HL Deb 19 December 1934 vol 95 cc597-617

LORD AMPTHILL had given Notice that he would call attention to the fact that there is no adequate Reserve for the Regular Army seeing that the Militia is no longer in being and that the Territorial Army may not be used for drafting; ask His Majesty's Government whether the Militia will be reconstituted in the event of war or whether it is intended to introduce some new system of providing the Army Reserve which will be required before the Reserve Army is sent abroad; and move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to explain the Motion that stands in my name. It is a long time since I have asked your Lordships to listen to a Motion of mine and I make no apology for doing so now. It was against all my personal inclinations—the inclinations of a man who is advanced in years—to place my Motion on the Order Paper and thus commit myself to a certain amount of unwelcome effort. But I am in the position of one who has chanced to observe signs of some danger and has to choose between passing on or going out of his way to give warning to any persons who may be concerned. There was a time long years ago when I took part in many a Militia debate in this House, but little did I think that it would ever fall to my lot again to raise the question of the Militia. The time, however, is opportune for calling attention to the existence, though merely on paper, of that Militia which is older than the Regular Army and used to be known by the significant names of the People's Army or the old Constitutional Force.

Strangely enough the Militia has again and again been forgotten during the course of our history until a national emergency forced our statesmen to realise the existence of the force. During the South African War it was left to the Sovereign, to Her Majesty Queen Victoria herself, to remind her Ministers that the Militia was there, and the result of that timely reminder was that the Militia was embodied and sixty-one infantry battalions were sent to the front while a further nine battalions were sent overseas to serve in Egypt and elsewhere. Those momentous facts, however, were forgotten by the late Lord Haldane on the last occasion when he took part in a Militia debate in this House and it fell to the lot of my noble friends, Lord Salisbury and Lord Selborne, to tell him that they themselves had taken their battalions abroad. I am very sorry that both my noble friends are obliged to be absent on acount of ill-health as they have assured me that I have their full support.

I say that the time is opportune for again calling the Militia to remembrance and I say so because during the past six months we have been obliged to reconsider the whole question of national defence. The policy of universal disarmament which we strove to get adopted by setting an example fraught with grave danger to ourselves has definitely failed for the time being. Europe has been rearming while we have been disarming and there is now general agreement in this country that we must raise all our armed forces to a more adequate strength. We have also had occasion to recognise that nothing except a state of military preparedness can give us an effective voice in the counsels of Europe. The Navy and the Air Force have received some attention in Parliament and also on the public platform, but not so the Army. The Army, however, is no less important than the other two branches of the forces of the Crown. Ships and aircraft cannot go everywhere but there are many places on land to which the British soldier might have to go. So long as we maintain an Army at all we must envisage the possibility of that Army having to go to war. Our Army, therefore, must be ready to take the field at any moment and what is more, it must be ready to keep the field. An Army which cannot last out for even a short campaign is, of course, not fit to take the field. Every Army in the field requires constant reinforcement after the first few weeks. Even if there are no casualties from actual fighting there is always a great drain caused by sickness, a drain which is usually greater than that caused by killing and wounding. That means that the Army must have a Reserve over and above those men who have not completed their engagements and had to rejoin on mobilisation.

An Army without such a Reserve is not an effective instrument of war and our Army is at present in that position—that very dangerous position. We have a Reserve Army but not an Army Reserve and the nation has been lulled into a false sense of security because the general public cannot discern the immense difference which is connoted by the transposition of those two words. The Reserve Army is, of course, the Territorial Army which cannot be used for furnishing drafts to the Regular Army and is, therefore, not an Army Reserve. The only possible Army Reserve under our present system is the Militia which has been reduced to a state of suspended animation. The Militia, in short, only exists on paper. My object to-day is to show that in that event of war, which we cannot rule out as impossible, the Army will be useless until the Militia has been reconstituted, and I also wish to suggest that nothing is more likely to tempt foreign nations to go to war than the spectacle of England in a state of military weakness. The latter, however, is too large a theme for discussion on this particular issue. What I have said is an explanation as brief and concise as I can make it, of the object of my Motion, and now I want to show that the re-constitution of the Militia may prove to be the solution of other great difficulties which are causing us much anxiety and perplexity at the present time.

Recruiting for the Regular Army has become slack to an alarming extent and the Territorial Army is rapidly vanishing. Those are the difficulties to which I refer and I have now to show that they are closely connected with this question of the Militia. Just about three weeks ago the noble Viscount, the Secretary of State for War, made a speech which delighted me even more than most of his speeches do. It was a speech after my own heart and when I chanced to see the report in a provincial paper I was encouraged to hope that the noble Viscount would be sympathetic and not disappoint me this afternoon. The occasion for the speech was the opening of the Scots Guards Loan Exhibition. The noble Viscount said that ever since he had assumed his present high office it had "seemed to him a very curious thing, and a very unfortunate thing, that there should be any difficulty at all in these days in getting enough recruits to join the Army," and he went on to expatiate in stirring words on the advantages of Army life. I may perhaps quote some of the things he said a little later on. Now, will the noble Viscount allow me to tell him why there is this difficulty about getting recruits for the Army? The reason is well known to every regimental officer, but, judging from past experience, it is very probably ignored at the War Office. The reason is simply and solely because the Militia has ceased to exist.

Before the War the Army used to rely on a large and constant stream of recruits from the Militia. The Militia was regarded as a sort of ante-chamber to the Regular Army because most young men preferred to get a taste of military life by a trial trip in the Militia before they would commit themselves to an Army engagement. If, therefore, the Secretary of State wishes to revive recruiting for the Army he has a sure and certain means of doing it by merely re-constituting the Militia. He will at the same time be extending to a large number of physically fit young men who are unhappily among the unemployed all those physical and moral advantages of Army life of which he spoke so eloquently and so truly. I said that the Territorial Army was vanishing and I must, of course, explain what I meant by that. The facts, so far as I have been able to ascertain them, are as follows: The latest War Office returns reveal a total loss in eight months—that is, from the 31st December, 1933, to the 31st August, 1934—of 6,679 officers and men of the Territorial Army. The worst previous Territorial year was 1932 with an all-ranks total of 127,068 men. The total strength of the Territorial Army as shown in the last return—up to the 1st September, 1934—is now 126,057. This is a loss of 1,011 men on 1932 and is the lowest total ever reached. The establishment of the Territorial Army is 172,086 all ranks. Therefore, there is now a shortage—mark this, please, my Lords—of 46,029 officers and men. It is of course a very serious matter that our Reserve Army, with all its new responsibilities, should be in that condition and it behoves us to look into the causes in order that some remedy may be found.

Now here again, may I be allowed to tell the Secretary of State for War what causes this alarming falling off in recruiting for the Territorial Army? What I have to tell the noble Viscount is not merely my own opinion but the opinion. which is widely prevalent among officers and men of the Territorial Army. It is again simply because we have no Militia. The Territorial soldier is afraid that in spite of all pledges to the contrary, he will be used for drafting to the Regular Army as soon as war breaks out. He has sense enough to see that that is bound to happen as long as the Army is without its time-honoured and unfailing source of reinforcements in the shape of the Militia. He communicates that fear to his friends and neighbours, and the mothers, above all, who cannot forget the Great War, take alarm and will not let their sons join the Territorial Army. That really is at the root of the whole matter. That is the chief reason why recruiting for the Territorial Army is falling off, in spite of the general belief that war is no longer unthinkable, and it will continue to fall off until His Majesty's Government make some definite statement as to what they intend to do to provide the necessary Army Reserve. What is wanted is some definite statement such as that which the late Lord Haldane made in 1907. The "Haldane Plan," as it was called, told us where we were and rendered it possible to make those detailed preparations which enabled us to enter upon the Great War without initial chaos and disaster.

All these things are set forth and explained in detail in a pamphlet which has been written for the Militia Club, an association of old Militia officers which has had a Field Marshal and several eminent Generals among its members and is concerned to preserve the Militia tradition for the good of the nation. The writer of that pamphlet was Major Breffit, a Staff officer of recent and wide experience who has just retired from the Army. I have of course submitted copies of that pamphlet to the noble Viscount, the Secretary of State for War, and his advisers at the War Office, and I shall be happy to send a copy to any noble Lord who may do me the honour and favour of asking for one. I do not wish to take up your Lordships' time by showing how the British Army has always depended upon the Militia for reinforcements in time of war. It seems to me and to all those with whom I have been able to discuss this matter that the Army will undoubtedly require the reconstitution of the Militia whenever we have to go to war again unless meanwhile we adopt the Continental system of universal military service. But nothing short of a revolution is likely to bring about such a change in our military system, and if we wish to avoid revolutionary movements like those which are disturbing the nations of the Continent we cannot do better than adhere to the Militia tradition, the tradition of that old Constitutional Force which used to be described as the People's Army.

The present position is that we are depriving half the population of the opportunity of military service under that voluntary system on which Englishmen pin their faith. We are only affording that opportunity to those who can give Territorial Army service, that is to say, who can do mid-week drills or week-end soldiering throughout the year. But the other half of our young manhood, who are equally keen and make equally good soldiers, can only give Militia service, which means one month of continuous training in each year. This difference, of course, is a matter of occupation and place of residence. For instance, it is obviously not possible for the agricultural worker to attend weekly drills on Saturdays and Sundays in a town which is some distance from his village, but he can attend a Militia training at the time of year when agriculture is slack. Similar difficulties apply to the man who works in great towns. No system which does not give equal opportunity to all classes of able-bodied and patriotic young men can possibly be regarded as efficient seeing that it wastes half the human material available for the making of soldiers. The officer class is in precisely the same position. There are those who could do an annual training but cannot do week-end drills throughout the year.

There is one other point that I must mention and that is that a reconstitution of the Militia, which might in the first instance be confined to certain districts, would be a wonderful palliative of the present evils of unemployment. With the six months recruit training of former days you would be doing for a considerable number of young men all those things which our numerous voluntary agencies are trying to do at the present time, and you would be doing it in a much more effective way as you would be giving those young men the self-respect which comes from the knowledge that they are actually serving King and country and that they have got a definite job. You would be giving them all those things which were so eloquently described by the noble Viscount, the Secretary of State for War, in his eloquent speech to the Scots Guards. I cannot resist quoting the noble Viscount's words once more. He said: When one sees the kind of career which is offered to the young men of to-day to join the ranks of any great regiment, the physical training which they get, the educational advantages which are given to them, the life of interest and adventure which they are likely to embark upon, and finally the opportunity for employment and the vocational training which the Army affords, one would have thought that so long as there are any physically fit young men unemployed there ought to be no dearth of candidates for the Army. I am very much afraid that I shall be told that this is all very well, but where is the money to come from? I have an answer to that probable objection. I suggest that you have got the money and that something can be done on the lines which I have suggested without any increase of the sums at present voted for national expenditure.

In the first place, there will be a large saving on the money voted for the Territorial Army so long as there is a shortage of nearly 50,000 officers and men. Secondly, you will be making a permanent saving of money at present expended to mitigate the evils of unemployment if you give healthy physical and moral training in the Militia to, say, 100,000 of the young men who have never even had a job. And thirdly, I suggest that some retrenchment of present Army expenditure ought to be possible when it is a matter of providing a necessary Reserve for the Regular Army. I am asking for Papers and I can best explain what sort of Papers I want by putting a single question to the noble Viscount. My question is this: If war broke out and our Army were sent abroad, what would happen three weeks after the war had started? I beg to move.


My Lords, I think we must all agree that we have heard a very informative speech from the noble Lord who has just sat down. He said in the course of his speech that the cream of the Militia went into the Army. I must confess that I quite agree with him because I entered the Army through the Militia. However, I am not going to discuss the Militia, because the noble Lord has told us in the course of his interesting speech a great many facts as to which I thoroughly agree with him. Everyone connected with military matters knows what a tremendous interest the noble Lord has taken in this subject and how well he did during the War. I well remember him at Felixstowe at the head of his regiment; and there was no finer regiment. The brigade was commanded by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and I well remember going to Lord Salisbury and asking how he liked it. He said that his most efficient battalion was the noble Lord's, and he said that he himself has never in his life felt such a "swell" as when he commanded the brigade, though having, as your Lordships know, filled very many high offices of State. But as I said at the commencement of my remarks, I do not propose to deal with the Militia, with many of the facts connected with which I am fairly conversant, but, talking about reserves, I should like to say a few words about the Territorials.

Your Lordships may well question me as to my right to do so. After having served in the Army for a good many years, I was connected as honorary Colonel with one of the most splendid battalions in the County of London. Last February, the matter came before the Association of London Mayors, of which I am President, and it was then agreed to look into the whole question of the Territorials as part of our civic duties; because I may remind your Lordships that out of the ten divisions two are London divisions and those London divisions are 40 per cent. under strength. The question was how they could be helped to recruit. Various suggestions were made, and I sat upon a committee which was helped by the secretary of the County of London Territorial Association.

We came to the conclusion that the trouble lay firstly in the location of the various headquarters, some of which were old and some of which are now rather remote from the industrial portions of the population. Another reason was the fact that men moved—for labour is very mobile in London—and that to go back to their old regiment they had to travel. That took up a lot of time for which they received no travelling allowance. You can quite understand that a man who has been attached, say, to a corps in St. Pancras and goes to live at Battersea, while he does not want to leave his corps, finds after a time that it costs him so much to go that he has to give it up. One of our suggestions was that travelling allowance should be given. Above all, your Lordships will remember that during the time of economy measures only 30s. bounty was allowed; it was cut down from £5, and we suggested that a further grant should be given for the bounty. A recent illustration of the movement of population is afforded by what happened the other day in the City of Westminster. Curiously enough it was named the City of London Fusiliers, but its headquarters were in Westminster. That battalion was very much under strength. It then moved to Wandsworth, end had new headquarters there—its old headquarters were not bad—and it struck a new patch altogether. The result is that the battalion is now over strength.

There is also art opportunity now of looking into this question in London—because, as I have said, it is practically one-fifth of the whole of the Territorials of this country—and of seeing whether arrangements cannot be made to move some of the headquarters and get better drill-grounds in less populated areas. We are very much concerned in this matter, because we feel that London should not be behindhand in doing its best for the Territorial Army. I cannot help thinking that the noble Lord has done very good service in bringing the matter forward, and drawing attention to the lack of Reserve. I am not going to argue, the question of the Militia. His figures have thoroughly demonstrated how lacking we are in the matter of the Reserve. No one who went through the last War will be in favour of war, but it is no use pretending to the country at large that we have a Reserve at all adequate even for the police duties required in this great Empire. I do not want to take up more of your Lordships' time, but the Mayors of London have been very anxious about this matter. They have represented their views very strongly to the War Office, and have suggested all manner of means for improving recruiting. Our object is the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, to try and help the country to get a better Reserve for whatever needs the country may be called upon to fulfil.


My Lords, may If be allowed first of all to say how grateful I am to my noble friend Lord Ampthill for the very clear and emphatic words he used with regard to the necessity of being prepared for emergency, and of not overlooking or ignoring the claims of the Army owing to the inure popular needs of its younger brother in the air. I am grateful to him, too, because the fact that this debate is taking place and the Question which he has been good enough to put to me give me an opportunity of clearing up certain misconceptions and, I hope, of relieving to some extent, at any rate, certain anxieties. The sense of public duty which has moved my noble friend to bring this matter forward is, I think, shown by the fact that my noble friend and those associated with him have actually gone so far in their desire to help the War Office, as to intimate that they were willing that the principal function of the Militia—which, as he truly said, is the old Constitutional Force of the country—should be to find drafts for the Regular Army, rather than remaining in its own units to go overseas as a separate branch of the forces. I know that in making that suggestion he is making a very great concession from what he would himself best wish to see.

I have to thank him, too, for his courtesy in supplying to me the pamphlet to which he made reference, and which sets out very clearly the case of the Militia Club and those interested in it—their case for the revival of the Militia, either in its own name or under the title of Special Reserve. I notice that in that pamphlet the Secretary of State for War is exhorted to "put his cards on the table," and a little later on I am urged, not to declare, but confess, "with tragic veracity," that I have got nothing up my sleeve. I am going as far as I can to respond to this invitation. I shall put my cards on the table, so far as is possible without betraying important military secrets, and I hope to show, even if I am not as fully equipped as I should wish, that I have one or two cards of whose existence, I think, my noble friend bad no suspicion.

Before I come to deal with the arguments which my noble friend put forward, not in a spirit of controversy, and I do not wish to be contentious, I should like to begin quite frankly by saying that if I had unlimited funds available for Army purposes I should be very glad to see the Militia resuscitated. I recognise that it would be undoubtedly of use, because it would tap recruiting sources which at present are not touched by the Territorial Army. I am not quite sure that they would be quite such freely flowing springs as my noble friend thinks, but undoubtedly it is true that the existence of the Militia or Special Reserve would enable a certain number of people to give military services which at present they do not feel themselves able to give. In addition, the existence of the Militia or Special Reserve would relieve the Regular Army of one of the manifold tasks which it has to carry out to-day, and that is the task of creating out of its own resources the machinery for absorbing the immature and temporarily unfit men on mobilisation, and for training drafts for the maintenance of the Regular Army in the field. Unfortunately it is not true to say that I have unlimited resources. We have to cut our coat according to our cloth, and I am afraid the result under present conditions is that the coat is not nearly big enough properly to fit the body which it is designed to cover. We have not just to accept all the suggestions which we think useful, but we have to see how far the funds available can be distributed so as to get the best possible value for every penny we are able to obtain from the Exchequer.

My noble friend, I think, foresaw that that difficulty might be present in my mind, and he made three suggestions with regard to the provision of the necessary funds. He said, first of all, as is unfortunately true, that the Territorial Army was far below its peace establishment, and he said, "There you have a lot of money saved." Of course in the Budget estimates we do not take the funds necessary to maintain the Territorial Army at its peace establishment. I wish we did. All we take are the funds which are necessary to maintain it at what we think will be its recruited strength during the coming year. Then my noble friend said that money would be saved on unemployment expenditure if we got men into the Army or Militia. It is true it would be, and I should be personally glad if I could only hope to see some of the funds diverted to that purpose, but I am afraid that there I should find very considerable difficulty in persuading the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take quite the same view. Then he said that we could make a retrenchment on Army expenditure in order to make up the deficiency. That is only saying in another way that we could spend the money on the Militia instead of spending it on something else. The fact is that we have not got enough to spend even on the things which we regard as necessary, and that there is nothing which we could cut down in order to provide the necessary money which would be required.

The actual cost of the Militia, as my noble friend knows very well, but as some of your Lordships may not know, was, I think, in the last year before the War £1,380,000. When in 1923 there was a good deal of consideration given to the question of its resuscitation, there was a Committee set up and the estimate of what it would then cost was in the neighbourhood of £2,500,000 per annum; so that your Lordships see that a very considerable sum of money is necessarily involved. But because we have not been able to afford to revive the Militia or the Special Reserve in the shape which it took before the War, that does not mean that we have been content not to devise any means to provide for the need which that force was designed to supply in 1914.

My noble friend put a very pertinent and conclusive question when he concluded his speech by enquiring what would happen three weeks after war broke out, if the Army had to take the field under existing conditions, and his case, as I understood it, was largely based on the hypothesis that although in the Territorial Army we had a Reserve Army, we had to-day, in the absence of the Militia, no Army Reserve. That, of course, if it were true, would he a complete condemnation of the whole of our military organisation to-day because, as my noble friend truly said, it is quite useless to have an Army which is at the necessary minimum war strength when war breaks out, but which has nothing to fall back upon to make good the wastage in the early days of the war before fresh recruits can be trained. Your Lordships, I hope, will not be surprised to know that that somewhat elementary truth had not escaped the notice of those very brilliant and skilful generals and soldiers whose duty it has been to conduct the organisation of the Army and to advise Secretaries of State at the War Office. To have done nothing in the direction of supplying an Army Reserve would have meant, as my noble friend himself indicates, that the mobilisation of the Regular Army would be practically impossible or, if it were mobilised, it would be practically a useless force.

In fact, that position has been considered and has been met. I know that my noble friend will be relieved, and I think your Lordships will be relieved, to learn that measures have been taken to deal with it. I propose to deal principally with infantry, because it is the infantry which the Militia mainly supplied. It is not only the largest arm, but also it is the one which is, I think, principally in the mind of my noble friend. There are, of course, technical corps, the Engineers, the Signals, the Royal Army Service Corps, the Medical Corps, and so on; and with regard to all of those we have at this time what is known as a Supplementary Reserve, which is substantially the same as the Special Reserve of those arms was before the War, but fortunately their establishment is larger than it used to be in pre-War days.


What is the strength of that Reserve?


I am afraid I shall have to get those figures. I can give them in a moment. Then, if I may, I will deal with the infantry position. The hypothesis, I think, on which my noble friend's argument proceeds is that the number of Army reservists which would be available on the outbreak of war would only suffice to bring up the Regular Army units from peace establishment to war establishment strength; and that it follows that there would be no supply of reservists to make good any wastage until the time at which post-war recruits would be sufficiently trained to take their place in the field. And I think also he would say, if he were pressed, that in the absence of the Militia there is no adequate machinery, such as existed by virtue of the Militia before the War, for training these post-war recruits and to make them fit.

Now I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that that is not, in fact, the position. What we have done is this. We have provided by the terms of service in the infantry battalions a scheme under which there will be at any given moment sufficient reservists not merely to bring the units up to their war establishment, but also to replace casualties during those months which must elapse before post-war recruits are available to act as drafts. In addition to that we have evolved machinery for the reception of any soldiers who, on medical grounds, or age, or lack of training are not able to accompany their units overseas and to train men also who join the Colours after the outbreak of war. That latter machinery is provided by the altered system of regimental depots, which would be suitably expanded as soon as war actually broke out. That does mean that the Regular Army is to that extent undertaking functions which were discharged by the Militia in 1914, and it is a fair question to ask whether that can be a cheaper method than reviving the Special Reserve for the purpose. The answer is that it is a cheaper method, and I should like, if I may, to explain how the method works.

I hope I shall state these matters, which are perhaps a little technical, in simple language. Your Lordships will realise that the war establishment of any unit is based primarily on military considerations; that is to say, in fixing what is to be the war strength of any particular unit, you decide on military grounds what would be the proper strength, and you do not take some arbitrary figure based on the number of men whom you think likely to be available at any given moment. But while the war establishment of a unit to-day is, for technical reasons, substantially lower than it was in 1914, the reduction in the peace establishment of an infantry battalion as compared with 1914 is very much less, and the reason for that is that, in fixing the strength of the peace establishment of an infantry battalion at home, the factor to which you have regard is the main function of an infantry battalion in peace time, that is to say, the function of supplying drafts for its linked battalion which is engaged on duty overseas. As your Lordships know, under the Cardwell system each battalion going overseas has its linked battalion at home, and we fix the strength in peace time of the home battalion with reference to the number of men necessary to supply drafts in time of peace.


Would my noble friend give us the figures—what is the establishment and what was the establishment—so that we can form a judgment?


I did not anticipate that this House was going to form itself into an expert Committee to decide whether or not the establishment was adequate. If I had imagined that I should have been able to bring forward every figure. I can, however, give the figures the noble Earl asks. In July last the figures for the Supplementary Reserve were: 1,234 officers, 17,333 other ranks. The point is not what the figures were, the point is what the relative figures are. The relative figures are so arranged that you will have on the outbreak of war the necessary number of reservists in order to bring any given battalion up to its war strength, and sufficient surplus to constitute the necessary reserve strength to make good the wastages which in prewar days were supplied by the members of the Special Reserve. I am not saying, and I hope neither my noble friend nor the House will imagine I am saying, that I am prepared to undertake that at any given moment—at this given moment—there is every man that we need or every reserve that we need either in men or in material. The whole scheme on which the Army plan is now based consists in so regulating and adjusting the comparative war strength and peace strength as to ensure that, given normal recruiting, there will be available in the existing Army Reserve—the people who have done their service with the Colours and are still on the Reserve—sufficient men not only to bring the battalion up to war strength but also to supply the wastage which will normally arise during the first months of a campaign.

My noble friend has said that he realises that recruiting is not altogether satisfactory. I have said it myself, and I am very grateful to him for reinforcing that observation. I had not known that the speech which I was privileged to make at the luncheon of the Scots Guards had obtained any wider publicity than that particular dining room, and I am grateful to him for giving it a wider currency. I stand by every word I said then. I think it is a matter of profound regret that when, there are so many young men who would benefit immensely by the Army training, physically and mentally, who would gain opportunities of widening their whole outlook on life, who would gain the chance of interesting times abroad in time of peace, who would gain an opportunity for that vocational training which the Army affords, who would have the greatly improved prospect of obtaining work at the end of their Colour service which those who leave the Army, I am glad to think, to-day enjoy—that when there are all these young men available they are somehow dissuaded, I am afraid, often by people who ought to know better, from availing themselves of these opportunities. Anything that could be done to make these advantages and opportunities better known would be a real national service. Unfortunately it is not only in men that there is a shortage to-day. The policy of unilateral disarmament which every successive Government in this country has pursued in the hone of inducing other countries to follow our example has undoubtedly resulted in the accumulation of serious deficiencies, particularly as regards stores and material; but I am glad to think that these deficiencies, serious as they are, are not so serious in the way of man-power as my noble friend, not unnaturally, had supposed.

I do not propose this afternoon to go into the question of the Territorial Army, because my noble friend Lord Jessel will forgive me for saying that is not directly raised by the Motion which Lord Ampthill has on the Order Paper; but I should like to say that the suggestions which were made by the conference to which he drew our attention—the conference of the London Mayors—have been communicated, as he knows, to me personally. They have been discussed by me with my noble friend Lord Strathcona, who is immediately responsible for the Territorial Army, and with the Director-General and other prominent officials, and the suggestions which that conference put forward are among the suggestions which are under very careful examination at the present moment. I am not in a position to make a statement about them, for reasons which my noble friend will understand. I am sorry I cannot say to my noble friend Lord Ampthill that we are going immediately or at any given moment in the future to reconstitute the Special Reserve. We still have it, as he knows, in the Army List. It is true it is only a skeleton at present. It may happen as circumstances alter and as opportunities arise, that we may find it necessary or possible to revive that force in some shape or another, but for the time being the financial position does not lead me to hope that is possible. The fact to which he called such pointed attention—namely, that the Territorial Army is so much below its strength—makes me feel that the first thing we have to do in the way of increasing our man-power is to try and get a better response to the appeal for Territorial recruits.

I should like to see the Reserve Army brought up to strength before I explore this fresh avenue for the supplementation of the Army Reserve. If the opportunity should occur, if the necessity should arise, and if the funds were available, we have there in existence the names, at any rate, of the old Militia who have, as he truly said, for so many man centuries rendered yeoman service to this country, and I am quite sure if those in authority, whenever the time comes, think that is the best way of increasing our strength either for recruiting purposes or for the purpose of reserve, they will find in any Militia force which they call upon to come to their aid the same patriotism end the same material as we have so often relied upon in the past. I am sorry I have not any Papers to lay, but I have given such information as is in my power, and I hope my noble friend therefore will not press his Motion.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, has done great service by bringing this Question forward, but I must honestly say the answers of my noble friend seem to be wholly inadequate. I have never in my life heard the Secretary of State for War asked such a Question in this form—"to call attention to the fact that there is no adequate Reserve for the Regular Army." He might have condescended to figures to show whether there is or not an adequate Reserve. He has given us the War Office theory as to how the Regular Army is to be mobilised, but what I ask him is, what numbers are available? Unfortunately, he has not provided us with those figures. There are officers all over the country who know perfectly well that if you want to make a regiment a thousand strong for the purpose of mobilisation, you must be able to count upon a certain figure already existing in the regiment before you proceed to pour in the Reserve. There have been discussions over and over again in the House of Commons in days gone by as to whether the normal strength of a battalion should be, say, 700 or 800. Surely my noble friend is in a position to tell us what the normal strength is at the present time. Everybody has a right to know. We ought to be told whether the normal strength is 700 or 800 or what it is, so that we may be able to judge whether the total strength is so weak that it will really imperil the condition of the whole battalion if it is sent into the field.

I am not going to pursue the matter to-night, because I regard a great deal of what fell from my noble friend as to the position of the Government with respect to the Army at the present time as being very grave. I know perfectly well the difficulties in which we are at this moment. We are in the absurd position of having a large number of young men with nothing whatever to do, drawing Government pay for doing nothing because they can find nothing to do, yet who must not be trained even voluntarily so that they might serve their country if they were ever called upon to do so. All that makes the position of the Secretary for War very difficult. I notice that the opinion of both the Under-Secretaries of State in that office who have served in this House is the same as my own. In the new year, not at this the tail end of the sittings this year, it is absolutely necessary that this House should know, and that the country should know, what Army we have to depend upon.

I hope that under no circumstances for many years may we have to send an Army on to the Continent again, but I feel that we ought to know what really is the condition of the Army, and whether the figures which have been put before us on this occasion to some extent by my noble friend opposite as regards our national defence generally, are correct. We had some discussion on a Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, the other day, and some figures were then given. We ought to be told whether these figures really represent the proper and safe position in which, in the opinion of the Government, we ought to stand. If the Army is, let us say, one-third less than it was in 1914, I think we ought to know it. I am sure my noble friend will not feel it discourteous if I ask him when we bring forward this question again to arm himself with all those figures which we must know in order to form a proper judgment on the question.


My Lords, I will not take up more than two minutes of your time, but I should like, and I think your Lordships would like, to get the comparison a little clearer. So far as my memory serves me, before the War there was a class of men known as Schedule D men. Do they exist now or are they now included in the figure of, I think, 17,000, which the noble Viscount gave us as the Reserve for casualties? I am using the term "Reserve for casualties" in rather a loose way, but I understood him to say that after filling up the battalions to war strength there was a further Reserve of 17,000 on which we would be able to draw to replace the first casualties in the field. I gather that they may, or may not, include what we knew as Schedule D men before the War, but, from the point of view of the argument, the figures seem to compare with a force of 63,000 men which I think constituted the Militia or the Special Reserve in 1913–14. The noble Viscount shakes his head. It is just to clear up those points that I have ventured to ask these questions.


My Lords, I can only speak again by leave of the House, but the Supplementary Reserve to which I called attention is a Reserve merely for what I call the technical units—that is to say, it does not include the infantry battalions. I am sorry it was not clear. It includes the Engineers, the Army Service Corps, the Medical Corps and so on. It has nothing to do with the Infantry Reserve, which is quite a different figure, and a figure which I do not wish to give to the House even if I had it at the moment because it involves disclosing our mobilisation figures which we do not make public. The peace figures of the battalions can be given and are to be found in the Estimates.


My Lords, I hope the House will not think that my interpellation has wasted the time of your Lordships, because we have obtained a very interesting statement from the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War. If I may, I should like to thank him for having been at such pains to answer my Question with so much elaboration. I fully appreciate the fact that he has been overburdened with other work, and I am, therefore, all the more grateful to him for having taken so much trouble over the matter. I quite understand that we could not expect any different kind of answer at the present time, but I am not going to let this matter drop and I am going to do my best to see that others keep it up. I hope that by that means we shall persuade His Majesty's Government to reconsider their attitude about this matter. As I understand it, a neat calculation has been made between peace establishments and war establishments which will give us a rather larger Reserve on the outbreak of war. That is a matter of actuarial calculations of which it is impossible to judge when you hear them put by word of mouth across the floor of the House. I hope the noble Viscount will seize an early opportunity of presenting such Papers as would enable people to understand the system.


I am sorry, but it really would be most undesirable to do that, and I am sure my noble friend would not wish to press me to give our war figures for mobilisation.


We must content ourselves then with the noble Viscount's statement. I do not wish to take up your Lordships' time and I will, of course, withdraw my Motion for Papers. But I do want to make my own position clear. The noble Viscount seized the opportunity of pinning me down, or he thought he had pinned me down, to what he considered a very important concession—namely, that the Militia, if reconstituted, was to be used solely for furnishing reinforcements. I want to make my attitude clear. I should agree to the Militia, the Third Battalions, being used for furnishing drafts in the first instance, but I should not agree to see the terribly fatal mistake repeated which was made in the Great War. That was in not sending the Third Battalions out after a certain stage when the casualties had come home and together with recruits had swollen those battalions to three times their establishment, so that an ample training nucleus would have remained at home while the Third Battalion at war strength went abroad. It was a matter of bitter regret and resentment to all true Militia officers at the time of the War that that honour, as we regarded it, was only given to the Fourth Battalion. Most of us had to find other means of getting to the Front by joining other battalions. I admit that Third Battalions must be used for drafts in the first instance but a stage comes when they reach enormous numbers. I had 2,000 under my command as a battalion. When they come to that stage obviously they can go out as a unit and leave behind a drafting battalion of more than ordinary strength. Once more allow me to thank the noble Viscount. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.