§ 2.43 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN rose to call attention to the Memorandum accompanying the Army Estimates (Cmnd. 951) and to the rôle of the Army in the present circumstances; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, so much has happened since the Defence White Paper and the Army Estimates and the Memorandum accompanying it were published that a debate on Defence policy as a whole would seem to be well justified. But the moment is perhaps not ripe for that, and it will therefore wait until after the Recess. Noble Lords will observe that I have extended my Notice of Motion. I have done so in order to refer not merely to the Memorandum accompanying the Army Estimates, which is little more than a shopping list, but also to enable consideration to be given to the rôle of the Army. Indeed, I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that there would be some virtue in including in the Memorandum accompanying Service Estimates in future years an up-to-date professional appreciation of the position of the particular forces concerned. The Memoranda issued of recent years have not contained such an appreciation, but have been largely limited to relatively minor matters of detail. I think we want to survey the position of each of the Defence forces in turn in the general debate of the Defence White Paper.
§ Briefly, the Army's rôle, combined with the other two Services, must always be the forceful expression of British foreign policy. That policy does not assume that East and West are going to try to knock each other out; but it does assume a period of definite cold war, when many possible incidents may occur. These incidents may vary in their nature from internal unrest following a change of Government in some relatively stable country, to actual hostilities on a small, or even a not so small, scale.
§ What kind of forces do we need to support a policy based on these assumptions? I suggest to your Lordships that we need two. The Western Powers need 201 a nuclear force, if the worst comes to the worst. This may be provided by America and controlled by N.A.T.O. We here in the United Kingdom need an up-to-date force—a New Model, streamlined, highly mobile Army. We can, if we like, call such an Army a "snake-scotcher". Its function will be to prevent an incident getting out of hand and becoming the prelude to nuclear war. But what we do not need, and moreover what we cannot afford, is an Army designed to fight a protracted conventional war on a continental scale. Can any of us seriously imagine such a war? Full-scale conflict means that both contestants want to achieve an unconditional surrender. To achieve such a result most modern methods must be used. That means nuclear weapons, weapons of annihilation. Such a war would be short, or, as I have heard it suggested, "It might last as long as three days".
§ Thus, my Lords, large bodies of troops in static situations no longer make sense. I say "no longer", because the British Army on the Rhine is a force in all essentials still only set for that kind of war. Let me say at once that I am a strong believer, on political grounds, in Britain maintaining her present strength in Germany; and I am equally convinced that this strength could be redeployed in a way which reflects the political and military requirements of our time. One whose name is well-known to your Lordships, Captain Liddell Hart, who has been proved right oftener than he has been proved wrong in these matters, has recently pointed out that our forces in Germany could be perfectly adequate for their stated purpose of forming part of the "shield" if only they were more truly mobile and came nearer to the type of mobile force which is being developed in the strategic reserve. In this connection, I ask the noble Lord who is to reply whether General Stockwell—whose appointment as General Norstad's deputy we all welcome—will have any responsibility for raising and training the N.A.T.O. mobile force about which we have heard infrequent and somewhat confusing reports.
§ I now turn from Germany to the Army outside Germany. As we all know—it is a truism, but not less true for that—the next war is usually fought with the weapons of the last. Not only that, but 202 the thinking for the next war is usually that of the last war, also. For example, Korea appears to be regarded as a pattern for future limited conflicts. In fact, Korea was a most untypical war in every way, and it is surely highly dangerous to assume future lengthy wars fought on that pattern. The two sides were unequal in strength, diverse in armament and different in tactics. Small nuclear weapons were unavailable. No one can say whether they would have been used. More to the point, one dare not assume they would not be used in a future situation comparable politically with the situation that preceded the war in Korea. There is a noble Lord opposite who has practical experience of conditions of the war in Korea, and I hope he will bear me out. What we must do now is to make sure that our "snake-scotching" forces are so mobile and so effective within their limited rôle that it will be unnecessary to contemplate using even these small nuclear weapons. Unlike the United States, opinion in this country is largely that once such weapons are used, you are well on the way to full-scale nuclear conflict—and I agree with that opinion.
§ The plain fact is that what sometimes looks like confusion of thought about the true rôle of the Army, plus the attempt to provide, at least on paper, for every conceivable situation, has had the effect of stretching the Army beyond the limits in which it can reasonably be expected to perform efficiently. Moreover, this seeming confusion of thought has a direct bearing on the failure to provide really up-to-date equipment, and this is crucial. The equipment of the British Army is a matter of gravest concern. Inadequate equipment can largely be attributed to the same failure to make a realistic appreciation of the future pattern of war. The truth is that, since the last war, the Army has had only two pieces of genuinely new equipment—the F.N. rifle and the new wireless sets. All other material actually in service is an adaptation, great or small, of earlier models.
§ We are told in the Memorandum accompanying this year's Estimates that at long last the Army is really getting the new equipment it needs. But if we look more closely at the situation we must accept that this is a good deal of an 203 overstatement. Virtually all the material listed in the Memorandum exists only in prototype or in troop-training form. We have no new tank; no weapon in production to replace the Vickers machine gun, and no anti-tank weapon which is really powerful and valid for use in mobile operations. The reason for this situation is that to-day there is too much concentration on the search for what is looked upon as the perfect weapon. We have succumbed to the old trap of the better being the enemy of the good. As the Germans would say, we have become "better-makers". We might learn from those responsible for military hardware in the United States. A requirement there is laid down and a specification drawn up. This is departed from only on the grounds of safety, and modifications are permitted only when a reasonable number of the weapons is actually in service. Some of the weapons and equipment now being tested have, in fact, no place in the kind of Army I suggest we should create. For example, I cannot see the necessity for a new tank, although we ought to have an armoured car carrying a "killer", and I regard it as essential that we should have an anti-tank weapon that is genuinely versatile.
§ This anti-tank business is one more indication of what gives the impression of a certain lack of decisiveness in providing the troops with a serviceable weapon. The French have a weapon, the SS. 10, which is in service with the French and several other armies. It is by no means a perfect weapon, but its great virtue is that it does do a job and that it is available. A private firm in this country has also developed a really man-portable anti-tank weapon. This could revolutionise the whole picture so far as infantry versus tank is concerned. The noble Lord will know the weapon to which I refer. I should be glad to hear from him whether the Government have made any progress in their decision to consider buying it. Instead of putting anti-tank weapons into service, we are still toying with the Malkara. This is indeed a clever weapon, but it is not suitable for mobile operations. It is heavy, and it can, moreover, be fired only at a target visible to the crew. On another aspect of this matter, I cannot see the necessity for large-scale produc- 204 tion of troop carriers, for in the kind of conflict in which our forces are likely to engage they will have to rely, and quickly, on an all-purpose vehicle such as a jeep or land-rover.
§ Now I turn to the way in which mobile forces can be genuinely developed. At the moment, we have a strategic reserve in this country from which, in theory, an air-transportable brigade group could be despatched to deal with an incident. Smaller scale versions of this force exist in Malaya and Kenya. The ability of these forces to reach their destination depends, of course, as always, on the varying factors of time, distance and carrying capacity of Transport Command. In fact, we have probably reached the stage where the man-carrying capacity of Transport Command is just about right. I think we may accept that the official aim of transporting a brigade group from the United Kingdom to the Far East in seven days could now be achieved. But this by itself means a good deal less than that statement might be thought to imply. Any mobile force must be able to intervene, not only quickly, but effectively. We cannot assume that Britain will be supported by allies, and we know that there will be little in the way of conventional strength to follow up the initial intervention. Indeed, if the mobile force fails to achieve its object of limiting conflict, the probability is that this will spread too rapidly for any further conventional intervention to be worth while.
§ Our mobile force, therefore, must have not only the men but the weapons, equipment and freight capacity to support them. I have already pointed out that the needful up-to-date weapons and equipment hardly exist. Not only that, but the aircraft to carry hardware do not exist either. I shall be glad for any indication of when the first "Britannic" will be coming into service. I have heard some rumour that not enough of these aircraft have been ordered to deal with the demands both of the Royal Air Force and of the Army. I wonder if the noble Lord could help me on this.
§ On the necessity for mobile forces being able to look after themselves, is the noble Lord satisfied that our present overseas bases will be able to offer the facilities that they theoretically provide?205
§ Alternative bases will be hard to find. In so far as they can be found, they must be in territories where Britain can use the facilities they provide unhindered by possible local opposition.
§ I come now to the problem of manpower. Recruiting is, of course, directly relevant to the case I have been putting. I have left it to the last, because to me it seems logical to consider our commitments first and then our manpower to meet them. Obviously there is going to be an element of compromise between the two. Moreover, the sum I am about to do must be to some extent a matter of guesswork and conjecture. After all, we are hardly likely to be given advance notification by the Government of commitments they intend to relinquish. However, we have two figures that can give us some information and help. One is the size of the Army in Germany. We are committed to keeping it at 55,000, and we all know that it will not go beyond that figure. The other is the probable size of the strategic reserve, and it seems reasonable to calculate it on the basis of three brigade groups. In the first place, we must prepare for more than one conflict occurring simultaneously. Secondly, any two of the brigades acting together would constitute about the maximum force we could effectively deploy and still keep the conflict limited.
§ By necessity, rather than anything else, the British and Commonwealth strategic reserves do in fact comprise this order of battle. That is, there is a brigade group in the United Kingdom, one in Kenya and a combined British, Australian and New Zealand Far Eastern Strategic Reserve in Malaya. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether any elements in these brigade groups are kept in a state of immediate readiness. I should have thought it essential that at least one battalion, plus minimum support, should be on, at most, 48 hours readiness. I should be interested to know how the situation actually stands in that regard. The two British brigade groups, plus support, come to approximately 15,000. If we double that figure to cover training and details, and add 5,000 to cover the British elements in Malaya, we have 35,000. I do not pretend that these figures are completely accurate—in the nature of the case I cannot be in a 206 position to give completely accurate figures—but I am pretty certain that they give some sort of reliable picture. So far, then, the total is 90,000.
§ A more uncertain figure is that for garrison troops in our overseas bases. There the forces are, I think, pretty "near the bone" and in no sense theatre troops. I should have thought that 15,000 represented fairly closely the strength for the functions needed to service the bases and maintain internal security there. We should bear in mind that local contingents will increasingly be taking over duties now carried out by our own troops. The biggest uncertainty in these calculations is the number of troops in the United Kingdom, those in depots and engaged in training and all the many tasks which must be performed here. I can only guess, and my guess is 30,000. Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to throw some light on this figure. My score now stands at 135,000. Finally, therefore, we must add the number of troops in the pipeline. Now that air trooping is so well established, I should have thought that a figure representing about 10 per cent. of the total strength would be reasonably right. We thus have a grand total of about 150,000.
§ Let me make it quite clear that this total is basically composed of troops available, and only incidentally of troops in sufficient numbers to fulfil our commitments. The final floor for our post-1962 Regular Army is 165,000. I should not like your Lordships to think that I have therefore proved that we have nothing to worry about. My figures are only approximations. Moreover, we all know that this 165.000—not a very large figure anyhow—will require a high and consistent level of recruitment for six-year engagements. The April figures show that there has been a 25 per cent. drop in this category, compared with the equivalent period last year. Let me emphasise, therefore, that every effort is essential to encourage more young men to join the Army.
§ How is that to be done? I do not wish to detain your Lordships in discussing the details of that vital problem, because I know that my noble friend Lord Lucan will address himself to that subject, and also no doubt other noble Lords who are to take part in this debate. 207 I will limit myself to two observations of a general nature. There is talk about whether money is an incentive. Some say that it is not, and that if a man wants to join the Army the rate of pay is immaterial. With that view I find myself bound to disagree. I would point out that even now the basic wage for a private soldier is only 87s. 6d. a week, Even when clothing, board and lodging and allowances are added, the average private soldier is still very badly paid by comparison with his fellows in civilian life. This situation, moreover, exists at a time when all ranks are being called upon to carry out increasingly complex tasks, so that recruits must be of a higher physical and mental calibre than sometimes in the past.
§ I personally think that one of the best incentives to recruiting would be an Army in which everyone felt he had a particular job to do. I deeply believe that an Army on those lines would be a far greater attraction to the youth of this country than the basically static and barrack-bound Army we have to-day. As we all know, the short-fall in recruitment is mostly in the "tail" and not in the "teeth". I am sure that this can be remedied if it is made clear that a man who joined a "tail" unit was just as valuable, and might have to do as much fighting, as a man joining a "teeth" unit. All too often men in the Services have had to worry, or have felt they had to worry, about whether they would find they really had a job to do while they were in our Armed Forces. I think that we must get rid of any feeling of that kind. It is well over fifty years since I was commissioned to the Volunteer Force, and I well remember that its motto was comprised of the phrase "Defence not defiance". That phrase must describe the purpose of our Army to-day, but it must be an Army streamlined, well-equipped, swift to move, strong to strike, alert, vigorous and confident. I trust that the debate here to-day in your Lordships' House may assist towards that end. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.10 p.m.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I think we are all obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for initiating this debate. I would say at the beginning of my remarks that all the pertinent ques- 208 tions which the noble Lord raised in regard to manpower and recruiting will be dealt with by my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who, as your Lordships know, will be winding up this debate on behalf of the Government. Perhaps at this stage it might be convenient to your Lordships if I were to deal with some of the events and changes that have taken place in the Army since it was last discussed here, rather more than a year ago.
The reorganisation of the Army, designed to meet the end of National Service and announced in 1957, is, I am glad to say, now well advanced. I remember, and I think all your Lordships will remember, that the proposals caused natural concern when they were first put forward. Some of that concern was expressed in both Houses of Parliament. But the Army realised that some scheme of this sort was inevitable, and in that knowledge they set out to make the reorganisation work. I can indeed say that it is working well. The first phase is now complete, except for the amalgamation of two regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps which, for reasons of deployment, was transferred from the first to the second phase. I understand that the whole operation will be finished by April, 1961, and then the regimental organisation of the so-called "teeth" arms will be the one planned for them in the all-Regular Army.
As the reorganisation has gone on, so has our progress towards an all-Regular Army. It may be of interest to the noble Lord to know that at the beginning of June of this year, the number of men serving on engagements of six years or over was nearly 10,000 more than it was in the previous year. As your Lordships will appreciate, these men on long engagements form the solid basis of the Regular Army which is emerging as National Service moves to its end.
Since your Lordships last debated the Army's affairs there has been a radical change in the organisation of supplies of military weapons and stores, about which the noble Lord spoke. The abolition of the Ministry of Supply has brought back to the War Office responsibility for the development and production of guns, tanks, ammunition and other equipment, with the exception of guided weapons, electronics and aircraft, which are now, I 209 understand, the responsibility of my right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation. These changes have required a great deal of careful integration and adjustment so that the administration of these development and production resources may be taken smoothly into the existing structure of the War Department. I think your Lordships would agree that that is sound common sense.
This considerable task of reorganisation is now virtually complete, although there remain some settling-down arrangements to be made. There are substantial advantages in the new organisation. In particular, it is satisfactory to the Army to be able not only to say what equipment they need, but also to see to its production direct within the framework of one Government Department. I think that is wise because, as the noble Lord was saying in his speech, we had a tremendous time lag. This simplification becomes possible as peace-time forces are reduced. We should recognise at the same time the achievements of the Ministry or Supply in the equipment of vast war-time services and in the progress made through the complexities of the post-war developments of new weapons.
This change in the organisation comes at a time when the Army is well forward with its programme of re-equipment. A year ago there was some criticism of the state of military equipment generally. At that time the measures for replacement were already in progress and during the past year there has been ample evidence of the flow of new weapons. The F.N. Rifle, which the noble Lord mentioned, is now the standard weapon of all field force brigade groups, and the Sterling machine gun has been issued to the whole Army. All infantry battalions now have the Mobat anti-tank gun and have had their Bren guns converted to take the standard calibre ammunition used by N.A.T.O. forces. This standardisation between allies is, of course, most desirable, and we have made very great progress in this field by the adoption of the F.N. rifle and the modification of the Bren gun. A new sustained-fire machine gun has completed its technical trials and is being tried out with units this year.
A further advance in the field of infantry weapons is the development of a new light version of the Mobat, called 210 the Wombat, which is a British weapon, particularly suitable for use by parachute troops. Other arms of the Service, including the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers, are receiving their share of the new equipment, some account of which is included in the Estimates Memorandum or was given in the debate in another place. A fundamental advance will be achieved in regard to howitzers and "Honest John" Rockets, which will be capable of firing nuclear warheads. They will be deployed in Germany where there are artillery regiments already equipped with "Corporal" missiles. This will strengthen our contribution. I am sure your Lordships will agree, to N.A.T.O., which is in accordance with our commitment to provide the equivalent of three infantry divisions and a family of nuclear weapons.
Before I leave matters of supply, I should like to refer to dress. Your Lordships, I think, will be aware, having read the White Paper, of the importance attached to the idea of dress in the Army. Instead of a battledress, every Regular soldier will be issued with a suit of an entirely new design of Service dress as a public and parade uniform. The material is high-quality barathea—I gather rather like the old officer's uniform—and the uniform will be properly tailored. For the first time every Regular soldier will have a raincoat and black shoes as an item of personal equipment. No. 1 dress will remain as at present as a dress uniform for officers, N.C.O.s and bands. For training, a specially designed and improved combat outfit will be used, and there is a better type of overall, smart and more suited to working conditions, which is shortly to be introduced.
Finally, in what your Lordships might probably consider to be an extremely boring speech, I have a little more information which has not been issued—namely, that instead of the old kitbag a soldier is now to be issued with a suitcase. I am told by my musical friends that it will not upset the scansion and that one will still be able to sing:Pack up your troubles in your old suitcase.The Women's Services also have a more attractive uniform, instead of battledress. This will be made of what I am told is Lovat green material, for the Women's Royal Army Corps, and dove grey for 211 the nurses. These changes are all of great importance, I think your Lordships will agree; the fact that all members of the Forces are going into some better and more colourful dress will give them a more cheerful attitude and much more self-respect. I have not attempted to deal with the whole range of new weapons, nor have I mentioned tanks, helicopters, and so on, with which my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty will be dealing.
I come now to a question which I believe will be interesting to all of your Lordships—that of the requisitioning and holding of land by the War Office. I understand that this year will see the end of the Army's power to hold land on requisition under the old Defence Regulations. Under the Land Powers (Defence) Act, 1958, the power to make any new requisitions under the well-known Defence Regulation 51 was terminated, and all land held under the Regulation had to be relinquished or made the subject of normal tenure by December 31 this year. I understand that the War Department have reduced their holding of requisitioned land to less than 15,000 acres and that these remnants will be purchased, leased or given up by the end of this year.
Apart from requisitioned land, the Army has made considerable efforts in the last few years to cut down to a minimum the amount of land it owns or leases, to fit in with training needs. At present the Army holds 460,000 acres for training and other purposes, and has arranged to have training rights over a further 84,000 acres. This reduction to about the half million acre mark is, I think your Lordships will agree, in striking contrast to the vast war-time holdings of more than 11 million acres. Even in 1950 the holdings were twice as great as they are at present, and there is no doubt that the Army authorities have now made sure that they have given up land wherever that is possible.
Two years ago the Army underwent another change of organisation—in this case in relation to tackling its building programme. The new civilian organisation took up the task begun by its predecessors and the programme is going ahead with urgency. For some years the great difficulty was to see through the 212 pressure of troop movements during the wars and crises which your Lordships will recall—in Korea, Malaya, East Africa and other trouble spots—and to plan a settled peace-time deployment of the Army which could be the framework of a programme of permanent building. The work was begun wherever possible and the area of settled deployment has increased greatly in the last year or two. The corresponding progress in building is impressive, and I would ask your Lordships to pay attention to the report in the Estimates Memorandum. I will not repeat it in detail, but it shows, for example, that barracks for 3,000 were completed in the United Kingdom last year; barracks for 5,000 more were begun, and the building of barracks for another 5,500 will start this year. The curve is turning upwards, and the planning and design which is now in progress should bear even heavier fruit in future years.
Recent tangible evidence of progress at home was the opening of a new barracks to house two infantry battalions at Colchester; and on June 27 his Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester laid the foundation stone of the new Chelsea Barracks. The barracks, which will be completed by early in 1962, will house two battalions of Foot Guards and will have over 100 married quarters. In the country generally the progress in the provision of married quarters matches the progress made with barracks. In the last three months alone, contracts for over 1,000 married quarters have been let.
Overseas there is a similar considerable upward trend in the rate of building. Since the war permanent accommodation has been provided, by new building or modernization, for some 5,000 single men and some 3,000 families; and to this will be added accommodation for another 6,500 men and 1,100 families on which work has already started. With the recent completion of barracks for an infantry battalion and an artillery regiment, the new cantonment which is being built near Malacca for the Commonwealth Brigade Group in Malaya will soon be receiving its first troops. Your Lordships may have seen in the Press that in Cyprus a start was made last month on the letting of the first contract of a considerable building 213 programme for our permanent garrison there. The settlement of the Cyprus negotiations will provide a good atmosphere for the beginning of this work which, I am afraid, will take several years to complete but will provide our troops in the Island with a fit and proper standard of housing and living. At another station, Bahrein, in the Persian Gulf, a contract has been let for three air-conditioned barrack blocks; and in Hong Kong it is hoped to start work early next year, also, on a new military hospital. In Gibraltar work is well advanced on a number of new married quarters as part of new plans for Army accommodation on the Rock. These are small projects, additional to those set out in the Estimates and the work described by my right honourable friend in another place. Taken all together these works show the strides being made—as I think your Lordships will agree—in the improvement of living quarters at home and overseas.
There is one other point that I might raise with your Lordships. On Friday next Her Majesty the Queen will open the new National Army Museum at Sandhurst. Members of the public will be able to see there something of the colourful history of the Service since the inception, in 1661 of a standing Army. I understand that the Museum is particularly devoted to the period before 1914. I myself am looking forward to seeing it, and I invite your Lordships and the public at large to visit it also. I am afraid that my speech has been somewhat boring and dull, but I hope that at this early stage I have answered some of the points initially raised by noble Lords. Individual points, will, of course, be answered by my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for putting down this Motion to enable us to discuss the affairs of the Army and also for extending its terms so as to allow us to consider the wider rôle of the Army—an important and urgent matter. The noble Lord has given a somewhat sombre picture, but I am not at all sure that he is not right; that things are not as happy as we should like them to be. One of his points was this question of manpower—the strength of the Army. This is basic, because the 214 Army must have the necessary men to enable it to carry out the obligations which, as the noble Lord has so rightly said, are imposed upon it by the Government. It is not the Army which decides where it will go. That is decided by the Government, according to the policy of the country and the requirements of our foreign policy.
I was not altogether impressed by the noble Lord's arithmetic. He himself said that his figures were, to some extent, imaginary—at least, he did not give chapter and verse for them; they were guesswork. In fact, they are not the same guesswork as that of the Government. The first estimate of the Government in 1957 was that they needed 165,000 officers and other ranks to serve their purposes. There was some suspicion at that time that this figure of 165,000 was not arrived at by reference to the requirements of the Army but was an estimate by Mr. Sandys of the number of men he could obtain by voluntary recruitment.
Whether this was so or not, in 1959 the Government increased the target figure and said that the Army required 180,000 of all ranks; that is to say, 15,000 more than they decided they needed in 1957. The latest figures in the Printed Paper Office, those for May, show that on June 1 this year there were 137,418 male other ranks including boys. So there is a very distinct difference, even after making allowance for the officer position, between the numbers they now have and the numbers at which the Army will have to stand when National Service is finished. At the present moment, I make the short-fall in the Army about 20,000—that is to say, if there were no National Service we should be 20,000 officers and men light. That is in accordance with the Government's own figure of what they need, 180,000 To some extent this is an estimation because, of course, one is not quite sure of what element one should subtract from the total for the National Service officers. But if we take the Regular officers, and the Regular non-commissioned officers and men, I make it that at the present moment we are 20,000 short on the Regular forces. Can we make up that 20,000 together with the added numbers needed for wastage by the end of National Service? That is, I think, a crucial question which was touched on by the noble Lord. 215 Lord Nathan, and we must not blind ourselves to the position the Army is in to-day. It means, in fact, that if we keep the present commitments, and if the present rate of recruitment is not enormously increased, the forces will be short everywhere, and the strategic reserve will be so seriously reduced as to be impotent. Even now the three brigade groups which are forming the strategic reserve (to which the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, referred) are, I am told, seriously short in administrative services.
The Army is, of course, scattered in penny packets all the way from Hong Kong to the West Indies. I feel that we should not just rely on probabilities, as the Government have done over the years past. For this is not a new thing; I personally, and other noble Lords, have been raising this fear over the last two or three years—ever since it was decided to do away with National Service; and if the Government feel that they are not certain of getting recruits we must take the necessary action now. It is no good waiting until the last moment, when the last National Serviceman marches out with his civilian suit from the dispersal area, and then saying, "What are we going to do?" We must decide now what we are going to do in order to meet the commitments and to provide this strong central strategic reserve, which is vital to our national interest. We live in very dangerous times. There is no need for me to say that, but it is a fact. Anyone can see from the papers to-day, or any other day, that we live in very dangerous times. We cannot allow the Army, and, particularly the strategic reserve, to run down.
I would make some suggestions—no doubt there may be others, but I would make these. I entirely support the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, in his plea for increased mobility. We were all recently staggered when we heard that the Britannic, which is to be the big aircraft transporting the equipment for the Army, will not be coming into service for five or six years. We all thought that it would come in within two or three years. But we were told in the Air debate that it would not come in for five or six years. What of the Argosy and the Rotodyne, other aircraft which the Army needs? I am glad to 216 see that the Britannia is in squadron service, but these other aircraft are badly needed in order to give the Army the lift it wants for men and equipment. I wonder whether one brigade group is enough to be given an air lift, which was the figure of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. I always understood that two brigade groups was the figure people had in mind, but he may be right. I should have thought it rather on the small side if, for our strategic reserve, only one brigade group can be lifted at a time.
Secondly, I would suggest that the Government may have to cut down these static garrisons which are scattered all over the place. I know that it is important to show the flag—if we have a flag to show. But very likely we shall not have much of a flag to show, in the sense of bodies on the ground if the Army runs down. Is it necessary to keep seven brigade groups in Germany? The original idea was to keep five there, but in the burst of enthusiasm which the Government had when the recruiting went up they extended it from five to seven. I think they may be regretting it to-day. I believe that there is a case for having more civilian staff and more women in administrative duties. In my view, the Army will have to look at that question to see whether they cannot release quite a number of men for more combatant purposes.
I should like to see the Territorial Army brought to a higher state of readiness than it is in at present. I should also like to see an expansion and development of the Colonial Forces. I propose to touch on only two of these matters to which I have referred: that is to say, the Territorial Army and the Colonial Forces, and on those only shortly, because there are a large number of speakers. In my experience, there has always been a tendency by the War Office to treat the Territorial Army as a poor relation. Particularly has this been so by those Regular officers who have never served with it. Indeed, in the Memorandum which we are discussing only two very short paragraphs are devoted to the Territorial Amy out of the whole number it contains.
At present the tendency is to starve the Territorial Army of money for training purposes and of up-to-date equipment, and—of equal importance—to 217 starve it of colour. We have just heard from the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that it is proposed to put the Regular Army into a walking-out dress. No such proposal is made for the Territorial Army—none whatsoever. Yet, it is equally important—in fact, in some ways it is more important—that the Territorial Army should have a walking-out dress. This is just one example of the way in which the Territorial Army is always treated by the War Office—any War Office; not only this War Office but its predecessors. It is treated as a poor stepchild who may be pushed off with anything. The War Office should not forget that the Territorial Army does not consist of second-class Regulars but of first-class enthusiasts, with special needs and with its special flavour. I should like to ask one question of the noble Lord who is to reply: what proportion of the time of the Territorial Army as a whole is devoted to its combatant duties and what proportion to civil defence?
I should like to say a word or two about the Colonial Forces. I complained that the Territorial Army got only two paragraphs in the Memorandum, but the Colonial Forces have only one, which they share with the Commonwealth as a whole. I am glad, however, to see in that paragraph that we have lent or seconded officers and non-commissioned officers to Ghana, Malaya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the East African Territories and the West Indies. I am glad also that 128 cadets are at the Royal Military College. And I know, although it is not mentioned in the Memorandum, that some have been at Mons Officer Cadet School. What is the officer situation in the Colonial Forces? We are not told that at all in this Memorandum; there are no details at all given on this important point. But according to The Times of yesterday, 57 Nigerian officers are at present commissioned in the Nigerian Forces, and a further 45 are expected to be commissioned next year; and an appeal has been made by the Federal Government for university graduates, who have not hitherto been a source for officers in Nigeria.
What is the position in other Colonial non-independent countries? The Colonial Forces, like the Territorial Army, have been treated in the past by the War Office as poor relations. In my experi- 218 ence, it has always been very difficult to get the War Office to take any interest in them. I should think that the terrible and tragic events in the Congo during the last week have underlined the necessity of thorough and urgent preparations for eventual independence in all territories coming up to that state, and that this preparation includes disciplined and efficient forces with a strong officer corps—such forces as are able to afford the police the necessary assistance so as to maintain law and order, both before and after independence, and to help resist attempts on their territory from outside.
We must, therefore, I believe, intensify the sustained effort needed to help all these Colonial territories for which we are responsible to prepare for their military as well as their civilian responsibilities on independence, and I trust that next year's Memorandum will have many paragraphs relating to the Territorial Army and many paragraphs relating to the Colonial Forces, giving us full details of both of them—not treating them as poor relations, but treating them as equal partners, as I believe they are, equally important to the defence of this country and to the defence of the Commonwealth as a whole.
In conclusion, I must apologise because, owing to a pressing engagement, I may not be able to stay to listen, as I should like, to all the speeches. I have never done this before in Parliament: if I have spoken in a debate I have always remained in my place until the end. On this occasion, however, as I have explained to the First Lord, there is an engagement which necessitates my having to leave, and I apologise to all those noble Lords who follow me whom I shall not be able to hear—and I hope they will not be many. Finally, I should like to assure all ranks of the Regular Army, of the Territorial Army and of the Colonial Forces that we, on these Benches here, have an abiding interest in them and in their welfare.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ LORD HARDING OF PETHERTON
My Lords, I do not intend this afternoon to follow the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, in discussing the future rôle of the Army. I propose to take the Army as it is to-day, with its existing commitments—which, in my opinion, are more likely to increase than decrease in the 219 future if the general situation in Africa follows the course that is so unhappily taking place in the Congo Republic to-day. I propose to concentrate my remarks this afternoon on the two problems which I believe to be the most pressing that face the Army to-day: first, the shortage of manpower, both in regard to officers and other ranks, in the Regular Army; and, secondly, the need to reorganise and re-equip the Territorial Army, our reserve Army. I shall touch on questions of equipment only in so far as they directly affect those two major issues.
It is 46 years since I first became a soldier. During that time the Army's problems have undergone many changes, but there is one problem that has remained constant, and it remains the most pressing problem facing the Regular Army to-day. It is the problem of recruiting, and it applies equally to officers and other ranks. In spite of all that has been done (and it adds up to a considerable amount) by way of improvements in pay and conditions of service during the past few years, the Army is still unable to obtain by voluntary recruitment sufficient officers and men of the quality that it needs to fill its ranks. The latest recruiting figures and the deficiency in the number of candidates for commissions in the Army clearly show that that is the case.
It may be argued that it is too early to judge the effect of the most recent improvements that have been made; that we are only just emerging from a long period of conscription; and that when the transition stage is over and the new all-Regular Army has had time to establish itself in the eyes of the public, everything will come right. That might be so if the Army could be left in peace to settle down in its new form; if the process of transition to an all-Regular basis could, so to speak, be carried out in a vacuum. But, due to what I regard as the grave mistake that was made in 1957 in calculating the numbers required for the strength of the Army to meet current and future needs, the Army is at this present moment in a condition of serious overstrain, and the instability and uncertainty for individual officers and men is as great as, if not greater than, it ever was.
220 My Lords, the effect of overstrain, of instability and of uncertainty on the manpower situation is cumulative, and the damage they do to recruiting extends into the future in spiral form. I should like to give your Lordships a practical example of what I have in mind. About a year ago, the Royal Horse Guards, the Blues, returned to this country after three years' arduous service in Cyprus, expecting, quite rightly, to have a full tour of duty at home. They arranged themselves accordingly. But, because the run-down of the Army has been made faster than that of its commitments, this regiment had to go back to Cyprus last month. Happily, there has now been an agreement in Cyprus, and the Blues will no doubt be shortly coming home again. But the damage has been done, and it will be very difficult to convince the married men, and still more their wives, that this sort of thing will not happen to them again. They all know full well that the present and planned strength of the Army in relation to its commitments will continue to make such moves inevitable. The greater the overstrain the worse the manpower situation becomes, and the worse the manpower situation becomes the greater the overstrain. It is a vicious circle.
I am not suggesting that the Government's decision to dispense with National Service should be reversed here and now, though that may have to come, unless there is a definite and sustained improvement in recruiting quite soon. At the moment, I believe that what is needed is to give voluntary recruitment a fair trial, and to that end there are certain steps which, in my opinion, should be taken at once. In the first place, I believe that the Government—and, indeed, all leaders of public opinion in this country—should make it clear beyond any possibility of doubt that we still have many responsibilities in different parts of the world (for instance, in Africa) that can be discharged only by conventional land forces, and that even in this nuclear missile age an efficient, well-equipped, fully mobile and highly-trained Army is still an indispensable element in our system of defence and security. From questions that are often put to me as I go about the country, 221 I very much doubt whether that is understood or accepted by the average man in the street.
I would go further and say that the Government must make it clear that we need an Army round about 200,000 strong. I cannot accept the arithmetic of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, in regard to the strength which the Army needs to meet its current commitments; and I say again that, in my opinion, the Government should make it clear that what is needed is an Army of round about 200,000 strong, and that that is what they intend we should have. A firm and resolute posture on that point would do a lot of good and be a great help to those who are responsible for recruiting. But if this country is to have the Army it needs, those who are responsible for leading public opinion must proclaim their faith in the future of the Army. They must let it be known up and down the country that service in the Army is just as important from the national point of view as service in industry, that those who join the Army can look forward to an uninterrupted career in the regiment or corps of their own choice, and that proper provision will be made for them and their widows in their old age.
Ever since he was a teacher at the Staff College, my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein has been given to quoting the passage from the Bible—I think it comes from Corinthians—which reads:For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?".It certainly applies in this case. That is the first thing that I think must be done, and the responsibility for doing it, of course, rests with the Government.
It is always most important for morale and recruiting that service under specially arduous and dangerous conditions should be appropriately and promptly recognised. For that reason it is particularly disappointing that, in spite of frequent inquiries in and out of Parliament, a decision on the question of awarding a medal for service in Southern Arabia, the Aman and the Aden Protectorate has not yet been reached. I very much hope that an announcement will not be much longer delayed and that it will be a favourable one.
Second in order of importance in this business of recruiting, in my view, is 222 the need to provide more convincing evidence to the Army itself that re-equipment with up-to-date weapons really is proceeding at a rapid rate. So far as my information goes, no one in or out of the Army has yet really believed that this is in fact the case. Here perhaps I may be permitted to give your Lordships another personal practical example of the point I am trying to make. A few weeks ago, I was asked by the War Office, at rather short notice, to carry out the inspection of a school cadet corps in place of another Field Marshal. It was not very convenient from my own personal point of view, but as it was a special occasion and as I happened to know the headmaster concerned, I agreed to take it on and asked for a helicopter for the journey, partly to save myself time and partly to impress the boys with the equipment that the Army has. My request for a helicopter met with a ready response; but the night before the inspection was to take place I was told on the telephone that the only helicopter available to take me had been grounded that afternoon—so I went by road.
Five years before, when I was Chief of the Imperial General Staff, I visited the same school by helicopter. So it is rather difficult for me, or anyone else who attended that inspection, to believe that the helicopter situation in the Army has really improved to the extent that is sometimes claimed. The same sort of thinking applies to the delay, or the long period, which has just been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, in producing the Britannic, which will be the only really effective strategic freighter that -the Army has had for its use in the whole course of Transport Command. It is too much to expect men to join or remain in an organisation that is not fully provided with the best obtainable tools of its trade.
Thirdly, in this matter of recruiting I believe that more must be done by the way of subsidising what I can best describe as "adventure activities" in the Army. I do not mean collecting kisses from film stars, but exploits and expeditions that really call for skill and hard work in preparation and courage and resolution in execution. If the Army is to attract to itself the young men of character and spirit it needs it must be put in the position of being able to make 223 the strongest adventure appeal to the youth of this country. From all I hear, this idea is steadily gaining ground, but I doubt whether it has yet penetrated the minds of those who control the purse strings.
May I again give your Lordships a practical example of what I have in mind? Last week I was talking to an officer who has been a member of British-Indian-Nepalese Joint Services Mountaineering Expedition. This is just the sort of thing that the Army should do all in its power to encourage and support. Yet, in the course of our conversation, it transpired that, after having been given to understand that they could count on being loaned two 16 mm. cinecameras, and on being given 2,000 feet of colour film from Army stocks, they were told at the last moment that those items could not be supplied. Maybe there was a good reason, but if there was, the officer I talked to did not know what it was. I quote this to illustrate the point I am trying to make, of encouraging adventure in the Army. It is only fair to add that in response to a recent request I made to the Quartermaster General, the War Office did supply on repayment to a party of ex-National Service officers, now undergraduates at Cambridge, six pairs of jungle boots which they needed for an expedition to Ecuador and could not obtain from any other sourse. Things seem to be going the right way, but perhaps not fast or far enough.
Willy-nilly the Army provides quite a bit of adventure, but there are inevitably periods of drudgery, and dull and tedious duties that have to be performed, and I appeal to all those concerned to develop this idea of subsidising adventure activities still further and to insist on a liberal and imaginative interpretation of the regulations, particularly the financial regulations, where exploits of the kind I have mentioned and other similar activities in the field of games and sport are involved. The amount of money required to enable the Army to make Adventure, with a capital A, the keynote of its appeal to recruits would be comparatively small.
Finally, on this question of manpower shortage, I should like to hark back to a remark I made early on in my speech, when I said that to get the men it needs 224 —and this applies particularly to officers—the Army must be able to convince would-be recruits that proper provision will be made for them and their widows in their old age. I understand that plans are afoot to arrange a debate in your Lordships' House in the autumn to discuss in full detail the questions of retired pay and widows' pensions. I very much hope that that will come about and that the debate will bear fruit. Meantime, I would most earnestly beseech the Government to look into this question again. There is no worse advertisement for recruiting than the pensioner and widow without enough to live on. This is a matter which, I submit, simply must be put right.
These are the steps that I believe must be taken if the system of voluntary recruitment to which the Government is committed is to be given a fair trial. They must be taken at once, if the downward spiral in quality and quantity of the manpower situation in the Army, caused by the present overstrain, instability and uncertainty, is to be checked and reversed. They may not be fully effective, but at least they must be tried; unless they are, in my opinion, a reversion to some form of compulsory service will become unavoidable.
Now, if your Lordships would bear with me a little longer, I should like to turn briefly to the question of the reorganisation and re-equipment of the Territorial Army. All the reports that have reached me about recruiting for the Territorial Army are most encouraging. The progress that is being made in regard to recruiting is, I am sure, primarily due to the energy and enthusiasm of the genuine Territorial volunteer and to the high standard of morale and good comradeship—in fact, to all that is covered by the phrase esprit de corps—that they have been able to inspire in their units and formations. They deserve the greatest credit for what they have done and are continuing to do. The time is overdue for the Government, in general, and the War Office, in particular, to play their part if this magnificent voluntary effort is to be used to the full advantage.
As at present organised, equipped and trained, the Territorial Army is completely out of date and a full scale reorganisation is long overdue. I know that this question has been under active 225 consideration by the Army Council, and I hope that very soon now a comprehensive plan will emerge for a reorganisation and re-equipment of the Territorial Army, to bring it into line with present-day requirements, while at the same time—and this is most important—preserving its great voluntary effort, which is a priceless national asset that we simply cannot afford to lose.
As I see it, the rôle of the Territorial Army to-clay is twofold: first, to provide reinforcements for duty overseas if our commitments exceed the resources of the Regular Army—and this, of course, is an increasingly likely contingency as the strength of the Regular Army runs down to its planned all-Regular level; and secondly, to provide a country-wide command structure and a network of military forces to support the civil power in any major emergency, be it earthquake, flood or nuclear bombardment. To carry out these two rôles under present-day conditions the Territorial Army must, I maintain, be kept at a much higher state of readiness than it is at present. On the other hand, by adopting a policy of producing "tailor made" or functional units and formations there is no doubt that considerable reductions could be made in the present order of battle of the Territorial Army. What is needed to-day is fewer units and formations, at a higher strength and better equipped.
In theory, that presents a simple sum in arithmetic. In practice, it is a very difficult problem to solve, because, as I have already said, it is esprit de corps that attracts recruits, and esprit de corps in the Territorial Army is based on the unit and formation with its long-standing local connections, and not on the Territorial Army as a whole. Nevertheless, if the plan for the reorganisation of the Territorial Army is such that every man and woman now serving can see for themselves that the changes that are involved are both necessary and sound, if they can be convinced that the changes that must be made will be sensibly and sympathetically carried out—and I have no reason to suppose that they will not be—then, my Lords, I am confident that the plan will be accepted and put into effect without question, and no serious or lasting damage will be done to the voluntary effort which is the very lifeblood of the Territorial Army.
226 But if that happy result is to be achieved, there are, I consider, four requirements to be met. First, the Territorial Army must remain an armed force throughout, including units whose primary rôle will be support of the civil powers. Secondly, individuals and units must be told what is required of them under the new plan, bearing in mind that the principal need for a reserve Army, as for any other reserve, is to meet the unforeseen and the unknown. Thirdly, local connections and associations must be maintained, even if in a modified form. Lastly, and most important of all, the Territorial Army must be given the tools it needs for its job—up-to-date equipment of the same type as issued to the Regular Army, and on sufficient scales to enable training to be made realistic and units to achieve the higher standard of readiness that is needed in these days. If these essentials are met, I am confident that the Territorials themselves will do the rest. I should prefer to reserve further comment on this particular question until the details of the plan for reorganisation and re-equipment of the Territorial Army are made public.
In conclusion, may I repeat that, in my opinion, the most pressing needs of the Army to-day are, first, that the outstanding steps required to give voluntary recruiting a fair trial should be taken without delay; and secondly, that the Territorial Army should be reorganised on a realistic and functional basis and re-equipped on modern lines, and be given the tools it needs for its job.