§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT PEEL)
My Lords, the Title of the Bill of which I now move the Second Reading describes it as an Act to provide for the application of new designations to the Territorial Force and to the Special Reserve." The whole object of this Bill, in fact, is to give statutory effect to decisions which have been already arrived at, affecting the titles of the Territorial Force and the Special Reserve. Those titles are to be altered to "Territorial Army" and "Militia."
The legislation lags a good deal behind the announcement, because the announcement of this decision was made so long ago as January 30, 1920, by the then Secretary of State for War. I should like to read to your Lordships the exact words in which that decision was communicated:We propose that the British Army in future shall be organised in two main branches—the Regular Army and the Territorial Army. Both these branches will be completely self-contained. The Regular Army will have associated with it the Special Reserve battalions necessary to provide it with its own drafts in time of war. We contemplate for these battalions providing them with their old name—the Militia—which has the merit of being honourable, well-understood, and short.As regards the first point—the Territorial Army—I should like to say that the 372 present strength of that Army is nearly 128,000 officers and men—that is to say, 121,000 other ranks, and 6,750 officers. Had it not been for the unfortunate interference of the great strike and the consequent delay in recruiting, there is no question that the strength of that Army would by this time have been something like 150,000 officers and men.
A very good reason for changing the name, or for calling this force an Army, is that it corresponds to the facts—namely, it is not a force but an Army, because it is well equipped not only with the different arms but it has its own corps and Army troops which constitute an Army in the modern sense of the term. Therefore, calling it an Army is inertly recognising the existing state of affairs. I may also say that the giving of this wider and more honourable title is some recognition of the great place that the Territorial Force has won for itself by its long and distinguished service during the late war.
The other question is that of the Militia. There again, the change is one purely of name. I believe I am right in saying that there is a very general concensus of agreement and approval among those who are competent to speak for the Special Reserve that they very much prefer the old name of Militia, with all its great traditions, to the somewhat newly-coined phrase The Special Reserve, and also the Extra-Special Reserve. There is, too, a very practical reason, I think, for making this change—that the public have never really understood exactly what the Special Reserve is. They know and are familiar with the name of Militia, and for recruiting purposes it is really far more valuable to call the force by a name which will attract recruits than by a name which, however ingeniously contrived, has not caught the public ear.
The officers of the Special Reserve will become officers of the Militia by a Royal Warrant which will be issued in due course. There are certain changes which become necessary or which it is useful to make as the result of these changes of name. The substitution of the term Militia for that of Special Reserve may be said to involve as a consequence, anyhow for the sake of clearness, the repeal of all the enactments that permitted the raising of the old Militia, whose terms of service were governed by the Militia Acts and not by the Reserve Forces Act, 1882, and the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907.
373 Your Lordships will remember, of course, that the Special Reserve was created in 1907–8 to take the place of the old Militia, and provision was Militia made for transferring it to the existing Militia battalions under the new terms and conditions of service. The special Reserve is part of thin Army Reserve, and the new Militia will be in the same position. It is only the name that has been changed.
Therefore, in the present Bill, we propose to sweep away a long list of previous Acts including the old enactment for the Militia Ballot. Your Lordships are well aware that a great deal of it has really become of piece of picturesque legislative lumber; that. the old 'Militia Ballot is wholly unequal to the facts of the day: that in the last war. when forces had to be raised they were raised by a general system of conscription; and that if in the future such forces had to be raised it would not be possible to go back to the old Militia Acts. Therefore, the whole of them are swept away in the schedules. Advantage is also taken of this Bill to repeal the old yeomanry Acts. Those Acts, exactly in the same way as those relating to the Militia, have, for long, been obsolete and no Yeomanry have been raised under theta. The Yeomanry, of course have been part of the Territorial Farce since 1907–8 and are governed by the provisions of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907. Therefore, besides providing for a charge of name, this Bill is a sort of clearing up of all these previous Statutes which have now become obsolete.
I have already given the present strength of the new Territorial Army, and I know that certain noble Lords, among them my noble friend opposite are much interested in the question of what is being done with the Militia, but I very much regret to say that I am unable to give any but very meagre information upon the subject. In fact, all these questions connected with the Militia are now under consideration and decisions have not yes been taken upon them—such questions, for instance, as what is' to be done with the extra-reserve battalions, and whether there is to be a corresponding number of Militia battalions, we will say, to the number of Infantry battalions in the Army. A Committee was appointed and, I believe, has reported upon this matter, and its suggestions are under consideration. But the noble Lord is well 374 aware of the difficulties which arise, and which 1Inist necessarily arise, if the recruiting and the reconstitution of the Militia are very long delayed. Although at present no date for re starting recruiting for the Militia has vet been fixed, the Commands at home are bearing in mind the necessity for obtaining suitable Anion; for the future, and ale doing their best by personal reconnaissance to deal with the matter.
Then, again, beyond the Infantry, there is the further question of other arms, and suggestions are being considered as to whether these other arms—Artillery, Engineers and so on should be raised as separate units: and whether, as regards the other corps, there should be something inure in the nature of a general pool—that is to say not units front which men could be drafted, as necessary, in time of war. I am compelled, in fact. I have been asked by the Secretary of State, to say that all these questions in regard to the reorganisation, the reconstitution, the recruiting, and the establishment of officers of the units of the Militia are now under consideration, but no decisions have been arrived at. Therefore, I very much regret that that is all the information.I am able to give my noble friend upon the subject. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Dill he now read 2a.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, this Bill proposes to make three main changes. One is the repeal of the existing Militia Acts. With that I entirely agree. The existing Militia Acts are, theoretically at any rate, substantial Acts which could come into operation and be enforced by a Militia Ballot to-morrow, were it not for the Militia Ballot Act which we pass every year. It is obvious that that. is a matter of substance which cannot be dealt with by a mere Statute Law revision provision, although, no doubt, it is true that morally, as distinguished from legally, those Acts are inert, and could not without a commotion be put into operation.
The second point is the alteration of the name of Territorial Force into that of Territorial Army. I do not think that is very important. Territorial Army is a popular name to give to the territorial second line force, but I wish to point out that when you have an Army you have separate regiments composing it. Now you have no separate regiments composing the Territorial Force. All you have are 375 the 4th, or 5th, or 6th,or whatever it may be—during the war it ran up to the 27th and 30th—battalions of certain regiments. The first three on all occasions were a special reserve of the 4th battalion. The first four constitute the Regular Army, the remainder constituted the territorial second line force. I think the objection to calling it an Army is merely a technical one, but it is not an Army properly so called because it has no separate regiments, the battalions being parts of the same regiment.
But with our loose habits about military things in this country, and the extraordinary indifference that prevails, I do not think any very great damage is likely to be done by a transition from the old name, Territorial Force my preference for which is partly due perhaps to the fact that I found the name myself to the name Territorial Army. In substance, it is true, this was a second line Army which was not to be put into the field until it had had a certain amount of training, but during the war it performed such magnificent service, and was, in substance, a second line Army, that it is quite right, if it is so desired, that it should be so recognised. I only want to point out that it is illogical, and from a military point of view wrong, but so little attention nowadays is paid to what, from a military point of view, is right that we need not much trouble ourselves about one more departure.
I now come to the third point, which is the change of the nature of the Special Reserve to the Militia. That, to me, is a very serious and a very retrograde step. It is a name that carries von back to the state of confusion and muddle in which the Forces of the crown were before the passing of the Territorial Reserve Forces Act of 1907. In those days Lord Cardwell had established, as regards the Infantry and as regards the Infantry only, his system, and it was the system under which we had what was called "short service" seven years with the colours, and five with the reserve; and the reserve men were, in the main, in the second battalions which Lord Cardwell established. The home battalion was abroad, and the men who reinforced it, and who could themselves be mobilised as an independent battalion if necessary, were the reserves and the recruits who had been sufficiently trained with the second battalion. The effect of that was that we had no reliable Expeditionary Force at 376 all, because the second battalions were required to provide the drafts to make up losses in the first battalions, and if they were used as independent units obviously they could not fulfil the two functions.
What used to be done was that the Militia force was made use of for supplying draft. I remember Lord Lansdowne saying in this House that the Militia was a force which was plundered at one end and pillaged at the other. It was used to produce drafts for the regular battalions across the water, or wherever they might be, and the result was that the Militia battalions had their best strength taken away from them, and they became ineffective and feeble. Moreover, they had no organisation, no transport, no medical service, no Artillery, and no Cavalry to operate with them, and if you wished to find any force which was utterly incompetent, judged by the standards of modern military requirements, the best thong to turn to study was the old Militia force. I will not say that it was useless, because it supplied valuable drafts. Moreover, it gave occupation to a number of high-minded English country gentlemen who had military tastes, and who trained the Militia battalions which they commanded under, I think, a sort of vague hope that somehow or another they might be called upon to volunteer for war, as they were called upon, and successfully called upon, to volunteer in the South African campaign, but they never willingly realised that the first duty of Militia was to supply drafts which the second Regular battalions could not supply, and for the supply of which the Militia were called on.
In that state of things, when the year 1906 came, I was Secretary of State for War, and I found a situation which was intolerable. I consulted with eminent soldiers—men like Lord Haig, and others who were at the War Office, and the advantage of whose advice I then possessed—and We determined that if we were to have a military force in this country the first thing that was necessary was to get rid of the notion that there could be three lines, as there were in those days, and that the Militia could be a separate line, and to recognise the foundational fact that the primary function of Militia was to supply drafts for the Regular battalions. With that in view the Territorial Reserve Forces Act was passed. What was its effect? The Militia was to be an in- 377 dependent Army It was not a second lien Army at all, because, as I have said, it never had any transport, any medical service, any Artillery, and it had no Cavalry to make it a fighting force, bat it was very valuable in so far as it supplied excellent drafts for the first and second battalions. We were in earnest on that occasion, and we made the Militia the third battalion of the Regular regiment. Where there were two Militia battalions available we added a fourth. There were some fourth battalions of Regular regiments, and they were called Special Reserves to distinguish them from the General Reserve, which consisted of those men who had served three or seven years with the Colours, had passed into the Regular battalions, and had gone into the Reserves. That was why the Special Reserve got that name.
The noble Viscount said that one objection to the name was that the public did not understand it. Good heavens! what does the public understand about anything military in this country? I am not saying that I desire that they should be keen about, it, but we lout spent years and years of work in reorganising the Army, and making it a force capable of swift mobilisation, and the public knew so little about it, and took so little interest in it, that they did not realise that any change had been made. So I believe it is in large measure to-day. I do not wonder that the noble Viscount says the public do not realise what the Special Reserve was. The public has very little knowledge of the organisation of the Army, and I am afraid that deficiency of knowledge is not wholly confined to the man in the street.
That being so, the reason why the name Special Reserve was adopted was a definite, specific, scientific reason. It was absolutely requisite for military purposes. In Army organisation there is nothing which does you so much damage as an ambiguous name. As soon as you begin to talk of a Militia line as an independent line, the Militia commanding officers get into their heads that their true function is not to train men in order to supply drafts to go to stations on the coast and protect them during war, but they get into their heads that their business is to be officers and colonels in a force the function of which is to take part in fighting abroad like any other part of His Majesty's Forces. The objection to that is that the 378 Old Militia force was not fit to take part in any such war. It would have been moved down if it had gone into war, and such a force always will be mowed down unless it is regularly organised and put upon a modern military footing, as every Army must be before it can be effective.
Therefore, it is not merely on account of the change or name that I am objecting. I am objecting because it means going back and giving countenance to the old notion that the Militia really was an effective fighting force in itself. In the future it is to fulfil something of the same function as it did in the old days, and to be looked upon as an independent line different from the Regular line. To-day the Militia has only one function, the function of a special reserve. I was glad to notice that the noble Viscount himself recognised that. The noble Viscount said, in effect: "Let us repeal all these ridiculous Militia Acts which are only embarrassment to the true function of the Militia, the true function being to do the duties which the Special Reserve does to-day. He said that owing to the ignorance of the public and, I fear, the prejudices of the survivors of the old class of Militia officers, the Government have yielded to the desire that the name should be restored. Anything worse from a military point of view I find it difficult to conceive.
§ VICOUNT HALDANE
I understood the noble Lord to say that there haul been a. great deal of representation made to the Government, about the desirability of going back to the old name.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I said it had received consideration by those competent to speak of Militia forces. I was only objecting to the word prejudice "being attributed to me.
§ VICOUNT HALDANE
Who are those competent to speak? Does the noble Viscount suggest that men like Lord Haig, or any of the generals who distinguished themselves in the war, made representations to the War Office about going back to the name of Militia? I should be astounded if he told me that across the Table. The people to whom he listened wore not those I persons. The persons 379 competent to speak were the persons accustomed to train their Own Militia troops—an admirable thing to do, and they rendered a great service in doing it, only they trained them, or ought to have trained them, for the purpose of supplying drafts to the Regular Army.
Those really competent to speak will tell the noble Viscount that that is the one function which justifies the maintenance of the Special Reserve. No Special Reserve battalion is over intended to take the field. The Special Reserve is intended to supply drafts. The Special Reserve performed noble functions during the war which I think ought to be recognised. The 3rd battation, and on occasion the, 4th battalion, sent to supply losses in the 1st and 2nd battalions in front of them, as many as 10,000 or 12,000 men in some cases. Those recruits were constantly being trained in the 3rd battalion at home, and as they were recruited they were sent out. I will give your Lordships one instance. When the Battle of the Marne came the Expeditionary Force had sustained tremendous attacks from the Germans. It had suffered an enormous number of casualties, and the Germans were confidently reckoning that when they got to the Marne they would find the French, no doubt, but a broken and beaten British Army hammered to pieces. But one thing the Germans did not know, and that was the organisation of the Special Reserve. They were like the British public—they did not know quite what it meant. They did not realise when we shifted our base at that time, and it was possible to bring round fresh men, that those men were brought from the Special Reserve battalions in such numbers that practically Lord French had a new British Expeditionary Force at the Battle of the Marne, made up of the men who had been so admirably trained in the Special Reserve battalions.
For that, great credit is due to the commanders, but still more credit is due to those great soldiers who raised the standard of training and who set that standard so high that the Special Reserve men, although trained for a shorter period, were quite fit to take their places in the Regular battalions. Sir Charles Douglas was the person to whom most credit was due for that. The Special Reserve was the apple of his eye, and, dissociated from all its bad old traditions, he said—" This is no Militia; this is the force from which we will keep our battalions alive, despite any 380 hammering they may get." And ha was absolutely justified in that.
I think I have said enough to show your Lordships why I look with extreme repugnance on this change of name. It is an indication of a tendency to revert to the old bad organisation which we had in the clays before the Great War, an organisation which, if we had had to depend upon it, one would not have been able to predict that the war would have had the same result as it ultimately had. What was done was clone after the gravest consideration. The competent opinion that was relied upon was the competent opinion of the first soldiers in the British Army, and the name was deliberately chosen to get rid of that which was putting great obstacles in the way. I know it is not agreeable, when you have been accustomed to training your Militia battalion in your own way, to have a great change made, and a great change was made in 1907, but it was a change which was necessitated in the public interest. It is because it was in the public interest and because the change that was made was one which resulted in a great increase of efficiency, which is threatened, I think, by this change of name, that I for one very much deprecate the part of this Bill which contains that alteration.
I do not propose to move the rejection of the Bill, because it has passed the other House and it represents the settled policy of the Government, but. I should be wanting in my duty as an ex-Secretary of State for War if I did not put on record the strongest protest against going hack to a name which connotes the old bad tradition.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I speak on behalf of a great number of Militia and Special Reserve officers who are organised for the purpose of preserving the traditions and safeguarding the interests of the old Constitutional Force. I have for some time had a Motion on the Paper in regard to the constitution of the Special Reserve or the Militia, and the only reason why I have not asked His Majesty's Government to be good enough to fix a day for discussing that Motion was because my noble friend who speaks for the War Office told me from time to time that the Army Council were not yet in a position to give me a definite answer. There was, therefore, no point in troubling him. That is why I have seized this opportunity of saying what I have to say.
381 We were told in the other House that the Bill dealt merely with the change of name and nothing else. I am afraid I cannot accept that view. The debate in the other House, and the remarks that have just been made by the noble Viscount On this side, are a sufficient refutation of the somewhat careless and inaccurate statement made by the Under-Secretary in the House that the Bill dealt with names and names only. I should like to make a few remarks on what the noble Viscount has just said. In the first place, he said that the Territorial Army could not be an Army because if had not got separate regiments. If the noble Viscount was correct and sound in his reasoning then none of the Armies under the command of Generals like Lord Byng or Lord Plumer contained separate regiments. In the First Army you might have had one or two battalions of the Hampshire Regiment, in the Fourth Army you might have had four or five battalions—
§ LORD AMPTHILL
Nevertheless, they were Armies. The noble and learned Viscount seemed to apprehend that the change of name would bring about a reversion to a state of things which he described as one of disorder and confusion. I fail to see how the mere change of name can have that effect. It is said "Give a dog a bad name and hang him," and the noble and learned Viscount, when he named the Special Reserve, Witch was once the old Constitutional Force of this country, did more harm than it is possible to describe. He also quoted from Lord Lansdowne that "The Militia was plundered at one end and pillaged at the other". The noble and learned Viscount's reforms did not alter that state of things. The same condition of affairs, plundering at one end and pillaging at the other, went on all through the country in spite of his wonderful reforms.
Most of your Lordships, I think, will have been pained by the disparaging remarks which the noble and learned Viscount made about the old Militia, which he described as utterly incompetent and existing only as an occupation for country gentlemen. He appears to know very little about the history of the old Militia, and I shall be obliged to take up some of your Lordships' time in reminding you of what the Militia did in times gone by and 382 how indispensable it has been to the Army at all times, not merely for the purpose of providing drafts but for sending out units to the front. The noble and learned Viscount said I hat the Special Reserve could not be called out at once, because they were utterly unfit and would have been mowed down. Apparently, he does not know that they were mowed down with the "Old Contemptibles," and they were there because the Army could not have kept the field for two months but for the men it provided.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
The noble Lord has totally misunderstood me. I did not say that the Special Reserve did not do splendid service. They did splendid service in furnishing drafts for the Regular battalions. Not one of them could have gone out independently.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
The noble and learned Viscount is wrong again. But I will leave him and will come to the Bill. I welcome the Bill as a reiteration and confirmation of the announcement made by tile Government eighteen months ago that the Special Reserve would be retained and reconstituted. At that time there was very grave and general alarm amongst those who knew lest the old Constitutional Force should be abolished. I also welcome the change of name for reasons which I will explain. First of all, I want to say how deplorable it seems to me, and to all those for whom I speak—and it has been admitted by the noble and learned Viscount—that all this tithe should have been allowed to pass. It is again a case of "Too late," as it has so often been with the Government. Eighteen months ago you could have reconstituted your Militia with ease and, as events have proved, with immense advantage. It is a question how far von will be able to do so now you have postponed it for so long. The delay has lost you officers and men who would have made the force invaluable to pm at the present time.
During all these months of delay and uncertainty there have been great anxiety and dissatisfaction among Special Reservists, because, as it seemed to us, the force was being allowed to expire without a hope of resuscitation. We saw with dismay the enforced retirement, in circumstances which might be criticised as having no statutory sanction, of a large number of officers, many of whom had distinguished 383 themselves during the war, and who would have been invaluable in reforming the force, You have been invaluable in reforming the force. You have lost those officers for ever. We also saw the Suspension of recruiting, with the result that the force at the present time is practically non-existent. The only reason given for this incomprehensible and calamitous inaction is that of economy. But what false economy it has proved to be. When the special emergency, which the general public fully anticipated and expected arose, you had to form an entirely new military force ad hoc, the Defence Force; and you had to deplete the Territorial Army to do so. What is going to be the cost of that force to the taxpayer? When the accounts are published, if they ever are, it will be found that it has cost us an amount vastly exceeding that which we should have spent if we had the old Militia or the Special Reserve. Thousands of officers were called up; were not wanted; and were paid all the time the Defence Force was in existence. That is an instance of the extravagance that was perpetrated.
The old Constitutional Force, whether you call it Militia or Special Reserve, is the proper military organisation to aid the civil power, for that is a duty which only they and the regular soldiers are eligible to perform. In the past the Militia has been repeatedly utilised in aid of the civil power. It was done, and could be done now, without any special legislation or fuss or disturbance in Parliament. The most notable occasions were the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Gordon Riots in 1780, and the Luddite disturbances in 1812; and there have been numerous lesser occasions. The Government cannot say that no one warned them of the probable contingency of civil disturbance. The general public wore fully prepared for the crisis which actually arose, and Special Reserve officers did not fail to point out, so far as they had opportunity and means, that the reconstitution of the force was an imperative necessity on that very account.
It was rumoured that the Government were afraid that they would not got recruits for the Territorial Force if they recruited for the Special Reserve at the same time, and that they would be unable to bolster up the so-called voluntary system. But the authorities who entertained that fear do not seem to have realised that recruits for the Special Reserve or Militia are generally drawn front a totally different class from those 384 who used to go into the old Volunteers or Territorial Force. The men who went Into the Militia were men of that class front which the regular soldiers are drawn, and nothing could be more deplorable than to leave that field for recruitment untouched as has been dome in the past two years. Unless unemployment and those grimly effective recruiting, sergeants, cold and hunger, come to your; aid, you are not going to get enough recruits for the Regular Army unless you get your Militia going again. It has always been the antechamber to the Army. Men have tried what military life is like by going into the very large number of them were Persuaded on that account to take up regular enlistment. Without the Militia you never could at any tune have kept up the Regular A laity on tin' voluntary system. The position now is that it is very doubtful whether you will be able to revive the You have left it too late.
The Under-Secretary, in the House of Commons, treated this Bill, if I play say so, in a very off-hand and perfunctory manner and made some statements which seemed to me exceedingly reckless. He said that the Bill hail nothing to do with the raising or establishment or conditions of service of either force. If your Lordships will look at the Bill, you will see that.the first paragraph of Clause 4 runs as follows
The power to raise and maintain a force or a Yeomanry force under any of the enactments set out in the Second Schedule of this Act shall cease, and those enactments shall be repealed to the extent specified in the third column of that Schedule.A glance at the schedule will show your Lordships what a vast number of laws dealing actually with the raising, establishment and conditions of service of the Militia are being repealed, and that among them is the Militia Ballot Act. And yet, forsooth! we are told by a member of the Government that this Bill does nothing more than change the name. I do not think that any more remarkable statement has ever been made in Parliament.
I do not object to the repeal of any of these Acts. I accept the view of the Government that they are legislative lumber. But the repeal of the Militia Ballot Act does affect a very large question of principle and it is one to which I feel entitled to invite your Lordships' attention. The fact is that at the present time England is the only country in which conscription 385 exists; I mean conscription in the true sense of the term. I am quite aware that no term has ever been so abused or misused for political purposes; but conscription actually means the enrolment of citizens in a professional Army by lot, a system by which the rich can purchase substitutes among the poor, and so get exempted themselves. Everywhere in Europe that system was abolished long ago, because it was unfair, undemocratic and ineffective, and every European nation substituted the more democratic and just system of universal service. To-day, conscription survives in this country alone, and yet you have responsible people, speaking for the Government, who talk as if the proposals of those advocating universal service in this country were proposals for the antiquated system of conscription which existed in the Napoleonic wars. I frankly welcome the disappearance from our Statute Book of a principle which is utterly out of harmony with democratic institutions and with existing conditions; more particularly so because it clears the way for that fairer and more democratic system of universal service which we were obliged to adopt in the war, and which we shall be obliged to adopt again, if ever—which God forbid—we have to go to war again on the same scale.
The Under-Secretary also said that the Special Reserve was in some respects the lineal descendant of the Militia. In some respects, my Lords! In what respects was there any break of continuity? When the Militia received the unfortunate designations of Special Reserve or Extra Special Reserve and had to undertake more serious duties than before—duties which were gladly undertaken—there was no other change. The battalions retained their old names and their old Colours, and the same officers and the same men went on serving. There was complete continuity of tradition and of everything that goes to constitute a corporate body. Just as well might you say that any member of your Lordships' House who has won some higher dignity or new title was in some respects a lineal descendant of his own father and grandfather. Whether you become a Marquess or a crossing-sweeper—and some of us may have to face the latter contingency if the present state of affairs continues much longer—you do not alter the facts of your birth and breeding. There is, and there always has been, as, indeed, the noble 386 Viscount has admitted, a deplorable amount of ignorance about the history and services of the Militia. I was particularly glad to hear the noble Viscount suggest that that ignorance was not confined to the man in the street. I go so far as to say, and I know it is a fact, that that ignorance prevailed even in the War Office.
The Militia of England dates back to the period of King Alfred, and since that time it has been the Constitutional Force of the country. The Militia is therefore far more ancient than the Regular Army. It is just as well to remind ourselves of these things, seeing that the noble Viscount seemed to think that the Militia was a comparatively modern pastime for the. country gentleman. There is no finer war trophy in this country than the bells of Agincourt, which the men of Monmouth brought back with them from that campaign, and which are still ringing in the church steeple. At the threatened invasion of the Spanish Armada, forty-three regiments of"trained bands," or Militia, were in existence, and performing military duties. At the time of the Monmouth Rebellion, in 1685, a portion of the Militia was called out and fought at Sedgemoor, and also during the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745. During the Seven Years' War, from 1756 to 1763, fifty units were embodied for permanent service. In the American War of Independence sixty-seven units were embodied. From 1793 to 1802, and again from 1803 to 1816, the whole Militia was embodied, and during that period the Regular Army was very largely recruited from it. A complete Militia Brigade served in the Peninsular War under Major-General Sir Henry Bayly. This is in answer to the noble Viscount.
The noble Viscount rails at the Militia officers because they would not understand his system that they were only to provide drafts. They had these 'traditions of service abroad before them; they were proud of them, and wished to keep them alive. In the Waterloo campaign large numbers of men were drafted to the Army, and at the Battle of Waterloo itself many men were wearing their Militia uniforms. During the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny the whole force was embodied, and a large number volunteered for active service. Certain battalions served abroad, and the Regular Army drew large numbers of men from them for the seat of war. During the South African War the whole force was embodied, as is within your Lordships' recollection.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
Yes, sixty-one battalions of Militia, six batteries of Artillery, and four companies of Royal Engineers Militia went to South Africa, and at the head of them were members of your Lordships' House; while nine battalions served in Egypt and elsewhere. The noble Viscount has got into his head the notion that the Militia has never been anything else but a drafting machine, and a pastime for the country gentleman. Such is the history of a force of which the Under-Secretary spoke as if it has never been raised for anything except home defence. Such were the traditions which were swept into oblivion, as far as the public were concerned, by the unfortunate change of name in 1908. Can your Lordships doubt that all old Militiamen and Special Reservists who know anything at all about the past, desire the restoration of the time-honoured name of Militia, which was in use as far back as 1558? Of the present units, 47 were raised and have been in continual existence since 1660, and some of them are still older. The name of Special Reserve has never caught on. It conveys nothing to the general public. At the time when that name was inaugurated, there were nine different forms of Reserve in existence, and educated people very often mistook the Militiaman, who was compelled to call himself a Special Reservist, for a member of the National Reserve; that is to say, the gentlemen over sixty who used to turn out once a year in bowlers or top-hats and umbrellas in order to show what very large numbers were available for the defence of the country.
The noble Viscount claimed that it was a scientific name based on definite principles of military nomenclature. The impression it gave to the general public was that it was a suggestion of some vintage of wine or vat of spirits. The name Extra Special Reserve was humiliating and ridiculous to those who had to bear it, and the proof that it was not acceptable, from the scientific or military point of view, is the fact that the military authorities dropped it from the moment the war began. From that moment the name was never used in any official document or Army Order. It was said in the House of Commons that the name Special Reserve had acquired special significance and creditable distinction 388 in the war. That is not so. The Special Reserve obtained distinction, but the name did not, because it was dropped and was never used in any official document or pronouncement. It is also the case that the work of the Special Reserve, a direct continuation of the work of the Militia in all former wars, was quite unknown to those in authority and has been completely ignored, or there could never have been any question of abolishing the Special Reserve immediately the war was over.
The Army could not have kept the field for three months without the Special Reserve. The new Armies could not have been formed without the Special Reserve, nor could the Territorial Force have been trained if the Special Reserve had not relieved them of duties for which they were not prepared, the duties for which Volunteers and Territorials actually exist. The sick and wounded could never have been patched up again for service but for the Special Reserve. The whole of the Special Reserve units were mobilised in 1914 with the Regular Army, and it took over the training of officers and men for drafts. It may interest your Lordships to hear a few figures. The average number of men trained and despatched to battalions in the field per Special Reserve unit was 667 officers and 17,458 men, which gives a total of 67,307 officers and 1,763,258 other ranks. Taking the total number of men raised in the British Empire at about 8,000,000 men the Special Reserve were responsible for training approximately a quarter of the whole.
Such was the work which has received no particular mention, and for which the only reward is the proposal to abolish the force. Such was the work for which not even a medal has been granted to noncommissioned officers and men who broke their hearts staving at home, and who did the work of training, without rest or intermission—far harder work than anything abroad, and work for which every kind of other organisation has got recognition. That is going to go very much against you when you try to reorganise the Militia. The Army has never been able to do without the Militia, and unless you intend to raise the Army by continental methods you have got to keep up the Militia. That is why I welcome this Bill as an earnest of the intention of the Government, but I hope that there will be no further delay about 389 the reconstitution of the force and about recruiting.
As regards the change of name from Territorial Force to Territorial Army, I think that it is unquestionably a compliment, and one to which this gallant force has established an absolute claim; but although I yield to none in admiration for the Territorial Army, I feel obliged to ask why it is given precedence over the Militia. The title of the Bill and the sequence of the clauses give to the Territorial Army a definite precedence to which it has no shadow of a claim. Why should you take away from the old Constitutional force of the Militia a position which the Territorial Force would not grudge them, and which nobody would grudge them who knows the history of England? I understand from what.the Under-Secretary said that the Bill only provides for a change of name and not a change of duties. I do not advocate any change of duties, but what I do advocate is that there should be additional duties.
The one grievance which we of the Special Reserve will never get over is that on winch the noble Viscount vaunted himself so much—namely, the system under which we were not allowed to go out as units. There were many times during the war on which every reserve battalion could have gone out as a unit and yet left behind a large cadre for training and drafting purposes—a cadre of which every officer and man would have been full of actual experience of war. We copied everything from the German system with regard to building up and maintaining our Armies, except that one thing. The Germans had similar reserve battalions, and took good care that they should go to the front and not lose that prestige which is invaluable to any corps and which goes to make up tradition. The Militia will never get over the fact that they did not go out as units. Every single officer or man went out in one form or other except those who, for sonic reason, were unfit, but the fact that we did not go out as units is a thing which we shall never get over. From the Army point of view it was a very great mistake, because you could have sent out units not once, but two or three times over. Instead, you only formed units which had none of those cohesive elements.
Referring for a moment to the Bill itself, I welcome the change of name. I welcome the disappearance from our 390 Statute Book of our obsolete system of conscription, which we alone have maintained, and I hope that now you have given a name to the force, you will lose no further time about reconstituting it and opening recruiting.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I wish to say a word on one or two points before the Bill is read a second time. As a very old Militiaman, and one who is very proud of the fact, I thank my noble friend for the fervid and eloquent defence which he has made of the old Militia. I agree with him that the title of the Bill is wrong. It is an obvious slip of somebody in the War Office, and it ought to be the Militia and Territorial Army Bill. That, however, does not affect the question of precedence, because the Militia will always come before the Territorial Army.
I want to say something about what my noble friend, Lord Haldane, said. He connected two things which seemed to me to have no necessary connection whatever. I agree with him and with his military advisers that the main function of the Militia in modern wars is to supply drafts to the Regular battalions. I also agree that that does not, and ought not, to preclude their being sent out as units when occasion requires. While I agree that the main function of the Militia ought to be to supply drafts to the Regular battalions, with whom, under the county system, the connection is so close that there are three or four battalions of one regiment, there does not seem to me to be any connection between that fact and the hideous name of Special Reserve. I do not think Lord Haldane knew the extent to which his action in changing the name from Militia to Special Reserve was, and is, resented. And there is no necessary connection whatever between using the Militia battalions for drafting purposes and the change of name. Therefore, as an old Militiaman, I thank the War Office and the Army Council most cordially for giving us back their name, which has a great history behind it, and of which we are very proud.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.