§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether, in view of the great and growing importance of aviation in modern warfare both by sea and land, and the need for special attention and effort being concentrated upon it, they will create a separate Ministry to deal with the whole question.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, before I touch on the subject of the Question standing on the Paper in my name I desire to take this the first opportunity I have had of thanking the noble Viscount who sits below me (Viscount Midleton) for the very sympathetic reference which he made concerning myself* on the occasion of a former debate, and also your Lordships for the kind welcome which you gave to those words. I was only serving my country as many of your Lordships have been doing in other directions, and if fate so ordains and one has to run dangers, well in time of war that is but natural.
§ The subject which I am raising is at this particular time one of more than ordinary importance. Your Lordships will note the actual terms of my Question—the need for special attention and effort being concentrated upon the problems which have to do with aviation. That need has always been great, but it has now become so insistent that further steps should be taken by His Majesty's Government to deal with it. I am aware that in this country we never take a bold stroke at once unless there is great weight of public opinion in its favour. We like to do things by compromises and by degrees. I venture to think that everything must now be subordinated to the needs of the war, and although I welcome with all my heart the appointment of Lord Derby's Committee—the appointment of which in itself is, to my mind, a confession of weakness—I wish this afternoon, if I can, to convince His Majesty's Government and the House that there is need for something a, great deal bigger, for a body with much wider powers, and, above all, for a certain amount of imagination and foresight to be applied to the whole of this problem.
I have been classed among that unfortunate body of people who are called
* The reference was to Lord Montagu's rescue when the "Persia" was sunk.
prophets. The fate of prophets is always to be received at first with derision, later on with quiet contempt, and finally with dislike. In olden time prophets were coupled with martyrs, and that may be their fate again. I can claim that I have endeavoured in past years to direct your Lordships' attention—I did so as far back as 1909 and in subsequent debates—to the importance of this question, and although I make no complaint that the Government did not attach exaggerated value to what I then said, I do think, looking back upon those debates, that something might have been done. Had the Government appointed the Committee which I suggested in 1910 the problem of aviation would not have been neglected and we should not have been in the position we are now. One of the difficulties I have to confront to-day is the danger of saying too much. Everything that is said in this House and in the other House of Parliament is known in Germany in a few days, and your Lordships will understand that I cannot therefore discuss the technical aspect of the subject, for by so doing I should be helping the enemy and possibly discouraging our own people on this side and damping the spirits of our Allies. But I may remind your Lordships that there is very little of importance which is going on in this country which is not known to the German General Staff, for their means of information are very extraordinary.
§ It is also necessary to remember in connection with this problem before we blame those who have held, either in the Army or in the Navy, responsible positions in the matter, that there has been no experience upon which to build a policy and no precedents to follow. There has been that difficulty in all countries, and in this country to suggest something novel is almost at once to be condemned. There has been opposition emanating from the established heads of Departments, and to a certain extent, no doubt, from the Treasury, which has retarded the efforts of those who have wished to push on with aviation. I do not propose therefore to criticise too much to-day any shortcomings that there may have been on the part of individuals, for although they may not have done all we could have wished, we must recollect that they have been to a large extent hampered by restrictions put upon them by other Departments. I 320 welcome also the appointment of Sir David Henderson, the Director of Military Aeronautics, as a member of the Army Council. Whether that was a result of this impending debate or of mature consideration in the past I will not inquire, but it is a step in the right direction. I am one of those who would like to see the Derby Committee magnified and not minimised. In it may lie the nucleus and germ of something much bigger in the future.
§ As regards the actual concrete proposition which I have placed on the Paper today—that is, the formation of a Ministry of Aviation—I must confess that until quite recently, I mean a year or two ago, I was very doubtful whether the Air Service ought not to run on as it is at present, divided into two branches—the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps—without any formal tie between them, for there are great difficulties in combining the services. I admit that the executive must remain, at any rate for the present, with the responsible heads of the Army and the Navy. I admit that there are prejudices to be got over in any combination of this kind which it will be bard to overcome. But the needs of the country must be paramount, and if the needs of the country are that we must have a combined Air Service I think highly enough of the permanent chiefs in the two Departments and of the personnel to believe that they will, after a moment perhaps of hesitation, combine to make a unified Air Service.
§ It cannot be denied that the present position of our Air Service is thoroughly unsatisfactory. What is the position today? A year ago at the Front we had practically attained supremacy of the air. You might be in the trenches for weeks together and hardly see a German plane come over. I am informed that at many places in Flanders, even so late as last spring and summer, the appearance of a German plane was quite a rare occurrence. That is different now. The supremacy in the air which we had then attained we have since lost. It is our duty at all costs to regain it, but we shall not regain it, in my opinion, until there has been an alteration in our present system. It is difficult, as I have said, to go into technical details, but I will sum it up by saying that the Germans now have aeroplanes which can fly faster and ascend more quickly than 321 ours; and although it may be said—and rightly—in defence that some of these, like the Fokker, are very short range machines, that does not prevent them being very dangerous; and if short range machines possess these qualities we should have them as well as the enemy.
§ Then look at the position at home. We have had over this country something like twenty-five raids by Zeppelins since the commencement of the war. On none of those occasions have we been able to bring down a Zeppelin, and with the exception of part of a propeller which was said to have been found in Kent last week I think I am right in saying that there is no evidence that any German Zeppelin has been seriously damaged. That proves that we have not had enough energy in our policy. I will refer to the possibilities of the future in regard to Zeppelin raids, and I think when your Lordships have heard what I have to say there will not be so much talk of these operations being of little military value. I must say at this stage how sorry I am that the noble Earl who presides over this new Committee is not in his place. I would have asked your Lordships to postpone the debate had it been possible, but other reasons prevented it. This Committee which has been appointed, according to Lord Derby himself, is merely a Committee to allocate the production of our factories in the matter of machines between the Army and the Navy. It is, in other words, merely an inter-Departmental Committee, and though it may have other powers thrust upon it, according to the terms of its appointment it should do nothing but consider this one point. I do not think it will take us very far if the Committee confines its operations merely to that.
§ I know that there will be opposition to the appointment of a larger body—opposition which will come from the two great fighting Services. You must always be prepared for that. After all, are not the arguments which are used—I have not seen any fresh ones—against the appointment of a Ministry of Aviation precisely the same as those which were urged against the Appointment of a Ministry of Munitions? That Ministry may have its faults, but it has undoubtedly increased the supply of munitions for the Forces; and looking back it is difficult to see how we could possibly have got on without that Ministry. There are objections, as I have said, from 322 the point of view of the Services as well as from that of the Departments to my suggestion. It will be said—and there is something in it—that it is difficult to have in time of war any single Service which is operating with the Navy and Army and yet not under their control. But at the present moment you have all kinds of cross operations between the two Services. The Navy has under its control probably the finest Infantry and Artillery in the world, the Blue and the Red Marines, and there is no difficulty in working between the Marines and the Admiralty. The War Office, again, have in their Ordnance Department a certain number of seamen, and no difficulty whatever arises. I believe that it would be possible in the near future to combine in the Air Service the personnel of both these services. There is also the argument that it is a mistake to swap horses while crossing a stream. That is an old adage with a great deal of truth in it, but if the horse you are on is drowning, I think it would be wise to take the other. The question is whether you are going to make the difficulties of working between the two Services into an argument which will be stronger than the efficiency of the Service which you desire to benefit.
§ I am one of those who think that the proper motto should be "One Element, one Service." The Air Service will in a short time be of such a magnitude and so important to the country that this will be the inevitable result, whether the Government give us any hope of appointing a separate body immediately or whether it is to come in a year or two, either during or after the war. It is to the air that the attention of both Forces will shortly have to be directed. At various times in our history we have had to make new Ministries for new needs. New problems demand new solutions. I dare say many members of your Lordships' House will recollect that up to the time of the Crimean War the Minister for the Colonies and the Minister for War were one and the same person. I do not know whether that led to the mistakes of the Crimean War, but nobody outside a lunatic asylum would think of trying to-day to combine the functions of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and those of the Secretary of State for War in one and the same Ministry and one and the same person. Only lately we have had new Ministries created, and no doubt we shall have more. I noticed that the Prime Minister, in reply to a deputation yesterday, 323 did not altogether deny that there might be a need for a Minister of Commerce. That would be a new Ministry against which exactly the same arguments might be used as against a Ministry of Aviation. The real difficulty at the moment is said to be that you might, by carrying out my proposal, produce confusion in a time of war. I believe that the possibilities of confusion are exaggerated. As I have said, in my opinion you would very soon get the heads of the Services and the personnel to work together.
§ I may be asked what I propose should be the functions of the, as I will call it, Board of Aviation. The first function of such a Board should be that of construction and supply. The Derby Committee to-day, I believe, has to do with supply, but not with construction; at least, it has not been announced that it has anything to do with construction. I should like to see the Board of Aviation deal also with the question of future policy. It should be able to inform the General Staff what is the best kind of machines to construct for certain purposes. It should, I think, include amongst its members a representative certainly of the Admiralty and of the War Office; it ought also to have upon it a member with commercial and manufacturing experience, and a member of the General Staff. Per contra it ought to have a member delegated to the General Staff for informing the General Staff of what it proposes to do. It might be formed largely on the model of the Board of Admiralty, on which Naval Lords have separate and distinct functions, but sit together, with possible additions, as the Board of Admiralty. Then look at the matter from the point of view of purely Parliamentary responsibility. If anything goes wrong with our Air Service, if Zeppelins come over and do serious harm in this country, who is the Minister responsible? I have never discovered that there is any Minister particularly responsible.
§ As to the defence of London, there have been, I think, four different stages in regard to its organisation. It originally had to do with Scotland Yard; then it passed to the Admiralty; it was then diluted with a certain number of garrison gunners; and now, I believe, it is under the control of Lord French. The very fact that there has been such vacillation proves to my mind that it is almost impossible—whether it is an anti-aircraft corps which has to be organised or an Air Service—for the Army 324 and the Navy, both responsible and both putting the blame if anything goes wrong on to the other, to carry out the proper organisation and control of the Air Service of this country. I know that it would be useless at this stage to ask the Government to consent right away to a Ministry of Aviation. A great deal has to be thought out—I am being perfectly straightforward about it, I hope—before such a Ministry could be established. But I do think that the Government ought to take the Derby Committee, magnify it, and give it more power so that it may form the germ of what may come later. I think that whoever is chairman of that Committee should certainly be a member of the Cabinet, if not of the War Council. But to leave the Committee as it is, merely an inter-Departmental Committee, is only touching the fringe of the question and is not going to do any real good at all.
§ Then there is the question of how far you should throw your vision forward in regard to the Air Service. At the present moment the Air Service both by land and sea is merely auxiliary to the great forces of the Navy and the Army. I can see a time coming when the Air Service will be more important than either the Navy or the Army. Recent improvements in aviation have made this country no longer an island from a military sense. It is so close to the Continent as to be vulnerable to attack by a nation which has organised better than we have its Air Service, and the danger will increase as the years go on. I think the country must get into the habit of looking upon the Air Service not as an auxiliary to the Army and the Navy, but as a great Service which must establish traditions of its own and to which we will have to look in future years largely for the defence of this country. It took many years before the value of sea-power was realised; it will be many years before the value of air-power is realised. It should be brought home to every one that the air is a universal element; it is not confined, like the sea, between land and land; it is not like the land, on only a portion of which you can fight owing to mountains, rivers, arid wastes, sandy deserts, and so on. It is possible, except at the Poles, to fly everywhere with comparative ease. Therefore you see what a huge problem the Air Service is.
§ I believe it is one of the logical outcomes of the present system of warfare that the 325 greater part of our future warfare will be in the air. Look at the position of the infantryman of to-day. He has become a cave-dweller; he has to dig himself in the ground, and to stay there the greater part of his time unless he is actually charging the trenches facing him. Look at what is happening on the sea—the same kind of thing. Many of our most gallant sailors have become diving men, because the submarine means nothing less. The effect of modern powerful guns and explosives so great that it will tend more and more to drive the issue of battle into the element of the air. You will never get past trenches without an enormous loss of life, unless you can take people over them or shell them from above, and that can only be done by means of the air. Therefore the lesson to be learned is that warfare in the air will increase, and that supremacy in the air is the goal for which this country should strive.
§ There is another aspect. All war is becoming more and more scientific as years go on, but warfare in the air will become more scientific than anything that has preceded it, and we in this country, who have rather despised science up to now, must alter our national attitude. In Germany science is worshipped. I wish it were only half as much worshipped here. And it is because war is becoming more scientific that our foes will become more dangerous. There is no part of our national offence and defence that I can think of in which we are not laboriously copying the enemy—after, in some cases, the elapse of months. We have followed him in guns, in trench warfare, and in many other things; and although we had supremacy in the air a year ago, I am afraid we shall have to follow him in the air also. The truth is that all war is tending to become more scientific, and war in the air more scientific of all; and that being so, it is to me unthinkable that we should leave the foresight which has to be exercised and the organisation of this great Service to a divided responsibility, the Navy having responsibility for a portion and the Army for the other. Let it be one Service; by all means with two branches, but one Service for one element.
§ I will give three instances of present problems of our Air Service with which the Board of Aviation should deal—problems which are simple enough, but which will require all the brains we have at our 326 disposal in this country to solve. Without going into details, I will say that the problems which the Board of Aviation should consider are, first, the provision of powerful enough aeroplanes for use at the Front; secondly, the provision of powerful enough anti-aircraft guns; and, thirdly, the construction and building at once of airships of the rigid type—in other words, of the Zeppelin type—for this country. As regards the first point, I think it is admitted that for the moment we have lost our supremacy in the air, and that we must have more powerful planes. I will not go further into that question. As regards the second point our anti-aircraft guns at the present moment are with few exceptions of far too small a calibre and nothing like powerful enough to do serious damage to a Zeppelin. Any one who saw one of the raids in September last, as I did when I first came home from India, must have thought it tragic and pitiable that the shells fired at a Zeppelin flying between 7,000 and 8,000 feet high burst at the extreme range of 5,000 feet. Any one acquainted with the construction of the Zeppelin and its powers of ascent and flight knows that you want powerful guns to do it material damage. The modem Zeppelin consists of many balloonettes, perhaps twenty. If you perforate only one of them, that particular balloonette may lose its ascending power, but unless you can set it on fire or tear the envelopes of other balloonettes seriously, the airship will probably get home, and, after repair, become a formidable adversary on a future occasion.
§ There was at one time in this country a great contempt for Zeppelins, and a conviction that they could always he overcome by aeroplanes. I have never subscribed to that view. I told your Lordships in 1913, and in 1910 as well, that for the proper defence of this country you must have both kinds of aircraft. They have their separate uses, and to depend entirely upon aeroplanes to protect our shores against aircraft is a great mistake. There is something else which we should remember. We should do to our enemies what they do to us, to this extent. They attack, and are going to attack more, our manufacturing districts, while we have never attacked their manufacturing districts to any serious extent. We have only got a few miles, comparatively speaking, behind their lines. Yet 327 there are points on our frontier in Flanders which are far closer to Essen and the great industrial centres of Westphalia than are our industrial districts to, say, the town of Ghent, in Belgium, from which some of the German airships come. We are absolutely unable to give the only proper reply we should make—that is, the bombing and destruction of the hangars of the enemy and the harassing of his manufacturing districts.
§ To convince your Lordships of the seriousness of the modern Zeppelin, I shall, perhaps, be excused if I quote a few technical details which will in no way assist the enemy because they come from a German source. First of all, I suppose that everyone will grant that the Zeppelin fleet possessed by Germany is still a considerable one. I believe our General Staff put it at seventeen. Within the last few days I have seen a gentleman from Berlin, a neutral, who is in a position to know what he is talking about, and he puts it as high as fifty. I put it myself, from evidence I have received, at between thirty and forty. Of that fleet a certain number are, of course, on the Russian front, and a certain number are always under repair; but to-day as we sit here in this House there would be the possibility, supposing the naval and the military airships of Germany combined, of a fleet of certainly not less than twenty being put in the air at the same moment. That is a very formidable fleet when you consider that each ship can carry from one and a-half to two tons of explosives, and, what is much more dangerous than explosives, fire-raising chemicals like thermit and oxide of aluminium, materials under which steel melts like wax and which hardly anything known to science can resist, for they have a temperature of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The great danger in this country is not from explosives but from fires. I do not wish to say anything that would lead to panic, but I would like His Majesty's Government to consult acknowledged fire experts, such as the London Fire Brigade and the fire brigades of our great cities, on this subject. They will corroborate my statement that if enough thermit bombs are dropped on a city one would not like to contemplate the loss of life, the damage, and the shock to the national nerves which would follow.
§ I have reason to believe that the length of the most recent form of Zeppelins is 328 over 500 feet, and will shortly be over 600 feet. Westminster Hall is 220 feet long. Therefore the newest form of Zeppelins approaches three times the length of Westminster Hall. They are 65 feet in diameter; they are furnished with four engines and propellers; the weight of the ship exceeds 12½ tons; and the freight, including fuel, crew, and bombs, 11 tons; and these Zeppelins have a radius, or will very shortly have a radius, of 2,500 miles at economical speeds. In other words, even from Emden itself, without taking into consideration the hangars which may exist in Belgium, these formidable engines of war can not only cover all the parts of this country that matter, all the industrial districts, But they can and may operate in a very dangerous way against the use of our Fleet. These machines take only about 5 lbs. weight of fuel and lubricating oil for every mile that they cover. Thus if they are going a short distance, say to London—for London is a short distance—they would carry many more bombs and less fuel than if they were going further; but in any case they would carry bombs in enough quantities to be very dangerous to this country.
§ Let us consider for a moment the distances. I take Ghent as the centre. London is only 160 miles from Ghent, Sheerness 120 miles, Dover 110 miles, Portsmouth 220 miles, and our manufacturing districts as far West as the west of Staffordshire are not more than 250 miles; whilst from the important naval base of Emden the distance to Hull is only 300 miles, to Newcastle 320 miles, to Manchester 350 miles—and now I come to one of the most important aspects—to the Firth of Forth 450 miles, to Cromarty 530 miles, and to Scapa Flow 550 miles. So that when we consider that the range of these airships, with their frightfully dangerous freight, certainly exceeds 2,000 miles, we have to extend our ideas considerably of the danger that may exist for us.
§ The naval aspect of the Zeppelin is at least as serious as—in my opinion more serious than—the aspect on land. If the German Fleet comes out some day—it may be at a time which does not only suit the fleet, but at a time which suits the Zeppelins—and a large fleet of Zeppelins accompany the German Fleet, they will, I feel sure, although their aid may not redress the balance against the superiority of our Fleet 329 on account of numbers, efficiency, and other things, yet they will cause extra losses, they will make the tactics of our Fleet more difficult, and they may even have a serious influence on the battle itself.
§ Some people say, as regards this country, that we should try and defend it to a large extent by artillery, and I was sorry when the Secretary of State for War gave us to understand the other day that the building of certain anti-aircraft guns had been accelerated to the disadvantage of other guns in order, if possible, to cope with this danger. You might just as well try to retain the supremacy of the sea by means of a few forts on the land around the coast of England as to cope with Zeppelins by setting up artillery all over this country. Unless you are going—and the idea is unthinkable on account of the number of places to protect—unless you are going to have at least 6-in. guns all over your manufacturing centres, artillery can do little good. The Zeppelins can rise higher than the extreme range—I will not give the figure—of our present guns. Even the Zeppelins that existed before the war could fly to a height of something like 15,000 feet, and they habitually operate to-day at between 10,000 and 11,000 feet. To do any damage to a Zeppelin in the air at that height would need a very large gun indeed, and any gunnery expert will tell you that accurate shooting at an object travelling, as some of these airships do, at seventy miles an hour, is a very difficult thing. The airships when attacking us do not come over at their top speed. They come over at an economical speed—about thirty-five miles an hour; but when they get here, if they are fired at—although the Germans claim they have airships that can go up to eighty miles an hour, I think myself that is an excessive claim—they can go up to a mile a minute and probably seventy miles an hour; and to hit an object going at seventy miles an hour when you do not know the drift in a particular wind at something like 12,000 to 13,000 feet high is beyond the powers of gunnery even in its most refined form. It is all very well to have guns at definite points, but that is not the way to overcome the Zeppelin danger. The way to overcome the Zeppelin danger is to carry the war into the enemy's camp, to be prepared yourself with Zeppelins, and, above all, to have more powerful planes to bomb the enemy's hangars. That is the only and the surest way of defending your own territory.330
§ Now a word about the position of 'planes. Here it becomes very difficult for me to say much, because one naturally wants to say nothing to discourage our pilots or manufacturers or to give information to the other side. But if I put it in this way I do not think it will do any harm. The Germans know perfectly well that they have some machines which are faster than any we have got by certainly 200 feet a minute in their power of ascending. They have also some two-seaters carrying a pilot and an observer which are more heavily armoured and more heavily armed than anything we possess. That is not satisfactory. And there is a new engine, I am informed, coming out in Germany of 225 horse-power, and an extraordinarily light 'plane which should give better results than are being obtained at present.
§ At the moment in this country I consider that the private firms have largely saved the situation. If we had depended entirely upon our Royal Aircraft Factory we should have been left further behind than we are at present. I know that at one time our Royal Aircraft Factory was doing fairly well, and I should be the last to blame the director there—Mr. O'Gorman—because I know how he was handicapped by financial restrictions and want of support in other directions in the early days of the war; and this being a Government Department he has not the same latitude for research, investigation, and trial, as exists in a private undertaking. I think it is worth while noting that both in France and in Germany all the finest guns as well as the finest 'planes come out of private factories. The Creusot firm in France and Krupps in Germany are both private firms. I doubt very much the wisdom in any branch of military or naval science of setting up Government manufactories except on a very small scale, It is on your big firms that you must rely when the time of strain comes, and not to give them orders in time of peace is, I believe, a very bad policy indeed. The French have very powerful and better 'planes than we have, and I think we should acknowledge publicly the debt we owe to them. We are at the present moment copying many of their planes in our workshops, and they have been very fair and generous to us in the way they have helped us. The Renault firm's engines are being made here without restriction or hindrance; and any advantage that they may possess to-day only conies from the fact that they have been more enterprising, and we only copy what 331 they have perfected. I draw attention to this because I know there are people who say that the French have not given us all the information they might, have done on this question.
I would like before I sit down, not with any idea of self-glorification but with the idea of showing that my interest in this matter has been consistent for many years past, to refer to some of my former utterances on this subject, because I think that my words are to a certain extent a condemnation of the methods adopted by the Government in past years. As long ago as 1909—on March 16—I called the attention of the House to this matter. After recounting what had been done by foreign nations, I asked whether we should be able to carry out our national policy, the policy we always adopt in this country, of trying to come in with a rush at the end. I asked, Shall we be able in this matter to come in with a rush? You cannot improvise planes or factories, and the answer you see to-day in the unsatisfactory state we are in. Then on April 13, 1910, I warned your Lordships that there was only one way of meeting an attack by dirigibles and aeroplanes, and that was by "meeting like with like." That is quite true to-day. Later, on April 29, 1913, I mentioned the fact that explosives might be dropped from Zeppelins. I said—
It would produce a state of dismay and a scene of ruin which could hardly be paralleled by any artillery work.
That I think you will see before the end of the war. I went on to say—
That is a new and serious problem which we have to consider. To civilised life nerves are as important as muscles. Our complicated civilised life is dependent upon the smooth and automatic working of transport or means of communication, banks, the Stock Exchange, telegraphs and telephones, the distribution of food, and so on.
Then I went on to warn the Government of the day of the danger to which our manufacturing centres were exposed. I saidߞ
An inland town like Birmingham or Leicester is just as vulnerable now as is London or Portsmouth. The fact is that with the great range of dirigibles nowadays—
this was fifteen months before the outbreak of war—
there is no town in this comparatively small island of England, there is no place in your manufacturing districts, which could be considered safe, and which would not be liable to serious damage from explosives dropped from above; whilst the amount of damage that might be done in the case of our arsenals would be of a serious description.
I If I had written that last night I could not have prophesied more correctly. But, as I said at the beginning of my speech, it is no use saying "I told you so."
§ What we have to look at now is our policy in the future. I am one of those who think that Zeppelins are to-day a very great danger indeed, and that there is no amount of comfort in the phrase that "no damage has been done of military value." The truth is we have had stupendous luck up to now. I will not quote the cases because it might help the enemy, but I know the case of one great powder works, one great munition works, and one great factory which only escaped by a matter of a few yards. In a raid in last September one airship actually dropped bombs in the garden of the manager of a powder works, and came directly from a point in Germany or Belgium. In the raid of January 31 one of our most important machine-shops for making air-engines, and one of the best air engines, was only missed by a few yards also. That luck cannot be expected to continue. Sooner or later you will not only have factories destroyed which are of military value, but, as I said before, you may have fires which may not only burn your stores but create an immense amount of damage.
§ I fear I have taken up too much of your Lordships' time, but the subject with which I have had to deal is a serious one and one about which I feel deeply. I have tried to say nothing which would help the enemy. I have tried to restrain my criticisms within the length to which they ought to be restrained in a time of war. I could say much more. I could tell of scandals which only a few days ago even were still going on. In one factory, while all this demand for aviation is so insistent, they are still making twenty-five motor-cars a week for the use of the Staff and have handicapped the production of these most important engines. That is worse than a scandal. The man who is responsible for that ought to be hanged. I will not, however, go into details, because it would help the enemy and would not help us. But I ask the Government to take up this matter very seriously indeed. I would point out again that from a military or naval point of view we cannot be said any longer to be an island. Parts of our shores are within an hour's flight of the enemy; our capital can be reached from the nearest. German hangar in three hours; our industrial centres are not more than 333 four hours' flight. We are unprepared to resist or to destroy any Zeppelins that come over in force. Our original advantages arising from our insular position are rapidly disappearing. Even the favourable meteorological position we hold is diminishing, because any neutral can send a wireless from the Thames without let or hindrance about the state of the weather in this country. Upon the efficiency of our Air Service now and in the future much will depend; and although I do not attach much value as a rule to a peroration, if I may end on a note of grave warning I would say—Let it not be said with shame of our generation that we did not trouble to guard in the air what our forefathers won on the sea.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, I am very glad that this question has been raised by the noble Lord, for there is certainly no one in this House who can speak with greater authority on the subject, and I am sure that his speech has been listened to with the greatest interest and attention. Before I say anything on the subject under discussion, I should like, if he will allow me, to offer him my hearty congratulations on his recent escape, and to assure him of the great pleasure it gives me and I am sure every member of the House to see him in his place.
My noble friend has not only the right to speak from intimate knowledge of the subject, but also from the fact that ever since the commencement of aviation as we now know it he has not ceased to call the attention of the House to the dangers which were being incurred and to urge upon His Majesty's Government to take action before it was too late. I have refreshed my memory by reading his speeches—some of them were quoted this morning in The Times—and I have been struck by the evidence he produced to show what Germany had been doing and the arguments he brought forward to induce the Government to take immediate action. What also struck me were the replies made on behalf of the Government. They were of the usual kind. They were short; they did not occupy more than a column or two of Hansard; and they stated that the Government were alive to the necessities of the case and thought it advisable on the whole not to spend much money but to await their time and profit by the mistakes—I think the word used was 334 "experience"—of other countries. We are all agreed, I am sure, that we can no longer wait to profit by the mistakes of Germany; we ought rather to try and emulate her success. I am afraid it all points to the great advantage which in preparations for war an autocratic country has over a democratic country, because the latter is so occupied with schemes of social legislation that it is sometimes inclined to neglect even the measures necessary for the defence of the country and without which those measures of social legislation are of little avail.
About three weeks ago I asked a question in this House on the subject of Zeppelin raids, and I ventured to say that in my opinion it was only part of a larger subject—that of aerial offence and defence—which to my mind could only be properly solved by the creation of an Air Minister. I did not receive much encouragement from the noble and gallant Field-Marshal who replied on behalf of the Government. I did not expect it from that source, but I was rather disappointed to find that cold water was thrown on the idea by noble Lords in various parts of the House who seemed to think that the Cabinet was already so large that it would be a pity to increase its number. I was therefore rather amused when, within two days, the noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) announced, with the universal approval of everybody in this House—and I think that approval was not confined to this House—that the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Robert Cecil) had been raised to Cabinet rank as Blockade Minister. The truth is that when the Cabinet has reached its present unwieldy dimensions it does not make very much difference whether it consists of twenty-two or thirty-two members. The real business of carrying on the war is confined to the War Committee. The other Ministers confine themselves to attending to their own Departmental concerns and as far as possible making them fit in with the exigencies of the war, and I imagine they are seldom consulted by the members of the War Committee unless an absolutely new scheme of policy is decided on or it is desired to consult a special Minister with reference to something to do with his own Department.
I am not wedded to the idea that a Minister of Aviation should necessarily be 335 a member of the Cabinet. I think it is an advantage that he should be, because he would then be on terms of equality with his colleagues the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War; and I am perfectly certain that if an Air Minister were appointed and he were a sufficiently strong man, it would not be very long before he became a member of the Cabinet. Since I spoke the other day, as my noble friend has pointed out, a Committee has been appointed with the noble Earl, Lord Derby, as chairman. I am sorry the noble Earl is not in his place to-day—I believe he is in France. But when he spoke on the subject he was careful to tell us that the Committee's duties were very limited. As far as I can make out, they are those, as the noble Lord said, of an inter-Departmental Committee, which is to try if possible to co-ordinate the use of men and materials between the Army and the Navy—at any rate, it has nothing to do with the question of the defence of the United Kingdom. Perhaps I may quote from the noble Earl's speech. Lord Derby said—I am chairman of a Committee, and I am glad to say that I have nothing whatever to do with the defence of the United Kingdom against aircraft. I wish to emphasise that, because one newspaper said—and it has been repeated by others and also by one distinguished man in Parliamentary life—that what was required was that the Air Service should have at its head for the defence of this kingdom against aircraft a man who, if anything went wrong, could be hanged.I think the noble Earl was perfectly right if by that he meant that we wished to have at the head of the Air Department a man who would be responsible for what occurred; though I may add, with regard to the noble Earl himself, that if he were willing to undertake the task and fulfilled it with the same ability as he fulfilled the task of Director-General of Recruiting, I think we would be much more likely to surround his brow with a laurel wreath than encircle his neck with a silken rope. My noble friend, Lord Midleton, on the opening night of the session, stated that advice was often given in this House to members of His Majesty's Government and it generally took six months before they acted upon it. I hope that the Government will not take so long as six months before acting upon the advice which has been given to them by Lord Montagu this evening, as there is certainly at the present moment serious discontent with the manner 336 in which this question is being dealt with, and a feeling that the Army and Navy are dealing with it purely from a hand to mouth point of view, thinking only of supplying the immediate needs of the Army and the Navy with regard to aeroplanes and not looking upon the matter from a broader point of view.
Let me take one instance where I think the creation of an Air Minister would be of use—the defence of London. It is rather difficult for me to give reasons. In the first place, there is the fear of giving information to the enemy, and in the second place, if any mention is made of the desirability of defending London there are some people and some newspapers who immediately think that one wishes to save oneself from any risk even at the expense of hampering the movements of the Army in France by preventing it from acquiring the aeroplanes it needs. That is a calumny which it is unnecessary to refute in this House. But I should like to refer to how matters stand with regard to the defence of London. The noble Lord who has just spoken told us that its organisation had passed through several hands. What I believe really happened was that at the time the war broke out the War Office had too much to do to attend to it, and the Lord Mayor approached the Admiralty to see if anything could be done. They found a certain number of special constables whom they formed into an Anti Aircraft Corps, and this corps, about a month ago when the question of defence was transferred to the Army, consisted of over 1,600 men, nearly all above military age; and there was a long waiting list which would have enabled their numbers to be supplemented. They are men of good education—civil engineers, electrical engineers, surveyors, and men of that kind; a great many of them are trained in higher mathematics. In addition a large number of them, both officers and men, underwent a course of training in anti-aircraft gunnery—range finding, attack tables, and things of that kind—at Shoeburyness, Chatham, and elsewhere. They were so highly thought of that when Sir Percy Scott relinquished the command of the corps he wrote a letter to the First Lord of the Admiralty. A portion of that letter was reproduced in an Order of the Day to the Anti-Aircraft Corps, and with your Lordships' permission I will read it Sir Percy Scott wrote— 337The members of the Anti-Aircraft Corps, drawn as they are from all professions and spheres, have rendered me the most valuable help. They have all, both officers and men, displayed an energetic eagerness to master the intricacies of their new duties, and it gives me great pleasure to convey to you how much I have appreciated their intelligent services.When the defence of London was taken over by the Army, the number of these men was diminished and a certain number of soldiers replaced them. I suppose this was necessary as it was in military hands. I asked a Question with reference to this the other day, and the noble and gallant Field-Marshal said that I was mistaken as to the fears I had expressed with regard to it. He added—The new garrison artillery that are taking over guns for the defence of London are for new guns, newly-mounted, and they do not take the place of the naval gunners.Since the noble and gallant Field-Marshal made that statement this arrangement has, I think, been somewhat modified, because I believe I am right in saying that some of the garrison artillery who now have charge of the defence of the metropolis are extremely young men, some of them having not more than four or five weeks training, and they have absolutely no knowledge of gunnery of any kind or description. Besides this, they are ill young men of military age who one would imagine would naturally go to the Front, particularly when these other Anti-Aircraft Corps men who are all over military age are willing to take their places. And owing to the fact that they are on duty day and night it requires thirty soldiers to do the work which was formerly performed by eight anti-aircraft men.
The noble and gallant Field-Marshal, in the speech to which I have referred, said that among the men who were taking charge of the defence of London were trained gunners, "who have been shooting at enemy aeroplanes at the Front." I wish, however, to ask whether this experience necessarily fits them for the work which they are called upon to perform in London. At the Front they have to fire against aeroplanes in the day time. I believe that they take direct aim, that there is no necessity for range finding. And they are able to see the effect of their shots. Here they are called upon to take charge of a different kind of gun which has to fire against Zeppelins at night, and they have no practice for any range finding or attack tables or anything of that kind. A story is current—I do not know whether it is true—that 338 one of these men was so troubled with the different directions he had received with regard to the new guns that he said, "Well, if I see a Zeppelin all I can do is to aim straight at it, and I hope that the order will be given 'F.L.H.,' which being interpreted means 'Fire like—shall we say?—Hades.'" I am glad to learn that the officers of the anti-aircraft stations have been retained in these stations to give instruction to their successors, and that consequently we are not exposed to dangers from these inexperienced gunners. The fact that the defence of London was handed over to the military and added to the already onerous duties of Lord French made it inevitable that a certain number of soldiers should be employed. But this would not have been the case with an Air Minister, because he would have been free to retain the whole of the Anti-Aircraft Corps, to add to their number, and to pay special attention to the requirements of London. He would have been able to see to the necessity of keeping up an adequate supply of high-explosive and incendiary shells, of seeing that there were proper listening posts, of having night tracers, and also of seeing that wherever possible there are four batteries, which would ensure that the Zeppelin should fly into a zone of fire.
I have dwelt upon only one small point, because it is familiar to us all. I have not touched upon the larger question referred to by my noble friend—namely, the supply of aeroplanes and of airships—which is of the very first necessity. It seems to me that the appointment of an Air Minister would be of the greatest use to see that these were properly provided. Let the Army and the Navy have all they want; their claim comes first. But this should not prevent a special Department from inquiring what else can be done. The noble Lord alluded to the fact that one factory which is specially adapted for the manufacture of engines for aeroplanes is now being utilised for the manufacture of engines for motorcars for the Staff officers at the Front. I was going to refer to that particularly, but there is now no need for me to do so. My Lords, we do want to feel that we are no longer going on from hand to mouth, being fully satisfied if we can supply the wants of the Army and Navy. We have to take immediate steps to let Germany know that we are making up for lost time. We have done so with regard to the Army and with regard to munitions. Why should we 339 sit with folded hands while Germany raids our towns, and may, perhaps, even raid our Fleet? Let us know that there is some one in charge who is considering this question, who is devising new protection for us at home, who is planning fresh methods of attack on the Zeppelins in their homes—some one who will make Germany realise that she will not be allowed to maintain her present supremacy in the air, but that we are as determined to wrest it from her as we are to maintain our supremacy at sea.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, with the conclusion of the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat clown I, like your Lordships, am in entire agreement. The question is not what we desire to do, but how to get it done; and it is upon that question that I wish to offer a few observations. The noble Lord who introduced the subject this afternoon has, as all of us know, worked at this subject with great devotion, and I who some years ago was concerned with its early developments can testify personally, not only to the services that he rendered to those who were charged with the responsible duty of laying the foundations of the Air Service, but to the way in which he was always helpful and always of assistance from the large fund of information which he had accumulated. Yet in the speeches both of the noble Lord and of Lord Oranmore there seemed to me to be a note of uncertainty. A Minister of the Air is suggested, another Minister to be added to the already very large Cabinet. The noble Lord who spoke last remarked reflectively that the Cabinet is so large that it does not matter very much whether you add another, and he might have added that it will not do very much good if you add another.
I thought, in listening to both speeches, that there was one question about which it was desirable that we should come to some conclusion before we proceed further, and that is this. What is the new Minister to administer? What is he to look after, and what is to be his task? The noble Lord suggested that he might look after the personnel not only of the defence of London, but of the whole Air Service. I wonder what Admiral Jellicoe would say if the men who were responsible for his sea scouting in the North Sea were men whom he did not himself command, and who did not belong to the Naval Service.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
I suggest that the Air Minister should be responsible for home defence and also for the supply of aeroplanes and of airships for defence and offence, but that aeroplanes and airships when co-operating with the Army or the Navy should be under the local commander.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I can only say that if there are to be, not two Services as at present, but three Services, then I think the confusion will be worse confounded. If you are going to train your men, you must train them under the people who are responsible for them and to whom they are to be responsible; and three Services would certainly lead to greater confusion in that direction than the present arrangement. To me it is clear that there are two quite distinct questions here. One is how the machines are to be used and who is to use them, and the other is how the requisite machines are to be provided. There, I think, both noble Lords who have spoken have a good point. Owing to the division of energy and of capacity there is no doubt to my mind that we have suffered, for we have not been able to concentrate the resources and brains of the nation upon the production of the machines. But, after all this like anything else, is a question of settling first principles. We have heard a good deal too much of "push and go," what is called violent action before thinking, instead of violent thinking before action. I want to see a little more violent thinking introduced into the problem which we have to consider. In every respect the lesson of this war has been the absolute necessity of getting clear conceptions of what it is we want to accomplish and working them out. That principle, I am glad to say, has been developed lately in our military affairs, and I think in our naval affairs though possibly not with the same distinct recognition. It is absolutely necessary that you should apply that principle now before you can make any real progress with the air problem.
Let me illustrate what I mean. As I have said, I had a good deal to do with the early question of aeroplanes. I remember very well when aeroplanes first became a pressing necessity, and I remember the shoal of inventions and projects which came to me as Minister of War in those days and which I had to consider. I saw a great many of the inventors, and I read any quantity of 341 specifications and plans, and I consulted any number of experts. And what was impressed on me was this, that I was asked to deal with the second stage of the problem instead of first being called upon to deal with the first stage. The first stage was how to get definitely ascertained the principles which should guide construction. I do not mean merely as regards the shape of the machines but as regards the material out of which they should be constructed, the power of the machines, and an infinity of technical detail of great importance. The second was how to carry these principles into practice and to apply them. The course we took in those days was this, and I have no reason to doubt that it was a good course. The first thing we did was to take the National Physical Laboratory, one of the most valuable institutions in this country which covers a great deal of the field of research in matters of this kind, and to construct a new wing there which should be the laboratory or rather the permanent working place of a continuously working Committee. For that Committee we were fortunate enough to secure the services of Lord Rayleigh as president, and we secured the co-operation of some of the greatest theoretical experts in the country. We also had the assistance of Mr. Lanchester and Mr. Mallock, who were famed throughout the country for their remarkable skill in the adaptation of new principles to practice, particularly in problems of mechanical construction. Of course, that Committee could only do one part of the work. At Farnborough, near where the Committee were at work, was established, under the able guidance of Mr. O'Gorman, who was picked for the purpose, a Construction Department. Mr. O'Gorman was in the closest consultation with the Committee, and he set to work, not to produce aeroplanes on a large scale in regard to numbers—which I think the noble Lord rather assumed—but to work out the models on the principles which had been ascertained and worked out by the Committee.
The noble Lord referred to the very good position which our aeroplanes attained early in the war. I think that was largely due to the work of Lord Rayleigh's Committee and of Mr. O'Gorman. Somehow this country did not take the interest in the Air Service that was taken in France and Germany, and the result was that we were much behind. I remember in those days 342 it was almost impossible to get a good engine in this country. We had to go to France for nearly all our engines. But there came a period when I do not think we were behind, and certainly quite early in the war the Commander-in-Chief in France announced that in his opinion and in the opinion of his Staff we had established our ascendancy in the air. Just see what that implies. It implies that in this matter of the aeroplane, working upon these definite principles, trying to think first before acting and to apply science first, we had made up a good deal of the ground. I do not desire your Lordships to assume for a moment that I think there is not an enormous amount of ground to be covered that we ought to have covered. We are far behind, but not in construction and not in design. The Germans may have invented a new engine, but the engine which works the Fokker aeroplane, I am told, is only an adaptation of the already familiar Morane model in France. That may be so, or it may not. But you are bound to have ups and downs in aeroplane construction. In one month one nation will be ahead, and in another month another nation; but I have no fear that France and England, organised as they are in the matter of construction and with the scientific assistance they are receiving, will be able to hold their own if only we use our opportunities.
In the matter of aeroplanes, something else was done after my time. Colonel Seely and Mr. Churchill between them organised the Flying Corps who were to operate these machines, and we were fortunate enough to get for the head of the corps an officer of great distinction, General Sir David Henderson, than whom I venture to say there is no more competent person to be found. I do not know how we stand at this moment as regards our aeroplane service for the Army, but I should doubt very much if we are behind the enemy. If we are, it is nothing more than temporary. In any circumstances we may hope speedily to recover ourselves. With the organisation I have described and the development and the capacity here, it is our own fault if we are behind.
But when I come to speak of Zeppelins—the lighter-than-air machines—I have a different tale to tell. The Zeppelin is an invention of the enemy in which we are lamentably behind; and we are behind not because we did not try, but because we did not succeed in accomplishing. I 343 should have thought that the Zeppelin required at least as much scientific investigation before the foundation of the pattern was laid and the construction decided upon as did the aeroplane, but in those early days the Zeppelin did not receive the same attention. The Zeppelin did not rest with the Army. It was consigned to the Navy by the Committee of Imperial Defence. The Navy are magnificent in construction, but their construction had not included any experience for the making of these great airships. I do not know, but I doubt, whether Lord Rayleigh's Committee was consulted very much upon the physical conditions to which a Zeppelin must conform. I do not think the Farnborough factory, which, after all, included experts of a very high order in engine construction, had much to do with them. The only real Zeppelin that I know of that was ever constructed here was constructed at Barrow, and it met with an accident and went to pieces immediately. The Admiralty appear to have been discouraged and not to have proceeded further. Speaking for myself, I think we missed a great opportunity of applying to the construction of Zeppelins the same amount of science that we endeavoured to apply to the construction of aeroplanes. I think that if the same course had been taken with regard to them we should be much further advanced than we are to-day. We did try to construct airships, and we constructed some small ones. I remember the very primitive airship which was all we could accomplish in the beginning, and I shall never forget an ascent which I made myself in the earliest of them. It was an experience I do not look back to with any pleasure. But somehow the progress has been very uneven. The heavier-than-air machine has progressed well, while with the lighter-than-air machine we seem never to have succeeded; and the cause to which I assign that is our not having worked out first principles in the same way as regards the heavier-than-air machine, and not having had the same special expert attention devoted to its construction.
If that be so, what is its bearing on the problem we have to-day? Its bearing is that we have to make up the lost ground. A Minister of Air is all very well. Some day or other the Air Service may have grown to such enormous dimensions that we will need a Minister of Air; but I feel sure he will be a Minister of Construction. 344 I do not think you will ever be able to take the machines—the arms, as they are—which have been produced by the Construction Department away from the Commander-in-Chief of the naval and of the military forces and put them under anybody else. I am quite sure that you must distinguish between the weapon you produce, so far as its construction is concerned, and the person who is to use it. If that be so, then at the present time what we should, like to be assured of is that the same amount of science is being devoted to the construction of the Zeppelin as certainly was devoted to the construction of the aeroplane. I do not know what course the Government are taking in this respect. It would not be the slightest use to appoint a Minister to solve that problem unless he were a person of very remarkable talent. What you really want is to insist that to the problems of construction the amount of attention is given which is required. I do not think it is possible to turn round suddenly and take the construction out of the hands in which it is at the present time. That would only bring things into confusion. I should be very sorry to see the control and the direction of the Army Air Service in any way removed from the responsibility and control of General Henderson, but I should like to feel sure, in regard to the problem of constructing the other kind of ships, that we are putting our backs into the business of producing the requisite scientific and technical ability. It is not for the Admiralty merely to hit upon a pattern and then hand it over to the constructor. It is not enough to do these things when you have leeway to make up on the science which has been brought to bear on this subject in Germany.
In Germany there has been no separate Minister for Air, as far as I know; nor in France. What has been done is that the Navy and Army have been strengthened to the utmost point with scientific equipment. General Staff principles have been applied, and the work has been divided into two. Construction has been treated as one subject, and the use of the weapon as another. When the weapon is produced the fighting Service takes charge of it and uses it, and in my opinion that must be so; but to construction as well as to the use of the weapon General Stall principles have been applied. The beginning that has always been made has been 345 a scientific beginning. Ours has not been a scientific beginning, at any rate so far as lighter-than-air machines are concerned, and I put down our want of progress to a want of seriousness about methods of construction. The work of the Admiralty in shipbuilding has been for long magnificent, simply because there has grown up silently and unobtrusively a scientific department which thoroughly understands these things. But in days when everything is strained, when the work of naval construction is enormous, you certainly cannot develop the requisite talent; and if you are to make any progress, you will have to bring in the very best outside ability to assist in the production of the requisite machines.
I have said these things because I think the whole of these questions relating to the air are discussed too lightly. You have people constantly coming forward with this and that prescription for remedying the evil. Remedy the evil rapidly you cannot. You have to make up the leeway of neglect in the past of science in a hundred departments which are telling against us in this war. I have said it many times before, and I say it again—that is the thing we have to learn most if we are to make sure of keeping our position in the future. There are departments now in which the most scientific consideration is being devoted by other nations to problems which will arise immediately after the war, as well as to problems which are arising now. I wish I felt sure that we were devoting anything like the time we ought to that kind of reflective consideration. I am sure we are not. We are a great deal better than we used to be, but that is not enough. Other nations have progressed with enormous rapidity in this direction, while we have been progressing with very moderate rapidity.
The question before your Lordships today is profoundly illustrative of that of which I am speaking. It is not a question of calling in some energetic person and making him Minister of Air and saying, "Now produce something." If he is appointed, then indeed in a short time the silken rope of which Lord Derby spoke and to which my noble friend alluded will be about his neck. What you have to do is to begin, at this hour even, by laying the proper foundations which are required before you can hope for success in this 346 new and most difficult construction. I agree with both speakers that in the future the war in the air is likely to play a much greater part than it does at the present time; how great, we cannot tell; it is useless to prophesy. We know that we are far behind in point of scouting through the absence of Zeppelins at the present time; that is where the Zeppelins would have been of great use to our Navy. We know that we are materially hampered through not having a fleet of Zeppelins with which we could attack enemy Zeppelins approaching these shores. We have not got them, as we have not set to work seriously in this matter like we have about creating fleets of battleships and other things in which we excel. I believe this country to be behind no other country in its capacity when once it is invoked; We are splendidly practical and resolute; but what we need is to get definite conceptions and to get interests which will stimulate us to action, and until we get those interests we shall never progress. It is not too late to get them in regard to these problems which are pressing on the public attention with reference to the air. But you certainly will not make matters better if you snatch things out of the hands in which they are and put them into the hands of somebody who has probably had less experience and will be less capable of handling them. The true policy is for the Government to strengthen by every means they can what I will call the scientific foundation upon which the Service rests at the present time, and, above all, to make sure that no action is undertaken which does not rest upon the basis of carefully considered conceptions.
§ LORD BERESFORD
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount who has just sat down said that it was quite true that at the beginning of the war we were ahead of all nations in regard to aircraft, and that since then other nations have gone ahead of us. The noble Viscount supplied the explanation himself. There was a good deal too much "push and go" with regard to aircraft; there was nothing thought out; the duties to be performed were never considered; we had no Operations Department; money was spent like water buying from other nations, particularly from America, the machines that they could spare—all different patterns, all requiring different handling and different pilots. That is what happened. I entirely 347 agree with my noble friend Lord Montagu that this new air warfare is going to be perhaps of so tremendous a character that it may supersede armies and navies. Anyway, whatever happens, we should be ahead in the air the same as we are on the water.
Zeppelins are a very grave danger, and I agree with Lord Montagu that the danger is not so much from explosives but from fire. If bombs that contain the liquids of which my noble friend spoke are dropped, you cannot extinguish the outbreak except with sand. Therefore once they drop these fire bombs over magazines or arsenals or towns, which they will do when they have enough Zeppelins, it will be a most deadly danger to us. You might ask, "Well, what do you propose to do?" I would propose that Zeppelins should be built as soon as ever it is possible, for the simple reason that in all war machines you must meet like with like. Artillery is met with Artillery, Infantry with Infantry, and Cavalry with Cavalry. And Zeppelins must be met with Zeppelins. They can get so high up in the air that, even if you have a gun capable of hitting them when it gets its sights on and you have a proper range-finder, it is still problematical whether that gun would hit them. I do not think it is possible for aeroplanes or that class of air-craft to attack a Zeppelin, and for this reason. When the Zeppelin puts her helm down her great buoyancy takes her up; when the aeroplane puts its helm down to climb it reduces its speed because it is driving itself against the atmosphere to get up. Therefore you will not beat Zeppelins except by Zeppelins. The question was asked in another place, "Why do not the British continue to raid or attack places of the enemy, as they did at the beginning of the war or shortly after?" That is easily answered. The machines we bought were nearly all bad machines and had not got air endurance. We have to improve the whole of our machines. Had we at the beginning undertaken the work according to Lord Haldane's idea, we should have been very much further than we are at present. This is a new weapon which requires most scientific working out before you produce it; it requires tremendous science, perhaps more than anything else, after you have produced it in order to enable it to act; and if we had taken English artisans and English manufacturers and had a proper Committee to work this new weapon out 348 at first, we should have been a great deal more advanced than we are at present.
Of this I am certain, that when it comes to air fighting we shall produce young men second to none. They are now the best pilots and the best observers, but they have not the best machines. It is murder to send them up in bad machines. We have lost several of the finest young men in the world by sending them up in bad machines.* We lost Rice and Cresswell, who were sent up in a White's machine which was fitted with petrol for three hours and a water cooler for one hour; the water gave out before the petrol and the joints fused, and those two young men lost their lives. That fine young man Warneford lost his life in an experimental machine. You have no right to send your first-class airmen up in experimental machines. His propeller had the dry rot, and he lost his life. Ireland and Usborne went up with gas bags on the top of one experimental machine that were to be slipped. The first two went, but the third hung on and they were both killed. That was all incorrect and wrong, and, as I say, it is murder so to send them up. The amount of money we have spent uselessly is something fabulous. Why is our naval air machine so far behind the military? Because we want to join on to the air machines the armed motor people. Was there ever anything so lunatic? The officer in charge of the air was, of course, looking after the armed motors. You scattered them all over the globe; they were perfectly useless, and we have spent millions on that. Then we have the "S.S." machine for searching for submarines. It has cost millions upon millions and is practically useless. It might get 100 miles with a fair wind but it is most unlikely, and if it meets a head wind it cannot get back. That is what we have done. We have been too much in a hurry, and have not had the scientific people to work out first what was necessary.
My noble friend Lord Montagu suggested that we should have an Air Minister. I quite see his point, but I do not think it will help the case. And I am sorry to say that I do not quite agree with him as to having one Air Service. An air service is needed for the Army and another for the Navy. The first thing we have to do is to ascertain and define the duties and the* See LORD BERESFORD'S statement, col. 458.349 functions of the Army and the Navy with regard to air service. They are both totally different. The Navy has no business to undertake military work, such as it did with armed motors and flying machines, over the Army. These things are innovations. This is not the Navy's work. It provokes irritation, and very natural irritation, from the sister Service that is so friendly. You have first to make out what are the Navy's duties appertaining to the new air fighting. When those duties are made out clearly, the air squadrons or fleets that belong to the Navy must be as distinctly under the Admiral as are the torpedo squadrons, the cruiser squadrons, or submarine squadrons. It is another arm, but it must be under the Admiral in command. Exactly the same with the Army. The duties of the Army in regard to air service must be clearly defined, and when defined should, as with other arms—the Cavalry, Horse Artillery, Heavy Siege Train and so on—come under one head.
With regard to manufacture, I think I have the sympathy of my noble friend Lord Montagu in this. May I draw a parallel? We will take a seaman who wants to float a certain gun. He says, "I want to float that gun and its complement of 300 rounds of ammunition, so much armour, so much engines, get so much speed, and so much allowed for weight of men and stores." The sailor does not build the ship. That is consigned to the constructor who calculates the platform and the buoyancy necessary. Then we come to the constructor. He does not go down in the market and buy his own material; he orders it, and there is a contract made. You have two different departments for that. That is what we ought to have with the air machine; the soldier and the sailor ought to make out carefully what is wanted for certain purposes, then it ought to be turned over to the scientific man to say how he is going to make those things, and then you have the man who buys what material is necessary.
To revert to my proposal with regard to Zeppelins, we must remember that it took the Germans twelve years before they got a Zeppelin at all, and I think they had fourteen failures. Do we suppose that in this country we are going to find at this moment either the material, the artisans, the gear, or the tools necessary to make this novel machine? It will take years to do it. The only thing we can do at present 350 is to fit up the best machine we can to cover the distances which Lord Montagu mentioned, which will not be very difficult, and make not monthly or weekly but daily attacks against the Zeppelin sheds. They are enormous targets, and our whole individuality at this moment should be devoted to smashing the Zeppelin sheds. If Zeppelins come here—I give my opinion for what it is worth—I do not see, for the reason. I have given, how we can attack them. These ships go at seventy miles an hour, remember. You are not able to know whether they are on an even keel or descending or ascending, which makes all the difference in finding the range; and I do not think, even if you had a gun that would reach them at the height to which they can go, you would ever hit them—anyway it is extremely problematical. They are a very grave danger, and our best way of meeting them is to attack them in the places from where they come.
I have no great confidence in what Lord Derby will be able to do on his Committee after his speech in this House in which he said he was responsible for nothing. What we really want is somebody responsible. We should have a small Committee for the Army and a small Committee for the Navy, and they should consider the question of designs for the Air Service. We want a co-ordinated organisation, not only between the different parts of the Navy and the different parts of the Army, but, if possible, as my noble friend Lord Montagu said, between the two Services. The sooner we get that the better.
Before I sit down, though I believe I am totally out of order, there is a question so transcendently important that, if your Lordships will permit me, I should like to make a, remark about it. Statements have been made that our Fleet is not ready, that it will be less ready in a few months' time, and that the management of the Fleet is not satisfactory. I think these statements are wicked statements to make. They are liable to make our Allies and the neutrals nervous, and they have created a grave amount of anxiety in this country and of irritation in the Fleet. I feel that it is necessary in the public interest that somebody in this House should call attention to the matter and repudiate the statements with considerable vehemence. It is an attempt in my belief of a small mind to hurt the Government. Whether 351 it has hurt the Government or not, it has hurt the Fleet; it has hurt the country, it has hurt our credit, and created doubts in the minds of the Allies, and the sooner it is smashed and pulverised the better. That is why I have asked you to allow me to make these remarks.
The suggestions were vague. Innuendos of that sort tend to promote panic and nervousness in the middle of the biggest war that has ever been known, and when more depends upon the efficiency of the British Fleet and upon its government than upon anything else in the whole war. One of the unfortunate things that happen to men who go to the Front is that their mentality is sometimes affected—whether in this case it was by the noise of the high explosives or by gas I do not know, but the right hon. gentleman who made these statements ought to go and see a specialist as soon as he can. I cannot account otherwise for his confusion of thought. He was relieved of his office, and what has he done? He has come back from the trenches, where I have no doubt he would do very good work, for he is not wanting in pluck. But he comes back and arrogates to himself the rights that only belong to His Majesty's Government and the Crown—that of appointing the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty. I think his mentality has been affected. The present First Lord of the Admiralty referred to the right hon. gentleman's distinguished ancestor who had to go into a general action to make up his mind; but his descendant has to go into a general action to clear up what he is pleased to call his mind—but what that is I really cannot discover.
It was a most mischievous agitation all through. It was thought that it was engineered by the late First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher; and as I thought I might be able to make these remarks I wrote to him and begged him to attend here and correct me if I said anything that was wrong. I can only say that from his influence with the Press it was thought he had engineered it. However, at present the agitation is only conducted by the right hon. gentleman the Member for Dundee, and a few newspapers, assisted by twenty sandwichmen. There is not much support behind it, and I hope it will soon cease. But the noble Lord (Lord Fisher) could stop it in one day. He has only to write publicly to the Press to repudiate it, and then it will 352 cease. He must know the mischief it is doing in the Service and in the country, and he must know that it is bad for the State, bad for our Allies, and bad for the continuance of the war. If he does not at once repudiate the agitation we are bound to think that he is encouraging it. I say this. If you want to go straight to disaster let the House of Commons and the Press nominate your Admirals and your Generals by popular clamour.
Let us remember that no one man is necessary. No one man created the Navy; that has been the outcome of the combined intelligence, patriotism, and loyalty—without advertisement—for centuries of the best brains the land can produce. Leave the Navy alone; do not hamper it; and do not try to sow dissension among its splendid officers and men. At this moment the Navy has the completest faith in its Commander-in-Chief. That is absolutely necessary. He is the man who is going to do the work when the fight comes on. The Navy has complete faith in the present Board of Admiralty, because it knows perfectly well that naval opinion—not political or personal opinion—is going to guide it. It knows also that the Navy's honour is safe in the hands of a Minister like my right hon. friend Mr. Balfour. I am obliged to your Lordships for letting me be so flagrantly out of order for so long. But I do advise the country to trust implicitly in the Navy. It has never failed this country yet through all the long centuries during which it has maintained our honour and our safety.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I am sure that every member of the House was delighted to see my noble friend Lord Montagu back in his place and able not only to take a part in our proceedings but to initiate with great effect one of the most important discussions which have occurred during the present session of Parliament. We are glad to notice that he shows no sign of having sustained any permanent detriment from an ordeal from which he would probably not have escaped but for qualities of fortitude which it is not given to every man to possess. My noble friend has dealt this evening with a subject which he has made his own, and he has a right to claim that he made it his own long before it attracted the amount of public attention which it 353 now commands. To-night he has spoken with great knowledge on his subject, with much moderation of tone, and with a wealth of illustration which greatly interested his hearers.
Before I attempt to follow him, perhaps I may say half-a-dozen words about one or two other speeches to which we have listened. I come first to the speech of my noble and gallant friend on the Second Bench opposite (Lord Beresford). He has not taken long to show that he is really one of us, for no hardened Back-Bencher could have taken more liberal advantage of the lines of deviation which we allow ourselves in this House. We felt, as he addressed us, what a joy it must be to him to feel that it is no longer necessary for him to keep his weather eye upon the Speaker. His speech was really a continuation of a discussion which took place not many hours ago in the other House of Parliament, and he must not expect me to follow him along the path of disorder. But I gathered from the reception of his remarks that they were not wholly distasteful to your Lordships' House; and we all felt that if there was any breach of order it might well be extenuated by my noble and gallant friend's devotion to the Service of which he has been an ornament, and the honour of which he naturally desires to uphold in this House or elsewhere.
I want to say a word or two with regard to the speech of my noble friend Lord Oranmore. The points with which he dealt were really points of detail, and I do not wish to take up the time of the House for long in referring to them. I think he has been misinformed on several points. He is under the impression that in connection with the defence of London a large number of men were discharged from the Anti-Aircraft Corps as the result of the transfer of the defence of London from the Admiralty to the War Office. I am assured that no officers or men were discharged on the occasion of that transfer, and that there is no intention of discharging any. Then he gave us some information with regard to the age of the men employed upon this service. I am told that it is by no means the case that the personnel of the Anti-Aircraft Corps are all over military age. As a matter of fact, these men are at this moment considered as on active service. With regard to his reference to the retention of certain officers for the purpose of training 354 their successors, I am told that the average service of the Regular officers now in charge is twenty-two years and that of the Royal Naval Anti-Aircraft Corps only fifteen months. All these officers serve together until the newcomers are thoroughly acquainted with their duties. But if my noble friend is exercised in his mind about these things and will be good enough to let me talk to him about them, I will see to it that he is given a full explanation of the facts of the case.
I come now to my noble friend Lord Montagu. He has been described—I think rather appositely described—as a prophet in connection with this particular subject; and to-night we may say that he appeared not only as a prophet, but in the guise of a physician. He gave us a diagnosis of the disease from which we are suffering, and he prescribed his remedy. With regard to the disease no one, I take it, will get up in this House or anywhere else and say that there have not been very serious shortcomings in connection with the Air Service of this country, or that it is not our duty to devote all our energy to correct the defects and the miscarriages which have arisen would only ask my noble friend to remember that this science is still in its infancy. It is undergoing the most extraordinary and rapid developments. Just as there have been new developments in trench and submarine warfare, so there have been rapid developments in connection with aerial warfare, and accordingly it is impossible to say that either our Army or our Navy ought at any given moment to have been supplied with a standardised equipment of any particular kind of air craft or weapon. Another thing that ought not to be forgotten is that in the case of equipment for aerial warfare, as in the case of all other military and naval equipment, we have to contend with the great difficulties due to the stupendous, and, we must say, wholly unexpected efforts which this country has been called upon to make. We cannot be surprised if there is a certain shortage of material, whether for naval, or military, or aircraft purposes.
But I should be very sorry to say anything that might be taken as admitting that there was no other side to the case than the somewhat depressing picture which has been drawn by one or two speakers to-night. The increase in the quality of our military equipment has 355 been remarkable. I have made it my business to make inquiries upon this point, and they certainly tend to show, in the first place, that so far as warfare at the Front is concerned we have not been outclassed by our opponents. I say that with regard to the quality of our equipment. Now a word with regard to its quantity. Taking first the number of pilots. I am told that the output per month is at the present moment twenty times that of peace, and that it will more than double itself during the summer, and that in spite of the fact that there has been as we all know, deeply to our regret, a large percentage of casualties, which I am glad to say have all been replaced. Now with regard to aeroplanes. The intake per week is about three-quarters of that for the whole of the year ended August, 1914. All the original types of aeroplane and engine which accompanied the Expeditionary Force in August, 1914, have now been replaced by something better, and this progress continues. In regard to the number of units, I am told that by the end of the month the number of squadrons abroad will be eight times those which accompanied the Expeditionary Force in August, 1914.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I am afraid I cannot tell my noble friend. I have not sufficient knowledge to speak on that subject. I mention these things because there is a certain tendency to lose sight of what is actually being done by those responsible for our Air Service, and of the remarkable results which they have accomplished.
Then may I say two or three words with regard to the question of air raids upon this country. So far as our experience has gone, I should be inclined to say that what people have resented most is not so much the extent of the damage which has been done by these Zeppelin raids as the impunity with which they have been carried 356 out. As far as their success goes, I doubt whether either the material or the moral effects of these raids have been at all considerable in proportion to the effort which they must have cost our enemy. It is true that there has been a regrettable loss of life, particularly amongst noncombatants, and that there has been considerable destruction of buildings. But I do not think it can be said that any of these occurrences, no matter how regrettable, have really advanced the cause of our enemies or brought them any nearer to a victorious conclusion of the war. As regards their moral effect, I certainly have neither seen nor heard any sign of panic, although there has been a feeling of very deep indignation and resentment, accompanied by a resolve to support the authorities in any precautionary measures which can be taken to guard against these raids. I say that without any idea of suggesting that we desire to ignore the emphatic warning with which my noble friend concluded his speech. On the contrary, we do fully realise that this danger of invasion by aircraft is a very real danger, that it is one which might at any moment threaten the bases of our Armies abroad, and that it is our duty to take every possible precaution to meet it. There is, for example, no idea of suggesting that inferior guns or less highly trained gunners should be employed on this service. On the contrary, it is intended that the best guns and the best men shall be used for it, and that a service of this kind shall be regarded as interchangeable with service at the Front.
The main and the best-founded complaint which has been made is that our Air Service is faulty in its organisation, that there has been a dispersal of effort, a scramble between the two Services, and an absence of a comprehensive and directing policy. That is, I think, a fair summary of the indictment. One word as to policy. When people talk of an air policy I am not quite sure that I know exactly what they have in their mind. I think I do know what they have in their mind if they talk of a military policy or of a naval policy, although I shall always maintain that the two form part of a single policy for the defence of the country, and, for the matter of that, for the defence of the Empire—a single policy which ought to be directed by a single controlling authority. I find it more difficult, 357 I must say, to think of a separate air policy than I do of a separate military or naval policy, because unless I am mistaken the Air Service must always be to a great extent ancillary to the Army or the Navy as the case may be. The Navy will always insist on having an Air Service of its own.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
It will always contend that the duties to be performed are different, and the craft to be used are of a different kind; and probably a similar plea will be put in, with equal effect, by the Army. I venture to suggest that the proper way of looking at this question is to recognise the Air Service as a most important ally of the other two Services, to put it alongside of them, and to see that if there is a tripartite policy it is really directed from one controlling source and in accordance with the general needs of the country and of the Empire.
Now what are we doing in order to carry out the policy which I have endeavoured to sketch? We have appointed the Join War Air Committee, over which my noble friend Lord Derby is to preside. Let me say two or three words about that Committee, first as to its personnel. It is presided over by a public man who at this moment stands very high indeed in the estimation of his fellow-countrymen. He is not in the Cabinet, but he is quite as well known, I may say, as most members of the Cabinet. He is certainly in a position which will not deny to him any opportunities which he may seek for ascertaining the mind of His Majesty's Government and keeping in the closest possible contact with its counsels. The Committee will include three distinguished officers representing the Admiralty, two representing the War Office, and it may also summon to its assistance advisory members. I think that is an important point with regard to what fell from Lord Haldane, because there you have an opening, of which use might be made, for calling in that special and scientific knowledge upon the value of which he so very properly insists. And I think the House will have noticed with satisfaction that one member of the Committee, General Sir David Henderson, has just been appointed a member of the Army Council, which at once gives him a special status in connection with Army affairs. But what 358 is almost as important, I think, is the fact that the Committee is to have for its secretaries the secretary and the assistant secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence. We all know what an important part a good secretary plays in matters of this kind, and all who know the secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence know how great his knowledge and experience are and how valuable his assistance is likely to be to Lord Derby and his colleagues.
A word as to the functions of the Committee. The Committee has a free hand to deal with questions of design, of production, and of distribution. I ask your Lordships whether that Reference does not cover a very wide ground. I listened very carefully to what was said by Lord Montagu as to the different branches of the subject which he considered ought not to be, left out of account, and unless I am quite mistaken I think those were really the three divisions of the subject upon which he dwelt with most force. It is also be remembered that it is precisely in regard to these questions that outside criticism has been most pronounced. When I am told that Lord Derby's Committee should be in a position to deal with air policy, I venture to say that these three great questions of design, production, and distribution cannot be dealt with separately from the question of general policy.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
And I think you might invert that proposition and say that the question of general policy could not be dealt with apart from the consideration of the questions of design, production, and distribution. I press that because I think it shows what a very large grip upon the subject Lord Derby's Committee is likely to have. If I may sum up the functions of the Committee I do so in these words. It will be the business of the Committee to ensure that the manufacture, supply, and distribution of material required is in accordance with the policy of aerial warfare laid down by His Majesty's Government. I think two of the noble Lords who addressed the House to-night commented upon the language held by my noble friend Lord Derby when he spoke here the other evening, and they quoted certain expressions in his speech in order 359 to show that, by Lord Derby's own admission, the scope of his functions was very narrowly limited. I think Lord Derby's language has been rather unfairly interpreted. I heard Lord Derby's speech and I admit that it might have left the impression upon some people's minds that Lord Derby was desiring to minimise the importance of his own Committee. What I think Lord Derby really wanted to explain was that he had no executive functions, and that for that reason he was not to be held in any way responsible for the air defence either of London or of the United Kingdom. That is perfectly true. Lord Derby will not have any executive functions, but with that reservation I still maintain that Lord Derby's position and that of his Committee is an extremely powerful one, and that there is really no portion of the field of inquiry from which he and his colleagues are excluded. Something was said as to the Parliamentary representation of the Committee. I think we may find some comfort in the thought that Lord Derby, who attends this House frequently, will I am sure always be ready to give us the benefit of his knowledge of the work upon which the Committee is engaged.
I may be asked why, having gone so far, we do not pluck up a little more courage and appoint a Minister with a full-blown Department subordinate to him. Let me say, with reference to what was said I think by Lord Oranmore, that we certainly should not be deterred from making an arrangement of that kind merely because it would have the effect of adding one more to an already somewhat numerous Cabinet. That, I can tell my noble friend, is certainly not a consideration which would be Allowed to weigh against any material arguments in favour of the change which he advocates. But what it seems to me has to be shown by those who favour an arrangement of that kind is that you really would get any substantial advantage beyond that which we certainly shall derive under the new arrangement. I confess, although I have quite readily admitted that there are imperfections to be removed, that it has never been established to my satisfaction that the only way of removing them is by appointing a Cabinet Minister to deal with them. What really matters is the essence of the arrangement, and not the particular style and title which you give to the public man whom you place 360 at the head of the new Department. A great many of the mistakes to which reference has been made during this debate were, as far as I could make out, mistakes committed, not by the heads of the Aircraft Department, but by subordinates—blunders which might have been committed at any time, and which probably would have been committed whether there was a Cabinet Minister at the head of the Department or not.
As matters now stand, we have a very strong Committee and a strong man at the head of it. We have given the Committee access to every source of information, and to every branch of the whole subject of aerial warfare. We have given them liberal instructions, which I feel quite sure we may trust them to interpret in a liberal sense. I submit to the House that this is a business-like arrangement, that it is a great advance upon anything which we have yet had, and that it promises well. But I am certainly not here to tell your Lordships that in our opinion there can be any finality in these things, or that we exclude altogether the possibility of further developments. The experience which will be gained will show whether the present arrangement will work, and what modifications in it, if any, are desirable. Meanwhile I certainly am not prepared to admit that the country is undergoing any detriment because we have stopped short at this point. The Committee, I believe, is doing its work well. We may trust it to take advantage of the wide latitude which has been given to it; and I, for one, am deeply convinced that it will not disregard the emphatic warning which my noble friend has given to it and to the country this evening.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, after the reassuring speech made by my noble friend opposite, I have not the slightest desire to enter into the general subject of the debate. My noble friend does not see his way to appoint a head of the Air Service, and he has strictly defined the limits under which Lord Derby will act. I think one very serious result follows upon that. At present the Air Service, the most recent of our Services, has no head. It has been made quite clear by the speeches both from the Government Bench and from behind us to-day that there are certain services which our present aircraft cannot undertake. 361 Partly owing to the question of the craft themselves and partly to the development of the enemy air service, there are certain occasions on which our airmen cannot act with any advantage. There is a serious difficulty at this moment from the pressure which public opinion is exercising on those who are responsible for the Air Service to press pilots into the air on occasions when, as has been shown, it is quite impossible for them to act with advantage. I should be glad if, before the debate closes, we could have from the noble Marquess an assurance that the Government will see that this point is not overlooked. On the last occasion when the subject was discussed the noble Earl the Secretary of State for War said—I am informed that no order has ever been sent to a pilot, of the Royal flying Corps to make an ascent at night to attack a Zeppelin. The decision whether to fly or not is left to the senior officer on the spot.I have not the least doubt that the Secretary of State for War was speaking with technical accuracy in making that statement. But there is at this moment a great pressure of public opinion; there is a great keenness on the part of the Air Service; but there is, so to speak, no co-ordinating opinion at all; and even if technically the Secretary of State for War's statement was accurate, the pressure is very great to undertake an ascent at times when it is really rash beyond description to do so. I do not wish to say more or to give any facts or figures, but I hope the noble Marquess will assure us that this matter will have the serious attention of the Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I really cannot say what the facts of the case are, but I will take upon myself to represent the substance of my noble friend's observations, which certainly seem to me worthy of attention, and no doubt they will receive it.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, I have no reason to complain of the attitude of His Majesty's Government as laid down by the noble Marquess, except in one particular. I fear that they have not yet realised the importance which ought to be attached to this Committee presided over by Lord Derby. I have never asked, in anything I have said, that a Board of Aviation—which I think would be better than an Air Minister—should be given executive power. That, 362 of course, must be left to the Admiral of the Fleet and to the General Commanding the Army. The Derby Committee is not important enough, and certainly its chairman should have a defined title, such as Chairman of the Board of Aviation, and he should have certain responsibility in regard to supply, construction. and organisation.
As to the quantity of material available for aeroplanes, I cannot enter into figures any more than the noble Marquess. But it seems to me profoundly unsatisfactory that at the present moment you should have only one engine for every three planes. You are woefully behind in engine production, and your engine is not of the best kind. That is where I fervently hope that the Derby Committee may be of assistance. The courage of our pilots is magnificent, expecially as they have to go up with admittedly inferior machines to those of the enemy. No one could have been at the Front even for the short time I was there without realising the handicap there is in manipulating a 'plane which you know is inferior by fifteen to twenty miles an hour to the 'plane opposed to you. The vast majority of our pilots at the Front are going up in inferior machines to those of the energy; yet they are doing magnificent work, and not showing any want of those great qualities for which our race has always been famous.
The noble Marquess referred to policy. I, like him, thick that the policy of our Air Service should be co-ordinated with the policy of the Imperial Defence Committee. Therefore I rejoice that Colonel Hankey is to be identified with Lord Derby's Committee. But the noble Marquess did not reply to two important points. One was, Who is going to be responsible for the building of rigid airships to meet the Zeppelins? I gather that this Committee is mainly, if not exclusively, dealing with aeroplanes. Secondly, the noble Marquess has not laid down who is really responsible for taking steps to repel air raids and to make it hot for the Zeppelins when they come here. There, again, you have a divided responsibility—divided responsibility as regards news of those raids, the news which ought to be sent, as I conceive, from submarines in the first line to the destroyers in the second line and then to the authorities on land. Those are all questions which I hope the Derby Com 363 mittee will think out. In conclusion I have only to say this. I was delighted to hear the noble Marquess, at the end of his speech, hold out hopes that the Government have not finally made up their mind on the subject. I trust they will magnify the functions of this Committee until it becomes something like the Board of Aviation which I have longed to see established in this country.