§ 2.47 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD rose to ask, in view of -previous debates in this House on post-war organization, whether His Majesty's Government would indicate a broad outline of the organization to be adopted for the three Fighting Services; and to move for papers.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, a year ago I asked His Majesty's Government if they would indicate the broad outline of the organization to be adopted for the three Fighting Services and whether what is called the short-service system will be maintained in the Royal Air Force and extended to the other Services. I also asked what form of conscription or national service was going to be adopted, and I sought information on various other points. I have again put down a Motion of a similar kind for to-day, and may I say that, to me, this is a vitally important matter. I cannot help feeling that it is also of importance to a good many people in the nation outside, and I think that many of your Lordships also will agree as to its importance. I hope that the suggestions which I have to make will be considered entirely upon their merits; that they will not be regarded in any Party spirit, but, as I say, judged on their merits alone. As I look upon it, it is vitally important that we should have put before us a general outline of the scheme for the organization of the three Fighting Services at the earliest possible moment.
§ Now I am not in any way blaming this or any other Government in relation to this subject. I know what a long time has to be given to dealing with a matter of this sort, because I went through it after the last war. But, quite apart from anything done and said by the Government and in Parliament, I already see signs in the Press, in quarterly magazines, in pamphlets and in various other publications that we are not looking upon the organization of the Fighting Services as 879 being of as great a degree of importance as the organization of other Services. I note that to some extent sight is being lost already of what the Fighting Services have done in the war which has just ended. I have also noticed that a great amount of thought and discussion has been devoted to the organization of the Civil Services both at home and overseas and the Colonial Service. But even though the atomic bomb has come, I still feel that the three Fighting Services are of vital importance to this country, in view of the unrest which is manifest in the world to-day.
§ Having had no part in the work of the Fighting Services in the recent war, I feel that I can frankly look upon it as an outsider with, of course, a natural affection for, and even a bias in favour of, the Fighting Services. We do surely know now what caused the war, and undoubtedly, one of the most important factors in that connexion was our total neglect of the Fighting Services and our failure to keep them on a proper organization or adequately manned, trained, and equipped. Everybody knows the result. Do not let that happen again. Regrettable as it may be, human nature takes centuries to change. Talk does not change it; speeches do not change it. Much as we may avoid facing the facts, the facts still remain. It has been recently said that if the war had gone on for another few months the many implements of war which the Germans were making would have dealt a devastating blow at the Allied war effort. In fact, I have even heard people say, "How lucky it was that the war finished when it did, or"—and then they stop, meaning, I suppose, that they think we might have been defeated. Bad as was our start, I think we were capable of looking into the future and also capable of taking care of the present when the war started, even if we were not capable of that before the war. The Germans used their energy and efforts in making wonderful plans for the future and they made some wonderful weapons. But they did not pay enough attention to the present, and the result was that we won.
§ There are certain questions I want to ask this afternoon. The first is: Are we going to have a National Service Act for two or three years? This is again a matter which should be dealt with as a 880 non-Party question. I know the difficulty of deciding whether the Act should continue, and for how long, or whether in the future there should be what may commonly be called conscription. It is difficult to see how it should be introduced and the form which it should take. I believe it has been said already that the National Service Act is going to be continued for two years. Can anything be said of what is going to happen after two years? I should like to see that blessed term which everyone argued about the other day—five years. But let us know when it is going to be decided what the conscription is going to be.
§ There is another question I want to ask. Are we going to have a Combined Staff or only the Chiefs of Staff as in this war and the Combined Staff College? How are we going to choose our officers in the future? That is a matter which I look upon as very important. Then there is the question of the short-service system. Are we going to have a short-service as well as a long-service system? I outlined my idea over a year ago in a speech I then made. When will the conditions of service be issued? I mean the conditions with regard to pay, length of service, promotion, the permanent conditions for long-term service, the permanent conditions for whatever medium service there may be, and the permanent conditions under the National Service Act and conscription. Do the Government intend to keep the three Fighting Services separate, as I hope they will do? With regard to the National Service Act I am not going to argue the pros and cons of conscription; I am only asking for some indication of when a decision will be given, and what form it will take, so that the country shall know what is going to be done.
§ My next point is that of the Combined Staff. Surely we all appreciate what the Chiefs of Staffs have done in this war. They were wonderful and all the subcommittees under them worked smoothly and well. It was actually a form of Combined Staff. Do not let us remain stationary. Should we not develop the arrangement further as a Combined Staff? Should we not take selected officers from the three Services after passing through Staff Colleges and send them to a Combined Staff College, not quite like the Combined Staff College which existed before the war but one 881 which is a living College. It should be a college in close proximity to the three Service Staff Colleges and the course should certainly be for eighteen months if not two years. They should live together. The people selected to go to that Combined Staff College should be chosen for their ability and good service. To enable them to give of their best it should be made quite clear when they are selected for this that they will not be passed over for promotion by anybody in tad it own Service; that would give them freedom to express their views, even though they might be antagonistic to the views of their own Service, as has hap pened in the past. I can give instances. I can tell you of instructors chosen as the best men in their Service who when they have been to the Combined Staff College have found there was no further use further services. I am sure that that matter will be looked into and considered.
§ Then, how are we going to select our officers in the future? I think it will be agreed, or I hope it will, that selection should be on the broadest possible basis I know that one or two noble Lords may, not agree, but if I may say so there is some measure of agreement by the Labour Party with what I am saying on this point. Officers should not be all selected in exactly the same way. They should no all be educated in exactly the same way they should not all be drawn from the same type. I should like to see them come from every type in this country. I feel that we should have those who have passed through the ranks, maybe for short periods or for longer periods. We should encourage others who have passed the examinations to go to colleges like Sandhurst and Woolwich for the. Army, Cranwell for the Air Force and a similar college to Sandhurst for the Navy—Dartmouth. We should take from the universities others at a different age who have got degrees.
§ We should also take many from the great technical schools, like Halton, which many of your Lordship know, and Aber-field for the Army, and let them go to Cranwell and Sandhurst in the future. Finally, we should select some who have done well without examination, and who, in their early years, up to the ages of 23 or 24, want to change, and send them before a Selection Board. By this means you will get officers of all types. If they 882 were all taken by the one method, all from Sandhurst, all from Cranwell, or all through the ranks—one type, moulded in one group—they would have a narrow outlook on life and their profession. That is why I am keen on a broad basis. The activities and duties in the Services require that one can put one's hand on all the different types of men that one wants for different types of posts, and not all from one type of man who has undergone one type of training. Then we can get the round peg in the round hole, instead of a square peg in a round hole.
§ Now I come to what I have called the "short-service" system, and linking it with the life of the nation. I repeat that I look upon this system as one of the most important. It was the "short-service" system that did so much to help the Air Force, and I like to feel that the Air Service, because of its "short-service" system, was linked more intimately with the life of the nation than any other Service. On December 6, 1944, I outlined what the short-service system really consisted of, and I will give your Lordships an outline as briefly as possible now. I would like to see matters so arranged that men, whose main business in life is going to be in some profession, like teaching or the Civil Service, or as architects, after they have passed their book examinations, could serve in one of the Fighting Services for two, three or four years, and so rub shoulders with their fellow-men before taking up their professions.
I am emboldened to press this short-service arrangement as strongly as possible for all the professions in civil life. Since the last debate on this subject, there has been an advance on these lines. I refer to the Teachers' Superannuation Bill which was before your Lordships' House on February 13 this year, when an Amendment was introduced in regard to which the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, said:
The Second Schedule of the Bill enables teachers to be seconded for other work for a period of up to five years and yet to retain their pension rights. That, I think, is a feature which will commend itself -to my noble friend Lord Trenchard.
§ That is a great step forward.
§ Men who are going to settle down after passing their book examinations, can now, instead of going straight into the teaching 883 profession, join one of the Fighting Services for two, three or four years, and lose no pension rights by doing so. Think what a valuable thing this would be for teachers if it could be done more universally; if young men could be told that if they wanted permanent positions as teachers they would get them more readily if, after passing their book examinations, they did two, three or four years with one of the Fighting Services. What I am saying now is in conformity with some suggestions I made in your Lordships' House not long ago. What could be done for teachers could be done also for civil servants, in both the senior and lower divisions. Surely, it could be done for the Colonial Service, too.
§ I will not weary your Lordships by repeating what I said last year, but is it too much to ask the Government to read again the speech which I made in December, 1944? There is nothing in the Fighting Services which has not a counterpart in civil life. A great many of the professions in the Government service, and outside, could adopt a system by which they could say to future candidates for these professions: "You must get through your book examinations, or certificates from school, and your degrees at the university. At the same time you must do one more thing if you want to get a permanent position in our profession, and that is serve for two or three years in one of the Services." Of course, the Services will then have a greater responsibility, as was thrown on the Air Service with the short-service system. For one who intends to join, say, the electrical profession, every effort should be made, while he is in the Service, to give him every facility for studying his profession in civil life. This could be done also with regard to the spiritual profession. Would it not be an advantage for those who enter the spiritual profession, first, to pass their book examinations, and, then, before they are ordained, to do two or three years in one of the Services prior to taking up their curacies? I feel that the result would be to improve the spiritual life of this country. Think what a link it would be between the nation and the Services. Surely, it would improve the citizen as much as it would improve the Service, and I hope we can be told 884 that the Government are going to adopt some sort of short-service scheme.
§ My next point concerns pay and promotion. Surely, it is of the utmost importance for all in the Services at present, and all those who will go into them in the future, that the conditions of pay, promotion, equipment, emoluments generally, and what examinations they must pass, should be laid down for the three categories of Service—under the National Service Act, under what I call the short-service system, and under the long service or permanent career system. If these important conditions were laid down now the demobilization problem would be eased. I see that this has been done for many of the professions; for instance, nursing and the banks. We may think and hope, and believe, that major wars are over, that a major war is not probable now; but look at the world, look at Palestine, look at Tripoli, look at Greece, look at Burma, and look at the Dutch East Indies. 'There, anyhow, the Services are on active service. I would say to the Government that they have had three months in which to do something. I wanted this matter looked at a year ago.
§ Finally, I hope the Government are going to say that they will definitely keep the three Fighting Services separate, linked together by the Combined Staff. I also want to ask a special point about the Auxiliary Air Force. The auxiliary squadrons were magnificent in this war; nothing could have been better. Can we not have it stated very early that the Auxiliary Air Force squadrons are going to remain and are going to be doubled, in numbers at least? Some people go so far as to say that they would like an increase to 30 or 50 per cent. of the total strength of the Air Force. I do not go as far as they do, but I should say the number could easily be doubled. It is the cheapest form of insurance this country has ever taken.
§ Now as to the Colonies and Colonial troops. Cannot we really employ many more troops from the Colonies, at any rate for the ground services? I am thinking particularly of the Air Service. Could we not put up a Halton in Nigeria and a Halton in Singapore, train the young boys there and get the Halton spirit out there which we have in this country? Those boys could do five, six, seven or ten years in the Air Force, the Army or the Navy.885
§ They will be trained in mechanics and mechanical appliances, and when their time of service is over they will be of much more use in their Colonies. They will help to develop their countries more quickly. And the Colonies would take a. pride in doing this. We should have colleges like Halton and Aberfield—I do not want to leave the Army out in this matter, either. I have tried to cut down the lengtin of this speech, I am not good at putting speeches together, as your Lordships know, but I feel I have asked nothing that cannot be settled long before the size of your Forces is decided upon. You need not wait until you know whether you are going to have 2,000,000, 1,000,000 or 500,000 men. A lot of these points could be decided upon, and a decision would give comfort to all, now. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3. 12 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Viscount has done a service to your Lordships, I suggest, and also to the nation by initiating the first debate on defence in either House in the new Parliament. There are, of course, good reasons for that, and they are not only the general neglect of Service questions which follows on every war. That has been true in this country for the last two or three hundred years; as soon as war is over, the one thing most people want to forget is all about the war and about Service questions. Nevertheless, I think the noble and gallant Viscount will agree that when this war did break out—and I consider we need a sense of proportion here—the Royal Navy was, for its size, in a grey t state of preparedness, and was most efficient. So, too, was the Royal Air Force, largely due to the noble and gallant Viscount's great organizing abilities when he held his high office on the Air Council. Ai to the Army, I want to follow the noble Viscount's example and to cut my remarks; therefore I will economize in my remarks upon His Majesty's Army.
The noble Viscount spoke about the Auxiliary Air Force. I think we should not, for a moment, lose sight of the extra-Ordinary development in this war of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. During the height of the war I am told that only one officer in six and one rating in ten was a long-term Service officer or man, and that all the rest were temporary officers and ratings, in this most highly 886 specialized Service. I mention this, following on what the noble Viscount said about Auxiliary Air Forces, in the hope that, although we have no direct representative of the Admiralty in your Lordships' House, my noble friend Viscount Stansgate will be sympathetic, as I am sure he will, and that we may keep up the organization and the nucleus of the Royal. Naval Volunteer Reserve in the future.
The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, is not unreasonable in asking for a statement of policy, following on a similar request which he made a year ago. I only hope that in a year's time he will not have to stand up again from that Bench and make another request for information on policy. But, after all, the Government have some very great problems to settle, directly concerned with defence. Again I plead for a sense of proportion. There are three great unsolved problems to be dealt with before many of the answers can be given to the very proper questions put by the gallant Air Marshal. The first is that we have not set up yet the defence side of the United Nations Organization, and that is going to be a most complicated and delicate matter. We are going to form part, with our Armed Forces, of a universal police service for carrying out the obligations and responsibilities of the United Nations Organization and for preserving the future peace of the world. Until that matter is settled, it will be most difficult for this Government, or any Allied Government, to decide on the exact strength and composition of the Forces. I see that our good friends the leading Generals and Admirals on the other side of the Atlantic have put forward astronomical figures for the American Army and Navy of the future. That is, of course, the way of the professional chiefs of Fighting Services—they pitch their demands very high. I venture to say, however, that the American Government and the American Congress cannot settle this question at all until more is known about the defence side of the United Nations Organization.
Secondly, and for reasons which we all appreciate, we have unfortunately not begun the general peace settlement, either in Europe or in Asia. The noble Viscount referred to the trouble spots in the world and read out a catalogue of them. There they are. It is very unfortunate that they should exist. But they are nothing compared with the major problems which have 887 yet to be settled, both in Europe and in Asia. Until that is done, I do not think this Government, or any Allied Government, or any Dominion Government, can really decide on the strength and nature of their Armed Forces. Perhaps you could settle on a minimum and say, "This should be the minimum strength of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force," and could offer conditions of service upon which officers and men could re-engage up to that number. But you may need more or you may need less, and until these great questions are settled I do not see how many of the detailed matters upon which the noble Viscount dwelt can possibly be decided by this, or indeed any Allied Government.
The third great enigma is what is going to happen about the use of nuclear explosives, or the atom bomb as ordinary people describe it. That is obviously going profoundly to affect the whole problem of the defence of this and every other country. That matter is. now under discussion by our Prime Minister and the American President, and until it is settled I do not see how we can decide whether we are to have three separate Services, or a combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in permanent session, or a Combined General Staff. I would have supported the noble Viscount on those points, with great diffidence, a year ago, but a great deal has happened in the last year, and the most important thing that has happened, from the noble Viscount's point of view and from that of myself and of your Lordships, is this extraordinary new discovery of a devastating explosive that makes all other weapons obsolete or at least obsolescent.
There is a risk of over-simplification even here. The noble Viscount spoke of there being no great war, so far as he could see, in the future. He does not believe there will be one or at least hopes not. But there may be these minor wars or areas of disturbance, and this is a matter upon which I think we must keep our ideas clear. When, many years ago, I began my futile studies of stategy I was advised to read the works of a great German military author, von Clausewitz, who is well known as a writer to the noble Viscount and to your Lordships. Writing many years ago, he drew a distinction between what he called limited and unlimited wars. Limited wars are wars like the 888 Crimean War in the last century and the Russo-Japanese War at the beginning of this century. That description might also apply to the disturbances in the Dutch East Indies at the present time, the trouble in which we have unfortunately become involved in Java, about which the noble Viscount spoke. Examples of unlimited wars are the First World War, the Second World War, the Napoleonic Wars and so on. In unlimited wars of the future it they occur you will find the atomic bomb used, because obviously its secret cannot be kept for more than a few years. Those are the wars that the noble Viscount, I presume, referred to when he spoke of the "major wars."
Now we come to limited wars, the smaller areas of disturbance. There I cannot imagine the new nuclear explosive being used, because it can only be used indiscriminately. At the present moment, unfortunately, we have our forces engaged in fighting in Java, in Surabaya. Even if we had atomic bombs which could at the present moment be launched from rockets or from aeroplanes, it would, of course, be absurd to suppose they would be used there because we should be destroying our friends as much as our enemies. For those limited wars, Colonial wars or disturbances which may arise—and in that connexion I would include possible future police action by the Armed Forces of the United Nations Organization—obviously the older weapons will alone be used. By that I mean the weapons with which we have become familiar during the last five or six years in the European war, before the devastation of the Japanese cities by atomic bombs which brought about, very largely, the Japanese capitulation.
I apologize to your Lordships for this digression, but I think it necessary to say that there should be a distinction between the kind of weapons used for a certain type of war, the unlimited war (which all of us hope and pray will never come about), and the kind of weapons used in what I may call a police operation or in limited wars, using Clausewitz's definition, where the older weapons will be used. It is for that latter type of war that we need what I may describe as national armaments, very largely of a super-police kind. His Majesty's Government are no doubt addressing themselves to that problem at the present time.
889 The noble Viscount mentioned conscription. There again, obviously the answers must be given in the future when we can sec more clearly the problems that face us. My information is that the Admiralty are perfectly confident that they can get all the volunteers they want for the Royal Navy, and I imagine the same applies to the Royal Air Force. There remains the Army. In that connexion I understood the noble Viscount t) suggest long-term service by highly specialized and well-paid men, presumably a comparatively small force, stir-ported by some form of reserves. These are immense problems. I regret very mach that we are not spending one day on them only. There are many of your Lordships who ought to be taking part in this debate and I hope the noble Viscount will agree to return to the subject in the near future.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ LORD CROFT
My Lords, when I had the honour, as a humble representative to stand at that box and defend one of Lie Service Departments, my noble and gallant friend Lord Trenchard used occasionally to chide and criticize, very gently and very courteously, some of the things we had clone or had not done. It is very pleasant for me, therefore, to-day to say how cordially I appreciate the fact that he has tabled this Motion and caused your Lordships to look upon these great problems, because there are matters arising out of this Motion which appear to me to be not only important—which is, I think, the word he used—but of extreme urgency. Failure to announce the broad lines of post-war policy is, I submit, having an adverse effect. I think I can say that delay in indicating that policy is causing a great deal of unnecessary expenditure, and therefore t throwing a burden upon the taxpayers. It is causing inefficiency in the preparations of the Services for the future and is causing hardship to those of our officers and non-commissioned officers who would desire to remain in the Forces if they were permitted to do so.
I recall that some nine or ten months ago, when the end of the war with Germany appeared to be in sight, there were already exhaustive preparations in the Services—I believe I am right in saying in all the Services, but certainly in the Army—in order that we might have 890 a plan of the size of the separate forces, what were their land requirements, how many officers and non-commissioned officers were needed, what were their prospects and under what conditions applicants might serve. At that time we had the whole burden of the war with Germany on our shoulders as well as the Japanese war; but in spite of that an immense amount of preparatory work was clone and, I believe I can say, completed so far as was possible having regard to the information which the Services then had. So long as the war with Germany was not over, and so long as we still did not know where we were in the West, I think it may be agreed it was not reasonable to demand a cut-and-dried scheme; but once the major enemy had been defeated and the Japanese War was finished then, I think your Lordships will agree, a Cabinet decision as to the main broad lines of policy was of supreme urgency.
The noble Viscount has mentioned that time goes on. July is long past; August is gone; September and October are no more with us, and we are well into November. Yet there has so far been no pronouncement, as far as I am aware, and not one of the Fighting Services knows where it stands. Each Service is suffering from complete uncertainty, with results that may seriously affect the efficiency of our national defence. Frankly I feel this failure on the part of the Government to make up their minds on the question of post-war Services is needlessly having a deplorable effect. The problem can, I think, be roughly divided into the material and the human sides of the question. In the material side, I would include land, training grounds, barracks, fortifications, ammunition, stores, equipment and all such matters. The second side, the human side, affects personnel.
With regard to the first side, I submit that until decisions are made there will be a great and wholly unnecessary waste of public funds, running into millions of pounds each month. What are our requirements for stores of ammunition? Unless you decide on the size and character of the Forces, how can those responsible for planning say what equipment and ammunition are required? Until a decision is made, how can the Services know just how much 891 storage space is required—and storage space is a vital problem at the present moment, as all members of His Majesty's Government know—or what barrack space is required? If you do not decide, for instance, whether you will require x armoured divisions or x armoured divisions plus 2, you cannot possibly abandon any tank training areas. The same is, I presume, true of ships and docks and other naval installations and of aircraft and aerodromes. Until you know the layout and the location of your Army, how can you tell just what training areas are required, say in the Middle East, in the Far East, or here at home? Until that decision is made, it would, I think your Lordships will agree, be disastrous for any Service Department to yield up training areas, equipment or barracks which might be wanted a year or two hence and the cost of which would probably have greatly increased in the interval.
The tempo of modern war has so increased that we cannot rely any longer on surviving the first round of the fight and settling down to build up our Forces after the struggle has begun. We have gambled on that twice, and we got through only by the skin of our teeth; the third time may be fatal. We all hope, as the noble Viscount says, that there will not be another serious war; but, as he said, hope is not enough. We cannot again take the appalling risk of unilateral disarmament, which proved so disastrous in its results in the years between the wars, and which accounted so largely for our unpreparedness.
The President and people of the United States of America appear to be quite convinced that they must maintain great Forces on sea, on land and in the air. General Marshall's realistic outline of defence needs demonstrated the vital necessity for all three Services, and was apparently acceptable to the people of that great country. Although I agree broadly with what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said with regard to defence demands in the United States of America, I think it must be admitted that President Truman has made it very clear that the United States is going to have very large forces in the days to come. Why cannot we too make up our minds and cease this masterly inactivity, which has persisted as if these problems did not exist? I submit that we 892 shall have to be very careful that the Big Three of the United Nations, who are the power behind that great Organization of which we have so many hopes, do not become the Big Two, with ourselves as a little third, because of the complacency and inaction of the Government, in our contribution to the world's security organization.
I would also remind your Lordships that industry which is associated with war equipment and munitions is crying out for a decision as to what the military requirements are. I need only recall the very serious position we were in during the earlier part of the war, when we searched the world for supplies. There are equipment problems calling every day for the application of science, but, whilst we are drifting, men of science have no problems given to them and no target in front of them, and some of them are leaving, though they are men whom we should be wise to retain. If the business of this country is to be run on these lines of inaction, I think we might despair of economic recovery; but we know that that cannot be so.
I want to come for one moment to the human factor. In all the three Services, I believe I am right in saying that there are large numbers of officers and noncommissioned officers of outstanding merit, who have excelled as leaders and whose retention in the Fighting Services may make all the difference to the efficiency of the Forces when they are reconstructed and built up for peace duties. Imagine the situation of all these officers to whom I am referring, whose demobilization is now taking place or is about to take place. They have made good in the science of arms. Many of them are most anxious to continue in a career in which they are already far up the ladder; but no one can tell them whether they are wanted and are to remain on, and whether a grateful nation is prepared to accept their service on reasonable terms. They see their brother officers and non-commissioned officers already in civil life, some of them getting the best jobs going. Are they to gamble by continuing in the Services for one year, as I understand is permissible in some cases, which may leave them worse off in the end, or should they take a civilian job while the going is good?
It is really with the flower of the Fighting Services that I am concerned. Are 893 we to retain them, or will they, in desperation, because we cannot make up our minds, leave the career for which they are best fitted? I need not give instances, because instances will come to all our minds of brilliant young men who six or seven years ago, at the age, perhaps, of nineteen, joined up because they saw that war was coming. They were in it from the beginning, and since then by sheer merit they have attained the rank of Major or Lieutenant-Colonel, or perhaps even higher rank. They may have had the command and control and care of perhaps a thousand men, and many of them have been decorated for fine leadership in the held. Failure to make use of their services will mean the loss of the very me a that the Army needs most, and those men will go into civil life, where they will have no qualifications because they had no chance of starting in civil life before they went to fight for their country. These men—men to whom we owe so much—will in civil life have to begin again at the bottom of the ladder. Many of them have no private means whatever, apart from their gratuities. If they dare not wait, aril therefore leave the Service, they will have to start again, whereas if we can retain them in the Service and tell them what we are prepared to do, they have the chance of a great career. I believe that what I have said of the Army is equally true of the Royal Navy and of the Royal Air Force.
What, then, do I suggest that Parliament should ask the Government to do? We ask, as Lord Trenchard said, for a broad policy for the Services. We realize that it may not be possible to forecast the actual final numbers required, but surely we can, as the noble Viscount and Lori Strabolgi have suggested, give a minimum and say, "This is the minimum which we must have." It is not for me to say whether it should be a million and a half, or a million, or three quarters of a million, but let us decide on a minimum and teal the Army Council, the Admiralty and the Air Force what that minimum is. If the Government will do that, I think it will be a very great help to those who are engaged in planning our future Services. The Government may not have made up their minds finally on actual conditions of service, rates of pay and pensions, though delay in that respect is, I submit, no longer justified; but they can tell these 894 officers whom they will, I hope, try to retain that existing terms will be continued, and that any improvements thereafter will be extended to those who sign on now.
There is much more that I should like to say, because the same arguments apply to our Territorial and other Auxiliary Forces. Hundreds of men are coming out now and going back to civilian life because we have not made up our minds how many officers we want to retain. If the Government can end this dalliance and give a broad outline of their policy, as has been suggested from three different quarters in this House, I think they will be doing a great service to the country. Then we may have a choice of having the kind of Fighting Services in peace that we had in war—unsurpassed, and I think we may without boasting say almost unequalled, in discipline, training and warrior qualities.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend Viscount Trenchard has put these questions and I trust that the Government will be able to satisfy him. I must say, though, that I am a little concerned lest he should find himself "ridden off"—if I may so phrase it—by reason of the easy answers that Viscount Stansgate can give to the effect that it is quite impossible for this or for any other Government to give a definite statement as to what Forces we require in view of the extraordinary and complete upheaval of every military doctrine which has resulted from the discovery of the possibility of the release, in a form in which it can be, and has been, applied, of the vast power of atomic energy. I do not know if all your Lordships realize how completely military thought has changed in places where they appreciate to the full the power of this new weapon.
General Marshall has been quoted. I do not know if your Lordships are aware of the kind of force that General Arnold, another equally distinguished General of the United States Army, suggests that the United States should have, and presumably that we should have. He suggests something altogether novel, something having no relation at all to what we have hitherto considered to be appropriate. His suggestion is that first of all 895 it is necessary to have, shall we say, twenty-five installations each one of which can destroy a capital city—or, indeed a number of them—spaced over the world in countries over which the United States now has control. That is the first big thing he suggests. Then, of course, he says, you would require a huge Secret Service force, running presumably into many millions of people, in order to find out if the other fellow was doing something of the same kind. If it needs only twenty-five of these installations to destroy most of the world, it is obvious that you will need a very vigilant force to watch what the other man is doing.
Thirdly, as we have all foreseen, there will be needed a great force—one can hardly say of all arms because the whole thing will be novel and completely new—which can go to the place where, through your Secret Service and by other methods, you have ascertained that the other fellow is working mischief and quickly stop it before he has completed his arrangements. That is General Arnold's suggestion which has been submitted to the American Government and the American people. I am afraid that Viscount Stansgate is nodding his head, and agrees that these things are undoubtedly true. If he says that, and goes no further, he will, of course, get the best of the argument. I must concede, and I think that most of my noble friends in this quarter of the House would concede too, that you could not lay down now, the forces that you would want. But if the noble Viscount says simply that, we shall not have advanced a bit.
In the second part of the proposal put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, that you should continue, as he puts it, a form of conscription, I am with him. I think that you would find, too, that this same General Arnold, who proposes the fantastic military equipment which I have described, would also join with him. Why? It may well be that Lord Cherwell—who I suppose is the man who knows most about this subject of anybody in this House—is right in saying that if anyone start; going to war with this new weapon the effect will be world disaster. I do not know if your Lordships remember, but in a speech in which Lord Cherwell began by writing down the atomic bomb and saying that a lot of non 896 sense is being talked about it and that people are exaggerating its power and importance, the noble Lord ended, speaking very quietly—so quietly that only those near him could hear what he was saying—with words to this effect: "Still I must admit, if the nations of the world decided to go to war with the atomic bomb the result would undoubtedly be the complete end of civilization." I suppose it is true that that is what would in fact happen. The late Professor J. J. Thomson was of that opinion and he told me before he died, that, in his view, a war in which the atomic bomb was used would probably result in bringing to an end all life on earth, vegetable as well as animal.
In order to avoid that, what can we do? We can do some of the things which General Arnold has proposed. We can have a great force which can go in and put a stop to the machinations of a war-minded country before mankind is destroyed. But where does that lead one to? I think it leads one straight to this: that you cannot abandon all the means of enforcing your will on your neighbour either in relation to the human factor, which has just been referred to by Lord Croft, or in the mechanical realm and still less in the other aspects of human society. You must maintain a nucleus in all these respects, but from the point of view of the people of this island the sky is the limit of what you want in the matter of man-power. You want every, single male in the country to be taught, as soon as he is capable of learning it, that he can only live, and his neighbours can only live, through ceaseless vigilance and through being ready in body and mind, not only to serve his country—that of course goes without saying—but to serve the cause of mankind as a whole. So I would plead with Viscount Stansgate to accept the general thesis put forward by Viscount Trenchard, that the youth of this country should be taught the necessity of doing everything to maintain health in body and mind and that there should be, if conscription on the Continental model is not thought to be desirable, a great school of morals and social virtue and, above all, of self-sacrifice. Our people should be prepared to join with, it may be, and no doubt it would be, the United States and others—with Russia, if she is willing—in going in and taking measures to stop an extermination policy which, if unchecked will, without a doubt, destroy mankind.
897 And now to come down to a detail Here are all these officers and N.C.O's who want to know if they are wanted The answer is: "Yes, we shall want all of you who know how to keep pod sound discipline based on the simple relations o man to man and the ordinary necessity for having discipline. We want you to help to teach the young people how to make sure that their bodies as well the as minds are strong, and, above all their souls." That, I submit, can be done. You can teach these young people that they must love their country more than sell and the cause of mankind more than both. If the Government could say "Well, while the atomic bomb problem makes it all too difficult for us to make pronouncement on the Armed Force now, we do pronounce in favour of the idea that the whole of the nation shall be schooled in patriotism, in morals anti social virtues, and above all in sacrifice if need be sacrifice of their own lives in the cause of others;" then I think all the rest will follow and we can go forward in this uncertain world secure in the knowledge that even if the world is to be destroyed we shall have played our par and shall have been ready to serve the cause of mankind.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD TWEEDSMUIR
My Lords, I crave that traditional indulgence which is so kindly and cordially extended to those who address this House for the first time, I esteem it a great honour to speak to a Motion Initiated by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, so long a champion of the Forces. I hope I shall receive indulgence if I cover a little of the ground which has already been gone over, which I do when I strongly echo what has been said and what has been said particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Croft, regarding those officers and men of His, Majesty's Forces now serving who wish to make a lifetime career in the Forces. As the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has told us, regular Commissions and regular employment in the Services are naturally contingent upon the size and composition of the peace-time Army and the peace-time Forces. It is a question of translating strategic commitments into strategic requirements.
As regards their size, that is not a matter which can be settled by ourselves alone, but it will be materially affected by the 898 arrangements which we enter into with those great Powers with whom we are in alliance. As regards its composition, that is a decision for the Government and their advisers to make, based on six years experience of war and the advent of the atomic age. This is a decision which affects the future of the whole world and it is not a decision which can be taken in any hurry; but meanwhile grave doubt and uncertainty exist in the minds of those now serving who aspire to a career in these peace-time Forces. I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I understand that in the Royal Navy a certain number of permanent Commissions have been granted already in certain branches of that Service. In the Army and the Air Force Boards have been set up to examine candidates for Commissions and a certain number of Commissions have already been granted, but a large number, a much larger number, who were thought suitable for Commissions at a later stage have been placed on waiting lists.
There are also, I understand, various schemes in operation by which serving officers can prolong their service for a time or re-engage for a short period of years. It is at this moment, and from now onwards, that this matter becomes more pressing. These young men, with six years of war behind them and all their future ahead, are the future military leaders of Britain. The longer they have served the sooner the date of their demobilization falls due. If, as that date approaches, they have no guarantee as to the terms of service which they are going to find and, in fact, no guarantee whether they are going to get a Commission at all, they will turn to a civilian career. For, my Lords, the spectre of unemployment is not confined to any one class. If these young men find that the prospects of employment in the civilian world are good, they will turn their thoughts from the Forces. If, however, they find no immediate prospect of a civilian job, and if, in fact, they do not find themselves well suited to one, they will be liable to return to the Forces. By the present uncertainty the Forces are the loser.
I do not seek to embarrass His Majesty's Government in this matter and they are quite well aware of the extremely prejudicial effect on the morale of the Forces which this present state of doubt 899 is having. The great majority of noble Lords on both sides of the House have at one time or another served in His Majesty's Forces and they know that there is no greater foe to morale, either in peace or war, than uncertainty in any form. It is not just a question of a concrete assurance; even the promise of a concrete assurance at a later stage would do much to remedy the present evil. Our Dominions and Allies are faced with very similar problems, but this problem has been settled in the Canadian Army in which I have held a Commission for close on six years. Their problem is simpler; a much smaller number is involved. When you consider that that great Dominion, in spite of her vast territories, has a population no larger than that of Greater London, and when you consider the size of Canada's Armed Forces in ratio to her man-power, you will realize that my example does not present too extreme a parallel. The Canadian Government has promised to publish the terms and conditions of service of her peace-time Army on, or before, 31st March next year, about four and a half months hence. Meanwhile, in order to provide personnel for her peace-time Army and in order to provide replacements for her Forces in Germany, she has got what is called an Interim Force. Any officer or man who wishes to join the Regular Army joins the Interim Force and, if accepted, serves in it under the same conditions of pay and allowances, and conditions generally, as those which obtained during the war. When that date —31st March next year—comes round, or perhaps before, the terms of service will be announced, the Interim Force will cease to exist and these officers or men will be taken straight into Canada's peace-time Army. Thus those who, when their conditions of service are declared, find that they do not care for them, have the option of withdrawing without further obligation.
The Canadian plan, of which I have given your Lordships the gist, has been public for nearly one month. It is a perfect guarantee in that it ends all that doubt and uncertainty which is a problem which has faced the Canadian Army as much as it has our own. I want to ask His Majesty's Government if I may, whether, although they cannot at this moment give us a concrete assurance on the terms of 900 service of our peace-time Forces, they will give us a date, even if it is fairly distant, when these terms will be announced and whether on that same date, or perhaps earlier, they can give a firm answer to those on waiting lists for Commissions. That would do much to dispel that doubt and uncertainty which is proving so prejudicial to the future of the Services.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, I think all your Lordships would wish me to congratulate the noble Lord who has just sat down on a very able and well-considered speech. No doubt many of your Lordships knew his father when he was in this House, although I believe he was not often in attendance here because of the excellent work he was doing in the Dominion of Canada; but a number of us were proud to serve with John Buchan in another place and I suppose there is not one of your Lordships who has not read one or more, or perhaps all, of his brilliant books. So because of his father and because of the speech the noble Lord has just delivered, I think we should all welcome his first appearance in this House and wish him well in his public and private affairs.
I intend to keep the House for a very few moments only this afternoon. I really rise to say one word about the Territorial Army. The noble Viscount, who initiated this debate, spoke about the good services of the R.A.F.V.R., and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, spoke about the R.N.V.R., and I thought it would be right for a word to be said about the Territorial Army as well. I served in it during the whole of the last war and until just before this one began, so, perhaps, I am in a position, after twenty-four years' service, to say one word on its behalf. But before I do so, I should like to reinforce what the noble Lord who has just sat down so ably said, and what was referred to by my noble friend Lord Croft, in regard to the great necessity for letting officers and men of all three Services know where they stand. At the moment, except in very exceptional cases, if an officer or a man applies to his Commanding Officer as to what his terms of service would be if he stayed on as a regular soldier, sailor or airman, he is told that he can be signed on for just one year, and no more. That, of course, gives him no security of tenure. 901 He finds that if he stays on for that time, a large number of civilian jobs have gone, and that he is rather later in the field than his contemporaries. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that the Government should, at the earliest possible moment, make an announcement that the Services can retain a certain number of people. Otherwise, you are going to lose all your best young men. And once these go out of the Service and settle down into a different way of life, it is very rarely that they will come back. You do not get your best men back again.
I hope we shall soon hear what the Government's decision is in regard to national service. I very much hope they will keep it on, not only for the sake of national security, and so that, once again, we are not caught unprepared, but because I believe it does a lot of good for the young men who serve eighteen months or two years of their lives in one of the Armed Forces of the Crown. You can see the recruits going in, and you can see them after six months' service; they are physically very much better men after that six months' training, and because of regular hours and meals. Secondly, I believe it is a very good thing that men from all walks of life should serve, side by side, in the ranks, and get to know one another. Thirdly, I hope that, in the future, we shall be able to send some of our drafts abroad much more quickly—probably by some form of air service—than we could in the past. That may mean that, in the future, many of the young men of this country will have the opportunity of seeing other parts of the world and getting that wider outlook which service abroad gives them.
Whether or not there is going to be national service, I am one of those who believe that we shall still need to have a Territorial Army. The Territorial Army in this war, as in the last, performed a valuable service to the country. Of course, here and there, there was a bad unit and, here and there, Commanding Officers who were not up to scratch, but, by and large, it was a considerable contribution to our Armed Forces at a time when we wanted men. If any of your Lordships listened to a broadcast not long ago on the Wessex Division—which happens to be the division with which I am largely concerned —and their wonderful efforts to relieve the 902 airborne forces at Arnhem, or have followed, both in this war and the last, the doings of that great Highland Division, the 51st, I think we can claim that the Territorial Army has sent forth some extremely good units.
Even if we have national service, I believe it is a very good thing to get the men, either voluntarily or compulsorily, to serve on for four years afterwards in the Territorial Army. I should like the Government to consider whether that Army should be re-formed so that the Commanding Officers have to take 80 per cent. or some such figure, of these men, keeping the remaining 20 per cent. for those who wish to serve on longer as non-commissioned officers, and whom the Commanding Officers themselves wish to retain. Eighty per cent. would be doing it for a short period after their military service, and a small percentage, 20 or 25 per cent., would be doing it for the longer period necessary for noncommissioned officers. I am quite certain that that would make an extremely good force. I well remember the time when I was asked to re-form a battery immediately after the last war, and I remember, six or seven years later, that, when the Territorial units were, just for a year or two, every bit as good as their regular opposite numbers, the reason was that we still had N.C.O's who had served in the war, and N.C.O's in the regular unit whose time had expired. But the units had not got that background of training which was given by continuous service during the days of the war. I believe, if we have national service, that we can still go on with the Territorial Army. A lot of people will be glad to keep up the association by going to an annual camp for a fortnight each year, for the extra four or five years, and we shall be able to keep those Territorial units going which have been such an asset to our Forces, both during this war and the last.
My last words are that I believe it is most important, as in the case of the conditions of service in the Regular Army, to take whatever step you are going to take soon. It ought to be taken within the next three or four months, because, if you are going to start re-forming units at the beginning of next summer, you will get the fellows who are just coming out. As your Lordships are no doubt 903 aware, the groups that are being demobilized now, are, in the main, the pre-war Territorial officers and men. if you leave it for longer than that before you make any effort, you will not get that continuity which you would get if you made the decision within the next three or four months. I appeal to the Government to let these officers and men know what they have in mind, if they are going on with the Territorial Army. As an old Territorial soldier who still takes an interest in the Force, I would plead that the decision might be given when there is a chance to get the men to go on, and once more to re-form that Army into the great fighting weapon it has been to this country in the past.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
My Lords, I should like, very warmly, to support the Motion moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. I think it is most opportune. We all know it may be difficult for the Government to answer the question he has asked them to-day; but we also know that, although they may not be able to do so, this is a period when the Departments are working out the future and must have some general instruction as to how they are to proceed in that work—some guiding principles, and it is the guiding principles in this matter that have been so ably expressed by the noble Viscount who moved this Motion. I very much hope that the Government will take seriously the opinions of this House on those points which have been so very well expressed this afternoon. I know that in my own Service there are many young officers who are to-day anxious about their future. They are far away, out of touch with the run of things and with people whom they can consult and who would help them and give them assurance or guidance. It is very important that they should have some indication as to their future as soon as possible.
Not that I am particularly anxious about my own Service, because, as has already been said, the Navy was increased in the war particularly by reserves from the wonderful R.N.V.R., who did so magnificently. Seventy-five per cent. of the whole naval personnel was of the R.N.V.R., and when the Navy shrinks again to its peace size, whatever that may 904 be—if there is to be one—it will be the reserves who will go. There will not be too many officers left in the regular Service for what will be required. In fact, in my own opinion, the reverse is likely to be the case, and we may want to keep some of the R.N.V.R. officers in order to augment the regular Service.
There is really only one point I wish to speak about concerning the Motion the noble Viscount has moved, and that is the question of comradeship and unity in the Service. Before I come to that matter, however, I should like to make a few remarks about the atom bomb. We have heard a great deal about it this afternoon, but really most of us are not qualified to discuss such a matter. Certainly we older members of the Services, like the noble Viscount and myself, have not got the technical knowledge, not having taken part in the fighting or the administration of this war. We are able to give only our broad views as to what should be done in regard to policy, and that we are qualified to do from our past experience. When we come to think of the possibilities of atomic energy, and whether the three Services should continue to exist, all we can build on is the fact that the Government have said, as have the Government of the United States, that, despite the possibilities of atomic energy, their present intention is that the three Services shall remain in being. It is with that instruction that we have to deal.
It may be—in fact it is certain—that every Service will have its use for atomic energy, because the main difficulty in the Services is to get the greatest energy in the smallest space and with the least weight. If you can produce means of moving your ships or your aircraft with less weight and with greater power in a small space, it simply means that your ships and your aircraft become better fighting machines and more efficient for their purpose. It may be that the experiments that are, I understand, to be carried out in the Pacific, will show that if an atomic bomb is dropped a hundred miles off the Fleet, the bottoms of all the ships may be blown in and they may be of no use. It may be shown that if you explode a too lb. atomic shell from a gun, 20,000 feet up in the air, all the aircraft within fifty miles will be destroyed. We do not know these things. It does not matter. We are not any worse off as regards 905 defence than anybody else; we are very much on the same footing. If the three Services are no longer required, we need not mourn them. We can bury them decently as old warriors who have played their part in the history of the country and clone very well, and then get on with the work of defending the country in some other way. That is the spirit in which we mint look at it.
The only matter I wish to raise at this stage of the debate concerns the very important point Viscount Trenchard made about having a Combined Staff College. I was very impressed that he should have brought that point out, because it is of the greatest importance. I refer to a college where the more senior officers of the Services will meet, get to know each other and live together while they are doing their studies. Because to my mind it the comradeship and the unity of the Service which is the most important thing we have to preserve to-day. That comradeship has grown up and developed in the war, and we have to be careful that we do not lose it in times of peace. I have often spoken on this subject, not only in your Lordships' House. I think we have got to get the Services as united in spirit, in peace-time, as they were united in action in war-time.
But "unity" does not necessarily mean "uniformity"—that is quite a different thing. If you are going to have any body united, you want the separate elements of that body to be as efficient in themselves as possible, whether they are personalities on a board or whatever they may be. Therefore you want the three Services to be united but, at the same time, to be as efficient as they possibly can be in using their own element, the land, the sea, or the air. You must do all you can to build up their esprit de corps. Each Service must have its own special efficiency. It must have its own means of entering its personnel and providing for their early training. Thai trailing must all be specialized according to the E element in which the Service has to work. There is one overriding thing the Services will require, however, and that is the ability to combine together. You must remember that in a highly technical Service—and I may mention that in the Navy, for instance, before the wan 80 per cent. of the officers had gone through highly specialized technical courses and were specialists in some form 906 other of the Navy's technical arts—you must be able to develop, to the utmost, tactical efficiency with your own weapon, and be able to bring the most efficient weapon to the combination of which you are going to form a part and to which it should be recognized you belong—a united service in defence of the country. Therefore I very strongly support this idea of a Combined College which will tend to foster comradeship and unity and to do away with any evil feelings which may lead to rivalry and jealousy among the three Services.
There is one point we have to bear in mind about which I want to warn you. If you are going to ensure unity and comradeship among the Services, that unity and comradeship must not only be among the lower ranks; it must also he at the top. If you want to get unity at the top, you have got to remove the causes which have prevented that unity in the past. What are those causes? The Services were made to fight each other for the money they wanted to develop their own arms. You cannot do that without splitting them one from the other. Let me give you a classical case, the case of the naval base at Singapore. As a naval base its proper defence was of vital importance to the Navy and each of the three arms, the land, sea and air, could only primarily be effective in a certain way; no one arm could do all that was required to defend Singapore. But the discussion, unfortunately, was forced into a violent controversy between the Services as to whether they should have guns or aircraft. It was the most deplorable thing that was ever done. We had the unedifying spectacle of the Chiefs of the Staffs being forced into arguing with each other before statesmen as to whether it was more important to defend Singapore with guns or with aircraft.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
That does not come in so much; it was the guns against the air. What was the real answer? The answer was that they were all wanted, guns, ships and aircraft, but the Government were not prepared to spend the money. Therefore the wretched Services were made to argue with each other as to which they should have. Can you imagine Imperial Defence being conducted efficiently in such a manner?
907 I do not want to go into these things in detail except from the point of view of their effect on Service unity. If you are going to adopt that sort of method of treating the Services, so that their own great chiefs, who have fought their way to the top and are trusted by their personnel, have got to argue with each other as to whether one Service is to have the weapon that it wants or the other Service is to have the weapon it wants, you will not get comradeship and unity among the Services. If you get disunity at the top it will spread right down and cleave the Services to the very bottom. I want to warn the Government, as I have so often advised in this House before, that they must try to obviate that very serious failing we have developed in the past. I very much hope they will be able to assure this House—I do not mean tonight but at some time—that they are going to create another Minister for Coordination of Defence who will have under him a Council, such as we created in 1939, of the three Service Ministers, the three Chiefs of Staff and the Foreign Secretary to deal with all the great problems of defence and to bring the three Services closely together by getting them to sit together and to argue out their points with each other.
The Service Estimates should be combined. The position should not arise where each Service, in its own building and unknown to the others, asks for so much money to do so much. They are all part of a team; it is just as important to the Navy that the Air Force should be strong as it is to the Chief of the Air Staff, and it is just as important to the Air Force that the Army should be sufficiently strong for the combined tasks they may have to do as it is to the Army itself. The Service Estimates must be combined; they must be discussed together and they must be fought together. The three Chiefs of Staff and their Ministers must go arm in arm to Parliament, in such way as they are constitutionally able to do, to explain that it is one Defence Estimate representing all the requirements of the three Services. If you do that, then you will get the three Chiefs of Staff, and all those under them in those great buildings, working together. If you get them working together you will find that will spread to the bottom and you will then get 908 in the three Services in the future that comradeship and unity which is so desirable. Though I know he cannot possibly answer this question, I hope the Government spokesman will anyhow assure this House that the Government will take this debate seriously and that they will take due steps to see that the points that have been brought before them are very reasonably—or shall I say seriously?—considered.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
My Lords, rising to address your Lordships at this somewhat late hour I do not desire to detain you for any length of time. The sole reason which impels me to address your Lordships is that I have had the privilege of commanding a great number of these very officers, N.C.O's. and men over a considerable period in this war. To-day they are continuously writing to me and I am seeing them when they are home on leave. They are asking me for advice as to what they are to do in the future, within a few months. I desire to make the plea to His Majesty's Government that the issue of a plan is urgent because these young fellows, who have come from all classes, many of them from the working classes, and who by their ability and their efficiency have got themselves into positions of high rank, considering their ages at this moment, are now wondering what they are to do in the next few months because no plan has been announced by the Government.
I am only going to give two examples and I give those two examples because they are personal ones. As I see it, the first thing that must be done in any plan (I put this forward with diffidence) is to ensure that the post-war Army is brought up at least to its pre-war strength. I fear from reports that I have received that that is now very far from being the case. Then must follow, of course, the creation of Auxiliary Forces, and possibly conscription. If it is true that the Army is very much below strength, surely the Government can announce some plan whereby these gallant fellows can serve on in the Regular Army and bring it up to its pre-war strength. I know of an Adjutant home from Central Europe who is in the most galling position. His N.C.O's and men come to him to ask for advice. Not only can he not give them advice but he cannot 909 find out what he is to do himself. The other day a Regular officer commanding a demobilization unit had members of a most distinguished regiment, the Glider Pilot Regiment, passing through his unit. They would not have gone out had they been given any terms to stay on. I am sure, after what Lord Croft and Lord Tweedsmuir have said, that this is having only one effect on these men; it is lowering their morale and decreasing the spirit of desire to carry on for their King and country in the British Army after the war is over. I hope that the Government will act with every expedition. I am sure that great difficulties confront them but surely any plan is better than no plan. If they can only get a plan out I am convinced they will receive wide support from all ranks now serving abroad and elsewhere.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I should like to say one word at this late hour. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, did not mention the juvenile organizations behind the Armed Forces. These bodies take a very long time to build up, and I should particularly like to refer to one of them, with the origin of which I had some slight association, the A.T.C. At the time that that was formed there was a deep anxiety that if it was a success a vacuum might be created if the Air Ministry allowed their interest in it in any way to diminish at a later date. This has been an immensely successful organization, making a contribution of the utmost value to the initial training of R.A.F. personnel. It has been built up by voluntary workers, who have given a great deal of their time to it and have made a mat valuable contribution to the methods and procedure of Air Force training.
These bodies are uncertain about their future. They have been built up with Painstaking care, and it has been a slow Process. I would ask the Government to give some encouragement and reason to hope, if they can, that this body will go on existing not simply as a pre-training organization for the Royal Air Force, but as a youth organization for general purposes, for which there is now an urgent need; in other words, for its own value. It will be of value for training in aviation subjects in general—not simply for the Royal Air Force, but for 910 civil aviation and the aircraft industry. I would ask the Government to give some indication, if they can, of how that stands. I would add one small point. I do not wish to enter into matters of high controversy, but when the Services come to discuss what is to be done, I hope that care will be taken to see that the Cinderella of the Services does not go to the wall.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (VISCOUNT STANSGATE)
My Lords, I need hardly say that my own feeling, which is one of the deepest respect for this House and for the opinions expressed by so many senior and distinguished officers, is shared to the full by the Government. I need hardly assure Lord Chatfield that eveything which has been said to-day will be given the most careful consideration. It has been a very interesting debate. On the one hand, we have had from Lord Mottistone a speech sketching out a dreadful future, and on the other hand we have had from other speakers remarks which I thought devoted a little too much attention to better ways of winning the last war. What we have to consider is the situation as it is, and I hope I shall be able, though I am aware that my material is not all that Lord Trenchard would desire, to answer some of the questions which he put, and which were put also by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. I am also going to speak about co-operation between the Services. I cannot deal with the necessity for complete harmony at the very top; Lord Chatfield's attempt in that direction did not seem to have quite the result for which I am sure that he hoped.
It is not necessary for me to tell this House, and especially it is not necessary for me to tell members of the late Government, that all the questions which have been discussed to-day have been very urgently under the consideration of expert bodies for many months. Lord Croft and Lord Llewellin must know that. No one, I hope, is suggesting that the Government have not given a great deal of thought to all these matters. What I understand the debate to be about is whether the Government should not have put the pieces of the jig-saw together and presented this House with the pattern. It is with the difficulties of doing that that I propose to deal in my few remarks.
911 In the main, the speeches have been directed to getting men on the one side and organizing men on the other. My illustrations will for the most part naturally be drawn from the Service which I know best, the Royal Air Force, but any points of military interest have been noted by my noble friend Lord Nathan and can be dealt with either here or at another time. First of all, a certain number of men are needed for the active Forces So far as the Air Force is concerned, for permanent enlistment you must have volunteers, and for the aircrews you must have volunteers. I would point out to my very old friend the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, that there is not one aircrew who is not a volunteer, so that talk about conscription is not necessarily the way to evoke a fine patriotic spirit. These men are all volunteers, and the permanent Force must be drawn, of course, from voluntary enlistment. Naturally, the people who are considering becoming voluntary members of this Service want to know the terms and conditions of service.
I thought that the most effective point in this debate—I say this very respectfully—was the necessity for some early decision about rates of pay and conditions of service. I do not know about the camps, but I do know about the airfields; you cannot go to any airfield without this point being brought to your notice. You find brilliant men, heavily decorated, who are being driven in despair to find a job elsewhere when we ought to be keeping them in the Service. We shall have to replace them, if they go, by inferior men later on, which we do not want to do. At the same time, to bring out a schedule of pay and conditions for the three Services—because you must assimilate them; I do not say make them identical—is a formidable task. Lord Croft must know that from his experience at the War Office. I would remind the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, that he was a member of Mr. H. A. L. Fisher's Committee after the last war, which was doing the same job. The last war finished on November 11 1918, and the Committee's Report did not appear until September, 1919. I am not saying that by way of reproach, but I have cross-examined the people who are doing this work, and I know that it is a most formidable and detailed job. I can assure your Lordships that this matter is not merely under active consideration, 912 or any ridiculous jargon of that kind, but is being worked on day by day most industriously.
When you have got your pay and conditions, and have your people volunteering for the job, the question arises of whether there are enough of them, and, if not, how you are going to get more. That brings me to the question of compulsory service, which in any case is a drain on your productive cadre. It is not to be supposed that by bringing a certain number of conscripts for a year or so into a Service you are increasing the value of that Service at once. Far from it. I was told in the Navy, for example, that if you had compulsory service in the Navy, you would positively have to increase the regular personnel in order to train them. Where you would get your value would be in reserves, because, once the people have been trained, they go back into Reserve and can be called on at a later date. On this matter the Government have no decision to announce at this moment, but it is one which is constantly in their thoughts, and will fit into the general picture when the general picture is complete.
The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, raised the question of the A.T.C., and I would make his remarks the excuse for some general observations upon the question of the reserves for the Air Force on which we hope to draw. As there are some matters of decision here, which your Lordships will be glad to know, I have had what I am going to say committed to writing, and I shall read from the document which I have in my hand, because these are important and clear decisions. The post-war system of organization, control, and training, and the conditions of service of the non-regular Air Forces, are now under active and 'detailed consideration in the Air Ministry—I apologize for that; I have fallen into my own trap! But until a number of major questions concerning defence policy are decided, and in particular the size of the Defence Forces to be maintained, it will not be possible to reach final conclusions on these matters. I can give, however, a general indication. As regards the Air Training Corps, I am glad to be able to reaffirm what has been said on other occasions, that the Air Training Corps will continue as a volunteer cadet organization under the control and with the financial support of the Air Ministry.
913 The pre-entry training afforded by the Corps is of great importance, and it is proposed that the Corps shall be the main source of recruits both for aircrews and ground services in the regular and nor-regular Air Forces. That applies also to the Fleet Air Arm, and I suppose it might apply to the Army. I do not know, but normally they would be air-minded boys. Its size will accordingly he related to the future strength of those Forces and cannot be definitely fixed until that has been settled.
Now as to other pools of reserve which are regarded as important sources of supply of officers both for flying and for ground duties in the regular and non-regular Air Forces, it is intended to revive and establish a number of University Air Squadrons. The squadrons of the Auxiliary Air Force—to which the noble Viscount referred and to which he paid a well-deserved tribute—are in process of reverting to their auxiliary status and plans are being considered under which they would form a substantial part of our first-line air defence within an operational Command. As and when Squadron Commanders have been appointed and headquarters opened, announcements will appear in the Press. I cannot give the answer the noble Viscount would like as to the number of these squadrons. I only say that their position is assured.
Plans envisage also a general reserve on the lines of the R.A.F.V.R. comprising reservists who have completed their regular engagements and other volunteer reservists. This reserve and the organizations for providing pre-entry training —.namely, the Air Training Corps and the University Air Squadrons—will be the responsibility of a R.A.F. Reserve Command organized in regional groups. There was always the possibility the y would be put in Flying Training Command, but it has been thought that inasmuch as they are a reserve pool, it is better to give them the regular headquarters of the Reserve Command to look to. It will, I trust, be somewhere in the same neighbourhood as Flying Training Command Headquarters—namely, in the Reading district.
This arrangement should assist the close integration of these Forces with one mother and with the Regular and Auxiliary Air Forces. Consideration is being given to the formation on an auxiliary 914 or reserve basis of specialist units for ancillary duties on the ground. Now I would like to read this passage: "I should like to take this opportunity of emphasizing that the success achieved in the past by the Forces to which I have referred is in no small measure due to the great assistance given by civilian instructors and supporters, civilian committees and organizations, and I am considering how this support can best be maintained and increased through county organizations" —of course the Air Force and the Territorial Associations go together in the county associations—" and otherwise in the days ahead. In this same connexion, I am hoping to secure the help in one way or another of as many as possible of those officers and other ranks who are now leaving the Air Forces and returning to civil life." One hopes that a good many who served in this war will do their bit in this direction.
So much for the matter of recruitment. Now as to the selection of officers. In the old days they were selected from Cranwell, from the University Air Squadrons or from the other ranks of the R.A.F. It is our intention to go on upon that basis. We consider that that gives us the variety that the noble Viscount demanded. I think it is right and natural. We are as anxious as anyone in the Service to get as many fellows to take permanent Commissions as possible and we have put out a paper asking who would like to take them. Of course we are handicapped by not knowing how many, in the end, we can give. But we have had 23,000 applications for permanent Commissions which shows how keen the men are to go on in the Service. The method used for making selection from this vast amount of material is really very interesting. So many of your Lordships have had military experience that I would advise you, if you want to see a Selection Board really efficiently and scientifically managed, with regard to the physical, psychological and human elements, to go and inspect the arrangements which we have made at the offices in Kingsway for this purpose.
We are trying to get over the difficulty, due to our not knowing our final figure, by means of the extended Service scheme. We are offering four years more service to officers, except to those who are regular rankers and have got a Commission in the war, to whom we are offering an extension 915 of seven years. That is something which we can do and I may say that we have got a considerable number in hand. That will get over the difficulty in most cases. But as to the ordinary short-service Commission, which was a very great success and to which the noble Viscount referred, he has laid before your Lordships again his scheme for making this a sort of integrated part not only of industry but of the Church as well, I understand, and the Civil Service. I have read and reread the very interesting speech which he made in this House in December last. From the Service point of view it is a tremendous advantage to be able to say: "Take a short-service career and your service is assured. Whatever profession you adopt it will be all right." From our point of view that is splendid. But you must look at it from the other point of view. It would be interesting to know what the right reverend Prelates in this House think of the proposal to draw upon the pool of possible padres and take away three years of their life which would otherwise be spent in training for their vocation, by putting them in the Services when they might be at work in the parishes.
Then take the case of the Civil Service. The first five years which a man spends in the Civil Service, I am told, is a period of training. He needs that time to get used to the work. If you put him to serve in the air for a period which would normally come within that period of Civil Service training, you can hardly regard him as being fully qualified for the Civil Service, although it is true that for pension rights you might well add the period of his services with the Air Arm. But the fact remains that while he has been away from the Civil Service he has not been spending his time at his profession.
I do not know about the case of industry. I am not at all sure whether it is possible, in view of the necessity for us to have the most up-to-date industrial production which we can get, that industries would be prepared to say: "We will take the man and will allow him to go away and do his period of air service and when he comes back he can come to the same job." The industrialist in such circumstances has got to think "Can he do the job as well as I require it to be done?" There is a further difficulty. If you take a man and put him through 916 the Service and then into the Civil Service or industry, if the Civil Service or industry had too many reserve officers in key posts a difficulty would arise in case of war. That is one of the troubles which beset the Territorial Forces in the past. In a word, there is but a limited manpower in this country and we have to consider what is the optimum use that you can make of it. Of course if a man takes a short-service Commission he gets a healthy and interesting life and experiences the general "rub shoulders" business which has value in qualifying a man for civil life, though I think that sometimes, perhaps, that is over-exaggerated. He can get a training which will be of considerable assistance to him in civil life, and through the Appointments Boards and by other means of that kind we should do everything in our power to assist the short-service man in getting back into a civilian job. I think the noble Viscount mentioned last year that in fact very few short-service officers—I think he knew of only one—had failed to get satisfactory employment on going back to civilian life. That is very good and one would desire to do everything possible to encourage it.
I do not wish to keep your Lordships too long; the noble Leader of the House has given us a solemn warning about the length of speeches. There is, of course, no intention of integrating the three Services. It is not the time for things of that kind nor at the lowest levels is it useful to bring the airman, soldier and sailor together. I believe that Leonardo da Vinci knew all the professions and all the arts but we are not in the fifteenth century; we are in a very much more specialized time. With regard to the Staff College level we have got our college at Bracknell and we have a satellite college at Bulstrode Park. At Bulstrode Park we have foreign officers, not all from Western Europe, on the Staff College level. In addition to that we have a School of Air Support at Old Sarum, run by a Combined Staff of the Navy, Army and Air Force, which studies air support. We have also a Central Fighter Establishment with Army and Naval officers on the staff. I believe its main job is fighter support, as for example with the landings in France. That is the practical type of work which I believe the Admiral of the Fleet referred to in his 917 speech. The Staff Colleges have combined exercises but they are not together. I wish it were possible to bring them together, but it will be realized that at this particular time it would be very difficult, even if finance allowed, to bring them together. At the Staff College they get combined exercises and they get to know one another. That is the Staff College level.
Now we come to the really combined level, that of the Imperial Defence College and your Lordships will be glad to know that it will be reopened next year.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
It is desirable that it should be a live-in college but I do not know if noble Lords have looked round for accommodation in the neighbourhood of this House. They will not find that living accommodation is as easily come by as all that. The R.A.F. instructor at that College will be a distinguished officer and if there is one man who knows something about the three Fighting Services, it is Sir Hugh Lloyd, who commanded the R.A.F. in Malta in the toughest time of the attack upon that island. I speak with great diffidence in the presence of senior officers, but all these matters arise from the experience of the war; and I should like to read three or four lines from a very remarkable interview given by Field-Marshal Montgomery about the experiences of the Eighth Army and the Desert Air Force. He Said:There used to be an accepted term of 'Army co-operation.' We never talk about that now. The Desert Air Force and the Eighth Air Force are one. We do not understand the meaning of ' Army co-operation.' When you are one entity you cannot cooperate. ff you knit together the power of the Army on the land and the power of the air in the sky, then nothing will stand against you and you will never lose a battle.They are enthusiastic terms and that type of experience is specially that, I believe, of the Eighth Army and the Desert "Rats," but it is a sort of framework upon which we can build.
Above this there will be the Chiefs of Staffs Committee. I can never know as much as the Admiral of the Fleet about 918 these matters but the Chiefs of Staff Committee meets daily. There is also the Defence Committee to which anyone can go who is required on a special issue, and above them all is the Prime Minister who is Minister of Defence. This apparatus has worked during the war quite successfully.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
Is the noble Viscount able to say whether the Prime Minister will remain as Defence Minister or whether he will have another Minister to help him?
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
The present Prime Minister is Minister of Defence but I should have thought that the Chairman of the Defence Committee was, in effect, the Minister of Defence. However, the noble Lord knows far more about it than I do. I have tried to make it clear that this matter has not been neglected but is being worked at, but that we cannot give the final answer. Unknown factors have been referred to by many speakers, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. It is a troubled world. You can hardly find a map in the atlas where there is a spot without potential trouble. We do not yet know what part we are to play in the United Nations Organization. The Commission is to meet on November 23 and we hope the Security Council will be set up next year. It will be a great thing when we are all invited to take part in this world organization. Then we have to consider the economic capacity of this country. We must export or we cannot live. We also have to consider the financial burden this country can bear. Those are all unknown factors. The noble Lord has referred to the types of weapon and reference has been made to numbers. Colonel Paul Tibbets, Captain Parsons and Major Ferebee with eight other men obliterated Hiroshima. I am certainly not qualified to make deductions but a matter of that kind makes you realize that the problems are not entirely to be solved by retrospect. We have to proceed by stages. I do not suppose that the Government can say in six months "This is where we have got to now." I do not believe we can say at any time "Here is the set picture for all time." What we want is a healthy manhood, a solvent State, a scientific outlook and a moral background in which we realize that we are all citizens of one world.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
Has the noble Viscount answered the one question he can answer? Are the Government in favour of universal service?
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
I thought I had answered the noble Lord's question. A decision on that point has not been reached.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
The answer is that universal service is being considered by the Government and that I cannot answer at this stage.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ LORD TRENCHARD
My Lords, as regards the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who said that none of these questions could be decided until the size of the whole forces had been settled, I distinctly said that they need not be settled.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
May I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, who made his first speech here to-day? I welcome it for many reasons. I hope, as the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, said, that we shall hear him again. His knowledge of the Services during the war is unique. I would also like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, for introducing the A.T.C. I did not have time to go through everything, and I am glad he introduced the subject, and that we got a satisfactory answer. I am more than amazed at the noble and gallant Admiral, Lord Chatfield, raising a controversial subject of long ago, especially the subject of Singapore, in which he spoke of guns and aeroplanes. He will remember, as he was responsible, and was there, that he got his guns, and he also got his dock for his big ships, and yet, without firing a gun or using the big dock, Singapore fell.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
Singapore fell without a gun being fired and without the dock being used. I will leave it at that. I would like to thank very much indeed the noble Viscount who answered for the Government on the points raised.
920 But I would like to read the speech in print before I make any comment on one point he mentioned, the point on short service. I do not quite understand it, and I hope he will give me a chance to see him about his objections to some of the things in connexion with that service. I do not want it generally accepted, straight away, that every man would have to undergo this service in order to get a job in civil life, but a great many could do it. I am not certain that I understood the noble Viscount's objections to it. I hope he was not against it as a whole. I am glad he gave the answer he did about the Auxiliary Service and A.T.C. He said that when the last war came to an end in 1918, we produced our White Paper only in September, 1919. I agree, but the noble Viscount must remember that we were making an Air Service then in opposition to a lot of people; we had not got one. To-day, the Government are continuing an Air Service which, I hope, is an easier matter. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.