our mobilisation arrangement were tested in 1899 for the South African War, and perhaps the best commentary on how they worked then is furnished in the Report of the Elgin Commission, where we find the following statement—The evidence before the Committee shows that mobilisation was effected smoothly and with remarkable despatch.In support of this conclusion the Commissioners refer to the evidence of Colonel Robb, an officer of the Adjutant-Generals Department, who was intimately concerned with mobilisation arrangements at the War Office. That officer says—I have never known such an absolutely quiet time at the War Office as immediately after the issue of mobilisation orders,and again—The mobilisation regulations worked extremely smoothly as regards the formed bodies of men who were supposed to be mobilised under them.''The Commission also draws attention to the evidence of General Sir Frederick Stopford, who for some time past has been Director of Military Training at headquarters. He stated—Mobilisation is a comparatively new organisation in our Army, and all the arrangements connected with it were not complete in 1899, but they were sufficiently in progress to admit of the mobilisation being carried out successfully.If we turn to the evidence of Lord Wolseley, the then Commander-in-Chief, we find in a Report referring to the mobilisation and embarkation of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th divisions that—In preparing, equipping and despatching this large body of men, the machinery of mobilisation and embarkation has worked without a serious hitch of any kind.475 I now come to the second of my reasons. My noble friend's proposed experiment would cause serious public inconvenience in withdrawing Reservists from their employment, and for the mere purpose of what we consider an unnecessary experiment this would be unjustifiable. In the third place, and this is by no means the least important objection to my noble friend's proposal, I am informed by financial experts that his proposition would involve an expenditure of from £5,000 to possibly £25,000—
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
In the present financial situation I am afraid that would scarcely be regarded as commendable, and even if any such expenditure appeared tolerable to your Lordships I am quite sure it would not be tolerated in another place, in whose hands lie the public purse strings. Once the order to mobilise is given the Reservists who are called up must be paid and fed and equipped for whatever length of time it was decided to keep them. The transport of these men from their homes throughout the country to the various depots of the regiments and the transport of various bodies of troops to the large mobilisation centres would also entail considerable expenditure. These are only two items in the general work of mobilisation, but I am sure they suffice to show your Lordships that mobilisation, even though carried out with the greatest smoothness and despatch, necessarily involves a very considerable outlay of public money, and in our opinion should only be resorted to for experimental purposes when the strongest case has been made out for its necessity.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords, I wish to give notice that on Friday of next week I propose to move the following Resolution—That this House, having last Session unanimously resolved that our home land defence should at all times be such that no nation would ever attempt in any form an hostile landing on our shores, is of opinion that the present state of preparedness should be forthwith practically tested, as recently suggested in the Question addressed to the Under-Secretary of State for War on July 9th.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, I should like to point out with what satisfaction I have heard from my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State for War that he considers £25,000 a large sum. The noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture earlier in the evening regarded £50,000 as a mere bagatelle, and I would suggest to my noble friend opposite that he should take the noble Earl under his wing and teach him a little at the War Office as to what economy really is.