§ *VISCOUNT MIDLETON rose to call attention to the statistics recently published by His Majesty's Government as to the condition of the Territorial Force; and to ask His Majesty's Government whether the military advisers of the Secretary of State for War are satisfied that the present condition of this Force is such as to enable it to take the field at once upon the despatch of the Expeditionary Force of 160,000 men, and to guarantee the safety of the country in case of invasion by 70,000 Continental troops.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in the course of the present session, which has now lasted for more than a year, we have had an almost unprecedented number of discussions on the condition of the Army and of the Territorial Force. Great as has undoubtedly been the value of these discussions, I hope I may be allowed to plead with your Lordships to-night that we should address ourselves to the question I have ventured to put on the Paper with some limitation. Though it would be possible to do so, I would suggest that we should not discuss one scheme of Army reform as against another scheme; that we should not enter into the many contingencies which we might discuss in connection with foreign politics, either of possible attacks on this country or of nations who may probably be expected to be friendly to us; and that, if possible, we should reserve for some occasion other than this a detailed discussion of our naval, position—that is to say, whether or not we are safe in having the number of ships which are desired by the present First Lord of the Admiralty, a proportion of sixteen to ten, or whether, as has been contended I think from this side of the House, we should attempt a proportion of two to one. What I ask your Lordships to do is to 896 concentrate your minds as far as possible, not on subjects of difference, but on subjects of agreement; not on criticisms of policy of this Government or of the last Government, but rather on the difficulties which are common to all Governments, and with which, I submit, we have not yet found any methods of dealing. Even if we are unable entirely to shut out past controversies, which is, perhaps, not an easy matter, I think we may confine our attention as closely as possible to the difficulty in which we stand in regard to home defence under existing conditions.
§ Two points are common ground, and are admitted by both sides of the House and by all those who discuss questions of defence. The first is that His Majesty's Government hold themselves liable to despatch abroad a Force the numbers of which they have placed at 160,000 men. Of course it makes a great deal of difference whether the destination of that Force is to protect our own possessions in the East or elsewhere, or whether it is designed to act on the Continent of Europe. But if we admit, as I think his Majesty's Government must admit, that that last contingency has been regarded by them as more than a possibility, then I feel that we have a right to ask that the very certainty of having to face home defence within a fortnight or three weeks with whatever force remains to us after the Expeditionary Force has gone is the only basis on which we can properly discuss the question of defence.
§ The second point is the degree of vulnerability to foreign attack. Whatever we say with regard to the Navy; whatever may be the relative forces of battleships, of cruisers, and of torpedo boats; whatever we may feel as to the effect of the increased range of submarines, as to the effect also of aeroplanes or wireless telegraphy; and, above all, even if we feel, and I know thin may be argued, that the increased range of submarines will render it difficult for fleets to encounter in the narrow seas and they may be driven out into the Atlantic—whatever conclusion, in fact, you may arrive at, I say that if we were to argue at length all the points involved in the constantly changing conditions of naval strategy and equipment there would still remain one point that does not change: that is that naval warfare never can be an exact science. It is impossible for 897 anybody to argue, I think, that if you are going to handicap your commanders by telling them that they must be at all points round our coasts in a majority at any given moment you are not going to put upon them limitations of their activity and their strategy which in war can only lead to disaster. Therefore I think I am justified in saving that the first point is established—that our Expeditionary Force will go; and the second point, that we have to provide against naval attack, is one that is accepted by all parties in this House.
§ I hope that in this debate, at all events, we shall not be too closely bound by what may be the exact naval opinion as to the degree of our vulnerability. There has been one naval war in recent experience—that between Russia and Japan. I know that I am speaking by the book when I say that the calculations of our Admiralty as to the probable results of the encounters in that war were as far removed from the actual results as were the calculations of our War Office as to the probable results of the South African War in the earlier stages when they had to equip the first expedition. Those two affirmative points I would ask your Lordships to couple with one which is a negative. I hope we shall not be met on this question by the statement, which it is so easy for the Government to make, that it is quite true it is part of our policy to equip an Expeditionary Force which at any time can leave these islands, but we should never think of despatching it, or should only despatch a portion of it, if we were in danger at home. I believe that to be an absolute fallacy. You cannot make war on a limited liability of that description any more than you cannot go into battle without incurring risks. It is obvious that you may have to send your Force abroad when the sky looks comparatively clear, and that the sky may become overcast after they have been some months engaged. Again, I do not believe that if the Government ever have it in their minds to send an Army to the Continent they will be permitted to send an Army which is weaker by a single man than that which we can afford to despatch. I do not want to go into this most difficult and debatable question, but if we are to support any allies in striking a blow because we recognise that war cannot be brought to an end by defensive action alone, you will have barely enough to make an Army if you send 160,000 men, and to send fewer 898 —to reserve them at home—would, I think, be a cause of great criticism in this country.
§ There is one point which makes me feel strongly on this question. I know it has been the custom in the past to assure the War Office that certain things would be required of them, and that for certain other things they need make no preparation at all. I had twelve years experience at the War Office, and I can assure your Lordships that in every single case where we had the declarations of Cabinets in public and in private that we were not to prepare for certain contingencies we had ultimately to meet those contingencies. Great as had been the criticism in Parliament against the attempt to organise our forces so that we could send a large number of them out of this country with great promptitude in case of need, every man in this House will recollect what a disappointment it was to the nation when at the beginning of the South African War it was found that the noble Marquess behind me, who had equipped and despatched 70,000 men, was not able to send 200,000 abroad within three months, although he did send them probably within six months after the outbreak of hostilities. It is in the recollection also of every man in this House that there was no subject in regard to which the Government of that day incurred more odium and reproach than the supply of horses, although we were sending out to South Africa in a single week between 2,000 and 3,000 horses. That was the number which was normally bought for the British Army in a year, and yet people were surprised that out of the 120,000 horses sent in a single year there were 117,000 that did not come up to the standard of the 2,000 or 3,000 normally purchased. Therefore I say that we must act up to our own commonsense in the matter, and must not be put off by the Government's professions that they honestly believe they will not require certain services when all experience shows that those services will undoubtedly be required.
§ My submission is that if we have to send 160,000 men abroad our position at home must fill every man who has studied it independently with the greatest disquietude. The comments of all the leading military authorities in this House, of all those who 899 have served in the Army and are now doing their best for the Territorial Force, and of all those who have had a share in administering the Army, have been in the same direction. I do not want to go back on the weakening of any part of our military forces, because I think it is desirable that we should have regard rather to the condition of things as they now exist. But may I say that I have always deeply regretted the reduction effected in the Regular Army, a reduction which was in opposition to the opinion of every military administrator who had sat at the War Office for twenty years before. Our Regular Army being 20,000 or 30,000 men weaker than it was, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, when at the head of the War Office, hoped to make it up by the increased number of the Special Reserve who would go abroad, and by the increased efficiency of the Territorial Army who would remain at home. These are the figures: You require 160,000 men to go out with the Expeditionary Force. I understand that the wastage of war in the case of the men of an Army landed on the Continent may be taken at about 25 per cent. in the first month. The whole story of the Franco-German war, from the skirmish at Saarbrück to the great surrender at Sedan, was only about a month, and I believe that you could not take fewer than 30,000 or 40,000 men as the probable numbers of the drafts which would have to be shovelled after the main Army, thus making a total of 200,000 in all to be provided. Against this you have the Home Establishment of 130,000 men; you have 140,000 Army Reserve; and you have about 50,000 of the Special Reserve who might be considered available for foreign service by the terms of their engagement. You have, therefore, 320,000 men, of whom 200,000 would have to go with the main Expeditionary Force, or would have to follow as drafts to repair the wastage of war. The margin that is left is an illusory one. The 120,000 men include about 25,000 in the Army Reserve, which when it falls to its normal level of 115,000 in two years time will no longer exist as a practical force. The 120,000 also include the whole percentage of the sick and temporarily incapacitated among the 320,000 men. They include about 45,000 recruits who will not even have done their drills. I think you may say, therefore, that out of that 120,000 men there will be enough to man the seventy-four battalions of the Special 900 Reserve after a manner, but the whole, or nearly the whole, of the trained men in this country ready to go abroad will have been exhausted when you have sent out the Army of 160,000 and the drafts which must go within three weeks of its landing to repair the wastage.
§ But the position is worse than that, Not only will all the trained men have gone, but you will have more than exhausted the whole number of trained officers available. What is left behind? I do not want to draw a lurid picture of the Special Reserve. I know everything has been done that the War Office can do to try to induce men by pay, and officers by every consideration that can be offered to join the Special Reserve. But the truth is that you cannot get men in time of peace to agree to serve abroad wherever they may be required on the outbreak of war unless you put them on an entirely different footing from that on which you are putting the officers of the Special Reserve. They are men with other avocations, they have their, own lives to lead, and to ask them to take upon themselves this enormous liability, which even in the case of the voluntary progress to South Africa of the Militia caused some very heavy losses, is to require of them something which in point of fact they are not willing to undertake. The condition of the Special Reserve at this moment is deplorable. There are 60,000 men and 2,000 commissioned officers. They are short of 30,000 men and 1,000 officers, The Infantry alone is short of one-third of its officers, and those it has have only been obtained by cutting down by one-half the training which the noble and learned Viscount said was necessary for them, when he first established them. Moreover, of the total of 60,000 no fewer than 20,000 are boys under 19 years of age. From what I have said your Lordships can judge what will be the state of the 74 Special Reserve battalions which are the sole remnant that will be left in this country of Regulars or semi-Regulars after the Expeditionary Force has gone. They will no doubt be strong in men. But what can a battalion do which is made up of untrained and immature boys, beginning at the age of 17; of the sick remnants of other battalions; and of a few trained men who were not fit to go out with the Expeditionary Force? These battalions, without cohesion, without knowledge of each other, with very little more than half their non-commissioned 901 officers, and with so great a depletion of officers, cannot be regarded as complete battalions. They really could not be supposed by any military man to be fit to take part in the operations of a mobile force. I really think I shall not be going beyond the mark if I adopt a phrase used some years ago and say that the state of the Special Reserve, after it has furnished what it will be called upon to do to the Regular Army, will be one in which peace is a necessity so far as they are concerned. I know the present Secretary of State for War is doing his best to devise means to fill up the numbers of men so as to make good the shortage, and to find the required total of officers; but I contend that until the whole force is in a different position from what it is at present, it must be admitted that the entire defence of England, after the Expeditionary Force has gone, will fall on the Territorial Army.
§ What is the burden you ask them to bear? I have put in the Question which I have addressed to the Government the number of 70,000 men as the possible total who would be engaged in an invasion, because that has been taken as the number which it was held was possible might invade the country under certain conditions. But I do not mind even if the Government were to say that they are no longer apprehensive of an invasion by 70,000 men, but they think it is more likely that small raids of less than one-third of that number in some cases might possibly be the contingency we should have to meet. It sounds very magnificent to say, "If we have 10,000 or 15,000 men of the enemy landing in two different places, do you really think 250,000 men of the Territorial Army could not deal with them?" But I go back and I think of the trouble which less than 20,000 untrained men gave to the 50,000 best troops in the British Army for nearly six months in Natal, ten years ago; and I think of that same number of trained Continental troops, landed no matter where in this country, and having to be put out by the Territorial Army. I do not know whether it is realised that at the very time when such raids were taking place it would not be possible to denude London and our other leading ports of all the men of the Territorial Army; so that in any event there would not be a very large number left for the purpose of expelling these invaders, even if they came only in the small force which I have mentioned.902
§ I do not think we ought to be denounced as unpatriotic or ungenerous if we look these facts in the face. It is not in the least unpatriotic to tell the country what every military critic on the Continent knows perfectly well is the condition of our Territorial Force. It is not ungenerous because I am inviting your Lordships and the Government to do their best to supplement the great efforts which have been made in order to render this Force more effective for the service which it is designed to carry out. What is unpatriotic and ungenerous is to attempt continually to shroud the defects of the Territorial Force, and to tell them they are fit to do that which every one who knows anything about military affairs is aware they cannot accomplish. I deprecate the spirit in which the Under-Secretary for War spoke the other night when he said that all you have to do is to tell the Territorials they are fine fellows and they will become finer fellows. They are, I grant, doing all that they can, and really more than they can afford to do, in trying to meet our demands, and I think you cannot do a more ungenerous or a more unpatriotic action than to send them to carry out a duty for which their military training has not enabled them to fit themselves; to shepherd them into what Lord Wolseley called "a certain shambles"; to make them what Lord Roberts has described as a "national danger." I do not feel in saying this that I am casting any slur on the scheme of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, because what he laid down as a necessity has not been realised.
§ Your Lordships all know the figures, but perhaps for the sake of putting them on record I ought to give them, so that it may be shown how far short the numbers have fallen of the intentions of the originator of the scheme. The establishment is 11,200 officers, and the strength is 9,200; the establishment of men is 303,000, and the strength is 252,000. Of the officers, nearly 1,400, and of the men 33,000 did not attend camp last year. From 40,000 to 50,000 of the men are recruits, and 112,000, or nearly one-half the Force, either failed in musketry or were not tested in musketry last year. As regards the Artillery, its value, I say, speaking as a civilian but after listening to military critics, is doubtful. There is one aspect of the Territorial Force which I am sure every man of military knowledge will agree with me is most 903 serious. If any man accustomed to war were asked to take command of that Force to-morrow, he would find it quite impossible to judge of the value of the troops he had under him. Some regiments are first-rate and some are less reliable; but there has been no attempt, such as was made by the last Government, to brigade for the purposes of a field army only those on whom the reports were such by the brigadiers as to show that they were fit to take their place in a large body of troops. You have mixed the good, the bad, and the indifferent indiscriminately. I sympathise greatly with the noble Viscount in that he has not been able to obtain all that he asked for. He has treated the Force with the utmost liberality; he has shown every sympathy that he could do with their efforts; and I believe that in placing them under the County Authorities he has taken a most important step towards promoting their efficiency. I dare say the eminent Military Correspondent of The Times may be correct when he says that their value is double that of the old Volunteers; but whether that be so or not, the fact remains that they are not able to give the training which was asked of them. They have not the officers without whom they cannot possibly be really efficient, and they have not the numbers behind them which it was assumed would be there.
§ We were told that the whole essence of the scheme was that you should have 50,000 or 60,000 men of these battalions of the Special Reserve on whom the first demand would come. Those battalions have been rolled up in the First Line and the Territorials are not to have even the six months' training without which the noble Viscount himself said they would not be fit to act in the field. With all those deficiencies I ask your Lordships whether I am going too far in making the request that we should have some military opinion given us as to the value of the Territorial Army for the urgent work and the heavy burden that would be placed upon them should an emergency arise. One or two of my noble friends have spoken to me about the wording of this Motion, as if there were something unusual in asking whether the military advisers of the Secretary of State are satisfied that the present condition of the Force is such as to enable it to take the field at once upon the despatch of the Expeditionary Force of 160,000 men and to guarantee the safety of the country in case 904 of invasion by 70,000 Continental troops. I am not asking the opinion of the military advisers of the Government on any question of policy. That is a question for the Government. If the Government say they will not send troops abroad, then we have no right to ask whether their military advisers think that they ought to do. But as regards the efficiency of any particular Force to carry out the work which the Government have laid upon it, it is, I contend, the military advisers and they alone whose opinion we have a right to ask for, and in whose opinion we have a right to trust.
§ I speak with experience of many years of combat in the House of Commons, in the course of which the House insisted on knowing the opinion of the military advisers on the proposals of the Minister. When the noble Marquess behind me was Secretary of State for War he introduced a scheme in 1897 which involved a considerable increase in the number of troops; and I was asked specifically, as representing him in the House of Commons, "Is this the scheme of Lord Wolseley, or is it, as alleged in the newspapers, the scheme of Sir Arthur Halliburton, the Permanent Under-Secretary?" It was considered absolutely correct that I should reply stating exactly what Lord Wolseley's opinion was—namely, that it satisfied him as being a great step forward in the organisation of the Army. That kind of thing occurred on countless occasions. I could refer to occasions on which we were specifically asked what were the numbers of the Force to be sent to South Africa, and what were the opinions of the military advisers to the Secretary of State in regard to that Force. I am bound to confess that I regret extremely that we hear so little of military opinion on these subjects since the change which gave us an Army Council instead of a Commander-in-Chief. I know I belonged to the Government which took that step; but ever since it took place the tendency has been for the military advisers to become simply the echo of the Secretary of State. I can only say, for my own part, that had I known that the effect of that change would be to deprive the Army of its legitimate mouthpiece, the Commander-in-Chief, I, for one, would sooner have resigned office than have placed the Army in the position in which it has been since the Army Council was established. We have never, on one single occasion, 905 heard in this House the opinion of the military advisers since the abolition of the Commander-in-Chief. What the opinion of those advisers is I can only surmise; but I saw the other day that the present Chief of the General Staff, General French, had spoken of this Force as being a cause for grave anxiety; and although Lord Nicholson is not, I think, present this evening, it would not be indiscreet of me to say that his opinions must have changed very greatly since the days when he was at the War Office as one of the most trusted advisers of Lord Roberts if he is prepared now to say that the present Territorial Army is fit for the work which is being set before it.
§ Therefore what I invite the Government to do to-night is to tell us frankly whether they are themselves satisfied, and whether their military advisers are satisfied with the condition of the Territorial Force. I may be asked what is the value, of that admission if it is in the negative. If I am asked, "Do you wish to found on that a demand for compulsory service, or what have you in your mind?" I would say that we on this Bench have not the advantage of knowing what the course has been of the Defence Committee, and what the advice has been of the military advisers for some time past. I would say, however, that I deprecate the Government attempting to bolster up the existing Territorial Force by simply giving it more money, because that money must come from some other Force; and I do not believe you will get by spending £15 or £18 anything much better than you get by spending £12 as you now do, as compared with the £6 which was spent in the days of the Volunteers. We may, of course, take advantage of that really splendid body the National Reserve, of whom the noble Lord opposite told us the other night. There are in that fine body 157,000 men who have all passed through the service and are under fifty-five years of age, from whom no doubt we could get a considerable reinforcement as a Territorial Reserve in case of war; but I believe that all this tinkering will in the end only be found to have been insufficient because, if anything, the danger keeps on increasing and the burden which you put on the Force becomes proportionately heavier.
§ I believe that you must go to the root of the matter, as in his original speech in 906 the House of Commons the noble Viscount did when he said you want to get the nation trained in the work of defending itself. We are the only one among the great nations, except the United States, who are not in any way organised or trained as a nation for defence. The position in which we stand is not that we have neglected training in other respects. I do not know whether it has occurred to the Government that they are spending in education alone something like £50,000,000 a year, and nobody has said to the parents of the children, "We have taken these children off your hands for ten or twelve years of their lives. During that time we have not merely educated them, but if necessary we have fed them, and we have provided them with medical attendance. We do for them nearly all that fifty years ago parents were supposed to do entirely out of their own pockets." Have we not the right to say to the parents, "You should consider that some national service is demanded from these children in future?" I believe Marzini once said, "Every man ought to consider how many years of his life he should give to his country." We do not even teach these children that there is any advantage in belonging to this country, much less that any service should be demanded of them. We do not say to the children, "You are here to be educated in many subjects; we shall give such an education in drill and marksmanship as will, if you are disposed, enable you to give your voluntary service to the Territorials later on, and save you half the sacrifice you would then have to make, because you will have learnt many of your duties in the interstices of your schoolwork."
§ We must also, I submit, look at the whole question as one of economy. We should save half the time of the staff of the Territorials if we could only send them the raw material prepared at school to that extent, instead of youths coming into the Force at the age of eighteen with everything to learn in the evenings and during the intervals of their work. I believe also we should do a very good turn to the physical and moral health of the younger generation by forcing them to undertake a certain amount of drill. We should do something also for national character if we taught children when they were young that national service was a part of their duty even when rendered at the expense of personal sacrifice. I know it has been 907 urged very frequently that if a moment of danger comes we have great wealth and we shall find an expedient and shall muddle through somehow as we have done before. I deprecate our going back to that state of things and salving our consciences for neglecting a work of organisation which, of course, is troublesome. There is an idea that the majority of individuals in this country infinitely prefer not to be bothered with these high considerations; that the average Briton would much rather be lulled by soothing memories of centuries of immunity from invasion than be troubled by these dangers which he rightly regards as problematical, but which he wrongly regards as remote. I think that those who still argue that, or by their silence give force to those views, might remember that two centuries ago when this nation was at war with the Netherlands, it was said to the Netherlands, "What can you who are a mountain of gold do when you encounter a mountain of iron?" At least we can remember the advice which Solon gave to Croesus, "If any man comes who has better iron than you, he will be master of all your gold." Therefore we ought not to salve our consciences with the easy course, but we should remember that nations have gained by striking some rather hard note of national sacrifice, and we should make a special effort to bring up our ranks to the full demands of those whose professional advice enables us to estimate the danger.
§ If anything could have roused this nation I am sure that the efforts of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, Earl Roberts, would have done it. But we go on, day after day, and year after year, and we are no nearer being ready to meet these emergencies now than we were seven years ago, not because we have not made progress under the noble Viscount's scheme, but because the emergency has become greater. Although the Government may be able to say that the present emergency can be met, he would be a bold man who would tell us that in the rapidly changing conditions we should be fit for an emergency which may arise in a few years' time. We cannot reproduce the hard conditions under which our nation organised itself a century ago. We cannot, of course, get rid of the enervating influences which make people willing to subsist with danger staring them in the face and ignore it; but we can 908 secure—and at all events this is what I ask the Government to do—that in the training we give to our youth national training and national necessity shall come first, and that in the sphere of politics national safety shall not be put behind the exigencies of different parties. I believe the time has come when you might find a concensus of opinion among both Parties in favour of some step forward; and it is in the hope that His Majesty's Government will admit that there is something which remains to be done that I have ventured to address this Question to them to-night.
My Lords, I rise to make a statement on behalf of my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War, because I think he would wish your Lordships to be in possession of it at an early moment in this debate. I would first of all draw your Lordships' attention to the statement of the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on July 29, 1909, in which he dealt with the conclusions then arrived at by the Committee of Imperial Defence. The right hon. gentleman said—In the first place, so long as the naval supremacy of this country is adequately assured, invasion on a large scale—by which I mean invasion on such a scale as was contemplated by Lord Roberts, i.e. the transport to these shores of 120,000 to 150,000 men—is an absolutely impracticable operation; and on the other hand, if we were to lose the command of the sea, then whatever might be the strength and organisation of our military forces—even allowing that you had an Army like the Army of Germany—whatever might be its strength, or whatever might be its organisation, it would not only be impossible that this country should escape invasion—invasion might not even be necessary—but the subjection of the country to the enemy would be inevitable.Then, dealing with the question of a raid, the Prime Minister further 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 through at all, but you must have in these matters an ample margin of safety. It does not do to rely less or more upon nicely calculated numbers, and we must have an ample margin of safety.This is still the opinion of His Majesty's Government; but while they are satisfied that proper provision is made to meet the particular danger which was investigated by the Committee of Imperial Defence in 1908, there are many new factors to consider.
Among these I may mention the establishment of a second line of naval defence, consisting of torpedo craft and submarines; the improvement in the sea-going qualities of these vessels; the technical develop- 909 ment of the torpedo; the use of oil fuel which enables vessels to remain longer at sea without returning to port; the use of aircraft for scouting over sea; the progress of wireless telegraphy; the development of aerial forces abroad; and the increase in the size and speed of mercantile navies of foreign Powers; and I might also mention the general improvement in military organisation, and the detailed and comprehensive arrangements for co-ordinating the responsibilities of the various Departments of State in time of war which was alluded to by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons when introducing the Committee of Imperial Defence Estimates last year. These factors certainly have a bearing on the problem, and their weight on one side or the other demands attention. In view of all these circumstances, the Prime Minister decided some few weeks ago that the time had again arrived when special consideration of these questions should be continued by the Committee of Imperial Defence under his chairmanship.
Before turning to the Territorial Force, I should like to say one Word on the subject of conscription as opposed to voluntary service. This question is so vest and so many-sided that I shall only ask to be allowed to deal with one aspect of the case. I shall say nothing of the financial aspect, which goes in reality to the very root of the whole matter, involving as it does the consideration of the relative value of one pound spent on the Navy and one pound spent on the Army. Nor shall I attempt to discuss the working value of the average citizen to the State, or the amount of loss which the State would inflict on itself by removing him from his work. Nor shall I say anything as to the comparative worth of a period of unwilling, listless service, and the same period of zealous and energetic service. But, the aspect of the case on which I should like to say a word is the effect of conscription upon the morale and physique of the nation. It is frequently alleged that the adoption of national service would elevate the whole morale of the nation by making the people of these islands more patriotic and better disciplined. In order to examine the truth of this contention, let us look for a moment at a few of the characteristics of this country as compared with foreign countries. Can it be maintained that the citizens of the United Kingdom are less 910 patriotic or less disciplined than those of Continental countries? Are riots or strikes less common or less violent in those countries which have compulsory service than in those which prefer the voluntary system? The answer is most certainly in the negative. In many European countries we have heard of the penetration, even into the ranks, of anti-militarism to a degree which is unknown in this country. Hooligans and Apaches are just as common on the Continent as here. There have even been cases of rioting owing to the despatch of conscripts to fight abroad in an unpopular war—an incident which is probably without precedent in this country. And as regards the contention that compulsory service is necessary for the purpose of educating the electorate to the importance of military questions, it may be worthy of consideration whether there is not a positive danger in concentrating attention too closely on the military side of defence questions and thereby running the risk of overlooking the importance of the naval side, which is so absolutely essential to our very existence as an Empire.
Then as to physique. Here, again, we are told unceasingly that even those who fail to see the necessity of conscription from the military point of view must, unless they are wilfully blind, perceive the immense amount of good which it would do to the physique of the nation. But would compulsory service really benefit the physique of the nation? If we adopted a scheme of compulsory service would the physically weak and unfit be included in the scheme? Most certainly not. It is inconceivable that the funds at the disposal of the War Office would ever be used for this purpose. You will find that the National Service League itself makes the following statement—In Switzerland the number of medical rejections annually amounts to an average of 47 per cent., and a similar result is experienced in France and Germany.I do not know where these figures come from nor how they have been computed, and naturally I do not propose to quote them as authoritative, but at least we may assume that the number of rejections for unfitness would be very large.
No one, however, can deny the importance of the question of improving the 911 physique of the nation. But it is not by adopting a scheme which while taking the strong exempts the weak and physically unfit that we can hope to improve the physique of the manhood of this country. It we wish to attain this object, some other means must be devised, such as a system of physical training in connection with continuation schools, whereby the bodies as well as the minds of the country's youth would be developed, and developed at a much earlier age than that at which they would be ripe for conscription. In this process of training in gymnastics, physique, and discipline it may well be that the use of arms and simple military formations would add to the self-respect of our people and lay a foundation on which a great scheme of national defence might be based if unforeseen dangers and combinations should menace the integrity and liberty of the country.
With regard to the Territorial Force I would say a word upon numbers, upon efficiency, and upon zeal. Taking in the first place the number for the year which ended on September 30, 1912, there was a fall in strength of 199 officers and 2,534 non-commissioned officers and men, as compared with a net fall of 284 officers and 2,649 non-commissioned officers and men during the previous year. The recruiting improved considerably as compared with the two previous years, and it is worthy of note that the increase was not spasmodic, but taking each quarter's recruiting separately a considerable improvement occurred as compared with the same quarters of 1910 and 1911. This improvement, however, was more than counterbalanced by the increase in the wastage, mainly occasioned by the discharges on termination of engagement, which rose from 15,962 in the previous year to 34,832. This, again, was chiefly due to there being a much larger number whose engagements expired during the year than during the preceding year, the numbers due to go within the years ended on October 1, 1911, and October 1, 1910, being 80,403 and 45,957 respectively. There is nothing particularly noticeable about the other heads of wastage. The free discharges which have steadily increased since the Force was started have apparently now reached a maximum and show a slight decline, but they are responsible for the heavy loss of 10,352 men during the year.
912 With regard to the prospects for the current year, the numbers whose engagements are due to expire again show a rise, being 114,543 as against 80,403. We must therefore assume that unless recruiting still goes on increasing there will be a further drop in numbers during the current year. The figures, however, for January 1, 1913, show that the wastage has been just about what was expected, but that 3,000 more recruits have been taken than in the same period last year, which in its turn showed an increase on the two preceding years. The fact is, my Lords, that in spite of, or perhaps thanks to, the campaign which has been carried on against the Territorial Force, recruiting is really in a buoyant condition. And here a word of praise should be said in favour of the Director-General of the Territorial Force, General Bethune, whose zeal and whose efforts in the interests of the Force are deserving of the highest testimony. It may interest your Lordships to know that last week in one town alone—Portsmouth—no fewer than 530 recruits joined the Territorials as the result of a special appeal which was made by the chairman and members of the Hampshire County Association, who were materially assisted by the efforts of the Mayor of Portsmouth. At the same time every one knows that this is the critical year for the Force. There is a larger deficiency to be made up this year than there has been at any previous period. Whatever others may do, I feel confident that your Lordships, so many of whom have worked so whole-heartedly in the interests of the Force, will be the last to choose this critical year to throw obstacles in its way.
As to efficiency, I should like to give a few figures which show a decided improvement. Of the 293 units of the Yeomanry, Infantry, and Engineer field companies, 1S4 in 1911 and 224 in 1912 qualified 75 per cent. of their strength and over—a very large increase. In 1911, out of the 293 units, 286 tested 50 per cent. of their strength and over, and in the last year the whole 293 tested 50 per cent, of their strength and over. In 1911, 30,605 recruits and 111,830 trained men qualified, making a total of 142,435; and in 1912, 40,581 recruits and 112,929 trained men qualified, making a total of 153,510. The number of existing Territorial Force open rifle ranges rose from 795 on January 1, 1911, to 805 on January 1, 1912, and to 913 830 on January 1 of this year, which means approximately a rise in the number of targets from 3,430 to 3,500 and now to 3,700. The numbers of the Officers Training Corps cadets in the senior division on October 1, 1912, were 5,569, and in the junior division 18,914. During the period from the inception of the Territorial Force up to September 30 of last year 776 cadets of the Officers Training Corps joined the Territorial Force, and during the December quarter of last year an additional 120 joined the Force, making the total 896; and by the latest figures the number has further risen to 924. During the period from May 1, 1910, to October 30, 1911, the number of cadets of recognised cadets corps who joined the Territorial Force was 854, though this figure is probably below the number who actually joined, as I believe no very accurate record was kept at that time. During the cadet year which ended on October 30, 1912, 1,196 cadets of recognised cadet corps joined the Territorial Force. These, of course, only refer to those corps which are recognised by the County Associations. There are many others, notably the Boys' Brigades in England and in Scotland, who do admirable service in sending officers and men to the Territorial Force. We have reason to believe that in the near future all these excellent organisations will have combined in assisting the development of the defensive forces of the country. That, my Lords, is all that I shall say on the question of numbers and efficiency at the moment.
I should like to say a word now on the question of zeal. The spirit of zeal which permeates the Territorial Force cannot be praised too highly, more especially perhaps in view of the discouragement which it has had to face in addition to other existing difficulties, owing, I will not say to the National Service League, but to the manner in which the League has placed its proposal before the country. I acknowledge at once that the most prominent members of the League have again and again disclaimed all intention of discouraging those who have been doing their duty to their country; we know that they could have had no intention of discouraging those now serving because an action such as that would resemble nothing so much as that of a starving man who throws away a crust of bread on the chance that someone will give him what he thinks will be a square meal. No one, however, can com- 914 plain of people who, holding strong views upon a subject of national importance, are desirous of placing those views before the country as prominently as possible, but I cannot help expressing regret, a regret which I am sure is shared by none more than by the leading supporters of the League, that the manner in which the views of the National Service League have been promulgated should have been such as to discourage those who are already doing their best.
Now, my Lords, let us imagine that this country is in a state of war. We have in these islands 263,000 men of the Territorial Force. Quite apart from the National Reserve, we know that the officers and men who have recently left the Force would in those circumstances rejoin in far greater numbers than would be necessary to raise the Force from its present strength to its establishment. And I may say that arms and equipment for the whole number are available. I should like to emphasise the fact that the numbers required to complete the Territorial Force so as to raise its present strength up to its establishment represent a far smaller percentage than in the case of any other army to bring that army from peace to war establishment.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Has the noble Lord allowed for all those who have gone out of the Territorial Force?
I believe I am correct in stating that the percentage to be made up in any foreign army is greater than in the case of the Territorial Force, owing to the fact that in the Territorial Force we have the same establishment for peace and war.
The noble Lord is making a comparison with men who have already done two or three years service.
It may be said that, although the numbers may be complete, the standard of training owing to their short service is insufficient to meet hostile troops with longer training. I will not prejudge this question, but it would appear that if this view be accepted a comparatively small number of our long service Regular Army on the same 915 hypothesis would be able to cope with the invading enemy. Whether such a force is required at all, and whether, if it is required, it should be created anew or detached temporarily from the Expeditionary Force—all these are questions which can only be decided by the Committee of Imperial Defence.
The view of the Government—and this is really the answer to the noble Viscount's question—is as follows. The Government hold the view that they can now guarantee under any present circumstances that this country can be safeguarded against a blow delivered at its heart. They also consider that any largely increased expenditure purely for home defence purposes would be a disastrous policy. I think that, in spite of what the noble Viscount said, it is my duty to enter a respectful protest against the precise form in which he has put his Question on the Paper, but as the point has been raised I can tell the noble Viscount that all the individual members of the Army Council concur in this view, which is also strongly held by the General Staff. At the same time I venture to express the hope that this form of Question will not be taken as a precedent, for I think your Lordships will see that it would be fatal to the efficiency of the Department if when questions of this kind were raised it were to be asked what Sir J. French thought, or what was the opinion of Sir S. Ewart, or Sir C. Hadden.
I will say one word with regard to Special Reserve Officers and the large admitted deficiency in their numbers. This very important question is engaging the earnest attention of the Secretary of State, and I may perhaps here take the opportunity of expressing his cordial appreciation of the manner in which certain members of your Lordships' House and of the other House of Parliament have co-operated with him in deliberating on this matter and will, I hope, continue to do so. At the same time, while the Government are convinced that proper provision is made to meet a particular danger which has to be faced, and while they have every hope of improvement in the condition of the Territorial Force, I can say perfectly frankly that they are not satisfied because they have not got that at which they aimed. They aimed at an establishment of 313,000 men; they have only 263,000. 916 They would like to be in a position to make good this deficiency, and this subject has been for some time past receiving grave consideration at the hands of the Secretary of State. There has grown up in the last few years a very remarkable movement in this country—a movement actuated by a patriotic desire to do something for the country, a movement in praise of which too much cannot be said, I allude to the National Reserve, which numbers at present 190,000 officers and men, of whom 109,000 are officers under fifty-five and men under forty-five years of age. The Government then, having before them on the one hand a deficiency in the strength of the Territorial Force, and, on the other hand, the new movement to which I have alluded, considered whether it would not be possible to utilise the one to fill up the gaps in the other. Accordingly a new scheme was framed for this purpose, and before very briefly outlining this scheme I may say that the cordial co-operation of the County Associations has already been secured, as have also the services of National Reserve officers.
The plan which has been considered and approved by His Majesty's Government is briefly as follows. No money is to be paid to the men themselves in time of peace. Indeed, they have asked for none. But in the case of each man who expresses his desire to place his services at the disposal of His Majesty for Home Defence in a time of grave national emergency a sum of 5s. will be paid to the County Associations, and in the case of those who take a more extended obligation for service in any part of the world under similar circumstances a sum of 10s. per man will be paid to the County Associations, both sums being in addition to the shilling which is already paid for registration purposes. I wish to say here most emphatically that there is no intention of turning any one out of the National Reserve by the imposition of obligations. Obviously nothing could be further from the Government's intention. These men have already on joining expressed their willingness to serve at a time of great national peril, and all it is sought to do is to classify them and to regularise their position for statistical purposes, at the same time greatly increasing the funds at the disposal of the County Associations to these ends. I may mention two more small points in the 917 scheme—first, that uniforms and equipment will be provided on mobilisation just as in the case of the ordinary Army Reserve; and, secondly, in the interests of the men themselves a careful medical examination will be made of those who decide to take the oversea obligation. Such, my Lords, in a few words is the scheme decided upon by His Majesty's Government, but this utilisation of the National Reserve must not be looked upon as constituting a Third Line Army. Such is not the intention. The scheme merely seeks to take advantage of a most valuable reinforcement of men, many of whom have had long training in what is admitted on all hands in point of view of quality to be the finest Regular Army in the world.
To sum up. I have said that the Prime Minister has decided that the time has again arrived when the special consideration of the question of defence referred to on your Lordships' Order Paper should be continued by the Committee on Imperial Defence under his chairmanship. I have also said that the question of the deficiency in the number of officers of the Special Reserve is engaging the earnest attention of the Secretary of State; and I have very briefly outlined the new scheme which has been adopted by the Government for the purpose of utilising the National Reserve. In conclusion, my Lords, I have only one more word to say. It is not in the capacity of man to foresee what possibilities the future may have in store for us, what new dangers we may be called upon to face, what new situations may arise on the kaleidoscope of world politics. We therefore ask for voluntary service from every man, and this Second Line Army should be looked upon not only as an end in itself, but also as a national school of arms, a great school of patriotism for the manhood of the nation. We urge the young men of the country to come forward, and if they do so, as we hope they will, the Government will be prepared so to expand our military organisation as to find a place for all of them.
§ EARL ROBERTS
My Lords, I do not propose to take up your time by referring in detail to the several matters brought forward by the noble Lord who has just spoken, but there are one or two points in regard to which I should like to say a word. The noble Lord rather took the National Service League to task for what it has been 918 doing, but I would remark that the National Service League was started eleven years ago before the Territorial Army was thought of. It was founded in 1902 because it was quite clear, from the results of the Boer War and from the Reports of the two Royal Commissions, that it was impossible to get men in this country for home defence under a voluntary system. Eleven years have passed since the National Service League was started, and there has been no improvement in the efficiency of the men who come forward on the voluntary system for home defence. The voluntary system must always apply to our Regular Army and the men who go into the Regular Army can be properly trained, but it is impossible for the men who join the Territorial Force to be properly trained. It is impossible because employers will not let the men give the necessary time, and the men themselves cannot give the time.
Reference has been made by the noble Lord who has just sat down and by Lord Midleton to the number of men who did nothing last year in the shape of training, but only passed the shooting test. How can those men be called soldiers? What is the use of them? They are practically of no use. The National Service League has never said a word against the men themselves. I have spoken to them over and over again, and I have given them all praise for what they have done; but to tell me as a soldier that I am to let the Territorial Force think that it is fit for war is nonsense; I could not do it. When I am asked to speak to them I tell them candidly that all praise is due to them for their patriotism, but I have always said that what we require is what the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack called a "nation in arms." Until you get a "nation in a ms" you will never have anything in the shape of a home defence army. The figure of 70,000 was mentioned as a possible invading force, but, when the subject was discussed in this House some time ago, it was pointed out that it was merely a hypothetical figure based upon the number of men who could come over in a certain number of transports. But Lord Lovat and I clearly showed that in the same number of ships you could put double or treble this number of men for a short voyage. Indeed, no reliability can be placed on the number 70,000 any more than on the number of 315,000 fixed by the noble and learned Viscount as the required 919 strength of the Territorial Force. That number was decided upon because the noble and learned Viscount discovered that the old Volunteers never rose to a greater number than 300,000, and so he fixed the Territorial Army at 315,000. But they have never come near that. Nothing you can do in the way of patching or tinkering will give you a home defence army unless it can be raised on some other system than that now in force.
I do not think that any one in this House can pretend that the speech to which your Lordships have just listened is a satisfying answer to that of the noble Viscount who opened this debate; but it is cheering to find from one or two sentences in Lord Herschell's speech that His Majesty's Government are themselves aware that all is not as it should be with the defences of our country. If this be acknowledged, an important step will have been taken towards the end that we all must desire—that end being the peace and security of this nation and this Empire. For, my Lords, our chief difficulty is to arouse the attention of the people of this country to the hopelessness of our present position, and so long as the Government of the day—I am not speaking in any Party spirit—assures them that all is well, my own efforts, and those of other private individuals, to dispel the apathy that exists amongst our countrymen must, to a great extent, remain unavailing.
My Lords, the facts of the case are indisputable. However deplorable war may be—and no one desires peace more fervently than I do—no one can review the events of the past three years, or regard those of the present moment, without recognising the possibility of our being drawn into a great war as the only means of self-preservation. The first principle of sound strategy is the concentration of superior force at the decisive place and at the decisive time—and, for our own sakes, as far away from this country as possible. This principle, my Lords, imposes upon us the necessity for our entire Expeditionary Force being despatched from these shores immediately on the outbreak of war.
Now, I would ask His Majesty's Government in all seriousness two questions:—First, Are they prepared, under existing conditions, to despatch the whole Expeditionary Force immediately on the outbreak 920 of war—for, please remember, my Lords, that the outbreak of war is the decisive time in modern warfare—and to send it abroad to the decisive place? Secondly, are they prepared to meet firmly the timid councillors who, undoubtedly, will point out at such a time the weakness of the Territorial Force. However much they may cry up the efficiency of that Force in times of peace, they will certainly protest against being left to its sole protection in time of war? My Lords, there is no doubt a danger in leaving this country without Regular troops in time of war—a danger that will increase year by year, so long as the country insists upon the Citizen Army being raised on the voluntary system. But, great as is this danger, it is infinitely less than the danger of the position in which Great Britain would be placed if the Balance of Power in Europe were not maintained. One of the chief reasons for our keeping up an Expeditionary Force is to enable us to take our share in maintaining that Balance; but unfortunately it has never been explained to the people what the Balance of Power in Europe means to us. Consequently, there are no arrangements for meeting the demands that would be made upon our military resources in the event of our having to take part in a war on the Continent.
There is only one way by which the required arrangements can be made, and that is by the introduction of universal military training. This would give us an Army which would render all thought of the invasion of this country out of the question, and, in addition, it would provide a potential reserve, from which we could confidently rely on a sufficient number of properly trained men voluntarily coming forward to replace casualties and strengthen the Regular Army fighting abroad. For five years every means, except compulsion, has been tried to fill the ranks of the Territorial Force—means some of which must appear to our foreign neighbours unworthy of a great nation. The general officer appointed to administer the Territorial Force at Headquarters spends the first three months of his tenure of office in perambulating the country as a chief recruiting officer, endeavouring to get mere boys to join a Force which he must feel is only a makeshift. And it will be difficult for your Lordships to believe it, but within the last few weeks I have myself been invited to join a dancing club in the metropolis, which 921 has for its object the inducing of young men to take commissions in the National Army!
My Lords, I should despair of my country-men if I thought they were chiefly to blame in this matter. But they are not. So far they have never been told the truth by the authorities whose duty it is to tell them the truth. For my own part I am convinced that, if it were clearly pointed out to the people by their political leaders that the voluntary system for Home Defence has always been, and must always be, a failure, they would no longer refuse to adopt the compulsory system. The question, my Lords, is a national, not a Party question, and it can only be settled by the two Parties acting in concert. Both Parties, if I may be allowed to say so, are practically responsible for the useless condition of the Home Army, and I appeal to both Parties to sink all considerations save patriotism, and by united action to secure the safety of the country and the Empire. If it were a question of numbers alone, I would do all in my power to fill the ranks; but it is because I know that without careful and continuous training the Territorial Force, even if it were double or treble the strength laid down, could not be trusted with the defence of these islands, that I am such a strong advocate for universal military training.
My Lords, I wish to take part in this debate because I was commanding the Eastern Command at the time when the noble and gallant Viscount on the Woolsack assumed the office of Secretary of State for War, and I afterwards went to South Africa and had the unique experience of seeing a citizen army formed there during the four perhaps most interesting years of my life. I wish to say this in the first place regarding the Territorial Army, that no one could have had a more difficult position than Lord Haldane did when he took over the work of Secretary of State for War. He found a machine which was more or less ineffective and which the public had been hoodwinked about to a considerable extent, and he has formed a Territorial Army which it is generally admitted is twice as efficient as the Auxiliary Force which he found when he took office. It is a very easy thing to know how that efficiency occurred. The Lord Chancellor gave the Territorial Force a chance which the old Volunteers never had. He gave 922 them more capable officers and introduced organisation where there was chaos, and at any rate we felt that we had the skeleton of a force to come.
I drew the attention of Lord Haldane at the time to the condition of one arm, and I will read what I then said because it has been referred to by Lord Midleton. It was the question of the Artillery, Horse and Field, for the Territorial Force, and I said—It is this arm which causes me the greatest anxiety, for I am sure we are all agreed that the last thing we wish to see in this country is a paper Army. I have my doubts if so large a number of men and horses of the proper stamp can be obtained, or if so large a number of guns is needed in this enclosed country. But let me assume that men and horses are forthcoming. I think no one will join issue with me when I say that unless the Artillery are properly trained the guns are not only useless but a positive danger to the commander, blocking the roads and requiring protection. Unless steps, therefore, are taken to render this branch of the Territorial Army efficient in the field, I look on the money spent upon it as wasted, and would far rather see it spent on the other arms; and I own it is with surprise I see to-day that money is spent on our Territorial Army while at the same time it is reduced on the Regular Army.Let me speak quite frankly regarding the Territorial Army, and I speak with the greatest respect of my old Chief the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, Lord Roberts. I say this quite fairly regarding the Territorial Army, as Lord Kitchener said with regard to the Australian scheme, that unless it gets the support of the country, unless it recognises that it is respected by the country, you cannot expect the Territorial Army to succeed; and I say to the National Service League, although I read in its official statement that "the National Service League has consistently given the warmest support to the Territorial Force from its inception, recognising the great superiority in organisation and capabilities that this Force provides as compared with the old Volunteer Force"—I say to the National Service League that it has not helped, but has done harm to the recruiting of the Territorial Force. I say so from the conversations I have had with a capable chairman of a County Association and with a General Officer who has had as great experience as any one in the Territorial Force from its inception. I am not blaming the National Service League for what they have done. Their mind is perfectly clear. They say, "We think that there is nothing that can save this country but national training in some sort of form, and we look now upon the Territorial Army as in such a 923 condition that if we bolster it up it will do harm to our view, which is to introduce national training."
Well, my Lords, let me quit this country entirely and take you to South Africa; and here is a point I want to impress upon your Lordships. When I arrived at Pretoria I saw on the first day General Botha and General Smuts, and I thought to myself of the enormous difficulties as compared to this country that faced South Africa. There were two nations, two peoples let me call them; there were the enormous distances which the farmers had to go to do their training; there was everything that made it ten times more difficult than here at home. But I said to General Botha and General Smuts, "What are my riding orders?" and I remember so well General Smuts saying to me—My feeling is this, that the spirit is so strong in South Africa that I do not believe we shall have to use compulsion at all. I believe we shall get Volunteers entirely, and I shall not do away with the Volunteer Force.On Saturday last I received a letter from General Aston, who was responsible for the training of the Army. Though I got the credit to a great extent, he did it all. Tie writes—I think you will be glad to know that from accounts which have reached me it seems that 80 to 90 per cent. of the youths of 17 to 21 will join the active citizen force of their own accord, and there seems little likelihood of the ballot being required.I also read in the Press that—The new Defence Force has been arranged to include the taking over of the old Volunteer Regiments, most of which have long and honourable records. The results of the voluntary enrolment under the Defence Act show that, apart from these existing regiments, 37,600 young men have come forward for voluntary peace training, making, with the already existing force, no less than 45,6000 men, which is considerably in excess of the Government's anticipations and requirements. This is a fine example of practical patriotism, and we hope its significance will not be lost on the rest of the Empire and especially the Mother Country. It is young South Africa which has spoken. It has not stopped to enquire whether its parentage is native born or from oversea. There was a duty to be done, a country to be held, and young South Africa means to hold it.Let me speak quite frankly. We have waited for the leaders of both Parties to go to the country and tell the country what we want. The leaders of both sides have waited for us to push them on. It is just as in the hunting field when you have a big fence before you. You fight shy of it and 924 wait for others to take it. You will be glad enough to see that fence knocked down until it is small enough to allow even the Lord Chancellor to get over it. That is not the way in which to bring about national training in this country.
I go back to 1907 when I brought before your Lordships the question of compulsory cadet training. We all know in Parliamentary Committees that the expert witnesses a little bit shift with the case they have to represent, and a curious thing is that my best witness was the Lord Chancellor himself, who in a remarkably short space of time changed his opinion. He said—They wanted the youth of the country to undergo training so that the reservoir might always be filled—namely, the National Army of 300,000 men. They wanted to work the cadet corps into a much more important position than they had been up to the present, and by so doing they would allay fear and give people a sense of security such as they never had before. Could any one look upon a cadet corps without feeling that every member of it was better and stronger mentally and physically because of the training, and that they were helped not only in military but in civilian duties, and from every point of view cadet corps were things that ought to be encouraged.I ask the Lord Chancellor to go to the country and say that now. As I said in 1907, I say again now that the hope of the country is the youth of the country, and I do not feel prepared to burn my boats until the leaders of both Parties have the courage of their opinions and go to the country and say they consider that national training is necessary. They can then introduce compulsory training and the country will accept it to-morrow, and just as we had in Natal and the Transvaal you will have your junior and your senior cadet corps. That is to say, front the age of twelve up to eighteen you will have a set of lads who will willingly give a hand to their country when required, and still more so when those lads know that if they wish they can go over and give a helping hand to the Force fighting abroad. You can depend upon it that any Territorial Force you have here will wish to give a helping hand to the Force across the sea. No defence is worth having that is not an offensive defence. I do not for one moment believe that any danger to England itself will be at home, but across the seas, and I hope that history may not have a second time to mark a nation stricken with disaster before it knows how to seek the remedy.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, no one can say that this has not been an interesting debate. It was opened by the noble Viscount in a speech of studied moderation, to the tone of which no exception could be taken. He was replied to by my noble friend who spoke with a lucidity which had something of a hereditary quality about it. Then we listened to a speech from one to whom we all look up, for he has rendered great services to his country—I refer to the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, who has addressed us before on this subject and who to-night expressed a deep-felt conviction. Then we had a speech from yet another standpoint from my noble and gallant friend Lord Methuen, who spoke with the knowledge and experience which he had acquired in South Africa. He detached himself from the position of Lord Roberts, and spoke as one who was not ready to be off with the old love before he was sure that he was on with the new. That is a very important point; but the noble and gallant Lord went on to make some criticisms upon us in connection with this subject. He did speak, and I think with justice, of the great value of cadet training. I have no doubt he had chiefly in his mind what he had seen in Natal and what has taken shape in great measure in South Africa. So far from differing from him about the value of physical training as a part of the national education of the youth of this country, I agree with him, but I regret to say that this cause has been damaged—I hope not irreparably—by being turned into a military cause instead of being treated as a branch of national education. As soon as you make up your mind that in a system of national education you cannot exclude the physical side and that physical training ought to be admitted, you will get rid of many of the difficulties and obstacles which the noble Field-Marshal seemed to think insuperable, and we shall none of us have to take fences in our course.
The real interest in this debate centres, as Lord Methuen says, in this—that the question between the two Parties is the value of the principle of compulsory service. Lord Methuen put it in a nutshell. He said this is the real root of the controversy. All the divergencies as to details flow from the view you take on one side or on the other of that principle. You may put, the principle of compulsory service into a nutshell, but it is one thing to put 926 it there and another to keep it there, and I shall venture to submit to the House some reasons for the belief which I hold firmly that the proposals of the noble Field-Marshal not only are impracticable, but would be highly disadvantageous from the point of view of national defence if they could be adopted. We live in an island which is the centre of a great Empire, and an island centre of a great Empire possess disadvantages as well as advantages. One of our disadvantages is that we have to make ourselves responsible for the defence of distant and outlying parts of the Empire which are incapable of defending themselves. For that purpose we must possess the command of the sea, and, in addition, we must possess oversea garrisons, long-service garrisons, which can only be recruited upon a voluntary basis because it must be professional. Then we must have the means of sending an Expeditionary Force to strengthen these distant garrisons to fight, it may be, long campaigns. Again, that is a force that can only be recruited and maintained on a professional and therefore voluntary basis. Those are two disadvantages of an island centre of a great Empire, and they impose upon us a burden which we must bear. The time no doubt will come, but it cannot be for a quarter of a century, when the outlying parts of the Empire will more and more relieve us of the burden of their defence and contribute both militarily and navally to the defence of their own interests. But that time has not come and is not near, and the principle of which I have spoken, the principle of voluntary service, lies at the root of the whole matter. That, is one reason why I say that you cannot leave the decision of what sort of army we ought to have to soldiers alone.
I have the deepest respect for soldiers, but they have the tendency, common to every profession, to look first at the things they know most about and which interest them chiefly. With them the military point of view dominates everything else. Of course five soldiers out of six will tell you that they are in favour of compulsory service. If you go to them they will tell you, "Of course we are in favour of compulsory service; we shall have a much better Army if we can get more men and train them as we think right." No doubt; but one has to consider the consequences of those views. If you go to sailors the same thing applies in another form. I have 927 talked to Admirals and naval men, and they tell you of the amount of money that is wasted on military service. They say that if we would only increase the Fleet they would not only guarantee us against attack, but do everything except furnish us with the comparatively small number of troops necessary for the defence of these islands on shore. The result is you cannot take the word of the soldier or the sailor as being the last word on the subject. The view must come in of those whose business it is to consider these matters from the point of view of statesmanship, and who weigh carefully the naval and military sides alike, and also those most important considerations of foreign and colonial policy which lie at the root of the whole matter. Economic questions come in, too, for unless you attend to economic questions you may not be able to support any Army or Navy whatever. It was to consider these questions that the Committee of Imperial Defence was founded. No nation requires such a Committee as we do, because no other nation has in anything approaching to the same degree the complicated problem to deal with which I have endeavoured to sketch to your Lordships.
The Committee of Imperial Defence has worked out a solution of the problem on the lines which I have indicated. They have said that the first consideration in an Empire like ours is command of the sea. That is the first consideration, and you must put that first. The second consideration is the maintenance of the overseas garrisons and the power to reinforce them with an Expeditionary Force. Then, as you have still the vitally important problem of home defence to consider, you must aim at solving it upon a naval basis primarily, and on a military basis secondarily. That is why we have all seen the great naval developments of the last few years. Not only has our naval distribution shifted as the character of the problem has shifted, but there has been the development of that second line of defence which my noble friend Lord Herschell spoke of—the flotilla craft along the coast which constitutes an outer defence, and which stands between us and the possibility of the landing of any considerable number of foreign troops. The noble Field-Marshal spoke, I think, with some contempt of the figure of 70,000 which the Committee of Imperial Defence has named as the 928 figure of the force which it would be necessary to bring to this country before it would have any possible chance of success That figure is often misunderstood. The figure of 70,000 was taken because it was said that if you were to force an enemy, by your military preparations, to come in numbers exceeding 70,000 then the Navy would be able to deal with them. It was also said that if they came, not in one large body but broken up in raids of 9,000 or 10,000, or whatever it may be, small sections which might escape the vigilance of the Fleet, they might be able to land and therefore you must have a military organisation to deal with them.
The reason why we have concentrated so much importance upon the naval side of home defence is that it is not possible for us, with a problem like ours, to organise the military defence at home which will allow us to let down that naval ring with which we seek to surround our shores and have been surrounding our shores with increasing strength in the last few years. Of course it is true that we should be from a military point of view enormously better off if we had an Army, say, of 500,000 or 600,000 men, trained for two or three years as is the case on the Continent. I admit that at once. But what would be the consequence? The consequence would be that you would not be able to maintain at the same time an Expeditionary Force for the overseas garrisons on a professional and military basis. I see on the Front Opposition Bench two noble Lords who have filled the office of Secretary of State for War, and they, I am sure, know what the difficulties are. If you endeavour by this compulsory system to raise any force which would nearly reach these dimensions you would be face to face with this difficulty, that you could not get your drafts for India and your distant overseas drafts, and you would be in a position which would put the Empire in great peril. I am not talking of merely theoretical considerations. The noble Field-Marshal himself has had some experience of this question. When he was Commander-in-Chief he had a plan which he carried into execution of substituting three years as the term of military engagement for the Regulars for the seven years which obtained before. He believed that the military ardour and enthusiasm of those who had had experience of the Army would induce the men to re-engage in large numbers, and that 929 he would get his drafts for India and the overseas dominions. They did not, however, re-engage in anything like the proportion he expected, and the result was we were in the utmost difficulty and betook ourselves to a much longer term of service. Therefore if you aim at raising the only kind of home defence army which would put us on anything like a Continental level, you must dismiss from your minds all hope of being able to fulfil your first duty of providing the Overseas Army and Expeditionary Force which the Empire requires.
I know that the noble Field-Marshal says, "My proposals are much less ambitious—four months for Infantry and six months for the other arms." I said just now that five out of six soldiers agreed that they wanted the principle of compulsory service, but when they have said that their agreement ends and there is a chord of discord at once. I hardly know a serving officer who does not scout the plan of the noble Field-Marshal and the National Service League. "That is not what we want," they say; and I am not sure that the noble Field-Marshal himself has not on consideration come to take that view. In the book entitled "Fallacies and Facts," of which he wrote the first part himself, there is a very significant note on page 14. He says that he is aware that distinguished Regular officers take exception to the term of service which the National Service League proposes, as quite inadequate; and he is not prepared to controvert that criticism. He says the important thing is the principle, and that, once granted, it will blossom out into possibly something much better. Then there is Part 2 to the book. I do not think it is written by a soldier, but it is highly instructive as showing the difficulties we get into when with an Empire like ours we try to introduce compulsory service. In Part 2 of the noble Field-Marshal's book—I do not put the responsibility for that part on him; it is obviously not written by him, and I think he would say very fairly that he is not responsible for it; I only use it as an illustration of what appears when you let this principle out of the nutshell—in Part 2 we have the considered opinion of an authority whom the noble Field-Marshal invited to write in Ids book, who gives an account of what ought to be the naval and military defence 930 of the Empire. First of all he starts with this, that we must maintain our command of the seas, and we require at least the two-Power standard, and the Navy Estimates he puts at a cost of from £60,000,000 to £80,000,000. Next he says we require the overseas garrisons of to-day and also reserves to support them, and that we want an Army for home defence trained for much longer than the National Service League proposes, and to consist of 300,000 men, with a possibility of reserves of expansion to 500,000. Then at the end comes the plan of the National Service League. He wants the 500,000 men trained for six months, who will serve as a sort of extra force. This army of 300,000 men expandable to 500,000 is to serve on the Continent and to be used for the purpose of asserting our power to maintain the balance on the Continent. I can only say for myself that I think several consequences would follow speedily. First of all, with such a force, formidable nation as we should be, we should find other nations gravitating together and huddling together fur safety, and instead of our friendly relations that exist with certain powers on the Continent increasing we should have relations of suspicion with them all. In the second place, the country would speedily be in the Bankruptcy Court, whereby the fears of our Continental critics would be relieved. In the third place, long before either of these two events had happened an indignant nation would have cast from power the Party which had put forward proposals of such a kind.
Then I come to another branch, to a much more modest variety of these suggestions based on the principle of compulsory service. There are many soldiers to-day who say, "What we really want is an Army of 300,000 men trained at home but available for the Continent and capable of holding their own against Continental troops." But can we get that Army along with the overseas garrisons and the Expeditionary Force which we possess at the present time? I myself do not think so. I have gone into the calculations about this both in men and money, and had consultations with several Adjutants-General, and I can only say that I do not believe you could get your drafts for the Regular Army or anything approaching them if you endeavoured to organise such a force as that in this country. Secondly, you could not provide a force of that 931 description without adding at least £30,000,000 to the Army Estimates. I therefore dismiss that suggestion also as an impossible one. Now I come to the last proposal, that of the National Service League—four months training for the Infantry and six months for the Artillery and Cavalry. I can only say again of that that if the Regular soldiers criticise the Territorials they criticise no less this proposition. "What is the use," they say, "of such a force to us?" We are not afraid of invasion. I have never known military advisers of the Government proceed on the footing that we are afraid of invasion. They say, "It is not invasion we want to guard against; it is to increase the military strength of the country as seems to us necessary." Then they put the question, "What is the use of this force thus trained for four or six months if its only advantage is that it may be called upon to go abroad? There is no use obviously, because they are not trained on the level of Continental troops." Therefore the plan of the National Service League has always been looked upon coldly by military critics, and not the less because the estimated cost would be £8,000,000 or £8,500,000. Naturally the soldiers say that with £8,000,000 they could do a great deal more than that. The outcome of it all, to sum it up, is, the moment you try to apply the principle of compulsory service to a country like ours, the island centre of a great Empire, which has those obligations which I have endeavoured to sketch, that principle breaks down, in whatever form you try to apply it.
We are responsible for a large and distant Empire, we have to maintain an enormous Navy for its defence, and we can only do this on the basis of those traditions which have gone deep into the feelings of our people and to which we are accustomed. It is said that if people were to lay aside their Party feelings and appeal to the nation the nation would respond and sweep away all its objections to compulsory service and say, "We are willing to do our duty to the country to which we belong." I do not doubt that. I have always thought that if a real appeal based on reason and necessity were made to the nation there is nothing the people of the country would not do and do gladly. But, my Lords, deep down in the mind and memory of our people is the history and 932 sentiment of our military and naval traditions. It was not by piling up great armies for home defence and putting a ring round our shores that our forefathers won their victories and preserved this country; it was by the command of the sea and the bravery of those military commanders who, at the head of bodies of voluntary serving troops, seine of them not of great dimensions, were able to vindicate the cause for which they fought. It is in command of the sea, and in command of the sea mainly, that the people of this country base their faith, and you will find that faith very deep with them. The people say, "If your Navy is not large enough, spend more money on it. Increase the second line of naval defence. We do not desire to put any obstacle in your way; but we beg you not to take us away from what we are familiar with and from what we believe in and ask us to embark on a policy and principle the end of which we cannot foresee."
People talk very lightly of what an excellent thing it would be for young men to take them between the ages of eighteen and twenty and give them compulsory military training. I think there is a great deal to be said for military training. I think it is a very useful thing physically, but when you want a good thing you have to pay for it and you have to count the cost. I am not talking of physical training at school, which is in a different category. I am talking of what you propose to do, of taking young men of eighteen away from their avocations and giving them four or six months' training to enable them to be fit for service. What are the proposals? The National Service League suggest 6d. a day as against the sum of ½d. paid by the French and of 3½d. paid by the Germans. They propose to take away these young men of eighteen and twenty for four to six months and pay them at the rate of 6d. a day. What will happen if you seriously propose in the public interest to do this? Some of these men are married, others support aged parents, or help other members of their family. Every one of them would feel himself aggrieved. In our country the industrial output per head of the population is enormously greater and the earnings much higher than in any country on the Continent. Therefore the sacrifice is all the greater. These are young men most of them probably earning 4s., 5s., or 6s. 933 a day, and I cannot conceive any better way of damping military enthusiasm in this country than to drag them away from their work and give them 6d. a day. You would produce something like a revolution, and again I say that your plan would lead to the sweeping from power of any Government which tried it. That is one reason for your principle being, in the belief of a great many people, absolutely disadvantageous and unwelcome from the point of view of the Empire and the country generally.
If this opinion be true, what is our position? Are we so badly off? Several questions were put by the noble Viscount who opened the debate and also by the noble Field-Marshal. We were asked, "Will the Government say definitely what they intend to do with the Expeditionary Force in ease 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.
But supposing it so happened that we had to rely largely upon the home defence forces and the Territorial Force for our security. The principles laid down by the Committee of Imperial Defence are that the military forces at home should be sufficient to deal with a raid by 70,000 men. Assuming we possess the command of the sea, the invaders could not effect a landing in any large numbers; and what is the position? small forces would be likely 934 to get cut off from their base and have their lines of communication severed. Again, with wireless telegraphy installations all along our coasts, intelligence is transmitted at very short notice, and any considerable farce attempting to disembark upon our coasts world probably find their transports torpedoed by the flotilla craft which now ranges along our coasts for the purpose of providing that second line of naval defence of which my noble friend Lord Herschell spoke. That is a policy which doubtless will find more favour in the future than is the case at present. In military and naval problems it is quite true there is no certainty. You have to act with a view to contingencies that are probable and not those which are unlikely, and as far as one can foresee that is a line of defence which is likely to remain and to be of permanent value. Still, it may be argued that a great many of the enemy will get through. What then?
I come to the Territorial Force. Within the last forty-eight hours I have been going pretty closely into the condition of the Territorial Force with the experts who are responsible for it. I admit to your Lordships that it has been a great disappointment to me that we have not been able to get the 50,000 by which the Force is short of its establishment. I cannot say that I had not prepared myself for such a possibility. Those of your Lordships who care to look into these things will find that in the speech I made in the other House on February 25, 1907, in introducing the plan of the Force to the House of Commons, I said I was not sure that we should in a time of peace be able to get more than 250,000 men together, but I felt pretty confident that if war came we should get the full complement. We have had more than 250,000 men, and I believe we shall always have more excepting in case of temporary disturbance. If the splendid work continues to be done to which Lord Methuen referred, which has been done by many of your Lordships and by the County Associations, it will set an example of public spirit to the whole country. One result of that work has been that this year the recruiting is better than it has been for some time. The Force is in a more settled condition. Men who come to the end of their period of engagement take on again. But we have still a very formidable situation to face in the present year. Four years ago there was a great boom 935 organised for the benefit of the Territorial Force. I took part in it myself. I think everybody helped, and we were too successful. We recruited 110,000 men in one year. In the light of the experience we now have that was a very foolish thing to do. The inevitable reaction set in. People cooled, and we have now to face the fact that the engagements of all those 110,000 men will come to an end this year, instead of our having only 40,000 or 50,000 men going out. A large number of those will no doubt rejoin, but we may have the Force come down to 230,000 or 240,000. If it does, I, for one, shall not be alarmed so long as the general public continues its interest in the Territorial Force, and so long as the old exertions are maintained. I will tell your Lordships why.
The very fact that there will be such an exodus this year means that next year there will be a much smaller number to go out, and the Force will fill up in a much more healthy way and not be recruited to an abnormal extent. Therefore I think the tendency is not an alarming one; and I agree with my noble friend Lord Herschell that a great number of those who have gone out, even if they refuse to re-engage, would, if there came a time of national need, at once return to the Colours and give you de facto the Reserve which you would like to be able to put your hand on in time of peace. In any period of stress I have no doubt that the Territorial Force will be filled to its full establishment. In any event, there are a large number of men who would rejoin, and then there are 157,000 men highly trained under fifty-five years of age in the National Reserve, many of whom we could reckon on at a time of national stress to come in. So I do not think your Lordships need have any misgivings about this, that if war became really imminent our Territorial Force would overflow not only with men but with officers. As regards officers, the investigations I have made have satisfied me that the same thing is true. That being so, how do we stand to-day? The Defence Committee surveyed the plans for the Territorial Force in 1907. It surveyed the conditions of invasion in 1908, and the Territorial Force was designed under exactly the same conditions which obtain to-day, with no material change, to solve the problem which now confronts us. If it be true that the Territorial Force can be mobilised, is there any reason why we 936 should go back upon the solution which the Committee of Imperial Defence deliberately adopted?
I have pointed out to your Lordships why it is impossible in our view to recommend compulsory service. I have pointed out that the command of the sea and the question of our distant garrisons and the Expeditionary Force makes such a system impracticable. And now I ask, What is it which has led people to go about saying that there is a great, change, and that the plans the Committee of Imperial Defence surveyed in 1907 and 1908 have broken down? If the Territorial Force is the right solution, why is it not the solution to-day? I see suggestions in the newspapers that the Committee of Imperial Defence have altered the old figure of 70,000. That is a sheer mistake. The figure has always been 70,000. It was 70,000 at the time the noble Viscount 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. It is on the basis of our necessities that we have organised this scheme, and the Territorial Force fulfils it to-day just as much as it would have fulfilled it in those times. It is not to be supposed that the Territorial Force is not making progress. I do not go about now as I used to do from centre to centre of the Territorial Force making myself responsible for their well-being, but under my right hon. friend Colonel Seely the Territorial Force is making very distinct progress. Within the last few days I have had an opportunity of verifying the figures. Some of them Lord Herschell has given. It is very important to remember that you have now got uniforms and equipment for the full establishment of 316,000 men; you have the rifles, you have the ammunition, and all the impedimenta. There are a few small details required, but they are quite minor things which could be dispensed with, and I pledge myself to your Lordships that they will be produced within the next few months. As regards mobilisation, the wagons are all available and the horses are all marked down. Care is taken by the Regulars not to interfere with Territorial horses, so that the Yeomanry will ride upon their horses with the knowledge that they are not going to be taken away for Regular purposes. These things have been done. Two distinguished commanders of the Territorial Force whom I 937 have seen within the last few hours both told me this, "We can move our men quickly; we can mobilise them equally quickly; we can march them and they will fight like fiends"—that was the expression—" from the very first. They may fight in a rather irregular way, but they will improve day by day and week by week, and although it is quite true it will take them a long time before they can approach the condition of the Regulars they will be a very useful Force from the first day." I do not think that is an over-sanguine view, judging of the men I am speaking of. They have an organisation; they have Regular officers and definite functions assigned to them; they have a plan worked out, and they are men of keenness.
I have been often called an optimist. I do not want to be over-sanguine, but I do protest against the pessimism of those who declare that the Territorial Force is of no use without six months training. It would be of use from the very first day, and it would be of growing use every day after that. I have been quoted over and over again as having said that the Territorial Force must have six months' training before they could be used against an enemy. I need not remark that I never said anything of the kind. What I did say was, that on the outbreak of war it was proposed to mobilise the Territorial Force immediately with the mobilisation of the Regulars. I was thinking of a case in which the Expeditionary Force went away, say, to India, when we should want a Home Defence Force. The proposal of the scheme is to mobilise the Territorial Force, put it in war training for six months, and at the end of the six months dismiss the men to their homes, knowing that they had been fairly well trained, not to the level of the Regulars, of course; so that on the basis of a two to one advantage they might be very formidable. That is what I have said and nothing else. To speak of the Territorial Force as nonexistent until six months had elapsed is to say a thing which is not only totally contrary to what has been said by those who were responsible for the plan, but totally contrary to common-sense. Can it be imagined that the colliers of Durham or the men of the Royal Scots of the Lothians would sit down and say that without six months' training they could not deal with an invading detachment which they might outnumber by four or five to one?
938 What is our situation to-day? It is part of my case that our position in the Empire, the responsibilities which we have to bear and shall have to bear for many a long day to come, place us in a very difficult position as regards home defence. But it comes only to this, that we have to lay more stress on the naval side than other countries. We have to look to the Navy as our first and second lines of home defence, and devote ourselves to making such preparations as will enable us to deal with what may get through on the full scale, and deal with it on a footing that, with their lines of communication cut, the comparatively small force that may come in and do mischief will be swallowed up. The noble Viscount spoke of the Special Reserve. The primary function of the Special Reserve is to supply the wastage of war of the Expeditionary Force during the first six months, and it is in an ample position to do that according to its numbers at the present day. The Third Battalions, on the outbreak of war, would take in the partially-trained Regulars, men of eighteen months' service and under twenty years of age who are not in a position to go abroad, and the surplus of the Reserve, and would garrison forts and other places that have to be defended. There are seventy-four of these battalions, and behind them are the twenty-seven 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 numbers.
In November, 1911, in this House I was able to read to your Lordships a suggested scheme of home defence so far as it was proper to go into details. Your Lordships will find it set out in full in Hansard at that time. Schemes of home defence have been worked out which provide for a central force. There are coast defence troops all along the coast, swift moving troops, cyclist battalions, yeomanry and other allotted troops, whose duty it is to see that no detachment which manages to land can penetrate any distance, and while they are holding them the central force, which is the striking force, thoroughly organised on a different pattern, comes up and completes the work which they have 939 begun. These things have been carefully and thoroughly worked out by some of the best officers that we have had at the War Office for a long time. Immense trouble has been taken. I say again that every scheme based on a voluntary system is defective, as you can never make quite sure of your numbers and you have to work under difficult conditions. That is a necessity put upon us by our island position, but our island position also gives us other advantages. If I were a Frenchman or a German I should accept without a doubt the notion of the entire manhood of the country, a nation in arms, trained to accept compulsory service, because I should feel that it was impossible without that to resist the enemy who might come over the imaginary land frontier and conquer my country. But we live in an island which enables us to make use of naval force for part of our defence. We have put our faith right through in the command of the sea. It is in accordance with our traditions that we should do so. I believe that we have, in addition, an organisation that is sufficient for our safety.
The appeal which I would make to your Lordships is this, that in a difficult time when it is vital that every help should be given to the Territorial Force, which is not five years old, your Lordships should continue that help which many of you have splendidly given in these years, and in co-operation with its military leaders bring it into the shape in which it can do its duty. I say, further, that we should do well to avoid the cry of "stinking fish," a cry of which too much is heard in this country in connection with our military and naval affairs. I often think we make ourselves a laughing stock to other countries by the extent to which we proclaim our own deficiencies. It is not that we are nervous or timid when we get into difficulties we always extricate ourselves, but we do produce a bad impression abroad. I feel that the best that can be done for the country is that people should quietly and resolutely make up their minds that until they have got something else they had better go on with what they already possess and endeavour to improve it, and should act in the spirit so aptly described to us by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal who spoke last, when he told us that until we had got something better we ought to make the best of what We now possess.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount at the opening of his speech expressed the opinion that the real question between the two Parties was the question of voluntary as against compulsory service, and he proceeded to put forward a number of arguments against compulsory service, a great many of which I fully admit ought not to be put aside without much consideration, but which he will pardon me for saving had not much relevance to the speech of my noble friend who introduced this question. The noble Lord who spoke for the War Office in his observations followed rather the mine tactics, for he too spoke at considerable length on the question of compulsory as against voluntary service. We are quite ready to discuss that question, but it is not the question which is at this moment before the House. The question raised by my noble friend relates to the present condition of the Territorial Force and its fitness for service in contingencies to which reference has been made.
With reference to the noble and learned Viscount's observation as to questions of Party, may I be permitted to associate myself with what was said by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal on the Cross Benches when he expressed his opinion that this is not a question which ought to be discussed upon Party lines. I hold that opinion very strongly. My dream has always been to see these great questions of Imperial defence taken out of the rut of Party politics. They are questions which concern the safety of our country, and I cannot put myself into the frame of mind of the man who would use them merely for the purpose of making Party capital out of them. May I say another word in the same direction. The noble Viscount appealed to me just now as an ex-Secretary of State for War. May I say that my recollections of the difficulties with which the Secretary of State for War for the time being has to contend are so vivid that I can assure him that I should never myself endeavour to put any Secretary of State for War who has followed me at the War Office in a difficulty merely with the idea of scoring points in discussion.
I think that the noble Viscount may very fairly admit that the Territorial scheme has not been dealt with on a Party basis. I doubt whether any scheme was ever launched with a greater amount of general good-will 941 behind it or a more sincere desire on the part of all who had an opportunity of promoting its success to do what they could to save it from failure. I admit that I thought that in these circumstances it was scarcely fair to talk as the noble and learned Viscount did of a campaign against the Territorial Force. I do not think that there has been any such campaign. The noble Viscount and those who think with him are surely not going to blame the noble and gallant Earl on the Cross Benches if, holding the views he does, he spares no pains to put before the country the merits of his own scheme and advocates it with all the energy and ability which he has displayed so conspicuously. The noble and learned Viscount's argument that these complaints and criticisms create a bad impression abroad leaves me perfectly cold. The people abroad are as well aware as we are of the imperfections of our own system, and I should never be deterred from criticism by the feeling that what I said might attract attention beyond the limits of this country.
It is our duty to face frankly and with courage the difficulties with which we are confronted. We should be wanting in patriotism if we did not take stock of the situation, and most of us have come to the conclusion with great regret that, so to speak, our assets have tended to diminish, and our liabilities have tended to increase. I say that in no spirit of complaint. With a voluntary Army such as ours we must necessarily be at the mercy of the labour market and of sentiment, and the responsible Minister is also at the mercy of those financial limitations from which no Secretary for War can extricate himself. Our liabilities, again, do not depend upon us, but upon the activities of other Powers. They depend upon the foreign policy of the Government of the day and to some extent upon the advice of our military experts, who are not always the same men and not always with the same ideas. The situation certainly seems to have altered for the worse. The demands upon us have reference to the maintenance of our garrisons abroad, to the preparation of our Expeditionary Force and the maintenance of the Home Army upon which the country relies for home defence and for the supply of wastage in war. The demand in respect of foreign and other garrisons is fairly constant, but the demands with respect to the Expeditionary. Force have certainly undergone 942 very considerable modifications, by no means to our advantage. I remember a time when we used to talk of an Expeditionary Force of 70,000 men; the number has now grown to 171,000 men. The noble and learned Viscount was asked a question as to our readiness to send that Force abroad at short notice. I think we have got from the noble and learned Viscount the admission that it is possible that the Expeditionary Force might have to leave these shores very soon after the outbreak of hostilities, although, as he very properly said, that must depend upon the circumstances of the time. What would happen? You would be met with a heavy demand for drafts at a very early moment, you would have a serious diminution of the forces left at home, and you would have largely diminished opportunities of training the Home Army which remains.
Let me say a word as to the responsibilities of the Home Army. It would have, in the first place, the duty of repelling an invasion. I gather that the Government and their military advisers admit that in the case of an invasion we may have to reckon with a force, possibly of 70,000 men landing on these shores. I think the noble Lord opposite told us that his military advisers did not believe that the force would get through but he went on very properly to say that the case was not one in which nicely calculated numbers could be suggested.
The words the noble Marquess refers to are a quotation from the Prime Minister's statement in the House of Commons in 1909.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
That is quite good enough. I do not want any higher authority. Then I would ask the noble Lord whether the naval manœuvres held in 1910 and 1912 did not show that the possibility of a successful landing As a much more serious matter than had been imagined up to that time. There is also another set of considerations which we cannot afford to lose sight of. I believe that it is undoubtedly the fact that on the Continent the facilities for concentrating troops, for putting them on the railway and for carrying them across the sea, are now infinitely greater than they were a few years ago. I gather from the reply of the noble Lord that the War Office fully admits the seriousness of this problem, and I think he told us that a 943 special committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence had been appointed or was to be appointed to consider the whole question. I will leave it there for the moment.
If the Expeditionary Force has to be sent abroad its departure will have the effect of eating very seriously into the strength of that part of the Regular Army which will remain. I have always regarded the reductions made in the Regular Army by the noble and learned Viscount when he was Secretary of State for War as unfortunate. They involved a reduction in the Army Reserve, and in my view it would have been better if, before making them, he had waited a little time to see how the new Force which he was calling into existence was likely to turn out.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
After the reorganisation there are more troops at home than there were before.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Not a single home battalion was knocked off, nor was their strength reduced; not a man was knocked off.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My noble friend behind me is evidently of a different impression, but the noble Viscount's knowledge is more recent than mine. It is quite clear at any rate that for the Expeditionary Force, for lines of communication, for the first drafts which you will have to send out, and for garrisons, you will want the whole Regular Army at home and I suppose about twenty-seven battalions of the Special Reserve. When those battalions have gone you will have left the Territorial Force, and seventy-four battalions of the Special Reserve—a very heterogeneous body of men, consisting in a great measure of recruits and invalids and of supernumerary Reservists, men who have never been trained together, who are without sufficient officers, and who in no sense of the word could be described as a fighting force. Beside those you have the National Reserve, which I gather it is designed to utilise in some way to fill up the deficiencies in the Territorial Force. We do not know what the scheme is; but it is quite clear that at this moment the National Reserve is not a very valuable asset for that purpose.
944 It comes then to this, that the Territorial Force will have to bear the whole brunt of home defence. Now the Territorial Force is considerably below its establishment in regard to both men and officers. The noble and learned Viscount spoke of improved recruiting, but I think the noble Lord opposite told us that that has been more than balanced by increased wastage. I should not be greatly alarmed at the shortage in numbers if there were any solid reason for believing that the shortage was likely to be made up; but the evidence in support of the view that it will be made up seems extremely unconvincing. In the current year the engagements of no fewer than 114,000 of these men will come to an end. The reason why I am inclined to fear that we are dealing with a falling market is that I hear from ail sides that both the men and the employers are beginning to rebel against an arrangement under which they bear the whole burden of the sacrifice. That is what I think the noble Viscount has described as a formidable situation, and I am not entirely comforted by his optimistic anticipation that in time of trouble all the old Territorials will flock back to the standard, and that it will be full to overflowing of both men and officers.
To my mind, much more serious than the question of numbers is the question of training and organisation. Without training and organisation I am not inclined to place too much confidence merely on numbers. I remember reading a speech of the noble and learned Viscount in which he anticipated that the whole nation would spring to arms at the call of duty. That is rather a nice phrase, but I am inclined to believe that if the whole nation were to spring to arms at the call of duty it would be very much in everybody's way, and particularly in the way of the War Office. I note two or three facts in connection with the question of training and organisation. In the first place, if I am warranted in assuming that the Expeditionary Force might be conceivably sent out of the country at the commencement of hostilities the six months' training which we always hope for in the ease of these Territorial troops would be unattainable. In the second place, I note that owing to the demands of the Expeditionary Force you will no longer have that stiffening of Regular troops upon which, in the clays when I was familiar with these matters, the military authorities so much relied whenever there 945 was any question of the efficiency of the Volunteers and the Militia. In the third place, I notice that, in spite of all the exertions of the Territorial Associations for the purpose of bringing about the efficiency of the Territorial Artillery, there seems to be no doubt that in that arm the Territorial Force still leaves much to be desired. There are other facts which one cannot exclude from consideration—the number of officers and men who have been absentees from camp; the number of failures in musketry; the dearth of officers, and probably the doubtful quality of some of them; and, perhaps most important of all, the insufficiency of the supply of horses. These are all weak points, and I hope that the War Office may find it possible to deal with them in a satisfactory manner.
But to my mind much the most serious of the difficulties with which the military authorities will have to contend is that of supplying the waste of the Army in time of war. I think it is now assumed that drafts to the extent of something like 25 per cent. of the total force will be wanted at the outset of hostilities. The noble and learned Viscount reminded me of the gravity of what he called the "drafts problem." I am the last person in the world who is likely to forget it. I still remember the situation in which we found ourselves at the beginning of the South African War. Our mobilisation went off without a hitch. Our Reservists came forward almost to a man; and we sent out an Army which was stronger and, I believe it has been said since, better equipped than any Army which has ever left these shores. But our troubles began when we had to find the drafts. We got plenty of men, but they were not even half-manufactured soldiers. They were absolute raw material, and the raw material had to be worked up under great difficulties and not always with very satisfactory results. What, so it seems to me, we want is a large supply—I should like to say an unlimited supply—of half-manufactured soldiers—men with some rudimentary knowledge of drill, used to handle a rifle, and used, above all, to military discipline. In order to obtain such a Reserve you do not want to have anything which can be described as conscription, or which would bear any analogy to conscription. You can get it by compulsory training at school continued for a year or two afterwards. And I hope I am not wrong in understanding from the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Herschell, that the War 946 Office have under their serious consideration some plan for introducing training of that kind.
I should, perhaps, explain that no plan is under consideration. All that I indicated was that if it were desired to train the youth of the nation from the point of view of physique, it could not be done by taking them at an age at which they were ripe for conscription, but by some scheme, which I did not define, in connection with secondary education.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The noble Lord is no doubt speaking under the instructions of the War Office. I greatly regret that the War Office have not given him instructions a little more distinct and to the purpose. Is not the time come when all these "ifs" might be put on one side? This is not a new proposal. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack himself, in his preface to a little hook by Sir Ian Hamilton, said, "I am with them"—that is, the National Service League—"in thinking that physical training ought to be organised as an essential part of an educational system." The noble Lord just now was extremely careful to explain that even that somewhat hypothetical policy of which he is the exponent. is limited to what you may call strictly educational training—physical training, I think, was the expression—and that the idea of any little soupçon of militarism is to be kept carefully out of sight. But the noble Lord, in a moment of candour, when dealing with this part of his case, talked of physical training and gymnastics and indicated that there would be no great harm if the use of arms and simple military formations were to be included in the course. I do hope the noble Lord and his friends will harden their hearts and look a little more closely and courageously into this matter. It does not matter in the least what you call it so long as these lads get the kind of training that I should like them to get; and if in addition the noble and learned Viscount is able to say, as I think he did, that he would be able to find room for these trained lads in his expanded military system, we might arrive at something which would le really the foundation of a general system of training in the rudiments of soldiering. If this could be done, you would provide the country with a kind of reservoir from which in time of trouble you would, without any preliminary assumption of liability on the part of the lads trained, be able to draw an almost 947 unlimited supply of trained men, for I have no doubt the youths so trained would come forward in time of emergency, as they did at the time of the South African War.
I am no new convert to this view. Three years ago I remember calling your attention to the recommendations of the Poor Law Commission, presided over by Lord George Hamilton, which contains what is virtually a recommendation of a scheme of this kind. I hold strongly that even if the men so trained were never to fire a shot in anger we should nevertheless have conferred a great benefit on the country by passing them through a course of training of this kind. I think I am right in saying that the great British Dominions have adopted this plan, and I do not see why their example should not be followed. But I do hope that if this idea is pursued, as I hope it will be, we shall not see what I think we see now—an attempt on the part of the War Office to shoulder the whole of the responsibility on to the Education Department. It is a national question. Let the two Departments join hands and see what they can do, and I feel little doubt they will be able to make something of it.
We spend, I think my noble friend told us, £50,000,000 a year upon education. Most people who have been paying attention to the question are pretty well convinced that we teach our boys at the elementary schools a great deal that is extremely wearisome to them and of little use as part of their equipment for the life that lies before them. Why should we not leave out a part of these somewhat uninteresting studies and substitute for them some of that—I will not call it military, for fear of offending the ears of my noble friend, but some of that physical, or gymnastic education which does not preclude the handling of arms and occasional military movements? I believe it would be very popular and would not involve any interference with the liberty of the subject, because, assuming you have a right to insist upon teaching a lad the three R's, you have also a perfect right to teach him how to hold himself and to submit to discipline. If this were done, I believe the result would be, not, as some suppose, to give us a colossal and expensive Army, a plaything for ambitious soldiers, but to give us a great national reserve which would be a source of strength and solidity to us in times of peace and a source of safety in the hour of peril.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Might I be allowed to correct one figure? The noble Viscount interrupted my noble friend to say he had not reduced the strength of the Army at all, and I dissented. Would your Lordships allow me to give the figures? This is from an answer given by the representative of the War Office in the House of Commons on April 27, 1911, in reply to a question by Mr. Long, who asked what the strength of the Regular Army was on January 1, 1905, and on January 1, 1911, serving at home, in India, and in the Colonies respectively. The answer was: With regard to all ranks except officers, January 1, 1905, 130,422; January 1, 1911, 121,688 at home. That is, a difference of 9,000 less at home. In the Colonies on January 1, 1905, there were 68,467, and on January 1, 1911, 45,257—a difference of 23,000 in the Colonies and 9,000 at home.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I was talking of fighting units. I understood that was what was referred to. What I said was that there were more fighting units at home under the reorganisation than there were before, and that I had not knocked off a single man. I think what the noble Marquess was referring to was the paper establishments.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
There are all sorts of miscellaneous figures. Unless you analyse them you cannot tell what they are, but you will find, taking the actual fighting units, there has been no reduction.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I am sorry to differ from the noble Viscount. He has reduced, according to these figures, the strength both at home and abroad. Surely the result of reducing the strength is to reduce the establishment.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, we have gathered from the speeches of noble Lords that none of them is likely to propose any very drastic alteration of the Territorial Force in the direction of compulsory service. It therefore becomes more necessary that the organisation of that Force should be put on a footing which will give it both adequate numbers and adequate training. I think that in the discussion we have had so far this evening the numbers of the 949 Territorial Force have been somewhat underrated; 300,000 recruits have joined it in the last five years though in irregular bodies and in a way which consequently upsets the establishment. But it, cannot be contended that a Force which attracts an average number of recruits of 60,000 a year is one which is altogether out of harmony with the feelings of the public from whom it is recruited, and the fact that nearly half the men re-engage when their time is up shows that they do not find service in the Territorial Force either onerous or disagreeable think that the number of recruits would have been considerably greater than it has been, especially among officers, had it not been for the exertions of the National Service League. Whatever their intentions may Lave been—and I am quite prepared to admit that their intentions are admirable—I am afraid there is no doubt that they have given numbers of young men a good excuse for shirking enlistment, especially among those who might have joined the Force as officers. That is my opinion, and it is an opinion I have formed from some study of the subject and from information I have received from commanding officers and others who are in a position to know, and there is no doubt that the want of officers has a very serious effect upon the recruiting, of the Force.
But what really has reduced the numbers more than any other single cause is the very great waste which has occurred among the men who joined. I was very much surprised when Lot d Herschell, after giving your Lordships some figures, said that there was nothing noticeable in the wastage that had occurred among the men who joined. In view of that, your Lordships will perhaps be surprised to hear that, out of the 110,000 recruits who joined in 1908 and 1909, over 4,000 had gone by October 1, 1909, and that that number had been diminishing almost at the rate of 1,000 a month up to October 1 last. Four thousand went in the first six months, another 12,000 the next year, 12,000 the year after, and 10,000 the year after that. If these men had only decreased in the proportion usual to men in the Infantry of the Line—that is to say, at the rate of about 7 per cent. per annum—the number of men who on October 1 last had done four years service would have been 86,000 instead of 71,000, and if the same rate of 950 wastage of 7 per cent. which obtains in the Infantry of the Line, who have to serve all over the world, had prevailed, the Force would be very nearly up to establishment now.
In Devonshire our establishment is 6,700. In the last three years the recruits were 4,000, but the net increase of strength was only 29. Three Infantry battalions raised 1,612 recruits in three years and left off 159 to the bad on balance. In the Field Artillery Brigade 68 men left time expired, and 88 went prematurely in three years. In the Army Service Corps company 28 left time expired, and 17 went prematurely in four Years. In the Field Ambulance in three years 52 left time expired, and 45 prematurely. It is not only that men disappear in this way but there is the awful waste of money besides. You cannot put the expense to an Association and the country on a man for his first years' service at a penny less than £5. The Government estimate is £4 10s. per man who attends camp. That includes horses. The loss is chiefly in the Infantry, so I have not taken anything like that figure in making au estimate. The best estimate I can make is that you lose £5 on a man who goes at the end of his first year, and something over £9 on a man who goes at the end of his second year, and for all the military value they are to the country the money is absolutely thrown away. Consequently on the recruits of 1908 and 1909 at least £70,000 has been absolutely thrown away in consequence of the rate at which they have left the Force.
The reason the men go in this way, I think, in a great many cases is that they have to leave the locality in which they have been living to seek for work elsewhere. Great numbers, too, have emigrated, and incidentally these facts throw a little side light On the statistics of unemployment, of which we hear a good deal sometimes in another connection, for if thousands of young men, sound in wind and limb and certainly not inferior to their fellows in other respects, are leaving the country in great numbers to seek for work in other lands it accounts for men who are not their equals being able to find a job at home. People may say, why are not these men held to their engagement in the Force and why do the Associations let 951 them go. The answer is you cannot help it. The man goes first, and you find it out afterwards. His brother or his wife or somebody comes to the regimental store with his uniform in a bundle and says, "Here is William's regimentals; he has gone away." Of course, in theory if he has only gone to the next county or up to London or to some town in search of work, you can send a corporal and a file of men after him, but a lot of good that would do. It would be only throwing good money after bad and would be ruining your recruiting. If you are going to rely upon voluntary service you must give the men some inducements to complete their engagement and to make the best of their time while they are serving.
In this connection I should like to put before your Lordships a plan that has been suggested to me by a Mr. de Salis, a member of the Middlesex Association, which I think if it is found feasible in other ways would certainly have a good effect in this direction. His idea briefly is that any man who completes his four years and pays attention to drill and musketry and raises himself to a certain standard of military ability above the average should on completion of his engagement be given a substantial deferred bounty, and that any man re-engaging should be allowed to earn a similar bounty by another two or four years' service. Mr. de Salis suggests a bounty which would amount to several months' earnings. I should not like to commit myself to any particular sum without going very thoroughly into the whole scheme and weighing the advantages and the disadvantages, but certainly it is no use to give anything at all unless you offer a sum which will be a real inducement to a man and for which it would be worth his while to make some sacrifice. If it is thought well to adopt the suggestion I have very little doubt that the prospect of earning a sum of money which would form a nucleus of a small capital for setting up in a small holding or in a business of their own would be a great attraction to recruits, and besides that it would bring into the ranks a number of men of higher military attainments and a better standard altogether of drill and discipline.
I have no doubt that comparisons may be made between this and the system 952 of deferred pay in the Army which was given up a few years ago for the reason that in a great many cases the money was wasted and spent in dissipation in the first week at the barrack gates. But the circumstances are not the same. This money would not be paid over in barracks, and the men who received it would not be surrounded by a number of thirsty comrades quite ready and willing to join in a spree. Anyhow, I am quite convinced that any money to be given to the men would be better given in that way than by payment for compulsory drills. The men are content to do them now without payment provided that where they go above a certain distance their travelling expenses are paid. There is another very important reason, and that is that unless the men stay on and complete their engagement every penny you pay them for drills will be money added to that already wasted for payment in camp and for their ammunition and uniforms. I need not remind your Lordships what a discouragement it is to officers and men if men leave in this way. The officers see men on whom they have taken a lot of trouble going away before they have derived the full benefit of such training as they have been able to give them. The question of training is even more important than that of numbers, and I think the noble Viscount on the Woolsack hardly did justice to what he said a few years ago as to the necessity of extended training for the Territorials if they were to be of use. In February, 1907, he said the great feature is the six months' training. If, therefore, the Territorial Force is to be such that the Navy and the Expeditionary Force are to be free to go away as soon as they are wanted and anywhere they are wanted, the training which the Territorials at present get in camp must be supplemented by something more between whiles.
I do not think that a longer period of camp is possible. People complain of the number of men who go away at the end of eight days. They are pretty often spoken of as shirkers and wasters, but in many cases the reason is that they are good men and cannot be spared by their employers any longer and they have to return to their work. It is not a question of money. Even if you were to offer them 5s. a day they could not stay in camp more than a fortnight or so, because 953 a man who is a good enough workman to get and has a good enough character to keep a place cannot be spared from his employment for more than fifteen days or some similar period. I am confirmed in this view by what happened in the case of the Militia. For sonic few years before the alterations were made every trained Militiaman was paid in cash and allowances at the rate of 5s. a day for every day's soldiering he did, but notwithstanding that high rate of pay the Force was 40 per cent. below its establishment in 1905 and 30 per cent. weaker than it was in 1892 when the pay was a great deal less. If the Territorial Force is to be one that the country can rely upon when the Fleet and the Expeditionary Force are away it undoubtedly must get more training in time of peace. I know that is the feeling of a great number of thoughtful Territorial officers, who feel that under present circumstances the weapon which they would be called upon to use might be one which would break in their hands in the day of need.
I have already indicated a method by which I believe the Force could be certainly improved in numbers and stiffened, I believe, also in discipline and in drill. The system of cadet training which has been referred to on both sides of the House also would undoubtedly be most valuable from many points of view. Then I think it would be an advantage if commanding officers were allowed to enlist a certain number of ex-sergeants of the Line as sergeants, men who have finished their Reserve service. If those men come in now they have to come in as privates, and there is a great deal of difference between enlisting as a private and enlisting as a sergeant, and if a few of them were allowed to be enlisted directly as sergeants they would be very helpful both to officers and to the non-commissioned officers and men. I think also it would be wise to alter the terms of enlistment for the Regulars and to require them to serve with the Territorial Force Reserve for a couple of years after the expiry of their time in the Army Reserve. You would have to give them something like £4 or £5 a year, I suppose, but I believe the money would be well spent if it were to give you, as it would, on the present numbers something like 10 per cent. of ex-Regulars both to stiffen the Artillery and the Infantry. With regard to Garrison Artillery it would 954 be a good thing, I think, if the regulations were altered so that ex-seamen gunners and Royal Marine Artillery could be enrolled in the Territorial Reserve for them.
But what I think would do more than these minor expedients would be if you went on the same principle in regard to the command of units as you do in regard to the command of brigades—that is, only give the command to a Territorial officer if he is a man of special qualifications and aptitude. I do not believe that the Territorial officers as a body would at all resent that. I have the greatest possible respect for them, and I should grudge them no advancement for which they are qualified. The trouble they take over their work deserves the gratitude of the country in every way, but they are for the most part busy professional men. They know their limitations, and they know that there are not many people who can learn a second business in the leisure that can be spared from the other business on which they are dependent for their living; and a good many of them who have read history know also that the irregular corps of which we have heard a good deal in these discussions and who have done admirable service in every part of the world for the English flag have been invariably for the last hundred years employed against irregular troops. Except in the case of the Boer War, all our recent wars have been with natives. The only approach to Regular troops whom we have met since the Battle of Waterloo, except in the Crimea, were the Sikhs seventy years ago, and those irregular corps which have so constantly distinguished themselves have been in almost every case led by young capable officers of the Regular service who had a thorough knowledge of their profession. The amateurs who have shown themselves fit for anything more than subordinate commands have been few and far between. We shall hear in due time, no doubt, the lessons that are to be learnt from the war in the Balkans, but I think one lesson that is apparent is the difference between what the Montenegrins have achieved and what the Greeks have done. As fighting material the Montenegrins probably are as superior to the Greeks as the Afghans are to the Bengalis; but while the one are led by men who have studied soldiering as a profession and have achieved a great deal, the others have done remarkably little.
955 The comment on what I have said will no doubt be that it is all very fine, but that what I have suggested would do good, but that it will cost money, and where is the money to come from. I have indicated one source of waste at present where a good deal of money might be saved; and a little money, not a large sum, could be saved also by taking away the middle pair of horses and the middle driver from every gun team in the Field Artillery. There is an increasing difficulty every year in getting horses of the Artillery class, and a good many Artillery officers, ex-Regulars too, who have given their attention to this matter are quite convinced that their guns would do better and be able to move quite fast enough with four cart horses instead of six light draught horses. There would be a small saving there, and where there might possibly be a still larger saving would be in connection with the Artillery branch of the Territorial Force. At present the proportion of Field Artillery is about three guns to every thousand Infantry. I do not know whether the figure was adopted because it is an orthodox one, or whether it was adopted after full consideration of the circumstances likely to be associated with fighting in this country. Of course, an invader would not be likely to come with a great number of gulls, and if so it would be a great advantage to outnumber him with two or three guns to his one provided that our guns were able to shoot straight. Doubts have been cast upon that, and that is a subject on which I express no opinion; but I do know that a great many Generals—the Field-Marshal beside me is one—and a good many other people have considerable doubt whether in a country like ours where the field of vision is confined by hedges and woods, and the guns can seldom be moved off the roads, it would be possible for any General to make of anything approaching the number of guns provided. That, of course, is a matter for experts, but if, on second thoughts, it should be found that there is something in the suggestion, there might be money saved on the Artillery that would go a very long way towards paying for some of the other reforms which I have suggested. But whatever may be thought about them, I do hope that the authorities at the War Office will try to do something to stop the waste of the Force, a waste which is going on at the rate of something like 1,000 men a month, for that will infallibly imperil its existence if it is allowed to continue.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, in a speech which I seem to have frequently heard before, informed us that t his was in his opinion an extremely interesting debate. I agree with him, but I think it was marked by what I can only term a singularly unsatisfactory statement by the official representative of the War Office in this House. The noble Lord who replied for the War Office began by making a portentious announcement that the Prime Minister was going to make a most important statement upon this particular question. I listened anxiously for, I think, something like hair an hour to hear something about that statement, but all I gathered at the end of the noble Lord's speech was that the National Defence Committee were at some indefinite period going to consider the subject. Like the speech of the noble and learned Viscount, I seem to have heard something of the same kind before. Then the noble Lord went on to deliver an elaborate essay which might have been written by Mr. Norman Angell or Mr. Keir Hardie directed against the curse of militarism, and he wound up, it is true, by making the admission that the Territorial Force was not altogether in a satisfactory state, but that nevertheless His Majesty's Government had not the smallest intention of doing anything whatsoever in order to remedy its deficiencies, unless it may be taken as evidence of what they are prepared to do that they are actually prepared to allow 1s. or 5d.—I forget what it is—per head to middle-aged gentlemen a few years younger than myself who have not yet reached the age of fifty-five. I think if there is one statement which has been made in the debate this afternoon which is calculated to cause surprise or disgust abroad it will be a statement of that character. I look upon it as one of the mast humiliating expedients I have ever heard suggested in this House.
I must confess that the Motion of my noble friend, to which by the way very scant attention was paid by the last speaker, or by some of the other speakers, is one which does not commend itself to me at all. I look upon this Motion with a somewhat suspicious eye. It looks to me rather like one of those put up jobs between the two Front Benches which we are more or less accustomed to when we are discussing questions of national defence, and 957 I am bound to say that as far as I am concerned the opinion of the Army Council upon the question of the Territorial Force would not convey any comfort to me whatsoever. I am firmly convinced in my own mind that the Government can always get precisely the opinion that it wants from its so-called military advisers. If the advice of these so-called military advisers did not happen to coincide with the political views of their political chiefs they would very soon cease to be advisers and would find themselves in the position of, say, Sir Francis Bridgeman or some-thing of that kind.
Who are these experts to whom we are invited to appeal? The Army Council. One of these military experts to whom we are expected to appeal for an independent opinion is at this moment, on the confession of the Government, stumping the country on behalf of the Territorial Force. That is the way in which high military talent is employed in this country. I really would as soon take the opinion of the Army Council upon the Secretary of State for War as I would take the opinion of my noble friend Lord Midleton's bailiff upon him in his capacity as a landowner, or I would as soon go to one of the Junior Lords of the Treasury and ask him what he thought about the financial policy of Mr. Lloyd George. You would be just as likely to get an independent opinion from them as you would from these so-called military advisers. I confess that I do not attach the smallest importance either to the opinion of the present Secretary of State for War. Years ago the present Secretary of State for War and I used to perambulate the country preaching the advantages of national service, and I am bound to say that our reception was a much more frigid one than that which we should obtain to-day, and now the present Secretary of State for War is one of the strongest opponents of the principles he then professed. He is a weathercock to whom we pay the handsome sum of £5,000 a year, and I should doubt whether he has the faintest confidence in his opinions himself and would not be surprised if people took him seriously. Surely things have come to such a pass that even an ignoramus like myself, or the most stupid person, can see what is going on and what the national situation is without having to appeal to these so-called military experts. Really it has ceased to be a 958 question to be decided by military experts. It has become a question of ordinary common-sense, and any person with an ordinary amount of common-sense can perfectly well form his opinion upon it. Now I wish to take this opportunity, the earliest I have got, to protest as strongly as I can against the positively brazen assertion of my noble friend Lord Fortescue that the unsatisfactory state of the Territorial Force is due to the action of the National Service League. I really do not think that any more unfounded charge has ever been made against any respectable body of citizens in tins country.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I did not say that. I said I thought that the Force would have been stronger but for the action of the National Service League, because I think that their propaganda has been detrimental to the recruiting of the Force.
§ LORD NEWTON
That bears out what I say. The noble Lord says, "If it were not for you we should be in a perfectly satisfactory condition. Our numbers would be full, and we should be thoroughly efficient." What are the actual facts of the case? I put aside the eloquent fact that nearly every officer of the Territorial Force is in favour of the National Service League. But what is the argument against us? The position taken up by the thick and thin admirers of the Territorial Force and those who will not admit that there is a flaw in this perfect body is this—their charge against us amounts to this literally in so many words. They say, "Why will you educated men, from Lord Roberts downwards, go about persisting in speaking the truth? Why cannot you say what we want you to say? Why cannot you say, for instance, that an untrained man is quite as good as a trained man? Why cannot you say that a deficiency of 50,000 or 60,000 men is not a disadvantage at all, but, if anything, really an advantage? Why cannot you say that a boy, or perhaps even a girl, is as good as a full grown man. That is our opinion, and you ought to think so too and you ought to f ay it too. Why cannot you, in fact, instead of adopting the silly attitude of saying that two and two make four, say that two and two make five by way of a change, as we do, and then everything would be perfectly satisfactory."
959 I came across the other day a gentleman after the noble and learned Viscount's own heart. This gentleman said, "It is the greatest mistake in the world to suppose that the Territorial Force consists of only 260,000 men. It really consists of 2,600,000 men. That is perfectly plain, because every Territorial is worth ten of the old Volunteers; therefore all you have to do is to multiply their exact number by ten and you arrive at the correct figure." All I can say is, I should be quite prepared to compound with my conscience and make such statements if I thought it would do any good to say that the Territorial Force is ten times as strong as it really is. But I know better, and really these ridiculous charges, with all due respect to my noble friend Lord Fortescue, against the National Service League amount to nothing at all, and nobody believes them and nobody is taken in by them. Is it likely that the youth or the boy who is going to enter the Territorial Force takes the trouble to sit down and study the speeches of, shall we say, Lord Roberts, or even the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, or even my own, before he enters the Territorial Force? Probably if he reads anything at all he reads something like Answers or Tit-Bits, and the opinions of politicians with respect to the Territorial Force do not exercise the smallest influence upon him. He goes into that Force either because he has some patriotic motive or because he has nothing better to do, and whether I or anybody else think well or badly of that Force has absolutely nothing to do with recruiting whatsoever.
The Government and all official personages for once in a way be honest and admit the truth, and admit as everybody knows perfectly well that your so-called voluntary system is absolutely on its last legs, and that all your dodges and your devices are no longer sufficient to keep it on its legs. Everything in the shape of an inducement has already been tried. Lord Lieutenants have been tried, and even they have been found wanting. Social influence has been tried, and even that has not been as successful as it might have been. The women have been turned on to the job. The Daily Mail has been turned on with a certain amount of success, and of course there have been all the innumerable inducements in the form of concerts, entertainments, and the various 960 means which are resorted to in order to secure recruits. Your Generals, as I have already said, have been sent on perambulating scouting tours in order to boom the Territorial Force, and other Generals have been turned on to write books in order to boom the Territorial system. Employers have been abjectly entreated to allow their men to go, and in certain cases half-crowns have been offered. That has often been done. Half-a-crown has been offered for a recruit much in the same way as you would offer half-a-crown for a plover's egg or some delicacy of that kind.
I hold in my hand the latest form of inducement to join the Territorial Force. Here is a handbook entitled "The Territorial Officers' Dance Club," and at the head of the Committee I notice the name of a noble friend of mine. It says, "The Territorial Officers' Dance Club has been formed with the primary object of endeavouring to obtain recruits for the commissioned ranks of the Territorial Force," and incidentally it may be mentioned that the great inducement is that the Territorial Dance Club should always appear in uniform in order to give satisfaction to the opposite sex. I do not want to dilate further upon measures of this kind. Will even this not show the country the contemptible and miserable expedients to which we are reduced at the present moment? Yet noble Lords have the audacity to get up here and say that some of the arguments used in this House will have a bad effect on foreign opinion abroad. I ask any honest man, Could anything have a more humiliating and despicable effect on foreign opinion than the fact that we should be reduced to these shifts and devices in order to endeavour to persuade young men to render that service to their country which is cheerfully rendered in every civilised country in existence.
I suppose I am different from other people, and I do not wish to enlarge on the subject too much now, but to my mind, so far from seeing anything admirable in the voluntary system, I look upon it as one of those worn-out expedients which we are only able to retain at enormous cost and inconvenience and from which we get hardly anything in the shape 961 of a satisfactory result. I have often expressed admiration of the way in which the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack deluded this country for something like six years into believing that they actually obtained a new and a perfect military system. The noble Viscount made one great mistake, and I often wonder that it has not been pointed out to him by his critics, especially those critics who have not got any useful alternative to offer. The great mistake which the noble Viscount made, and I expect he has realised it himself long before now, was in fixing the establishment of the Territorial Force just about 50,000 or 60,000 men too high. Everybody knows, and I am sure my noble and gallant friend beside me will corroborate what I say, that the establishment of the Territorial Force, the 313,000 men or whatever it may be, bears no relation whatsoever to our military requirements. It was merely the number which the noble Viscount thought he could obtain under the voluntary system. Fortunately, although the noble Viscount is much sharper and cleverer than most people, he made the mistake of over-rating the number of men he could get. If he had only asked for 250,000 he would have been able, first of all, to show that it was better to have 250,000 than 500,000, and he would have been able to point to the Territorial Force at the present moment a5 a triumphant success. That is precisely what he is unable to do at present, and all his optimistic speeches and those of his colleagues will never persuade the majority of his countrymen that the Territorial Force is a success or ever can be under present circumstances. I would like to conclude by making a suggestion, which I flatter myself is a considerably more valuable one than that which is embodied in the Motion of my noble friend Lord Midleton. I suggest that the Government should come boldly out into the open and admit that they are in a difficulty, and should go to their opponents and ask them to assist them in getting out of the difficulty by adopting the principle of universal service, which is really the only panacea and remedy for the difficulties from which we are suffering at the present moment.
§ [The sitting was suspended at twenty minutes to eight and resumed at nine o'clock.]962
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, I can not but regret that this debate, important as it has been, did not take place at the same time as the discussion on the Question put down by my noble friend Lord Portsmouth three weeks ago. As the House will remember, Lord Portsmouth referred to the two speeches the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack had made recently in regard to strategy. It would have been instructive to this House to have learnt on what principles of strategy are founded the steps taken for the organisation of the defence of this country. We were told this evening by the noble and learned Viscount that it is necessary that soldiers and sailors and statesmen should come together in common conclave in order to consider the principles of strategy. It would be interesting to hear from the noble and learned Viscount how His Majesty's Government are giving effect to that axiom, and whether the study of these questions over a series of years, which he considered necessary, is limited to the time when an individual becomes a member of the Imperial Defence Committee and to the very occasional meetings held by that body.
To-night we are told that this question of home defence is again to be considered by the Imperial Defence Committee. What I wish to point out is this, that so far as it is possible to see, from an outsider's point of view, no soldier gets a chance of discussing questions of strategy with the statesmen of the day until he becomes a member of the Imperial Defence Committee. No more does a sailor. But the statesman comes to the question with a heaven-born knowledge of all questions, naval and military, and requires no information from outside. How often does this Committee meet? The man who is, after all, the hardest-worked man in the country, the Prime Minister, says that the Committee can only meet occasionally and for a comparatively short time. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack disputes that they only meet occasionally.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It meets by sub-committees also. It is constantly meeting every week, and almost every day, by a powerful sub-committee of soldiers and sailors selected for the particular questions to be discussed.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I quite understand that, but it is obvious that the whole question involves every point of strategy that can possibly be brought in, naval and military. For instance, till we know definitely how this country is going to support the balance of power in Europe it is impossible to consider what forces would be left in this country after the outbreak of a war. That involves considerations which would have to be dealt with by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Then, again, the moment that comes to be considered we have to go to the chief authorities at the Admiralty in order to discover how many transports they think might be available at any particular moment, and we have to ask them whether they have considered the point as to transports starting from various points on the other side of the sea and concentrating on one point on this coast, but not coming together as one fleet. That would have to be discussed with the leaders of the day at the Admiralty. Now, my Lords, obviously it is an essential part of the question we are discussing that, in taking into consideration the position of the Territorial Force of this country, we should also go into questions of policy in some small degree. The noble Viscount, in opening the debate, said he did not propose to go into those questions, but it is vital that somebody in this House should tackle them, and I am prepared to do so.
I have discovered that it is no use interrogating this Government, or any Government, I presume, on this question, because practically one never can get an answer that cannot be construed in at least two, if not three, different ways. The only possible way to arrive at any conclusion is to draw one's own deductions from the facts as we know them, and to leave the Government to deny those deductions if they can. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has told the House that practically no member of the General Staff, as far as he knows, is in favour of the scheme of the National Service League, but many are in favour of compulsory service for two or three years. Now, my Lords, what is the reason of that? The reason, as I think will not be denied, is this, that every member of the General Staff realises fully that if we are to support the Balance of Power in Europe it is necessary that every available Regular soldier in this 964 country should be able to be sent abroad on the outbreak of war in order to support France in any struggle that she may be engaged in. He realises, further, that unless the whole Regular Army goes abroad as soon as it is mobilised—that is to say, within one week—that Army will not be in time to take part in any battle that may arise within three weeks of the outbreak of the war. Those are facts perfectly well known to a great many civilians even who take an interest in the strategy of this country. No one has yet said definitely and unequivocally that the whole Expeditionary Force must inevitably go abroad on the outbreak of a war. That is a fact that has to be stated, and realised by the country. It is perfectly well known that that is the general view of those in the Army, but so far, apparently, no statesman has adopted the advice of experts to the extent of having the courage to say that he cannot possibly substantiate the policy of the Government unless we send abroad every available Regular soldier that we have in this country. It is not a question of weeks, but of days, I for the whole of the Regular Army to leave this country.
Then there arises another point. We have been told that the landing force in this country would be about 70,000 men, and I think the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack told us at a very early stage of these discussions that that would be a constant number. I remember well, however, a remark made by a statesman from the Party to which I belong in which the House of Commons was informed that not even the crew of a dinghy would be able to land on the shores of these islands. Now the invading force has increased from the crew of a dinghy to somewhere about 70,000 men, and every fact we know of since that date has made us believe that that estimate is a low one rather than a high one. I refer to such facts as these, that the invading force in last year's Naval Manœuvres was completely successful, although the defensive force was double the strength of the invading force and more than we should be likely to have in the country, and although there was no element of surprise and everything was prepared by the defenders in order to meet the eventuality of an attack. It is true that some of us did comfort our feelings with the belief that the strategy of the defenders might have been somewhat 965 sketchy in view of the presence of the First Lord of the Admiralty, but our hopes have been dashed by the statement made in another place that the First Lord of the Admiralty had no voice whatever in the disposition of the defending fleet. Therefore, presumably, the experts who were charged with the command of the defensive forces were faced with the fact that the invading force was successful in achieving the invasion of these islands. The same scheme, or, rather, a scheme on different lines but for the same general object, has been the subject of war games on more than one occasion, and I know of at any rate two occasions on which an invasion has actually taken place, and an invasion by a very mach larger body than 70,000 men.
Then there is yet another fact. The ships entering the ports on the other side of the North Sea are increasing in numbers and in tonnage year by year, and it is now true to say that on any single day in Hamburg alone there are 160 ships averaging 900 tons a-piece. That is a fact that cannot be disputed. It is a fact that any noble Lord can trace for himself, without going for any confidential information which he ought not, to divulge. It is information that I myself have got, quite apart from things that I have heard elsewhere, from books that have been published and that I have bought in the ordinary course of investigation. Supposing the transports start individually instead of coming in one flotilla, what is the situation then of the Fleet? Supposing that the enemy's transports were ordered the moment they came in contact with any war-ship of the defending country to haul down their flag and surrender, what would happen next? If We merely ordered the ship to go into a British harbour, she would start to go in that direction till she got over the horizon, and would then proceed on her original course as if nothing at all had happened. The only possible way in which you could be certain that that ship would not continue her voyage and land her troops would be to escort her to a fortress. That must apply to every transport you capture, unless there are several captured in a small area. You would have to detach one ship from your Fleet in order to escort one ship to port. The more ships you captured the fewer war-ships you would have to stop others coming from a hostile shore. It is obvious, 966 if the enemy did not mind losing large numbers of men—even 10,000 or 15,000 men—they could land a very considerable force on the shores of this country which it would be utterly impossible to stop. In other words, the time would have arrived when, in the words of the noble and learned Viscount, all that we should have to look to would be that line of Territorials standing between us and the invasion of our hearths and homes.
That, my Lords, is a position the country has certainly not realised up to the present moment. We have been told that there will be a certain number of Regulars available. We are told that the Regulars will not have left the country, and we are told that invasion is not possible. All we ask for under I his Motion is that the experts should be allowed to give their opinion absolutely unfettered by the politicians of the day. There are two great reasons for saying that that opinion should be unfettered, because I know, and probably most of you know, of cases in which several officers have made statements about the Territorial Force and their career has come to an abrupt and untimely end. There are others who have published books and who have made flattering statements, and they have left the War Office with a Marshal's baton and commands in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, and no doubt their career is established. What we require is a definite statement from the Government of the day. It is perfectly true that Lord Herschell did say that a blow at the heart of the Empire would be safeguarded, but he entirely omitted to deal with any of the circumstances to which attention has been called. He did not say that the heart of the Empire would be safeguarded even if the Regular Forces had already gone abroad. That entirely alters the situation. No one in his wildest moments would deny that this country is perfectly safeguarded so long as the Regular Army is at home, but we want to know whether, within the first few weeks of a war and until the training of the Territorial Army is complete—we want to know whether during that period, when the Regular Army is abroad, we should still be quite certain that this country is safeguarded.
Now, what is the situation? Even supposing that the Government are prepared to take all liability, look at the position in which the country is placed. 967 The man in the street will merely know that the whole of the Regular Army, or rather such portion of it as is completely trained and physically fit, has already left the country; he will know that already a very large proportion of the Special Reserve is also leaving the country in the form of drafts; he will know that the Fleet is somewhere at sea; he will probably be reminded by the daily Press that on the last occasion on which there was a great Fleet action the Fleet pursued the enemy right across the Atlantic, and for all that the man in the street would know that might be the situation at the moment with which we are dealing. The Fleet might be pursuing a force right across the Atlantic or to Heaven knows where, and might be very far from his own shores, or from being in a position to be able to protect him from invasion by a fleet of transports. On such an occasion we are left with what? We are left with the Territorial Force. Now, my Lords, I as a member of the Territorial Force object, not to the criticisms of that Force which are honestly made, but to the sort of statement that is made by what I can only call the club critic who sits at home and says that the Force is perfect, and that anybody who attacks it is unpatriotic, while he himself has never made any effort of any sort or kind in a personal way to do anything for the Force either to assist it or to persuade anybody else to join it.
One knows perfectly well what would happen in such a case as I have referred to. After all, some of us have had to go through it already. We are first of all told that anybody who criticises the Regular Army is, of course, a fool, and knows nothing whatever about it. Then if the Army goes out, say, to South Africa, it is criticised, and then the individuals composing the Army are called fools by those who have never done anything for the Regular Army, and never will. We should compel them to join the Territorial Force and realise what the difficulties of soldiering are. When you have to deal with difficulties you realise that those difficulties exist. I am not going to give my own opinion about the Territorial Force because that opinion is quite valueless, and I am not going to deal with statistics, because I do not believe that you can ever criticise efficiently a Force by figures only. It entirely depends on the condition and the standard at which that Force is supposed to arrive. Whether it is 968 an efficient standard depends on how far people are excused from attaining it, and unless you know the whole of the details of how the figures are arrived at figures are practically useless. This is the opinion of a General Officer commanding who has had a considerable experience of the Territorial Force. This is not published in the Press, nor has it been written for political purposes. It is a paper that was sent round to the Territorial units in one of the commands, and it was published for the information of the officers and men belonging to that Force. This distinguished officer wrote as follows—The weakest point of the Territorial Force is its very moderate standard of discipline, and the Lieutenant-General feels that he cannot too strongly impress upon all ranks the fact that no Army no matter how well trained and inspired by enthusiasm can be a match in the field for the Army which is equally well trained but is, at the same time, thoroughly disciplined.Surely at this moment a statement of that kind must weigh heavily on the minds of many people in this country.
It is only within the last few days that we have had a book published by a military correspondent who has been witnessing the great campaign in the Balkan Peninsula, and in it the noble Viscount will see that Major James, describing the battle of Lule Burgas, states that, despite the well known gallantry of the Turks and the fact that the Turkish nation as a nation is perhaps more than all nations particularly well trained naturally in war, yet from the lack of discipline they suffered an overthrow, and that involved not only an overthrow of the partially trained or untrained men of that Army, but the rout of the undisciplined portion of the Turkish Army threw the whole of the rest of the Army into a confusion which ended in the complete rout of the whole of the Turkish forces. Now that is not a question of opinion; it is a statement of fact. We know what happened at that battle. We know to a certain extent, no doubt not so fully as we shall know hereafter, the training of the Armies on each side, and we are therefore able to draw our own conclusions. Here is the fact, that this force occupied only a defensive position, not being the attacking force but merely holding a defensive position; and that would be the position of the Territorial Force to-morrow. In the case to which I am referring the force holding the defensive position was so completely routed that if only the victory had been followed up the 969 war would probably have come to a final ending within three weeks of the actual declaration of war. There at once comes in this question of discipline, and we are left with the fact that the Territorial Force, if invasion is possible at all, would have to face the trained troops and probably the best of the trained troops of the Continental Power with which we might be at war.
How in the world, my Lords, does any individual in this country imagine that discipline can be properly instilled into any force with only fifteen days training in the year? How in the world does anybody imagine that discipline can be maintained when the Force is unable to deal effectively with the black sheep because there is inevitably a black sheep in every Force? Supposing you get a man who is inclined to rebel against authority and not to obey the lawful commands of his superior officer, he would have to be court-martialled, and you know perfectly well that at the moment that that court-martial took place a very large number of your men would be leaving your company and that you would then have to look round for mom recruits. But what chance would you have of getting recruits when it was pointed out that any recruit who joined had at any rate a chance of being court-martialled for disobedience? Occasionally these facts are distorted, and no company officer of the Territorial Force dare run the risk of court-martialling any of his men for any offence, however serious, unless it is known that the man is of such a bad character that court-martialing him has no effect on the neighbourhood from which the men are drawn.
Here is another criticism which states that "the great lack of initiative or 'push' in the Territorial Force is mainly clue to indecision. This weakness, with some exceptions, pervades all ranks, and is due to ignorance of military duties and fear of adverse criticism." Now that is not my criticism. It is not even that of the National Service League. This is a criticism of a General-Officer commanding who knows the Force. Then "map reading is a subject which demands far greater attention than is devoted to it at present." How is that attention to be given to the subject? When are you going to get the men to give time to that training? It has been said by Lord Herschell and also by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that their keenness is magnificent. That is true; and 970 if so you cannot put in any further time on that subject than is already put in, but if the Force is not so keen as it might be there would be the hope of betterment in these subjects. Anybody who knows the Force knows perfectly well that it is utterly impossible. It is merely a red-herring trailed across the path for it to be said that because you say the Territorial Force is inefficient in map reading and other subjects therefore you are attacking the Territorial Force for lack of keenness or lack of patriotism.
Then there is the question of mutual support. I may say that these are not merely questions of detail, but questions on which the successful operation of troops in the field must inevitably depend. There is the question whether one arm is prepared to co-operate with another arm; whether for instance, the Artillery will back up the Infantry. We know, from what has happened in the Balkan Peninsula, the vital necessity of the Territorial Artillery backing up their Infantry attacks by fire. When has the Territorial Force had any chance of co-operating? We had a White Paper produced the other day giving the number of occasions on which the Territorial Force has co-operated in relation to particular units. There were about five instances in regard to the whole Force in which one Brigade had had a regiment of Yeomanry attached to it, and so forth. But that is not the practice of mutual support, and if the Territorial Force is not to get more training than that it is obvious that mutual cooperation in fact is utterly out of the question. There is no one knowing anything of military affairs who does not know that mutual support is one of the most difficult things to organise, and that it is only by constant practice of one arm with another and in every conceivable situation that that mutual support can be made adequate and complete. After all, with a Force which is not very well disciplined the one thing that Infantry, for instance, needs more than anything else is the support of Artillery fire, and that is the one thing that under the training now given they will inevitably not get.
There was last year the Report of the late Inspector-General of the Forces, Sir John French, and in that he stated that the manœuvres should be of a more elementary character, and that officers and men would then take more interest in them. 971 My Lords, if the Territorial Force is not fitted to manœuvre in large bodies it is obviously unfitted to fight in large bodies. Manœuvring is a good deal less trying than fighting, and unless you manœuvre in large bodies by way of training in manœuvring the greater will be the difficulty to be overcome when actual fighting takes place. It is manifest that the training to which I have referred will have to be begun after the Regular Army has left these shores. I put this question to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. If, as he states, distinguished officers are prepared to lead the troops anywhere now and they can practically do anything now, what in the world is the object of embodying the Territorial Force for six months' training? If they have been found to be fit to be led anywhere and to do anything, in Heaven's name why give them that training which they can only get to-day under compulsion? I think the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will not deny that you can search ninety-nine out of one hundred posters with every inducement to men to join the Territorial Force before finding any reference at all to the fact that on the outbreak of war the service of the Territorial Force is one embodying six months' training. There is many a man able to take eight days' training in the year, but if you are ever to give them six months' training in any year, even though this country might be at war, it is not fair to ask them to do it, because you are penalising those men against the unpatriotic men who have done nothing for their country and do not intend to do anything unless compelled.
To my mind, and to the minds of a great many soldiers, it does not appear that there is responsibility on the General Staff. It is perfectly true that they are held responsible, to the Secretary of State for War, but as citizens of this country they also have a duty to their country, and it is their duty, if they feel that the forces of this country are inadequate, to press their opinion home on the Secretary of State for War, and if he is not prepared to take any notice of those opinions and bring them before the Imperial Defence Committee then they should resign their positions on the Army General Staff. What is happening is this. The General Staff and a great ninny other persons in the Army say that it is no use our saying that the Territorial Force is inadequate in training and numbers for the work that it may be called upon 972 to do, because if we do we know quite well that the politicians will say that the Expeditionary Force is not to go abroad. The General Staff know perfectly well that it is essential to the safety of the country that the Expeditionary Force should go abroad and go abroad at once, and therefore as the lesser of two evils they prefer not to attack the Territorial Force. They do not realise that there is not a Government, and there never will be a Government, which will have the courage to send the whole of the Regular Army abroad, and let the Fleet disappear over the horizon, Heaven knows where to, and leave us with nothing more than the Territorial Force in this country. The outcry from the man in the street would be such that I do not believe that there would be a single Government that would be strong enough to maintain their position, and that would not at once send orders that the whole of the Regular Army should be brought back again to this country. That would be an infinitely worse situation than not sending the Expeditionary Force at all. It is the old game of bluffing; you must have your hand called, but when it is called it is usually found to have nothing in it. There would be nothing in it in this case. The General Staff and those who advise His Majesty's Government do not take that point into consideration. I know some of them have certainly not done so. I think that that is a point which should come before the Imperial Defence Committee at once and be considered on the occasion of their going over this problem once again.
The General Staff has been placed in this position. They have been told to formulate a scheme on these lines, What is the best Force you can get into the Army Estimates at the figure of to-day and maintaining the principle of voluntary enlistment? There is no question, I think, on either side of the House that the scheme we have to-day is the best you can possibly get so long as you maintain those two desiderata. No one will deny that the Territorial Force is infinitely superior, both in organisation and training, to the Volunteers as they existed just before the commencement of the Territorial Force. I have been told that the Volunteers in their early days were quite as good as the Territorial Force to-day. I was not there to see, and I do not pretend to know. But what we do wish for is 973 that there should be a consideration of this question of Imperial defence from the point of view of the necessity of asking whether we can have sufficient security while maintaining these desiderata, and, if that security is not sufficient, then what is it that it is necessary for this country to do. One is at once told that the country will not have compulsion. I do not think I can do better than quote the eloquent language of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack himself. He used these words on December 11, 1911, in relation to this point—The first principle is one which I need not discuss at length. It is the principle that to make a system of this kind effective it must be compulsory. All experience shows that, and this proposition has been so generally accepted after a great deal of discussion that I do not propose to trouble your Lordships by going into details on that point.I need hardly say that he was talking about the question of national insurance; but your Lordships will agree that every word falling from the noble and learned Viscount on that subject will apply equally well to Imperial defence. Unless he is prepared to get up in his place and say that it is right to have compulsion when you demand payment in cash and it is wrong to have compulsion when you demand payment in kind; that it is right for the State to interfere in the affairs of the individual when those affairs merely entail the well-being of that individual himself, but that it is wrong for the State to interfere when the affair is the welfare of the State itself, then, my Lords, I do not know how the noble and learned Viscount will prove that his remarks are not equally applicable in both cases.
It is a curious commentary, as was once said at Spring Gardens, that these red herrings will come home to roost. The noble and learned Viscount is constantly drawing the red herring of compulsion across the trail of the adequate defence of this country. We all desire on both sides of the House that this question shall not be treated as a Party question. I have myself on more than one occasion referred to the position of the National Service League on this question, and I might also tell the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that there is another side to the question of hostility between the Territorial Force and the National Service League. I may say that in the County of Kent with which I am connected we 974 arranged with the Secretary of the National Service League to offer his services for a recruiting meeting to be addressed by the General-Officer who has recently been doing a recruiting tour throughout the country. I happen to know that that suggestion created the most appalling consternation in the War Office, and considerable time elapsed before our offer of going to assist General Bethune in his meeting at Bromley was accepted by the War Office. I think the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack realises that sometimes the boot is on the other leg, if I might put it in that way. At the meetings we go to we invariably ask for recruits for the Territorial Force, but at the same time we have pointed out that it is impossible to expect that Force to come up to the necessary training to meet Regular troops within the first few days of mobilisation. We are not hostile to that Force, although I am bound to confess that we are tempted to be hostile to it because we are continually being accused of hostility to it, and we are tempted to show what hostility really might mean. I think it is possible, if pressure be brought to bear upon us in that way, that hostility may actually occur. I trust it may not be so. What we all trust is that this question will be considered from a non-Party point of view.
A good deal of nonsense has been talked about the Referendum. I have talked to politicians in Australasia on that question, and most of the members of your Lordships' House know it is perfectly absurd to say that if a question is put to a Referendum and a decision is given against the Government the Government must inevitably resign. The Government at present in power in Australia, the Labour Government, has put several questions to the Referendum, and each one of them, or at least the last two, were decided against the Government of the day, and that Government is still in office. What we ask is that the expert shall be unmuzzled, that he shall be given a chance of saying definitely whether the Territorial Force is sufficient and efficient for purposes which, after all, have considerably changed in view of the altered circumstances on the Continent. We ask that when those experts have given their opinion the whole of the circumstances shall be placed before the country, and that they shall then be asked, is it your wish that these safeguards as laid down by experts shall be carried 975 out, or are you satisfied to go on as you are at the present moment? I am not one of those who believe that the spirit of the Englishman of to-day has so deteriorated that he is not prepared to accept responsibility and undertake duties when he realises that those duties are necessary, but so long as the politicians on both sides, and so long as those who are not in politics but are merely busybodies, keep on quarrelling amongst themselves, and so long as the expert is not allowed to give his opinion fully and frankly, so long will the people not realise the necessity for the Territorial Force or the necessity for national service. If this question is put before them, notwithstanding the bogey of compulsion, national service will be undertaken by the people of this country with the utmost readiness. I have found it so at meetings that I have addressed, as have others also, and it is merely because it is misunderstood that we find the position what it is to-day. I trust, therefore, as one of the results of this debate, that when His Majesty's Government again announce what they believe the policy of the country ought to be they will allow the experts to say fully and frankly what it is they have in mind to say, and not be tied up with qualifications about voluntary service and such like. I believe that the people of this country will then rise to their obligations.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I felt quite sorry for the noble Lord who spoke first from the other side. It was a rotten brief with which he had been furnished by his advisers at the War Office. I could not help thinking while he read it out, with that hereditary lucidity for which he was complimented by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, that he must have been feeling very much ashamed of it. He had only been furnished with obsolete and discarded arguments, presumably on the same principle as the Volunteer is given a less up-to-date weapon than the Regular. The one more modern weapon was reserved for his chief. My noble friend opposite was obliged to rely upon those ancient weapons which have so long since been outranged, such as the argument of the loss to industry and trade which might result from universal service. Has it really not occurred to him to think that other nations rub along quite well in spite of universal service. I believe he really imagines that if we had universal service the whole of 976 the manhood in this country would be taken from their occupations for six months; but the fact is that it is only a certain number of young men who attain the military age in any given year, and it is only the pick of those who would be taken away for the six months. It is computed that the number would be about 2 per cent. Does he think really that any trade would suffer seriously if two young men out of every hundred were taken away and given a training which would undoubtedly, as is the case with other nations, make them more efficient workmen when they returned? He appealed to us and said that surely we are not less patriotic than other nations, but almost in the same breath he spoke of the period of listless and unwilling service which would, he said, be the result of universal service as compared with a period of cheerful and willing service rendered under the present system. I am tempted to ask whether the noble Lord has ever seen universal service in foreign countries? Is it really the result of his observation that the German or the French soldier is listless and unwilling? I venture, with all respect, to recommend him to take a little trip to the Continent just as some of his colleagues in the Ministry have already done in order to gain inspiration for measures which have actually been adopted in this country.
Then the noble Lord went on to the old argument about physique, and said, "How can military service improve the nation's physique when you take only the strong and exempt the weak?" Supposing the noble and learned Viscount owned a herd of cattle, or a pack of foxhounds, and he drafted into those hounds, say, ten hounds of a superior breed, or into the herd of cattle a certain number of superior cattle, would he not be justified in saying that he was improving that herd or pack and, what is more important, improving the future pedigree of his stock? We should think in this matter not only of the present generation, but of the descendants of those who physically are improved by military service. There is one point, however, which is more important in reference to this argument to which I should like to refer again, although my noble friend Earl Stanhope has done so very clearly already, and that is this. The noble Lord did not answer the question which was put to him from these Benches. In the very carefully worded statement which he gave us it was 977 said merely that the country can be guarded from a blow against the heart in present circumstances. He did not answer the question whether we could parry that blow at the heart while at the same time striking a blow at the enemy. It is the same as if you said to an ancient warrior, "Are you prepared to fight?" and he replied "I have got my shield all right," and carefully avoided mentioning that he had not got his sword or spear. You cannot fight unless you have your weapon of offence as well as your shield.
The noble Lord told us that the Government—and he considered it a handsome admission—were not satisfied as to the numbers of the Territorial Force. He could hardly have said less than that. But he did not mention whether they were satisfied with the present amount of training which is done by the existing strength. Lastly, he filled most of us, I think, on this side with grave apprehension by his announcement of the newest scheme for administering eye-wash to the people of this country. It appears that the National Reserve is to be used to fill up the gaps in our Home Defence Army. They are not going to be organised in battalions, or armed and equipped; all that is going to be done I think is this—and I carefully noted the words in order that I might give his explanation to those who in my own part of the country are constantly appealing to me and saying, "Why does not the Government do something for us? We have entered the National Reserve, and heard no more about it. We have joined and have not been asked to do anything, or told what we are expected to do, and we are not called out to drill, or to meet, or anything." What I shall be able to tell them, because I have it from the noble Lord, is that the only purpose of this latest scheme is to "classify them and regularise their position for statistical purposes." You are not going to defend the country by getting a list of names and classifying them and regularising them for statistical purposes.
Some of these things are merely amusing; but I confess what did anger me was the attack made by the noble Lord on the National Service League, in which his attitude was that of one who is willing to wound but yet afraid to strike. He guarded what he said by declaring that it was not what the members of the League 978 actually said but the manner in which they said it that had discouraged recruiting for the Territorial Force. I noticed that that was the only thing in his speech which was cheered by the circle of his friends around him, very few of whom have ever done a day's volunteering in their lives, and when those insinuations against the National Service League were repeated they cheered them again. That was the only thing that appealed to them. How they do hate the idea of discharging the first duty of citizenship! How they do hate the National Service League! Why? Because we will not join with them in flattering and deceiving the Territorials in the same way as they flatter and deceive the people of this country, and because we think it right to say what we believe to be true and to be necessary in order that our fellow citizens who are trying to do their duty may be given fair play and sufficient opportunity. I was sorry that that accusation was repeated by the noble Field-Marshal on my left, for it was only a very few weeks ago that I was standing with him on the same platform, and he said precisely the contrary.
What would those people do who object to our propaganda? Would they have us say what we believe to be untrue and know to be untrue? That certainly is not our conception of patriotic duty either in this matter or in any other matter which concerns our social and political life. Then there is no Territorial soldier or officer who is worth keeping in that Force who takes offence at the criticisms which are made by those who wish to give them the two things they lack—that is to say, sufficiency of numbers and sufficiency of training. After we had been exposed to this fire from obsolete weapons, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack brought in his modern armaments, and his argument was that you cannot provide drafts for your overseas garrisons if you have universal service. That was a roundabout, an unnecessarily roundabout way, it seems to me, of saying that if you have universal service you cannot get enough recruits for the Regular Army. We have heard that before, but we have never heard why. The Regular Army is not recruited from the same class altogether as the Territorial Army. The Regular Army is recruited more or less from one class of the population. If you had universal service of the kind we propose you would recruit your Home Defence Army from every class. Why 979 do men go into the professional Army now? A small percentage go in from sheer love of military life and adventure, but the majority enlist into the Regular Army because, poor fellows, they are cold and hungry, and out of a job, and so long as those conditions obtain recruiting will go on just in the same way as it goes on now. Not even the measures of the present Government will remove those evils from our midst unless, indeed, they succeed in creating a new Heaven and a new earth. So long as you have men who are in the position I have described you will get recruits for the Army, and others will join from the sheer love of military life. If the noble and learned Viscount is right and there is only a limited number of men in the country who will serve as soldiers either for home defence or in the professional Army, then if we were merely to raise the Territorial Force up to the full establishment we should be interfering with recruiting for the Regular Army. Then he sought to supplement that argument by scoffing at the idea of four months training at 6d. a day, and he said that this would affect married men with large families and dependents whom they supported. But we are talking of young men between eighteen and twenty years of age, and if they are married men with large families all I can say is that they have no business to have them, and universal service would have a very desirable effect in stopping early and improvident marriages. Lastly, the noble and learned Viscount said that this should have been treated not as a military cause but as a branch of national education. Why, then, did the noble and learned Viscount drop that part of his scheme at the very beginning?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If I may interrupt, I would say that is a myth. I saw it stated the other day in the newspapers that part of my scheme was a system of compulsory training in regard to cadet corps. I have heard it repeated often, and I have not taken the trouble to contradict it. But I may say it will be found that under subsection (2) of Section 2 of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, power is given to the Territorial Associations to assist cadet training in various ways, and in the House of Commons an Amendment was carried which excluded from the scope of that assistance boys under sixteen years of age in schools in the enjoyment of a Parliamentary grant. 980 There is all the difference in the world between that and compulsory cadet training. No such system was ever dreamed of. No trace of it has appeared. But the imputation was perfectly answered, and it did no harm. I only mention it now because the myth has been repeated quite recently in the newspapers.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
I am obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for his explanation, but unfortunately I have not had a legal training and I did not so read what took place in the other House during the discussion on the Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill. There was one point on which I agree with the noble Lord opposite, and that was iii regard to his wish that the Question of my noble friend had been put in some other way. Personally I should have preferred a more direct Question, and one admitting of a more direct answer. I cannot help agreeing with my noble friend behind me that when these Questions are not put so directly it does give us reason to suspect that there is some little agreement between the two Front Benches. But, my Lords, my objection to the form in which this Question was put was that it seemed to me irregular and unconstitutional. My noble friend asked for the opinion, not of His Majesty's Government, but of their military advisers. Now this is really not a trivial matter. It is a matter of those forms and conventions on which Parliamentary government actually depends. It was not merely in regard to administrative detail or military efficiency that my noble friend sought to obtain information. It was in regard to the policy of the Government. The whole of the speeches and the course of the debate are proof of that. He wanted to find out whether the Government were satisfied with the present system, and whether they had any intention of altering that system. I really do not think he can deny that that is what he had in mind, and certainly everybody who has spoken has assumed that to be the case. The very first thing the noble Lord opposite felt obliged to discuss was the one possible alternative—namely, that of universal service. Now, the noble Viscount has been Secretary of State for War, and I feel sure that if when he was in that responsible position a similar question had been put to him; that is to say, a question as to the whole direction of the military policy of the Government—
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
There was no question of policy whatever involved. It was whether they were satisfied that a certain Force was able to perform a certain military operation.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
Exactly; that was, of course, the way the Question was put. But nobody can doubt that the intention of the noble Viscount was to discover whether the Government was satisfied with the present system as a whole. National defence does not depend upon the Territorial Force alone. It depends, first of all, upon the Navy; secondly, upon the Regular Army; and, thirdly, upon the home Defence Army. I think he would have answered that it was contrary to the custom of Parliament and the traditions of the Constitution to ask for or to furnish information as to the opinions of officials on a question of policy. Officials have no responsibility for policy. They have, of course, to carry out the orders of the Government of the day, and I maintain it is unfair to hold them to or to make them responsible for the direction of affairs in regard to which they have no power. The perms who are alone responsible in such matters as these are the Ministers of the Crown, the Government of the day, and I think my noble friend, if he had been similarly placed, would have answered that he alone was responsible for what the War Office did and for what the War Office recommended, and it was not right or fair that he should allow any part of that responsibility to be laid on his official advisers. That I think, would have been his answer, for no other answer would have been possible because that has always been a well understood and undisputed principle. It is a fair principle, for the Parliamentary politician takes the credit as well as the blame of the work done for him by the permanent officials of this country, work which he could not, in any possible circumstances, do himself. It is true that times have changed and that the Constitution is in suspense, and it is true also that there have been recent violations of these Parliamentary and constitutional conventions. For instance, Mr. McKenna when he was holding the office of First Lord of the Admiralty more than once shielded himself behind "the opinion of my advisers," and pleaded that it was his duty to submit to the judgment of the permanent officials. We have the fact that the personal part 982 played in Admiralty affairs by Sir John Fisher, as he then was, was known and discussed by the nation at large. That is a very great change and a serious one, for whatever may be about the decay of the prestige of Parliament and the growing power of officialdom, I maintain we are not ready yet in this country for anything like bureaucracy, and to suggest that any question depends on whether officials are satisfied or not is to ignore the fact that we are still keeping up at any rate a show of Parliamentary government.
Who are the military advisers of the Government? There is no fixed body answering to that description with independent responsibility. The military advisers are, as a rule, those officers who can best work in harmony with the Government. But why ask them? They are mere soldiers, and therefore they cannot be—we have it on the highest, authority—experts in higher strategy. If my noble friend wanted an expert opinion, why did not he address the Question to an expert in higher strategy, to one who has been called our only strategist, to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, who sits here and has a voice in this Assembly, which officials have not? But Lord Midleton himself has studied in that school in which these experts are trained. He has studied "alongside of experts in naval matters and experts in affairs of statesmanship," for the Imperial Defence Committee existed at the time he was Secretary of State for War. I say then why has not he formed a judgment of his own? The essential facts are simple enough, and it is only a matter of forming an opinion and drawing a conclusion, and that, I maintain, is simply a matter of common-sense. It has been well said, I think, by no less a personage than Napoleon that strategy and statesmanship are merely common-sense applied to knowledge of the facts, What are the facts here? The facts, broadly, are these, that our sea power is no longer unchallenged and unchallengeable. We have been through great periods of anxiety in regard to the maintenance of that sea power. Though our predominance is still strong, it is only conditional. For the first time for two centuries we are dependent in a new manner on foreign alliances and friendships. It does not need an expert or more than ordinary clear thinking to recognise that this fact affects the whole question of 983 national defence. Secondly, as regards our military power, we have been told by two great bodies of experts that the one thing the Regular Army wanted was capacity to expand, and that that expansion must be sought outside the Regular forces of the Crown. That capacity has not yet been supplied. Finally, as regards the Home Defence Army we have those deficiencies which have been pointed out more than once this evening. I should merely like to add that when the establishment of the Territorial Force was settled it was on the basis of an officially estimated invasion of 10,000 men, but since the Territorial scheme came into force the official estimate of possible invasion has been raised to 70,000. If there is anything in these estimates then we require a larger establishment. Those are the broad facts which we have to consider at the present time.
I pass on to a general principle which is not disputed, which is indeed universal—namely, that the Navy and Army depend for their freedom of action, for their mobility, on the security of the base; that is to say, on the readiness of the Home Defence Army, the Territorial Force, to undertake the whole duty of defending these shores at a moment's notice. If your Lordships will permit me to use a very simple metaphor, it is this—so long as we cannot rely on our goal keeper it is impossible for our forwards to play a bold and winning game. That is the position. Unless and until our Territorial Force is ready and able of itself to defend our base, our striking force cannot strike nor can our Navy be free to go anywhere and do anything. These are the main facts, and that is the main principle, and I hold that it is open and legitimate to any one to form an opinion on those facts and decide for himself without any expert assistance whether this present position is satisfactory or not, and if not what requires to be done. What we do appeal for, those of us, that is, who have given much time and thought to these matters, is some initiative from those who are holding or have held or will be likely to hold again a grave responsibility before the nation. They are the people who are listened to, and we want them to give us a confident and definite lead. They might be wrong if they ventured on an opinion, but, if so, what of that? It would lead to useful discussion. All we ask for is that I his question should have full and fair 984 discussion, and that those who take part in it should lay aside just for once those spectacles of the Party politician which distort true vision of every subject.
And why not, my Lords? Party politicians constantly profess their desire to keep the question of national defence outside of the arena of Party politics, as they call it. Why not act by that profession? Surely the leaders of all Parties might meet and confer and consider this question which is the very basis of our whole system of Imperial and national defence in a non-Party way. Why not? What is wanted is courage and candour on the part of all concerned. If I may say so, there is no man who has it in his power to do so much in this matter as the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. Since he has reached the summit of political ambition and attained to the highest place in the State, he has so far nothing to gain and nothing to lose, but there is still something that he can gain. He can still gain in vastly increased measure the respect, the gratitude, and the admiration of his fellow citizens, and I venture to think that is worth having for any statesman, even if he has attained to the summit of his personal ambition. But to win that—I say it with all respect—he has to lay aside a little personal pride in his scheme and a little Party prejudice, and to invite all to join with him in that process of clear thinking which he has so constantly and so eloquently advocated, clear thinking, that is, as to what it is best to do, not for the Party game, but for the nation's business.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
My Lords, the point raised in the Question asked by Lord Midleton has already been answered by the Secretary of State for War. The right hon. gentleman is reported to have said, when speaking in London on December 5 last at the prize distribution of the London Scottish—I feel bound to add this, that, after most searching inquiry, and taking the position at its worst for us at every stage of the investigation, the Committee of Imperial Defence gave it as their considered opinion that with our naval and military forces as they stand the danger of invasion may now be faced without fear, and this, too, while leaving a great Expeditionary Force free to safeguard our vital interests overseas.When the noble and learned Viscount now I on the Woolsack reorganised our military 985 forces a few years ago, he explained to us in a Memorandum dated February 25, 1907, that—Complete readiness for war at all times cannot be looked for in a citizen force raised on voluntary lines, and it is an essential feature of the scheme that a period of embodiment for training after mobilisation will be necessary before the Territorial Force can be regarded as fit to meet a highly trained and organised enemy.Has anything happened in the last three or four years to enable the Territorial Army to dispense with that period of embodied training insisted upon by the noble and learned Viscount as an essential feature of the scheme?—a period during which the Regular Army must be retained at home, and consequently cannot be free to safeguard our vital interests overseas. Are the numbers of the Territorial Army larger, or is the training better than the noble and learned Viscount anticipated when he wrote his explanatory Memorandum?
As regards numbers, the Territorial Force is organised in 14 Infantry Divisions and 14 Cavalry Brigades. The establishment is 301,363 non-commissioned officers and men. The noble and learned Viscount, when explaining the Army Estimates on March 14, 1911, said—I indicated that in time of peace, which is the worst enemy to Territorial recruiting, we could hardly hope to have a force of more than 250,000 men.The noble and learned Viscount has proved to be perfectly right; but 250,000 men cannot produce anything like the 14 Infantry Divisions and 14 Cavalry Brigades for which more than 300,000 men are required. The question was how to bring up the numbers of the Territorial Army to the required establishment on mobilisation. The noble and learned Viscount solved the problem by inventing the Territorial Force Reserve. On March 7, 1910, the noble and learned Viscount said—We have made preparations, which I hope will become effective in a few days, for calling the new Reserve into existence. The effect of that will be not only to mobilise quickly the 14 Divisions, but also to enable us to supply mature and trained men if mobilisation takes place.A few months later, on June 27, in the same year, the noble Viscount informed us that—The Territorial Force Reserve gives you a bank behind the Territorial Force upon which you can draw for mobilisation up to the full establishment in the event of war breaking out, and to fill up the wastage of war.986 We are now in a position to know accurately what balance we have at the Territorial Force Reserve bank, and the deficit which that balance has to meet. The balance on January 1 last was 884 to meet a deficit of 49,787.
When the Territorial Force Reserve proved a failure, great hopes were entertained that the National Reserve could be made to figure for the purpose of filling the ranks of the Territorial Army on mobilisation. There was much talk about a National Reserve of 170,000 men behind the Territorial Army. But we know now that the old soldiers of the Regular Army are not at all anxious to join the Territorial Force. They prefer, when they serve again, to return to their old associations and not to join an entirely new Force, which, either rightly or wrongly, is not attractive to them. The National Reserve no doubt has great possibilities, but it will not do what the Army Council wanted it to do—namely, fill up the ranks of the Territorial Army on mobilisation. At present the Territorial Army is 49,787 men below its establishment. Both attempts to provide it with a Reserve have failed. It is quite impossible to mobilise the 14 Infantry Divisions and 14 Cavalry Brigades, about which we have heard so much.
But bad as the condition of the Force is now numerically, it will be far worse a few months hence. In round numbers 95,000 men will become time-expired by October, 1913. We may assume that one-half of that number, 45,000, will re-engage for another year of service, and that the other half, 45,000, will leave the Force altogether. The loss of these 45,000 men who do not re-engage may reasonably be expected to be made good by 45,000 recruits. Thus 45,000 re-engaged men plus 45,000 recruits would make good the loss of the 95,000 men due to become time-expired. But then there is absolutely nothing to meet all causes of wastage from the Force other than expiration of period of service. In the last General Annual Report on the British Army, page 121, I see that this wastage—that is, the wastage not due to expiration of service—amounted to 30,442. The position is as follows. We can reasonably hope that the loss of time-expired men may be made good by recruits and by re-engagements, but the present deficit of 49,787, plus the 30,442 987 which past experience tells us is the annual wastage due to causes other than expiration of service, cannot be made good. Thus the Territorial Army by October, 1913, must be 80,229 below establishment, and that means the collapse of the Territorial Army.
As regards training, certainly nothing has happened to modify the noble and learned Viscount's statement of February 25, 1907, that "A period of embodied training is an essential feature of the scheme." The absence from the annual camp tends to increase. Last year upwards of 35,000 men did not attend camp at all. The immaturity of the Force increases. There are more boys and fewer men. Take the Infantry, the simplest arm by far to train. The Infantry soldier has three weapons—the rifle, the bayonet, and the spade. As regards the rifle, we have now full information about the musketry training of the Force in 1912. Without going into details, the situation can be summed up by the fact that 58,446 men failed in or did not fire the standard test in 1912. That means, in round numbers, a quarter of the firing line are known to be useless with their rifles. The bayonet was considered to have become an obsolete weapon, but the war in Turkey has shown that the contrary is the case. The use of the bayonet is not taught in the Territorial Army. More than that, it is deprecated. A War Office letter dated January 27, 1913, says—Instruction in bayonet fighting must take place at hours other than and in addition to those selected for obligatory drills.Then as regards the spade, far the greater number of men in the Territorial Army are town men quite unaccustomed to dig. It is not in the least the fault of the men in the Infantry of the Territorial Army that they cannot use the rifle, the bayonet, and the spade. They have not the time to learn how to use them. That shows the need of the period of embodied training insisted upon by the noble and learned Viscount in 1907, but dispensed with by the present Secretary of State for War in 1913.
It is true that in the statement of the Secretary of State for War which I have quoted, the right hon. gentleman uses the words "a great Expeditionary Force." But he does not commit himself to saying that the Territorial Army will set free all six Divisions of the Regular Army. I 988 submit that if you are going to use the Expeditionary Force on the Continent of Europe, and that is the possibility which we have to contemplate, it must be used as a whole. The plan of dribbling the Expeditionary Force abroad is obviously futile. It is indeed unthinkable that any Government could adopt it. First you would send three or four Divisions, certain to be numerically over-matched. Then when they are in sorry case you send two more, but too late to retrieve an initial disaster due to insufficiency of numbers in the first instance. In short, you would adopt the policy of getting your Force beaten in detail. It is a case of all six Divisions at once or none at any time. At present it must be none. This is shown by considering for a moment what will be the field state of the Territorial Force. The strength of the Territorial Army on January 1, 1913, was 263,313 officers, non-commissioned officers and men. From that number the following deductions must be made in order to arrive at the strength effective for the field. In 1912 there were 12,830 non-combatants. There were 40,684 boys under 19 years of age, and in that figure all untrained recruits are included. There were 58,446 men who failed to pass the standard test for musketry. There were absent from camp last year without leave 6,056. That gives a total of non-effectives of 118,016, leaving as effective 145,297, from which 10 per cent. must be deducted for wastage on mobilisation, making the total of effectives available 130,768. I have not made any deduction for officers and men who will join the Regular Army on mobilisation.
There are at present in the Territorial Army 1,152 officers and 18,903 non-commissioned officers and men who are under obligation to serve abroad on mobilisation. That is very creditable to them. They will be a gain to the Regular Army but a loss to the Territorial Force. Then the garrison of Ireland must be provided for. There will be no Regular battalions or regiments of Cavalry in Ireland. Nothing less than 3 Infantry Divisions and 3 Cavalry Brigades will suffice for Ireland—that is 65,000 men, leaving effective for garrison duty in England, Scotland, and Wales, and for central field force, 65,768; in round numbers 70,000 men. We are in a complete fog as regards home defence. War Office figures show that we have 70,000 effectives for Great Britain. The 989 Prime Minister tells us to be ready for an invasion of 70,000 men. The late Secretary of State for War told us that a period of embodied training was an essential feature of the scheme. The present Secretary of State for War, speaking, not with the added weight of his Army Council but with that of the Committee of Imperial Defence, is prepared to dispense with that period of embodiment, and to defend the United Kingdom, and at the same time to send abroad a great Expeditionary Force. I hope that this debate may clear up this obscurity.
The noble and learned Viscount told us on March 20, 1912, that—Even if the whole Expeditionary Force had been sent abroad, there would still remain 410,000 men.On the departure of the six Divisions of the Expeditionary Force, we are left with four or five battalions of the Regular Army. At the present moment there happens to be five, as one battalion has recently returned from Cairo, and three Cavalry regiments. Then there are the seventy-four Third Battalions of the Special Reserve, to whom the noble and learned Viscount has allotted different, duties on different occasions. These battalions were to defend ports and naval bases, to train drafts for the Army overseas, and to flock to assist the central field force in crushing raids. On March 8, 1910, the noble Viscount said—Is it supposed that all the troops in the garrisons would sit still? I should think they would flock to reinforce the central force.It was pointed out that when these battalions flocked to the assistance of the central field force they necessarily left the naval bases unguarded, and that they possessed neither Brigade organisation nor transport. Unable to dispute these facts, the noble and learned Viscount recognised not only their truth but their consequence, and on March 20, 1912, he told us—Of course they have not got mobilisation equipment in the way of transport, because they are not intended to be mobile.That completely disposes of the 74 Third Battalions as a field force. They are not and cannot be mobile. They are impossible as a field force for home defence. As regards their use as fixed garrisons, on May 13, 1912, the noble and learned Viscount referred to these Third Battalions of the Special Reserve as follows—The Unit would not be one in which the officers would know their men or the men their officers. That is inherent, and it therefore makes less difference to the fresh officers coming in.990 There was on October 1 last a deficiency of 874 subalterns. As regards non-commissioned officers, if these battalions are to be 1,000 strong on mobilisation, as we are assured they will be by the noble and learned Viscount, then the 74 battalions would need 7,400 regular non-commissioned officers. As a matter of fact they would have 2,368, and no power of adding to their number. On the other hand, the noble and learned Viscount has assured us that their number will be reduced by promoting about three non-commissioned officers per battalion to commissioned rank.
To sum up, these 74 battalions are not intended to be mobile, it is inherent that the officers and men should not know each other, and there is a hopeless deficiency of officers and non-commissioned officers. I do not think that we need further consider the 74 Third Battalions of the Special Reserve as an asset for home defence. The fact is that after the departure of the Regular Army there is no organised force left at home except the Territorial Army, and the effective field strength of the Territorial Army for the defence of Great Britain after making the necessary deductions will be 70,000 men.
§ LORD SOUTHWARK
My Lords, I have no intention of going into the various points raised, but as a great admirer of the splendid work done by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and an opponent of compulsory service, I feel that I should not like this debate to close without expressing my regret that the noble Lord who replied for the War Office did not more definitely offer us encouragement by saying that an active part would be taken in promoting cadet corps. Every debate in this House upon military matters seems to me to go in the direction of want of recruits. I have before addressed your Lordships and expressed my great admiration of the good work done by cadet corps. There have been observations made during the debate to-day by noble Lords suggesting that we should begin with our schools by giving some sort of preliminary military training. I hope that course will be encouraged, and that when the boys leave school at fourteen they may then be transferred to some municipal cadet corps. I believe that if you are going to carry this out successfully you will have to do so systematically. I also think that they may cost the State a little money, but it will be 991 money well spent. I speak of the little money that would be needed to pay expenses in regard to these municipal corps. In that way I believe you would find an excellent recruiting ground. I think the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and other members of the Government must be convinced, from the course the debate has taken to-night, that if the voluntary system is to continue some special action will have to be taken to encourage that system, and for my part I see no better way than beginning at the bottom and encouraging this scheme liberally in our various schools, and then, as I say, going on to a systematic method of encouraging good cadet corps. It is my great pleasure and honour to be connected with the Duke of York's School, and I can say what a great pleasure it is to see the boys well trained and becoming efficient soldiers. I believe that if you had cadet corps systematically and properly organised you would find that at the end of their term, say at eighteen years of age, there would be plenty who would be anxious and willing to continue in military life, either as Volunteers or as soldiers in the Regular service. I wish I could impress upon my noble friend upon the Woolsack what I have tried to do upon others, the importance of carrying out a policy of this sort; and I hope that in the observations I have made the noble Lord opposite, Lord Ampthill, will not consider that he sees anything out of place, as I speak as a Volunteer of the year 1859.
My Lords, many of those interested in the defence of the country will feel that this is one of the most unsatisfactory debates we have ever had in this House. I do not think that the debate could have been more temperate or more broad-minded in regard to the speeches that have been delivered, especially speaking of that made by the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton. But where did that speech lead? The particular point of the Question he asked has been practically left out of the discussion, and has not been taken up by any speaker on the other side. I have listened to nearly five hours of debate, and I shall absolutely leave this House with not the least idea as to whether the noble Lord who represents the War Office thinks that they can send an Expeditionary Force oversea, and whether in case they should do so they can rely on the Territorials either to take the field or to be able to guarantee the safety of the country in the case of 992 70,000 troops invading it. We have often dealt with the subject, but we have had no authoritative speech from any Peer connected with the War Office on that point. I feel that we have absolutely no facts on which to conduct a debate. I do not know whether this arises from the weakness of the Government's case, or whether it arises from a deliberate wish to burke discussion.
There are a good many Peers on the other side of the House, but I never see them taking part in these discussions. Many of them have been in the Regular Army, and they know all about the work. They are not merely Volunteers or Territorial officers or men who have taken up the military idea late in life, but men thoroughly grounded in their profession. I have not for a couple of years now seen any of those noble Lords come forward and take part in these debates. Is it that they are all so shy? What facts we have been vouchsafed have cleared the air in not one single degree. We have had the old discussion about the Expeditionary Force and as to its being counted as six Divisions, and we have had the usual statistics brought forward. It has been said that perhaps we may have 3,000 volunteers more than we had last year, or so many more than the year before. At present Germany can put 80,000 men into this country. What is the use of discussing these battalions and men gathered out of the highways and byways to be called by the name of some Reserve when they have had no musketry practice, and when they are under no obligation to come forward and fight in any shape or form?
While I am on this subject I wish to make one remark on the, as I think, most vital statement I have heard from the Government Bench in this House, and that is that the Territorial Army when it is mobilised is in a wonderful state of efficiency from the fact that it does not add anything to its condition on mobilisation. Surely a statement like that should not be made in this House, because most of us have served in some branch of His Majesty's Service and feel the futility of that remark, for when it is made and read in that way it will reflect on the Territorial Force. We all know that the German and French and Austrian Armies do add to their numbers at times of mobilisation, but these are Reserves who have had two years' training; these men go into the 993 Army trained to that extent by practice at which every single officer has been present, and the average service of the officers is seven years instead of seven weeks, as in the Territorial Force. Surely it is not an improper comparison to say that we shall have men coming back to the Service to whom no opportunity of training is given, and who possibly may reach the age of forty years and never have learned the use of a rifle. As to a comparison of that sort, if it is not meant to deceive outsiders I do not see why it should be made here at all. But these are only minor points.
The point that strikes one most is that the Government appear to be going to do something, but, as far as I can see, with only very partial inquiry into the state of the Army. We have had a series of reforms. We have had Lord Haldane reforming the Territorial Army. That, I admit at once, was a great advance on anything we had before; but the weakness of the Territorial Force is this—a condition due either to lack of inquiry before the scheme was launched or to alteration since—that it is absolutely unable to fulfil the function for which it was created. Therefore we have lost a period of six years. We were at first told that we had only to consider the question of invasion by 10,000 men. But the question has come up since, and the position has altered altogether, and this Territorial Force which was then equal to do its duty has ceased to be equal to the performance of the duty expected of it. Now Colonel Seely, without as far as I know any inquiry, has decided on the policy of Reserves. I ask any soldier, Can a mass of untrained men without organisation and without anything characteristic of the class of people we want to have, answer the purpose? I very much doubt it. That is not what we want. It is not numbers, I humbly submit, that is important. It is organisation and training. You might have three tunes the number, but still they would not be efficient without organisation.
The noble Lord who replied for the War Office spoke in the most apologetic way as to the condition of military training in the Force. I am sure, when twitted by Lord Lansdowne, he must have had one eye on the Nonconformist body and an official glance at the War Office. He apologised that they were not going in 994 for training of any satisfactory sort or kind that the nation required. Surely we have come to a pretty pass if that is the attitude taken up by Ministers. Is it not necessary that we should have a full and thorough examination of all the units? Then may I say one word on the facts. We have very clearly defined the question to be faced. Firstly, we have to face the numbers that may have to be sent abroad; and, secondly, we have to find out what we ought to have at home when the Expeditionary Force goes out of the country. Is it not necessary, therefore, that the line of inquiry should be, first of all, what is the maximum force we could rely on for the defence of the Colonies; and, secondly, the minimum that we would require for home defence, to be absolutely safeguarded with regard to these shores?
The maximum force we may require to meet a contingency abroad was defined in 1905 by Mr. Balfour, who took India as the point of greatest danger and said the greatest problem was the defence of India. The situation has absolutely altered from what it was when Mr. Balfour spoke. Then India was a big subject, and now every one will admit that the alliance we have with France alters the situation. As I understand, the big question is what would be the necessary force to send to France. Then on the subject of military defence, we want not only the invasion possibility defined but we want to find the force necessary to meet it—not the maximum but the minimum to give absolute safety. If we do not have that, we shall have again the weary discussion we had for four years as to the Expeditionary Force and the Home Defence Force. When we came to analyse that question we found there were not more than two out of the six Divisions available. I may be met by the criticism that it is unwise to define what you intend to send abroad, but is that really so? In these days of great mobilisations it is surely doubling the value of any force to be sent abroad if we are able to say definitely those whom we shall send and those whom we shall not.
Then there is another point which is becoming daily more important, as our Colonies also come in to be considered in regard to this question. Is it not more certain every year that we shall 995 get more and more effective aid from the Colonies? Is it not absolutely essential that we should be able to tell the Colonies under certain circumstances, under all circumstances indeed, we could send them a certain number of men to fight? Surely the Colonies should know what we can send, and it is our business also to play our part as the people who eventually will be responsible for the residue of the defence required in any part of the Empire. It is necessary before we get any small reform of any sort or kind that we should have the exact military situation diagnosed, so that we may have the people with us in any reform we undertake. If you talk on the subject to people in the country you find that they do not believe Ministers on either side. What they want is the expert opinion of those people who ought to know. They feel, and we all feel, that any Minister on either side is handicapped in coming to a decision by a consideration of what the country will stand. It is human nature and bound to be so, and it has been to the interest of both sides that the question should not be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. But surely now is the time, if we are going to make further reforms and before those steps are taken, to get the very best opinion we can have, and not only get it but announce it, as was done by Mr. Balfour in 1905. Mr. Balfour announced in 1905 practically that no invasion was possible. It was then brought out that the circumstances under which he made that declaration had entirely changed after a few years. Surely the time has come when we should ask that all those questions should be gone into and investigated, so that when the reform is made it will fit the condition of things as they are in the year 1913.
I am one of those who believe in compulsory service, and I absolutely disclaim what the noble Lord said against us on this question. I have, I think, worked possibly as hard as most people at the Territorial Army. I have had the opportunity of studying it and have been on many of its committees, and I wish to say one or two things which I do not think have been brought out in this debate to-night. With regard to the training of the Territorial Army, we can never be considered to be efficient on the outbreak of war, because you may have in the force three, four, or five officers efficiently 996 trained but the rest of the officers will possess an inequality of training. Further, an absence of sergeants and an absence of training of the men make it almost impossible to have any military evolution carried out in a way which would give any confidence, and if You have not got confidence in success you can have no hope of winning. We are not allowed, and very rightly so, to manœuvre in large numbers; but yet at the outbreak of war we shall manœuvre in large numbers, and how are we going to do it? A good many of the men have never been in camp at all. Is there going to be something falling down from Heaven, or some Heaven-born transport officer who will provide for all these things? All these are things on which military manœuvres depend, and how are you going to organise all this at a moment's notice?
Then there is a second very serious thing I want to point out, and that is the accusation that the Territorial Army have the full right to bring against the military administration of the last four years that they are not treated seriously. Before the Territorial Army was formed there was an association of commanding officers who had worked at reforms all going towards efficiency. We had some four or five of those put through before 1906. There were fourteen in 1906, and eleven of those reforms have still to be effected. For four years now the Territorial Army have asked for arms so that they may be armed in case of invasion. They have never yet received the necessary arms. We have never had a drill hook except one which is obsolete. We have never had a school for our Yeomanry officers. All these points are purely matters connected with efficiency and they are matters wholly neglected. According to the experience of those in another place all that is cared about is to produce numbers. I could give many instances of reforms being asked for and not given, but I will take one only. It is this, that our Territorial Force is the worst armed force in Europe. It has the worst rifle; the Cavalry have no sword or bayonet, or anything; and the Artillery have a useless gun—a machine gun that is obsolete. The training is inefficient because these questions going to efficiency are wholly neglected. There is bad work, and you could not expect otherwise of the Territorial Force. Therefore I heartily sub- 997 scribe to everything said to-day on the subject of the weakness of the Territorial Force, and I think that those who, like myself, are aware of these facts put them down to the same cause. On the Conservative Benches more noble Lords are to be seen who serve with the Territorial Army, and I think we may say we have not been well treated in our work.
Finally, I think, having seen what happened in the Boer War, that the present state of things is inexplicable. Lord Lansdowne pointed out what happened then, and I should like noble Lords opposite to learn the proportions of officers and men—1,400 men to a single officer were assembled in some of the barracks. These are the people who, after all, must be responsible for the defence of the country. You will have your Territorial Army and no efficient officers, because of the officers going to the Expeditionary Force, and in that way we are left with men without organisation, and probably not clothed. It is all very well to say that they will have six months preliminary training and so on, but surely every thinking person knows the facts. We have had them stated time and again. If there is any striking to be done, surely it is right to strike in time. But does any noble Lord think we could be in a position to guarantee the safety of this country if the Expeditionary Force went abroad? If not, is it not criminal that we should even put forward an idea of sending an Expeditionary Force abroad and in that way simply raise hopes which have not the least chance of being carried into effect?
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, may I be allowed to say one word in defence of the Territorial Force, which has been attacked in the debate? The arguments I have heard seem to me to presuppose a kind of military millennium. It is said that the best solution of our military difficulties would be to have universal service, but at the present moment neither political Party his added that to its programme, and, if either Party had done so, it would not be able in the present view of the country to carry it. Therefore we have to come back to the hard, if uncomfortable, fact that we have to get along with the Force at our disposal, and I cannot myself join in the sort of atmosphere of disparagement of the Terri- 998 torial Army which has been prevalent in this House to-night. I have had some experience for a good number of years in that Force, and I have manœuvred with Regular troops and witnessed Continental manœuvres. I have taken a very great interest, since I left the Territorial Force a year ago, in the County Association. My experience, for what it is worth, is that the Territorial Force is much better than people generally suppose. Nobody imagines it is equal to the best Regular battalions, or that its Artillery is equal to the best batteries, and so on; but I do think it is improving every year, and already it has attained a considerable degree of efficiency.
I will instance a case in point. I was serving in the Territorial Army in a mixed force with Regulars at one of the manœuvres, and I can honestly say the particular Force in which I was concerned acquitted itself so well in point of managing, in point of manœuvring, in point of pitching camp, and all the military duties on trek, that many officers in the Regular Force, quite unknown to me, said they had no idea how good the Territorial Force was. There has, unfortunately, grown up of late in the Press and elsewhere a disposition to disparage the Territorial Force, and, of course, it is very difficult to run a Force or get recruits for it with this sort of criticism about. I firmly believe that what is really wanted is a totally different point of view. I blame the Government to a certain extent for not having given the Force more encouragement, but it is no good disparaging the Territorial Army. I do not believe it is any use trying to upset the present system until you have a better system to take its place, and at the present moment I do not see any chance of a better system which can be brought into operation within a reasonable time.
Some of the arguments of the noble Lord who has just spoken seem to me to cut both ways. I remember, as he does, the Boer War. I believe the preparation for the war was in many ways excellent, and that the noble Viscount who opened the debate was very unjustly criticised at the time by many people for deficiencies and for breakdowns which were not his fault, but were inevitable. The Boers were an absolutely untrained Force, far less trained than the Territorials to-day, 999 but they held many thousands of an armed Force at bay, and were extraordinarily efficient in preventing their country being taken for a long time. They did that because they had certain qualities which, I believe, the Territorial Force has in this country to-day. The average Territorial soldier is very much more intelligent than the average soldier of the Line. He can very much better be taught duties, and has much more military training than some noble Lords realise who have not served in the Force, and there has been in the past, and there is now, a keen desire on the part of all ranks in the Territorial Army to improve their training, while a great amount of voluntary training is done which is not recorded in the military catalogues, but which is very valuable all the same.
I merely rose to protest against the general disparagement of the Territorial Force. It seems to me to be prevalent in the House to-night. So far as I am concerned, I am quite certain whenever the Territorial Force does go into action it will come out very much better than is generally supposed. I am quite certain of one thing, that no one who has served in the Force like my noble friend Lord Stanhope will criticise its organisation, but will agree that the spirit of the Force leaves nothing to be desired and that their training is every year improving. Therefore I think the best way that this House and public opinion can help is to encourage the Territorial Army as much as possible, and not to disparage it, as I am sorry to say has been the case this evening.
THE MARQUESS OF AILESBURY
My Lords, I have heard a great deal in disparagement of the Territorial Force tonight, and I admit that a great deal of it is well-founded, but I regret that most of that criticism has come from this side of the House, because I feel that as a Party we are really more guilty than noble Lords on the other side of neglecting preparations for our Auxiliary Army. But if there is one noble Lord who has a right to raise this question it is Lord Midleton. Speaking as one who served in the Yeomanry, I feel that that arm owes a great deal to Lord Midleton; he not only doubled the strength, but he more than doubled the efficiency. I hope I may be pardoned for saying that I regret very much the speech which I 1000 heard from Lord Newton. I think Lord Newton underrates the effect of what he says in this House. I regret to think that what he says will have considerable effect outside this House. The men in the Territorial Army do read the debates which take place here and in another place, and I feel that what he says may act as a serious discouragement to recruiting.
If I may turn to other matters, there was the speech of the noble Lord who continued the debate after the adjournment. Be quoted history and, if I may be permitted for a moment, I should like rather to quarrel with his facts. He quoted Major James, but I think Major James would hardly follow him in some of the deductions he drew. He stated that the defeat of the Turks arose largely through their want of discipline. I would rather suggest that the defeat of the Turks arose from the attempt to assimilate discipline which is foreign to their nature. I think history will bear me out when I say that the Turks have declined as fighting men since they attempted to model their military system on a European basis. Their nature, I believe, is not adapted to it, and they have suffered by trying to do it. I think the remarkable stand which the Turkish Army made against the entire weight of the Russian Empire between the years 1807 and 1812 is some substantiation of what I say. I think, again, that there is a disposition in some places to think too lightly of young troops. The noble Duke who spoke not long ago appeared to disregard all men or boys under nineteen, but in all military subjects we have to go to history for our facts. I would like to point out that a notable soldier, Marshal Ney, on one occasion formed a very different opinion. I think I am right in saying that after one of his engagements in 1813, when commanding the forestalled conscription of 1816, Marshal Ney stated that he doubted whether he could have accomplished so much with the Grenadiers of the Guard, and that, having brought these conscripts back five times to the position from which they were driven by successive reinforcements of the enemy, he at last remained in command of the position, and he said that those conscripts had done more by their docility, and possibly by their ignorance, than they could have accomplished by the most venturesome courage. While I would not attempt to deny the fact that trained troops have an advantage 1001 in certain circumstances, I think it is possible to carry that theory too far.
I may have misunderstood the noble Viscount who opened this debate, but I understood him to say that trained troops experienced much difficulty against half their number of untrained troops in Natal. That is true, and I think one reason was that the troops who were opposed to our Regulars in Natal were on their own ground. I think the Territorial Army will be strengthened from the fact that if it fights at all it will fight on its own ground. I do not, however, wish to stand here and merely defend the Territorial Army, because I believe that the conception of the Territorial Army is quite wrong. I believe it is not yet fully understood what the difficulties are with which that Force has to contend. I have in my pocket at the present moment a letter from a firm which has always done its best to assist the Territorial Army. That firm informs me that five out of the very small unit which I command will be unable to train with the corps this year because the period is unlucky for that firm. We cannot complain of the action of that firm; it has always behaved very well. But it is asking them to compete on disadvantageous terms with other firms who do not employ Territorials when you ask them to give up these men at the very time when the firm most requires them. There is another point. I think it has been said that the great point of this Force will be that it should have training before it is engaged in war. I think the worst trouble to the Force will come at the moment you call it out to six months' consecutive training. The better part of these men are dependent on their professions for their livelihood; they dare not give up six months' continuous time to training. If they did they would most certainly lose their jobs, and no firm would make a practice of taking men back after six months' absence when they have been compelled to engage other men to carry on during the interval. I think that is one of the very weakest points of the Force. I do not agree at all with the National Service League; I think their system would involve a vast expense and produce no really useful return. Yet I am a convinced advocate of conscription.
I think you must have conscription if you mean to deal with the military problem in a 1002 scientific manner. Everybody in this country is really in the position of an indifferent gardener, because we dislike one point or another point of what might be described, perhaps, as a tree, that tree being the Army as a whole. Some of us—I myself—do not like the look of the Territorial branch of that tree. There are others who do not like the Special Reserve branch, and others again who do not like the Expeditionary Force. In fact there are a great number of branches of this tree, and most of us have some particular dislike of some particular branch. I would suggest that we ought to look more at the root of things. I would suggest for your consideration that that root is the Regular Army. Everything springs from the Regular Army when you come to consider Army matters, and that Army is not in a position to carry out its work. We have heard that the system is only just sufficient to do this or only just sufficient to do that, but that it cannot do the other. The very existence of the Territorial Army has been produced by the inability of the Regular Army to do all our fighting. I would suggest that if we ever are to produce an Army which will be a good machine for fighting you must go to conscription. It must be confessed, I believe, that that Army which is now raised on a hired basis must in the future be very largely raised—entirely, I might say, with the exception of a garrison—by conscription if we are to have a competent Army.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, this debate has wandered over a somewhat wide field, as, indeed, has been for some time the habit of these debates on Army matters, and without in any way complaining of the form which the noble Viscount opposite has employed in raising this debate I think it is reasonable to point out that if speakers have not felt themselves pinned down to any very close line of argument it is at any rate in part due to the fact that the issue which is raised in the noble Viscount's Question suffers from the two defects of being, as the noble Lord opposite pointed out, in no sense a new one, and in not being a very clear or simple issue. I do not propose to enter into the little controversy raised by Lord Ampthill as to whether in the form of his Question the noble Viscount is making an unconstitutional suggestion. It might no doubt be 1003 argued, as the noble Lord argued, that the question upon which the military advisers of the Secretary of State were asked to give an opinion cannot be answered without diving somewhat deeply into matters of policy, but I will not pursue that particular branch of the argument.
The noble Marquess who leads the Opposition has complained that this debate has entered freely into the question of compulsory service, which he does not consider entirely relevant to it, but I think the House will agree that when strictures are made—strictures which are implied in the very form of the noble Viscount's Question, and which have been very freely made in the course of the debate—upon the existing institution of our Territorial Force, it is hardly possible for the House to consider the subject without also discussing possible alternatives, one of which was proposed by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal on the Cross Benches, and another which was so frankly advocated by the noble Marquess, Lord Ailesbury—whom we are very glad to welcome as a contributor to our debates—that of simple and downright conscription.
My noble and learned friend on the Woolsack has pointed out that there are two circumstances which differentiate the position of this country from that of all other countries in matters of defence. In the first place, of course, we have to keep the most powerful Navy in the world, and in the second place it is necessary that we should continually keep a large Army in various parts of the Empire—an Army which has necessarily to be of the very first class, and an Army which, almost I think by common consent, must be available turn and turn about either at home or abroad. Those facts completely differentiate us from the great military Powers of Europe with their vast land frontiers, and they also differentiate us completely from such countries as Switzerland or Norway, or the Transvaal Republic as it was before the war, whose various systems we are sometimes urged to imitate.
A considerable part of the discussion has been taken up almost inevitably—although I am afraid it had somewhat a weary sound to the noble Lord, Lord Lovat—with the question of invasion. As he said, the circumstances of the discussion seem so old 1004 and so familiar. Some of us seem to have been discussing them for many years past; but, of course, it is also true, as the noble Lord and other noble Lords pointed out, that the conditions have changed, and though it was possible for the Defence Committee to lay down certain propositions when it last examined this subject, yet from time to time there has to be fresh stock-taking, and as has been already stated by those speaking on behalf of the Government, my right hon. friend the Prime Minister contemplates that stock-taking of that kind should shortly take place. I think that my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack mentioned various matters which have, or, at any rate, may have, to some extent altered the situation. There is the great advance both in the capacity and the range of submarines. There are the remarkable improvements in wireless telegraphy. There is the whole advance in the various systems of air-craft—all new since we last looked into the matter. Therefore it certainly does seem reasonable that the whole question should be subjected to some further examination. Nobody has ever denied how tempting an enterprise the invasion of this country would be to a country which was hostile to us. The prize of success is so great that I do not know that it would be an exaggeration to say it would be worth while for a great military Power of Europe to sacrifice, not the famous 70,000 men of whom we have heard so much, but a quarter of a million men if thereby the complete conquest of this country could be achieved. Nobody has ever denied this proposition from a general point of view. We have heard again that famous figure of 70,000, of which some of us—I among them—have in former times given some explanation as regards its origin and purpose, and which my noble and learned friend most fully explained to-night.
One question with which this subject of possible invasion is closely interlocked has received attention to-night and has been made the subject of various and definite questions—I mean the Expeditionary Force. In what circumstances, it has been asked, and how soon could it be started from these shores without denuding the country of defence to a dangerous extent. It occurred to me in the course of the debate when the noble and gallant Field-Marshal put his question that when all was said and done the 1005 figure of the Expeditionary Force, put at say 165,000 men, was also a somewhat arbitrary figure, and the same notion appeals to have occurred to Lord Lovat, because he stated just now that we ought in fact to begin, if not at the other end, at any rate at both ends at once—that we ought not merely to consider what force was necessary for the possible defence of this country but what force it might be necessary for us to send abroad, because, as I understood him to say, without having knowledge of that additional factor it was impossible to give an intelligent answer to the first question. In stating his case, the noble Lord went somewhat deeply into foreign politics and made some propositions on foreign politics which I confess were new to me. He told us of various matters in relation to our international obligations with which I confess I was not acquainted. But the point surely is this: How are you going to say a particular number is adequate for the purpose for which you design it? The noble Lord seemed to imply that it was our duty to combine with Powers or groups of Powers on the Continent for the purpose of a great European war—I suppose that Armageddon, of which we hear so much; but it might follow from that—I do not know that the noble Lord would mind in the slightest degree if it did—that the answer to the question of how many men we should have to put in the field if we to direct and control the Balance of Power in Europe might be that it would be impossible for us to do it unless we engaged in the Continental system and were prepared to contribute an Army of somewhat parallel strength to that of the great military Powers of Europe, which, after all, our population quite enables us to do. Unless we are prepared to do that we might be told that our four Divisions or our six Divisions, in particular circumstances, would not have the controlling effect.
Might I interrupt the noble Marquess to define my point? It was simply this. I thought it was necessary for us to get a clear definition of what our Army was wanted for abroad—the greatest difficulty it might have to face. I quoted an example. I do not know myself that this is the greatest difficulty we have to face. It may still be India, as defined by Mr. Balfour. All I ask is that before you set about a new scheme you should define what you are aiming at.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I think the noble Lord has made it perfectly clear. He has really stated in another form the familiar aphorism that armaments must depend upon policy; but he will not, I think, contradict me when I say that if that policy takes a particular form it may need half a million men to be placed in the field at once in order to carry it to a successful issue. Therefore I return to the point that this number of an Expeditionary Force, 160,000 men, is very much larger than anything that was in the dreams of anybody a few years ago—for instance, before the South African war. This Force, too, cannot be regarded as anything but an arbitrary number, and that is the reason why, as my noble and learned friend has pointed out, the question whether four Divisions or the whole six, or only two, are to leave the country at any given moment is one which is not capable of a reply in the form of simply "Yes" or "No," but must depend upon the actual circumstances of every particular case. I do not desire to discuss the question of the formation of this possibly large conscript army on the foreign model, which even those who are in favour of it will admit would turn our national life to a great extent upside down, and which cannot be regarded, I think, as representing anything like practical politics at the present moment.
Speaking for a moment as Secretary of State for India, looking at it from the Indian point of view, I should regard the prospect with some horror and dismay, because it would apparently involve the creation of a purely Indian and Colonial Army, which, from our point of view, would not serve our purpose nearly as well as does the Regular Army with its comparatively short service in India. However, the objection to any such scheme among the industrial classes in this country is, I believe, deep-rooted in its special application to particular industries and trades, and therefore I do not believe that it can be regarded at this moment as a subject of practical discussion. But the question of universal home service, or some kind of universal training, stands to a certain extent upon a different footing, although, as noble Lords who are in favour of it have frankly admitted, there remains a great deal of national prejudice even against the training of lads, and a great deal more against compulsory home 1007 service. On the other hand, of course, we know that compulsory training has strong attractions for a great number of people, largely on account of the moral advantages which are supposed to attach to it, quite as much as to the directly military effects which it may be supposed to have, and I imagine that all of us have known lads in every rank of life who, as it has seemed to us, would be distinctly the better, both morally and physically, for a course of military training; but we have to admit that there are two sides even to this question, as to most others. I remember reading one of the many volumes of biography and reminiscence of a soldier whose opinion would certainly be regarded with deference by any one of the three noble and gallant Field-Marshals who were here this afternoon—I mean General Lee. This particular volume dealt with the time when that great General and noble man was passing the quiet evening of his days as president of a college in the South. I have not got the reference, but my recollection of the conversation is this. General Lee said that the kind of discipline and training which, unfortunately—and the word "unfortunately" is a strange one coming from him—was necessary for the production of professional soldiers was not, in his opinion, a good training for Civil life. As we all know, General Lee was not a guerilla soldier, but was a professional of professionals among soldiers, and surely, although his opinion is not conclusive, it shows that there are two sides even to this question upon the character of military training as a preparation for Civil life.
One of the objections which I am sure is felt by many to the introduction of military training—that is to say, compulsory training of the National Service League kind—is that if you train all your young men of a given age you get a force which is needlessly large for your purpose and very expensive. If, on the other hand, you make a number of exemptions, the argument is that you will always find that the people who obtain the advantage of those exemptions belong, in the main, to the better-to-do classes in easy circumstances. That is one of the arguments. I confess, whatever reason noble Lords opposite may ascribe it to, I do not see at present any evidence of anything like a national demand for universal military training, founded, as it would be, on a complete breakdown of the Territorial system as 1008 we know it, which has been spoken of with so much eloquence by some speakers to-night and which has been the subject of a definite Press campaign. That complete breakdown is in no way recognised by the public of the country generally as having taken place. It is also felt, I think, that if we are really now in a state of imminent peril, as we are asked to believe we have been at least in as imminent a condition of peril for the last sixty years—that is to say, since the foundation of the second French Empire. There has never been, I suppose, a quinquennial period since then when we were not on such chilly terms with some great Power that we might have conceivably gone to war with it, and those conditions of danger have certainly at some point during that period existed to an infinitely greater extent than any degree of argument or overstatement can make them appear to exist at this moment.
I cannot help saying it is unfortunate that the advocates of compulsory service, in order to make their case good, have felt themselves compelled to speak in terms of almost unalloyed severity of the Territorial Force. It is recognised on the Benches opposite and by the noble and gallant, Field-Marshal Lord Methuen, also by the noble Earl Lord Fortescue; and I think it a little hard that when the noble Lord, Lord Newton, came to reply he poured all his vials on the head of the noble Earl sitting there and none upon the head of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, whose conduct, I should have thought, would have seemed to him even more shocking than that of the noble Earl opposite. It is unfortunate, and it arises from the fact that, in order to interest the people of this country in their scheme, the advocates for national service have been obliged, although I believe unwillingly, to treat it on the footing of a political question. It. has not, I am glad to think, become a Party question, although there have been signs that it has approached that condition at times; but the question has met with the usual fate of political questions when they become the subject of discussion in the country—that it is found almost necessary in order to excite public attention at all to overstate your case in various directions. We need not, whichever side of the House on which we sit, try to find examples, for it is so easy that it would be waste of time to do it. 1009 We need none of us try to find examples of political questions the possible results of which are quite coolly and systematically overstated on either side.
The general conclusion which, therefore, I have derived from this debate is the same at which I think we on this side of the House have arrived on different occasions—namely, that there is a marked difference of opinion between the different schools of those who desire that some distinct change may be made. This, however, is quite certain, that if the country is brought to believe by the quite legitimate campaign of noble Lords opposite—quite legitimate because if they believe that the country is in danger they are, of course, absolutely right to say so—if the country is moved by the expression of their views it will undoubtedly demand that some further change should be made. But the country will ask, I am certain, that the case must be clearly proved before it agrees to start upon a policy which, at the lowest estimate and done in the most moderate way, cannot cost less than £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 and may cost a great deal more—of course, I am not speaking of the regular conscription scheme which, as we know, must cost more still; but any of these schemes of compulsory service are put down, I believe, by their own advocates at £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, and before the country would agree to add that to the Army Estimates it must consider that the case of need is clearly proved.
I do not think it would be taken as certain, even if the country took the view that the present organisation of the Territorial Force is inadequate to resist a possible invasion, that it would desire to adopt compulsory home service. It might prefer to spend the millions, as my noble and learned friend pointed out, on the Navy, or it might prefer to spend them in adding to the Regular Army, always insisting that a considerable proportion of that Army—two or four Divisions—should invariably remain at home after the Expeditionary Force had gone. It is impossible to say. Again, it might fear that the extra Divisions if they were added would only he stolen for the Expeditionary Force, and that its home condition would be precisely what it would be now. On the other hand, the country may, if it is not satisfied, prefer to proceed by the slower path which I gathered was advocated by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposi- 1010 tion—namely, that of making a prompt start in early training of a military or semi-military character among boys at school. I confess I could not quite follow the intention of the noble Marquess from his speech, because he proposed that there should be military training during school life and for a year or two after leaving school. What precisely was meant by a year or two after leaving school I do not understand, because, as we know, the great mass of the population leave school at fourteen. Whether it was those boys the noble Marquess had in mind, or whether he had in his mind boys of the well-to-do classes who stay on at school till seventeen or eighteen or even nineteen was not quite clear.
I do not think it is necessary to argue the point as between what is called physical and military training. There are, however, a number of people, as noble Lords opposite know, not members of the Society of Friends, who do not look with great favour upon military training in schools, some of them because they believe that purely physical training of a non-military character is a better plan of developing the health and strength of growing boys. My noble and learned friend on the Woolsack put the case, I think, quite clearly with regard to this question of physical training, and so far as my personal opinion is concerned I should be very glad to see at schools of all kinds and grades and containing boys of all ages a morn complete system of physical training, and I should not personally in the slightest degree object to seeing it made compulsory; but, that being so, I do not precisely see the connection between any such system and what the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, called the turning out of a large supply of half-manufactured soldiers. The two things do not seem to me to cohere. If you are going to adopt some form of regular military training for boys growing towards manhood which is to leave them at the end of it something like half-manufactured soldiers, that is not the same thing as physical training at school, and I do not think that that term could be applied even to the formation of cadet corps, unless, of course, those corps were carried on to the very verge of manhood, which would require a remodelling of our educational system.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
We understood from Lord Herschell that part of this physical drill was to be what he 1011 hinted at—training in the use of arms. To that, of course, the remark of my noble friend was entirely relevant, as the noble Marquess will see.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I am afraid that when my noble friend behind me was speaking I did not catch what he said, but he tells me that he stated that training to the use of arms might conceivably be one of the objects in view, but he did not, as I understand, state that the War Office contemplate the introduction of any such plan into the national system as at present advised. There is, of course, the further question that the country feels that it has been making of late great sacrifices in respect of the Navy. It has had to pay, and is going on having to pay, a very heavy weight of taxation in respect of its naval defence. What the view of the country as a whole may be about the question we have been discussing at this moment—namely, the introduction of regular or semi-military training—I am not in a position to give an opinion upon; but I do not believe that the country will agree to anything which it believes is going to start it on the steep declivity which begins by compulsion for regular home service and ends, as it believes, with conscription.