§ LORD MILNE had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government if they have any statement to make with regard to the recent operations in Africa and also on the administration and progress in training of the Army and the Home Guard; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, some time has now elapsed since we have had in your Lordships' House any authoritative statement of the part that the British Army, or perhaps I should say the Armies of the whole Empire, are taking in this struggle, in which at the present moment every man and every woman of the British race and of British extraction has to play some part or other—and not only of the British race, because nationalities and nations, some of whom are members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and others whose sole hopes for the future of their race depend on the victory of that Commonwealth, are also playing a part. This war has become, as one thought it would at the beginning, a world-wide war; and I think that your Lordships will agree that there is arising throughout the whole world, and especially in the British Empire, in the special circumstances in which these Armies are recruited at the present day, a growing, and in my opinion a very laudable, desire for information.
§ People want to know something about the deeds of their husbands, of their sons, and even of their daughters, for they are all engaged; and they are engaged at the moment in a part of the world from which it is extraordinarily difficult to obtain any information whatsoever, for in present circumstances. it takes something like three months to obtain information from our relatives who are fighting the battle of the Empire on the banks of the Mediterranean. In these circumstances, I think that information is absolutely essential. We can agree that the morale of this nation does not require any strengthening. The patriotism which is being shown requires no incentive. I feel, however, that neither of these qualities would be any the worse for a little nourishment given from time to time by His Majesty's Government.
§ The thirst for information is being satisfied at the present time in two ways.876
§ We have the Press, and we are very grateful to the Press for the very full accounts which are published; but their space is limited, and we cannot expect in the future to have very much more than we are getting at the moment. Then we have the statements of the B.B.C., and I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Minister of Information and the B.B.C. on an innovation which they have introduced and which is greatly appreciated—the bringing to the microphone of young men who have taken part in the operations themselves, and who are able to give an account of the thrilling deeds and the glorious events which they have seen or in which they have taken part themselves. That may seem a small thing, but it is not; it is very greatly appreciated by the public at large in this country. It gives a thrill of pride to the nation, and it creates a spirit of emulation among those of their comrades whose fate it is to stand and wait in the defence of these islands.
§ But, good as that is, it is not sufficient. There are disadvantages in the B.B.C, and at times they make themselves greatly felt. You cannot answer back, and you cannot ask any questions. For these two reasons, I have put down the Motion which stands in my name. I have framed it in a very general manner, and I hope that His Majesty's Government will see fit to revert to what I believe was an old tradition of your Lordships' House—namely, to report at the earliest possible moment the events which have taken place in our great military campaigns, and not only our reverses, which perhaps we are always too ready to bring to notice, but also our military successes, what we have achieved, successes of which we have every right as a nation to be extremely proud. We should be very thankful for what has happened in the last few months.
§ In addition, possibly some of your Lordships who are knowledgeable about these matters, who have great experience and who know what is happening in military affairs in this country, may desire to ventilate your views and to inform higher authority on many matter about which higher authority cannot possibly be fully informed in an Army of the size of the British Army at the present moment. I fully realise the importance of secrecy and I know the difficulties which must 877 enshroud any debate at the present moment on Army matters. Might I take this opportunity of congratulating the War Office upon the extraordinary success of the method by which they have engrained into the minds of all ranks from top to bottom of His Majesty's Army the value and the vital importance of secrecy? This is an atmosphere which is entirely different from that of the last war when, as far as I could make out as a Commander, it was very much easier to get information beforehand from the idle and frivolous gossip of London than to get it from anywhere in the field. It was a crime in the last war, but it is wonderful in this war; you can get information out of hardly any officer or man, and that fact shows a very fine state of discipline. I am certain that in the conditions of the last war General Wavell's wonderful operations in Libya would not have had an iota of success.
§ But there is a limit to the value of secrecy, and I am very glad to learn from a statement made in another place that Lord Gort's Despatches are shortly to be published. Might I express the hope that these Despatches will not be in any expurgated form, as I am afraid is the tendency in war? It is only right and just to those men who went through these events, it is only honouring the memory of those who gave their lives for their country in the battlefields of Flanders that we should be told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth of what happened at that time. I venture to suggest also that, in spite of what we have heard, there is a great deal to be told about the events which ended in the capture of Benghazi. I trust the noble Lord who is going to reply on behalf of the Government will be able to tell your Lordships something of these events and, through your Lordships, the whole Empire, which is waiting to know. Because we do not want another year to elapse before General Wavell's Despatches are presented to the country. Moreover, even if they are written at once, they will take some time to arrive, and there must be much which can be told. I hope it will be possible even to tell us something of what is happening in East Africa to-day.
§ I think the whole country would like to know something of the rôle that was played by those magnificent fighting men who have come from all over the Empire, 878 from Australasia, from the whole of Africa, East, South and West, and even from the Indian Empire. What one sees in the Press show what a wonderful fighting spirit they all are exhibiting—something rather miraculous when you think that these men, some of alien races to ourselves, have now come for the very first time of their lives under the terrible conditions of modern warfare, and they are showing an example and a fighting spirit which are really second to none. Possibly the noble Lord will be able to tell us something about the British cavalry, and how they are reacting to the new mounts with which they are provided. Then, again, did any British troops take part in these operations in Libya? They have been very scantily mentioned, and I would remind your Lordships of the complaints that we heard in the last war of the very little notice that was taken of the doings of the good old British county regiments, which were really the backbone of the British Army. This war has shown something totally different, with its rapidity of movement and the astonishing quickness with which everything has been achieved. How has it been done? Can the noble Lord tell us?
§ I think your Lordships will all agree that in these battles that have taken place in the last few months the strategy has been excellent, and the tactics have been sound and beautifully carried out. But in respect of information my Lords of the Admiralty are much more generous. I notice that when any action has taken place they always mention the name of the ship that took part, and generally the name of the commander of that ship. We are being told very little of the Army commanders; we know the seniors, but I am referring to what I would call the middle-piece commanders of these units. I cannot think that it would give away any great secrets if we were told something about them. It is good that the units should know who these men are; it gives confidence in the future when they serve under a man who has already won some fame by what he has done. I hope that something can be done in this respect.
§ Much has been told of the success of General Wavell's strategy, but we have heard practically nothing of how that strategy was achieved. What was the 879 work, and who were the people who did the work, behind? For a modern Army depends greatly on the work of the men behind the Army. Who was the administrative brain who arranged the supply of these movements in Libya? I presume the same administrative brain that is arranging the supplies of the various columns which are at the present moment converging on Addis Ababa from every side of Abyssinia. It is magnificent work. I do not think it is properly realised what they are doing, how they are working it out, with a quick-moving Army that is advancing at the rate of something like a hundred miles a day, with its food supply, water supply, and ammunition supplies. I think it would be interesting for your Lordships and an excellent thing for the country to know how this is done, and especially who are the men who carry it out. This is the moment to let us know these things. Shortly other events will happen, and in the kaleidoscope of these events all that has happened in the past few months may well be forgotten.
§ I heard it said the other day that we were not a military nation, but a nation of military critics. Certainly we are very good at criticising the War Office. For fifteen years the War Office has received nothing but criticism. The time has almost come when we might almost have the reverse, and have some acknowledgment of what has been done in organisation in this country. I wonder if your Lordships are aware, when one hears so much about the wonderful tank organisation of other Armies, that the first General Staff—and I am glad to see a late Chief of the General Staff here to corroborate me—that studied the tactics of armoured fighting and mechanised vehicles, was the Staff of the British Army. They had their difficulties—financial difficulties—but it is an extraordinary and fortunate thing that, in spite of Treasury difficulties, the country that was decided upon in which to carry out these experiments in the handling and tactics of these vehicles was Egypt. A certain amount of honour is due to those men who did the work and who are now serving, not as they would have wished, with the armoured vehicles but in other parts of the Army. I trust that the noble Lord when he replies will be able to show how unfounded and misplaced was this criticism of War Office organisation and War Office thought.880
§ The Army in Africa is only a part of the whole Empire Army of to-day. It is an Army that is in some respects entirely new to us. It is organised on what, to many of us, seem rather novel lines. It is recruited on a totally new basis and is trained—and trained pretty strenuously—by up-to-date methods. I rather hesitate to ask the noble Lord for any information regarding the Army at home because it is a delicate question. If one asks any question which is not answered it gives away, perhaps, something to the enemy. Therefore I trust the noble Lord will be able to tell us as much as he possibly can, without giving away anything which ought not to be told, especially as regards the training of the men and more especially the training of officers, both in field work and in administrative duties. In that respect I notice that His Majesty's Government have appointed, quite lately, a new Director. He is called the Director of Economy. I do not envy that officer his task, though I congratulate him on the rapidity of his promotion. I feel that if more consideration had been given, eighteen months ago, to the retention of experienced Staff officers, and even senior officers possibly too old to go on active service, but not too old to do administrative work at home, that appointment recently made might not have been necessary.
§ There has been extravagance, and I venture to say there is extravagance today. I know it is the desire of everybody to help the fighting man, but sometimes we are inclined to be too luxurious in our habits and manners. I am certain that these men under General Wavell's command who attained such great success did it owing to the strenuousness, ruthless-ness, and hardness of their training, and that is very necessary in war-time. There are many administrative matters which can be looked into and improved by this new Director. One important administrative respect in which the Army of to-day is worse than it has ever been before is what I call the curse of paper. Forms, reports and returns are mounting in geometrical progression, and the evil is very much worse than it was in the last war. That is not fair to the Army or to the officers. I trust some drastic action will be taken to put a stop to it. I urge that such action must not be carried out 881 by a committee formed from War Office officials, who are generally the chief offenders. They love returns. It wants somebody who dislikes returns to wipe them out. I trust the noble Lord will be able to give us some assurance that this curse will be got rid of, because it is a curse to the Army.
§ Would it not be possible in war-time to give greater authority to the senior commanders? These men are specially selected by His Majesty's Government. They have got great experience—greater experience, if I may say so, than some of the junior officers in the War Office—and they are responsible at the present moment for the lives of thousands of their fellow-countrymen. Surely we are not going to regard pounds as of more value than lives? I tell your Lordships that officers are snowed under to-day with paper, and, what is worse, the disease is spreading to that patriotic and purely voluntary body of men who are giving their spare time in the evenings and at the week-ends to training for the defence of the country—the Home Guard. Company commanders in the Home Guard have got to spend any amount of unnecessary time in their offices. I came across a case the other day where a form had to be signed three times in triplicate—nine returns altogether—to demand one wagon; and the wagon never turned up!
§ With regard to the Home Guard, I would urge closer co-operation with the Regular Army, and more instruction by the General Staff. The Home Guard is intended for some form of guerilla warfare, not for ceremonial duties, and I hope no ceremonial duties will be imposed upon it. There is already a tendency to begin in that way which ought to be nipped in the bud. Greater flexibility in administration is required. I believe that the administration has now been vested in county associations. From my experience in the War Office, flexibility was not very noticeable in Territorial Associations, which were surrounded by a mass of instructions and had to carry out their work under those instructions. In those days officers of the Territorial Army were members of the County Associations. Would not it be possible for officers of the Home Guard to be equally members of County Associations? They could bring their knowledge and influence to bear in helping to solve the problems which belong 882 to their own arm of the Service. Possibly in times to come it may be that officers of the Home Guard could even replace the Directorate of the War Office, so that those officers of the Directorate who are younger men would be able to go on active service. I think more use might be made of these officers, and if the Home Guard is going to thrive decentralisation is absolutely necessary. You have very experienced officers in the Home Guard. You have one who was Adjutant-General of His Majesty's Army. I would urge that some form of freedom in administration be given to the Home Guard Executive.
§ A similar observation applies to finance. They are tied up with financial regulations. It is very hard on these men. Some are poor men, and all are doing their best. I came across a case the other day of a man doing his work as a member of the Home Guard who had his bicycle destroyed. It cost him £10, but because it was not destroyed by a bomb he was refused all compensation. He could not afford another £10. Yet the bicycle was destroyed by a thing almost as dangerous as a bomb—one of those lorries that go about the roads. Greater leniency in dealing with these financial matters should be given to the men to. whom the administration of the Home Guard has been handed over.
§ Finally, I fail entirely to understand the attitude which His Majesty's Government are adopting to the Army Cadet Association movement of which I am the President. That Association deals with the Army cadets, and works in the very closest co-operation and friendliness with the Air Cadet Association and the Naval Cadets. There are many boys of this country who are totally unsuited for work of the air or work of the sea. They have not the necessary qualifications. They do not want to go up in the air; they do not want to go to sea; and these boys are available to join the National Cadet Association and train for the Army in the future. I do not understand the policy of His Majesty's Government in this matter. We have been told that we are to be prepared for a long war, and therefore it is necessary that there should be a young entry to fill up the ranks of the Home Guard at seventeen and of the Army later on. We have also been told 883 that the leaders of the Army are to be drawn from all classes of the nation. Now by refusing to help the Cadet movement the Government are stultifying their own policy. They are not giving these boys, who generally come from schools that are less well endowed than the more fortunate schools, that opportunity of learning leadership which is given to them by the Army Cadet Association. It does not seem to me to be quite right that training should be allowed to the more fortunate boys who can join the O.T.C. and that funds should not be available for helping all those less fortunate who can only join the Cadet Corps.
§ I would call your Lordships' attention to a correspondence that has taken place in the last few days in The Times about what is called "Youth service." His Majesty's Government apparently are encouraging some form of new service. There is a letter signed by Lord Hambleden which points out the dangers that may accrue, and it seems to me that in war-time it is not quite profitable to support new institutions instead of subsidising these institutions which already have means, through their tried instructors, of training the youth of the nation. I notice the slogan of this new youth association. The slogan is "Youth to lead youth." It seems to me to be a very dangerous slogan, and it might degenerate in times to come into the "blind leading the blind." I trust that His Majesty's Government will favourably consider in some way or other helping the Cadet Association of the Army in the same way as they are helping that of the Royal Air Force. I beg to move.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I would like to associate myself with that part of the noble and gallant Field Marshal's speech in which he referred to what has been done by the Army in the Middle East. I also support most earnestly his request for more information of what the Army is doing in the Middle East, in Abyssinia, in Italian Somaliland and elsewhere. We have all too little of that information. We rarely, if ever, hear the name of the Colonel commanding a battalion. As the noble and gallant Field Marshal said, the Navy and the Air Force do it much better, and I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government will give us 884 much more information. It was last November that I made a few remarks on the Army, due to my long association with it. I said then that the Army had had a rough deal for twenty years, and that if it was treated fairly it would carry out all that was expected of it. I think we can say from what has been seen in the Middle East that we owe a lot to that Army—the Empire Army, as the noble and gallant Field Marshal called it. We have seen what the Army can do when allowed proper training and proper equipment. We also owe a great debt of gratitude, I think, to General Wavell, as well as to all the Army and to the Air Force and Navy. I think we owe another debt of gratitude to General Wavell, or to whoever found and unearthed those lectures which he gave and which have been published. I think that alone entitles him to the greatest gratitude from the nation, and especially from the Army. If everbody in the Army would read those lectures and be examined in them I think it would improve and help the Army enormously.
I would now like to refer to three points under the second part of the Motion—that is, on the administration and progress in training of the Army. The noble and gallant Field Marshal has referred to the training of the officers and men and has asked for information. I would like again to refer to the question that has arisen at different times, I regret to say, in the last two or three years on the selection of officers for the Army. This question used not to be debated in the way it has been debated recently in the Press and elsewhere. I cannot put it better than I tried to put it the other day. What should we do in choosing an officer? What should we consider will make him a good officer? I cannot help feeling that we are trying to convert this into a political question, and I hope sincerely that all those who speak for the Government in the future will take the line very firmly that we do not mind where the officers come from; what percentage come from this section or what from that is of no interest; we take them and they are selected entirely because the Selection Board think they will make the best officers. I cannot help remembering that in a debate two or three years ago it was said in your Lordships' House that we were not select- 885 ingofficers suitable for a democratic country, and reference was made to the Napoleonic Armies, to what great Armies they were and to the way in which they selected their officers. I ventured to interrupt that it must be remembered that the French Army was beaten by the British.
I would like to go on to another point which I think is important, and that is the question of young soldiers' battalions. I cannot doubt that the noble Lord who is going to reply for the Government must have heard these criticisms because they are all over the country. They are really very severe. I have thought over the matter for some time before venturing to put them forward. I admit that there are some battalions that are good, but there are a great many that are not. I see in his place a noble Lord who can speak about this with much more authority than I can, and I think he will agree that boys between the ages of seventeen and twenty are the hardest group of humanity to run in the world. They want the best supervision. It always has seemed to me that boys of that age have not much moderation. They are either a hundred per cent. keen or a hundred per cent. slack. It is very difficult to get officers to run those battalions. In fact I would say that I very much doubt if in the whole Army there are sufficient officers to run these young soldiers' battalions. In my life I have met most excellent officers able to run a battalion with great efficiency who yet are not capable of running young boys of these ages. It is one of the hardest things to find the right kind of officer for these battalions. Sometimes an old man will do it, sometimes a young man; it is something peculiar to the man. Selecting a good officer from the Army and putting him with one of these young battalions does not make it right; sometime, I fear, the reverse. What I am saying is well known and I cannot believe that the War Office do not recognise that a large number of officers are not good for such battalions to supervise these boys.
The noble Lord who will reply for the Government may say that changes are being made, that officers were taken in a hurry and that better ones will be put in. That I know is being done, but that is not all the difficulty. I have heard many 886 officers say that these young men would be infinitely better in the A.T.C. Some of these boys are employed on aerodrome guards. I cannot think of anything worse for a boy of seventeen or eighteen than to be on an aerodrome guard. It is boring enough for a trained soldier. It is boring enough for a man of twenty-five or twenty-six, but he does know that it is necessary. For a boy of seventeen it is boring beyond imagination. It has been said that we are going to train them for field operations. I would ask you to remember the boys in the O.T.C. who were very keen on field operations once a week. Did they do that for over two years? Would not that have been boring? What is the solution? Is there not a chance that we might persuade the War Office to think of taking some of these boys and giving them training in wireless and in signals, in which they would be interested all the time. Or they might be put into units where they would have motor cars, motor bicycles and all those mechanical appliances which would not only interest them but keep their interest going. I hope that the War Office fully realise what a very serious question this is. I must not mention the numbers of those I am talking about, but it does affect a lot of boys who joined full of keenness and enthusiasm which has all died out.
Now I want to refer to a point about which I have spoken before, and that is that when you have men of all ages from nineteen to thirty-six and thirty-seven joining the Army it is most essential that you should make them happy in the first two months. I have been around a great many number of places since I spoke about this last November, and I must congratulate the War Office and the various depots upon what has been done. From what I have seen and from what I have heard I know that the position has improved out of knowledge. There is keenness. We have got through the winter. Everyone was anxious about the winter time, but we have got through it, and got through it much better than many of us expected last November. The noble Lord will not think that I am criticising all the time, because I do pay compliments where they are deserved, and I say that we have done better than was expected.
There are, however, certain things still open to criticism. I hear stories of men 887 coming up for medical examination who have to stand all together naked waiting in a passage. I do not want to be over modest, but I do not think men of thirty-four or thirty-five like that. We hear of other things which give a bad impression, and I would repeat that in the first two months of Army life you want to give a good impression. I agree that first impressions are now much better than they were in the past. In conclusion I would say that the Army has shown what it is worth in the Midddle East, and I would add that, from what one sees daily, although there are still many things that could be improved, we may congratulate ourselves on what has been done under the officers who run the Army to-day.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD CROFT)
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships' House as well as the War Office welcome the debate which my noble friend the gallant Field-Marshal has initiated, and if it is impossible for me to do justice in a short space of time to the several questions which he raised I hope he will realise that it is not because I do not appreciate the importance of those questions. If I were to do justice to them it would take a very long time. A good many questions have been raised in the course of the debate and I propose to deal first with these before I come to the matter upon which both noble Lords have pressed me to make a statement—namely, the operations in the various African theatres of war.
I think that to have multiplied the Army by something like ten times, or may be more, in eighteen months was no mean feat. It was indeed a colossal work which we had to undertake. It has taxed all departments to the utmost, and if one hears occasional criticisms of the lack of this and that material, or comments upon the fact that the housing conditions of the troops are uncomfortable and upon the admitted inconvenience and even distress that we have sometimes caused to owners of property in this country by occupying their premises at short notice, we must recall first that owing largely to the lack of interest of the nation in the Army in times of peace—which I do not think is an unjust thing to say—we have had to improvise because 888 we did not have the machinery for its expansion. We were determined not to allow vast numbers of the young men of this country to endure the same appalling conditions which our men had to put up with in 1914. We decided that, whatever the cost, we must bring those men under cover. The result has been that the health and morale of the British Army have been preserved at a very high level.
Further, I would ask your Lordships to remember that quite unexpectedly more than 500,000 men from the Expeditionary Force were suddenly thrown back on our hands and, in addition to that, with the peril of invasion before us, we expedited the calling up of recruits for the Army by something like 300,000 men. This meant that we had 800,000 men to house, clothe, feed and arm—all from zero. This was, of course, an immense task. We had a vast increase in the number of troops at home and it forced us to take measures which we positively disliked, such as the requisitioning of property, but which were absolutely essential if we were to treat the soldiers of the British Army, not as cannon fodder, but as human beings.
Now I come to the matter of training which was stressed by both noble Lords. I think that if there is one lesson above all others that stands out in this war it is the fact that to meet our enemy successfully we must have super-training, a perfect training indeed, and perfect equipment. In a moment I will try to give an account of the African operations, and I think your Lordships will agree that the result of those campaigns is in itself the greatest justification for the training and administration of the Army. It shows the standard of training and equipment that we are seeking to achieve in the Army as a whole. I want your Lordships to remember that, owing to the combination of circumstances, we never had the chance to train the Army in large formations until after last August. The Expeditionary Force had come back and we had to get on with our defence works in this country. So it was that never until after August last were we able to train in such a manner as was desired by the General Staff. Since the period when the fate of this island appeared to be imperilled for the first time by invasion, the fighting quality, and weapon and vehicle strength of the Army, I can guarantee, have increased out of all recognition, and 889 I am also pleased to be able to say that the flow is coming in and is still improving day by day.
This brings me to the subject of leadership, which both my noble and gallant friends stressed. I suppose that no one who has studied the question will deny that probably British regimental officers in the past acquired a higher standard than those in any other Army in the world. I believe that these traditions of British leadership are to us a priceless possession and that on the framework and example of the British Regular officer we can expand our corps of officers to meet the demands of our great and growing Army. As so many of you know, to command a platoon and to be entrusted with the lives of, perhaps, forty men, is a very grave responsibility. Some of us have seen platoons wiped out through sheer incompetence in the field, anyhow through lack of clever handling, but on many, many more occasions we have seen platoons go successfully through brilliant engagements because their officers were not only good fellows and keen soldiers but were also men with the genius to lead.
On this solemn subject, for it is a solemn subject, when you are dealing with the lives of men and politics do not come into it at all, I would suggest to your Lordships that we should hear no more nonsense about from which class our officers shall be drawn. We at the War Office are concerned with only two things. The first is that the private soldier who shines among his fellows and who gives clear evidence of capacity for leadership is selected, on account of those qualities, to go to an officers' training unit. The second is that, having arrived at that unit, he is put through a most strenuous test of leadership and, if he proves worthy, he wins his commission. We must draw men from all classes in order to officer the Army, for the simple reason that no one class could possibly provide sufficient officers for the Army as a whole. I do not think that some of the criticisms which have been made in the past have been justified, but at any rate henceforth there is only one class in the Army—namely, that of merit, soldierly qualities and the power to lead men. I think that the British soldier—the "Tommy," as he is called colloquially—would be the first to resent the idea that all his officers 890 should be drawn from the secondary schools or from the grammar schools, or that they should all be Etonians. The British soldier is concerned with one thing only, and that is that his officer shall be able to lead him, shall know his job and shall care for the men under his command. I believe that under such leaders men will now, as in the past, go through any tribulation; and that is the type of man who will lead our Army to victory.
I should now like to say a word on the question of Army economy, raised by my noble and gallant friend. This is a question which, as has been mentioned, has been very carefully considered. It is not a question of our handing this matter over to a committee; we have selected an officer, as has been reported elsewhere, who, under the Quarter-Master-General to the Forces, will be Controller-General of Economy, Major-General J. Buckley, D.S.0., M.C. General Buckley has had a wide experience in civil life in dealing with problems of business administration and commercial methods of handling stores. During the present war he has been, as Principal Priority Officer to the War Office, in close touch with the production and materials position as far as it relates to Army requirements. We realise that the enormous expansion of the Army carries with it great responsibilities in the handling of equipment and stores of all kinds. The Quarter-Master-General to the Forces is, after all, the largest storeholder in this country, but he is also responsible for the efficiency of the methods adopted to avoid waste as well as for the control of issues and the economical use of food and stores in the hands of the troops.
No large organisation can multiply itself as the Army has done in the last eighteen months without incurring a special liability to see that everything possible is done to avoid waste, and to apply the utmost possible economy in use, consistent with efficiency. In many respects this problem is a psychological one, because, as the stores and equipment begin to come along, there is a tendency to forget economy unless it is specially watched. Whilst there is no suggestion whatever that the scales of equipment should be reduced below the standard necessary to keep the Army in the highest state of efficiency, there is now felt to be scope 891 for special measures to co-ordinate and reinforce safeguards which have already been introduced, methods which will save money and which will also save material; and that means that they will help the shipping position. The whole question is continuously before our eyes, and it is for these reasons that it has been decided to appoint a Controller-General of Economy, who will be specially charged with the duty of seeing that the utmost possible economy, consistent with efficiency, is secured, and that its great importance in the national interest is fully appreciated throughout the whole Army, right down to the individual soldier.
A word with regard to paper. Paper has been the curse of all of us who have ever served in any of His Majesty's Forces, but I can assure my noble and gallant friend that the Army Council do really appreciate the importance of reducing as far as possible the volume of correspondence. So far as the War Office are concerned, we are happy to be able to state that there has been no very large increase in our paper, despite the increased size of the Army and the increased proportion of it which is located in the United Kingdom; the volume of letters is only very slightly greater than it was last year. The continuous review which is now taking place of all Army administration is resulting in increased decentralisation, reductions in staffs, elimination of unnecessary returns and many other improvements. Reform, however, must be a continuous process; otherwise there is a danger of creating more chaos than did the evil which it is desired to remove.
We are extending these reforms, which will have a similar effect in decreasing this kind of administrative work for which so much paper is required, in the devolution of financial responsibility to the Commands, the experiment announced by my right honourable friend in another place only a week or two ago. The policy of delegation has not ended at Command headquarters but, as a small but recent example of the new trend in Army administration, it may be mentioned that power has now been delegated to commanding officers of the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel to authorise cash purchases of small stores, including stationery.
I now come to the question of the Home Guard. which was raised in the Motion 892 and in the debate. Six months ago the Home Guard were an unorganised and largely unarmed body of patriotic men who, whilst they were prepared to die for their homes and for their towns or villages and those around them, were nevertheless very largely untrained. To-day they have progressed out of all recognition, and they have sufficient discipline and training to fulfil those static conditions of defence which were allotted to them at the time when they were formed. Courses in Home Guard schools, lectures, and weapon training in units, have been going on steadily; and now that we have the summer months before us, and training in the field is also possible, we are hoping for an improvement in the construction of the local defences which the Home Guard will man near their homes in case of emergency.
Despite inevitable resignations due to the calling up of various military classes for service and the necessary give and take with the Civil Defence organisations, the strength of the Home Guard has been well maintained, and a continuous flow of recruits comes in; but, now that most of the older men in the country are employed, we have to rely more and more on the lads of seventeen for filling the ranks of the Home Guard. The Cadet Force, and perhaps to a lesser extent other juvenile organisations, do provide a valuable preliminary training for those who are to join the Home Guard, and we propose to associate the Cadet Force more closely than is the case at present with local Home Guard units. I wish to assure my noble and gallant friend, however, that there is no question whatever of the War Office not being interested in the success of the Cadets, as we recognise to the full the value of all pre-military and preliminary training of boys and youths, and we are in fact reviewing the position at the present time.
The granting of Commissions in the Home Guard is going on very smoothly, as also announced in another place, with hardly any difficulty, and nearly all the senior officers have now been appointed. I want to take this opportunity—and here I am sure any of those who are connected with the Home Guard will agree with me—to pay a very special tribute to the Territorial Army Associations on whom has been placed the great responsibility for the bulk of Home Guard administration. They have been faced with an immense new problem, in many ways 893 different from that of the Territorial Army, and they have faced and, by their energy and sympathy, to a large extent overcome the difficulty of reconciling the local needs of a part-time force with the need to work to a general plan and, even in these times, with an eye to the proper use of public money.
It is not possible for me to say much about the many problems of equipment in the Home Guard, but I can say that the position has improved very greatly lately. There arc bound at this stage to be some differences in the armament of different Home Guard units, and I must ask your Lordships to believe me when I say that the differences are due to operational requirements, laid down by the Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, and that, even granted that the early issue of arms may have been somewhat hurriedly made in certain areas, the importance of proper distribution is fully realised and the position is constantly watched. I believe that the Home Guard will render a very fine account of themselves. From what I have seen of the various bodies of this great formation, whenever the trouble may come—tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year, when the Nazis or anybody else attempt to invade this Island, as they must do, it seems to me, if they seek to win the war—I venture to think that they will find the Home Guard adequate to the great task we have imposed upon them. I would also say this—and I think it must be very gratifying to the members of the Home Guard, because I think it may have occurred to other people: one doubts whether it would have been possible for those who have the responsibility for these decisions to have dispatched great reinforcements of men and equipment to the African theatres but for the fact that we had this great new Army built up in our midst. The Home Guard in a whole year as yet has cost far less than half a day's cost of the war. It is probably the least expensive fighting force in the history of the world, at any rate on modern standards. It is also a great insurance against possible danger, and it frees the mobile army to strike wherever necessary, from Lofoten to Jijiga.
The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, made a particular point of the young soldier battalions. I hope he will forgive me, as time is going on, if I do 894 not dwell at any great length upon that subject, but I can assure him that it is a matter of interest not only to one like himself who cares so much for the Army and its traditions; it is a question that has been actively exercising the minds of all those who are concerned with this matter at the War Office. We want the very best of the young men. We know that they are in certain cases the most difficult grouping of mankind to call together, and what my noble and gallant friend said with regard to understanding the character of these youths is absolutely true. We appreciate that. At first we were afraid that in some cases we had put in men who were too old to command these battalions, and in many instances we pulled out very brilliant young men to take their places. We found that that was not always the secret of success, because very frequently you want men of experience. We are taking care of that problem. Not only with regard to training and discipline are we looking into this question, but our Senior Welfare Officers have also been taking very great interest in this problem and have recently paid repeated visits to these young soldier battalions. But whilst I admit that it is an uncongenial task for a young man of that age to be guarding vulnerable plants or aerodromes, I would beg your Lordships to remember that perhaps we in this House have been the worst offenders in demanding the defence of these vulnerable points.
§ LORD CROFT
I am grateful for the noble Lord's agreement. We would much rather not have young men put on these guards, but on the other hand it has, believe me, been imperative that our mobile Army should train to meet the enemy on the same scale of training as our Armies in Africa, and therefore, we have had to employ any formed body of men we could for these various and expanding duties. I am sure the noble and gallant Viscount is right in his information about some of the battalions not having been satisfactory, but I would ask your Lordships to remember the very considerable number of men we have in these young soldier and Home Defence battalions—something between 80,000 and 100,000. I hope my noble and gallant friend has heard of only a few cases. We have been sending inspectors 895 all round these young soldier battalions, and I want to assure him that we are told that on the whole discipline is remarkably good, and almost the only military crime that exists is absence without leave. That has occurred in some units where I think these young men did not realise their responsibility. In one unit there were a number of civil convictions for petty theft and similar offences, but these diminished; and when a battalion has been moved from the district where it was recruited such moves have been found to reduce also the number of cases of absence without leave. I want to assure my noble and gallant friend that where there is anything wrong we are determined to do everything in our power to put it right.
I now come to the major object of my noble friend's question, which is the campaign in Africa. I would ask your Lordships to allow me to take up the story from where we reported it on December 19 last in this House, because I think unless we see the full rhythm of these campaigns we cannot realise the immensity of the achievement. On that date we were able to give a rough outline of the brilliant victory by British and Indian troops at Sidi Barrani. I reminded your Lordships how, in spite of the peril of invasion, we had decided to part with fine troops and first-class equipment, and to send them by a very long sea route which at that time meant that they were going a greater distance than I believe has ever been traversed by any Army in the history of the world for major operations—a very great naval and military achievement through submarine-infested oceans, with surface raiders and constant threat of air attack. To-day it is also permissible to mention that we have now placed in the safe custody of our prison camps a far larger number of the enemy than all the forces General Wavell had at his disposal in the whole of Africa during that sombre month of June last year. In the battle of Sidi Barrani, which was only three months ago, let us remember, including the capture of Sollum and Fort Capuzzo, the total prisoners reached 40,000 and some 350 guns and numerous tanks.
Armoured vehicles are able to move in great sweeps across the desert, but to bring up infantry, guns, stores, rations, 896 and fuel we had only a single road, and until the infantry and artillery had arrived no assault, of course, could be made on Bardia. These latter arrived with amazing speed, considering their poor and lengthy communications, and on New Year's Day the stage was set for the tremendous task of an assault on Bardia. Your Lordships may ask why do I describe it as a tremendous task. Firstly, because that network of fortifications, with a perimeter of fifteen miles, had been long prepared. It was not only a great supply and stores centre and jumping-off ground for the conquest of Egypt, but it was also the main defence line of the Italian North African Empire, described by their official spokesman as "the Bastion of Fascism." More important even than this, it was defended by a well-equipped Army with every modern weapon of defence—artillery, tanks, tank ditches, tank traps, and a very large number of machine guns. The whole position was very strongly wired, whilst each of the numerous posts was in itself a strong point or miniature fortress. Of still more consequence, it was defended by a garrison of greater numerical strength than General Wavell could possibly bring up to attack if he were to strike quickly and to retain the initiative. Some of our knights of the pen who wrote in the newspapers in recent years telling us about the power of defence must have been quite horrified at the risks—the appalling risks—that were being undertaken by the British Commander!
Bardia was subjected to a great bombardment from artillery of the Army, naval guns, and the Royal Air Force working in complete co-operation. On Friday, January 3, after admirable reconnaissance by tanks and by Australian troops, whilst the bombardment of the north and eastern fortifications was still proceeding, our armoured forces swept in with the Australian infantry from the south-west, and speedily cut the defences in two. By 1.30 p.m. on Sunday, January 5, the whole system had been captured at the point of the bayonet and at the muzzle of the tank gun. Bardia fell with nearly 45,000 casualties—killed and captured—and immense booty, including 394 guns, 143 tanks, and 708 vehicles. The victory was as complete as any in the records of war.
897 I do not put it lower, and it reflects the highest credit on the Command and the combined Staff work of all three Services.
We might well have been satisfied for the moment with these brilliant feats of arms, which seemed to indicate so clearly a turn in the tide of war with Italy. But it was by no means the end of the story. On the day that Bardia fell armoured units were off again "into the blue" to the west, and once more outflanked the enemy at Tobruk on the south and sat on his tail to the west. Once again the enemy was entrenched in a defended area of unusual strength on a twenty-five-mile perimeter circled by two outer lines of continuous fortifications with mined approaches and supported by powerful artillery. Not quite so strong numerically as at Bardia, the Italians nevertheless were in such strength that, with less audacious commanders, the British Imperial Force might well have hesitated to make the assault. Speed, however, was the essence of the contract, and, having closed all bolt-holes with British armoured vehicles, the Australian infantry with our tanks were a second time given the pride of place.
This time, instead of a desert-flanking sweep, which perhaps the enemy again expected from his previous two experiences, after a preliminary bombardment from sea and air and feints on the flank, the main assault was frontal, based on the Bardia-Tobruk road under the cover of all available artillery. Once in the outer fortifications, Australian units wheeled right and left, thus cutting off thousands of the defenders from Tobruk itself, whilst others pressed ahead. Within thirty hours Tobruk fell with 25,000 more prisoners and 200 guns, also a heavily-armed cruiser, and the well-defended port was British. Supplies were greatly aided by the fact that the Royal Navy had command of the sea and that the Royal Air Force had swept from the skies every visible Italian aeroplane remaining. From Tobruk our forces pressed on to Derna, captured on January 30, and Mekili, whilst Cyrene was captured on February 4.
Then came the climax of these great events in North Africa, for on February 7 the news was received that the Army of the Nile, 660 miles from its base at the delta of that famous river, attacking along the coast from Cyrene and inshore 898 through Mekili, had pinched out Benghazi, and British armoured forces had actually blocked the retreat of all the remaining enemy in Cyrenaica to the south and west. I was asked earlier in the debate about British armoured vehicles. Many of them in the forefront of the battle were the old cavalry regiments of such fame who in this operation fulfilled not only what I might call the cavalry rôle of denying the enemy's flank or cutting off his retreat, but British armed forces bore the actual burden of battle, assault, and resistance to counter-attack. When the Italian Commander found that his corps was caught like a rat in a trap, he decided to make a great and desperate sortie with the whole of his available tanks supported by other arms. Armoured forces were in action on this occasion on quite a considerable scale—100 tanks trying to pierce our very thin armoured defence lines, and make a road to safety. The attack must have been pressed with great vigour and courage, your Lordships will agree, since over sixty Italian tanks were destroyed before they broke off the engagement and surrendered.
A thin line of British infantry who were support troops with the Royal Armoured Corps displayed great steadiness under tank attack on this occasion, and proved the power of well-trained infantry to knock out light and even medium tanks. One enemy tank actually pierced the line and was only halted at our Headquarters by signallers armed with a single Befors gun. Our armoured vehicles appear once more to have shown great superiority in fighting quality against heavy odds, and it speaks volumes for their training, practical handling, and the astonishing physical endurance of their crews that after a forced march of 150 miles in thirty hours, over rough and trackless roads, they then fought what we may call a major fleet action for twenty-four hours on end, and at the conclusion of that went on 170 miles to EI Agheila, thus holding Cyrenaica safely at the extreme edge of the Province where it meets the desert on the gulf of Sirte.
I have spoken of the human strain, but what an achievement also this proves in design and workmanship of our tanks. So with its capital, vital seaports and bases the whole of that great Province fell into the firm embrace of British arms. With a speed never equalled, with endurance 899 surely remarkable, with a perfection of timing in seizing the tactical opportunity, surprise initiative and a crescendo of pace won a glorious succession of victories which heartens every free man I believe and gives him faith in morale over numbers, and in the superiority of our fighting men over our enemies. It fills us also with hope in the future that our three Services are fighting this titanic struggle with such fraternal understanding and co-operation. I believe the whole Empire will rejoice with Australia that the task committed to the Australian Imperial Force under Major-General Mackay in the second, third and fourth battles was so brilliantly executed, and still more that such determined assaults should have been carried through with casualities so light that the value of these magnificent troops is in no way impaired for the future tasks which await them.
I now come to the almost equally dramatic events in the great series of offensives against the Italian East African Empire. To get the picture we must realise the immense distance involved from General Wavell's Headquarters to these new theatres. The nearest attacking force was 1,000 miles from Cairo and the furthest on the Indian Ocean over 2,000 miles as the crow flies. I would ask your Lordships just to imagine a vast clock of 4,300 miles circumference with its centre something like 200 miles south-east of Addis Ababa with lightning blows struck from 11, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 and last week at 2 o'clock, and you get a rough picture. In the extreme northwest point of Eritrea, a British force reinforced later by Free French troops, unexpectedly burst into Italy's oldest Colony and advanced fighting, first parallel with the Red Sea, and then towards the centre of the clock until it threatened Keren from the north. Earlier, starting further south from the Sudan, British and Indian troops regained Kassala, where there had been some little contest going on, and freed its important railway, advancing in two columns over most difficult terrain.
The northern of these two columns brushing opposition aside all the way, accupied Biscia, terminus of the Massawa railway, and Argodat with great speed until the force reached the mountainous massif which provides the immensely 900 strong natural defence due west of Keren. The second column advancing further south parallel with the northern frontier of Abyssinia, speedly occupied Barentu and has since converged towards Keren threatening the left front of the great Italian concentration at that point. A fourth with Sudanese troops advanced from Gallabat, the scene of many conflicts, which it finally wrested from the enemy, driving the last Italian from the soil of the Sudan, and this force is marching on Gondar. All these columns have had to fight. In the Lake Tsana area, Sudanese and Abyssinians under the command of British officers have captured several Italian posts, threatening to cut off the large forces of the enemy in the south from their communications. Advancing from Kenya, west of Lake Rudolf, the King's African Rifles progressed in spite of the heavy rains which have fallen unduly early in that area. Away to the east, Moyale was finally captured by South and East African troops and the whole of Kenya cleared of the enemy. Now the strategically important town of Neghelli, 90 miles within the Abyssinian frontier has been occupied after a great march.
Further again to the east, a dramatic offensive was initiated by troops of Nigeria and the Gold Coast, the King's African Rifles and of the Union of South Africa, under General Cunningham, who starting with high velocity from the Indian ocean seems most anxious to try and join his famous brother, the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, for Easter. The pace has been really remarkable. The Army starting an offensive 350 miles from their railhead through difficult tropical country, waterless and covered with scrub and bush, attacked with violent speed the important port of Kismayu which fell on February 15. These South and West African troops forced two crossings of the Juba river, that very strong natural defence line, in the teeth of Italian opposition. Speedily they took 10,000 prisoners and considerable war material. Without waiting to take breath our fine West and East African native troops, supported by the Royal Navy and the Air Force, pressed on by the coast road to Brava, and with lightning rapidity occupied Mogadishu, the capital of Italian Somaliland and captured a further great quantity of arms 901 and equipment, releasing also large numbers of British and Allied sailors who had had to endure confinement in that area. Again without pause the same troops have hooked round northwards, and proceeding at great speed on the Harar road occupied Dagga Bur and on the 17th of this month entered Jijiga, thus closing the Italian front door into British Somaliland. This column, having swept right through Italian Somaliland, is now nearly 300 miles over the Abyssinian border and is rapidly approaching Harar and threatening the Jibuti railway. This column advanced 770 miles in this short time from the Kenya frontier and some 1,100 miles from railhead. Surely this must be a world record of distance in such an astonishing time.
Simultaneously a surprise amphibious attack was made upon Berbera on March 16 for the reconquest of British Somaliland. From this Colony last August, your Lordships will remember, our very small force of native troops was compelled to evacuate before overwhelming odds—Reculer pour mieux sauter. With great rapidity and at almost no expense in casualties our forces of the Indian Army on the one flank and Somalis and Arabs on the other recaptured the capital, and on March 20 our forces advancing on Jijiga switched a column north-east which occupied Hargeisa. The country should realise that whereas six weeks ago British and Italian Somaliland were all Italian, to-day this great area, except it may be one or two small pockets we do not know of, is all British. On March 21 Jarabub was captured by British and Australian troops of the Army of the Nile, with 800 additional Italian prisoners. Fighting at Keren had been very stiff, as your Lordships know, our assaults having been delivered against positions of particularly strong defensive character. The battle here continues.
Our casualties in all the African fighting have been surprisingly small, totalling up to February 23, 2,966, of whom happily only 604 were killed, whilst we have inflicted over 200,000 casualties on the enemy, including the capture of 180,000' prisoners.
We may, I think, take some pride in these events. For many years it has been realised in your Lordships' House as throughout the country how potent an 902 influence a united British Empire might be in time of great peril. I venture to think that this astonishing story of the comradeship in arms of free citizens of the British Empire, fighting with such fixity of purpose and such wonderful valour, skill and co-operation, is the vindication of British, Dominion and Empire rule. Hitler and Mussolini thought they had only to hit us below the belt and the Empire would fall to pieces; instead the whole Empire has fallen upon its enemies like one man linked together in a phalanx of freedom and faith. These campaigns have been truly Imperial, and troops of the Commonwealth, New Zealand, the Union, Rhodesia and the African Colonies and Sudan, along with British Guardsmen, infantry of the line, English, Scots, Welsh, including many good soldiers from Ireland who joined the ranks, and fine divisions from India, have with the Royal Armoured Corps, Royal Artillery and Engineers, written great fresh chapters in British military history.
Nor must we forget the tremendous administrative organisation required to maintain such forces over such distances from their bases. For the manner in which they carried out their herculean task, all credit is due to the men behind the fighting troops. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Milne, mentioned how desirable it was that the names of formations should be given. It will be remembered that in another place, and also in messages from the Prime Minister, tribute has been paid to the fighting leaders of the various Forces whose names are already, I am glad to say, becoming household words. In answer, however, to the noble and gallant Lord's questions, I may say that the task of administration of the Middle East Quarter-Master-General's Department was imposed upon Major-General B. 0. Hutchison, a task which appears to have been admirably fulfilled. In answer to other questions regarding the troops engaged, I may say I share his desire to see the various units named at the earliest possible moment, but I think he will agree with me that it is very desirable not to indicate to your opponent where you are going to make your next move. When you are at a chess board do not let him know where your Bishops or your Castles are going to move, It is still more valuable if you have an invisible Queen and Knight which you 903 can move as General Wavell has been doing. That is the reason why at this moment it is not desirable to mention actual units. Although this story is one of gratitude to the Empire troops, we should also realise that the British Army has suffered a slightly larger number of casualties—nearly always being in the forefront of the battle—than all the Imperial Forces combined.
I cannot conclude without reference to the splendid Canadian Divisions who are guarding our shores. The Americas have shown they realize that this island is their shield and breastplate. Here at the heart where the real issue may be fought out are the men of Canada, defending a most vital section of our country. They were at the eleventh hour denied the opportunity of fighting in France, but we rejoice that they are with us here in the place of greatest honour, and we have seen them progress in training to the highest pitch of efficiency. With Canada by our side and the gunners of Newfoundland the British Army is ready waiting until the church bells ring.
Egypt has been saved in the last three months, the Suez Canal will not be Italian, 600 additional miles of the shores of "the Italian lake" have passed into British care. Kenya, the Sudan and the Somalilands are rid of Italians; their hold on Abyssinia is becoming increasingly precarious and Mussolini's dream has become the nightmare of Italy. The myth which has bemused a section of the British public and Press for many years that modern defence is impenetrable has been, we must all agree, for ever dispelled by the gallantry of our troops and the skill of their leaders. The soldiers of the Britsh Empire now stand braced, hardened, experienced and trained to meet the military might of Germany. We are not afraid of the issue.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, a few words must be said from this quarter of the House about the marvellous achievements of General Wavell's Armies. It is indeed an extraordinary story. The magnitude of the results secured, and especially the small number of our casualties, must have surprised everyone, not least the noble Lord who has just addressed your Lordships. If he will cast his mind back to a place where we met on the 1st July, 1916, he will remember 904 that the results he mentioned, of 180,000 prisoners taken over a coast line of 600 miles and the infliction of casualties numbering, I have been told, not less than 30,000 or 40,000 killed and wounded on the enemy, were obtained by the composite force of Australians and regiments from all over the British Empire at the cost of losses considerably less than he and I saw the British Empire lose in one hour on that day. That is a most extraordinary thing.
If I may venture to draw two morals, one is this. It would be unwise to assume that this almost miraculous achievement, for so it is, in the history of war proves that frontal attacks if sufficiently courageous will always succeed without loss. That is profoundly untrue, as was proved in certain phases of the brief war in France and Belgium. One trusts that in rejoicing after this marvellous victory wrong lessons will not be learned. It was the outflanking, the deceiving of the enemy that General Wavell learned from Allenby, and the ideas he must have had in his own brilliant brain, coupled with the undoubted courage, skill and nerve of the regimental officers, that resulted in this achievement. Do not let it be thought that in modern war you can disregard the power of the defensive and not again suffer the tragic loss which he and I witnessed when we stood survivors of that dreadful day, July 1, 1916.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Milne, asked for the names of those who have done these wonderful deeds. Some of the Generals have been named, and rightly have the soldiers been praised, but I think a special word must be said about the remarkable achievement of the ordinary regimental officer. I have been told that the regimental officers showed courage, resource and skill which astonished those in charge of the operations. That brings me to the only point of criticism I have to make on this happy day when we are rejoicing after victory achieved. Who were these regimental officers? They came from all sorts of beginnings, but in the case of the Australian officers and of the New Zealanders it is interesting to know that a great number of the officers have been trained by the system of cadet training in those Dominions. From inquiries I have made I have found 905 that cadet training has been the basis of the success of the young officers from Australia and New Zealand. This knocks away the silly controversy about the old school tie and the stupid letter written to The Times, which was, indeed, swept aside by my noble and gallant friend Viscount Trenchard, when he said: "All you want is to get the best officer, never mind where he comes from."
But it is a fact that the preliminary training which a boy gets, either when at school or after leaving school, has a most extraordinary effect in giving him a better chance when he finds himself in charge of men. The reason for that is that that kind of training, whether it comes through the Boy Scouts or the Cadets—though perhaps for this purpose the Cadet Corps is best—produces young men of 20, 21, 22, 23 years of age who are not entirely self-centred and who have learned to think for others besides themselves. The kind of lad I have in mind is he who says: "Well, I have to see that these chaps get their dinner before I have mine." That is the real point, and all of us who have served in the Army know it. It is not a question of whether the young man has learnt a particular kind of drill but of whether he has been through some kind of training, such as can be got in the Boy Scouts or the Cadet Corps, which makes him think of others before himself. That is the kind of officer who has produced this astounding result which we are celebrating to-day.
Now comes a most astonishing thing; and this is where I fall upon my noble friend. Admitting, as I know he does, that cadet training is of great value and that the War Office have said so, what can he tell us here to-day with respect to the matter which every county association has been raising? We have asked him to pay us enough to keep the Cadet Corps going and expand them. He can only tell us that the matter is being reviewed. I believe it is true to say that the cost of one minute of this war would provide all the funds necessary to make the Cadet Corps up to the full strength which everyone wishes to see. Having said that, may I ask my noble friend, when he goes back to the War Office—a place which I know well—to march into the finance branch armed cap-à-pie and say, "What about it?" This present policy is a silly, old-fashioned policy of 906 dilly-dally; it is folly in time of peace and almost a crime in time of war. It is a kind of penny-wise and pound-foolish policy. What we want is to hear my noble friend say, "These good things to train up young officers shall be supported to the utmost; the finance needed shall be found." That is the only criticism I have to make, and I beg to thank the noble Lord who has made such an admirable statement to-day, a statement on which I am sure all noble Lords congratulate him. I hope he will not fail to draw the moral from what has been said and will see that every effort is made to give all young officers the best chance of serving their country as these have done.
§ LORD MILNE
My Lords, I should like to tender my most grateful thanks to the noble Lord who has spoken on behalf of His Majesty's Government for the very thrilling, lucid and extensive statement that he has given us to-day, and with your Lordships' permission I would withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.