§ LORD MOTTISTONE had the following Notice on the Paper:—To ask His Majesty's Government whether they can 433 now give in broad outline a clear definition of our needs for national and Imperial defence, with a view to securing an adequate number of recruits for all three branches of His Majesty's Services; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I know the hour is somewhat late, but the matter is urgent and affects the usual subject which I find debated in your Lordships' House—liberty. We alone of all the nations in Europe rely on the free will of the individual to fill our armed forces, and that is a point that is too often forgotten. The result is that recruiting gives cause for anxiety, as I know the Leader of the House will confirm me in saying. The Territorial Force is considerably below strength and indeed has gone clown. I, myself, know about this matter because for the last seventeen years I have been charged with recruiting for the Territorial Force in a great county of England, and others of your Lordships have been likewise charged. Although recruiting has not gone down in our county it has gone down in the country as a whole, and this is due, I am sure—and that is why I bring the matter to the notice of your Lordships—to what I may call an unholy and unnatural combination between what is termed the pacifist, on the one hand, and the panic-monger on the other. Between the two of them they have formed a body of doctrine which I am presently going to describe, and which has the most disastrous results on recruiting for the forces of the Crown.
§ May I say one word to what are termed pacifists? May I, if my words can reach them, implore them to stop shouting "Britain does not want war—no more war"? Everybody knows that. Of course we do not want war. Let any pacifist step outside this country and go to a foreign country, and he will perceive that if he says one word like that they will either burst out laughing or want to beat him over the head. Of course we do not want war, and everybody knows it, for the simple reason that we have got everything in the world we want. We have a great Empire, which is no doubt of great advantage to everyone in this country and outside, so no Englishman wants to change the status quo. I remember that before the War the then German Ambassador, Baron Marschall von Bieberstein, said to me: "You 434 want to maintain the status quo." I replied: "Yes, we do not want war." He said: "Of course you do not want war, because you have command of the sea and all the best places on the land, but we do not like your status quo." It is more than ever true now that the happiness of the citizens of this country and of the Empire, which is undoubtedly greater than that of people in any other portion of the globe, is due in large measure to the fact that we, have that Empire. So for heaven's sake do not let us be such hypocrites as to keep on saying: "We do not want war," because everyone knows that without our telling them.
§ A friend of mine, a very eminent soldier and a former member of the North-West Mounted Police of Canada, who tried to maintain order in Klondyke during the first gold rush, told me that the chief difficulty there was a man called Jamie Macpherson. Jamie Macpherson developed such a remarkable technique at the game of poker that he cleaned out all his fellow diggers and made a fortune of $400,000, and my friend said to me: "That was bad enough, but imagine the rage on the gold reef, which even I could not control, when a revivalist preacher came around and Jamie Macpherson, although he did not look very much like a Scotsman, announced that he was converted and went round the diggings saying that poker was wicked and shouting 'No more poker'." The parallel is not exact but it is apt, and I implore these people not to shout "No more war." They will be like Jamie Macpherson when he said "No more poker." Unless my noble friend behind me has an answer which I do not think he will dare give, I only say that because I want the Government to make a clear declaration of the truth about this matter. If other Parties should combine in saying the same it would be an immense advantage in maintaining the voluntary principle, for, rest assured, unless something of this kind is done in the near future this Government or any other Government will be confronted with the alternative of enforcing conscription in order to maintain our defence forces at the level agreed to by this and preceding Governments.
§ There are four doctrines which tell against recruiting, and very briefly I shall deal with each of them. The first 435 is the suggestion that England is no longer an island. The result is a feeling that it is no good to join the Navy. I see the noble Earl, Lord Beatty, in his place, than whom I suppose no living man is more entitled to speak on the subject of the Royal Navy, and I expect he will agree that this is a fantastic mistake. In point of fact England is more an island from the point of view of national defence and Imperial defence than ever before. All the new inventions—aircraft, tanks, gas, all of them—make natural obstacles more, not less, valuable. If I may try to convince your Lordships by quoting a man who was undoubtedly a great student of war, I recall that Marshal Foch at the time of the Peace Conference perpetually tried to insist on a Rhine frontier. He put that to me, who was representing the Air Ministry at the Peace Conference, again and again. When I said to him: "I do not think you ever can get that solution, even if it were wise," he replied: "Don't you see that now we have all these methods of surprise, notably the aeroplane, a natural barrier is the one thing that will save you? There was only a little stretch between Nieuport and Ypres, but it saved the Channel ports, though it was only forty metres broad. The Rhine would save all fear of conflict for good and all. But your wonderful Channel—what would not we give for your Channel? "That is perfectly true no doubt. All I can say is this. If we take the proper measures for defence against aerial attack, I should say that the danger to Britain and her Empire of one submarine was more formidable than that of a hundred or possibly a thousand aeroplanes. That is fallacy number one.
§ Doctrine number two says: "The next war will be begun, continued and ended in the air." I am sure that that is completely untrue. The air is immensely formidable when combined with Navy and Army, but it cannot end the war by itself. The only way to end the war is by subduing the people. From the air you can terrify, you can kill, you can destroy, but I am persuaded that you cannot possibly subdue, unless the destruction of human life was so enormous that all power of resistance would be gone. If, after the experience of four years of the recent struggle, when English, French and Germans continued 436 to fight, when thousands of tons—and we are coming to tons now—of explosives and gas were dropped on them day by day, anyone means to suggest that the losses caused by air bombardment can bring this country to its knees, I can only say they have never considered the facts which I wish now to put before them. For these facts are really somewhat surprising. I know that the Secretary of State for Air, whom I see in his place, will not dispute them, for they are mostly taken from official publications of the Air Ministry.
§ Having dealt with doctrine number two—the fallacy which would make the would-be recruit join neither the Army nor the Navy because it is going to be entirely a war in the air—we come to doctrine number three. And this does the most harm of all; this is where the unholy combination comes in. It is said—I do not trouble to quote from the newspapers, though I could quote volumes, and, indeed, I could quote from some of His Majesty's Ministers, speaking, I think, at hasty moments, words which would give some colour to the theory adduced by the Press—that "if war were to come unexpectedly tomorrow"—I quote exact phrases— "millions of people would be killed, utter disorganisation would result, or" —I still quote—" if gas be employed hundreds of thousands would be permanently maimed or blinded." I am glad to have this opportunity to dispel these fantastic delusions. We know about these things, and I propose to give some figures to which I believe there is no answer at all, because they are taken from official sources. It is true I was appointed to the Committee of Defence twenty-seven years ago, and have constantly attended it, but not in recent years, and anything I say is not taken from any of the secret documents but from documents which are available to anyone to read.
§ First, we have the actual experience of the past. We deal now only in tons to be dropped. How much could be dropped and what damage would be done, whether it be gas or high explosives or incendiary bombs or germs of disease? I think I can tell your Lordships. During the last War, towards the end, Germany had 3,000 aeroplanes. During the course of that War she dropped altogether on England 270 tons. The number of killed 437 was 1,403 persons altogether, and that works out at 5.9 persons killed by high explosive for every ton of bombs dropped. "Ah," it may be said, "but now there will be ever so many more aeroplanes and ever so many more tons will be dropped." Of course. But somebody is now asking whether millions would be killed. Let us see the facts as taken from official figures. I perceive that as against the 3,000 aeroplanes possessed by France, the 3,000, approximately, possessed by Germany, and the 3,300 possessed by England in those days, there are now altogether 7,000 civil and 7,000 military aeroplanes in Europe, excluding Russia. I made a calculation myself in which I multiplied the losses on the first day by ten to make allowance for any increase in the size of bombs and some other factors. I think the figure stated must have been a great exaggeration, for I believe the official estimate is that the most that could be dropped on this country on the first day would be two hundred tons.
§ Elaborate experiments made by various persons have tended to show that the most that could be killed on an average per ton is sixteen and wounded seventeen. It will thus be seen that the most that could be killed on the first day would be sixteen times two hundred, which is 3,200 persons. I estimated that it was possible that 14,000 might be killed, but even supposing it was that number, is it conceivable that this country should be brought to her knees by the process of killing even 14,000 let alone 3,000, when, as I have said, we suffered without wincing casualties ten times that number per day in the recent war? "Ah," it may be said, "but there are all sorts of new inventions which have come along; that is where the millions come in." My Lords, that is quite untrue. The sort of high explosive that can be dropped to-day is no different from the sort of high explosive which was dropped at the end of the War. The kind of gas that can be dropped to-day is no more deadly than the kind of gas that would have been dropped in 1919. In fact, so far from it being true to say that the next war, if it broke out to-morrow, would be the most terrible thing ever known, the truth is it would not be anything like so terrible as the war of 1919 would have been, and for the simple reason that, as I know, having 438 been in charge of the Warfare Department of the Ministry of Munitions at the close of the War, there were 100 of the best brains thinking out plans for destruction for one that is thinking out such plans now. I conclude therefore that the theory that we can be annihilated from the air is a complete delusion.
§ The dropping of gas bombs, viewed purely from the technical point of view, has much against it. A technical friend of mine said with a gloomy smile when it was suggested to him: "It is a pity you know; it is the spoiling of good shells; it never does the same amount of damage." So says the technical man, and I think it is true, because we all learned then, and it is just as true today, that the problem of killing people with gas is very difficult, especially if you attempt it from a distance. You must know, firstly, the barometric pressure, and, secondly, the temperature, or your gas will be very ineffective. It is not so with gas shells, as those who were engaged in the late War know. Then one constantly had beside each battery a record of the temperature and of the barometric pressure. But you cannot tell what that is going to be coming from a distance, as any meteorological expert will tell you. Therefore, if an assumed enemy wants to drop two hundred tons, he would be well advised to drop high explosives instead of gas. I think expert opinion will be inclined to agree with that. The total of damage done by two hundred tons of gas would be much less than that done by two hundred tons of explosives, which, as I say, means 3,200 people killed.
§ Then it is said that we shall be doomed because the two hundred tons may contain disease germs. That is a fantastic delusion. Can it be supposed that any Commander-in-Chief of Forces would say: "Let us give England leprosy by dropping two hundred tons of leprosy germs"? At once he would be confronted with the answer that it would be very slow in action, and that if it did act more than locally so as to spread all over the country, it would also undoubtedly spread to neighbouring countries, whatever precautions might be taken. But above all, the objection would be that it would be such a slow job. If you wanted to do anything of that kind, it would be far better to em- 439 ploy an agent, a spy. He would do the thing much better. It is also said that incendiary bombs can do immense damage. That is a direction in which great advance has been made since the War, as everybody knows who has studied the question. Given the right wind, I think it would not be altogether impossible for these two hundred tons to destroy a large portion, especially of the worst built parts of London, the East End and so on. But can anybody really suggest that this Commander-in-Chief would adopt that method against England? Does he suppose that the working man, seeing his house in the East End go up in smoke, would say: "Oh well, we had better give in." No, no. No pacifist opinion would have a hearing then. What he would say would be: "Let us be avenged."
The last of these false doctrines is that there is no answer by combating the thing from the air. In fact, an eminent man has said: "Nothing on earth could prevent you being bombed." In a sense, of course, that is true, but then you could not prevent all your shipping in the Channel being sunk if there is going to be an attack without a declaration of war. There is nothing new in that. And it is absolutely untrue that the enemy can continue to bomb with impunity. The experience of the last War is conclusive. We set to work by aerial defence and counter offensive, and the result was that as the War went on air raids became fewer and fewer, until in the last five and a half months they ceased altogether. Memories are short. I would like to quote to your Lordships a resolution passed by the Common Council in the City of London. Bear in mind that we had at that time 286 anti-aircraft guns, 387 searchlights, and a big force of fighters in the air. What was the effect of that? It is expressed in the resolution of the Court of Common Council which was as follows:
That this Court desires to record its appreciation of the effective measures taken for the defence of London on the occasion of the enemy raids by enemy air-craft during the War, and especially on the night of the 19th May, 1918.
The Court wishes to express the great indebtedness of the citizens and inhabitants of London for the untiring devotion and splendid services of the pilots, airmen, gunners and others engaged under the command of Major-General Ashmore on the night of 19th May, when not only were seven of the
enemy machines brought down, but so much further heavy damage was done to the enemy that the Germans finally decided to abandon attacks On London.
§ So they did. We know now from German sources that the game was not really-worth the candle; it was so terribly dangerous to come over.
§ I say to the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House that if as the result of prolonged study of the question he were to come to this House and to say that it is vitally necessary for us to make, let us say, Woolwich impregnable, it would be far less costly to make it impregnable, from the air, except for the first shots after the opening of the War, than to move it elsewhere. The science of balloon aprons has advanced very greatly. As I have said, airmen naturally fear them to the utmost degree. You can get them up to fourteen thousand feet now, and with a little trouble I have no doubt you would be able to get them up to twenty thousand feet. Then we have our wonderful aeroplanes now—too few in number, but extraordinarily efficient. I have a young relative who said he could not play golf the other week-end because he had to go up fifteen thousand feet in fifteen minutes with the rest of his flight. He told me aterwards that they had done it. It is a terrific performance, but it can be done. What would become of the poor bomber if he meets these people up above the curtain the whereabouts of which we know but he does not know? What I suggest to the Secretary of State for Air and to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House we can do with great effect is, not to say by way of reprisals "Kill more babies" but "Kill the killers." War is very wicked and sad, but if somebody comes killing our babies, let us go out and kill them. If we have a bomb to spare for the Prime Minister who decreed the deed, we might have a go at him: otherwise, kill the killers. But I hope the air will be used for peaceful purposes. Once it is known in the world that we have got the measure of them, I think the chance of getting general agreement to abandon all these ideas of either incendiary bombs or gas bombs will have come. I think that we can, and I am sure it will be really worth while.
§ Finally, there is the most important point that prevents recruits from joining. There is that baffling phrase that our 441 frontier is on the Rhine. I see that repeated in foreign newspapers, and when I go to France and Germany, as I often do, people asked me what it means, and I have to tell them that I really do not know. What can it really mean? I am sure it does not mean that the German people are our hereditary and perpetual foes, for that is contrary to history and contrary to modern fact. If anybody cares to go to Germany to-day he will find there is not a single German from top to bottom who wants to quarrel with England. And, of course, they are not fools. Only five days ago I met an English admiral who had spent two months wandering about Germany, and he assured me, and I can confirm this from my own observations, that he never met such courtesy and kindness and consideration amongst all classes of people. It was apparent to him that they were really anxious to be our friends. Of course, naturally they are. It must be so. Of course, they admire us because we fought well in the War and because we treated them fairly decently after the Peace. More than that, it would be such an idiotic thing to quarrel with England. We are pretty formidable people to "take on," as they found. No, no; it cannot mean that and I am sure that it did not mean that.
§ If you take the whole speech in which it first appeared, which I have read, apparently it did not mean that, but I think it would be a good thing to dispel that illusion. If it refers to the range of aeroplanes, that is even more baffling. The range of aeroplanes is increasing very rapidly, so why the Rhine? Why not (as I suggested to myself just now) the Volga or the Euphrates? Why the Rhine? The reason it so baffles the recruit—and I know it does because recruits have told me so—is that they do not know what they are going to do. They ask: "What are we going to do? It is not the air business obviously, because you are not going to set your aeroplanes there, are you? I suppose when the next war comes we will walk over the great French defensive line"—which everybody knows about, and which they have built at a cost of, I believe, sixty millions—"into a sort of No Man's Land between the frontier line and the Rhine and then sit there and wait to be told which way we have got to face when 'the Day' comes." It is a very baffling and puzzling 442 statement, and I should be glad, and I think the whole country would be glad, if it could be cleared up by an authoritative statement.
§ If anything I have said about killing the killers seems rather blood-thirsty to my noble friends behind me I regret it, but I do really mean all that I say. It is no good being mealy-mouthed about this. If we are going to be attacked we must defend ourselves with vigour, and we cannot do that unless we have an adequate number of recruits. We cannot get an adqeuate number of recruits under the voluntary system unless we get a clear lead from those responsible. If my noble friends behind me—and I know the Liberal Party will agree—would join in what I may call a general manifesto agreed to by all Parties on the lines of our defensive policy, to the effect that we must have an adequate Navy, that we must have an Air Force and an attacking Air Force, and that, of course, we must have an Army and a good Army—if they could tell us that, I believe our recruiting difficulties would disappear. But, if I may say so to my noble friend opposite with respect, "if the trumpet gives out an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?" And the trumpet has been giving out a very uncertain sound lately—not the trumpet sounded by the Secretary of State for War but the trumpet sounded by other people who have nothing whatever to do with our defensive forces. Their cue has been taken up by the newspapers, who by alternately alarming us and by saying that war is wicked have brought us to to a state in which proud and powerful England is in a real dilemma owing to the shortage of recruits. I trust that my noble friend may help us by making a clear pronouncement upon this important subject. I beg to move.
§ EARL BEATTY
My Lords, I rise to support the noble Lord's appeal for a clear definition from the Government of our needs for national and Imperial defence. The Motion is one of inquiry, and as the noble Lord did in his concluding remarks, I appeal to the Government to make a clear pronouncement on the needs for all the three Services. I deal with the naval side of this picture. I am, of course, aware that at the present time the Government are engaged in conversations with other Powers, on the 443 naval question, and I have no wish to embarrass them in any way whatsoever, but I do not believe that the raising of a domestic question of this nature would be in any way harmful.
What do we know about this very grave question? In the past, and not very long ago, it has been stated by Cabinet Ministers that there are serious deficiencies in our Imperial defence. The First Lord of the Admiralty in introducing the Estimates made the alarming statement that the Navy was cut to the bone, and that there was a shortage of men. Again, the Lord President of the Council stated on July 19, which is only three and a-half months ago, that… in our efforts to further the policy of international disarmament by example as well as by precept we have reduced our armaments to a dangerously low level in the hope that others would follow our lead.That pious hope has not fructified; they have not followed our lead. That was practically admitted by the Lord President of the Council in that selfsame speech, because he further said:During the past eight and a-half years misgivings have arisen in many quarters at the increasing accumulation of deficiencies in our Defence Services, particularly in view of the increased expenditure on armaments in many other countries.He also added:The whole question of Imperial Defence and the part to be played in it by the three Defence Services has been for some months under review by the Government.That was three months ago.It is not necessary to-day to give any complete account of our inquiries or of the detailed conclusions at which we have arrived.I would ask, when will it be necessary to give this complete account for which we are asking to-day?
He further went on to describe a programme for increasing the Royal Air Force, and in that he informed us of some small additions which were to be made to the strength of the Fleet air arm, but in view of the growing strength of the Fleet air arms of other countries, are the Government of the day satisfied with the provision which is being made? I hope that it will be taken into account that the importance to the Navy of the efficiency of the Fleet air arm is just as great as is the efficiency of the guns and the other weapons which they use. The country is definitely disturbed. I myself am continually receiving letters 444 asking for information and instruction on the increasing propaganda that has been going on in a certain section of the Press leading the country to believe that the Navy is moribund, that it could no longer fulfil the duties for which it exists; that it is no longer necessary for our security; and that its place can he taken, and should be taken, by the Royal Air Force. The battle cry is "Aircraft are more important than ships." What we want to know is, do the Government believe that? Do they agree that this propaganda is good for the country? If they do, I hope they will say so, but if they do not, let the Government equally educate the country to the contrary, and prevent wrong teaching being given to the people.
I maintain that the country has the right to be educated by those who know and not by those who do not know, who in many cases are panic-stricken or have an axe to grind. Because of this uncertainty in the minds of the public, who are being taught that there is no future for the Navy, there is failure to obtain the best-educated youth of the country for officering the Navy, and consequently the Navy suffers from this failure to educate the people on the needs of the country. There is another question. We come to the question of battleships. Do the Government believe that the Battle Fleet is vital for our safety? If they do, what are they intending to do about it? What is going to be done towards replacing those war-worn vessels which were constructed and brought into being by the last generation? I maintain that this again is a question on which the country needs education, and education from the right sources, and not, as at present, from irresponsible critics.
The expenditure on our fighting Services in this year's Estimates amounted to £113,711,000, of which about £18,000,000 is stated to be ineffective, due to pensions. That would mean that the actual expenditure on Defence Services amounts to round about £95,000,000. This is a very large sum, but the value obtained from money to-day is considerably less than it used to be, and I do not think that if it was compared with previous Estimates in pre-war years this vast sum would be found to be excessive. Considering the responsibilities of this 445 country throughout the world it is an inadequate expenditure, on the only true comparative basis—namely, the expenditure of other countries, who with far less responsibilities are spending greater sums on their defence. If this country is not willing to make the sacrifices for our security that was made by our fathers we shall inevitably be brought to ruin. The people will always make financial sacrifices if asked to, and if they are assured that they are essential, and if they are educated in the right way. Therefore I think, in the circumstances, it is not unreasonable that the Government should be asked to make a statement in reply to the questions which have been put to them in the Motion moved by the noble Lord.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, the question which is raised by my noble and gallant friend in the Motion which stands under discussion is a question of supreme national importance. The speech in which he moved his Resolution was one of very great interest, in which he himself gave expression to some very interesting views, and in which he gave to your Lordships, and I hope a wider public outside, some very useful and valuable experience and information. The noble and gallant Lord ask me to reply, and hoped that the trumpet would bray, if that is the right phrase, with no uncertain sound, but I think he was good enough to point out that any uncertainty in the trumpeting was only due to a wrong trumpeter being employed, and I do not think he suggested that I had any delusions on this topic.
The debate has been all the more interesting to listen to because we have had a speech from the noble and gallant Earl who sits on the Cross Benches, of whom my noble friend truly said that no one could speak with greater authority on the particular branch of defence with which he dealt. The noble Earl asked me some questions. I shall not be able to answer them all, and I do not think he will expect me to do so, but I shall endeavour to deal, in the course of what I have to say, with the main topics raised by both of their Lordships. I should like to begin by saying this quite definitely, that my noble and gallant friend is quite 446 right in saying that the modern developments and the discoveries of modern methods of warfare, and of modern armaments, have not in any way diminished the importance of our older arms. Nobody with any sort of knowledge, I believe in any country in the world, and certainly nobody in this country, would suggest that because of the rapid extension or possibilities of aerial warfare there was any less need of an adequate defence by sea or on the ground, and I am quite certain I make that statement no more definitely than it would be made by my noble friend the Secretary of State for Air.
In fact, I was interested to hear from my noble friend opposite that Marshal Foch had expressed the view that the developments of modern warfare made co-operation between the different Services of greater rather than of less importance, and I believe that to be quite true. We at any rate in this country are working on that view, because it is of the essence of the whole of our strategy that the three branches of Imperial defence, Navy, Army, and Air, should co-ordinate their work in co-operation, and that they should not attempt, any one of them, to operate without regard to the other, and they are none of them so foolish as to suppose that they can dispense with the assistance of the other two. The co-ordination between the three branches of the Defence Services has, I think, never been more cordial than it is to-day. I am not going to discuss vexed topics like a Ministry of Defence and things of that kind, but it may interest your Lordships to be reminded that we have first of all the three political chiefs of the Services, whose relations, I hope, are always harmonious but whose relations could not be more harmonious than those of the present three leaders of those Services. Then we have the Committee of Imperial Defence. The noble Lord opposite knows quite as much about that as I do, and he is aware that on that Committee any matters which are of common interest for the defence of the realm are discussed, and that on that Committee not only are the political chiefs of the three Services present but also the professional chiefs are invariably invited to attend. You have therefore on the Committee of Imperial Defence a very 447 valuable method of co-ordination when, if ever, any dispute arises.
Then there comes next what I personally regard as perhaps the most useful of all, the Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence which is known as the Chiefs of Staff Committee. That is a body consisting of the three professional heads, the Chiefs of Staff of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, to whom are referred problems of strategy and of defence which they discuss together, with regard to which they produce reports when they are required, and by means of which we are assured that on any question of Imperial strategy we have the opportunity of getting the combined views of the three professional chiefs, who are able to discuss and agree with one another as to the right course which ought to be pursued. Below that, and in order to try to keep the three Services together, a little lower down than at the head, in the Imperial Defence College there are always representatives of all three Services attending and going through the same course at the same time together.
At the three Staff Colleges of the respective Services there are always representatives from the other two Services, who are being educated at the Staff College of each of them, and they, therefore, are able to assimilate the strategic ideas of each branch of the Service and bring them back into the common pool when they return to their own particular branch. The Staff Colleges themselves always have now what is called a combined operation exercise at the close of each scholastic year, which lasts for a month or more, during which time all the three Staff Colleges are working and living together, and are therefore getting to know, not only one another personally, but also the respective points of view of all three Services. There are other minor means of exchange of information and ideas. I am not saying it may not be possible to develop them even further in the future, but I do mention this to your Lordships so that you shall understand that it is fundamental to the whole of our strategic conception of Imperial defence that each one of the Services depends upon the other two, and that without the other two any one of them would be paralysed and unable properly to discharge its duty. I should like to add that in my experi- 448 ence the object of all three Services is not to try to gain for each one a supremacy or predominance over the other two, but to combine, not in rivalry but in co-operation, to achieve the best means of attaining the ends which we all desire.
If I pass from that topic to discuss each Service separately, it is only for convenience of arrangement, and not from any idea that any one Service can be dealt with in isolation from the other two. I pass from that preliminary observation first of all to the senior Service—the Navy—and here, of course, I speak without any claim to technical experience or knowledge, but I speak on such information as has been supplied to me from the Admiralty, which is the proper body to advise on this matter. The Admiralty view of their conception of their duties and the best means of fulfilling them may be stated in general terms somewhat on these lines. The Admiralty feel that our special problems of defence arise from the unique conditions of the British Commonwealth of Nations, or, as I should prefer to call it, the British Empire, its worldwide distribution, the fact that all parts of it are to a greater or less extent dependent en communications by sea for their wellbeing or, in some instances, for their very existence, and that in the last resort it is on the transport of adequate forces by sea that the Commonwealth relies to resist aggression and ensure the security of our interests and the integrity of our territory. It is therefore the security of sea passage to and from all parts of the Empire that forms the basis and foundation of our system of Imperial defence, without which other measures of defence can be of little avail. Quite obviously I do not think it is necessary to develop that, but in this island alone we depend for our means of existence, for the food which keeps our people alive, on having free access to the sources of supply scattered all over the world. More than that, we depend on it for the essential means of carrying on any kind of warfare. For the oil which forms the fuel for our Navy and the means of transport for a great proportion of our Army, for the metals which are essential to our munitions, and a number of things—we depend for the obtaining of these things on keeping our sea communications open, and therefore the security of sea passage re- 449 mains, as I have said, the basis and foundation of our whole system.
Our naval strategy, then, is based on the principle that a fleet of adequate ships, suitably disposed geographically and concentrated as may be necessary, provides the cover under which security is given to widely dispersed territories and to our merchant ships on the trade routes. This security cannot be given by the same strength of fleet dispersed to afford local protection to particular territories or trade routes. Such dispersion might leave an enemy free initiative and invite the destruction of those detached forces one by one. Whilst, however, the main fleet is the basis upon which our naval strategy rests, the cover it can provide is rarely complete, and it may aways be expected that units detached by the enemy may evade the main fleet and carry out sporadic attacks on territories and trade. To deal with these attacks cruiser squadrons are required in addition to the vessels forming part of the main fleet. It may be sufficient to maintain these cruiser squadrons within the various areas liable to attack, but if in any particular area the attack is sufficiently sustained, it may be necessary to resort to the convoy system to provide adequate security. That system for its efficiency depends on sufficient escorts being available. The normal form of attack against a convoy being by enemy cruisers or armed merchant vessels, it follows that cruisers are required as escorts.
Then I come to a point which was raised specifically by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches—the question of the battleships. This was a point which, he may remember, was dealt with specifically by my right honourable friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, when he introduced the Estimates earlier in the year. The capital ship forms the essential element in the Battle Fleet upon which the whole structure of naval strategy depends. The capital ships we have to-day are, with very few exceptions, rapidly approaching the limit of their age and their efficiency, and the question of their replacement will have to be considered before very long. Our war-built cruisers are being replaced by a steady programme of some three ships a year. Under the London Naval Treaty we accepted a cruiser tonnage of only fifty cruisers. Our reasons were stated by the 450 Prime Minister in the House of Commons in May, 1930. In the changing situation to-day the question of the number of cruisers required adequately to provide for our sea communications is a matter of the most serious consideration.
I cannot develop in great detail what may be necessary with regard to the Navy for the simple reason that the noble Earl, I think, himself foresaw. The Government are now engaged in preliminary conversations with certain Powers with the object of preparing the ground for the Naval Conference which it is hoped may be held next year. It is obviously not possible for any definite information to be given whilst these preparations are in progress. The whole of our naval position has, however, been most carefully considered in relation to our absolute requirements. It is the hope of the Government to secure an arrangement to replace the Naval Agreement that lapses in 1936 and which will avoid competition in naval armaments while leaving us free to maintain the Fleet on which the naval defence of the Empire depends at the strength necessary for our security. Obviously in these discussions we shall have to consider and discuss the question both of quantitative and of qualitative disarmament. Beyond that I do not think it would be wise or proper for me to go in dealing with the question of the future development of the Navy, but I hope I have said enough, at any rate, to indicate that nobody need be under any misapprehension as to the urgent necessity, the imperative necessity, of maintaining our Fleet in a position adequate to maintain the security of our communications.
I pass from the Navy to the Army, which is more especially my responsibility. In introducing the Estimates in the House of Commons earlier in the year my honourable friend the then Finance member of the Army Council, Mr. Duff Cooper, stated this as to the purpose of the Army:An Army is required of a size adequate to discharge four separate duties. First—I am not stating them in order of importance, but just to summarise the four—First, to protect the bases from which the Navy operates or may have to operate; next, to maintain order in territories where we have important and heavy responsibilities; next, to protect this country; and, fourthly, to provide a force to despatch to any particular area in order to defend the interests of the Empire.451 When one states these four requirements of the Army the first reflection which instantly comes to one's mind is this, that if these be the purposes for which we require an Army we have not less responsibility to-day than we had twenty years ago, before the outbreak of the Great War. That reflection necessarily invites another reflection that, although that fact is true, yet we have a very much smaller Army with which to discharge these responsibilities to-day than we had then.
I do not want to weary the House with too much detail, but the matter is of some little importance and I think of some interest, and therefore I may just remind your Lordships of what the reductions have been in the case of the Army. Your Lordships know there have been also reductions in the case of the Navy, and since the end of the War in the case of the Air Force. In the case of the Army the total reductions which have been effected in the list, comparing 1934 with 1914, are as follows: 51 Cavalry regiments, 93 units of Royal Artillery, 21 companies of Royal Engineers, and 164 battalions of Infantry; that includes the Regular Army and the Reserve and the Territorial Army. The Special Reserve, which in pre-War days constituted a very important factor in our pre-War scheme of mobilisation and provided over 100 battalions of Infantry besides other forces, has disappeared altogether. The Supplementary Reserve to-day is for quite different purposes—to provide specialists and tradesmen for certain special purposes. As against that, it is right to say that in view of the changed conditions of warfare we have formed six battalions of the Royal Tank Corps, of which one serves in Egypt; two light tank companies, which are in India; and six armoured car companies; and we have set up the Royal Corps of Signals, which before the War was not a separate branch of the Service. But these offsets go but a very small way, numerically at any rate, to replace those very large reductions which I have indicated.
Since those reductions have been made, and since our responsibilities have not lessened, it follows of necessity that the burden which is now laid upon the Territorial Army, and the reliance which we place upon the Territorial Army, to-day, is infinitely greater than it was in 1914. 452 To-day it is an accepted principle of our defence strategy that the Territorial Army is the only means and basis of expansion of our land forces for the defence of the Empire. The Territorial Army is to-day primarily responsible for the coast defences and for the anti-aircraft defences of this country from the ground. These are new responsibilities, and the speech to which we listened a little earlier in the afternoon sufficiently brings home to us how grave the nature of these responsibilities may well be. In order to discharge these responsibilities it will be necessary on the outbreak of war for the Territorial Army units to increase up to was establishment, which is, in round figures, about double their peace establishment. They will also have to throw off their first reinforcements, training cadres, and possibly later on to form second line units so that the men serving at the outbreak of war must form the basis for the expansion of our forces. Organisation of training has therefore to be arranged to-day with this object in view.
In 1914 the peace establishment was virtually the same as the war establishment instead of being, as to-day, only roughly half. The peace establishment in 1914 was over 312,000 all ranks, and there existed actually on the 1st July, 1914, 265,427 of all ranks in the Territorial Army. To-day the recruiting establishment has been cut down to 8,112 officers and 155,587 other ranks, and on the 1st October, which is the latest date for which figures are available, there were actually serving 7,066 officers and 125,274 other ranks, of whom 24,821 had been enlisted during the last twelve months. Your Lordships will see therefore that there is a shortage of no less of 1,046 officers and 30,313 other ranks as against the recruiting establishment. When you add to that fact that the recruiting establishment is roughly half—a little less than half I think—of what the war establishment was in pre-War days, which was also the peace establishment, your Lordships will realise why it is that it is my habit, I am afraid almost to the point of weariness, to insist on the duty in these days of people joining the Territorial Force.
The general framework of the Territorial Army is the same to-day as that for the old Territorial Force. The details for its organisation and adminis- 453 tration are laid down in Lord Haldane's Act of 1907. Each Territorial Army Association, with the Lord-Lieutenant of the county at its head, is responsible for all the administrative work and has certain very definite duties to perform. For instance, the Territorial Army Association in each county is responsible for the organisation of the Territorial Army units and for their administration and maintenance except when they are called out for training or actual military service, or when they are embodied. Then the Territorial Army Associations are responsible also for recruiting for the Territorial Army both in peace and war, and perhaps it is worth mentioning that this is the method by which the ancient duty of the Lord-Lieutenant, as representative of the Sovereign, to raise the military forces required in his county, is maintained. Then there is the provision and maintenance of buildings, and rifle ranges, and the like, the provision of areas to be used for manœuvres, and arranging with employers of labour as to holidays for training and as to ascertaining the times of training best suited to the circumstances of civil life. That, being so, I cannot stress too strongly the responsibility which in my judgment, rests upon the Lords-Lieutenant and the Associations in the counties and county boroughs to take steps to reduce the present deficiency in personnel, because it is very largely by their interest and their activity that the present deficiency in numbers can be reduced.
I pass from the Army to the Air Force and here I speak in the presence of a greater authority than I can claim to be, but I do not think I shall say anything with which he will be in disagreement. An Air Force is required of a size adequate to enable certain primary duties to be carried out. First, to defend this country against hostile air attack; secondly, to maintain order in certain territories, either having the major responsibility or a responsibility in co-operation with the Army; and thirdly, to co-operate with the Navy and with the Army. It is obvious, therefore, that all these three forces must be in a high state of efficiency, because, owing to the scattered nature of our responsibilities all of them have to be ready for action at any time and in any part of the world. The Air Force was, at the end of the War, the strongest and the most 454 efficient in the world. We have made tremendous reductions since that day and we have watched other nations surpassing us in numbers to a very great extent. The Government, as is their duty, have had to keep the most careful watch over the situation, which, unfortunately, has not shown signs of improvement. As a result they came to the conclusion that they could no longer postpone a comprehensive review of the whole situation, particularly of the strength to which our forces have been reduced. Announcement was made in this House by my noble friend the Marquess of Londonderry on the 19th July of this year of an expansion programme of forty-one squadrons. It was explained by my noble friend that the decision was based on the considered conclusion that the symptoms of unrest in Europe and the failure of other Governments to follow the example of this country in reduction of armaments, made it impossible to delay any longer the measures to bring our Air Force to a level more closely approaching those of our nearest neighbours.
For the present the programme of expansion by forty-one squadrons holds the field, and perhaps it may be of interest to your Lordships if I give some details of what has been done in the last few months to implement that decision. In the first place, as regards training and intake of personnel, an additional flying training school was opened last month, and another is due to open about April next. This will mean an increase in the number of short-service officers and airmen entered annually for training as pilots from 120 to 200—that is, an increase of over sixty per cent. The Air Ministry has also substantially increased the entry of boys for training as aircraft apprentices, the actual figures being 370 against the previous entry of 270, and the next half-yearly entry will probably show a considerable further increase. Arrangements are also already in operation to increase the annual entry of pilots from civil life to the Air Force Reserve from 100 to approximately 200 per annum. The Air Ministry inform me that they have had no difficulty in recruiting the additional numbers required under these various heads, and they do not anticipate that the problem of recruitment will present any major difficulties in the 455 future. Recruitment for the auxiliary Air Force is also on the whole very satisfactory, though some of the newly-formed squadrons in the North of England are in need of more recruits. As regards measures for providing new aerodromes and additional accommodation, the Air Ministry has inspected ninety possible sites during the last few months, and out of that number has definitely decided upon eleven as certainly suitable, and of these six have been actually acquired or are well advanced towards acquisition. Plans are also in an advanced state for increases and alterations to existing stations to enable them to accommodate more squadrons than before. All these measures, as your Lordships will appreciate, are additional to what was included when the programme for the current year was originally fixed at the beginning of the financial year.
Overseas a great deal of attention is also being given to measures which have for their object the development of the strategical mobility of the Air Force and of the ability of our air squadrons at short notice to reinforce threatened areas, and to be at the right place at the right moment. This is a policy which makes for economy both of material and of financial resources. As the Air Estimates show, considerable provision is being made for improving the facilities for the accommodation of units at Singapore and Hong Kong. At Singapore some £80,000 has been spent in the present year, and at Hong Kong some £50,000, and the Air Ministry is proceeding with the surveys and selection of additional landing grounds to enable our squadrons to be moved as required to meet the multifarious and complex responsibilities of Imperial defence. At the present time, for example, a squadron of flying boats is carrying out a survey of the air route between Singapore and Hong Kong. Your Lordships will appreciate that it is not possible for me at this present time to give particulars of any new proposals, specific sanction for which will depend upon the financial provisions to be made in next year's Estimates, and, therefore, any such announcement would be made, if it became necessary, when the Estimates are brought forward, but the information which I have just given will show your Lordships that the expansion which was announced is being actively and steadily pursued.
456 In the view of the Government the proposals which I have referred to are the very minimum considered to be essential if our forces are to remain adequate for their duties in the light of present circumstances. It will be necessary, of course, to keep the whole situation under the most careful and constant review, so that the programmes can be adjusted to meet new conditions as they arise. The arrangement is, in fact, one of flexibility which is very essential in these days of uncertainty. Whilst I am dealing with the Air Force I would like to add a word about a subject which was discussed by my noble friend—that is, the air menace and the right way of dealing with it. I am not going to discuss with him—because he has much more expert knowledge than I can have—the exact measure of the peril which we may expect from aerial attacks, but I do want to deal with a point which I think arises from his first two reasons for the failure of recruiting. One was the suggestion which has got abroad in some quarters that because of the menace of attack from the air you only want to strengthen the Air Force. That is a complete delusion. In order to defend yourself from attack from the air of course you must have an adequate Air Force. You have to have fighters to deal with the enemy bombers when they arrive, and you have to have bombers not, as the noble Lord quite truly says, in order to bomb defenceless cities in other countries, but to search out and bomb the aerodromes from which the enemy bombers proceed
But that by itself is not enough. We in the Army have to provide anti-aircraft batteries, searchlight companies, and signallers. We have to provide them first of all, of course, directly to fire at the enemy bombers. I think that modern development shows that the possibilities of dealing with enemy bombers in that way are much greater than they were when the War came to an end, or than some people suspect to-day. But that is not the only, although I admit that it is the chief object of anti-aircraft batteries. By coming in formation and flying at a comparatively low altitude under modern conditions trained bombers can bomb with deadly accuracy. If you break up their formation and if you force them to go higher up in the air, you enormously diminish their capacity for doing any 457 effective damage. In addition to that, the signallers are of the very greatest value in enabling our aircraft to know from what direction to expect attack. Searchlights, too, are not only in valuable, but absolutely necessary, to enable our aircraft in the case of night attacks effectively to find and follow the enemy bombers. In all these respects there has to be, and there is, the closest co-operation between the ground and the air forces, and it is ridiculous to suppose that the Air Force can deal alone with the air menace—just as ridiculous as to suppose that the ground force could deal with it without the assistance of the air.
There was a phrase to which my noble friend took exception about our frontier being on the Rhine. He said that he thought that phrase has given rise to misconception. I was not the author of the phrase, and I can only give what I believe to be its meaning. Most certainly—I think I ought to say this at once—what was not in the mind of whoever coined that phrase was any idea that one particular country on the Continent of Europe was our hereditary and necessary foe. That I am quite sure never crossed the mind of any member of the Government, least of all my right honourable friend when he used that expression. What was, I think, in his mind was this—that the success of an attack depends in very large measure upon the proximity of the place from which the attack is delivered. The speed and range of modern aircraft are, of course, immense, but for every fifty miles that you push back the point from which the enemy starts you diminish the range by one hundred because he has to go there and back. You also give a much better opportunity for your aircraft to be in a position to meet him when he comes. Suppose you get an attack from any of the Low Countries—I mention them because of the reference to the Rhine—if you get an attack from an enemy who is encamped in the Low Countries and has his aerodromes there, he would be able, under modern conditions, to deliver his attack and get away almost before the defending squadrons had reached the necessary height to deal with him. He could get over in fifteen or twenty minutes and be away again almost at once. If you push him further back you get longer notice of 458 his approach, and when he comes you find yourself in a far better position to deal with him.
I think the expression "our frontier is on the Rhine" was intended to convey that, under modern conditions and with the possibility of attack from the air on the sort of scale which is sometimes suggested, even by people who have really studied the possibilities, it is of vital importance to this country that any attack which is delivered should not be delivered from the Low Countries or, of course, from France or from any place within fairly reasonable reach of this country. If you push further back the point from which the attack can be delivered, you enormously diminish the risk, and render much more effective your means of combating the attack. I believe that to be the meaning of the expression and, accepting it as a convenient phrase for conveying that meaning, I would unhesitatingly endorse it. If anybody ever supposed it to have the sinister meaning to which the noble Lord alluded, I am very glad to have this opportunity of disposing of that illusion, I hope once for all.
I should like to add, in concluding what has been a longer speech than I intended, that in considering all these matters in our judgment the best defence is to diminish the possibility of attack. That has been the cardinal feature of our policy at the Disarmament Convention and at all these International Conferences which have been called at Geneva. You can always, of course, provide by expenditure further armaments and better means of protection, but there is no means of protection so good as those which make it impossible for you to have to meet grave attack. All our policy has been directed, as far as lies in our power, to reduce that risk, and it will continue to be directed to that end, because we are quite satisfied that by that means we have the most promising method of defence. When I say that I do not mean that reduction in the forces of this country alone is going to reduce the possibility of attack. I do not take the view that by increasing our vulnerability we diminish the risk of our being attacked. We have tried unilateral action, but I am afraid that an example which no one follows may, in the long run, produce the very worst results. It is for that reason 459 that we have strained every nerve and shall continue to strain every nerve to produce an atmosphere of tranquillity in which disarmament becomes possible. But unless and until that atmosphere is achieved we do not take the view that we have the right ourselves to disregard our responsibilities and unilaterally to disarm.
The noble Lord has said that there has been difficulty about recruiting. It is quite true; so there has. I do not want in this House to expatiate upon the advantages of a recruit joining the Army; I would only like to say that to any one who examines the possibilities of that career with an impartial and unbiased view of what it really involves, it becomes obvious that there are few opportunities more attractive to a young man than those of joining His Majesty's Forces today, and if anybody would like to find out the details of that I shall be very happy to see that they are furnished to them. But so far as the regular Army is concerned to some extent, and even more so with regard to the Territorial Army, the real incentive which is going to give us the right class of recruit is not merely that there is an advantageous, adventurous and interesting career at home and abroad, it is the fact that the man who joins, joins because he realises that it is his duty as a citizen to do so. If we ever should unhappily go to war, under modern conditions the whole nation would of necessity be engaged in that war and every able-bodied man would have to do his share. The good citizen, so it seems to me, is the man who in time of peace is qualifying to do his share if ever the emergency arose. By doing that, not only does he fit himself to take his share if the emergency arose, but by the fact that he is fit and that he is known to be fit to perform that duty he is enormously diminishing the risk of his ever being called upon to discharge it. I do not believe that the old virtues of loyalty, of patriotism and of courage are any less existent in our young men to-day than they were twenty or forty or sixty years ago, but I do think that the direction in which duty points has been obscured and perhaps in some cases even perverted. I shall be very glad if one result of this debate may be to make the path clear and so to encourage more people to follow it.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I do not rise to continue the debate, for neither the period of the Session nor the state of your Lordships' House at this moment lends itself to efficient debate, but I must take note of the fact that despite the adroit manner in which my noble friend the Secretary of State for War dealt with this question, he has made a statement which I think will be considered by all those who have regard to our defences for the last thirty or forty years as a very grave one. The condition of our Regular Army at this moment and what has been shown to be the state of the auxiliary forces are matters which we cannot leave where they are, and I would venture to tell my noble friend that in the new Session I think we shall be forced to return to this subject and to ask him to consider whether the pious aspirations which he put forward in so charming a manner at the end of his speech have any chance of being realised, having regard to the fact that of the auxiliary forces, to which, according to his observations, is to be committed practically the whole defence of this country, there is hardly a regiment which is up to strength and there are a great many regiments which, even including recruits who would not have been mobilised in other times, cannot at the moment take the field at half strength.
All these are very serious matters, and I think we have to be grateful to my noble friend Lord Mottistone for having brought them forward. There is no man in this House who has a better right than Lord Mottistone, not only from official experience, but from his own experiences in the field, to speak on the condition of our defences. I remember, if I may say so, that on the first occasion when I was at Lord French's headquarters, Lord French appealed to me as an ex-Secretary of State for War and therefore having, as he hoped, some influence on my noble friend who had also filled that office, to ask him on public grounds not to risk himself in the front trenches so often and so negligently as Lord French considered that he did. I did what I could, but I am not sure that I was able to bring my noble friend to that state of regard for the safety of his own person that we should have wished him to have.
461 There is only one aspect of the noble Viscount's speech which I think was thoroughly satisfactory. I was very glad, and I am sure all your Lordships were very glad, to hear that the Defence Committee plays so large a part in our present arrangements. That Committee first came to light and was established under the Government of Mr. Balfour, which was perhaps not one of the most glorious parts of the history of the Conservative Party, but at all events I think it was a great step forward that the two Services then, and now the three Services, were brought together. That Committee continued throughout the War to be the nucleus of all our efforts, and it is reassuring to know that it is at present taking an active part in our organisation, and in fact governing our organisation. It is in no spirit of unfriendliness to the Government, and still less from any desire to say anything which might militate against international peace, that I say I think that what the noble Viscount has said to us must be reviewed in debate on a future occasion, and I hope that he will take my remarks in that spirit.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful for the very full statement made by my noble friend the Secretary of State for War, though certain parts to which my noble friend the Earl of Midleton referred were, through no fault of the noble Viscount, disquieting, as, for example, the grave shortage of recruits. In view of all that be has told us and the pains which he has taken to inform us, I am sure my noble friend Lord Beatty would agree that we would not like to press our Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.