*EARL ROBERTS rose to move to resolve—
That in view of the altered strategic conditions in Europe, this House views with grave and growing concern the inadequate military arrangements of His Majesty's Government for the defence of this country and of His Majesty's Oversea Dominions.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I feel the difficulty, I may almost say the embarrassment, of my position this afternoon, in the midst of the excitement caused by the hope of a general disarmament and universal peace—at a moment, too, when in England, from every newspaper, from every pulpit, from the heart of this great City of London itself, we are told that this hope will 821 assuredly shortly be fulfilled—I feel I require more than ordinary courage to bring before your Lordships proposals for placing our military system in a more satisfactory condition than it has ever yet attained—a condition more secure than any at which we have ever even aimed. But, my Lords, a totally unexpected incident lightens my embarrassment.
§ I refer to the speech delivered by the German Chancellor in the Reichstag last week. That speech—that remarkable speech—so full of manly sense, appealed to me in a way I find it, difficult to describe. And when the Chancellor proceeded to define what he considered to be the true relation of any nation or of any empire to its armed forces, I found him putting into words a principle which during the past few months, had been repeatedly in my own mind. The German Chancellor, after pointing out the impossibility of applying in any practical way the proposals for the reduction of armaments, laid down as a maxim that, at the present stage of the world's history, the armed forces of any nation or empire must have a distinct relation to the material resources of that nation or empire. This position seems to me, as statesmanlike as it is unanswerable. But, my Lords, in applying the principle to our own country, I should be inclined to modify it by saying that the armed forces of any nation or empire ought to represent not only its material resources, but the spirit which animates that nation or empire. In a word, that its armed forces should be the measure of the nation's devotion to whatever ends it pursues.
§ Now, how does this country, this great Empire, stand the test of the German Chancellor's maxim, even modified in the way I have suggested? Can we suppose that our existing forces represent either our material resources, or the spirit which animates, or at any rate which ought to animate this country? On the contrary, I affirm that, so far as the Army is concerned, our military system is hopelessly inadequate; we have neither a Home Army such as is needed for the defence of this country, nor an effective Regular Army to protect our Imperial interests abroad. It is because I hold this view so strongly that: I feel impelled to bring to your Lordships' notice the Motion that stands in my name. I am encouraged to hope that this may be the last occasion I need address your Lordships on this 822 subject, from the fact that, such a large proportion of this House expressed their I strong approval of my views when I had the honour eighteen months ago of speaking to I your Lordships on this essentially important question. At the same time no circumstances have arisen since then to make us less anxious about our unpreparedness, or more hopeful as to au effort being made to render the Army better fitted for the various duties it may at any moment be called on to perform.
§ While, therefore, I feel that I have some grounds for hoping that your Lordships and the country are beginning to realise the urgency of the reform which I and those who of think with me have from time to time pressed upon your consideration, I cannot but be aware that there are still a large number in this House who, apparently, think that it is no business of theirs to inquire into the state of the Army, and, so long as the country makes no move, are content to let matters rest. But is it for you and for the leaders in the other House or for the country to make the move? Is it not to you and to those leaders that the country ought to look for guidance? And so long as you and they remain silent, is it not natural for the people to think that our military arrangements are entirely satisfactory, and that our Army is in all respects what is needed?
§ There was, no doubt, some reason for the ready acceptance of Lord Haldane's scheme when the noble Lord first took in hand the remodelling of the Army. It was clear to every one who had studied the subject that we had not got the Army we require; two Royal Commissions had spoken in no uncertain tone as to its unfitness for service both at home and abroad, and it was generally recognised that a radical change was absolutely necessary. Time will not admit of my referring in detail to the several shortcomings which were brought to notice by these Royal Commissions, but there are two of which I must again remind your Lordships, because the greatest stress was laid upon them by both Royal Commissions, and until they have been remedied we cannot hope to have anything like time Army we need. These shortcomings were, first, want of numbers, owing to there being no sound system of expansion; and, secondly, as regards the Home Army, insufficient training. Is it not inconceivable, my Lords, that, notwithstanding the supreme importance of 823 these two vital defects, no effort has been made during the remodelling of the Army to rectify them? On the contrary, they have been carefully ignored.
What did the Royal Commissions say on these two points? The Commission over which Lord Elgin presided recorded the following unanimous opinion—
'No military system will be satisfactory which does not contain powers of expansion outside the limits of the Regular Forces of the Crown, whatever that limit may be.
This opinion was unanimously endorsed by the Duke of Norfolk's Commission, which, in referring to the Militia, stated that, in its existing condition—
it is unfit to take the field for the defence of this country.
While with respect to the Volunteers, the Commission reported that—
neither the musketry nor the tactical training of the rank and file would enable it to face, with prospect of success, the troops of a Continental army.
And again that—
in view of the unequal military education of the officers, the limited training of the men, and the defects in equipment and organisation, the Volunteer Force is not qualified to take the field against a Regular Army.
The Commissioners wound up their Report by unanimously declaring that—
The Militia and Volunteer Forces have not at present either the strength or military efficiency required to enable them to fulfil the functions for which they exist…and that a Home Defence Army capable in the absence of the whole, or the greater part of the Regular Forces, of protecting this country from invasion, can be raised and maintained only on the principle that it is the duty of every citizen of military age and sound physique to be trained for the national defence, and to take part in it should emergency arise.
§ No doubt I shall be told by the Secretary of State for War that the opinions expressed by the two Royal Commissions do not now hold good, as the forces to which they refer no longer exist. To this I would reply that the designations alone of these forces are changed. The Volunteers have become Territorials, and the Militia are called the Special Reserve; the Territorials being about the same strength as were the Volunteers. The County Associations and the Officers Training Corps are certainly a gain, and the training of the rank and file may be somewhat better, but it is far short of what is needed, and they get little or no more rifle practice. The Special Reserve being enlisted for foreign service is in that respect 824 an improvement on the Militia, but it is composed mainly of boys who could not possibly be depended upon to withstand the hardships of war, and it is by some thousands weaker in numerical strength than the old Militia.
§ The truth is that the forces which have lately been created are not, and never can be, much better for the purposes of war than were the old forces, which were so unanimously condemned by the Duke of Norfolk's Royal Commission. The same radical defects exist in the new as in the old organisation, and will never be remedied until officers and men are given prolonged and practical training; until they have learnt the discipline which that training alone can impart; until the men have been taught to use their rifles skilfully; and until they can have that absolute faith in their officers, that firm reliance on their comrades, and that implicit confidence in themselves which can only be attained by training, by discipline, and by skill in shooting.
§ What was it, my Lords, that threw such a lurid light upon the deep defects and utter insufficiency of our military system? Was it not a war that exposed our weakness to so great an extent as to imperil our Imperial interests, and so seriously compromised our credit as a Great Power that we have never wholly recovered it? It was the most costly war, in proportion to its duration and the number of our opponents, ever waged in the world's history. Never did a country pay so clear a price for a faulty military system as we then paid. Surely the humiliating reverses we suffered at that time ought to have brought home to us what a broken reed we lean upon if we trust to untrained troops in time of war; and they should have warned us to put our house in order, and never again to allow ourselves to be subjected to similar disasters—disasters which, if inflicted by a more warlike nation and a stronger adversary, would be irreparable, and might indeed cause the loss of the Empire and our downfall as a people. Nearly nine years have passed since peace was made, and I would ask you to put it to yourselves whether we have in that time done anything to show that we have profited by the lessons that the war should have taught us, and whether we have faced the problem squarely, and done what was incumbent upon us to do to render our Army better fitted for success in. future wars.825
§ Let us see what has happened. The Regular Army—the only portion that can be depended upon to hold its own in the field—has been reduced by over 30,000 men, not only a present, but a serious prospective loss. The Militia has been done away with and replaced by the Special Reserve, the doubtful value of which I have already explained. With the money thus saved we have been given a Territorial Force, which is almost as lamentably inefficient in training, even more hopelessly insufficient in number and considerably more costly than were the Auxiliary Forces to which we were obliged to trust in the South African War. Above all we have remained content to allow our military arrangements for home defence to continue to be based upon the same fundamentally defective system which was the cause of all the evil, the length of the war, and the cost of the war—namely, voluntary training. I wish our people could be made to realise that an Army is meant primarily not to provoke, but to avert, war, and to preserve for the people the blessings of peace, in return for the cost and effort involved in keeping up an efficient military system. In 1899 the Boers understood, as the whole world outside these shores now understands, that our small Regular Army, without proper powers of expansion and with only its amateur auxiliaries behind it, was infinitely below the needs of the Empire, and totally inadequate for the prompt and thorough waging of war. If those who press for a reduction of our military forces would only remember that, had it not been for this fact, the struggle in South Africa never would, in all probability, have taken place, and its colossal cost would have been avoided, to say nothing of the bloodshed and misery that are the accompaniments of all wars—if they would only remember this fact, they could not fail to realise how illogical, how foolish, is their point of view, and how certain is the unpreparedness for war, which they advocate, to bring about the very thing which they so rightly dread.
§ Unfortunately, the true aspect of the case has never been put before the people by those in authority. The real condition of our military forces, the demands that may be made upon them when war breaks out, and the dangers against which we have to guard, are all, for political purposes, concealed from them. They are made to believe that we now have a far larger and more efficient Army than we had twelve years 826 ago, the truth being that, except that the Artillery is provided with a more powerful gun, and the Cavalry and Infantry with a more useful rifle—a rifle, however, very inferior to the rifle with which the German and French troops are armed—and except that the Regular portion of the Army is, in some respects, more highly trained, as regards numbers and readiness to take the field or being kept up to war strength while in the field, the Regular Army is neither stronger nor more efficient than it was when the Boer War broke out; while in the course of three or four years it will be much worse off, on account of the automatic decrease in the strength of the Reserve Force owing partly to the discontinuance by the late Mr. Arnold-Forster of Lord Midleton's three-years enlistment scheme, and to the heavy reductions made by the present Secretary of State for War. And with regard to the Home Defence Army, the people have also been made to believe that an inefficient and in sufficient Volunteer Force can, by a change of name and organisation, become an efficient and sufficient Territorial Force.
§ What, my Lords, was Lord Haldane's ideal, and what were the conditions, four in number, I think, on the fulfilment of which the success of that ideal depended? Was not the ideal which the noble Viscount put before us in such eloquent and persuasive language, and which he called upon his countrymen to work up to and make a reality, "A Nation in Arms"? A trained Army of seven, or eight, or even nine hundred thousand men, which number he calculated that the enthusiasm and national spirit to be aroused in the country would enable him to reach; with military training for the boys in the schools, with cadet corps for the youths, and with rifle clubs for all classes to teach them how to shoot. It was a dazzling picture that was presented to the country, and one likely to be admiringly and willingly accepted by those who do not understand that "A Nation in Arms" which does not know how to use its arms would be of no value as a means of expansion in time of war, and could do little or nothing to prevent an invasion of this country by a considerably smaller number of highly trained soldiers. Well, my Lords, what have we got after more than three years of waiting for the realisation of this fine ideal? Instead of the seven, or eight, or nine hundred thousand trained men hoped for, we have less than two hundred 827 and seventy thousand, all practically untrained, with the Infantry unable to shoot, with the Artillery unacquainted with the rudiments of their branch of the service, armed with an inferior gun, and, except in a very few cases, entirely dependent upon hired horses, and, as regards the Yeomanry, with, at the outside, one horse to every three men. We must not flatter ourselves that, because the Territorials can "march past" on Salisbury Plain and take part in peace manœuvres, they can be trusted in the field, and that because we are told there are so many thousand horses in the country for the Yeomanry they will be of any use in time of war. Neither men nor horses are of the slightest value for war purposes unless, as I have frequently said, they are properly trained; unless the Infantry can use their rifles with skill; unless the Artillery can work their guns rapidly and scientifically; and unless the Yeomanry can shoot as well as the Infantry, and are mounted upon horses they are accustomed to ride and know how to look after. Then, my Lords, the promised military training in the schools for boys has not been given, no cadet corps have been organised by the State for youths, and no rifle clubs exist, except those maintained by private people, who have come to realise the danger of our men being unable to shoot.
§ Now, my Lords, we come to the four conditions upon the fulfilment of which the success of Lord Haldane's scheme depended. The first condition was that the required number of men would be found to come forward on the voluntary system. This condition, as we know, after three years' hard toil, and most loyal co-operation from civilians and soldiers alike, has completely broken down, and as Lord Portsmouth, Lord Lovat, Lord Derby, Lord Esher, and other noble Lords, who have worked so enthusiastically in connection with the County Associations, pointed out in this House on July 18 last, and as Lord Esher has more recently explained in an article in the National Review, we cannot hope under the voluntary system to get a Territorial Force larger than we now have. It is because I was confident that this would be the case and also because I knew the requirements of war, that I reluctantly felt obliged to refuse to take any part in the organisation and administration of the Territorial Force. I thoroughly appreciate the value of the foundation upon which Lord Haldane has endeavoured to form a Home Defence Army, and it would 828 have been a real pleasure to me to have helped him to construct "an adequate edifice upon that foundation"; but I had no hopes of that being possible under the voluntary system, and I could not make myself believe that it was my duty to encourage a scheme which I was satisfied could never give us the Army we need. At the same time, my Lords, I can quite understand why men, who have had little or no war experience, considered it was their duty to do all in their power when the scheme was first started to make it a success by joining the Territorial Force or by becoming presidents and members of the County Associations. I have, however, looked forward with considerable anxiety, not to say impatience, to the clay when they would realise the mistake they were making, for I felt that so long as they gave the scheme their powerful support it was hopeless to expect that the country would understand that we had not got the Army that was wanted, and it was an intense relief to me when the noble Lords I have mentioned expressed their opinions so clearly as to the shortcomings of the Territorial Force. No one can now say with truth that the voluntary system for the Home Defence Army has not been given a fair and prolonged trial. The first condition—that the required number of men would come forward on the voluntary principle—cannot be said to be fulfilled, and those who are determined to continue to trust to that principle must, I think, either disbelieve in these islands ever requiring to be defended, or be foolish enough to imagine that men who have never been taught to fight can hold their own against highly trained soldiers, simply because they are their own countrymen.
§ The second condition was, as your Lordships no doubt remember, that we must have command of the sea. It is essential, my Lords, that we should have command of the sea, indeed our very existence depends upon our being supreme at sea; about this there ought to be no doubt. Whether we still have command of the sea in the true sense of the word, and if not to what extent we can claim that command, I do not feel competent to give an opinion, but of this I am certain, that however limited that extent may be, in order to ensure our supremacy over it at all times and under all circumstances, it is necessary that our ships should not be tied to these shores. On sea, as on land, it is the ability to attack that ensures success. It is unnecessary for me 829 to remind your Lordships that the fleets of other nations are rapidly approaching our fleets in the number, speed, and power of their warships; and what I would beg of you to note is, for it is the crux of the whole situation, that other nations are not dependent upon their navies for their food as we are upon our Navy; their fleets can be concentrated in any one direction, while a large proportion of our Navy must necessarily always be engaged in protecting the vessels conveying the required supplies, without the regular arrival of which we should either starve or be forced to make an ignominious peace.
§ As I said once before in this House, we have nothing to guide us as to what the result of a battle at sea might be under the altered conditions of modern warfare. We have no practical knowledge of the part which torpedo-boats and submarines may be able to take in war, and even if our ships were more numerous and more powerful than those which could be brought against us, it is within the bounds of possibility that we might meet with a temporary defeat, and thus give the opportunity for a fleet of hostile transports to reach our coasts. I am aware, my Lords, that the Admiralty authorities take a different view. The First Sea Lord is quite confident that nothing of the sort could occur, as he has explained in the Memorandum added to the second edition of the book written by General Sir Ian Hamilton, with an introduction by Lord Haldane, entitled' "Compulsory Service." But, according to Sir Arthur Wilson, the enemy is to be so considerate as to carry out the invasion exactly in the manner we would wish, and where we are prepared to meet it. Surprise is left out of the calculation. Our information is to be absolutely perfect. We are to have the benefit of wireless telegraphy, scouting ships, submarines, &c. Apparently, all these assets are to be denied to the enemy. He is to know nothing of our movements. A quite unnecessary number of transports are to be employed for the conveyance of the invading force, and they are all to come by the same route in order to make a better target for our warships.
§ I confess I cannot be so optimistic. I am obliged to think that the commander of an invading force may not fall in with all our arrangements for his reception. I cannot believe that he will not have as good, if not better, information of our plans than 830 we have of his, or that he will not have the benefit of wireless telegraphy, scouting ships, and submarines, or t hat his force—the avowed object of which would be to subdue this country—would not consist of more than 70,000 men, the maximum number laid down by the Secretary of State for War and the First Sea Lord. I should hardly have ventured to speak with such confidence on the naval side of this question had I not the support of many distinguished naval officers. No fewer than four Admirals of the Fleet and sixty-nine Admirals are at the present time members of the National Service League, and surely these officers would not have joined the league did they not feel strongly as to the necessity for this country being protected by a land force in order to admit of the Navy being liberated to perform its legitimate duties on the open seas. To give to our Navy this required freedom of movement, and to prevent the landing of an invading force, we must have an adequate home Army, and, so long as we remain without such an Army, the second condition—that we must have command of the sea—cannot be considered as fulfilled.
§ The third condition has now to be considered, which was that the invading force would not consist of more than 70,000 men, and that, therefore, we need not be prepared to cope with a larger number. How can we possibly lay down what the strength of an invading force would be? Six years ago we were told that not even a dinghy load of men could be landed on these shores. A little later we were informed that two raids of 5,000 men each were the outside we had to guard against. Then in 1909, on a reconsideration of the problem, it was agreed, both by the Prime Minister and Mr. Balfour, in the debate that took place in the House of Commons on July 9, that 70,000 was the number we had to be prepared for. I do not see, my Lords, how we can settle the exact number of men an invading force would consist of Surely that would depend upon a variety of circumstances about which we can have but little knowledge, and over which we can have absolutely no control. The only thing we may feel confident of is, that the better prepared we are the less chance there is of an invasion being attempted. The figure of 70,000 seems to have been fixed upon because, as explained by Mr. Balfour, that was the minimum number with which I myself stated, at a meeting of the Committee 831 of Imperial Defence in 1905, I believed any commander would venture to attempt an invasion of this country. And also because the naval authorities asserted that the transports required for a larger number would be so numerous as to make it impossible for them to evade our warships. But my opinion is that an invading force is far more likely to consist of 150,000 men than 70,000, and that it is for this number, at least, we ought to be prepared. Naval and mercantile arrangements are day by day becoming more perfect, and, for the short distance that would have to be traversed, 150,000 men could now be conveyed without risk or inconvenience in considerably fewer ships than it was calculated six years ago would be necessary for the conveyance of 70,000. It does not appear, therefore, my Lords, that the third condition—viz., that an invading force would consist of not more than 70,000 men—is any more likely of fulfilment than the first and second conditions. On all the occasions when these statements were made as to the numbers we might expect an invasion to consist of, we were led to believe that our Army was exactly what was needed at that precise moment, and yet, my Lords, while the numbers of the invading force rose from less than a dinghy load to 70,000 men our Home Defence Army steadily decreased in strength.
§ Now, my Lords, we have arrived at the fourth condition, which was that the Expeditionary Force would be kept in this country for six months after war had been declared, during which time the Home Defence Army could be trained. This is the most astonishing and fallacious condition of the four, and it is difficult to believe that the Secretary of State could ever have contemplated organising an Army for the defence of this country on such a condition, unless it had been forced upon him by those of his supporters who scout the necessity for having an Army at all, and had not Lord Haldane, in the House of Commons on March 4, 1907, given it as his opinion that "under the voluntary system the required amount of training could never be given in time of peace." I quite agree with Lord Haldane that under the voluntary system the required amount of training could never be given in time of peace, for the simple reason that the men who join the Territorial Force cannot afford the necessary time. But what I venture to assert is that the training could never be given after war 832 breaks out, because it would be impossible to keep our absurdly small Expeditionary Force, or any portion of it, in this country for six months if serious trouble broke out in India, in Egypt, or in any of our oversea Dominions. I need not dwell on the reasons which make it impossible, as I explained them fully when last I spoke in this House, so I will only say that, in the event of the Expeditionary Force being required to help our countrymen and women abroad, no thought of our personal safety could stand in the way of every available soldier being instantly despatched, for it is upon this help in time of need they confidently rely. Our honour would be at stake as well as our feelings of humanity. And if our Regular Army were required to assist in preserving the balance of power in Europe, upon the maintenance of which not only our position as a Great Power but our existence as a nation depends, it would be equally impossible to keep the Expeditionary Force at home. Therefore, I think you must agree with me that this fourth condition, upon which the training of the Territorial Force can alone be accomplished, is even more impossible of fulfilment than the other three conditions.
§ If, then, the four conditions upon which the success of Lord Haldane's scheme depends cannot be fulfilled, what is to be done? We cannot go on as we are, for, as I have said, we have neither a Home Army, such as is needed for the defence of this country, nor an effective Regular Army to protect Imperial interests abroad. The Regular portion of our Army (all, I think, will agree) must be formed on a voluntary basis, and in my opinion—an opinion considerably strengthened by reading "Compulsory Service"—there are no grounds for fearing that this would be interfered with if it were decided to adopt a compulsory basis for the Home Defence portion of our Army. The object of Sir Ian Hamilton's book is to try to prove that compulsory training would adversely affect recruiting for the Regular Army, but I venture to think it would require sounder arguments than are adduced in that book to convince the most casual reader that this view is correct. The fears of the Secretary of State for War and the gallant General are certainly not borne out by history or by our own experience, as I have endeavoured to show in "Fallacies and Facts," the recently published answer to "Compulsory Service."833
§ We require, my Lords, one million of men—over and above the Regular Army—-the smallest number that would prevent invasion being attempted, and at the same time furnish a potential Reserve from which a large proportion of the men, who had been taught their duty as soldiers, could be depended to come forward of their own accord to serve with the Regular Army fighting abroad. The question, the vital question, upon which the country has to pronounce, is how this million of men are to be obtained, and in what way the required amount of training can be carried out with the least inconvenience to the general public. On the conclusion of their training the men would revert to civil life—better physically, industrially, and morally, for their short experience of the Army—and ready to take their part in any great national emergency that may arise. We were told a few months ago by Lord Ashby St. Ledgers that the country would not accept the obligation of compulsory training, except as the result of a national disaster. I wonder if the noble Lord has ever explained to the people, or pictured to himself, what a national disaster would mean? Whether he has ever given a thought as to the terms to which we might be forced to submit, if dictated to us by an invader on our own soil? We surely do not intend to wait until some great disaster—a Jena or a Sedan—brings home to us that we are not different from other nations, and that if we do not make ourselves strong on land as well as on sea, we cannot hope to escape the fate which has overtaken all great flourishing commercial maritime Powers which neglected that duty. It may be urged that these were Continental, not island, Powers, and that therefore the analogy does not hold good, but, although no doubt our insular position is an advantage in some respects, it is a disadvantage inasmuch as it makes us dependent for our food on foreign countries. And I submit that our tremendous land responsibilities in various parts of the world prevent us now being considered as altogether an island Power.
§ I fear that I have already taken up too much time, but, if you will bear with me for a few minutes longer, I should like to explain why I am so persistent in my endeavours to get our people to realise the absolute necessity for the men to whom we have to trust to defend this 834 country and to fight our battles abroad being in all respects well disciplined and properly trained. Insufficiently disciplined and insufficiently trained men, however keen, however numerically superior they may be, cannot nowadays be relied upon to hold their own against highly trained soldiers. They could not be relied upon, even before the days of arms of precision, and they most certainly cannot be relied upon now. All the talk about one volunteer being worth two pressed men "is sheer nonsense. The truth is that one man, whether pressed or not, if well disciplined and carefully trained, is worth at least half-a-dozen undisciplined, insufficiently trained volunteers. No doubt if I had to lead a forlorn hope requiring men determined to carry out the job, no matter what the odds against them might be, I would rather have half the number of men w ho volunteered than double the number ordered to perform it, provided all were equally well trained. But if it were a question of soldiers versus untrained volunteers, I would infinitely prefer to have ten well-trained and well-disciplined soldiers than fifty ill-trained and ill-disciplined volunteers.
§ If time admitted I could give you many instances from history in support of this view—the opinions of great commanders like Washington and Napoleon—hilt it will, perhaps, interest you more if I remind you of an incident well within the recollection of many in this House, and tell you something of what I know from my own experience of war. During the Franco-German War of 1870–71, the French, from having an army without any means of expansion, were forced, after the first few weeks, to employ hastily raised levies. These levies, even in greatly superior numbers, were no match for the highly-trained German soldiers. On one occasion towards the end of the war, 35,000 German soldiers found themselves engaged with a force of these recently raised levies, numbering between 140,000 and 150,000. They had been given such training as was possible while war was going on, for four and a half months. They were brave men fighting for their own country, and in their own country, and what happened? Within a month 60,000 of them were killed, wounded, poisoners, or missing, while the remaining 80,000 were driven over the Swiss frontier and there interned.835
§ When giving my own experience about what happened in South Africa, I desire to speak with the utmost respect of the fine patriotic spirit which induced the one man out of five of the Militia, the one man out of fifteen of the Yeomanry and Volunteers, and the one man in a thousand out of the civil population to come forward to serve with the Army during the war. They set an excellent example to their comrades, and they deserve all praise for their courage and willingness to help their country in her time of need. That these men were unable to hold their own—unless aided by Regular soldiers—even against an enemy so lightly trained as the Boers, was not due to any fault of their own, but to the absurdly foolish belief which then existed, and which, I deeply regret to say, still exists amongst a great many people who ought to know better, that untrained, undisciplined citizen soldiers, unable to use their rifles with effect, and worse than all led by officers without military training, can be trusted in war.
§ For not a few of the "regrettable incidents" which occurred during the South African war this country was to blame, not the men, for the men were never given the opportunity to learn their duty as soldiers. And I would ask you what in all human probability would have been the fate of these same men had they been fighting against the highly-trained soldiers of a Continental Power? Is this country going to allow these things to happen again? Is it willing to consent to untrained men meeting the fate that befell the French levies? There was, perhaps, some excuse for untrained men being sent to South Africa. We had not been engaged in, any serious war for nearly half a century, and it was not then generally understood that owing to the introduction of rifled arms and smokeless powder war had become more scientific and that a much higher standard of individual intelligence and efficiency had come to be demanded both from officers and men. I know from my own experience that fifty years ago soldiers with far less individual training than is now necessary could be trusted to do well in battle. At that time fighting was carried on in close formations. Officers, non-commissioned officers, and men were all within touch of each other, and shooting took quite a secondary place.
§ Those of your Lordships who have been over the field of Waterloo or seen the model 836 of that great battle in the Royal United Service Institution in London can judge for yourselves what fighting in close formation meant. The English and French armies each numbered between 70,000 and 80,000 men. The length of the front occupied was about three miles, but the fighting chiefly took place in one mile and a half. And throughout the whole of that eventful day, except for a very short time, Wellington and Napoleon were never more than three-quarters of a mile apart. Owing to the altered conditions of modern warfare, such a battle would at the present time be impossible. An army of the size that Wellington and Napoleon each commanded at Waterloo would now occupy a front of about twelve miles, or nearly four times the length of the ground that was occupied on that occasion, and instead of the Infantry soldiers in close order firing at each other from a distance of forty or fifty yards, as was the case at Waterloo, they would be compelled to open out and adopt loose formations as soon as they entered the zone of fire. The extent of the zone of fire depends in a great measure upon the nature of the ground and the accuracy of the enemy's fire, but is usually now from 1,800 to 2,000 yards. Officers get separated from the men and the men from each other, consequently the strain on the individual man becomes far greater than in old days when he had the support of close contact with his comrades and knew that his officers were near at hand to guide him. The effect of these changes is to make it imperative for soldiers to be highly trained, otherwise they can be of no use in modern war.
§ My Lords, I have given you my reasons for the statement I made that we have neither a Home Army such as is needed for the defence of this country, nor an effective Regular Army to protect our Imperial interests abroad. If this statement is not accepted by the Secretary of State for War, I beg that your Lordships will not be content with a mere counter-statement, accompanied as it probably will be by a bewildering array of figures. My statement is based -upon facts—facts that are strictly true—and unless these facts can be proved to be untrue, I think your Lordships must agree with me that the safety of the country demands that the condition of the Army should be inquired into—not by a Royal Commission or by any Commission, which would probably have no more satisfactory result than the two former Royal 837 Commissions—but by a small Committee of experts who have no axe to grind, and who would have the confidence of the public. I beseech you, my Lords, to support me on this vitally important question. It is essentially a national not a Party question, and I trust that it will not be allowed to drop without the electors of this country being put in possession of your individual opinions as to the Motion T have brought forward, and without their being enlightened as to the true state of the Army.
§ I began this long speech by a reference to the optimistic and hopeful discourses upon the peace of the world to which we have listened of late. I am old enough to remember the enthusiasm excited on a somewhat similar occasion, sixty years ago. Then, as now, we were besieged from every pulpit, from every newspaper, by aspirations and promises of an immedate future in which our swords would be beaten into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks. This was in the year 1851—the year in which I got my commission. My Lords, there was not a single year in the next two decades that was not marked by some war in one portion of the globe or another. In 1852 we were fighting in Burma. In 1853 the Tsar Nicholas seized the Danubian Provinces—the beginning of the Crimean War. That was scarcely ended when we had to face the Indian Mutiny. In 1839 France and Italy were at war. In 1860 we were fighting in China; and in 1862 in New Zealand. In the following year we heard of Bull's Run, and Lee, Lincoln, and Stonewall Jackson became household words. In 1864 there was the Danish War. In 1866 the six weeks' war, which was but a prelude to one of the most heroic struggles of modern days—the Franco-German War of 1870–71.
§ Let us by all means listen to the aspirations and reasonings of the advocates of universal peace, and do all in our power to help but in the meantime, warned by what followed the prophetic outburst of 1851, let us in all respects be ready for war. There is no time to be lost if our Army is to be made fit for war. My deliberate opinion is that, while other nations are daily and steadily becoming stronger and more powerful, we are daily and steadily losing ground. Our margin of safety on the sea is rapidly disappearing, and should war come upon us with the startling rapidity with which it has come upon other nations in recent years, we shall be found absolutely 838 unprepared. Therefore I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.
§ Moved to resolve, That, in view of the altered strategic conditions in Europe, this House views with grave and growing concern the inadequate military arrangements of His Majesty's Government for the defence of this country and of His Majesty's Oversea Dominions.—(Earl Roberts.)
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, in the early part of the speech to which your Lordships have listened with such close attention the noble and gallant Field-Marshal dwelt on what he considered to be the shortcomings of the existing military organisation. In the second part of his speech he indicated the reforms which he considered necessary in order to put that organisation on a sufficient basis. In the observations I propose to address to your Lordships I will, for the purposes of convenience, invert the order awl consider first somewhat closely what the noble and gallant Field-Marshal adumbrated as the changes lie wished to make, and then the reasons why it seems to me that the existing system is preferable. But before I do so there is one thing I would wish to say. I would rather not have found myself on what is practically my first appearance in your Lordships' House in opposition to one for whom I entertain such feelings of affectionate regard as I do for my noble friend. No one connected with the British Army but can hold him in reverence. His name is associated with great and illustrious deeds, and so long as our history is recorded we shall remember that he carried our cause to victory under difficult and trying circumstances.
The Motion which my noble and gallant friend has moved asserts that, owing to the strategical change in the situation in Europe we are no longer in possession of military arrangements adequate for home defence or for the defence of the Dominions oversea. There is one factor which remains of the same strategical effect as it always was. Between us and any possible Continental enemy there intervenes a strip of sea, the same strip of sea which existed in the time of our ancestors. Between the Army and the Navy there exists a considerable divergence of view as to the possibility of an enemy crossing that strip of sea. It is held by sailors that so long as we retain the command of the sea an invasion in force is 839 practically impossible. A century ago a great Admiral, Lord St. Vincent, addressed your Lordships' House in a debate not unlike the present one. Having listened to the speeches he rose and said that he had considered the military opinions that were expressed, and would not himself give expression to any view upon them; but he could assure their Lordships that if an invading army ever arrived, it would not be by sea. That has been the opinion of sailors right through. I have myself sat upon two Committees which have been directed to investigate this question. After protracted sittings extending over months, and after examining all the witnesses, we came unanimously to the conclusion on both occasions that the Navy view was right. I was myself much impressed with this—that the question of invasion was very much more technical and difficult than it is apt to appear to soldiers. Some seaman once remarked that when a soldier went below low-water mark on the beach he was apt to get out of his depth; and I own that my experience on those Committees of the sifting of the conflicting views which we then had before us impressed me with this—that the matter is one to which the Admiralty have given at all times of our history long and thorough consideration, and is one on which their record entitles them to speak with an authority which no soldier can challenge.
But I do not desire at this moment to dwell on that point. I wish to turn back to the propositions expressed by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. What is the standard by which he asks your Lordships to judge, and by which he invites you to affirm or deny the proposition which he submits to the House? Unless we know what that standard is we cannot bring his reasons to the test. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal developed to some extent his remedy for the existing situation in the light of standards which seem to hint to be true standards; but, as he himself said, he has set these things out more completely in the book which he has recently published. I refer to the book, not in terms of reproach; rather I welcome my noble friend as a fellow author. In his book we have a much more detailed statement of the standards which he washes to apply and the changes which he desires to bring about. I remember a debate which took place in this House on the Motion by the noble Earl for the Second Reading of a Bill to establish compulsory 840 military training. That Motion was opposed by the Duke of Northumberland on the ground that, while the Bill was, as he said, a very small one, it gave sonic taste of the quality of the medicine; and he was afraid that the plan proposed in the Bill would develop into a much larger scheme than one for training Infantry for four months and other arms for six months. If the noble Duke were here this evening he would find that he was a true prophet for quite early in his book the noble and gallant Field-Marshal speaks of the profound discontent which is felt in the Army with the proposition of the National Service League that the training of the Infantry should be for four months only. He goes on to say that the National Service League has no special predilection for the four months period. Its desire, he says, is—to see the principle of universal service for home defence accepted, as it seems to its members that if this great principle once gets the consent of a majority of the people there will be no difficulty in adjusting the details of the scheme which will he necessary to reduce theory to practice.I am not complaining of that. If compulsory service be necessary for the defence of these shores I think the nation would say, "Let us have compulsory service, and let us have the training for what soldiers say is the proper time—that is, two years."
The noble and gallant Field-Marshal goes on to say in his book—If this course it!adopted it will carry with it, not only its; own consequences, but an extensive reorganisation of the Regular Army.I wish to call attention to the length to which that reorganisation seems to go. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal does not pin himself to any particular form, but lie indicates that what he favours is the separation of the Regular Army into a long service Army and a short-service Army, and a scheme which is not unlike that of the late Mr. Arnold-Forster for a compulsory Home Defence Army at the basis which is to form a reservoir out of which the volunteers for the two branches of the Regular Army for the future are to come. He goes on to say that not the command of the sea but our military allies enabled us to maintain the balance of power in Europe, and that now we need an Army of our own to do this. That proposition, he agrees, involves a radical reorganisation of our Regular Army and our Home Defence Army alike.
841 These are far-reaching propositions. He refers to Part II of his book—a part written by an expert—as containing the broad outlines and general features of the kind of reorganisation which he desires to see. I turn to Part II, which develops with great fulness the standard which the writer wishes to be set up as the standard by which to test the sufficiency of our existing arrangements, and, secondly, the plan by which he proposes to bring the military and naval organisations, for both are included, up to that standard. I refer to this because, from various remarks in the book, I infer that my noble friend does not dissent from the propositions advanced in Part II of the book. The first proposition is that, alike for service oversea and for home defence, our present military arrangements are wholly inadequate and powers of expansion are essential. And then he lays down the standard—The main lines of our naval and military organisations must take no account—I ask your Lordships' attention to this—of present international relations, but must be laid with a view to dealing with any Power with which the Empire can possibly come into contact by sea or on laud. There can be no such thing in sound strategy as the exclusion from our calculations of any foreign Power, however friendly at the moment or however much we may dislike the idea of coming into conflict with it.Further—The danger of finding ourselves at war with more than one Great Power at a time must be reckoned as a permanent factor in the situation, awl all naval and military preparations must take account of it."The command of the sea," he says, is not enough, "for this is not an end in itself"; and he contends that we want—an army strong enough to redress the balance of power in Europe against the premeditated Continental domination of a single Power.Then he asks what is the case in the way of our naval strength. The writer says that the two-Power standard means Navy Estimates of from £60,000,000 to £80,000,000—that it is no use our gasping over this; and that the great wars for which we must prepare are, first, with Russia, for the defence of India; second, with the United States for the defence of Canada; and also possibly with Turkey for the defence of Egypt, with Japan, and with a European combination possibly of Germany, Austria, and Italy. He lays Clown that as the standard, and proceeds to develop his plan in the form of a new 842 Army scheme. It involves the abolition of the Cardwell system, with certain limitations to which I will refer presently. In the first place our oversea garrisons and soldiers in different parts of the Empire overseas are all to be long-service soldiers, enrolled for twenty-one years. They are to be got by voluntary service, and there will be no Reserves. In addition, there is to be a striking force of 40,000 men, of twenty-one years service. That brings you up to nearly 150,000 long-service men on a twenty-one years' basis. Then there is to be a short-service Army, the Infantry trained for one year and the other arms for eighteen months or two years. This is to be a voluntary force, but indirect compulsion will be used to assist in raising it. Then there is to be a national service, in which every young man eighteen years of age is to undergo from four to six months' training; and while in that force he will be paid not more than 6d. a day or possibly nothing at all according to the writer. It is predicted that large numbers will volunteer for the short-service Army, which is to be an oversea A-my and to produce a strength of 300,000 men. Of course, its peace establishment will not be nearly so large as that, but it is to mobilise at a strength of 300,000 men, and that is to take the place of the Expeditionary Force. Then the National Service Army is to consist of about 1,000,000 men, from whom the 300,000 are to be found.
Let us compare the Expeditionary Force with the National Service Army. In the Expeditionary Force you have got a force which, if small—it does not mobilise more than 170.000 men—consists on the average of highly trained and seasoned men who have had seven years' service with the Colours. Compare them with the 300,000 men spoken of. They will have had only one year's training. I am talking of the Infantry. After one year's training they go into the Reserve, and you have to make up the number of 300,000 with Reservists poured into the peace strength, which is something far under 100,000. These men will have had only one year's training, with refresher courses which are not indicated but are left to be developed in the future. I ask, Is that an Army that can be compared for quality with the Expeditionary Force which we have to-day Supposing they have to be sent to the Continent. It is contrary to all notions of military efficiency to put as your First Line Army 843 to meet the shock of Continental trained troops men who have had only one year's training with these vague refresher courses. I believe that if this doctrine were taken seriously it would spread alarm and consternation throughout the Army, because it would be felt that what is best in the Army—those splendid troops which we now possess—would be reduced in quality, and that instead of being made better by the increase in numbers the Army would be reduced to a position of great inferiority, not only as compared with its present standard but as compared with the troops whom they might have to encounter. Then there are other difficulties. Where are the officers to come from? Where am I to get the enormous increase of officers that would be necessary for the training of a force of this magnitude? They do not exist at the present time. Remember you are not offering a very attractive service. The only answer, with regard to officers, which the writer gives, is that a national system creates its own officers. I hope so. But that is all the comfort we are given.
Then, I ask, how does this work out in finance? I am not raising the question of money as though it were the paramount question. It is not. If our lives are at stake we will use up the last resources of the nation before we allow ourselves to perish. But in the case of a proposition for the reorganisation and recasting of the Military and Naval Forces in a time of peace—for that is what it comes to—we must take into account the burden which it is proposed to impose on our people by this new system. The Naval Estimates are proposed to be increased from the present £44,000.000 to the figure of from £60,000,000 to £80,000,000, at which we are told we need not gasp. As regards the Military Estimates we have no material for calculation. But after going into the matter as closely as I can I can only say I should not like to contract to produce an Army of one million men and to keep it alive under a figure of £40,000,000.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
It is for the entire Army Estimates, both for the National Service Army and the other Army. The writer says one million men 844 would probably be sufficient. But he goes on to qualify this by saying that we might have to take on not only all those Powers which he has mentioned seriatim, but all of them at once. Therefore his estimate is certainly not more than would be sufficient. I cannot help thinking that with the Naval and Military Estimates proposed to be raised to £100,000,000 there is something that would happen before we could use that force in any war. We should probably find ourselves in a condition in which the intellectual and material resources of the country would be so diminished that something like bankruptcy would be staring us in the face. I cannot help thinking of what was said by the great soldier Von Moltke, when in 1865 it was proposed to him that his scheme for the reorganisation of the Prussian Army did not provide for the contingency of Russia, France, and Austria attacking Germany at the same time. His reply was—No; I have not provided for such a thing to happen if it did happen, Germany would have to defend herself as best she could.To associate the Army in the minds of the people with such an enormous scheme as this seems to me, unless we are driven to it by necessity, to be doing what Wellington declared would be the worst thing that could be done in the interest of the Army—namely, to associate it in the public mind with extravagance.
The sincerity of the noble Field-Marshal is beyond all question. We all know with what passionate devotion he has worked for his cause. But what I venture to call the fallacy of his reasoning seems to be this—that he is insisting upon preparing for the logically possible instead of for the reasonably probable. If you take the first course, then you will have to be prepared for conflict with a combination of all sorts of Powers beyond anything which has hitherto come into question, and the result is that you prove either too little or too much. I could quote a combination of Powers of which my noble friend does not speak in his book, and against which his plans do not provide, a combination against which we should be in such a state of unpreparedness that in the words of Von Moltke we should have to defend ourselves as best we could. But what is the present position? Remember that just at this moment we are engaged in communication with the United States of America in relation to a possible Treaty 845 of General Arbitration. The German Chancellor in the speech to which the noble Earl referred spoke of the willingness of his country to exchange naval information with this country, a course which, if taken, must tend in some degree to reduce the risk of scares, which have done so much to force up the Naval Estimates, not only in this country, but in other countries.
Moreover, with France and Russia we are in agreement, and a war in defence of the Indian frontier against Russia appears less likely now than it has appeared for generations. So far as the rest of the world is concerned the peoples of all lands are beginning to show signs of a desire that this tremendous burden of armaments should, if possible, be diminished rather than increased. Is this, then, the time when, if you take the standard of the reasonably probable, it is desirable to take the step we are asked to take? And if you take the standard of the logically possible what an example we should be setting to other nations at a time when, as we all hope, we are seeing a real beginning in a new movement for the world's peace. I have always thought that the true Commander of the Forces in this country, naval and military, is not the sailor or the soldier but the Foreign Secretary. On him it depends what our outlook is likely to be. I agree that we must defend our rights and be in a position to secure ourselves against defeat. But, atter all, you have to choose between a good many things in this world, for you cannot have them all. You cannot have prosperity and be crushed down in a time of peace by a burden of armaments which is only fitted for a time of war. You must take some risks. All the things of which the noble Earl spoke are, of course, logically possible. It is logically possible that one of your Lordships may be killed by a motor-car in crossing the street. But you do not refuse to go out for that reason. Nor do you decline to take a journey in a railway train because it is logically possible that there may be an accident. These things are things which you may exclude from the consideration in the handling of practical affairs, and you are brought, therefore, to the standard of the reasonably probable.
There are certain things which are not without a material bearing in considering what our military and naval organisation ought to be. In the first place, this island is the centre of an Empire the parts of 846 which are separated from each other by great stretches of the sea. The command of the sea must, therefore, be our first requisite. There, again, your standard must be any reasonably probable combination of the forces you may have to face. It may be a three-Power standard or a two-Power standard. The next point is that if you possess the command of the sea you can make sea-power your first line of defence against invasion, and that is what we have always done and ought always to do. If we command the German Ocean the difficulties of an enemy's commander seeking to transport troops across that sea can best be realised by anybody who attempts to put himself in the place of that commander. All the changes of recent times—wireless telegraphy and other variations from the old condition of things—are in favour of the de 'ending nation. Naval dispositions to-day do not merely depend on the mobility of squadrons of battleships. There is a second line of naval defence—the destroyer and submarine organisation along our coasts, which is ready to torpedo transports even if they evade the mobile squadrons which are watching them.
But is it likely that the transports will evade those squadrons? My noble friend spoke of the great facilities for transport which exist to-day. The movements of every ship even in time of peace are minutely recorded by agencies, and the Admiralty would be informed of the least departure from the ordinary course. Before a liner could be got oft with troops it is certain that warning to be on the alert would have reached us. Not only is that so in the case of individual ships, but still more is it the case with transports on any large scale. It is a difficult operation, even with the most perfect preparations on the other side of the water, to embark troops and get the vessels started without intimation being given either through commercial channels or by wireless telegraphy of what is happening. We are not to suppose that our Navy and the Admiralty are so stupid as not to be aware of all this. For years past—I might almost say generations past—they have realised the importance of these matters; and I have good ground for believing that they have never been more fully realised than by the present experts of the Board of Admiralty.
The justification for relying on what I call a Second Line Army for home defence 847 arises out of the fact that the First Line is naval. Supposing a bolt to fall from the blue without warning; what would be our position? If the Expeditionary Force were at home, with other Regular troops, the Special Reserve, and the Territorials, we should have 580.000 men to receive the invaders. Suppose, however, the Expeditonary Force had gone abroad—to India, for instance. Under the Act of 1907, unless the Government grossly failed in its duty, the Territorial Force would be mobilised at the moment of the mobilisation of the Regular Forces. The theory of the new Second Line Army is that you should never leave the country without an Army, and that yon should put one into war training as soon as the other is mobilised. The theory does not contemplate a Territorial Force which would become efficient in time of peace. The preparations that have been made are preparations for giving it as perfect an organisation as it is possible to give it, and enabling it by means of mobilisation on the Expeditionary Force's going abroad to progress in the perfecting of its war training. if the Expeditionary Force had gone abroad we should still have in the country from 416,000 to 420,000 men available, including a large number of surplus Reserves and the Special Reserve. That is a considerable force for an invading army to encounter. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal stated that the invading force might consist of more than 70,000 men. The Admiralty do not even admit the possibility of invasion by 70,000 men. That is a figure which is fixed because it is thought we ought to have two strings to our bow. In such a vital matter it is thought we ought to be so prepared as to force an enemy to come with not less than 70,000 men. The more men the enemy brings the larger the target for the Navy. With home defence resting on the command of the sea, we consider ourselves justified, taking into account the Reserve and other troops we should still have at home, in relying on a Territorial Force recruited by voluntary enlistment, and getting all the training they could in time of peace consistently with pursuing their ordinary vocations and improving it upon a general mobilisation.
The third requisite of the present system is an over-sea force. But I must say a word further about the second Line troops. What is it my noble friend proposes to pit against the army of 150,000 invaders which he postulates? An army of 400,000 men, 848 according to the National Service League estimate, with four months' training. These would apparently be expected to resist Continental Infantry trained for two years. I do not feel quite convinced that the Territorial Force with the enormous burden of extra training it took over out of the fulness of the Volunteer spirit is not a good deal better than any four months' trained compulsory force is likely to be.
There are many defects in the Territorial Force. We have not got our numbers vet. The main reason is, I think, that we have enjoyed the blessing—not an unmixed blessing from an Army point of view—of ten years' peace. In peace it is not easy to fill up your numbers, though they go up at once when war threatens. Still, the numbers are moving steadily, though slowly, according to the best judgment I can form from the reports that are sent in. We have at present five-sixths of the Force—272,000 officers and men. Five-sixths of the Force is something to have got. If anybody thinks he can create within three years an Army of fourteen Divisions, an organised Army complete in all its accessories—because that is what differentiates the Territorial Force entirely from the old Volunteers—an Army commanded by Regular commanders, men who are picked for the ability with which they have discharged their duty in command of Regulars—then he has a difficult business.
I often think in dealing with the Territorial. Force it is well to look at what those say who study the matter most closely. A discussion took place last Tuesday—reported in The Times of the following day—at a meeting of the National Defence Association on the condition of the Territorial Force. Divisional commanders were invited and attended, and they were told to exercise perfect freedom of criticism. We take the view which is taken in Germany, that it is a good thing that our officers should have opportunities of making their views known. At that meeting Colonel Repington, who has made a close study of this Force, said of it—The training and the amount of it had made great strides, and the Territorial Force appeared to be about three times as good as the old Volunteers, first, because it was well organised on the Regular pattern with all its arms and services, whereas the Volunteers were not organised at all; secondly, because it was better commanded, trained, and equipped, and had a definite róle in the defence of the country; and, thirdly, because it had fewer wasters.849 And then he concluded—Broadly speaking and. taking a general average, three Territorial battalions were at present about the military equivalent of one Regular battalion, and at the end of six months' training the proportion would be reduced to two to one, given good training ground, ranges, Regular commanders from the active list, and Regular Staff. With the same conditions a Territorial Artillery brigade of three batteries, each of four guns, ought after three to four mouths' training and practice to hold its own with a six-gnu Regular battery. The Yeomanry he considered equal to about half its number of Regular Cavalry, but after three months' training might face with credit nearly equal numbers.That is conjecture, but it is the conjecture of a man who has given close attention and scrutiny to this Force. General Bethune the Commander of the West Lancashire Division, for which he has done so much, said that—The Territorial Force in West Lancashire had increased in efficiency from top to bottom about 20 per cent. in each of the last two years. On February 1 they had an establishment of 481 out of 510 officers, and 15,609 out of 10,997 men, a proportion of 88 per cent. of strength. The men -were of a good stamp.I mention these things not for the purpose of taking an optimistic view. Heaven knows I have to be optimistic enough going about the country to raise this Force. I am not here to be optimistic; I am here for the purpose of getting at the facts. I quite agree that there is an enormous lot to be done. All I say is I am not hopeless, as my noble friend is hopeless, of making anything out of the voluntary system. If I were, I confess I should feel myself in a position of very great difficulty, because what, is absolutely necessary is that we should have the garrisons of India and of our other places over-sets maintained at their present strength and quality, and my belief is—and the same thing is true of the Expeditionary Force—that you could not do that if you had a system of compulsory service PAM for home defence.
There has been a great deal of criticism of Sir Ian Hamilition for the views which he has expressed. But, my Lords, Sir Ian Hamilition possesses one important qualification. He has been to the Continent and studied the problem of recruiting on the spot, and whether you take Germany, France, or Russia the testimony is unanimous that you cannot raise a compulsory and a voluntary army out of the same material at the same time; that as soon as you apply compulsion you set up a 850 certain ideal. We see it in other things. For example, we all pay taxes to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I am not sure that any of your Lordships—certainly I do not—offer any benevolences in addition. Whenever an ideal is set up by the State we are prone to take it as a part of our duty, and in no case is that proved to be more markedly so than in Germany with its great military system, a system which is very highly appreciated on the whole by the people of that country. On the Continent the experience seems to me to be conclusive that if we had the compulsory system we could not rely on getting that enormous stream of Volunteers which we require for keeping up what is a necessity of our Empire—the greatest Army overseas maintained in peace that the world has ever seen, and, as I believe, the most efficient. But it is said, "You have not conclusively proved that you will not get them." The burden is not on me. I am content and thankful to be able to see the over-seas garrisons backed up anti the Expeditionary Army recruited as under the present system, and when I am asked to take to another system, that of compulsion, I have the feelings of a man who has a modest fortune invested in Consols on which he depends for his existence, and is invited to sell the Consols and invest the proceeds in a glittering gold mine of which he is handed the prospectus. My noble friend puts forward the prospectus, but that prospectus is not sufficiently attractive to induce me to sell out my Consols and invest my fortune, small though it may be, in his gold mine upon the inviting prospectus which be offers me.
My Lords, it is a great thing to get your numbers in the way compulsory service gives them to you, but there are worse things than having to struggle for numbers. It would be a worse thing if you did not get your numbers at all. My noble friend says, "How short you are falling with voluntary service"; and he says that my original idea was to raise the peace establishment to 900,000 men in place of the miserable Territorial establishment of 300,000 to which I have been driven. But, my Lords, I never said that I proposed to raise a peace establishment of 900,000 men. What happened was this. A noble friend of mine, Lord Wemyss, in a speech he made said that I had said it, and it got all over the country, and I have never been able to get rid of it. I wrote a letter to The 851 Times which appeared about three years ago, and it is there for your Lordships to see, in which I quoted what T did say. The quotation by my noble friend was from a speech of mine at Newcastle in September, 1906, in which I said that in time of war if this country were invaded and if we had this Territorial Force and the County Associations the men would pass through the Territorial Force, and with the Special Reserve and the Regulars we had at home we should be able to develop in great stress of war and national necessity 700,000, 800,000, or even 900,000 men. I included, as your Lordships will observe, the Regulars and the Special Reserve in that. I say so now; but that has nothing to do with the peace organisation, and I take this opportunity of saying that never at any time was I sanguine enough to think that I could get anything like as much as 900,000 men on a voluntary basis. I make my noble friend a present of that admission.
I have already detained your Lordships too long. What I feel is that we dare not try to organise a Continental army for this country. In the first place, I do not believe that the quality under my noble friend's plans would be nearly as good as that of the smaller Expeditionary Army of to-day, and, in the second place, you would imperil India and India is your greatest necessity. It is infinitely better to be weak from a military point of view on the Continent than to be weak in India. I am sure that our safest course, if India and the over-seas Colonies be our first concern, is to work with the Cardwell system. I know its limitations, but I also know its advantages. Its great advantage is this, that it gives you in your First Line Army—and I make all the distinction in the world between the First Line Army and the Second Line Army—a large number of highly-trained Reservists, more highly trained than the Reservists of any country in the world, who mobilise with your Regulars and make efficient fighting battalions.
Reference has been made to South Africa. I believe, notwithstanding what has been said, that we performed a wonderful feat there under the leadership of my noble friend. I ask what other nation in the world could have sent a quarter of a million men, and there were more, to fight at that distance over-seas? Has any 852 Power on the Continent an organisation adapted for that purpose? Not one. With their land frontiers they develop all their strength in the organisation of enormous citizen armies, highly-trained First Line troops for short campaigns but not trained for over-seas, as they only can be organised if you proceed on the basis of a voluntary system. My noble friend said that the Regular Army has been reduced in numbers and that it was no better than it was before, except, perhaps, in training. But I think the noble and gallant Field-Marshal has overlooked the whole effect of modern mobilisation arrangements based on the new organisation. What has been done is this. Those engaged at the War Office have worked with patience and determination during the last five years to put every arm, every auxiliary requirement, and every element in the Expeditionary Force into its proper proportion, and I believe at this moment that but for horses we can mobilise the whole six Divisions. It is a mistake to think that we are in such difficulty for officers as is supposed. We have provided for that, although I know we should have to draw a very heavy draft on the depots and units at home. Still, we have taken these things into account, and we are improving the system still further. Horses, I admit, are a great difficulty, but I hope shortly to have proposals to lay before your Lordships which may materially at any rate improve our prospects as regards the mobilisation of horses.
The Expeditionary Force is organised as our over-sea Army was never organised before, and the result is that. with fewer men—and I admit I have reduced—you can mobilise a large force and much more swiftly. I do not mean that it would not have been an advantage to have had these nine battalions if you could have added to them the other things that were requisite, but I had to choose between having an Army imperfect in its organisation, and an Army smaller in numbers but perfect, so that it was capable of more ready mobilisation; and, speaking for myself, I think that the quality compensates for the loss there has been in quantity. After all, my Lords, what were the reductions? They consisted of nine battalions, one of them being a very fine battalion of Guards. As to the other eight battalions, one was a battalion of Infantry created during the war and very short in numbers, and for 853 the rest they consisted of Chinese troops, Colonial coloured troops, miscellaneous Garrison Artillery, and other troops. The main reduction was the nine battalions of which I have spoken, and under other arms increases were made. That being so, I cannot accept the proposition of my noble friend that the Expeditionary Army is in a bad condition to-day. I believe it is in a very good condition. Bear in mind that it is purely for second line defence that the Territorial Army is wanted. The existence of the Territorial Force is justified for that purpose. I believe that the Special Reserve is a better force than the Militia. Its numbers are less, but it supplies what, the General Staff has worked out as the requisites for finding drafts and providing for the wastage of war during the early period of a war. Therefore I cannot accept the foundation on which my noble friend has based his case.
Let me hasten to say that I have always agreed with the value of physical training. I have always thought that the elements of discipline which military training gives, and the organisation which it brings, are good, and I would gladly join hands with him in any proposition to improve what I believe to be a shortcoming in our national education. I am speaking for myself in this. I have always held that the years from the age of fourteen to seventeen under our system in the education of boys shows a great gap in intellectual training. That is the period during which we manufacture hooligans instead of that finer type to be seen in our Boys Brigades and Boy Scouts; and if the proposition of my noble friend were to extend new functions to the Education Department in this respect I should, speaking for myself individually, cordially welcome the proposal. But I cannot think that to begin by calling upon the War Office to deal with boys of eighteen is a good thing from the point of view of our Regular Army system. My first purpose has been to show your Lordships what I submit you are invited to accept under the cover of this Motion, and my second purpose has been to show that our existing system is not the outcome of slackness or of a narrow conservatism, but the inevitable result of our strategical position geographically and historically, and I believe it to be the only system that suits us, and the only one that is really possible for us, island Empire as we are. Let us, therefore, beware lest 854 impulsively, in the desire to better our position, without considering where we are going we take a step which inflicts upon our military organisation a lasting injury.
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
My Lords, the noble Viscount, in a moving passage in the earlier part of his speech, drew a picture of himself sitting at the feet of the military experts of the War Office imbibing from them military wisdom. Some of us were under the impression that the process of inspiration had been rather of an opposite kind, and that in some cases at any rate it was rather the Secretary of State who had inspired the military expert than the military expert who had instructed the Secretary of State. But, be that as it may, there is evidently one generally accepted doctrine of strategy, which, whether he has derived it from his advisers at the War Office or from some other quarter, the noble Viscount has thoroughly laid to heart—that is the principle that the best defensive is a bold offensive. He is called upon to-night to answer a formidable charge brought against the efficiency of the military forces of the Crown to discharge the various duties involved in the protection of this country and Empire. It is a difficult task that he has to perform in proving that efficiency. How has he discharged it? He has discharged it by devoting far the, greater and the more energetic portion of his speech, not to any proof of the adequacy of our existing arrangements, but to a spirited attack upon a particular chapter in a particular book recently published which advocates a different military system from our own. I do not propose to follow the noble Viscount in the detailed exposition with which his speech concluded of the actual existing perfection of our military forces, or at least of the Regular Army Other speakers will come after me who are far more competent than I am to deal with the details of that question. What I wish simply to dwell upon are certain general considerations of policy and strategy which lead us to question the adequacy of our military system as a whole.
I cannot too strongly emphasise the fact that this Motion is not in any sense an attack upon the administration of the noble Viscount personally. We recognise his zeal, his ability, and the many improvements in detail which he has introduced, and we are impressed—at least, speaking; 855 for myself, I am always greatly impressed—by the minute command, admirable in a layman, which he possesses of a subject so difficult, so complicated, and requiring as a rule so much expert knowledge to handle. My Lords, this is not a personal question and it is not a Party question. In my humble opinion no Party and no Government in this country is in a position to throw stones at any other with regard to our military policy. From my point of view the problem has remained unsolved because it has never been courageously grappled with. The noble Viscount may be making bricks without straw as deftly, more deftly, perhaps, than any of his predecessors. But that does not alter the fact that as it seems to some of us, and for reasons which I will briefly try to explain, it is not possible for him under the conditions which he has laid down for himself, or perhaps it would be fairer to him to say under the conditions which he regards as inherent in. the circumstances of the case, to organise our military forces in such a manner as to deal effectively, not with all imaginable dangers, not with the logically possible (because I fully agree with the noble Viscount that we are not called upon to prepare against every danger which is logically possible), but with reasonably probable and I might almost say imminent contingencies.
I always feel a certain hesitation when I venture to address your Lordships on questions of this nature, speaking as a layman to a House which contains so many men of great military authority and military experience. But I am emboldened in this case by some words which were used by the noble Viscount himself in his preface to that much discussed book of Sir Ian Hamilton's on "Compulsory Service." The noble Viscount there wrote—The problem of our strategy is a problem which our history as a nation shows to have been one not for soldiers alone. It is too large and too far-reaching to be so confined.I agree, and I agree also with the noble Viscount, as I believe we all do, that the command of the sea is "the essential foundation of our strategy." Where I perhaps differ from him is in my belief that a certain very considerable measure of military strength—not such a degree of military strength certainly as is possessed by 856 the great Continental Powers, but a far greater degree than we either possess or aspire to under our present system—is requisite in order to ensure that command of the sea. The noble Viscount himself is far from disregarding the necessity for a highly-trained military force. I will use his own words—A long range Army capable of rapidly assuming the offensive and striking a blow wherever it would be most effective.But does he seriously maintain that the Expeditionary Force is large enough, or could be put into the field rapidly enough, or could be maintained at its original strength long enough, to exercise any considerable effect upon a great Continental war? I do not refer to such an absurdity as the idea of its striking an effective blow against a Continental Power, if we were engaged with that Power single-handed. The point is that we are not, I believe, strong enough, to give effective assistance to an ally or allies on the Continent of Europe; and that, my Lords, goes to the root of this very important question of the command of the sea.
The matter is so important that I venture, at the risk of being thought to repeat myself, to say once more to your Lordships, that we are too apt to think that we can maintain the command of the sea simply by willing it, by building more and more ships, and by out-building any possible rival or combination of rivals. We may possibly out-build a single Power, or perhaps two Powers. But, after all, there is a limit to our resources in this respect. We can build against one Power, or perhaps against two Powers, but we cannot build against the Continent of Europe; and if the balance of power on the Continent, which it has been our policy for centuries to try and uphold as bearing vitally upon this question of the command of the sea, were to be finally upset, I say it would be impossible for us to build against the combination of navies which might in that case be brought against us. That is the vital connection which seems to me to exist between, I do not say an army of Continental size, but an Army which can make itself felt and be of effective assistance to allies in a Continental struggle—that is the vital connection between the maintenance of such an Army and the command of the sea. In order to help to 857 maintain the balance of power in Europe we need to-day, precisely as we have always needed in the past, such a degree of military strength as will prevent our becoming a negligible quantity on land. And when we are warned, as we constantly are, that in urging the necessity of an increase of our present military strength we run the risk of impairing what is very much more important, our supremacy at sea, I am hound to say that I ask myself, though it may be a heresy, whether we have not now got to a point at which, even in the interest of the command of the sea, an increase in our military strength is not the most pressing strategical necessity.
I pass from that to consider the second of what appear to me to be the three vital points with which, on the broad question of strategy, we have to deal. I refer to the position as regards the defence of our oversea Possessions. It may be said that, though the Expeditionary Force, owing to its small numbers, could not exercise any important influence upon a Continental struggle, yet that is not its principal business—that its principal duty is the defence of our oversea Possessions, and especially of India. I do not deny that this certainly is one of its principal duties. But then I ask myself—leaving the question of participation in a Continental war entirely out of sight—whether, even for the discharge of this duty, of efficiently defending our oversea Possessions, we are at present adequately equipped. Why should any one consider that we are We were confronted a little more than twelve years ago with a serious danger—the first serious danger which had threatened any part of our overseas Empire for perhaps thirty years. And although we successfully overcame that danger, and although it may be true, as the noble Viscount says, that no other Power could have similarly overcome it, surely we cannot contemplate with equanimity the expenditure of 200 millions of money and 20,000 or more lives whenever a danger no greater than that arising from the opposition of two small Republics, whose total force did not exceed 90,000 men, confronts the British Empire on any of its frontiers. However much we may have admired the skill of our Generals, the gallantry of our soldiers, or the toughness of the country which carried us through, in spite of inadequate prepara- 858 tion, there was at the time very little satisfaction felt at the display which we then made of military preparedness or unpreparedness.
A very strong Royal Commission laid it down that our military system, and especially the Expeditionary Force for the defence of our oversea Possessions, suffered from one radical defect. That defect has been dwelt upon by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. It was the lack of power of expansion. But what has happened in tile last ten years to increase that power of expansion to any material degree? You have had the Special Reserve substituted for the Militia; the Volunteers have been re-christened the Territorial Army, and no doubt their organisation has -been considerably improved. But what is there in all this to fill the enormous, yawning gap in our military preparations which our experience in the Boer War revealed? Substantially the position as regards our power of expansion is unaltered to-day. As long as that remains the case, no criticism of others will exempt the Government of the day from the duty which rests upon every Government, though none has yet tackled it, of remedying that which experience has proved, and which the Royal Commission just referred to has laid down, to be the radical defect of our military system—the want of the power of expansion as affecting the Expeditionary Force required for the defence of our oversea Possessions.
Lastly, let me ask this: If our military system as it exists to-day leaves us a negligible quantity on land in any struggle for the maintenance of the balance of power in Europe, upon which our supremacy at sea depends; if from lack of the power of expansion it is unsatisfactory even from the point of view of the defence of our oversea Possessions, how do we stand with regard to the defence of these islands? We are told—the noble Viscount has insisted on it to-night, as he has often insisted on it before—that the virtual defence of these islands rests with the Navy. Yes, but what does that involve '? Even the most optimistic view of the power of the Navy to provide absolute defence for these islands rests or the assumption that the Navy can always be concentrated upon that particular duty, and consequently that no considerable portion of our naval 859 force has been detached from the duty of defending our shores. Unless the main body of the Fleet is devoted to the defence of these islands, that security. upon which we rely does not exist; and if the main body of the Fleet is always to be devoted to this purpose, then it is plain that it cannot do what it has done in the past, and what it might be essential it should be able to do in the future—that is to say, detach a considerable force for the protection of some distant part of our Empire. It is not only the Expeditionary Force which may be required for the defence of our oversea Possessions. The Navy may have to play a considerable part in that defence.
We talk about the command of the sea, but the most that we have at the present moment is the command of the narrow seas. One of the most regrettable changes in the strategic position in recent times is the fact that we no longer exercise that command of the sea, in distant oceans, which we formerly did. And. my Lords, is it not to a large extent due to our military weakness at home, to our anxiety about an inadequately-protected base, that that contraction of our naval power—the concentration of all the energies of the Navy upon the defence of these islands, to the detriment of its efficacy for the defence of the Empire—is largely due? it is in order that the Navy may give us that absolute protection, which alone would enable even the noble Viscount to rest satisfied with our present forces for home defence, that it is obliged to relax its former grip of other seas than those which immediately surround these islands. That to my mind, is the strongest condemnation of our military system as it at present exists—that neither the Expeditionary Force nor the Navy can be set free from the primary duty of the defence of these islands. It is a strange thing that the advocates of this essentially and purely defensive policy should reproach us, who wish to train the people of this country so that they may set free their regular Army and Navy for service in any portion of the world, with adopting a purely defensive attitude, and failing to realise the supreme importance for successful warfare of a policy of offence.
The noble Viscount has assumed that in the case of a bolt from the blue the Expeditionary Force would still be in this country. But that is just what I think is the least likely: I have said that I fully agree as to 860 the necessity of not exaggerating the dangers to which we are exposed, and I entirely deprecate the policy of imagining a conjunction of all possible disasters. But there is one conjunction of dangers which, so far from being impossible or unlikely, is so very probable that as reasonable men we cannot exclude it from our calculations; and that is that the bolt from the blue—or, not to put it quite so strongly, let us say a serious European danger—should arise at the time and perhaps in consequence of our being involved in trouble over the defence of some of our distant Possessions. It seems to me that, if there is any Power which envies our Possessions or our position in the world, it is precisely at the moment when we were involved in serious difficulties in India or Egypt that we should be likely to have that Power on our backs. That would be the moment at which the Expeditionary Force would be required elsewhere. Should we in these circumstances have the courage to send it, indeed, should we be justified in sending it? And the same applies to the despatch of such a naval force as might be necessary for the defence of our oversea Possessions.
It is very disagreeable to have to put hypotheses, in which you name or point to particular Powers. I am very reluctant to do it, but we are obliged sometimes, without offence to any nation, to put cases of this kind. We are at present discharged from the duty of policing the Eastern seas with our Fleet because of our alliance with Japan. But what of a position in which that alliance no longer existed, or a position in which our friendship had been converted into enmity, and we were called upon to protect or to assist in protecting, say, the North of Australia from invasion by a Power which had both considerable naval and military strength? Surely that is not such a wildly improbable contingency, nor is it in the least improbable that, if such a difficulty arose, it would arise concurrently with troubles in which we might be involved nearer home. And then we should be confronted with this dilemma—either we must retain the Expeditionary Force and the Navy here for the protection of these islands, in which case we should lose one portion of our Empire, or we should strike a bold blow for the defence of the threatened portion of the Empire, in which case we should no longer enjoy that absolute protection, or anything like that absolute protection, 861 against the invasion of these islands upon which the noble Viscount relies.
Now, my Lords, I ask is it really an unreasonable demand that we should have such a defensive force in this country, as would enable us, without fear, to part with the whole of our Expeditionary Force and its Reserves if it were necessary to do so at some critical moment in the defence of our oversea Empire? I maintain that that is not an unreasonable demand, and that it would not place a strain upon either our manhood or our resources greater than we can and ought to bear. I am not suggesting that we should attempt to rival the great Continental Powers in the extent of their military preparations. I am not ignoring the immense advantages which we enjoy in consequence of our island position, but I do say that in relying absolutely for the defence of these islands upon the Navy we are abusing the privileges of that island position. We are presuming too far upon it. The least we have a right to ask—and I believe that if it were firmly asked by leading Statesmen it would be obtained front the people of this country—is that they should undergo, for the protection of their liberties and of all those great blessings which they enjoy above all other nations, such a degree of military training as would enable the manhood of this country as civilian soldiers to protect our shores and set both the Expeditionary Force and the Navy absolutely free, if need be, for the defence of the Empire.
§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS)
My Lords, the services which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal has rendered to this country are so considerable, and the authority with which he speaks upon military matters is so universally acknowledged in this House, that it is with the greatest deference that I venture to stand here and differ from the views which he has put forward to-night. But, after all, although it is the duty of experts to advise, the civilian mind must in the last resort judge as between experts, and we can none of us shirk the responsibility of forming our own opinion upon the views put forward by experts, even though they may be so acknowledged as those of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. My Lords, we are here to-night to resist a concerted, though long delayed, attack upon the efficiency and the sufficiency of our 862 military preparations. But what struck me as curious this evening is that neither the proposer of this Resolution nor the noble Viscount who has just spoken in support of it, although they have in general terms arraigned the military preparations of the Crown, put forward in any shape whatever anything like a detailed or even a general outline of the scheme which they would put in the place of our present arrangements. For that we are left to whatever guidance we can obtain from t he book, part of which has been written by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, entitled "Fallacies and Facts," although I understand he does not wholly identify himself with the conclusions and some of the details of the second part of that book, in which the proposed alternative which might be set up in place of our present arrangement is gone into in some detail.
Now, my Lords, lea me re-state what our position on this side of the House is. We consider that the military problem is intimately connected with the naval problem, and we believe that as long as we have supremacy at sea we have a very different problem before us from that which confronts ordinary Continental nations, and, from the military point of view, we claim that our system secures the maintenance of our foreign garrisons in India and other Colonial Possessions. It provides its with an Expeditionary Force quire equal to the task of dealing with those small wars which are incidental to the possession of a great Empire; and, further, in the Territorial Army we have a force which in itself, and also with the assistance of that part of the Regular Army which does not form part of the Expeditionary Force, is sufficient to compel an invading army to come in such numbers as would not easily escape detection by our Navy. That is our position. But I notice that the criticisms which are made against this position are always on the ground of the possibility of the invasion of this country, or, which is another part of it, of the tethering to the shores of this country of battleships which it is said, and said with truth, ought to have complete freedom of range. Just observe what the invasionists must assume to make -heir position tenable. They must assume five things to be coexistent. In the first place, this country must be at war with two Powers, and we must be without allies. Then those two Powers must be either America and Germany, or Russia and Germany, because 863 it is conceded that these are the parts of our Empire where the greatest frontier line exists, and where, consequently, the greatest military effort will be needed. I refer to Afghanistan, against Russian invasion of India, or on the frontier between Canada and the United States. Consequently we should have to he at war with Russia owing to a threatened invasion of India by Russia, or else we should have to be at war with the United States in consequence of a threatened invasion of Canada, and at that moment, quite unexpectedly, Germany is to make a descent upon our shores.
Another assumption of the invasionists is that the whole of our Expeditionary Force is absent at the time of the descent on our shores. They also assume the partial or temporary loss of our command of the sea, owing either to the defeat of our Navy or to its absence. They further must assume that this bolt from the blue comes in the early stages of the war, because admittedly, after a period of six months at any rate, the Territorials are very much improved in fighting value. Consequently the invasion, if it is to come at all, must come very early in the campaign. Next, they assume that there is to be a completely successful landing of the whole of the invading army, not one transport is to go astray, not one mishap to overtake the invaders, and, further, the immediate destruction is to follow of the whole of the Territorial Force in this country, and also of those 100,000 Regulars, or more, who form part of the Regular Army but do not form part of the First Line of the Expeditionary Force. In considering the possibility of invasion we have been criticised because it has been said—the noble and gallant Field-Marshal said it also—that the enemy are going to be so considerate as to come where we want and when we want them to, and to give us due notice of their coining. I do not admit that at all. But if we make such an assumption then these five other assumptions that I have alluded to, under which alone invasion is possible, are, I submit, very much greater ones.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
May I ask the noble Lord who has made those five assumptions? It would be interesting to know.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
The noble Lord will find that it is only on the acceptance of those assumptions that the theory of invasion becomes at all tenable. 864 Unless the Expeditionary Force is absent we shall not only have the Territorials and the Regulars, but we shall have the whole of the Expeditionary Force amounting to about 170,000 men. Does the noble Lord consider that the flower of the British Army is not capable of meeting 70,000 invaders? Of course, it is. He must assume the absence of the Expeditionary Force, otherwise the whole of his argument tumbles to the ground; and if he goes through the assumptions I have alluded to, he will find that every one of those contingencies will have to be assumed before the invasionist theory has any sort of reality at all or anything in it to frighten anybody.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
You have to assume those five things. They are assumed by all authorities. They may not be assumed by the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, but they are assumed by all authorities. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal has referred to them in the book he has issued to the public, and the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, in a speech in this House I think about two years ago, admitted that in order to make the possibility of invasion anything like a real menace you must assume that we should be taken unprepared, that the whole of our Expeditionary Army would be absent, and that our Fleet would be either lured away to some distant place or had suffered some temporary defeat. The Leader of the Opposition made that admission himself, and it was in consequence of that admission that he scouted the idea of the imminence of an invasion of these shores. When I consider all the assumptions that are necessary to the argument for invasion, I am led to the belief that, although it is on that ground that noble Lords opposite make an appeal to the public, their real object is very different from that which they disclose, and in that respect I think I am borne out by the admissions of the noble. Viscount, Lord Milner.
The noble Viscount admitted that it was not so much a question of home defence as a question of having to participate in some great war on the Continent, or the loss of the command of the sea, which caused him anxiety. The real object of these criticisms is to produce an Army 865 which is capable either of intervening with effect on the Continent of Europe, or that the authors of these proposals fear in their minds that we may at some time in the future lose that command of the sea which we at present enjoy. With regard to that I have this to say, that neither of those two propositions appears to me to be imminent. For the time at any rate we have the command of the sea, and should we lose that command it might certainly be necessary for us to reconsider our position and see whether that loss, partial or complete, could be made up for by greater military preparations. It might then, indeed, be necessary; but so long as we do hold command of the sea I really do not think it is necessary for us to consider what our position might become if our command of the sea was lost or impaired.
With regard to the question of what part we are able to play in Europe in carrying out what is said to be our traditional policy of holding the balance of power in Europe, in the first place I have to say that there, again, I do not see that any great disturbance of the balance of power in Europe is imminent. There is no sign that we are going to enter upon a new Napoleonic age which would necessitate our making great sacrifices, as we did during his time, to preserve the balance of power and prevent the absorption and destruction of the smaller European States. No doubt if such a contingency arose we might have to reconsider our military position, as we did then, but I think it is a great mistake to assume that we are at the present time debarred from taking any part in European affairs and from playing any important part in the maintenance of the balance of power. Does the noble and gallant Field-Marshal mean to say that our Expeditionary Force would be quite valueless for that purpose?
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
The noble and gallant Field-Marshal says it would be practically valueless. But surely he does not contemplate that our Expeditionary Force should single-handed engage any one of the European Powers. What he contemplates, I imagine, is that in the case of a war between European Powers we might throw into the scale what military forces we possess.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
Well, my Lords, if that is the proposition, I submit with great deference that the six Divisions that we are able to send abroad would not be such a negligible quantity as the noble Earl seems to think. In the first place, our Array, small though it might be, would, man for man, be a very much better force that any of the conscript levies of the Continent. Surely the noble and gallant Field-Marshal does not mean to tell your Lordships' House that British soldiers who have served on an average seven years with the Colours, stiffened as they will be by some of the Reserve who have passed through the ranks, are not better, man for man, than any of the conscript levies of Europe? I should be very much surprised if the noble Earl were to rise in his place and tell your Lordships that. But, whatever his estimate may be of the value of British troops man for man, surely it is going a long way to say that this country is incapable of playing any important part in maintaining the balance of European power which is considered necessary for our interests when it possesses such a military force as we possess and such a preponderance of naval power as is ours to-day.
Coming back to the only source of definite proposals on this subject—the book issued under the authority of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal—I see that the writer of the second part of that book clearly has in mind the necessity of our intervening in European affairs. What he proposes is not only a long service Army by which the Empire may be garrisoned, with a very small striking force behind it, but also a short service Army capable of playing an important part in European affairs. My noble friend the Secretary of State for War has drawn your Lordships' attention to the fact that this short service Army would be not nearly so good, man for man, as our present striking force. But observe what the proposal involves. The proposal of the writer of the second part of this book involves this, that he admits that we should have to get 70,000 recruits a year for the long service Army and for the short service Army, and he admits that 70,000 recruits can only be obtained by the indirect pressure of compulsion for home defence. He says—Only indirect pressure of compulsion for home defence would make this possible.867 It is difficult for me to understand quite how that compulsion would come into play. Put yourselves in the position of an individual who has got to submit to a very short period of training in the national Militia, and who, to escape that, volunteers to enter the short service Army which involves a period of one or two years service. Of course it may be that the longer military service may appear to a man who is unwilling to serve to be less onerous than a shorter military service; but personally I think we must admit that to trust to that, and to that alone, to fill up the ranks of the short service and the long service Armies is to indulge in a very great gamble.
I do not suppose anybody would deny that there is a great advantage from au Imperial point of view in possessing a long service professional Army. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal, I think, would himself admit that any proposals which weakened or destroyed that arm of our service would be disastrous. The question then arises in its simplest form whether, in view of the fact that the Territorial Forces are not up to their strength, and according to noble Lords opposite not even then sufficiently numerous, it is possible for a voluntary service to co-exist with a compulsory service? The noble and gallant Field-Marshal alluded to an observation which I made in this House last year to the effect that I did not believe that the British people would accept a compulsory system except as the result of a disaster such as I indicate. Does the noble and gallant Field-Marshal deny that fact? Does he think that the people of this country would accept a compulsory system unless it was brought home to them and they realised it as the result of some disaster?
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
The noble Lord, I think, interrupted me when I made this observation before. I am glad to have an opportunity of putting my position before him, because I do not think he understood it. But may I first conclude what I was saying. Does the noble Lord think that the country is prepared at the present moment to adopt a national system of compulsory service? 868 If he does not think so, his duty is to go and educate and try and convert the country to his way of thinking, instead of admonishing Ministers.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
If the noble Lord can persuade the country as to the necessity of compulsory service he will then be in a very different position from that in which he is at the present moment. I do not think that at present the country is prepared for such a change, and I doubt myself whether anything short of a disaster would make them attempt it. Your Lordships will remember, to take the ease of France that it was only the disaster of 1870 that made them adopt compulsory service. Before that they had a different system. The real question is whether it is possible to combine our voluntary service Army, effective as it is for oversea purposes and campaigns of considerable duration, with a compulsory system for home service? Of course, it is not very easy to say; but I observe that writers on this subject rely to a considerable extent upon the fact that the three-year service men, for which system the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, is responsible, signed on for the longer engagement in the proportion of 40 per cent. I do not myself think that that is any guide as to what might happen under the system we are now considering, because, in the first place, those 40 per cent. were only got, many of them, as the result of very considerable bonus inducements, and, in the second place, they belonged to a class of men who had volunteered for military service; they were not the class of men with whom we are concerned when we are considering how far the national conscript Militia would be available for voluntary service. They were men who intended to take up a military career from the start, and the only question in their minds was whether they would serve for three years or for a longer period.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Will the noble Lord forgive me? He has left out one great inducement to those men not to extend. If they did not extend they had to look forward to nine years in the Reserve at fid a day for doing nothing unless the Reserve happened to be called out. That would not be the case under Lord Roberts's measure.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
In any case, you cannot take the 40 per cent. as at all representative of the percentage that might be expected to volunteer in the national Militia for the short or long service Army. Perhaps it has no bearing on the subject at all, but, anyhow, it is no indication whatever as to the percentage that would volunteer under the system proposed by the National Service League, because they are a different class of men altogether. Another thing upon which the promoters of this scheme rely is that 40,000 Special Reservists enter the Army every year. Neither is this a fact which gives us very much enlightenment on the subject, because nobody knows better than the noble Viscount himself that the Special Reserve, or Militia as it was in those days, is one of the recognised doors by which the Army is entered. Some 80 per cent. of those 40,000 men, I venture to say, were men who failed to get into the Army direct, and who were told by the recruiting sergeants that if they would go and do six months in the Militia they would then pass the recruiting test. The noble Viscount knows that perfectly well, and, if that be so, then the fact that 40,000 Special Reservists entered the Army last year does not prove at all how many might be expected to enter the Army under the new circumstances. I feel that, whatever view we may take as to the desirability of substituting a compulsory national Militia for the Territorial Force, we do run a very grave risk that we may come to grief over our recruiting difficulties. If the recruits are not forthcoming, where are we indeed? We shall be in a much more difficult position than we are at the present time.
Then there is another point. If you develop a national Militia, it will no doubt be an expensive thing. What it will cost is difficult to say. It has been estimated to cost £4,000,000 more than the present Estimates; it has also been estimated to cost £9,000,000 more than the present Estimates; in any case the excess in cost will be considerable, and I venture to say that to some extent that additional cost will be met at the expense of the Regular Army. You will find that ultimately the financial problem will tell against the Regular Army. Once the nation has established a national Militia system, especially if on the compulsory basis, there will be a tendency to starve the Regular Army. That certainly is what has 870 happened in France. Ever since the French reversed their policy and substituted compulsory military service for the conscript service, they have found greater difficulties in maintaining either the numbers or the standard, or, indeed, the popularity of their foreign legions. Previous to 1870 the French possessed an Army which was capable of going anywhere and of playing an Imperial part. No doubt that Army was unsuitable for home defence. The German critics stated at the time that it was the French Imperial policy which brought about her downfall in 1870; and, much as she has improved her Army in other respects, she cannot be said to have improved her Army as an instrument for Imperial purposes.
It seems to me that on the whole the noble and gallant Field-Marshal and those who have spoken with him have not gone very far to make out a case for the proposals with which their names are associated. They have not given us, in this House at any rate, anything like a complete or detailed scheme of what they propose to set up in the place of our present military arrangements. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal contented himself with remarking that the fundamental defect of our Army was the voluntary training. That is a general assertion. The noble Viscount. Lord Milner, was still vaguer. He said that the people should have such a degree of military training as would enable them to protect our shores. I venture to suggest to those two noble Lords that it is one thing to make vague criticisms upon our military organisations and quite another to translate those criticisms into practice. If they were, as they may be, responsible for the protection of these shores and for the maintenance of our garrisons in India and in the Colonies, and were obliged to have regard to the possibility of having to meet those smaller wars with which our Imperial expansion is inevitably connected, I wonder whether they would be so ready to scrap the present system and substitute for it the rather vague proposals which have hardly been worked out and which are the property and the policy of the National Service League? At any rate they have not said enough to convince me, and I do not think to convince anybody sitting on this side of the House, of the wisdom or the necessity of their policy; and I only hope when noble Lords opposite come, as they will 871 do no doubt in time, to occupy the position of responsibility from which they are at present divorced, they will give this question more definite and more earnest consideration before they take the step they contemplate.
My Lords, in rising to speak on the Motion which has been so forcibly and at the same time so eloquently moved by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, I trust the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War will not consider that I wish to approach this question in any political or Party spirit—nothing is further from my thoughts—or with any desire to disparage what we all recognise as his honest endeavour to solve the problem of Imperial and national defence on economic lines. I believe that is the wish of every Member of your Lordships' House, although there are some of us who do not find ourselves in agreement with the noble Viscount as to the best way of solving the problem of how to increase our military efficiency and at the same time decrease the expenditure thereon. Nevertheless, I am sure we all recognise the many difficulties that the noble Viscount has had to contend with and the strenuous work he has put into the solving of the problem, and I venture to think that he will be the first to acknowledge that without the loyal support of so many members of your Lordships' House, on both sides, his Territorial scheme would not have made the headway it undoubtedly has attained. I am sure every one of us will agree that to those who have come forward in that true patriotic spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice and joined that Force all honour is due, more especially when we recognise that the services of those recruits who have joined the Territorial Army are purely voluntary in the true sense of the word. I make use of the phrase "voluntary in the true sense of the word" because we are always hearing that our Army is recruited on a voluntary basis. I think that any one who has been in the Army for any length of time must know that the majority of recruits are not recruited voluntarily in the true sense of the word, but simply owing to stress of unfortunate circumstances.
The noble and gallant Earl has often reminded us in this House that not only is a strong and invincible Navy requisite for the defence of this vast Empire, but that a strong military force is also absolutely 872 essential for the safeguarding of its interests all over the world. I venture to think that past history has shown us the truth of that—namely, that Fleets alone have never brought any war to a satisfactory conclusion, but that it always has to be fought to a final decision on land, whether the assailants be island States or not. We had good experience of Russo-Japanese War. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal has told to-night that in his opinion our forces are inadequate—at any rate our forces are forces—and therefore he considers that our country is in danger. Such a statement coming from one who must be regarded as the greatest military expert in this House would appear some justification. My Lords, I regret to think that it can be justified, and for this reason. We know very well that there is all over the Continent at the present time a widespread feeling of dislike against this country. This feeling has not emanted from one cause, but from many, and the most powerful of all is envy of this great country and its prosperity, which I contend constitutes a real and growing danger.
I think the statement can be justified for yet another reason. We know only too well that all foreign Powers have determined to prepare for war on sound and scientific lines, whilst we, on the other hand, have failed to do so by simply declining or neglecting to base our military organization on any definite or accepted principle. My reason for saying that is that no one at the present time can even pretend to say for what functions the different branches of His Majesty's military forces are intended, or on what basis the numbers of those different forces are set down, and no explanation as a rule is forthcoming as to why a particular force is proposed to be increased or decreased. I will endeavour to prove my statements with regard to that. In doing so I would like to refer to a force with which I have been connected for some years, and which I have had the honour now of commanding for over thirteen years as the old constitutional force, the Militia, was a few years age transformed into a new force new force now known as the Special Reserve, and twenty-seven of its battalions were changed and called Extra Reserve battalions. Every one of 873 those battalions was reduced in establishment both in officers and men for some unknown reason, although they had more important functions to perform, and we were then told that the functions of the rank and file of the Special Reserve were to make good the wastage of war among the Regular battalions, whilst the officers of these Special Reserve battalions were told that their duty was to ensure that all units, services and departments were complete in officers on mobilisation. The rank and file of the extra reserve battalions were told that they were to work by units and to be available to reinforce oversea garrisons in time of war, or to reinforce the Army in the field. Owing to the undoubted shortage both of officers and men, more especially among the junior ranks in that force—and when we know that the rank and file of the Special Reserve comprise merely a few Militiamen whose time in 1914 will expire there remain in the Force only a few immature lads who have failed for some weakness or another to pass on into the Regular Army—for these reasons I have not the least hesitation in saying, and I say it with regret, that the Special Reserve would be unable to perform on mobilisation the functions for which it has been designed, and I venture to think that my noble friend Lord Salisbury, who also, like myself, has commanded a Special Reserve battalion for many years ill conjunction with the Militia, will endorse that assertion.
The recent military debates in another place clearly illustrated in my opinion the lack of knowledge of military matters possessed by the majority of the Members of the other House, because on reading through the Debates it will be noticed that very little mention was made of the Special Reserve, which any one with any military experience will be aware is in a most unsatisfactory state at the present time. I am aware, however, that there are certain Members in the other House, I hope not many, who advocate peace at any price, and who suggest that because we have alliances and ententes with other countries our naval and military expenditure should be greatly reduced. To those individuals I would venture to suggest that an alliance is only made when sonic mutual gain is to accrue thereby, and that an agreement of that kind should be regarded as a question not of sentiment 874 but of business. If that is so, surely it is safer to act as we have done in the past and rely upon our own right arm—that is, upon our naval and military resources; for, depend upon it, if a great and wealthy nation like our own is not prepared to take the field at short notice it must inevitably court disaster. There can be little doubt but that that pernicious system, which I regret to think has been so often practised in this country, of trying to economise by cutting down our military forces, has cost this country millions, whilst it only leads to fabulous expenditure when war threatens. Experience in the past should have taught us this lesson, that the essence of all military efficiency can only be obtained by judicious expenditure, and that money well spent on armaments is the best insurance against war that any country can obtain.
My Lords, the complaints which we are so constantly hearing in another place with regard to armaments should, in my opinion, be regarded as puerile and waste of time, for there can be little doubt that other countries are not going to reduce their armaments, and I believe that the race of armaments is likely to continue until we make up our minds to have an unquestionably supreme Navy and a National Army. The shortage of officers and men, not only in the Regular Army but in every other branch of our forces, emphasises the fact—I think proves it—that our voluntary system is beginning to break down, and that some other scheme will have to be adopted such as that advocated by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal of universal military training or service. If, as has been asserted, this country is not likely to entertain that idea, then, my Lords, we have but one alternative, and that is to spend far more money on our military forces than has been the case hitherto, more especially with regard to increased pay of officers, if those forces are to be equal in discipline, training, and numbers to the forces of those who may be regarded as our possible enemies. Our Colonies have begun to realise that their security is dependent on some form of universal military training, and is it an unreasonable question to ask why an Englishman, of all men in the world, should be exempt from performing the first duty of citizenship—that is to say, to learn to defend his country. I fail to understand 875 what are the objections. I know that some have been raised, and with your permission I will deal very shortly with a few of them.
One favourite argument of the opponents of this proposal, who are always so fond of designating it as Conscription, which is an absolute misnomer, is that it will interfere with our trade and industries. In reply, one might reasonably ask has it ever interfered with the trade and industries of France, Germany, and Russia? Facts prove that the reverse is the case, and that the more perfect the military training the better is the trade. That is exemplified in the case of Germany, who themselves attribute their industrial efficiency to their good military system. Another objection so often raised is that military training would harden a man and brutalise him. If that is true, how is it that Germany is well known at the present time to be far ahead of any civilised nation in the world in the matter of education? Also if that is the case how is it that German musicians, scientists, and doctors are well known all over the world, all of whom have gone through some form of naval or military training? There is one more objection that I would like to refer to. I think it is the worst, because in my opinion it savours of unpatriotism. It is said that it would be disastrous to any political Party who introduced such a system as universal military training. I do not believe that that is so. I am one of those who contend that the British working classes are patriotic to the backbone—that is to say, if they are taught patriotism—but whether I am right or wrong on that point I contend that questions affecting the Army and Navy are so vital to our Empire that they should not be regarded as within the pale of Party politics. No matter what our convictions with regard to other political matters may be, we should always remember that upon a statesmanlike solution of naval and military matters must depend the security and well being of our country, and that a false step or any injudicious action may result in such disastrous consequences that I am sure I am voicing the opinion of every member of your Lordships' House when I say that it should be our endeavour to do our best to prevent the possibility of such consequences arising. For these reasons, my Lords, I shall have great pleasure in supporting the Motion 876 moved by the noble and gallant Fie id-Marshal.[The sitting was suspended at fire minutes to eight o'clock, and resumed at a quarter past nine.]
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, the noble Lord who addressed the House from the other side shortly before the adjournment for dinner laid down several assumptions with which I think many members of this House are inclined to disagree. I do not propose to follow him at length into those assumptions, but if think one or two of them are worthy of some consideration, if only between himself and the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War. He started by laying down the assumption that invasion was absolutely impossible. It. seems fairly obvious that if invasion is utterly impossible the home defence Army is not required at all, and that is a point which I hope he will clear up with the noble Viscount opposite. Then he went on to state that before invasion was possible every kind of thing must happen—either a war with Russia or with the United States. I throw out the suggestion that it is possible that if we should have much unrest in India our Expeditionary Force would have to go there.
A great point has been made throughout the country, and it was touched upon by the noble Viscount, Lord Haldane, that Sir Arthur Wilson has furnished a Memorandum in which it is stated that invasion is practically impossible. I do not pretend to gauge how far such a qualification extends, but I venture to think that some qualification is necessary, and that for more than one reason. The noble Viscount went on to say that in all such questions affecting sea power it was obviously the naval experts who should be considered rather than the military experts. That is a statement with which every member is inclined to agree, but there is, perhaps, yet another expert who is to be considered, and that is the historian. I think if we examine history we will find that it has constantly been stated that invasion is practically if not altogether impossible, but it has not necessarily followed that invasion has not taken place. I would instance the Chief of the Russian Naval Staff referring to the question of the possibility of the Japanese landing troops in Manchuria before the war. He went so far as to state— 877So long as our fleet is not destroyed, the operations named are impossible.As every member of your Lordships' House is aware, the Japanese did land troops in Manchuria, and they did so before the Russian Fleet was altogether destroyed. We have an instance even in our own history, in Napoleon's invasion of Egypt. That invasion was undertaken by a considerable force, and. we certainly would have claimed to have had the command of the Mediterranean at that time. That invasion did not take place under the eyes of an Admiral who might he called an. incompetent fool, because the Commander-in-Chief of the British Navy at that time was Lord Nelson himself. It is perfectly true that Napoleon was extremely fortunate in escaping observation by the British Fleet, but fate, or luck, or Providence, or whatever you may call it, is just as likely to arise in the wars of the future as in the wars of the past. I think that even the Admiralty themselves support the view that they cannot really defend the shores of the British Empire. If that were not the case, it is surely obvious that all that would be required at coaling stations such as Malta, Bermuda, or the Mauritius, would be a sufficient force to prevent, pilfering from the dockyards and the observations of foreign spies. As it is, there are 1,700 Regular troops in Malta, apart altogether from the Colonial Corps which exists there. If the invasion of Malta was quite hopeless, I think that a few gunners would be all that would be required. But I need not press that point, because if invasion were really considered impossible it is quite obvious that there would be no occasion for a Home Army.
There are many members of your Lordships' House who are far better qualified than I am to discuss how great could be the strength of any force which might invade these islands. I do not, therefore, propose to go into that question at, all, but will take the War Office figure of 70,000 men. Now, suppose the Expeditionary Force of this country were away in India, or possibly elsewhere, there is virtually nothing left that is worth consideration except the Territorial Force of 270,000 men. Then supposing our Expeditionary Force had been away some time, and the greater part of the Special Reserve had been already called up to fill the ranks wasted by losses in battle and by sickness. 878 The Secretary of State for War rather ridiculed the idea that men after one year's training would be capable of meeting a Continental army. If that is the case, what can be said of troops that get ten drills per year, and. a fortnight's training? Because that is what the Territorial Force get. One year's training is not sufficient in the opinion of the Secretary of State for War. Therefore still less can fourteen days be sufficient for what is necessary.
The noble Viscount went on to allude to a speech made the other day by Colonel Repington, in which it was stated that three battalions of the Territorial Force were now at this moment the equivalent of one Regular battalion. As the Territorial Force numbers 270,000 men, and the possible figure of the invading army is placed at 70,000, it would follow on the surface that we have at the present time a surplus of Territorial troops. But, as every one knows, these Territorial troops are not in one particular place, or near a particular position where an invading force would land. They are scattered throughout the whole of Great Britain. No one knows better than the Secretary of State for War and the noble Lord who was so recently Under-Secretary that these troops are scattered more or less in brigades, and it would take a considerable time before they could be brought together to meet the invading force. So far from the Territorial Force being in the proportion of more than three to one to the invading force, the probabilities are that the proportion would be exactly in the inverse ratio.
Perhaps I might be allowed to give a personal analogy. Supposing I take four noble Lords opposite. I should not be allowed to pick noble Lords in any way, because the officers commanding the Territorial battalions have no means of picking their recruits. They must take the first that are offered. Supposing I took the first four noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite and suggested that they should be given ten lessons in boxing, and then put them into training for a fortnight, and at the end of that time put them into the ring and asked them to face the best professional boxer I could find. It is perhaps "logically possible" that the four noble Lords might be victorious, but I think it is far more "reasonably probable" that they would stiffer very considerable loss. Being a member of the Territorial Force and of a County Associa- 879 tion I venture to think that I cannot very well be accused of attacking this subject from an anti-Territorial point of view, but I do none the less contend that the Territorial Force is neither competent in numbers nor efficiency nor discipline for the work it might possibly be called upon to do.
Let me take the question of numbers first. I have already pointed out that the Territorial Force is scattered throughout Great Britain, and that therefore at any given point there would be very much less than three battalions to one of any possible invading force. Sir Ian Hamilton has said that supposing the Territorial Force were defeated, such a defeat would have a most disastrous effect. It is perfectly obvious that if the Territorials were put in the position of having to meet an invading army with an inferior force, defeat would be not only probable but certain, because they would be deficient not only in numbers, but also in training and efficiency. Take the question of discipline. I dare say some of your Lordships who have been in camp with the Territorials or have seen them at manœuvres, as I have constantly, will know that when the bugle for "lights out" is sounded, it is by no means a signal for silence in the camp, although, as we know, silence is one of the rules of all camps after "lights out." It is impossible to enforce that rule of silence, and that is because there is no discipline to enforce it upon the troops. If there is no discipline in a small point, is there any reason why there should be discipline in a great point, particularly when that point is emphasised by the personal element which arises in so many cases?
I do not wish to weary the House with minor points, but I desire to refer to a point as to military training. As many of your Lordships know, at any rate those who have shot in rapid competitions at Bisley, the physical exhaustion of keeping up rapid rifle fire is very considerable, and the only possible way to acquire that efficiency is by constant practice. I have pointed that out to a good many Territorial officers, and it is a fact with which they all agree. I have suggested that on field days they should train their troops by getting them to pick up targets in various directions, whether of advancing troops or particular objects, and getting them practised in constant and prolonged operations of rapid firing. Many of them have tried, but 880 nearly all have told me the same thing. They say that the troops will shoot for a certain time, and then they get bored with it and stop. Now, the military profession, like everything else, has a good deal of drudgery connected with it, and if you are only to give orders that are popular with the troops and not those that involve drudgery it is obvious that the training is going to be extremely faulty. Then on the question of training itself. Owing to the low trajectory and the very high carrying-power of the modern bullet, it will become, I think, more and more probable that a great deal of the operations of war will be carried on by night, and if it is difficult to attack by day it is twenty times more difficult to attack by night. But there comes a further consideration. The bullet is practically valueless at night, and the bayonet is considered by all experts the best weapon of offence and defence. So strongly do the Japanese realise the value of the bayonet that every one of their men is trained in barracks an hour every evening in exercises conducive to the strength of the arm and agility with the bayonet. Not only that, but every officer has to pass before his General in the use of the bayonet. How many men of the Territorial Force have ever been trained with the bayonet at all? If it were not for the competitions at the Military Tournament there would not be a couple of hundred men in the whole Force trained with the bayonet, and I think even now the number who know anything about bayonet fighting would not work out at one per cent. of the whole Force. The Japanese on every occasion when they met the Russians on a hill in about equal numbers were invariably, I believe, successful because of their greater skill with the bayonet. The Russians had also considerable skill with the bayonet, and so would any Continental army which invaded these islands. Yet we would propose to pit against these troops men never trained in any bayonet fighting at all, and who know nothing whatever about that part of the art of war.
I believe the Secretary of State for War has said that no one contends that the Territorial Force is ready at the present moment to meet an invading force. If they are not to get their training in peace, when are they to get it? We are told that when the Expeditionary Force is mobilised the Territorial Force is also to be mobilised 881 and to get its training. I think the House would be glad to know whether the noble Viscount would say that, had he been responsible at the War. Office in 1900, he would have mobilised the Territorial Force while the greater part of our Expeditionary Force was away and the greater part of our Reserves were mobilised. I venture to think that the noble Viscount would not make any statement of that kind. We should have been told by whatever Government was in power that as everything appeared to be peaceful throughout the world it was obviously unnecessary to mobilise the Territorial Force. The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War shakes his head. Well, that is a thing which at any rate should be made clear to the Territorial Force. I am convinced that nine-tenths of them have not the faintest conception that supposing they had been in. existence in 1900 they would have been mobilised for six months. If that were known to the Territorial Force, the recruiting to that Force would not only diminish, but would practically cease altogether. If it can be stated that things appear peaceful throughout Europe and that therefore it is unnecessary that the Territorial Force should be mobilised, it will obviously be still more difficult to mobilise when matters are not so peaceful on the Continent. The diplomat will come down and say, "It is impossible for you to mobilise that force now. It will be taken as a threatening act against the Power or Powers with whom we are having some difference of opinion. It will make diplomacy still more difficult, and it will almost inevitably involve this country in war." Unless all these precautions are taken before we get into such a. situation, we shall not dare to do it when we are face to face with the situation itself.
There is one further point. If it is necessary that the Territorial Force should have six months training before they meet a Continental army, I think the Secretary of State for War is squandering a good deal of public money under the scheme he has now in operation. Let him get up and say, "We will give the Territorial officers certain theoretical instruction. We will have the men of the Territorial Force up every year for one day in which they shall be medically examined and measured for their clothing and equipment, and then in time of mobilisation we shall give them seven months training instead of six," by 882 which time I think most experts would agree they would be as well trained as if they had six months training and a fortnight in each year. If we are wasting money on the Territorial Force at the present time and the Territorial Force is not fit to meet an army such as I have named, obviously the scheme I have suggested is preferable. We all know why such a scheme would not be adopted. The reason is obvious. At first the scheme might be popular throughout the country. It would lower the Estimates, and then the country in a short space of time would realise that the Force was entirely a paper Force, and that there was no second line between the Expeditionary Force and themselves, and there would be a demand for a proper Territorial Army. The Territorial Force is nothing better than a paper army, only it is put in such a way that the public do not realise the fact. If it were put forward that the men should come up for one day a year and then have seven months training on mobilisation the country would then realise what its position really is.
I may be criticised for attacking the Force to which I belong, but I look at another side of the question. During the South African War a certain section of the Press and public made attacks which I think were, on the whole, utterly unjustified, against the training and the knowledge of officers and men of the Regular Army. It is a curious coincidence that the same section of the Press, and I believe to a large extent the same section of the public, are now attacking us for criticising the Territorial Force. If the Regular Army with the training it had before the war was not competent or considered adequately trained for fighting such a war without making grave mistakes, it is quite obvious that the Territorial Force cannot be adequate to the task that may be put before it by a possible invasion by 70,000 men. I feel that it is wiser and kinder to the Territorial Force that criticisms should be made now than that they should be made after they have been tried by the only trial which is worth having, the trial of actual experience of war, and have failed.
It is not a question of public spirit, or a question of keenness, or a question of bravery with the Territorial Force. It is none of these. It is a question of the system, as was the case in South Africa. 883 The system has to be blamed, not the men. There are few if any Regular officers who are not prepared to say that the Territorial Force is extremely good. I agree with them. That it has a considerable amount of knowledge I entirely agree. But in every one of those cases you will find that these Regular officers qualify their statement with three extremely important words—" under the circumstances." I entirely agree with those words. It is perfectly true that the Territorial Force has arrived at a stage of training a great deal above what could have been expected of it—under the circumstances. The men know a great deal more, and, owing to their keenness, have arrived at a greatly higher stage of training than could possibly be expected of them; but to say that that stage of training is sufficient to place them opposite to an invading force of 70,000 of the best troops in Europe is a suggestion to which I for one cannot agree. For those reasons, and because I believe it is essential for this country that we should have an adequate home defence force, I shall warmly support the Motion proposed by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal.
§ LORD HAVERSHAM
My Lords, I am satisfied that there is no noble Lord, in whatever part of this House he sits, who will not rejoice at the advent of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War in our debates, and more especially that his presence here is heralded by a debate of this importance. We have had a long and able statement from the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, who will not be angry with me if I say he is the protagonist of the system of universal military service, and we have had a reply from the Secretary of State for War, who is the creator of the present Army system under which we now live. I have one word of criticism which I hope the noble and gallant Field-Marshal will pardon. He said that the reductions carried out by the Secretary of State for War amounted to 30,000 men. I think I can prove to him in a few minutes that that is a very considerable exaggeration. The real reduction is only 18,500, as I can show from the Annual Reports. I think if the noble Earl who last spoke will reconsider his speech, he will find one considerable fallacy in it, because in his description of the state in which the Territorial Army would be he forgets altogether the 90,000 men of the Regular Army who would stiffen the Territorial Force and fight with them in defence of 884 these shores. If the noble Earl will look at the White Paper issued to us he will find that the total number of men liable for the Expeditionary Force is 163.000 men and officers; but on the next page be will find that there are 251,000 men fitted to go for service abroad, and the difference between these figures would be the men left behind to stiffen the Territorial Army. That makes a considerable difference in the noble Earl's calculation, and certainly in the result.
Being anxious to be perfectly certain as to the amount of reductions which my noble friend has made in the Army, I have consulted the Annual Returns of the present year, and compared them with the last period for which the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, was responsible, and I will very shortly put them before the House. In the Cavalry and the Horse and Field Artillery, which, as we know, are very delicate arms and cannot possibly be improvised, there is no change whatever. The Household Cavalry have not been altered; they stand as before. The Cavalry of the Line on October 1, 1905, numbered 18,365 men; on October 1. 1910, there were 18,285. The Cavalry, therefore, are exactly as they stood before. The Royal Horse and Field Artillery numbered 29,363 in 1905; they number 29,587 in the present year; so that they have increased by 224. Then I come to reductions. There has been a large reduction in the Garrison Artillery, but, as the Secretary of State for War has explained very fully in another place, his main reason for changing these was to convert them into a sort of Reserve of the Royal Artillery. He found that of the batteries to go with the Expeditionary Force only 42 out of 54 batteries could be completed, so he turned some of the Garrison Artillery into ammunition columns and the Reserve of the Artillery. The Garrison Artillery, therefore, which stood at 23,121 on October 1905, stood at 17,592 in October, 1910, showing a reduction of 5,529.
Now I come to the great reductions to which my noble friend has alluded. In the Infantry of the Line in the time of the noble Viscount opposite there were 146,147 men; now there are 137,390, or a reduction of 8,757. Noble Lords will recollect that during the war there were certain regiments, particularly the Northumberland Fusiliers and the Lancashire Fusiliers, which were increased from two to four battalions, but it was obvious that these were actually redundant to the general 885 system. They were the only regiments which had four battalions except the Rifles, and therefore my noble friend took the opportunity of reducing those extra battalions in order that they might be fitted into his scheme, which was, that there should be exactly the same number of battalions abroad as at home, viz.: 74 at home and 74 abroad. Then there was a reduction in the Colonial Corps from 6,023 in 1905 to 3,830 in 1910—a reduction of 2,993. There is also a reduction in the Guards of 650—namely, from 7,730 in 1905 to 7,080 in 1910; but the fact was that the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, when in charge of the Department, raised those extra battalions of Guards in order that they might relieve the Mediterranean garrisons, to which they never went at all, and consequently they were found to be redundant. Two battalions were about to be disbanded, but one was found to be wanted in Egypt, so that battalion was saved from extinction, and one battalion only was reduced as redundant—namely, the extra battalion of the Scots Guards.
The total of the whole strength of officers in 1905 was 10,788; they are now 10,722. Warrant officers numbered 1,310 in 1905; now they number 1,292. Noncommissioned officers and rank and file numbered 260,035 in 1905; they now number 240,479. That is where, I think, the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, Lord Roberts, was a little wrong. The aggregate reduction is, of course, 19,500; but you will find on looking at the Returns that 1,000 of these men are accounted for because in the time of Viscount Midleton 5,000 men were taken from the Indian Line and employed in China and in other garrisons, and only 4,000 in the present year. Fewer men by 1,000 were borrowed from the Indian list, but are not reduced, and that makes the total reductions only 18,500. I think we ought to see what we have got in compensation for these reductions. The first is the splendid Reserve which we possess. The Army Reserve in September, 1905, taking sections A, B, and D, was 94,770. The present total of the Army Reserve, taking the same sections, is 135,712—a magnificent Reserve, and I believe my noble friend the Secretary of State for War stated the other day that it has since increased to 137,000.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
May I ask the noble Lord whether he realises that the 886 Army Reserve which he quoted front 1905 was not the full Army Reserve which we now employ, and which has been reduced in three years time by the present Secretary of State?
§ LORD HAVERSHAM
I wish first to say that of this splendid list of 137,000 men there are 93,000 under thirty years of age, and 132,000, virtually all, under thirty-five years of age. All these men have gone through Colour service, some for seven years and some for less, but they are all seasoned soldiers it the prime of life. When connected with the War Office I had the opportunity of seeing them when called out, owl except being slightly older, they could not, be distinguished from their comrades. I am aware, of course, that there will be a large reduction in two or three years time, when men will go out, and we shall have the normal Reserve very much reduced, but it will be reduced only to about 103,000 men; it will still be, according to my noble friend's calculations, over 100,000. But there is this to be remembered, that if the men are not in the Reserve they are longer in the ranks, and that is a very important consideration. If they are to remain seven years in the ranks, they will be equally as good as if they are in the Reserve. In addition to that, it is possible that my noble friend the Secretary of State for War may increase the feeding cadres, and then you would have larger numbers going to the Reserve. There is such a plan as giving men bounties to exchange from the Line into the Reserve. There are various ways, but you cannot tell what the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War will do two years hence. He is, however, keenly alive to the need of keeping up this magnificent Reserve; in fact, he pledges himself to watch carefully how it is reduced, and will take steps to see that the Reserve is not emptied too rapidly.
Then my noble friend spoke of the Expeditionary Force. As to that I think we only require to hear what the Secretary of State for War said in the other House—The six Divisions of the Expeditionary Force, as I said last year, have the whole of their fighting personnel, non-commissioned officers and men, ready. The equipment and stores are there.887 I do not think we need be very much afraid as far as the Expeditionary Force is concerned. But I would like to say a word with regard to the supply of officers after the Expeditionary Force is supposed to have gone. There, I think, my noble friend has some apprehensions, but he has taken precautions to find a very large number of officers by means of the Officers Training Corps, and it is now of very considerable strength. The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War said on March 7, 1910—For efficient mobilisation we look to the Officers Training Corps, which was called into existence for the purpose. To mobilise the six Divisions there is no deficiency, but to provide for units left at home be should require to draw largely from the Reserve of officers.The great benefit of the Officers Training Corps is that it is worked in connection with the public schools and the Universities. The young men are selected for their physique by their masters, and are given particular advantages in obtaining commissions. If they pass certificate A they get off three months, if they pass certificate B they get off six months, and these are great attractions to them in qualifying for commissions. The noble Viscount was able to say in March, 1910—The Officers Training Corps, which was designed to give us the means of tilling up our great deficiency—namely, subalterns—will, I hope, next year reach the very respectable total of 21,000 candidates in the public schools and Universities. Just now it is nearly 20,000.There is every reason to hope that we shall obtain the 21,000 in the current year. Besides that, the noble Viscount is taking other steps. He has spent a large sum upon the enlargement of Sandhurst, and the terms are all changed now, so that a very much longer course is given to the officers who join there. But what I think noble Lords will look upon with great sympathy is the system of scholarships inaugurated by my noble friend, because although we may not look upon it as a magnificent thing when a man gets a scholarship of £50 a year and a grant of £35 for his outfit, yet it is established that when these candidates are successful they will save one half of their expenses in their Sandhurst course. The most excellent part of that is, that it will attract a great number of the sons of clergymen and barristers, and so on, and will enable people of that class to send their sons into the Army at much less expense than heretofore.
888 I will say one or two words about the Territorial Army. I happen to be the Chairman of one of the County Associations, and I must say we are very much indebted to the noble Viscount for what he has done for us this year. For the moment I should like to compare this Force with the old Volunteers. The Volunteers were isolated corps, scattered in different parts of the country, and never called together except in a battalion. They rarely had a Brigade drill. They were inspected once a year, perhaps, by a General officer who never saw them again. Now we have a great force, larger than the Volunteers, divided into fourteen Divisions, every one of which is commanded by an officer of distinction. They have Brigadiers and Brigade Majors from the Regulars. A certain proportion of the Force were taken for manœuvres this autumn with Regular troops, and went out on absolutely campaign conditions. But the best feature of all is the number who attended camp. There were 168,000, including 7,000 officers, who attended camp for fifteen days, and 73,000 for eight days or less. Including the Yeomanry, 243,000 members of the Territorial Force attended camp last year, and that is against 179,000 who attended camp in the year before.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but perhaps he will state how many did not attend camp. That is the other side of it.
§ LORD HAVERSHAM
It would be very few out of 277,000. Of course, there must be a considerable number of so large a force who were away on reasonable excuse, although I know there were a few who had no excuse. Altogether 62 per cent. attended camp for fifteen days, and 28 per cent. for eight days—that is 90 per cent. of the total number. In addition to that, upwards of 1,000 officers and 17,000 men have undertaken engagement for foreign service. Something has been said as to the statement which fell from my noble friend in reference to the meeting at which Colonel Repington's paper was read. We had important evidence from the General officers who attended that dinner, and who expressed their opinion of the Territorial Force. I will quote them. General Macready said that—Discipline was the paramount necessity of good fighting, and in that matter the Territorials were far superior to the old Volunteers.889 General Bullock said—They who were working with the Territorial Force believed that the present system of the Territorial Army was a scientific and honest endeavour to give them the defensive force they required.I think that is very important. General Bethune said—The Territorial Force in West Lancashire had increased in efficiency from top to bottom about 20 per cent. in each of the last two years.General Henniker said—There was an enormous improvement in the Artillery, which only wanted more training.I am very glad to give those views, because I think we ought to have some counterblast to the rather cold douche which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal poured upon us from the Cross Benches.
I should like to bear my testimony to the gallant way in which my noble friend Viscount Haldane has supported the Territorial Force this year. He is going to spend the sum of £206,000 more. He is going to add £68,000 to the establishment grant. Travelling expenses are to be increased from 127,000 to £45,000 to enable men to attend drills. The sum of £30,000 is to be given to General officers' for carrying out training, and £50,000 for the upkeep of targets and rifle ranges. We wish to thank him very much for all that. We had a meeting on Saturday of my Territorial Association, and every officer was loud in praise of the way in which the noble Viscount has treated us. It is not only that he has given us money. He has settled, as Lord Dartmouth well knows, a very difficult question. He has settled the vexed question of the secretaries' salaries by raising the maximum to £170 a year, and, as I said before, he has given us a large sum which we may use for travelling allowances in bringing men up to drill and to meet the battalions. I have felt it my duty to say these things on behalf of the Territorial Force, and I am sure that the noble Viscount, when he gives up his office, will be able to feel that in establishing the Territorial Force he has added very much to the security and strength, and, therefore, to the material prosperity of this country.
My Lords, I will not follow the last speaker into the figures as to the increase or decrease of His Majesty's Forces in the British Islands. 890 The counting of the men in buckram has been a very favourite habit of debaters on both sides of the House, and unless the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War can give us absolutely certain information as to the exact number of men there are—
We shall, no doubt, have other facts to-morrow, quoted also from official returns, and they will certainly bring out details but not quite the same numbers.
If you wait till tomorrow, perhaps you will see. I would like before I pass from the last speaker to ask one question. I agree with most of the laudatory comments which were made on the part of the Generals who attended the dinner the other night. I would entirely subscribe to what was said as to the encouragement which the noble. Viscount the Secretary of State for War has given to the Territorial Force, and especially the great thought and care which he has taken in every particular branch of it. I recognise the admirable work which these men have done, the attempts that the officers have made to qualify themselves for the work, and the improvement which has been made in the Territorial Force. But I would like to ask, Did any one of those Generals say that these men were fit to take their place in war? As to the 90,000 men who the noble Lord (Lord Haversham) said were not counted, but who would reinforce—"stiffen" was the word used—the Territorial Force, I think the only way I should be able to use that term towards those 90,000 men would be in the way that a Scottish gillie talks of a fish being stiff at the bottom of a pool. Certainly any one who examined these 90,000 men would see that almost all of them are under twenty years of age; they are not organised in brigades; the majority of them would join the Special Reserve, but they have no means of transport. How they would "stiffen" the Territorial Force is not exactly to be seen on the face of it. If they would stiffen them, they would stiffen them in the sense of remaining behind while the others would do the fighting. 891 There is no means of knowing how these 90,000 boys would be taken into the field, so that the term "stiffen" is not altogether applicable.
I turn to the speech made by the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War. He raised certain points which I would like for a moment to consider. The first of these, on which he based a great deal of his argument, was the question of naval opinion. Earl Stanhope has dealt admirably with that question. But may I be allowed to add a few instances to show how naval opinion has always said invasion was impossible? The noble Viscount referred to a certain meeting of the Committee of Imperial Defence at which this matter of invasion was considered. May I remind him of instances where naval opinion went wrong? The most recent, and the most often quoted, of course, is that of Russian naval opinion, which definitely laid down that invasion was absolutely impossible as long as the Russian Fleet remained in being. Lord Nelson was one of the Admirals quoted by the Secretary of State for War. May I mention also that Lord Nelson, to a large extent, held that opinion. Yet at one of the most critical times in our history he was three weeks late with the whole of our Fleet. Naval opinion is a thing we can use for argument, but it is not one necessarily on which we can absolutely rely.
There is a second point in this connection. The Secretary of State for War referred to the two Committees on which he sat and which considered the question of invasion. The first Committee, which sat under Mr. Balfour, gave a limit of 10,000 men. The next Committee gave the figure of the possible invading force as 70.000. Admitting the last figure, and that 70,000 men landed, those 70,000 men can tie exactly the same number of men as the original 10,000, and therefore, pro tanto, our Expeditionary Force and the Fleet is constantly reduced. The noble Viscount passed on to another point; in fact, it was almost the most important point that he made in his speech; and that was the question of the "possible" and the "reasonably probable." He said that we were not to consider a combination of Powers which was not of a reasonably probable order. The weak point of this argument lies in this, that what is reasonably probable to-day need 892 not be reasonably probable five years hence. It takes ten years to create an Army. I need not argue that point. We have seen the experience of Germany, and we know that of France. In every case ten years is the time accepted by military critics. Let us glance at the big Powers of Europe, and see how we stood with them ten years ago. With Russia we are friendly to-day. Who could have said that ten years ago? Germany in those days was our friend, and France was supposed to be the most likely nation to invade us. Well, we have France now on the best of terms. Can any one prophesy what, ten years hence, may be the combinations against us? I think this absolutely breaks down the question of the logically possible and the reasonably probable.
The noble Viscount, Lord Haldane, raised another point about the question of submarines and the fleet of transports which is to come across to these shores. He says that even if this fleet escaped our battleships, how would they escape our submarines? Why should not the Germans blow up some of our: battleships? This is one of the largest of all assumptions. Why should our Fleets be able to lie off the large German ports from which invasion is possible, when we know that for five years now Germany has been pushing on with submarines at the rate of a million a year in their Naval Estimates? Why should we imagine that one of our battleships could lie off a port—a most dangerous naval operation—whilst no,-, one of the enemy's warships had been placed on the protection of the transports which were to fall victims to our submarines?
We have had now from headquarters a statement that the Territorial Army in theory is never to be an efficient Army in time of peace. We have heard the reassertion of that wonderful old idea that we are going to have six months' war before we need use our Territorial Force. Our Expeditionary Force cannot be in two places at one time. If you send two Divisions away, no one can tell when you will want others to reinforce them, and if you send any considerable portion of your Expeditionary Force away it presupposes absolutely that at any moment it may have to be reinforced with the remainder or you abandon those two or three Divisions to their fate. It is curious that we should 893 go back to this six months idea. If you took abroad you see the nations straining at the leash. I went along the French frontier not long ago, and visited some of the houses there. Every peasant knew exactly where he had to go and where to send his horse and his cows on the outbreak of war. At a single moment everybody and everything was to go to the appointed place. It was the question of a day that they were reckoning on. Here we are counting on six months. The whole of Europe is turned into one great armed camp, and still we talk of six months notice before anything is to happen at all. I am sure that future generations will wonder, when they come to read the reports of the various debates on this question, that there were people who imagined there would be this warning of six months.
We do not wish in this debate to make disparaging remarks about the Territorial Army. We want to get the Territorial Army up to that point which we wish it to arrive at—namely, that it shall be properly efficient and be of real serviceable use to the country. I would recall the quotation made by the Secretary of State for War from what fell from Colonel Repington, to the effect that at the present moment two regiments of Yeomanry were equal to one regiment of Regular Cavalry, and that after two and a-half months training two Yeomanry regiments would be practically equal to a Continental Cavalry regiment. I do not wish, of course, to doubt the noble Viscount's statement, because he read it from a newspaper But two Generals who were at the dinner stated that Colonel Repington made the statement only for purposes of discussion when he raised these two points. I challenge him to prove it in any print he wishes. He has great opportunities of stating his views in The Times, and perhaps he will show exactly on what he bases this statement that two Yeomanry regiments are equal to one Continental Cavalry regiment. Look for a moment to the two things. The period of training of the British Yeomanry is very short in comparison with that of the Cavalry in Continental armies. Our Yeomanry have no training with the arme blanche. The Japanese, so far as the bayonet is concerned, give their men the most excellent training. Yet we have no bayonet in the Yeomanry; we have not seen a bayonet; 894 at least, we have not seen one for three years. Neither have we swords. If we are attacked by Cavalry we have no bayonets with which to drive them off.
I am delighted to supply it. Then with regard to the rifle, may I point out that our Yeomanry would be armed with weapons with fixed sights at 500 yards. The Continental Cavalry have rifles which have fixed sights at over 300 yards further. We do not compete on fair terms. If there was one point which the Boer war brought out absolutely—and I am sure all Cavalry men will support me in this—it was the fact that we went into that war with a very inferior weapon. I am sure that the noble and gallant Field-Marshal will support me in that, that no body of men could have been in a worse condition than our Cavalry were when they fought the Boers. On the question of horses I need not say anything to-night, as I understand that Lord Willoughby de Broke will speak on that. On the question of Staff, I may say that if we are to wait until the day of mobilisation occurs we shall not be as right as the Germans. Then with regard to the question of the movement, of Brigades. There are very few officers who handle Brigades twice in a year, and that as a rule in camp. The average Brigadier only handles Yeomanry four or eight times in the whole of his period. The handling of a Yeomanry Brigade is quite different from the handling of a Cavalry Brigade. The time and calculation and space are all different. They are absolutely and entirely opposite. And finally, you have the question of the machine guns and transports. We have a very second rate machine gun. Almost all Continental armies have a very much better one, and one which is fairly easy and much better to manipulate. As regards transport, Cavalry transport is practically universally conducted now on motors and by rapid methods of that sort, while we still have our improvised trans- 895 port, without general service wagons. I do not wish to labour this point; but Colonel Repington's statement that one regiment of Yeomanry to-day is equal to half its weight of Cavalry trained on the Continental system is one that it is very difficult to defend. I do not wish for a moment to ignore what the Yeomanry have done. I believe the keenness of the Yeomanry throughout is excellent; but can you expect these men to do in a few days training the proper amount of work necessary to pit themselves in any way against Continental trained troops or to face anything like a fifth of their own number? The noble Lord, Lord Ashby St. Ledgers, has challenged us for not producing some scheme. I do not think it lies with the Back Benches of the Opposition to produce any scheme.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I did not challenge the noble Lord. I challenged the noble and gallant Field-Marshal.
I beg your pardon; but Lord Roberts sits on the Cross Benches, so he has still even less opportunity for producing a scheme. But if we do not produce a scheme, we can produce an object; and the object of the majority of noble Lords on this side of the House and of the nation is that we should have a sufficient defence force for this country so as to free absolutely our Fleet to carry out its duties anywhere in the world and to free the whole of our Expeditionary Force to leave these shores.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
My Lords, when the formation of the Territorial Force was under discussion your Lordships were good enough to allow me on two or three different occasions to speak more or less on the Territorial Artillery, because that is a question on which I have a certain amount of experience, and I think perhaps I was the only one in this House who had done any actual work with the old Volunteer Artillery previous to the formation of the Territorial Force. For that reason, I do not want to touch much upon the general question to-day, except to say that it seems to me that all this talk in which we are indulging with regard to the Expeditionary Force, and 150,000, or 70,000, or any other number, is so purely conjectural as to be really rather beating the bush, and almost a waste of time when we are considering the very much larger questions 896 raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Milner. What I think we have to remember is that great and important rôle which this country might be called upon to take in having to bear a share in the preservation of the balance of power in Europe, and that the. possibility of offensive action along with another nation on the other side of the Channel may be, after all, the real means of defending this country against dangers which we cannot combat afterwards. That is the great question which we have to remember, and it opens up the weak point in the Territorial Army—the weak point of the scheme which says that the Territorial Army is not really supposed to be ready for immediate use because it will always have six months to prepare during which time the Expeditionary Force will remain in this country. If the Expeditionary Force have to leave in a hurry in order to take its part in preserving the balance of power in Europe and preventing a situation which would afterwards produce a sort of panic on our shores, then it is all the more necessary that our Second Line should be as well prepared as we are able to get it.
And that brings me to the question of the Artillery, because it is a notorious fact admitted by everybody, that the Artillery is a branch which it is most difficult to train. It not only takes longer to train than any other, but it requires certain special circumstances and facilities to enable you to train it at all. There is no denying the fact, therefore, that if you admit that the Expeditionary Force might be called away upon very short notice, it is all the more important that the Artillery upon which the Territorial Force will have to rely should be really effective, and should not be a sham force which might simply be an encumbrance to other troops when they came to enclosed and difficult country. When we had the discussions in your Lordships' House with regard to the formation of the Territorial Force the point which I ventured to bring out as a result of my own experience and observation of several years was that I did not believe in the possibility of the effectual training of large forces of Territorial Artillery in this country. I do not in the least wish to depreciate the hard work which is done by all the Territorial Artillery, both officers and men. I join in everything which fell from my noble friend behind me and from the noble 897 Lord opposite, who spoke in favour of the spirit of the Territorial troops and the way in which they work, the keenness whit they display, and the remarkable manner in which they have improved since they came into being; but I do maintain, with regard to the Territorial Artillery, that I is quite impossible that a large force o Territorial Artillery such as we have at the present moment can have a fair chance o making themselves really efficient under the circumstances in which they have t work. The main reason is that with a volunteer force such as the Territorial Fore you are obliged to study the convenience of the members of that force. If you do riot, you will not get the men. You an obliged to study their convenience ii laying down the times that they are to come out into camp, the length of time they are to stay there, and the stringency of the regulations which you are going to impose upon them for the purpose o trying to get them to stay the full length of time. You may have all sorts of systems of fines and regulations, but any practical man knows perfectly well that if you are going to make these fines and regulations too hard or too stringent; if you are not going to allow individual cases of hardship amongst the men to be considered; if you are not going to give them leave to be absent from camp on very likely what appears to be flimsy excuses but which may be very important ones connected with their private business, you will injure recruiting, and you will not get the men. There is no getting away from that. Therefore you must administer the regulations in what may be regarded as a somewhat lax spirit. The fact remains that as long as you have this volunteer force, you are obliged to consider the convenience of the men and the officers as to when you are going to get them out to training.
The time of training, unfortunately, owing to these considerations, has to be very limited. The greater portion of the Territorial Force are obliged to come out either at Whitsuntide or the first fortnight in August. Now, what does the training of Territorial Artillery consist of? Some- times attention is called to the actual time they are in camp and the practical work they do there. That is of the utmost importance; in fact, it is quite impossible to train them properly unless you get your men in camp. At the same time I think 898 it is an exaggeration of the case to ignore too much the excellent work which is done by the Territorial troops at their head, quarters and on odd days during the year, without which it would be quite impossible for them to put themselves into such a state of efficiency as to make their time in camp really useful.
Let us see what the training of the Army really consists of. You have, first of all, your company training. You have your battalion training and your Brigade training. You harden your men by constant marches; you do night work and other sort of work, finally culminating in a great burst of autumn manœuvres where yon put to a practical test all that the men are supposed to have learned during the drill season. I submit, as the result of expel licence now extending over a good many years, that the only way in which you can get work out of Auxiliary Artillery is by making the culminating point during the year their camp, followed immediately by practice on the range. There is a good deal of work that can be taught in barracks. You can teach the ordinary Artilleryman, the gunner, five-sixths of his work in barracks, because modern gun drill is so very much mechanical, and the gunner is more or less a machine. The whole efficiency of the Artillery depends upon its working together, under the commanding officer and the officers. The whole efficiency of the Artillery depends upon the powers of observation of the commanding officer, and the efficiency of the gunners. If the commanding officer cannot be certain of the precision with which the gun layers have laid the gun; if they say they have laid it right and they have laid it wrong, it is perfectly impossible for him to have a correct observation of fire, and if his gun-layers play him tricks simply from the fact of their bad training, it is impossible for any commanding officer to conduct good gun practice with any battery. Therefore the efficiency of the Artillery depends upon the accurate preparation of the men, working, if you like, like machines, but at the same time it is absolutely necessary that the commanding officer and the gun-layers and the officers should have practised outside the barrack square, because you want to make them realise what distance targets are, and you want to teach your gun-layers that laying on a distance target 3,000 or 4,000 yards 899 away is a totally different thing from laying on a white spot on a barrack wall at 50 yards range. Those are all practical questions which very likely do not appeal to the ordinary person who has not had experience of Artillery, but the point is this, that all this work, in order to be really effective, should be followed by your camp, where you teach your men in manœuvres; and in manœuvres it is quite as important as shooting, though not quite, that you must be able to get your battery into a certain position and get it away if necessary with case and speed. At the same time it is not a bit of good getting a battery into position if it cannot shoot, but manœuvring is nearly as important as the actual shooting, and you have the practice in that culminating in what ought to be three or four days at least of actual practice upon your gun range.
One of the noble Lords who spoke tonight—I think it was 'Lord Stanhope—spoke of the drudgery which has to be undergone by the ordinary individual who comes from civil life and sets himself to work to learn the duties of a soldier. If you want men to put themselves not only to very great inconvenience in giving up their private time, but very often to considerable personal loss in neglecting their business to undergo this drudgery, it is of the greatest importance to make that drudgery as interesting as possible. If you do, you get it done twice as well. My experience is that you can make the work of Artillery fifty times more interesting if you can cultivate a spirit of emulation amongst your different batteries, and if you can close your season with gun practice, the results of which will enable you to see, and also allow the men to see for themselves, what the real efficiency of the battery is in practical work. But, unfortunately, the time is short, as I said before. You can only bring out your men as a rule at two periods in the year. The ranges available in this country are few. All the Regular forces have to be trained as well as the Territorial Force, and the result is that during the last five years practice has been absolutely spoiled for the whole of the Territorial Artillery, and has been reduced very nearly to a farce. Ever since Salisbury Plain was opened in the year 1900 I have been down there with the two batteries which I have the honour to command. For the first eight years up till the time of 900 the formation of the Territorial Force we conducted our practice upon the lines which I have mentioned. We carried out our work at headquarters, and had a great deal of drill on Saturday afternoons, in which we were greatly helped by the Horse Artillery at St. John's Wood and by odd afternoons at Aldershot, where we were also helped by the Horse Artillery, and then we went down to Salisbury Plain and finished up by having our three days gun practice upon the ranges there. I am perfectly certain that the good reputation which I am proud to think the Artillery batteries earned amongst Artillery officers was very largely caused by our being able to follow that routine.
What happened when the Territorial Force was created? There was a general scramble for the ranges, and the result was they were spoiled for everybody. The year before last we were all down at Salisbury Plain. It was impossible to use the ranges there, and batteries had to be sent down to Okehampton. They went down by night train, with their horses, arriving at Okehampton about 6 o'clock in the morning; they went on parade about 8 o'clock, fired off a great many rounds in a very hurried way for three hours in the morning, and the same thing next morning, and then went back again. They were replaced by another battery, which also came down in the night. One battery followed another at these Okehampton ranges, with the result that although we had a great many recruits that year no one got proper instruction, and I maintain that the practice was to a great extent wasted. Last year the whole of the practice that our two batteries got was confined to one day, as it was impossible to get half the batteries on to the ranges. This year we were to be permitted to go down for two Saturday afternoons to Shoeburyness—an absolute waste of ammunition and public money—for the purpose of training Horse Artillery. Fortunately I had been able to arrange something. I found there was a hiatus between two Regular brigades at Salisbury Plain just when we were in camp, and so by special favour of the officers commanding the Royal Horse Artillery Camp we were able to make arrangements to have our three days practice there this year, but it was pure chance that we were able to get on.
That sort of thing is going on all over the country, and I respectfully maintain that it 901 is perfectly impossible to train a large force. of Auxiliary Artillery upon lines of this description. One thing is most important—it is too often overlooked—namely, that you must have ample opportunities beforehand of teaching your men to ride and drive before they go down to camp. If when your men arrive in camp they are not well up in what I will call the elementals, a great deal of your time in camp is wasted, and therefore the practicability of training Territorial Artillery depends, in my humble judgment, very largely upon the locality in which they are. I do not believe it is possible to efficiently train this large force of Territorial Artillery at the present moment; but I believe if you select your place, more especially in conjunction with batteries of Regular Artillery, and where it is possible for them to go out into the country and get some experience of working in close country, which we cannot possibly do in London—and that is one reason why London is an unsuitable place for a large force of the Territorial Artillery—if you do that, you have a much better chance of making your batteries really efficient and able to do useful work when you do get them into camp.
I do not wish to labour these details too much, but still they are details upon which the whole question of Artillery training depends, and it is a great mistake to ignore the opinions of those who have had the working of them and who realise their importance. Therefore it comes down to this, that it is quite possible to have a certain number of very useful and efficient auxiliary batteries of Artillery in this country, but if you want to have and to continue to maintain the large force of Artillery which you have at present, you must be content to regard them not as efficient Artillery to your Territorial Force, but merely as a sort of reserve of men accustomed to the handling of guns and ammunition. I can tell the Secretary of State for War that that is the deliberate opinion expressed to me in private conversation of officers high up in the Royal Artillery, who have had ample opportunities of judging for themselves of the real value of the Territorial Artillery. I do not know what they may put in official reports, but very often people say a great deal more of what they think in private conversation than they do in official reports; and what I have been told by men whose judgment I am certain the Secretary of State for War 902 himself would place great reliance in is that you must not look upon the large mass of Territorial Artillery as more than reserves of men who have learned gun drill, and who may very likely be wanted as extra reinforcements to the general forces of Artillery in the event of war.
There is only one point of detail I should like to mention. It is as to whether we have not far too many of these batteries armed with field gum. I am sure it would be very much more practical to arm them instead with what is known as "pom poms," or a weapon of that description, which would be of more use, and more handy for the class of fighting which would probably go on in our enclosed country, in our country lanes and in the parts of the country where you can very often get a range of not more than about 1,500 to 2,000 yards on account of the hedge rows and the hedge-row timber. I do not believe it would be possible in many places in our eastern counties to do any good whatever with large forces of Artillery. I believe that in the event of fighting in many of our enclosed districts the Artillery work would very likely be carried on by sections of Artillery. It would not be a question of fighting Artillery in mass but in sections, and very often the work would have to be quick and sharp and the Artillery would have to be moved about from one place to another.
It would be of very great assistance if some arrangements could be made for providing a range or an exercise ground where the Territorial Artillery could have some experience of work Jin enclosed country. Take these London batteries; they never get anywhere except to Wormwood Scrubbs, Primrose Hill, or Woolwich Common. They go into camp, at Aldershot or Shoeburyness or Salisbury Plain, but they never get an opportunity of going down a country lane, or going in and out of a gate, or of manœuvring in enclosed country such as they would be obliged to move in if they were called upon in an emergency to meet a foreign invader on these shores. We never train our men to fight upon the very places which we know would only be chosen by an invading army. We give them no possible opportunities of perfecting themselves in work on enclosed country. No wonder our Territorial batteries ate found deficient in training. One noble Lord whose military opinions I know your Lordships all value 903 very much—I will not mention his name—was telling me this afternoon of an incident which came under his notice in connection with a Territorial battery last autumn. He went to look at it, and saw the gate through which they had passed on turning out of the road. He was particularly gratified that they had not carried away the gate posts, and he remarked upon this fact, but a farmer who was standing there and had seen them come through made an observation which caused the noble Lord to inquire further, and he found that they had carefully taken their horses out, and drawn the guns through the gate by hand. There was no difficulty with regard to this particular gate, but still you cannot expect troops even to try to perform simple manœuvres such as going through a gate unless you give them proper opportunities of practising.
I thank your Lordships for allowing me to give vent to these particular views on this subject. I only wish to say, in conclusion, that I cordially join with all that has been said with regard to the many good points in the Territorial scheme. I do not deny for one minute that the Territorial Forces are a very great advance upon the old Volunteer Forces. The organisation is a great improvement. The work done by the men is a great improvement. I think the County Associations were a stroke of genius on the part of the Secretary of State for War, and have been the means of bringing public interest into the life of the Territorial Force. The Officers Training Corps is a very valuable institution, and altogether the spirit and work of the men are of the very best. But we cannot expect impossibilities. We have to remember that the good points which have been praised must always be taken in conjunction with the phrase which fell from Lord Stanhope—" Under the circumstances." I do not believe that it is possible to have a really practical and efficient force of Territorial Artillery and one which can be regarded as competent to take its line and place, even after a considerable amount of training, if it is necessary to maintain so large a one as we have at present in the Territorial Artillery.
My Lords, in rising to support the Motion which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal has moved I shall confine my remarks, as the previous 904 speaker, Lord Denbigh, did, to the Territorial Artillery. I have paid some attention to this branch of the Territorial Army, and I am bound to confess that I view their slow progress with considerable concern. In saying this it is far from my desire to disparage the efforts of the noncommissioned officers and men of these batteries, for I can say with all sincerity that I have never come across more zealous and painstaking soldiers. But I honestly think, more so now than ever, that under the present system of training you will be unable to get efficient Field Artillery, and I am still of the opinion expressed by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal some three years ago that partially trained Artillery in war are useless, and only a danger to their own side.
I presume that nobody will deny that these Territorial batteries at the present moment are quite unable to take the field against trained Artillery, leaving aside entirely the very serious question of the provision of horses. I think their staunchest adherents will admit that. What we have to consider is whether under their present system of training these batteries will ever be able to reach such a standard even at the end of the six months training which our opponents are to so graciously allow us that they will be fit to meet trained Artillery in the field. I think I can convince your Lordships that, generally speaking, they will not be able to do so. I say generally speaking, because units vary to a great extent. I have in my mind one or two in a northern county and one in a midland county commanded by officers whom it would be very hard to replace, and units which are trained under these exceptional circumstances might prove of some service. I also except, of course, the Honourable Artillery Company, where the batteries have existed for many years and where there is an excellent school of training. They are commanded by Lord Denbigh, an able Artillery officer who has been a great factor in promoting their efficiency.
A battery must be able to move, and it must be able to shoot. If it fails in either respect, it is useless for war purposes. Let me first take the question of mobility. One of the lessons that we learned during the South African war was the waste of horse flesh owing, to a very large extent, to a lack of the most elementary principles 905 of horsemanship. Yet His Majesty's Government expect three untrained men—I will not call them untrained, but under-trained men—to drive six untrained horses, arid to take a ton and a half any distance and get into any position. The experiment was carried out last, autumn, when a Division was mobilised at the manœuvres, and Special Reservists were employed as drivers of the ammunition wagons. Your Lordships are, of course, unaware of the difficulties that Regular officers in charge of these men have to contend against, moving along roads with untrained horses and with drivers who have only had six months training. Can Territorial Artillery drivers be expected to do any better, particularly when you have only very inexperienced officers to assist them? The Secretary of State for War can, no doubt quote opinions of General officers on the excellence of the driving of these batteries in the past year, but I think Lord Stanhope brought out the same point that I wish to make—namely, that if you examine these reports carefully, in nearly every case you will find some such qualifying remark as "considering the amount of training," or "under the circumstances."
It must not be forgotten, also, that these batteries carried no service ammunition, which means a very great reduction of weight behind the horses. I will only add that at one practice camp last year serious delay occurred and considerable difficulty was experienced in bringing a battery into action, and that over a distance of only a few hundred yards. What will such batteries do on service? Last autumn the practice of some of these batteries, presumably the pick of them, came under my personal observation. I will acknowledge that the drill of the organised part of the service was quite good. They were quick and smart in the little details of the service, and all ranks exhibited intense keenness, but to those who know and understand the general effect was very slow. The work of the specialist was very indifferent and unreliable, the observation of fire was bad, and the results of the practice extremely poor. And this against an easy target visible to the naked eye, one that would rarely occur on service, and one that would make a Regular battery commander's mouth water. The optimistic statements on public platforms and the glowing accounts in the newspapers each year 906 give, to my mind, an entirely false idea to the public of the standard which has been achieved.
I will ask you to allow me to quote one such account, by no means the most flattering or eulogistic, to serve my purpose. The Daily Chronide at the end of last September, in describing a practice which had taken place, said—The tests to which le specific batteries were subjected at Okehampton were the same that would be applied to Regulars, and they were judged by Regular officers.Of course, these batteries were not judged by the same standard as Regular batteries, neither in respect to their drill, nor the conduct of fire, nor of the length of time that they were firing. I am quite convinced that the practice shooting of the Territorial Field Artillery, as they are being trained at present and as at present constituted, will never be more than purely instructional and elementary. If it is the case that their training is carried out. as it is now under the supervision of efficient Regular officers with instructors and with horses which are easily obtainable, how in the world will they be able to reach the necessary standard after mobilisation in the stress and strain which will inevitably occur, when there will be immense difficulty in providing the necessary instructors and horses, and when all the batteries would be required to use a limited number of ranges at about the same time?
I think I am right in stating that at the present moment there are only three ranges available in this country where practice can be carried out. I am not counting the one in Ire/and. There is, I believe, no range in the north of England; it has yet, to be provided. No doubt it is partly owing to the paucity of ranges that the Secretary of State for War stated that Territorial batteries would practice every other year instead of annually. So that instead of the opportunities for shooting being increased, they will actually he diminished. To obtain anything approaching efficient Territorial Artillery you must either considerably lengthen the present period of annual training and give them more officers as instructors and a larger Permanent Staff, or you must train them on the lines of the Special Reserve by giving them their initial training of six months with a shorter period in successive years. In present conditions I do 907 not see how they are to improve themselves. The officers and non-commissioned officers have not had sufficient experience to instruct their men, and they have to rely on the Permanent Staff and the adjutants. A great many of the adjutants are subalterns of only a few years service, and it is perfectly ridiculous to suppose that under these conditions the senior ranks can be properly instructed in practical work. One thing I am quite sure of, and that is that if hard work and zeal could make a battery we should have the finest Artillery in the world, but the business of the drill book and all the rest of the work have to be applied on the field, and there is no opportunity, or very scanty opportunity, for doing this.
The Military Correspondent of The Times, in an issue of that paper last October, compared the French methods of Artillery with our own. I do not intend to express an opinion on that matter now; but I should like to mention that a very capable Artillery officer and one very well able to give an opinion wrote an article in the Artillery Journal last December, in which he explained that our Artillery had been armed on certain principles of conduct of fire, and that the adoption of the French method would probably entail the rearmament of the whole of our Artillery. But the writer of the article in The Times endeavoured to show that the simpler methods of our neighbours were far better suited to Territorials. I will ask you to believe me when I say that celerity of decision and promptness of action are of equal importance in either case, and these cannot be obtained without experience and practice, in addition to which under the French method the waste of ammunition is a very serious consideration indeed. Under modern conditions the battery gains which is quickest in finding the range and bringing an effective fire to bear on its opponent. Not only that, but it would probably be only with great difficulty that the beaten battery would be able to withdraw its guns into safety. No preponderance of numbers would be of any use, since it is perfectly possible—I know the noble and gallant Field-Marshal will bear me out—for one effective battery to silence three of its inefficient opponents. Moreover, as the noble Earl, Lord Denbigh, stated, it is questionable whether we require this enormous number of batteries, whether in such enclosed country as this is we would 908 ever be able to find positions for them. We are wasting money, I maintain, on our Territorial Artillery under present conditions, and, what is far more important, we are wasting excellent personnel. We have zealous officers and very keen men, and I am firmly convinced that we could get better value out of them by using them in other arms.
I cannot conclude my remarks without referring to the criticisms of the Territorial Force by the German officer, Colonel Gädke, a summary of which appeared in most of the daily papers towards the end of last September. He thought that of the three arms the Artillery was the best, and he mentioned that the shooting left nothing to be desired. I have been at considerable pains to discover what practice this particular colonel attended, and I have been unable to learn that he attended any last year; hut taking for granted that he did, if His Majesty's Government are prepared to place any value, which I am not, on his favourable remarks, they must put an equal value upon the unfavourable remarks which he made on the troops of the Regular Army which took part in the manœuvres. One would be almost inclined to think that Colonel Gãdke wishes us to give up our Regular Army and to rely entirely on our Territorials.
There is one other quotation I should like to make before I sit down. I should like to quote to your Lordships the opinion of an officer who was not long ago one of our most gallant opponents but who is now one of His Majesty's most loyal subjects. General Smuts described what should be the military policy of South Africa at Pretoria on August 10 last year, and a month ago, in the Union Parliament in Cape Colony, he used these words in describing the military policy—The country did not want a large Army, but the training of citizens in a manner similar to the Swiss system with a small nucleus of a striking force which could be mobilised at a moment's notice, with a permanent corps of instructors and a permanent Artillery service.He has learned a lesson which I hope His Majesty's Government will follow. I will not say more, except to again join in supporting the noble and gallant Field-Marshal in the Motion which he has moved. I view with considerable concern the continued tendency of His Majesty's Government to rely on these untrained batteries for service, and in saying so I believe I express the opinion of a vast 909 majority of the officers who are best able to judge in this matter.
My Lords, the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War alluded to Lord St. Vincent having said that if an invasion of this country took place the invaders would not come by sea. But that was at a time when our superiority at sea was acknowledged on all sides, and we had many more ships and far better officers and men than the French, the French Navy, whose officers were nearly all Royalists, having been ruined by the Revolution. If Villeneuve had beaten Nelson, he would have had to win two more battles with his damaged fleet before he could have protected the landing of a French army in England. There are undoubtedly great difficulties connected with invasion, but they have been much exaggerated. It is often assumed that as much tonnage per man is required for a North Sea voyage as for one to the Cape. For instance, the noble Viscount, in his introduction to the booklet on "Compulsory Service" recently published by General Sir Ian Hamilton, quotes as an authority a most misleading article that appeared in the Contemporary Review in February, 1909, signed "Master Mariner.' The writer assumes that an invader would bring with him. 14,000 horses and any number of transport wagons. I think it unlikely that our enemy would be such an utter fool as to take the trouble to bring with him anything that he could obtain with greater facility by commandeering. "Master Mariner" can never have studied the campaigns of Wallenstein, of Napoleon, or other Generals, or he would know that there is such a thing as living on the country, and making war support war wherever the population is sufficiently dense.
An invader might be expected to bring with him guns and harness for his Artillery, saddlery for his Cavalry, bicycles for his Scouts, and plenty of ammunition. His troops could carry three days' rations on their backs, and rely on England to provide them with food, horses, carts, and wagons. With the help of various printed documents any intelligent soldier would know on what farms to find them. They would soon be as well horsed as our Territorials were at manœuvres. An enemy would not attempt to bring horses and wagons unless he had full command of the sea, or had already seized a harbour. The noble Viscount's 910 "Master Mariner" allows 200,000 tons of shipping to carry 70,000 men. That is about three tons per man. Now one ton per man, and room to lie down, is all that is required by our own Board of Trade Regulations for vessels carrying passengers to ports between Brest and Hamburg; and one ton per man is quite enough for troops coming from ports between Jutland and Brest. Being under discipline, soldiers would not crowd up and inconvenience one another as much as independent tourists would. Why a soldier should be expected to require treble the tonnage of an ordinary passenger to carry him is one of those things that I do not understand. The weight of the necessary ammunition, harness, and field pieces would be scarcely enough to ballast the ships. The requirements of a Horse Artillery Battery, without horses, amount to about thirty-five tons. Until they had captured horses, the gunners could use drag ropes, as sailors do, and take up positions to protect the disembarkation as soon as they were landed.
" Master Mariner calculates that 150 ships are to carry 70,000 men, which works out at 470 per ship. Why, we did better than that in the Crimean War. Some ships took 1,000 men from England to the Crimea. I myself came home from the Crimea in a ship with about 900 men on board besides her crew. There are many German ships capable of carrying 4,000 or 5,000 men for a short voyage. Allowing 2,000 men per ship, only thirty-six ships would be required to carry 70,000 men. If 3,000 men are taken as an average, then only twenty-four ships would be required instead of 150. "Master Mariner" talks about the convoy of ships covering at least twenty miles from van to rear. The length of a column of thirty-six ships at three cables distance, in three columns, would be under four miles, of twenty-four ships about three miles. He then goes on to talk about three weeks elapsing from the first move in the game to the day on which the invading army would be ready to advance inland. This last sentence appears to be too much even for the noble Viscount, for in a note he says that it must not be assumed that the General Staff adopts this conclusion as the basis of its preparations. If it had done so, I should consider that the General Staff had gone mad. But if the General Staff are not in agreement with "Master Mariner" why did the noble Viscount quote such a misleading authority? I should like to know where "Master Mariner" gained 911 his experience. I doubt if lie has seen much of short voyages with troops in times of pressure. Certainly he has never studied the German mobilisation of 1870, and he evidently knows nothing of the greater rapidity with which German troops can now be assembled.
Besides many other experiences of the same kind, I have served as second in command of two different troopships, and have been responsible for the details connected with the embarkation and disembarkation of thousands of troops under most varied conditions as regards climates, landing places, anchorages, and weather. I have also been present at the embarkation of troops belonging to foreign. Powers. I wonder if the Vikings and other hardy Norsemen allowed more than one ton to a man in the time of King Alfred and the other Saxon Monarchs? Many of those who believe an invasion impossible talk of the necessity of assembling armies in one place, near one harbour for embarkation, as Napoleon did at Boulogne, before railways, steamers and telegraph wires were thought of. They forget that few Continental barracks are more than five miles from a railway, and that there are at least a dozen places from which troops can be embarked between Emden and the Frisian Islands. If we can send a hundred thousand undisciplined men to a racecourse and back in a day, how much easier it must be to handle a disciplined crowd of the same number. There need be no accumulation of troops until the troopships meet at sea at a pre-arranged point. An invader's armies are by no means likely to land all in one place, but would try several places, at some of which they might not be completely successful. Harold Hardrada's failure was the chief cause of William the Conqueror's success. Had there been no battle of Stamford Bridge, we should have won the battle of Hastings. If the enemy run their troopships on shore, it will not be possible to sink them with torpedoes. Submarines will then be harmless, the troops would be safe from being drowned, and the hull of the ship would serve as a breakwater for landing the men in boats. If we were beaten, England would have to pay for the ships. Now the difficulty of bringing over an invading army increases at a greater ratio than its numerical proportion. I consider that it is four times as difficult to bring over 50,000 men as it is to bring over 25,000. So that if we are able to beat a 912 fairly large army it will never attempt to come until our naval powers of resistance have been destroyed or temporarily interfered with.
On this question of the possibility of invasion naval opinion is divided. The present system under which very few officers on the Active List express their opinions and retired officers who write or speak are denounced by a portion of the Press as holding obsolete opinions is one I that I consider to be fraught with danger to the country. Senior Naval Lords ought certainly to be unmuzzled. Naval Lords may not ask it for themselves, and personally it may be inconvenient for them that they should be, but it would certainly be to the advantage of the country. They ought to be ex-officio Peers, and retain their Peerages for life after having been Senior Naval Lords for one year. Of course the Senior Naval Lord could not be expected to attend this House regularly or to take part in public affairs unconnected with the Navy, but he could attend whenever naval questions came on, and he should while holding office, sit on the Cross Benches. I must say that I wish Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson had a seat in this House on those Cross Benches so as to be able to explain to us the full meaning of the Memorandum that has been recently published by the noble Viscount. Sir Arthur Wilson's Memorandum concludes by saying that an enemy would probably decide, as the Admiralty have done, that an invasion on even the moderate scale of 70,000 men would be practically impossible. On October 10, 1903, similar assurances were given by the Chief of the Russian Naval Staff to their own military authorities. He said—So long as our Fleet is not destroyed, the operations named are absolutely impossible.Yet four months after, the Japanese armies were landing wherever they chose, regardless of a Fleet still in being. Let us hope that history will not repeat itself.
I take Sir Arthur Wilson's Memorandum as meaning that we require a standard of two and a-half keels to one as compared with any Continental Power if we are to be absolutely certain of being able to stop invasion and protect our commerce, and shall give my reasons for doing so. Two years ago I moved for a Return of the number of days in a year that our newer battleships and cruisers were in dockyard hands. The average is over three months. 913 So that you require twelve ships on our coasts to meet nine of the enemy's if you wish always to be able to meet him with equal numbers. For the weaker Power can choose the day for his sortie, leaving the stronger Power in command of the sea until the day that all his ships are ready, the day in question remaining a State secret. We ought, therefore, always to be prepared to accept his challenge on any day he may select. This gives the weaker Power an immense advantage. We should recollect that there are two exits from the North Sea, one through the Channel and another round Scotland, and that the close blockade of a shallow coast, suitable for the employment of mines, is not practicable. Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson talks about the possibility of an enemy drawing off half our Fleet. That assumes that the Admiral in command of one half of our Fleet believes himself to be strong enough to beat the whole of the enemy's Fleet if he can catch it, and that the other half of our Fleet is strong enough to beat him also if he attempts to return. Taking into consideration the ships in dockyard hands that will not be able to take a part in the contest, we should require at least a two and a-half keel to one standard if we are to be absolutely certain of being able to do this. Students of German naval literature know that schemes for dropping mines at the entrances of the naval harbours of Great Britain before this country is aware that hostilities have commenced have been worked out in detail. It will take some days to clear away these mines, and that will be the opportunity of the invader. It is true that we may go to sleep in our beds, but we may wake up some fine morning and find our harbours blocked, and our big ships unable to come out. I have seen it stated in the Press that between 1908 and 1911 we have spent £34,500,000 on new construction, as against £29,500,000 spent by Germany. This will not give us a two keel to one standard, as Germany builds almost as cheaply as we do.
Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson commences by stating that the danger of interruption of our trade and destruction of our merchant shipping is more to be feared than an invasion. There I agree with him. But if our Fleets are to be always in the North Sea because we have no Home Army, how is our trade on the high seas to be protected against the fast armed merchant-ships that will start up from the distant seas to prey upon our commerce? Every one of our 914 enemy's converted traders ought to have a man-of-war of greater power and greater speed in chase of her, shepherding her as the phrase is; and if the greater part of our ships and men are to be kept near our coasts, how can this be done?
The German Government are utilising their own Socialists by permitting them, nay encouraging them, to mislead their British comrades by inculcating a belief among them that they arc strong enough to prevent war, and thereby enabling our Socialists to preach that it is unnecessary for England to be prepared for eventualities. Our political Parties in these islands are unfortunately so balanced that it may be possible for the Keir Hardies to prevent our preparations from being made in time. But the German Socialists are but a fly on the wheel of the German Government, and will no more influence its proceedings than they did those of Bismarck in 1866. Few wars have been more unpopular than that of 1866 in Prussia, yet every man marched and fought well when the order was given. On peace being made the people forgave their Government because it had been successful. It is no new thing fog the German Government to utilise their Socialists. I recollect a speech of Bismarck' 3, who, when called to task for having in his younger days entered into a political flirtation with Lasalle, declared that he and Lasalle had many points of agreement, one of them being that Lasalle was in favour of German unity. "The chief difference between them," he said, "was that when unity was once established Lasalle would have preferred a Lasalle dynasty, whereas he (Bismarck) was satisfied with that of the Hohenzollerns." lie had utilised Lasalle, just as the German Government are utilising their own Socialists and ours. Mr. Keir Hardie and his supporters are mere puppets dancing on strings pulled by the German Government.
Not long ago I received a circular, described as a "Notable Pronouncement," signed by a number of labour leaders who objected to universal service. I should recommend them and their co-signatories to read a work recently published in the United States called "The Valour of Ignorance." They will then have a better understanding of the problems they attempt to deal with in such a light-hearted and optimistic manner. The cost of universal service will be largely, if not completely, recouped by the habits of punctuality and exactitude that will be taught to the men 915 in their early youth. Universal service would also provide us with officers. Men who objected to serving in the ranks would make themselves efficient as officers, learning their work as cadets, largely at their own expense. After 1870, substitutes were abolished in the French Army, and in consequence it is much better officered than it used to be.
I honour the Territorials for coming forward to learn what they can under the present system. But to rely on volunteering alone for a Home Army, is, I think, most unfair on the Territorials. Why should they alone pay in their own person the tax for self-defence? The whole country benefits by it. Try a volunteer Income Tax. Let those pay who choose to do so. How much would the Chancellor of the Exchequer get? No heroism that is too late can save the situation. This country can never be in the position of Spain a century ago. A thinly-populated, mountainous country may defeat a more powerful enemy by pertinacity and heroism, but in England there would be nothing left 916 to do but to sit down and starve if once a foreigner could land and seize our chief railways, or interfere with our food supplies at sea. Every man who is physically fit to serve ought to have some place in the arrangements for the defence of the liberties won by our ancestors. Every able-bodied man ought to have his station, just as in the case of a ship when the fire-bell rings. I hope the noble and gallant Field-Marshal will continue his campaign in the education of the people on this matter. I think opinion is growing, and I hope it will grow still more and that before my lifetime is out public opinion will enable the occupants of both Front Benches to take up this question prior to the disaster which we are told must happen before the question is effectually dealt with.
§ On Question, further debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Twelve o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.