§ *THE DUKE OF BEDFORD rose to call attention to the state of the Regular Reserve, the Special Reserve, and the Special Contingent; and to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War—
- 1. If the 27 Fourth Battalion Special Reserve Infantry are considered capable of expanding the Regular Army abroad by battalion units.
- 2. The establishment of the Special Contingent Category B. in the Army Estimates of 1910 being 7,552 and the strength 552, how is this shortage to be made good for the Expeditionary Force.
The noble Duke said: My Lords, the Prime Minister, speaking last January at Haddington, is reported to have said that—
He would be perfectly content that the administrative record of the Government should be judged as a test case by comparing the state of the Army as it was left by Lord Midleton and the state of the Army as it is to-day, after four years of Liberal administration.
We know that the Regular Army of to-day is not so numerous as the Regular Army of 1905. If the Government on assuming office considered that the Regular Army, as they then found it, was needlessly large for all the possible demands of Imperial defence, by all means let them reduce its numbers, provided always that there is a corresponding reduction in Army Estimates. The strength of the Army is a matter for the Government of the day, advised by the Committee of Imperial Defence, to decide. It is not a matter which I presume to discuss. I do, however, strongly question the statement made by some members of the Government that by reducing the numbers of the Regular Army they have thereby rendered it a more powerful instrument of war than when they took office. The Under-Secretary of State for War last January went to Bodmin and made a speech, in which he is reported to have said—
It is perfectly true we have reduced the Army by something like 18,000 men, but the Army is a stronger thing to-day than before those 18,000 men were taken away.
Stronger in what? Stronger in numbers or stronger in efficiency?
§ Let me first take numbers. You have not only reduced the number of men serving with the Colours by 18,000, but, by diminishing nine Reserve-creating cadres, you have reduced the quantity of the Regular Reserve. The high-water mark of the Regular Reserve, the outcome of Lord Midleton's policy, will be reached this year. It is 137,000 men; the low water mark, 106,000, is given in Lord Erroll's Return, and will be readied in 1913. The difference is 31,000 men. The Army Estimates of this year show the actual reduction of men serving with the. Colours to be one short of 24,000. That number, with the ultimate reduction in the Reserve, will amount to 55,000 men gone from the Regular Army and Reserve by 1913. But that is not the end of the story. In 1905, the strength of the Militia—that is, the number of men actually present at inspection—was 92,035. The Militia has been abolished, and the Special Reserve created. The Special Reserve to-day numbers 67,948 men and 1,823 officers—that is. 24,087 men and 625 officers less than the number actually serving and present in the Militia in 1905. We arrive, therefore, at this result, that the Regular Army and the Regular Reserve, plus the Militia, if it had remained 1162 at its strength of 92,035, would have been 79,087 men stronger than the Regular Army with its Regular and Special Reserves will be in 1913. The year 1913 will be an important year in military administration, because that is the date when the reductions initiated by the Government in our First Line will have been fully realised. Of course the Militia was not enlisted for foreign service. But officers and men always served abroad whenever required, and for some years previous to the abolition of the Force were asking for foreign service enlistment. A Bill for that purpose passed its Second Reading in your Lordships' House in March, 1905. There is, therefore, no weight in the argument that whereas the Special Reserve is enlisted for foreign service the Militia Force could not be reckoned upon to serve abroad.
The Army then is weaker in numbers. Is it stronger in efficiency? Any contention that the quality of the Army to-day is vastly superior to that of the Army of 1905 is at once disposed of by the statement of the present Secretary of State for War, who said in March, 1906, three months after he took office—
Never before that time had there been such good material in the Army. The morale, both of officers and men, was higher than ever it was. The Army was in a condition in which it had never been before, both in point of quantity and quality.
Now can anyone seriously contend that whilst the quality of an Army remains the same, to reduce its quantity by 80,000 men—and I am not talking about a paper establishment but about men who were actually serving in the ranks—is to make it stronger for the purposes of war? But I quote from the closing paragraph of the noble Lord's speech at Bodmin—
Here we are then. The Army is a great deal stronger than when we took office, and it costs the country a great deal less.
We may well ask whence comes this accession of military power, and do the Army Estimates show a great reduction in expenditure, and one that is likely to be of a permanent character? The Army Estimates for 1905 were £28,000,000; those for 1909, £27,435,000—a decrease of £565,000. It is, however, clear from the recent proceedings of many County Associations that unless the Government are prepared to give their new Territorial infant Army, now aged two years, a much more generous scale of diet in the way of pounds, shillings,
and pence, it will very likely perish in its nursery from insufficient nutrition.
§ I am anxious to draw your Lordships' attention to the condition of the Regular Reserve, then to that of the Special Reserve, and finally to a puzzling lot of people who appear to be interchangeable during various phases of mobilisation between the Territorial Army, the Special Reserve, and the Regular Army. Ever since Lord Cardwell created the Regular Reserve, some forty years ago, the maintenance of its quality and the increase of its quantity have been the constant care of ten successive Secretaries of State for War. In 1906, when the Government assumed office, it was for the first time discovered that the Regular Reserve was unduly inflated and must be diminished. It has been diminished, and, as I have already said, will dwindle away from 137,000 until it touches bottom at 106,000 in 1913. But this year comes a most significant incident—namely, that the Secretary of State for War, in introducing the Army Estimates, expressed himself as not satisfied with the future of the Regular Reserve. He considers that there will be no danger for the next two or three years. That is obviously true, because the destructive policy of the Government will not make itself felt till the expiration of that period. It is no more possible to eat your cake and have it than to reduce the Regular Reserve and maintain intact at its original establishment the Expeditionary Force. The formation of this Force at the strength first announced was only possible owing to the presence of the Regular Reserve created by Lord Midleton, inherited by the Government, and now in process of reduction at their hands.
In 1907 the Secretary of State for War issued a Memorandum giving a table showing the composition of this Force. If you take that table and the state of the Army in 1908 as a standard of comparison and allow the same rate per cent. for unfitness and immaturity, which is always allowed by the War Office in these calculations, you will find, after a lengthy but simple process of arithmetic, that in 1913, when the Regular Reserve is at its lowest, the deficiency in the Regular Reserve to meet the war establishments required by the Expeditionary Force will be more than 5,000. But inasmuch as the Regular Reserve will be 5,000 men short of the number
required, it will be necessary to dip at once, and pretty deeply, into the Special Reserve. I lay stress on this point for this reason. It is expressly stated in the last Army Annual Return that the Special Reserve will not be used for active service at once, but will, on mobilisation, commence to acquire that training without which I have never heard it suggested that the men are' fit to take the field as first line soldiers. The noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War told us on the 18th of May of last year, when speaking of the mobilisation of the battalions upon the peace establishment—
You may have a few hundred or a few thousand men over, but practically speaking whatever is left over is a negligible quantity.
The noble Lord is describing with great accuracy the result in 1913 of the Government policy of reducing the Regular Reserve. At present, owing to the large Reserve created by Lord Midleton, there would be a surplus of Regular Reservists left behind after the departure of the Expeditionary Force of more than 20,000 men, and that after allowing for all necessary deductions.
§ There are two great Army problems demanding simultaneous solution. They are the maintenance of a large Army Reserve and the supply of the Indian drafts. The noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, created the largest Army Reserve we have ever had by the plan of three years Colour service, but that period of enlistment did not suit for the provision of the Indian drafts, and hence it had to be abandoned. Mr. Arnold-Forster endeavoured to meet the double problem of the Regular Reserve and of the Indian drafts by creating concurrent long and short service enlistment. The present Government on assuming office hastened to wipe out that plan without even giving it a trial. In short, they reverted to the same system which had been proved by experience to furnish an insufficient Reserve in time of war, although it did meet the difficulty of the Indian drafts in time of peace. Then after four years they warn us that the problem of the Regular Reserve is unsolved and that its future is critical. The administrative record of the Government, as regards the Regular Reserve, is that having succeeded to the most numerous Regular Reserve we have ever had, they will in six years time reduce it to such an attenuated condition that, in 1165 their own opinion, it will give cause for anxiety. Are we expected to accept that result as a proof of superior success in Army administration?
I now come to the Special Reserve. In November, 1908—that is, in the first year of the existence of this Force—the Secretary of State for War, speaking at Guildford, is reported to have said—
So far from the Regular Army having been cut down, we are to-day 90,000 stronger.
That number of 90,000 represented the total establishment of all branches of the Special Reserve when the formation of the new Force was first announced, and it corresponded approximately with the actual number of men present in the ranks of the Militia previous to its abolition. In dealing with the Army Estimates this year the Secretary of State for War informs us that the establishment of the Special Reserve will in future be 70,000. This means that a strength of 90,000 men who were actually present and serving in the ranks of the Militia will be reduced to a paper establishment of 70,000 Special Reservists, and that there is no Militia Force.
§ The Special Reserve comprises Infantry, Artillery, Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Medical Corps and Veterinary Corps. To get at the true state of this Force it is necessary to deal with it in detail, and I cannot now go beyond the Infantry. The Special Reserve Infantry have seventy-four third battalions and twenty-seven fourth battalions. The establishment for subalterns is 1,915. By the Return on the Table of the House, and including twenty-four subalterns lately passed into the Regular Army, the deficiency is 1,381. You have 534 subalterns serving instead of 1,915 required. The number of Regular officers required for all the Special Reserve battalions is said by the Return to be complete, but by the Army List of the 1st of May fifty-six captains and fifty-three Regular subalterns have not yet been posted to the third and fourth battalions. Perhaps the noble Lord the Under-Secretary could say if the Return is right and the Army List wrong, or the other way about. The discrepancy of 109 Regular officers in the Infantry alone is considerable. On March 1st. 1909, the Secretary of State for War was asked if he was satisfied with the recruiting of the Special Reserve officers. The right hon. gentle- 1166 man replied that he depended on the new Officers Training Corps, the fruits of which would begin to be seen in the summer of 1909. We are now in the summer of 1910. On the 7th of March of the present year the right hon. gentleman stated that fifty officers from the Officers Training Corps had joined all branches of the Special Reserve, and that he was still hopeful of getting 1,000 per annum from this source. But the Return now on the Table of the House shows that since its formation the Officers Training Corps has supplied the Special Reserve Infantry with three officers. A deficiency of 1,380 subalterns met by an average intake of about one and a-half officers per year as far as the Officers Training Corps is concerned! As regards men, the Special Reserve Infantry shows an increase of 522 since last year.
§ The duties of the third and fourth battalions of the Special Reserve are different in time of war. The fourth battalions, we have always been told, are ready and are reckoned upon to expand the Regular Army abroad by battalion units the same as the Militia used to do. As regards officers, the establishment of subalterns for these twenty-seven extra special Reserve battalions is 513; the number now serving is 120—a deficiency of 393. Not a single battalion is less than ten officers deficient, and one of these fourth battalions is twenty officers deficient out of an establishment of twenty-eight. If the total number of boys under twenty years of age is deducted, as they must be, for foreign service, and ten per cent. of the remainder is allowed as medically unfit, the strongest of these battalions would number 470 for foreign service, and the weakest 120. The twenty-seven battalions would average 370 men for foreign service, but they are very uneven in strength, and it must be remembered that the ten per cent. allowed for unfitness is the rate for the Regular Army and is sure to be exceeded in the case of the Special Reserve, for the best of all possible reasons—namely, that the Force is recruited in the first instance from men unfit for the Regular Army in time of peace, and that the boys in the Special Reserve do not, like the Line recruits, grow all the year round under the eye of the Army surgeon amidst most sanitary surroundings, but at the end of six months are discharged into the streets to shift for themselves. I have made no allowance for absence due to desertion, death, emigration, and frau- 1167 dulent enlistment by the same man into several regiments, so that the figure of 370 is really an impossible maximum. These battalions have, of course, no Reserve to draw upon. I ask the Under-Secretary of State for War if the Government consider these battalions will be available for the expansion of the Army overseas by battalion units. It is idle to talk about increasing or rather doubling the establishment of these battalions, except you are prepared to show us how you are going to obtain the officers and men.
§ I now pass to the seventy-four third battalions who form the general drafting pool. In order to understand how this plan would work out, I must ask your Lordships to assume two things—first, that the year 1913 has come, and, secondly, that the Expeditionary Force has gone abroad. Then calculations based on Army Returns show that, taking the Army of 1908 as a standard of comparison, we should be left at home with seven Regular battalions, but depleted battalions, because of the many calls made upon them to help the Expeditionary Force. Then a mass of some 77,000 men and boys, composed of the unsound from the Regular Reserve and the immature and unfit from the Line and Special Reserve. This collection of 77,000 men and boys, all either too young or unfit for active service, are to bring the ranks of all the seventy-four third Special Reserve battalions up to a thousand men or more per battalion. We are told that these Reserve battalions thus swollen are to move into the vacated barracks and port defences, a move which will, by the way, denude the regimental depots of all their trained mobilisation staff at the very moment when their services are most required.
§ These third battalions, we have been told by the Secretary of State for War this year, are to serve three purposes—training drafts for the Army overseas, defending ports, and flocking to strengthen the central field force when crushing raids. How they are to defend a port and join a central field force at the same time is one of those secrets of mobilisation which we are not allowed to know. Let us consider their fitness for the discharge of this treble duty. I have mentioned the deficiency of subalterns. Then as to that vital third estate, the non-commissioned officers. A Line battalion would take into the field 880 1168 trained men in the ranks, with a staff of seventy-four non-commissioned officers. For the Special Reserve battalion a staff of thirty-two non-commissioned officers is allowed to manage 1,000 or more men and boys collected from different sources, and devoid of all regimental spirit and feeling, and with but little discipline. Battalions so composed and without any adequate supply of officers and non-commissioned officers are not battalions at all. They are crowds, incapable of performing any military duty requiring a battalion organisation. It is true that these seventy-four depots, for they are in no sense battalions, can send out drafts of men. The surgeons may patch up a proportion of the unsound men from the Regular Reserve and Line and make them temporarily fit to be sent abroad on active service, but not even the Army Council can turn Special Reserve boys of seventeen and eighteen into mature soldiers of twenty-two or twenty-three years of age in six months, or yet a couple of years. But who is going to take charge of these drafts when they go abroad, for there are no non-commissioned officers, there are no subaltern officers, and the First Line drafts must begin to leave the moment the Expeditionary Force takes the field?
§ We have been told in an Army Memorandum dated February 25, 1907, that to supply the waste of war during the first six months 3,500 officers will be required, and 75,000 men. The 75,000 men will be there, but not available for service overseas, because they are composed, as the War Office statistics tell us, of the discarded elements of the Expeditionary Force. Then as to the 3,500 officers. The only suggested source of supply is the Officers Training Corps, which up to the date of the Return furnished three officers to the Special Reserve Infantry since its formation by the Army Order dated March 8, 1908. It is all very well to talk of an Officers Training Corps of 20,000 members, but these are cadets in school corps. I hope they may all grow up, but will they ever be able to discharge the duties of a First Line officer on active service within a few weeks of the outbreak of war? There is, I know, at present a large paper reserve of officers, composed chiefly of ex-Militia and ex-Volunteer officers, who were once occasional soldiers, but retired some years ago when the great changes took place, since which time they have 1169 done no military training at all, but have outgrown a subaltern's age.
§ I now come to that category of men who appear to belong to all three branches of our military forces simultaneously. They are called the, Special Contingent. They originate in the Territorial Army to which they are supernumerary, but it is in theory only, because, so long as the Force is below its establishment, how can there be supernumeraries save in imagination? On mobilisation these men are to leave the Territorial Force, filter through the Special Reserve into the Regular Reserve, and ultimately be deposited in the Regular Army. They consist of Engineers, Army Service Corps, and Army Medical Corps. The establishment is 7,552, and their strength, according to Army Estimates of this year, is 552, leaving a deficit of 7,000 men. The Special Contingent is necessary to complete the Expeditionary Force, and I beg to ask how its absence, which is fairly complete, will be made good. The Regular Reserve is in process of rapid reduction, and in less than three years time it will not be able to meet the requirements of the Expeditionary Force. In its place we have the new drafting pool, filled by the Special Reserve, the Special Contingent, and officers and men in the Territorial Force who accept the metal badge for foreign service. As a result we are informed that now for the very first time arrangements have been made for the scientific provision of First Line drafts to the Army in the field. As regards the Special Contingent, with an establishment of 7,552 it shows a deficit of 7,000. It is non-existent.
§ I have described in detail the state of the Special Reserve Infantry. I now beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War if he will kindly explain how he proposes to remedy the lack of officers, the lack of non-commissioned officers, and the lack of mature and sound men in the First Line Reserve. For my own part I cannot accept, as a scientific provision for drafts for the Regular Army, officers who have been at some time or other, and that some four or five years, ago, in the old Volunteer or Militia forces, or boy officers, that is to say cadets straight from school or college; Regular non-commissioned officers made by the simple process of sewing stripes on to the sleeves of non-Regular private soldiers; and, finally, unfit Reservists and unfit men from the Line and boys from the Special 1170 Reserve who must now go abroad without having done any Colour service at all. If all the officers required for the Special Reserve Infantry and for the Regular Mounted Infantry, which are detailed to act as divisional Cavalry with the Expeditionary Force, are sent to those forces from the line on mobilisation, there would be now, by the Army List, a shortage of 700 officers in the Line. There must be 700 vacancies on mobilisation for officers either in the Line or in the Special Reserve, because in spite of War Office legerdemain one pea cannot be under two thimbles. I beg to ask the Questions standing in my name.
My Lords, the noble Duke is an extremely difficult debater to follow and extremely difficult to answer. He has an unparalleled knowledge of details and an unparalleled power of presenting them, but in taking part in a debate inaugurated by the noble Duke I always feel that we are in some danger of not seeing the wood for the trees. After all, we must consider this question not only from the point of view of details, but also from the general standpoint. The only criterion by which you can judge any military system is what are going to be the results of the changes which we know the noble Duke so greatly deplores. I am glad to be in a position to say that we are now within measureable distance of achieving the main object that we set before ourselves when we embarked upon this reorganisation scheme—namely, being able to mobilise six Divisions of Regulars with all their auxiliary services, with lines of communication, and the Cavalry Division. We can already mobilise more than four Divisions, with lines of communication and the Cavalry Division, and on a pinch I think we can mobilise the rest. We should not in these circumstances have the whole of the draft-finding machinery behind complete, because we should have to draw on that at the present moment to an undue degree, and to a degree which we shall not have to draw upon it when the organisation fills up. At the present moment we can mobilise a larger expeditionary force than has ever been possible before in the history of this country.
And that force is a real force and composed of efficient soldiers. 1171 Therefore we are in process of carrying out the object which we set before ourselves at the beginning of this reorganisation. After all, you have to consider the various parts to which the noble Duke referred from the standpoint of how far they are fitted to be components in the general scheme. I will take them in the order in which the noble Duke dealt with them. But I would like to say that the value of the many speeches of the noble Duke, to which we always listen with interest, is to a great extent, if he will allow me to say so, spoilt by the fact that there are four principal fallacies underlying all his arguments. The noble Duke, first of all, argues that we are replacing Regular Reservists by Special Reservists. The noble Duke assents. We are doing nothing of the kind. There are two entirely separate questions involved. One is the reduction of certain units of the Regular Army. You may agree with that policy or you may not, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the question of mobilising the units that remain with their own Reservists. You have to treat those two questions entirely separately. We are perfectly prepared to justify, though I do not think we need enter now into that question, the reductions which are made in the Infantry. But there is one thing which comes out perfectly clearly and plain with regard to the Reserve, and it is this, that under the Cardwell system, or any other system, you cannot have any method or terms of service which will at the same time enable you to maintain your drafts for India and do more than fill up the home battalions to their fighting strength on mobilisation. It has been tried in every form. Various terms have been tried. Three years with the Colours and nine years with the Reserve has been tried, but that will not produce the drafts for India. Then six years with the Colours and six with the Reserve, and nine years with the Colours and three with the Reserve have been tried. Whichever you adopt you find that if you provide your drafts for India you cannot do more than bring your units up to fighting strength on mobilisation with Reservists that remain. You may have a few hundreds over, but, broadly speaking, that is all you are able to do under the Cardwell system. Therefore we did the only thing possible. We are maintaining the Reserve while at the same time finding the necessary drafts for India, and we shall be able to 1172 mobilise our fighting units when the time comes.
Then the noble Duke argued as if all Special Reserve recruits were only seventeen years of age, and he always argues as if they will continue to remain unfit for the Regulars. He also assumes that the Special Reserve is simply to be an expensive funnel by which men pass into the Regulars. How those two things can come about at one and the same time I do not understand. If a man is fit to pass into the Regulars from the Special Reserve, presumably you cannot consider him in every case unfit to join the Regulars in the form of drafts. There is another important assumption the noble Duke makes. He bases his arguments on the point of all Special Reservists being required for the purposes of drafts at once on mobilisation. That cannot be the case. How soon they will be required it is impossible to say. It must depend upon the nature of the war, but we should require none of the Infantry Special Reservists at first.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Is the noble Lord speaking of the present state of things, or what my noble friend behind me called the moment when the Regular Reserve will be at its lowest—in 1913? On an outbreak of war in 1913 does the noble Lord say that no Special Reservist will be required at once to fill up the fighting line?
I will take the year 1913, when the Regular Reserve will be at its lowest. In that case we shall require no Special Reservists to bring the Regular battalions up to full war establishment; we shall only require them subsequently for drafts and in a successive series of drafts, so that there will be time for these men to mature. To take the Special Reserve and to say that because at a given time there is a certain proportion of immature men, therefore that proportion will remain for the purpose for which we shall require these third battalions, is incorrect. The fourth point that always underlies the noble Duke's speeches is that for these purposes the Special Reserve is in every sense inferior to the old Militia. I would point out, as the noble Duke raised that question, that the Militia, though it is quite true they were prepared to volunteer for service abroad, were not 1173 prepared to volunteer for service abroad in the form which, from the general standpoint of military organisation, is incomparably the more useful—namely, to go abroad in drafts. They were prepared to go abroad only as units, and I say without hesitation that the value of men who will go abroad as drafts is double that of those who are only prepared to go abroad as units. The Special Reserve is by no means unique in having a considerable number of immature men, and there is nothing that can be said about them in that respect that was not equally applicable to the old Militia.
The noble Duke challenges the power of the Special Reserve to carry out its functions. I would like to place before your Lordships what the position of the Special Reserve is and its general fitness, and how the scheme is working in the light of our last year's experience. About this time last year I was able to tell your Lordships that the reports already received on the Special Reserve were satisfactory. I am glad to be able to say that the reports received this year show that the improvement has been more than sustained. Our military authorities in the districts tell us that the Special Reserve is more popular than it was; it is drawing a very good class of men; and the physique is very good. Those of your Lordships who may have read the annual General Return will have observed that we have been able to raise the height standard to 5ft. 3in., which was until quite recently the height limit for the Line, although it has now gone up to 5ft. 4in. for the first time for twenty years. In those ways there is a marked superiority in our reports on the part of the Special Reserve over the old Militia, although it is quite true that the men as a whole are younger—that is to say, there is a smaller number of men over twenty years of age coming in as recruits. In the matter of age, however, there is very little to choose between them. Last October there were 19,855 men under twenty out of a total of 67,548, which is just about the same average as with the Militia. In fact, I think that is an average which the force will probably always maintain. You cannot judge at the present moment of the number of men you will have mature and fit to send abroad in the early stages of a war, especially if you have to send them to some country where the climate is tropical and unhealthy.
1174 I know it is argued by the noble Duke that we have so many men over twenty in the Special Reserve at the present moment because of the old Militiamen, and that when those men go the state of things will be greatly altered. Out of 12,000 men who were dismissed to their homes on the completion of their six months training, on the analogy of last year's figures approximately 1,000 would have tried to pass into the Regular Army. That leaves you something like 11,000 men who have not tried to go straight into the Regular Army but have remained in the Special Reserve. The Militia in old days and the Special Reserve now consist of two classes of men—those who join in order to pass into the Regular Army and those who wish to remain. I have described these men who remain as a sediment, for in every year's intake there is a certain number who pass into the Regular Army and a certain number who remain. The latter will remain for six years instead of four years as in the old Militia, so that until the system has been running for six years you will not be able to tell what your normal proportion of mature men in the Special Reserve is going to be. There is a very fair proportion, about the same as in the old Militia, of men who join with the intention of staying on. I cannot say more on that point, because we have not had time to judge, but, so far as we can judge at present, the Special Reserve is coming out of the test very well indeed.
With regard to the general question of the efficiency of the Special Reserve, I am glad to say that our reports are particularly good. The results of the six months recruit training are excellent. We have had reports from the officers responsible for the training, in which they say that the system is working exceedingly well. We have lately received an exceptionally good report from the General Officer commanding at Salisbury as to the Special Reserve battalions who have been training on the Plain, and from the point of view of general military efficiency they are considerably superior to the old Militia. We are perfectly satisfied that these are the kind of men who will perform satisfactorily the work we intend them to do, which is to act as drafts for the Regulars. In the matter of musketry the returns are also good. It is quite true that there is less time for musketry, and perhaps the annual course of musketry is less thorough 1175 than it was, but the recruit has a much better grounding than formerly in his six months recruit training, and he does not therefore require so long for his annual course.
Complaints have been made as to the training of the non-commissioned officers. With a shortened training that is a difficulty, but this year we are instituting a course by which non-commissioned officers come up a month before their battalions come up. It is purely voluntary on their part, but they can, if they like, go through a month's extra training. There is another point which I daresay will interest your Lordships with regard to this. This year we are going to experiment with the Special Reserve and to impose a very high test on the Force in performing in peace time the functions for which it is intended in war. We are going to use a certain number of these Special Reservists to bring the Second Division up to something like war strength in this year's manoeuvres, and in some cases between 300 and 400 men of the Special Reserve will be incorporated for the time being in Line battalions.
Yes. It will be a very high test on these Special Reservists, because they will only have had about eleven days training before the manoeuvres, whereas, as your Lordships know, the manoeuvres come in the Regular Army as a climax to a long period of very strenuous training. The men are in extraordinarily good condition and fit to inarch, with great powers of endurance; therefore to put your comparatively untrained Special Reservist alongside of them is going to be a good test indeed. Then with regard to the twenty-seven extra battalions to which the noble Duke referred. When passing the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act we listened to the blandishments of noble Lords on the opposite side of the House and departed from our original intention, which was that the establishment of the fourth battalions should be considerably higher than the establishment of the third battalions. In deference to the wishes expressed in this House and in the other House by the Opposition, we agreed to bring down the establishment of the fourth battalions to that of the third, and we realise now that that was a mistake. I think there is perfect truth in the noble 1176 Duke's criticism that as they stand at the present moment they are not strong enough to go out as combatant units. An able Departmental Committee has for some time been considering the subject, and I can assure your Lordships that it is undergoing the most careful attention, as we realise that something will have to be done to make the battalions stronger than they are at the present time.
Then there is the question of the officers for the Special Reserve. We know that there is a great shortness of officers, and this is one of our most difficult problems. We started the Officers Training Corps, and we believe that we have found a solution for this. I am glad to say that we are now beginning to see the results of the system. Since the Return referred to by the noble Duke was issued, fifty officers from the Officers Training Corps have obtained commissions in the Special Reserve, and something like 120 in the Territorial Force.
In all arms, but most of them are in the Infantry. I am glad to say that we are receiving now a considerable number of inquiries from members of the Officers Training Corps with regard to commissions, so that the harvest is now commencing, and I think we are going to get a considerable number of officers. There is a further difficulty with regard to this. The class of officer who is able to go out at the particular time of year when his unit trains is limited, and I am not at all sure that we are not getting somewhere towards the end of that class. Some men, especially young men, in business do not control their own time, and have to take their holidays when they can get them. Such men, however keen they may be to do soldiering, may find it difficult to join a unit which trains at a particular time. To that class of men the Supplementary List, as we call it, is a greater attraction than joining a unit of the Special Reserve. When a man becomes an officer in the Supplementary List, he can go out for training at whatever time of the year suits him best, and he does his training with a Regular unit. There is no doubt, from inquiries we are receiving, that if we can extend the system of the Supplementary List we shall secure a considerable number 1177 of officers who would not otherwise be obtained.
As to the noble Duke's last question, it is quite true that the men in what we call Category B are not yet up to anything like establishment. They are men who for the purpose of training are attached to the Territorial Force; they are borne supernumerary to their units. Since the figures which the noble Duke quotes were issued they have considerably increased, and are now well over 800, but there still remains a considerable gap. We are adopting a temporary measure while they are filling up. Medicals form a considerable number of these Category B men. We have had satisfactory results from taking advantage of the big Reserve that exists at the present moment and training a certain number of Infantrymen. We have nearly 2,000 Infantrymen who have gone through a special course of training in medical duties, and who have undertaken the obligation to come out on mobilisation as members of the Royal Army Medical Corps. We are going to extend that this winter to a certain extent, so that that will partly fill up the gap. The remaining men who will be required are chiefly Army Service Corps drivers, but every day the need for these is diminishing as mechanical transport is becoming more and more the accepted thing.
I have tried to cover the ground as fully as I possibly can. I must say that we have every reason to be satisfied with the way in which the scheme is progressing. We are getting a good class of men, we are getting them in good numbers, and their training is satisfactory. We have now before us at least the prospect of obtaining an entirely new supply of officers, and our system in that way is, it seems to me, working well. I hope I have given the noble Duke the information he requires, and I trust he will see that we, at any rate, do not share any of the gloomy forebodings as to the future of any of the forces which were mentioned by the noble Duke.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, I hope I shall not be considered disrespectful if I say that the interesting speech which the noble Lord has just delivered is not entirely convincing to us on this side of the House as regards the position of the Force with which he specially dealt. The noble Lord, while not admitting the noble 1178 Duke's conclusions, does not challenge his well-certificated figures, and he leaves us with the optimistic conclusions of the War Office but with the facts of the noble Duke unchallenged and unrefuted. I did not intend to take part in this debate in view of the series of military discussions which are to come on in your Lordships' House, but I really cannot allow the noble Lord or the House to go away with the impression that we accept the conclusions at which the War Office have arrived in this matter.
This and other Motions on the Paper are not the result of a desire to be continually harping upon the deficiencies of the Army, but they are the result of the provocative and highly-exaggerated accounts which the Secretary of State for War has given of our position time after time. The noble Duke quoted a speech which I consider to have been almost a criminal speech for a man in the position of the Secretary of State for War to have made. In that speech, which was delivered nearly a year and a-half ago at Guildford, the right hon. gentleman told the country that for purposes of offence abroad we were stronger by 90,000 men than we had been before the Government came into office.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I absolutely challenge it. I say there is not a particle or shred of foundation for that statement. The figures quoted by the noble Duke refute it. The noble Duke has stated that the Government are now 18,000 men short with the Colours of the number they inherited; in the Army Reserve they will be 36,000 short, and in the Special Reserve 24,000 short of the old Militia—making 79,000 men short. All you have to put against that is that you have 57,000 men, I think the number is, in the Special Reserve who before were not obliged to go abroad, but who did, in point of fact, go abroad when they were called upon.
I submit that that does not disprove my right hon. friend's statement last year, that we had at that time 90,000 more men available for service abroad than we had when he took office.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
What the Secretary of State for War said was that we were stronger by 90,000 men.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I challenge that figure. The Secretary of State did exactly what the noble Lord has done to-night. The noble Lord told us, I think with great inaccuracy, that the Government were able to send a larger number of troops abroad now than ever before. I say that we were able in 1905 to send as large a number of men abroad as he is now able to send in 1910.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
What the noble Lord is fond of doing is this, and he has inherited it from the Secretary of State for War. He takes the exact position of the moment in a scheme not fully developed and says, Look how much better we can do than that. My noble friend Lord Lansdowne added between sixty and seventy batteries of Artillery to the Army, and because, as would be the case under any system in any country in Europe, those batteries were not able within three years to produce the whole Reserve element which they would ultimately have produced, the noble Lord proceeds to say that the scheme inherited by the present Government would not have enabled the Artillery to have been mobilised, and then, having cut down the Artillery, he proceeds to say they never would have been mobilised. That is one way of bringing out the figures. With regard to the other position, when the Secretary of State for War was speaking of his 90,000 men he was drawing upon the Reserve of Infantry, 36,000 of whom are going to disappear in the next four years. He counted those in among his 90,000, although he has destroyed the cadre which produced them and done away with the period of service by which they might have been continued.
I could not allow these exaggerated statements to go unchallenged. I know them to be inaccurate. I know that they are founded on false premises, and that they have led the country to false conclusions. Seeing that the present state of things has been brought about by an 1180 enormous reduction in the number of men and that without the corresponding reduction in expenditure which had been promised, I am afraid that in a subsequent debate it will be necessary for your Lordships to consider this from the point of view of the Territorial Army and the general strength of the country. The whole of this subject of the Special Reserve is argued by the noble Lord as if it was only a question of getting a certain number of men to shovel into the Regular battalions now bereft of the Reserve which was created for them before, and to fill up the gaps which the abolition of those cadres which produced the Reserves has left. I would point out that there was a clear understanding, in the debates of 1907, that the cadres of the Special Reserve should themselves be able to mobilise. They were not to be bereft of all their men and were to be sent out with their officers. I want your Lordships to follow what has occurred in this discussion. The noble Duke pointed out that there are 500 officers short in certain battalions. The noble Lord, in reply, says, very ingeniously, that they are training officers who are not being trained with the battalions but will go up at other times of the year. How are those officers to take men whom they have never seen and with whom they have never trained out to join in a campaign, say, in India? You are not keeping to your bargain that you would maintain the cadres intact, and that any men you did take out as drafts you would take out under their own officers.
As between the two I believe your Lordships will feel that the noble Duke has made good his case when he said that what would remain behind in these cadres would not be of any great military value. Remember that after these six Divisions have gone—and you can only mobilise four now—you have nothing remaining behind against an invader except these cadres of Special Reserve battalions and the. Territorial Army, the value of the former of which the noble Duke has said so much about this afternoon. I do feel that on these points we have a right to complain of the exaggerated language which has been used by the representative of the War Office, not for the first time. As we are not in possession of the reports which are always cited to us showing a more admirable state of things than we on this side of the House are aware of—although it 1181 might not be in the power of the noble Lord, having regard to the public interest, to publish all these reports upon which he founds his roseate descriptions of the condition of the Army—it is inevitable that there should be a feeling of incredulity with respect to them when the figures which are quoted can be shown to be inaccurate; and I am afraid that in consequence I must charge at the noble Lord's door the multiplication of Army debates, which I for one, in the public interest, should be very glad to forego.