§ EARL ROBERTS
rose to call attention to the unpreparednesss of the nation for war, and to the necessity for action being taken in accordance with the recommendation of the Elgin Commission; that Commission having declared that the true lesson of the war was that no military system could be considered satisfactory which did not contain powers of expansion outside the limit of the regular forces of the Crown, whatever that limit might be.
He said: My Lords, in opening the debate on the important subject of our unpreparedness for war, I would remind your Lordships that, just a year ago, I pointed out in this House that the Regular portion of the Army, either by itself or with any reserve it could foim—no matter under what system the men may be enlisted—can 657 never be numerically strong enough to secure success in a war against a European Power, and that it is essential we should have behind the Regular Army a large potential Reserve, sufficient and efficient in all respects. Subsequently at a meeting at the Mansion House I endeavoured to explain that while our very existence depends upon our being supreme at sea, the defence, not only of the Empire, but of these islands, cannot be entrusted to the Navy alone; and moreover, that the maintenance of our sea-power necessitates our being able to control on land what may be called the sinews of sea-power. In other words, that the military forces of the Crown must be constituted, organised, and trained in such a way as will ensure their being able to take their full share in the defence of the Empire.
Since I first ventured to speak about Imperial defence I have frequently heard it remarked that it is not necessary for us to have a large potential Reserve, for the reason that nowadays our Navy is larger and more powerful , than it has been at any former period of our history. It is said that our Army has always been small as compared with foreign armies, and it is asked why, even admitting there was not in earlier centuries the same disproportion as exists to-day, should we not be able, in the event of Continental and Asiatic complications, to hold our own now as well as we did in days gone by. History alone supplies us with an answer to these questions. I think, therefore, I cannot do better than ask your Lordships to consider for a few moments the past history of the British Army, so far as it concerns the successes gained by our arms in European wars; from which I trust I shall be able to convince your Lordships—first, that we have never carried on a war that has been waged on sea alone; and, secondly, that, apart from the South African War, we have never won a considerable campaign on land by our own independent efforts, and that in all the wars that have made the Empire powerful military allies have given us the help for which a large potential Reserve is now needed.
The people of this country, my Lords, have been led to believe, by the stress 658 that has been laid during the last five-and-twenty years on the necessity for our having a powerful Navy, that the safety of these shores and the maintenance of the Empire can be secured by the Navy alone. No one believes more firmly than I do in the necessity—the vital necessity—for our being supreme at sea; but what I want most earnestly to impress upon you, my Lords, is the fact— paradoxical as the assertion may seem— that our sea power was not won altogether upon the sea, and that it cannot be maintained solely by the Navy. We know from history that the Dutch were able to hold their own against us at sea, so long as their financial resources enabled them to keep up fleets at all comparable in strength with our own; but the Dutch sea power perished because of the military weakness of that country as compared with the overwhelming military power of France. Although the Dutch, with the aid of other Powers, were just able to save their independence, they could not overcome their mighty antagonist; and the immense financial burdens entailed on them by protracted struggles on land, crippled the finances of Holland to such an extent as to make it impossible for her any longer to compete with us on the sea. Thus sea power passed away from Holland and into our possession, mainly because of the conditions resulting from a purely military situation. This fact ought to teach us a useful lesson, for there is a parallel between our present position and that of the Dutch in those days. The Dutch had a land frontier, and sea power alone could not save them. We, as an Empire, have extensive land frontiers which sea power alone will not enable us to defend. And in our case, as in the case of the Dutch, prolonged and indecisive conflicts, resulting from an inadequate military organisation, would assuredly load this country with a weight of debt and taxation which would deprive us of the financial power upon which the maintenance of our enormously expensive Navy fundamentally depends.
The first point I want to make clear to you, my Lords, is, that our predominance at sea was chiefly the result of military events upon the Continent. And the second point, which I trust I may also be 659 able to make clear, is, that in those events, as well as in the wars which have since won for us our present dominion, we never fought without allies, and that our successes were in a great measure due to the help our allies afforded us. Those allies, my Lords, acting with us in consequence of treaties and subsidies, did actually give us in the past the services, in emergency, of those large military forces which only a national Reserve, under the changed conditions of the world, can be expected to supply in the future.
The Duke of Marlborough, though his supreme genius cemented the Continental coalition, had only comparatively a small number of British troops under his command during the war of the Spanish Succession. But for the aid given by the Germans, the Austrians, and the Dutch—who formed by far the large part of the total forces in the field against France—Marl-borough's famous victories could never have been won. And if they had not been won, France would have been enabled to resume subsequently, with her larger resources, the contest for the sea, and might quite possibly have obtained it. In any case, it was our own and our allies' military successes on land, by breaking down French competition, which made our sea power secure. It was the same in the next great historical struggle—that of the Seven Years' War—when France could not devote herself to the sea, because her resources were strained to the utmost by the conflict on land with Frederick of Prussia. The fact that German military power was thus distracting the attention and the energies of France left this country free to concentrate her whole resources upon the development of sea power, and upon that conquest of remote regions in North America and India by which the foundations of the British Empire were laid. Without the military aid of our allies upon the Continent, our own naval and Imperial struggle would have been far more protracted and arduous, and it is doubtful what the result would have been.
Then, again, in the third and greatest of these historic struggles—the struggle against Napoleon—although the French and Spanish Fleets were destroyed at 660 Trafalgar, Napoleon was not prevented from extending his dominion and striking down nation after nation. What Trafalgar did was to give us the opportunity of reaching the heart of his power; and although this was accomplished by military means, it was not by our own military means alone, for the limited number of men we were able to place in the field in the Peninsula could never have brought about Napoleon's overthrow. There was the disaster in Russia; there was the national uprising in Germany; there was the revival of the military resources of Austria; there was the revolt of the Spanish people. In a word, there were enormous masses of men in arms fighting against Napoleon in all parts of the Continent, and he was exhausted and beaten in the end by superior numbers closing in upon him from all; sides. Thus, again, as I conceive it, in spite of the brilliant part played by Wellington's Army in the Peninsula, we should have been unable to bring about our great enemy's downfall had it not been for the co-operation of the vast military forces of other Powers.
Our mastery of the sea was confirmed at Leipsic and at Waterloo; and it is largely owing to the military conditions and the military issues of those tremendous conflicts that our sea power has endured without challenge for a century. I have told you how comparatively few British soldiers Marlborough had under his command during the War of the Spanish Succession; but I think it will surprise some of you to learn the absurdly small number of British soldiers who were sent from this country to take part in the war with Napoleon, when compared with the large army we were maintaining in Great Britain at that time. We had actually on an average more than 600,000 men under arms during the years 1807–8–9, of whom a little over 33,000 were with Sir John Moore's army in the Peninsula, and later still fewer—only 27,000—with Sir Arthur Wellesley. In 1811 Wellington had only 58.000 out of the 471,000 men enrolled at home. It was much the same during the remaining years of that war; while at Waterloo, with 265,000 British soldiers in this country, less than 24,000 shared the honours of that great battle, 661 the balance—43,670 men—of the Duke's force were made up of foreigners. Even as lately as the Crimean War we found it necessary to employ a German legion.
Two other points to which I particularly wish to invite attention are— first, that 100 years ago, when the population of Great Britain numbered only 16,000,000, there were more than 600,000 men under arms, while at the present time, with a population of upwards of 42,000,000, with far greater Imperial responsibilities, and with proportionately an infinitely larger revenue, the total strength of our armed forces is very little more than it was then. And, secondly—and this is by far the more important point—that Great Britain has never depended upon her own resources since the days of Henry VIII. and Queen Elizabeth, when it was enacted by law that every able-bodied man should be taught to shoot and fit himself for the defence of his country. I trust that from this glance at past history I have been able to prove to your Lordships that, in all the many wars we have waged—except the recent one with the Boers—our treaties and our subsidies have given us the aid we needed in support of sea power; and that, without such aid, sea power alone would have been an inadequate guarantee of our interests; indeed, the fate of our sea power itself and of our whole Empire would, to say the least, have been problematical.
If then the conclusion I have arrived at is correct, surely the question of the future organisation of our military forces requires the most careful consideration. The numbers of fighting men which have hitherto been provided by alliances and subsidies upon every emergency cannot again be provided with anything like equal certainty by the same means. The German races, who in every previous age have been our military supporters, have now become our direct competitors in trade and shipping, and it would be at the expense of their own interests if they were to employ their armies to help us in the future. The Germans now have acquired a military preponderance to which, in the judgment of many, no certain military counterpoise exists. At the present day we have, in Asia and elsewhere, as I have 662 often pointed out, immense land frontiers for the protection of which we must be able to depend upon our own resources. Neither alliances nor subsidies would be of any avail for such a purpose. History tells us in the plainest terms that an Empire which cannot defend its own possessions must inevitably perish.
It is, as I have said, exactly a year to-day since I ventured to bring the matter of our unpreparedness for war before your Lordships' House. Since then, meetings have been held in this great Metropolis and in the large commercial cities of Liverpool, Manchester, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. And though, to my great satisfaction and encouragement, the subject has attracted a greater amount of attention throughout the United Kingdom than I dared to hope for in the time, no response has been made by this House, and, with the exception of an infinitesimally small number, the more influential of my fellow-countrymen do not appear to give the slightest heed to what services our armed forces may be called upon to perform, or to satisfy themselves as to whether they are or are not in a fit condition to carry out the duties such services would involve. The lessons of the late war seem to be completely forgotten, no thought is given to the possibilities of the future, and the one prevailing idea seems to be to cut down our military expenses, without reference to our increased, responsibilities and our largely augmented revenue. I confess I sometimes despair of the country's ever becoming alive to the danger of the unpreparedness of our present position until too late to prevent some fatal catastrophe. Nearly seven years have passed since the warm South Africa broke out, and one year has gone of our alliance with Japan. But the lessons that the war should have taught us have borne no fruit, and it would appear as if the nine years that remain of the alliance may pass without our house having been put in order. Surely the consideration of measures which have for their object the security of this great Empire should be given precedence over all other measures. The security of the Empire is not a Party question. I can understand there being differences of opinion on educational, fiscal, and the various other matters which occupy the attention of the Houses 663 of Parliament; but I altogether fail to understand how there can be any differences of opinion as to the vital necessity for our armed forces being in all respects efficient, sufficient, and ready for war. For what other purpose are the armed forces maintained? And is there anything else in the world upon which our fellow-countrymen, individually or collectively, would be content to spend money without being satisfied that they got their money's worth?
Within the last three years two Royal Commissions have reported in the plainest possible language that the Auxiliary Forces, as they now exist, are not fit to take their place against an organised enemy. What response, my Lords—as I asked at the Mansion House last year— have these carefully weighed words of warning received from the country? None. Indeed, I doubt if they have been even read except by a very limited number of people. It is no use our having 671,511 men bearing arms—which is the exact number of the Regular Army with its Reserve and the Auxiliary Forces at the present time—unless they can be depended upon successfully to fight Great Britain's battles; and this they cannot to unless they are trained sufficiently to know how to make proper use of their arms, and are in a condition to justify the money they cost the State. With the exception of the Regular Army, including the 76,000 men in India, and numbering with its Reserve under 400,000 men. few of the 671,511—with their insufficient training, their lack of discipline and organisat on, and their paucity of officers—could be depended upon to defend these shores in the absence of the Regular Army; nor could they, for similar reasons, and on account of the uncertainty concerning their volunteering for foreign service, be depended upon as a support to that Army.
No one can have greater respect and admiration than I have for the patriotic spirit which actuates the Volunteers, and no one can sympathise more keenly than I do with the difficulties against which they have to contend. It is because I feel that these difficulties are insurmountable, and that this must continue to be the case so long as military efficiency depends upon the Volunteers 664 themselves having to make serious sacrifices both as regards time and money, and also upon the willingness of the employers of labour to treat their employees in a patriotic and generous manner, that I so strongly urge the recognition by the country of the first duty of citizenship—viz., military training, in order that every able-bodied man may be able to take his part in the defence of the Empire in the event of any great national emergency. The evidence given before the Royal Commission on the War in South Africa, of which the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies was president, showed so clearly the shortcomings of the Auxiliary Forces that the members gave it as their unanimous opinion that—No military system will be satisfactory which does not contain powers of expansion outside the limit of the Regular Forces of the Crown, whatever that limit may be.This opinion was endorsed by a subsequent Royal Commission, assembled under the presidentship of the Duke of Norfolk to report on the condition of the Militia and Volunteers, which, in referring to the Militia, stated that—in its existing condition it is unfit to take the field for the defence of this country.Alluding to the Volunteers, the Commission reported that—neither the musketry nor the tactical training of the rank and file would enable it to face, with prospect of success, the troops of a Continental army.And again that—in view of the unequal military education of the officers, the limited training of the men, and the defects in equipment and organisation, the Volunteer force is not qualified to take the field against a Regular Army.''The Commission wound up their Report by unanimously declaring that the—Militia and Volunteer Forces have not at present either the strength or military efficiency required to enable them to fulfil the functions for which they exist; their military efficiency would be much increased by the adoption of the measures set forth in the fourth section of this Report, which would make them valuable auxiliaries to the Regular Army; but a Home Defence Army capable, in the absence of the whole or the greater portion of the Regular Forces, of protecting this country against invasion, can be raised and maintained only on the principle that it is the duty of every citizen of military age and sound physique to be trained for the 665 national defence, and to take part in it should emergency arise.Even if such strongly expressed opinions carry no weight, it is incomprehensible to me how people who know the time and trouble that are expended in making the soldiers of the Regular Army fit to take the field, and that, when they are called upon to fight, they are commanded and led by officers who have made the Army their profession—it is, I say, incomprehensible how they can believe that the honour and safety of their country can be entrusted to men who have had scarcely any training, and who would be commanded and led by officers whose time is so completely occupied by their civil callings that it is an impossibility for them to learn all that it is essential for them to know. To be of any use, both officers and men must undergo a course of military education before they have to work for their own livelihood.
Nothing, my Lords, can be more misleading than for the people of this country to be told—as unfortunately they have been told by persons in responsible positions — that if only our Navy is maintained in all respects efficient there will be plenty of time after war breaks out to drill our soldiers. The fallacy of such a statement was proved beyond dispute during the war in South Africa, when we were given a greater amount of breathing time than could possibly be expected if we were called upon to fight a first-class military Power, for up to the very last, when the war had been going on for more than two years, men had to be hurried out inadequately drilled and positively unable to shoot or ride. I have no hesitation in giving it as my opinion that it is criminal for a nation, and especially criminal for its rulers, to enter upon a war without having trained soldiers sufficient in number to justify their having every reasonable hope of carrying it to a successful issue.
It is not necessary, nor indeed would it be possible, to have the whole number of men that would be required during a lengthened campaign ready at the very commencement; but if we wish to render this country safe under all circumstances and to maintain the integrity of the Empire we must have, in addition to a 666 suitably-sized Regular Army, a sufficient and efficient Reserve large enough to enable 500,000 men to be at once mobilised, and, in addition, an organisation by means of which less highly-trained men could be rapidly turned out to replace the wastage of war, which, even under the most favourable conditions, must inevitably be serious. Officers are the most important part of an army, and of these not only is there scarcely any reserve, but, as I have already pointed out, some 7,000 are needed to bring the Militia and Volunteers up to their full complement, and to mobilise the Regular Forces at home and in India.
In order to secure a sufficient supply of officers some special organisation is necessary. It is upon the officers that responsibility rests, and on whom failure or success mainly depends. In order to carry out their work in a satisfactory manner officers must have confidence in themselves, and this they can never have if they feel they have but a superficial knowledge of the duties they may be called upon to perform. I cannot too strongly impress upon this House the supremely important fact that we can never hope to be ready for war without there being a very large reserve of properly trained officers. Surely the time has come for the leaders of this nation to point out to their fellow-countrymen, who look to them for guidance, how essential it is seriously to consider the actual condition of our armed forces, and not to permit another year to pass without satisfying themselves that all necessary measures are being taken to render those forces in every respect fitted for the services they may at any time be called upon to undertake.
Do not, I implore you, my Lords, suffer our fellow-countrymen to continue any longer under the misconception that a small Regular Army is all that is needed for the security of India and other places; that the defence of these islands can be entrusted to insufficiently-trained, insufficiently-officered Auxiliary Forces; and that it will be time enough when war breaks out or is imminent to arrange for the large Reserve that will inevitably be required. My Lords, the Regular Army is only just numerically 667 strong enough to admit of its policing the Empire in times of peace and of carrying on the small wars to which our widely scattered possessions will always render us liable. To enable the Regular Army to hold its own against the carefully organised forces of a European Power and to ensure the safety of these shores, we must have a properly constituted, thoroughly well-organised, and efficiently-trained potential Reserve; and such a Reserve can never exist unless it is composed of all classes, high and low, rich and poor—men who will consider it not only a duty, but an honour and a privilege, to hold themselves in readiness to take their part in the defence of the Empire should their services be required in the event of any great national emergency.
THE EARL OF DUNDONALD
My Lords, no words of mine can add to the arguments so ably presented to you by that great master of his work, the noble Earl, in favour of adequate Reserves for our Regular Army. A combination of circumstances, mainly the pluck of past generations of our countrymen, has given us this great Empire, but are we doing our best to render secure and maintain what we have inherited? The most moderate proposals made after careful study of our requirements are met, as to a considerable section of the people, by apathy; as to another section of the people, by hostility. I received only the other day a leaflet from some earnest, and, I believe, excellent man, against the military training of boys; and there are tens of thousands in this country who hold the same views, and call anything appertaining to the adequate defence of the land in which they dwell in peace, militarism. Militarism, I need not remind your Lordships, as described in any dictionary, consists in the abnormal development of the military spirit, but can the elementary preparation of the youth of the country to take their place in the battle line from which their forefathers have never shrunk, be designated by the extreme, and I may add in such a connection as this, hysterical epithet of militarism?
I do not favour, my Lords, compulsory service for the adult, but I do think 668 that no time should be lost in training-the youth of the country, before they have become immersed in the business of their lives, to a knowledge of the rifle and in military drill. One hundred compulsory drills between the ages of thirteen and seventeen would be quite sufficient as a minimum; the youth of the country would be benefited by this training, and it would then become possible to call into being, at short notice, a large citizen Army. I do not believe, my Lords, that it will ever be possible to create a large unpaid Volunteer or citizen Army, unless recruits have done the drudgery and elementary work of soldiering in their school-boy days. Only by such training on a large scale can we arrive at a great reservoir of military strength which could provide the men, when the time came, to defend not only the shores of their country, but the territory of the Empire wherever threatened.
I hope that the Government will take in hand seriously the question of the provision of a great corps of trained officers and non-commissioned officers; in this respect we are lamentably deficient, and bear in mind, my Lords, leaders cannot be improvised. Just as there are tens of thousands of men in this country who cannot give the whole of their time to military pursuits, so there are thousands of men who would make good and intelligent leaders if they were encouraged to devote a portion of their time to the acquirement of the necessary knowledge. Why cannot the services of these men be utilised? Why cannot, for example, every officer and non-commissioned officer in every regiment in the United Kingdom have his understudy, under agreement to do a certain amount of training in the year? A reserve of thousands of well-trained leaders we must have, and I hope the Government will endeavour to create this Reserve by every means in its power.
While on this subject, I cannot but express my regret at the short-sighted policy that has driven from the Army large numbers of men, and first-rate leaders of men, who declined to conform to the idea that for a bare pittance of 669 pay they should give up every occupation of their position in life, in exchange for the humdrum existence of a junior officer. I should like to place down on paper the number of hours in a year actually utilised by an ordinary regimental officer in the performance of those duties actually necessary to an officer for his perfection as a leader of men in the field. Your Lordships would be astonished at the number of hours spent in the performance of duties connected with the health, dress, discipline, etc., of the men committed to their care, and at the comparatively few number of hours devoted to actual fighting knowledge.
There are only two ways of obtaining good officers in this country—by paying them well or by largely utilising in a sensible manner the services of that great class who do not serve mainly for remuneration, but who have hitherto led British soldiers into action, and under whose leadership, let me remind your Lordships, the vast territories now forming the British Empire have been won and held. The mediæval system of education at our great centres of instruction has, in the past, been largely instrumental in turning out young men of our leisured classes unfit for practical work, and it has been responsible for many shortcomings for which a young officer has been termed stupid, whereas fault ought to have been found with a system of education which stuffed his head with a lot of material which he tried to forget as soon as possible. If I had to go away to-morrow to undertake some important military work, I would rather have as A.D.C. a young man who knew how to file and keep papers, could write shorthand and express himself on paper in clear good English, than a man who could write Latin verses, or was an adept at higher mathematics and was a child as regards the ordinary routine of business; for soldiering, my Lords, is nothing more than a business which has to be run on business lines by practical men.
There is one other point I would like to enlarge upon if time permitted, but I will confine myself to expressing the hope that if we are to have a Militia Army liable to service abroad in time of war, money will not be spent on barracks, but tin training and in pay. It is in the power 670 of the Government, by largely training men at company centres throughout the country at convenient times of the year, to keep a large number of men on the land and in this way to help counteract the rush to the urban centres. The subsidy or bonus—call it what you like—will, with a man's wages in civil life, largely help in this desirable direction.
I am fully aware that the question of finance must decide what sort of force can be kept up in this country, but I believe that the best value for our money will be obtained by keeping in being well-trained skeletons, with first-rate and highly-trained leaders, which can be clothed with the flesh and blood of good rifle shots when war breaks out, rather than by keeping in being a larger force of men with a uniformity of instruction of a mediocre character. This was the system which, after full consideration of the requirements of a citizen Army, I urged the Government of Canada to adopt on the score of economy and efficiency, and which they did adopt. I have already spoken long enough, but before concluding I would like to call your attention to another important paragraph in the Elgin Report—If the war teaches anything it is this, that throughout the Empire, in the United Kingdom, its colonies and dependencies, there is a reserve of military strength which for many reasons, we cannot and do not wish to convert into a vast standing army, but to which we may be glad to turn again in our hour of need, as we did in 1889. In that year there was no preparation whatever for utilising these great resources.My Lords, these words are clear and unambiguous, and represent the true state of affairs. In this connection I do not think it is sufficiently known in this country how splendidly the Militia of Canada came forward when they thought the Motherland required their services. No individuals only, but regiment after regiment volunteered as a whole; and mind you, my Lords, these were men who were only embodied for twelve days training in the year. I may say that though some 8,000 Canadian soldiers went to South Africa, many times that number were eager to go, even officers throwing up their commissions and serving in the ranks as privates.
What provision have we made adequately to utilise the services of all the 671 patriotic British who dwell beyond the seas? Why cannot we, by bonusing individuals or by bonusing regiments so as to enable them to do more training, be able to count upon the services of a large and well-trained Reserve in our great Colonies? I do not know what steps have been taken by this or the previous Government to utilise the services of the loyal Militia of Canada, and the other great self-governing Colonies in the event of a great war affecting the Empire; but this much I can say, and I can assure your Lordships with a full knowledge of the facts, and speaking only for the Militia of Canada, that we may count upon every officer and man in that Militia coming forward in defence of our common Empire. They would come forward on sentimental grounds, freely giving their services and asking nothing in return; but however patriotic a man may be he appreciates the usual official signs of gratitude for service in time of war.
I cannot say, my Lords, that those in responsible executive positions here have done their best to encourage our Colonial brethren to throw up lucrative employment and again come forward to risk the uncertainties of a campaign. Those only who know the soldier realise how much he values that little bit of ribbon presented on behalf of a grateful country to those who help it in its hour of need. Towards the expiration of the war, various regiments were raised in Canada for service in South Africa. Some of these regiments, unfortunately, did not land in time before the conclusion of peace, but were actually in South African waters. On the return of these men, I was inundated with letters asking if the Imperial authorities would not grant them the South African medal. I, as general officer commanding, strongly recommended that their request should be granted, but the application was refused. I must here say emphatically that the decision arrived at was most illogical and most unwise. I grant that the refusal was in accordance with the precedent of late years of over-ruling and ignoring the opinion and advice of the man at the wheel, who cannot—or perhaps I should say must not—know as much as the man in charge at home. Many of the 672 men who went to South Africa pointed out in their letters to me that their places had been filled up and they were now serving at half the remuneration they had previously received; others said they could get no employment and were in a bad way. If the South African medal had been strictly confined to all those who had been actually on South African soil, no Canadian soldier would have found fault with the decision of the authorities at home, but this is not so. Medals have been distributed to persons who have never seen South Africa or been as near to it as the men who were denied it. I trust that even in this eleventh hour the Government will see fit, in the interests of even-handed justice, and in the interests of the Empire, to be logical in the distribution of what ought to be the emblems of a nation's gratitude.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Earl of PORTSMOUTH)
My Lords, the Motion of the noble and gallant Earl calls attention to the un-preparedness of the nation for war. I am afraid I cannot say how far the nation is prepared for war. That is not purely a military question. In the case of war with some great Power or Powers the struggle to the nation, a vital struggle of life and death, would be both long and costly. However perfect our military organisation, however brave our troops, the credit of the nation would be most essential. I cannot help feeling that the taxable capacity of the community and its financial reserve power are forces which would form a most important factor in determining the preparedness of the nation for war. I am afraid I cannot this evening embark upon so large, so indefinite, a question as the preparedness or not of the nation for war; but, speaking on behalf of the Army Council, I am glad to see that the noble and gallant Earl has withdrawn the statement which he made in his speech in your Lordships' House on July 10th of last year, that the armed forces as a body are as absolutely unfitted and unprepared for war as they were in 1899 and 1900.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
The noble Earl repeats that statement now; but, in his recently published volume of speeches and letters, he makes this correction—Since these words have been represented as implying that the tactical lessons of the war have not been taken to heart by the Regular Army—an entirely erroneous idea which I had no wish to convey—I would here substitute the words the nation' for the phrase ' armed Forces as a body.'I understand from the noble and gallant Earl that he now returns to the statement that the armed forces as a body are as absolutely unfitted and unprepared for war as they were in 1899 and 1900.
§ EARL ROBERTS
My remark about the Regular Forces was misconstrued. I never said a word against the Regular Forces. I said that the armed Forces of the Crown, taken as a body, were not more fit for war now than they were in 1899. I was talking about the recommendation made by the Commission presided over by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that outside the Regular Army there should be a power of expansion. Nothing has been done to bring that about. That was what I was alluding to last year and what I allude to now.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I do not wish to enter into any controversy with the noble and gallant Earl if I can avoid it. I think the question of expansion is a totally different matter. If the noble and gallant Earl adheres to the statement that the armed forces of the Crown are in a condition of unprepared-ness as great as they were in 1899 and 1900, then he, as Commander-in-Chief for three years and a half after the South African War was over, must have some of the responsibility. I am perfectly certain he would have received from the Government of the day support for any reasonable measure he might have suggested.
As regards action being taken in accordance with the recommendations of the Elgin Commission to expand the military system outside the limit of the Regular Forces of the Crown, the noble and 674 gallant Earl is doubtless aware—in fact he must be—that this idea has been and is being, thoroughly discussed by a very representative Committee appointed by the War Office, of which Committee he is a distinguished member. It may be readily admitted that this is only a preliminary step, but the subject is a very large one, and the adoption of any measure in this direction will require very careful consideration and legislative action before it can be put in force. The great difficulty in our military system is that whereas other countries can shape their peace organisation in accordance with war requirements, we cannot do so. In fact, with us peace and war requirements are often not only not in harmony with, but directly antagonistic to, each other.
Take the terms of service. If it were not for the necessity of finding drafts in peace for service abroad we should never think of keeping men over two or three years with the colours, but that necessity compels us to retain men for at least seven years—we cannot find the drafts with less. The unfortunate experiment of enlistment for three years colour service, for which the noble and gallant Earl has honourably admitted a large share of responsibility, has landed the War Office in a mass of difficulties, to cope with which has taken up a great deal of the time and attention, not only of the present Secretary of State, but of his predecessor also, and considering the short time he has been in office I do not think Mr. Haldane can justly be accused of procrastination. It is worth noting that Mr. Card well came into office late in 1868, but did not carry out any important reform till the session of 1870 was well advanced. The Secretary of State is to make an important statement on Thursday, from which it will be seen that he has by no means neglected the question of a territorial Army, but time has not admitted of any plan being fully considered, still less carried out.
It must be noted that no drastic scheme of reorganisation can be completed and be in full working order for many years. This we have found to our cost in remedying the breakdown of the three years enlistment, a break- 675 down which, however, has a great redeeming feature in that it has provided us with a very much larger Reserve than we have ever had before. I appreciate fully the self-restraint which the noble and gallant Karl has exercised in dealing with the question of the territorial Army. I cannot say more this afternoon than that we hope it may be agreeable to Parliament and to the Militia as part of a great general scheme to make them a living support to the Regular Army, while retaining, as far as possible, their own individuality, and by making them under conditions liable for foreign service to add seriousness and increased consideration to the Militia force itself. As regards the territorial Army, we have, as is well known to your Lordships, appointed a Committee to advise us. No one is more conscious than I am of the difficulties and the innumerable criticisms to which this project is, and will be, subjected. I must decline to be rushed into any rash or half-considered expression of opinion. This I hope will be recognised by the House, that we desire to move in this matter upon strictly non-Party lines, and, claiming the co-operation of all Parties, to make no Party capital out of it.
I should like now to say a few words in reply to the points raised by the noble and gallant Earl in his speech. The noble Earl has been, I believe, since its commencement, President of the National Service League. I confess I felt some difficulty, in listening to his speech in discovering what his proposals were, and there ore I hope I shall not be unduly trespassing on the time of your Lordships if I quote a letter which bears the signature of the noble and gallant Earl as President of the National Service League, and is dated February 17th of this year. The noble and gallant Earl wrote—As president of the National Service League I am anxious to remove any misconceptions as to the attitude of that body, and to place before the public a definite outline of its policy. The objects of the National Service League are generally:—1. To ensure peace and security for the British Empire by organising our land forces in such a manner that we may not only be able to defend successfully any portion of the Empire against attack, but also that the strength of our defensive arrangements may lender any attack improbable.6762. To improve the moral and physical condition of the nation, and thereby to increase its industrial efficiency.Then the noble and gallant Earl went on to say—With a view to attaining these two objects the League advocates that, subject to certain exemptions to be defined by law, including those necessary to provide for the requirements of the Navy and mercantile marine, every man of sound physique, without distinction of class, shall be legally liable during certain years of his life to be called upon to serve for the defence of the United Kingdom in case of emergency. In order to fit him for this duty he shall be legally obliged to undergo three or four months military training when he arrives at the military age.Having listened to the speech of the noble and gallant Earl this afternoon, I think it is a fair question to ask whether it is his desire that this compulsory training and liability shall be for the defence of the United Kingdom or for the defence of the Empire at large. He-dwelt upon the great land frontiers of our Empire, and it seems to me that it is reasonable and fair to infer from his speech that he meant that we should have for the defence of our Empire a sufficient force to be able to defend that Empire as a first-class military power. The noble and gallant Earl told us that we had been preserved in the past by alliances with other military nations, which we cannot expect or hope to have at the present time. I wish to ask the noble and gallant Earl whether it is his suggestion that there should be compulsory service at a certain age for home defence or for the defence of the Empire. I shall be willing to stand aside if the noble and gallant Earl will answer that Question. [The noble Earl here paused, but Earl Roberts did not rise to reply.] If it is to be only for home defence. I should like to point out that the responsible advisers of the Crown of both parties—Mr. Balfour in his speech about a year ago, and the Secretary of State in a recent speech—have laid down the principle that for home defence we must rely upon our naval supremacy. We are told that we are not to rely, and need not rely, upon defence by a large Army, but must look in cases of raids to the Volunteers.
I have endeavoured to obtain a Return as to what the proposal of the 677 noble and gallant Earl in his letter amounts to. He is not able to tell me whether he means to make these men liable for foreign service or for home service only. I propose to show your Lordships, in the first place, what the cost would be if they were made liable for home defence only, and what the cost would be if they were made liable for foreign service. I have taken the age of twenty as the military age. I find it to be the age of enlistment in the armies of France, Germany, Russia, Italy, and Switzerland. The noble and gallant Earl proposes that every man of sound physique, without distinction of class, shall be legally liable to undergo three or four months military training when he arrives at military age, to be called out in time of national emergency. Now, I think it will be agreed that if these men are to have once and for all only three or four months military training they must be trained by perfectly competent instructors. Assuming that a staff of instructors, say, of warrant officer rank, should be maintained to train these youths, we may take it that five such instructors could train 100 men in each half year; that is to say, 200 men per annum.
I find that, roughly speaking, there are 400,000 youths attaining the age of twenty every year. I deduct 15 per cent, as the proportion of those unfit from various causes for military service, and that gives me a total of net effectives of 340,000. You would, therefore, require a permanent staff of at least 8,500 instructors for this force of 340,000, and if, as I believe would be necessary, you assume them to be of warrant officer rank —the cost of maintaining a warrant officer being about £150 per annum—the total cost of giving these youths their initial training alone amounts to an annual expenditure of £1,275,000. These figures would roughly represent the minimum cost of merely supplying instructors for this initial training. It does not include any of the numerous incidental charges that are inseparable from military training, and, what is more important still, it is doubtful whether this expenditure of one and a quarter million pounds per annum would be very remunerative if the youths so instructed for three or four 678 months undergo no subsequent training during the interval—possibly a long interval—between this initial training and a national emergency demanding their mobilisation.
The noble and gallant Earl speaks of a national emergency, but there is some difficulty in defining what a national emergency is. Was there a national emergency between the Crimean War and the Boer War? And of what value would it have been if, during all that time, these men had merely had three months training and no subsequent training? I can say, as regards the remarks of the noble and gallant Earl on the Cross Benches (Lord Dundonald), that we at the War Office, although not in favour of compulsion, because we do not think it will be necessary, are in complete sympathy with any measure that would tend, not only for military, but for physical purposes, to promote the drilling of youths both in secondary and in elementary schools; but we feel, and it is, perhaps, a wise feeling on our part, that while anxious to help forward this movement, it had better not be interfered with or dictated too much by officials at the War Office.
There is no doubt that, if you once say that men are to be made liable for training for three or four months, you practically admit the principle of conscription, and it becomes a question of detail whether the three or four months are to be in one year, or as in some foreign countries, a graduated system of certain times of training going over several years. We have an interesting estimate which was drawn up by the late Secretary of State for War, Mr. Arnold-Forster, showing the extra cost of conscription. Perhaps I shall not be wearying your Lordships if I quote some of the figures. This is an actuarial statement drawn up when Mr. Arnold-Forster was at the War Office. He estimated that the extra cost to the State, apart from anything else, for conscription would be close upon £26,000,000 a year, and he arrived at it in this way. He estimated that the number of men to be raised each year would be 380,000; that officers and non-commissioned officers would be additional to that number 679 and would be in the proportion of thirty officers and seventy non-commissioned officers to 900 men; that a commissioned officer would cost the State from £450 to £500 a year, and non-commissioned officers about £150; that officers and non-commissioned officers would be paid at Army rates and privates at a shilling a day; that the Militia and Volunteers would cease to exist; that the Regular Army at home would be reduced by about 30,000 all ranks, including reservists, and that it would be necessary to double the regimental pay of the Regular Army except officers. The figure of £25,900,000, which would be the extra cost for conscription, is made up as follows:—Cost of conscript Army of 380,000 men, with proportion of officers and non-commissioned officers, £27,530,000; cost of doubling the regimental pay of regular soldiers, £4,414,000, making a total of £31,944,000. From this was deducted the saving by the abolition of the Militia and Volunteers, £3,807,000; and the saving by the reduction of 30,000 men in the Regular Army, £2,237,000; leaving, as I have said, a net additional annual cost of £25,900,000. His Majesty's Government have not the money, and I do not think it is likely that any Government would submit proposals involving such financial obligations on the taxpayers of this country.
I should like, before leaving this question, to deal with another point which I think is too often lost sight of. Conscription, whether it is for service of a great or limited degree, implies a very serious interference with the private life of the people. I have with considerable trouble obtained, through the efforts of those at the War Office, a very careful analysis of the system which now exists in Germany. I take Germany because all the other Continental Powers which have conscription have more or less modelled it upon the German system. The procedure adopted in Germany to ensure the registration of all adults for military service is briefly as follows. As soon as a child is born in Germany its name is registered with the civil authorities, and if a male its name is placed upon a special list kept by the police. From that time the boy 680 is under the eye of the civil police, and any change of abode must be reported to the police. Liability to military service lasts from the end of the 17th to the end of the 45th year of age, and this service is divided into active military service and Landsturm service. Every person liable to military service is bound to report himself to the civil authorities of the place of his residence, or of his birthplace if he does not live within the Empire, between the 15th of January and the 1st of February of the year in which he completes his twentieth year of age. He is then bound to appear twice a year, if called upon, before the recruiting authorities until a final decision as to his disposal is arrived at. Then, again —and I beg your Lordships to take notice of this—men are not allowed to emigrate between their seventeenth and twenty-fifth years without permission from the recruiting authorities, Clergymen, or those in charge of registers of birth, have to send in to the recruiting authorities before the 15th of January of each year an extract from their register showing the births of the past year, and those are inscribed on the recruiting register as they come of age for military service. On the personal reports, checked by the registers of births, the parish authorities, under the supervision of the Civil President of the Recruiting Circle, draw up the recruiting registers giving all necessary particulars of each man. All the men becoming liable to service in each year are placed upon one roll in alphabetical order, and on the 15th of February these rolls are sent to the Civil President of the Recruiting Circle. From this time the recruiting passes into the hands of the military authorities.
When we talk of conscription I do not think we quite appreciate the strong feeling that would be aroused in this country with its industrial, and to a large extent its nomad, population if we were to alter almost all the habits and the ways of freedom the people have hitherto enjoyed, and submit them, as you would have to do, to a most careful system of police espionage. The noble and gallant Earl has alluded to the great services of our Army. Our Army has a wonderful history and a wonderful past. It has 681 conquered an Empire greater than the Empire of Rome; but every great battle and ever great victory has been fought and won upon territories outside the United Kingdom, and our Army is required, not for home defence, but for the defence of our Empire in India and elsewhere.
The views of other parts of the Empire are very decisive upon this question of conscription. Under the Military Defence Act of 1903 members of the military force of Australia are not liable to service outside the territory of the Commonwealth. In the case of Canada and the Cape active service is not restricted to the limits of the Colony, but may be extended outside the limits only for the defence of the Colony. It is therefore perfectly clear that, in all three cases, though a form of compulsory service is recognised, it is by no means compulsory service to defend the Empire generally in whatever part the danger threatens. On the other hand, general compulsory service or conscription, if established in the British Isles, could have for its only object, or indeed its only possible justification, defence of the distant parts of the Empire, such as India. There is therefore, no comparison between the present compulsory system of these colonies and conscription in the United Kingdom as regards the burden thereby put upon the colonist and the citizen at home, respectively.
To sum up the view of the Government, I think I may say that we feel that the average citizen has begun to expect that before any further demands for monetary or personal service are made upon him he should receive some encouragement by way of seeing some return in the shape of efficiency for the £29,000,000 already spent. The first task, therefore, of the Government is to ensure that the armed force of the nation, which is known as the Regular Army, should be brought to the highest pitch of efficiency consistent with reasonable expenditure. Our second task is to give practical effect to the suggestion of the Commission presided over by my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies— that is, to secure those powers of expansion outside the limit of the Regular 682 Forces of the Crown which that Commission considered essential.
To conscription, whether disguised or undisguised, we are absolutely opposed, and we believe that any suspicion in the minds of the people that our measures were leading in that direction would damn them. In conclusion, we do realise the needs of the Empire and especially the need of a territorial Army, and I trust that in due course we may receive general support in arousing local interest in the raising and training of this Volunteer Army, in creating a close and abiding contact between it and the general civic life of the local community, and in developing it so as to make it an integral part of the civic life, drawing strength and vigour from its general surroundings.
After a pause the MARQUESS of LANS-DOWNE and VISCOUNT MILNER rose together, but the former gave way.
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
My Lords, I venture to apologise for intruding at all in this debate, and especially for intervening between the House and the noble Marquess; but, as certain questions have been asked with regard to the policy of a body of which I am myself a humble member, I may attempt to give such an answer as is possible on the spur of the moment to the conundrums in question.
I am familiar with the policy of brushing aside all representations, however grave, based on the experience of men most competent to speak with regard to our national unpreparedness for war —of brushing them aside by setting up a bogey called conscription, by putting forward fantastic calculations of what conscription would cost, and by appealing to hardened prejudice on the part of a great section of the British people against a policy which is labelled conscription. On behalf of the National Service League, I am not prepared to allow that body to be saddled with the support of conscription without a very much clearer definition of what conscription means than has ever yet been afforded to us. Speaking for myself, if conscription means the acceptance by this country 683 of the principle that it is one of the primary duties of citizenship to take part in the defence of one's country, and that it is a corollary of that primary duty that every man should be trained to take part in that defence effectively, then, however unpopular it may be, I must confess that I accept it. I am a believer, out and out, in the doctrine of a great nation relying for its own defence and the defence of its possessions on its whole manhood, and not on a limited professional class.
But I should not be justified in attempting to saddle the National Service League with any policy going further than that which the average member of that body approves. I may go further in my own private judgment than the whole of that body; but I am content on this occasion to defend the programme which has been put forward by that body and accepted by all its members against the criticisms—not unfriendly, but perhaps insufficiently-considered criticisms—directed against it by the noble Earl. As I understand him, he tried to impale us on the horns of a dilemma. He said—"If you wish to compel men to serve it must be either only in this country or outside this country—if only in this country, then you will not get the men where you require them. If outside this country "— then followed the usual peroration about conscription. The programme of the National Service League, let it be distinctly stated, is that there should be a local national army—a national army obliged to serve for the defence of these islands. And here I should like to deal with a subsidiary point raised by the noble Earl. He asked—" What is a national emergency?" And he may well ask. But I believe it would be for Parliament to decide when a national emergency arises, as Parliament decides to-day when an emergency has arisen which justifies the calling out of the Reserve forces. I do not see that the necessity of providing an authority to declare a national emergency is any argument against constituting a force which is only to be called out when a national emergency arises.
Now let me turn to the question of the limitation of this obligation—the limita- 684 tion to the defence of these islands. The programme which has received the sanction of the noble and gallant Earl who initiated this debate goes no further than that. There may be some of us who are prepared to go further; but I am speaking fur a body, and in some sense for the noble and gallant Earl himself, and I confine myself to the convictions of that body as a whole. But does it follow that because a national territorial army would be under no obligation to serve abroad, the existence of such an army would not provide an invaluable reservoir of men from which there would be no difficulty in drawing a sufficient number of Volunteers to reinforce our Regular forces in the defence of the Empire? What was the experience of the South African War? Was it the experience of an effete country, of a country in which patriotism was dead and in which the people were not willing to come forward in a moment of emergency? Not at all; the difficulty was, not to find men willing to fight, but to find enough men who knew anything about fighting. That is the first great position which we should gain if we had a national territorial army, even if its service in the first instance was limited to this country. We should have a large body of men trained to arms, and an appeal for Volunteers to defend our distant possessions would be addressed to people, not only willing, but competent to respond.
But then it is said that this territorial army will cost a great deal of money. Undoubtedly it will. I am not prepared to discuss at a moment's notice a calculation, involving, it may be, £20,000,000 or £30,000,000, put forward by the noble Earl as the cost of what he calls " conscription." I would rather confine myself to the more modest calculation which he made as to the cost of that which the National Service League does propose—namely, to train for a certain number of months all the youth of the nation of military age. I think the noble Earl came to the conclusion that the number of instructors that would be required would be so great that it would cost something between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000. Well, I am bound to say the figure does not appal me. I am willing to go further and to admit that the programme of the National 685 Service League would cost more than that, though nothing at all like the fantastic figures given as the cost of " conscription." How much exactly it would cost would require far more careful examination of details than I am in a position to give, nor do I believe anyone has yet attempted to settle the question.
But, my Lords, there are other objections which, I believe, have a greater effect in deterring men from the idea of general military service than its alleged costliness. I should like, if you will permit me, to address myself for a few moments to these objections. I am now speaking not on behalf of any particular body, but I venture humbly to put forward some personal opinions—opinions which, I believe, are obtaining a considerable amount of popular support throughout the country. The view I would venture to maintain is this—that if you go so far as the noble Earl has gone, so far as the Government apparently are prepared to go, in recognising the necessity of the military training of the nation, you will be driven in the last resort to extend that training not only to such individuals as may choose to undertake it, but to the whole body of the people. There are many reason why I believe that that system is the only one which will give you the desired result. I will only trespass on your Lordships' time by putting forward a very few considerations. I think that system is to be commended on the ground of its greater fairness, on the ground that it alone will ensure an adequate seriousness in your dealings with the territorial army. So long as its numbers are left to chance there will always be a tendency in the future, as there has been in the past, to treat it as a side issue and a subordinate thing—in a manner in which it never can be treated if it includes the whole youth of the nation. I believe, moreover, that a smaller amount of interference with the industry of the country is involved if the obligation of training is universal, and if, therefore, all industrial arrangements are made from the first with a view to it; than if it is spasmodic, irregular, and uncertain. I do not think you can altogether blame the employer for the objection he feels 686 to his men being taken away from him under present conditions. He starts his industry without knowledge of any obligation resting upon all citizens to undergo a certain military training; and the demands which may be made upon him in respect of the training of an uncertain number of Volunteers are quite incalculable.
I do not think it is fair to handicap Volunteering as it is handicapped under present conditions. As long as the defence of the country is left only co those who are willing in the first instance to undertake it, it seems to me that the whole force of our social organisation, of our social arrangements, is directed to causing inconvenience and discomfort to the Volunteer and to checking the number of those who undertake to join in the defence of the country. I believe, further, that the voluntary principle overlooks the great moral value of the idea of a general patriotic obligation. As every citizen in this country has a right to have a voice in the control of its destiny, so he is bound on the same principle to be prepared to serve for its protection.
We hear highly-coloured accounts of the dreadful regulations which have to be adopted in other countries, and especially in Germany, to ensure the carrying out of a system of general military training and service. Yet I ask myself whether it might not, after all, be a great advantage if we in this country had more perfect vital statistics, more perfect knowledge of the numbers and whereabouts of our people, of their physical condition, and of all those important facts which a nation which relies on its whole manhood for its defence is obliged to collect. I do not think it is fair to cast a stigma upon all such in themselves desirable statistics and regulations and to brand them all as "police espionage." They are necessary and useful for other purposes besides ensuring that men should come up to serve when their time for service arrives. If a system which is adopted by every other great European nation and by the one nation of Asia which has attained a great position as a world Power, which was adopted by our own ancestors and by all the free nations of antiquity, is to be regarded as a system 687 unworthy of a free people, I would ask myself how does it come about that none of the great nations of Europe which have adopted it shows any serious signs whatever of departing from it? I believe the prevalence of this system is not merely due to its importance to the military strength of a nation, but also to a consciousness of its value as a means of physical and moral education. I know there is nothing more unpopular with regard to proposals for general military service than the example of Germany. I um aware that in that country the military system is carried to a point and is enforced in a manner which would never be tolerated—and I am glad to think it never would be tolerated—in this country. But it seems to me an entire fallacy to suppose that because we adopt the same principle, the same national idea which is adopted by all other European nations, which has inspired the greatest nations in the world's history at their greatest periods, therefore we are obliged to follow in all its details any particular foreign system. Naturally we should work out the principle according to our own national genius and according to our own special requirements. Therefore it does not seem to me that the objections to national military service as it exists in Germany are in any way an argument against the adoption, I do not say of exactly the same system, but of a similar principle, in England; and even with all its defects I venture to think that the German people are largely indebted, not only for their military power, but for their commercial and industrial progress and greatness, to their military system, and that under no conceivable circumstances will they depart from the principle underlying it.
When we are considering the cost of such a system, do not let us forget that there are many ways of wasting money upon military preparations— waste to which a nation that has some uneasiness about its own military weakness is particularly liable. There is the waste of money involved in constant changes, in foolish, spasmodic expenditure, often followed by equally spasmodic and foolish retrenchment. If you add together all the losses in which this country has been involved by con- 688 tinually changing its military system: by its continual unpreparedness for war losses which perhaps quadrupled and quintupled the cost of the last war in which we were engaged, I think i1 may be doubted whether a system of universal military training, however costly, would not, if only from the sense of security it would give us, make up for the sacrifices it would entail.
I am sure of this, that there is one form of military expenditure which in any case is not lost. I mean expenditure in developing the manhood of the nation. You get it back in vastly improved physique—one of the most serious problems, I believe, which faces this nation at the present moment—in the development of certain qualities of discipline, order, method, precision, punctuality, and, above all, in a great development of public spirit. The money which is spent in the physical and moral development of your men you get back in peace as well as in war. At the risk of wearying your Lordships, I would in conclusion quote, from among the mass of quotations I could bring forward from competent and trained observers, what has been said with regard to the effect of the German, military system, with all its faults, upon the progress of modern Germany by a very able and careful inquirer, and one who is especially distinguished by the total absence of any of that bias, which so often attaches to sociological experts, against their own country. The following is a passage from a book on "Industrial Efficiency " by Dr. Shadwell—Under the German military system the liability comes just when a lad has learned his trade and undoubtedly forms a break in his civil career, but I have not met with two opinions about its educational value to the individual and its industrial value to the nation. Perhaps the most striking fact is the physical benefit derived from the exercises, the drill, gymnastics, and a regular life. It turns a weedy anæmic lad into a well-knit upstanding man, with sound organs mid well developed limbs. It further teaches him cleanliness, discipline, order, authority, self-respect, and respect for others. The effect in the workshop is visible at every turn. It is not too much to-say that military service has been in a great measure the making of industrial Germany.That is the opinion of many men who have studied carefully the effect of the military system of Continental nations 689 not so much from the point of view of their military strength as from that of their social organisation and industrial efficiency. For my own part I venture, however paradoxical it may seem, to express the conviction that the nations who, like the Germans, adhere to the principle of universal military training are perfectly right, and that in the long-run the peoples who are prepared to undergo the toil and face the danger of personal service will outstrip, not only in war, but also in the competitions of peace, the peoples who shrink from it.
My Lords, I would like to ask the noble Earl the Under secretary of State for War a Question with regard to what Lord Milner described as a fantastic calculation. I am quite unable to follow the noble Earl in the calculation he made on the question of the expense of training, and—
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
The figures I quoted in regard to conscription are from a Return drawn up in 1904, which had the signature of the late Secretary of State, Mr. Arnold-Forster.
I should like to ask the noble Earl whether there is any company in any regiment which has five warrant officers for the training. I am aware that in no branch of the Auxiliary Forces is there a company which possesses five warrant officers for training. I am not in favour of compulsory service; I am a firm believer in the voluntary system, but am unable to agree with the estimate which has been given by the Under-Secretary. The noble Earl stated that there were 400,000 youths attaining the age of twenty every year who would be available. I think that is slightly overstating the case. Again, he has calculated that the in efficient who would have to be deducted would number 15 per cent., but this is not borne out by the experience of the Regular Army, where the rejections are 32 per cent. In the Swiss Army the rejections for inefficiency on physical grounds is something like 50 per cent. If three or four months training is given, surely the warrant officers who would be engaged as instructors would be able to conduct two trainings in the same year? As I have 690 stated, I have not risen in the interests of compulsory service, because I am a firm believer in the voluntary system, but simply in the interests of accuracy.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
My Lords, everything that falls from the noble and gallant Earl who initiated this debate on military matters must, of course, receive the careful and respectful attention, not only of this House, but of the country. I cannot help feeling, however, that this debate would have been more interesting as well as more valuable if it had followed instead of preceded the statement which is to be made in the other House two days hence by the Secretary of State for War. We all listened with the greatest care and attention to the noble and gallant Earl, and it seemed to me that in putting forward his arguments he rather shrank from stating in clear language the conclusion to which they obviously led. Lord Milner did not so shrink. Though at first he repudiated the ascription to him of the advocacy of conscription, his whole speech was one continued advocacy of that system. He said it had never been properly defined, but, at all events, he showed clearly enough that he meant by conscription compulsory military service of one kind or another. I think that is what is meant by all advocates of conscription, though they shrink from putting it into clear language. The nation understands by conscription compulsory military service, and personally I think it is evident that the nation does not intend to submit to compulsory service at present.
The noble and gallant Earl who initiated this discussion fell back upon a most extraordinary paradox—namely, that our predominance at sea was due to our military successes on the Continent. I listened to hear how he would make that out, and I think he entirely failed to establish the statement. The downfall of Holland was due to the fact that it was attacked over its land frontier by overwhelming forces and had no means of resistance. An attack on the far-away Indian frontier need not lead to the downfall of England in the same way as that attack led to the downfall of Holland.
With regard to conscription, what case has been made out by the noble and 691 gallant Earl, or anybody else, for increasing the armed forces of the Crown? The noble and gallant Earl contends that our armed forces are no more prepared for war now than they were in 1899. By " armed forces " we are to understand that the noble and gallant Earl means the Auxiliary forces. But surely, when we are discussing whether the nation is properly prepared for war, we cannot possibly leave out of consideration altogether the question of the efficiency of the Regular Army. If the Regular Army is thoroughly efficient—and I did not gather from the noble and gallant Earl whether he thought it was or not—then the nation cannot be said to be in a state of unpreparedness for war. Again, how will the Auxiliary forces be affected by conscription? Is conscription wanted for home defence or for service abroad? General Kelly-Kenny has said—We must have a voluntary array for our work in India and the Colonies, and we should also have a conscript army; but I doubt very much whether with conscription we should ever be able to keep troops for three years in South Africa or in Afghanistan.It is difficult to argue this question until we know what this Army recruited by compulsory service is to do. Lord Milner stated that it was to be recruited first of all for service at home, and that it would undoubtedly volunteer for service abroad in case of need. Therefore it is evident that the noble Viscount wishes to employ our conscript army for service abroad in the long run.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
Is it necessary to alter our whole military system in order that we may get volunteers in cases of emergency for service abroad? Can we not rely on getting sufficient volunteers for service abroad when necessary under our existing system? There were 124 battalions of Militia at the time of the Boer war, and of those only four—three Irish battalions and one Scottish—did not volunteer for service abroad. I think the record of the Militia is about as satisfactory as it could be. We also got a large number of volunteers from the Yeomanry and the Volunteer forces. These volunteers were sufficient to carry us through the most serious emergency which has 692 arisen since the Napoleonic wars. The evidence before the Commissions shows that it was largely due to the assistance which the Regular Army received from volunteers that the Boer war was successfully carried to a conclusion. Under our present system we obtained all the aid we required. If we had needed more aid we would have received it. Why, then, upset the whole of our military system to fasten on the necks of the people of this country compulsory service to which they are profoundly opposed, when you thereby get no superior result in time of emergency than you are able to secure under our present system?
A stronger case must be made out in favour of conscription be lore the country will agree to it. Lord Milner contemplated two armies, and the quotation which has been read from General Kelly-Kenny shows that it is admitted we must have a voluntary army for service in the Colonies and India. If we go to the nation and say that every man is to be compelled to serve in some military capacity, where are we going to get a voluntary army? The working men would then say, " We have done our duty by our country, and you cannot call upon us any more." The voluntary army would then be depleted just in the same manner as the introduction of enlistment for three years depleted your long service men. When enlistment for three years was proposed nearly all the recruits chose three years, and we were face to face with a great difficulty in India owing to the lack of long service men to fill up drafts. If this country offered an easier alternative it is certain that that alternative would be embraced, and we should not get a voluntary army in sufficient numbers to serve abroad.
It seems to me that in all these military questions the balance must be struck between three elements—our requirements, the number of men available, and the money that the country is able to spend. Of these the only constant is the number of men. Whatever system is established—and, Heaven knows ! there have been many systems tried and many schemes put into operation which have had abortive results—the number of recruits upon which we can rely is from 693 35,000 to 40,000 a year. In any system of Army reform we must build up from these recruits, and the, reason that so many schemes have failed is that it has been assumed that the recruits will come in as they are wanted. Experience has shown that they do not come in as they are wanted. There is also the question of money. Noble Lords on the other side have practically ignored the question of money. The expansionists always quote the returns of our growing trade, our increasing incomes, and our larger assessments for property tax. Therein they find themselves in singular collision at times with the Tariff Reformers. How they intend to reconcile their figures as to the prosperity of the country with each other will remain to be seen. But for the moment the expansionists seek to make out that the country is in a state of overwhelming prosperity and can afford to spend more money on the Army. They ignore the Navy. They ignore the fact that our Navy is now up to the throe-Power standard, and the fact that for home defence a large Army is not required. They ignore the economic situation. They ignore the fact that during the last six years our gross liabilities have increased by £200,000,000, and that our expenditure has increased by £40,000,000 a year. They ignore also the political situation. Owing to the wise and statesmanlike policy of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, which has borne such admirable fruit all over the world, the political situation is not what it was ten years ago, and must be taken into consideration when you are asking for large sums of money for the Army. The Navy is ignored, the economic situation is ignored, and the political situation is ignored, and, having ignored these three things, it is said that because the income-tax is expanding we can spend more money on the Army. But I ask noble Lords who favour an increase of the Army whether they are also in favour of an increased income-tax. If the scheme of the National Service League is to be carried out it will mean an income-tax of Is. 6d. in the £, and under any scheme of conscription the income-tax would have to be screwed up to 2s. in the £. That is what conscrip- 694 tion means; and even admitting, as I do admit, a great deal of what Lord Milner said as to the effect it would have on the physique of the nation, I contend that a case has not been made out for largely extending the Army and certainly not for introducing compulsory service into this country. Lord Milner said the nations abroad were still satisfied with their system of compulsory service. I must say that I think close observers of what is taking place on the Continent at this moment have not come to that conclusion. In France they have reduced their term of military service to two years. Germany would like to do the same. The forces that are growing on the Continent are not the forces that make for war, but the forces that make for peace; and, despite the statements of sensation mongers, I venture to say there never was a time when nation was less inclined to rise against nation and when nations were more disposed to enter into friendly relations one with another.
The curse of war and its losses have been brought home to all nations, and they are less inclined than ever to give of their youth and strength and money to the exacting demands of universal military service. That being so, I do not think that this, at all events, is the time for us to alter our voluntary military system, a system under which we have achieved all the objects upon which we have set our hearts. In this House it is, perhaps, unpopular to resist any increase in the Army. It is too often assumed that those who advocate such an increase are animated by more sincere patriotism than we who resist it. I do not think that can be maintained for one moment. There is no monopoly of patriotism. It is not less patriotic on our part to resist the piling up of a huge military budget than it is on your part to advocate a scheme which would lead to the depletion of the national resources. I think that before the noble and gallant Earl can convince the country that more money is needed for military purposes he will have to make out a better case.
As to the Auxiliary Forces, I was delighted to hear from the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War that it is proposed to establish a large territorial army. Mr. Arnold-Forster 695 wanted to merge the Militia into the territorial army. He had an extraordinary dislike of the Militia and wished to abolish it, but, fortunately, the country was not of his opinion. Surely the disadvantages the Militia have had to contend with must be well known. Hitherto, the Militia, like Tony Lumpkin, Lave been " snubbed in spirits and snubbed out of spirits." They have been depreciated, they have been condemned, they have been deprived of their best officers, and skimmed for the benefit of the Regular Army. They have been subjected to such treatment that it is a wonder they exist in their present state of efficiency. If the Militia are treated well they will form a territorial army sufficient for all purposes of defence. If you enlist local patriotism on behalf of it, your local army will grow, and the number of men forthcoming will be sufficient to discharge all the purposes the conscriptionists have in view. The noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State has made a satisfactory statement on that point, and I think those who believe in entrusting the defence of these shores to citizens who give their services voluntarily will be abundantly justified by the results of the policy of His Majesty's Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I rose in my place a few moments ago only because, as far as I was able to see, the debate was on the point of collapsing, and because it seemed to me hardly respectful to your Lordships that it should close without a few words from this Bench showing how deeply we appreciate the gravity of the question which has been raised by the noble and gallant Earl on the Cross Benches. I listened with attention to the speech of the Under-Secretary of State for War and it seemed to me that the most conclusive passages in it were those in which he put in a very reasonable plea to be excused from entering into details with regard to the intentions of His Majesty's Government. An important statement dealing with Army organisation is to be made shortly, and I therefore think the noble Earl is justified in suggesting that any discussion of these questions would meanwhile be carried on at a consider- 696 able disadvantage. The rest of the noble Earl's statement was directed to a dissertation on conscription and to a somewhat vague and rather exuberantly worded sketch of the treatment which the Auxiliary Forces might expect at the hands of his Majesty's Government.
As to the question of conscription, I should like to remind the House that the word was not mentioned in the notice of the noble and gallant Earl, which is the subject of debate, nor in the speech which he delivered to the House, nor did the report of the Elgin Commission on which the noble Earl rested his case, contain any reference to the question of conscription. I agree with the noble Viscount who spoke with so much effect just now, that we are apt to brand too hastily as schemes of conscription all schemes which contain any trace or vestige of compulsion. Let me illustrate my meaning. We now require the youth of this country to learn certain things when at school. We might project our minds into a future when the education of an English boy would not be considered complete unless he had had some instruction in the use of the rifle, Well, my Lords, a proposition of that kind would stop very far short of what we generally speak of as conscription.
Although I am not always able to agree with the whole of the proposals put forward by the noble and gallant Earl in regard to resort to compulsion, I think he was justified in bringing this matter again before the House. He seems to me this evening to have taken up a position which it is not easy to assail. In the first place, the noble and gallant Earl tells you that history shows that neither this nation nor any other nation in the past has been able to rely for its safety on the possession of a navy alone. That is a view which I believe is shared by every Member of the House. Certainly the Government of which I had the honour of being a Member, never for a moment admitted that the strength of our Navy afforded any justification for the neglect of the land forces of the Crown, and all the naval schemes of defence for which we were responsible postulated the existence of a sufficient land force.
697 The next proposition of the noble Earl is that we should look outside the Regular Forces for those reinforcements which in a case of great national emergency we should unquestionably need. On that point I am entirely in accord with the views expressed by the Royal Commission presided over by the noble Earl opposite. Our experience during the South African War demonstrated the truth of that proposition. It was a war which we undertook under the impression that the forces upon which we could already count would be amply sufficient for our purpose. But our experience taught us in a very short time that we had to go outside the limits of those forces; and the result was that we were obliged to take men who were absolutely without any military training and who went out to South Africa without any knowledge of drill, discipline, or of the use of the rifle. The noble and gallant Earl very properly desires that we should profit by this lesson, and that we should do something to train the youths of this country in such a manner as to supply them with some knowledge of these things. The only other proposition to which, I think, the noble Earl committed himself was the great importance of a reserve of officers. Personally I have never discussed these questions with any military authority without finding that this question of the dearth of officers is one of the most formidable difficulties which military reformers have to consider.
There was one point, and one point only, I think, on which I could bring myself to disagree with what fell from the noble and gallant Earl this evening. He dwelt upon the indifference of the nation to these questions. I doubt extremely whether the nation is indifferent to them. If I may say so, I believe that the nation is not indifferent, but puzzled. The nation has been treated to one scheme after another of Army reform, it has been inundated with Reports of committees and Royal Commissions, and it has really begun to regard these questions with feelings of despair rather than of indifference. It only awaits the discovery of the one great, final, successful measure which is to overcome the difficulties that have been fatal to so many. The present Secretary of State for War 698 has commenced his career of office with a great feeling of public confidence behind him; and I am sure that I may say for my friends who sit near me that we are all ready to give his proposals, which we look forward to seeing very shortly, our most dispassionate and certainly not unfriendly consideration. In the meanwhile, I think the House should be grateful to the noble and gallant Earl for having once again impressed upon us, in eloquent language, what is certainly a great national duty.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of RIPON)
My Lords, as I listened to the speech of my noble and gallant friend on the Cross Benches there came to my mind the recollection of the day on which the late Prime Minister made a very interesting statement of military policy in the other House of Parliament. That recollection has stayed with me throughout the debate, because no word fell from my noble and gallant friend to show that he had any belief in the doctrine which was laid down by Mr. Balfour and which goes by the name of the " Blue Water " theory.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I beg to protest against that statement. Mr. Balfour never committed himself to what is commonly known as the " Blue Water " theory.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
I do not think my noble friend will deny that Mr. Balfour said this country was defended by the Navy to an extent which would render it secure from a great and serious invasion.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Throughout his argument Mr. Balfour postulated the existence of a very large force maintained for the purpose of securing the country from attack.
§ THE MARQUESS OP RIPON
The theory that the Navy, if it be a sufficient Navy, can afford us security against serious invasion—I am not speaking of raids—has been the theory upon which, for the last twelve months or more the various schemes of Army reform have been founded; and, for my part, I am prepared to accept that theory to this extent, that I believe, in spite of what has been said 699 by some very extreme advocates of that theory, that raids are possible and ought to be provided against by the provision of a sufficient military force for the purpose of the defence of this country alone.
My noble and gallant friend also attacked another doctrine which I thought had been established by the epoch-making writings of Captain Mahan, that the possession of sea power was the most solid basis upon which general political and military power could rest. That did not appear to me to be at all accepted by my noble and gallant friend in the description he gave of past history. One of the most remarkable things in a book by this author was an illuminating description of the real secret of our ultimate overthrow of the power of Napoleon. It was in our Navy; and agreeing in the doctrine that the first defence of this country against invasion —and a perfectly secure defence if we have a sufficient Navy—is to be found in the Navy, I take. I confess, a different view from that which has been taken by many in this debate in regard to the position in which we stand at the present time.
His Majesty's Government, as the noble Marquess opposite has very justly admitted, are hampered in this discussion, because on Thursday next my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War intends to make what I am sure will be a very important declaration of policy. I am not, therefore, able to enter into any detail with regard to the scheme which the Government propose for the purpose of meeting the deficiencies of our military system, or to follow the noble and gallant Earl into all the points raised. If it should be desired by noble Lords, after Mr. Haldane's statement has been made, that this question should be again discussed, no objection will be raised by His Majesty's Government. My noble friend who has just sat down seemed to take exception to the introduction of the question of conscription into this discussion. I think my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State for War was entitled to make the remarks he did upon that subject, because, though the noble and gallant Earl did not say 700 a word either in his notice or in his speech upon conscription so called, he did propose that there should be compulsory training for every youth in this country after a certain age.
But the moment you begin to insist upon compulsion you will inevitably end in conscription. No one could have listened to the earnest speech of the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches and not have seen that he, a strong, honest advocate for conscription, was looking to that as the ultimate point at which he desired to arrive. I venture to say, my Lords, that if once we embark on a system of compulsion in any part of our military system a step will be taken upon an inclined plane which will finally lead to military conscription. The noble Viscount asked, " Why is it that you object so greatly to the system which exists in other countries? Why is it that, while all the great military Powers of the world have conscription in some form or another, you alone reject it? " The noble Viscount and others forget the existence of what is called the " Silver Streak." This is an island. Though we are undoubtedly a great military Power we have no land frontiers to guard in this country, and thus we are able, with perfect safety, as I believe, to refuse to follow in the footsteps of foreign countries in this matter, and to refuse to introduce the German system to which the noble Viscount alluded, and which is objectionable, not merely because it forces men to undergo military service whether they like it or not, but also because it is, and must necessarily be, based on a system of police, which I hold would never be endured in this country. This is the ground upon which I venture to enter my protest against any system of conscription. In this matter the true motto for us is Principiis obsta. Let us not take any step which will lead in this direction. I cannot agree with the views of the noble Viscount as to the moral aspect of conscription; and when he tells us to look at Germany and to attribute its industrial prosperity to a system of compulsion, I reply that England has a free system, and to that system I attribute the industrial prosperity of England.