§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
My Lords, I rise to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War—
Questions F, G, and H relate to a particular matter that has been brought to my notice by those who are eminently qualified to form an opinion on the subject. I am quite aware that under the Regulations it is necessary that recruits should fire a certain number of rounds of ball cartridge in addition to those of miniature ammunition through Morris tube. But information has reached me from a very direct source—and I should like my noble friend, if he has any doubt on the subject, to satisfy himself as to the accuracy of the statement—that there are a large number of men who have never fired any ball cartridge at all. That seems to me to be a rather serious matter when upon that you base efficiency in musketry training. For that reason I think considerable importance attaches to the reply of my noble friend to Questions F, G, and H. As regards Question D, I do not know whether my noble friend will be able to give me the figures up to January 1 last, but supposing he cannot give them beyond October 1, which was the end of the old Volunteer year, I hope he will allow me on some subsequent date to put a further Question to him, if necessary, to elicit information on that point. I beg to put the Questions standing in my name on the Paper.
- (A) What is the establishment of the Territorial Force—
- (a) of officers;
- (b) of non-commissioned officers;
- (c) of men.
- (B) What was the strength on 1st January, 1910, of (a), (b), and (c).
- (C) What is the number of officers, non-commissioned officers and men whose engagement terminates before 30th June, 1910.
- (D) What was the number of men under twenty years of age on 1st January, 1910.
- (E) What is the average number of days service in camp per head of the whole force.
- (F) Do the Military Authorities regard the firing of twenty-three rounds of miniature ammunition on an indoor miniature range as satisfactory training in musketry for a Territorial recruit.
- (G) How many Territorial recruits have so qualified for efficiency in musketry training.
- (H) How many men of the Territorial Army have not fired a service rifle with service ammunition on an open-air range.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD LUCAS)
My Lords, the answer to the noble Earl's first Question is that the establishment of the Territorial Force is 11,218 officers, 36,140 non-commissioned officers, and 265,132 men.
The figures do not include the officers of the Training Corps. It is quite true that those officers hold 125 Territorial commissions, but they are altogether outside the organisation of the Territorial Force, and we do not, therefore, include them. With regard to strength, the returns in the form we have them do not separate the non-commissioned officers from the men. Of officers there are 9,701 excluding 741 officers for general hospitals and sanitary service (who are only available on mobilisation) and 840 officers of the Officers' Training Corps and on the unattached list; and there are 262,036 non-commissioned officers and men. As to Question C, officers do not serve on a definite agreement, and therefore I cannot give any figures regarding that. Of the non-commissioned officers and men serving October 1, 1909, 65,000, roughly, were due to complete their engagement before July 1, 1910. The figures for January 1, 1910, would only be slightly different from those for October. To have obtained the figures up to January would have necessitated our calling for special returns, and would have involved a great deal of trouble and clerical work. I therefore hope the noble Earl will accept the figures for October in place of those for which he has asked. Similarly, with regard to Question D, I can only give the figures on October 1, 1909. On that date 98,306 non-commissioned officers and men out of the total strength of upwards of 260,000 were under twenty years of age. As to Question E, the form in which our returns are called for is this. We ask for returns in three forms—namely, men who have attended for eight days and under fifteen, those who have attended for fifteen days, and those who have attended for over fifteen days. There are a certain number of men, not a very large number, who do attend camp for over eight and under fifteen days, but it is impossible to calculate the average. As a matter of fact the total numbers who attended camp last year were 8,181 officers and 240,056 of other ranks, and out of these 6,866 officers and 163,045 of other ranks attended fifteen days or over.
I have not got with me the number who attended for over fifteen days. The number was very small, and I grouped them in the figures with those who attended for fifteen days. If the noble Marquess desires I could get the number.
Yes; the number who attended for fifteen days or over was 163,045. Then with regard to Question F, the noble Earl has the advantage of me because I am not aware that the firing by recruits of twenty-three rounds of miniature ammunition on indoor miniature ranges has been at all widespread. It is the case that certain units have not been able to carry out their musketry entirely, but we do not recognise the firing of twenty-three rounds on a miniature range as sufficient to qualify a recruit in musketry. The recruit's course laid down in the Musketry Regulations is that he should pass through, normally, an instructional course of forty rounds on an open range and a qualification standard of twenty rounds also on open range. Of course, if a man can pass the qualification standard straight away he does not have to go through the instructional course, as it means that his musketry is up to a satisfactory standard as regards recruits. But, if he does not go through that, what we lay down is that he shall fire fifty rounds on an open range, and if he does not fire the whole of his fifty rounds on an open range he shall have fired not less than twenty, and shall have fired the rest or the equivalent in miniature ammunition on a miniature range or on a thirty-yards range with service ammunition. As I say, the firing of twenty-three rounds of miniature ammunition is not a standard which we recognise in any way at all. I cannot, therefore, answer Question G, which asks how many have passed this particular standard. In reply to the noble Earl's last question, I am unable to state how many men have not fired a service rifle with service ammunition on an open-air range—we have not yet had the musketry returns from Hythe—but I know there have been seven units of the Territorial Force, seven battalions of Infantry, who have not been able to fire a single shot at an open range at all, and there have been ten other units of whom not more than fifty per cent. have been tested in musketry on an open range. All those cases are due to the fact that there is not sufficient range accommodation and that those units either were not able to get to a range at all or got there with such difficulty that only a certain number of their men 127 were able to fire. As noble Lords know, range accommodation in this country is, I am sorry to say, still inadequate. We are doing our best, and a considerable amount of money is being expended in the provision of fresh ranges. What we are doing first is to provide ranges for those units which have not had accommodation up to the present time.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
Can the noble Lord say if those men who have not fired on an open-air range at all this year are returned as efficient?
I quite appreciate the point of the noble Duke's question. The term "efficient," in the sense in which it is used in this connection, is perhaps an unfortunate expression, and it is quite possible we may have to change it. What is meant, in this particular context, by the word "efficient" is that the man has qualified, has been to an open range and has been through his musketry and is therefore qualified for the grant which will be made for him to the Association. As long as we have ground for knowing that the man has done musketry and has endeavoured to make himself a good shot we regard that as qualifying him for earning a grant for his Association.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
Do I gather from what the noble Lord has said that a recruit once qualified goes to the range no more, and yet always remains efficient?
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
But that is precisely what is not done. The trained soldier's course has been omitted.
He goes through his recruit's course in the first year, and his trained soldier's course in subsequent years.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I understand there are seven battalions who have not fired a shot. Are those men efficient?
We have made a special exception in their case. Of course, it is impossible to make those men efficient and enable their Associations to earn the grant. But that is a temporary circumstance.
That is so, if he gets a special exemption from the General. But without such special exemption a man can be an efficient soldier who has not hit the target at all. It is laid down by Memorandum No. 111 that an efficient soldier, as regards musketry, is a soldier of the Territorial Force who has either reached the qualification stage or—is certified by his commanding officer to have made at least three visits, including the tests, to an open miniature range and fired at least fifty rounds of ammunition.That is to say, if this Circular has not been withdrawn it does not go any higher than this, that a commanding officer is able to give a certificate of efficiency and the General has nothing further to do with the matter. It is surely a very serious thing that the whole of the Territorial Force can qualify by shooting at these miniature ranges. This fact, coupled with the fact that only 163,000 out of the whole Territorial Force have been out for fifteen days training, shows that the Territorial Force is worse trained than even its severest critics in this House have ever maintained. I think this discussion comes very opportunely after the three solid hours of optimism in regard to the defence of the country to which the other House was treated on Monday last.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Can the noble Lord tell us in what parts of the country those battalions are situated which have been unable to find open-air range accommodation?
I think I can answer the noble Viscount's question. Glasgow is the place where none of the men have shot their course. In East Lancashire there are some 3,000 men who have not 129 shot their course. In London, I believe, certain Generals have absolutely declined to say that the men are efficient. I have a letter from one battalion officer who says, "None of my battalion is efficient except Major Blank and myself, because the Regulation states that musketry is optional for field officers."
If Lord Lovat is correct in saying that in London there is a difficulty in finding open-air ranges, could not the Government give the London battalions facilities for shooting on their ranges at Bisley? To call men "efficient" who have never shot at an open-air range does seem to be straining the word. I certainly think, if it is the case that some of the London battalions have found a difficulty in getting accommodation, Government targets should be placed at their disposal for a certain number of days in the year.
It is true that there has been a difficulty with regard to the musketry of the London units. The difficulty, however, does not arise to any great extent in London as there are open-air ranges within reach, and when the new Purfleet range in Essex is opened that will give further accommodation. What has caused the difficulty to a great extent is that the new musketry course is in many ways much more exacting than the old. The men have to go to the ranges more frequently, and, in consequence, it is difficult to find accommodation for them all. Considering the newness of the course and the fact that it has created a great deal of congestion on the ranges I think we have got through the year very well indeed, and the difficulties that we have experienced during the first year are in a fair way to being removed during the current year. May I say one word about the point raised by Lord Lovat as to a man being passed as an efficient soldier who has not managed to hit the target at all? The whole of this scheme of musketry, which was drawn up with considerable care by the greatest experts, was very largely devised with the object of enabling bad shots to become good shots. In the new scheme there is a great deal more elasticity in regard to the use of the rounds of ammunition than under the old. Ninety rounds are allowed per man, and the commanding officer is empowered to use some of the rounds of men who are good shots in 130 coaching up the pool shots. It has been on found that this system has to a great extent done away with the bad shots and levelled up the general shooting of each unit.
I admit that the present system of musketry instruction is a great improvement on the old. The technical part is absolutely right. What I take exception to is the neglect of the War Office in not insisting upon that good system being carried out. You have this most unfortunate paragraph in Memorandum No. 111 which says that Territorial soldiers need not pass this standard. In the old days unless they got to what was called Class 3 you could not draw the grants for them when they came to camp. Now you can draw their grants and call them efficient if they have simply gone to the range three times and fired off fifty rounds of ball cartridge, although they may have missed the target every time.