HL Deb 28 February 1928 vol 70 cc247-84

VISCOUNT HALDANE rose to call attention to the changes recently announced by the Secretary of State for War on the distribution of duties at the War Office, and the future Staff Organisation of the Army in the field; and to move for Papers. The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, I rise to call attention to the new distribution that has been announced of duties in the Army Council and the War Office and particularly to their effect on the Higher Command in the field and the position of the Commander-in-Chief. I may say at once that I rise with no hostile purpose towards the Government. Indeed, I do not think that anybody could have a hostile purpose, because the subject is so obscure that no one quite knows what these changes imply and what it is that has to be guarded against. They have arisen out of what is known as "mechanisation," which, as your Lordships know, means the substitution of other forms of movement for the old forms and, in particular, the introduction of engines of war propelled by petrol engines and sometimes assuming the form of tanks, at other times of vehicles which lay down as the wheels proceed the tracks for those wheels to move on, and also for a variety of further engines of war known as "dragons," self-propelling guns and a variety of other devices.

I wish to say at once that I am far from suggesting that the introduction of these necessary changes does not involve considerable alteration in the technical distribution of duties and of the powers that have been given to the Master-General of the Ordnance for construction, for experiment and for invention. All this is true, but the case that I am going to make is that these things could have been done completely and efficiently—perhaps more thoroughly than they have been done even under the organisation proposed—without altering the position of the Commander-in-Chief in the field. That position is a very difficult one. The Commander-in-Chief is there to fight. He is not there to spend his time in reading papers or in discussing things with various people, but to give his undivided attention and his concentrated will to battle. The less you hamper him with advisers who have a right to claim a hearing the better.

I do not know what would have been the view of the late Earl Haig upon this particular subject. I never discussed it with him, but I do know that when he and, indeed, the Earl of Ypres before him, who took the same course, found themselves with an additional staff officer to those already existing, called the Inspector of Communications, who, I regret to say, had been introduced in my own time—I was rather overborne unduly by technical opinion, and I was young then—the two Commanders-in-Chief, agreeing with one another, ousted that extra Staff officer from the field so that he disappeared from the organisation. They found that they could fight better the less they were encumbered with advisers who were not merely advisers who came there, as it were, when they were wanted, but who had a right to claim to give their advice as to the conduct of operations. As I have said I do not know what view Field-Marshal Lord Haig would have taken on the particular point before us. It is at least a loss, the magnitude of which it is difficult to estimate, that we have not got him here, with his vast experience, to give us his guidance on the question which now comes before us.

In order to make plain what the point is, I think I had better tell your Lordships what is involved in the existing system. The point now raised is not a point which is altogether uninteresting to the public. The case we are making is that it really involves a change so large that it should not have been entered upon without much more adequate inquiry than appears to have been bestowed upon it. When it was first announced, The Times newspaper, which is always vigilant about military matters, at once declared that, without expressing any opinion on the concrete question, it thought it essential that there should be more inquiry than there had been. That view, taken by The Times and repeated in its columns on more than one occasion, was taken up by a number of distinguished Generals of different schools of thought, and they all concentrated upon saying that what we want is that this change should not be made without searching investigation—the sort of investigation made by the Esher Committee when the War Office was reorganised—that the inquiry need not take long, but that it should be thorough. Looking at the only document that we have here—the document published on November 10 last by the War Office for the enlightenment, first of the House of Commons and then of the public—it appears to me that there has been some uncertainty in the minds of the Army Council and of the Secretary of State as to how far the change which is proposed ought to go.

I come to the nature of the change itself. At the War Office, as your Lordships know, there is an organisation in time of peace which is larger than that which is represented by the principal staff of the Commander-in-Chief in the field. At the War Office there is the Chief of the General Staff, there is the Adjutant-General, the Quartermaster-General and the Master-General of the Ordnance. Under the Commander-in-Chief in the field, at present, there are only the Chief of the General Staff, his Adjutant-General, his Quartermaster-General, and no others. The Inspector of Communications was abolished, as I told your Lordships, in the exercise of their powers, by Lord Ypres and Lord Haig; but when one comes to the duties of these members of the Army Council I am not at all quarrelling with the distribution of their duties.

They are roughly these. The Chief of the General Staff has to study the operations of war, strategy and tactics, and has to think about these things. He is essentially the thinking member of the Army Council. The Adjutant-General is concerned with personnel. The Quartermaster-General is concerned with supplies of all sorts. He even has to do with some supplies which are related to armaments, but armaments, so far as the most important of them are concerned, are within the province of the Master-General of Ordnance. He has factories at Woolwich and he has his technicians. He manufactures rifles and guns, and now he will manufacture the new mechanised instruments of war, which are rapidly transforming the appearance of the Army in the field, which are taking the place of Cavalry, and which constitute something new. These new instruments are of a mobile character. During the late War, soon after the first battle of the Marne, the War became of a stationary character, and during the next three years was of a siege character. At the end of that time mobility was restored, thanks to these new instruments, and the British Army was able to advance, and did advance. The Master-General of the Ordnance furnishes the Army with rifles and guns, but he does not go into the field to advise on the use of rifles and guns. He supplies them and he prepares them. It is the finished article which he delivers to the Commander-in-Chief, who uses it with the assistance and advice which he gets from his Chief of the General Staff. The Chief of the General Staff studies these things, gets information from technical people, who are numerous near the headquarters, although they have not an official position which enables them to come and claim the attention of the Commander-in-Chief. He is able, with the information at his disposal, to advise how the weapons which became mobile at the beginning of 1918, and which ultimately contributed largely to our victory, are to be employed.

If that is so, then it is obvious that there is no necessity for the Master-General of the Ordnance to be represented by-a principal Staff officer at Head-quarters in the field. His business is to supply all these things, and the devising and preparation of them is a matter for time of peace. He goes on supplying them and improving them in war, but his work is mainly to be prepared, so that they may be there if we should happen to go to war. When, however, he has done his work it is the Headquarters Staff who employ them, and who are the proper judges of the mode in which they are to be employed, and not the Master-General of the Ordnance. Therefore the Esher Committee, which made a very searching Inquiry into this matter, laid it down that the Master-General of the Ordnance should be on the Army Council but should not be on the Headquarters Staff in time of war. I have not a copy of the Esher Report, but if noble Lords who have will refer to page 116 they will find a distribution of the duties at Headquarters laid down under which the Master-General of the Ordnance is excluded. And the reason was obvious. The Commander-in-Chief should be left with undistracted attention and with as few Staff officers surrounding him as should be found necessary.

The very principle which the Esher Committee laid down and which we have insisted upon ever since, and which governed the constitution of the Expeditionary Force, and indeed of the whole of our military arrangements, was this: that when you prepare, you must prepare on a basis that is a war basis. You need not call it into vigour in time of peace, you need not call up your reserves, but you must have everything ready; and the test of readiness must be the war test, and not the peace test. It is absolutely essential if there is to be rapid mobilisation and if no hitch or lacuna is to be found when the whole thing comes to be looked into. And therefore the Esher Committee, laying down that principle very strongly, took the line that the insistence on a war basis made it necessary to study the Commander-in-Chief, not from the point of view of arrangements which might be good peace arrangements for the Army Council, but on the footing of readiness for war.

They said the Master-General of Ordnance furnishes the guns, furnishes the rifles—there were no tanks in those days, but there were other things—furnishes all these mechanical adjuncts of warfare, but he has no place on the field of battle. He has his technical experts. He can call in the Quartermaster-General or the General Staff, but these are there only for reference, and they are not there to tender counsel. Now, that is a system which worked unbrokenly since about 1908, when the Field Service Regulations, as they are called, were projected. The Field Service Regulations have gone through several editions, but through these editions the principle has been adhered to that the purpose is to prepare on a war basis, and not on a peace basis. What you do is to make things ready to be set instantaneously on a war basis. That was the secret of the rapidity with which the Expeditionary Force was able to mobilise, and it is the secret of the rapidity with which, I believe, we can still mobilise. But all that depended upon everything being reduced to a minimum, and upon the Commander-in-Chief not being locked out.

Your Lordships will ask how it came about that any departure from this was even contemplated. Thereby hangs a tale. There are two very powerful bodies in the Army, the gunners and the sappers. They have always been very powerful, and one reason why they have been very powerful is that in the old days they were not within the Army in any ordinary sense at all. They were under the Board of Ordnance, only separate from Army Headquarters, which was located at the Tower of London, and there the Master-General of the Ordnance not only controlled and trained them and looked after them, but even signed the Commissions of officers—signed them in virtue of an ancient and very sacred tradition. That was found to be very bad. It naturally led to very slow mobilisation, because if the Commander-in-Chief wanted artillery, the Secretary of State had to direct the Board of Ordnance to send them to him, and they did not come into the Army until they arrived on the field. And therefore in 1855, just after the creation of the office of Secretary of State for War, that was abolished, and the ordnance became part of the Army. They had various curious privileges—they had special officers and inspectors—but by degrees these were cut down, and finally they became the gunners and the artillerymen under the Master-General of the Ordnance, who was a member of the Army Council. I am not reproaching these gallant men in the least. They had a tradition, and they lived up to their tradition, but they were a very potent force in the Army.

However, for a long time, and certainly after the date of the Esher Commission, which was well aware of this, they were quiescent. But of late they appear to have become more active, and with mechanisation, with the introduction of all these new weapons of war, they have come to the consciousness of their own importance in an increasing sense, and they have not only got the Master-General of the Ordnance on the Army Council, but now they have persuaded the authorities to have them represented by putting the Master-General of the Ordnance as an extra Staff officer with the Commander-in-Chief. To be a principal Staff officer is a privilege much prized. It enables you to send out your directions by order, which is a privilege much esteemed. But it is something that can weigh as nothing when you are concerned with efficiency in the field and simplicity and rapidity of action on the part of the Commander-in-Chief.

What was the history of how this was done? When mechanisation came along there were, of course, involved a great number of internal combustion engines—petrol became very important in the War—and there were other things, too. The result was that it was plain that the powers and the staff of the Master-General of the Ordnance would have to be revised and extended in order that he might cope with the new technical duties which these things brought upon him. This involved considerable changes in Army organisation, and the Secretary of State very wisely referred the matter to a Committee. The Committee was presided over by Lord Weir, a very eminent authority on engineering questions. Lord Weir's Committee sat in, I think, 1923, and reported in 1926, to the effect that all military weapons and machinery run by internal combustion power should be under the Master-General of the Ordnance. I have not seen Lord Weir's Report, and I do not know whether I am accurately describing it. I am taking this from the statement of its contents which has been made by the Army Council. Anyhow, whether it was good or bad, whether it was efficient or not does not matter, because the Quartermaster-General would not have that allocation of duties. He said: "I, too, require internal combustion engines and use them," and he objected very much to the allocation of duties, and the thing went to pieces. Then some sort of Committee was appointed, but again this Committee could make no recommendations that were looked at. Finally, I think in despair the Secretary of State last summer referred the whole matter to the military members, and the military members made some recommendations which, not unnaturally no doubt, represented the very best they thought they could do, but, were such as do not strike me as having been based on any minute or careful consideration of the questions, some of them scientific, which this matter involves.

Under what is not only suggested but has now been made public, the Master-General of the Ordnance will in future be responsible for all research, experiment, design, inspection, provision, storage, issue and repair of all tracked, semi-tracked and wheeled mechanical vehicles, except vehicles on the establishment of the Royal Army Service Corps which will continue to be provided and maintained by the Quartermaster-General under specifications approved by the Master-General of the Ordnance. Anybody who knows anything about military matters will see there infinite sources of friction. The Quartermaster-General has to do these things, and has to say what he wants, and the Master-General of the Ordnance is to approve of his plans; and so you get two authorities at work. Although the Master-General of the Ordnance provides these things, yet it remains the case that the Quartermaster-General is given functions with re gard to them. The Quartermaster-General will be responsible as he is the person who looks after the supplies of the Army. The Quartermaster-General will have his own functions in the matter of repairs, and he is responsible for the impressment of vehicles required for the Royal Army Service Corps.

But the functions of the Master-General of the Ordnance and of the Quartermaster-General are so interlaced that they require clearing up. I think it is a great misfortune that the term "Quartermaster-General" ever came into our Army. On the Continent, from which it was taken, the Quartermaster-General is a General Staff officer, who is not concerned with supply at all. How he got this title I do not know; but in the days of the Duke of Wellington it meant what was meant on the Continent—a General Staff officer. Now it has come to mean a supply officer and the result is that there is, of course, rivalry between the branches that supply, many of which naturally say: Why should the Quartermaster-General have his horn exalted above us, and why should not the Master-General of the Ordnance be in exactly the same position? That leads to what we have here.

This Memorandum of November last goes on to say that the Quartermaster-General, who is responsible for providing accommodation for the troops, will take over all duties connected with works; and barrack construction will then come under him instead of under the Master-General of the Ordnance. Good Heavens! This is intelligible only as some sort of compromise made at the last moment. The Master-General of the Ordnance has the Engineering Corps under him and he is the person to set up works. Supposing a war in which there were siege operations and in which works were to be put up, what is the unfortunate Commander-in-Chief to do? Is he to give the duty to the Quartermaster-General, who has got it by law, or is he to go to the natural person to discharge it, the person who has the Engineering Corps under him, the Master-General of the Ordnance? Observe that they are both to be on his staff and, therefore, the unhappy Commander-in-Chief cannot get out of it. He has to come to a decision, and that is just one of the things which may cause infinite worry and infinite trouble.

Here is the concluding paragraph, which is very short, of this Memorandum: The war organisation will include a Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance in the General Headquarters. The duties of the three Administrative Staff officers (the Deputy Adjutant-General, the Deputy Quartermaster-General, and the Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance) will be co-ordinated by the Chief of the General Staff as provided for by the Field Service Regulations; in a war on a national scale it may be found necessary to appoint a Chief of the Administrative Staff, under whom the three Administrative Staff officers will serve. I should think it would be! Is it contemplated that the Commander-in-Chief is to spend his time in giving directions to all these people? Surely he ought, as is the case on the Continent, to be able to turn to one man and say: "You are responsible for the transport and the supply and the administrative arrangements of the Army: direct representatives of the old Quartermaster-General, or the Master-General of the Ordnance, or the Medical Service, or whoever it may be, to do what is necessary in regard to so-and-so, to carry out the orders which have been issued. You have the responsibility, and it is you to whom I look to do it." That is the plan on the Continent.

So far as I know the French system nothing of what is suggested here is contemplated by it or would be tolerated in it. Under the old Prussian system, the system which governed the German Army and which, whatever else you may think of the Germans, gave them the most perfect Army organisation in the world before the War, it is clearly laid down. The system of military organisation there was this. The Emperor was Commander-in-Chief. He had his Military Cabinet. At the head of the Military Cabinet was his adviser on certain questions. Then he had two great Staff officers and two only. There was the Chief of the General Staff—a post held by men like the late Count Moltke and his successors. There was the War Minister, who was also the Intendant-General. He did not interfere with the affairs of the Chief of the General Staff, but took control of the whole administrative arrangements of the Army. That was a perfect system for avoiding confusion. I am not speaking only from paper knowledge. I had the opportunity and the privilege of investigating it at first-hand. I spent a good deal of time in the German War Office and even in the General Staff building. The beauty of it was that old Count Moltke had insisted on the General Staff building being put a mile and a half from the War Office in order that he might not be interfered with by the administrative people, and I think the administrative people, for their part, were glad of that. The Emperor had control, as complete Commander-in-Chief, of the two; but their functions were exactly defined.

This is the principle which was adopted in substance, with some variation, by the Esher Committee. It is the principle to which we have held steadily, and now it is to be thrown to the winds. The Chief of the General Staff, as I have said before, is there to think, to study operations, to advise upon them and to draw up the orders that will be required for their execution. That is a thing which should have all his attention. He must not be at Headquarters merely in an office reading and writing letters and looking at papers that are sent to him. His business is to study the state of things in the field and the plans that should be adopted to defeat the enemy. This document, after setting out these three new Staff officers—that is to say, three in place of two—seems to recognise that the proposal may give rise to trouble. They are to be co-ordinated—they will be co-ordinated, not may be—by the Chief of the General Staff— as provided for by the Field Service Regulations; in a war on a national scale it may be found necessary to appoint a Chief of the Administrative Staff, under whom the three Administrative Staff officers will serve. Could you have any words which more indicate uncertainty of mind? They have been driven to this. The real thing to do is to keep the Chief of the General Staff free from all duties of this kind, from mixing himself up with administration. If he is mixed up with administration even to the extent of having to study the papers necessary to enable him to give co-ordinating decisions, then he is taken away from the work on which the issue of battle and of war may depend. I think it is a change that is disastrous compared with what we have accomplished in the last twenty years in the British Army.

They say it may be necessary in case of war to appoint a supreme administrative head. I should think it would be; that is a change all for the better, a change which I believe for a long time we were discussing in the years, now I am sorry to say far distant, when I was at the War Office. It is not really necessary that the Adjutant-General should occupy a position of that kind. He can look after his own things, but it is essential, if there are a number of administrative services which have to be co-ordinated, that that should be done not by the Chief of the General Staff, whose frame of mind is ruined by having to do it, but by a Chief Administrative Officer, who should look to all these things and who should carry out the directions of the Commander-in-Chief and advise him what he is to do. This business of administering the affairs of an army in the field is enormously difficult. It is all very well for the General Staff to say: "This ought to be done and other orders ought to be given effect to." Then come along the principal Administrative Staff officers, who say: "We have not got the materials with which to do that." The Commander-in-Chief ought not to be bothered with having to study whether the materials are there as the occasion arises. He requires to be advised by the administrative side in the simplest way possible how he stands and, therefore, to put in the sentence that in case of war of national dimensions it may be necessary to appoint a Chief of the Administrative Staff is to me a confession of uncertainty, and confirms my impression that the changes which have been made have been made with the driving force of those most energetic and admirable people, the gunners and the sappers.

I shall ask the noble Earl who is to reply for certain information and certain Papers, but I do not wish him to say whether he can give them to me now. He may like to have time to think about them. One thing I should like to know is what is the present state of the Field Service Regulations. If it is provided in them, as seems to be suggested, that the Chief of the General Staff in the field has to co-ordinate the administrative services, all I have to say is that the Field Service Regulations have sadly departed from the orthodox doctrine in which I was brought up and to which we clung to the very letter. We have heard about getting the Chief of the General Staff free from administrative entanglements, and I should like to see anything else that the noble Earl can show us about the Reports of these Committees which from time to time have considered the whole thing. It is said that these Committees have been sitting since 1923 and that the fact that they sat for so long is proof there has been no haste. I would find that more convincing if the Committees had agreed with one another. I cannot find that there was any prolonged interval for consideration between the conclusions of the last Committee reached in the summer of last year and the steps which were taken.

I postponed calling attention to this matter in your Lordships' House because the Secretary of State was in India and it is the more to my regret that it was necessary to do so because it is possible we might at an earlier date have had Lord Haig here to give us his advice on the question. However, that cannot be so now, and we have to do the best we can. I only wish to add that I am not bringing this matter forward in any Party spirit or with any hostility to the Administration. On the contrary, I know what an enormously difficult business this is, because I have been through it and had to do with it and have made mistakes in it myself. I know how hard it is to get thinks right, but I do wish to see inquiry—what The Times asks for and the Generals who have been communicating to the Press have asked for. I want to see a really careful inquiry, as careful as that made by the Esher Committee, into the change that is proposed. It should be an inquiry in which evidence is taken and opportunity given for statements, and I feel sure that if such an inquiry is instituted and if, as the result, it approves the changes which are contemplated, at least it will relieve a good many very anxious minds. I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name.


My Lords, I only venture to address your Lordships on this subject, which the noble and learned Viscount has so correctly called obscure, because I can perhaps fill the link that he thinks is missing between the inquiry by Lord Weir's Committee and the present decision. Lord Weir's Committee made a certain recommendation that was referred by the then Secretary of State to the military members of the Army Council. It was my duty to preside over those meetings with the two hard-headed and able men who were then holding the posts of Quartermaster-General and Master-General of the Ordnance and to hear at very considerable length the arguments for and against these changes. It was extremely difficult for a layman like myself or the Adjutant-General really to grasp the fundamental issues. I have tried hard to worry them out for myself and I think I have arrived at—I certainly will not say the correct point of view, but, anyhow, a point of view that is clear to myself.

It always seemed to me that the claim of the Royal Army Service Corps and the then Quartermaster-General was that they should be the automobile engineers of the Army. They did claim to maintain and examine and even supply drivers to all mechanical vehicles. They did not claim that right as regards armoured fighting vehicles, though they often referred somewhat tersely to what they considered was a very young Corps (meaning the Royal Tank Corps) and thought that the members of that Corps were inferior artificers to themselves. Take the question of drivers first. That very soon solved itself because the Infantry, the Cavalry and the Artillery all flatly refused to have alien drivers put upon them, with the result that they now find their own drivers, who drive these vehicles and do first line running repairs. They had a parallel in the corps of drivers in the Peninsula formed for the Artillery, which I think you will all agree was a hopeless failure. Then we had to try to find a dividing line of responsibility, and, to put it very shortly, we formed a sort of compromise by which wheeled vehicles came under the Quartermaster-General and track vehicles under the Master-General of the Ordnance. That was certainly only a very temporary compromise, and it was quite obvious to me at the time that it could not last very long, because vehicles were being made and exist at this moment that are track, or semi-track, or half-wheeled, and so on. At this particular moment the Infantry have track and semi-track vehicles for machine guns, and the Cavalry have six-wheeled vehicles.

Where are you going to draw the dividing line between the Quartermaster-General and the Master-General of the Ordnance? A solution on that sort of division was impossible. What is the solution? I think it can be put quite simply. In the main mechanical vehicles can be divided into two big categories—commercial vehicles and non-commercial vehicles. Commercial vehicles form the base of our mechanical transport. They not only carry supplies but they may even carry troops on the road. We depend on these commercial vehicles for mobilisation. No change is required in them. They are requisitioned and come straight from commerce; commerce is supplied by definite factories which work in peace, and are ready to be expanded in war. These vehicles, so far as I understand the Memorandum, have been left under the Quartermaster-General, and so the change with regard to these vehicles from peace to war is simple.

Non-commercial vehicles cannot be obtained from commerce. Therefore they must be maintained in sufficient quantities by the Army, and arrangements must be made in peace for enlarging those quantities on the outbreak of war. All these vehicles, if I have read the Memorandum aright, are now under the Master-General of the Ordnance, both in peace and war. The change over from peace to war, therefore, seems to me to be very simple there also. With regard to peace organisation it seems to me the change is beneficial for the reason that excellent officers collected by the R.A. S. C. will now find themselves either in, or attached to, the Ordnance Corps, as is the case with gunners and sappers and other technical officers who show any leaning for that work. You therefore get the best brains all collected together to deal with the mechanised fighting side of the Army. Again, civilian firms will not be confused by orders that they used to get from two separate Departments of the War Office, and will not be treated to a view of any family battle in that office.

Now we come to the result of this organisation, which as I say, appears to rue to be simple, taking the dividing line as I have indicated, and that is the appointment of a fourth Chief Staff officer. I do not think any one of us can yet say definitely whether this is a necessity, because it has not been tried out. I suppose it is being tried at all war schemes and Staff rides, and so on, and I think probably the Army Council will be in a better position a year or two years hence to judge as to its necessity than they are now. But I think it is quite obvious that mechanisation has come to stay. It is obvious that changes take place very rapidly, and if I were in the position of Commander-in-Chief during this transition time I must say that I feel that I should like, if a war broke out, to have a Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance who could tell me how I ought to employ these weapons to the best advantage. I feel that a man like a Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance would be able to translate the lessons that you are bound to learn every day with these new instruments into rules for the guidance of the Master-General of the Ordnance at home. If you had such a man I think that you might avoid such long struggles and controversies as happened in the Great War over the introduction of tanks and the question of whether we should use shrapnel or high explosives against enemy breastworks.

The noble and learned Viscount said, and I am sure rightly, that the ideal is that the Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of the General Staff should not be worried by technical questions of any sort, that it is their business to think and make the plans of battle. I fully agree, but that is an absolute ideal that cannot be obtained. In my humble sphere in Italy, when I was Commander-in-Chief, I do not suppose a day passed that I did not have to decide on some comparatively minor question, such as whether workshops should be as far forward as Treviso or as far back as Vicenza. In preparation for a great battle a Commander-in-Chief must have the final word on points connected with supply, because if an Army is to advance, as he hopes, it must depend on the position of these things. So I really think that the ideal of relieving the Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of Staff of all decisions of that sort cannot be attained.

There is another decision that a Commander-in-Chief constantly has to make. You can never have sufficient transport to please everybody in a war. There are always conflicting demands upon that transport. A Commander-in-Chief has to decide. He must say that it is essential that he should have ammunition, that it must come to-morrow before the food, or that the food must come before the ammunition. Only the Commander-in-Chief can decide that, and the question has to be referred to him, much more often perhaps than would seem to be desirable, but inevitably. I really think that this is a very difficult position for the Army Council and those who compose it, because these changes come along so extraordinarily rapidly. But on the whole I think the decision is a wise one. I hope that the trial of this fourth Staff officer may be a thoroughly exhaustive one, at such manœuvres as may take place, and in all Staff rides. I hope the result of these manœuvres and Staff rides, and the use of this officer, may be fully explained to us. I therefore support the change that has been made.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships have listened with great pleasure to the remarks of the noble and gallant Earl, whose views we too seldom hear on these matters, and who speaks with very great authority. Certainly I myself, who am still in some doubt on the subject, even after the speech of the noble and learned Viscount, feel that the noble Earl's speech will have a sobering effect in regard to some of the attacks which have been made on the War Office in regard to this change. I have risen only to ask the Under-Secretary of State to be good enough to try to explain some points which, even after the speech of the noble and learned Viscount, seem to me obscure.

The general opinion of the noble and learned Viscount was that putting a representative of the Master-General of the Ordnance, a new Staff officer, at Headquarters, would be putting a sort of fifth wheel to the coach and throwing administrative work on the Chief of the General Staff. I would like to put the other side of the question as it appears to me. You are going to charge the Master-General of the Ordnance with the expert and technical control of the one service that has developed most since the Great War ended nearly ten years ago. He is to devise and he is also to manufacture these vehicles which are to be utilised to such an enormous extent and in such varied forms. There is an old adage in the Army that the man who is responsible for the wagon should be responsible for the load. If that is correct, I see no possibility of carrying it out under the present conditions at the War Office. I wonder whether any of your Lordships have considered what would be the anomaly of asking one man to manufacture, design and be responsible for the provision of these vehicles while leaving them not only to be worked in the field by another officer but to be repaired by other officers under some fresh Commander, who is not supposed to be technically as expert as themselves in their own work. The noble Viscount said something about tearing up the whole of the decisions of the Esher Committee. The Esher Committee sat twenty-five years ago, and all these things have arisen since. What we have to try to do is to adapt to modern conditions of war the very difficult procedure that has arisen, and the noble and gallant Earl, with all his experience, cannot yet tell us whether he is satisfied that this can be done.

What I would put to the Under-Secretary of State is this: Are you satisfied that you are not overloading certain officers? Some people might hold that the Master-General of the Ordnance is going to be overloaded if he is to have practical control, as I understand that he is, of everything from a tank to a cooking-pot, and if all technical supplies are to come under him. I hope that this is not so, but I gather that it is from the discussions that have taken place. If, in addition, he is to be responsible for his subordinate at Headquarters he will certainly have a very heavy charge. Look at the matter the other way. The Quartermaster-General was responsible for the whole of the Army Service Corps and he is to be responsible for the working in the field of all these vehicles, and, in addition, he is given by this Order in Council responsibility for all works, as well as for barracks, so that at this moment, as I understand it, the Quartermaster-General, an Infantry officer, becomes responsible for the fortifications of the base at Singapore. Surely this is a change that was never contemplated. In the old days of the Inspector-General of Fortifications, as the noble and learned Viscount has said, the artillery, the engineers and sappers were a very powerful body, but any attempt on their part to entrench on other people was nothing compared with this entrenchment on the rights of these technical officers. It is now proposed to put the fortifications of the Singapore base under an Infantry officer, and the very man who by this Order in Council, as I understand it, is to work the whole of these vehicles in the field.

I am certain that there must be good reason for this proposed re-allocation of duties, but I should like to put to your Lordships quite clearly two points on which I would press for information. I quite see why the Master-General of the Ordnance, having to design a great number of very intricate vehicles, ought to have the ordering of them in the campaign, but is it possible at the same time to say that the Quartermaster-General is to work all these vehicles and his own Army Service Corps vehicles as one, while, if the Ordnance vehicle comes to grief, it must go to a workshop where it will be dealt with by the Ordnance officer's subordinates, and an Army Service Corps vehicle must go to a different workshop to be looked after by the Army Service Corps subordinates? I remember well the old days at the. War Office when men were treated on that system when they went into hospital. I expect my noble friend beside me remembers the regimental doctrine which obtained when he entered the Army, which was that there were at Aldershot a dozen medical officers attending patients in the same hospital. One of them came in to see his patient and, if a patient in the next bed required immediate relief, this medical officer could not touch him because he belonged to his neighbour and it would have been a breach of professional etiquette. We have abolished this absurd system and in these days the medical officer is attached to the Command and can attend to all the patients in the same hospital. I cannot think it quite wise to say that a vehicle which comes to grief by the wayside must not go to an Army Service Corps workshop close by but must be left to be fetched and dealt with at the Ordnance workshop.

My second point is rather a wider one and was not touched upon by the noble and learned Viscount opposite in his masterly review of the whole situation. To my mind the interest of every member of this House will be less in the restricted arena to which we have hitherto been confined in the discussion than in another question. We all appreciate the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Cavan, who said that in the process of time and after the experience of two or three years at manœuvres and otherwise the Army Council would probably come to whatever is the best arrangement of these very difficult duties. What I ask my noble friend to impress upon his colleagues is this: What you are going to do with the Department of the Master-General of the Ordnance ought to be regarded from the point of view not merely of how the matter will work in the field but of how the immense development of this Department, which must take place in war time, is going to be dealt with.

Your Lordships may not remember that twenty years ago, in the course of the discussions which arose between Lord Kitchener and Lord Curzon in Italia, this question came up. We had not then the experience of the Great War, but the view which the India Office took, and which Lord Balfour's Government insisted upon, was that the man who had to deal with supplies and manufacture should be entirely apart from the War Staff and that when war came his whole energies should be required in that direction. In consequence representations were made to Lord Kitchener as early as September, 1914, that it was absolutely necessary that all questions of the supply of munitions, when they reached such a scale as they were bound to reach, must be dealt with by some Department outside the War Office, and that a single Department of the War Office, that of the Master-General of the Ordnance, could never carry out the work when it came to providing munitions to the value of something like £500,000,000 in a year. If ever there is another great war the same conclusion must necessarily follow. I do not suggest that the War Office ought now to have a Minister of Munitions in days when the demand is perhaps only one hundred-thousandth of that during the War. Knowing that it is from the Department of the Master-General of the Ordnance that all the technical men will have to be drawn, I do think that regard should be had not merely to the men whom he will have to send to represent him in the field, but also to the organisation which will have to be set up on account of the extended demands upon the Department at home. I therefore would ask my noble friend to be kind enough when he replies to tell me whether this question has been considered in connection with probable developments for war, at home as well as in the field.


My Lords, I venture to intervene for a short time in this debate, and I do so with some diffidence, because so far two ex-Secretaries of State for War, and my noble friend on the Cross Benches, a distinguished ex-general officer in the field, have taken part in the discussion and, I know how many members of the House there are who have held very similar positions and yet have not taken, part. I am therefore reminded as regards myself rather of the old proverb "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." However, I hope your Lordships will excuse me if I intervene for a few moments, not so much for the purpose of entering the lists for or against this proposal, but in order to comment on the fears of those who have expressed fears in the Press, and I think sometimes in speeches, that this new proposal will lead to an increase of staff in the field, not only at G.H.Q. but in the staffs of Army Corps, Divisions and even Brigades. I know that soldiers are often supposed to be very extravagant people, and I think we all rather lost our sense of proportion during and at the end of the late War.

I remember a saying, attributed, rightly or wrongly, to a distinguished Commander in the field, that you had only to make a man a Major-General and he at once asked for a Colonel to be under him to do his work. Without in any way allowing that that is true, I think we all got rather exaggerated ideas at the end of the late War, owing to the magnitude of the War, the length of its duration, and the overwhelming nature of the whole thing. I think that Army officers, on the whole, are just as careful of public money and as anxious for economy as anybody else, and I am sure that in saying this I shall have the support of the noble and learned Viscount opposite who has in my hearing more than one expressed himself to the same effect. Anyone who served in the War on a Corps or Divisional Staff will remember those two departmental officers known to us all as Ados and Dados. These two officers of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps corresponded with their Departmental Chiefs in small matters of routine, but in all matters of principle, such as inventions, discipline and so forth, they were always under the senior A. and Q. Staff officer of their formation. This worked quite well during the late War and I do not see why it should not work well again, the only difference being that in future under the scheme which is to be brought into operation, when correspondence on inventions and so forth, appertaining to the D.M.G.O., reaches G.H.Q., it will be dealt with by the D.M.G.O. and his subordinates, and not, as formerly, by the C.G.S. or the officers attached to his Staff, or by the Q.M.G.

It must be remembered that, although in the higher formations the different, branches of the Staff have separate representatives, the system is that as you get lower down in the scale branches are represented by fewer and fewer officers until you get down to the smallest formation, the Cavalry or Infantry brigade, where General Staff matters, including Intelligence, Training and Operations, are all under one officer, the Brigade-Major, and administrative matters such as discipline, supply, transport, and medical and ordnance services are represented by the Staff-Captain. I quite allow that it may not be logical that this should be so, but many things in our Army and in our Constitution are not strictly logical, but all the same they appear to work out all right given good will, and I have very little doubt that this scheme will do so in a few years' time, after it has got into working order and become known to the officers of the Army.


My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount has mentioned, and has read to your Lordships extracts from, the Memorandum issued on the re-allocation of duties between the Quartermaster-General and the Master-General of the Ordnance, and he has mentioned, as the reason why this re-allocation was undertaken, the development of mechanisation in the Army and the consequences which have resulted therefrom. I think we are all agreed in this, and I am glad to hear that the noble and learned Viscount sympathises with the difficulties which the process of mechanisation has imposed upon the Army Council and the Army, and that he addresses the matter in no hostile spirit but solely with a desire to assist. The noble and learned Viscount did not enlarge upon the question of mechanisation, and I do not think that I need do so. Whether we regard the departure of the horse with favour or not, without doubt in a comparatively short space of time we shall see horse traction supplanted by mechanical traction, as surely as we have seen sail supplanted by steam at sea.

The noble and learned Viscount opposite, and the noble Earl behind me, asked various questions about the process and the decisions taken with regard to the changes, and the noble and learned Viscount, I think, said that he made no excuse for putting forward this inquiry, as the whole matter seemed to be very difficult and obscure. Of course it is a difficult one. I will try to explain as briefly as I can what has taken place, and endeavour to throw as much light upon it as possible. As your Lordships are well aware, before the War and before the changes which mechanisation has made necessary were introduced, mechanised vehicles existed in the Army, but those were, comparatively speaking, very few, except the lorries of the Royal Army Service Corps. So it was not unreasonable that the Royal Army Service Corps should maintain all such vehicles. But then mechanisation came along, and there were introduced among non-transport services, among the fighting services, such vehicles as those which the noble Viscount has enumerated. When these numerous other vehicles were introduced into the Army this distinction between transport vehicles and the technical vehicles was very difficult. I adopt that word "technical" because that means the vehicles which are built specially for fighting purposes and cannot be requisitioned off the street and adapted immediately war breaks out—those, I think, were referred to by my noble friend on the Cross Benches as commercial vehicles. As I say, it was very difficult indeed to make such a distinction; and even if you were to make some sort of arbitrary division between transport vehicles and technical vehicles, both the Quartermaster-General and the Master-General of the Ordnance would have been responsible for the development of different types of cross-country vehicles.

Now, to deal with the question of repairs. Under the former arrangement the Quartermaster-General provided and repaired all wheeled transport vehicles, and the Master-General of the Ordnance produced all fighting vehicles and all technical transport. The Quartermaster-General was responsible for the provision and repair of all his own transport vehicles, but the vehicles of the Master-General of the Ordnance were repaired by the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, not by the Royal Army Service Corps; and the Royal Army Ordnance Corps acted under the orders of the Quartermaster-General. But when it came to the repair parts with which the Quartermaster-General had to repair these vehicles, he had to go to the Master-General of the Ordnance, who supplied them; and, lastly, if the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, which is under the Quartermaster-General, found the particular vehicle in such a bad state that it had to go to the factory for repair then it went back to the control of the Master-General of the Ordnance, who was in charge of the factory.

That is a system which obviously was somewhat complicated, and it led to considerable difficulties. It had a serious effect in units, because in some units—and this actually happened—it might have been necessary to have two mobile repair shops, one belonging to the Royal Army Service Corps, and the other to the Royal Array Ordnance Corps; and the difficulties which prevailed in regard to vehicles communicated themselves in an equal degree to the stores. As, I think, several of your Lordships who have spoken to-day have mentioned, these difficulties were appreciated a long time ago—as long ago as 1923—and a Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Lord Weir, whose Report received very careful consideration. The noble and learned Viscount read out the statement in the Memorandum as to what took place, and the noble Earl on the Cross Benches supplied a good many details from his very intimate and personal knowledge of the investigations which were made, and I trust that the explanations made by my noble friend will have to a certain degree reassured the noble and learned Viscount that the changes were not undertaken without the very fullest consideration, extending over a number of years, and that they were not the result of a hurried decision in any way.

The Secretary of State has on the Army Council to advise him and to advise the Government the four military members who represent the four branches into which the military side of the War Office is divided. Those officers are specially selected for their qualifications, their position, and their services, and on their advice the Government is bound to rely in military matters. This particular question of the re-allocation of duties between one member of the Army Council and another is a matter with which the military members of the Army Council are peculiarly concerned. It is they who have to carry out the duties of running the administration in the War Office, and it is they to whom the matter was referred and who, as the noble Earl on the Cross Benches explained to your Lordships, considered it at such length and with such care. The result of the advice which was tendered by the military members of the Army Council, as is explained in the Memorandum, was the re-allocation of duties at home and in the War Office during peace. On the re-allocation of the duties in the War Office and in peace there follows, I think, the necessity for representation of the Master-General of the Ordnance in the field. But, apart from any question of further organisation in the War Office, the need for the representation of the Master-General of the Ordnance in the field is, I think, abundantly proved by the experiences of the Great War. I will say something further on this question in a moment or two. But the question of the number of principal Staff officers in the field is not made rigid by the creation of the posts of Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance. As considerable stress has been laid upon it I should like to make that clear at once.

To deal with these changes in a little detail, at the War Office the Master-General of the Ordnance will be responsible for research, experiment, design, inspection, storage, issue, and repair of all mechanical vehicles. If everyone agrees—and I cannot but think that everybody does agree—that changes consequent on the introduction of mechanisation are needed, I think it is clearly a sound general principle that the branch which supervises research, design, and production should also supervise repair. But there is one exception to the control which is to be exercised by the Master-General of the Ordnance. That is in the case of the Royal Army Service Corps. The Royal Army Service Corps is a big transport organisation, which one might compare, not unaptly, to a commercial organisation; and it is big enough, important enough, and widely spread enough to manage its own repairs, and to carry them out economically. There is another reason why the Royal Army Service Corps should retain the repairing of its own vehicles, and that is that it is an extremely efficient Corps. It has an extremely efficient system in existence, which it carries out in an admirable fashion. But although it may be the duty, and will be the duty, of the Royal Army Service Corps to undertake its own repairs, that is by no means a reason why it should undertake the whole of the mechanical repairs of the Army, which is a matter outside its ordinary scope, and could only be placed upon it by special arrangement. While the Royal Army Service Corps will remain entirely with the Quartermaster-General, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps will be transferred to the Master-General of the Ordnance—that is to say that the repair of all vehicles, except Royal Army Service Corps vehicles, will be done by one authority.

The noble and learned Viscount mentioned another matter. He said the specification of the Royal Army Service Corps vehicles is to be made by the Master-General of the Ordnance. I think he considered that this might cause some confusion. But surely that is necessary. The Master-General of the Ordnance being the authority in the Army to whom the design of all vehicles is entrusted, it was for him to lay down the specification—of course, on the request of the Quartermaster-General—as to how the particular vehicles should be built, and the manner in which they should be designed. It is like this. You go to a motor shop or some other shop and say: "I want so-and-so, and so-and-so"; you do not design it yourself, but you say what you want, and the motor manufacturer supplies you with the articles you require. So it will be in regard to the relations between the Quartermaster-General and the Master-General of the Ordnance in respect to the design of their vehicles.

I should like to deal with one other point apart from this, and that is the question of these two Corps, the Royal Army Service Corps and the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. The Royal Army Ordnance Corps is open to officers of all arms. In addition, there are officers in the Corps who enter by private entry and who are fully qualified and trained mechanical engineers. In regard to the Royal Army Service Corps, I think there has been some criticism to the effect that the officers of that Corps who are mechanical engineers will, in future, have restricted opportunities of employment. In fact, the contrary is the case, because under this reorganisation all the appointments under the Master-General of the Ordnance will be filled by officers who are best qualified for them, irrespective of the Corps to which they belong, and so all these appointments will be open to officers of the Royal Army Service Corps. In effect, I think the opportunities for advancement and employment of officers of the Royal Army Service Corps will be increased rather than diminished.

The noble Earl on my right (Lord Midleton) referred to the transference of stores and asked me how the re-allocation of duties would affect the whole question of stores. The reasons for the transference of the whole of the stores to the Master-General of the Ordnance are these. By far the greater part of the stores now in use in the Army are technical stores. Even clothing is a technical store, at any rate to a certain extent, because clothing may require to be protective and to render clothing protective necessitates technical knowledge and technical experiment. That being the case and the Master-General of the Ordnance being the principal technical officer of the Army, the stores go to him. If part of the stores remained with the Quartermaster-General and part went to the Master-General of the Ordnance it would be necessary to split up the Ordnance into two departments, and I think that would create great confusion, far greater confusion than putting them under one head would cause; it would also be uneconomical and, I venture to think, a step in a backward rather than a forward direction.

I come now to the point on which my noble friends Lord Midleton and Lord Haldane asked me some questions. As both my noble friends have said, up to the present all works and barrack construction have come under the Master-General of the Ordnance and, as your Lordships are well aware, the Directorate which dealt with such matters was known as the Directorate of Fortifications and Works. This Directorate has been transferred from the control of the Master-General of the Ordnance to that of the Quartermaster-General. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that the Quartermaster-General is responsible for the accommodation of the troops. I may say that in discussing the Estimates this year we discovered that it is of the very greatest advantage to have the question of barrack construction under the control of the member of Council who is charmed with the quartering of the Army; that is to say, the Quartermaster-General. As a result of this, if I may enter into intimate details, we have been able, I think, to make as good use as is possible, perhaps a better use than would otherwise have been the case, of the small sum of money available for these purposes nowadays. So much for that question.

Two questions regarding fortifications were put to me by the noble Earl and the noble and learned Viscount. The question of fortifications resolves itself into two parts—fortifications in the field, to which the noble and learned Viscount alluded, and fortifications at home, which I think were the preoccupation of my noble friend Lord Midleton. As regards fortifications in peace-time in this country, the answer to my noble friend's question is that the Quartermaster-General builds what the General Staff and the Master-General of Ordnance require. The noble and learned Viscount asked me whether the Quartermaster-General was the officer who undertook such fortifications of a permanent nature in the field as might be necessary. The answer to that is that really the question does not arise in the field. If fortifications have to be erected in the rear of the Army, as might have been necessary during the last War, that would be done not by the Quartermaster-General—there was not a Master-General of the Ordnance—and would not be done in the future by the Deputy of the Master-General of the Ordnance, but by the Engineer-in-Chief of the Army, under the directions of the General Staff. I think that is the answer to the question which my noble friends put to me.

Now I come to what, I think, is the only really controversial point raised by the noble and learned Viscount—the question of the changes in the field. The noble and learned Viscount mentioned the Esher Committee. I regret that, although two members of that Committee are members of your Lordships' House, we have not been privileged to see them to-day, I trust for no untoward reason, because they would have given us, I am sure, very valuable information on the points which have been raised. The noble Viscount said that the Esher Committee, which reconstituted the ancient office of Master-General of the Ordnance, not quite in the same way as sitting at the Tower but under modern conditions, pointed out that in the section which deals with the organisation of staff duties in the field each military member of the Council, except the Master-General of the Ordnance, was directly represented in the field by officers carrying out the duties for which they had been prepared in peace.

Then he alluded to the table setting forth the corresponding nature of the duties which are carried out at home by military members of the Council and in the field by the chief Staff officers on the Headquarter Staff. In that table the Master-General of the Ordnance at the War Office was charged with these duties: armament, ordnance factories, fortifications, barrack maintenance, custody of land and ranges, technical committees, contracts and the administration of the Votes for those services. There have been certain changes since, but, broadly speaking, they are very similar. In the table of duties of the Administrative Staff officers—the Deputy Adjutant-General, the Deputy Quartermaster-General and the Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance—it will be seen that none of those particular duties of the Master-General of the Ordnance at the War Office was reflected in any of the duties of the General Staff officers in the field. The noble and learned Viscount said that the principle laid down then had worked satisfactorily for many years and, doubtless, he was perfectly right. But those were years of peace. It was not contemplated before the War that experimental work would be done in the field. It was not contemplated that technical work of a very highly intricate description, such as that alluded to by my noble friend on the Cross Benches, would be undertaken in the field. Nor was it contemplated that a vast amount of technical repairs would have to be done in the field. But shortly after war broke out in 1914 it was found, when operations became stabilised and trench warfare was undertaken, that the daily experience in the trenches necessitated experiments on the spot.

Very early in 1915 an experimental committee on trench warfare was set up at St. Omer. I remember it very well because I was serving there on the Staff in a humble capacity, and I recollect how that committee worked. Officers to whom ideas occurred during the day-by-day trench fighting, submitted those ideas to Headquarters and immediate steps were taken to try them out and to see whether there was anything in them. Trench mortars, steel helmets, bombs and many other inventions suggested by the experience of war came first before that committee and, after having been examined and inquired into, were sent home for deeper consideration. A little later, also in 1915, when gas was introduced, experiments in gas for offensive purposes and in gas masks for defensive purposes, were made in the field; that is to say, they were made in France, and so the necessity of having special officers and special facilities at the front in France itself grew. Although I had no personal experience I know that as a matter of fact the same state of affairs existed on the fronts in other areas.

I have quoted some of the initial difficulties which arose in the field for want of somebody corresponding to the Master-General of the Ordnance at home. Now, if I might, I should like to quote the difficulties which occurred in this country, and perhaps I may be allowed to give the personal experience of my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War, who was then at the Ministry of Munitions. The noble and learned Viscount opposite quite rightly said that it is for the Master-General of the Ordnance to supply rifles, guns and so forth, but the difficulty experienced at home by the Ministry of Munitions was this. They wanted to know exactly what the people at the Front required; they wanted to know the exact design and full particulars of what was required. My right hon. friend tells me that the difficulty the Ministry of Munitions had was to ascertain exactly what the Army required. A great deal of that difficulty was due to the fact that the liaison between the Army and the Ministry of Munitions at home was defective owing to the fact that there was no Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance in the field. Had there been I think many of these difficulties would have been more easily got over. It is a fact, I think, that the late Master-General of the Ordnance at the War Office, who gave up his post last year, General Sir Noel Birch, was at the close of the War Major-General of the Royal Artillery at General Headquarters and used to come over constantly and consult with the Ministry of Munitions. He, in fact, performed very largely—there were, of course, other officers who did the same thing—the duties of Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance in the field.

I venture to submit that during the War the organisation which was laid down at its commencement was found to require alteration and change. During the War in addition to the three main branches of the Staff—the Chief of the General Staff, the Adjutant-General and the Quartermaster-General—there were six other branches. It is perfectly true that the Inspector-General of Communications was abolished, but, although the Inspector-General of Communications ceased to exist, there were six other branches who were nominally under the General Staff. They really were extra wheels to the coach and did not belong actually to any one branch. The procedure, I think, was this. Take the Major-General of Royal Artillery. He had direct access to Lord Haig, the Commander-in-Chief, but when there was any question which touched General Staff matters he would see the. Commander-in-Chief it company with the Chief of General Staff—that is to say, the Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of General Staff were constantly in touch with the Major-General of Royal Artillery. Had there been a Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance undoubtedly a great deal of extra work would have been saved to those officers.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, has laid great stress on the argument that you do not want to bother the Chief of the General Staff more than can be helped or hamper him by any consideration of administrative duties. I would submit to the noble and learned Viscount and to your Lordships that the creation of a Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance in the field will relieve the Chief of General Staff and relieve the Commander-in-Chief of a great many of these difficulties to which he has alluded rather than add to those difficulties. I referred just now to the six minor Staff officers who were in a practically independent position and in touch with the Commander-in-Chief. Each of those six were representatives of branches of the Master-General of the Ordnance. It may be that the real difficulty, both in France and the liaison at home, was that there was no person at the head of affairs to co-ordinate the activities of these six officers. If there had been a Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance that position would never have arisen.

I would like to come to another point which is perhaps a little obscure and difficult to explain, but I think I should explain it, and that is that the position of the Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance will be different in a certain degree from the position of the other chief Staff officers in the field. He will, of course, be in the position to a certain degree of a chief Staff officer in the field, because he will not work through anybody but will have direct access to the Commander-in-Chief or the Chief Administrative Staff officer, but I think it would be, if I might use the expression, more correct to describe the Deputy Master-General of the Ordnance in the field not as a principal Staff officer but as a principal officer on the Staff, the difference being that while the principal Staff officers have executive duties the principal technical officer in the field will have duties which will be mainly administrative. Of course he will have the Royal Army Ordnance Corps under him. His duties will be mainly administrative and advisory rather than executive.

Let me deal with the objection which has been made that if every military member of the Army Council were represented directly in the field there would be a great deal of confusion, multiplication of correspondence, extra departments, friction, extravagance and so forth. I think that danger can easily be avoided. If the war is not one of considerable magnitude it would not be impossible for the Chief of the Staff to co-ordinate all the Staff work. It must be remembered that wars are very varying things. There are wars of a minor kind which would hardly require the whole forces of a Division. Between that kind of war and war on a national scale you can have every variety of war. In the case of a small war it should not be impossible (but it is not necessary he should do so) for the Chief of the Staff to conduct the whole of the co-ordination, but, if the war should extend and it should be thought undesirable that the Commander-in-Chief should be obliged to deal with four principal Staff officers, then it would be very easy to introduce a chief Administrative Staff officer and you could do that without any difficulty, even though you had started with four principal officers.

You could introduce a chief Administrative Staff officer at any time the Commander-in-Chief might desire. If that were done you would have two officers, the Chief of the General Staff on the one hand and the Chief of the Administrative Staff on the other, who would deal with administrative questions. Under the Chief of the Administrative Staff would be the Adjutant-General, the Quartermaster-General and the Master-General of the Ordnance. Your genealogy would be like this. Instead of having the Commander-in-Chief and three sons—the Adjutant-General, the Quarter-master-General and the Master-General of Ordnance—you would have the Chief of the General Staff and the Chief of the Administrative Staff and under the latter would be the Adjutant-General, the Quartermaster-General and the Master-General of Ordnance, who would, so to speak, become the grandchildren of the Commander-in-Chief rather than his children. And that could be done at any moment during the campaign. It is very difficult to lay down any hard-and-fast rule. The noble and learned Viscount rather complained that we had not laid down more hard-and-fast rules in the Memorandum, but I think the answer is that we have to wait and see what is required. We know exactly what is to be done. You will have one chief Staff officer in a small campaign, or you can have four if desired, or you can have two, but I do think that the strongest case has been made for the representation of the Master-General of the Ordnance in the field, as well as for the changes to be made at home. Actual administration in the field must depend upon the nature of the war, upon the nature of the Commander-in-Chief, and upon the magnitude or the reverse, of the operations.

The noble and learned Viscount has asked for certain specific papers, but he has told me that he would not press me to say "yes" or "no" now. I would like to see exactly how the OFFICIAL REPORT describes them before I give an answer. I do propose, however, to lay certain papers, and I think some of them at any rate will give him the information he requires. I am proposing to lay the Memorandum which was issued to the members of the House of Commons, but which was not actually laid as a White Paper. I think it will be convenient to have that on record as a White Paper. I propose also to lay the relevant Army Council Instructions, which I think will make the matter more clear, and the explanatory letter issued to Commands when the changes were first undertaken at home.


I asked for the relevant parts of the Field Service Regulations.


I will look into that, but I will not answer for the moment, because I have not the whole of these things in my mind. The Estimates Memorandum will be out in a couple of days, and I think there will be certain further information in that. I need not, I think, trouble your Lordships to-day with any details as to how far the changes have progressed, because details of such changes as have taken place will be shown in the Estimates themselves, which will appear on Thursday. The Estimates are very intricate things, and I think your Lordships will find it much more easy to discuss the question after having had an opportunity of studying them than if I were to go now into lengthy details on the subject. Perhaps the noble and learned Viscount, if he would like to go more deeply into the matter after he has had an opportunity of studying the Papers, will put down another Question, and I shall be only too glad to give any information in my power.


My Lords, I think one thing at least has emerged from this debate. We have had a discussion on a military subject of unusual value, unusual because speeches have been to the point and because we have had speeches from a number of distinguished authorities who were able to give us information with a good deal of knowledge. Therefore I think your Lordships' House has been fulfilling one of the functions which it usefully fulfils by the debate to-day. The noble Earl who represents the Government said that, after all, this was not so serious a business as it might seem, this imposing upon the Chief of the General Staff the duty of co-ordination.


Only in small campaigns, and not necessarily then.


You never know whether a campaign is going to be small or great. It depends very much upon the Chief of the General Staff whether it is going to be so or not. But as regards keeping the Chief of the General Staff free from administration, I would remind my noble friend that there have been two Committees which went into the matter, independently of the Esher Committee, after the South African war. At the time of the South African war we had no General Staff. What we had was an Adjutant-General who was also Deputy Commander-in-Chief, and he was the neck of the bottle—and a very narrow neck of the bottle—through which things had to emerge from the wisdom of the Army Council to the top. The system broke down hopelessly in the South African war. We were not prepared. We could not mobilise with any rapidity, and we had no thoroughly worked out plan of campaign. There were two Committees which investigated the whole of the matter, and the Farwell committee found there had been a great deal of mismanage- ment and blamed it rather on a very distinguished officer. But when we came to look into it we found that the distinguished officer had not been given the means to apply his mind to the task, and had been hampered by all sorts of duties thrust on him. Then came the Esher Committee, who said that whatever you do, you should keep the mind of the Chief of the General Staff undisturbed, keep him free from administrative duties. I do not think that that doctrine has so powerfully taken hold of the mind of my noble friend opposite as it did of my mind, and the result is a disposition today to think that the Chief of the General Staff may, without damage to himself, inter-meddle in matters of administration and co-ordination. We have the lesson of the South African war in our minds, and I think it is a lesson we would do well to take very seriously.

There were other matters. There was that curious provision under which works go to the Quartermaster-General. The noble Earl said that the Chief Engineer of the Army would make the works. I suppose that may be so in the field, where the Chief Engineer may be called on to be present, but there was a striking illustration given by my noble friend the Earl of Midleton in his speech—Singapore. The works at Singapore—I am no great admirer of the plan, but since it has been determined on it would be better to do it with efficiency—will be under the Quartermaster-General, and there may be, and very likely will be, an Infantry officer. I think it would astound the Sea Lords of the Admiralty to find their representatives out there discussing the question of fortifications with the representative of the Quartermaster-General and possibly an Infantry officer. What I complain of in these changes is the want of that distinction of principle and clarity of thinking which seems to me essential if you are to keep military organisation from getting into difficulty. Even the noble and gallant Earl on the Cross Benches did not seem to me very sure. There seemed a certain amount of misgiving in his mind as to where these changes might land us. He spoke of experience making things clear. I do not like waiting for experience to make things clear when it is war with which I am concerned.

The only way of preparing for war is to have your mind perfectly distinct in time of peace, and to make your preparations in times of peace on a war basis. That is not consistent with the idea that if there is to be a large war, or if a war develops into a large war, you can suddenly abolish one or (possibly) two of the principal Staff officers surrounding the Commander-in-Chief, and suddenly send a new administrative officer to take their places. That is the kind of thing which courts disaster. It is a thing which I hope will be got rid of, and I trust that whatever is ultimately laid down will be laid down in distinct and definite terms, and not in such a fashion as will lead people to think that there is uncertainty as to what will happen in the field. I raised this question desiring that the Government should undertake to enquire. They have not said they will not enquire, but I think the inquiry should be a fairly thorough one, on the same basis of thoroughness as that provided under Lord Balfour when he directed the constitution of the Esher Committee. As I have said, and as I have given reasons for thinking, the changes seem to me to be serious changes, and I hope that they will be looked upon in that spirit. As regards my Motion for Papers, I am quite satisfied with what the noble Earl has said, and I am ready to withdraw that Motion.


Do I understand the noble and learned Viscount to say that he withdraws the Motion for Papers? I am prepared to lay Papers.


Then the Motion may go pro forma. No doubt it will be needed to enable Papers to be laid.


I ought to add that I did not make any promise of an inquiry.


I quite understand that.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at ten minutes past six o'clock.