HL Deb 06 May 1953 vol 182 cc263-92

3.31 p.m.

LORD OGMORE rose to call attention to the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War relating to the Army Estimates, 1953–1954 (Cmd. 8770); and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: In the first place, I must apologise to noble Lords opposite, especially to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, for the change in the date. The noble Viscount has written to me to explain that this has put him in some difficulty, as he will not be able to be present here to-day. It was suggested that it would be convenient if there was a change of date between this debate and the one arranged for the Navy, and after consultation through the usual channels the date was changed. I apologise to the noble Viscount. I feel sorry he is not able to be present to-day, because we always look forward to his contributions on Army matters.

It is now nearly eight years after the end of the war in Europe and I think it is necessary for us to examine the tasks set before the Army. We ought to examine how it is tackling these tasks and its chances of success. In our endeavour we are much helped by Command Paper No. 8770, because this gives a clear indication of the problem set before the Army and its difficulties in tackling this problem. I say to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, who is, I understand, to reply, as a distinguished captain said some 500 years ago in the army which followed King Henry V to France, if Shakespeare is correct: …will you vouchsafe me, look you, a few disputations with you, as partly touching or concerning the disciplines of the war…partly to satisfy my opinion, and partly for the satisfaction, look you, of my mind, as touching the direction of the military displine.… As your Lordships know, the Army is divided into the Regulars, the Reserves and now, I am glad to say, the Colonial forces. The Regulars have had a task they have rarely, if ever, had in peace time—namely, to support such a high proportion of their numbers overseas. They have to grapple with the hot war, with the cold war, with duties in aid of the civil power, with the garrisoning of our various Dependencies abroad, with the difficulties which are necessitated by the pipeline (people always coming and going in large numbers), with the training of National Servicemen and with assistance to the Territorial Army.

Of our 11⅓ Regular divisions, most are overseas; hardly any are at home, and even what are, or ought to be, our reserves of 2⅓ divisions are in Egypt. The fact that most of the Regular Army is abroad renders life very hard for the officers and other ranks who compose our Regular service. There is a lack of married quarters in most stations and there is separation from families. We are told in Command Paper No. 8770, though in fact we knew it already, that the Canal Zone is particularly bad in this respect and these conditions, though unavoidable, mean that morale is often affected. The "sausage machine," as it is called, which necessitates constantly training a large number of National Servicemen, renders the task very difficult and trying to Regular officers and senior N.C.Os. Fifty-one per cent. of the Regular Army's strength consists of National Service men. This means that the units are constantly being reinforced by short-time reinforcements and are losing men they have spent a great deal of trouble in training.

The consequence of all these factors is that many of the Regular officers are leaving the Service, and the same is true also of senior N.C.Os. According to paragraphs 7 and 8 of the Command Paper, this situation applies particularly to the senior Regular N.C.Os. There is another consequence. We are told that officers tend to do too much because they have not the old hard core of Regular senior N.C.Os. they used to have. This, again, has a bad effect, not only on the officers who do too much, but on the N.C.Os., who probably tend not to do enough. The Regular Army is suffering, first, because there are too many divisions abroad; secondly, because the Regular senior N.C.Os. are leaving the Service, for the reasons I have mentioned, and, thirdly, because the constant supply of National Service men imposes a great strain upon the machine.

One remedy which has been suggested—and I am certain the noble Earl will welcome it—is to remove the larger proportion of the 2⅓ divisions sitting on the bank of the Canal. They do not defend the Canal, of course, but sit on one of its banks. I believe Lord Kitchener once said, in the First World War, to troops who were at that time sitting on the Egyptian side of the Canal, "Are you defending the Canal or is the Canal defending you?" I think it would be difficult for us to retain a base in this area for any length of time if the population were hostile, and these divisions which are in Egypt would be a very useful mobile reserve in the United Kingdom. I think it is true that the War Office would be only too glad if the men could come back, but, as no doubt we shall be told by the noble Earl, this is largely a Foreign Office matter. In my view it is really an international commitment and I think the Government would do well to try and see whether an international force could not take over this obligation and carry it on in place of our overstrained and overstressed Army.

Another suggestion which has been made is that we should do everything we can to encourage men, especially the senior N.C.Os., to stay on in the Army, by providing better amenities, more and better married quarters, better barracks accommodation and so forth. So far as the Technical Corps are concerned, I understand that the new schools at Welbeck and Shrivenham are going well and may have some effect on this problem. Perhaps the noble Earl will be able to give us some enlightenment on that matter. We have heard little about those two establishments. Then, too, it would be well, if possible, to arrange for a shorter period of overseas service for the Regular Army—I know that that depends very much on the commitments abroad and I think it ties up with the question of Colonial troops, about which I will make a suggestion later on. I feel, also, that the War Office have been guilty of a lack of psychological appreciation—in other words, that they have been guilty of what appears to be crass stupidity—in the handling of some of these matters. I cannot understand Mr. Head, who is a sensible man and knows the Army well, permitting them to do what they have done. For example, Korean service does not count as overseas service for marriage allowance. It has been computed by some wiseacre in the War Office that the cost of living in Korea is not higher than in this country, and therefore the wife of a soldier who is serving in Korea does not get this increased marriage allow- ance, whereas the wife of a soldier serving in some safe base many thousands of miles from Korea gets it. No doubt from an accountancy point of view that may be all right, but it is not the sort of appreciation of the situation that is likely to appeal to a soldier fighting for his country in Korea.

I now come to the Reserves—the Territorial Army, the Army Emergency Reserve, and the Home Guard. The Territorial Army is now the first reinforcement of the Field Army, and it has never had this role before to the same extent. The Territorial Army has now got to get out to wherever war breaks out (which we all pray will not happen) immediately on the declaration of war; it is now a constituent part of our first line with the Regular Army. In 1938 the South Wales Infantry Brigade, a Territorial brigade, was in camp on annual training, and I asked the senior staff officer, who used to come down with other staff officers to train us, how far behind a Regular brigade we were. He replied, "Six weeks." We all felt that that was a great compliment indeed, to be only six weeks behind a Regular brigade. If had said three months, we should all have been quite happy. As a matter of fact, he was rather optimistic, because, although we were a first-class Territorial brigade, I do not think we were quite at that particular stage of training at that time. Now, presumably, every Territorial division has to be at the same degree of training as a Regular division. They are not going to have the several months' training that was then necessary to bring a Territorial division up to the state of readiness needed to go to war. The Reserve divisions must have a high state of readiness, and must do a great deal of training together.

The Territorial Army has considerable responsibility also for anti-aircraft defence. The efficiency, both in the field and the anti-aircraft parts of the Territorial Army, depends largely on the officers and N.C.Os., who are, in the main, volunteers. According to the command Paper, the number of volunteers decreased from 72,800 on December 3, 1951, to 67,400 a year later, and is still decreasing. Why is that? I should say at is because times are harder now in civil life: people are not able to give as much time as they did before the war. Moreover, there is not the colour there was then—the uniforms are perhaps more drab, a fact which the War Office has recognised by saying that the Territorial Army is to a greater extent going into blues, and that the distinctive badges of the yeomanry regiments and others are being restored. I think that is excellent. I cannot understand why it so often appears to the regimental officer and man that the War Office is against distinctive badges. As your Lordships know, they mean every-everything to regimental tradition and esprit de corps. Whether it is the black flash of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the badge on the back of the cap of the Gloucesters, the shoulder-chains of the yeomanry, or whatever it may be, the men in the particular regiments concerned are very proud of them. Therefore, why not cultivate that legitimate pride?

Perhaps the Territorial Army is not now so much a club as it used to be. I do not think it can be, with such a high proportion of National Servicemen in it. Owing to the rigour of the annual training, the annual camp cannot now be so much a social party as it was. We usually met at a seaside resort, or near one, and although the training was quite hard there were also the pleasures of the seaside to go with it. In my own regiment two or three officers used to go 100 miles to drill—that is, fifty miles there and fifty miles back—at least once a week and often twice a week, largely at their own expense, because the frugal Treasury used only to give the lowest season ticket return fare, or excursion return fare, to the particular place. So very often the Territorial officer had to travel at his own expense. Several officers in the regiment about which I am speaking used to travel fifty miles on a drill night, and that was not at all exceptional in a country regiment. There was a fine spirit in the Territorial Army then, as one is glad to think there is to-day. However, I feel that there is difficulty in capturing and retaining that spirit to-day.

I should like to tell your Lordships an anecdote to illustrate that spirit, which I do not think you would find in any force in the world but the pre-war Territorial Army. A Welsh Infantry Brigade was at camp, and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff came down to inspect them. A Territorial officer was earmarked as his galloper. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff rode on to the parade ground with his glittering assembly of A.D.Cs. and the like. The subaltern, who was a wag, was summoned, and he came out ambling along on a broken-down pony. As he got to the brilliant collection of generals and officers, he shouted, "Milk-o!" The Field Marshal, when he recovered from his surprise, said: "What the deuce do you mean, sir, by shouting out 'Milk-o!'?"The officer replied, "Well, sir, in civil life this horse is on a milk-round, and the only way I can get him to stop is by shouting, 'Milk-o!' "That is a perfectly true story, and the Field Marshal enjoyed the joke. I do not know whether he would have enjoyed the joke quite so much had it been a Regular brigade he was inspecting.

The Territorial Army produced excellent officers and N.C.Os., who did their duty in both wars. We must do our best to retain these volunteers, both officers and N.C.Os. But there is a possibility—I put it no higher than that—that the volunteer element will not be sufficient to run the Territorial Army. Whether that is so or not, I should like to suggest to the noble Earl that, say, four divisions should be called up every year for one month's or six weeks' training together. That would mean only one period of camp for a National Serviceman instead of three. We should thus have four divisions ready on D-day, and the rest would be ready on D-plus-fourteen or D-plus-twenty-one, and so on, depending on how long before the divisions had had their month's camp and training together. I know that there are all sorts of difficulties about that—difficulties with employers, and so on—but it is such an important part of our forces that I feel we should realise that at the present moment we are not getting out of it what we need.

I am glad that the guided missile is to be under the R.A.F. I have always thought that the searchlights should be under the R.A.F., too, but I think this is a step in the right direction. The Army Emergency Reserve, as your Lordships know, man the lines of communication. They are men who do the same job in peace as in war, and they are even more dependent on volunteers than is the Territorial Army. They do an annual camp of fourteen days and form 10 per cent. of the British Army. They are always needed at once when hostilities occur. In this respect paragraph 61 of the White Paper is rather ominous. The volunteer content is obviously very low—only one-third of the required number have come forward. They are an essential part of our forces on mobilisation, and it is rather disturbing to find that so few who are needed are at present available.

Then we have the Home Guard, who take the traditional rôle of the Territorial Army, so far as it relates to local home defence and the mobile columns. We are told that the quality is good, but that more numbers are needed, and also better training, uniforms and equipment. If this is going to be, as we presume it is, an integral part of our national forces, then I am sure we must have more colour in it, possibly seaside camps; and the Home Guard must be the best club, with the possible exception of the Territorial Army drill hall, in the district. I should like to pay a tribute to all the volunteers in all the Armed Forces who are serving under difficult conditions and are such a valuable assistance and help to our Regular soldiers. I should also like to pay a tribute to the Regular officers and N.C.Os. who serve with them and who assist them in their training. I think it is true to say that Regular officers grid N.C.Os. who have served with Territorial units get very fond of them and become very enthusiastic in their support. Such neglect as the Territorial Army, and the officers and N.C.Os. of the Territorial Army, have suffered—and there has been neglect in the past—has come from officers who have never served with the Territorials, and not from officers who have served with them.

If the volunteer system does not subsist in the Territorial Army in days to come (this is not an immediate question, but it is one which may arise in the future), what are we to do? If the voluntary and compulsory Services cannot march together in the same units, we may have to have a force entirely of National Service men, with Regular officers and senior N.C.Os. I presume that the noble Earl would say that that would be a pity, as I think it would. I should hate to see the Territorial Army without volunteers, and it would be difficult to obtain Regular officers and N.C.Os. to man the Territorial units. That may be; but since one of the difficulties about retaining senior N.C.Os. in the Regular Army is the fact that so many of the Regular units serve abroad, it might be rather attractive to Regular N.C.Os. to serve at home. If that ever became a fact, then the Home Guard would cater entirely for the volunteer element.

Before I close I should like to say a word with regard to the Colonial forces. I have always been a great believer in them, but I have band for years past—at all events until quite recently—that the War Office and the Colonial Governments have been lukewarm, to put it at its highest, when approached with regard to Colonial forces, chiefly on financial grounds. They are rather like two parsimonious characters standing at a public bar. Both of them are quite prepared to accept arid to drink a glass of beer if somebody else will pay for it. I think that has been the attitude of the War Office and the Colonial Governments. They both say, "We are quite happy to have more Colonial forces if the other person will pay the cost of them." Of course, this has always been a disastrous policy, as events in Malaya showed in the Japanese invasion during the last war. Even in Kenya we can see to this day that things would be much better if there had been a really good large force of Africans in that part of Africa. These Colonial countries are often prosperous, and some of them are nearing independence. It is essential for them to provide their own local defence and to furnish a reasonable contingent and a reasonable contribution to Commonwealth defence. That is the first point in favour of armed Colonial forces.

The second point is that it is an excellent education. Probably one of the best ways of training craftsmen, fitters, motor drivers and so on is to have men going to Army schools and having an Army training. It is a good way of teaching men English. There are a hundred and one ways in which the education of Colonials will benefit by having a period of service in their own forces in their own territories. There is some indication that the War Office and Colonial Governments are seeing the light. I am glad that the Malay Regiment has been expanded as it has, that the Malayan Federation Regiment has been formed, and also that the Royal West African Frontier Force is being extended, with officer training increasing, both in this country and in West Africa. But what of the King's African Rifles? What are the Government's proposals with regard to them? Could we hear something of that distinguished force which is now fighting in Malaya, as well as doing duty in East Africa?

I understand, too, that the West Indian Regiment has been re-formed. For years many of us tried to get this regiment re-formed, because we felt that it could do a great job in the West Indies. For a long time the only troops in the West Indies—indeed, not only in the West Indies, but in the Caribbean and in Central and South America—were one battalion of British troops. In the whole of this vast area there was only one battalion of British troops, centred on Jamaica. Nobody would say, I presume, that with one battalion of the West Indian Regiment added, the area would be over-trooped. I do not know the extent of that area, but it must be a very large area indeed for one or two battalions to cover. Those are the remarks that I wished to make to-day. I feel that it is time we considered the problems of the Army, and that we should do what we can to help them. In any case, this debate gives us an opportunity of expressing to the Army, whether Regular, Territorial or Home Guard, our great appreciation for the work they have done, and are still doing, for us and their country. I beg to move for Papers.

3.59 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said this afternoon about the need to encourage the traditions of the best in the Territorial units, so that the volunteer element which has always been so great a standby to us in the last two wars is not lost to the Army. It is most important to keep it. The Memorandum on Army Estimates, which is now before your Lordships' House, is to my mind a document far in advance of its predecessors. It really is informative, within the limits of security, and does put before the country what the Army is doing, as well as the problems and difficulties with which it is faced. I wish to congratulate the Secretary of State for War on this White Paper, and especially on the departure from the "G.S." pattern of the past.

In the debate on Defence which took place in your Lordships' House a short time ago, reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, to the command and integration of the Commonwealth Forces in any future operations. This was put to your Lordships mainly as an Army problem, though it might in the future affect all three Services. Though it is, perhaps, somewhat outside the scope of the Motion, I venture to say a few words on this subject, as it is important enough to warrant studying, and important also to the working out of certain principles for future guidance. Reference was made to the command of the campaign in Greece in 1941. It would appear from what was said that there exists a "chip on the shoulder" at the fact that the Commander of the Australian Expeditionary Force was not among the first two proposed for the overall command, though he commanded the Australian Corps within that expedition. I also understand that this question may again come to the fore when the Australian War History comes to be published. Had the whole of the troops intended for Greece arrived in that country before the evacuation, the Australian Expeditionary Force would have provided the highest percentage of front-line troops. The provision of the highest number from any one nation cannot, of itself, establish a claim that one of its Generals should be placed in the overall command.

This point cropped up again in the war, when the Free French provided the greatest number of divisions for the attack on the South of France in August, 1944, and thereby claimed that they should command the whole of the expedition. This was ruled out because the support. maintenance, and transportation were all provided by the United States Army; and an American General was assigned to that command. Under modern conditions, the command of an expedition overseas, whether into hostile or Allied countries, has such scope and ramifications, reaching back from the front line through the lines of communication even to the ports of departure, that in selecting the command there are many other considerations to be taken into account besides the actual numbers that may appear in the order of battle. The Greek expedition was ordered by General Wavell, as Commander-in-Chief, Middle East; and from my knowledge of him I know that he would have weighed the claims of all his Generals before selecting a Commander for a particular task.

Mention was also made of the splitting up of Commonwealth Forces so that they did not go into battle as complete divisions or corps. Our higher commanders were fully aware of the wishes of respective Governments; but in war the best intentions are often overtaken by events, especially when the initiative lies with the enemy and our troops are pinned on the ground. During the latter part of the war the Allied Forces in the Mediterranean were composed of many different nations, each with strings to their Home Government. The Commander-in-Chief had to be continually watching this so that complaints were avoided. The Germans had the advantage over us in this respect as theirs was a homogeneous Army and thereby had the flexibility to regroup rapidly by pooling different combat groups, regardless of whether they were Bavarian or Prussian. It was owing to this fact that they were able to regroup in time to check our offensives; and when a break-through was on the point of being achieved we were frustrated at the very last moment.

I suggest for future consideration that the command should be given to the best man on the spot, that he should be mentally and physically active and up to date in the latest developments of strategy, tactics, weapon development and logistics. At the same time, he should have undergone a higher training in battle control and procedure, in competition with Generals from all countries in our Commonwealth, including the Mother Country. This will mean a reconsideration of the interchange of officers as it exists at present, and the provision of higher training on a Commonwealth basis, with the different Governments having a good understanding of the difficulties of commanders and a good spirit of give-and-take all round. There should be no feeling over the selection of commanders in the future.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord who has just sat down opened with a tribute to the Secretary of State's Memorandum. I think the Secretary of State is entitled to that tribute because this document is full of information and packs a great deal into a little space. But it is rather grim to have such a document given to us in time of peace. We are calling for nearly £600 million and very large numbers of men, including the pressing of men into National Service. That is surely a serious matter in peace time. That side of it is lit up by the courage and high morale of the men who are most concerned. To give point to that fact, there is, for instance, that wonderful story of the Gloucesters. The outstanding thing about the present situation with regard to defence is the steadiness of morale of the people of this country. The men who have served some of whom after their service, indeed within a few years of it, have seen their own sons going into the Army and in some cases overseas to fight—have also made their contribution towards this steadiness.

If I draw attention to the fact to-day, it is not because I bemoan the fact that men are being called into National Service, but because I think we ought to get a proper appreciation of the contribution that the people of the country are making to the present situation. It is a serious matter for a youth who is just entering upon adult life to have his plans dismembered or upset by his being called into service. It is sometimes a great hardship to the parents of that boy, particularly in the industrial areas. I think it is a tribute to the people of this country that they have, with their eyes open, consented to this course and are steadily, through their representatives, supporting the system of National Service. Whether or not the term will have to be considered I do not know, but when we remember that young men under twenty years of age are being called into fighting service in Korea, Malaya and other places, we ought to realise that we are calling them to a very serious vocation, at any rate for the time being.

The Secretary of State draws attention to a fact to which my noble friend Lord Ogmore has referred, that one of our future difficulties will be that we shall have to rely largely upon National Ser- vicemen for Territorial purposes. I gather that some 29 per cent. of the Territorials volunteer. I should like to see what is being done in each particular county, because in my county I understand, from the latest intelligence of the county regiment, that the Territorial volunteers represent 40 per cent. of those who have to fill in the rest of their service. It may be—most probably it is—that in some parts of the country it is more than that. If that is so, then some parts of the country are doing very little a tall. It is becoming a serious question as to what can be done to deal with this matter, because, of course, the volunteers are very important in case of a sudden emergency.

One of the things I have noticed is that the Territorials in the main are largely dependent upon officers of the First World War and their influence. They are practically the backbone of the Territorial organisation of this country. It is true that some officers who are doing splendid work served in the last war, but it is worth noting that in the main the officers are the products of the First World War. Certainly, more attention will have to be given to that matter. I think there is something in the proposal made by my noble friend, that there should be some ocular recognition of the fact. Whether or not that proposal will do anything or whether other steps will have to be taken about it, it seems to me necessary that the War Office should give more concentrated attention to the Territorials, because the wars that are going on are vast distances away.

As I said at the beginning, it is encouraging to know that the morale of the men is very high. It has to be seen to be believed. I saw the first battalion of my county regiment off recently. I saw them in training and then I saw them going off, and I was amazed at the spirit of those men, attributable to a great extent to understanding officers and to very hard work. Recently, I had a Question on the Order Paper, and I think I repeated it, concerning some radios that had gone astray, as things will go astray in war time. I had almost given them up. I want to express my gratitude to the War Office and to the Foreign Office, but particularly to the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, for his activity in this matter, because I am glad to tell him and your Lordships that the complaint I made at that time has now been completely satisfied. To my amazement, the radios turned up—almost every one of them. That is saying something, when you recollect the ways of armies.

The Territorials have to look after the defence of this country. It is one thing to have a war going on a long distance off, but it is another thing to have it coming right down upon us suddenly. Those of us who remember vividly the kind of temper that prevailed in this country between the wars must feel sustained by the temper of the people of this country to-day. The bitterness in industry, the lack of decision in matters of defence, the feeling of bareness, was a very painful experience, and we do not want to find ourselves in that position again. The Territorials look after the heavy anti-aircraft section. The Home Guard is supposed to be getting itself into formations. We are told now that all we have is a small body of men—a kind of cadre, as it is called. Is the Home Guard merely a name or is it a fact? I should like the noble Earl to tell us exactly what is being done, because, so far as I can see and so far as I can find out on inquiry, the Home Guard is more likely a thing of the imagination than a thing of fact.

In this Memorandum we read of all kinds of weapons, and the Secretary of State has said, with regard to anti-tank weapons alone, that there is now a whole family of these things. It is good to know that we have all these various weapons. I must confess that I get somewhat "mussed up" in my mind by the continual variation in weapons, so much so that while I am pleased that we have got them I almost forget the last one that came along because the others have followed so quickly upon it. But one powerful weapon occupies the public mind and the mind of the world—namely, the atomic weapon. I want to use this opportunity to tell your Lordships that I have seldom been more disturbed (it may be that I was unduly disturbed) than I was last week when the statement was made here about the appointment of the Committee to investigate atomic research. Your Lordships will forgive me if I say that I asked myself the question: Now what is the game? Is there some purpose? Is it just what people say it is—a row between two Departments—or is it another movement towards putting a great power into the hands of private people, for personal gain? The greatest crime one can imagine would be to let atomic power in general, its secrets and its production, go out of the hands of the Government into those of the public. I was disturbed because later on I read the statement which was made in another place, and it did not seem to me to be very reassuring. I tell your Lordships, and the Government particularly, that they could not cause more disillusionment and despondency by any one act than by removing this great power out of the hands of the Government, which in the main has been responsible for its production That is all I have to say to your Lordships upon that matter.

I was pleased when I read that the Secretary of State had given some credit to the Labour Party for the build-up of the Forces. That was just plain truth as well as plain wisdom, because I have often noticed that there has been a tendency to belittle that of which we ought to be proud. And some people went abroad to do it. When I remember the despondency, the indecision and the bitterness of the last war, I am proud of the people of this country, of their steadiness and their spirit, arid of the young men who are rendering National Service. They are not only showing a very fine spirit but are also helping to sustain this country at a critical time. We live in a very strange age. Most ordinary men must sometimes wonder what is going to happen to the world. I am not one of those who are despondent about it at all. But it seems to me that if the world's problems have got to be faced in these critical times, the self-possession of a country like this, its strength, and its decision are important historically. I am proud of this country and of the part it has played, and I am still more proud that the industrial workers and the industrial and political organisations of the humble people of this country have played no small part in building up this vast organisation of defence, not merely for the purpose of our own country but, I think, in the best interests of all good men and women in the world.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, I have already inflicted myself upon the House this afternoon and I rise now only for a few minutes to seek information on one point. We are all agreed that taxation and expenditure in this country are too high, and that full economic recovery cannot take place until both are lowered. The three Service Departments are all great, if not the greatest, spending Departments, and all their expenditure is unproductive. It is therefore of the utmost importance to see, so far as one can, that waste in these Departments is reduced to a minimum. Of course, there is avoidable waste of a comparatively small nature in all Service and public Departments. For instance, every time I drive down to my home in Somerset I pass the late Duke of Connaught's home at Bagshot, and on the gate I read "Army Chaplains' Stall College." I ask myself whether or not that is a necessary expenditure. All these reverend gentlemen have been trained at theological colleges, and their duties are plain—namely, to point us the straightest way to Heaven; and it seems to me highly doubtful whether a Stall College is necessary for their further improvement. But of course the cost of that Staff College is probably not much more than one Centurion tank, and that is not really the matter upon which I seek information from your Lordships this afternoon.

In the Defence debate a week or two ago we heard the Air Marshals telling the Admirals that aircraft carriers are no good. While aircraft carriers cost £16 million apiece, plus the value of the aeroplanes which they carry, and the bombers, for which the Air Marshals clamour cost £500,000 apiece, obviously it is a very important thing to settle that controversy. I do riot wish to touch upon it this afternoon—obviously, it would be out of order to do so in this debate—but we know that it takes a long time for Service chiefs to be weaned from a weapon on which they were brought up. For instance, it took thirty years before Admirals would admit that battleships are obsolete. This brings me to the point upon which I seek information, and that is the Centurion and other tanks. I am told that the Centurion tank costs £40,000 but at the same time I am told it can be knocked out by a Bazooka fired from the shoulder and costing next to nothing. I am also told that fighter bombers carry thirty-six rockets, with a weight of explosive equal to the broadside of a six-inch cruiser, and I am told that fighter bombers can drop napalm bombs which will render large areas utterly uninhabitable owing to fire. In these circumstances, it strikes me that a tank would be an extremely unhealthy weapon to be in. I ask, in all my ignorance, for information as to whether or not the tank is becoming an obsolete weapon, and whether the immense cost of equipping armoured divisions is or is not justifiable from the point of view of future war.

It is of course a common gibe that Servicemen are always so keen on preparing for the last war that when the new war comes they find themselves in difficulties because they have not looked far enough ahead. I do not wish to detain your Lordships another moment, but I should be grateful if the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, or any eminent soldier who is speaking later in the debate, would put me right. I may be absolutely wrong; it may be that the immense cost which the Centurion and other tanks involve is justifiable, and that they should be continued. I will not say that I hope I am wrong: I should like to save money if it can be legitimately saved, and I should be grateful if any noble Lord would demonstrate that the fact is otherwise.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, may I, in the first place, say how much I agree with all that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said as to the excellence of this Memorandum which your Lordships' House is discussing this afternoon. The first thing that must strike everyone who reads this Memorandum is that the net expenditure on the Army this year is £581 million, as compared with £521 million last year, and that it is the highest expenditure of the three Services. Some factors responsible for this increase, as stated, are: the increase in the Regular strength, which involves a higher cost for repairs and maintenance; the accumulation of stores as rearmament proceeds, which involves increased administrative work and additional personnel; and thirdly—I do not think this amounts to very much—the new pension scheme for widows, which puts up the cost in Vote 10. A great part of the increase is due to the especially heavy burdens which are now falling upon the Army because of the troubles in Malaya and Korea, the situation in the Suez Canal Zone and the Middle East generally; and now Kenya. All these burdens inevitably cost very much money, and we hope and believe that we are getting full value for that money.

I am glad that we are now getting the much-needed information on the Army, and I agree with what was said by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Wilson, as regards that. The paragraphs in the Memorandum describing the condition of things and operations in Korea, Malaya and the Suez Canal area, and elsewhere, are not only informative but very interesting; and that is more than can be said for a great many Memoranda which come before your Lordships' House. But I suggest that we might still be glad to know a little more. In old days, before and up to the last war, a publication called the Monthly Army List was issued. I do not say that it was a highly interesting publication, but it was a publication which enabled us to know what the various units in the Army were; where they were stationed; how they were organised, and who were their officers; what was the combination of the staffs of the various commands, and so forth. I suggest that the time has come when something of that nature—I do not say exactly the old Monthly Army List, but something in similar handy form—might again be published. I believe that it would be of great interest to a great many people, not only those connected with the Services but a great many others as well.

It would be interesting to know what measure of success has attended the four investigations which the present Secretary of State for War stated in another place he had initiated: one, into workshops and supply depôts; two, into command and district organisations in this country, to see whether by reorganisation and by reduction some economies could be made; three, into the organisation of communications and into what he called pipelines, in the hope of reducing the number of non-effectives; four, into the various schools and training establishments which now absorb very large numbers, and which must cost a certain amount of money. Possibly the establish- ment of the Staff College for chaplains, which was alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, might be included in this investigation.

Under the heading, "Manpower," in paragraph 44 of the White Paper, we read of the difficulties of finding enough men for all the tasks that have to be done in spite of National Service. In 1951, the then Minister of Defence stated that Army personnel comprised what he called fighting elements to the number of 220,000, and non-fighting elements to the number of 168,000—a terribly high proportion of non-fighting to fighting elements. I know that my right honourable friend the present Secretary of State for War was really concerned about this, and I know that he has been trying to reduce greatly this non-fighting tail, as he calls it. He stated recently in another place that he had made considerable cuts, and had been able to save some 10,000 men and so to form seven new active battalions. I feel that that was an achievement. I wonder whether it might not be possible, by a further combing-out, to effect still more reductions and economies.

The increased mechanisation and technicality of the Army must necessarily involve increased workshop and stores personnel, but I cannot help wondering whether further combing and reductions should not take place. I wonder, for instance, whether mechanised and armoured units could not be made much more self-supporting, and whether they could not carry out a higher proportion of their own repairs and maintenance, without recourse to the workshops which now absorb a very large number of personnel. When these armoured regiments were—as many used to be—cavalry regiments, horsed regiments, they did not have recourse to the Veterinary Corps or the veterinary hospitals for a great proportion of their horseflesh troubles: they dealt with them themselves. I fully realise that the technicalities, the difficulties and the machinery of modern armoured units require far more personnel to deal with them than did horseflesh. But surely the principle is the same: these units ought to be, so far as possible—I realise that they cannot he entirely—self-supporting.

Then there are administrative staffs and personnel. The staff of the War Office has been reduced, but it is still very large indeed, and the War Office itself has spread to Surbiton and elsewhere far outside its original districts. The staffs of all commands and districts are certainly far larger than in my time—and that is not so long ago. For every staff officer there are a number of clerks, so the total is considerable. I have been told, when I have ventured to criticise on these lines, that there are now far more letters to be dealt with than in the past. I wonder whether so many letters need to be written. I cannot help thinking that there might well be reductions. Paragraph 68 of the White Paper, mentions employment of civilians for performance of administrative, clerical and sedentary duties. Where this can be done with consequent release of soldiers for more active work, it seems, obviously, advantageous, even though (and this must be remembered) it is very expensive.

I should like to say one word as to the Territorials. Again, I agree most heartily with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, as to their value, now and in the past. I agree, too, that the voluntary element ought not to be lost if we can help it. It is extremely valuable and gave a wonderful spirit to the Territorial Army. In the Defence debate in your Lordships' House I suggested that some scheme might be considered whereby a limited number of personnel with a certain standard of education should be allowed to volunteer for Territorial service for the period of their National Service—that is to say, to volunteer to serve under Territorial conditions. But I suggested that there should be a much higher liability for training. That I regard as absolutely essential. There ought, I consider, to be not less than three months continuous initial training at the beginning, because one of the great difficulties of the old Territorials—any officer who had anything to do with them knows this—was that we had to try to teach them to run before they could walk. That three months' elementary, initial training would be, and must be, of the utmost value.

The Memorandum emphasises the importance of having an adequate number of Regulars. I think we shall all agree on that. It goes on to say that the release of Regulars and the decline of re-engagements and extensions together caused a reduction—which the Secretary of State says he finds worrying—in the proportion of longer service men, with consequent difficulty in finding experienced warrant officers and N.C.Os. Moreover—and I think this is a matter of great importance—paragraph 52 says: We are still very short of officers. These are indeed serious matters. The young National Serviceman can become a good private soldier or a junior N.C.O., but without older and experienced officers, warrant officers and N.C.Os. a unit of young National Servicemen is not likely to be really a good one. And if these officers and older warrant officers and N.C.Os. are to be kept, the conditions of service must be satisfactory.

In that connection I will venture to mention a few points. Quite rightly, pay has been improved but, even so, it hardly keeps pace with the ever-rising cost of living. The constant separation from their families is a major cause of married officers and other ranks leaving the Service and it is not as though such separation is occasional. On the contrary, very often families have been separated for years, with but a few months together in that time. Speaking in another place, the Secretary of State said that out of 80 per cent. serving overseas, 66 per cent. are separated from their families. Then there is the question of housing. Under the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Act—a very valuable Act indeed—a considerable number of married quarters have been provided at home and abroad. But many more are required, and the fact that some families have been fortunate does not satisfy the many others who have still to wait.

Then there is the matter of local overseas allowances—tax-free and "married rate." This has done a great deal in compensating for separation, but separation still remains a grievance. And it is not only married quarters that are deficient and of poor quality. The barracks generally in the United Kingdom are old and bad. Those in Germany are far better, and Germany is almost the only place where troops now are housed in good barracks. No barracks are worse than those in the London district. The Secretary of State, in another place, spoke of some barracks as being of the pre-Crimean War period. Wellington Barracks were built in the reign of William IV, and his cipher is still on the gates. Could not an Act equivalent to the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Act, to deal with that matter, be passed? At present there arc delays. We are told, "We cannot rebuild these barracks; it is so expensive. We can only do it gradually." It will be some time in the next century before these barracks are rebuilt if we go on those principles. Surely, we must be able to borrow, as is done under the Act to which I have just referred.

Then there is the question of the taxation of allowances. Most allowances are subject to tax, and in some cases—for instance, marriage allowances—I agree that no objection can be raised to income tax being charged. In a sense, marriage allowances are income. But the lodging allowance is very different, for it is paid to officers or others only when they have to find their own accommodation, instead of being housed by the Government in barracks; and a sum adequate to secure suitable lodgings—though the cost of them is continually rising—may be quite inadequate after paying tax at 9s. or 9s. 6d. in the £. I suggest that this is a very real grievance and one that ought to be rectified. I suggest that lodging allowance ought to be paid—as it used to be in the past—tax-free.

All the factors that I have mentioned militate against a good supply of officers and senior other ranks. But few things have done more harm than the scandalous (and I use the word advisedly) treatment of officers who retired under the terms of the 1919 Royal Warrant. Their retired pay was stabilised at 9½ per cent. below the basic rate of 1919, so that they are now getting less than the rate of retired pay in 1919. I wonder what other class in the kingdom is getting less than was paid in 1919—I fancy, very few, indeed. But the Treasury have no hesitation whatever in scaling down this retired pay. I suppose they take the line that these officers have no organisation behind them, nothing which can command votes, and therefore they do not matter. The Royal Warrant provided that the rate of pension should rise and fall as the cost of living should rise or fall. The rate fell all right; but it never rose. It is hardly to be wondered that these officers—none of them young—are bitter in the extreme at their treatment and are saying to their young friends, "Don't join as Regulars. You see how the old Regular officer is treated." And small blame to them for talking in that way! But it does have the effect of putting a number of young men off becoming Regular officers. Then we have in the Memorandum a statement by the Secretary of State that the shortage of officers is causing great anxiety.

As regards the condition of service, might there not be a few additional privileges, for instance a smarter dress? I know that a No. 1 dress is being produced. It is not ideal in all respects; in fact, there are some objections to it. But it is much better than keeping the soldier constantly in battle-dress. At present he is the only man who has no Sunday suit. I suggest that every soldier ought to have a smart Sunday suit. I suggest that he might have additional free travel warrants. I believe that these would be very much valued by soldiers in this country. Finally, I. suggest that men with nothing less than a very good character should be allowed to count their Army service towards pension in the police, the Post Office and other Government services. I know that there will be objections to that, from the trade unions and so forth, but I suggest that it would be not unfair.

In paragraph 54 of the Command Paper, the shortage of medical officers is mentioned. Again I would suggest, as I did in the Defence debate, and as the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, suggested, that in stations where there are two or more Services together, there might well be joint hospitals, thus making the best use of the senior and most experienced medical officers as well as saving other medical personnel arid equipment. I think that further effort should be made to reduce, if not to abolish, the present indiscriminate cross-posting of personnel between different regiments. It is destructive of the regimental spirit and esprit de corps. It was noticeable how far this has gone when the list of disabled prisoners for repatriation from Korea was published recently. It was evident from that list that only a small percentage of the men came from the county or district to which the regiment nominally belonged. Surely something could be done to improve matters in this respect.

In reference to the excessive overseas service, which has already been alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and in the Memorandum, I agree with the noble Lord. Why should there not be Colonial and mainly African divisions? These might replace some of the British troops abroad, and so ease the situation we have to face at present, when a tremendous percentage of our troops are abroad. And to some extent they might take the place of the very gallant and efficient Indian Army which we have lost, much to the regret of all soldiers. It is well known that Africans fought extremely well in the late war, both in North Africa and in Malaya, and I suggest that African divisions should be raised. The Secretary of State for War said in another place that he was raising further African battalions, and I am sure that everybody was glad to hear that. But I believe that as regards overseas troops of that description, as in everything else, we ought to have contingents organised in brigades and divisions.

As regards new weapons, it is good news that there is in production a battalion recoil-less anti-tank gun. That will make things more difficult for tanks, as the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, will no doubt be glad to hear. I am sure that is much needed. I should like to ask one question, though I do not know whether the noble Earl can answer it. Is that gun to be self-propelled, because, if so, that would increase its value very much? It is also good news that a cartridge acceptable to all N.A.T.O. countries, together with a rifle on the general lines of the 280, are about to be produced. I know very well the difficulties of standardising the arms and equipment used by ourselves and our Allies, but I know, too, that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is definitely in favour of such standardisation, as far as it can be carried, and is always aiming at it.

I would say, too, that assimilation of staff methods of the armies that have to work together is very desirable. I have a vivid recollection of serving under the French in the First World War and of how completely staff methods differed. I daresay some of their methods were sound, but it made it extremely difficult for everybody concerned. Finally, I would say that standardisation of the composition of units and formations is also desirable, so that a battalion, a brigade or a division would mean the same thing in the different armies that have to work together. Another thing which is necessary, both in our own and in the Allied forces, is that they should be properly balanced—that is to say, in all cases there should be a due proportion of the different arms of the Service—infantry, artillery, armour and the various ancillary departments. I have ventured to make some criticisms and some suggestions, which I hope may be considered. Speaking generally, I think this Memorandum is very satisfactory—I heartily agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, in that respect. I believe that we are getting what I know we all want and the one thing we think about when we see this enormous expenditure—that is, value for our money.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the whole House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, for his speech, in which, from his great experience, he touched on matters which are of importance to the Regular Army. I hope his suggestions will be considered by the Secretary of State. I want to deal entirely with the Territorial Army. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and other noble Lords, paid tribute to the great spirit which has always been found within the ranks of the Territorial Army. There are great traditions behind the Territorial Army, built up over a comparatively small period of time, which have been established by excellent service overseas, by great loyalty, and by the desire to do service in the interests of this country. I am one of those who are anxious that the county basis upon which the Territorial Army has been founded in the past should be continued, and with the influx of the National Servicemen I am a little worried whether that basis will have to be amended in the years to come. From my experience in the Territorial Army several years ago, I feel certain that we got the best results by the fact that we belonged to county units. Therefore I hope that nothing will happen to endanger that system.

There is one paragraph in the Memorandum with which I should particularly like to deal—namely, paragraph 62. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the fact that in that paragraph mention is made of the fact that the number of volunteers decreased from 72,800 on December 31, 1951, to 67,400 on December 31, 1952. On the face of it, that shows a decrease of about 5,000 men within a year. But that is by no means the whole of the picture. In looking at the proper picture, your Lordships may be surprised at the rate at which the old normal volunteers in the Territorial Army have left. I should like to give your Lordships a few figures with which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, will probably agree. On January 1, 1951, there were in the Territorial Army 76,866 normal volunteers—I conclude they were officers, non-commissioned officers and other ranks. During that year there was an intake of 13,878 normal volunteers—not men from the National Service, but men. I presume, who had gone into the Territorial Army in the same way that we went into the Volunteers in days gone by. That brought the total to 90,744. At the end of the year there were 72,796. If your Lordships follow these figures, you will see that there was a loss of the old volunteer element during that year of no fewer than 17,948. The wastage went on, because in the following year, 1952, starting at the figure of 72,796 which I have just mentioned, and adding the recruitment of the volunteers quarter by quarter—a total of 12,700 new intake—we get a figure of 85,496. But the records show that on December31, 1952, there were 67,351 normal volunteers in the Territorial Army. Therefore the loss that year was 18,145.


I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord unnecessarily, but I am anxious that he should not overstate his case. If he is suggesting that there has been a net loss of 18,000 in any one year, I do not think that is correct.


I am dealing only with the normal volunteers.


Perhaps I may also interrupt for a moment. Has the noble Lord taken into consideration that we were recruiting very hard in 1947 and 1948, and the time he is now speaking about would appear to be the end of the first period for which the volunteers took on? The volunteer, having come to the end of his period, then went out. I do not see that the noble Lord has made his point about wastage, because it was the end of the period of service.


I have not reached my point yet; I shall come to it in a moment, On January 1, 1951, there were 76,866 normal volunteers in the Territorial Army, according to the records. In one year nearly 18,000 went out, and in the next year another 18,000. This shows a going out from the original 76,866—I am not including the people who were still in short service—of 36,000, which means, in effect, that in those two years we lost nearly 40 per cent. of the original old Servicemen who were in the Territorial Army on January 1, 1951. On balance, of course, there was a bigger intake than there was wastage, but the point I am trying to make is that we were losing the old, experienced non-commissioned officers through age, through termination of service, or whatever it might be, and we are not now getting the benefit of their experience in the new Territorial Army. I believe that that is an important point, and I make it for this reason. I hope that the Army authorities will take steps to encourage the old trained soldiers—if I may use that expression—to stay in the Territorial Army, and so have them available as a backbone of that Force in the event of emergency. That is the point I wish to make in regard to what I call the wastage of experienced soldiers in the new Territorial Army which is being built up by the influx of National Servicemen and by volunteers who have come in, having completed their National Service. There must be some reason for it, and I want the War Office to consider what that reason may be.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, dealt with some of the difficulties of business life and of going to camp, and so on. I wonder whether the conditions which are vouchsafed to those men could not be improved. There is the question of pay; there is the question of allowances, and there is the question of the bounty. Those things might be reconsidered by the War Office with a view to retaining in our Forces the people who can give us excellent service and who can train the newcomers into the Territorial Army. I could put forward several reasons, but I think those reasons can be considered by the War Office, If anything can be done to put matters right, it should be done.

Now I wish to deal with one or two matters of detail which may be worth consideration by the War Office. I have dealt with the figures of wastage of the senior and experienced officers and N.C.Os., and I wonder whether the noble Earl can tell me if there is a great loss, not only of the senior officers but of the other officers, N.C.Os. and warrant officers. That is what is behind nay point—that those people are being lost to the Service. The next point with which I wish to deal has been partly touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, and that is the question of income tax. I am advised that there is some feeling of distress among some of the N.C.Os. and others, in that the money received at camp is included as income for the purposes of income tax. Very often they are worse off by reason of the fact that they have other commitments whilst they are at camp, and the pay which is received, and possibly the bounty which is received at the end of the year, when income tax has been deducted, is not sufficient to off-set their commitments. There has always been a great demand by all classes of society for an alteration in income tax, and if that could be altered or amended in some way or other it might be an encouragement for the people to remain in the Service.

Another point I wish to bring to the notice of the Secretary of State is the question of the permanent staff instructors. I believe that the permanent staff instructors have difficulty in carrying out their proper job of training the recruits and the members of the Territorial Army owing to the fact that they find themselves wrapped up in administrative duties. Is it not possible to give these instructors extra time for the job for which they are employed, and to establish some other system of administration whereby they may be relieved of duties which they really should not be called upon to do? There is another type of instructor who seems to be at a disadvantage. I understand that there has recently been introduced into the Territorial Army a new type of instructor known as the "T" type. That particular N.C.O. is a Territorial soldier who re-engages as a sergeant in the Regular Army, but his obligations are confined entirely to the Territorial force and he is liable only for home service. On that basis he suffers a reduction in pay of 10s. 6d. a week, as against the pay he would receive if he were liable for overseas duty. That seems to be a bone of contention and a grievance which in these times might easily be put right.

I do not know what sort of bombshell I shall drop into the organisation of the Territorial Army, but there is the question whether or not the Territorial Army associations should be reorganised. It may be that there is a duplication of duties or of work which might easily be carried out by the Regular Army units. I do not know whether the Territorial Army associations are suspended or whether they cease to exist, on mobilisation, but at any rate they are held in suspense. It may be possible, therefore, to reorganise the administration of the Territorial Army associations on a basis more in tune with present conditions, and relieve them of duties which could be done by other members of the Regular forces. For instance, I believe that questions of the maintenance of buildings and such-like come under the associations. There is the pay of civilian staff attached to them, and there is the issue of clothing and personal equipment which are matters now for the associations but which I think could be dealt with by the kindred branches, if I may use that expression, in the Regular Army.

The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, referred to the scarcity of young officers in the Regular Army. I wish to refer to the scarcity of local officers in the Territorial Army. I believe it is a fact that in many cases officers for local units are sent in from other areas. In my own district there has not yet been a National Service officer who has qualified as a Territorial officer. It is obvious that we must try to persuade these National Service lads to go through their courses and try and equip themselves, so that when they go back to their districts they can go into the Territorial Army as officers. We have paid a tribute in this House this afternoon to the county significance of the Territorial Army. With regard to officers, there is a difficulty about introducing officers from far away. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to officers having to travel fifty miles to their unit and then having to go back home, perhaps late at night. I believe that if you can get local officers who know their men and have local connections it is much better for that particular unit.


My point was that where you have a county regiment an officer has to serve with any of the companies or batteries, as the case may be, in that regiment. If, for instance, a lieutenant becomes a captain, he may be posted to a company of the same unit fifty miles away. That is what I meant: with a county regiment an officer may have to serve anywhere in the county.


I was not dealing with that. I was getting, so to speak, beyond the county. If it is possible to train the best National Servicemen in such a way that they can become officers in the county unit, or in some branch of it, that is much better than taking officers from farther a field, as I understand is being done at the present time.

I close with the hope that the Government will be able to give a word of encouragement, as I feel certain they will, first to these older soldiers who are still to be retained in the Territorial Army. I hope that they will give some tangible recognition of the great service which the men of the Territorial Army are rendering to the country, and of the great sacrifices they are making, in time and money, and often in family life, in order to give this service. The "Terriers" have a unique position, I think, in the Army of this country. Theirs are great traditions, which we all desire them to uphold. It would be a sad day the day that we lost any of the characteristics of the county regiments of the Territorial Army.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.