HL Deb 02 July 1907 vol 177 cc499-501

My Lords, I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War what arrangements are proposed for the training, preliminary and annual, of the Special Reserve or Militia, in pursuance of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill. Your Lord ships will remember that some six weeks ago the noble Earl the Under-Secretary was good enough, in reply to my noble friend Lord Wemyss, to give an account of what the training would probably be of the Special Reservists under the Territorial Forces Bill. I do not know whether the Government still adhere precisely to the terms which he then stated. There has been, of course, a substantial change in the Bill since he spoke, because now the Militia are to be the Special Reserve which formerly they were not to be; and I beg to put this Question in order that your Lordships should be fully informed of how this training really stands.


My Lords, I make no complaint that this Question has been asked, and I am glad to give the noble Marquess all the information in my power. It is proposed that the training, preliminary and annual, of the Special Reserve (infantry) shall be as follows:—Recruits, preliminary training on enlistment, six months; annual training, fifteen days, and in addition a course comprising six days musketry practice. The above periods of training may require modification when practical experience has been obtained. It may prove of advantage to reduce somewhat the period of recruits' preliminary training and to lengthen somewhat the period of annual training. The recruits' training of the 3rd and 4th battalions will be carried out at the depots, and an adequate staff will be provided for the purpose. In certain cases it may be necessary to permit some units to carry out their instruction of recruits by means of "preliminary drill" immediately prior to annual training. The annual training will be usually carried out as battalions in camp in suitable localities. The annual musketry will be carried out as is found most convenient to battalions, possibly either immediately before or immediately after the annual training, or even at other times if found more convenient to the battalion. By means of this elasticity, it would not be necessary for the battalion to perform its musketry practices as a whole.


The noble Earl, in the earlier part of his Answer, spoke of the preliminary drill for recruits and then of the annual drill for recruits. He did not specifically mention the annual training of the trained men other than recruits.


There may be some modification, but I think that practically and substantially the training will be the same.


Can the noble Earl tell us whether there will be pay during the six days of musketry practice, and what will happen if men do not turn up? Will they be treated as deserters?

[No answer was returned.]


Is it intended that the battalion recruits should be drilled at the depot? If so, I can assure the noble Earl that there will be a great deal of difficulty in getting the men. If, on the other hand, the Government allow the recruits to drill in camp, plenty of men will be forthcoming; but the experience in Scotland, at any rate, shows that they will not come to the depot. A few years ago, before drilling at the depot was adopted, one battalion I could name was 1,200 strong; it is now only 400; whilst the regiment that I commanded, and which has never drilled at the depot, remains at the same strength —i.e.,over 900 strong.

House adjourned at a quarter past Five o'clock, till To morrow, halt-past Ten o'clock.