§ 2.42 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN rose to call attention to the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War relating to the Army Estimates, 1954–55 (Cmd. 9072); and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, for the purpose of this discussion I propose to confine myself to a single theme. If, therefore, I by-pass problems such as recruitment, the length and nature of National Service and even the strategic reserve, it is because, important though they are, I cannot feel that to-day they are the most urgent. At this time of transition to the atomic age, the overriding question must be whether there is being produced an Army capable, as needed, of mobilising, moving and going successfully into action under atomic attack. The whole worth of the Army—indeed, the whole future of the nation—will depend upon the extent to which and the speed with which the new Army, the New Model Army, is being planned, equipped and trained in the light of what the Supreme Commander of N.A.T.O. called the other day "the philosophy of atomic war."36
§ Let me say two things about this philosophy of atomic war. I am not one of those who repudiate the assumption that the next war will be fought with atomic weapons. General Gruenther has said it; Lord Montgomery has said it; and it was said last February also in the Government's Statement on Defence. There it was plainly said that the expectation must be that atomic weapons would be used by both sides in another war. It is the plainest common sense in all military matters to prepare for the worst that may occur. The greatest danger is not to be prepared. The second comment I would make about this philosophy of atomic war is this. I am not one of those who believe that the so-called "new look" has abolished the need for a powerful, well-equipped, highly trained British Army.
I know, of course, as your Lordships know, that an eminent air commander, Sir John Slessor, has lately thrown some doubt on this need. He holds the deep conviction that air power, that bombers armed with atomic and hydrogen bombs, is now out of all previous knowledge the decisive weapon. He believes it capable of serving both as the Great Deterrent and as the agent of victory. He seems to see only a minor place for the Army. He will even relegate the Territorial Army for the most part to Civil Defence duties. But the need was never greater for first-line Reserve and Territorial divisions, trained and equipped to take their part as essential elements in the first battles of another war. The Army needs its first-line Reserve divisions as never before. Sir John Slessor's doctrine is a modern and air-borne version of the old Clausewitz doctrine of the
unique value of the offensive carried out with unlimited violence.
§ I believe that there are two evident and inescapable facts which this applied philosophy of offensive air-power just does not face. One is illustrated by the present situation in Indo-China, as it has recently been illustrated in Korea. It is the fact that atomic air-power is singularly ill-fitted for limited wars confined to particular areas. Its very potency means that its intervention must court the equivalent retaliation and so precipitate the wider world war which it is the aim and purpose of the Allied Nations not to bring on. The second fact rests upon what is a continuing fundamental prin- 37 ciple of warfare, even in the atomic age. Victory cannot be secured or defeat averted without troops to take or hold ground, however ravaged by bombs that ground may be. Of course, it is conceivable that a nation might surrender under the direct impact of atomic bombardment, but to assume this is to assume an overwhelming advantage which certainly cannot be taken for granted at this present time. It is far more likely, as was said in the Government's Defence Statement in February, that there would be first the "atomic clash" from both sides and then the period of "broken-backed warfare." And even if our first assault succeeded, the Army would be needed to consummate the bombardment. Aircraft gain no ground.
§ The new bombs have not removed the need for the Army, whether in defence or in attack. That certainly is the view of N.A.T.O. It is, I am sure, the right view. But the bombs have created the need for a new Army, capable of discharging its fundamental and essential function in the new conditions. What, then, do we ask, broadly, of the New Model Army? Surely it must be capable of mobilising, moving and going into battle under atomic attack, in conditions which may have disrupted communications, blocked roads and ports and rendered ineffective, at all events for a time, the normal means by which armies are assembled and transported to the scene of action. These conditions may not come at once; there might be a period of warning. But planning must be founded on the likelihood that these conditions will prevail, and upon the virtual certainty that, if they do not prevail at the outset, then they will be created at an early stage.
§ I suggest that the first lesson of these speculations is that the conventional means of movement and supply can no longer be relied upon. If I may put it far too simply, the moral is that the Army, or a large part of it, must be capable of taking to the air. This seems to me to be unquestionably true, whether we are considering the assembly of the Army here in Britain, under long-range bombardment, or the movement and the maintenance of the shield of divisions in the front-line fighting force or in immediate reserve. I have said that I was putting the matter over-simply. Clearly, a modern Army, with all its supplies and 38 equipment, as well as personnel, cannot take to the air just like that, though its critical portions at critical moments must. Clearly, the Army itself must be scattered and dispersed, so far as physically possible, both here and on the Continent, before battle is joined. This, indeed, is a cardinal problem: it affects vitally all conventional motions of mobilisation; it requires for its solution the dispersal and distribution of supplies and equipment, both in this country and abroad, long before the need may arise. Yet whatever scattering and dispersal there may be beforehand, use of air transport, replacing in every practical way and by every practical means the land-bound truck, is a First requirement in planning. It is no novelty to say so, I know, but that does not make it less important to say it.
§ We are bound to ask, for instance, whether the Army has the programme, and is vested with the authority, to create a helicopter arm of its own, capable of moving equipped troops rapidly when roads are blocked and broken. We are bound to ask, too, whether there are yet being produced helicopters of the size and performance that the Army requires. I suggest that it is imperative that the Army should have full and complete control over its own helicopter forces. It should be furnished with all speed with helicopters of the kind and in the numbers it needs. I understand that some 200 or so helicopters which have been ordered for the three Services are too small and of the wrong design for the requirements of the Army. I understand, too, that the Army has not been vested with authority over such helicopters as may now be available. These are matters which should be put right without delay.
§ I am not suggesting that helicopters in themselves are anything like the answer to this new problem of movement—for, rightly regarded, it is a new problem, in these new conditions. Helicopters are but one example. But over the long distance between the home base and the bases in Europe there is need for a great fleet of transport aircraft to move both men and supplies unceasingly, so that, if need be, great armies can go out, as the glider planes went out to Arnhem and the Norman beaches. There is need, too, for the utmost expansion of airborne formations, capable of going by air fully equipped for battle, 39 and landing by glider, or by parachute, if undamaged airstrips are not to hand. We have seen in the last few weeks, brilliantly improvised, the supply and manning of the beleaguered fortress at Dien Bien Phu, almost entirely by air, sometimes with no facilities at all for landing aircraft. It was an impressive lesson, even though the gallant garrison in the end succumbed. We have read of the large-scale exercises and trials of airborne methods of transport and airborne tactics in the United States; and we know how much was done in the past by the Russians with airborne and parachute formations. Therefore, we can fairly ask whether the air arm of the Army, for supplies as well as for troops, has ceased to be ancillary and become central in the planning of the Army. For let us make no mistake: in the next war airborne movement and airborne supply will not be occasional exercises for particular tactical and strategical purposes: they will be the essential lifelines in territory exposed to atomic bombardment.
§ The essentials of Britain's military position do not change. There is in Germany the shield which we may hope will hold back an assault until reinforcements can arrive from this country and from the United States. Planning must assume that these reinforcements, these vital and essential reserves, can be brought to bear upon the battle. Twice, in other wars, this has been possible by the conventional means of movement, by road, rail and sea. Next time we have to face the probability that the old task, or a great part of it, will have to be done by new means. What is more, the task itself has suffered a change. There will be no long time to assemble men, still less to train and equip them. The readiness of the reserve armies of Europe, as Lord Montgomery has so often said, is the key. The Reserves and Territorials should be ready, not only in numbers but in training, equipment, transport and mobility; and it must be asked bluntly whether, in all these respects, the state of readiness of the Territorials to-day is even envisaged as being what it will need to be. So long as it is not, then the Territorials will not count when a war begins, and they might well—indeed some of the national reservists will, in any event—be turned over to, and trained for, Civil Defence.40
§ Precisely the same principles apply, though more acutely and urgently, to the Army in action. The need on the battlefield for wholly new concepts of mobility and dispersal is the most crucial requirement of all. An army cannot go to ground under atomic attack. If it does, it cancels itself out. It can only scatter systematically, flexibly and according to plan, to come together again in swift, self-contained units at the point of action. To make this possible demands the largest imagination and skill, not only in the provision of suitable transport and efficient and flexible communications, but also in the actual chain of command itself. Here, there is a whole new territory of thought. No doubt it is being explored in this country as certainly as it is being explored in the United States. No doubt, for instance, the need for speed in fighting vehicles, as well as armour and striking power, is being given the priority it must have. No doubt the tremendous problem of mobilisation under conditions of atomic bombardment is being studied with careful and anxious thought. Then we have to decentralise dumps and bases. Above all, at least the front-line forces must be capable of operating for some long period as self-contained and self-sufficient units, with no early expectation of any reinforcement in men, munitions or materials. There, indeed, you have a formidable problem challenging the ingenuity and the foresight of the planners.
§ This plea is, of course, interrogative. Necessarily, it is made in very general terms. These are questions which, I recognise, cannot really be answered across the Floor of your Lordships' House. The facts, if they are facts, are not known, and if they were known they could not be revealed in any detail in debate in your Lordships' House at this moment. This hampers the questioner of official policy as much as it does its defender, or its spokesman. But I repeat that the questions, even though they cannot all be answered in your Lordships' House to-day, must be asked, because upon the answers given to them in the actual development of the Army depend the country's defence and its power to wage war. In the lurid light of atomic and hydrogen bombs and their consequences, the whole conventional set-up of the modern Army must be re-examined. 41 If it is not done in peace, it will have to be done in haste under the necessity of war. The corps, the division, the battalion, even the company—of all of these it has to be asked whether, in size and character, they will conform to the requirements of the atomic battlefield. The case is already outlined—it was already foreshadowed in many actions in the last war—for the invention of small and swift battle groups, with maximum protective equipment and maximum self-sufficiency in supplies and stores.
§ No layman can lay down the law in these matters. All he can do is tentatively, and as helpfully and constructively as he can, to ask for a re-interpretation of readiness. That is my plea to-day—a re-interpretation of readiness. Here is the justification for asking these questions. As I have said, they cannot be answered plainly, publicly and in detail. But they can evoke from those in whose hands the decisions lie at least an assurance of understanding, and we can look for signs. We can not only listen to the perhaps encouraging words of those in authority; we can look, and we shall look throughout this summer, at the exercises and the training of the Army in this country and on the Continent. We can seek there for signs that the New Model Army is on the way; and if we can see the signs we seek, then, for all the horrors of atomic and hydrogen bombardment, we can face the future with at least a degree of confidence. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
My Lords, I have listened, and I am sure your Lordships have listened, with the utmost interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, who has introduced this Motion. I feel that I am ill-qualified to follow the noble Lord in many of the points which he has raised. He has assumed that the new Army, or the Army of to-day, must be prepared, trained and equipped for atomic warfare. I doubt very much whether the present Army is so trained or equipped, but I agree with the noble Lord that it is something we have to contemplate, and contemplate seriously.
My noble and gallant friend the Minister of Defence, in a recent debate in your Lordships' House, said that he aimed at making reductions in the 42 Army, rather than in the other Services; and making, in time, considerable reductions. That may be desirable, but I suggest that it is certainly not possible at the present time, and does not look like being possible in the foreseeable future. For great as are the powers of the Navy and the Air Force, in their respective elements, and much as I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, has said about the possibilities of future warfare, yet it is only men on the ground, as the noble Lord observed, who can both take and occupy either positions or territory, and who can administer—and, I would add, pacify—captured territory and personnel. Therefore, we must have an Army; and so long as the present condition of things exists all over the world, we must have an Army that is not smaller than we have now, for it is stretched to its extreme limit in carrying out its duties. I think that the contemplation of considerable reductions in the Army, while it may be an ideal, is at present a distant ideal.
I propose to-day, with your Lordships' permission, to concentrate more on the Memorandum—indeed, the noble Lord's Motion is "to call attention to the Memorandum of the Secretary of State." As a matter of fact, he did not mention one paragraph or section of it, and I propose to make some remarks about that Memorandum and about the matters which are contained in it. The Memorandum states, in paragraph 8:The extent to which the British Army is dispersed is unique in peace time. …The noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, in his maiden speech in this House, speaking about service overseas, said there always had been a great deal of foreign service in peace time, and he asked whether it was so much worse now, or what was there to fuss about now? Of course, there always was a great deal of foreign service in peace time, but in the days to which the noble Lord was referring the troops were quartered in barracks and their married families could be with them. Whether those quarters were as good as we should have liked or not, the troops were accommodated in married quarters, and they had a certain amount of amenities and recreation. Now they are, in many cases, in tents or huts, in varying degrees of discomfort. Far too often they are separated from their 43 wives and their families. The conspicuous exception, of course, is troops that are serving in Germany, where the accommodation is in every way excellent and far superior to that of this country. The Germans, I would add, did at least understand the art of making their troops comfortable. On the other hand, in the Canal Zone the troops are living in conditions not only of discomfort but often of danger. And in nearly all cases, they are separated from their wives and from their families.
Paragraph 39 of the Memorandum states that between May 15 and November 15 there were 885 so-called "incidents" against our men or their families, and there were many attacks upon them with lethal weapons. Sixteen British subjects were murdered between January 1, 1953, and January 30, 1954. I wonder what other army besides the British Army would put up with such a state of things. The Secretary of State does justice to the admirable spirit and discipline of the troops. I hope that paragraphs 37–46 of the Memorandum will be as widely read (I doubt whether they will, be but I should like to hope that they will be) as they deserve to be, for they do full justice to our troops in various parts of the world. I wonder, however, why Her Majesty's Government allow this state of affairs to go on? Why is there no punishment of the scandalous outrages which are being perpetrated against our troops? Why do we recognise this revolutionary and unstable Government in Egypt? I venture to suggest that it is high time for us to adopt a strong policy, instead of what at least appears to be a weak policy, in that country and to deal in no uncertain fashion, both with the Canal Zone and with the so-called "Government of Egypt"—and, I would add, with the people of Egypt, if they persist in murder and outrage. The Oriental, in general, never respects a weak policy, and our action or inaction must appear weak to him. The people in Egypt, the Government of Egypt and the scum of the earth who inhabit the Canal Zone—because they are not the original inhabitants; they have come there for what they can get and make, somehow, out of the Canal Zone and its users—are constantly asking for trouble; and, as they ask for trouble, in my humble submission they ought to get it.
44 As regards Korea, one really good thing has come from it—that is, the Commonwealth Division, whose spirit, discipline and efficiency have been magnificent and have been acclaimed on all sides. I would add that, whilst I have had some communication with the regiment which is affiliated to my own, an Australian regiment, which showed how very fine their state was, I have also had letters from independent officers paying the highest tribute, both to that regiment and to the other overseas regiments of the Commonwealth Division. Apart from the Commonwealth Division, the behaviour, the discipline and the actions of our troops in Korea have all been first-rate.
We read in the Memorandum that in many parts of Malayathe main roads are now open for travel by individual vehicles without escortand that jungle forts are being constructed. I would ask (and I am only seeking information; this is not intended to be a criticism in any way): are we undertaking any new road construction in Malaya through the jungles, possibly road construction to join up those jungle forts? Have we constructed any line or barrier along the frontier of Siam, over which I fancy there has been a considerable amount of passage, backwards and forwards, by not always desirable people. Then in Kenya we have warfare against cunning and barbarous savages. It is not a war of which we can by any means hasten the end, and I fear that it is not a war which we can end by, for instance, air action, because, though it is all very well to drop bombs, even atomic bombs, on great areas of jungle, it is quite another matter to drop them where our elusive enemies may happen to be.
All this dispersal of troops, and their operational or semi-operational employment all over the world, accentuates the problem of the constant separation of officers, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers from their wives and from their families, and accentuates the difficulties as regard the housing and the education of their children. It is the influence of their wives that is driving so many officers, and valuable senior warrant and non-commissioned officers, out of the Service. They cannot be replaced effectively by young soldiers, however keen those young soldiers may be, 45 for they have not the experience or the knowledge. Another result of all this service abroad is that there are too few troops at home. There is no mobile reserve, as was so rightly desired by my noble friend the Minister of Defence, available; and in London there are at present only two battalions, doing the duties which were formerly done by five battalions. Not only is this very hard on the men concerned, but it means also that they get little training, because they are constantly on guard, or resting after coming off guard, and they cannot be worked twenty-four hours in the day.
The barracks and quarters at home, as is noted in the Memorandum, are still very bad. I would ask: is it not possible to introduce a Bill further to extend the provisions of the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Act? That is a most valuable Act. It has produced a considerable number of married quarters which were urgently desired. I wonder whether it could not be extended in some way so as to make it possible for accommodation to be provided also for the single soldier, because our barrack accommodation is very bad indeed; and nowhere is it worse than in the London District. It is to be hoped that recent improvements in pay, and recent steps to mitigate pensions grievances, may have some effect in bringing to the Army, and keeping in the Army, those officers and others whom we want. I am very glad to note, as regards the supply of officers, that in the Memorandum the Secretary of State says that the present selection standards for officers are not to be lowered. I think that is a matter of very great importance.
It is to be hoped, as I say, that these recent improvements in pay and so forth may have some effect. But it must be remembered that the memory of grievances lingers long, and there is still one grievance of serving officers which ought to be rectified—namely, the taxation of lodging allowance. Lodging allowance is paid to officers who have to find their own accommodation instead of being housed by the Government in barracks or quarters; and there are many officers so affected. I should like to emphasise that, until a few years ago, lodging allowance was not taxed; it is quite a new thing. But after the last war the rates of lodging allowance were revised, and in many cases raised and the allowance was made subject to income tax. I suppose that was 46 due to the old policy of the Treasury, who cannot give anything with one hand with out taking away something with the other. At any rate, these rates of lodging allowance are now taxed, and, as a result, a sum which may be perfectly adequate for its purpose of providing suitable accommodation may, after the deduction of a high rate of income tax, be perfectly inadequate for that purpose. In spite of Treasury opposition, lodging allowance ought to be paid tax-free, as it used to be. I urge the Government to take steps to see that this is done, and to see that this policy of giving with one hand and taking away with the other is abolished. I would emphasise that I am talking in particular about lodging allowance. There are other allowances which are taxed.
There is the marriage allowance, which I agree can be regarded as income. There are various other forms of allowance which are taxed, and which I agree can be regarded as income. But the lodging allowance, which is given to an officer in order to provide himself with what the Government are supposed to give him, ought most emphatically not to be taxed. I suggest that it is an injustice to levy tax upon it. I would only add, as regards the conditions of officers, that if there are further improvements—I know that there may be, and perhaps there will have to be—in pay and conditions, they should primarily be for the older and senior officers. I suggest that the family separation trouble must be met or ameliorated. Some assistance must also be given in regard to the education of Service men's children, many of whom present considerable difficulties in that respect, especially if they are overseas or in places which are difficult of access.
My Lords, the question still remains; is it possible to reduce the cost of the Army? My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has, I know, been keen on making reductions in staffs, establishments and non-fighting personnel; and in paragraph 99 of the Memorandum he says that by June 1 of this year he hopes to reduce headquarters and establishments by something which would be equivalent in cost to the numbers and the cost of a Command headquarters. That is a considerable achievement, and one upon which my right honourable friend is indeed to be congratulated. But can no further reductions, with consequent 47 economies, be made? What about the schools and training establishments? I am certain that the Staff College for Women and the Staff College for Chaplains are excellent institutions, but do they increase our fighting efficiency? I wonder whether that point can be answered. Are there not other establishments which, in these hard times, are luxuries, rather than necessities? Then, are the present swollen administrative staffs really necessary? All staffs, including that of the War Office (I am not talking of technical staffs, because I know that they have had to be greatly increased) have immensely increased since my time in the Army, which was not so very long ago, and I do not think that in those days the work was in any way badly done or neglected. Finally, I would say that if a reduction in staffs were to lead to a reduction in letter writing, and in correspondence generally, I believe that it would be all to the good.
I am glad to note from the Memorandum, that our armaments and equipment are being kept up to date. I would especially note that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have agreed to the use of the new 300-inch calibre round, as well as to the new F.N. rifle. I would say that the standardised calibre round is infinitely more important than a standardised rifle. In the past, in my own experience, when we have been fighting alongside the French there has been a confusion of ammunition, and it has been impossible for one party, either the French or the British, to supply the other because the cartridges of one party would not fit the rifles, or the guns or machine guns of the other. I think it is a great achievement that the Allied nations have agreed on a standardised round, and I hope that, as new weapons and equipment are adopted, we shall aim at a high degree of standardisation with our Allies.
We hear from time to time demands for the reduction of National Service from two years to one and a half years. I am sure that this would be utterly unsound, not only on account of the reduction of the number of men available but because eighteen months would be of little use for service abroad. Apart from their initial training, the men concerned would spend far too much time in travelling to and from the various 48 theatres of war. It is noteworthy that the French, who have eighteen months service for their conscripts, are not able to use them in Indo-China, for that reason if for no other. I should like to add that on all hands I hear what excellent men the National Servicemen are, how excellent is their spirit. But, of course, the one thing that they have not got is experience; and they cannot make good non-commissioned officers and warrant officers. I have ventured to make some criticisms and suggestions, but I should like to say that generally I think the Memorandum (which is, if I may say so with great respect to the noble Lord opposite, the subject of to-day's debate) is satisfactory, as well as making very interesting reading. This Memorandum is wonderfully interesting, compared to a large number of those to which we were accustomed in the past, which were apt to be mere collections of facts and statistics, and I would venture to congratulate my right honourable friend the Secretary of State upon it.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, I will not follow the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, in his review of the Memorandum. I should like only to comment on one or two of the things that he said. In particular, I agree most heartily with his comments on the question of swollen staffs. I, like him, can remember the time when Command headquarters were small in numbers and modest in ranks, and I think the natural inflation, both of numbers and of ranks, that took place in the war has not yet been corrected. It is all very well to say that reductions have been recommended equivalent to a Command headquarters, but what kind of Command headquarters is this that is being cut, and to what standard are the cuts related? Can we really be sure, from what the Memorandum tells us, that headquarters are staffed economically and efficiently? We are glad to see that the Government have been able to employ more civilians, because by employing civilians much of the domestic work can be taken off the shoulders of the men, and therefore more time left for training; less time is thus taken up by the sheer drudgery, which is one of the matters that most often arouse resentment in citizen soldiers and in their parents. We hope that, within the limit 49 of the money available, this policy of employing civilians on occupations of that sort is being continued.
Your Lordships will have noticed that the only side of the Army's work with which the Memorandum expresses concern and disquiet is that of manpower, and Regular manpower at that. Unfortunately, it is becoming a sort of refrain in each year's Statement on Defence. There is the same regrettable failure to attract the long-service Regular, failure to persuade him to take on for an appreciable number of years' service. This year we are told that although 49 per cent. enlisted last year on the 22-year engagement, as against 22 per cent. in the previous year, that is not so satisfactory as it appears, because the 22-year engagement is of no more value for manpower-planning ahead than a 3-year engagement, because it is capable of being broken at every third year. Therefore it does not ensure us, by itself, a supply of the trained and experienced men we want. Of the National Service men, we read that only 6,000 converted during the year to Regular engagements, as against 8,000 the previous year. We read also that prolongations of engagement by Regulars fell again in 1953—not greatly, but they did fall.
I think we must once again ask the question: what is it that deters people from selecting the Army as a career and continuing in it? I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, in attributing so much to the lack of married quarters in stations abroad. It is often forgotten that in the peace-time Army, before the war, every man spent the greater part of his service abroad—he spent probably six years out of seven—and it was very unlikely that he would be able to have his family with him, because the married establishment, except for that of senior warrant officers and senior non-commissioned officers, was very small. Speaking from memory, I think that the total married establishment for a battalion of 800 men was between forty and fifty families—that is, about 5 per cent.—the remainder having no chance of having their wives with them during their service abroad. So I think we must look further for the reasons for this decline, one might say unpopularity, of the Army as a career. I would ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can give any indication of any effect accruing from the 50 selective pay increases of a few months ago. Admittedly it is too early to draw any firm conclusions, but it might be possible to discern the change in the trend since those increases came into force nearly three months ago.
There is another field in which I think the reputation of the Army as a career is still a bad one in the eyes of civilians, and that is in the matter of resettlement. I believe there is an organisation to help the soldier with his resettlement. I wonder whether it is functioning as well as it ought. I am sure great trouble is taken to ensure that the soldier has a job when he is discharged, but it is just as important for him to have a house as if is to have a job. I wonder whether sufficient steps have been taken to negotiate with other Ministries or with local authorities on this very difficult problem of fitting ex-Regulars into civilian housing lists. It is a matter not entirely within the powers of the Army to remedy, but I am sure that resettlement staffs and officers concerned in advising soldiers on resettlement ought to be thoroughly briefed in regard to the housing problem that will confront the soldier when he leaves.
If there is a criticism to be made of the White Paper—it is a good Paper in many ways, and informative—I think it is that there is a slight note of complacency in the paragraphs on training. Your Lordships will notice that the Secretary of State assures us that the British Army of the Rhine is in a state of preparedness never before achieved and there are statements to the effect that training is quite admirable and no improvement is possible. From time to time, however, there are small scraps of evidence from non-official sources which make one rather question such statements in the Memorandum. Your Lordships will remember that The Times went so far in a leader not long ago as to say, referring to the divisions of the British Army of the Rhine:There is reason to doubt whether the formations in Germany are to-day battle-worthy in this modern sense.The "modern sense" there referred to was the sense which, I think, my noble friend who moved this Motion had most strongly in mind in suggesting that the Army as it was when it won the war in 1945 is now obsolete, and that methods 51 and ideas, as well as equipment, must change to keep pace with the developments of science. I wonder whether the Army is becoming sufficiently conscious of scientific developments really to change its outlook, as well as its dress and its vehicles, in order to keep pace with present-day requirements.
We read that the Royal Military College of Science is well-established, but the account of it in the Memorandum seems to be orientated almost entirely in the direction of the supply of technical experts to the Army. It says that some short courses are mainly for the technical arms—a few courses—but there are also some for armoured regiments and infantry. I wonder how many infantry officers attend the courses there and go back to their regiments, back to their messes, where they can pass on the ideas they have acquired. The college is an expensive place with a major-general commanding it and some 600 men. It represents in terms of cost some £300,000. I have no doubt it gives very good value in the turning-out of technical officers. But, surely, scientific ideas have to get down to the regimental officer and below, and unless there are a number of places at this college for regimental officers and they subsequently go back to their regiments, then it seems to me that a great opportunity is being missed and that the Army is lacking in something that is most important.
Then, I wonder if the lessons of modern operations are being passed on right down the ranks of the Army. The Memorandum says that the lessons learned at the Camberley exercise will be disseminated through exercises run in lower formations. But these are going to reach only the limited numbers of officers who attend these exercises. I wonder what the organisation is to ensure that training lessons are not merely "Roneoed" and sent down through the usual channels, and whether they are put over in such a way that the regimental officers really think about them and take them in. I have no doubt that the lessons of Korea, the lessons of Malaya and the lessons of Kenya, are all distributed in the training manuals and pamphlets. But I wonder, as my noble friend suggested, whether anyone has passed on the lessons of the French Campaign in Indo-China, and the remarkable operation of Dien Bien Phu. 52 What is being passed on down the ranks of the Army about the exercises that the Americans are carrying out? There was a large-scale exercise in airborne and atomic operations not long ago in the United States. I have no doubt that British observers were there. But are they allowed to go round talking to the middle and junior ranks of the Army?
There was another Press report which caused a little disquiet about the state of training of the Army—I refer to a series of articles about Korea which appeared in the Manchester Guardian. A junior officer there committed himself to the view that the men in his platoon had not had the training they should have had to meet the tactical conditions in Korea. Now we have always known that there are commanding officers who are good trainers and commanding officers who are bad trainers. There are good units and less good units. I wonder whether the Secretary of State is satisfied with the general outlook on training in the Army at the present day. Is it the case that undue weight is attached to smartness on parade and turn-out? Obviously, those things have their uses—they are essential, but only in a certain measure, and if too much time is allotted to close-order drill there will be less time for direct training for war. If too much weight is attached to smartness on parade, the men promoted will be the ones who are best at their drill and in turn-out, and not necessarily the best leaders of men in the field. Everyone knows that the early stages of a war are always littered with personnel which has had to be replaced under war conditions.
There is another factor which does not help training and which may do a lot of harm to it—I refer to the question of competitive games and sports. These again, in their way, are very desirable. It is very desirable and necessary that there should be opportunities for games and sports. But, with keen competition, that is liable to develop a sort of gladiatorial aspect which interferes with training, and, I maintain, with readiness for war. Under the impending threat of a divisional competition, a boxing tournament or horse show, unit teams will be selected and struck off military training. Obviously this is not approved of by the higher command; nevertheless, it takes place, and it is for the higher command 53 to ensure, by their directions and example, that the emphasis placed on competitive games is enough but not too much.
I am sure that the soldier who is contemplating taking on for, say, 22 years, will not be dissuaded from this if he is in a unit which he realises is well trained, keen and fit for war; and he will not be dissuaded, either, if he is given some chance of appreciating modern conditions and of thinking about the problems of this year and next year and of the next war, when and if it comes. We must give the N.C.O. credit for being an adult person who will take a pride in his profession if he sees it as a profession that is taken seriously by others.
In that connection, I would ask in parenthesis: why does the Army, when it turns out for ceremonial parade, leave in barracks or in store all its modern weapons? It turns out with rifle and bayonet and marches past or is inspected in the dress and with the equipment of the Army of the Thin Red Line, the Army of our great-grandfathers. Surely we could adapt our drill and equipment so that a unit on parade for inspection bears some resemblance to a fighting unit of the twentieth century and not to a unit of the nineteenth century.
There is one other little matter that is worth mentioning—that is, the question of battle honours. They do not bulk very large in readiness for war, naturally, but as a matter of morale I think the absence of battle honours for the Second World War over so long a period is a great pity and should have been avoided. To my mind, the delay should not be allowed to continue. It is fifteen years since the Dunkirk campaign and none of the units that were there and have since been given great praise and honour are allowed to show that as one of their honours. It is nine years since the end of the war. I have no doubt it is a laborious business, but it seems that the War Office have gone on the principle that nothing can be granted in the way of battle honours until the whole war has been classified and claims have been received and met, which is a matter of several more years. Even in the early days of the Army, battle honours for the Peninsula, for Waterloo, for Talavera and for Barosa were issued within seven years of Waterloo; and though some of the earlier honours were not granted until 54 about two centuries after the campaigns took place, there is no reason why we should not now give these honours, which are a solid encouragement to units and a solid contribution towards the pride of unit, which is one of the things that used to make the Army attractive and will make it attractive again as a career.
§ 3.56 p.m.
My Lords, the grave and weighty matters referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, who moved the Motion, make any subsequent remarks which I may have to offer on this subject seem perhaps a little trivial. However, we were brought down to earth by the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, when he discussed the contents of the War Office Memorandum. He began, in my opinion rightly, to take a number of points, one by one, and brought them to the notice of the Secretary of State for War. I should like to follow his lead in this master and say a few words about paragraph 99 of that Memorandum, which mentions the Kirkman Committee, set up not long ago to look into possible reductions in staff. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, also mentioned this matter briefly. I am glad to hear that it is a matter that is being looked into, and that apparently we may expect a reduction equivalent to about one Command headquarters in England—that is to say, we are not doing away with a Command headquarters, but making overall reductions which would correspond to that.
It is not only on the ground of economy that one likes to see staff kept down to a minimum that is efficient, but also on the ground of increased efficiency. Having myself formed part of the staffs of two Commands, one the Home Forces Command and the other the Middle East Command, I am convinced that the bigger the staff, the more the work. Big staffs write to each ether a great deal; interminable minutes circulate; files become bigger and bigger, and circulate more and more quickly; and nobody ever makes decisions. Big staffs breed a race of staff officers who become rubber stamps and get past the stage when they can decide anything for themselves. When the war started in September, 1939, the whole staff of the London District, both General and A.Q. staff, consisted of four officers. Introducing a personal note, I may say that the present Major-General 55 Commanding London District was one of them; my noble friend Lord Lucan was another; I was the third, and there was a fourth. That was the whole staff. At the moment, I understand, the same staff consists of one brigadier, four lieutenant-colonels, eight majors and four captains, not including, of course, the Services, the Royal Corps of Signals or anything like that. I believe that the London District has commitments now that it did not have before, such as the Woolwich Garrison and other static installations, but I doubt if their responsibility has been quadrupled, particularly in view of the fact that a high proportion of the Household Brigade is now serving overseas. But I do not point the finger of criticism at the headquarters of the London District. Far from it. No doubt they are doing their job as well as, perhaps even better than, we did our job then. But it seems to me a big staff, and I should be glad to be assured by the noble and gallant Lord who will answer for the Secretary of State for War that this matter is under constant review.
During the last war and since, the expression "empire-building" has become common in the Army. Before 1939 I had never heard of the expression in the Army. I should imagine that it originated in the Civil Service, where an official discovers that, if he can get enough people under him, it will eventually push him up a little. That is known as "empire-building," although I had never heard it before the last war. It was quite prevalent then, and particularly just afterwards, in spheres such as the Control Commission in Germany, where senior officers, both military and civil, showed remarkable aptitude for it.
With those few words on that subject, I should like to go on to the question of the Staff of the Army as a whole. This War Office Memorandum was certainly produced by the Staff; but, hiding their light under a bushel, they have not mentioned themselves. In a self-effacing manner, everything else is mentioned except the Staff, which in my opinion is all-important. I doubt whether any commander in history has ever been able to operate successfully without an efficient Staff. One could quote endless examples of that. One that springs to mind is on that fateful day in June, 1815, on the field of Waterloo, when, had Emperor 56 Bonaparte had with him his usual Chief of Staff, Berthier, it is unlikely that his orders would have gone astray; the Prussians might well have been prevented from joining Wellington, and the course of history for one hundred years might have been altered. That was certainly a terrible breakdown in his Staff duties. Lord Raglan's Staff duties at Balaclava, as we have been told recently in The Reason Why, do not seem to have been notably successful: and I am sure Lord Montgomery would be the first to agree that in the Western Desert much of his success was due to the brilliance of the Chief of Staff he had with him throughout that campaign. No commander can possibly succeed unless his wishes are implemented by his Staff. I therefore feel that the whole question of Staff officers is most important and should take a higher place in people's deliberations and thoughts than it does. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, referred in his speech to the tremendous weapons and things that may happen to us in the next war, "taxing to the maximum the ingenuity of the planners." I should like slightly to amend that to "the ingenuity of the Staff," because the planners have only to plan; they do not have to make the plan work. The Staff have to implement the plan, and they are the people upon whom the onus eventually falls.
I wonder why the distinctive badges for the Staff have been done away with? Your Lordships will remember that in the 1914–18 war all Staff officers, even down to the rank of captain, wore red tabs and red caps. That practice was abolished almost immediately after the 1914–18 war. One could, I suppose, placing on it the kindest interpretation, put it down to the fact that they made the men easy targets for the enemy, who would have their attention drawn to them. Another explanation may have been that they were so unpopular with the remainder of the Army that they felt happier without their red tabs and caps. It might be either, or a combination of both of those reasons. But the fact remains that they were dressed thereafter without their red caps and tabs, and had only armbands. In 1939 these armbands remained, and they seem to me to have been extremely useful. They wore different colours, according to formation 57 headquarters: blue for brigade, red for division, black and red for corps, with the letter "G" or "AQ" on the band. That may seem a small point, but it meant that on going to a headquarters you could tell if a man was a Staff officer or not; and what was more, what Branch he was in. Now you go to a headquarters and everybody is dressed in regimental uniforms, and you have to go round offices looking at doors finding out who is who.
I do not know why we should not return to armbands. I believe that it would be helpful, and it would to some extent discount this rather stupid idea that a Staff officer is less than other men; that he must apologise for his existence. I constantly meet officers, and even senior officers, who, when I say to them. "What are you doing?" say to me, "I am at the War Office, for my sins." That is quite insincere, because there is hardly a single officer in the War Office who is not delighted to be there; but they always add, "for my sins." It is deprecating. It may be a national tendency to understatement or modesty, but I feel that it is a pity. I see no reason why Staff officers, who have been selected from among many others, should not be proud of their job and do it as well as they can. I do feel that this is important; and I have little doubt that the Secretary of State for War, who has himself been a Staff officer, and the noble and gallant Lord who is to reply, who has also been a Staff officer, well understand what I mean—though in the latter case I am glad to be able to claim the noble and gallant Lord the Secretary of State for Air as having once been one of my own company commanders, when we were closely associated.
One further point, which I believe to be basically important in the Army, though not a dramatic point, not operational, and nothing which could be described as "news," is the question of the Selection Boards and the Military Secretary's Branch—in other words, the selection of officers and postings. It often happened during the war—I am sure it is better now—that the first an officer knew of a posting was when it was put on his blotter, and he saw that he had been posted to an appointment possibly far away. Straight away he would go to the Military Secretary's 58 Branch, and quite often try to get the posting reversed. I believe that it would be helpful if the Selection Board, having selected an officer for an appointment, sent for the officer to come for an interview, if he is available; and if he is not available, he should be informed in writing of the proposed posting, and be given a "closing date" by which he must come up and say something about it, or he will be so posted. I feel that often officers would be able to give good reasons why they should not be so posted. Perhaps they might not be quite so suitable as the selectors imagined; or for domestic or private reasons—which, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, are important nowadays; they cannot be disregarded—they might not want the posting. If this were done, it would not be necessary to turn the machinery all the way back and start all over again, because the officer would have spoken in time.
I believe that much could be done in that matter. It would avoid square pegs going into round holes. Probably in peace-time, when there is much less urgency, officers are selected in less of a hurry, and they fill the holes better. But I have known of some terrible cases of totally unsuitable officers being put into appointments, to the detriment of everybody. The best example I can remember is of a senior officer who was military attaché in a certain capital in South America. His job came to an end, and he was available for reposting. A military attachéship in a European capital fell vacant, and he was posted to it. The new appointment required a knowledge of French, of which he did not speak one word. Moreover, in the meantime he had become extremely deaf. He was a friend of mine, and I asked him. "Do you not find all this rather difficult?" He replied: "Not only difficult, but impossible. I have not the slightest idea what is going on." That showed a remarkable lack, on the part of the Military Secretary's Branch, of "putting your mind to it" and finding a suitable man. You must either take the view that a military attachéship is important or it is not. If it is important, a suitable officer must be made available for that appointment. If it is not important, then it should be done away with, since such an attaché's duties appear to be largely social, in any case; and when he does apply himself 59 to military matters in a foreign capital, he is apt to be found personna non grata, and to find himself on the way home.
There is a further point that I should like to bring to the notice of Her Majesty's Government, in the hope that they will at least consider it: it is the question of the adequate supply of Army interpreters. I believe that something is being done. I am not quite sure of the details, and in any case I rather doubt whether the Director of Military Intelligence wants the details discussed too openly. But I believe that more is being done than used to be done, in order to encourage not only officers but also other ranks to become Army interpreters. I believe that the number of German-speakers in the Army to-day is something under 100. That seems extremely few when there is talk of German rearmament, incorporation in E.D.C., and so on. If these people are to be our Allies, it would be a great pity if, for every British officer or other rank who can speak German, there were ten Germans who can speak English, because that might, and in my view would, produce all kinds of complications. That is only a personal view and, strictly speaking, is not within the terms of this debate.
The question of interpreters takes me on to my last point of all. In 1944, Field Marshal Lord Wilson, then Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean, and General Paget, commanding the Middle East, strongly recommended to the War Office that a Directorate of Liaison be set up. This proposal was investigated by a Board of Directors, including the D.M.O. and D.M.I., and it was accepted. Only one obstacle, and by far the biggest, remained to be cleared, which was the cold, dead hand of the Treasury; and, sure enough, the proposal was turned down. The war did not last much longer and, therefore, the whole of the liaison organisation with our dependent Allies (I am not talking at all, of course, of the Americans; that is a totally different matter), such as the Greeks, French, Belgians, Dutch, Czechoslovakians, Yugoslavians, Poles and so on, which was laboriously constructed during four and a half years of war, was done away with. That organisation may well have to be built up all over again, and suitable officers found, and posted away from their units and, in the mean- 60 time, irreparable harm can well be done to our Allies.
Some of your Lordships have perhaps been fortunate in not having been in personal touch with that sort of thing; you may remember liaison only as a thing of the 1914–18 war, personified by Sir Louis Spears. Liaison in the last war did not dimly resemble that of the 1914–18 war. We had dependent Allies and not independent Allies, as were the French in 1914–18, or the Americans in this war. That is no problem; they are side by side. In this war we had five, six or seven nationalities, entirely dependent on us. We had to bring them into the order of battle and try to get the maximum contribution from them—all of whom were anxious to provide it. The problems raised by these different nationalities, nearly all of a political nature, were far beyond the scope of an ordinary Staff. Very senior officers suddenly found themselves General-Officers-Commanding, and had no training for that sort of thing at all. Their civilian counterparts in the Foreign Office were extremely reluctant to divulge their secrets and policy to soldiers. The result was a terrible gap between the handling of these people on the purely low level military matters, such as feeding them, and that type of thing, and on the high political level. The long-term implications of their treatment were going to bear fruit after the war, and not during the war. During the war they had to be pro-British, but what were they going to be after? That was the question to which a few of us who were concerned with this matter turned our minds. All that organisation has been run down again. It may, and probably will, have to be started up again, and it is my contention that it is a grave matter which should be put in hand now without loss of time.
It will depend to some extent—though not specifically, because languages are not everything—on interpreters or, at any rate, on officers who have some knowledge of other countries and languages. They must be people temperamentally suited to get on with other people and able to understand their point of view, even if they are foreigners. I hope that the Secretary of State for War—and of course this applies to the other Services in equal measure, though that is possibly outside the terms of this 61 debate—will take rote of this point. I did not specifically mention it to the noble Lord who is to reply, and therefore I do not expect a reply from him to-day. But in view of the trend of events in the military field, I should like to raise it again on some future occasion.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down will, I hope, pardon me if I do not follow him in the workings of what the late Ian Hay called the "Practical Joke Department," or endorse his plea, if it was a plea, for the return of the "brass-hat." I would make one comment on what he said about people who say that they go to the War Office for their sins. Surely, my noble friend knows quite well that when people said that in the old days, what they really meant was that during the time they were to be at the War Office they would be deprived of the opportunity of riding His Majesty's horses, which they greatly enjoyed, and that is why they went there for their sins. Nowadays, the horses are gone, and the reason why they say it now is that everybody knows that an officer who is trying to live on his pay and is posted to the War Office finds it harder to make both ends meet and look after his family than he does in any other station at home.
I should like to follow the noble Lord in what he said about the Kirkman Committee and the bloated staffs. He did not mention the one remedy which I have always thought is the really quick remedy, and which is nearly always deliberately ignored on these occasions, and that is the remedy of allowing local commanders to have authority delegated to them to take decisions themselves. That would save a let of Staff officers of all grades working away at working parties and writing minutes, the object of which is nearly always to try to obtain a decision from some higher headquarters, when the local Army or District Commander, if he is fit for his job, is perfectly capable of taking the decision himself. I do not think the Kirkman Committee—which I am sure was an excellent Committee—or any other committee will produce worthwhile results unless they succeed in obtaining a proper measure of delegation. Then I think it will be found possible to abolish many of the lower grades of Staff officer and 62 the retired officer grades, because the commander would be able to make the decision himself and "cut the cackle."
A number of noble Lords have referred to the Memorandum on the Estimates, and I join the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, in saying that I believe this is one of the best White Papers on Army Estimates that have come out since the war, both in form and in substance. I think the matter is excellent. It gives an extremely clear picture of what has been happening in the last year, and of the problems which are set to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War. It also gives me another clear impression, and that is that at the moment the Army is very much in the hands of various forces which are beyond its control. The value of anything that my right honourable friend or the Army Council can do at the moment for the good of the Army is relatively little in comparison with what would be the value to the Army of a change in the international situation or, as a second point, of a final solution in the near future to the problem of the hydrogen bomb. After all, most of the difficulties and disabilities under which the Army labours at the present time are due, in great part, to the dispersion to which the Army is put at the present time. That accounts for the lack of balance between the forces overseas and the forces at home, and for the instability of life in a great many of the stations abroad. But nothing that the Army Council or my right honourable friend can do will make any real impression on that state of affairs until the international situation alters in such a way that we can bring back to this country our proper Reserves.
It would be entirely wrong if one said that, because the strain on the Army is a great one, therefore some compromise ought to be made in regard to the Canal. It would be entirely wrong to say that, because we have too many troops overseas, we ought to bring some troops back from Germany. It would be quite wrong to say that, because, apart from anything else, one of the effects of the hydrogen bomb might be in the direction of dispersal rather than in the direction of concentration. But the fact remains that, as long as we have this degree of dispersal in a large number of stations which one might describe as semi-war stations, we shall have in the Army difficulties to which there is no immediate solution and 63 which will have to be borne so long as it is necessary for the Army to bear them. If the present situation is prolonged indefinitely, there may, indeed, come a point at which the damage, actual or potential, to the Army will be so great that it will become necessary to escape those commitments; but I do not thank that is the position now. If we look back on history, we can all think of a number of occasions when the Army had to endure these hardships in order to support the foreign policy which had been adopted by the Government of the day, or, indeed, the traditional foreign policy which had been adopted by several Governments.
At the same time, it would be wrong, I think, not to emphasise that, if we are to keep our proper number of Regular officers and Regular N.C.Os., who are the backbone of the Army, the present state of affairs cannot go on indefinitely. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, when he was talking about conditions abroad, wondered whether the fact of separation had quite such an effect as we all supposed. He left out one or two factors of difference between the present time and the older days. I was rather surprised that he did. For one thing, even in the old times, married quarters were allowed 100 per cent. to colour sergeants and above, and 50 per cent. to sergeants. Those people had married quarters; they lived in well-secured peace stations and not in places like the Canal. But there are other factors. One is that the age of marriage has gone down a great deal among the people who compose the rank and file. Another is a social one, and that is, as the noble Earl opposite knows quite well, that some of the wives, and possibly the children, of those who were married off the strength lived in the most fantastically bad conditions which officially were no concern of anybody in the regiment; but if the Welfare State means anything, it means that we want to see the last of that sort of thing. If people in the Service are going to be married we want them to be able to lead a decent and normal life. So, for that reason, I do not entirely agree with the noble Earl. We have to face these things. There are good reasons why conditions are not the same now as they were before the war, and we do not want them to be.
64 If we turn to the question of discontent and boredom, we come to something rather different. This topic received some publicity in a report which was made of a conference on "Industry and National Service." which was organised jointly by the British Association for Commercial and Industrial Education, the War Office, and the Air Ministry, and was held a short time ago. That deals with the familiar evil of boredom. Boredom is the cause of most of the complaints, particularly among National Service men. I think those complaints are becoming localised more and more, not among the Regulars or among the National Service men who are fortunate enough to be doing sensible jobs in good regiments, but in the hard core of 30,000 or 40,000 National Service men of low category who are employed at the big Ordnance depôts and who replace civilians. I suppose it is necessary, and has been for some time, for that to be done, but certainly it has a most undesirable effect on the individuals themselves.
How far it is a practical possibility to get rid of those jobs and, therefore, of those people, I do not know. I doubt very much whether it is possible. Therefore, I think we have to make the best of the situation as it is. But I am going to suggest that some of the trouble arises not so much because the jobs are boring as because for half the time the people who are supposed to be doing those jobs are not made to do a full day's work, and then "Satan can find mischief …" still. I do not believe that it is a problem that has ever been seriously tackled anywhere on what might be called time-study lines. Furthermore, I do not believe that it will ever be tackled sensibly until we can get into the head of the average junior officer, and even more the average senior N.C.O., a different idea of what is a day's work. If some attempt at time-study and the amount of work done in a day were made in those places. I think it would not only produce a better atmosphere but would greatly reduce the number of people employed. It is true that, if that were done, it would probably be necessary to spend some money on various kinds of labour-saving devices, such as fork-lifting trucks in the Ordnance depôts, but I suggest it would be well worth doing.
May I come back for a moment to some of the matters to which the noble 65 Lord, Lord Nathan, referred in his main theme, in fact his only theme—the effect of the hydrogen bomb. He made one or two points with which I entirely agree, One of the things he said, if I heard him aright, was that we should not believe that the so-called "new look" would abolish the need for a powerful Army. That, I think, is certainly right. As I said just now, one thing that the hydrogen bomb will certainly do is to call for greater dispersion and therefore greater mobility and rapid transit. I have no doubt that that matter is being studied a great deal, and it has to be studied behind closed doors, I should be very surprised indeed if these studies did not soon have a far-reaching effect on, say, the size and composition of the average division—I am quite certain about that.
I think these studies are going to have another effect, again on a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and I think my noble friend Lord Jeffreys referred—namely, the question of how the transport of the Army should be organised and who should control it. Every time we have one of these inventions we find another cause to break down the barriers between the three Services and we find another reason to be glad that the Ministry of Defence was established at the time it was. I do not think that these problems will be settled by discussions, and probably disputes, at the Service level; they will be settled quickly and satisfactorily to all concerned only if they are taken in hand by the Ministry of Defence. I hope that my noble friend is taking a big hand in this matter, and umpiring when umpiring is necessary, as I am quite certain it will be.
I want to make only one more remark about the possible effects of the hydrogen bomb—namely, that I think that very soon it will call in question, even more than has been the case already, the present rôle and the present composition of the Territorial Army, and, indeed, to a lesser degree, of all the Reserve forces. It is really a question of the state of readiness which you want in your Reserve Army as opposed to the state of readiness which you can fairly expect if your Reserve Army, or the greater part of it, is to be composed of people who are part-time solders and have also to run their businesses. At the moment I am thinking of the volunteers in the Territorial Army, who are the backbone of the whole 66 thing—that is to say, the old volunteers and the National Service volunteers, who are ranking one with the other and having as great a task put before them as they can possibly accomplish. Any attempt to get more work out of them at times other than times of national emergency will probably end in deterring from joining those people whom we want. On the other hand, from the operational point of view, it may well be found that that state of readiness is not what is wanted; so here, I think, in a very short time we shall have a problem which will have to be faced, and I hope will be faced objectively, without too long a delay. How it will turn out I do not know. It may mean that the Reserve forces in this country will line up more closely with the Civil Defence forces; it may mean that we shall have to have a higher Regular cadre in those parts of the Reserve Army in which we want a higher state of readiness.
But those are only speculations. It would be utterly wrong to try and anticipate decisions of this sort, which have to be taken with great care. The problems have to be worked out behind closed doors. But equally, I think it is right to draw attention to these problems. I shall not be much surprised if, at this time next year, when we get another Memorandum (I hope just as good or even better) from my right honourable friend, we find that serious work has begun on these problems. With some degree of luck, we may also find that world conditions have improved for the better, so as to enable my right honourable friend to do a lot of things for the good of the Army, which, had it been possible, he would have done before now.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, may I follow what is evidently the current practice this afternoon, and apologise to my noble friend Lord Bridgeman for not following him in his remarks? I think every speaker has done that in regard to the previous speaker this afternoon. I want to ventilate in some detail two questions only. The first has already been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Jeffreys—namely, the difficulty that Army men have in educating their children. This does not apply to National Service men; nor does it apply to men on short-service engagements; but it applies very severely to long-service soldiers, and, 67 because of their age groups, it applies particularly to senior N.C.Os., warrant officers and what are nowadays called the "middle piece" officers—captains, majors, and those of the rank of lieutenant-colonel. These happen to be the categories of soldiers who are particularly important at the present time; they happen to be the categories of soldiers that the Army most wants to keep in the Service, and they happen to be the categories of soldiers who most generally leave the Service because of this trouble of educating their children.
As your Lordships know, at the present day the greater part of a long-service man's service is spent out of the United Kingdom, due to the cold war and other commitments; and for the same reasons these long-service men, either individually or with their units, are continually moving stations. It is not in the least unusual to hear of an officer who has been moved to four or five different stations in five or six years. The problem then arises: what are these married men with children of school age to do about educating their children? If they are fortunate enough to be in a station where they can have their families with them, they may of course decide to keep their wives and children with them. If they do, every time they move, the wives and children move; and the children move from school to school. In that way there is no continuity of education, and in many cases the result is that there is no proper education at all.
What is the next alternative? Every child in this Welfare State is entitled to State assistance in its education, and so one of these married soldiers may decide to send his wife and child to live at home, so that the child can go as an ordinary day-school child and take advantage of the Welfare State and of free education at the day school. But a soldier doing that has to make up his mind that for many years to come he will be completely separated from his wife and family, except at very rare intervals; and, surely, as a matter of public policy that is not a situation that any civilised country can contemplate for long.
There is really only one solution, and that is to send these children home to 68 boarding schools. That course has the great advantage that there is continuity of education for the children; and during term time the wife can be with the husband, and family life is not broken up. What does the State do for these Service children, if boarding education is the answer to their problem? In fact, Service children are at present denied their rights of having any assistance whatsoever from the State. First of all, in regard to the primary schools there are no boarding school places, so they are ruled out. The next stage of schooling is the secondary modern school. There are, here and there, one or two vacancies in secondary modern schools for boarders, but there are not enough for Service children: quite naturally, the available places are invariably needed by the local authority for the children of their ratepayers. So secondary modern schools are also ruled out for Service children.
There are, of course, secondary grammar schools where there are places for boarders, but here again there are not enough places for Service children. I am afraid if the authorities were to rely on secondary grammar schools for Service children there would be another injustice to Scotland, because England and Wales have secondary grammar schools for boarders, but Scotland has not; so the use of these schools would not help Scottish parents in any way. For further education, university, technical and so on, there are, it is true, scholarships given by local authorities, but Service children are again debarred from taking these up because of the two years' residential qualification. There is another thing about State boarding education—when it is available: there is a means test, and the amount the parent has to contribute is based on the parent's income, not on his liabilities. On the normal scale, majors and above would have to pay the whole of the boarding school fees; and in this connection majors form the most important section of the "middle piece" officers. The fees, on the average, are £120 a year, and there are very few majors nowadays who can afford £120 a year for each child for boarding only.
The recommendation I am going to put forward is that it should be possible for these officers, with State aid, to send 69 these Service children home to private boarding schools. I suggest that a flat rate contribution by the State—of, say, £75 or £100 per annum—should be made for every child of school age. If Her Majesty's Government do not want to lose these important categories of soldier they will have to do something pretty quick. If they decide on this scheme, they will be in the fortunate position of not having to create that bugbear of the Treasury, a precedent. The only other Government servants who have the same difficulties about education as the Armed Forces are members of the Foreign Service. They are almost identical, in that they spend most of their service abroad and are continually charging stations. Members of the Foreign Service already receive a Government grant to help in the education of their children. Why should not these long-service soldiers get exactly the same thing? It may be, of course, that the Treasury will take the view that the whole suggestion is not an economic one. It came to my notice the other day that a middle piece officer left the Service for this very reason: that he could not get continuity of education for his children. He was an officer who had a very distinguished career, and there is no doubt that if he had stayed in the Service his future career would have been even more distinguished. It has now been calculated that, from the time this officer went to his cadet college to the time he left the Service, the country spent on him £80,000. Is it an economic proposition to lose the fruits of an expenditure of £80,000 for the sake of £75 or £100 per annum for a limited number of years? So much for that matter.
The other question is quite different. It concerns the efficiency of the Army. I wish to say a few words about the feeding of the Territorial Army at their annual camps. In my submission, the food is not only badly composed as to its ingredients but entirely inadequate in amount. First of all, may I say that the term "Territorial camp" nowadays is rather a misnomer. One visualises nice tents pitched; men going out in the morning for a little light exercise, coming back for their dinner; and then, perhaps, having a game of football or a little light training in the afternoon, followed by an evening meal and a singsong round a 70 camp fire, before going to bed early. That is not how the Territorial Army trains nowadays. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that this summer the whole of the Territorial Army armoured division is taking the field in the Aldershot—Salisbury Plain area. During its fourteen days' camp, this division will spend ten out of the fourteen days out of camp; and during the last week it will spend four consecutive days and nights operating away from the camp. And since it is an armoured division, much of it will be continuously on the move, with units dispersed over an enormous area, and often with communications very difficult. That is the object of the exercise. The essential thing for a ration under those conditions is that it should be easy to make into some form of haversack ration, a ration that is not large in bulk, that is easily divided up and easily distributed.
I am not exaggerating on this matter when I say that, in most cases, no care has been taken to get the right ration to the Territorial Army camps where much of it is for use as a haversack ration. The noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, told me of an occasion in Scotland last year where, as the main course of the main meal of the day, for three days running, a unit had that rather revolting substance, tinned herring. How can tinned herring be made into an adequate haversack ration? All that can be done is to put it between extra thick slices of bread, making it of enormous bulk and very unappetising. In an armoured division, which I am taking as my example, it is essential to have something of small bulk. There is only one really satisfactory ration, and that is the ration on which the British Army of the Rhine train, the compo-ration. It is already cooked; it is easily distributed; it is not large in bulk; it goes well into an Army fighting vehicle. All the training in Germany is based on that ration. Why cannot that ration be issued to the Territorial Army?
May I read just a few of the things which are likely, at present, to be issued to cooks of armoured fighting vehicles, judging by the number of rations that are issued at Territorial Army camps, and may I ask your Lordships to consider how the crew of an armoured fighting vehicle are going to deal with them: baking powder, pulse, oatmeal, rice, flour, 71 dried peas. What does one do with such things, in a continually moving armoured fighting vehicle? So far as milk is concerned, this year only 30 per cent. of the milk for the troops is to be issued in the form of tinned milk: the rest is to be issued in the form of fresh milk. In an army fighting vehicle, moving for four days and nights continuously, are the troops to carry their milk inside the vehicle in cans? What condition will the milk be in on the third and the fourth days? It does not make sense, but units have already been told that that is the form of milk that will be issued this year, with only 30 per cent. of tinned milk. So much for the ingredients.
I also submit that the actual amount of ration is totally inadequate. May I remind you that, to start with, these men are civilians when they arrive in camp; they have been working indoors for much of the year; they have been on civilian food, and are mostly unfit. They arrive in camp to undergo hard, physical exercise, often in adverse weather conditions, living almost entirely in the open air. I agree that it is almost impossible to fill them, but the actual ration is not enough to fill them. In the Regular Army at the present time units are well fed, but the Army ration is based on the circumstances for which the ration is meant, and on the continuous and prolonged periods over which contracting is done. Throughout the year, particularly in the winter, a messing officer is always putting by little reserves—in other words stockpiling. It is a simple thing to do. For example, in the winter months every Saturday large numbers of men from a unit disappear on short pass until Sunday night. Rations are drawn for two days for those men, but all the messing officer has to provide is Saturday's breakfast. So, year by year, he stockpiles, and when the unit goes for severe training—it may be in bad weather conditions—he always has available extra tea, extra sugar, extra rations. In the Territorial Army, a unit goes into camp with no reserve of rations of any kind whatsoever. The unit has not been messing throughout the year, and rations are drawn every day and eaten every day. There is no chance to put anything by. In my submission, this system of rationing was never intended for messing under 72 those conditions. It does not provide rations in adequate amount unless there are opportunities for stockpiling.
There is another matter which is rather regrettable. There is little doubt that the food is not considered adequate by the men. The men, naturally, as is the custom in the British Army, complain to the officers, and the officers' duty is to have their complaints put right. It is bad for the morale both of officers and of men if an officer can do absolutely nothing to rectify the complaints he receives. Moreover, there is a difference between the feeding of the officers and the feeding of the men. This is even more marked because officers' messes get £10 per officer for additional feeding for the period of the camp. So officers are on an altogether higher standard of messing. Then, as your Lordships know, in most units the officers, who after all go to camp only for a fortnight a year, can, and do, put their hands into their pockets in order to "do themselves well." So the difference between the standard of feeding of the officers and the standard of feeding of other ranks becomes even more marked—in many respects, it is a scandal.
This July will be the first month when the first of the National Servicemen are finishing their Territorial service. Larger numbers each month will be coming to the end of their compulsory service, and the Territorial Army is anxious to keep a large proportion of these men in the Service as volunteers for posts as N.C.Os. and instructors. A commanding officer told me that he had a large number of men who had been prepared to take on as volunteers but that after his last camp he lost over a hundred of them. The men said to him, "We have been at two camps where we have been kept hungry. The food has been nasty, and apart from its quality it has been insufficient. We are not going to have that every year at our Territorial camps." I hope that Her Majesty's Government will do something about this matter at once, because the problem is immediate. The men are leaving now. If the Government set up a committee, with a Treasury official sitting in and so on, it may be discovered in a year or eighteen months' time that the rationing is, in fact, totally inadequate for this type 73 of messing, but by that time these men will have left the Territorial Army, and they are very difficult to replace. May I therefore ask Her Majesty's Government to take immediate administrative steps to see that the proper ingredients of rations are issued to these units and that the ration is increased—I suggest by 50 per cent.
§ 4.55 p.m.
My Lords, once again I have to begin by apologising for not taking up points made by previous speakers. May I say, however, that I was very surprised at one of me "wonderings" of the noble Earl, Lord Lucan. He wondered why troops on ceremonial parades and inspections should wear home service clothing, as opposed to the clothing in which they go to war and to carrying weapons which they use in war. I think he will remember that while in the Army a soldier is always told to be soldierly in appearance and to keep his uniform in good condition. And I am certain that a soldier thoroughly enjoys wearing a nice, smart uniform. Further, this is all to the good from the point of view of the people who are looking on. People generally love it, and tourists like it. Over a very long time it has been well known in most countries that the quality of the British soldier is excellent, and so many people in this country have seen so many films of the war that they do not need reminding of it by these parades. So I think the soldier should wear his home service dress.
I should like to talk for a few minutes about the Home Guard. In this connection, I must disclose a personal interest, as I have the honour to command the 11th County of London Home Guard Battalion, in whose area lie the Royal Palaces, many Government buildings and the Palace of Westminster itself. Recently the noble and gallant Earl the Minister of Defence gave an excellent and most encouraging broadcast about the Home Guard, as did also Lieutenant-General Sir Brian Horrocks. I am certain that the Home Guard as a whole considers that it is very definitely a military force and is proud to think that in any future hostilities—as was the case in the last war—it will be called upon to carry out tasks which need for their performance not only gallantry and good will but good training.
74 I might mention some of those tasks. I would take as an example, first, the task for which the Home Guard was originally formed—the defence of the country against invasion by sea or by air. This rôle includes also the defence of vital points, such as military and commercial installations; and anti-sabotage activities. Then, again, another military and civil task which I am sure will be ours to carry out again, as it was before, is the direction of convoys through big cities which have been bombed. By reason of their local knowledge the Home Guard will be able to assist in the diversion of the convoys, and to help or even, if necessary, to take over duty from the military and civil police. A third task, and one which to my mind is extremely important, is, if there are no military commitments at the moment, to give assistance—and the Home Guard are capable of being of the greatest assistance—to the Civil Defence personnel and the civil police in all their non-military tasks.
With regard to this question of giving assistance to the Civil Defence organisation, I am certain that in almost all Home Guard areas throughout the country there is very good liaison with the many Civil Defence centres that have been set up. Personally, I still wish that the Civil Defence as a whole could be placed under the War Office. That raises the question of ease of command. I feel that it would be better for it to be under War Office control. However, I know there are great arguments against that. Then there is another almost indefinable task for the Home Guard, and that is to be Jacks-of-all-trades—to do practically anything they may be asked to do in accordance with the way in which the situation develops. Whatever bombs we have, the Home Guard will be called upon in many different ways. We have been given modern weapons, though not the latest types. It is obvious to anyone that we are practically last in priority, but we have Bren guns, Vickers machine guns and normal rifles. Results have shown that the Home Guard are extremely good at handling them. I was told only yesterday that one of the Berkshire Home Guard battalions defeated several Regular Army depôts at a rifle meeting in the Southern Command, and naturally they feel rather pleased.
We are very worried about our signalling equipment. It is well known 75 that rapid transmission of signals is vital, whether the action takes place on the sea, on the ground or in the air, or a combination of all three. Methods have been laid down for the Home Guard. The first is the use of Post Office telephones. Possibly that may be all right for country battalions, but I doubt whether it can be completely relied upon in the London area. In the area covered by my battalion we have five different G.P.O. exchanges. If working at all, the lines would be very busy, and I do not see how we could rely on them at the most important time. The ordinary Army signalling equipment comes next—cable with telephone. We have been promised six per battalion, to arrive in October, but so far there has been no mention of the telephone exchanges to go with them. It would be rather difficult to have a telephone system without a switchboard. These Army telephones are extremely difficult to lay in cities. We have to put the cables overhead; we cannot put them down on the pavement, because they would not last a minute. It often happens that after they have been put up, the unit may be shifted to another place and we have no time to re-lay. One thing we have been issued with is the ordinary signal flags. I feel that that is rather an out-of-date method of signalling. I do not see how we can signal from the back of the Army and Navy Stores to St. James's Park or to Hyde Park. These cannot be counted as workable.
We have no wireless equipment. I know that commanders of the Home Guard all over the country are convinced that this equipment is essential. There are two types of wireless needed for Home Guard. County battalions, with long distances between the various headquarters, must have big sets. I am informed that, so far as we are concerned, it is almost impossible to get these. In the big cities and in London the small, short-wave set would be of great value. I wonder what happened to all the small sets after the war. I know that many have been dismantled for spare parts for other sets. There was some sale of military equipment after the war and some of them may have gone in that way. And I understand that some have been given to the cadet forces. That is nice for the cadet forces, but I hardly think 76 that is the right priority. The cadet forces will be disbanded at the outbreak of war because they are not a fighting formation, whereas the Home Guard is.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, why does the noble Viscount say that the cadet forces will be disbanded at the outbreak of war? They were not disbanded at the outbreak of the last war. I hope they will not be.
I am sorry; my information must have been incorrect. But I still think that the priority for wireless sets should be to the Home Guard as opposed to cadet forces. We do not necessarily need new ones, because most Home Guard battalions have within them many men who are adepts at doing almost anything, and these men can perfectly well put sets together so long as the component parts are there. Another point about which we are wondering is D.R's. Their organisation is a little strange. The only equipment we have for D.R's. is two crash helmets per battalion, but no machines. We have men in the Home Guard who are willing to use their own machines for training but there comes the question of claiming for petrol.
I know the Secretary of State for War is doing all he can to cut down, but he must realise, as we all should, that the Home Guard is a very cheap form of Reserve. I should like to see a grant given to sector commanders (who, as your Lordships know, are the equivalent of brigadiers) which they can dispose of through the battalions for training purposes, including the purchase of petrol. Or, if the War Office think it would be better to draw petrol from their own stations, we should not mind a bit.
I fear that there is still a public feeling that the Home Guard are a collection of old crocks, and that they will not be fit for very much. I can assure your Lordships that that is entirely untrue. It was not true in the last war, when the Home Guard did a magnificent job of work. As to age, I would say that the average age of the men in my battalion is forty-five. They are all able-bodied men. The Home Guard are extremely keen about all their training. Recruitment is steadily going up. In fact, it has gone up quite a bit since the Secretary of State for War issued his 77 Memorandum. The Home Guard realise that the War Office has had to put in a great deal of extra work in the re-formation and maintenance of the Home Guard, but I think the results which are coming in will give them some consolation. The Home Guard would also like to thank the Territorial associations for the work they have done and the kindness they have shown to Home Guard units since their reformation. Without them, I do not think it would have been possible to carry on. As I said, the Home Guard did a great job of work in the last war, and they have every confidence in their ability to do it again in the future, should they be called upon.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, said that this was one of the best Memoranda he had seen for a number of years, and I feel inclined to agree with him. It is simple in statement; it deals in a few lines with great subjects; it gives statistics in simple form; and it gives a map dealing with the matter of dispersion, about which the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, spoke, and which I am surprised has not received more publicity. But the Memorandum has not made much difference to the tone of this debate. There is something about Army debates which I have never been able to understand, and I have now heard getting on for a couple of score of them. If your Lordships are dealing with the Navy, the debate "breezes up" at once—or, as my old dad, who was a sailor, would say, "The decks are awash." If you are dealing with the Air Force, you are zooming and diving before you know where you are. But when it comes to the Army, we are grounded. When you get to the "P.B.I.," it is a practical matter, and one of great detail.
My noble friend Lord Nathan tried to arouse the enthusiasm and the curiosity of the House as to what was going to happen, in certain circumstances, with the new weapons that have been invented. I sometimes wonder whether the War Office know. An old friend of mine told me, when I was a young man on a council, that I need not worry particularly about anything; that the best thing to do was to carry an umbrella and look wise. A good deal can be covered under that guise. There are people who talk about armies being unnecessary if a great conflagration 78 with modern weapons should break out. But one thing that experience tells us is certain is that, if there is trouble, the "P.B.I." will have to face it. While the other arms of the Navy and the Air Force will carry out their duties in fighting for this island and the Western part of the world, representing the forces of freedom, in the long run it is the Army that will have to face the first onrush of an enemy.
The satisfactory thing about the present situation, so far as the British Army is concerned, is their line spirit. That is backed by the nation. If your Lordships look at this Memorandum, you will see that there are something like 440,000 men in the Army, and a half of them are National Servicemen. That is a striking fact. We see a mother and father bringing up a family, and they get a piece of paper calling upon their eldest boy to go and do his two years' National Service. Often they have younger children with whom they are hoping to get some little help from the boy, and they have their education to look after; but their eldest boy is called away. I hear scarcely a word of grumbling about that. Taking this nation as a whole, it is remarkable how the people have accepted that fact, however much their household may be disturbed. Even when these young men have done their service they are called upon to do a period of service in the Territorial Army. Whilst I do not say that there is 100 per cent. perfection about it, the remarkable thing is how little trouble there is in getting these boys to fulfil their Territorial service after they have done their National Service. Then they are called up for a refresher course. I thought that there would be trouble about that. I went to hear the real story from the first batch of my county regiment that was called up, and I was amazed at the old "come together" spirit that prevailed.
One of the things about which the War Office have done little is the subject of good publicity. Until the Gloucesters fought that magnificent battle, the War Office did not even get good publicity in regard to something they might well have "shouted" about—namely, the conduct of our troops in Korea. Yet the conduct and the fighting power of our men in Korea, many of them young National Service men, is something of which we can well be proud. We hear at meetings, 79 we see headlines in the Press, and we have had speeches made in this House, about groups of the young men of this nation not living up to standard. But it is not in these groups that you get the measure of the youth of the nation—it is in Memoranda like this one. That shows the homes that those young boys represent—and some of the young women, too; and I think we can say that the standard of the youth of this nation is not only as good as, but in many respects better than, ever it was. That is a strong statement. I have sat on two courts-martial inquiries—two disciplinary inquiries—and I have had to examine the records of the old Kipling soldiers. My noble friend opposite will know more about this than I do. They were a grand type of manhood, but you should see the courts-martial records—my word! The Secretary of State tells us that this last Report is better than the last four or five. The disciplinary side of it is something marvellous. Whether we take the statistics or inquiries into the distant past, it is something of which we can be proud.
There is a great danger, which my noble friend did his best to emphasise, and upon which he tried to draw your Lordships into debate. The danger as we see it to-day, and as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, said, is of the situation getting unbalanced. There is this striking map, with Korea at one end and the Honduras at the other—distant places where it appears as though those concerned have wilfully attempted to divert and disperse our forces. As the Secretary of State says in this Memorandum, there are different types of warfare. He points out that in Korea there was a type of warfare almost in line with the 1914–18 War, where there were small circumscribed areas with heavy mortar fire and artillery. In Malaya, we see something like a guerrilla warfare, which is difficult to describe. Our troops have played a striking part in that, whether they were in Korea or Malaya. Then in Africa, there is the Mau Mau, which is a kind of creeping death. You do not know whether the enemy is within a mile of you, or a hundred miles. Then there is Egypt, where the men are all grouped together and find movement very difficult. I think great credit is due to our men who have been clustered together in Egypt in difficult circumstances, in an 80 area consisting almost entirely of sand, and without any of the ordinary things which break the monotony of military life. Their conduct has been remarkable in the face of the conditions in that part of the world. As a matter of fact, if I can read the minds of people beyond these shores, I should say that it was expected that they would break under the test. Those who know the area know how difficult it is for groups of men to live and carry out defensive, to say nothing of aggressive, warfare.
I say that dispersal is one of the dangers. There are many forms of warfare, but dispersal is common to them all. The danger is that, with most of our troops engaged in one form of warfare or another, we may cultivate and make a study of the tactics and the strategy necessary for such forms of warfare, to the exclusion of dealing with the world situation, in which we are faced by great masses of people in some of the most populous nations of the earth. I should not take advantage of the limits which your Lordships usually place upon debates such as this but, if I may dare to say it, I think that not only the average citizen of this country, and of Europe, but also the average statesman has not the slightest idea of what human density can be until he sees China and its people. It is an extraordinary sight, and I, for one, am under no illusions about it. Whether we have E.D.C. or N.A.T.O., or any form of combination, I say, having been placed in a position of responsibility in this country during the last war, and having known the time when we were without any cover at all and the dangers to which we were subject when enemies were likely to land, that I would not refrain from taking the action needed to put this country and the rest of Europe in a position of defence to meet any possible attack that might come on a modern scale, to say nothing of the methods that we use in the case of this dispersal.
The main question that I would ask the noble and gallant Lord who is to reply is: What is the system of publicity in the War Office now? The Memorandum is a good one, and the map shows the dispersion of our forces, leaving us in the position of having just a handful of men in this country. The figures and facts connected with those young men 81 who are giving National Service, and the fine spirit in which their parents and the nation are facing it, ought to be told in no ordinary way. I believe that we are not lacking (I do not know whether it was the War Office or the people in Korea who did it) in ability to put our case across, as illustrated by the story that we heard about the Gloucesters. So I should like to ask the noble and gallant Lord if he will tell us something about the publicity methods of the War Office, because I think that is of some value in the matter that we have been discussing to-day.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY)
My Lords, as the noble Lord who has just sat down has said, we certainly have ranged widely in this debate to-day. We have discussed tinned herrings and hydrogen bombs; we have gone into the organisation of liaison officers and interpreters for a hypothetical future war and we have talked about ceremonial dress. I am sure the House will agree that I am not competent either to answer or to comment upon all the points that have been raised, but I will certainly undertake to bring them to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War. Questions of the organisation of the Service might be broadly divided into those which may be termed generally strategic and those which are mainly concerned with manpower. The noble Lord who opened this debate confined himself, I think quite properly, to questions of strategy, while most of the other contributions which we have had have been mainly, though not entirely, concerned with manpower and personnel problems. Perhaps it might be for the convenience of the House—I do not wish to detain the House very long—if I dealt with or commented briefly upon first the second class of questions which have been posed, and then came to the speech of the noble Lord opposite who opened the debate.
On the question of Territorial feeding, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, I am informed on the best authority, and it coincides with my personal information because I am connected with the Territorial Army, that the complaint which the noble Lord voiced about the inadequacy and unsuitability of the 82 rations is not a general complaint. May I also remind the noble Lord that in the late war and, indeed, on training still, I understand that armoured vehicles did and do some of their own cooking. It is not necessarily so illogical as might appear to issue them with dried peas. I am not going into the question of herrings for the moment, but may I repeat that complaints have not been received by my right honourable friend on the general standard of feeding in Territorial camps. If, however, the noble Lord could give details and support it with information which he has about any particular unit or formation where the feeding is considered to be unsatisfactory, and if he would write either to my right honourable friend or to myself. I am sure that we should be happy to deal with that complaint.
As to the question of education which the noble Lord also raised, he will be aware that this matter has been recently under discussion in this House in a debate on matters affecting the Air Force, and it was dealt with in particular in a speech by my noble friend Lord Temple-wood. I cannot, I am afraid, add more to what was said on that occasion, but I will repeat that this problem is in the minds of my Service colleagues and myself. We are aware of the case put so persuasively in this House, both on the last occasion and on this occasion. An inter-departmental committee is, in fact, sitting to consider how we can best solve this problem, which is by no means easy of solution.
Turning to the question of separation, I think we are all agreed that the Army, in particular (though, it applies to the other Services in a greater or lesser degree), is suffering great disabilities. At any rate, both this Government and their predecessor have tackled the problem as best they can by building more married quarters overseas and by providing a higher scale of married quarters in this country. Noble Lords will remember that in the last three months certain further concessions were announced. These are generically termed "cold war concessions," and although it certainly cannot be claimed that they have solved the problem, at least they can be said to have done many valuable things to mitigate it. For instance, there is the concession of free travel to enable children who have been left behind to visit their parents 83 overseas. Then there is the provision of leave at public expense for separated married men who are serving in the Canal Zone and in Kenya, and leave for Army personnel who are serving in North-West Europe with their families, and certain financial concessions connected with the storage of furniture of those about to go overseas with their families. These dealt with matters which were grounds for complaint, and my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty and myself were most anxious to obtain these concessions which we have obtained. I would remind your Lordships of that because sometimes, maybe, you are in danger of forgetting what has been done.
I come now to the question of resettlement raised by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan. The Army and, indeed, all the Services are very much aware of their responsibilities in this respect, and particularly in the matter of housing. I understand that in the Army Servicemen who are due to leave the Service are made aware of their position, of the difficulties, and of the need to put their names down, by the Royal Army Educational Corps, working through commands and units. Speaking for the Service for which I have a responsibility, I may say that parallel steps are taken to see that the men are made aware of these difficulties. We cannot solve them on our own, and my right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government has, through departmental channels available to him, made local authorities aware of their responsibilities in this respect. But, since housing is so much a local responsibility, we cannot force local authorities to give a priority to men who are leaving the Services. We can only persuade them, and I ask all noble Lords who have any influence in that respect in the areas in which they live to take the matter up and bring it forcibly and persuasively, I should say, before the local authorities.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, spoke about the difficulties which arise from certain of the tasks allotted to National Servicemen. I agree, in the main, with his analysis. My right honourable friend is well aware of the need to try to mitigate these tasks or relieve the Army, and particularly the National Servicemen, of some of them. An investi- 84 gation has been conducted into the organisation and maintenance of the Ordnance and supply services of the Army with a view to seeing whether improvements could be made which would remove all, or at least some, of the jobs which were referred to by the noble Viscount and by other noble Lords. It is a problem and it is recognised as such. I will certainly draw my right honourable friend's attention to the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, about a full day's work, and so on.
The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, had a particular point about the taxation of the lodging allowance. I am informed that the fact that tax is payable on lodging allowances has been taken into account in settling the amount of the allowance. I know that that raises all sorts of problems and nobody will be satisfied with the amount of it. However, I am acting on the information which I have received. The corollary, therefore, would be that if there were no taxation of the allowances the allowances would not be so high as they are now. On the general question of taxation of allowances, the noble Lord was, I think, reconciled to the fact that allowances such as the marriage allowance should now be taxable.
Now we come to the question of organisation which was raised by some noble Lords. I confess that when I drive, as I do very often, under the Horse Guards Arch, I have not been aware of the burden which that Arch now carries in the weight of the staff above. It is not for me to comment on the adequacy or superfluity of that staff; noble Lords who have served there would be able to comment with greater knowledge. Of course, the so-called size of swollen staffs, which, if I may say so, is a very well-worn phrase—I think it has been so certainly for the last hundred years—is always a matter of comment, and perfectly legitimate comment, and I, for one, am not going to say that all is perfectly organised in this respect in the Army or in the Air Force, or, for that matter, in the Royal Navy. But I think some noble Lords did less than justice to my right honourable friend, who has told Parliament quite frankly in his Memorandum what he has done in this respect; and I think he deserves credit for what he has done. After all, the 85 size and establishment of staff is not a matter for sudden pruning; it is a matter for steady and insistent control by the appropriate branches of the Service Ministries—and that control is exercised. But certainly it is a Ministerial responsibility perpetually to challenge the size of these organisations.
The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, referred to Shrivenham. Here again I think perhaps he was less than just to the attitude of the Army or to the need for general scientific appreciation in this modern mechanical and scientific age. It would be possible, I suppose, by enlarging such training establishments as Shrivenham or setting them up elsewhere, to send more officers out earlier on their career, but my right honourable friend feels that the balance allotted between those who go to Shrivenham to acquire knowledge to fit them for some technical post, and the places allotted to students who have been to the Staff College and are what I may term general duties officers, is about right. I believe that the general standard of technical knowledge and appreciation of the scientific aspects of warfare is enormously improved since the days when I was first commissioned. I do not think that nowadays there is any lack of appreciation of the need to apply the lessons of science to warfare, and I think that knowledge is widely disseminated.
My Lords, I do not feel competent to speak about the Home Guard to-day, or on the question whether the issue of crash helmets presages the coming of motor-bicycles or is merely an encouragement to soldiers to obtain them for themselves. Those are questions which should be addressed more properly to my right honourable friend, who, I am sure, will be pleased to inform the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen. We are delighted that he has taken on the onerous duties of commanding a battalion, and I feel sure that he will, from his own military training, overcome by other means the difficulties of communication which he feels embarrassing at the moment. I realise that my replies on these points have been somewhat brief, and I shall be delighted to offer further information in writing if noble Lords feel that I have not dealt adequately with their points.
Now I should like to come to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, raised in his speech, and of which he 86 was good enough to give me notice. I was glad that he faced unflinchingly the issue which confronts us, about the possible use of nuclear weapons in a future war if, which God forbid! it should come, and that in general he agreed with paragraph 13 of the Government Statement on Defence, 1954. I certainly think that we shall have a much healthier public opinion if it is faced with the facts, however harsh. The noble Lord is quite right in saying that these are matters which cannot be discussed in detail across the Floor of the House, but I can assure him that the planners and the staffs are studying the implications of the use of these new weapons in warfare. The first thing is to decide what is needed; the next thing is to experiment, and the last stage, of course, is to equip.
We must remember that the fact that we are placed in this situation, in common with all the major armies of the world, is a reaction, in the main, to the greatly increased power of the air to do damage; and we must get our priorities right in the light of that fact. In the last debate on air matters which we had in this House I felt bound to call attention to the gulf which yawns between those who have responsibility in office, and have to decide upon priorities, and those other Members, in all parts of the House, whose imagination is not thus trammelled. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, will not consider me in any way disrespectful if I say that his speech was admirable as an intellectual exercise but that if Her Majesty's Government were to take literally all his advice, and follow it out in full, with all the speed that he seemed to believe to be necessary, not only would all the economies which he and his colleagues have advised in the way of defence be swallowed up, but there would be a very large balance afterwards on the debit side.
Anything to do with the air, as I know so well, is extremely expensive; and the helicopter is particularly so. It is difficult to be precise, but I think it not unfair to say that its cost per pound weight is twice as much as that in what is called the conventional aircraft. Helicopters are in an early stage of development, and I have no doubt that the brains of the aircraft industry will set 87 about improving the vertical lift capabilities of aircraft and in making them more economical and easier to maintain. But the fact is that at present we have only the helicopter, and we must use it. I am entirely at one with the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, in saying that strategic and tactical movements in the air will become more and more necessary in modern warfare. But I must remind him, as I have already done, that in slipping in this whole new list of claims on our Defence Vote, he is really telling us that he is underwriting not a stabilised defence expenditure of the present level but a greatly increased one.
In order to illustrate the Government's belief in air transport and air movement of troops, I am happy to be able to tell the House, as I hoped that I should be when I spoke on the Air Estimates debate in this House, that we are placing an order for a long-range, high-speed, jet transport aircraft to replace the Hastings. It is the Vickers "1000" as it is called, which is being built by Vickers in prototype. The order will be sufficient to enable the firm to begin economic production in series. This aircraft, I ought to explain, has been designed especially to meet the special needs of military transport. It will have four Rolls-Royce Conway engines. They are particularly important. I hope your Lordships will forgive me for going a little into technical matters, but it is of some interest in that this engine incorporates the by-pass principle, which gives great fuel economy with great thrust, which is very important for range.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
I think it would be. The order will be sufficient to begin economic production in series. The aircraft has a high capacity and can carry 120 troops, with their personal arms and equipment, over stages up to 2,500 miles. Its primary rôle will be the long-range, strategic movement of troops, but it can also be used for freighting, because it is equipped with an internal lift for ease of loading which will enable it to carry quite large military equipment. It will give the strategic reserve which we hope to build up in this country the speed and mobility which are essential. As an example, five of these 88 transports could carry a battalion of infantry to Kenya within eighteen hours, which is pretty quick. Your Lordships will remember that on previous occasions I have referred to the Beverley freighter which was designed especially, after close consultation between the General Staff and the Air Staff, to meet the Army requirement for a heavy-lift aircraft. It can carry heavy equipment which is loaded in the tail and can drop airborne troops and supplies. We placed a substantial order for this type last year, and having reviewed the future and the increasing importance of adequate air transport for the Army we have decided to place a further order for this type. I thought noble Lords would like to know this because of the anxiety expressed in previous debates about troop movement.
I have promised that I will not detain your Lordships long, but I should like to say that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lawson. I do not think the very striking map which my right honourable friend placed at the end of his Estimates Memorandum has received sufficient publicity, because it shows most strikingly how widely dispersed are the Army and our Colonial Forces, and it also brings home most forcibly the gravity of the problem which confronts my right honourable friend and the Army Council. He still aims to achieve that better balance which would so greatly help the management of the Army, and create a strategic reserve; but, as my noble friend Lord Bridgeman has pointed out, circumstances are often the master of the administration. However much we may regret the circumstances which have necessitated this wide dispersion, I think we can all agree, as the noble Lord, Lord Lawson so strikingly said, that the British Army has made an immense contribution to peace and order since the war; and the whole free world owes a great debt to the British Serviceman, and particularly, perhaps, the British soldier. He has shown a sense of responsibility and of discipline which is quite outstanding. He has suffered lack of amenities, separation from home and family, and he has borne his burden cheerfully and patiently. Let me, in conclusion, quote from the final paragraph of my right honourable friend's Memorandum:… during 1953 the Army has carried out its various and difficult duties all over the world 89 in an exemplary manner. We have never before had a better peace-time army and never before has a peace-time army been more highly tested. I think that they have earned the full gratitude of the nation and indeed of the western world with whose forces they have co-operated to make a vital contribution both to our security and the cause of peace.My Lords, with those remarks I am proud to associate myself.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, I am sure you will be grateful to the Secretary of State for Air for the very informative statement which he has made at the conclusion of the debate, which I think your Lordships will agree has been worth while. All your Lordships will be interested to know about and to follow the future of the Vickers "1000." It is obvious from what the noble and gallant Lord has said, in regard to that and other related matters, that a good deal of what I dealt with, in my opening observations, as being in the realm of ideas has been translated not merely to the drawing board but also to the stage of having prototypes, and even beyond. It is 90 inevitable, in a debate of this kind, that those who do not occupy official positions, when addressing their minds to a subject, should deal with matters which may already be the subject of action by those upon whom responsibility rests. Nevertheless, I feel that it is a good thing, and in the public interest, that these matters should be explored, because they bring from those with whom authority rests information and reassurance to the public, and an indication that something of what ought to be done is being done. With those observations I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.