§ LORD DENMAN had given Notice that he would call attention to the White Paper on the Organization for Joint Planning, recently issued by His Majesty's Government; and also move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, before referring to the subject of the debate this afternoon, I should like to express a word of thanks to my noble friend Lord Teviot for having agreed to postpone his Motion (relating to the cost of food distribution) to a later date. I am well aware that it is a good deal to ask of any noble Lord, who has had a Motion down on the Paper for some weeks, and has had arrangements made for a debate, to postpone it, and it is only the urgency of the times in which we live that has impelled me to ask this of him. I am very grateful to my noble friend and to the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, for the consideration they have shown to us in this matter.
§ The object of our debate this afternoon is to discuss the White Paper on the Organization for Joint Planning which 818 was recently issued by the Government. It had been stated in this House and in the Press that sufficiently close co-operation between the Services did not exist. To meet this contention the Government produced a White Paper to show how the present system works and to show that in fact close co-operation does exist. It must be admitted that this document goes some way—possibly a long way—to meet the criticisms that have been made. Also it shows that the present system is the result of long experience, and that much care and thought have been expended upon its consideration. Whether it goes far enough, whether it is susceptible of improvement, I think remains to be seen, and it is in order to elicit the opinion of noble Lords who have a great deal more experience than I have in these matters, that I have put down this Motion on the Paper for this afternoon.
§ But there is one aspect of the matter on which I would like to comment, and it is this. Anyone with any knowledge at all of these things who reads the White Paper will realize that something of importance has been omitted from it. We are waging a war in which science and mechanics play a greater part than ever before. The mechanization of arms has proceeded apace; indeed, the rate of technical and scientific change has been so rapid that the military outlook of the last war is really out of date in the present conflict. But if you look at the table attached to this White Paper, you will find no mention of a technical officer of high rank in a position of executive authority, and I submit that that is a very serious omission. There was a letter in The Times on April 21, from Professor A. V. Hill, which I will venture to quote to your Lordships as it bears on this topic. Professor Hill expressed the view that the use of the term "Combined General Staff" showed that the nature of the need was not fully realized. What, he said, is wanted is "an integrated War Staff." That view, I think, has been expressed also by my noble friend Lord Swinton and by my noble friend Lord Winster in this House. What is wanted, said Professor Hill, is "a high command, designed for the purpose of planning the war as a whole, not further additions to existing machinery." Besides the Service elements, there must be—and this is a very important thing—a chief of technical staff guiding research, design and development. 819 There is no mention of such an individual or of such an office in this White Paper.
§ There have also been letters in The Times from Lord Milne, Sir Ronald Charles, General Fuller and many other officers and people of distinction, advocating the restoration of the post of Master-General of Ordnance. I think there is nobody in this House, or anywhere in this country, better qualified to speak on this matter than the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, Lord Milne, who was a great Army Commander in the last war, who was the Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1926 for several years, and who in that capacity had a great deal to do with the mechanization of our Army. Therefore, he speaks, I submit, with unrivalled authority on points of this kind, and I hope that he will intervene in the debate this afternoon. These officers were all agreed that the post of Master-General of Ordnance should be restored. Being impressed by this consensus of military opinion, I made some inquiries about the abolition of this office, and I found it took place soon after Mr. Hore-Belisha became Secretary of State for War. I am told there was a slogan at that time in the Department—it seems a little difficult now to believe, but I am told it was the case—"All technicians out of the War Office." Anyway, the office of Master-General of Ordnance was abolished—and your Lordships will remember that he was the only technical member of the Army Council—and a senior military adviser was appointed in the Ministry of Supply. But I submit that something more than advice is needed in things of this kind. What is wanted is expert technical authority at the highest level, and it is for want of this authority that wrong decisions at lower levels have been made and are being made to-day.
§ I will take for example—I dare say many of your Lordships are familiar with the example—the tank gun we used in the campaign last autumn in Libya. Our tanks were armed with a two-pounder gun and the Germans were armed with a six-pounder gun. The Germans could open up and make good practice at about fifteen hundred yards; our tanks at about eight hundred yards. Of course in open desert war that was a terrible handicap. The balance was redressed on some occasions 820 by the gallantry of a gunner officer. I allude to the late Brigadier J. C. Campbell, who brought his light artillery into action against the German tanks. But the gunners of course had not the protection the tanks afforded and their casualties were severe. Brigadier Campbell himself received the Victoria Cross for working as one of the gun crew when nearly all the rest of the gun team had been wiped out. I doubt if the Victoria Cross was ever better earned. It certainly is the irony of fate that this gallant officer only a few weeks afterwards was killed in a motor smash in the Libyan desert.
§ It may be said: "After all, how were we to know the Germans would put these powerful guns in their tanks? This is only another instance of being wise after the event." That was not altogether the case, because there was an officer at the War Office who after the fall of France advocated the use of heavier guns in our tanks. His advice, though he pressed it as far as he could, was not taken. Possibly his advice never reached the right authorities who had to make the decision. Anyway it was ignored. The point I want to make is that if there had been an officer like the Master-General of Ordnance on the Army Council, an officer say like. Sir Stanley von Donop in the last war, mistakes like this would have been very unlikely to occur. Since I put down this Motion I have been told of more instances of mistakes in equipment or of delays in providing equipment. Some of them are very serious, but I prefer not to speak of them in Open Session, although I think they would greatly strengthen my case. I have been told, and I believe it to be the fact, that among technical officers concerned with these things grave dissatisfaction exists as to the method of providing weapons and equipment for the Army. I have no doubt it would contribute greatly to the smooth working of the military machine, and result in better equipment for our Armies in the field, if a technical member of the Army Council were reappointed, and I suggest that he should be reappointed with the least possible delay. I suggest also that more use should be made of the services of scientists and technical experts, and that there should be a chain of technical authority from the Army Council down to 821 military units in the field. I do not think that exists to-day.
I pass from that for the moment to consider the question of co-operation between the Services, and I would quote from the White Paper recently issued by the Government. In paragraph 3 it is said:
The Joint Staff advocated from time to time in Parliament and the Press has in fact existed for many years … It consists of specially selected officers of the three Services who live and work together in the same offices. Thus they learn to think and act in terms, not of three separate units assisting one another for a common end, but of a single fighting unit animated by the same spirit and the same conception of a single task.
Indeed I think it might be said in terms faintly reminiscent of the Athanasian creed, here there are not three Services but one Service. That I think is an ideal arrangement. There was a leading article in The Times on April 23 dealing with this question in which this particular paragraph was singled out for commendation. The article went on:
But the skein so closely woven at the lower level is notably loosened, though not quite unravelled, at the top.
The article then proceeded to point out the necessity of a permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. That also was the subject of a leading article in The Times this morning. It was recently recommended in debate by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, and it was endorsed in a letter to The Times by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. Both these noble Lords speak with great authority on these matters.
§ I hesitate in the presence of so many experts to give an opinion of my own. I was in the Service for some years, but I remained through those years a regimental officer and I still retain the respect and veneration which I always felt—or nearly always felt—for the brass hat which I was never destined to wear. Therefore I prefer to listen to the opinions of noble Lords to whom I have just referred, and I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend Viscount Swinton, who is to follow me, and other speakers have to say. I would however venture to make one observation. Sir Alan Brooke, who at present acts as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and as. your Lordships are aware is Chief of the Imperial General Staff, must be a very hard worked man. In addition to the administration of his Department he has his share of responsibility 822 for the preparation of plans in Libya and Burma—and I was glad to note this morning the news of the expeditionary force to Madagascar. All kinds of things must overburden him with work and he has in addition the duty of acting as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I do not say this by way of criticism—nothing is further from my mind—but I want to point out the difficulties that must be experienced by any occupant of that office in fitting in all the work he has to perform. Extra work must devolve on any Chairman of a Committee. He is responsible to some extent for the agenda and he must master the subjects which come up for discussion. I should have thought that the subjects which come before the Chiefs of Staff Committee are so momentous and so vital in many cases that they require most careful study, and for that reason it seems to me a permanent Chairman might well be appointed. But I would like to hear the opinion of other speakers better qualified than myself to give an expert opinion in this debate.
§ In conclusion I would like to say this. We are concerned in this debate with machinery for the prosecution of the war. I have not put down this Motion for the purpose of finding fault or criticizing. It seems to me that if we think the machinery is not perfect or can be improved upon, then we are entitled, or rather I would say it is our duty, to point out where we think flaws may exist or how the machinery can be improved. We have on our side in this great conflict some very valuable assets. I will enumerate three or four of them. We have in this country men of great scientific ability; we have great technical experts; we have good factories and workshops, and skilled craftsmen and mechanics to carry out the work. But we want to be sure that these assets are being utilized to the best advantage. What I think we all desire to see is that our Armies in the field, and indeed all our Forces, shall be so well equipped and so well trained in the use of their equipment that they will be able to pay back the Germans in their own coin, and pay them back with compound interest. I beg to move.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I would like, in the first place, to join with my noble friend in thanking Lord Teviot for having so graciously made this debate 823 possible. Through Ms having done so we have the opportunity of discussing a subject upon which debate was asked for by many members in every quarter of the House. Much has been spoken and written on this subject, but I think that, without exception, every speech I have heard in this House and every letter that has been written has been animated by a single purpose and a single desire—to find the best machine for planning strategy and winning the war. There has been little or no criticism of men. Indeed there is a consensus of opinion that we have many Staff officers as well as Commanders in the field well able to form a Great General Staff. There has been little or no criticism of men occupying great Staff positions to-day. But it is not enough to have the best men. We must have the system by which the best use can be made of them.
Now I make my next observation, not because the thought had ever occurred to me but only because it was put to me that some such idea might be present in the suggestions which are offered, and I want, at the outset, for myself and, I am sure, for everyone else in this House who takes the same view as I do on this matter, to repudiate it: there is in none of our minds any question of the Great General Staff usurping the functions of the Prime Minister or the War Cabinet. The Prime Minister and the War Cabinet must be supreme; and no other person and no other body can usurp their functions. But they must be served by the best men working in the best way. It is common ground with the authors of the White Paper, as with all of us, that there must be a Great General Staff or a Joint General Staff, whichever you prefer to call it. The only issue is, have we got such a General Staff to-day in the best form? The White Paper is most helpful, and I think we are all grateful for its publication, for it shows precisely what is the organization, and how it is intended to work.
The apologists, if I may so term them, for the system shown in the White Paper say, and I have no doubt believe, that you have in that a Great General Staff in the most complete and practical form. I have no intention of going over ground which I have covered in earlier speeches in this House. I will only repeat what I have said before with some 824 reason, that in testing the system the fairest test is justification not by faith but by results. And looking at results I do not think we can escape these conclusions. In the first place, that the outlook has not always been sufficiently far-seeing or comprehensive; that there has not been in every field, and to meet every emergency—not remote emergencies but indeed probabilities and in some cases certainties—that prevision and provision which are, and should be, the objects of General Staff strategy and planning.
In the second place, keen as is the desire for co-operation, and greatly as cooperation has improved, it would be idle to pretend that the co-operation to-day is perfect right through the whole field. We debated that on a most interesting Motion which was initiated by Lord Winster a few weeks ago. Surely we should be content with nothing short of that perfect example of co-operation which exists in the Libyan desert, to which I paid tribute in that debate, with a great appreciation for both General Ritchie and Air Vice-Marshal Coningham, and, if I may say so, with great affection for Air Vice-Marshal Coningham. To-day I see General Ritchie paying his tribute to the one case at any rate where co-operation of the three Services has been perfect. Perfection has been achieved in practice there because all three Services have no thought of separatism but work together with the three-Service mind for the common end. We can be content with nothing short of that right through, and right through the organization of the General Staff.
My third conclusion is this: I do not think that the economic side has always been present, at any rate early enough, in the strategic review. I shall return to that in a moment. My fourth conclusion is that although, as the noble Lord, Lord Denman, has said, the scientists are mobilized in all the Services, and in the Service Departments and the Civil Departments, I do not believe that to-day, in the great strategy of war, the scientists are playing their full part. At any rate they do not think that they are, and they are entitled, if not to judge, at any rate to bear their testimony.
Does the organization outlined in the White Paper provide a complete answer to those criticisms? If it does, then the organization is perfect, and, if anything 825 is wrong, it is on the part of those who are working the organization. I submit, however, that the White Paper does not provide a complete answer to those criticisms. Let me say at this stage that I am in full agreement with those who hold that the Great General Staff must be the Chiefs of Staff in their corporate capacity. I believe that it would be wholly wrong to try to set up a parallel General Staff without responsibility. Some such effort was made at one stage and in one place in the last war, and it was certainly not a success. I feel that the case for not divorcing strategy from executive responsibility is so strong that I do not pause to argue it; I merely assert my firm conviction that it is fundamental that the General Staff must be the Chiefs of Staff in their corporate capacity, and that strategy and planning and responsibility for action must go together. There we are on common ground.
The White Paper, however, rejects the plea for the independent Chairman to which the noble Lord, Lord Denman, has referred, and it is stated that the Chief of the Imperial General Staff is, and is to be, the standing Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I submit that this is wrong, and that it is wrong for two' reasons. The first is the reason given by the noble Lord, Lord Denman: he is far too busy to do that job. He has enormous responsibilities. I think that he has too many responsibilities, even as Chief of the Imperial General Staff; I am not at all sure that it would not be a wise thing in the War Office—although I must not digress too much—to have, so to speak, a Member without Portfolio, upon whom some of the multifarious. duties which seem always, unhappily, to congregate on Chiefs of Staff, as, everything moves up to the top, could be devolved. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff is certainly too busy.
The Chairmanship must be a whole-time job. It is not a case, as I see it, of the Chairman merely presiding over the Chiefs of Staff when they meet, and moving into the Chair; he has to be the interpreter of the Chiefs of Staff to all these Committees—Planning Committees, Intelligence Committees and so on—which work under them. He must have time to work with those Committees, collecting their ideas, sifting them and presenting them to the Chiefs of Staff; covering the 826 economic field, and making sure that all the information which the Chiefs of Staff should have on the economic question is available to them. If that be the function of the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, surely it is a full-time job if ever there was one, and it cannot be combined with the post of Chief of Staff of any of the three Services.
But there is more in it than that. I think that it is wrong in principle. The Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff should not combine the representation of one Service with the Chairmanship of the corporate body. The Chairman must have, and must be accepted in all three Services as having, the three-Service outlook, the three-Service mind. However broad-minded and however fair-minded an individual Chief of Staff may be, you are putting him in a wrong position if you make him at once the Chairman and the representative of one of the Services. Hardly-contested matters may arise. I want these matters to be contested. I do not want a lowest common denominator of agreement. As I have said before, I want the friction of ideas—keenly-felt and keenly-contested ideas. I want the Chairman to evoke the best that is in the members, and to bring the Committee to the best decision. It is an impossible position, however, to have as the Chairman, who has to evoke this conflict of ideas, with a view to getting ultimate agreement on the highest plane, the representative of a particular Service. It surely must be utterly wrong in principle and in practice that one man should occupy the position of Chairman and also be the supreme representative of one particular Service.
I turn now to the question of whether this Chairman should be a Service man or a civilian. My own view is that on the whole—I think that it is very evenly balanced—if you can get the ideal man, and if he is accepted by all the Services as having what I have called the three-Service mind, a Service Chairman is the better, because he can bring Service knowledge to this task which no layman, however closely he may have been in touch with Service matters—and there are many who have been—can have, or at any rate can have in the same degree. On the whole, therefore, I incline to the Service Chairman; but I know that there are Service Chiefs, men who have held the highest posts in the Services, who take 827 a different view, and who consider that a civil Chairman is the better. I am sure that the duties of this post can be discharged either by a Service man or by a civilian, if the functions arc what I believe them to be.
It is not the job of this Chairman to impose his views and his opinions on the Chiefs of Staff. He is there to ensure that the whole field is covered, including the economic field. He is there to evoke the best that is in the Chiefs of Staff, and in the constituent elements of their joint organization. He is there to lead them to decisions which all agree are the best, and, failing agreement, to form his own judgment and to present that fairly to the Prime Minister and to the Cabinet. There may be differences, but I do not believe that there will be many. I believe that working in that spirit, and with that kind of Chairman, differences will tend to be few, not because there will be more compromise, but because, working in that spirit which their Chairman must produce in them, there will be more common thinking and more real agreement, and agreement on the highest plane. Should differences of opinion arise, I think that the Cabinet, the Prime Minister and the Chiefs of Staff themselves will be helped by the Chairman's unbiased presentation and judgment. Therefore I think this post, which I am quite certain is necessary, can be filled, I would say equally well, by either a Service Chief or a civilian. It is the right attitude of mind, the right judgment, the right spirit and the capacity to work with these men that counts. Let me add this. Whether that Chairman be a Service man or a civilian I regard it as essential that he should not be a Minister; he should be part of the corporate body just as much as the Chiefs of Staff are. He is part of that corporate body, and the Ministerial responsibility must obviously be the responsibility of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
Now let me turn for one moment to the economic side. I am aware that the Chart in the White Paper says that attached to these Committees at some stage there are liaison officers with other Departments, to be called in as and when required. It is not enough. The Chairman should have time to get knowledge of economic needs—time to get knowledge 828 and opportunity to get knowledge in time. I am not going to cite a single current event—it would not be right, or at least it would not perhaps be wise—but I will take one example which certainly there can be no harm in quoting because it deals entirely with the past. Many people, I think, would agree that the moment France fell out of the war a new-situation occurred in the Far East, a new situation occurred in Malaya. At any rate this is certain, and no one would deny it, that the moment it was known that the Japanese were intriguing or negotiating (whichever term you choose) with the French about Indo-China, and there was the probability or a possibility even—for the possibility was almost certain to be a probability, indeed a certainty—that the Japanese would go into Indo-China, then an entirely new situation had arisen. Not only a new strategic situation, but a new economic situation, and an economic situation affecting all the Allies.
It affected, for example, Russian supplies. I am deeply interested in Russian supplies; the Government company of which I am Chairman, I am glad to say, have provided a great deal of Russian supplies, and we have never fallen behind. Russia, America and ourselves were all vitally interested in the supplies which were coming from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies—rubber, tin, oil, sugar. Now I am going to put this question. When that new situation arose in Indo-China, were the economic dangers made present to the minds of the Chiefs of Staff Committee away back six months before Singapore was invaded? It is a fair question to ask; and if the answer is not in the affirmative, and if the whole of these economic risks were not fully taken into consideration by the Chiefs of Staff Committee, then I say that this Great General Staff was not in fact working in the comprehensive way in which a Great General Staff ought to work.
Let me turn for one moment to science, which was referred to by my noble friend who moved this Motion. Much has been said—and we should all agree with it—of the importance of scientists being able to play their full part in a war where everything is mechanics, where revolutionary change in a weapon or a way of warfare may mean quick victory. But look at the Chart in this White Paper. These Committees—Joint Planning, Joint Intelligence, 829 Joint Strategy—are all very good, but there is not one scientist. Colonels, Generals, Admirals, Air-Marshals, Wing-Commanders—quits right; all the ranks of every Service are there, but in those serried ranks of Service representatives there is not one scientist, not one scientific body—at least I think not. I should be grateful if the Lord Chancellor when he replies will correct me if I am wrong. But certainly there does not appear anywhere on this Chart a single scientist or scientific organization. I know that there are many scientists working in Service and civil Departments, and doing excellent work, but are they being used in the way in which they can pull their weight as fully as possible? I want to compare the position as shown in this White Paper with the position as I knew it before the war, and certainly there is no question of revealing any secrets in talking about what was the pre-war organization, when we have this organization set out here.
I want to look very briefly both at the part of the scientist within the individual Service Department and the part the scientist played in the general organization of the Combined General Staff. In the individual Department—I speak of the Air Ministry, of which naturally I have first-hand knowledge—some of the leading physicists in this country were so closely associated, day in and day out, with all the operational and strategic plans of the Air Staff that they were an integral part of the Air Staff. They knew our strategic problems, our operational problems; they initiated their ideas. They were absolutely invaluable. Those scientists and the way they were enabled to work in the Air Ministry made revolutionary changes in air warfare. It is not too much to say that their work made the victory of our pilots possible. But it was not only that we mobilized these great scientists to come and work with us and for us; it was the fact that they worked as an integral part of the Air Staff that made it possible for them and for the Air Staff to apply their knowledge in strategy and in operations. Part of what they did is to-day common knowledge, part of the story cannot yet be told. But what I think is not appreciated enough is how essential was that integration of science and strategy and operations to give these results. So much for a single Ministry.
830 Now let me take the wider field, the field of the Joint General Staff, because, as is said in the White Paper, this is only an evolution, and ever since 1922 the Chiefs of Staff have worked in their corporate capacity. In the wider field of joint operations the scientists have the same opportunity. There was the Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, on which sat the Chiefs of Staff of the three Services or their deputies, the Directors of Development and Production in the Production Ministries or the Service Production Branches, and the scientists, working together as an integrated—to use this term, which is quite right—part of the Combined General Staff. Incidentally, the Treasury was also represented, in order to make sure that we had all the money. In that way the scientific knowledge of these men was linked with the three Services, acting in their corporate capacity, and with production in and for the Services. That gave the scientists both the status and the opportunity of initiating and playing their part to the full. That common meeting ground no longer exists. That Committee does not exist. It does not figure here. That marriage of scientists with operational staffs is surely at least as necessary in war as it was in peace—more necessary, I think. What has taken its place? What is the organization by which these scientists play their part in framing strategy to-day? Frankly, I do not know.
That is all I have to say. Indeed, I have spoken longer than I had intended. I only add this. In this question of a Great General Staff, we not only all have the same objective, the same aim—to get the best system, to use the best men in the best way—but we have much common ground. We are all agreed that the Joint General Staff is necessary. We are all agreed that it must be the Chiefs of Staff in their corporate capacity. We are all agreed that we have to go for cooperation and not separatism, for the three-Service mind and not the one-Service mind. We all agree that this Joint Staff must cover the whole field, strategic, economic, scientific. We all agree as to what is the true and constitutional relationship of this General Staff to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The sole issue is, can we improve the existing machinery to meet more fully our agreed objects? In view of the 831 consensus of opinion which has been expressed in speeches by men of enormous experience in this House and outside it, and in the letters which have appeared—not diverse opinion, but all tending in the same direction; the differences are very slight, the main conclusions are all the same—I am perfectly certain that these improvements can, and should, be made.
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the issue which is before the House today. It will largely determine the duration of the war whether these problems are successfully dealt with or not. I am sure, as we all are, that we shall emerge successfully in the end, but how far distant the end may be depends a good deal on what is done in connexion with these matters. We have all been accustomed in various ways to schemes on paper, but of course the success of a plan depends on how it is worked and who works it. I find myself largely in agreement with the criticisms expressed by the noble Viscount who has just spoken. Somehow I find it difficult to believe that this scheme has been functioning properly.
On more than one occasion in this House—and for that reason I do not propose to speak long to-day—I have called attention to what I have described as the dangers of Service separatism, and have crossed swords in a friendly way with the noble Viscount below the gangway (Viscount Trenchard) in respect of that matter. We are told that the Joint General Staff advocated from time to time has existed for many years. I cannot think, as a layman, that it was functioning efficiently if it were responsible for our operations in Singapore, Burma, or Crete, or in connexion with those ships sunk the other day in the Indian Ocean. So far as I can ascertain, there is at the present moment only one effective all-Service co-operative machine in existence, and that is the Commando system over which Lord Louis Mountbatten presides. There, in fact, there is joint, daily, Service co-operation in the discussion of ways and means, and difficulties, and in the preparation of plans—quite a small affair so far. I propose on some future occasion to call attention to the defect of this unity of Service purpose once more in respect of the defence of aerodromes, to which I have alluded before and in 832 respect of which little or no progress has been made.
One finds it difficult somehow to believe that this paper organization functions efficiently, and one wonders if anybody puts spokes in the wheels. I am quite sure that what the noble Viscount said just now—that the Chairmanship of the Chief of Staffs Committee should be a whole-time job—is right. It would not interfere, and need not interfere, with the proper functions of the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet. Whilst the War Cabinet remain supreme in their consideration of the proposals put before them, and in their direction of policy and decisions on major issues, the men responsible on the Staffs of the Services are, and must be, held responsible for doing their work. If they are not competent to do it, or inefficient in doing it, they should be replaced by other people from the same Service. I wonder whether this scheme in the White Paper functions efficiently at the top. One gets the impression, by the succession of misfortunes that have befallen our arms in different parts of the world, that it does not—and it must do. It did not function efficiently, whatever the machine was, when those ships passed down the Channel. It has not functioned efficiently in the provision of bomb support for our troops on the ground.
My impression, looking at this White Paper, is that it is too cumbersome, too complicated. It is true that many of these things have to be relegated for information and advice on technical detail to subordinate Service branches, but I cannot think that for working purposes a complicated machine of this kind is workable. I would like to support the two illustrations which have been given by my noble friends who have already spoken. We all know that in the last war—and I am bound to say that I am basing myself on my recollection of that to some extent—what a fight it was to allow a new thing to be tried out, what a fight there was, for example, to get the tanks. If the machinery for giving the right men an opportunity for testing out their suggestions, and for bringing them to Staff notice if they were proved to be good, were successfully in operation, I am perfectly certain we should never have had those tanks in Lybia with two-pounder guns; and that machine does not appear in this plan at all.
833 I do not agree with my noble friend about the M.G.O. I had some first-hand painful experience of the office of M.G.O. in the last war, and I do not think the pattern of the Master-General of Ordnance Office would be the right way of dealing with this problem, because there should be a pooled Staff dealing with the consolidation of ideas, and the bringing into action of new devices. I do not see anything anywhere in this Paper which enables that to be brought to the prominence that it ought to have, because it will largely determine our success in the war. We produce, I believe, the best aeroplanes in the world, and the best guns, but we are notoriously very slow in adapting our machinery for bringing those things into operation. I am quite sure that the services of the Chiefs of Staffs Committee, by a joint body of the three Services, should be made promptly workable by a body of men whose business it is to encourage, test, develop and bring to the notice of the Chiefs of the Staff improvements in our equipment. The other criticism which the noble Lords have both made relates to the recognition or place in the hierarchy of the representatives of science. That again is not in this picture at all, and I imagine that the Chiefs of Staff Committee should have a branch attached to it with direct access to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, or at all events direct access to the Joint Planning Staff.
In that respect one wonders how the Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee has been functioning, because it is notorious that on more than one occasion our intelligence has not been conspicuous by its success, at all events so far as it influenced operations. The case of Japan being for some months in Indo-China, and the preparations she was making in Siam, were not reflected in the preparations for defence which were undertaken in the Malay Peninsula. It may be that somebody or other was told what was going on and that no instructions were given in consequence. That I cannot say, but it is a fact, a disastrous fact, that the intelligence of the operations that Japan was carrying out in Siam was not reflected, as it ought to have been, in the instructions as to what was to be done on defence account in the Malay Peninsula. I go back to where I started, that the vital thing at the present time for the 834 successful conduct and planning of our war operations is that more and more the three Services should work together, plan together, operate together.
My noble friend reminds me, for example, that the information given out today as to the occupation of the forts in Madagascar about which I am sure, we are all delighted, is given out in the names of the Admiralty and the War Office. I do hope that does not mean that the Air Service has not been consulted as to what ought to be done to defend this harbour in Madagascar. The Royal Air Force certainly ought to have been in on this business, and, if they are not, we may be courting another disaster. That is only an illustration which has occurred this morning, and it does mean that, however the scheme may appear on paper, we have not yet achieved that united Service co-operation which is vital to our success. For that reason I think these debates will serve a most valuable national purpose.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, it would not be seemly for me either to praise or to blame the general scheme of the White Paper, because I suppose that I have a greater responsibility than anyone else for the peace-time plan on which it is based. All I can say is that that plan was intended for exactly the purposes which those of your Lordships who have spoken in these debates have in mind—that is to say, the planning for the case of war. The planning was to be done by a Joint Staff composed partly of officers who were working whole time together and partly of officers who were part-time at the centre and part-time in their own General Staffs which of course would be responsible for a great deal of the action to give effect to the plans. Moreover, the scheme was conceived with the idea of expansion, if necessary in time of peace, and certainly in time of war, as has taken place.
I hope I shall not be thought pedantie[...] if I diverge for just a moment into the process of planning. There are four main elements in planning. I call them the four P's—principles, policy, plans and preparations. The first two, principles and policy, belong to the higher level, the Ministerial level. In time of peace that was the Committee of Imperial Defence. In time of war, as we can see from the White Paper, from the first paragraph, it is a responsibility of the War Cabinet and especially the Prime Minister who. it is 835 stated, superintends on behalf of the War Cabinet the work of the Chiefs of Staff Committee which is assisted by the Defence Committee. Now planning is a technical function which belongs essentially to the Chiefs of Staff Committee assisted by the Joint Planning Committee, working of course on the intelligence provided by the Joint Intelligence Committee. It is very important in this planning that the Chiefs of Staff should not be subjected to political superintendence.
Planning is usually in two stages. There is the stage of what I may call an appreciation, which contains all the points of substance bearing on the plan. It should contain an estimate of the prospects, and an estimate of the drain that it is likely to make upon the resources at our disposal, so that those who are responsible, the War Cabinet, who have the responsibility of distributing our resources in the best possible manner, should have everything before them that is necessary for taking their decision. That should include among other things something of the next stage, the second stage, the consequences according as the plan is a complete success, a complete failure or something in between, because that is sometimes overlooked and it is very important. When the general lines of the plan have been settled then comes the detailed planning instructions to the Commanders-in-Chief in the field and a great deal of detailed planning at home and especially in the theatre of war.
It is just as important that the work of the three Services, or of whichever two are engaged, should be knit close together in the theatre of war as it is at home. I say that for this reason. In the theatre of war Commanders-in-Chief are sometimes given an organization similar to that at home, a joint planning committee and so forth. I think that is partly the reason why in Libya, as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said, there have been such striking successes, because unless I am mistaken ever since the Abyssinia affair there has been something of that kind in Egypt. In the early part of the last war our planning machinery did not really exist. Take the case of the original naval attack on the Dardanelles. There was no appreciation from the Joint Combined Services at all, nor for the matter of that was there one for the second attack, the military attack.
836 The Ministers, the War Council never knew and never elicited from their professional advisers how lukewarm they were—the words of the Royal Commission are "half-hearted and hesitating." They never investigated properly the question of what would happen if the naval attack failed, as it did. Then we can take the case in 1917 of the Flanders campaign. The machinery was then very much better and the whole thing was gone into in great detail. In that case Sir Douglas Haig and Sir William Robertson, who presented the appreciation and explained the plan, were enthusiastic, and they were supported by Lord Jellicoe. In that case it was the statesmen who were half-hearted and hesitating. As a matter of fact, though there may be some who do not agree with me, Mr. Lloyd George's appreciation of the course of the battle, of the result of the battle and of the consequences of the battle was better than that of the experts.
Coming to the White Paper, the machinery is a great advance on anything we had in the last war. In spite of what my noble friend Lord Addison said about the additional complications I think that the additions which have been made to the original scheme of merely a Chiefs of Staff Committee and a Joint Planning Committee and a Joint Intelligence Committee are an improvement. I think this applies to the Vice-Chiefs of Staff Committee, which is necessary to relieve the Chiefs of Staff, to the addition of Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations, to the Strategical Planning Section, the Executive Planning Section, the Future Operational Planning Section, and to the additions to the Joint Intelligence Staff. All those seem to me to be good. Moreover, I believe that the organization is manned by officers, so far as they are available, who have practised working together at the Imperial Defence College and at the Comitttee of Imperial Defence. I certainly know of one very good officer who was with me in the Secretariat of the Imperial Committee of Defence. I believe that the officers on the Joint Planning side are very capable officers indeed. Then there is the Secretariat. No one ever mentions the Secretariat, but they are really splendid, self-effacing competent men, a hard-working body of men, who make a very great contribution to the team work and the efficiency of the whole organization.
837 Nevertheless, although the organization has merits, as I have suggested in spite of what I said at the beginning, it can always be improved. It should be improved. I could show that every year, in the Committee of Imperial Defence, from 1904 when it started until the year of the outbreak of war, there were improvements. That process must go on in war also. Moreover, I agree with my noble friend Lord Addison that there have been mistakes. We ought to get to the bottom of those mistakes, and that is why I, for my part, am glad to hear that there is likely to be a Motion in your Lordships' House before very long in favour of some form of inquiry into events in the Far East. I believe that an inquiry would be valuable as helping us to get to the bottom of the question of where mistakes occurred, and that it would help the Government very much to tune up the machine. But in the meanwhile, we are entitled to do what we can here to make suggestions for improvement.
The over-elaboration of this machine, to which my noble friend Lord Addison referred, seems to me to strengthen the argument which has been developed very powerfully by my noble friend Viscount Swinton, and which I shall not go over again. As I say, I think it strengthens the whole of that argument in favour of a Chief of the Joint General Staff, a C.J.G.S. His, duties will be, of course, to preside over the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and to take charge of the whole Staff organization, drive it along and see that it is functioning, and see that the intelligence is thoroughly good because what Lord Addison has said is quite right, in my view—you must have really good intelligence or else plans may go wrong. It will be his business to look after all that. I am sure these duties are beyond the possibilities of either the Prime Minister or the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, both of whom have such overwhelming responsibilities to fulfil. As to whether he should be a civilian or a Service man, I for my part am quite indifferent. I have worked under many Service Chairmen—I can see three Service Chairmen around me now—and under more civilian Chairmen than I should like to say, certainly far more than the three who are here now. They have all been good, and I say take whichever man is the best man. Now, other improvements in detail I should be 838 inclined to leave, for the most part, to the new Chief of the Joint General Staff when he is appointed. I think he might like to consider appointing a whole-time Chairman for the Joint Planning Staff and for the Joint Intelligence Staff, because such appointments are desirable for the same reason as is his own appointment.
But there is one point which I think should not necessarily, in fact it should not, await the appointment of the C.J.G.S., and that is the question of scientists. I am wholly in favour of what the noble Lord, Lord Denman, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said on that subject. Every Service Department now has its scientists. I agree that the Air Ministry led the way, and, I think, still leads the way. If I am not mis-informed that very distinguished scientist Sir Henry Tizard is a member both of the Air Council and of the corresponding body in the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and there are many scientists in the Air Force Commands. The Admiralty has always had its own scientists, and a very able lot of men they are, too. They have lately brought in outside scientists as well, and the War Office are following suit. These scientists do bring in something of their own. They are very expert on the interpretation of statistics, a very important matter in planning, and they have a way of getting to the root of the matter by means of teams of people. By working in groups they find out what are the weaknesses; why mistakes were made and why successes were achieved, too; and they bring the results of their work to bear on the future. Surely the argument is overwhelming that you should have the services of scientists in the central control of the war also.
Then there is the question of planning for supply, on which I hope the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, Lord Milne, whose letter we all read with interest the other day, will speak. That is a most important question and there is a great deal to be said about it. But I could not possibly embark upon it to-day, and unless the noble and gallant Field-Marshal clears it up completely, I should rather like to see it down as a separate subject for debate one day. I hope that all the improvements I have mentioned will follow from the appointment of a Chief of the Joint General Staff, but in 839 any event there should be no delay in bringing in the scientists.
So far I have only discussed the lower level of the Staffs from the Chiefs of Staffs downwards—that is the level shown in the table attached to the Report. I have said nothing about the higher level which is described mainly in the first paragraph. I think that, probably, if there are weaknesses, these weaknesses are at the top, and especially in the great over-centralization at the top. I ventured to make same suggestions about that in a speech on March 25, and nothing that has since occurred has caused me to alter my views at all. But I believe that if these changes were made and a Chief of the Joint General Staff were introduced, it would make a very decided improvement to our central machinery for the control of the war, which already has a good deal to commend it.
I only want, if I may, to detain your Lordships for just one minute or two longer. There is one thing I wish to say in conclusion. We are making suggestions for improvement because we want the best. But I think our curious habit of self-depreciation has rather led us to say that the German Central Control is better than ours and probably better than it is. My own belief is that it is not so good. People used to say it was good in the last war, but it was not good; it was bad. It was definitely worse than ours. I could show that this was so from almost all the German political, naval and military memoirs, but I will burden your Lordships, if you can stand it, with two extracts only. The first is from General von Ludendorff's My War Memories, where he writes:Our dealings with the Imperial Government were frequent, and not too pleasant. We did not meet with that spirit of accommodation which was so necessary when we told the Government what the successful prosecution of the war demanded of them, if the German people were to be rendered capable of victory.The representation of military interests in all questions of foreign policy during the war and in connexion with the conclusion of peace meant frequent dealings and much friction also.The machinery of Government in Berlin gave the impression of being extremely clumsy.The various Departments worked side by side without any real sympathy or cohesion, and there was infinite 'overlapping.' The 840 left hand often did not know what the right was doing. A Bismarck could have made these Departments co-operate properly, but the task was beyond our War Chancellors.Then there is a much shorter extract, from a civilian, Prince Max of Baden:But particularism lurks like an inborn curse in the German character, and before the war—and above all during the war—had taken refuge in the Departments, among the Admirals, among the Generals, among the diplomats. They had no spirit of mutual trust, and seldom worked together as allies in a common cause, as the welfare of the nation required of them.I know that that position was not very different in Germany a few years before the war, because I had it from Germans with whom I discussed these subjects and who were in a position to know; and I suspect it is not too good to-day. After all, the Germans have made the most frightful mistakes. There are their treacherous dealings with the U.S.S.R., culminating in their wanton aggression against that country; there was the failure of their summer campaign in Russia; there was the failure to prepare for a winter campaign in Russia; there was the failure of the Battle of Britain; there was the cruel treatment of subject populations; there was the sending of the "Bismarck," an isolated ship, to inevitable disaster, into the midst of their enemies. I suggest that there must have been a lot of bad advice and a lot of bad decisions, and that does not suggest a very perfect system.
It may be true—indeed, it is true—that they have had the most brilliant successes; but, if that is so, it is due to the failure of other nations to arm. If they have developed a better technique than we have in combining their Forces, that is because they have had the opportunity of testing and perfecting their theories in the best field of all—active warfare where they were walking over their enemies. They were not so successful when they came up against a nation which was powerfully armed and which had had the same opportunities for training. In the central control of the war I do not believe that we have a great deal to learn from the Germans, although we must learn all we can. On the contrary, I am confident that our system, tuned up, will enable us to see this business through; but we must be sure that we use it well and to the utmost of its capacity.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, in intervening in a debate such as this, I feel that I am stepping into the ring with champions, but I wish to give the opinions of an ordinary, uninformed man—uninformed, that is, except by what I hear in this House and read in the Press, where I see the writing of various noble Lords and others and read various criticisms of the Government. Before coming to what is the main point that I wish to make, however, I should like to refer to what the noble Lords, Lord Hankey and Lord Addison, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, have said on the subject of scientists. At the moment, and for a long time past, the experts and the scientists have surely been embodied in, and have, so to speak, "impregnated" all the Departments which have to carry on the conduct of the war. If we were to take individual scientists and fit them into the organization outlined in me White Paper, we should need to have a great many scientists. There are many scientists who have to consider very diverse questions, and I feel that, to begin with, we want to make the system embodied in the White Paper as simple as. possible, and do our best not to overload it. I imagine that by now it is certain that the scientists and experts have "impregnated" all the Government Departments, as I have already said. I should also like to refer to what my noble friend Lord Addison has said on the subject of Crete. I feel very strongly that if it had not been for Crete we should not have taken Syria and gone back into Iran and Iraq. That brilliant delaying action enabled us, in my view, to do the great work which we did in those countries.
Speaking as a humble, simple man in the street, it seems to me probable that we are at the beginning of a great battle, when the forces of the world are manœuvring themselves into position for the final effort. I have studied this White Paper very carefully, and I wonder whether it would be wise now, in view of the present situation, to change in any way our present machinery. I hope that I shall be able to show your Lordships, as I have certainly been able to show myself, that we have not done too badly up to now considering all that has happened. Does any noble Lord who has spoken to-day—and this is of particular interest to me, because if they do, I do not—and does anyone outside the 842 War Cabinet, know what we have sent to Russia, and what we are still committed to send to Russia and also to China? Do we know what our shipping losses have been lately? Do any of us in this House know what percentage of what we make here and of what the United States send us is going elsewhere? Unless we do know all that, can any of us be in a position to judge the big question of the strategy and conduct of this war? I do not believe that we can. We hear a great deal—although it has not been mentioned so far in this debate—about a Second Front. Surely it must be obvious that all of us here, and equally the General Staff and the Government, would immediately start up a Second Front if it were possible. But it must be done at the right moment. To make a false move would be suicidal. We have heard a great deal about the spring offensive, and I should imagine that the powers that be say to themselves: "When the spring offensive starts we then will begin a Second Front; and if it does not start, then when the time suits Russia and ourselves we will begin our own offensive." Surely nobody can know, except those possessed of all the necessary information, when is the best moment to start anything of this nature.
I have said that I think we have not done too badly. We have sacrificed, and properly sacrificed, for others an enormous amount of material. Let us stand up to these reverses, and rally to the men who are working night and day, recognizing that they know all the circumstances, while we all the time are guessing. We are bound to be guessing, because it is only those behind the scenes who really know what the risks and dangers are. What has to be considered is the naval position, the military position, the air position, the shipping position, the supply and production position and, last but not without great importance, the international political position. Supposing the Government were to give way to the popular clamour for something to be done, and it failed, we know very well how those responsible for that clamour would yell to get the Government's head on a charger.
I was glad to hear that the Government have the credit of the Madagascar move, which is of great importance and evidently was anticipated some time ago, for these moves need long preparation 843 beforehand. I cast my mind back to the time when in a humble way I took part in the last war. I was a Divisional machine-gun officer, and when we were preparing for some offensive we always felt what an incredibly long time it took to make all arrangements to cover the chance of different things happening—whether the enemy would do this or that. I hope that we shall give every consideration and sympathy to the War Cabinet and to the Staffs in the gigantic proposition which confronts them. This war is not just a front, it is a world war, and very often communications are cut off. With regard to the suggestion that some superman should be introduced into the present organization, I agree that the Prime Minister has an immense burden, but the man who occupies his position must be one who has had experience in the administration of the Services. The Prime Minister has been Minister of War, First Lord of the Admiralty, and Minister of Air, and has a great deal of knowledge of all these subjects, which it seems to me will enable him, when the military organization has come to a conclusion, very quickly to pick up what they mean and bring their views into operation.
I read a letter this morning in The Times, and it had a spirit in it which I did not like. It referred to the disasters we had had, as if these disasters were our fault. My Lords, the disasters we have had have not been our fault. Can anybody say that the French capitulation was our fault? Can anybody say that Pearl Harbour was our fault? Then this letter talked about our errors. Was it an error to withdraw from Dunkirk? Was it an error to send all the material to Russia and China? Do let us get a different spirit into the whole of the country. I agree that criticism is necessary, but do not let us be continually hammering at the men who are working night and day trying to solve this immense problem. I know that noble Lords who have spoken to-day have only one thing in mind, and that is to try and help. But in the Press every day, sometimes in leading articles, we see people continually hammering away at some suggestion that something else might have been done which would have helped the war effort. I believe that sort of criticism and that sort of activity do nothing to help. I believe that if we could get a new spirit of unity into the 844 whole country it would help the men who are running the war and the men who are fighting, and it would help the people working in the factories. I hope that as a result of this debate to-day, in which such eminent men have taken part, we shall see a better spirit throughout the whole country in order to help the war effort.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I shall detain you a very few minutes this afternoon. I have recently addressed your Lordships twice on this particular subject, and I have little to add to the remarks I made before. At the same time I should like warmly to support almost entirely the views expressed by my noble friends Lord Denman and Lord Swinton with regard to the appointing of a head to this Chiefs of Staff organization. As the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, has said, a lot of the work in connexion with this Combined Staff has been done. The foundations have been laid—in fact, as we know, Lord Hankey himself did most of it. But as he himself has said this afternoon, everything lends itself to modification, addition, and subtraction as experience necessitates. Surely it is clear that there is this addition wanted—a head for the Chiefs of Staff. There have been suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Denman, in moving the Motion that a Joint Technical Staff should be part of the Combined Staff. I am one of those who warmly supported that proposal in the past, and still warmly support it, but I suggest that what is wanted now is a Chief of the Combined Staffs. Let him make the additions and modifications that are necessary to all organizations when a new man is put at the top.
There is one further point I must repeat. I want the House to remember that the three Services are on a different basis. That is more important than many of your Lordships probably think. The difference is, as I see it, that the Admiralty to-day acts as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, whereas the Air Ministry acts partly as Commander-in-Chief, while the War Office is no Commander-in-Chief at all. Your Lordships will agree that that is the broad outline of this organization. This must be remembered when talking of the Combined Staffs. It is one of the difficulties existing at the present moment which would be more easily overcome by a head if one is appointed.
845 I believe that the head should be a Service Chief. I, personally, believe that the three Service Chiefs would work together much more as a Combined Staff if he were a Service Chief, established as such and given, as Lord Louis Mount-batten has recently been given, rank in all three Services. I feel that if the Prime Minister chose a man—and there are many—who had seen service in this war, all three Services would support him. They would at once recognize their duty and support him with all the power at their command, and loyally work with him, whereas I feel, if he were a civilian, he would tend to become a political head even if he were not a Minister, and the Services would not feel they were a Combined Staff. They could not help getting the feeling that they had to represent their own Service point of view. Further, it would have the result, if they had a Service head, that they would become a Combined Staff instead of three Staffs combined under one head. There is a great deal, I suggest to the noble Viscount who will reply for the Government, in that distinction. I am perfectly certain that every Service man will agree that the War Cabinet: would still, under the Prime Minister, decide major policy—I use the word "decide" advisedly.
The duties of the head of this Combined Staff could not be better expressed than they were expressed by cur Prime Minister, when speaking in another place as long ago as 1919 in the debates on the Air Estimates. He was then Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air. His speech had reference then to the position of the Chief of the Air Staff with regard to the Under-Secretary of State and the Secretary of State, but I feel it has a very great bearing on this present question. I do not want in any way to misrepresent the passage which I shall read. I shall therefore only say that it must be considered as having a bearing—but a very great bearing—on this question which is somewhat similar. I shall now, if I may, quote from the speech made by the present Prime Minister on the Air Estimates in 1919.
The quotation I have selected is as follows:I have had very long experience. In fact, there is no one else who has the experience, in length or variety, which I have of the conduct of these Fighting Departments. You may say it has been a varied experience, but I have been learning all the time, and 846 the view I take is this: that the initiative in Service matters must, in the main, come, and as a general rule comes, from the professional head. He plans, he outlines, he proposes. The Minister examines, criticizes, suggests, discusses with his Board or Council, and finally approves. That is the right way. It really is the only way to carry out a military policy. It is not possible for the initiative in such matters to come from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, and it would not be fair to the professional head of a Department, nor would it be wise, nor would it work in practice. Just as I think that the initiative should, in the main, come, in the case of air policy from the Chief of the Air Staff, in the case of the Army from the Chief of the General Staff, and in the case of the Navy from the First Sea Lord, so in the three Services together I hope that the initiative for joint action will come from the three heads sitting together, and that as a result of those conferences which have taken place, proposals will emerge which will lead to the creation of that Joint Imperial Defence Staff which at the present time is so indispensable from every point of view.I agreed with those words when he used them. I still agree, and I take my stand on the Prime Minister's views.
§ LORD MILNE
My Lords, I intervene in this debate because no Army Officer has, as yet, expressed any opinion on this subject and because, in something like sixty years' service, I have had a great deal of experience on the Staff of His Majesty's Army and have myself sat as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in succession to the noble Viscount who has just spoken. To save your Lordships' time, I am going to say at once that I agree entirely with almost every word that has fallen from the lips of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, this afternoon. I do not intend to add anything to what he has said except to stress one or two points which ought to be attended to and which may help, and not criticize anything that the Staffs are doing.
It has been suggested that what is called a Great General Staff should be formed. I would remind your Lordships that the German Great General Staff is a separate entity altogether. It is the result of a hundred years' work, and if your Lordships have read the letter by Sir Edward Grigg in the newspapers this morning, you will realize that it is a Staff which must serve under a Dictator. In this war and the last it is something above everything else in the country. I dislike the name. I am perfectly certain that to build up a Staff which would carry out the duties that are at present carried out by the Great General Staff in Germany would be 847 absolutely impossible in war-time. Therefore, some form of combination of the three Staffs of the present Services seems to me the only solution. But, as has been pointed out by Professor Hill in the letter referred to this afternoon, a complete War Staff must contain other elements than those which exist only on a Staff composed of the three Fighting Services. That is what happens in the great General Staff of Germany at the present moment; it deals with many subjects with which we deal in this country by means of different Departments and even by different Ministries.
In my opinion, if we are to carry on this war with proper foresight, and if we are going to make use of all the technical means at our disposal to ensure an early victory, we must have a properly constituted War Staff wholly divorced from the every-day carrying on of the war. That Staff should consist of two branches—a Strategical or Planning Staff drawn from the three Services with its own independent head, and a Technical Staff drawn from technical departments and science departments, also with its own head watching over its duties. We already have the embryo of the Strategical Staff, but it is only an embryo, and, as I think Lord Hankey said, the embryo was formed in order to work up to something larger and more efficacious as time went on. But of what does the embryo consist? It consists of officers drawn from the three Staffs. Now these officers must be serving their own Services; they must be having an eye over their shoulders, watching their own Chief of the General Staff. To my mind they are not in a position to be independent thinkers as they are drawn and disposed at the present moment. Moreover—and I have taken the trouble to verify this—they are not concerned merely with thinking ahead. A lot of their time is taken up with the day-to-day work of carrying on the war. Looking at the ranks of the juniors—and I understand that the juniors are "old timers"—I am very doubtful whether they have been drawn from the students of the Imperial Defence College which was set up for this very purpose of training officers to serve in war-time on a Combined Staff of the three Services. They cannot be, for so many of them have junior rank that it is very unlikely they went through their college.
848 But whom is that Staff under? Who are the Directors of that Staff? The White Paper lays down that the Directors are three in number, drawn from the heads of the Planning Department of each of the three Services, and it states that the Directors of the Joint Training Staff spend their time between their own Ministries and the Joint Planning Centre. In other words, these Directors are charged with the double duty of carrying out day-today operations and at the same time spending time looking ahead for the purpose of far-seeing planning. I was rather disturbed to find that my noble friend Lord Hankey rather approved of that, or suggested at least there was something in that proposal. I feel that we are asking too much of one man if he is to direct the planning ahead and at the same time be directing operations. To my mind that is an absolutely impossible task.
What is really required, I think, is one Staff drawn from the three Services as they are here, but welded together with only one head, who should be the head of that Staff, and the duty of that Staff should be to think weeks and months ahead, possibly years ahead. I am certain it is the lack of that Staff that has led to many of the events of the last two years. I am positively certain that such a body, in spite of what is said in the White Paper, does not exist at the present moment. They have too many things to do; they are not really a Strategical Staff. The head of that organization must be one man—it does not matter from which Service that man is drawn—one man drawn from the Imperial Defence College, but one man and not three representatives from three separate Services. But, as has been stated, I have no doubt in my mind that the supreme authority of that Staff should be the Chiefs of Staff Committee in its corporate capacity.
This whole question was argued and discussed twenty years ago. The noble Marquess will remember what was known as the Salisbury Report. It went very carefully into the whole question, but the Salisbury Report, unfortunately, was never fully implemented. That Report laid down that there should be a permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. What happened? I have been Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Chief of the Staff of a 849 Service is a very busy man indeed. It is bad enough for him in peace-time, but to my mind it is quite impossible in wartime for him to carry out the duties of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Those duties were very accurately put before your Lordships by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and I need not repeat them. One man can scarcely do it in peace-time. It was possible in peacetime because we all had the advantages of Lord Hankey as Secretary of the Imperial Defence Committee. Without his assistance, I say quite frankly, not one of us could have carried on. But in wartime, for a man to duplicate the duties of the head of a Service and Chief of the Committee which is advising the Prime Minister on the necessities and requirements of a war which stretches round the whole globe, is to my mind absolutely impossible.
What has happened, I think Lord Hankey will agree, was bound to happen. The Director of the Secretariat of the Chiefs of the Staff has become a member of the Chiefs of the Staff Committee. It was bound to happen. He had all the strings in his hands, he was gradually beginning to direct the Committee, and the result was he becomes a member and there was no secretary. A further complication, and to my mine a very serious complication, is that the secretary is the nominee of the Minister of Defence. It is a very serious matter. The Minister of Defence, whether present or absent, is now represented on the Chiefs of Staff Committee by a nominee. I ask your Lordships, as men of the world, who is the most powerful man on that Committee? It must be one man, and one man only, the man who represents the Minister of Defence. It almost seems as if a Judge in Court was represented by counsel. What is required in the Ministry of Defence is a judge of the proposals put up to him and not a representative of the Committee to bring his views and put them before the lowest grade of a Staff to be examined. That is what is the trouble at the present moment. Instead of the junior Staff working out the details to be examined by the Chiefs of Staff and then. going up to a higher authority, time is being taken up with plans put down to them to be considered. That is how time is being wasted. I fail to see how this scheme will work. I go back a good many years, and when I think of 850 the days when the late Earl Beatty, Viscount Trenchard and myself were on the Committee with Lord Hankey as Secretary, I do not think it would have worked at all. I think that is a very great danger.
As I have already stated, I think there ought to be one man as Chief of the Combined Staff, and I now come to the question of a permanent Chairman. I am all in favour of a permanent Chairman. I am not going to take up your Lordships' time by repeating the qualifications needed by that Chairman. They have been detailed time after time. I do not care whether he is a professional or a civilian, so long as he is the best man available. The one essential is that he should be the best man available for the position. If he is a civilian he must have no political bias whatsoever. But supposing he is a Service man. I should just like to quote to your Lordships qualifications mentioned in a letter to the newspapers. In that letter it was said that he should be a brilliant officer with a three-Service mind and with the complete confidence of the three Services. Where will you find him? A brilliant officer! Remember that the brilliant leaders are not the great strategists. You will find that a great strategist is not usually a very brilliant and well-known officer. He will be hidden away somewhere and he will be very difficult to find. For that reason, not being a brilliant or well-known officer, will he command the confidence of the three Services? May I remind your Lordships that if Napoleon had been a candidate for this appointment he would have been turned down. He was a one-Service man, and he was the greatest leader the world ever saw.
In sixty years' service I am bound to say I have never come across that officer. No doubt he exists somewhere, but I cannot help feeling that every officer is biased in his own Service and is rightly biased. It is only natural. He has spent his whole life there. Therefore I regret that I am not in a position to agree that this appointment should go to a Service man. If you could get the right man it might be better, but it is going to be very difficult. But you do not want a man who is knowledgeable in strategy. People talk about learning strategy as if it were some occult study.
851 You want a common sense Chairman, a man who can weigh arguments and come to decisions, and who has the capacity of putting those decisions up to His Majesty's Government. That is the man you want, and that is the man who has been so ably suggested in the last paragraph of Viscount Swinton's letter. I feel that all this would have been quite unnecessary if, twenty years ago, the Government had implemented the Report of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury.
There is another side to this matter which I feel has not received the attention that it requires. I speak chiefly for my own Service and I refer to the technical side, to research and science and development. The White Paper gives the composition of a Joint War Production Staff with technical officers drawn from—I call special attention to the next words—the Supply Services. You will notice they are not drawn from the Fighting Services. There is to be nobody with technical expert education on this War Production Staff drawn from the Fighting Services. Personally I do not suppose there is one officer on the General Staff at the present moment who has had a technical education in a technical school. The whole of the officers with a technical education in the Army who used to serve under the Master-General of Ordnance have been passed over to the Ministry of Supply, and it means that in the War Office to-day there is nobody with a technical education who can discuss such matters and help in forming the views of the General Staff.
In fact, there is nobody in the War Office, to use a familiar term, who can make a blue print of what is wanted to meet the requirements of the General Staff. There is not a single man on the Army Council who can link the requirements and developments of the Army Council with the supply developments of the Supply Ministry. I agree that it was quite sound and essential to take the whole of the Supply Technical Services out of the hands of the Army, and pass them to the Ministry of Supply; but it was most unsound to deprive the War Office of all the technical advice they could possibly get when the whole of this war is a technical material war. It seems to me to be not merely unsound but absolute madness. I would appeal to His Majesty's Government to reconsider that 852 decision and to reappoint the Master-General of Ordnance to the work that he did so excellently when mechanization was first thought of.
But on the whole plane of research at the present moment there is not any Staff. No Staff exists to consider research—and I use the word "research" in a broad sense as applying to science and various other subjects—on the same sphere as strategy. We have a Strategical Staff but there is no Technical Staff with a technical head, and a Staff of that kind is required to link together the experience and requirements of the War Office with the activity and possibilities of the Ministry of Supply. I strongly recommend the formation of a Joint Technical Staff with a full-time head to keep the War Staff on the one hand and the Production Staff on the other hand informed of the requirements of the one and the possibilities of the other. I am certain that once that is formed—it might not be a Staff but a Committee—with a head, and a permanent head, to the Chiefs of Staff Committee and a permanent head to the Technical Staff Committee, working under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence, the requirements of the war will be worked out infinitely more efficiently than they are being at the present moment.
The principles of strategy are unchangeable, but the factors governing tactics have totally changed in all three Services within the last three years. It is this change in tactics which necessitates a change in the methods of applying the principles of strategy—not a change in the principles of strategy but a change in the method of applying those principles. I am certain that the greatest necessity at the present moment is a scheme for linking together our great advantages in technical science and our requirements in military strategy in order that we may reach an early and successful conclusion of this war.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
My Lords, I do not wish to detain you for more than a very short time. In fact, I hesitate to speak on this subject at all, not because I have been so long connected with it that I hesitate to suggest that it can be improved, but rather because I know so little about it. I know so little, since I left Whitehall two years ago, as to what has happened, to what extent the 853 machine has failed, that I do not feel justified in either expressing strong criticism, of the machine or of suggesting possibly dangerous alterations in order to try to improve it. The initiation of the idea of a Great General Staff which the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, put forward some time ago, gave me the impression at first that we wanted to have a great machine run by the Services which was going to dominate our strategy and ensure that no more bad decisions were made, that there should be no more hesitation, no more of the unforeseeing, badly-informed advice which led to hurried improvisations and to being always too late. When the debate on a Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, not long ago raised certain important questions, this matter was again spoken upon by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, Lord Hankey and others. I did not speak on the subject; I preferred to listen, because I felt that I really know so little about it, and to see whether I could really form some serious conclusions from what was said. I am sure that the debate to-day has been most useful and valuable, and the subject has been most carefully analysed in all directions. But when I come to ask myself what we have got out of it, it seems to me that it boils down to the fact that there shall be a different Chairman to the present machine.
That is, of course, quite different from the conception of a Great General Staff as originally put forward, as it appeared to me, and, I dare say, to other members of your Lordships' House. That conception seemed something like the German Great General Staff or the Japanese Great General Staff which run the war for their respective countries. In Japan the war is conducted, not by civilians but by Generals, Admirals and Air-Marshals, and therefore, quite rightly, the Staff can be termed a Great General Staff. But we do not do things like that in this country. Here the war is run by civil control, accepted as such, and the military machine is not an executive machine but an advisory machine. The difficulties we have are in reconciling the military advice and the civil decisions. When, therefore, you come to consider whether you should have as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Prime Minister as at present, or another Minister as his deputy, or a non-political civilian, or 854 whether you should have a soldier, or a sailor, or an airman, the main question which stands out is whether he will be able to give to the Cabinet, who have to make the final decision, a better explanation of military thought, with more power and with more strength behind him, than can be given if one of the Chiefs of Staff acts as their Chairman and represents them before the Cabinet. I think that that is a very difficult question to decide.
Three months ago I suggested with some temerity in your Lordships' House that it was wrong for the Prime Minister to be Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and that, if the Chiefs of Staff were to have a Chairman, it would be better that there should be another Minister for the purpose, who should be Minister of Defence and who was not Prime Minister. That caused some resentment. I then suggested that, if that could not be done, the power should be vested in the War Cabinet itself, who should in effect preside over the Chiefs of Staff machine. That would require whole-time service by people who were qualified by their studies and by their knowledge to deal with military matters, which is not the case at the present time with the War Cabinet.
The argument has started on this subject largely because of lack of faith in the Chiefs of Staff machine; but this, as the noble Lord, Lord Denman, said, has been somewhat modified since the White Paper was produced and the nature of that machine has been more clearly understood. A great deal has been made of the alleged lack of co-operation—it may be true; I do not know—between the Services and their leaders. I think that there is a great deal of danger in the loose use of the word "co-operation." The Chiefs of Staff do not have to co-operate or to make compromises in the same way as a board of directors in the City, all of whom have one common interest and who merely discuss whether the business shall be conducted in one way or another, the arguments turning mainly on personal considerations which are common to them all, so that eventually a compromise is reached. The Chiefs of Staff are not like that; they are the heads of three different Services, and in the work which they have to consider—operational, strategic or planning—they have all different responsibilities.
855 Let me give your Lordships an example. Let us suppose that the Army in Egypt require heavy reinforcements. Those reinforcements have to go by sea, and the Chiefs of Staff are told by the Cabinet to make a recommendation. When they discuss the matter, the Chief of the Naval Staff may say: "I am very short of ships. The Cabinet have decided that the Admiralty cannot have more than a certain number of transports. I therefore think that we had better send these reinforcements through the Mediterranean." The Chief of the Air Staff will perhaps say: "That is rather risky, in view of the bombing which our last convoy experienced in the Malta Channel." The Chief of the General Staff may very likely say: "I agree; I think that they should go round the Cape." There is nobody who can settle that question by saying definitely: "The right thing is to send them through the Mediterranean" or "The right thing is to send them round the Cape." The decision has probably to be made by the War Cabinet. If there was a Chairman present at the meeting of the Chiefs of Staff, I cannot imagine any such Chairman saying: "have heard the Admiralty's objection to going round the Cape, because they are short of ships and may meet the Japanese in the Indian Ocean. I have heard the argument of the Chief of the Air Staff that the Mediterranean is dangerous. My conclusion is that we should do so-and-so; let us go along to the War Cabinet, and I will explain to them that that is our combined decision." I cannot see that happening.
Take another case. Let us suppose that the Cabinet want to see a certain military operation take place, and that they have instructed the Chiefs of Staff to draw up a report on how it should be carried out. The Chiefs of Staff have had their Joint Planning Committee at work, and have obtained a long report from them, and probably a very cautious one—because planning committees usually see all the dangers, and even exaggerate them, in case they may be told later that they had not thought of this or that mishap. That report comes to the Chiefs of Staff, and, in the case of a combined operation, the Admiralty may say: "We can supply you with the ships; the Army can have all the transports that they require." On the 856 other hand, the Air Force may say: "We cannot give you more than a certain number of aircraft; we cannot possibly let you have all that you want." How are you going to get over that? The Air Staff may perhaps rightly say: "We cannot do it, because the Cabinet instructions under which we are working at the present time necessitate our using so many aircraft for a certain purpose, and we have not enough over for other purposes. We can do what you want only if the Cabinet decision is changed, and we reduce the bombing of France or Germany"—or whatever it may be—"in order to give you the necessary support." If there was a Chairman of that Chiefs of Staff Committee, he could not resolve that question, any more than the Chiefs of Staff themselves can resolve it.
They are three different people with three different minds and three different responsibilities. It may be quite right that they should differ, and it is not right to say that this leads to miserable compromises which do not win the war. When you have a three-fold task of that nature, either there must be a compromise or there must be some body to give an overruling decision. The only body which can do that is the War Cabinet, and so we come back to the fact that, in my view, it is on the War Cabinet that the responsibility lies. I cannot imagine that any failure which we have had during the last two years can have been due to the Chiefs of Staff; I cannot imagine that it is the advice of the Chiefs of Staff which has led to the misfortunes from which we have suffered. Unfortunately one does not know that. They may have been unjustly suspected of quarrelling, of compromising, of not agreeing, of needing a Chairman to knock their heads together; or it may have been that their advice was good and the fault has lain with those who did not take their advice.
Let us take the case of Hong Kong. At Hong Kong we lost a large number of men. The idea was originally to defend Hong Kong. Why? Because we thought Hong Kong would be reinforced, would be relieved. As long as there was the chance of the relief of Hong Kong it was right to hold it, supposing that you could hold it until the relief forces came. But when there was no chance of relieving Hong Kong, when we had not got the ships to send out to the Pacific, when we had not got the men or the transport to 857 send them out to the Pacific, was it right to hold Hong Kong, or should we have abandoned it and sent the troops to Singapore? Who would have given that decision? Would it have been the decision of the Chairman of the Great General Staff, or of the War Cabinet? Obviously it must have been a decision of the War Cabinet, and on the best advice we could get from the military machine.
The same thing applies to Singapore, as has been said so eloquently by many noble Lords this afternoon. When the Foreign Secretary felt that Japan was coming in, when France had collapsed, and the influence of the Japanese over Thailand was so great that it was bound to capitulate to all the Japanese demands, then was the time, not for the Chiefs of Staff to get busy, but for the War Cabinet to have said: "Here is a big situation cropping up. The Foreign Secretary is quite certain that in three or four months' time we shall be at war with Japan. We must prepare. Chiefs of Staff, get your machine working and make your preparations, economically and militarily, and give us your advice on what ought to be done now" I do not believe that situation would have been better resolved if there had been merely a Chairman of a Chiefs of Staff Committee. But having said that, for what it is worth, I do not say anything against having a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I think he might be some advantage, though I am very doubtful. He certainly would be unlikely to do any harm.
But I am very much concerned that nothing should be done to weaken that machine in giving military advice. You cannot get away from the fact that there are political Ministers in charge of the three Services, who are to some extent naturally concerned about the difficulties of their position. They are out of the machine, except that they are on the Defence Committee, but they are out of the normal machine; and if you have the Prime Minister coming in between them and their own Chiefs of Staff it makes their position exceedingly difficult. If you go and put another Chairman in charge of that Committee, if he is not a Service man there will be a great tendency to nobble him. Everybody will want to get hold of that Chairman and press his own views on him—the Ministers, the Cabinet and so on. I think he would 858 have a most difficult position. I dare say the man could be found to hold the position usefully, but I am not at all sure.
There have been some references this afternoon to a subject I know a good deal about, owing to my long Service in the Admiralty—namely, the technical side—and surprise was expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, that there was no reference in the White Paper to the Master-General of Ordnance. Of course, the White Paper deals with the Staff side, that is to say, the fighting side. The Master-General of Ordnance is the production chief; he is the same as the Controller of the Navy. He is an invaluable man. He ought to be there, and it is a tragedy that he is not there. But he is the production man; the Staff are the fighting Services who, having got the views of their fighting men, can say: "This is the weapon that we want. Produce it, Master-General of Ordnance, produce the machine, Controller of the Navy." The Controller of the Navy and the Master-General of Ordnance have nothing to do with the machine in that White Paper. They want their orders from the heads of the machine, who work their own staffs in close contact with the men who are fighting, and who can tell them what they want, whether they want their guns bigger or smaller.
Although I speak with great diffidence in view of the immense knowledge of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, because he has presided over scientific research for the last three years, I cannot see where scientific workers are going to come into this machine. As has been said, all the Services have their scientific machines. We know that in the last war the Germans used Steinitz, the great chess player, to help them in their strategy. I believe he was not at all a success. And I cannot see where the scientists are coming into the machine. It has not been explained to me. I hope noble Lords are clearer about it than I am, but I have not quite got the point, or how you can have any technical committee in this machine presided over by a separate Chairman who has to consider technical matters. Technical matters to my mind are outside the machine. The machine is a machine for the conduct of war, pure and simple—strategy, tactics, intelligence and so on, not technical matters, which must be outside.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, I shall not detain you long because most of the things I should have liked to say have been said far better by previous speakers who have had more experience than I have. I do not speak as one who has had an inner knowledge of the working of the machine. I have suffered under it for a long time and can talk from the other side. My intention is to confine my remarks to the White Paper. In general I would suggest that the diagram gives us a framework upon and around which much might be filled in, but of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Addison, pointed out, it all depends on how you clothe that framework. In one of Lord Haldane's books, he quotes the elder von Moltke as having said that he wished the General Staff building was two miles, instead of the one it actually was, from the War Office in Berlin, where matters of administration were dealt with. That of course was long before the value of two miles distance was nullified by the advent of telephone and motor car. I suggest, however, that in saying that he laid down the principle upon which a thinking and planning Staff should be formed: that is to say, completely divorced from questions of administration, and supply; and where this White Paper falls short seems to me to be where it departs from that principle.
I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, who deprecates any idea of any radical change at the present time. But there are certain screws that want tightening up. As the noble and gallant Field-Marshal pointed out, it is all right in the junior ranks. We are told they are a team who mess and sleep and think together. So far so good. If you go a little higher that principle is not carried out. We are told that the Joint Planning Committee is under the three Directors of Plans who "divide their time between their own Ministries and the Joint Planning Centre." Further we are told that" they have at their service the three Departmental Staffs of the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry." If we look higher still, we find the same divided allegiance in the case of the Chiefs of Staff who, as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton said, are overflowed by details which are sent up to the heads of the various Services. It is explained that in order to ease the dual task which devolves on the Chiefs of Staff of advising on defence 860 policy as a whole, and at the same time directing the work of their own individual Services, each Chief of Staff has a Vice-Chief to act as his mouthpiece. So that, while in the lower strata of the Joint Staff a considerable degree of separation exists between administration and Staff duties, in the higher ranks these duties seem to be inexplicably mixed. The remedy for this might well be the adoption of a suggestion made some years ago by the Chiefs of Staff Committee, that upon the outbreak of war the Sub-Committee which they formed should automatically go over en bloc to the organ of supreme control. It may be said that is being done, but I conclude from the White Paper it is only partially being done.
That raises the question whether it is really necessary that the functions of Chief of Staff and the executive head of a Fighting Service should be exercised by one man. Are the same qualities necessary, and, if so, do you find them often combined in one individual? During the last war, I believe I am right in saying, the First Sea Lord was not Chief of the Naval Staff. He exercised the functions of the First Sea Lord, and there was a Deputy First Sea Lord. That gave the First Sea Lord plenty of time to visit ships and establishments. In peace as well as in war it is a very great encouragement to men to see the head of their Service come round, and it gives a feeling of confidence if you can talk over various points with the head of your Service. I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, when I had the honour of Commanding the Fleet, visited us from time to time. It was always a pleasure to see him, and I always felt refreshed when he went away again. I think it might be better to allow the Chiefs of Staffs, with their Joint Staff; to concentrate entirely on the conduct of the war, and be concerned solely with studying, planning, and thinking ahead. None of these three things can be said to have been our strong suit during this war. They can then concentrate entirely on the advice they give to the Government. The three Service Ministries, under their own Ministers, each with its own Service Chief, should have plenty to do in administering their Departments in a war of this size, and attending to questions of discipline, supply, and everything else that has to go through them.
861 To turn for a moment to the question of the head of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, I myself do not think the time is ripe yet, even if it is desirable, for a military man to take that post. I would far rather see a Minister, a member of the War Cabinet, take the position. I do not think that the presence of Major-General Ismay or Prince Louis Mount-batten, valuable officers though they are—and, I have no doubt of the greatest assistance—ought to be necessary if the Chiefs of Staff Committee had more time for its important duties, and had its Joint Staff entirely under its control. I advocate that there should be a member of the War Cabinet as Chairman of the military body which advises on military matters so that we can be sure that, up to the very last moment before the final decision is taken, the military view is kept before those who have got to make the final decision. It does seem possible sometimes that military considerations may not receive the attention they deserve when they have to be considered in the final stages by those who are more habituated to deal with political considerations than they are with military subjects. We are told that the defeats in the Malay Peninsula and the loss of Singapore were due to the diversion of material to Russia instead of its going to where it was originally intended it should be sent. This would seem to be a case in which political expediency outweighed military considerations.
There is a well-known principle in war called, for shortness, "security." It has nothing to do with safety first or not taking risks, but it does mean that when you are preparing for some great effort you should take great care you do not leave yourself exposed at some weak spot where the enemy may attack you and bring the whole of your project down with a crash. I feel quite sure that the three distinguished officers who had to advise the Government on military matters did not overlook this question of security, and that they did lay down some irreducible minimum of men and material below which they did not think they could guarantee the safety of the Malay Peninsula or Singapore. It looks as if that irreducible minimum had been overlooked and the risk taken. I do not know; it looks like that. Certainly at home and abroad pressure for aid to 862 Russia was very great, and perhaps the Government found it necessary to implement the undertaking given by Lord Beaverbrook. It seems to me an open question now whether the common cause has benefited by this diversion of material to Russia which, at the same time, led to our being deprived of these positions and commodities the possession of which we have been told ensure our victory in the future.
I mention this matter because I should like to suggest there is now a danger of military considerations being lost sight of owing to pressure, from almost exactly the same quarters, for the formation of a "Second Front." That we can depend on the Government to initiate a Second Front when they feel ready to do so, I have no doubt, but I suggest that every support should be given to the Government to resist any pressure from outside people with no responsibility, until they feel we are ready in all respects. Nothing can be worse from a military point of view than to undertake action prematurely merely for the sake of "doing something." When we do attack—even if we have to wait a year—let it be with such a force that we can, once and for all, crush these evil powers against which we are now contending.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Denman, has raised a matter of the very first importance from the point of view of winning the war. All the speeches to which we have listened have certainly been on an extremely high level. I should like at once to make a general remark about the subject that has been raised. Whatever form of Staff is set up, it is not going to be of very great value unless you have the very best officers you can obtain serving on that Staff, and the best type of officer, the most valuable type of officer, is not going to serve on the Staff if he can help it unless he is assured that his professional prospects will not in any way suffer from such service. At the present moment a large number of naval officers are being brought in to serve at the Admiralty. Many of them are leaving the sea with great reluctance indeed because they all wish to be at sea in contact with the enemy; but what operates very strongly in their minds also is the feeling that service at the Admiralty, however hard a man may work, however valuable the 863 service he may render, does not stand him in such good stead in his professional career as service at sea. That is an unfortunate fact. As an instance one may sometimes find that the Director of a Division of the Staff—a Captain—whose services at the Admiralty are most valuable from the country's point of view, who, it is very desirable, should continue to serve at the Admiralty, is reluctant to do so and wishes to get to sea because the impression undoubtedly prevails that service at the Admiralty does not stand a man in such good stead. By continuing to serve as a Director on the Staff in wartime he feels he may jeopardize his chances of hoisting his flag at sea as Rear-Admiral. That is a matter of some importance.
I noticed with particular interest the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Denman, about science and engineering. It has always struck me as very remarkable that science is not represented on the Board of Admiralty or, at any rate, there is no scientist attached to the personal staff of the First Lord; and it is beyond comprehension why the engineering branch of the Navy, which is rendering such brilliant service at the present moment, has not long ago been given a seat on the Board. As regards science, there is only one remark I would make. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, was endorsing what was said on that subject, and spoke of the particular services a scientist can render in regard to statistics. I happen to think that a scientist is something more than a statistician. At the same time it is well known what services Lord Cherwell has rendered to the country by the statistical system he has introduced into the work he was called upon to do.
The debate this afternoon has mainly turned on the question of the machinery for conducting the war, and when things are wrong, as things have been going wrong, there is always a tendency to blame the machine rather than the man. I do not know that that is always wise. One may have a motor car which gives a great deal of trouble, and one is rather inclined to scrap it and buy another, but perhaps if one changes one's chauffeur one may find the car begins to go very well and will render quite good service. There is, however, this tendency to blame 864 the machine rather than the man. It was because of this tendency that a Minister of Defence was appointed in May, 1940, and that there is now talk of a Combined General Staff. I notice that Committees and Sub-Committees are constantly being appointed to consider this and that, as so constantly happens when the machine wears. In fact, the real causes of the failures are defective strategy, the men or man who inspire the strategy.
Our plans for victory, our hope for victory, must be based upon the restoration of our sea power and the resistance of the Russian Armies. If our Navy or our Mercantile Marine fall below a certain level, then the Allied cause collapses, so that it is inexcusable to risk heavy losses for inadequate or unobtainable objectives. This is an affair, not of the machine, but of the man who inspires and directs the machine. During the past months we have lost in the Pacific and in the Indian Oceans alone one of our very few modern battleships, one battle cruiser, one aircraft carrier, four cruisers and many destroyers. The Mercantile Marine also has obviously had most heavy losses, judging by the number of survivors of whom we have heard as being landed in ports of the Bay of Bengal. With what results have those losses been incurred? Very little damage to the enemy indeed, and we have to consider the reaction of those losses in other theatres of war. The Navy was very severely stretched already before these losses occurred, before indeed Japan entered the war, but now these losses have been incurred. Again, this is a matter of the man who directs the machine.
The reasons given by the Minister of Defence in another place for the loss of the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse" had a very mixed reception in another place. They certainly caused a great deal of discussion in the Navy. A skilful advocate can produce arguments for and against any action, but the test of the matter is the principles upon which the decisions are based. If there are no principles, if everything is done ad hoc, then there is no guidance, and you continue to drift along from one mistake to another. What were these strategical principles, what were the ideas underlying some of these events? Take the loss of the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse" for instance. The explanation given is that the main object in sending 865 those ships out was to deter Japan from entering the war. Why should the arrival of those ships at Singapore, which is 2,500 miles from Japan, deter Japan from entering the war? In 1914, when war was threatening, we moved forty such ships, but moving them did not deter Germany from going to war. At the same time, in August, 1914, Germany feared that Japan was going to enter the war against Her. Well compare the action taken in those similar circumstances by Germany and ourselves. Germany did not send battleships to Tsingtao because she feared japan might enter the war. On the contrary, she withdrew all her ships from Eastern waters except for a few raiders.
Then, again, we were told that if Japan entered the war, the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse" were expected to deter the movements of Japanese troops in the Gulf of Siam and on the Kraa Isthmus. Were they expected to do that in the face of the superior Japanese Fleet? In 1904 a very similar situation arose. There was a strong Russian naval force at Port Arthur, but although it was a very strong force, it was found that it could not stop the Japanese from landing on the Liaotung Peninsula which was only seventy miles away. If we examine this matter, in conjunction with the naval events of Java, we do not find that the machinery for conducting the war was wrong, but we find that the strategical ideas which have been defended by the Prime Minister involved fighting superior forces everywhere in turn. This presented Japan with an opportunity which she grasped very firmly, an opportunity of reducing our sea power without in any way injuring her invasion of Malaya and Java. In the last war and in this, we find Germany raiding sea communications. In doing so she has sunk a great many of our ships and has diverted our naval forces at very small cost to herself. Here is a. complete contrast in strategical ideas, with very glaringly different results. A similar action by us in our situation had we taken it, had we decided to use our naval forces for raiding the sea communications, would have inflicted great losses on the Japanese, would have delayed the invasion of Malaya, and would have prevented the operations of naval forces in the Indian Ocean.
Again, examine the strategical ideas involved in the question of the escape of 866 the German ships from Brest. Here, again, it is not a matter of the machine or the machinery which was at fault. It was a question of the strategical ideas. The Prime Minister stated that the escape of those ships had improved our position at sea, and I take it that the Germans tried to remove those ships in order to improve their position, so that we can mutually congratulate each other. According to the Prime Minister's statement, we had improved our position, but in fact the escape of those fast and powerful ships increases the threat to the British and American communications to Murmansk with supplies to Russia and also increases the threat to the Atlantic trade routes. Such excuses only confuse the issue. We find that our ships cannot approach the enemy coast without the gravest risk from air attack, but the "Scharnhorst," "Gneisenau" and "Prinz Eugen" and numerous escorting craft, not two or three ships as the matter was discussed by the Government spokesman—this very considerable squadron was able to steam for hours within close range of one of the most powerful bombing forces in the world.
Why does that happen? It happens, firstly, because our own bombing force is organized for independent attacks upon the industrial areas of Germany; and, secondly, because our bombers are relatively ineffective against such small targets as ships because they are designed for bombing from the horizontal plane, and that, of course, must be inaccurate. On the other hand, German bombers are designed to co-operate with the Navy and the Army, although of course they can be used independently. Germany and Japan, as we have found, reinforce their ships by dive bombers and shore-based torpedo planes which in given circumstances have been proved to be very much more effective than powerful battleships. Germany and Japan replace warships in narrow and coastal waters by dive bombers and shore-based torpedo planes which give them almost complete control of very important areas of the sea. The escape of these ships, then, can be traced, not to any fault in the machine for conducting the war, but to a faulty strategical conception—the very faulty strategical conception that we can achieve victory by bombing Germany which has influenced the development and the production of aircraft and weapons.
867 The wrong conception imposes upon our ships duties which would be far better and far more effectively performed by dive bombers and torpedo planes. The Navy and the Army have been deprived of their support through neglect of the correct strategical principle that all arms and weapons should be directed against the enemy fighting Forces. Questions of principle such as that ought to be decided by the War Cabinet. Has the Admiralty pressed that view or similar views upon the War Cabinet, or is it a matter which has been decided by the Minister of Defence? How were similar vital matters—for such a matter as that is vital—to the conduct of the war and the prospects of victory decided in the last war? In April, 1917, the War Cabinet overrode the Admiralty on the question of convoys. Mr. Lloyd George was like Abraham Lincoln. He did not claim any strategical ability, he did not claim any technical knowledge, but he weighed the evidence on differences of opinion, he listened to official and unofficial advice and he acted as the judge and not as the advocate of a particular course of action. He decided large questions of policy and he left the conduct of operations to the Admiralty and to the War Office. That was wise, because even if we agree that competent strategists are possibly rather difficult to find in the higher ranks of the Fighting Services, that is no reason for looking for them amongst civilian Ministers where they certainly will not be found.
This is very important because if the Prime Minister encroaches on the conduct of operations and makes a mess of them he is very difficult to remove without a change of Government, but no such difficulty arises about replacing a Chief of the Staff. As a matter of fact, between 1914 and 1918 we had no fewer than five First Sea Lords. But when the conduct of operations is not left to the Chiefs of Staff, when you have a situation which we see now from statements made in another place during this war, when in fact the Prime Minister has been pleading his own cause instead of acting as a judge of the reasons for failure, it is very different. If the Minister for Defence directs operations, the Chiefs of Staff are put in the position that failures indicate that their strategical judgment is bad or else that they defer to his judgment against their own opinion. No alteration in 868 machinery that we can institute will avail if the man who is directing the machine feeds the wrong ideas into it. That I think is the vital matter that we have to keep in our minds when discussing these matters. It is not an affair of machinery. It is an affair of the man who is directing the machine. We would do well to recollect the words of that great Admiral Lord St. Vincent: "Men, not machines."
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SIMON)
My Lords, before the close of this most interesting and instructive and important debate your Lordships will expect from a member of the Government something in the nature of a reply to the discussion. Let me say first how grateful we all feel to my noble friend Lord Denman for providing a further occasion for considering these all-important matters. His own speech was a model of moderation and clear statement and the speeches that have followed have made this a very notable occasion. What I have to say will be as brief as possible, especially having regard to the hour, and it will not be couched in any dogmatic terms. When so much expert authority is applied to the subject of military organization, even though in some respects very authoritative speakers do not entirely agree in their recommendations, then my present task must rather be that of comment, and and where it is called for, that of explanation, rather than any attempt to make a conclusive and definitive pronouncement.
Perhaps I may be allowed to remind your Lordships that at the end of February, just over two months ago now, when I had the duty of winding up the two days' debate on the war situation, I stated in considerable detail what is in fact the existing organization for purposes of strategy and planning. I think I stated it quite accurately, and I have been confirmed since by the kind acceptance of my description by my noble friends Viscount Swinton, Lord Hankey and others. I do not suppose my description at the end of the long debate made a very precise or permanent impression, and in all these matters "seeing is believing." Hence the value of the White Paper.
Now that one has got in the form of the White Paper, and more particularly in the form of the diagram at the end of the White Paper, a picture of what I was 869 trying to describe, what we are now discussing becomes more vivid and easier to deal with. I remember that my noble friend Lord Swinlon, in a later debate had got the impression that, in the course of my speech, to which he referred so kindly, I had claimed that nothing could be improved—it was all perfect. He is good enough to recognize, I know, that that was not the impression that I meant to create. But I added:Let us at least be sure that we give full credit to the system as it exists. It is not some hasty improvisation dictated by some volcanic genius: it has been the result of a vast amount of technical study, highly specialized consideration and work for many years.So far, my Lords, I think we may all feel some satisfaction. It would indeed be a most lamentable thing if we had found ourselves entering this terrible world-wide conflict without a machine that had been most carefully planned and thought out. There is no member of your Lordships' House, no citizen in the country, to whom we owe so much for the fact that this was so carefully planned and organized as to my noble friend Lord Hankey.
I am endeavouring, in a few words, to perform the function of "summing up" rather than the more dreadful and dangerous process of delivering the final "verdict," but I do wish to put, briefly, before your Lordships a few considerations which occur to me and which, I think, bear on what has been said. In the first place I would point out this. In the discussion of improved military organization the central feature of the proposals has tended to change from time to time. The final discussion is none the worse for that, but it is useful to observe the fact as we go. For example, there was a period when many of the best-informed critics concentrated on proposals for a Ministry of Defence, a single Ministry with a single political Minister at its head, under which Ministry the three Fighting Services would be fused into a single Department. There was, manifestly, a great deal that was attractive in that idea. But further reflection and, certainly, actual experience of the present war, have, I think, shown that that idea, at any rate in circumstances of world-wide war, is really not useful. I cannot imagine, having regard to the enormous inevitable complications in the administration of the three Services, how a single Minister could possibly sustain so vast a political burden. No single 870 Minister could effectively conduct so huge an organization, I should think, even in time of peace. It is not in that sort of forced unity, it is in the promotion of closer and more effective co-operation, that real improvement is to be found.
Then came a different suggestion, of which, again, we have heard little in this debate unless I may regard it as being implied in the observations of my noble friend Lord Winster. This was the proposition that the Prime Minister should not be the Minister of Defence, that he should not combine with his supreme office the post of Minister of Defence. The answer to that, I think, the quite conclusive answer, has already been given in this House in earlier debates. Viscount Swinton and others pointed out, and I in my turn pointed out, that that view is really based on a confusion. In the first place, in the hands of the Prime Minister what is called the office of Minister of Defence is not really a separate office at all. It is not an office with a separate portfolio, a separate seal, a separate patent or anything of that kind. It is really a description, and it is a recognition of the inescapable fact that the man, whoever he is, who in war is Prime Minister of this country must accept the responsibilities that attach to the discharge of the duties of defence as an essential part of his responsibilities. In the present circumstances it is the most important part of all his responsibilities. Whether it is Mr. Asquith, Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Chamberlain or the present Prime Minister, that proposition I believe to be inevitably true and inescapable.
Then there emerges a third line of criticism which has been expressed in some of the speeches made during our debates on this subject during the last few months. I have re-read them all. I think there are half a dozen of them, and it might be convenient to give the dates, in case anyone cares to look them up. On January 28, February 24, February 26, March 25, April 15, and April 22 different aspects of this great topic have been discussed with great power in your Lordships' House. In many of those speeches before the White Paper was published, the main argument was based on the conviction that there was not, in fact, close co-operation between the Services. More than one speech has been made by my noble friend Lord Addison to that 871 effect, and I think that, even to-day, he remains a doubter on that subject. Lord Denman, on the other hand, recognized, in his opening remarks, that the White Paper and the scheme there explained and set out went a very long way indeed to remove that misapprehension. I do not believe that those members of this House who have had, within recent years, the opportunity of knowing from the inside, in positions of great responsibility, the extent to which co-operation between the three Services had been developed, would deny that the White Paper is not merely a paper scheme: it does really and truly disclose the nature of the interaction and reciprocal support and help already going on between the Services in this most important branch of our administration.
Indeed, I did not quite understand what my noble friend Lord Addison meant when in another part of his speech he said, unless I am mistaken, that he thought the White Paper showed that things were "too complicated." You must make up your mind what you want. If you want, in anything so comprehensive as the carrying on of the strategy and tactics of a great war, really to get the three Services working closely together—because, as the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, said in a previous debate, although they are three Services they are all trying to do the same thing and win the war—then you must accept, as I think that the skilled designers of this scheme have done, a certain amount of necessary complication; and the main suggestion made today is not to cut out anything, but is a proposal to add something more.
I hope that the effect of this White Paper, and of its examination by your Lordships and by the other House and by serious publicists throughout the country, has been to do a great deal to kill the myth—for I believe that it is a myth—that there is squabbling and quarrelling and failure to pull together on the part of the three Services. I do not believe for one moment that that is true; it would be most disastrous if it was true. What has really happened, I venture to think, is this—and it is very explicable, natural, and, I think I would say, inevitable. When things go wrong—and some things have gone very wrong—it is not unnatural even for the wisest and the most public-spirited citizens, if they are unacquainted 872 with the organization from the inside, to think that they should put the blame upon the organization.
We can all recall instances, in this tremendous history of our country's efforts in the last year or two, when bad news has provoked that query in our own minds. But it is not necessarily a just deduction. If I may presume for a moment to take a trifling illustration, I would say that if a man who is playing golf finds that his putts do not go down, he is very much inclined to blame the coordination of his muscles; and, if he is a good golfer and a firm-minded man, like my noble friend Lord Winster, even to suggest that he had better change his putter. I am not so sure. I think that the explanations which have been given to both Houses as to our actual co-ordination, and especially this publication of the White Paper, have gone very far to remove a false impression. The disappointment remains; the anxiety remains; but the easy resource of blaming it on to imperfect organization is, I venture to think, of very doubtful validity.
Then we come to a fourth suggestion, which is far from being as yet abandoned. It is that what we want is a "Great General Staff." I know very well that when that expression is used by some distinguished critics they are not really seeking to upset the principles of our organization or of our government, but they are impressed by the fact that what is called the Great General Staff in Germany seems to achieve wonderful results, and perhaps they think, therefore, that something of the same sort may be wanted here. Your Lordships have heard how that matter was dealt with both by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, Lord Milne, and also—and, if I may presume to say so, most powerfully and effectively—by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield. The truth is that while it is true that we should learn even from the enemy—that is good classical doctrine; Fas est et ab hoste doceri—at the same time, the contrasts between the conditions under which the Great General Staff of Germany operates and any possible conditions in this country are absolutely fundamental. I shall mention only two differences, and I do so more especially because in a letter written to The Times this morning by Sir Edward Grigg, he devotes a large part of his space to calling 873 attention to the methods of organization adopted in Germany.
First of all, in the German war machine, the position of the Army is overwhelmingly predominant. The other Services have their functions, and from time to time their great importance, but the whole conception of the Great General Staff of Germany is that it is in the stricter sense a military organization. From time to time it hands to subordinate commanders certain other duties, but that is all. But there is, of course, a second and still more significant distinction, and this is to be found in the comment made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Milne. Apart from Hitler, there is in Germany no political Minister of comparable authority to that exercised by the members of our War Cabinet. The contrast is between a military dictatorship in which Hitler is the Dictator—a most powerful and remorseless system—and a Cabinet and Parliamentary system. I do not think that we shall be able to reproduce the Great General Staff of Germany unless we make very fundamental changes, which we certainly do not intend ever to make, in our own political organization. I am by no means convinced that in the long run military dictatorship will prove to be the more efficient instrument of victory. In any case, the two conditions are far apart, and I venture respectfully to suggest to your Lordships that not much is to be obtained by seeking to produce here an imitation of the German methods.
Therefore, as Lord Chatfield has said—and I adopt his expression—the debate to-day boils down to the question—an important question, no doubt, but much more limited than many which I have mentioned—of whether there should be someone, at present unnamed and un-selected, of course, who should take the part of Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. What has been said by Lord Chatfield, and the illustrations which he gave, appear to me to have a very profound and close bearing on that question. Let me first mention a difficulty which I myself feel. I was frankly surprised to hear from two such distinguished authorities as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, that they thought it was possible that such a person should not be a professional. I think that neither of them expressed a very strong preference one way or the other. The noble and gallant Earl, Lord 874 Cork and Orrery, went even further, and said that he would like the Chairman to be a Minister of the Crown. On the other hand, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and I think others, expressed a very strong view that, if this was going to be done, the Chairman must be a professional. I must say that for my own part I cannot see how there could be anyone in the chair but a Service Chief.
After all, suppose that such a post was occupied by a civilian. What would his position be from the point of view of responsibility? Nobody ought to hold a high position of duty without having attached to it very definite responsibilities. Of course, if your civilian is a political Minister then he is responsible. He is responsible to his colleagues, he is responsible to Parliament, he is responsible to the public; he may be challenged and have to defend himself, he may resign, or may be kicked out. But if you are going to have a civilian who is not a Minister then what is going to be the nature of his responsibility? It seems to me it is hardly possible to imagine in that position a man who would be neither politically nor technically responsible. Indeed, I conceive one of the fundamental rules of a good military organization to be that as far as possible those who offer advice and urge a course of action should feel that they would not escape the responsibility which is theirs if the advice were accepted and had to be carried out. I therefore submit to the House, though it is an interesting point and not perhaps a very easy one, that if something of the kind was done the man would really have to be drawn from one or other of the Services.
But now assuming that the right individual is available, there are some other considerations, as it appears to me, which have to be weighed. There is an under-current in this debate—I think it came most nearly to the surface in the last speech—an under-current which brings this proposal forward partly at least from a desire that political and Ministerial influence shall not impinge upon professional work or strategical planning till a later stage. I have spoken more boldly than some of your Lordships, but I think I have correctly stated the nature of this under-current. I am not convinced myself, from such study as I have been able to make of the subject 875 —and of course I speak purely as an amateur, though a very interested one—I am not convinced myself that it is necessarily an advantage to postpone political considerations in these matters too long. Political considerations may be of overwhelming importance in arriving at a decision which may seem on one view to be purely strategical.
I am not giving any actual example but illustrations will occur to any of us. The advice given by the Foreign Office as to what would be wise, having regard to our relations to the United States, or to Russia, obviously has a most intimate connexion with problems of that sort, and I am not sure that it is an advantage that those, which very often must be overriding considerations, should be kept out of the field too long. In a democratic country—take the case of the United States though of course in some respects its Constitution is very different from ours—in a democratic country like that it appears to me to be inevitable that the President of the United States, not merely as the technical head of the Armed Forces of the United States but as the great political leader speaking for the whole country, should have a very close connexion with the ultimate decision or recommendation on strategical questions.
There is a further difficulty which has not been mentioned, I think, in the debate, but I know is in the minds of some who have studied this subject closely. I think I have heard the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, refer to it on other occasions. If I am right in thinking that this Chairman must be a man from the Services and if he is to perform his function as suggested, is he to do it single-handed or is he to have a staff of his own? Is he merely the filter, no doubt the wise companion and reconciler, who sits in the chair and studies the material at meetings of the Chiefs of the Staffs? It appears to me to be quite contrary to all sound principle that this Super-Chief of Staff should have a staff of his own. If he has, it means that his view, guided or illuminated by his own staff, which he therefore puts forward, is divorced from responsibility. One of the most valuable features as I conceive of the Chiefs of Staff organization—that organization which has counted among its Chairmen the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord 876 Trenchard, the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, Lord Milne, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield—one of the most valuable features of it is (though I agree it must be very hard work), that the recommendations and proposals of the Chiefs of Staff Committee as at present constituted put forward to the Cabinet are proposals which, if they are accepted, have got to be carried out by those Services of which they are the heads, and I do not believe it to be a sound principle that advice should be divorced from responsibility.
Indeed, some of your Lordships may recall that that was the cause of the failure of the scheme as at first drawn up for permanent military advisers at Versailles. It was just because the Super-War-Cabinet at Versailles was receiving advice from its own permanent advisers while those permanent advisers had no responsibility for seeing that advice carried out, that it became necessary in the end to change the system and secure that those technicians who advised Versailles should be the representatives and the spokesmen of those who really were responsible for the action of the Allied Forces. I remember to have read or heard that Field-Marshal Sir William Robertson, being faced with a proposal which he did not think a very wise one, observed: "I could find a hundred ways of winning the war if I hadn't the responsibility for carrying them out." Close connexion between advice and execution is an extremely important consideration. I hope I am not expressing myself too dogmatically, but it appeared to me it might be useful and possibly interesting to your Lordships if I indicated some of those considerations which I know have been much weighed and which certainly do form some part of the problems.
Here is another matter which was referred to by one of your Lordships in the debate. I think very careful consideration would have to be given to the position of the three Service Ministers. Each of them is in a position of very high responsibility, not only to his own Service, not only to the Government, but to the King and to the country. Indeed, this responsibility is actually laid down in terms by the patent. Each is in special contact with his own Chief of Staff. Let us suppose that a matter arises in which the Chiefs of Staff do not agree. What I 877 am suggesting is purely imaginary—I have no case in my mind. But let us suppose there is a joint operation approved by the Army and approved by the Air Force authorities but considered perhaps too risky by the Navy. The War Cabinet has to decide and in such a case you may expect that the three Service Ministers, with it may be different views, have to put them forward. It appears to me to be a matter of the greatest importance that their power and authority should be fully maintained.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My noble friend says they are not members of the War Cabinet, but in such a case they would be invariably summoned. No one would dream of settling a matter of important controversy between the Services without the opportunity of the Chiefs of the Services being present. I have no doubt the Leader of the House will confirm from his own experience as to that. Is not there a danger that that authority may be weakened, and the view of one branch of the Services not be given full weight, when the other view is not only pressed by the majority of the Chiefs of Staff but is countersigned by the new Chairman—very likely to be a soldier— who, having formed that view, naturally would do his best to press it forward? I am not saying that these, or other considerations I have mentioned, are conclusive or final, but I do say that, it now being clear that our existing organization is in fact very different from what many critics had supposed, and in fact does represent a working organization which is a co-ordination of all the Services, living and working together as one, a pretty strong burden rests on those who say, none the less, "I know the solution to victory. It is to be achieved by making this change." It ought to be first demonstrated beyond all question to be the answer to the problem.
The last observation I wish to make is this. Really and truly we are discussing these things in general terms—in a vacuum, as it were—without reference to individuals or personalities, but we must remember that an organization is good, not because it is what somebody in this debate called "perfect," but because it is the one best suited to those who are 878 engaged in working it. Organizations are made for men, and we have to take advantage of the great qualities of the men who serve us. Even theoretic perfection will not procure improved results unless the right individuals are available to work it and unless it suits the genius of the man in final charge.
Before I sit down I must reply to the specific question put to me by my noble friend Lord Swinton, who pointed out, as indeed did others, that this White Paper and the diagram contained in it, appeared to make no provision for the organization of scientific advice. With great respect, the comment—it is a very important comment—is made under a little misapprehension, perhaps due to the rather broad title given to the piece of paper. This White Paper is intended to describe only the strategical planning machine in the strict and limited sense. It is not designed to include the very elaborate, and I believe very complete, organization that exists for bringing in both scientific and economic advisers. As your Lordships know, my noble friend Lord Hankey, up to very recently was himself Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee which reports to the Lord President of the Council. The explanation is, therefore, not that there is a gap in our organization, but that this document does not profess to give an account of these matters, but is addressed to immediate strategical and tactical study and advice in the way that Lord Chatfield explained.
I have said all I need say in finishing the debate, and I am sorry to have detained your Lordships. Let me to this extent endeavour to follow the tone of Lord Hankey who ended with a firm and cheerful conclusion. While we criticize and endeavour to improve—and I do not for one single moment deny the possibility of improvement—let us be sure that we really approach this whole matter from a just point of view. There has been continuous and most substantial progress in our military organization. A great deal is due, I believe, to the influence of the Imperial Defence College, which has put out so many distinguished officers who really have an understanding of, and to some extent contact with, all three Services. This common doctrine of the interdependence of the three Services is everywhere understood, and I think it is everywhere practised.
879 While it may be that much discussion will go on—much fruitful and useful discussion—as to what further improvement can be made, let us realize that a good many suggestions have been made not so long ago, with an air of great authority behind them, which we should have been sorry to have seen adopted. Since there is nothing, as Lord Swinton said, in all our minds but the single purpose of finding the best practical machine for winning the war, let us give adequate consideration and attention to this organization which has been so carefully and elaborately pieced together. Do not let us shut our minds to prudent improvement, but do not let us be too sure that in such changes there may not lurk some dangers and some new difficulties which would only show themselves after the suggested change was made. I conclude by saying again how grateful I think we all ought to be to my noble friend Lord Denman for introducing this most important subject to our attention to-day.
My Lords, we must all be grateful to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for the trouble he has taken and for making a full reply to the debate. I was a little bit disappointed with what my noble friend said in the last part of his speech regarding scientists and experts, but I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.