§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ Moved, That the Bill he now read 2a.—(Lord Herschell.)
My Lords, I propose, before we read this Bill a second time, to raise the matters referred to in the Notice standing in my name on the Paper—viz.:
To call attention to the statements of His Majesty's Government on the defence problem at home and overseas and to the deficiencies which now exist on the land forces as organised under the Army Scheme of 1907, and to ask His Majesty's Government what steps will be taken to secure that these forces will be brought up to strength, and further to ask why the reference to the recently appointed Sub-Committee of Imperial Defence has been confined to the single issue of invasion.
I think I speak in no exaggerated language when I say that all those who interest themselves in the defence of the Empire view with growing anxiety the attitude of His Majesty's Government to the defence question at home and abroad. During the last few years we have seen strained relations between the Great Powers; we have seen vast expenditure and ordered preparation for war on the part of every Continental nation; and we have recently witnessed the downfall of a nation famed in the past for bravery, but which relied too much on improvisation at the time of the declaration of war. I think the downfall of the Turk has brought home more closely to the average man in this country than anything else the grave danger of the British Isles. It is very easy to draw an analogy between the arrangements which existed in Turkey and those in this country. In both places the 114 organisation of Second Line troops is left to the last day or the actual declaration of war. We view this state of things with grave apprehension, and on looking at what His Majesty's Government have done or are doing our alarm is in no way abated. During the last few years we have seen our military garrisons abroad decline, not only relatively, but absolutely. We have seen the number of Regular soldiers in this country reduced, and if we compare this to the increase in numbers abroad this reduction is all the more significant.
Let us look for a moment at our Second Line. In the last few years there has been created a Territorial Force on which we seem to pin the whole of our prospects of security in regard to home land defence. May I remind your Lordships that in regard to that Force the Secretary of State for War has admitted in the other House that we have "failed in achievement"; and to that admission we may add the fact that only two days ago the Council of the County Associations, the body more closely in touch with the organisation and recruiting side of the Territorial Force than any other association in the kingdom, unanimously passed a resolution declaring that—In view of the continued deficiency in the establishment of the Territorial Force in the country, notwithstanding the extraordinary efforts that have been made during the past five years to obtain recruits, this Council is of opinion that some system should be adopted which would provide a Territorial Force adequate for the defence of the country.And they added that this could only be arrived at by an alteration in the conditions of service in such a way as to get more men. May I also remind your Lordships that on an inquiry by the Defence Association practically 75 per cent. of the commanding officers of the Territorial Force who were approached gave it as their opinion that the present Territorial training was not sufficient to meet the demand which might be made upon that Force.
I am not going in an Army debate to be led any distance into the question of naval defence, but what I have to say on this is germane to the subject we are discussing. I wish to bring to your Lordships' notice four outstanding facts. The first is that in battleships we had in 1904 a superiority of 190 per cent.; over the Germans to-day we have a superiority of only 80 per cent. In torpedo destroyers 115 in 1901, we had a 304 per cent. superiority; to-day the figure is 36 per cent. In regard to submarines, there were on the German side, though they had two building, no submarines in 1907; at the present moment Germany probably has something like 35 per cent. of our strength. In considering these big naval facts in their totality, I think you will admit that the relative importance of land defence stands out all the more clearly. Further, I think you will admit that with the reductions that have taken place in the Army and the failure of the Territorials the situation is indeed a grave one.
But if you turn for a moment to the question of the command of the air—a matter, if not wholly neglected by His Majesty's Government, at all events not treated in the manner we should like—you will find that the situation is even more serious. I would like to ask the noble Lord who represents the War Office to tell us the number of Zeppelins and semi-rigid dirigibles Germany has, and the number we have; and I would also like to ask him how long he anticipates it will take before we shall be able to compete on equal terms with other countries in this, to us, entirely new science. There is one point which has always been regarded as important in studying the strategy of a Power by a nation which has fears of that Power—the examination of the preparations prior to hostilities. I will give you a single example—that of the French and German frontier at the present time. We all know that on that frontier are tracts of uncultivated uplands where in remote villages there are stations with forty to fifty railway sidings showing the points at which on the outbreak of war troops will concentrate. In 1860 all but the Austrians knew by the peace preparations which were the Prussian places of concentration. If we consider this dirigible question from this point of view, we realise that the dirigible is directed against a sea rather than a land Power, and for the following reasons. The strong point of the dirigible is that it has power of flight up to 2,000 miles; it has capacity for carrying explosives up to ten tons, some even up to twenty tons; it is a most valuable asset to a Navy, for by means of wireless telegraphy it can report the whole of the movements of a Fleet. The dirigible, on the other hand, has certain grave disadvantages. It cannot fly as high or as fact as an aeroplane. It is unsuitable for 116 land operations from the fact that scouting is the main object by land. The dirigible is knocked out by its size and speed vulnerability by the aeroplane in regard to that work. But when you consider the advantages of the dirigible to a naval Power hostile to us, they stand out immediately. At the present moment Germany has between twenty and twenty-seven vessels able to fly across to these shores with dynamite sufficient to destroy any of our dockyards and arsenals, and against these we have absolutely nothing except two semi-rigids to answer the danger with which we are threatened.
Should war break out the Germans would be able to report every movement of our ships. They would be able at night to follow the great vessels as they steamed to get into safety, and they could communicate the information by wireless to their submarines. Thus they would have every facility for indicating the position of our Fleet. One further point is important. We must consider the strain that it would be on our Fleet to know that they could be watched in this way while we have no aircraft which could watch and report in our interests. We have no dirigibles and no aeroplane has yet got a wireless installation. Therefore it is clear that the dice are being more and more loaded against our one line of defence—the Navy. I ask your Lordships, Is this a satisfactory situation? I ask, Are we going to adopt once more what I might call the Canute theory of defence—the idea that by an individual's ipsi dixit, by the issue of a certain number of proclamations, airships can be prevented from blowing up our arsenals and dockyards. History relates that Canute did not believe in the protestations of his flatterers: is it quite certain that our rulers are equally clear sighted?
May I ask your Lordships to consider for a moment what has happened even within the last two months. During that period we have seen Germany vote £50,000,000 for defence purposes. We have seen France—a land in which every man almost, down to the widow's only son, is already recruited—we have seen France with enthusiasm accept a three years principle instead of a two. What have we done? No action, but an inquiry by the Committee of Imperial Defence. It would appear that we are unable to cope with a raid by 70,000 foreign troops who are 117 supposed to be able to land on these shores, and therefore it is thought advisable to reduce the number of possible invaders who can come over. I ask your Lordships to consider the reference to this recently appointed Sub-Committee of Imperial Defence, and I would like to read a couple of quotations, one from a speech by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, and the other from a speech by Lord Haldane, on the difficulty of a partial inquiry. Many of us on this side of the House believe that in confining the reference to the Committee to a single issue the Government have absolutely ruined any chance of a serious consideration of the case. Speaking in your Lordships' House on February 10 last Lord Haldane said—We were asked, 'Will the Government say definitely what they intend to do with the Expeditionary Force in case of war Would they all be sent abroad?' That was one question. I think any one who attempted an answer to a question which is essentially a question of circumstances would be very ill-advised. It is essentially a question to be decided according to the circumstances and the conditions which prevailed and which we cannot predict. One would be very foolish if one attempted to answer such a question with a categorical 'Yes' or 'No.' It must be a matter to be decided by the circumstances present at the moment. We might find that our naval dispositions were such that considering all the strategic positions, we might find it best to send all our Expeditionary Force abroad. Or it might be that owing to the operations of the Fleet there was not concentrated for the security of the country that amount of strength that we should desire, and we might think it better under the circumstances to keep the Expeditionary Force at home or only send away four divisions and keep two divisions at home. No one can give a categorical 'Yes' or 'No' to such a question.And on May 15 last year Lord Crewe used these words—At that time I stated, and I am quite prepared to state again, that the circumstances of Europe might be such that it would not be possible to send at short notice more than four Divisions out of the country. I am prepared to go further than that. I can conceive other circumstances in which it might not be possible to send more than two Divisions. I can conceive other circumstances in which it would not be possible to send a single man out of the country, and I have not the least doubt that there is not one of the great military Powers on the Continent of Europe which would not be able to make a similar declaration as to what might happen in special circumstances on the Continent of Europe. The fact is, my Lords, we have two forces which both exist primarily, of course, for purposes of defence, but are both capable of offence—the first being the Fleet, and the second being that portion of our Army which it is possible to send abroad., Without knowing what the precise 118 circumstances are, what Powers are hostile to you in Europe at the time and what are friendly, what are their relations among themselves, and what is the position on the Continent of Europe in regard to alliances inter se—without knowing all these things it seems to me altogether impossible to lay down as a general proposition that you are prepared either to send abroad 50,000, 100,000, or 150,000 men, or, in the course of time, the whole male population of this Island which is capable of bearing arms.When we pressed for an answer on the Expeditionary Force we are answered in this way. Then when you are inquiring into that most vital of questions, the question of what the British Army is required to face, why limit the reference to the single issue of invasion and exclude all other questions?
If Lord Crewe does me the honour of answering my remarks in the course of this debate I should like him to justify the logic by which he refused to consider the question of the numbers of the Expeditionary Force except in conjunction with all the other items which bear on the invasion problem, and yet when the Committee of Defence is to make what is called full inquiry into the defence problem a single issue only is chosen. We ask for an answer why this inquiry is confined to the single issue of invasion. We believe that with such a reference it is impossible to go fully into the subject. You cannot tell how many men a foreign Power may be able to send unless you have the rest of the considerations before you. You cannot tell what portion of our naval defence would remain at home or how many men of the Regular Army you would still have in this country. We think that this question of the reference to the Sub-Committee very seriously prejudices the whole position. Then I ask your Lordships to consider the personnel of the Sub-Committee. Far be it from me to imagine that a single civilian or Service member on that Committee is not absolutely honourable in his intentions But you must remember you have nine Ministers, with three sailors and only three soldiers. The nine Ministers must obviously have a tendency against any alteration being made. The three sailors have already come to a decision on the matter—vide Colonel Seely's statement of yesterday that so far as they are concerned the subject need not be discussed at all; and even the three soldiers in this particular case may have their views biased.
119 The majority of Englishmen who study strategy believe that the future of Europe will be derided on the Belgian frontier. They believe that the duty of soldiers is to get every available man to help the French when that time comes. I am not sure that I myself would not vote in the same way so as to free the soldiers to enable them to fight in Europe at a critical time. You are asking soldiers to give a decision on a subject which is not put fairly to them if you confine this question to the single reference of invasion. So much for the reference and the personnel of the Sub-Committee. Might I ask, before I leave that question, why Lord Nicholson was not appointed a member of the Sub-Committee. Lord Nicholson would surely speak on this subject with authority. It is true that he is in India at the present time, but your last inquiry took a year. He will be back shortly, and with his grasp of the matter he would soon be able to get level with the rest of the Committee and assist them in their decision. Again, why have we not got on this Sub-Committee General Ewart, who was the head of the Intelligence Department, or the present head? Then if this is going to be a fair inquiry, why should we not have some one like Lord Curzon or Lord Milner on the Committee? Why was Mr. Balfour chosen? We all remember Mr. Balfour's memorable statement on this question in 1905. We Back Bench Peers regard with the gravest anxiety the fact that out of all the occupants of our Front Bench in this House and in the other House Mr. Balfour alone should have been chosen.
There is one graver question than reference or personnel. Apparently His Majesty's Government have made up their mind about the whole situation. As recently as yesterday Colonel Seely made this statement in the House of Commons in answer to a supplementary Question—The General Stall has assured me that the troops remaining in this country would be adequate to defeat any organised invasion which, on the basis of Admiralty calculation, could elude the Fleet under the circumstances named. The number of 70,000 could only be reached by a series of isolated raids at wide intervals of time and place.That is a statement by the Admiralty. Consequently the three Admiralty members on the Sub-Committee will vote for a reduction in the number of 70,000 possible invaders. If the number 120 of 70.000 possible invaders goes, then good-bye to all hope of reform. I would like to ask the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition in this House whether this matter is going to be put before Mr. Balfour, who will necessarily tie the whole Conservative Party to this bogus inquiry, and in future we shall never be able to face the question of reform. With such am enormous preponderance of feeling on the Committee, with the subject already prejudged, why should we, through the membership of Mr. Balfour, who must, after all, come not as an expert but as an amateur, risk the whole Conservative Party's being branded with the decision arrived at?
May I bring up one further point before I sit down. I would submit that the situation is so serious that the greatest care should be taken by those in authority that considered opinions are put forward with plainness and without circumlocution. We have had a series of statements which we can hardly believe represent the considered opinion of those who have made them. We have conic to a time when we should not accept any statements as facts until we sift them and see whether or not they are made in good faith. I will give one or two examples. The subject of aeroplanes was being discussed in the House of Commons the other day, and Colonel Seely claimed at that time to have 101 aeroplanes ready for use. He said—It may be asked, How does this compare with other countries? If you are to take aeroplanes in the same way as you take artillery, as being the necessary part of an army, to be allotted in a particular ratio, we have an enormous excess over any foreign Power, if you compare our provision of aeroplanes to-day. I do not accept the view that we ought to treat aeroplanes in the same way as we treat artillery, or that we should have the same proportion to mobilised strength as other nations, but if you do take that standard, and if you compare, let us say, the German Army with our own, and if we take the figures given by the Morning Post of 150 aeroplanes in possession of the German Army, and take our 100 to-day, if you do the same, that on the basis of an aeroplane being an integral part of the army the same as a gun, and being provided in the same proportion, taking the whole mobilised strength of the two nations, we have four times as many in proportion as Germany.I am sure that every person who read that speech in the country came away with the idea that 150 aeroplanes was the number possessed by Germany. I ask your Lordships to consider whether that was putting forward what was true or 121 suggesting what was false. Any one making inquiries as to the number of aeroplanes which Germany has at her disposal world find that the number is 600, and probably considerably more. We pay officers at the War Office to make inquiries, and the taxpayers pay the salary of the Secretary of State for War. Is it right that he should quote the number as 150 from a. paper like the Morning Post, which was badly informed on the subject, instead of asking his military advisers how many aeroplanes Germany has available in time of war? Is it right that that should be done to bamboozle the country as to the state of affairs? I should like to know whether this statement by Colonel Seely has been taken back or not.
In the House of Commons on Friday last Mr. Bonar Law pressed the Secretary of State fur War several times as to his statement. Mr. Bonar Law said—All I wanted to find out was whether I clearly understood the statement the right hon. gentleman makes. Even in his last statement he qualified it. I want now to have it quite clear. What I meant by the qualification was that he said there was no danger of a blow at the heart. I accept that, but I understood him to say before—and I should like an answer to this—that in the opinion of his General staff what would he left at home after the Expeditionary Force had gone abroad would he adequate to meet a raid of 70,000 trained European troops.Colonel Seely's answer to that was "Yes." Which leg are we going to stand on—Col. Seely's leg or the leg which Lord Haldane has so often put before us? I take it that we are not going to stand on Col. Seely's statement, because I see that in an answer in the other House yesterday we had a qualified withdrawal of this statement. I should like to ask whether we are going to have an official denial to-day. Are our Territorials so organised to-day that with the whole Expeditionary Force abroad they would be able to meet a raid of 70,000 trained European troops? As Colonel Seely has stated the opposite in another place, we are entitled to a full and public withdrawal of this statement.
I wish to give two further examples of inaccuracy. I do not think it helps debate at all to have statements made like the one we had from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that Special Reserve battalions can be used for part of the mobile force for home defence. We must turn back to his statement of November, 1911, and ask whether, 122 in addition to the duties which are given to these wretched Special Reserve battalions, who are deprived of their officers and have no transport, it is fair to count them three times—first, for reinforcing battalions abroad; secondly, for holding the strong places of the country; and thirdly, as a force which can march out and defeat any small body of invaders. Lord Haldane said on February 10 last—There are 74 of these battalions, and behind them are the 27 battalions of which I do not speak further because the problem is more difficult. I do not think that against these any small raiding force would make much headway. If they succeeded in landing, what position would such a raiding force be in? It would be surrounded and eventually wiped out even if they succeeded in killing three times their numbersThese battalions are not brigaded, but would have to light in isolated units, and, moreover, they have no transport. Is it right that statements like this should be made in your Lordships' House in order to bamboozle the country? In the present very grave situation it is not right that we should have statements like this put before the public.
On the subject of this famous figure of 70,000 Lord Haldane said—The figure has always been 70,000. It was 70,000 at the time the noble Viscount (Lord Midleton) was in office; it was 70,000 when the subject was discussed before the House of Commons in the debates of 1902, 1903, and 1905 in the time of Mr. Balfour, and it has remained at 70,000.This famous figure of 70,000 has perplexed many who do not closely follow political statements. The figure of 70,000 was originally given by Lord Roberts as the minimum number with which it would be possible to invade this country. The subsequent 70,000 was a figure which was defined in 1909 in a speech by the Prime Minister. This latter 70,000 referred to the maximum that we should organise our home defence forces to defeat. There is no connection at all between the two; and it is impossible to say that the figure of 70,000 was the same then as now, because it referred to a totally different subject. Speaking in the House of Commons on July 12, 1906, when he was proposing to change the Volunteers into the Territorial Army, Lord Haldane, then Secretary of State for War, said—Now the Volunteers have definite functions which they ought to fulfil, and which to a large extent they do fulfil. If the nation went to war the Regular troops would go out of the garrison forts, which would then have to be 123 defended by the Volunteers. The Volunteers are also required to repel possible raids to the extent of about 10,000 men. I think such raids very unlikely, because I believe the raiders would never go back alive. There may, however, be some Power which would be enterprising enough to lose 10,000 men in order to destroy the Elswick Works or Woolwich Arsenal. They will find it very difficult, but still possible, and provision has to he made accordingly, and that is the second function which Volunteers have to fulfil. There is a third function which the Volunteers may have to fulfil, and that is to be a sort of second Reserve for the Regular Army. We propose to take the Volunteers and organise them for these three functions.The Territorial Force was to be organised for these three functions ! In Lord Portsmouth's time and also during a portion of Lord Lucas's time at the War Office we used to have this 10,000 raid divided into two raids of 5,000. To say, as the noble and learned Viscount said the other day, that 70,000 had been the number throughout I submit does not convey to the general public the facts as I and a great many of us here believe them to be.
We have initiated many discussions in your Lordships' House on the subject of the land defences of the Crown. We consider that the situation is getting worse from day to day. May I ask, as a humble Back Bencher, Are there no noble Lords on the other side who are going to express their views on the subject? Why should we always be limited to two or three speakers on the other side of the House? In the spirit of boycott which now obtains in regard to the House of Lords, we have no official representation of the War Office in this House. If we do not get assistance in this way from the considered opinion of those in touch with the War Office, why should not noble Lords on the Back Benches opposite address your Lordships and justify the faith which is in them, or boldly come out into the open and express their honest conviction? I have searched through the debates in your Lordships' House during the past two years, and I find that with the exception of Lord Crewe, Lord Haldane, Lord Lucas and Lord Haversham, there have been only three speeches made by noble Lords on the Front or Back Benches opposite to criticise or to hack up the military policy of His Majesty's Government. This conspiracy of silence is striking, and I hope that in the course of this discussion noble Lords opposite will get up and say whether or not they are satisfied with the policy of His Majesty's Government in the present crisis.
§ LORD ST. AUDRIES
My Lords, I venture to join in this debate as an old soldier who, although he some time ago turned his sword into a whip, still takes a great interest, in his old profession. I propose to deal to-day very briefly with the question of the relative duties of the Expeditionary Force and of the Territorial Army. As I understand the Expeditionary Force, its numbers are based on the standard which the Government think sufficient for the defence of the frontiers of the Empire. That is the basis on which the numbers are fixed, and not on any idea of throwing a great Force on to the Continent in the event of a great European war. That the Expeditionary Force might have to go there is undoubted, but the basis is defence of the Empire and not our obligations on the Continent.
I want to examine what the Expeditionary Force can do on the Continent. To save running the smallest risk of any offensive remarks about any friendly foreign Power, I will take the case of our having to maintain our old obligation of defending the neutrality of Belgium. It is conceivable that if that neutrality were threatened it would be our business to mobilise the Expeditionary Force and to transfer it to Belgium. We cannot do that without the very gravest risk until we have absolute command of the sea. No nation has ever tried to do it on a large scale. It is true that the Japanese when they had practical, but not entire, command of the sea transported troops to Manchuria, but they lost a good many transports on the way. And I would remind your Lordships that our Expeditionary Force differs from any force in the shape of a raid which any foreign Power could send to this country, and for this reason. Supposing a foreign Power sent 70,000 men to invade these Islands and the whole of that raid were wiped out, taken prisoners, or sunk on the transports, it would be a comparatively small fraction of the great armies of foreign Powers; but our Expeditionary Force is the only-Regular Army we have, and therefore we cannot without the gravest risk send it to the Continent until we have absolute command of the sea, command so absolute that no torpedo destroyers or even submarines could get through. We should almost have to avoid the risk of foggy weather, and also the new factor of aeroplanes. In that case our Expeditionary 125 Force would have to remain at home for some weeks until we got command of the sea.
But this situation might arise. It might be so vital to send our Expeditionary Force to the Continent that we should have to take that great risk, and in that case the greater part of our Navy would be occupied in convoying that Force from here to Belgium. That is an operation which this country has not attempted to undertake for more than 100 years. In all our recent wars, wherever we have sent large numbers of troops abroad, there has never been any question or any idea of our transports being attacked at sea. They have sailed to their destination exactly in the same way as the great American and Canadian liners sail week after week. But the risk in this case would be so great that a very large proportion of our Navy would be necessary to convoy that Force abroad, and I very much doubt, great as our Navy is, whether we should have enough ships to convoy the Force, to blockade the enemy's ports, and to protect our own coast. In that case the enemy's game would be simple. They would keep on worrying our covering Fleet and at the same time make a raid on some distant part of our coast. What would the raiders meet? Nothing but our hastily-raised Territorials, who would not have had their illusory six months training, and the result would be that the Expeditionary Force would have to turn back home and remain here in order to save the country from invasion.
There is another contingency, and I think perhaps a more possible one, though I hope it may never occur. It is this. A situation might arise in India or in Egypt or in both at a time of profound peace in Europe which would necessitate our sending out large reinforcements to India and to Egypt, and which would further necessitate our reinforcing the ridiculously inadequate garrisons which are now maintained in the Mediterranean, because it is obvious that if a portion of our Force is locked up in Indian and in Egypt we must keep the sea route free in the Mediterranean. Then we will imagine that war breaks out in Europe in which we are vitally interested and in which we are bound to use our naval force. What have we at home to protect our people from raid and invasion? Nothing, again, but hastily raised Territorials with- 126 out their six months' training. And yet the six months' training on the outbreak of war was the backbone of the efficiency of the Territorial Force.
I turn to the Territorials, and I first of all must enter my very strong protest against counting the National Reserve as part of the Territorial Army. I do not know whether "fraud" is a Parliamentary word or not, but all I can say is that it is a gross deception of the British citizen to count those old soldiers as part of the Territorial Army, It is a very thin veil to cover Colonel Seely's failure to raise a Territorial Army by voluntary service. Who are the National Reserve? They are old men middle-aged men, many of them very old men, men who have done their duty to their country. Now they are asked to do it again simply because other and younger men are too slack and too idle to come forward. I will take my own case. I was asked to take command of the company of old Guardsmen in the Somerset Division of the National Reserve. Of course, I gladly assented. I am sixty; I can walk still, but I have had no instructions of any kind. I do not know what to do in case war breaks out, and I have no uniform. I understand that the penalty of being taken in arms without uniform in time of war is very extreme. I believe you are shot. When I say I have no uniform I am not quite correct, because I have several. I have my old uniform as a Grenadier, which incidentally I can still get into. I have my uniform as a Privy Councillor. I cannot afford to buy a Deputy Lieutenant's uniform owing to the burden of taxation, but I can hire one; and I have also somewhere the robes of a Baron. But suppose I was taken prisoner, it is possible that one or other of those uniforms might save me, but if I wore either of them I should be so conspicuous in the field that I am afraid I should be knocked out before any prisoners were taken at all. I want to know what the duties of the National Reserve are to be in time of war. Are they or any of them to join their old units, or are they to be units by themselves? I can conceive, it possible that some of them might be of great use for garrison duty and thereby might set free some Territorials for service in the field, but I cannot imagine anything more disastrous than the influx of a number of old soldiers, old officers, non-commissioned officers, and men into the ranks of the 127 Territorial Army, amongst young officers, non-commissioned officers, and men. You would have old men with the best possible feelings of loyalty serving under men young enough to be their sons. That system could never possibly work. I strongly protest against this National Reserve being counted as even supplementary to the Territorial Force, except in so far as some of them, quite a limited number, could do garrison duty and thereby relieve Territorials.
I believe everybody will admit that the Territorial Army is deficient both in numbers and in training. I know the local Territorials in my part of the country intimately, and I say this of them—they are very keen, they are very zealous, and they are very anxious to be efficient, but no man who has ever served with Regular soldiers in the British Army or has ever seen Regular soldiers on the Continent can honestly say for a moment that these Territorials are fit to meet foreign trained troops. They have the spirit, and I dare say in many ways they are inure intelligent, being better educated than ordinary Regular soldiers, but they have not the training, and to send them to fight trained Continental troops would be mere butchery. In fact, the Government themselves have admitted that, because they estimate that to defeat foreign trained troops we should require a majority of three to one. That must logically involve the idea that a much larger proportion of our men than of the enemy are going to be killed.
We seem to be in rather a haze about this question of a raid. It is not very difficult to see why, because it changes from day to day. Last Friday it was 70,000 men; yesterday it was little parties of men landing in small bodies in various parts of the country, apparently in a most obliging way exactly where the Territorials were prepared to meet them. I recollect when this question was first raised, and I heard Mr. Balfour's speech. He gave it as the deliberate opinion of the Defence Committee, including the opinion of the sailors, that 70,000 was the most which any Power could land on our coast in one Army—I do not mean to say exactly at the same place, but 70,000 men landed so close together that they could concentrate in a few hours. I believe that is the view of the Committee of Imperial Defence now. Of one thing I am quite certain—that 128 Colonel Seely's opinion is mistaken. No foreign Power would be mad enough to attempt to invade this country by a kind of system of parcel post. What we have to reckon on is a concentrated army of 70,000 men, with artillery and with horses; and to meet them, to crush them, because a raid must be crushed—we cannot afford to take any risk at all—you must have a preponderance of three to one. In other words, you must have 210,000 men. How are you going to get them? The present Territorial Force is 260,000 men, but if you deduct the men required for garrison purposes, the men who are absent, the men who are sick, and the men who have not been to camp and have not passed the musketry test, you will not have more than 160,000 left. And you must remember this. The enemy are not going to advertise and tell us exactly where they will land. It will be done by surprise. They will know our dispositions, and we shall not know theirs. I wonder how long it would take us to concentrate 210,000 Territorials in one spot to meet this raid. The result is obvious. While we are concentrating our men the enemy will advance through the country. We shall either have to retreat and concentrate, or else we shall have to be beaten in detail.
While we are rushing about expecting a landing here and expecting a landing there the enemy will have made a landing, and we shall not have a Force sufficient to meet them. It is absolutely necessary that we must have, not only a large Force, but a Force which can be stationed in different parts of the country, so that wherever the enemy lands we can be able to bring against them a force of three to one. I believe that what we really want is not less than 500,000 men, and not only do we want the men, but they must be trained. Nobody now believes in the six months' training at the outbreak of war. Nobody believes we shall have time for it. Long before the expiration of six months the crisis of any great European war will have passed. The men will be perfectly useless to us then. Nobody believes that our men at the outbreak of war are capable of putting up a fight against foreign troops. It is all very fine to go to Territorial dinners and make complimentary speeches and pat them on the back and say what good fellows they are. They are good fellows, but they are very indifferent soldiers.
129 Then take their horses. We all know how difficult it is to get horses for the Regular Army, and it is getting more difficult every year. I do not know whether your Lordships have ever seen the animals which are used by the Territorial Army. Last summer I was going out of London one Sunday, presumably the horses' clay of rest, and I overtook some of our mounted Territorials. They were mostly riding, I should judge, horses which on week-days took the butcher round. Some of them, no doubt, may have moved in the more humble growler, and one or two others showed signs of being acquainted with au omnibus. The horses certainly were very poor, and the riders were in that elementary stage of the knowledge of the art which I think was best described by a little child who was asked how she was getting on riding. She said, "First-rate; the pony used to bump me, now I bump the pony." The Territorials whom I saw had not got beyond the stage of being bumped by the pony. I give your Lordships another instance. I was down in my county the other day, and saw fifteen or sixteen horses being driven along the road. They were of all sizes, all shapes, all kinds of breed. They only had one thing in common—they all looked gaunt, thin and weary. I asked the man in charge to what particular knacker's yard they were being taken, and the answer I got was that they were training with the Devons last week and were now out with the Somerset Horse Artillery. That is the class of animal on which our Territorials have to depend, and you cannot expect them to be efficient and do good work as long as they are horsed in that way.
More training for the Territorials is absolutely essential. The very least they ought to do is a compulsory month in camp instead of the go-as-you-please fortnight or week which they have now; in fact, in many cases the men do not go at all. Those men are perfectly useless in time of war, and I can say, as an old soldier, that I believe a month in camp is the least which would make men really efficient as Territorials. I am well aware that if you make it a month in camp that will reduce the number of men who come up for voluntary enlistment, because they cannot afford the time away from their employment, and the whole difficulty of the Territorials is very largely one of employment. The fact is this. If you 130 cannot get sufficient numbers of well-trained men by voluntary enlistment then you must fall back on some form of compulsion. I know that the Secretary of State for War the other day, in passionate tones, expressed his great attachment to the voluntary principle. We all like the voluntary principle, but I venture to say that we must put safety before sentiment. I am quite certain that before very long the country will insist that every young man on reaching the age of eighteen shall become liable for service in the Territorial Army. I do not mean to say that he should be bound to go into it, but he should be liable to go into it if called upon.
I am in great sympathy with the National Service (Territorial Force) Bill which was introduced in another place last Friday, but I think it has two defects. One is that it would produce the men but would not produce the training; the other is that the very hint physical standard—the way in which the numbers are kept down within reasonable limits—is very hard on two classes in the community, the miners and the agricultural labourers, because they are physically the finest men in the country, and certainly as regards agricultural labourers they are the men we can least spare in August, which is the training time. But certainly under that Bill or under any scheme of the kind you get the men, and the problem is how adequately to train them. I believe there always will be a large proportion of volunteers in the Territorial Army even if you give this month in camp, but there will be a deficiency, and that must be made up by some system of compulsion. The simplest method of all is the old system of the ballot. But it has disadvantages. It interferes with men getting employment, and it is not quite fair as between one man and another. It is all very well to say that you punish an employer who does not let his employee when he is a Territorial go to camp, but you cannot force an employer to take a man who is a Territorial into his employment. But it is not outside the power of the people of this country to devise some modified means of compulsion to cover the deficit between the number of voluntarily enlisted men and the quota which ought to be required from each county to make up a Territorial Army.
I have heard it suggested that as the difficulty is one of employment it might 131 be possible to make the great landowners and the great employers of labour furnish a certain number of men for the Territorial Force in proportion to the total number of men they employ in their industries. I should exempt all the small employers because, of course, where a man employs only a few men you would ruin him if you, took away the few men he employed; but with regard to the great employers of labour and the great landowners, who, after all, are the people who stand to lose a great deal from a successful raid of this country, I think it would be possible to make them furnish for the Territorial Force a proportion of the men they employ. I believe it is possible to build up a perfectly sound Territorial Army on this principle. In the first place, a sound military recruit drill in all our elementary and secondary schools. I am not a bit afraid of the charge of militarism. I look upon that as all humbug. The mere fact that a youth is taught to take an interest in drill is not going to make this country into a warlike swashbuckling nation, always wanting to fight with their neighbours. My own belief is that it would have the reverse effect. The advantage of it would be that when you had given every young man in this country years of really first-class recruit drill at school you could afford, on their joining the Territorial Force, to dispense with the recruit drill which is so irksome. In the second place, I should insist upon a month's annual camp for four years. I do not say that then you would get a perfect Army, but at all events you would get a very much better Army than you have now—bigger in numbers, and all trained.
There is an old argument which is very often used. It is said, "What is the use of our having half-a-million of armed men in this country? for if we temporarily lost command of the sea we should be starved because we have not enough food or raw material here to last us three weeks." I admit that if we permanently lost command of the sea there would be only one thing to do, and that is to surrender; but the position would be different supposing we temporarily lost command of the sea but had half-a-million well-trained armed men at home fighting for breathing time, fighting until our Fleet could be pulled round or come back from some distant part of the Empire. I wonder 132 whether it would pay the great nations whose best commercial customers we are, whether it would be in their interests to see Great Britain utterly crushed and ruined, stripped of her Colonies, and with a huge war indemnity to pay. I do not think it would pay them to lose so good a customer. And, after all, it is very difficult to effectively blockade so large a coast line as ours. I think it would be well worth the while of those great nations to run the undoubted risk of supplying us with a certain amount of food and of raw material, and I believe they would do it if they saw half-a-million of men fighting desperately to gain time. But I am very sure they would not take that risk and come to the assistance of a nation too lazy, too selfish, and too cowardly to take upon themselves even a very small part of that burden which is gladly undertaken by every other Great Power in Europe and by our own subjects in our Dominions across the seas.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
My Lords, I am sorry that I missed a considerable portion of Lord Lovat's speech, but I came in towards the end of his remarks and heard him say that he had searched the Army debates in your Lordships' House for the last two years and had been very much disappointed in the want of fertility of rhetoric which had characterised noble Lords on this side who were not directly responsible to the Government. for their military views; and he said he would very much like to hear some noble Lord on this side not actually connected with the Government either criticise or support the military arrangements of the present Administration. I am not going to succumb to that invitation. I am a man of peace myself, although I served for some years without distinction in the Army. But I have always been interested in the horse question, which was introduced by the noble Lord who has just sat down and whom we heard with great pleasure. To some extent I think my experience is the same as his. I saw some mounted Territorials in my part of the country last summer, and I confess that neither the riders nor the horses filled me with very great confidence; but I am bound to say the riders seemed to be enjoying themselves a great deal more than the horses. They were hammering them down the hard road as fast as they could go and laughter was carrying them along, but perhaps they 133 were coming home from some elaborate operations.
But whether or not the noble Lord opposite is right in his views about the horses, only last week some very reassuring figures were given in another place as to the horse census. I expect that one of the debates to which Lord Lovat looked back may have been a debate on horses, in which possibly one or two noble Lords on this side of the House took part. At all events, I remember very well when the census soulagement to our horse difficulties was first started, and it was pointed out that it would be very important to get the horses carefully classified, and so on. I am rather tired of what we hear about horses, so I did not read very carefully what was said the other night in another place; but as far as I remember it was stated that this census was based on these particular classifications. We were to be told exactly the condition, the character almost, the height, and the age of the horses available for our difficulties should we ever find ourselves in any. I invite the noble Lord below me who will later on respond in this debate to repeat those figures in as precise and accurate a form as possible; and I ask that for this reason. With all respect to the House of Commons, their time is limited; ours is not. And although I know quite well that there are a great many people in the I louse of Commons who live in country districts and are fond of and understand horses, at the same time I believe that in this House, from the nature of our particular occupations, or professions as I must now call them, of country gentlemen, we are in a better position to sift the figures that are produced than Members of the House of Commons may be. I hope, therefore, even at the risk of repetition, that when the Government come to reply on the whole question they will give us these figures again in such a form that later on we may be able to test them in a debate.
I go about the country a good deal, and from force of habit I cannot help looking at a horse whenever I see one, and I really do not know where the horses are which this wonderful census has provided for. My impression is that if you had to pull them out you would find them as difficult to get at as Missing Vicars and Dark Ladies. Although I believe the noble Lord opposite did not make that specific point, I think it would he an advantage if we heard some- 134 thing about this horse census, so that, if we see fit later on, we may test the figures in a debate.
*THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, I hope the House will forgive my intervening at so early a period of the debate, but I am afraid I shall not be able to take part in it at a later stage. I will, if noble Lords will allow me, leave the discussion of the more purely technical points which have been raised to my noble friend who represents the War Office here (Lord Herschell), and deal, quite briefly, with some of the more general considerations which have been advanced in the two interesting speeches with which the debate opened.
The noble Lord, Lord Lovat, complains in the first place, in the course of his Question, that the reference to the recently appointed Sub-Committee of Imperial Defence has been confined to the single issue of invasion. I confess that I was somewhat puzzled when I saw that sentence in the noble Lord's Question, because I did not understand, and I confess I still do not understand, how the noble Lord was aware what the reference to the Sub-Committee—supposing there to be a Sub-Committee—actually is. I am not aware that any publication has been made of its terms, and it appears to me exceedingly unlikely that any such statement can have been made. I remember that my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War, in alluding to this further inquiry on the invasion question, stated that the whole subject was being reconsidered by the Committee of Imperial Defence, but I do not think that my right hon. friend limited in terms the subject into which further inquiry was being made.
We had a debate on this subject on February 10, and Lord Herschell made a statement that the inquiry was going to be made into the invasion question. I spoke half an hour after Lord Herschell and protested against the inquiry being confined to the single issue of invasion. The statement I then made was not contradicted, and I presumed it was so. If the noble Marquess will now tell us that the reference is not confined to the single issue of invasion our fears will be greatly relieved.
*THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I cannot help thinking that the noble Lord somewhat misapprehends the functions and powers of the Defence Committee. He is apparently anxious that questions of European policy in all their bearings should be considered by that body, because it is impossible, as I understand him to say, without entering into the most intricate and intimate questions of European policy, to consider in what form an invasion of this country might be attempted or the force by which such an invasion would be made. Of course, all military problems and all naval problems come in their turn, or are liable to come in their turn, within the purview of the Defence Committee, but the noble Lord must remember that the questions which are considered by that Committee are strategical questions—they are in no sense political questions; and if he will bear that in mind I think he will see that the large area which, as I understand, he desires should be covered in this inquiry is not one which at any time could be undertaken by any body except the Government of the day who are responsible for the policy of the country.
The noble Lord went on to complain—if that is a fair word to use; I certainly do not want to misrepresent him—that His Majesty's Opposition were not more fully or differently represented on this particular inquiry, and he considered that the presence of Mr. Balfour there might, as I understand, have a hampering effect from the point of view of his Party. It is not for me in any way to interfere in a domestic matter of that kind. But with regard to the presence of Mr. Balfour on this inquiry I need only say this, that it must be remembered that the Committee of Imperial Defence is a Committee called together by the Prime Minister. It is the Prime Minister's Committee, upon which he asks any person to serve, official or other, as he desires; and I take it that the presence of Mr. Balfour, which he is good enough to give, on this Committee is due to the fact that as Prime Minister and previous Chief of the Committee of Imperial Defence he conducted an inquiry into this question of invasion. It therefore was not merely an act of courtesy, but also an act of service to the general public interest, that Mr. Balfour should be invited to take a place in this particular inquiry. The House will remember that it was in 1905 that 136 Mr. Balfour made an announcement to Parliament and the country conveying the conclusions of the Committee of Imperial Defence in the inquiry on the subject of invasion which had taken place, I think, during the years 1903 and 1904. The question was raised again by Lord Roberts in 1908—raised first, in fact, to Mr. Balfour himself, if I remember aright—and on that occasion Mr. Balfour was again good enough to take some part in the inquiry into a subject which he had previously made his own.
On this general question of invasion I certainly do not complain, and I do not think that anybody ought to complain, that critics like noble Lords opposite take the most untoward possible combination of circumstances as the foundation on which to build their case. I do not at all dispute their right to do that. Nobody has a right to take impossible circumstances, but so long as the circumstances in which noble Lords think the danger would present itself are conceivably possible we cannot complain if they choose to take them as their instance. But I think the House ought to guard against the assumption that there now exists a complete novelty of conditions, that our liability to a possible invasion is something in its essence altogether new, and also that the circumstances in which we may desire to send a large force away from this country are also new. The conditions of offence and of defence are, of course, perpetually modified in details of varying importance. Gradually changes take place both in the materials and methods of offence and defence which profoundly alter the circumstances of different countries; but human nature and human passions remain the same as they have remained throughout history.
Consider for a moment the use of the term "Expeditionary Force," which has come into being since the reconstructive changes made by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack in 1907. We have always had an Expeditionary Force; we have had it for 800 years, ever since this country began to take any part whatever in Continental affairs. The Expeditionary Force is simply that part of the fighting Forces of the country which can go abroad. It was an Expeditionary Force that went to the Peninsula, and an Expeditionary Force which went to the Crimea; and Expeditionary Forces, as your Lordships 137 know, have proceeded abroad on countless other occasions. The phrase "Expeditionary Force" is a convenient technical description. It is in no sense the expression of a new policy, or of a new series of intentions on the part of His Majesty's Government. When toy noble and learned friend on the Woolsack was Secretary of State for War he vastly unproved the organisation for mobilisation and transport and for other matters connected with the sending of a Force abroad. It may be said that an entirely new condition of things has now arisen, because formerly we were able to act with deliberation, and now we may have to send our Expeditionary Force abroad in circumstances ofhaste some of which were mentioned by Lord St. Audries. Have conditions changed? Can anybody conceive any state of things in Europe which could make the rapid despatch abroad of our Regular troops more imperative than the state of things that arose in March, 1815, when Napoleon landed from Elba and was acclaimed once more by France; and. if you take events on the other side of the world, can anybody imagine any state of things in any part of the world which would cause us more promptly to desire to send troops front this country than what happened in May, 1857, when the Cavalry of the rebels broke from Meerut and captured Delhi, and, as we know, Cawnpore rose almost immediately afterwards. There is nothing new under the sun in those respects, and. the possible absence from these shores of the Regular forces of the Crown may confront us, as we know from more recent experience than any I have mentioned, in 1899 and 1900. Therefore all I ask is that the House should not be misled into considering the remote contingency of the hasty departure of the Regular Army as representing a normal state of things. People really become the slaves at last of the phrases which they use, and the tendency in the controversy which we see carried on in newspapers and elsewhere is to speak of the Expeditionary Force as a Force which is always on the eve of starting on an expedition, and not, as it ought to be regarded, as that portion of the Regular troops normally in this country which are capable of being sent abroad, at short notice, it is true, but only in very special or abnormal circumstances.
It is right and wise in this matter of invasion that from time to time we should go through a stocktaking process and renew 138 and revise these inquiries through the body which, in view of the fact that when all is said and done the Government of the day must be the ultimate responsible authority in these matters, is the best which we believe could be devised for considering these technical questions. I will first say a word with regard to the shortage in the Territorial Force, which was so strongly impressed upon the House by Lord St. Audries. It cannot, I think, be disputed that some of the advocates of national service and of general compulsory service have succeeded in inflicting no small measure of discouragement upon the Territorial Force. It has been part of the case of the more extreme advocates of general national service that the Territorial Force as it exists is altogether useless for the purposes of defence, and it surely stands to reason that if you announce that a Force in its composition and in all its elements is a useless body for the purposes for which it is nominally intended, you are not setting the right way to work to get people to join it. The path on which to tread in speaking of this question of national defence is, I admit, a very narrow one, and one on which it is necessary to walk with' delicacy. Some years ago, on the motion of my noble friend Lord Wemyss, who we are sorry to think does not now attend our deliberations, the House passed a Resolution, the precise terms of which I forget, but in effect it was that the defensive Force of this country ought to he such as to prevent any enemy from ever setting foot on our shores. That Resolution was passed with acclamation by the House. If such a Force existed every man who joined it might be told beforehand that in joining it he was not running the risks which an ordinary village policeman runs, because if no enemy would ever dream of setting foot on these shores it is quite clear that the members of the Territorial Force would in no circumstances see a shot fired. That shows the danger of importing too much argument and too much logic into this question of national defence, a question with which you are dealing, not with fixed and agreed data, as is shown by the speeches we have already heard this evening, but in connection with which it is possible to form conceptions themselves of a most extravagant character on which elaborate and convincing arguments can be based.
It stands to reason that those people who think that compulsory service, or 139 compulsory training, or whatever you like to call it, is in itself a thoroughly good thing, welcome what they choose to consider the breakdown of the voluntary system. But in saying this, I certainly desire to distinguish most carefully between those more extreme advocates of the system of compulsion and those gentlemen connected with the Territorial Army, many of them members of your Lordships' House, many of them members of the Opposition, and some, I daresay, individually far from being indisposed to a compulsory system for home service, who at the same time have worked most strenuously, most unselfishly, and most efficiently on behalf of the Territorial Force. It would be a most ungrateful and unfair attitude on the part of any member of His Majesty's Government, while feeling himself obliged to draw attention to the fact that some part of the national service propaganda has discouraged, and I think in some cases has been meant to discourage, the Territorial Force as it now exists, to refrain from expressing his sense of the debt which not merely the War Office but the country as a whole owes to those who, without any Party inducement, or indeed any inducement of any kind, have given so much unselfish service to the Territorial Force.
It is impossible not to regard the shortage in the Territorial Force as a grave matter in itself. So far as the immediate recruiting of that Force is concerned, I understand that there is a slight tendency towards improvement. But the reduction in numbers and the failure to reach the general standard of establishment which was aimed at when the Force was instituted cannot, of course, he regarded as otherwise than a grave matter in itself. But in relation to the particular issues raised by the noble Lord opposite we have to ask, assuming that the margin of safety which was aimed at in the original fixing of the establishment of the Territorial Force has been formidably reduced, does this reduction in margin so endanger the safety of the country as to require an immediate and heroic remedy? That, I take it, is the question which the Government have to answer, and it stands to reason that a violent remedy can only be required as such if the national safety is regarded as being in any sense in danger.
We have to return to the consideration of what the possible danger to this country 140 might be in certain circumstances, even those which ought to be regarded as only remotely possible; and we have to-day once more come into close contact with the ancient figure of 70,000 as mentioned by the noble Lord opposite, and also with the distinction between an invasion and a raid. The situation is somewhat further complicated by the introduction during quite the last week or two of an entirely new phantom into the picture—namely, that of a raid of 70,000 men. This, as I say, is an entirely new phantom, because it is a departure from the terminology which was found to be convenient and has been employed from the earliest stages of this discussion—namely, that the arrival on these shores of anything which could be called an army, with its guns and horses and all the paraphernalia of a Regular force should be described as an invasion, whereas an attack by a far smaller force, perhaps free from all impedimenta of any kind, should be described as a raid. Nobody ever spoke of the British and French forces which landed in the Crimea as a raiding force. People always spoke of the invasion of the Crimea, which indeed is the title of the famous work by Mr. Kinglake on the subject.
In discussing this subject, I think it is convenient to keep the two terms entirely separate, speaking of invasion when you mean the arrival of a force—leaving out for the moment the question of its numbers —of which the object and intention is the conquest of the country, and speaking of a raid as a descent on the shores of this country by a force, presumably smaller, but again without connoting any special figure, of which the object is to do damage or create alarm, with the possibility of returning after the damage has been done, it may be, but with the risk also in view that the force may be slain or captured after having done the particular work which it was sent to do, in which case the hostile country would be prepared to face the sacrifice of the number of men engaged. The case that was put by the Admiralty was this. I think it was not quite accurately stated by Lord St. Audries when he mentioned the figure of 70,000 men. The figure of 70,000 men was, as Lord Lovat accurately stated, named first in 1905 as the lowest figure with which an enemy would think it worth while to come in order to carry out the invasion and possibly the conquest of the country. As 141 home defence then was—assuming, as noble Lords are assuming now, the worst possible position, the position of the second year of the South African War—it would not have been thought worth while by a hostile country to invade us with less than 70,000 men. That, as the noble Lord quite accurately said, was the original genesis of that figure, and that is why in the course of those discussions no figure has been mentioned between the figure of 70,000 and that of a small dashing raid, which might make a temporary attack and do local damage and create general alarm. Then the Admiralty said that if it is the case that the enemy will not come with less than 70,000 men, because it is useless for a serious object to come with fewer, we can always engage to intercept the fleet of transports. That was the Admiralty's statement, and that is still the Admiralty's statement—that an invading force of 70,000 men would be intercepted by the Fleet. In my view it only confuses and darkens the subject to use the figure of 70,000 in connection with a series of small raids of 5,000 or 10,000 men each, landing one in the North of Scotland, another in the West of Ireland, another in the South of England, and so on. The figure of 70,000 in that connection does not, I should have supposed, represent a serious probability. But assuming, for the sake of argument, that those 70,000 men land indiscriminately at different times and places in various parts of the United Kingdom—
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess, but this matter is most important. My point was this. The noble Marquess, I take it, says there are now two classes of 70,000 raiders—one class of 70,000 wishing to conquer, and another class of 70,000 who have no wish to conquer the country. That is what the noble Marquess is implying, and I would ask him what authority he has for saying that this 70,000 raid is now going to be divided up in little raids all over the country. Where does he get that from?
*THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
So far from the noble Lord having to apologise for interrupting, I must say he has really done me a service in asking me that question, because I confess I have not the least idea why the figure of 70,000 should be mentioned in that connection, 142 except from the fact that 70,000 is the old invading figure.
I am sorry to interrupt again. The original figure of 70,000 was the pronouncement made by the Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, in the other House, I think, on July 29, 1909. The second figure of 70,000, which the noble Marquess I presume is referring to, is a figure which is only five days old. It is the figure which was mentioned by Colonel Seely the other day. We on this side have had nothing to do with these figures at all, and, as I say, Colonel Seely prejudged the whole of this discussion which is coming on before the Defence Committee by saying that that 70,000 could only land in small bodies scattered all over the country at long intervals of time. That is our difficulty. We do not know when or how this decision of the Admiralty was arrived at. We must presume, therefore, that the Admiralty have already come to the conclusion which the Defence Committee is going to arrive at. It seems to me clear that the case has been prejudged.
*THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My impression is that Colonel Seely made the observation to which the noble Lord alludes in reply to a question in which some gentleman, whose name I unfortunately do not remember spoke of a raid of 70,000 men. That phrase, as I have already said, is an entirely new one introduced into the discussion by some one who has, I think, not followed the whole course of the various discussions on the subject. The phrase is to me altogether unmeaning, and I think it is unmeaning to everybody who has studied the subject. What I think was in the gentleman's mind was an invasion of 70,000 men by an organised force landing on the coast. But it is important to remember what I have already often stated from this place, that the Admiralty have never admitted that 70,000 men arriving in transports with their horses and proper complement of artillery and their transport would not be intercepted. The Admiralty have always said that they could intercept a far smaller force than that. It is important to remember that point, because it has frequently been assumed that it is a matter of general knowledge and admission that a complete army of 70,000 men might 143 conceivably be dumped down on our shores at any point, and that the Admiralty might possibly not be able to prevent its being done.
It is desirable to state that the General Staff are of opinion that in those worst circumstances which noble Lords have suggested—namely, the complete absence from this country of the Regulars composing the Expeditionary Force—the attack by means of raids, again without mentioning a particular number of small raids landing in different parts of the United Kingdom, which might possibly evade the Navy, could be satisfactorily dealt with by the forces left in the country—that is to say, by what is left of the Regular troops and the Territorial Force at its present figure. Those raids could be dealt with, and would not have a chance of succeeding. In view of that statement the situation, which I describe as being in itself a grave one—that of the shortage in the Territorial Force—cannot be described as so seriously imminent as to oblige us to take heroic remedies on the spur of the moment, remedies, that is to say, which we do not think reasonable in themselves. But it is quite clear that if a considerable margin is to be maintained over the minimum which we regard as necessary to ensure the safety of the country in the worst conceivable conditions, the military authorities must carefully consider the present condition and the prospects of the Territorial Force and see what steps they can take, still working on the voluntary basis, in order that that margin may be properly maintained. This is not the moment and I am not the person who ought to venture to discuss the methods, whether they be methods of larger expenditure or methods of added attractiveness, which may in the future be found necessary to maintain the Territorial Force at its requisite strength. But I am quite certain that my right hon. friend the Secretary of State will do his best, and do it with energy, to carry on the work which was started by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack.
I listened with close attention to the outline of the scheme put forward by Lord St. Audries, and he will forgive me if at this time of the debate I do not attempt to discuss it in detail. Ire, I think, fully recognises the difficulty of a general system 144 of compulsion, and also the particular difficulties attaching to the introduction of a system of the ballot which has been so long advocated by the noble Earl of whom I have already spoken, Lord Wemyss, and which I know finds favour with a number of people who are not taken by the prospect of general compulsory service. I confess, however, that I am deeply impressed by the profound social change which would he involved in this country by the introduction of any form of compulsion in our system of home service. The act of setting the ball rolling in this country as our social conditions now are might lead to consequences little foreseen by those who started it. It seems in some way a curious paradox, but I am sure it is the case, that the introduction of some system of compulsory home service would have been an infinitely simpler matter in the days when the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss, was quite a young man than it is now when he is so advanced in life. I confess, therefore, that apart from general objections which may be advanced from different quarters against the system of compulsory service, I think that before any Party, even the Party of noble Lords opposite, undertook an enterprise of that kind they would have to weigh most carefully what the ultimate consequences of such a far-reaching change would be likely to be.
We are not, as I venture to think, confronted by any present necessity which obliges us by hook or by crook to drive up the number of our Force to a far higher figure. The shortage from the establishment originally laid down for the Territorial Force, an establishment., I think it fair to state, which was fixed rather upon a notion of general sufficiency and upon the previous numbers of the Volunteers than from any definite calculation of a particular number of men who would be required to meet a particular number of invaders—that shortage, deeply as we regret it, is not a large percentage of the whole. In those circumstances I think that the country will regard it reasonable to wait and leave my right hon. friend the Secretary of State and his advisers to make such proposals as they think wise with regard to possible improvements or the possible enlargement of the Force before desiring to embark upon an altogether unknown sea and on a voyage of which it is not easy to see the end.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I was glad to observe that the noble Marquess at the outset of his speech explained that he did not make any complaint of us for having brought on this debate. It is a discussion which seems to me quite appropriate to the Bill upon the Table, which deals primarily and mainly with the question of the maintenance of a body of troops sufficient to ensure the safety of the United Kingdom and the safety of His Majesty's Dominions abroad. It is precisely because we have misgivings as to the sufficiency of the Force at present provided that we desire to raise a discussion upon some of the points that have been mentioned. That uneasiness, which I think prevails generally, is due partly to the knowledge of facts which are notorious arid indisputable, and I must add that it is also due partly to the perplexing character of Ministerial utterances—utterances which, if the noble Marquess will forgive me for saying so, have not always shown a quite sufficient appreciation of the gravity of the case, have not always been quite so precise as we should have wished, and have not always been quite consistent with one another.
If we are a little perplexed, it is not due to any special dulness of comprehension on our part, because some of the most ardent friends and supporters of the Government are equally puzzled. I happened the other evening upon a passage in a journal which is a very able and a very consistent supporter of noble Lords opposite. Commenting on a speech just delivered by the Secretary of State for War, the Westminster Gazette said—There must be a state of permanent fog at Whitehall. We get from this speech the impression of Secretary of State and military advisers groping about in a dim light, afraid of the public on the one side, afraid of themselves on the other; wishing to do one thing, driven by circumstances to do another; and all the time without any grip of principle or clear understanding of the system they are called upon to administer.I should not have ventured to say anything half so severe of noble Lords opposite and their colleagues, but I trust that the discussion which has been begun this evening may be the means of perhaps partly lifting the fog which so much perturbs the writer of this article.
The sum of our complaint can be expressed in a very few words indeed. 146 We believe that there has been a failure on the part of the War Office to provide a force which in 1907 was regarded as, if not vitally necessary, at all events desirable in order to secure the safety of this country, and we believe that this failure has taken place in spite of the fact that all the conditions of the problem have in the time which has since elapsed altered greatly to our disadvantage. I always like, in a case of this kind to search in the first place for points on which we are agreed, rather than points with regard to which we differ, and there is, I believe, a certain amount of agreement amongst us as to matters of first principle. Above all things, we all recognise that this country is a maritime Power, and that our first defence must be defence by sea. We are none of us prepared to bear the triple burden of an invincible Navy, an Army sufficient for the purposes of the Empire, and another Army besides that on the Continental scale for use in other parts of the world. It is, however, important that we should hear in mind what our liabilities admitted by His Majesty's Ministers with regard to service abroad really amount to. We have had in the most distinct and precise terms from the Government the admission that in circumstances which they are able to conceive it may be necessary to send an Expeditionary Force numbering 160,000 men out of this country. The noble Marquess told us just now that we have always contemplated an Expeditionary Force of some kind. That is quite true, but I can remember the time when the Expeditionary Force was assumed for argument to be a force of 50,000 men, and later of 70,000. It has now grown to 160,000 men. It; is admitted that that Force might have to be sent abroad at short notice and at the very outbreak of hostilities. On the top of that, the Secretary for War has intimated with the utmost distinctness that, after the Expeditionary Force has left, there must still remain a force adequate for the purpose of home defence. There is no doubt that that is the general purport of the language used by the heads of the War Office.
The noble Marquess said just now that we were too fond of selecting a combination of conditions of an abnormal character and not likely to present themselves actually. But, my Lords, the combination of conditions upon which we base our argument is not an invention of ours; it is the case as stated by the responsible Government, 147 stated not once but many times. We are assured that that adequate Force exists, and we are entitled to ask questions as to its adequacy, as to its numbers, as to its efficiency, as to its organisation. What are the materials out of which this Home Force is to be constructed? It is quite clear that when the 160,000 men have left these shores, virtually the whole of the Regulars and I think about twenty-seven battalions of the Special Reserve will have been accounted for. What remains? There is the Territorial Force and what I should he justified in describing as not much more than a handful of Regulars—about 30,000—of whom more than half will be recruits or men under 19 years of age. There will be the Army Reserve, and there will be seventy-four battalions or thereabouts of the Special Reserve. That will surely be a very heterogeneous force, without much organisation or training or cohesion, and very badly officered. Yet it is out of these materials that you would have to provide for the obligatory garrisons, for local defence at various points, and, lastly, for that central striking force which, in the language of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, is "to swoop down upon the invaders and destroy them." Do not let us lose sight of the fact that in these circumstances there will be no means of giving the Territorial Force that stiffening of Regulars which we used always to postulate when we contemplated making use of the old Volunteers; nor, if the Expeditionary Force is to leave on the outbreak of hostilities, will there be any means of giving the Territorial Army that six months' training the necessity of which we have always assumed.
I come now to the particular danger with which this very imperfectly composed Home Army will have to deal. We have heard a good deal this evening about that force of 70,000 for the reception of which we are to provide—I will not for the moment call it either a raid or an invasion. It is a force which is assumed to have eluded the Fleet. If it eludes the Fleet as successfully as it eludes our comprehension, it is extremely likely to make its way across. The number of different characters in which this force of 70,000 appears from time to time is extraordinary. Sometimes it is assumed that it remains at home though longing to invade us because it is intimidated by the knowledge that the "swooping" 148 force is waiting to destroy it; sometimes it is assumed to have gone on board ship, and is then destroyed by the British Fleet. Sometimes it arrives, but, to use a classical phrase of the Secretary for War, it is "eaten up" by the 400,000 Territorial Army which will be opposed to it. This 70,000 force reappeared again last night in an entirely new disguise, as my noble friend Lord Lovat pointed out. It was the old dog in a new doublet. The 70,000 appeared last night, not as a force at all, but as an aggregate of small raiding parties, perhaps totalling 70,000 altogether, and landing on these shores at wide intervals of time and space. That new hypothesis has really been sprung upon a bewildered public with splendid audacity. And there is this further feature in the case. The 70,000 are to arrive in fragments and sections without artillery and without cannon. I beg leave to say that this is a complete and entire departure from everything that has ever been suggested in this House or elsewhere by the accredited representatives of the War Office. The locus classicus on this question is the speech delivered by the Prime Minister in 1909. Mr. Asquith said—No one will undertake the task of invasion with a smaller force than something like 70,000 men. I do not believe 70,000 men would ever get here at all; but you must have in these matters an ample margin of safety. Our conclusion was that, in order to ensure that margin, the force for maintaining home defence should be one capable of dealing with an invading force of 70,000 men.That is not a raid or a number of sporadic raids delivered at different points. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said the same thing. He said—If so, all that has to be done is to provide against a force of 70,000 men at the outset and against those small and subsidiary operations of war called raids, whose purpose is the secondary one of effecting, not a great defeat, but disturbance and damage.The noble and learned Viscount distinguished clearly between the two things—the large raid or invasion of 70,000 men on the one hand, and the minor and sporadic raids on the other. Now it appears that a larger attack is to be left out of account 'altogether, and that we are to consider nothing but small and sporadic incursions.
I venture to assert with some confidence that up to the present time the official 149 view of His Majesty's Government has been that the force at home was to be sufficient to deal with an invading force, organised and properly equipped, of 70,000 men and to tell us, as the noble Marquess told us just now, that these were matters only of terminology, is, I think, to give a very misleading idea of their importance. I venture to insist that, even on this new hypothesis, you are not absolved from maintaining in these Islands a force strong enough to deal with 70,000 invaders. Why is it that we are told that only small bodies will come? Why is it that the 70,000 will remain at home? Because, we are told, we are to have a Home Force strong enough to deter the larger force from coming. But a force which is strong enough to deter a foreign army from coming must be strong enough to beat that army when it does come. The noble Marquess told us just now that we must not import too much logic into the discussion of these questions. I venture to think that that is a piece of logic which it is difficult to dispute.
Then we come back really to the old question, Is our Home Force sufficient to deter or defeat a body of 70,000 invaders? We have been obliged to criticise and discuss the present position of the Territorial Force. The noble Marquess repeated to-night what has very often been said from the Benches opposite, that our criticisms of the Territorial Force are ungenerous. They are also sometimes called unpatriotic because they are believed to discourage the Territorial Associations. That is an argument which to my mind is most unconvincing. I venture to think that those are unpatriotic who, because they have at the back of their minds a dread or dislike of some form of compulsion, are content to slur over the difficulties and the weakness of the force with which we are now provided.
We call attention to these defects, believe me, not because we fail to appreciate the services which members of the Territorial Army have rendered to the country. I do not think any words of commendation would be too strong for the officers and men who have taken on their shoulders a burden which many of them feel ought to be more widely distributed. What are the indisputable facts with regard to the Territorial Force? The Territorial Force is over 53,000 below the strength 150 which was considered necessary in 1907. The noble and learned Viscount, referring to the point with his usual serenity the other day, said he was not alarmed. I am alarmed, and I think the Secretary for War is alarmed, because he has dealt with the question of shortage with much more appreciation of its gravity. Let me call the attention of the House to the admissions which have been made by the right hon. gentleman. He says—So far as numbers are concerned we have failed in achievement,And then he uses these remarkable words—We cannot well bear that any part of our defensive forces, which by universal consent were decided to be, if not vitally necessary, desirable, shall remain below the proper establishment.That, if I may be allowed to say so, is a very proper frame of mind in which to approach the subject, and I hope we may take it that that sentence expresses the views, not only of the Secretary of State, but of the Cabinet.
The question is not only one of numbers. There are the equally serious questions of training, musketry, attendance at camp, and complete absence of training in large bodies. My noble friend Lord Lovat referred to uneasiness on the part of Territorial officers themselves When we are taxed with discouraging the Territorial Force it is well to know that the Force is not itself satisfied with the existing condition of things. I understand that quite recently the Council of Territorial Associations adopted unanimously two resolutions which show that the Associations themselves share the uneasiness which some of us have ventured to express. I will read them to your Lordships—That in view of the continued deficiency in the establishment of the Territorial Force in the country, notwithstanding the extraordinary efforts that have been made during the past five years to obtain recruits, this Council is of opinion that some system should be adopted which would provide a Territorial Force adequate for the defence of the country. This Council is further of opinion that only by a considerable improvement in the terms and conditions of service is there any likelihood of success in respect of numbers being achieved on a voluntary basis, and urges the necessity of steps being taken to this end, in which case it will be prepared to submit a scheme.Those resolutions were considered by more than half of the larger Associations throughout England and Wales, and of these all 151 but two have expressed their adhesion to the resolutions. So that your Lordships will see that the Territorial Associations themselves share the uneasiness which some of us have ventured to express in this House.
What in these circumstances are His Majesty's Government going to do? I have listened attentively to the speeches made, and I have been unable to gather that anything particular is likely to happen. Language has been used to the effect that we ought to redouble our efforts, and generalities of that kind; but I cannot learn that it is intended to take any concrete steps for the purpose of really improving the situation. There is one thing which might be done. I refer to the possibility of resorting to what is generally described as physical training in schools and continuation schools. There is an extraordinary amount of agreement with regard to the desirability of making this change. I have on another occasion ventured to explain to your Lordships the reasons for such a change in our educational system, and I will not go over the ground again now. Suffice it to say that I believe that, this kind of physical or quasi-military training would be extremely good for the lads who receive it, and would give them ideas of discipline, manly character, and obedience to orders with which many of them might with advantage be indoctrinated; and further, that if it, were generally carried out it will be the means of giving to an immense number of men while they are still boys or young lads some knowledge of the rudiments of military training. They would become partly-made soldiers and would be likely to form invaluable recruits for the Territorial or Regular Armies. Some plan of this kind was recommended by the Poor Law Commission; and it was recommended in a Resolution passed in this House, a Resolution affirming the propriety of giving as large a part as possible of the population a sound groundwork of military training. The necessity for training of this kind is borne in upon one when one considers the immense number of lads who present themselves as recruits for the Army and are rejected on the ground of physical unfitness. These are the lads who go to swell the ranks of casual labourers, who enter "blind alley" employments, and whose presence has the effect of bringing down the rate of wages in the labour market.
152 The Secretary for War has expressed himself as decidedly favourable to what I think he called "physical and disciplinary training," and went so far as to say "we are really agreed and need not discuss this further." The noble and learned Viscount has also more than once commended such a training. There is a passage in his preface to Sir Ian Hamilton's little book on "Compulsory Service" in which he says—The principles of organisation so admirably illustrated by the Cadet and Boys Brigade systems, and by Sir Robert Baden-Powell's Boy Scouts, appear to me to be altogether good and proper for adoption by the State.If they are good and proper for adoption by the State, why does the State not adopt them? Why do they not, for example, get rid of that very mischievous little Amendment which they accepted in 1907 when the Territorial Act was before Parliament, and which, as the noble and learned Viscount well remembers, placed it out of the power of the Territorial Associations to give training to lads below sixteen so long as they were in schools receiving Government grants. I was impressed by the general disposition to support a change of this kind, and it was with the deepest regret that I heard the noble Lord opposite who represents the War Office tell us the other evening that although those were his sentiments and the sentiments of those with whom he acts, no plan for giving effect to this idea was under the consideration of His Majesty's Government.
I ought, perhaps, before I sit down to say one word with regard to the Committee of Imperial Defence, to which reference was made by my noble friend Lord Lovat and by subsequent speakers. The noble Marquess dealt with the question raised by my noble friend, why the reference to the sub-Committee was restricted to the subject of invasion, but I am bound to say that his explanation did not seem to me to give us much illumination; perhaps we shall learn later what the reference really is. I feel sure that even if the inquiry is primarily directed to the question of invasion it will he difficult to restrict it closely to that subject, which is really allied to a number of other problems, naval, military, and political. Then my noble friend said something about the personnel of the Committee, and I rather understood him to make a personal appeal to me with regard to the circumstances in which Mr. Balfour was 153 chosen. The Committee of Imperial Defence is, as the noble Marquess has told us, a body to which the Prime Minister can summon any one whose advice or assistance seems to him desirable. I am bound to say that I doubt whether any living statesman has given closer attention to all these great problems of Imperial defence than Mr. Balfour has given, and I can well understand that the Prime Minister should desire his assistance. My noble friend was a little bit perturbed by his knowledge of opinions expressed on former occasions by Mr. Balfour. Let me say that in my belief there is no one more likely to bring an unprejudiced judgment to the consideration of any subject that comes before him than Mr. Balfour, or less likely than he to be biased or to adhere obstinately to views he may have previously expressed perhaps in wholly different circumstances. My noble friend suggests that Air. Balfour's presence on the sub-Committee might have the effect of committing, I think he said, the whole Unionist Party.
Perhaps I did not express myself quite clearly. What I wished to bring out was, and I think it is generally accepted—it certainly has been referred to in our debates here—that there are two sections of the Conservative Party, one of which believes that the present arrangements for defence are most unsatisfactory, and I say it is very unfortunate that that section of the Conservative Party is not represented on the sub-Committee. I did not intend in the least to raise any objection to the selection of Mr. Balfour. I think it is a most admirable selection, and I am very glad to see him there—but not Mr. Balfour alone.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I am glad to hear what my noble friend has said about Mr. Balfour, but the selection of members to sit upon the Committee does not rest with those who sit upon these Benches.
The only other observation I desire to make is this. I have been deeply impressed by the arguments to the effect that not only are our present military arrangements and preparations inadequate, but that circumstances have changed greatly to our disadvantage since those arrangements were originally provided for and conceived. My noble friend dealt so fully with that part of the case that I will not follow him. He was able to point out, with regard to the Navy, 154 that our superiority as compared with the other Great Powers has become very much less than it was. We know that in regard to the Army we have undertaken heavier liabilities than those which we assumed in former days, and that our relative inferiority as compared with Continental Powers is much greater than it. was—our inferiority in numbers, and our inferiority in preparedness for war, a very important point.
Then there is the new peril occasioned by aviation, with regard to which I fear we can come to no other conclusion than that we have in the race for efficiency in this respect been badly out-distanced at the outset. With regard to all these matters we have waited, and waited in vain, for anything to prove to us that the steps taken by His Majesty's Government are likely to grapple effectually with the problem which confronts them. All we are promised is this inquiry by the sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and it is, perhaps, remarkable that in the face of that promise the Secretary of State for War should have thought it proper to speak with such extraordinary confidence as to our present safety from these perils. I trust that His Majesty's Government will show a little more courage and a little more decision in facing these questions. The country requires to be reassured, and I venture to suggest to noble Lords opposite that one of the least effectual means of reassuring the country is to minimise the dangers to which we are exposed. The Secretary of State has told us that we ought to redouble our efforts. That is very good advice; but I do not think that you will deceive any one by halving the extent of the peril by which you are threatened.
With your Lordships' permission I will confine my remarks this evening to dealing with some of the details which have been raised in the course of the debate up to the present. The first subject on which I should like to say a word is that of military aeronautics. First of all, dealing with the question of aeroplanes, the statement of the number in our possession which was made in another place by the Secretary of State was perfectly correct, but it must always be remembered that a proportion of aeroplanes are in hospital owing to damages received while flying is being practised. For example, during one period of ten 155 days there were no cases of damage, but during the ensuing ten days there were no less than seven, and these damages may take anything from three days to a month to repair. At the same time it should be pointed out that if no such damage occurred it would only prove that the aeroplanes were not being used for practice as they should be. It is on the same lines as if you have a flotilla of torpedo destroyers and always keep them in harbour. They are there safe from any casualties, but it is essential that they should be used and that practice should be undertaken by them. Again, we have a certain number of machines for instruction which, though admirably adapted for the purpose, are necessarily of a slower type than would be required in time of war. Then, again, we have a certain number of monoplanes, most of which do not comply in all respects with the conditions recommended by the War Office Committee on Monoplane Accidents. These monoplanes are of the same types as are now being flown by foreign armies, and are quite fit for use in war, but it is not considered desirable to use them in practice in peace time until certain alterations have been made. At the same time we have a number of pilots capable of flying these aeroplanes, but I may state that at present the War Office has no intention of acquiring any further aeroplanes which do not sufficiently meet the requirements of the Committee for safety as to permit of their being used for practice.
It may also interest your Lordships to know that the qualities shown by the biplanes recently constructed have proved that in every essential particular they are capable of achieving good results comparable to monoplanes: and in respect of range of speed—a most vital point in any war machine—they have shown marked superiority. I would also state that the programme of construction is being considerably accelerated, but it must be borne in mind that in carrying out a programme we have not only the number of aeroplanes and pilots to consider but also various other requirements. For example, the question of transport. Much difficulty has been found in providing the technical transport required for the military wing, but a satisfactory design has now been arrived at and large orders have been placed. In the meantime arrangements have been made for providing the necessary 156 transport prior to purchase of those squadrons which are so far completed in other respects as to be able to join the Expeditionary Force in the case of mobilisation. These arrangements are constantly revised as the growth of the Flying Corps makes a larger contingent possible.
Another point to be considered is the question of barracks. A considerable amount has already been spent in the provision of barracks for the school and for the military wing and it must be remembered that for this new corps at its inception there was practically no accommodation available. On the provision of barracks the growth of the corps is largely dependent, for it is useless to supply great numbers of aeroplanes if we have not sheds to house them and barracks for the officers and men who have to attend to them. Arrangements are in progress, and some have been completed, for stations specially adapted for experimental work. Again, the provision of workshops and tools is another serious consideration. Yet it is absolutely necessary that these should be provided at an equal rate to the aeroplanes for the repair of which they are necessary. In fact, it would be detrimental to the efficiency of the Flying Corps to provide a large number of aeroplanes unless at the same time the other essentials which I have mentioned—that is, transport, barracks, and tools—were simultaneously forthcoming. At the same time, as I have already stated, the Secretary of State has given orders for the programme to be accelerated.
Now, my Lords, I would say a word with regard to airships. The airship in its present state of development is designed, among other things, for reconnaissance, and under this head I would consider it from the point of view of our Expeditionary Force and then from the point of view of home defence. From the first, with regard to the Expeditionary Force, we met with a very serious difficulty. Airships, and especially large airships, and most of all rigid airships, require sheds to house them, and as our Expeditionary Force is designed for service oversea in any part of the world it is clear that the provision of airship sheds is a very serious problem. If we were to undertake the building of sheds for large airships in the theatre of war it is probable that the campaign might be finished before the sheds were erected. 157 Continental nations with land frontiers coterminous with their probable enemy are able to build in peace time airship sheds at strategical points near enough to any probable theatre of operations to permit of the airships based on them being used for reconnaissance purposes with the Army in the field. We are unable to carry out such a policy. We are therefore concentrating our efforts for the present on the provision of efficient portable airships which can be packed up and transported by sea, and which are of such moderate size that they could be housed in sheds also of a portable nature which could be rapidly erected. When we come to consider the question of airships for home defence, we again meet with a difficulty. Our policy of home defence is to a large extent a policy of passive defence so far as the Army is concerned—that is to say, we have to await an attack and to make our arrangements so as to be able to meet that attack from oversea. We therefore require oversea reconnaissance, and this requirement in the considered judgment of the Government should be the function of the Admiralty in accordance with the broad principle to which I shall refer before leaving this subject.
With regard to the preparations which are being made to meet the danger from aerial attack, I would say that this is a matter which has been engaging the earnest attention of those concerned for many months. Your Lordships will realise that it would be obviously contrary to the public interest to give details with regard to this matter. All that I can say is that the War Office, in conjunction with the Admiralty, are taking every possible step to provide against this danger. But it must be remembered that the whole problem changes from day to day. The possibilities of the aeroplane, both as a scouting and a fighting machine, are really at present only in their infancy, and those who are engaged in the expert examination of this question tell me that from day to day fresh points of view come under their notice. On one day some point may appear which tends to show the great power of the large dirigible. On the following day an equally serious point may indicate the vulnerability of these same vessels. Above all, it must be realised that the problem is one essentially of brains and of scientific thought, and we are taking every possible step to secure the co-operation of 158 all that is best and most original in scientific thought in this country. I cannot help feeling that one is apt to lose sight of the fact that this question is an entirely new problem.
I will now state what is the broad principle on which the Government have decided regarding aerial construction. It is this. The Air Service, both naval and military, is one, but the Government have decided that there shall be a broad line of division, and that the lighter-than-air service should be the care of the Navy, and the heavier-than-air the function of the Army. Like all broad rules this has exceptions. On the one hand, the Army still retain, at any rate for the present, the small portable airships for the Expeditionary Force. On the other hand, the Navy will deal with such part of the hydro-aeroplane service as is essentially necessary for naval purposes. But the main principle remains as I have stated—namely, that the Navy and Army co-operate completely in the whole problem of aeronautics as applied to war.
Is not the noble Lord going to answer any of the questions that I put to him on the subject?
As I have said, the numbers given by the Secretary of State in another place are correct.
I asked for the number of lighter-than-air ships and rigid and semi-rigid dirigibles, and also whether the figure of 150 aeroplanes for Germany, quoted by the Secretary of State for War in another place, was correct.
I am afraid I have not the figures before me that the noble Lord asks me for, but I will endeavour to get them before Monday and send them to him. The next point I would like to say a word upon is with regard to the horses. The noble Lord, Lord Ribblesdale, raised this question. Considerable strides have been made, though, of course, it will be necessary to go on persevering in this particular line. As your Lordships no doubt know, twenty Remount Circles have been formed in charge of Deputy Assistant Directors of Remounts. The services of a 159 number of Territorial Adjutants and of Regular officers are provided during the spring months in order that a classification of horses may be made within these circles, and from these classified lists horses are allotted to each separate unit in order to complete it to its war strength on mobilisation. Local gentlemen in every district have agreed to undertake the duty of buying these horses when called upon. They are to he annually provided with a list of the stables from which the horses are to be bought and the dates and places of delivery.
The position at present is that, after allotting not more than 50 per cent. of any one stable, and after deducting 25 per cent. for errors of classification and changes in the equine population, we have now such a number of horses as to be able more than to provide for the requirements of the Territorial Force and the Regular Army on mobilisation. With regard to the Cavalry, after deducting those horses which are under six years of age and the unfit, and after bringing in boarders, there is a deficiency of sixty to be made up in each regiment to bring it up to war strength. This year we are adding 30 horses to each regiment, 20 in barracks and 10 boarded out. It is intended that in about two years' time the whole of the Cavalry shall be able to take the field on mobilisation on trained and seasoned horses without any animals having had to be impressed for the purpose. As to the reserve set aside for the use of the Artillery, it has been represented that the supply of light draught horses in the country is being very seriously diminished owing to mechanical traction. Accordingly an investigation has been made, and it is found that this diminution, though serious, is not so serious as had been thought. However, it was considered advisable to give some encouragement to owners of such horses, and therefore it was decided to register 10,000 of these horses in the Artillery at a registration fee of £4. The numbers which were offered were more than 10,000, and they are at present undergoing selection. When this work is completed there will be a reserve of 10,000 horses at £4 apiece for the Artillery, apart from another 15,000 horses which are specially earmarked at a small retaining fee.
The Secretary of State desired me to say a word upon the Artillery. It is true that nobody has spoken of the Artillery 160 in this debate, but as we are discussing the Army (Annual) Bill, and the debate has ranged over many subjects which are not precisely within the terms of the Bill, I hope that I may be allowed to make quite a short statement as to the position of the Artillery under the new organisation. In order to understand the exact position with regard to the Artillery it is necessary to go back for a moment to the South African War, during the course of which the number of batteries of Artillery was largely increased. The result of this increase was that the Reserve temporarily became very much lower in proportion to the number of batteries than had previously been the case. Eventually, the Special Reserve was instituted with a view to making good this deficiency. Now the Regular Reserve of Artillery is rapidly approaching its normal strength or proportion to the number of batteries. That is one factor to he borne in mind. The second factor is the introduction of mechanical transport for the Divisional Ammunition Column. This does away with a large number—nearly 5,000 men—of those who were required for that Column in the days of horse transport. The total result of these two factors is that it has been found possible to eliminate the Special Reserve and again to place the Artillery on a Regular basis. Let me at once make it quite clear that the Special Reservists actually serving will complete their term, only others will not be taken to fill their places as they gradually drop out.
The next point to consider is the return from South Africa of one Brigade of Horse Artillery and one Brigade of Field Artillery. The Brigade of Horse Artillery—that is, two batteries—is reduced, and an additional battery at home is also reduced. The place of these three Horse Artillery batteries will be taken by three Field Artillery batteries, as I shall show in a moment. The next step concerns the Training Brigades, which were six in number —that is, eighteen batteries. One of the duties of these brigades was the training of Special Reservists, and now that the Special Reserve is about to disappear it is possible to reduce these training batteries from eighteen to twelve. This sets free six batteries, of which three are reduced, and the other three take the place of the three batteries of Horse Artillery to which I alluded before. In other words, three batteries of Horse Artillery have been converted into three batteries of Field Artillery.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Might I ask the noble Lord whether the net result of that operation is that between the Horse and Field Artillery we have six batteries less than we had before?
No. I think I shall be able later to explain that point to the noble Viscount. The next point is that, in addition to this, owing to the number of men set free, the whole seventy-two batteries of the Expeditionary Force can be. placed upon a uniformly higher peace establishment—that is to say, instead of having twenty-one batteries on a higher and fifty-one on a lower establishment, we have the whole seventy-two on an establishment not, it is true, quite as high as that of the twenty-one under the old organisation, but very much higher than that of the fifty-one. The result then of these changes is as follows. In the Empire we have the same number of fighting units as before, the only change being the conversion of three batteries of Horse Artillery into three batteries of Field Artillery.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but we have had a different story in this House before. Take the figure of 105 batteries. Sonic of those were made into training depots, and we were told that those training depots would have to take the field. But now those 105 units have been reduced by six. That is really the net result, as it seems to me.
Not by six; even OD the noble Viscount's assumption the reduction will only be three. At the same time the necessity for this very large establishment of training depots is to a certain extent done away with by the disappearance of the Special Reserve, and we have the greater efficiency now in the fighting units and also the Regular basis. Bat as to the fighting units, there have been only three batteries of Horse Artillery converted into three batteries of Field Artillery. With regard to the fighting units at home, we have one battery of Horse Artillery less, but six batteries of Field Artillery more—that is to say, the three from South Africa and the three set free by the reduction of the Training Brigades, a total of five more fighting batteries at home. The whole seventy-two Batteries of the Expeditionary Force are on a uniformly higher establishment, and as 162 the Special Reserve disappears the whole of the Artillery will be once more upon a Regular basis.
I have one word more to say on the question of the increase of pay for officers. In the table which the Secretary of State had when he made his statement in another place there was a slight difference as compared with the letterpress, with the result that a rather important detail of the scheme was omitted. Under the proposed scheme a major on appointment gets 16s., and the 2s. after twenty-four years' service is in addition to that. The Secretary of State has also asked me to say that with regard to the details of this particular scheme he is about to appoint a Committee, of which he has requested me to be chairman, to settle these matters of detail. The first thing we have to see to is that nobody under the proposed scheme loses anything. The next is, of course, to consider how much we can benefit people. I am very glad of this opportunity of saying that any suggestions which nap be offered with regard to the details of the scheme I shall be more than happy to receive, and that they will naturally be given the very fullest consideration.
I have given your Lordships some information on important details of Army administration, amid as regards the general problem I would only, in view of the very full statement which has been made by the noble Marquess, say a few words in conclusion in precise language on behalf of the Secretary of State. We cannot maintain that our military obligations have diminished. The defence of the Empire is a naval and military problem, upon the naval aspect of which your Lordships will not expect me to say more than that naval predominance is and will he maintained. The strength of the Regular Army does not change. Recruiting varies within comparatively narrow limits. I have indicated that in several essential respects a real advance has been made in the direction of readiness for war in our Regular Army, designed as it is for the maintenance of our vital interests oversea. On the other hand, there is a sensible reduction in the numbers of the Territorial Force designed for home defence. There is no desire to minimise in any degree the concern which is felt at this reduction in our available forces, but the Government do deny that there is any cause for panic or alarm. The 163 considered judgment of the General Staff, that the subjugation of this country by an invading force with our present naval predominance is a danger we can face without fear, prevents us from using any such alarmist language.
It would be idle, on the other hand, to say that in these times the Government view with complacence any reduction in the standard which they have previously laid down. It has been asked what they propose to do. I will first say what they do not propose to do. They do not propose to make any deduction from the forces which they have hitherto considered necessary to maintain our vital interests oversea. Secondly they do not propose at once to cut the Gordian knot by introducing compulsory instead of a voluntary system. The inquiries which are now proceeding will ere long be concluded, and it is not unreasonable to say that we are entitled to await the result of these deliberations in view of the absence of immediate danger to the security of the kingdom. But when they are concluded I can assure the House that His Majesty's Government will not shrink from taking any steps which may be necessary to ensure national safety.
The further debate adjourned to Monday next.
§ House adjourned at Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, Two o'clock.