HL Deb 01 July 1915 vol 19 cc182-99

THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH had the following Question on the Paper—

To ask His Majesty's Government whether, in view of Army Form B 621 A, recruiting officers of the Territorial Force are expected to reject promising recruits who, while willing to accept the Imperial Service obligation in their own county units, are unwilling to run the risk of compulsory transfer to other units of which they know nothing; and whether it is intended to amalgamate into composite battalions Territorial Battalions with the Expeditionary Force that may fall under 400 in strength, although the second or third line of those battalions may be in a position to supply drafts properly trained and equipped.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, under ordinary conditions these matters would be considered by the Council of Territorial Associations and submitted by them to the Army Council, but as, owing to the war, the Council of Territorial Associations is widely scattered and there have been no opportunities of its members meeting I have been asked, as chairman of the Council, to bring forward these points, which are of considerable importance to the Territorial Force. I suppose that to-day the object of us all is to obtain a steady flow of recruits. As from time to time we have had instructions to check Territorial recruiting my experience has been that, while Territorial recruiting is checked, at the same time Regular recruiting is also checked. The circumstances which have given rise to my Question appear to me to prejudice recruiting, and in confirmation of that I may say this. Recently in the County of Bedfordshire a detachment of a Territorial battalion had a three weeks' recruiting march, and from conversation with the officer commanding the detachment, and from the reports of the officers of other units, the chairman of the County Association of Bedfordshire is satisfied that the new Army Form E 624 is a serious detriment to recruiting. In my Question as it stands on the Paper there is a slight mistake. There are two Army Forms—namely, E 624 and E 621 A—to both of which I should like to refer. The official answer we received was that it was proposed to give the Army Council power to transfer a man from any arm in the service to any other arm, but that it was not intended that the powers should apply to Territorials. We are all aware that in the early stages of the Bill the Territorials were included, but when the Bill came up to your Lordships' House it referred only to the Regular Army. This Army Form suggests that there is a desire to obtain by a side wind what was directly excluded from the Act itself.

There are two classes dealt with by the two Forms. Under the one those already in the Force were to be asked to sign an undertaking to accept transfer. There is a disinclination to do so, and I hope the noble Lord who will reply will be able to assure us that those men who are already in the Territorial Force, who have been willing to accept Imperial Service obligation but are not inclined to accept transfer, will not be prejudiced in any way. The second deals with those who are now being asked to join, and in this Army Form the Imperial Service obligation and the consent to transfer are included in the same question. The impression has got about that a man has either to accept both conditions or none, and what we want to have made perfectly clear is that they will not be prejudiced by a refusal to accept transfer. My noble friend is an expert in the art of dry fly fishing, and he knows probably better than anybody that you can only catch a trout when it is rising, and that, if you once prick it, down it goes and you do not see it again. The class of recruit with which we are dealing to-day is very like the trout. You have to catch him on the rise, and to he very careful that you do not prick him in your efforts. I hope, therefore, that we shall have it made perfectly clear that County Associations may still continue to accept recruits if they agree to the Imperial Service obligation but, on account of their territorial sentiments, decline to accept the other.

The other part of my Question deals with composite battalions. I refer to that matter because of a letter which has been circulated in Glasgow. It is not, however, confined to Glasgow, and there is considerable feeling as to what is proposed to be done. I should like to ask whether it is intended to amalgamate into composite battalions Territorial battalions with the Expeditionary Force that may fall under 400 in strength, although the second or third line of those battalions may be in a position to supply drafts properly trained and equipped. Though the impression is no doubt not a general one and is not one that I hold myself, the impression is growing that there is an intention, by this process of exhaustion, gradually to extinguish the Territorial Force, and it is important that that impression should be allayed at once. When the second line of the Territorial Force was instituted it was with the object of providing drafts for the first, and no doubt the second line to-day is a very valuable force. The third line was then raised with the object of supplying drafts for both the first and the second lines. It seems to me that, instead of making these composite battalions, it would be perfectly simple to draft to the first line from the second line, which is efficient and equipped, and to make up the vacancies in the second line by drafts from the third line. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to tell us what is the intention of the military authorities on that point.

On the question of a steady flow of recruits, which has to do a great deal with Territorial recruiting, I should like to say a word. In the early days there was a certain amount of conflict between Territorial and Regular recruiting, and I often heard the charge made that A was trying to pinch B's men. I am glad to say that we have got over that feeling now, and everything is working harmoniously. We all recognise now that when a man is once recruited he belongs neither to A nor to B but to the country, and that the country does not care very much what he joins as long as he joins something. Compare for a moment the difficulties of Territorial recruiting with Regular recruiting. The Regular recruiter has had great experience; he has complete machinery; he has the War Office at his back and a wide area to recruit over; above all, he has the splendid history of the British Army to work upon. The Territorial recruiter, on the other hand, has had no experience; his machinery is incomplete; he has only the County Association to back him up; he has no records, but he is beginning to make them. I think we all rejoice in the fact that in one of the early despatches of Sir john French the work that the County Associations have done was generally recognised, and during every month that passes we hear further evidence, from those who are best able to judge, of the splendid work which the Territorial Force is doing at the Front. The one great asset of the Territorial Force is that it is territorial. I may possibly exaggerate the territorial sentiment, but no one has more reason to appreciate it than I have. We know, as each battalion is raised, officered, and, in peace time, trained in its own native county, that the inhabitants of the county have an intimate personal relationship with their own battalions, and that is of the utmost value in fostering the territorial sentiment.

There is one other point on which I should like to say a word. Recently an appeal was made for 300,000 additional men. The scheme, apparently, for raising these men is by special battalions and by appeals either to a class, to a locality, or in respect of a particular arm. My own opinion is that these sporadic attempts do not help to a steady flow of recruiting. Take, for instance, the last one that has been suggested. We are asked as to the advisability of starting a special battalion for farmers' sons. Supposing such a battalion is started, I should like to know whether we are to tell these farmers' sons that, even if they join a special battalion, they may be transferred to another; because I do not think as honest men we could ask them to join without telling them of the possible liability. While it is true that a great many farmers' sons have not joined up to the present time, no fewer than 150,000 men have been taken from the agricultural industry; and in many cases the farmers' sons are taking the place of the agricultural labour that has gone. Before we start any battalion of this kind I hope the Minister for Agriculture will be consulted, because we know that every effort is now being made to do what is possible to maintain and increase the produce of the country. Prior to embarking on these attempts we ought to know whether it is safe to further deplete the agricultural industry.

We had an illustration of the effect of this appeal for 300,000 men in a letter to The Times, in which it was stated that an agricultural labourer in Kent approaching 40 years of age, with a wife and seven children and with varicose veins, was accepted as a recruit although be had been previously rejected. Obviously he was not a first-class fighting man, and it does seem to me a thousand pities to take such a man, who no doubt was very useful at his own particular job, when there are hundreds of thousands of young unmarried men who have not come forward. It does not suggest very economical recruiting. We know that every endeavour is being made to encourage thrift in the individual. Mr. Bonar Law, at the Guildhall the other day, said that if the lesson of economy was to be driven home it must not be by precept but by example. May we hope that we shall have an example of thrift and economy in high quarters.

Then there is the question of the particular locality to which appeals are made. I speak feelingly about this, because Staffordshire has been extremely hardly used. In fact, so many cleavages have been made in the recruiting districts that Staffordshire has been compared to gruyere cheese. With regard to particular brigades, the county of Nottinghamshire sonic time ago was instructed to raise an Artillery brigade, nominally, I suppose, a Nottinghamshire brigade. In order to raise this brigade they were allowed to recruit over the whole of No. 6 District, to which Staffordshire belongs. That was bad enough, but there is worse to follow. Only the other day Major Meysey-Thompson informed me that he had been instructed to raise a Regular brigade in Staffordshire. What I wish to point out is this. In the North Midland Division, of which Staffordshire is a part, two out of the three brigades of Artillery are raised in Staffordshire, and now, with the second and third lines, we have practically six brigades of Artillery in Staffordshire alone. It seems hard that Nottingham should come and recruit for another brigade in Staffordshire, and that now there should be an attempt to raise yet another Staffordshire brigade. I suggest that with the number of different agencies that are being continually planted upon us there must be friction. Certainly the steady flow of recruiting which we want to see is not helped.

There are three classes of men whom we have to deal. In the first place, there is the man who is ready to do his duty regardless of who else does. It would have been better if many of these men had been left at their original work. In the second place, there is the man who says he will go if somebody else will. These men want different inducements and different methods employed. But if you get B to take the same view as A if you get them both, and you are so much to the good. In the third place, beyond and behind these there is an enormous number of men who do not care to do anything themselves, and who are perfectly willing to shelter themselves behind the sacrifices of other people. Those are the men at whom we want to get; those are the men on whom voluntary inducements have very little effect, and in my opinion it is on those men alone that we can depend for a steady flow of recruits. May I say this in conclusion. I fully realise that when everybody is working at high pressure mistakes are inevitable. But I do not want to find fault to-day. My object is the same as that of all of your Lordships and every one in the country—we wish to bring about a steady flow of recruits; and by more consultation with those engaged in the work and a better system I believe we shall be able to secure in the end all that we desire.


My Lords, the Secretary of State for War has desired me to express his regret at being unable to answer this Question in person, and. in the circumstances I trust that my noble friend will allow me to reply to it to the best of my ability. No one is likely to quarrel with the tone of my noble friend's remarks, and everybody is well aware of the invaluable services which he has rendered with regard to recruiting. But in making my reply, such as it is, I hope he will excuse me from dealing with the local portion of his complaint, which concerns Staffordshire, because if he desires information upon that particular point I am afraid I must ask him to give me notice. As my noble friend pointed out, there is in the Question as it appears on the Paper a slight error with regard to Army Forth E 624 A. That form applies only to serving officers and men of the Territorial Force. All recruit officers and men of the Territorial Force are required to sign the new Army Form E 624, which has superseded the one referred to. Under this Form a man enlisting in the Territorial Force accepts liability to serve in any place outside the United Kingdom and also liability to be transferred to any other corps, if required, notwithstanding that the corps to which he is about to be transferred may be different from that in which he is serving. I may point out that at the present moment no Territorial soldier is enlisted for home service alone. That was the first point on which I think my noble friend desired to be enlightened.


What I want to get perfectly clear is whether a man who accepts the Imperial Service obligation is also bound to accept the one for transfer.


So far as my judgment goes, he is. With regard to the second portion of the noble Earl's Question, General French, as a temporary measure, felt compelled to associate, for the convenience of command and administration, certain Territorial Force units now serving with the Territorial Force until a sufficiency of reinforcements is forthcoming, but arrangements are being made whereby it may be possible to avoid this temporary grouping of depleted units, which was only intended to fill a gap until the third line is able to fulfil its function as a draft producer. The Territorial Force, as the noble Earl knows, is now divided into three lines, a large proportion of the first line of which is serving at the Front. The second line cannot be relied upon to produce reinforcements regularly, as it has its own duty with regard to home defence to perform and also to prepare for service oversea. As my noble friend observed towards the conclusion of his remarks, everybody realises that the circumstances are entirely exceptional, and that far greater demands are being made upon the Territorial Force than were ever anticipated. That being so, and that being generally recognised, it is not on the whole surprising that there should be a certain amount of friction. I might point out, for instance, if my memory serves me right, that it was never contemplated that reinforcements on a very large scale should be provided by the Territorial Force. But what I should like to assure my noble friend—and I think I am entitled to do so—is that the last thing that Lord Kitchener desires is that the Territorial Force should consider that they have any grievance whatever; and in particular I feel absolutely justified in making the assertion that there is not the remotest intention on the part of anybody to destroy the county system upon which the Territorial Force is based. To SUM up, perhaps it is hardly necessary for me to repeat that this expedient is one of a purely temporary nature, and, as I think my noble friend will easily realise, it is in reality simply a question of recruiting. My noble friend has rendered, as I have already stated, great services with regard to recruiting, and his efforts have been surpassed only by the noble Earl opposite, Lord Derby, who may possibly have something to say on this particular subject. But the whole difficulty is, as I have said, really a question of recruiting, and it must be obvious to everybody that as soon as there is a sufficiency of recruits available these expedients, which are not of a satisfactory nature, will be abandoned.


Men already serving are being asked to sign an undertaking to transfer. What I want made clear is that those men who are not willing to sign the undertaking to transfer will not be prejudiced on that account.


So far as I am aware, they will not be prejudiced in any way.


My Lords, I heartily support what the noble Earl has said on this subject. It is essential that nothing should be done to check recruiting for the Territorials. They have had very heavy losses, and at the present moment you can often get men for the Territorials when you cannot get them for the Regular Army. That is because there is that personal touch between the officers and the men which you cannot have under present circumstances in the Regulars. There is no doubt that in the last fortnight something has happened that has stopped recruiting for the Territorials to a very large extent. I do not know whether it is the same all over the country as it is in the particular area with which I am chiefly associated in West Lancashire. It is difficult to say what is the cause, Some people will tell you one thing, and seine another; but there is no doubt that the drop has coincided with two things—first, the statement that the battalions the Front have been told that they are to be amalgamated; and, secondly. this Army Form under which recruits are not only required to sign for foreign service, which they are only too ready to undertake, but also to accept liability to be transferred from one battalion to another. We have had a large recruiting campaign in West Lancashire. We were averaging about 1,100 recruits per week; the figure has dropped to 250 per week since those two things were known. They may or may not have any relation to each other. Some say that the reduction is due to some of the speeches which have been made. I only point out that the circumstance does exist that with these two facts becoming known there has been a great drop in the number of recruits.

It is essential that there should be no amalgamation of first line battalions in the Expeditionary Force. I have had the advantage within the last few days of seeing some of these battalions at the Front and seeing also Sir John French, and I know that the order was only carried into execution in one case, and it has, as a matter of fact, been cancelled. I sincerely hope there can be no question of its being in any way brought up again. But if you do not amalgamate, there is one thing that you must do—you must send out drafts to your first line. The noble Lord who replied for the Government said that it was a question of recruiting for the third line. To a certain extent it is; but it is no use getting your third line up to full strength to feed the first line when the first line has already died of inanition. There is no use in providing food for a starving man and not giving it to him until he has died from starvation.

The second line was originally formed for the purpose of providing drafts for the first line. It had, I believe, in the first instance no other duties to perform. Therefore those of us who are associated with Territorial Associations never thought of forming a third line, because we could not see that it would be required. Since then, however, different duties have been placed on the second line. It now has not only to be looked upon as a defensive force, which, is quite right, but also to be maintained as a possible unit for service abroad. That is all very well, but it is no use making your second line for service abroad and letting your first line which is at the Front die before it is relieved. Therefore I earnestly hope that some method may be adopted by which, at all events for the present, drafts can he taken from the second line to make good the wastage in the first line, making good the wastage in the second line from the third line, and at the same time letting us go on recruiting for the third line until such time as we are able to feed the first line with properly trained men. I hope that the noble Lord will impress upon the Field-Marshal the Secretary of State for War the necessity of keeping the first line at all events up to some sort of fighting strength, if not to the full strength at which it originally went out.

I admit that to a certain extent—in some cases to a large extent—the War Office has great difficulties. There is no doubt that many commanding officers formed the second line with a view of going out with their battalions. They think—and they have, perhaps, in some cases reason to think—that the second line unit which they have formed is better than the first line unit which has already gone out, and they want to keep their unit intact. It is a laudable wish, but I sincerely hope that it will not be given way to, but that what I have urged will be carried out—namely, that the first line shall receive an adequate amount of drafts from the second line until the third line has been properly trained to fulfil its function of finding these drafts.

The noble Earl deprecated the raising of special battalions. I am afraid I do not quite agree with him, if you look at it from the point of view that you have to get as many recruits for the Army as you possibly can. As long as you have voluntary service you must depend upon putting something attractive before the recruit, and there is not the slightest doubt, from my experience, that it is far easier to raise a new unit than to keep an old unit up to strength. Of course, if we had any question of national service that would naturally adjust itself; but I hope that, at all events while we are trying to bring the Territorial third line up to full strength, there will be no authorisation for special battalions to be formed, for undoubtedly that would draw off recruits whom we should otherwise obtain for the third line.

Having had a good ninny dealings with the War Office, especially with regard to Territorial matters, I think we ought to be extremely grateful for the way in which the War Office have met every objection we have put before them. Naturally I only speak for myself, but I am very grateful to them; and I hope we can rely upon the noble Lord opposite to help us in every way. I am sure, on the principle that the best gamekeeper is the reformed poacher, that we shall have in the noble Lord one who, at all events, knows our wants, and will at the same time see that the War Office orders and regulations are carried out.


My Lords, the noble Earl who initiated this discussion, in speaking of the proposal to raise special agricultural battalions, made a statement the accuracy of which I should like to ask Lord Newton or the President of the Board of Agriculture to confirm, because it has an important bearing on this question of raising special battalions from those interested in farming. Lord Dartmouth said that 150,000 recruits had been found for the Territorials and the new Armies from men engaged in agriculture. He obtained that information, I think, from an answer given by Mr. Acland in the House of Commons. The hon. Member said he based the statement on returns made by 9,000 farmers in England and Scotland. Well, 9,000 is a small proportion of the total number of farmers in the country, and it seems rather a small number on which to base somewhat sweeping deductions. I should like to know whether there is ground to believe that this large number of recruits has been found by the agricultural community, or whether Mr. Acland's deductions are based only on the information given to him by 9,000 farmers out of the whole number in England and Scotland, which is something between 200,000 and 250,000.


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies, if he intends to, I should like to endorse what has fallen from my noble friends as regards the question of the clubbing of battalions on the Continent or anywhere else. I have had experience of it, for already in this country, in the case of two Territorial regiments, a composite regiment has been formed. Obviously, difficulties at once arose. Among other things, there was the question of shoulder badges. They were both county regiments but carried a different badge, and the question had to be decided which badge the composite battalion should bear. The War Office ruled that they were to bear one or other of the badges—I will not specify which—and that order was issued. But it has not been obeyed, because the men of the other battalion absolutely declined to change their shoulder badges. That is a small point, but it illustrates the difficulties of clubbing depleted battalions. Therefore I am profoundly relieved to hear from my noble friend Lord Derby that he is pretty sure, if there was any intention of compounding these regiments, that it has now been dropped.

I am afraid, notwithstanding all that has been said about the good feeling of the War Office to the county territorial system, there has been at the same time a tendency to encourage competition in the matter of recruiting. I will state a case within my own experience. Certain Territorial regiments in my county are short. I was pressed to raise another Regular regiment, and I pointed out that this would inevitably compete with the Territorial regiments which were short. Notwithstanding that, I was told to go on and I have gone on, and so far as I can learn the new regiment is more attractive than the units which had been raised before, and the latter are suffering in consequence of the raising of the new regiment. So far as the country is concerned, I hope it is all the better for it. I hope more men are being obtained. At the same time this practice is profoundly discouraging to the officers who came forward in the original instance to raise a unit and thought they were going to have a fair field for recruiting.

As to the suggestion regarding recruiting from farmers' sons, I have made inquiries in my own neighbourhood so far as I could—not through the whole county, for I have not had time to do that—and it does seem to me that the invitation has come at a most inappropriate moment, because whatever our county is, whatever the regular or the particular crops are, we are actually now beginning to get them. Whether it is fruit, or presently whether it is cereals, or after that whether it is hops, we are full up with work now for the next two months at, least, and after what my noble friend the Minister for Agriculture said the other day I should think this letter can hardly have received the approval of the Board of Agriculture. I can say from my own experience, as I said the other night, that there is unquestionably a shortage of labour for agriculture, and the farmer's son in all probability is the best man to take the place of the stockman or of the wagoner, and those are the men who are absolutely essential for carrying on the industry. I therefore hope that there will be no, pressure at the present moment to respond to the invitation to raise farmers' battalions. I think if we were allowed to get on with the harvest there would be a far better chance of doing something as soon as the harvest, is over.


My Lords, I rise to answer the agricultural question and nothing else. I do not know on what figures my hon. friend Mr. Acland relied when he gave the answer to which Lord Fortescue referred, but I should say that 50,000 is much under the number of recruits from the agricultural population of the country as a whole. I am not prepared to accept that figure as the limit.


Mr. Aeland gave the figure quoted. He said that fifteen decimal something had gone to the Army and one decimal something had taken civil employment under the Government, making seventeen and a-half per cent. in all of labourers who had left agriculture for services connected with the war. I should doubt whether there are so many.


It is a distinctly lower statement than I should have expected. Honestly I should not have thought anybody at this moment had the accurate information to give. I do not know whether it could be extracted by a minute examination of the enlistment forms since the war began, but I am quite sure that the War Office has not had time to examine the enlistment forms. Therefore I do not suppose there are any accurate statistics on the subject. As regards farmers' battalions, I do not think you can divide the agricultural community into watertight compartments. You must take it as a whole—farmers, farmers' sons, and labourers together. Lord Kitchener has most distinctly undertaken that no effort shall be made by his recruiting officers to endeavour to get the essential skilled men of a farm to enlist—foremen, head stockmen, head wagoners, shepherds, or men of that kind. But if there is a head stockman on a farm and a farmer's son whom Lord Kitchener thinks ought to join the Colours, well, of course, Lord Kitchener is perfectly free to try and enlist him; and I ant sure farmers are the last people in England to say that their sons ought not to bear as much of the brunt of the national burden of the present moment as the labourers' sons. Therefore I would suggest that the whole of the agricultural community be considered as one whole. I quite agree that this is not the moment at which should like to see that additional call on the farming community which will certainly have to be made, and which ought to be made, after the harvest. My concern is, in the first place, that the harvest should be got in, and that after the harvest has been got in the men who are taken from the agricultural community should be those who can be spared, and not those who are essential in order that the country may produce all the food it can.


Can the noble Earl say whether there is any intention of issuing a new order with regard to the payment and conditions under which men are to go from the Army to help in the corn harvest?


The new regulations will be issued almost immediately.


My Lords, perhaps before this discussion closes I may be allowed to say a few words on the general question raised by my noble friend opposite. In the first place, let me say— and I am sure I shall have your Lordships' concurrence—that no one on either side of the House is likely to challenge the right either of my noble friend Lord Dartmouth or of my noble friend Lord Derby to raise these questions in this House. Lord Dartmouth speaks to us with all the authority which belongs to hint as chairman of the Council of Territorial Associations. Of Lord Derby's services in his part of the. United Kingdom it is not necessary for me to speak, for they are well known to us all. Let me say this—and I say it with conviction—that I am quite sure the suggestions which have been made by my noble friends will be not only considered, but considered with the utmost desire to meet them and to give effect to them, by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal whose colleague I have the honour to be, and who is not able, unfortunately, to be here to-night.

With the general object which Lord Dartmouth had in view I am in entire concurrence. I interpret his speech as being directed to two objects. In the first place, he desires to protect the individual soldier from being transferred, against his will, from a unit which he has elected to join to another unit which he has not elected to join and in which he may not take the same close interest; in the next place, he desires to protect the unit from losing its identity by a process of amalgamation or pooling with part of another unit. That policy of maintaining a close connection both between the individual soldier and between the units and the different localities is to my mind, or should be at any rate, the bedrock of our military policy in this country. I do not think it is too much to say that it is the adoption of that policy which has given us the great number of recruits which we have been able to obtain during recent months and which has infused into our Army the extraordinary spirit of enthusiasm which non' pervades it, and which leads every village in England to take a keen interest in the performance of the troops connected with that particular part of the country. I noted with great satisfaction a phrase which fell from my noble friend Lord Dartmouth. I think it is a phrase which deserves to be remembered. He said that our Territorials had begun without any records but were rapidly making them. That was a very just compliment, and I am glad that my noble friend should have paid it.

To my mind any deliberate departure from the policy which I have endeavoured to sketch would not only involve a breach of faith but would be suicidal; I put it as strongly as that. There may have been departures, or apparent departures, from that policy, but I believe it will be found that if there have been any they have taken place under stress of circumstances and because they were unavoidable. My noble friend dwelt in particular upon the unfairness of asking men who now accept the liability for Imperial Service to accept with it, and as part of the bargain, a liability to transfer. I am sure I do not misrepresent the policy of the War Office when I say that in our view that liability should only be enforced where it is absolutely necessary to enforce it. But I do think—and I believe my noble friend will not disagree with me—that you cannot entirely deprive the military authorities of this power of transfer. We must all be aware that there may arise emergencies when what has to be done is to win a battle or to win a campaign at any cost, and when everything mast be sacrificed to that one end. On those occasions—I think the phrase was also my noble friend's—the man must feel that he belongs not to this unit or to that unit but to his country. But, as I said just now, if this liability is to be imposed, it must be enforced with the utmost caution and with the utmost tact.

One word as to the other case which my noble friend had in view—the case where two Territorial battalions, or perhaps one should say what remains of two Territorial battalions, are amalgamated into one battalion. There may arise circumstances under which that would be the only course open to the military authorities. My noble friend suggests two alternatives. He says that this process of amalgamation ought not to take place if there are in the second or third line units of those battalions enough men to supply drafts properly armed and equipped. Let me take, in the lira place the possibility of supplying the necessary number of men from the second line unit. We know that until now that has been done. I am aware of a case quite recently where a Yeomanry regiment, about which I know something, a second line regiment, was called upon to supply a large draft to make up for heavy casualties incurred in the first line regiment.


A Yeomary regiment?


Yes. But the police of the Sar Office, as I understand it, to-day is that those second line units are no longer to be treated merely as reservoirs from which the first line units are to be filled up, but that they should be filled with men who have assumed the Imperial Service liability and maintained as fighting units able at the proper time to take Their place in the field. Of course, if this has to be done it is quite obvious that you cannot also use them as reservoirs from which to take drafts for the assistance of the first line units.

Then I come to the third line units. The third line units have in many cases been only lately established. In a great many cases—again I am speaking from what I know of my own experience—they are still far from strong numerically. I think I am right in saying that for a time we were told to keep them on the lower establishment. They have quite lately been raised to the higher establishment, but I think it is clear that at this moment a great many of them cannot be in a position to supply heavy drafts for the relief of the first line units. Therefore in same cases—I do not put it higher than that—the only way out of the difficulty may be to amalgamate two weak battalions in order to make them into one battalion of sufficient strength. But again I say that this operation ought to be undertaken with the utmost caution. For example, in my view the hardship would be infinitely less if you took two weak battalions belonging to the same county regiment and put them together than if you took a weak battalion of one county regiment and filled it with the remains of a battalion belonging to quite another part of the United Kingdom. It is to be remembered that under a recent ruling of the War Office it has been decided that these third line units are to be looked upon for the future as the proper bodies from which to supply the needs both of the first and the second line units. My noble friend, of course, is aware that under the new arrangement the officers of the third line units are all home service officers.

THE EARL OF DERBY indicated dissent.


Oh, yes.


Not all the officers. The only officers of the third line units who are home service officers are the commanding officer, the adjutant, and the musketry officers. All the others are active service officers.


My noble friend knows these matters so thoroughly that I am quite ready to take it from him.


I think the noble Marquess opposite is correct.


Then I am afraid it must have been within the last forty-eight hours.


It is a quite recent decision, the idea being that the third line unit should be nothing but a training depôt for the other two units, and that the officers should be home service officers and therefore not liable to be taken away. My noble friend has dealt with the question of the proposal to institute battalions drawn from the farmer class. Speaking again of the part of England I know best, I am under the impression that there are not a great many farmers' sons of military age to be found on the farms with their parents, and that where you do find them their presence is very desirable in the interests of the farm and they can ill be spared. But so far as I know there is no desire to impose the policy of establishing battalions of that kind upon the different parts of the country. All that I am aware of is that we have received a circular asking us to express an opinion as to the possibility of resorting to this means of obtaining recruits, and that some of us have expressed our opinion with the utmost freedom.


My Lords, may I say a word with regard to transfer. The noble Marquess has said that I particularly object to the transfer of men from one unit to another. I do. But I quite realise that there may be necessity under which it must be done. The Government have the Act of Parliament empowering them to do that. But what I say is that, as long as you have to cajole recruits in, it is a great pity to meet them with a paper which they have to sign before they join accepting liability as soon as they are enrolled to be transferred to another unit. They all know that the power exists under the Act of Parliament. But I do not see any necessity for frightening them, as you undoubtedly do, by making them sign this paper when they come to enlist. That is my point.