HL Deb 19 March 1914 vol 15 cc612-5

*THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH rose to ask His Majesty's Government why the offer of the University College of Cardiff to form an Infantry unit of the Officers Training Corps has not been accepted; and whether the Army Council will reconsider this decision before next years' Estimates have been framed.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I apologise for the very short notice that I was able to give of this Question, and I regret that Lord Lucas is not able to be here this evening; but possibly His Majesty's Government may be able to give me the information for which I ask. The authorities of the University College of Cardiff do feel very strongly that they have been put in an unfavourable position and have received particular want of consideration, seeing that other University Colleges, certainly the two other Welsh University Colleges, are encouraged to have Cadet Corps.

In June, 1910, the Cardiff College offered to raise an Engineer unit of the Officers Training Corps. That was proposed because there is a very strong engineering element in the Cardiff College, and they obtained a large number of names of those who wished to join. But the War Office then answered that there was a sufficient number of Engineering training corps, but they gave the Cardiff College to understand that, if an Infantry unit were asked for, the application might receive favourable consideration. At the end of October of last year the College authorities succeeded in getting a considerable number of names, and they made an application for permission to raise an Infantry unit. On November 7 the War Office replied that the Army Council were not prepared to sanction the formation of any fresh contingents unless they had reason to expect that a satisfactory increase in the number of officers joining the different branches of the Army would result therefrom, and they asked for information as to the number of students who had taken commissions in the Regular Army, the Special Reserve, and the Territorial Force during the last five years. In answer to that the Principal of the College wrote— It is not possible for us to obtain reliable data concerning the number of our students who have in the past taken commissions in the Regular Army, the Special Reserve, or the Territorial Force. It is, however, because we are desirous of increasing the number of students who will take commissions that we are endeavouring to form an officers training corps in this College.

Then he said— Many members of the staff, amongst whom are included two Professors, have held commissions in the Territorial Force, and I believe the influence of those gentlemen would, if we possessed an officers training corps, have a good effect, and induce those who have passed through the course to apply for commissions. I understand that many of our medical students have served in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

The Principal assured the War Office that there was a good recruiting ground, for he said— We are placed in a denser population than are the other Welsh Colleges that have received permission to establish training corps.

The real point of the Question that I want to put to the Government is, Is this matter open to reconsideration if further information can be given or if in any particulars the authorities of the College can satisfy the requirements of the War Office? In that case would they be likely to receive the acquiescence of the Government in forming this training corps? It is rather invidious that Cardiff, by far the largest of the Welsh Colleges, should be refused this privilege, which, indeed, they also consider a public duty, and that Bangor and Aberystwith, very much smaller Colleges, should have their training corps.


My Lords, I reply to this Question partly because I am familiar with the circumstances of the original application, and partly because I have been requested to do so. From the noble Earl's statement it is plain why Cardiff has not been granted an officers training corps. In 1910 Cardiff was unwilling to furnish anything excepting an Engineering officers training corps. It is abundantly clear—and let me say this not only to Cardiff but to all the other Universities—that as Engineers were superabundant and we had more Regular Engineers than we knew what to do with, we could not have Engineer officers training corps; and it was impossible to give to Cardiff what we could not give to others. Then the matter went to sleep for three years, and Cardiff made no offer. Meantime we had more experience of officers training corps. I myself had much to do with the system. We have taken the keenest interest in them and have been anxious to promote them where they could be promoted; but we have always had one thing in mind. We did not promote them for the students, but in order to get people to volunteer to take commissions in the Special Reserve and the Territorial Force. When we have a prospect of that we are always anxious to found an officers training corps, but when we have no such prospect we are obviously not justified in doing so. We are obviously not justified in spending public funds without getting any return.

In 1913, Cardiff offered, after three years, to furnish an officers training corps of Infantry, and the inquiry made then was, in effect, whether some officers would result if we founded a unit there. It costs a good deal to found an officers training corps. It is a thing the General Staff do if they have a prospect of getting officers, but they want some assurance to that effect. All we got was the answer referred to by the noble Earl, that "the Registrar hopes," and so on. Our experience in other Welsh Colleges has not been very good in regard to the furnishing of officers. The noble Earl said Bangor and Aberystwith had both got training corps. Well, Aberystwith has furnished only two officers for the Territorial Force and seven for the Special Reserve, and Bangor two officers for the Territorial Force and two for the Special Reserve. Naturally, Cardiff were asked whether they could give something more. I have been in conference with my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War on this subject this afternoon. The War Office is very keen to get a supply of Reserve officers, and if Cardiff College, by taking some trouble—it requires a little trouble—can hold out anything like a prospect that those who go into the training corps will to some substantial extent take commissions, as has been the case in other Universities, then the War Office mind is open on the subject.


My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Viscount for his reply. The object of my Question was to find out whether there was any action that could be taken by the authorities of the University College at Cardiff which would enable this matter to be reconsidered. I understand that if they can give further assurances, the matter is open to reconsideration.

House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock