§ *THE DUKE OF BEDFORD had the following Notice on the Paper—"To call attention to the deficiency of subaltern officers in the Special Infantry Reserve; and to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied with the recruiting of Special Reserve Infantry officers."
§ The noble Duke said: My Lords, in considering questions connected with the Special Reserve we must remember that our military forces have been reorganised in two lines, and that the Special Reserve is an essential and an important part of our first line. I am dealing only with the deficiency of Special Reserve subalterns. The establishment of Special Reserve subalterns for all battalions is 1,915. On February 1, 1912, the total number serving was 697, and the shortage 1,218. The establishment of officers as well as their duties being different for the Third and Fourth Battalions, it is better to consider the state of these battalions separately. This is easily done by means of the Army List. I take the Third Battalions first. The establishment of Special Reserve subalterns for the 74 Third Battalions is 1,402, and the strength by the Army List of last March was 510 Special Reserve subalterns—a deficiency of 892. The noble Viscount is committed by his plan to send on mobilisation 370 Special Reserve subalterns from the Third Battalions to the Line Battalions and to the depôts. He has thus available for battalion duties 140 Special Reserve subalterns for 74 battalions. This is less than two subalterns per battalion, and not one-tenth of the total number required for battalion duties.
As regards the 27 Fourth Battalions, the establishment for subalterns is 513; the strength is 168; therefore the deficiency is 345. By Appendix VI of the Army Order of December 23, 1907, each of these 27 battalions has to send on mobilisation four subalterns to the Regular battalions. The noble Viscount stated on March 6 last that—
allowance had been made in their establishment to admit of four subalterns per battalion passing to the Regulars on mobilisation.
Now, as the noble Viscount has told us that allowance had been made in the number of the establishment to cover the transfer of four subalterns to the Line,
presumably enough would be left to carry on battalion duties. As a matter of fact, if 108 subalterns are to go to the Line on mobilisation, then 60 subalterns will be left for the 27 battalions—that is, two subalterns per battalion. At the beginning of the year, by the January Army List, there was only one out of the 27 Fourth Battalions with less than 10 Special Reserve officers deficient. One of these Fourth Battalions was 22 officers deficient—that is to say, it had seven officers when by its establishment it ought to have had 2ft Special Reserve officers.
§ The one great change which was to make the Fourth Battalions Special Reserve when reorganised by the noble Viscount as first line troops so superior to their former selves when second line troops, was the presence of four Regular officers per battalion in addition to the Adjutant. In 1910 a Return was rendered [Cd. 5018] showing that all the Regular officers, 108 in number, were doing duty with these Fourth Battalions. The Return thus proclaimed the perfection of the noble Viscount's plan. But it did not last long. On February 27, 1911, appeared an Army Order under which the 108 Regular officers were all to be reposted to their Regular units. I noticed by the November Army List that there were no Regular officers serving with the Fourth Battalions except the Adjutants and Quartermasters. We see, then, that as regards the Regular officers in these Fourth Battalions the plan has collapsed. The Regular officers are not there, because the noble Viscount has not got them to spare. It is certain from the Army List that as far as officers from the Special Reserve Infantry are concerned, the noble Viscount's plan will not work. On the mobilisation of the Infantry of the Special Reserve the noble Viscount has only one officer for both Third and Fourth Battalions where he ought to have ten. Now. it is obvious that one officer cannot do the work of ten, and that we have here a certain breakdown in a matter of first line mobilisation.
§ I pass from the question of numbers to that of training. We were told, when the Special Reserve was created, that officers of the Special Reserve Infantry were to do one year of continuous training with the Line battalion before joining the Special Reserve battalions. This training was to 967 qualify them for employment as first line officers. However, it soon became apparent that on those terms officers were not forthcoming, so an Army Order appeared on February 27, 1911, which completely altered the original conditions. At present nearly all officers in the Special Reserve come from the Officers Training Corps. They do so because they prefer to enter the Army by a door which is purposely made easy in order to encourage the Officers Training Corps, rather than by ways which in comparison are made more difficult. If they are in possession of the necessary certificates from the Officers Training Corps then they do a three months' course which may be divided into two separate periods of six weeks each. That is a very different matter from a continuous year of training in the Regular Army. This preliminary training may be done with any Line battalion, after which the officer trains annually with his own battalion.
In addition, a Supplementary List has also been established. I quote from the Army Order of February 27, 1911—
It has been decided to allow Special Reserve officers to join Infantry regiments on a Supplementary List without being posted in peace to any particular battalion. These officers will train annually for fourteen days at any time which may suit their convenience. This training will be carried out with a Regular or Reserve unit.
Officers on this list do the same preliminary training. The difference is that they need not train with their battalions, and that their annual training is two Weeks and not four weeks. The object of this plan is to allow them the liberty of choosing the time and place most convenient to themselves for their annual military outing. It was hoped that this go-as-you-please, train-when-you-like, unattached plan would prove a greater attraction than joining a battalion of the Special Reserve and having to do a four weeks' training instead of two weeks, and that at a time and at a place and under a commanding officer not chosen by the subaltern himself. It is certain that if the unattached subaltern has any reason to find fault with his commanding officer during his two weeks' experience of him he will not train under him again, but choose another in preference. On mobilisation these officers from the Supplementary List will be posted to battalions they may or may not have
seen before, and commence for the first time their duties as regimental officers, because they have not previously belonged to any regiment. There is all the difference in the world between belonging to a regiment and belonging to none but being attached first to one regiment and then another, according to your own fancy, for a fortnight a year. When officers are attached to regiments for a couple of weeks' instruction they cannot be allowed to administer discipline. It would be grossly unfair on the men of the Regular Army that they should be constantly punished by cadets absolutely ignorant of the meaning of what they are doing. So these officers on the Supplementary List will join on mobilisation—that is, at the moment when they are to proceed on active service—without any knowledge of how they ought to treat their men or how they ought to maintain discipline; indeed, they have no idea what the discipline of the Regular Army means, because they have never been through the mill. It is preposterous to assume that officers trained in this fashion will be fit for first line duties with the battalions of the Expeditionary Force. The number shown in the Army List of these Supplementary officers is 34. We have only two lines, and Special Reserve officers are first line officers. Therefore unless trained for the first line duties which they are to perform in war there must be disaster. You can expect nothing else.
As regards training, we see that under the Army Order of February 27, 1911, all attempts at elementary first line training for the Special Reserve officers have been definitely abandoned. No doubt this sacrifice of quality was made in the hope of securing increased quantity. On March 1, 1909, the noble Viscount was asked whether he was satisfied with the recruiting of Special Reserve officers. He replied—
Yes; because I am not wholly dependent upon the officers of the old class. I am depending upon contingents from the new Officers Training Corps, the fruits of which will begin to be seen in the summer.
The noble Viscount then expected to gather his first crop in the summer of 1909. But a year after—on March 8, 1910—the noble Viscount was again asked whether he expected that the shortage in Special Reserve officers would be met by supplies
from the Officers Training Corps. The noble Viscount replied—
The Officers Training Corps has been in existence only a little more than a year, and we have not yet Been its fruit. Those who take commissions in the Special Reserve of Officers will remain there on an average about ten years. If you bring in 1,000 a year, you would thus get 10,000, and when you have once got a considerable establishment the wastage in that establishment will not be so serious. The Officers Training Corps must be judged by what it will produce, and not by what it is in the present year.
Well, the summer of 1909, which was to have produced the first harvest, had then come and gone, and now that of 1010 and that of 1911 have passed and we are well on in 1912. But what has happened? From the formation of the Officers Training Corps in 1908 up to February 1, 1912, by the statement of the Under-Secretary of State for War on February 20 last, 241 members have been appointed to the Special Reserve, all arms.
§ The noble Viscount hoped to gather his first fruits in 1909, but his crop failed; nevertheless, in 1910 he hoped he would bring in 1,000 a year from the Officers Training Corps, but since its formation he has brought in 241. Then he told us that officers would serve for ten years in the Special Reserve, but it seems that out of the 241 who joined during the last two years 219 announced their intention of passing into the Army as soon as possible. According to the noble Viscount's statement of March 8, 1910, 3,000 subalterns ought to have now joined the Special Reserve from the Officers Training Corps, but it seems that only 241 have done so. Out of this number 217 have either joined or are about to join the Army. This gives an actual permanent intake of 24, instead of the estimated 3,000. Surely if you reckon on having 3,000 officers and you find on mobilisation that you have 24 it is apt to be inconvenient, especially in your first line. I can only repeat the question asked in 1909 and again in 1910. Is the noble Viscount still satisfied with the recruiting of officers for the Special Reserve by means of the Officers Training Corps? Does he still think that he will obtain 1,000 officers per annum from this source, and that they will remain in the Special Reserve for ten years? If so, when will the intake of 1,000 a year commence? And, meantime, what would be our position as regards Special Reserve officers if we were called upon to mobilise next year?970
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOE WAR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, the noble Duke has opened a formidable battery of figures, and I do not profess to be in a position to be able to deal with all that he has poured out, but there are some points with which I can deal now without further notice. I agree with the noble Duke that the question of the supply of subaltern officers for the Special Reserve—there is no difficulty about the senior officers—is a very serious one, and I also agree with him that the operation of the Officers Training Corps is a matter which wants close watching.
The Officers Training Corps has now been in operation since 1908, and it is interesting to see what has been the growth of candidates for the Special Reserve during that time. The Officers Training Corps is now beginning to give its fruits. I take the figures of candidates appointed to the Special Reserve since September, 1908, when we practically began. The figures I which I give do not relate solely to those I who have come in from the Officers Training Corps, but that corps furnishes increasingly the main sources of supply. About fifty per cent, of those taking commissions as subalterns in the Special Reserve come from the Officers Training Corps, and the percentage is an increasing one. In 1908—we did not practically begin until the month of September of that year—we only got thirty-seven subaltern officers for the Special Reserve, of whom very few came from the Officers Training Corps. But in 1909 that corps began to tell, and we got a total of subaltern officers, including those who came from the Officers Training Corps, of 204; in 1910 the figure rose to 253; and in 1911, to 261.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I have not got in detail month by month the figures of the Infantry only. For the four months of this year the number is 112—that is to say, We are now taking at the rate of 28 a month for the whole of the 971 Special Reserve. That being so, the estimate of Sir Edward Ward's Committee, on which the Officers Training Corps was based, that 2,000 officers would be obtained from all sources in eight years will probably be substantially exceeded. Therefore I do not think the situation so far as regards the Officers Training Corps is at all bad. The noble Duke spoke only of Infantry, but we cannot look only at Infantry; and I think that in looking at the Infantry he left out of account the Unattached List, which is becoming an increasing feature of the Special Reserve.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
I mentioned that according to the Army List there were 34 of these supplementary officers.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
The Infantry on the Supplementary List are now growing up for the first time, but they are growing up. The noble Duke will remember what the Supplementary List was, and the reason for its being brought into existence. It was found that a great many young men at the Universities and in professions could not come out in May and June with the Special Reserve, so opportunity was given them of training instead with Regular battalions, which they could do in September, their places during the training of the Special Reserve being taken by Regular officers whom they relieved later on. If the noble Duke will look at a Special Reserve Brigade such as may be seen out in the summer time on such places as Salisbury Plain, he will see that a large number of the officers there are Regulars who have come in for that purpose and who will be relieved of work later on by those on the Unattached List. For instance, I see that the establishment of Special Reserve officers is 2,707—I am taking the figures of April 1 last—the strength in units is 1,504, and there are 46 unattached. The number of those unattached is increasing. Officers are coming in through the Officers Training Corps on the Unattached List with greater rapidity than was the case before, and the rate of progress I gave from the other figures applies to the Infantry just as much as to the other arms.
As I have said, I agree with the noble Duke that the question of officers for the Special Reserve is a very important one, but I see no reason to be depressed. The Officers Training Corps is answering its 972 purpose; it is sending in officers as rapidly as we anticipated. The estimate of the Ward Committee, that there would be 2,000 officers in eight years from all sources, is likely to be exceeded. The Officers Training Corps is very popular, and is furnishing us with the class of officer we want. We have reason to think that the opening of the Unattached List will increase the process of accretion. And if it is said that there is still a shortage, my comment is that there was a shortage before. The shortage that existed in the days of the Militia was assuming formidable proportions, and, unless we had taken the steps which we have taken to check it would have assumed really dangerous proportions. The fact is that the class which furnished subaltern officers to the Militia is a class which has ceased to exist. The younger sons of the landed gentry now, not unnaturally, are no longer content with the easy going lot which contented them in years gone by. They now go into the city and into every kind of business; they like to make money and are no longer satisfied to stay at home and do odd jobs and train the Militia. The result was that long before these changes were made the class of subaltern officer in the Militia had begun to fall off rapidly. The only thing to do was to turn to new sources. We turned to the Officers Training Corps, and that corps is giving every indication that it will supply the deficiency which exists.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
The Undersecretary of State for War stated most distinctly on February 20 last, in the other House, that 241 members had been appointed to the Special Reserve, all arms, in the course of two years—which is a very different figure from that used by the noble Viscount.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
The figures I have given to the noble Duke have been furnished to me by that very accurate officer Sir Archibald Murray, Director of Military Training. As I say, I am not talking of the Officers Training Corps only. Last year the number of candidates appointed to the Special Reserve was 261; and in the four months that have elapsed of this year the number is 112, giving an average for this year of 28 a month—an increase over 22 a month last year, 21 a month the year before, 17 a month the year before that, and 9 a month the year before that.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It is satisfactory to hear from the noble Viscount that there is an improvement in the recruiting of subaltern officers for the Special Reserve, but having listened attentively i to the speech of the noble Duke and to the answer which has just been given I do not think the noble Viscount really grappled with the very serious figures which the noble Duke laid before the House. Though no one in your Lordships' House admires more than I do the energy which the noble Viscount has devoted to the War Office, I do think, if I may venture to say so, that the sort of optimism with which he views the present serious state of things i does not really tend to encourage confidence among the public.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
As far as the noble Viscount himself is concerned he may be fortunate in being an optimist, but we are bound to look at the facts as they are and not through the optimistic spectacles of the noble Viscount. Let me recall the figures which the noble Duke gave, and which the noble Viscount has not denied. The noble Viscount stated that he had not furnished himself with the full figures; yet the noble Duke stated in his Notice in Very distinct terms that he wished to ask for information as to the strength of subaltern officers in the Special Infantry Reserve. I do not think that in his answer the noble Viscount impugned the really serious state of things which my noble friend explained to the House. What was the noble Duke's statement? The noble Duke stated that the Special Reserve, both Third and Fourth Battalions, had an average of only two subalterns per battalion. That is so, I think?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Viscount shakes his head. Would it not have been much more satisfactory to your Lordships if the noble Viscount had been able to state in explicit terms exactly what the figures were, and so have corrected what may be, after all, only a mistake on the part of my noble friend? It remains upon record that the noble Duke comes down to your Lordships' House and states 974 that on mobilisation there will be only two subalterns on the average in each Special Reserve battalion. Every one knows that it would be quite impossible to work a battalion with only two subalterns. If that state of things were to continue it would mean that these Special Reserve battalions would be paralysed. I do not think the noble Viscount gains anything by his optimism and by attempting to slur over the difficulty—
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I did not indulge in optimism or attempt to slur over the figures. I said I had no notice of the Questions. I totally dissent from the view put before the House by the noble Duke.
§ THE MARQUESS OP SALISBURY
Then I hope the noble Duke will repeat the Questions. The noble Viscount did not distinguish between the subaltern officers of the Special Reserve who came from the Officers Training Corps and those who came in otherwise.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I gave the figure of fifty per cent, or upwards as coming in from the Officers Training Corps.
§ THE MARQUESS OP SALISBURY
There was an optimistic vagueness about the noble Viscount's answer. He did not wish to emphasise too severely the deficiency which exists even in the case of the Officers Training Corps. Speaking from my own experience, I can only say that I have been successful in getting very few officers from the Officers Training Corps. I do not know whether other commanding officers have been more fortunate. The noble Viscount would gain by taking the country into his confidence and telling us whether the experiments which he has tried are successful or not. Unless something can be done to increase the number of officers in the Regular Army and certainly in the Special Reserve there will be a serious situation, and the noble Viscount and his colleagues will have to consider whether improved conditions of service will not have to be offered. For officers they must have. I am sure the noble Viscount will be the first to admit that unless he can get officers by the methods which he has at present adopted he must find other methods. I invite the noble Viscount, not only to face these very difficult questions in his office, but to face them in your Lordships' House, and not allow the optimism of which he is so proud to prevent him telling the House and the country the exact position.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
The Notice which the noble Duke placed on the Paper was—To call attention to the deficiency of subaltern officers in the Special Infantry Reserve; and to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied with the recruiting of Special Reserve Infantry officers.I brought down to the House a mass of figures, none of which happen to meet the points that have been put, for the simple reason that I did not know what points were going to be put. It would be of enormous assistance to me if noble Lords, in putting Questions on the Paper, would state the precise points on which they desire information. If the noble Duke will make his Question a little more specific I promise him that he shall have all the information that he desires.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
I will put down the Question for another day in as full a form as I can contrive.