HL Deb 25 June 1925 vol 61 cc802-13

LORD O'HAGAN rose to call the attention of His Majesty's Government to the unfair effect of the Regulations governing the award of the Territorial Decoration and Territorial Efficiency Medal; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the points to which I venture to invite the attention of the Government I feel sure will enlist the sympathy, and I hope the support, of this House. Those who, like myself, are interested and directly concerned in the raising and administration of the Territorial Army, will, I think, agree that it is a bad thing that there should exist any sense of injustice and of want of appreciation on the part of those who are at present serving in that Force. We are being asked, at least the Essex County Association, for whom I speak, are being asked, to raise new units for the Territorial Army. At the moment we are being called upon to raise in that County 1,700 officers and men for new units. I suggest it is no help, and in fact very much the reverse, that while we are endeavouring to carry out that duty there should be any suspicion of unfairness or hardship among those at present serving as regards the awarding of the Territorial Decoration and the Territorial Medal. That this feeling exists I know to be the fact, and while I am anxious in no way to exaggerate the point, I think your Lordships will agree, after I have stated the case, that there is legitimate ground for that feeling.

First of all it is laid down that the Territorial Decoration is "a reward to an officer for long and meritorious service of proved capacity in the Territorial Army." Among other qualifications he must have twenty years' continuous service, and the principal point at issue is the way in which that service is to be computed. Then there are Regulations. An officer who was serving on August 4, 1914, and actually served or undertook to serve before November 11 of that year, can count his War service two-fold. The same applies to the Territorial Medal. I am sure everybody will feel that it is only fair that War service should count double towards this Decoration and also towards the medal, but let me explain how unfairly the Regulations work out in fact. Take the case of a young man who was under the regulation age on August 4, 1914, but who joined up as soon as he became eligible to do so. He may have been gazetted even on August 5, and subsequently he may have served abroad for the greater part of the War, and yet he is penalised by these Regulations to the extent of losing some three or four years qualifying service towards this reward, as against a young man who was gazetted on August 3. This is no hypothetical case.

I know of such instances, and I am sure many noble Lords will know of cases of young men, either in or out of cadet or training corps, whose determination it was to join the Territorial Army as soon as they were allowed the opportunity of doing so. I venture to say that I think in the particular instance I have given considerable injustice is being done, which should be, and easily could be, remedied.

Then again, take the case of a Territorial soldier who served in the ranks before August 4, and was subsequently given a Commission, it may be on tilt field. If he continues after the War as an officer on the Active List he also cannot count his War service as double towards the Decoration. Yet you have the curious anomaly that if he reverts to the ranks after the War he can count his Commissioned service as double towards the Territorial Medal. Surely this is neither right nor fair. Surely the man who has justified the grant of a Commission during active service, and who remains in a position of responsibility after the War as an officer, should be entitled to as good a chance of obtaining the reward of his meritorious service as a man who was commissioned on August 3, 1914. If these two instances alone were dealt with, I think a good deal of heartburning would be removed. There is further, of course, the general question of those who joined on the outbreak of War or immediately afterwards, who have continued to serve since, and in the opinion of many others better qualified than myself their claims to have their War service considered as twofold are very fair and entitled to further consideration.

I should like to deal at once with some of the obvious criticisms which may be directed against these proposals. I shall probably be told that it is unwise to make the granting of these awards for service too general, that it has a tendency to lower their value before the public and to depreciate them in the eyes of their holders. My association and myself thoroughly agree with this view. We are anxious to maintain the standard in every way, and if the War Office did not see its way to meet the general case, while it is felt that this would be a mistake, still I think an alteration as regards the young men and the men promoted from the ranks would remove a great injustice. If dealt with on the lines suggested, I cannot think that the claims considered would be of such a number as to cheapen the value of the award.

I may be told that you must have some hard and fast rule, and you must keep to it of necessity, that no amount of revision and alteration would prevent all hard cases. I agree. Of course, you are bound to have hard cases, but I submit that the governing consideration in making these awards is, and should be obviously, meritorious and continuous service. Many of your Lordships, I am sure, are well aware of the very great difficulties under which commanding and other officers serve, and have served since the War, in the Territorial Army. As Chairman of my own county recruiting committee I feel we cannot do too much to recognise the high sense of duty, the devotion, the energy and the enthusiasm with which, under the most depressing and disheartening conditions, Territorial officers and men who served during the War have voluntarily come forward and carried on in that. Force during the post-War period. Unless one has had personal contact with it, it is not easy to appreciate how difficult this task of reforming Territorial units in most instances has been.

In this respect I do not speak for the County of Essex alone, but, I am sure, for the whole country. The apathy which has had to be contended with among the general public, the very natural reaction after the long War period against any form of military service, the action on the part of certain political and semi-political bodies which, immediately after the War, were particularly active in the endeavour to discount all patriotic effort in this direction—all these elements brought about a condition of affairs which handicapped in every direction the efforts which were made to reconstitute the Territorial Army. I think that the country owes a great debt of gratitude to these Territorial officers and men, who were not only prepared to render their best in the service of their country during the War, but, in spite of all they had undergone, and in spite of the War weariness which they must inevitably have felt, still perceived it to be their duty to come forward after the War was over, to engage it, the reconstitution of the Territorial Army under these most adverse and dis- couraging conditions. Surely one would have considered it only natural that they should feel it was for others to take up the burden, the responsibilities of which they had borne under the most trying of all War conditions.

I have been told that the Territorial Decoration was meant as a reward for men who before the War recognised the possibility that there would be a war, and gave up their time in order to fit themselves for war. Surely this is not the case. I should like to ask my noble friend whether the Territorial Decoration was instituted specially for those who prepared for the last War, or whether it was not, as a matter of fact, instituted for the whole of the Territorial officers who served for the prescribed period of twenty years, and that to enable some of them to get the Decoration earlier than they would otherwise have done it was provided that War service should count double. Of course, there must be hard cases, no matter how well your Regulations are drafted, and I hope the noble Earl who answers me will not press those instances which I have definitely raised too strongly. But I suggest that the important point to insist upon is that of continuity of service, and that in taking into account War service as counting twofold it should be irrespective of whether the non-War service is pre-War or post-War. The conditions of the latter have been just as difficult as, if not more difficult than, the former.

After all, it is only fair to say that the vast majority of men who served in the Territorial Army before the War did not appreciate what war meant till they were in it. On the other hand, the man who joined after the War began (and in particular the young man who could not join before the War by reason of age) and who not only served through the War, but, knowing all that it meant from actual experience, still carried on after the War in preparation for all eventualities, even of another war—surely this man even more deserves to have his War service counted as double towards these awards for meritorious service.

On all these grounds I suggest that some revision of the Regulations is called for. And, while speaking on the question generally, I would suggest that provision ought to be made for future wars. In raising this question I should mention that I have the support of many members of county associations up and down the country, both in Scotland and in England. If the War Office cannot see its way to admit the general case—and I see the difficulties that exist—I would most strongly urge that the two particular categories of cases I have mentioned should be dealt with—namely that of the men under age on August 4, 1914, and that of the man promoted from the ranks during the War. I venture to say that they constitute a body of men to whom the country owes a deep debt of gratitude. Not merely have they proved their worth in the country's greatest hour of need, but they are to-day carrying on quietly, courageously, and against great odds, to fit themselves to serve again should their country need them. I think that alterations such as I have suggested to the Government are not merely alterations which should in justice be accorded, but from every point of view can do nothing but good in the promotion of the best interests of the Territorial Army, and especially at this time of difficulty through which it is passing.


My Lords, may I, in the first instance, associate myself most fully and cordially with what my noble friend said in regard to the debt of gratitude which we all owe to the members of the Territorial Army, both officers and men, who served throughout the War, and who are now continuing to serve as officers of the Territorial Army and to help to reconstitute that Force? It is of special importance that we should have the advantage of the services of these members of the Territorial Army in view of the position which the Territorial Army will be called upon to fill in the future in accordance with the statement made recently at the meeting of the Territorial Associations by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War.

I am grateful to my noble friend for having brought this matter forward and for having mentioned the hardships which he considers to exist in connection with the granting of this Decoration. I think he is labouring under a slight misappre- hension, and I hope that such explanations as I am able to afford him may serve to remove from his mind any doubts he may have. My noble friend said that the Territorial Decoration and the Territorial Medal were instituted as a reward for long and efficient service. That is perfectly true. That is the purpose for which this Decoration and this Medal were instituted. The crux of the matter, as my noble friend brought it before your Lordships, is that in the reckoning of the qualifying period for the grant of this Decoration and this Medal, War Service is counted as double. This Decoration is not a reward for service during the War, such as are the 1914–15 Star, the General Service Medal, or the Victory Medal. It is not awarded for actual War service because, of course, it is open only to those who have served or are serving in the Territorial Army.

The object of granting double service for War-time service was to afford special recognition of the patriotism of members of the Territorial Army in preparing themselves in peace time for home defence and also—and this is a very important matter—in taking the further obligation upon them of service overseas. It would obviously complicate matters to extend this recognition to those who joined the Territorial Army after the outbreak of War. One difficulty would be that those who were serving in the Regular Army or the Special Reserve during the War, and afterwards joined the Territorial Army, could not count their service as double; whereas the man who happened to have joined the Territorial Army during the War could count that service as double, although, as we know, it was largely a matter of chance whether one served in the Regular Army, or the Special Reserve, or the Territorial Army.

The next point my noble friend raised was, I think, that a young man who was under age on August 4, 1914, but who joined up as early as the Regulations allowed and is still serving, could not reckon his War service as double service. That, of course, is the case. But, as I said before, the object of granting the double service was to recognise the patriotism of those who were serving in the Territorial Army before the War, and rendering themselves fit for home defence and for service overseas. The young officer who joined the Territorial Army after the outbreak of War was in the same position as the young officer who joined the new Army, who served throughout the War and received his medal and so forth, and new, possibly, has also joined the Territorial Army.

Another point raised by my noble friend was in regard to the rather complicated system which obtains in the case of the man who was serving in the ranks when the War broke out, who got a Commission and is either serving as a Territorial officer now or has rejoined and is serving again in the ranks. That is a rather complicated matter, and I think my best plan would be to give my noble friend a concrete illustration as to what will happen exactly to any one in that position. Obviously it has not happened yet, because the twenty years which are necessary to the earning of the Decoration or Medal have not yet expired; it would be impossible for any one in that position, even counting the double time, to have earned either the Decoration or the Medal and no actual case has happened. But there will be such cases and this is what will happen in the future.

Let us suppose that a young man joined the ranks on August 4, 1912, and served until August 4, 1914, in the ordinary way in peace. He is allowed to count half his service in the ranks towards his Decoration and, therefore, those two years would count as one year. Then if he served from August 4, 1914, to August 4, 1915, in the ranks, embodied and overseas, he would count that year as double his rank's service; that is to say, that one year would count as one year. Therefore, during those three years, two in peace and one in War, he would have counted two years service towards his Territorial Decoration. Then let us suppose that he got his Commission on August 4, 1915, and served for three years, he would then obtain credit for double service, that is for six years' service as an officer, provided of course that he continued to serve as an officer in the Territorial Army after the War. It is not only his service as an officer in the Territorial Army that is counted; but it is counted if he had a Commission in any other branch of the Army, either the Regular Army or the Special Reserve, provided again, of course, that he returned to the Territorial Army after the War was over. Therefore from August 4, 1912, to August 4, 1918, he would be able to count eight years altogether towards his Decoration. If, after having been an officer in the new Army, he went back to the Territorial Army in the ranks he would be able to count his War service double towards the medal. I think that is the best way of answering that part of my noble friend's Question.

Of course, as my noble friend has said, there are hard cases. Such eases must arise in any event in regard to any class of decorations or medals or anything else. Where there is a hard-and-fast rule which suits the majority of cases exceptions will crop up and may create hard cases. That, I am afraid, is a matter which one has to envisage in any circumstances. The man who happened to join the Territorial Army on August 5, 1914, two days late, suffers perhaps a disadvantage as compared with the man who joined on August 3, 1914. That cannot be helped, of course, because the line must be drawn somewhere.

My noble friend also touched upon another matter and expressed a wish that the Army Council would consider the question of further provision for future wars—we hope that such wars may not take place—for the encouragement of young officers and men to join the Territorial Army. That is really a matter with which I do not think I can deal now. I am grateful to my noble friend for what he has said and I shall be very glad to hear any suggestions he may have to make. But I want to make this clear to him in regard to the double service. Other meritorious service should, perhaps, be dealt with in another manner, but this particular regulation deals only with those who were members of the Territorial Army before the War. I wanted to make that clear to my noble friend, and I hope that the explanations I have given him will have cleared up some of the misapprehensions which I think were in his mind. I have endeavoured to do that and I trust that I have given him satisfaction.


My Lords, I have listened to the speech of the noble Lord who introduced this Motion, and to the speech made in reply by the noble Earl on behalf of the Government. The question is a very difficult and com- plicated one. I myself have had a good deal of experience of it in its earlier stages with the Territorials, and to arrive at a proper solution of this matter requires a number of things to be taken into account, and this in particular. Be careful, above all things, lest you make your decorations too cheap. I have seen a great deal of Territorials, and whatever the officers may say to you, and whatever the associations may say—and there is always somebody who says these things—among the men I have always found that they look upon decorations very much according to their value. They do not want things that come pro forma after a certain lapse of time. They know the difference between those things and the things that are real.

I am entirely with the noble Lord in thinking that we should do everything to make recruiting easier, in the sense of more attractive, at this time, but I do not think you do make is more attractive by showering decorations with a profuse hand. I am all for the rather rigid views which the War Office take, and the only thing I am afraid of is that sometimes technical considerations come in and interfere with the due carrying out of those views. Therefore I am not prepared to say "Yes" to the suggestions which the noble Lord makes, I think, a little too easily. I am not prepared to say that these decorations should be got very easily, or that War service should not count very largely in the considerations which determine them. I dare say there are improvements to be made, and I hope that this matter will be considered by the War Office, not as a closed one, but as one in regard to which they may proceed to entertain suggestions that seem valuable. I am, nevertheless, in favour of not falling too easily into compliance with those requests which I see being made in nearly every quarter of the country by people for a further extension of the system of decorations within the Territorial Force. We have to go very carefully. The essence of the Territorial Force is that those engaged in it should believe it to be a real thing—a real thing in war as well as a real thing in peace—and upon that you will find your Territorial soldiers very shrewd judges.


My Lords, I only wish to say that I have consulted the officers of my battalion, and I gathered that they agree with the views put forward by the noble Earl rather than with those put forward by my noble friend Lord O'Hagan.


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Earl put me right on the question of the ranker officers. I am afraid I shared the misapprehension on that subject that a great many other people have, and I am glad of the assurance, which of course we can take as an official assurance, on that point. It does deal satisfactorily with one of the cases that I have raised. I cannot quite let the remarks of the noble and learned Viscount pass, though I am not exactly in conflict with them, without saying a few words upon them. I can assure the noble and learned Viscount that he has no greater admirer than myself for all he has done in the past for the Territorial Army, nor do I differ in the least from him, nor do those who support me differ from him, in the remarks that he made with regard to the thoroughly unsound idea of making the acquisition of these decorations easy. What the noble and learned Viscount says is, of course, perfectly true, and I would respectfully state that the suggestions that I have made do not in the least go outside that sound doctrine that he put forward.

I cannot see how it can be called giving a decoration too easily if a Territorial officer, or a man who received his Commission at the outbreak of the War and served abroad, is put in the same position with regard to his qualifications for the decoration (having served through the War) as the man who happened to be in the Territorial Army before the War and has continued right through. It seems to me that the test in that sense is about as severe a one as could possibly be given for his qualification to count those particular parts of his service as two-fold. I did not wish in the remarks that I made to go at all into the subject of recruiting. I carefully tried to avoid that. There is. of course, a great deal to be said on that, but it was not the question of recruiting but rather the feeling of these serving officers in the Territorial Army and of the men who have served throughout the War, that I wished to bring to the notice of your Lordships.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I am much obliged to my noble friend for his information, but I am not converted from the view which I expressed—and I hold it in common with those from whom I have had letters all over the country—that War service, whether attached to pre-War service or post-War service, should count double towards the award of these decorations. In view, however, of what the noble Lord has said, I ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.