HL Deb 06 May 1908 vol 188 cc213-5

My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government: (1) To give particulars as to the amount of training undergone annually by officers and men of the Canadian and Australian Volunteer Field Batteries; (2) to state whether, by the last Reports received at the War Office, these batteries are regarded as efficient or inefficient; (3) whether it is proposed to issue to the Horse and Field Territorial Batteries old pattern collar harness or the new pattern breast harness; (4) with what gun it is proposed to arm the Territorial Horse Artillery; (5) what are the respective weights of the 15-pounder converted quick-firing and the 18-pounder quick-firing gun and limber fully packed and with shields; and (6) what arrangements are being made for the provision of proper artillery land ranges where the Territorial batteries may carry out their gun practice, and how many such ranges the authorities contemplate being able to obtain.


My Lords, in answer to the first Question, I have to say that there are no "Volunteer" field batteries in either Canada, or Australia. The "Militia" Field Artillery of Canada has to do twelve days annually in camp and an additional four days practice at an artillery camp to qualify for efficiency. Pay is drawn for sixteen days only, but a number of voluntary drills are usually performed in addition to those required for efficiency. In Australia the number of days training required for efficiency by the Field Artillery is sixteen, which includes four days practice. Here also additional voluntary drills are performed. As to the second Question, copies of the reports of the Military Council of Canada and of the Military Board of the Commonwealth of Australia are laid annually before the Parliaments of Canada and Australia respectively. His Majesty's Government have no control over the forces raised in the self-governing Colonies, and it does not, therefore, seem desirable that the War Office should make any statement on the subject of efficiency of these forces. In reply to the third Question, collar harness is going to be provided for the batteries of the Territorial Force; and, as to the fourth Question, it is proposed to arm the Territorial Horse Artillery with the converted 15-pounder and with the Mark IV which is slightly lighter than the Mark I gull. I now come to the fifth Question. The weight of the new 18-pounder quick-firer with the shield is 40 cwt. 16 lb.; the weight of the converted 15-pounder, Mark IV, is 40 cwt. 1 qr. It is at present under consideration to lighten the guns of the Territorial Horse Artillery by taking out a certain amount of ammunition from the limber. About 6 cwt. of ammunition is at present carried on the limber, and the gun in action is supplied from the wagons, and therefore the important thing is to carry the immediate supply in the wagons. With the 15-pounder you can carry in the wagon alone almost as many rounds as you can with the Horse Artillery gun in both limber and wagon. The answer to the sixth Question is that the General Officers Commanding-in-Chief have been instructed to place themselves in communication with the County Associations in reference to possible artillery ranges. It is considered at the present time, whilst this artillery is in its infancy, that the present range accommodation, most of which is at coast ranges, should be sufficient to provide accommodation adequate for its batteries for the first two years of their existence, and while they are really learning the rudiments of their work. By the end of that time it will, of course, be desirable that they should have ranges which will afford them not only better facilities for manœvuring than the coast ranges do, but also that they should have the opportunity of firing across land. The County Associations have already received from the War Office a letter giving information with regard to the possible sites for new artillery ranges, and also there is a new clause in the Public Works Loan Commissioners (Annual) Bill this session to facilitate the purchase of artillery ranges. It is impossible to say what number of inland ranges it is hoped to provide, but everything is being done to provide them when the time comes, and it is hoped that in two years time we shall have made considerable provision with inland ranges.


I should like to ask if the noble Lord is aware that it is infinitely more important for horse artillery to have as much ammunition as possible in their limbers than with field artillery, because one of the most important functions of horse artillery is to act with cavalry, and to get over the country quickly, and very often the wagons cannot keep up with them. The reduction of the amount of ammunition is one of the most extraordinary propositions I have ever heard of.


The total amount of ammunition carried with the battery will be practically the same. As I understand it, it is the wagon that is used at the time when the battery goes into action.


There are many occasions with the horse artillery when it is preferable to use the ammunition from the limbers. I hope the authorities at the War Office will give due consideration to that fact.