HL Deb 04 April 1922 vol 49 cc1127-30

LORD NEWTON rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether the 120 officers shown on the establishment of the staff of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief and on the staff of the General Officer Commanding the British troops in Constantinople represent all the officers, acting or temporary, at present employed on the various staffs, Commissions, controls and gendarmerie; and if not, how many additional officers are actually engaged on these duties; what is the total cost in pay and allowances, temporary or permanent, of these officers together with their clerks, orderlies, typists, &c.; whether the actual number of British troops, apart from those employed as above, amounts to as much as the establishment of a regular brigade; and whether the Indian troops have a separate staff.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have put this Question on the Paper in view of some rather remarkable statements which appear in the Army List. It seems that at Constantinople there are two sets of forces. There is an Allied force of occupation and a British force of occupation, and each of these forces has at its head a Commander-in-Chief and a staff of very considerable dimensions. On one staff there are, I think, over seventy officers, and on the other there are between forty and fifty. When you come to the actual fighting force I can only discover in the Army List two weak battalions, a weak cavalry regiment, a few batteries of artillery, and a few details, which might possibly make up something over 2,000 men. I can hardly conceive that a staff of 120 shown in the Army List—and, of course, there must be numerous satellites of a temporary kind who do not appear at all—is not a very excessive provision for a force of that size. I can hardly believe that the force does not amount to more than I have stated. There must be, I presume, a few Indian battalions, possibly two or three, which might bring the total numbers up to something like 4,000.

What have all these officers been doing in the past? I can understand, in view of the statement made here a day or two ago, that they all may have duties before them in the future, but I cannot conceive what they have been doing up to now. Have they been with the Greek Army, or have they been with the Turkish Army, or have they been with both? Among these officers I notice a very large number of Intelligence officers. Intelligence is political work, and the political work is the work of the Embassy, and anybody who has been at Constantinople knows that the Embassy there is the largest diplomatic establishment we possess. We have at the head of it a very efficient Ambassador in the person of Sir Horace Rumbold, and it is perfectly obvious that there must be a considerable amount of overlapping, because in an Embassy of that size there is certainly one Military Attaché at least, and no doubt he has a certain number of satellites of both sexes under his control as well. I was at Constantinople some years ago, and learned, somewhat to my surprise, that one regiment alone, a Turkish regiment, boasted no fewer than sixteen colonels. I cannot help thinking that the British military authorities have imbibed something of the spirit of redundancy which prevails in that capital. At any rate, it seems to me that this is one of those cases, which we so frequently come across nowadays, in which we find that what used to be done by one man before the war now requires four or five persons to do it. I confess I await with a certain amount of interest the answer I shall receive from my noble friend.


My Lords, I feel that the figures as disclosed in the Army List perhaps do give rise to some questions in people's minds, and afford sonic justification for the Question which the noble Lord has put down. But the figures of the garrison actually at Constantinople are not quite those which he assumes. I have to admit that they are not as great as the number for which provision is made in the Army Estimates at the present time. The provision in the Army Estimates is for a garrison of British troops of very nearly 8,000. The garrison is not up to that strength at the present time owing to the amount of movement that has been taking place in consequence of the replacement of Indian troops by British which is now going on. The actual strength of the garrison, according to the latest return, which is dated March 1, is as follows:—British officers, 288; British other ranks, 4,532; Indian other ranks, 3,603. The last-named are being withdrawn and replaced by British.

The actual number of the staff at Constantinople at the present time is 129 officers, with subordinates, numbering 230, and the total cost for their pay and allowances is £142,000. The number may seem rather large for a garrison of the size I have mentioned, but I am sure the noble Lord will realise that the duties of this garrison are not those of quite an ordinary kind. The command of the Allied forces at present devolves upon a British officer, and it is necessary to provide hint also with a Divisional Headquarters Staff, in order to relieve him of some of the ordinary administrative duties and to set him free for the international duties. The location of the garrison on both sides of the Straits involves there being two brigade headquarters.

Of the 129 officers, over 60 are employed in connection with the various Missions, with the work of control in its various aspects, and in connection with Intelligence. The noble Lord suggested that some of that Intelligence work could be done by the Embassy, but I can assure him that it is not work which could properly be devolved at, the present time upon the Embassy. It is concerned with watching military operations, and with duties of a kind which I hope the noble Lord will not ask me to specify. But I can assure him that, although the numbers may seem to be high, they are necessitated by the variety and international character of the task before our garrison. It is to be hoped that reductions may he speedily effected, provided the situation clears up, as one may hope that it will.