HL Deb 18 February 1908 vol 184 cc578-605

rose to call attention to the Army Order of 23rd December, 1907, and to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War—(1) If non-training bounty will be paid to men belonging to the disbanded Militia battalions; (2) If the special Infantry Reserve will be at once equipped in the same manner as the Regular Reserve; (3) If any additional officers will be added to the present establishment of officers serving with the Line in consequence of the posting of Line officers to the third special reserve battalions. The noble Duke said: My Lords, the Army Order of the 23rd December last is one of the most important Orders ever issued by the Army Council. It abolishes the Militia, and attempts to create a new Force which is to be known as the Special Contingent. That force is divided into combatants and non-combatants. The combatants comprise Engineers, Artillery, and Infantry. I propose to deal with the Infantry only, and to begin by reading Paragraph 2 of this Order. Under Section 30 of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, a man who has not served in the Regular Forces may, under the provisions of the Reserve Forces Act of 1882, enlist into the Army Reserve. These men will in future be known as Special Reservists. A Special Reservist of the Infantry, then, is a man who has never served with the colours of any regiment of the Line, and who under this Order will not even know to which regiment of the Line he may be drafted when the Reserves are called out. It is proposed to form this Special Infantry Reserve partly by direct enlistment, which began on the 15th January last, and partly by asking Militia officers and men now serving to transfer to the Special Reserve on the abolition of the Militia. One hundred and one Militia battalions are to train this year as Militia, and at the end of their training will be asked to transfer to the Special Reserve. Twenty-three battalions of Militia have been disbanded.

As regards the disbandment of twenty-three Militia battalions, last session it was the intention of the Government to reduce the number of Militia battalions by the amalgamation of weak battalions. There was then no question of disbandment; it was a case of the amalgamation of weak battalions. The Government promised that Part III of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill should not apply to the Militia until after next training, but made no mention then of their intention to disband twenty-three battalions, and then apply Part III of the Bill to them at once, before their annual training. The officers and men of the twenty three battalions marked out for disbandment are certainly at a disadvantage when compared with those of the battalions which are allowed to train, for these can discuss the conditions of the new service they will be asked to join, and they have the privilege of serving once more and for the last time in the history of this country as officers and men of the Militia.

The method of applying Part III of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act to the battalions of Militia which are to be disbanded before training is as follows. The Commanding Officers and Field Officers, who sacrificed their business, their professions and occupations in civil life, to serve at home and abroad during the late embodiment, are now no longer required. They are to disappear. The officers below Field rank are told that they must either transfer to the Reserve of officers, when they will be subsequently posted to Reserve battalions, or resign. The men have printed notices sent to them by post explaining that there are three courses open to them—first, to remain in the Militia till time expired, when, under this Order, they are not to be trained or to receive any pay or bounties, but are to be subject to embodiment; second, to take their discharge free; third, to transfer to the Reserve. In the last case they may train with any Militia battalion they like, not as Militiamen but as Special Reservists. Subsequently, when all the Militia battalions have been abolished, and the Special Reserve battalions created, they will be posted to any Reserve battalion in which they wish to serve. They are told in the printed notice— If you like to join the Special Reserve, your position is as follows. You will become a member of the Army Reserve, and, as a Special Reservist, you will be liable for service abroad in the time of emergency. But not a word is said as to their liability for general drafting abroad. Of course, the man thinks he will serve abroad with the battalion which he decides to join. It does not seem to me that the men of these disbanded battalions have been fairly dealt with. The question which ought to have been put to them is, "Are you desirous of joining the Special Reserve, and are you willing to serve abroad with any battalion of the Line to which you may be drafted when the Reserves are called out?" That is a plain straightforward question, and it is what the Government mean, and it is also what the men would understand. I hope I may be informed why that question is not asked.

Another Army Order has just been issued saying that a man who decides to remain a Militiaman may receive non-training bounties up to this time next year provided he trains as a Militiaman this year, which is precisely what the men belonging to the disbanded battalions are not allowed to do. I hope the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War will explain what is going to be done in their case. In the 101 battalions which are to train as Militia for the last time this year, all Militia officers will be required to transfer to the Special Reserve of Officers and to serve under the Army Act instead of under the Militia Act. The present Militia commanding officers will apparently, on transfer to the Reserve of Officers, be allowed to complete their tenure of command, but their position will be a very different one from what it is at present. In the first place, at the moment of transition a Militia commanding officer must advise his men to accept the liability to be drafted for general service abroad on the score of duty and patriotism. He must at the same time inform them that he himself can never by any possible chance take them abroad in person. He is to ask his men to train under his command in peace, and to hand them over to some one to take on service. That in itself is an intolerable position for a commanding officer.

The ex-Militia commanding officer will see his battalion for only twenty-one days in the year, because for the whole of the rest of the year it is to be commanded by a Line major at the depôt. Of course, all the Line officers, who are to be posted to a Special Reserve battalion, and the permanent staff, must look to the Line major as their real commanding officer. It will be on his reports that their advancement will depend. They can only look on the Militia commanding officer as a most awkward three weeks interruption. The Militia commanding officers will have nothing to say to the appointment of the Line major and officers, or of the adjutant, or of the permanent staff. If during the three weeks training the Militia commanding officer should report adversely on the Line officers, they would be sure to appeal from his report to those of their real commanding officer at the depot. Here is a possibility of a long series of public inquiries into highly confidential reports, of which we have lately had a very interesting example. It is obvious that under those conditions the Militia commanding officer can have no real authority or influence over the Line officers and the adjutant and the permanent staff.

Paragraph 54 says— Promotion may be up to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding. But this is qualified by a note in the Appendix which says— The Lieutenant-Colonel will be either from the Special Reserve of Officers or an Officer on the retired list. I think that may be read to mean that in future the commanding officer of a Reserve battalion will always be an ex-regular officer. By this Order a certain number of Line officers are to be posted to the Special Reserve battalions, and paragraph 65 of the Army Order reads— For command and precedence the officers of the Special Reserve will be junior to the Regular officer of the same rank. This is an attempt to combine two classes of officers in the same battalion, and grade one of those senior to the other. During the South African war senior captains in the Militia readily and freely volunteered to serve as subalterns in the Line. Militia captains cannot be reproached with having attached any undue importance to questions of rank when active service arose. But now the case is different. You are attempting to arrange new conditions of service in a novel force, and if the terms offered are exacting, uncongenial, and, above all, if they stamp the holder of the commission with the badge of inferiority, they will fail to attract.

Militia regimental officers up to the age of 35 will be required to transfer to the Special Reserve and to accept the liability for permanent service whenever ordered by the Army Council. They are not called up with the Reserves. On the contrary, they are always at the disposal of the Army Council for odd jobs, but except on mobilisation there will be no permanent appointments for them. They are to receive £20 a year, in consideration of which they are not allowed to resign their commissions until the expiration of the whole year for which they have received this retaining fee. This impossibility of resignation is a very serious liability, and one which no Regular officer is asked to accept. The Regular officer can at any moment during his service, except when mobilisation is imminent, resign his commission. Not so the Special Reserve officer, who, having taken £20, is bound for a whole year. For instance, if an officer of the Special Reserve has the chance of a good appointment or a good business opening abroad, he will not be able to accept it for a whole year, until he is free. The end of Paragraph 63 reads— On notifying his intention not to renew this annual undertaking, the officer, if under thirty-five, will cease to belong to the Special Reserve, and will relinquish his appointment in his Reserve unit at the conclusion of his current period of liability. After attaining the age of thirty-five, an officer may continue to serve in Special Reserve in his Reserve unit, remaining liable for foreign service on emergency as before, but he will be at liberty to apply to resign his commission at any time, and will no longer be required to engage himself for a year in advance. I cannot myself conceive any officer accepting such binding conditions of service. With regard to the chance of seeing active service, it is quite clear that the Special Reserve officer will see very little of that. It is manifest that his lot will be to take drafts of Special Reservists to foreign garrisons. That will be his use, because there is no other officer in the new scheme bound as he will be to perform that very necessary but very disagreeable duty.

Now, the officer of the Territorial Army, being confined by Act of Parliament to the United Kingdom, is consequently in a position to make his own, terms for foreign service. Of course, the Territorial Army in the future will do just as the Volunteers did during the South African war. They will make their own conditions for foreign service, and quite naturally because they have only agreed to serve at home. They will insist on going straight to the front, and on coming home the moment the war is over. They will not commit themselves to service in foreign garrisons for indefinite periods. If a man compares for one moment the difference between the liabilities of the Special Reserve officer and those of the officer of the Territorial Army, and understands them, he will never do anything so foolish as to accept a commission in the Special Reserve. The prospects of promotion above the rank of captain are so remote for the Special Reserve officers that he need not consider them. He will never get beyond the rank of being junior to the junior captain in the Line regiment to which he is attached.

The number of officers to be posted to the Reserve battalions appears in the Appendix to the Order. The twenty-seven extra Reserve battalions are to have three Line captains, including the adjutant, and two Line subalterns, and seventy-four of the Special Reserve battalions are to have one Line major, four Line captains including the adjutant, and two Line subalterns. That means that in the case of seventy-four Militia battalions which are transferred to the Special Reserve, four Line captains are brought in over the heads of all Militia captains in those battalions. That will so completely change the battalions that the Militia captains will hardly care to transfer and undertake the binding liabilities and the inferior rank of the Special Reserve officer even for £20 a year.

Militia Regimental officers proved of great use during the South African war. Their services were employed for several years continuously both at home and abroad. They served in Egypt, in the Colonies, and in South Africa in many capacities. I am not aware that there were more failures among them than there were among officers belonging to other branches of the Service. His Majesty's Government, by this Army Order, destroy the whole class of Militia regimental officers by the simple process of requiring them to take conditions of service which it is impossible for them to accept. We know very well that the Government cannot find anything like sufficient officers for our military forces; yet they do not hesitate to wipe out a whole class of officers who certainly proved their value during the South African war and whom they have no chance of ever replacing. If you abolish the Militia form of military service, you must also abolish all those officers and men who can only give that particular form of service to their country. As a matter of fact, the reason why Militia officers have remained on in the Militia during the many years of uncertainty which have surrounded the future of that Force is their feeling of attachment to the regiments in which they have served for many years with their brother officers. But now, when they are asked to sit below the salt in their own mess, all the old comradeship of their life in their Militia regiment will have gone.

I know it is often said at the present moment of all Auxiliary Forces—Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers—that, of course, officers and men must be prepared to make sacrifices. I attach no importance to that opinion, for this reason. It is only the smallest fraction of any class in our whole community which take the trouble to give any form of military service to their country. The vast majority consider that they discharge the whole duty of patriotism by telling the miserable minority of their fellow-citizens, who do make considerable sacrifices of time, leisure, and money, in order to give military service to the State, that they ought to be ready to make further sacrifices. I am not an advocate of compulsory service, but I should like to see compulsory service smartly applied to these critics. They would be the better for it.

As regards men, the object of the Government is to induce Militiamen now serving, as well as recruits, to join the Special Reserve. In these circumstances it is only just that the conditions of this new service should be clearly explained to the men. With this object an Army poster appeared in January. How does this poster fulfil that elementary principle of justice? It says nothing as to the real nature of the service to be incurred by the men enlisting, because, although it tells them that they are liable for foreign service, it says nothing about the liability to be drafted to any Infantry regiment of the Line. It refers them for all such particulars to certain leaflets to be obtained at the Post Office, or from any recruiting officer. I have studied one of these leaflets. It is headed "Terms of Service," but that phrase is used in a restricted sense, being applied only to enlistment, because there is not a single line in the whole paper giving the man's liabilities for service after enlistment. The leaflet sets forth, in most attractive manner, the pay, bounties, and allowances, which the Government intend to shower on the Special Reservists, but is silent on the point of the duties which they mean to exact for the benefits they profess to confer. I am astonished to find that the statements made are in some cases incorrect, and in others misleading.

Under the heading "Pay," the recruit is informed that he gets 7s. a week. He is also informed, in large type on the front sheet, that he gets free food. A note, however, is added that 2s. a week is stopped for vegetables, groceries, and washing. But nothing whatever is said about what are known as consolidated stoppages, such as barrack damages and library, which are reserved as a pleasant surprise for the recruit after enlistment. In large type, on the front sheet, his attention is drawn to medical attendance, and he is informed that he will be admitted into hospital and receive "the necessary diet and surgical and medical treatment." Then, in a bracket, in the smallest type, come the words "See over," and on the back of the leaflet is this note— The 3d. a day messing allowance is stopped, in addition to a stoppage of 7d. a day, if the Special Reservist is in hospital. Suppose he breaks his leg playing football, he is stopped 10d. a day. He could not be charged any more, because that is practically the whole of his day's pay. The note continues— If, however, he is admitted into the hospital suffering from injuries received during drill or manœuvre, he is granted free hospital treatment. If through injuries received in the performance of ordinary military duty, half stoppage, 3½d., only is enforced. Yes, but at the same time his messing allowance of 3d. a day is stopped, so that he loses 6½d. out of his day's pay. So much for free medical attendance.

Paragraph 38 of the Army Order is copied on to the leaflet under the head- ing of "Bounties," and this statement is made— At the conclusion of six months drill on enlistment, he may enlist in the Regular Army, I even if he has not attained the age of eighteen years. After completing not less than three months drill on enlistment he may join the Regular Army if he his attained the age of eighteen years. In either case he would be granted the bounty of £1 10s. 0d., and was thus in a position, not only to buy his discharge, but also to put half a sovereign into his pocket at the same time. Now the future recruit, enlisting into the Special Reserve, must pay £3 for his discharge. He gets £1 bounty at the end of each training, so that, instead of buying his discharge and having half a sovereign to spare, like the Militiaman, he must use the whole of his bounty and I find £2 in addition. He receives £1 of non-training bounty three times a year. He must if he wishes to purchase his discharge before the training to save losing his situation, refund all non-training bounties, plus £3, making a total of £6. As he is sure to have spent all his non-training bounties he will not be able to do this. The Government have intentionally put it out of the power of the Special Reservist to purchase his discharge, but not a word of this appear in the leaflets or posters.

The object of the Government in destroying the Militia is to obtain in its place a body of men liable for service abroad with any regiment of the Line to which they may be drafted whenever the Reserves are called out. This liability is a very serious one, and one which many men would not, and could not, if it were made clear to them, and if they understood it, incur. Now there is not a single line in the whole of this Army Order mentioning in direct terms the liability of the Special Reservists for general drafting. Paragraph 54 of the Army Order reads— Special Reservists are liable on mobilisation for service abroad. A bonus of £2 will be given to serving Militiamen in consideration of the assumption of this liability. This bonus will be paid on attestation. That tells a man nothing as to his real liability. The poster and the leaflets and the notices sent to the men of the disbanded regiments make no mention of general drafting. But somehow or other the men must be made liable for general drafting, and this is the process. The Army Council, having induced the man to offer himself for enlistment, bring two printed papers into play—the one, called the notice paper, marks the preliminary stage of the process; the other, called the attestation sheet, marks the final stage and completion. The notice paper is first handed to the lad. It is a highly technical document, containing on one side the general conditions of the contract of enlistment and on the other the questions which will be put to him verbally before he signs the attestation paper and takes the oath. He is supposed to read over and understand the notice paper. As a matter of fact he does neither, and is not capable of doing both. He does not read the notice, and if he did he would not understand it. But no doubt Paragraph 6 of the notice paper does contain these words— You may be appointed to serve in any corps, or may be transferred or attached to any corps, requiring your services when called out on permanent services. It will be observed that the word "drafted," which the man understands and knows, is not used. A vague expression is substituted.

Having received the notice, the man proceeds to make his attestation. Before doing so he is asked seventeen verbal questions. I should have expected that one of these questions would have been "Are you willing to be attested to serve in any Infantry regiment of the Line at home or abroad to which you may be drafted when called out on permanent service?" But no such question is asked. The conditions referred to in Paragraph 6 of the man's notice paper, which he is supposed to have read, are wholly ignored, and the question asked of the man is this, "Are you willing to be attested to serve in the 3rd Blankshire Regiment Special Reserve battalion?" This is exactly what the man wants to do and is willing to do, and so he answers "Yes." He signs the attestation and stands committed to the terms, to find later that he has really accepted the conditions of being drafted anywhere, which he dreads and abominates. The direct question is never put to him by word of mouth by the attesting officer. He is supposed to find it out himself by reading. Now so long as the Army Council refuse to ask the question fairly and squarely of the men, they must not object to the inference that by obscuring the true nature of the new enlistment they seek to prove themselves right and the Militia commanding officers wrong. As you are aware, the Militia commanding officers, when consulted, advised that the Militia could not be successfully enlisted for foreign service if the liability for general drafting was insisted upon, provided always that the real nature of the service required was explained to the men.

The abolition of the Militia and the attempt to create the Special Reserve must influence recruiting for the Regular Army. From the time of Mr. Pitt up to the present day, the Militia has always been the feeding force for the Army both in peace and war. At the end of this summer the Militia will be gone and for ever. The Army could never have got on without the Militia in the past, and the Government has not given us a single reason for believing that it will be able to do so in the future. Men now serving in the Militia will be offered £2 to transfer to the Special Reserve, but on transferring they will not be allowed to join the Army for one year. The result is obvious. The flow from the Militia to the Army will be checked for twelve months, because you are paying men, many of whom would have joined the Army for nothing, £2 a head to stay out of the Army for one year. The Government are willing to spend money in creating a shortage of recruits for the Regular Army for one year, in order to be able to point to a momentary success in filling up their Special Reserve.

Paragraph 38 of the Army Order allows the Special Reserve recruit to enlist into the Army at the end of six months preliminary drill, even if he has not attained the age of 18; and, to induce him to do so, he is to be given the same bounty which he would have received at the end of the current training—that is to say, the age for enlistment into the Army is reduced to 17 by means of the Special Reserve. A parent could claim his son out of the Army if he could show him to be less than 18. He will no longer be able to do so, as the Army Council will catch the boy through the Special Reserve at 17 without the consent of the parent. The Army Council mean in future to fish with a smaller meshed net in order to take undersized fish, which it was formerly illegal to capture. Moreover, this netting will be carried on in the waters of the waste products of our national industries, because recruiting for the Special Reserve is to be general, and not by counties, as it used to be for the Militia. That means that a man may be enlisted in the East end of London and sent to the depot of the Devonshire Regiment and called a Devonshire Special Reservist. The Line will receive recruits from the Reserve battalion, but those recruits will have nothing to do with the county. The Militia Regulations prohibit enlisting a man for a county regiment if he has not lived in that county for one year. Men living in the county joined the County Militia and passed on into the Line Territorial Regiment. This most valuable link between the Line regiment and its county will now be severed, undoubtedly to the detriment of the Line, and especially so in Ireland. Another certain result will be that once these Regulations are understood, no man will ever enlist directly into the Regular Army, because by passing through the Special Reserve he will get a bounty of 50s. on joining the Line.

In an Army Memorandum issued about the Militia at the close of last session, it is stated that— The establishment of Infantry Regiments in the Special Contingent will in future be equal and battalions are to have a chance of being used as units in war as well as of supplying drafts. We know now that the establishment of a Special Reserve battalion is to be 539 privates of the Special Reserve. It is quite impossible for a Special Reserve battalion, with such an establishment, ever to go abroad as a battalion unit for the following reasons. We must deduct, first, the men leaving the Special Reserve on the outbreak of war and enlisting to serve with the colours; secondly, the men under twenty years of age, and too young for foreign service. These inevitable deductions, even without any drafting of Special Reservists to the Line—the only purpose for which they were enlisted—would leave one of the Special Reserve battalions about 200 strong for foreign service and without any Reserve. It is stated in paragraph twenty-three of the Army Order— The Reserve battalions, other than the twenty-seven extra Reserve battalions men- tioned in paragraph 18, will take over the immature and unfit from the Line battalions and provide trained drafts to replace casualties. It is quite certain that the officer who can turn a raw recruit of seventeen into a mature reservist of twenty-seven, and the unfit into the sound, does not exist in real life, but only in the imagination of the authors of this scheme. You may go on adding immature boys and unsound men to a nucleus battalion, but you will not make it fit to provide trained drafts for foreign service. Paragraph 23 continues— The establishment of Regular officers and non-commissioned officers in the Special Reserve battalion is fixed on a scale which will allow of their being used as training centres for the officers and non-commissioned officers of the Territorial Force. Thus they become in the fullest sense training battalions. That conveys the impression that all the year round there will be a training battalion at the depot in the fullest sense. I fail to see how this can ever be the case. What you will really have is this—about 100 recruits of very tender years, split up into some ten squads, and no two men in each squad will have been in barracks the same number of days.

Drill on enlistment means that recruit No. 1 comes into barracks on the 1st November, and recruit No. 50 on the 1st January following, and the intervening numbers dribble into barracks by one's and two's at various intervals between the 1st November and 1st January. Then recruit No. 1 would have been in barracks two months longer than recruit No. 50, and hardly any half-dozen recruits would have been in barracks the same number of days. You will perceive that it is impossible to get these fifty men into one class for instruction. Common sense shows that military training cannot be done by squads of five or six with good results. It is bad for both the instructor and instructed. It is this collection of ragged squads which is described as a training battalion in the fullest sense of the term. It is utter nonsense in the fullest sense of the word.

Paragraph 9 of the Army Order reads as follows— Taking Regular battalions at normal effective strength, the Regular Reservists will more than suffice to raise them to a war footing; consequently Special Reservists will be required only to multi good the loss by wastage. This is a handsome tribute to the success of the policy of the late Government of forming a fully adequate Reserve. At the end of the South African war the Reserve was depleted, and the satisfactory condition of the Reserve today mentioned in this paragraph is due entirely to the measures taken by Lord Middleton for replenishing the Reserve. The Army Order says that there is no need now for the Special Reserve boys to go abroad in the first instance. Unfortunately, the policy of the present Government is to allow this Reserve created by their predecessors to run out whilst destroying the means of filling it up. When this has happened you must incorporate the boys of the Special Reserve section with the battalion of the Expeditionary Force at once, provided there is any Special Reserve to incorporate, because it does not yet exist.

The number of officers taken from the colours by this Order to serve with the Reserve battalions totals up to 740, Is it the intention of the Government to add 740 officers at once to the Line establishment? I hope that such may be their intention. If it is not, then it is perfectly certain that the efficiency of the Line must be greatly impaired. According to this Army Order a Line regiment which has two Reserve battalions must supply these battalions with twelve officers. How can a Line battalion go on service with twelve officers short of establishment? I am well aware that there always have been Line officers employed at every depot, but I know very well that during the South African War every single Regular officer was taken away from his depot and sent to his regiment, and the places filled at the depot by anyone who had ever held a commission in any sort of force who was willing to come forward and do duty.

Then there is the question of equipment. Is it the intention at once to equip all Militiamen transferring to the Special Reserve in the same manner as the Regular Reserve? At present the Militia have the long rifle and bayonet, and carry their ammunition in pouches. The Line have the short rifle and bandolier; and there are many other differences in kit, clothing, and equipment. If the Special Reserve is to be any use as a Regular Reserve, you must give them the same equipment, and at once. But this means money.

What is the full and real value of this Special Infantry Reserve which this Order attempts to create? The establishment of a Reserve battalion is 539 privates, and there are to be 101 battalions. We may, therefore, say that in round numbers the Special Contingent Infantry is to number 54,000. But as enlistment is to begin at the age of seventeen and under, not more than one-third will be twenty years of age and available for foreign service. You must, then, allow 20 per cent. of that number for medical unfitness, and also allow for men joining the colours of the Army on the outbreak of war. Finally, we arrive at a force of less than 18,000. That is all that the Government aim at getting, a drafting pool of 18,000 indifferently trained men, without officers, excepting those who have been borrowed from the Line and who must be restored on mobilisation. The quantity seems very small, and the quality must be very indifferent.

As to the quality, I must anticipate an answer which I am likely to receive—namely, that the training prescribed for the Special Reserve has the approval of the Army Council, and that the whole scheme of this very short service Army is the outcome of long and careful consideration. The late Government proposed a short service Home Army in which the period of service was to be two years of battalion training with the colours. I learn from a pamphlet published by the late Secretary of State for War on the present Army scheme, that he at first suggested fifteen months for that short service Army, but that the Army Council insisted that nothing short of two years' continuous training could qualify a man to become a Reservist of the Regular Army. I read in an Army Memorandum issued by the present Secretary of State for War, dated 30th July, 1906, as follows— The Cardwell system makes the training battalion serve two purposes. It provides drafts in peace, and the same battalion can, on mobilisation, by means of Reservists, be transformed into a first-class fighting unit. Where world-wide duties have to be performed battalions mobilised in this fashion appear to the great majority of the expert military advisers of the Government to be greatly preferable to the battalions of an independent short service Army, composed largely of inexperienced and partially trained Reservists, who must necessarily be quite infer or to seasoned men who have already gone through a substantial period of service abroad. That condemns, on the authority of the expert military advisers, the proposed short service Army of the late Government, on the score that two years is an adequate period for training. But now we have in 1907 an Army Order, issued by the same expert military advisers, for the purpose of creating a short service Army with six months of depot training and not any battalion training at all. It is said, with some truth, that if an expert witness says one thing, it is easy to produce an equally expert witness to prove the contrary. But here we have the same expert body perfectly ready to advise in two opposite directions. I suggest to the noble Earl that we agree to cancel the opinion of the Army Council on this point.

It is interesting to compare the cost of a man in the Regular Reserve with that of a boy in the Special Reserve. The Regular Reserve man represents the survival of the fittest, in that it is only a proportion of the recruits enlisted who reach the Reserve. In my own experience, out of twenty-five recruits I knew joining the Line, five only reached the Reserve. But the man who does reach the Reserve will be a man and a soldier. He will have seen the world, probably have been on active service, and will be perfectly familiar with all the incidents of a soldier's life. The very pick of the whole Army Reserve are called Section A. A Section A man of the Army Reserve is the finest type of a trained Infantry soldier. A Special Reserve boy will be what the Army Council means to make him—the sorriest travesty of a first Line soldier we have ever seen. On passing to the Reserve, the Section A men are paid one shilling a day for the first twelve months of their active service, and they can be called to the colours by order of the Army Council. These men cost £18 5s. 0d. a head per year. Now this Special Reserve seventeen year old boy in his first year will cost the country £15 in pay, and £4 2s. 6d. in food—total £19 2s. 6d. He will cost more than a Section A man of the Regular Reserve. He is of absolutely no military value at home, and cannot be sent abroad for three years on the point of immaturity.

I read in the Army Medical Report for the year 1906 that— The recruits passed into the Army in the year 1906 were on the whole very satisfactory. It must, however, be remembered that the greatest number were growing lads and not men. They should not be expected to do the work of mature soldiers for at least two years, That refers to the recruits for the Army when they are enlisted at eighteen. They will in future, under this Order, be enlisted at seventeen, so we must say three years instead of two years. We must also remember that no continental nation commences to train a lad as a recruit until he is twenty, whereas we say-that when he is twenty he is fit for the work of a mature soldier, which, as a matter of fact, he is not. In calculating the service value of the Special Reserve, I have allowed for the existence of the full establishment allowed by the Government, but, as a matter of fact, nothing approaching the number of 54,000 will ever exist in the Special Infantry Reserve. Say that you take over 30,000 men and boys from the disbanded Militia, at a cost of £2 a head. They will only be there for three or four years, and then you cannot replace them. The balance of transferred Militiamen will very soon melt away. There will be all those who would have joined the Army if they had not been given £2 apiece to stay out for a year. Obviously they will leave the Special Reserve and join the Army at the end of their first twelve months. Then there are others who have taken the £2 because they have only a year or little more to serve, and are prepared to run the risk for so short a time, but who always meant to be off as soon as they were free. The number of men with about fifteen months to serve in the Militia is about 20,000. Again, there is the waste (not in this case due to purchase, for that has been made impossible) which is always due to desertion, emigration, death, discharge on completion of service, and men becoming medically unfit. It is a case very similar to that of the Regular Reserve. The Government take over a balance of men which must vanish swiftly away in a few years, and which their policy prevents them from replacing.

The reason why it is not possible to maintain the Special Reserve as a substantive force is that every Special Reserve recruit must be pressed for the Army to avoid a disastrous shortage of recruits for the Line. To ensure sending on the Special Reserve recruit to the Army, the very high bounties which I have mentioned are offered. But if every Special Reserve recruit is converted, at a cost of 50s.—which is the sum mentioned in this Order—into a serving soldier in the Army, there is an end of the Special Reserve. A boy enlists into the Special Reserve because he is cold, hungry, and out of work. I will support that statement by an extract from the Army Medical Department Report of 1906, which says— As quite 90 per cent. of the recruits are out of work when they enlist, and have, in many cases been underfed, it is only natural that their weight should be less than the normal for their size and age. At the end of six months the lad has the chance of taking 50s. and joining the Army, or being turned out of barracks into the street, more hopelessly out of touch with work and employment than be has ever been in his life before. He must join the Army.

But there will be two classes who do not go on to the Army: first, those boys who never grow up to Line standard—they are physically unfit to serve with the colours, but are retained as first class Army Reservists—and, secondly, those who have taken a dislike to soldiering during their preliminary drill, and who will lead a vagrant life for a short time, and then, on the pinch of hunger, just join some depot whore they are not known, and do another six months drill. There will be a great deal of this fraudulent enlistment, because it will be both easy and safe, and most convenient for the vagrant class you are going to enlist. I do not see how with general enlistment the fraud can be detected. Those, then, are the two classes—namely, men who so cordially hate their experience of soldiering that they prefer the miseries of a vagrant life to service in the Army, and boys who never become physically fit to serve with the colours—of which the substance of the Special Reserve will be composed. In time of war these men are drafted to regiments they have never seen to uphold the glorious traditions of the British Infantry, traditions created by mutual confidence between all ranks, and, above all, by devotion to the regiment. But none of this can have any meaning for the Special Reservist. It is then in order to create a drafting pool of material of this description that the Militia system of military service has been destroyed.

The fact of the decision to abolish the existing Militia Force was not clearly apparent last Session, and therefore did not, attract anything like so much attention or discussion as the means by which that abolition was to be accomplished. To my mind, it does not matter if the Militia is disbanded and asked to enlist in the Special Reserve, or is disbanded and asked to enlist in the new Territorial Force. But what does matter is that in both cases the Militia ceases to serve under the Militia Acts which have given that Force its distinctive character, with the result that the Militia, which has played such an important part in our military history, disappears, and that with it goes the foundation of our military system, to be replaced by what at present is but a paper scheme, still surrounded by mystery. After this summer the Regular Army will be deprived of the support of the only Force which can give it prompt and permanent expansion by organised units, and which has never failed so to do.

For instance, the South African war was declared in the second week of October, and before the end of November the 3rd Loyal North Lancashire Regiment embarked for Malta to liberate a Line regiment for service, going themselves on later to South Africa. This process proceeded rapidly till the whole Militia—Engineers, Artillery, and Infantry—were embodied, liberating units of the Regular Army. After this summer we shall have no Force in the country which can render similar service. It is true that the Army Council can change the name of the Volunteer Force to that of the Territorial Army, and may consider—I believe they do consider—that this is, in itself, an achievement well worthy of something in the nature of a national thanksgiving. But by changing the name they cannot change the nature of the civilian employment of the Volunteers. We know that during the South African war the Volunteers, when asked to give two months of embodied service, were unable to do so, and that consequently Royal Reserve battalions were raised. We know, therefore, as a fact, borne of our past experience, that embodied service cannot be expected from the Volunteers, although their names be changed to Territorial Army. It is useless to say that the Territorial Army can assist the Regular Army by performing embodied service as the Militia has done, because recent experience has shown that they cannot do so.

The Regular Army and its Reserves have been greatly reduced. The ample Reserve created by the late Government is going to be allowed to run out and not to be adequately refilled. By reducing the age for enlistment for the Army to 17 by means of the Special Reserve door, the immaturity of the boys serving with the colours will be increased, and the personnel of the Array deteriorated. The abolition of the Militia deprives the Line of its chief source of recruits, and closes for ever that channel through which county recruits passed to the territorial regiments. The abolition of the Militia will confine a greater part of the Army, reduced as it is both in quality and quantity, to garrison duties in time of war. The effect, then, of this Order, which is the outcome of two years of talking, is to render the Regular Army an increasingly less efficient fighting machine for the defence of the Empire.


My Lords, I wish to associate myself with everything that my noble friend the noble Duke has said with regard to the Militia, a branch of His Majesty's forces in which both of us have commanded battalions for over ten years. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that we are deeply interested as to the future of that force. At the same time I do not wish to traverse the ground which my noble friend has covered in such an able manner, as I think he has very clearly defined and indicated the present situation and feeling of that force. But, as I do not consider that the duties and the position of the Militia are very clearly defined by the Army Order of December 23rd, I wish to put to the noble Earl who represents the War Office in your Lordship's House a series of Questions of which I have given him private notice.

In the first place, I desire to ask, as regards seniority, how will the officers of the Special Reserve rank with the Line officers that are to be attached to each battalion? It would appear from the paragraph in the Order that all Line officers are to be senior to Militia officers. That would be monstrously unfair. In my battalion we have officers with, perhaps, ten years experience in the Army and five in the Militia. Over these men you will have some junior Line officer, and I venture to think this would not be a good way to induce seasoned officers to remain on in the Special Reserve. I hope, therefore, that there will be a change in some way in regard to this point. Secondly, I desire to ask whether during the non-training period the command of the battalion is to be, as at present, under the colonel, or under that of the senior attached Line officer? I should like, too, to know how these Special Reserve officers are to be called up to train both their units and their officers if that is the intention.

My third Question is: in the case of a disbanded battalion, what is to happen to the officers of that battalion? In Paragraph 72 it is stated that officers other than the lieutenant-colonel commanding, will be attached to the remaining Militia battalions, or will be transferred to other battalions if they wish. If that is allowed to take place in connection, for instance, with the South Wales Borderers, who have one of their battalions disbanded, they will have no fewer than fifteen captains and ten subalterns over strength. I should like to have some information as to how this will be adjusted. Next, on what basis are units selected as extra Reserve battalions? Fifthly, how is it proposed to procure subaltern officers for the special Reserve battalions, and what is to be the length of the recruits' training of those officers on joining?

Next, when will the conditions be published regarding the payment of the £40 grant to special Reserve officers on joining, and will they be retrospective? Is it to be understood that no man will be allowed to re-enlist in the special Reserve over the age of thirty? I trust some means will be devised to secure the services of those men. And, lastly, could authority be obtained to allow an extra meat ration to be given to weakly recruits on joining on the recommendation of the medical officer? This is a reasonable suggestion to make considering that horses when first taken on for the Army are allowed an extra forage if they are considered weakly. I do not see why the same consideration should not be permitted to weakly recruits. I trust, there fore, that the noble Earl, when he has answered the Questions on the Paper put by the noble Duke—


And which the noble Duke has never put.


Well, the Questions that appear on the Paper. I trust that after the noble Earl has answered those Questions, he will enlighten me on the points in regard to which I have put these Questions, and alleviate the great uncertainty which at present prevails as to what is to happen in the special Reserve—an uncertainty which must be greatly detrimental to a new force coming into being, which force I feel sure all Militia officers, although not in unanimous agreement with those new proposals or changes, will loyally support to the best of their ability.


My Lords, the noble Lords who have just spoken have alluded at some length to the infantry of the Special Service section. The points that I desire to bring to the notice of the noble Earl the Under-Secretary are connected with the other arms of the Special Service section. In old days the Militia consisted of five branches—infantry, field artillery, garrison artillery, engineers, and medical staff. Last year or the year before a large portion of the engineer branch—namely, the submarine miners—were abolished. Lord Mount-Edgcumbe referred to the danger of suddenly sending to the right-about men who had given you good service, and I can give a very good instance of this in connection with the submarine miners. For a great number of years the regiment which I have the honour to command has obtained seventy or eighty recruits annually from Swansea. This year we got nine. I asked my recruiting sergeants the reason, and they replied that it was all the result of disbanding the submarine miners, who were walking about saying that they had been abominably treated. My noble friend Lord Cawdor could give a similar instance in regard to the Carmarthenshire Artillery, which only got sixteen recruits last year. So that by turning men off at a moment's notice, you not only lose the services of those men, but deprive the country of the services of others, who are disgusted with that treatment. I understand that the Medical Staff Corps is also to be abolished. Of this branch I have not much knowledge, but in both instances there is the serious mistake of dismissing men whose trained services are most valuable.

With regard to the Artillery, it is difficult to say anything, because nothing whatever has been allowed to leak out of the War Office as to what are to be their conditions of service, how the men are to be trained, and what the units, if any, that are to be formed are to do. The only thing, apparently, that has been laid down is this. The Army Council, having begun by saying cheerfully that it is possible to make a most excellent infantryman by six months recruit's drill, and twenty-one days annual training, now go one better, and say we can make Field Artillery with six months recruit's drill and fifteen days annual training. I do not suppose that anybody outside Bedlam ever imagined that it was possible to make Field Artillery with that training, and the only conclusion I can come to with regard to the Artillery, is that it will never really be trained at all. They will be drafted to the Regular Artillery and will be used to extend ammunition columns and so forth, but as units they will never be trained at all. When we remember that even the Garrison Artillery have been for years clamouring to be allowed more than one month's training in the year, because it was impossible for them to learn in the course of a month what they should know, is it not the sheerest folly to say that in fifteen days you can teach Field Artillery anything worth knowing?

Then I come to the arm of the Service to which I have the honour to belong—namely, the Engineers. There is no arm of the service in which the individual man is so important as the Engineers, and no service in which it is more important that those in charge of a working party should know the qualifications and trades of the men going out with them. But according to the proposals laid down in the new Army Order, there will be only fifteen days training. This, too, will leave absolutely no time for musketry. There always has been a school of soldiers who have been exceedingly anxious that Engineers should not shoot. Why, heaven only knows! I believe that in South Africa the Engineers fired more rounds than any other arm in the service. There is a still more serious point with regard to the Militia Engineers. They are in a different position from the rest of the Special Service section. The Militia Engineers are to be organised in siege companies and in railway companies, and those companies, on the outbreak of war, are to go abroad in their own unit—that is to say, they are to be utilised abroad under their own officers and non-commissioned officers as companies to carry out this work. I venture to think that the idea that a force can be sent straight from this country to the seat of war, of which force the officers and men have only seen each other for a fortnight in the year, is absolutely preposterous. The remark-able part is that there will be a worse training than before at a greater cost. For many years the British Army has struggled against what used to be called in old days adjutants' regiments. One of the great prides of the modern War Office was that it had abolished adjutants' regiments. But it is now insisted that the whole of these special regiments shall be adjutants' regiments and nothing else. The company officers will have no knowledge of their men, they will hardly ever see them, and the entire leading of the men must inevitably fall into the hands of the permanent staff.

There is one other important point with regard to the Engineers. Those of us who have served in that arm have been struggling for many years to improve the class of men recruited; and, if I may be allowed to say so, it would not be an easy matter to find a finer body of men, physically and intellectually, than I have the honour to command. A great many of them have good trades, almost all of them earn high wages, and they are men of exceptionally fine physique. I have the gravest doubt of men of that particular class coming out for six months training. They would come out for three months as they do now—nine weeks recruits' drill and seven weeks training. I have no difficulty in getting them for that period, because they come out in the summer when the coal trade is slack and when the iron workers and tinplate workers are glad to get away from the heat of the furnaces; but I doubt whether they could be induced to leave their well-paid work for six months. I am afraid the result will be that you will fall back on the loafers and corner boys whom we have all struggled for many years, with a great amount of success, to eliminate from the Militia.

As to the Orders and Regulations generally, I hold that they are not made with sufficient allowance for the feelings of the men. It is only by careful attention to the feelings of individual men and the study of the particular sentiment of these individuals that they can be held for service in a Volunteer Army. These orders are all drawn up by people who have no knowledge of men. They do not know the feelings of the men. It is from such want of knowledge that impracticable proposals are brought forward, the failure of which is afterwards attributed to the commanding officers.


My Lords, the noble Duke has already referred to the disbanded battalions of Militia, and I should like, with the indulgence of your Lordships, to say a word or two on their behalf before it is too late. When last session, in the debate on the Territorial Army Bill, my noble friend made the speech which was held by the country as saving the Militia, it was the general impression, I believe, of the whole House, that only those battalions which were weak and inefficient were to be disbanded. But when the Army Order came out the other day you may judge of my surprise on finding that the battalion I have the honour to command was among the battalions to be disbanded. I asked myself the reason. Was it on account of numbers? I was quite sure it could not be that, because my battalion is stronger than a great many other battalions in the country. Then I asked myself, could it be on account of efficiency? It could not be on that ground, for I have letters from Sir Ian Hamilton, under whose own eyes my battalion has been trained for the last two years, in which he refers to the battalion as an exceptionally good one and one of the best in that part of the country—I presume he means in the Southern Command.

On looking down the list I find also the name of the 3rd Battalion Oxford Light Infantry. In 1906 that battalion was among the battalions of the Militia brigade which I had the honour to command on Salisbury Plain; and last year I commanded another Militia brigade which included the 4th battalion of that regiment. I hope I shall not hurt the feelings of any officers of the 4th battalion if I say that I considered the 3rd Battalion much superior. It was also a stronger battalion. I and others naturally do not wish to be classed with those who have failed to keep their battalions efficient, and I trust the noble Earl will correct an impression which prevails throughout the country that it is only the weak and inefficient battalions which are being disbanded. I will quote to your Lordships the sort of thing that is appearing in the Press. In one paper the other day I read this statement— All of us must regret sincerely that it has been found necessary to disband any of our old Militia battalions, but inasmuch as those battalions could not maintain their establishment it is useless continuing with them. In another appeared this statement— The reduction was not decided on until after prolonged and careful consideration, but in most, if not in all, cases ample warning had been given that their existence could not be continued unless they were in a position to maintain themselves at the same establishment as other battalions, and this they failed to do. The Secretary of State was asked in another place the other day on what ground my battalion, the 4th Gloucester, had been ordered to be disbanded and the 3rd Battalion maintained, when, according to the Return, there were wanting 443 men to complete the establishment of the 3rd Battalion and only 118 to complete that of the 4th. The Secretary of State replied— The question of the retention of Militia battalions was considered on the ground of their suitability to fulfil the administrative conditions which will be in future required of the majority of the Special Reserve battalions. The 3rd Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment being at the depôt was accordingly maintained. The outside public does not understand what that means. That means that those battalions have been selected for dis- bandment which had separate depôts. It is simply on account of the expense which these depots have entailed that good battalions are being disbanded. Will the noble Earl, in justice to these disbanded battalions, make a clear statement to the effect that it is not through any fault of their own that they have been selected?

I cannot understand why the Secretary of State has not had the pluck to say this straight out in another place, but I hope the Under-Secretary will be able to make a bettor show. I hope something will be done to soothe the wounded feelings from which the officers of some of the disbanded battalions are suffering. This could be accomplished by the issue, before the battalions are disbanded, of an Order thanking the officers and men for their past services to the country. Such a graceful act would be appreciated by the country, and as it would not cost anything, the War Office cannot complain that it would serve to swell the Army Estimates.


My Lords, the course which this debate has taken illustrates a difficulty which sometimes arises owing to the form in which notices are placed on the Paper of your Lordships' House. The noble Duke placed a notice on the Paper to call attention to the Army Order of 23rd December, and he also announced his intention of asking certain Questions. Unfortunately I was not in the House during the whole time the noble Duke was addressing your Lordships so I cannot speak from personal knowledge; but my noble friend behind me tells me he did not put the Questions. However, he did call attention to the Army Order; but he also called attention to a great number of other matters. The noble Duke was followed by Viscount Hardinge, who asked a number of Questions of which he had given private notice. Then Lord Raglan followed upon an entirely different subject, on which he, like the noble Duke and the noble Viscount, spoke with great authority; and now we have had a speech from the noble Earl Lord Bathurst, also dealing with somewhat intricate details. In those circumstances I would venture to suggest that it would be to the advantage of the debate if it were adjourned, in order to give my noble friend behind me time to reply to the very intricate and detailed Questions which noble Lords opposite have, well within their right, raised. In a debate of this kind it is, of course, not the object of noble Lords opposite to gain a dialectical advantage. What they want are Answers to the Questions. My noble friend would be perfectly ready to reply now, but it is obvious he could do so to much greater advantage if he were given time to consider the matters which have been raised, more especially as certain questions have been asked to which he, clearly, not being the Minister at the head of the War Office, could not give answers on his own authority. In those circumstances I would venture to suggest that if some noble Lord would move the adjournment of the debate till Thursday it would be to the advantage of this very interesting discussion. Lord Newton has a notice on the Paper for Thursday, but I understand that it is not likely to lead to much discussion. Therefore I suggest Thursday as a convenient day for resuming the debate.


I have taken my notice off, at the request of the Government, and have placed it down for Tuesday next.


My Lords, there can be no objection on the part of any noble Lord on this side of the House to the course proposed by the noble Earl. We are anxious that we should have the fullest possible replies to our Questions. We do not deny for a moment that the noble Earl is quite within his right in asking for a little time to consider these Questions, and we hope that the result will be that we shall have fuller information on the subject than we have had hitherto.

Moved, "That the debate be adjourned to Thursday next."

On Question, Motion agreed to, and adjourned accordingly.