HL Deb 29 September 1942 vol 124 cc368-410

LORD MOTTISTONE rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether, in view of the present war situation, they will arrange immediately for the training to arms of the whole male population on the lines successfully adopted by the Royal Air Force for the protection of their establishments, while at the same time making it plain that all citizens so trained, or training, shall receive appropriate compensation in the event of death, wounds or injury, sustained in conflict with the enemy; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must first explain to your Lordships the reason why the Motion which I have the privilege to move in your Lordships' House appears in an amended form, with an addition. As you will remember, I originally put it on the Paper many weeks ago: To ask His Majesty's Government whether, in view of the present war situation, they will arrange for the training to arms of the whole male population. I have now added: on the lines successfully adopted by the Royal Air Force for the protection of their establishments, while at the same time making it plain that all citizens 50 trained, or training, shall receive appropriate compensation in the event of death, wounds or injury, sustained in conflict with the enemy. The reason for this addition is that I discussed the whole matter with the Lord Chancellor some days ago, and explained to him the lines on which I proposed to speak, mentioning the suggestions I would make, and then there came a suggestion from another source that this debate should be held in Secret Session. It seemed desirable that I should make it quite plain that nothing that would be said, so far as I was concerned as the mover of the Motion, had any degree of secrecy in it. I therefore consulted the Leader of the House, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and we agreed that it was well to phrase the Motion in such a way that in no circumstances could it be thought that we should be infringing the rule of secrecy that necessarily surrounds any confidential matter of this kind.

In moving the Motion, with the addition indicated, I would say that we have to approach it in quite a new spirit, compared with similar Motions in the past. Then it was complained that universal training would imbue people with a military spirit, and therefore it was to be deprecated. Of course, all that has gone by the board now: everybody wants to encourage the military spirit to the utmost until we have defeated the enemy. There was also the suggestion that training the people to arms now in war-time would involve considerations of the availability of the number of arms, but on the lines of the Motion I have suggested that question does not arise, because clearly there are more than enough arms to train the population to arms on the methods so successfully adopted by the Royal Air Force. Indeed, there are many other directions in which now, in the form in which I shall endeavour to put the case to your Lord- ships, the criticisms of the obvious duty of every citizen to know how to defend himself fall to the ground; and, if I may, I would plead respectfully for an open mind on this question until I have unfolded my case. I do so not only on my own behalf but on behalf of many noble friends of mine—the noble Earl, Earl Glasgow, especially, who has long urged that this is overdue—the noble Earl, Lord Cork, and many other members of the Home Guard and members of your Lordships' House.

The case is this. First let us get rid, if we can, of matters which are not in controversy. Is invasion impending, and to be guarded against? The answer is clearly, "Yes, the Government have said so." They have said so most emphatically in the last few weeks or days. They have said—I quote their words—it would be "criminal folly" to disregard the danger; and Mr. Morrison only the day before yesterday, as reported in The Times, said that while he hoped that civil defence would be helped by the Home Guard it must not be forgotten that though invasion was not so imminent, still it had to be guarded against. In passing, I may say that of course we must accept the view so as to get rid of any question of controversy between the training of the civilian population and the civilian services. Of course, they are all one in this matter. It is clear, as Mr. Morrison says, that the Home Guard must help the Civil Defence Services. In the same way, of course, the Civil Defence Services must themselves be trained to arms if they possibly can be, because it is as important to be able to defeat the enemy when you are summoned to do so as it is to save your house from being burnt down.

So far we can go together. As to the duty of the civilian to assist in repelling invasion, which we have agreed is a thing to be guarded against, and "criminal folly" not to guard against, that is outside the realm of controversy. I turn to the robust words of the Lord Chancellor now embodied in print—I have them here—saying that every citizen must, in the appropriate circumstances, use his utmost endeavours to overcome the enemy. On that grim day when all are under the orders of the military, when the enemy is at the gate, to quote the words, he must obey every order, however exacting, which of course includes, as has been stated here, shooting back at the enemy when he shoots at you. So there is no doubt, therefore, that invasion has to be guarded against and that every man—I put in the word "male" here—is bound to assist in overcoming the enemy. So far we go together, and I would express the hope that we shall not waste time debating these two points.

Now comes the question, What do you do next? You have told the civilian—although he has not heard it quite so clearly as he should have done, as I shall presently show—that it is the unanimous decision of the Government and Parliament that every man is bound to take the action I have described. What is the next thing to be done? Clearly the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, comes into his own. Again and again he has urged in this House that every man must be trained to arms. Clearly now, in fairness, we must do that. I have thought of four points in support of Lord Glasgow's thesis, which I hope will now be the thesis of all fair-minded men. We are bound, if we can, to teach every man the use of arms. First of all, in fairness to our Allies. There can be no doubt—I challenge denial—that if this were done it would free many men for service elsewhere by adding to the defensive strength of the country. I shall come in a moment to the question of whether a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but I would say, in passing, that in this case, as in the case of swimming, while a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, no knowledge at all is far more dangerous.

In justice to our Allies, it must be conceded, we ought to do the thing if we can. Since I last addressed your Lordships, I have had some conferences with men of high standing in Russia. They have said to me, "if you can assure us that you have trained every one of your male citizens to arms, it will be of immense comfort to our people." There will be no contradiction of that. It will be of immense comfort to the Russian people, the Russian Army, and the Russian rulers. They go further. When one of them looked at the document now superseded—and I hope as the result of this debate it will be announced it has been finally withdrawn—and read the words that every civilian should stay in his shelter till the battle was over, he said to me, "if that had been our instructions to the Russian people, the Germans would have been in Moscow or Leningrad within a few weeks." When I said to him, "I am hoping that it will be decided to train all the people to arms," the same high authority said, "then I speak on behalf of all my people when I say that such a decision would be worth, not one Army Corps, but many Army Corps to our Russian cause." I commend that to your Lordships. It will not be denied by any single Russian authority. In fairness to our Allies I commend this policy.

I also put it forward in fairness to the Home Guard and to the Army who will repel an invasion, the danger of which it would be "criminal" to neglect. If you free the mind of all previous thoughts on this subject, you must recognize that it is almost lunacy to tell the people they have got to go to the assistance of the Home Guard or the military in digging a slit trench, without training them to arms. Throughout my short speech, I shall only quote from official documents, and digging a slit trench is one of the things laid down. Civilians are bound to go to the assistance of the military in digging a slit trench to protect a village or a strong point. Of course you only dig that because the enemy is approaching; he approaches, he shoots, some people are hit. Bill Smith, the civilian, has been hailed to come along and help—it is his bounden duty to do so. Suppose he is weapon-worthy, as some call it, trained to arms, as all are in the Air Force, he can snatch up a rifle from the man next to him who has been killed. There are one or two of us in this House who have had to do that very thing in actual war. It always happens. There is no shortage of weapons when the shooting begins. Our frail bodies are so much more vulnerable than the rifles we use. Bill Smith may snatch up a rifle, aim it, and succeed in overcoming the enemy. If it comes to a Mills bomb, he knows how to pull out the pin and throw the bomb at the right moment. But suppose he does not. He puts down the rifle or the Sten gun, or whatever it is, with the safety catch off, lays it down on the parapet, and off it goes the next time it is moved. Still more disastrous, he snatches up a Mills bomb, pulls out the pin, then, not seeing anybody to throw it at, drops it in the trench and—one, two, three, four, bang! Is that what sensible people will do? Of course they will not. We are bound in honour to all civilians, since the Lord Chancellor has proclaimed their duty, to give them a chance to serve their country without killing their fellow-citizens.

So much for the justice of those who support the civilian. Now in justice to the man himself I do commend to your Lordships the fact that we are bound to teach him not only how to defend himself but how to attack the enemy. One prominent man whom I saw yesterday, differing from Lord Nuffield, whom I shall presently quote, said the important thing is to teach people how to protect themselves against gas, how to protect themselves against bombardment by finding the proper way to the shelter, and how to do the manifold things which have been taught by the A.R.P. but which are not sufficiently appreciated. Yes, that is all very important, but surely the most important thing for England is that if invasion, which is bound to come according to our authorities, is to be overcome, you should know not only how to protect yourself but how to overcome the enemy. Surely we must teach our own people, each one of them, to cultivate the offensive spirit and not the defensive. Instead of writing articles about it and saying this, that or the other person or General should be offensive, we must tell the people to do it. We must say to them "You must be prepared to kill the enemy when he comes"; and in justice to the man to whom we say this we are bound to give him the chance of being able to do it.

Then, to dispose of the last part of my Motion, in justice to him you must tell him that if in doing his duty in face of the enemy he suffers death, wounds or injury, he shall receive the appropriate compensation in just the same manner as any soldier, sailor or enemy of the Regular or Auxiliary Forces I hope and believe that the Government will give us an assurance on that. I would only remind this House that I have given notice of this point on compensation for injury in attacking the enemy on two previous occasions in this House, so I hope and believe that no attempt will be made to say, "We will examine this question." After three months, I think the Government must make up their minds whether they are or are not going to compensate every man who defends his country in the day of emergency. I do not wish to embarrass this House by dividing it on any minor issue; in a matter of less im- portance I would not dream of it; but if the Government were to say they were still considering the question of compensation for injury in the event of invasion I would beg your Lordships to come with me into the Division Lobby and say "We have had enough of this." No, that is the kind of havering about to which I am now coming. It has been a very real danger, but I hope and believe that will not be done, in justice to this House and Parliament.

The fourth point is this. It is the fact that the duty of the civilian and his responsibility to attack the enemy, if he possibly can, and to support the military in any duty, however exacting, has not been explained to the people of this country in public as was promised to this House before we separated. There is no doubt about this. Anyone who has been in the country will, I am sure, corroborate what I say. Two civic heads of an important place only the other clay, when asked whether the people fully understood their duties as expounded in die "Plans for Civilian Invasion," and notably in the speech of the Lord Chancellor, said to me: "Oh no, they do not. Ninety per cent. of our people"—I quote their words—"believe that if they are civilians they will be guilty of murder if they attack a German." I said, "Are you sure?" They replied "certainly." These were responsible civic heads. What we did in this particular place was to put advertisements in the local paper giving emphasis to the Government publications on the matter. But it is extraordinary what has happened. I say here and now that there are millions of people in this country who do not know that it is their duty to attack the enemy when he comes if they have a chance, and to obey the commands of the military. If this Motion were adopted the Government would thus, at one stroke, keep faith with this House and Parliament. When you say that all should be trained to arms you make it plain to all that it is their duty to serve. I beg the Government, if on no other grounds, to accept this Motion in order that they may keep faith, a faith which, all unwittingly, they have broken in that great numbers of the people of this country do not know at all what their responsibilities and duties are.

There is not much more that I have to tell you, but what there is, is, I think, of some importance and of some novelty. I have said in my Motion that we might well proceed on the lines so successfully adopted by the Royal Air Force. Their experience in applying this principle of universal training to all the people in their establishments has a vital bearing on the subject, and brings it into quite a new position as regards the question of whether it is possible to do it. I have endeavoured to get general agreement that it is desirable, and on that point, I think, there will be general agreement. As to whether it is possible has been brought from the range of the hypothetical into the range of the practical by the striking experience of the Royal Air Force. Not long after I last addressed your Lordships on this subject and, with Lord Glasgow, urged that universal training should follow, I saw in a newspaper an account of the new method of training by the Royal Air Force. I think it was Lord Donegall, whom I see in his place here, who wrote an article pointing out the importance of the matter, and Lord Nuffield was mentioned as having said that the thing had got to be done. The question was, how to do it. Shortly afterwards I got an article from The Rifleman, which is a technical publication of the Society of Military and Rifle Clubs, of which long years ago I was one of the founders, giving a description of this particular method which is one of the many means that the Royal Air Force has adopted in order to save time.

Of course everybody is trying to save time now. Even in regard to the movement in which I spend most of my time, the National Savings Movement, the problem of saving time in the issue of certificates is becoming most acute owing to shortage of staff. We have experimented, and by mechanical means and ingenious scientific devices to shorten time we have saved a great deal of time. On the other side of the Atlantic there is Mr. Kaiser who has launched a ship in ten days. Now the Royal Air Force have been compelled of necessity to keep up to date and were forced to bring science to their aid in view of their new responsibilities. Their responsibilities arose in this way. Their establishments would be particularly vulnerable in case of invasion. They said "the Army and the Home Guard will do what they can, but we must have adequate protection," and so the Royal Air Force Regiment was formed. I wonder whether your Lordships realize that whenever you see the pale blue flag of the Royal Air Force flying anywhere every man under that flag has to be trained to arms and to know his place in time of danger.

There you have a microcosm of the nation. All sorts of men are there. All the tradesmen, all the clerks, all the fitters, all the machinists, all the cooks, all the waters, men of every sort, kind or description are represented in the Air Force establishment. The Royal Air Force said, "Let them all be trained to arms," and they all are trained to arms. During the last few months by new methods they have trained, or are training, every single man, just as I suggest in justice to all we should do with the whole population. How do they do it? By various methods they have so shortened the time that on the authority of their chief training officer—who by the courtesy of the Secretary of State for Air and the Under-Secretary, my noble friend Lord Sherwood, it was arranged should give me full information—I am permitted to say that they have shortened the period of necessary training to make a man weapon-trained or weapon-worthy, not by 10 per cent., or 20 per cent., or 30 per cent., but to one quarter of the previous time. In other words, by experiment and carefully designed tests they have arrived at the position that by the entirely new methods now employed, as Mr. Kaiser has employed new methods in building ships, they can do exactly the same thing in 40 hours as was done under the old plan in 160 hours. That is a very remarkable and striking fact and I do not think there is any doubt about it. My noble friend Lord Sherwood, who kindly arranged to see me at the same time as I saw Sir Archibald Sinclair, will, I am sure, confirm what I say.

What has been the result in the Royal Air Force establishment? This is an extraordinarily interesting point which I venture to bring to your Lordships' notice. I discussed the matter yesterday with a high officer in the Royal Air Force specially charged with the duty of supervising this training. He told me that when first the plan was mooted the men concerned were doubtful. After a time, however, they became very much interested, and now they are enthusiastic. I said I was very glad to hear that and I asked what was the cause of it. He said—I quote his words—"They have got an entirely new sense of their duty and an entirely new sense almost of proprietorship of the establishment under their guard. It is true that they have only put in forty hours training, and it is true that they do not pretend to be completely trained soldiers, but each can say: "I am part of the defence of this establishment. It belongs to me and I am going to see to it that it is not overcome." I have given the name of that officer to the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, the Leader of the House. Is it not probable, is it not almost certain, that exactly the same thing would happen in industry? I am sure it would, and those who have had experience tell me that it would so happen.

I am building up this case to the best of my ability, but I think at this moment I should pause to ask what are the objections that may be raised to this. There are probably other objections, but I think the principal objection will be that though it may be manifestly fair and just as between man and man, though it may add to our safety and greatly hearten our Allies, as of a surety it will confound our enemies, may not at the same time the whole advantage be destroyed by diminishing war production? Knowing that I was going to have the privilege of addressing your Lordships I was at great pains to find out how far that might be true. It is not true. Throughout industry large numbers of men have been serving in the Holm Guard and have responsibilities as fire watchers, as A.R.P. members and in Civil Defence all the time, but that has not interfered with the war effort. I sought the opinion of a man who is very keen about this thing and who really does know all about organizing factories—that is Lord Nuffield. I sent word to Lord Nuffield and asked if he would see me last week, and I did see him by appointment at his office at Cowley, near Oxford.

I described to him what I had learnt by the courtesy of Sir Archibald Sinclair and Lord Sherwood about the Royal Air Force methods. I told him the number of hours divided into three-quarter-hour periods which would be necessary for training. He said to me: "I hope you will tell the members of the House of Lords that I would have attended the House myself if it had been possible, but on that very day I have to preside over a most important meeting concerning all the hospitals in Great Britain and I cannot possibly get away. Otherwise I would have been present in my place." Then he told me this—I wrote down his words— If such a law is passed— that is embodying the suggestion I am now making in this Motion— and is loyally accepted, and I do not see why it should not be, I can undertake that the whole of my employees could be trained to arms on the lines now used in the Royal Air Force without interfering with war production by a single hour. I think that is very remarkable. This man with this great knowledge and experience, who knew exactly what he was going to be asked some days beforehand, had thought it out and he gave me this document to read to your Lordships.

The question is: Why not do it? What arguments can still be adduced against it? I think in my opening remarks I said that there was some suggestion that there were not enough weapons. Believe me, that contention is disposed of. We all know there are more than enough weapons—of course there are—to train all these people by the Royal Air Force method. That argument really does not come into the matter at all. You only want a few rifles, a few Mills bombs and so on, to train people to arms. The question of equipping them after training is quite another matter, and may very properly be the subject of a separate debate, whether in Secret Session or not. But if it be right to train these people to arms, it would be totally wrong to say: "We will not do that because we cannot give them arms the next day." In war, when it comes to the actual shooting, there are always many more weapons than there are men to use them. I hope that this argument will not be pressed or even mentioned, because, as I say, it really does not come within the purview of the Motion before us to-day.

Another argument, the last one to which I shall refer, seems to me a very strange one. It is said: "Oh, you must not do that because civilians get in the way." I myself and many of my friends around me have had experience of actual war conditions and have seen a great deal of what happens as the result of civilians getting in the way. I have also—as all of your Lordships must have done—read accounts of other wars. I have learnt from my personal experience, from the experience of my friends and from all my reading—and I challenge contradiction on this point from any man who knows—that while there are hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of instances where soldiers have been embarrassed by civilians running away from the enemy, there is not one in which the soldiers have been embarrassed by civilians running at the enemy. Never in human experience has that happened. If you teach the civilian that it is his duty not only to stand firm, but to go forward if he sees a chance of overcoming the enemy, he will never embarrass you.

Now who are these people who are responsible for this leaflet? I am begging the Government now boldly to proclaim that this cursed document—which was described by the high Russian authorities as a thing which would have let the Germans into Moscow and Leningrad—has not their support, and to say who are these people who have proceeded to qualify the Lord Chancellor's vibrant words in this way. Listen to this! After a reference to the enemy being about there comes this passage: The Government expect that every stouthearted citizen will use all his powers to overcome them. Yes, but what does this fool who wrote this document say? He says: "Needless to say"—and if it is needless to say, then why say it?— Needless to say, the civilian should not set out to make independent attacks on military formations. Such a course of action would be futile, and worse still, may actually impede operations of our own Forces. Now who wrote that? Imagine Bill Smith and John Jones, to whom I have already referred, in the sort of situation which might arise. Bill Smith says to his mate, "You know what the Lord Chancellor says. Well, here are two men breaking into the Post Office. Come on, we have got to get at them." John Jones replies, "Hold on, I have read the next part of the document. Now there are two of these men, they are standing close together, and they are in uniform. They are a military formation, and we are forbidden to attack military formations." I do beg that the Leader of the House will assure me that not only will this not be printed further, but that it will be finally suppressed.

Think of Arnold von Winkelried, the Swiss patriot, in a loud voice shouting to his comrades when they were before the enemy: "I will go forward and gather their spears into my bosom." And he did it too, and Switzerland has been free from that day to this. But I can imagine the local Home Security gentlemen saying to the great Swiss patriot: "Steady, Arnold, do not do any such thing. Such action might be futile and might embarrass our Forces." I beg of you to let the new spirit prevail, and I do hope that the Government may perhaps accept the Motion which I have ventured to propose.

I have said that a high officer of the R.A.F. has said that this plan has had a wonderfully heartening effect on the people there. It would have the same effect with the rest of us and what is more we should rope in by this method, the police helping us, all those people who, in far larger numbers than are generally known, are doing nothing for the war effort—nothing for civil defence, nothing for fire-watching, nothing for the Home Guard. You may say: "There are not many of them." On the contrary, I have a police report—which I will communicate to the Leader of the House—referring to one particular town, which shows that the number of such people there who evade all service of any kind is surprisingly large. Of course, the vast majority of our people are highly patriotic, but there is this minority and it constitutes a real danger in time of peril. And I assure you that it is a very substantial minority. Obviously I cannot give to the House the confidential information supplied to me by the police, but I am handing it to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for his appropriate action, if need be. In this way, by this plan, you will get at these people, and, if I may commend this point to my noble friends on my left, you can appeal to all people in all the factories by saying to them: "This is undoubtedly a good plan—the Royal Air Force has found it good." Moreover, the scrimshankers will be found out and at the same time fighting men will be freed for fighting elsewhere.

When you have told the people that, I would suggest that you give them at least an armlet, as was proposed by Viscount Maugham, the former Lord Chancellor, on more than one occasion in this House. That would get rid of all difficulties as regards the Geneva Convention and the Law of Nations. As he points out, the giving of armlets to these people would overcome any legal difficulties in those connexions. I may say, too, that in giving out these armlets you might make a ceremony of it. You might say to each man: "This badge is the most honourable that you can wear. It is the badge of a defender of England in her hour of peril. You are not like the soldier or the Home Guardsman, who is liable to have to fight at a long distance from his home; you are not like the soldier who may be surrounded, cut off from water supply, or put into such a position that he cannot be relieved. Yours is a more restricted duty: to defend your own land in your own town or village. In giving you this badge we give you the motto given to every member of a world-famous corps. I ask you to remember three things: firstly, you will never fire away the last ten rounds of your ammunition at a distant target; you will keep them for hand-to-hand combat. Secondly, you will never surrender unwounded to the enemy. Thirdly, you will never fire on the white fag of the enemy, but always on your own white flag." I beg to move.


My Lords, I have made some notes for my speech. I only wish that I could address your Lordships without notes as eloquently as did the noble Lord who has just sat down. Since I made these notes, the wording of the Motion has been changed, so that what I shall have to say relates to the first: part of it only, the necessity for arranging immediately for the training to arms of the whole male population. I shall not deal with the other part of the Motion, although I entirely agree with it, because I nave not gone into the question and do not know what the practice is on the aerodromes of this country. I have no doubt that that practice provides an excellent way of making men keen and ready to defend their aerodromes, in the same way that our people, who are at present unarmed and untrained should be made keen to defend their country.

This does not seem to be a difficult matter with winch to deal. Leaving out of account the Regular Army and the Home Guard, there are at least 1,500,000, and probably 2,000,000, fit men who have never yet been under discipline and who are untrained to arms. These men can be divided into two sections: those who could join the Home Guard and for personal reasons fail to do so, and those who, by the nature of their work, are unable to give the requisite time to Home Guard training. There is now conscription for the Home Guard as well as for the Regular Army; what is required is that that conscription should be universally applied. I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply will tell the House why that is not being done.

On Clydeside, the officials of the Ministry of Labour are directing the men in some of the shipyards and factories who are not enrolled in the Home Guard to enrol at once. The managements give the officials a list of the men who should be exempted because the nature of their duty does not give them time to carry out Home Guard training; all other men are asked to join. This is all to the good, and I am glad that the Ministry have taken a step in the right direction; unfortunately, however, this is not being done everywhere on Clydeside, and the same is presumably true of the rest of the country. I know of at least one large factory, employing thousands of men, where up to the present no action has been taken by the officials of the Ministry. There are also the coal mines, and the small towns and the villages of the countryside, where there are agricultural labourers, salesmen, garage hands, shop-keepers and so on, many of whom are in the Home Guard, but who have had no action taken against them if they have not joined. My first point is, therefore, that conscription for the Home Guard should be universally employed.

My second point is that it is necessary to give training in arms to the many thousands of men who, owing to the nature of their work, are unable to carry out the present strenuous Home Guard training. As I have pointed out, in factories and mines many men are on the management's exemption lists, and in the towns and villages many men are not able, owing to the nature of the work which they do, to join Lists (1) and (2) of the Home Guard. What is required is a List (3), which all these men would be compelled to join. They should then be given too hours' training on the Russian model. I have only just heard what the noble Lord has said about the training in the Air Force, and, for all I know, the system of training Air Force personnel may be even better than the Russian training; but at any rate if they were given 100 hours' training on the Russian model it would mean only two or three hours a week, which is not very strenuous but would be good enough. Their training should be based on the assumption that, whatever locality they are in, a time may come when they can no longer work but must stand and fight. They should be trained in grenade-throwing and in the rifle, the tommy-gun and the machine-gun, as well as in street fighting. If sufficient rifles are not available to arm them, they should be given Sten guns as soon as possible, since this is a weapon which is being turned out in large quantities in this country. There are probably not enough rifles to go round, although, of course, there are enough for training; but, even if they are never given rifles, they could pick them up on the battlefield and carry on, provided they know how to use them.

Looking at this matter from the point of view of the men, I should like your Lordships to imagine how the men will feel if their locality is invaded and they are unable to fight because they do not know one end of a rifle from the other. How will they feel when they are told to go to the rear and dig fortifications—work which is being done by women in Russia—when they see their mates with arms in their hands, ready to fight and defend their homes? They will never forgive the Government if measures are not taken now to compel them to undertake training. It is all very well to say that these men know that they can join the Home Guard if they like. There is a very good answer to that. I use the words "compel them to train" advisedly, since many men in present circumstances do not bother to join the Home Guard because other men are not doing so. I have made inquiries from workmen on Clydeside, and I find that compulsion is what the great majority of them want. If they all have to join, they will not mind it so much.

If, in spite of the heroic resistance of the Russian people, Germany manages to dispose of Russia, this country will certainly be invaded. I believe that our people are living in a fool's paradise if they think that the presence of large numbers of foreign troops in this country diminishes the risk of invasion. When our Armies are attacking on the Continent, it may be the very moment for the enemy to try to invade our shores with air-borne troops. In spite of the losses which Germany has sustained in Russia, I believe that she has large untapped reserves of men which, in spite of her commitments in the East, she could fling against this country. Nor should the great progress made by the enemy in carrying Armies by air he minimized or disregarded. We have therefore to be ready, to be properly and efficiently ready, and we must see that every fit man in this country is trained to arms. If we do not we shall deserve the fate which may overtake us.


My Lords, like my noble friend who has just spoken, I had not seen the change in the terms of the Motion on the Order Paper. The Motion, I suggest, is a very important one, and by the answer given to it we shall know whether the Government still consider invasion to be a dangerous possibility, or probability, and, if so, whether or not they are going all-out in order to prepare against it. At present a large proportion of the people of this country are sceptical about the possibility of invasion, because they say that if the Government really believed it to be a probability, they would take far sterner measures than they have taken up to now in order to prepare the country to resist such a deadly peril. We have been now over two years under threat of invasion from an enemy who has given many object lessons in the treatment he metes out to the population of any country of which he is in occupation. And how should we fare if Hitler, Public Enemy Number One, were able to establish his authority in these islands, or any part of them? I think it is not wrong to say that any Government worthy of the name, if they really believed in the danger, would go all-out to protect the people for whom they are responsible against being subjected to that sort of treatment.

Supposing that to-morrow morning we were all woken up by the clanging of the church bells, ringing out a warning that the enemy was actually arriving on our soil, should not we all like to know two things—the first, that everybody knew what to do and how to do it, and the second, that in the part of the country affected every man in the last resort could be used in order to hold the enemy and prevent him from consolidating his position? Surely if this war has taught us anything, it is that: when the Germans have time to consolidate they are very difficult to turn out. Whatever we may do we must not forget Crete. I doubt if even the most ardent supporter of the Government who knows the facts would put his hand on his heart and say he verily believes that the Government have clone everything in the past two-and-a-half years to make this country safe against invasion. In fact the very steps that the Government now propose prove the contrary. What many of us who are interested in these matters fail to understand is why there is this interminable delay between an important decision being announced and the putting into force of the necessary steps to implement it. It really seems as if the Department concerned were trying to play out time, hoping against hope that something would happen that would make the taking of these measures unnecessary.

Look at the question of conscription for the Home Guard, nominally introduced ten months ago, and still not working properly. The intention as published was to bring the Home Guard up to strength, but almost coinciding with the introduction of conscription in an emasculated form, with the lowering of the so-called ceiling of establishments. In a letter that I received at the end of August from an officer commanding a Home Guard battalion, whom I had asked to let me know how conscription had affected his battalion, he wrote: Conscription has on no way helped our battalion; just the reverse. As a matter of fact I have to 'waste down,' by some 80 men to the agreed ceiling. And this is not an isolated case, for the zone to which that battalion belongs has to waste down by eight hundred men. Noble Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Elgin, particularly, have frequently called attention to this lowered ceiling, and the unsatisfactory state of things which it brought about. On the 9th of June the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, speaking for the Government, announced that the ceiling was to be raised forthwith. I am not quite sure whether it has not been raised now, but a week ago the officer in command of a certain battalion of the Home Guard had not heard of it being raised.

Then noble Lords will remember that as long ago as last February it was announced with a flourish of trumpets that the part-time personnel of the Civil Defence organization was to be allowed to join the Home Guard. Very little has come of this. Another correspondent says: The response by the civil authorities has been very weak up to the time of writing and little pressure is brought to bear on part-time staff to join the Home Guard. After some pressure from us, i.e., the Home Guard, they are now allowing the staff to take training in rifle practice. When the order originally appeared fifty of these part-time Civil Defence men put their names down to join the Home Guard and were not allowed to do so by the local authorities. Now these same fifty men are receiving training in rifle practice from the very Home Guard battalion that they wished to join and of which they might by now have been efficient members. The whole-time Civil Defence personnel have never been allowed to train, although there has been no body of men in the country that was less fully occupied. Nothing that I say reflects on the men and their officers. Indeed we must remember that many of them were those patriotic members of society who volunteered for this work before invasion was contemplated and before war was declared. Everyone is fully aware of and appreciates the great services rendered by the Civil Defence Services during the air-raid period.

In the Press on Saturday last I read that the Home Secretary, speaking upon the fire duties which are now to be imposed on the Home Guard, is reported to have said: It would be departmentalism run mad to suggest that because the Home Guard wear military uniform they must not be free to undertake the urgent task of defence of our cities against fire with which we may be faced in the coming season. That would have been much better worded like this: It would be departmentalism run mad to suggest that because the Civil Defence personnel wear a civil uniform they must not be free to undertake the urgent task of the defence of our country against invasion with which we may be faced in the coming season. Invasion is by far the greatest danger and the greater includes the less. If we are thoughly prepared against the danger of invasion we shall be able to take the lesser perils in our stride.

On August 18 The Times published an article entitled "Full time and full service," which commiserated with the Civil Defence personnel in that they "had had a slack time for many months" and again, "had been having an easy time for many months past." This article went on to say how highly desirable it was that full-time civil defence workers everywhere should be found work of national importance when not engaged on their own particular job… and how they must be saved from monotony, the deadly consequence of enforced idleness. I wrote to The Times and suggested that as these men in many cases had never been trained to carry out the first duty of a citizen, which is to defend his country, there was no need for them to suffer from boredom or monotony. However, that letter was ignored; but it is perfectly true. Now I see that to save the men from this boredom work is to be found for them. Compare this with the attitude towards those who give up their evenings after a full day's work and their week-ends after a full week's work to train for the defence of their native soil and do not ask for any favour, only support and fair treatment. These are the men for whom the country can only find one pair of socks. How different are our methods as compared with the Russians.

Another recent article in The Times entitled "Ruin in the Kuban" gave an account of Russian preparations to resist the enemy there. Here is an extract: With the baggage will go the old men and women, mothers and small children, sick and cripples. The able-bodied men will remain behind until the arrival of the Red Army troops, and then fight side by side with them to defend their homes to the last. There is no nonsense about Civil Defence there. Here is our order on the same subject: Men who are physically fit should be encouraged"— encouraged, mark you!— to apply to join the Home Guard and be trained to make the best use of themselves as fighters. Rather tame in comparison. What do the Government intend to do with all this mass of untrained, able-bodied men when the moment comes that they cannot get on with their work? Surely it is not intended that they should retreat with the women and children? That would not be a very proud position for able-bodied men. I know that there are non-combatant duties, as they are called, such as digging trenches and making obstacles, but I challenge any soldier here to get up and say he would rather have untrained civilians doing that sort of thing than the men of the Home Guard, and that he would not prefer men who are used to working under military discipline instead of a lot of amateurs who, at the last moment, are quite unable to look after themselves. When the moment comes, I have no doubt these men will not run away. Many of them will try and do what they can, and then we will get what the military appear to dread, and that is individual action by untrained civilians.

I do not think that one need be a pessimist to believe, as both previous speakers have indicated, that the fear of invasion does not grow less. If the war takes a turn in our favour, the danger may grow greater merely because that may cause the Germans to feel that a greater effort on their part is called for. For example, the clamour for a Second Front increases, and the Government are committed to form one when circumstances permit. It is certainly to be hoped that the popular clamour will be resisted until we are ready, though it may be hoped that that moment is not so very far distant. When it does come, sooner or later, it is quite certain that this country will have to be very largely denuded of Regular troops. The Home Guard will then become the guardians of our homes in stark reality. It would be just when we are in the throes of launching such an operation as an invasion of the Continent, that an invasion or large-scale raid of these islands would be of most value to the enemy. The Government would then have a difficult decision to make, and they would be more likely to take the courageous, and therefore most probably the right, decision if they knew that they could rally the whole of the able-bodied men of this country in the last resort, to resist the invader, not as independent individuals, but as trained men belonging to military formations.

The best form of defence is offence, and the whole of our arrangements for the invasion of the Continent might, quite likely, be thrown out of gear by a direct attack upon these islands. We should be in the position of attacking the Germans in some country they had occupied while they would be attacking us here. Throughout the ages, Governments have always been very susceptible to attack on the metropolitan district of their homeland. Your Lordships will recall how, both in 1914 and as late as 1918, men who were wanted overseas were kept in this country because of a fear of invasion The sort of movement I have in mind, if I may give your Lordships an historical example, is what happend in 1862 when 200,000 Federal troops were massed and advancing on Richmond. General Lee did not call in his men to man the defences of Richmond. On the contrary, he denuded the threatened area of troops, and sent them to General Stonewall Jackson's Army to move up to undertake the valley campaign and threaten Washington. Within a very few weeks the whole danger to Richmond was over, and 105,000 men—a force larger than the whole Confederate Army—was entrenched around Washington to protect, in Abraham Lincoln's words, "the National capital from danger and insult."

If we had such an attack launched on this country while we were in the midst of a great operation overseas, I am sure the Government would like to know that they could depend on the whole manhood of the nation trained to arms. We should want many men. We should want men to man every hedge and hollow, every hill and hamlet, so that when the enemy came and tried to consolidate his position, he would find all these points in the hands of men trained to arms who could make him fight for every foot of ground and so delay his advance until the available Regulars could concentrate to turn out the invader. We have the men for this purpose, but there are not nearly sufficient either in town or country who are trained to arms. Yet there is no question that, apart from those who are actual key men and cannot be spared, there are thousands of men up and down this country who are sheltered from service for reasons which do us no credit. A drastic comb-out is required and no interest, political, whether metropolitan or local, industrial or any other, should stand in the way of our manhood being trained to arms.

I have mentioned the Civil Defence personnel because it seems to me that they are the first to come under the training of men to arms in this country. They are organized, they are in uniform, they are under the Government, they are paid by the Government and they have the time. How can you wonder that there is a certain hanging back among others who do a full day's work every day and do not have the easy time, do not have work found for them in their spare time to save them from the monotony of enforced idleness? Who can say that the moment will not come when all these extra perils—the putting out of fires, the rescue of people from damaged houses and so on—will have to give way to the military needs of holding the enemy. When the struggle comes on the soil of our country it may go far to decide the success or failure of British arms, and every man trained to arms will be an asset. In my opinion the Government are not justified in failing to mobilize the whole of our man-power in this country for the defence of it when its very existence as a free nation is in danger.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has done your Lordships and the country another service in bringing forward his Motion this afternoon. While I am in complete agreement with it, I should like, as briefly as may be, to draw your Lordships' attention to one or two matters connected with it to which little allusion has, as yet, been made. The first point is this. All the speakers have mentioned civilians. In total war as waged by the Germans, there are no such things as civilians. They are an extinct species of animal altogether—not only women and school children but infants in arms and the babe unborn, are just as much likely to be subjected to the atrocities of the Germans as are combatants, and indeed more likely because they cannot hit back. When one realizes that not only have the Germans been guilty of the most appalling atrocities which might have been committed solely for military reasons, such as driving tanks over women and children and the machine-gunning of refugees—these might from the German point of view have been justified by military necessity to cause disorganization—but in every country they have occupied they have also been guilty of appalling atrocities apparently for the mere pleasure of them. Your Lordships will have re- ceived, I hope, the pamphlet recently issued by the Polish Ministry of Information and will not need any further enlightenment on that point. I only hope that a copy of the pamphlet was sent to the noble Duke, the Duke of Bedford, the one member of your Lordships' House who seems to think that the Germans are a much maligned race. I use the word "German" instead of Nazi, because to me, at least, in 99 cases out of 100 the two mean precisely the same thing. Therefore we must expect that if and when the Germans succeed in landing in this country the fate of the civilian population is not one that can be contemplated with equanimity.

The second point is one that has not been raised, and that is that the defence of this country, successful or unsuccessful, against invasion, is likely to be decided within a very short period. This is a small country and we cannot give ground in the way that the Russians have done. Either the Germans must be held in a very short space of time, or they will overrun and conquer the country; and there can be, I suggest, no better help to the Regular Army and the Home Guard in resisting such a swift penetration of our defence than the knowledge by the Germans that they are going to meet with the active opposition of the whole population in every area through which they have to pass. Not only would I train to arms the whole male population from the age of about 14 onwards as long as men can stagger, but also, and without making it compulsory, I would train such women as chose to learn the art of using a weapon, because, as I have said, there are no civilians and the German respects neither age nor sex. There is no doubt whatever that the Civil Defence personnel in most cases would welcome the chance to learn arms. There is a great deal of wasted man-power, particularly among the members of the National Fire Service, many of whom have little to do all day except prop up walls. That is not their fault; it is due to the conditions under which they work. There you get men, many of them of military age, who would be invaluable if properly trained.

It is perfectly true, unfortunately, as Lord Mottistone has said, that there are throughout the country quite an appreciable number of people who are in some cases deliberately rendering no service whatever to the war effort. I will give your Lordships one particularly flagrant example of which I have personal knowledge. In a certain area of my own county there is a small hotel. It is in an isolated district and in it there lives a man who was formerly secretary of an eminent man in this country. When his employer died, he left his secretary, who had served him well for many years, a comfortable annuity, and this man, now aged, I believe, between 50 and 60, lives in this hotel and he does no work of any kind whatsoever. The local Home Guard platoon commander, a hard-working sheep farmer, already snowed under by the various forms provided by the Ministry of Agriculture as well as those needed by the Home Guard, suggested to this man, who, as I said, was a secreatry, that he might help with the clerical work of administering the Home Guard, which would have meant two or three hours' work a week at most. This man declined. That may be an extreme case, but I am afraid it is not a unique one, and certainly steps should be taken so that men like that should be made to contribute some small quota towards the country's war effort.

I want to go a little further into the question of the actual system of training. The noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, has suggested 100 hours of intensive training. I would be content to start with something very much less ambitious than that. If forty hours can produce an efficient semi-guerilla member of the Air Force, I believe that an ordinary fit man could be made quite reasonably efficient in a period of about ten or a dozen hours. You would want to start first of all by instructing him in the use of the rifle, the great individual weapon. Never mind at first about the care and cleaning of it, but simply the loading, aiming and firing, and the range at which the weapon could be used by such an untrained man with advantage, because everyone knows that the untrained or semi-trained are apt to start shooting at long range, giving themselves away and wasting ammunition. Secondly, in country areas the shot gun should also be taught. Thirdly, the use of all light automatic weapons, such as the Sten gun and the automatic rifle, etc., which are used by the Home Guard and which would be the most likely for him to have should be taught. Fourthly, there are the automatic weapons used by the Regular Army. Once some elementary knowledge of all these is acquired, together with the use of the Mills bomb, then it would be time enough to deal with the interior mechanism, and the like, and after that there could be a little minor tactics.

If such a programme were embarked upon, a programme which would be easily within the scope and capacity of 99 per cent. of the people in this country who are affected by the terms of this Motion, then I suggest that if and when invasion comes the country would be in a far better state to resist it successfully, and to overcome it quickly, than is the case at the present time. I hope, therefore, very much that the Government will accept the spirit if not possibly the actual terms of the Motion, and that they will substitute the general spirit of Arnold von Winkelried for that of Rip Van Winkle.


My Lords, I wish to take up your Lordships' time for one minute only, and then only because my noble friend Lord Mottistone referred to what I said on a previous occasion. It is true I advocated something distinctive to show that a man was a combatant, and in particular the wearing of an armlet, of course not one which is immediately detachable, but an armlet properly sewn on. I want to say that this is not the only thing which I think is important. There is one other thing in regard to which I rather believe that Lord Mottistone agrees with me, and it is quite clear that Lord Cork does, and that is that the people who undertake by accepting an armlet to do all they can in the protection of the country shall act under suitable direction. That was the thing which I was so afraid of on the last occasion. People often use propositions without all the limitations which are in question. For my part I strongly object to the notion of individuals in various parts of the country waging war on their own, and doing what they please in regard to shooting Germans and so forth; but I am strongly in favour of every able-bodied man in this country being armed, taking a pledge to obey properly constituted authority, wearing an armlet, and being bound to serve as the military authorities shall direct in the event of an invasion or in the event of something which I think is far more likely—namely, the air-borne hit-and-run raid, made possibly with the view of destroying the most important factories and other centres in this country. That is ail I have to say, and I rather gather that Lord Mottistone agrees with me.


My Lords, I should like to support the Motion so ably put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. He has marshalled his arguments and his facts with such consummate skill that there is no reason for me to go into any great detail. It has been at last realized and admitted that in case of invasion there is no such thing as a non-combatant. It is the duty of every citizen to resist the enemy with every means in his power. If so, surely it is only reasonable to train a man so that he will be able to use weapons and fulfil the duty which the Government now say is his. It is obviously impossible to provide millions of rifles and hand grenades at a moment's notice, but that is not necessary. As the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, said, if invasion comes there will be many casualties. Many weapons will be silenced because the men behind them have been incapacitated or killed. Are these weapons to remain silenced in the presence of the enemy because we cannot be bothered to train our people in the use of them?

The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has dealt chiefly—I think entirely—with the male population, but if invasion comes it does not seem to me to matter very much whether the finger that pulls the trigger or the hand that throws the grenade happens to belong to a man or a woman. It seems to me that the main object which we should have been pursuing during the period of comparative respite from active hostilities here is to get as many people as possible in this country—men, women or even boys—into a better position to kill more Germans if they come here. As far as the women are concerned, I am not for a moment advocating compulsory training, but there are already voluntary bodies of women in this country who have been indulging in individual effort and training themselves in the use of the rifle. I have had correspondence urging me to try to get this movement enlarged because apparently there are thousands of able-bodied people anxious to learn to use weapons for whom facilities are not at present available. I did intend to say a few words about the anomaly referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Cork, arising from compulsion and the ceiling figure combined on the Home Guard. Within the scope of my activities I know several battalions which have been and still are wasting down as a result of this compulsion plus ceiling figure. If these thousands of citizens could be trained acording to Lord Mottistone's ideas it would at any rate mitigate, if not eradicate altogether, the regrettable results, which the noble Earl, Lord Cork, has so ably put before your Lordships, of this ceiling figure and compulsion combined.


My Lords, I wish to intervene in this debate only on one submission made by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, when he said that the application of this proposal for compulsory training would not interfere with production. I beg leave to doubt that. I think that notwithstanding what I may perhaps without offence call Lord Nuffield's rather facile optimism, there would be few concerned with large-scale production at this moment who would agree that the application of this proposal would not interfere with production. I am not arguing whether it would be better to face up to this in order to achieve this training, but it would be unquestionably the case that there would be interruption of production.




If the noble Lord will be a little patient I will, as one who is not unaware of the difficulties of large-scale production, endeavour to tell him. I shall not be as simple as Lord Nuffield's message by any means, but it is a fact that Home Guard duties and the organization of Civil Defence personnel in factories, the training of gas squads, the training of workpeople in many other Civil Defence and similar duties has interfered, is interfering and will interfere with production, especially of production on a large scale and of what we call line production. It cannot be avoided. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, to contemplate what the situation would be in mines if this proposal were summarily applied to the miners. I venture to think that few persons acquainted with the technicalities of coal mining would say with belief that its application to the coal-mining industry would not interfere with production. I think it is inevitable that it would interfere with production, and it is for those responsible for deciding the policy of this country to weigh the advantages and the disadvantages. I was a little amused, if I may say so in his absence, at the somewhat patriarchal way in which Lord Nuffield said he could arrange for this training to be undergone, by presumably the methods which have been explained, in his own extended organization. But really it is not for Lord Nuffield to arrange. The men themselves have some rights, and in this matter I should have thought that it would have been useful if Lord Mottistone had also consulted the organizations representing the men in question.


If I may be allowed to interrupt for a moment, I think that in justice to Lord Nuffield who cannot be here to-day I should point out that Lord Nuffield said: "If the law is passed, and is loyally accepted, and I do not see why it should not be." That is the very point. He did not say he was going to arrange it, but that it could be done if loyally accepted by the employees.


Loyal acceptance by the employees does not solve the problem. I do not imagine that the workpeople of this country would not loyally accept and carry out what Parliament in the exercise of its undoubted rights may decree. But loyal acceptance does not get over all the difficulties. I am sure the Government before seeking to apply such a proposal as is now before your Lordships' House will consult not only industrialists upon this point—and I think they will say that production must be interfered with, even if in a diminishing degree—but also the approved and appointed representatives of the work-people.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has to-day resumed the operations which he has undertaken previously in your Lordships' House. He has, as I am sure your Lordships will agree, succeeded in raising a very interesting debate in which many new points have been put forward. On March 24 last he called attention to the status of civilians in the case of invasion, and on June 9 he had a very similar Motion on the Order Paper. On each of these occasions he stressed the need for civilians actively to impede the invader. To-day his Motion is in more specific terms—namely, for the training to arms of the whole male population. He added to his Motion at rather a late hour by inserting the words "on lines successfully adopted by the Royal Air Force for the protection of their establishments," and he added further words referring to compensation. To both these addenda I will reply later, but with regard to his main thesis I think he will agree with me when I say that his case to-day differs very little from that which he has put before us on the two previous occasions, and what I say to-day must, therefore, of necessity on broad lines follow on from the answers given in this House in March by my noble friend the Leader of the House, Viscount Cranborne, and the Lord Chancellor, and at a later date, as late indeed as June 9, by my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire.

It may be for your Lordships' convenience if I were to repeat the gist of what was said then. I think my noble friend, Lord Mottistone, has said himself that we should give the widest publicity to the feeling of His Majesty's Government on this subject and to the words then quoted.

It was said that: …the Government has always expected that the people of these islands will offer a united opposition to the invader, and that every citizen will regard it as his duty to hinder and frustrate the enemy by any means which o ingenuity can devise and common sense suggest. Those who are physically fit will want to fight, but to do so effectively they must be organized and armed. Our resources in equipment and training capacity can be used to the best advantage only if they are applied to organized military bodies. All those who could be accepted into the Home Guard were invited to join: and the Government statement went on to say: There are others who, while anxious to fight, cannot spare the time for the training which is now required of the Home Guard. Everyone will understand and sympathize with their desire to fight, but the unorganized individual fighter represents an uneconomic use of men and weapons. A time may come, though it is not yet here, when it may be practicable to include this last class in the Home Guard under special conditions to meet their circumstances. Meanwhile, there are many ways in which they can help short of actual fighting. Those are the words which have been quoted, and I gathered from the last debate that they gave considerable satis- faction. That is the policy laid down as lately as three months ago, and described by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, as "a great advance." You would not expect any change to be made in it unless it was warranted by a change in circumstances.

It is true that reports in the Press from Russia tell—as has been said this afternoon—of the resistance of the workers in Stalingrad, and in the absence of any detail whatever we must assume that if this was effective, weapons were available for the workers to use, and facilities for previous training had been granted to them. Stalingrad has its lessons for us in envisaging this whole problem. The Press reports, which I have read very carefully, indicated that in that valiant city, in spite of the great pressure of attack, tank and other munitions production has been going along—or anyhow had been going along until a very few days ago—all the time, even under shell fire, indicating that a great proportion of the population is still supplying the Army with its dire needs. They are staying put, or, to adopt the later language which we have used, standing firm at their essential jobs.


But they all know how to shoot.


My noble friend will forgive me now, I hope. I may come to that later. Other reports which I have read indicate that fires are raging, or have been raging, all over the city, which suggests that the whole of the trained Civil Defence service in Stalingrad are engaged in their specific duty as they certainly would be in the cities and towns of this country if we were subjected to similar attack. They are certainly not rushing out to meet the enemy whilst that duty remains. Presumably, also judging from the reports, a great number of the civilians are engaged in repairing vital roads to the forward positions, in repairing sewers and water supplies, in demolition and in rescue work in buildings demolished by enemy action, evacuating wounded and bringing up supplies—food and ammunition—for the firing line, in fact, playing a vital part in that great defence. I think that is clear, and that it is a lesson to us, reminding us of the enormous services which are necessary behind the active Army in modern operations. My noble friend Lord Mottistone, in his very eloquent speech, asked this House, in justice to various bodies and sections of persons which he mentioned, to adopt his proposals and also to do so in justice to our Allies. He put a question to me just now. I would like to put one to him. Can he give me any evidence that of the millions of people in Russia the male portion of the population has been able to have training to arms?


My Lords, I am very glad to have had that question asked, and to have the opportunity of replying to it now. I omitted to make the point in my speech, that the reason why it is so urgent for us to train every man to shoot is that we adopted conscription only four years ago. Other countries, notably Russia, had conscription, long before the war, so every man was trained to shoot when he came to the age of eighteen. It is peculiar to this country that we have this great number of male members of our population who do not know how to shoot.


I see my noble friend's point and I am grateful to him for putting it in that way. I think he is correct in saying that vast numbers of the Russian people went through the Army before the war and a great proportion of them were on the Reserve when war broke out. Russia, I think, had the biggest Army, in the world before the war and the biggest number of reserves therefor. I can appreciate that they have vast numbers of men who are well trained because they have been through the Army and the Reserve. It would be improper of me to say that past Governments have failed in their duty, but I do say that I only wish to goodness some of us had been listened to in times past when we pleaded for a more widely extended system of military training in this country. I think it would be a wrong impression to allow to go forth that the whole of the male populations in the countries of our Allies, the United States and China, or even in the countries of our enemies, have, in fact, been trained to arms, although, as Lord Mottistone points out, in conscript countries such as Germany and Russia—and Italy also, I presume—that naturally would be true.

What we have to consider now is whether conditions in this country since last June have changed in such a way as to make it now possible to train the whole civilian population to arms, or at any rate to train a larger proportion than at present. This question, like so many of the questions which come up in wartime, is not at all easy to answer properly in open debate, and I must, of course, treat it with discretion. The number of men who can profitably be trained depends on the number of weapons available. We hold to that view, for we feel that it is mere deception to train men to arms who cannot in fact be armed to fight the battle. Any forecast, except on the broadest lines, must of necessity disclose the supply position of weapons and afford the enemy information as to the prospects of invasion and as to the relative chances of success of the different types of invasion or raid which may be made.

I do want your Lordships to place reliance on that splendid force, the Home Guard. Let us build it up and go forward with it, because it is doing magnificent work. The Home Guard realize that there are many different types of invasion to be envisaged, and that these operations may range from a large-scale invasion of this country to paratroop raids by small parties with objectives of a sabotage type. Every available weapon which can be spared from the Regular Forces is being given to the Home Guard, as has been pressed on us again and again in this House; and, as was forecast in this House last June, the result has been to increase the ceiling of the Home Guard, and also its actual strength, by many tens of thousands, both for ground defence and for anti-aircraft duties. It is. now stronger in numbers, armament, and standard of training than ever before in its history, and its strength continues to rise.

The additional men and weapons, as they come forward, are allotted to those localities where there is need to increase the Home Guard, and are allotted in order of priority as determined by operational requirements. In this connexion, not only am I thinking of the defence of the coast and of nodal points, but I have in mind also the very important matter of the local defence of vital munition and aircraft factories, such as my noble friend has referred to, public utilities and other vulnerable points against sabotage or air-borne raids. In this way, the Home Guard is continuously expanding in proportion as weapons become available. Men are continually being taken into the Home Guard in the places where they are wanted at the rate at which they can be armed and trained. In other words, we are applying the good military principles of maintenance of the objective and of economy of force: principles on which both the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, and I were ourselves brought up. To train men who cannot be armed, or to allow indiscriminate training and indiscriminate shooting by civilians in action, would be quite contrary to these principles; it would in fact be a wasteful dispersal of effort. I realize, as fully as the noble Lord who moved the Motion, that there are still many men who are longing to get a gun and anxious to train against the day when they get it. But there are many other jobs which have to be done on invasion if the Military and Home Guards who have got the guns are to be used to their fullest value. For example, there are works of military or civilian importance to be carried out under the various Departments concerned or, if need arises, under the control of local authorities or of the invasion committees.

I now come to the reference in the Motion to what is done in connexion with the defence of aerodromes. I am afraid that I received notice of this only yesterday, so that I have not had much time to look into the matter; but I should like to mention in passing that I have been so interested by what my noble friend has said that I shall certainly bring his remarks to the notice of my colleagues, so that we may see how the lessons which have been gained in the Air Force may be applied in the Army and in the Home Guard. I am very grateful to him for having brought the subject before us in so interesting a manner. I should like to point out, however, that the policy followed by the Royal Air Force in organizing defence of aerodromes and R.A.F. stations does not amount to the training of the whole civilian staff at these establishments, much less of the whole male population in the areas surrounding them. The forces available consist in the first place of the Royal Air Force Regiment, to which, as noble Lords know, the defence of aerodromes has been specifically entrusted. Behind these come the remainder of the enlisted members of the R.A.F. who are trained, armed and organized as backers-up, to supplement the R.A.F. Regiment. But they are serving airmen and not civilians; they are under the hands of their officers and available at any moment for class or individual instruction, so that their position is very different from that of civilians scattered ail over the countryside. In addition, there are a number of Home Guard units in R.A.F. stations and establishments and at factories controlled by the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Civilians employed there are encouraged to join these units within the limit of vacancies available. I am informed that no other civilians are trained to arms or organized for defence by the Air Ministry or Ministry of Aircraft Production. The same Government policy applies there as everywhere else.

With reference to compensation of civilians, the position is much clearer than your Lordships may have thought. I would remind your Lordships of the Statutory Rules and Orders. The Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme, administered by the Ministry of Pensions, provides pensions for disablement or death, at rates which are roughly comparable with those for private soldiers, to civilians disabled by, and the dependants of civilians who die from, "war injuries" sustained in this country. "War injury" includes a physical injury caused by the discharge of a missile or the use of a weapon or explosive, or the doing of an injurious act, either by the enemy or in combating the enemy, and were a civilian who was actively combating the enemy to be injured or killed in this way, he or his dependants would qualify for consideration for awards under the Scheme referred to.

All the lessons of modern war go to prove that training of the highest character is far more important than ever before. The speed of modern war alone makes it imperative that the battle ground should be clear of all those who are not organized and capable of conforming to the orders of the military commander. Can noble Lords conceive anything more chaotic or disastrous than that armoured forces should operate in an area where between them and the enemy are unorganized groups of individuals acting on their own without the knowledge of Regular or Home Guard Commanders? Imagine the difficulty of arranging modern artillery or air support under such conditions. I admire the spirit which actuates Lord Mottistone and which I believe we all share, but if these are his proposals they are in conflict with considered military opinion. They would lead to confusion and inevitable slaughter of our own people by our own forces. On the other hand, noble Lords are aware that modern warfare requires a far greater force of satellite labour than in the past, and vast numbers of men are needed immediately to straighten out a bombed airfield, bombed roads or railways, to clear great masses of masonry in a "Blitz" attack on a town, to build barricades under military orders, to dig trenches if a new position is taken up and to help bring up supplies. Such labour may be invaluable, and if in towns or villages there are surplus men available for such tasks in the battle area, they will, as under the Government plan, perform a great service. This is the real job of the civilian in war, and as I have said is an integral part of the plans for modern battle. Finally, I would assure the noble Lord that the ultimate aim remains, even if it is still some distance off, to provide weapons and training for as many of the men in this country as can be made available for service in arms for local defence.


My Lords, the issue is clearly joined. I have never been so astonished in my life as I am at the absolute refusal of the Government spokesman even to consider the proposal which I have put before the House.


Oh, no.


One moment, may I just in a few words reply? By the way, may I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, that I of course assume that when these people are trained to arms and receive an armlet, which I propose they should receive, they would be called associate members of the Home Guard and be under discipline? That question therefore is settled. I am glad that the question of compensation has been made clear, but I suggest that instead of using the absurd word "consideration," the Government should say plainly that compensation will be paid. But on the other issue there never was a clearer case. I venture to put before your Lordships, with the full approval of most of you, that it was desirable that every male should be trained to arms. I pointed out that in all European countries every civilian is trained to arms, and as we are Enemy Number One to the Germans, it seems reasonable that we should follow the example of other countries who are not Enemy Number One. I have also pointed out that the Royal Air Force had found that what was supposed to be very difficult is very easy. I may remark that there is no optimism about Lord Nuffield, because it is quite clear that he has gone into the matter with great care, and so have others. If the men loyally accept it and can put in this three-quarters of an hour on so many days in their own time there will obviously be no loss of production. There will be a loss of spare time, which might be spent at the cinema or in various other ways, but that is all that it would mean because of the new method I have indicated.

I have ventured to put this proposal forward and to my great astonishment I am met by the old, old story that no man is any good unless he has had a long training, and that if that was true before how much more is it true now, when you have to co-operate with aeroplanes and all the rest of it. We know all about that. That is not the point before the House. The point is, has every man to serve? He will find himself up against the enemy; is not it only fair that he should know how to shoot in self-defence? Nor does the question of the number of rifles matter. That does not arise at all. There are more than enough rifles and Mills bombs to train forty million people. The question does not come in. But "No," says the noble Lord, "we are not going to train anyone unless he is going to be fully trained and unless we have got a rifle to give him."

In conclusion I may say that I could not possibly accept this denial of justice to our fellow-citizens—because that is what it is. May I point out also that in all countries this question constantly arises when they change the type of rifle they are using? They withdraw the existing rifle but they train the men just the same, and it may be years before there is a rifle for every man. Ought we not, being Enemy Number One, to train every man to arms? I venture to say that we should. For reasons that seem good to the noble Lord, Lord Croft, he says, "We will do no such thing and the individual can dig trenches or other things." In these circumstances, I ask your Lordships to divide on the Motion.


My Lords, since my noble friend is proposing to divide the House we must all of us decide on our course of action. For my own part, I felt myself in certain difficulty as the debate was proceeding, particularly in consequence of the speech of the noble Lord representing the Government. We had a series of very powerful speeches by my noble friend Lord Mottistone and all the Peers who supported him in favour of his Motion. Then on behalf of the War Office Lord Croft said that the proposal would be a mistake, that civilians who were so very inadequately trained would be more liable to be in the way than anything else, straying over the field of fire and so forth, making the artillery and Air Force co-operation ineffectual; furthermore, that great quantities of labour would be needed for the clearance of destroyed houses, for making obstacles, and so forth, and that the military opinion was therefore against the proposal of my noble friend. The House will pay great attention to such observations, based on technical grounds, coming from the War Office.

On the other hand, my noble friend in his last sentence "Let the House understand that it is the policy of the Government to provide arms and training, although it may take some time, for all the man-power of the country." So I understood him. Well, I do not know what the argument of the Government is. Does the noble Lord mean that my noble friend's proposal is a bad one, and therefore should not be adopted, or does he mean that ultimately, in spite of all these objections, it is a good proposal, and that the Government favour it and are going to carry it out? Certainly, as the matter rests, I should feel myself obliged to vote for my noble friend's Motion, because the plea that: he has made was admitted by the War Office, in spite of all the objections to it, in the noble Lord's last sentence, and the only question is with how much vigour and speed this policy is going to be carried out. I understand, however, that the Leader of the House is about to speak, and perhaps he can throw some further light on this point.


My Lords, I rise to say a few words only, and first of all to express the hope that the House will not put this matter to the test of a Division. I do quite honestly think that the noble Lord is a little bit unreasonable. He has secured to-day some very valuable assurances. First of all he has had an assurance that every weapon that can be spared from the Regular Forces is being given to the Home Guard; that is to say that every spare weapon that is available in the country is to be used for national defence. Then he has got an assurance that the ultimate aim of the Government is to provide weapons and training for as many of the men of this country as can be made available for service in arms for local defence. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, drew attention to that particular point. He asked, what exactly did the Government mean by that? I understand the position is this. You can train people to fight as individuals or you can train people to fight as a defence force. The policy of the Government has been to increase as rapidly as possible the organized defence forces of this country, and not merely to give to an individual man an individual tommy-gun. Our policy is to increase the units of defence, the battalions, or whatever it may be. There is one other matter about which I would say a word. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, raised quite a new point to-day—the question of the Air Force scheme of what he calls "tabloid training."


That is what they call it.


At any rate it is a rapid and short form of training. As the noble Lord points out, he only added this to his Motion yesterday. He came to see me and suggested he should add these words. Of course I was agreeable that the noble Lord should add whatever he liked.


I communicated with the Lord Chancellor and told him I proposed to base my arguments—he has a copy of what I proposed to say—on the entirely new fact of the very short period of training found possible by the Air Force. I discussed that with the Lord Chancellor fully, and said I was basing my case on it. Therefore, it seemed con- venient, as I told the House, that I should explain what I proposed to base my argument on, and that there was no question of a Secret Session.


That does not alter my point. My point is that the noble Lord came to me yesterday. The first thing I did was to send the amended Motion forward to my noble friend at the War Office, and Lord Croft did not get it till yesterday afternoon. Surely in these circumstances the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, would not expect a considered answer on this completely new and far-reaching scheme, now. Lord Croft has already said, in replying for the Government, that he is prepared to put it forward for the consideration of his colleagues. I do not think he could conceivably have said any more in the circumstances. As Lord Latham has pointed out, this proposal raises very wide issues. It raises the whole question of the war effort of this country—the industrial effort. It raises the whole question of labour. Labour may approve of it or may not. Surely it would be quite inconceivable that my noble friend should get up lightheartedly this afternoon and say either that the Government accept this scheme or reject it. It is a matter for serious consideration. I do not know whether, in fact, it will turn out to be practicable. I do not know whether, the position of civilians is at all analogous to that of personnel of the Air Force. All that my noble friend Lord Croft could possibly say was that he would put the matter forward for the consideration of his colleagues. That he has done. There is really no difference between us in the matter of national defence—there is no difference of opinion at all. We all want the enemy to be opposed with the utmost determination. But there is a practical matter of method. On this the Lord has put forward a new and interesting proposal, and the Government have said it will be considered. Surely on that he can hardly divide the House against the Government.


My Lords, I should like, for a moment, on behalf of my colleagues on these Benches, to endorse the plea that has just been made by the Leader of the House and to ask the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches, after having had the matter very exhaustively discussed this afternoon, to refrain from pressing his Motion to a Division. I am perfectly certain, after the weight of opinion that has been expressed in favour of the views of the noble Lord, the matter will be most thoroughly and seriously taken up by those responsible in the Government. I do think, as the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has pointed out, if this Motion were carried and if, in fact, we were at once to adopt measures for training in arms all the male population of the country, a very serious situation would be created both from the military point of view and the industrial point of view.

From the military point of view the Services are now preparing for a Second Front at the earliest reasonable opportunity. It is perfectly obvious that if we have not the weapons and the personnel for training such a vast number of citizens without drawing upon resources that are now being used by the Army or the Home Guard, we shall very seriously interfere with the efficiency of the Regular Army and the efficiency of the Home Guard, which will be an essential bastion of defence as soon as the Army goes overseas. The second point is one that has been already alluded to by Lord Latham. This is not merely a question of interfering with production by giving training. Even if the training does not take place during hours when men are actually at work, it is bound to cause them extra weariness and so interfere with their efficiency. People are now working longer than they have ever worked before in our industries, our mines, in our munition factories, and, with this additional burden, there is no doubt that the strain would hamper their productive capacity.


What about the Home Guard section of the factories and mines at present who are serving as Home Guards? That does not interfere with their work.


The point that the noble Earl has raised merely endorses my argument. These people have undertaken such heavy duties and liabilities that we cannot tax them any further. The noble Earl has in mind only those who are serving in the Home Guard. If we were to impose a similar strain on others we should be throwing a spanner into the industrial machine. There is the further point that this has not at present been accepted by the organized trade unions, by the leaders of the working people throughout the country. It is, at any rate, a very controversial issue and one which I should have thought should be avoided at this particular juncture when it is desperately urgent to get maximum production from all our industrial resources. I therefore greatly hope that the Motion which has been so exhaustively discussed and examined, and which has given rise to such a fruitful debate, will be, as the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has suggested, withdrawn and not pressed to a Division.


My Lords, I can only speak again by leave of the House, but the issue is very simple. We propose that it is desirable, in spite of all the arguments, that steps should be taken for every man to be trained to arms, as in all other countries. On the other hand, I understood Lord Croft to say that the War Office took a different view and that it would interfere with other things. In his concluding words, however, as is pointed out to me by my noble friend Lord Samuel, he said the exact opposite—namely, that the War Office would do their utmost to see that all the people available should have training. The noble Lord, Lord Croft, is very hard pressed. I think I see a way out of the difficulty with honour to all concerned, because in fact he has accepted the terms of my Motion in his concluding words. I make this appeal to the Leader of the House. He knows that I am speaking on behalf of the great body of Peers who come from England and Scotland who feel acutely that we should train all our people to arms as is the case in Continental countries. If he can assure me that the answer is not the "No" that I received originally, but a modification in Lord Croft's concluding words to-day, then of course we would be satisfied that they will do their utmost to do this necessary thing, and we hope and pray they will do it quickly. If, on the other hand, he says "I cannot give that assurance," then I could not possibly withdraw the Motion. If he can assure us that our arguments have cut deeply and that the views we nearly all hold will receive the consideration which we think they ought to have, then my friends and I will not divide the House now.


I can answer in a few words. I understand the noble Lord would be satisfied if Lord Croft could give an assurance that this new proposal for training civilians to arms would be given consideration. I have already said on behalf of the Government that that scheme will have their most careful consideration. Neither I nor anyone else can know whether it is a practical scheme for civilians or not until consideration of it has taken place; but it will have sympathetic consideration. I do not think I can go further than that to-day. That is as far as I can go, and I give that assurance.


My Lords, I welcome that sympathetic statement, and I think it is all we can possibly hope to gain. Having heard those welcome words, I hope I shall have the approval of my noble friends in withdrawing the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.