HL Deb 06 November 1940 vol 117 cc624-50

LORD STRABOLGI had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government what steps they propose to take to meet the conditions under which the large numbers of troops in this country will be serving during the coming winter; to what extent it is proposed to use these troops to aid in dealing with the results of air raids on this country; what policy is being adopted with regard to educational and recreational facilities, and for the welfare of the soldiers generally and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: my Lords, I am sorry that owing to circumstances over which we had no control my Motion has come on rather late, but I think you will agree that it is one of very great importance. It was drafted by my noble friend Lord Addison, who asked me to deal with it, and I have been doing my best to study the subject. All my noble friends on this side of the House, and I think many other noble Lords, attach very great importance to the whole of this subject. My noble friend Lord Teviot had a somewhat similar Motion on the Paper some time ago. It was taken off and as a matter of fact I have introduced another subject also into my Motion. Your Lordships will be aware that with a great number of men under arms in this country waiting for things to happen there is real danger of boredom.

I know that my noble friend Lord Croft is aware of the danger, and I am sure that he and many others are doing their best to alleviate it. Of course one of the answers that will be made is that there are educational facilities—lectures and so on—to keep the men occupied and to improve their minds. I have a letter here from a member of your Lordships' House who apologises for not being able to be here. What he says is so apposite that I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I read part of his letter. He says: I know from A to Z the reply you will get from Croft. I apologise for his non-use of my noble friend's title. The War Office in this matter has the mind of the French towards their Maginot Line—namely, that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds; their complacency is abysmal. You will be told that under Sir John Brown and the rest of the welfare officers"— here I break off to remark that I know that these men, who are doing their very best, are getting no pay whatsoever and have the greatest difficulty in getting their expenses— recreation is amply catered for, as never before in the history of the Army, whereas we have now all met scores of units for whom nothing whatsoever has been done. As regards education you will be told that the Report of the Haining Committee is being fully implemented under Bendall, the new civilian Director of Education at the War Office; you will not be told what his authority over soldiers is or why he should have been put above the trained personnel of the misused (and still scattered) Army Education Corps. The Haining Committee, as you probably know, consisted of three—I, Haining, who knows about the Army but not about education; 2, Wood, who knows about education but not about the Army; and 3, Villiers, who knows about banking, but not about the Army or education. Their appendix, which dealt with what had been done in the last war, has been entirely suppressed and no reference to that at all appears in the issued pamphlet. You will be told that under the arrangements made by the Central Advisory Council (Basil Yeaxlee and Co.) all is working splendidly; you will not be told that even now arrangements with all the professional bodies are still just in the stage of discussion. You will be told that the work applies to the troops abroad as well as at home, but you will not be told how the civilian arrangements here operate in Egypt! You will be given a very rosy and misleading picture. I hope that my noble friend who wrote this letter is wrong about the reply which we shall be given by Lord Croft.

I must quote a few more words from the letter: Now they talk so much about democracy in the Army and do far less in this supremely important way of the mind and morale than was done twenty years ago. We had an organisation that went with the units; not a half-civilian, half-improvised affair such as Bendall and Yeaxlee now are getting, slowly and ages late, together. And we also had, very important and now so neglected, close liaison educationally with all the Dominion Forces. I thought it as well to quote those words from my noble friend, who is certainly very expert in this matter and knows a great deal about it.

Egypt is mentioned in that letter and, although it is outside the immediate wording of my Motion, I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I refer to the welfare of British soldiers who are sent abroad. We are, of course, sending abroad a great many young soldiers who, but for the war, would be employed on different work altogether; and it is very necessary, I think, that they should be given some chance of meeting the civil European population of our Eastern Dependencies. That is not always arranged. I know that this is rather a delicate matter. I have given my noble friend some details of a particular case that I have in mind. I have had representations made to me by young soldiers who, but for this war, would have been at one of the older universities, men of good family and certainly of good educa- tion, who in the East are completely cold-shouldered by the European population because they have the honour to wear the uniform of a non-commissioned officer or private in His Majesty's Army. These same Europeans at home would be living in a five-roomed house in Balham or Hoxton. A word in season to some of our Governors, I suggest to my noble friend, would have a very good effect. These European civilians in our Eastern Dependencies would be living under a foreign flag but for these young men.

I know that the War Office reply on the question of the employment of the troops at home is that there is a great deal of training to be done, and that I can well understand. I know nothing whatever of military matters, but I imagine that training is not very easy in the winter in any case, and I have always understood, from experience in another Service, that drills can be overdone; they can become wearisome and do more harm than good. That is why, in my Motion, I make the suggestion that more use should be made of the Army to assist the civil power and the Government in dealing with the effects of air raids. I recognise the splendid work that the Pioneers have done in London when called in rather belatedly to assist, and I am not referring so much to that. I am informed that there are in London ample reserves of unemployed men suitable for clearing away debris and for demolition work and so on, but it takes a little time to organise them. I am not suggesting that greater use should be made of the Army for what is, after all, unskilled labour. There is, however, a grave shortage of skilled workers, and there I believe that the Army could help.

All your Lordships have had bad experiences with the telephone, and I believe that this trouble affects the Army itself in various parts of the country. The official excuse given is that damage has been done to the telephone and telegraph lines and to cables, that it takes a long time to repair them, and that the Post Office have not enough skilled electricians, telephone technicians and so on. His Majesty's Army, however, has a very fine Signal Corps containing a great many skilled men, some of whom have only just left the Post Office; and one of my suggestions is that greater use should be made of these skilled men. They should be lent to the Post Office to make good the damage as soon as possible.

Another way in which the Army could help at the present time is by lending some of its lorries. My noble friend will no doubt say that the Army transport is fully occupied. That is, of course, the official reply, but I am afraid that it is not altogether accurate. A great many Army vehicles are being held in reserve. It does not take long to re-assemble them if they are needed, but in the meantime there is a grave shortage of lorries to clear away débris and to move furniture—this was referred to by my noble friend Lord Nathan recently—from houses damaged but not destroyed to the new homes to which people have been evacuated. Any of your Lordships who try to get furniture moved into the country to-day will have the greatest difficulty in obtaining transport for the purpose. I think that Army lorries should be used in this way. I would also dare to suggest that my honourable friend Mr. Grenfell, the Minister for Mines, would be very glad of the loan of some Army lorries for carting coal about the country. The railways have difficulty in carrying out the distribution of the coal, and if we have a cold snap—and the weather is becoming inclement—there will be a good deal of discontent and discomfort owing to the lack of coal, which housewives in many parts of the country cannot buy.

I believe that the highest Army authorities will agree that the morale and the contentment of the Home Front are tremendously important. If they have any doubts about it, they have only to consult the memoirs of General Ludendorff and see what happened to the German Army when the Home Front became disorganised and the people discontented. I suggest that it is a military objective to assist the civil population when they are in the front firing line, as they are to-day, under the air attacks which affect London and so many other large cities. Indeed, at the time of the confusion in the East End of London, at the beginning of the concentrated air attacks, when certain local authorities were not able to cope with the sudden emergency and with the strange conditions which suddenly developed, I said to several people in authority and to certain members of the Government, "Give me a thousand blue- jackets and complete charge of one of these disorganised boroughs in the East End of London, and I will restore order out of chaos in forty-eight hours." I do not know whether we can spare a thousand bluejackets in London to-day; we may need all the trained bluejackets we have. Soldiers, however, are not very inferior to sailors in doing unaccustomed work, and under their own non-commissioned officers and officers, and working as a team, the doing of unaccustomed work is, I suggest, good training for them. The non-commissioned officers get to know their men and the men get to know their non-commissioned officers. They get used to working together as a team, and if they were together put to deal with some of the results of the heavy air raiding I think it would be good for the Army and certainly good for the civilian population. The fact that this was not done during the Crimean War and the Napoleonic Wars really is no argument against its being done now. The conditions are different and I am sure the War Office realise that they have to change with the times, like everybody else.

I have a note from the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, who could not wait for this Motion, which raises a matter of great importance and he has asked me to bring it before your Lordships because it is very apposite to this matter. It refers to the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, who are, I understand, friendly aliens. Many of them are intellectuals, widely travelled and widely read men, and they are very unhappy because they have not more to do. If I may quote the letter, he says: I frequently get letters telling me of their boredom. The officers do not seem to be able to organise any thing for these men. I presume they are British officers who command these battalions. Some of them lave suggested that they should be allowed to form a volunteer danger squad to do work in the bombed areas. I do not know if this is possible. There is an offer from these friendly foreigners, some of them Germans, who are serving in this Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, some of whom it is stated did very active work with the British Expeditionary Force in France and now they want still further to help this country by going into the danger areas and, I suppose, relieving the Auxiliary Police, Air Raid Precaution workers and so on. I hope that my noble friend has taken note of that, and that it may be possible to use these volunteers in those danger areas.

I have consulted one or two soldier friends of mine in the country over the week-end, and many of them said that if they could get a chance to go into the big cities, and London particularly, and give a hand and take some of the risks, rather than stay in what are at present, for them, perfectly safe areas, they would all be very glad indeed, and very proud to do it. I am certain the Army would be willing to give any help in this way that they could. Anything rather than have men kicking their heels in idleness. I know the difficulties. I know that the War Office is sympathetic to this. My speech is really not critical, apart from the extract I quoted from the letter from my noble friend, and I know that my noble friend Lord Croft feels very keenly about this whole question. In that spirit I therefore beg to move.


My Lords, sixteen years ago I was deputed by Mr. Asquith, as he then was, to organise the entertainment of our troops, not only at home but overseas. I entered into an arrangement with a vast number of education authorities and a great number of societies, such as musical societies, music hall artistes' organisations, and scientific organisations, and we arranged for a Committee to direct the entertaining of the troops. That Committee represented a great number of what I might call intellectual bodies, but also a great number of entertaining organisations. That Committee got into operation and the response which we received from civilian organisations offering to entertain the troops was perfectly magnificent. They had their representatives in nearly every case on this Committee of eighteen. When we were getting this organisation into full use Lord Kitchener took exception to civilians entering into any question which related to the entertainment of the troops under his command, and he so pressed his own view that it had to be run entirely by the War Office that for a time that Committee ceased to operate. The organisation, however, did operate and was utilised by the War Office, with only a nominal control over it. The object which I had at that time was to see that there was no boredom among the troops in the evenings, especially in the long winter evenings, either abroad or a home.

I notice to-day that troops in our country villages have very little opportunity of meeting together to be entertained—neither are concerts arranged nor are there lectures or in many cases educational facilities, because there are no halls or suitable places for entertaining. I am not aware of the whole of the arrangements which have been made by the War Office, but I do witness that boredom among many of our troops. It seems to me also that they are moved about unnecessarily, in order to occupy them from time to time. I have heard of troops going from the West Coast to the East Coast, and of another lot going from the East Coast to the West Coast, for no object of any importance except to keep them on the move. Whether that is so or not I do not say, but it does seem to me that recreation is absolutely necessary. I believe that the officers can look after outdoor recreation far better than a civilian organisation, and I believe that indoor occupations, such as darts and ping pong, can be run by officers far better than by an outside organisation. But in regard to scientific teaching and entertainment by musical artistes and people of that kind, it is essential that the organisations with which these various bodies are associated should be consulted. I do press the War Office to realise that and to secure the proper and adequate entertainment of the troops during the evenings which are before us.


My Lords, I feel the greatest sympathy with what has fallen from my noble friends and particularly what has just been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Gain-ford, and I wish to emphasize the great importance of keeping the troops amused and occupied, especially as they have before them long winter evenings when they will have nothing to do. I would point out also the very great difference there is between troops quartered in London or near London or other big towns and those who are quartered in the country. In my part of the world, though we are not very far from London or other big towns, there are troops quartered in country villages and they have very little to do. It is difficult to get large halls and, if we could get them, there is no heating apparatus. Is is therefore most essential, especially in those districts, to provide some organisation to meet this state of affairs.

I am very sorry that my noble friend Lord Gorell is not here to-day. I wish he had been because he would have told your Lordships a great deal more than I can about this matter. But I remember that when I was serving in France during the last year of the last war, and was in touch with Lord Gorell, he was in charge of the educational side of the occupation of the troops in their spare time, and he could, I am sure, tell your Lordships and tell the War Office—he probably has done so already—a very great deal about this matter. I can remember it being said—I do not remember who said it, but some very distinguished officer—that boredom was a greater enemy than the Boche. There was a great deal of truth in that. Soldiers get every sort of feeling of weariness and tiredness, and their interest—they cannot help it—fizzles out. I do not believe there would be any difficulty whatever in getting almost a plethora of people to come and assist in keeping the troops occupied and amused. One need not stress too much the educational value for subsequent peace-time activities. What we want to do is to keep the men occupied at the present time. A great variety of lectures and entertainments should be organised. There are several organisations; I had a letter from one the other day, anxious to get people to give lectures to the troops. There are scientific societies of all kinds and other semi-educational bodies, and every possible organisation in the country which would be likely to help.

I suggest this should be carried out as it was carried out in the last war. The difficulty, perhaps, is to obtain accommodation and for the troops to get about during the black-out, but such difficulties should not be insurmountable. There are all over the country—in private houses, for example—largish rooms available, and there are in most villages places which could be heated and made to accommodate a certain number of people. This matter is one of very great importance indeed. We are not going to finish the war this winter. It may be three or four years before peace comes to us again, and during that time troops who have done most of their training already will have little to do and time will hang rather heavily on their hands. Therefore, I emphasize the great desirability of putting this plan in hand at once. The winter is coming on, and every possible effort in this direction should be made without delay.


My Lords, I have been interested in the speeches which have been made by the two noble Lords who have last spoken because during the past twelve months and more it has been my duty to undertake the responsibilities for the welfare of the troops in the Eastern Command and the London Command, an area comprising, as your Lordships will realise, a most important proportion of the British Army, having regard to the area concerned—namely, the Eastern Coast and the South-Eastern Coast, to say nothing of London. I am speaking here in the presence of Lord Croft, who is at who remove, I suppose, my official chief in these matters. I shall give away no secrets. I was interested in what noble Lords have said because that made it clear how valuable a discussion of this kind h, for it will enable my noble friend opposite to make a statement as to how much has in fact been done. After twelve months of hard work with a voluntary staff of upwards of 300 in the area to which I have referred, distributed geographically in every county and every village in every county, doing precisely these things to which noble Lords have referred, I was somewhat concerned to find that so little was, in fact, known of this work by the general public.

The educational system which was devised under the guidance of Lord Gorell in the last war was apt, in my recollection, for the purposes of the Army of the last war. Broadly speaking, the position then was—though I do not like to use the phrase, but it is suitable for describing what I mean—that the Army was divided into what you might call class corps and working-men's corps. The educational system under the Army Educational Corps in the last war was devised and applied for the purpose of helping the education of those in what may be called the working-men's corps. To-day the Army is composed in an entirely different fashion. It is a real cross-section of the community. There is no such thing to-day as a class corps or a working-men's corps. There is only a unit representative of the nation as a whole. Often you find in the units of to-day's Army that the soldiers who comprise it in the ranks are older, of far greater experience of the world, of far greater knowledge, better education, and higher social standing than many of the officers who are commanding them.

My daily observation shows that all classes within the various units of the Army are mixing in a manner which is really remarkable. Experience has shown that the best kind of unit you can find is one which is composed of all classes brought together. That means that there is a very different problem to be confronted so far as education is concerned compared with the last war. Lord Gorell was providing for those who had gone from the elementary schools. Enormous changes have taken place in the whole education system of this country in the last twenty years. The number of children who leave school at fourteen to-day has diminished, and there is the whole range of secondary schools, central schools, scholarships to the universities, and one thing and another of that kind. The system that Lord Gorell devised, which was well suited for his day, is out of date. It is not applicable to the circumstances of to-day, and, whilst I say it with respect, I would add this, that the Army Education Corps as we have known it is quite unsuited to undertake the duties which noble Lords who remember the last war and their work in that war have mentioned. The members of the Army Education Corps are qualified, trained, and indeed commissioned for the purpose of training boys coming into the Army. That is why the Army Education Corps is quite unsuited for dealing with the Army of to-day.

I am not saying there is not a useful purpose which members of the Army Education Corps can fulfil in selected places for selected groups of soldiers who have not had the advantage of the better education that is now available to the great bulk of the population, but for the Army of to-day you need teachers of university standard. It is a very intelligent Army that you have to-day. It is interested in everything that is going on. It does not want education of a formal nature; it has no time for education of a formal nature, the men are very much too busy physically and mentally for that. No, what we have to do is to keep alert the mind of the soldier, to see that there is a mental and intellectual stimulus to his mind, and to see that when this war is over and the soldier goes back to his civilian life—after all, the vast majority will go back to that life—he will be a better man intellectually than he was before, having benefited from his experience in the Army. If we can only do that, if we can bring to their aid and education the best brains that we can find for that purpose and the greatest experience drawn from the very citadels of our educational system, then we shall do well.

I welcome the fact that we have been able to bring into this whole combination the representatives and skilled teachers of the universities. Nothing less is good enough for the soldier of to-day. It is not formal education that our soldiers want. It is lectures, informal talks and discussions in which they can themselves take part. In the last war it was against discipline for a soldier to take part in a discussion following upon a lecture, and that was very much the position at the beginning of the present war, but we have changed all that. Now informal talks, lectures and discussions in which the soldiers themselves can take part are a very important aspect of their whole recreation and education, and it is not merely the soldier but the officers also who listen to the lecturers who speak in various parts of the country. I think the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, will be interested to know this in view of what he has said about his experiences of gathering people together. I have a list of 250 lecturers drawn from the learned societies and the unlearned societies of this country, and they include such a variety of people as the Astronomer Royal with his scientific attainments and such a person, we will say, as "Plum" Warner who can go to the troops and talk about his experiences as a cricketer and so on. To all this vast range of knowledge and experience brought to the reinforcement of the soldier's mind and intelligence, you find a most remarkable response. There is always someone, as there is in your Lordships' House and in the other place, who is an expert upon every subject that is raised. That is one of the most remarkable results of attending at these lectures and discussions. The soldier of to-day is a cross-section of the community.

Something has been said with regard to entertainment. The best entertainment, I am certain, is that which the troops can provide for themselves—their own divisional concert parties and things of that kind. I am only speaking within the limits of my own experience of the areas for which I am responsible. There is a real effort made to provide in every formation a unit which can entertain the wider formation to which it belongs. That is going on all the time. Sometimes this unit is of a very high quality, though sometimes it is not, but it is great fun to see your pal trying to entertain you even if he is not doing it in a first-class professional style. What is more, even the mere rehearsal and preparation itself afford recreation and entertainment. In addition to that, there must be a good deal more entertainment, and upon this I should like to ask my noble friend if he will say a word afterwards. In what I have said so far I shall probably have carried him with me. I am worried about this question of entertainment. I dare say your Lordships are aware that at the outbreak of the war the responsibility of providing professional entertainment for the soldier was conferred upon an organisation commonly known as E.N.S.A., which is a branch of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute. It did not work too badly in the early part of the war. It did considerable service in France, and it did some very good work in this country, but, of course, it was not all that one would like. There was, perhaps, a slight slowness in realising what the soldier of to-day really wants. There was, perhaps—I think perhaps there is to-day—more of the sort of idea that it was important to keep the theatrical industry off the "dole" rather than use the institute for its primary purpose of entertaining the troops. The condition of the theatrical industry was perhaps rather more in the mind of the Director than the troops. However that may be, it has performed a useful service.

There was never enough entertaining, there never is enough entertaining. But with Dunkirk the situation really changed. Then we had not only all the troops brought back from France to this country, but we had the accumulation of a vast new force spread all over the country. Every town and village was full of troops and the whole problem of entertainment became far more formidable, not only because of the increased numbers involved but because of what I will call security reasons. We had invasion, not Indeed in fact, but in the offing. Troops had to be kept more on the qui vive. The civilian inhabitants were moved inwards from the coastal areas, but the troops were in small groups at the coastal areas. You could not allow large bodies of entertainers to go into those areas at all. Now the problem is complicated by the fact that so many have moved to the central belt from the coastal areas and many others have moved out of the metropolitan area into the central belt, so that you get a densely-populated central belt and a sparsely-populated coastal area. The metropolitan area for this purpose does not come into the picture because the metroplitan area looks after its own entertainment.

The result of all this has been that the halls which would be used for giving entertainment have been taken up either for the billeting of troops or the billeting of evacuees from metropolitan or coastal areas. Nearly all the village halls are occupied. I do not want to generalise, and I must not commit myself to saying that every particular hall in the area is occupied, but even if the halls an; not occupied they are not fitted with blackout apparatus. What is most important of all, we are in a battle, and more than 200 troops are not allowed to be assembled in the Command for which I am responsible at any one time. If there is an air-raid in the neighbourhood they have to take cover.

Those are conditions which make it very difficult to provide entertainment and even so E.N.S.A. is not providing enough. Only to-day when I spoke to him, the Director of E.N.S.A. told me, forsooth, that, if I wanted one additional concert party for the very large proportion of the British Army for which I am responsible, what he had got to do to get it was to telephone or write to Lord May at the Treasury to inquire whether the Eastern Command and London could have an additional concert party. I asked why and he said it was because all this had to be dealt with by the Treasury, and that every concert—as I understood him, I can scarcely believe it to be true—and every indent for an entertainment had to be settled by Lord May. What is Lord May's knowledge of the requirements of the Service I should like to know. Let Lord May come and talk to me about it. I am personally responsible. Let Lord May speak to me, and I will take him where I venture to say he has never been, among troops, and show him the character of entertainment which ought to be provided. If the Army is to be properly entertained it must have the right to demand the entertainment which the proper Army authorities consider to be necessary or it must have its own entertainment organisation through which the entertainment can "be provided; it matters not which. What does matter is that there should be adequate entertainment for the troops.

Some say that we should rely upon amateurs. I speak only for the area which is within my own knowledge and competence. Of course there are always a number of well-disposed amateurs who are prepared to help the troops. One of the glories of this country is the amount of voluntary work you can get. I wonder if your Lordships realise that the whole of this welfare work for the Army is done by those who are acting as volunteers. But the amount of amateur assistance you can obtain depends upon the area. In and around London and between London and the coast there is very little amateur assistance available. Your Lordships may be interested to know that when I was trying to get amateur assistance, out of the first seventy or eighty amateur organisations which I approached, sixty had closed down. They said that owing to the Blitzkrieg, to difficulties of transport and one thing and another they had gone out of business as amateurs. Therefore, so far as certain areas are concerned, amateur assistance can only be looked for in a minor degree. Within those limits it is valuable.

I was interested in what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said with regard to music. There is nothing, I believe, which is more valuable to groups of soldiers than good music. When we talk of concerts in the Army we do not mean concerts in the sense of straight music, but sing-songs and things of that kind. But we also want straight music, and your Lordships will be interested to know that a number of straight music concerts are being given. I attach the utmost importance to this question of music, because your Lordships would be profoundly mistaken if you were to hold the view that the whole of welfare consists of entertainment and education. It covers a much wider field. In particular, I would point out that what makes the difference between civilian life and military life is most markedly the lack of privacy in the life of a soldier. You cannot find physical privacy for a soldier, but you can find what he wants very badly and very often. You can find him a sort of spiritual privacy, a sort of emotional outlet which is a release of the spirit and a recreation to him. I believe that in no way can that outlet be better provided than by really good music. The soldier gets, not a physical privacy, but a spiritual privacy, and in that he finds refreshment of spirit. This subject might well occupy a very long speech and I have no doubt my noble friend will have a good deal to say to us.

I have only touched the fringe of some aspects of the matter. I have had something to do with welfare for a longer period than he has because he has only relatively recently taken office. Although he is my official chief I think he will not misunderstand me when I say that he has-been a real inspiration to the Army. The Army does feel that there is someone at the War Office looking after the men's welfare. When you have got that feeling you have got at least some distance towards contributing to their welfare.


My Lords, may I first reply to the preliminary question put by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi with regard to the training of troops? The question of the use of troops in repair of damage and clearance of debris is a matter involving several Departments and it was referred recently to the War Cabinet. It has been decided that the Army should only be called on to do this work in an emergency or for a short period until a Labour Corps could be organised and arrears overtaken. The time of the Army must be spent in intensive military training. I am able to state however, that the War Office has not refused calls made on the Army for labour to meet a temporary emergency, and in view of what has recently appeared in a section of the Press I am grateful to the noble Lord for having put this specific question and given me an opportunity of making this clear.

He referred to one or two other questions to which I will certainly give every consideration. There are difficulties in the way of lorries taking coal about the country. I have not given the question a great deal of thought, but I know that it is difficult sometimes to use the same vehicles for coal as for other purposes. We have still, as the noble Lord will realise, a shortage of vehicles for ordinary transport in the Army. There is not enough equipment specially for that, although I am glad to say armaments are progressing very rapidly. It is not quite so easy as it looks on the face of it to contemplate moving coal or furniture for private individuals about the country. It might not fit in to our present system. A question was also asked about foreigners serving in the A.M.P.C. That Corps includes foreigners. They go into our own Corps. The name "auxiliary" is going to be dropped to make it more important. Those foreigners who have joined that Corps are of course eligible for the same kind of work as other pioneers are employed upon, but for a reason which has already been explained I do not think we can take them out of the Corps in which they are at present engaged, although it might be possible to do something with the organisation of well-disposed German Jews. I will certainly see that that matter is considered.

With regard to the interesting experience of the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, in years gone by, when the question came up and he was responsible, I am very grateful for the lessons which he has impressed upon us from his experience, and I think that after the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down he will see that the fruits of the trees that he planted are helping us at the present time. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for his kindly references to myself, of which I shall endeavour to be worthy. He answered very effectively the letter from a noble Lord which was read at the beginning of the debate by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi. It seemed to be a very effective answer indeed on all the points, to which I need not further refer.

I know that my noble friend has raised this question because of the supreme importance that he attaches to the whole question of welfare in the Army at the present time. It k perfectly true that in peace-time Regular officers were trained to take a very active interest in the welfare of their men, their comfort in barracks, their organised sports, their entertainment and their mental stimulation. The idea was, of course, that the commander, whether of a platoon, company, battery or battalion, should in reality endeavour to be a kind of father of his family, as it was expressed, I remember, in the French Army during the last war. That kind of paternal interest, however, takes tine and experience; and when suddenly we found that our small peace-time Army had to absorb thousands of officers without this experience, and men who themselves had to meet an entirely new set of conditions, without in many cases previous knowledge of how to shift for themselves, we had this difficult problem. The Army was increased ten-fold; there arose, therefore, at the very beginning—my noble friend was concerned with it at the beginning—a demand for something new, which was summed up as "welfare for troops." Through the Territorial Associations of this country, welfare officers were appointed who could offer advice and give help in the matter of entertainments and try to provide things which were essential in the primitive conditions in which the Army at that tine found itself—such things as straw for the men to lie upon when they had no quarters, hurricane lamps for huts, where they were often missing, books, gramophones, tools for gardens, woollen goods for sentries, who were out in very bleak weather, and in fact all those things which go to make for the comfort of the troops and make them feel, if possible, at home.

Fifteen hundred welfare officers were appointed through the various counties for this purpose. For the most part they were ex-officers—some were ex-warrant officers—and they understood the ways and needs of soldiers. Invaluable help was also given by many mayors of boroughs, some of whom, especially in Lancashire, themselves became the welfare officers of their districts. The whole of these services were given voluntarily—my noble friend has mentioned this, and I want to repeat it—and in most cases at very great sacrifice of time and energy. I should like to pay my tribute now, if I may, to this gallant band of welfare officers who, without any thought of reward, have rendered such signal service to the Army.

The more I have been brought in contact with the existing formations throughout the country, the more I find that there are numerous municipal bodies and other authorities which have worked with the welfare officers in order to provide larger affairs such as clubs, comfort centres, concert parties and everything that can widen the life of the soldier. I am sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, had to leave to catch a train, because I should like to mention—although it is invidious to do so when all have done so well—that in Plymouth, of which the noble Viscount is still, I believe, Lord Mayor, they started at the beginning of the war an organisation to cover all the various social activities, and persuaded a very large number of the citizens of Plymouth to give their pennies every week. The money is then allotted in due proportion to the various needs, and I can say that in that case the Fighting Forces have not suffered; probably there has been a better flow into the coffers of all these war services in consequence.

In peace-time the State always pays, clothes, feeds and houses its soldiers. It was never considered that luxuries or extras of any kind should be distributed at the expense of the taxpayers, and I think that as a general principle that is right. When our welfare officers took over, therefore, they were completely without funds, but, by various devices, they raised sums of money in the counties and the boroughs, the whole of which went for welfare work for the troops. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, has been a very good beggar in that respect. I am told that he has almost miraculously managed to raise funds when others of a less optimistic nature might well have despaired. The present Director-General himself also raised quite considerable sums through the generosity of private benefactors.

But, with the experience of last winter to guide us, we realised that something much wider must be attempted, and that is why this Committee was set up under the Presidency of Major-General (now Lieutenant-General) Sir Robert Haining, in order to produce an ordered scheme. The Report was adopted soon after the Dunkirk evacuation was completed, when our troops came back from the Continent and when, as has been explained, in addition to our great new inflow of recruits, we had 500,000 men of the Expeditionary Force for whom to provide. A Director-General of Welfare was appointed, with a very small staff, to plan and direct what to-day has become a service of very first-class importance. To build on firm foundations, however, we found that we must no longer rely upon voluntary subscriptions, but must seek financial aid from the Treasury in order to meet our very substantial capital charges and certain overheads. We applied for this help and it was given to us, and that aid we gratefully acknowledge. This branch of the War Office's activities includes mental stimulation (education and books), recreation (sports and games), and entertainment (cinemas, concerts, wireless and plays), as well as comforts, including woollen goods and small luxuries of that description.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord one question. In the last war we obtained a grant from the Treasury which enabled us to cover the cost of transport of people who were qualified to entertain. May I ask whether that has already been secured from the Treasury this time?


That does not arise in the case of the professional artistes, who are dealt with by E.N.S.A., but I am glad to say that something has been done in that direction quite recently, to try to help to get the artistes to the troops. We set ourselves first to provide, wherever possible, educational facilities by means of lectures of great variety, talks, correspondence classes and evening classes in municipal schools. We have had the very greatest assistance from the municipal authorities. They have never turned us down, but always welcomed our men to their evening continuation classes. This side of our work is, as stated in the letter read by my noble friend, under the newly-appointed Director of Education, Mr. Bendall, who is an experienced officer lent by the Board of Education. He has had five counties of educational administration under his control, and he has also had a wide experience in the Army, commanding three different units in the last war before going to his educational work, so that he knows both sides of the story. We also had the help of Mr. Wood, a very capable official lent by the Board of Education, in getting the administrative side of this work started.

Under Mr. Bendall's direction the Army Educational Corps has been considerably expanded, but principally for the purpose of organising the various routings and lay-out for these more skilled university lecturers who have come to us in such very large numbers. Although welfare officers also have been helpful in getting a large number of lecturers to assist, these university lecturers very largely come to us through the Council of Adult Education of which Sir Walter Moberly is Chairman, and they have already undertaken a very big programme. I think we can say it is in full swing, and we have had some Treasury aid to assist us. During last month 880 lectures were given—quite a good figure I think—and 534 classes were formed over a very wide range of subjects. Correspondence courses are also now going ahead in many parts of the country.

To give the details of all welfare activities would take two or three hours, but I must just give the headlines of some branches of the work. I apologise for the length of my remarks, but I know that the country is anxious to know something of the work which we are undertaking. I must put first of all the work of the Council of Voluntary War Work, for here you have all the great organisations like the Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A. and the Church Army. Practically all the Churches of the country are interested, and they have done a wonderful work without which we should have had great difficulty. The number of huts and institutes of these organisations used as canteens (the static ones), apart altogether from the work of the N.A.A.F.I., is 2,086, and in addition to that 430 mobile canteens are provided by these organisations. That is without the Women's Voluntary Service who are also starting canteens. I have not included their figures because they have not come to me, as it is only in the last three weeks that they have become an associate member of the Council of Voluntary War Work. The Services Book Fund have distributed books to the number of over three and a half millions, and in addition 600,000 books like the "Penguins" There are, I am glad to say, good supplies now available, going out at this very moment, and book depots have been set up in each Command. Mobile libraries on canteen vans have been started in several areas, and more will be provided.

Now I come to mobile cinemas, to which I attach enormous importance. We have about fifty in action now. We hope to have another ninety by the end of the year, and, in addition, we have 150 on order. These cinemas will be used in the daytime for training, and at night for entertainment. The majority of our young men in the Army of all intellectual degrees have firmly got the cinema habit, and a very large number of them, owing to their war stations and the system of our defence, or to the fact that they are in detached posts far from a cinema, have very rare possibilities of seeing a film. We decided therefore some months ago greatly to increase cinema instruction in the training of the Army. The obvious sequence was that mobile cinemas, after being used for instruction, should put on educational, news or entertainment films in the long and dreary evenings of the black-out. For this reason we are seeking to hire entertainment films which these soldiers otherwise never can see. We are hoping to get a good supply of such films, which we do not believe will be withheld from our soldiers, provided satisfactory terms can be cone to with renters of films. Beyond that I do not wish to say anything, except to correct two very false impressions which found their way recently into the Press.

The first was that the present mobile film supply was quite adequate, and that there was no need for any further extension of this form of entertainment. To that suggestion I must reply with emphasis that the soldiers themselves are the best judges of adequacy of supply and the Army Council alone has the informa- tion on which to form an opinion. That information comes to my branch of the Department in full flood from every part of the country to the effect that the supply of cinema shows is immensely below requirements and that for hundreds of thousands of men the possibilities of reaching a cinema theatre are either remote or out of the question. The cinema provision for the troops is perhaps almost the greatest need of all at the present time in the welfare work of the Army. We hope to meet that need. The second point concerns the statement to which publicity has been given in certain quarters that the Army Council through my branch of the Department was demanding "free films" from the trade. That statement is wholly without foundation. I happen to know something about business and, knowing the difficulties of trade today, I think it would be wholly unreasonable—indeed most unfair—to ask any trade to provide us with its commodity at other than a profit to itself. Never did it cross our minds even for one moment to make any such suggestion. The Army has always been a good friend of the cinematograph. We have wanted our men to get to the cinema—it helps to maintain good cheer and interest. For similar reasons the Army has used its influence wherever possible, having due regard to safety, that entertainment of this character should be maintained or extended. That friendly co-operation we wish to preserve.

Now I come to live entertainment. A large number of concerts have been provided for the troops by the organisation which has already been mentioned, E.N.S.A., the organisation which distributes professional entertainment under the control of N.A.A.F.I. I should like to express the gratitude of the troops to the numerous first-class artistes who, I understand, for moderate fees, have given their services so readily and frequently at considerable discomfort to themselves all over the country. I am sure we are all grateful for that spirit which has been displayed. I am unable at present to give your Lordships the number of concerts which have been held through this service, but in volume it is large.

With regard to voluntary entertainment, which has also been referred to, here we are doing everything we can possibly do to stimulate the voluntary idea, because you cannot have enough entertainment. It is nonsense to say that in an Army of this size you can have enough entertainment. Commands have been encouraged all along and especially encouraged now, within their own organisation, to co-ordinate the supply of voluntary entertainment. If I may just give one instance, though it is not an average instance—it is the best, I must admit—in the Northern Command, for some months, there have been 300 entertainment parties running which have provided 350 performances a week. I do not know whether that can be beaten in any other Command, but it seems to me a very fine effort in that particular line. A policy of encouraging unit and divisional concert parties to the utmost is being everywhere undertaken. I entirely agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken that if only we could get concert parties going as in the last war in every unit, rivalling those of other units and then exchange them with neighbouring units, it would be an enormous help this winter.

Wireless has been another great problem. Welfare officers have been most helpful in managing to "scrounge"—that is the right word in the Army—wireless sets from private individuals and generous subscribers. Quite a lot have been got, but not enough. All over the country we want more. We want them in Iceland, in the Shetlands, in the Orkneys, and so on. Here again it was difficult until we had the backing to give a large order and get the stuff manufactured. I am glad to be able to say that something like 4,700 sets are coming forward in a very few days, and thereafter a very much larger number will be on the stocks and will reach the troops—not soon enough for my liking, but in the course of time. Your Lordships will realise the difficulty of supply from the fact that the wireless market, when we came to examine it, had not even the second-hand sets which we wanted to buy.

Every unit in my opinion should have its own welfare and entertainment officer from its own establishment. If they have officers extra to establishment, well and good. But they must help from that end, and if they get contact with the welfare officers under the command of officers like my noble friend opposite who has just spoken, I am certain we shall get fine results. With regard to broadcasting, we are in close touch with the British Broadcasting Corporation, who have been most helpful and co-operative as to the type of programme to be broadcast on the Forces wave-length and the most suitable time for transmission.

With regard to horticulture—if I may dart from one end of the picture to the other—we look upon that as of very great importance. Special grants have been allocated recently for seed and tools in order that welfare officers may stimulate cultivation, because it is clearly our duty, where these posts have taken over an acre or an acre and a half, to see that every square yard of soil which can be cultivated is used to advantage. I recognise, of course, that the men at these detached posts are mostly on duty day and night incessantly and doing very fine work. With regard to welfare expenses, Territorial Associations have been authorised to provide accommodation and clerical staff for county welfare officers, and recently welfare grants—not large ones admittedly—have been made to compensate for the percentage of loss under the old N.A.A.F.I. scheme to which they were recently subjected. One word with regard to hostels which are so very important. There are hostels now in most of the larger towns where men can spend their short leave cheaply and comfortably. In London there are enough, thanks to the vision shown before the war in some cases, but especially since the war, to accommodate over 3,000 men and women, and excellent hostels exist at most of the large provincial centres.

We are trying to do everything we can to stimulate the idea of local hospitality for soldiers by private individuals in various parts of the country. Special canteens with rest-rooms have been provided at about 50 main stations, and further stations are under consideration. Free cloakroom and washing accommodation has been provided at all the principal stations throughout the country. There, again, the welfare officer for the Eastern Command has been taking a very active part, and if I may take the opportunity of saying so, he was, on one occasion, most unjustly criticised in another place. Legal advice is being handed out by welfare officers in many of the large towns through the Citizens' Advice Bureau. Air-raid inquiries is a later feature which has been forced or us. This also has emanated from Eastern and London Commands. There was the tragic fact that a soldier might be aware that the district where he lived had been bombed, and his wife and children might themselves have perished or, at any rate, might have been taken out of London. Steps are taken by the local welfare authorities as soon as possible—and it is a gigantic work—in order to see that any soldier having such anxieties can immediately have his fears set at rest and know where his wife and children are situated. I apologise for dismissing this very important subject in a single sentence.

With regard to the A.T.S., they are being treated exactly the same as the soldiers and the same welfare benefits are extended to them where they desire them. Exactly the same is done in the case of Allied troops. We have done everything in our power to make the Allied troops feel they are of us and of our Army, and that they should hive the same welfare facilities as our own men enjoy. We have now welfare officers looking after all the various contingents, except the French, who are dealt with by a special committee. Men on leave stranded at stations represent an immense problem, to get them home quickly so that they do not have to spend the night on some terrible platform. It is receiving attention. Visits to towns are a difficult problem, but we are doing what we can to make it possible for men from detached posts to get into the big centres from time to time.

Sport is still left under the Army Sports Control Board, but we have the closest liaison, and large sums of money have been collected, amounting to £63,000 from the Nuffield Trust and £14,000 from private individuals or football matches. The Sports Control Board have been able to issue a very large number of footballs, football boots, shirts, hockey sticks, balls, medicine balls, dart boards—of which 48,000 have been issued—wireless sets in addition to those I have mentioned, and musical instruments to the number of 10,000 in order that they may set up their own ukelele bands or provide other musical enjoyment; table tennis, billiard tables, and every variety of sport which it is in the means of the Army Sports Control Board to supply. Lastly, I come to comforts. The main source for woollen goods has been through the Director of Voluntary Organisations, and during the past month comforts at the rate of 25,000 a week have been issued. Standardised garments have been chosen in order to simplify the whole of the issue, and an immense amount of garments has been issued locally, for which we take no sort of credit, through various organisations including the Red Cross and St. John, who in many places undertake this work on the hospital side, looking after our soldiers in hospitals or convalescent homes.

I apologise for the length of this reply. I only want to say this in conclusion, that in many new units in this country the need for organising welfare work under an officer of drive and imagination was not fully realised, but the foundations of a very great work have now been laid. As always, it is the officer commanding the men, especially the commanding officers of the battalion or brigade, to whom in particular we must look, and our welfare officers, if their co-operation is sought, will aid. As it is, I am convinced that this kind of work is going on at far greater speed than in the past. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say, as was rather indicated in that letter, that probably there is no Army in the world that has ever had quite so much effort devoted to the promotion of its contentment out of military hours. Let us persist in that effort and we shall have not only a magnificent Fighting Force but we shall have happy warriors fresh and mentally alert for the very high task which awaits them, and, if I might use those great words of the Prime Minister which he applied to the whole nation, we shall have an Army which is both grim and gay.


My Lords, I am very much obliged, and I am sure I am speaking for all your Lordships, to my noble friend, whom I thank for his very full and interesting reply and for the encouraging picture, especially of the recreation side, that he has given us. I was not quite satisfied with the attitude towards helping the civilian but I do not want to detain your Lordships this afternoon and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, By leave, withdrawn.