§ Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)
On 13th July I asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War the following Question:Why the cavalry regiments, which now form part of the Royal Armoured Corps, are not allowed to wear on their uniforms their regimental badge or name, as this decision has caused great dissatisfaction to these regiments with their individual traditions and long roll of battle honours?My right hon. Friend replied as follows:These regiments are now part of the Royal Armoured Corps and follow in this matter the practice in other corps such as the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers. Personnel may, however, wear a flash in the colours of their particular regiment and they may wear a regimental cap badge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1943; col. 9, Vol. 391.]There were several supplementary questions, and obviously the matter aroused great interest among the many hon. Members in this House. Therefore, I gave notice that I would raise the matter on the Adjournment. Since I gave that notice I have had a certain amount of correspondence urging me to proceed with it. I would make it clear at the outset that I propose neither to attack the War Office, nor to attack my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. In all sincerity, I can say that I believe his administration of the War Office to be a very fine achievement, worthy to rank with the great administration of Lord Haldane. I believe that the nation and the Army owe my right hon. Friend a deep debt of gratitude for the organisation of our present magnificent Army, which is achieving such great results throughout the world.
I raise this matter for two reasons, first, to give my right hon. Friend an opportunity to amplify his reply and to get from him certain assurances which I am sure he is prepared to give and which will remove certain apprehensions and misgivings undoubtedly prevalent to-day. What is the position? I refer in my remarks not to units overseas on active service, because I understand that there are no distinguishing marks worn on battledress. I refer to units serving at 2500 home, and the position concerning them is as follows: All infantry units wear their regimental titles on the shoulder, with the exception of the Highland regiments. The Highland regiments were given the choice between continuing to wear their regimental titles, and wearing the tartan, and they chose the tartan. Cavalry regiments now incorporated in the Royal Armoured Corps have been forbidden by an Army Council Instruction to wear their regimental titles. Instead they wear the "R.A.C." of the Royal Armoured Corps.
These cavalry regiments have great historic traditions. Many go back 250 years and even longer. They have a long roll of battle honours, recalling famous periods in history. Many of them can show honours gained in the great battles of Marlborough's campaigns—Ramillies, Oudenarde, Malplaquet, Blenheim—in the battles of the Peninsular war. Every unit is proud of its regimental record and traditions and wishes to maintain its regimental identity. That is the point at issue and the point on which these fears are expressed. It is true that the answer of my right hon. Friend is to the effect that they can wear the regimental cap badge at their own expense. They can also wear a flash with the regimental colours. I suggest that the wearing of a flash is really no concession. I will give an instance of what I mean. If I see a man in uniform with the title "Scots Greys," or "Greys," on his shoulder, it recalls a memorable regiment with a tremendous tradition and great roll of battle honours, including the historic charge at Waterloo, with the Highlanders hanging on to the stirrups immortalised in the famous picture "Scotland for ever." It also recalls the charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava, more memorable and more useful than the charge of the Light Brigade. But, if I see a bit of colour on the sleeve or shoulder, I do not know what it means, and I doubt whether there is a Member in the House who recognises it unless he has served with that distinguished regiment and who can tell to-day what the colours of the Scots Greys are. All ranks are proud of their traditions and record, and keep certain days of the year which are, as it were, regimental festivals.
There is also a practical consideration. We have to think not only of the war but of the post-war years, and one of the problems is that we will have to obtain fully qualified officers making the 2501 Army their life profession. We shall have difficulty perhaps in obtaining these, for you cannot conscript officers. Neither the French nor German armies could do that. The financial inducements offered for service in the Armed Forces have always been inadequate. I fear that this may remain so after the war. Moreover, there is always the risk that a man who has devoted all his life to his profession may turn out at about 40 years of age without any training for earning his living in another profession. Therefore it is of practical utility that there should be this regimental tradition and that young men should go into these regiments because their fathers and grandfathers served in them. That is a point that we must consider in the post-war years.
These complaints that I have received come not only from the Cavalry but from the Yeomanry. Take my own county and the Suffolk Yeomanry. They were formed in 1793. They have been in existence exactly 150 years. Now they have become gunners and are incorporated as part of the Royal Artillery. They are forbidden to wear their regimental titles, and they wear "R.A."—Royal Artillery. I have received complaints from all ranks in the unit that they wish to wear their regimental titles. I admit that many individuals in that regiment now do not now come from the county of Suffolk, and I regret it. I think it is due to the pressure of war, but I think it is desirable to draw attention to it. There has been a tendency—I expect it is inevitable under the pressure of war—to draft men into county units from quite another part of the country, even when men in the county are available and want to get into the unit. The Gloucestershire Yeomanry had a waiting list of, I believe, 400 who wanted to join the county regiment. They had an extension of the establishment, and they asked that 120 of that 400 should be allowed to join. The 120 were sent from Durham. I am sure the Gloucestershire Yeomanry would far rather have had Gloucestershire men, and the Durham men would far sooner have gone into that fine county battalion the Durham Light Infantry. I have heard of other instances. I know there was an atmosphere in the last war in the War Office discouraging the Territorial and the county spirit. I think it was due to a defect in knowledge of that very great 2502 man, Lord Kitchener, to whom we owe so much, but owing to his life having been spent out of England he did not realise how much the county spirit mattered and therefore tended to ignore it. I hope none of that atmosphere still lingers around the portals of the War Office. What we ask is an assurance that these famous county regiments, especially after the war, shall not lose their identity by being absorbed in the Royal Armoured Corps but shall continue in their distinguished Corps as separate units, in the same way as before the war each cavalry regiment was regarded as a separate unit of the Corps of Cavalry of the Line.
My second reason for raising this matter is to utter some words of warning about our post-war Army and to seek an assurance from the Secretary of State on matters applicable to cavalry, yeomanry and also to infantry battalions. It is the same principle, the maintenance of tradition, that is at stake. There are ideas abroad in all walks of national life in this and many other countries in all departments of life of merging the smaller individual units, the crushing of individuality, forcing everything into big, uniform undifferentiated masses. But mankind, the individual human being, is so formed that he wants small associations to which he can give his full interest and loyalty. I know these measures are defended and advocated on the ground of efficiency. I am not sure that they are not advocated because they give less trouble to officialdom. It is so much easier to classify an undifferentiated mass, a uniform mass, than a lot of differentiated, highly individual units
The text of my remarks could be found in words used by the Secretary of State on Tuesday in the Debate on the V.A.D. I wrote down his words:It is no good seeking uniformity if you sacrifice other things worth having.I beg my right hon. Friend to act up to that magnificent text. We have so much uniformity to-day. We have uniform utility furniture and uniform utility clothing. I hope that after the war we are not going to have a uniform utility Army, with all the units indistinguishable and interchangeable, all distinguishing marks gone, the Highlanders, for instance, no longer allowed to wear the kilt. I hope we do not sacrifice such valuable things in the 2503 name of efficiency, because it will not make for efficiency. It is rumoured that there are abroad to-day ideas that units of the post-war Army under conscription should be interchangeable as in the Royal Artillery. There are rumours that esprit de corps should literally mean loyalty to the corps and not to the regiment. It is even rumoured that certain views have been expressed that the only title allowed to be worn after the war should be "R.A."—Royal Army—in the same way as "R.N." for the Royal Navy, that all units should be interchangeable, personnel moved from one unit to another, county distinctions abolished, and so on.
The Royal Navy tradition is a very great tradition. It has been in existence for 400 years, and it is a living thing. It incorporates great memories of the past, and above all it seems to incorporate as it were the living spirit of Nelson which makes our Navy in fighting efficiency immensely superior to any other. It is one of the most valuable of our national possessions. The Navy, however, also has individual devotion to a ship, and there is great rivalry and competition between ships. The traditions of the Army have been built up in a different manner on the regimental unit, and its traditions which count for so much. That is what I wish to emphasise. In the last war, as an example, although we recognise that the British infantry as a whole was magnificent, there was a special quality about the Guards. They have a great regimental tradition that however desperate the situation they never fail. That is due partly to their discipline, but that very discipline of the Guards is part of their regimental tradition, and it has been shown in all our campaigns past and present. When a Guardsman has gone through the mill of hard training he becomes part of a living organism and continuous community, and he will take the tradition with him throughout his life and remain in touch even when he returns to civil life. That living community spirit fortifies and inspires men in the hours of stress and danger in battle.
So it is with all our regiments in the Army in varying degrees. Let hon. Members think what tradition means to the Gloster Regiment. They have two cap badges, one in front, one behind, commemorating their action in the Battle 2504 of the Nile when the French cavalry attacked them front and rear and the rear ranks turned round and beat them off. Think what that tradition means to the Gloster Regiment. Suppose this happended again in this war, and they were attacked front and rear. They would feel, "This has happened to us before, and we then won. We can beat them off now and we will do it again." That is one instance of regimental tradition, and I will give many others. The Suffolk Regiment, in which I served, fought in the battle of Minden in rose gardens and wore roses in their caps. I remember in 1915 they appeared in regimental orders that the men could wear roses that day when they walked in the town where there was a whole division. It was a fine sight to see these Suffolk lads each with a rose in the cap swaggering through the streets. That sort of thing does them good and makes them better men and better soldiers. I hope that these regimental traditions will be maintained. I plead that we should keep and cherish the separate individualities of our regiments—cavalry, yeomanry and infantry. While I recognise that during war we must make many sacrifices and give up many distinctions that we have won I ask my right hon. Friend to give an assurance that after the war we shall do our utmost to maintain these old traditions. It may be said that after the war we must have very revolutionary changes in the organisation of the Army. We see during the war those revolutionary Changes in process of coming into being, and we realise that sacrifices must be made. It is, however, the glory and the strength of our people and a cause of admiration and envy to foreign nations, that we have always made drastic and, indeed, revolutionary changes within the old framework and in accordance with our own national traditions, thereby securing the general consent of our people and incorporating in the necessities of the present the experience, the wisdom and the enduring loyalties of the past.
Brigadier-General Sir Ernest Making (Knutsford)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) has raised this question on the Adjournment, I feel that I cannot remain silent, belonging as I have done all my life to the oldest and best of these old cavalry regiments of the line. I say the "best" because we all think our own regiment is the best. 2505 That is one of the strengths of these regiments, because we all believe it and all try to keep it so. Belonging to a regiment that was raised in 1661 for the defence of Tangier, and which has been in every great engagement since and has badges which have been given to it on the field of battle, one naturally feels very jealous that all these regiments, not only one's own, should be kept in being and not allowed to lose their identity. My hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft raised this matter some three weeks ago. Some time before that many of us old cavalry soldiers got together and talked about what we thought was happening. When my hon. Friend asked this Question I felt that I must ask a Supplementary to clear up the situation. I asked:May I take it that it is not the policy of the War Office gradually to destroy the individuality and identity of these old cavalry regiments?I got the answer:Yes, Sir, that is the case, but"—there is always a "but" to bring in a little snag—and qualify the affirmative—but they have been transferred for some years past to the Royal Armoured Corps."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1943; col. 9, Vol. 391.]That may be so. Some have been in the Royal Armoured Corps for some years and some only very recently. But there is no reason why if a regiment belongs to a corps it should lose its identity. My lion. Friend the Member for Lowestoft mentioned that before cavalry regiment's were armoured there was a corps of the Cavalry of the Line and before that a corps of Dragoons, Hussars and Lancers, but there never was any idea of them losing their identity. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State also said that they would follow in this matter the practice in any other corps such as the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers. I do not think there is any real parallel; by the way they do not call themselves a corps; they call themselves the Royal Regiment of Artillery. My right hon. Friend also said that "it solves the difficulties of a very difficult problem." I think that the War Office are making very heavy weather about this matter. I do not see that it is difficult. Take an instance. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) is in the Brigade of Guards. They are much more like the Royal Armoured 2506 Corps than the Royal Artillery. They have their several regiments, their several battalions and their armoured divisions. They are much more like a cavalry corps than we are like the Royal Artillery. I believe that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield knows a brother officer of his who presided over a committee which advised much more drastic changes than those that were recommended eventually. I can quite imagine what would have been felt if a cavalry officer had presided over a committee of this sort and had advised something similar in regard to the Brigade of Guards to what my hon. and gallant Friend's brother officer's committee advised for the cavalry. I do not know what language he would have used, but I think he would have gone up in smoke.
It seems to me that some of those people at the War Office Who are sometimes looking out for something to do would look over the Army List, They would see a regiment called the both Rifles, now called the King's Royal Rifle Corps. They would probably say, "Why are they calling this a corps? We must do away with it. It is not a corps but a regiment." If they looked a little further, they would see the Rifle Brigade mentioned. They might say, "This is not a brigade; it is only a regiment. This won't do at all" I fear that there are many in the higher ranks who may belong to some of these corps and who are absolutely corps-minded without any knowledge of the traditions of the regiments, whether cavalry or infantry. There used to be some years ago a salutary rule that when an officer had been on the staff for some time he should go back to his regiment and get a little less staff-minded and not so much up in the clouds of theory, sitting on a chair in an office, so that he could be brought back once again to the ground of practical common sense. I believe that the A.C.I. states that the rules therein laid down are for use "at home during the period of the war." We hope that is so and that at the end of the war we may settle things more satisfactorily.
Some people think that this is a small matter in a great global war, but if we are tampering with the fighting qualities of our regiments, I do not think it is a small matter. I would have been contented at this juncture to accept the assurance of my right hon. Friend that there is no 2507 intention of the cavalry regiments losing their identity, and I am sure that he will agree with that in principle. I cannot help thinking that there have been among cavalry officers certain grounds for the despondency and alarm which have been created by certain people. I should like to emphasise that some people think it is only the officers who take this view, but I can assure my right hon. Friend that the other ranks feel just as strongly about it as the officers. A regiment is a regular family. Sons follow their fathers arid their grandfathers, not only in the ranks of the officers but among the other ranks as well, and I should like it to be laid down very strongly at the present time that if anyone, officer or man, has strong family claims to go into a certain regiment it should be his right to go there, and that it should not be left to the whim of the posting officer. No doubt there are certain people to whom one would have to apply the bit-rein and take away their spurs—possibly to-day they would not understand that phrase, and I had better say throttle down and put the brake on—but there are people to-day who do deride the traditions of regiments.
I came across an instance of it some weeks or months ago. In "The Times" one morning there was an announcement that two new regiments were being formed, called the Highland Regiment and the Lowland Regiment, and there was a reproduction of their two badges. This rather mystified me, and I asked a friend what it meant. He said, "They are not two new regiments as you and I understand them but they are intake regiments for recruits from the Highlands and the Lowlands." But what scared me was what he said afterwards. "And this will do away with all this damned nonsense about Black Watch going into the Black Watch, Camerons into the Camerons, and Gordons into the Gordons." Does that mean that that is the opinion at the War Office, because if there is a school Of thought of that type the sooner they are told where they get off the better? People are stupid, and worse than stupid, if they think it is for the good of the Army to break down the clannish spirit of the Scots or for that matter the traditions of the English regiments, the Welsh regiments and the Irish regiments. The whole esprit de corps of the Army is based on 2508 the traditions of the regiments and all their, distinctions over many years. We must preserve all their little idiosyncracies, their badges, their emblems, their slight distinctions in dress, the historic honours they have won in different battles through the centuries. This esprit de corps of our regiments is the envy of all foreign armies, and I feel sure that my right hon. Friend will give us the assurance that if there are some staff officers who are ignorant of these traditions, are, in fact, not only unsympathetic but are antagonistic to them, they will be told that that view cannot continue any longer. We owe a great deal to these regiments, and, if I may make so bold as to say so, I think that you, Mr. Speaker, do not feel that your gallant service in one of these old cavalry regiments has been unhelpful to you in your career, and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would, I am sure, also be one of the first to admit that the time he spent in one of these great old regiments has not come amiss in his career either. There is a more classic instance, which I am sure my right hon. Friend will remember, in a great historian's autobiography, in which he wrote:The discipline and evolutions of a modern battalion gave me a clearer notion of the phalanx of the Legions, and to have been a captain in the Hampshire Grenadiers—(the reader may smile)—has not been useless to the historian of the Roman Empire.That is one of the well known classical instances. I would ask my right hon. Friend, and I am sure he agrees with me, to do his best to see that the great traditions of these old regiments, cavalry or infantry, wherever they are, are preserved as long as the British Army exists.
§ Colonel Arthur Evans (Cardiff, South)
I rise to support the eloquent appeal which has been made to my right hon. Friend by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Sir E. Makins) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus), but I propose to base my appeal on a different ground. My two hon. Friends have addressed themselves to the aspect of the situation as it affects historic cavalry regiments. I should like to deal with the Royal Artillery and in particular the Royal Artillery of the Territorial Army. In 1937, my right hon. Friend will remember, as a result of an appeal 2509 made by his predecessor the right hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). the Welsh community were asked to see what they could do to bring about the formation of a London Welsh Regiment. The local authorities were consulted, and a Committee was set up under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) to obtain recruits, to raise the necessary funds, to provide a drill hall and the necessary amenities, and to start a regimental fund. These efforts were successful, and in July, 1939, the then Secretary of State for War attended a function and congratulated the Welsh nation and particularly London Welshmen on the success of their efforts. At that time, after considerable correspondence and negotiations with the War Office, the authorities concerned approved a shoulder flash "London Welsh," which has been worn continuously from the formation of the regiment until recently, when Army Council Instruction No. 905 abolished that right. As I am informed, heavy anti-aircraft batteries of the Royal Regiment of Artillery are still organised on a regimental basis, and I cannot for the life of me appreciate what particular administrative embarrassment is caused to the War Office and the Army authorities if these men when posted to this particular regiment of artillery are allowed to enjoy the privilege of wearing their regimental title on their shoulders.
The Welsh people are perhaps peculiarly sensitive on this point, as they realise that two other particularly distinguished Territorial regiments in London, one known as the London Irish and the other as the London Scottish, both regiments which have distinguished themselves with great gallantry in the late war and in this war are still allowed to wear their regimental title. They happen to be infantry regiments, and so, under the Army Council Instruction to which I have referred, they are not required to dispense with their regimental titles, but poor gallant little Wales is penalised. Having regard to the fact that regiments of the Royal Artillery of the anti-aircraft commands are still organised on a regimental basis, I think it might be possible for my right hon. Friend to reconsider the decision of the War Office and amend the Army Council Instruction in such a manner as to allow the privilege to con- 2510 tinue to be enjoyed by the London Welsh.
I will not address myself to the general arguments in support of the principle involved, because not only have they been referred to already, but they will be present in the mind of any hon. Member who has had practical experience in the field as a serving soldier. I do not think it is possible to over-emphasise the value of esprit de corps and regimental spirit at the present time. Owing to the necessities of modern war, we have one type of uniform. It must be admitted that battledress has had a tendency to do away with a certain amount of regimental pride. We recall in the old days the pride of a soldier even in his khaki Service dress sporting his particular regimental insignia, but it is very different now, and I feel that in the difficult times we have to face anything which we can do to encourage that sense of pride and honour in their regiment will go far to ensure victory for our arms in the coming great battles.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I should like to reinforce what has been said about the regimental spirit, although it is unfortunate that when people talk about it they are using the French phrase esprit de corps, which gives rather another feeling. At the beginning of the war the War Office and a great many staff officers had an opinion, I think, quite contrary to that which has been expressed to-day. I think the Secretary of State has a different opinion, although when he replied to a Question on 13th July he made an unfortunate remark which I hope he will explain a little further. He said:It is necessary at times to compromise between tradition and the facts of the case."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 59.43; col. 9, Vol. 391.]I fear that ever since 1940 the War Office have been trying to compromise with tradition. Let me give the House one or two examples. Among those who came back from France in 1940 there were certain first line Territorial battalions. I am thinking in particular of one which had fought extremely well in France and came back from Dunkirk. Then came the War Office scheme of making a Reconnaissance Corps. There was no objection to that battalion joining the Reconnaissance Corps, but having joined it they were stripped of their Territorial 2511 senior officers, they were stripped of all emblems to show that they came from a particular county, and everything was done to damp down that Territorial tradition which had won fine victories both in the last war and in this war. A sad part of the case was that by this loss of tradition their training was delayed tremendously. They atoned for what they had lost in the dust of battle on 27th May, when they were wiped out. That battalion would have been in action far earlier if the War Office had not dictated this new policy that tradition was not to count. When I went out to the Middle East with my formation in 1941 we found rampant there a view among high staff officers that divisional traditions and regimental traditions counted for nothing at a11. I rather think that the senior officers were surprised to find that there was a formation coming out who believed in advertising the fact that they were a formation and had a great tradition. Time passed, and by the time we got back to ElAlamein the lesson had been learned and the divisional tradition of the 50th and 51st Division had taught those in command and the staff in Cairo that what wins battles and what turns the tide in the last difficult stress of battle, is this regimental and divisional tradition. I hope when the Secretary of State comes to reply he will show that he realises that the greatest exponent of the regimental tradition today in the British Army is General Montgomery. When he took over the Eighth Army he insisted that everybody should recall his regimental tradition, and he made what is more, something very fine of the Eighth Army tradition of the Crusaders' Cross, which is visible wherever you go in the Eighth Army.
I am dealing merely with the infantry. I understand that the present position is that infantry battalions, and especially infantry in depot, have been wearing in their regimental colours the numbers of their regiments on their shoulders. The East Yorkshires would have the number "15" in cerise on their shoulders. This has the advantage of identifying the regiment and also the regimental colour. Under the new Army Council Instruction, an infantry regiment will be allowed to wear the name of the regiment on their shoulders but not in their regimental colours, but in the colour 2512 of what is called now the Corps of Infantry. I submit that that is not a satisfactory way of retaining the regimental tradition. If it is a question of expense, I am certain that those who believe in the regimental tradition, including ex-Service men and certainly the officers and other ranks of all units, would help to defray the cost of getting the regimental titles in their own colours.
I think the position is stronger since the right hon. Gentleman has told us that the 60th and the Rifle Brigade can have their shoulder titles in their regimental colours, but no other infantry regiment can do so. If I am wrong, I hope he will correct me. If it is right for the 60th and the Rifle Brigade, is it not also right for every other regiment of the line? It is a great mistake for the Secretary of State to make a distinction between one regiment of the line and another. The 60th and the Rifle Brigade have played a great part and have done most glorious work in this war, and nothing that I say must be taken to detract from their credit for what they have done, but other regiments of the line have also done very fine work in this war. All should be treated alike.
I asked the Secretary of State on 13th July a Question, to which he replied that beside these shoulder titles, the soldiermay in addition wear a flash in the regimental colours and a regimental cap badge."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1943; col. 12, Vol. 391.]That is not satisfactory. What they ask for, and always have asked for, is either that it should be the number of the regiment, like the "15th" or the "19th," or that it should be the name of the regiment in the regimental colours on the shoulder titles. In my short experience I have found that those who were keenest on this question of shoulder titles and the regimental spirit were not the officers, but the N.C.O.'s and other ranks in the regiment. I think hon. Members would find that is a general experience.
I should like to touch on one other point raised by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus), and that is the question of the drafts from the depot. I do not understand why it is necessary for the intake at a depot not to be drawn from the neighbourhood of the depot. I appreciate the difficulty that must necessarily come in war when it may not be possible to have men from Durham going 2513 to a Durham depot or Yorkshire men going to a Yorkshire depot, but I do not see why you should not at least get North countrymen going to a North country depot, Welshmen to Welsh depots and West of England men to West of England depots. I am informed that that is not happening at the present time, and I hope that the Secretary of State will look into the matter and try to secure an alteration. I hope he will do his best to get the team spirit retained in the Army. To my civilian mind the whole object of military training is to take a collection of men and form them into a unit. It is not only a question of technical skill in arms, but is, first and foremost, a matter of the spirit that will endure in battle.
§ Major York (Ripon)
I rise to support my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) and to bring the Debate back to the actual point of controversy, which is that arising out of my hon. Friend's Question about cavalry regiments. I do not think it will be divulging military secrets if I give the battle order of the Royal Dragoons in this House and say that the charge was led by the colonel of the regiment and was backed up by myself, a humble member of that regiment, but it is to cavalrymen a very great grievance if in any way those regimental traditions are to be taken away. It is not only on the battlefield that the cavalryman and others who are keen upon their regiment are anxious to defend the honour of the regiment. Battle honours were not only just won on the battlefield. The battlefield produced the name, but it was all that went before that was responsible for the conduct, bravery and general high level of training. It was all that was worked into these units during the period of peace.
There is one way in which the system—and it is a system—is worked. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Peters-field (Sir G. Jeffreys) will know that the Guards had the same system. We use regimental history and regimental traditions to drill into our men the fighting spirit that has gone before for centuries. My regiment was first founded 280-odd years ago, and ever since then the officers, warrant officers and N.C.O.'s generally have used the history, the badge and every sort and kind of tradition to drum into the men that they must live up to that tradition. Even on the drill square, 2514 and, until two years ago, in the riding school, in my regiment it was the deeds that had gone before that were held up to the men. When an N.C.O. or an instructor was taking a man to task for idleness or any other point, he would say:?"Now then, Trooper So-and-so, you are letting down the regiment. You are letting down the badges that you wear.?" If we are going to alter things, we shall he doing something which is indeed a great blow to those traditions.
It might interest my right hon. Friend to know that when in the early part of this war I was engaged in helping to train cavalrymen, one of the great difficulties we had was to prevent the men under training from going out into the town and buying a regimental badge, because at the time we did not know which regiment they were going to. Suddenly, on parade, you would see two or three dozen men who had a general service badge the day before, say, wearing the badge of the Royal Dragoons or the badge of the Royal Scots Guards. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take note of this point. There is strong objection from the officers and men of these cavalry regiments to being permanently lost sight of in a corps, which contains very gallant units no doubt, but units which have only a short history and little tradition. It is understandable for in the Army corps there are two distinct types of soldier. There are the tank battalions on the one hand and the cavalry regiments on the other. Both have done magnificently during this war but they are both used in different ways and in different types of formation. Even on the ground of efficiency it is very questionable whether the two should be lumped together under the name of the R.A.C.
There is one last point. The right hon. Gentleman will know that in the A.C.I. which caused this Debate there was definite recognition tint every single infantry regiment in the country was to have its tradition and its name maintained. Every single regiment was set out in an appendix, and the whole of those gallant old cavalry regiments were lumped together on one line as Royal Armoured Corps. My regimental motto is "Spectemur Agendo" which means "Let us be judged by our deeds." Let me give my right hon. Friend a slightly different interpretation. "Let us be recognised by our actions." If we cannot be recognised, we shall do away with 2515 those marks of recognition which we have borne so proudly and so long over the centuries that have passed.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
I also rise to support my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus). In doing so, I should like to revert to one word which was said in his speech, and that was when he placed the blame on Lord Kitchener in the last war for the lack of recognition of regimental tradition and for the system that a man is a man and a regiment is a regiment, which then prevailed, and which I fear is prevalent now. I would like to assure my hon. Friend that I believe he is mistaken in putting that imputation upon the memory of Lord Kitchener.
§ Mr. Loftus
I want to get this point clear. I suggested that it was due to Lord Kitchener's living his life out of England and therefore being out of touch with the Territorial spirit.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I am afraid that the spirit I complain, of prevailed in the Adjutant-General's branch of the War Office and the staff long before Lord Kitchener became Secretary of State. It was flourishing before his arrival, and although it was not encouraged or given so much chance as it was in later days, it certainly was there. My hon. Friend remarked about having a war badge "R.A." for Royal Army. The first time I heard that suggestion was from a very senior and very distinguished staff officer in the very early days of the last war. I believe it is an entirely unsound idea. I believe it is the idea of the office soldier as opposed to that of the regimental soldier—I was going to say of the fighting soldier, but I will not say that—and I would emphatically agree with all my hon. and gallant Friends that the British system is based on the regimental system. If we were forming a new Army entirely, it might be sound to start with one badge "Royal Army" with everybody exactly the same, but the British Army is a very ancient Army and has been built up on the traditions of the various regiments in the Army. None have higher or more splendid traditions than the British cavalry. I have not the honour myself to be a cavalryman, but I have none the less had the honour of having the regiment of which my hon. 2516 and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Sir E. Makins) is colonel under my command, and various other cavalry regiments, and I yield to none in my admiration for them, for their spirit, for their efficiency and great traditions. I hope that some concession will be made in this, as I see it, comparatively small matter to the War Office, but very important matter to the regiments concerned.
I would like also to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft said about the Territorial units. The Territorial units nearly all belong to a county regiment, and I would say that their tradition is entirely or almost entirely of the county. They have the uniform and the badges of their county regiment, but that county regiment had a history before it was identified with the county. If you could post recruits or drafts to the Regular battalions, they could very likely absorb the tradition of a Regular regiment, but if you send, for the sake of example, Welshmen or Northumbrians—I mention those two because they both produce magnificent soldiers—to, shall we say, a battalion of the Hampshire or the Berkshire Regiments, they have no feeling whatever for the county from which those regiments derive all their tradition and pride, and these form a very great part of their efficiency. My hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford both mentioned the Brigade of Guards. It is not for me to attempt to sing the praises of the Brigade of Guards here, but I would say that it is not only on their discipline that their efficiency is based; it is on their spirit, their morale, and it is discipline combined with that high morale that really makes a great regiment. It is no good merely having discipline. Some foreign armies have a very strong discipline and perhaps have not the morale of the best regiments of the British Army. It is discipline and that high spirit that make for real efficiency. It is not only applicable to the Brigade of Guards—I believe they are an example of it—but to all the great regiments of the British Army.
The cavalry regiments have been, as we have been reminded, absorbed in the Royal Armoured Corps. I can see no reason why they should not retain their identity, although they are in the Royal Armoured Corps, any more than there 2517 was a reason why they should not retain their identity, as indeed they did, when they were regiments in the old Corps of Hussars, the Corps of Dragoons, the Corps of Lancers, and so forth. I think it is of the utmost importance that they should, retain their identity, and I would remind my right hon. Friend of what I believe he will find to be the case, if he will make inquiries, as I feel certain he has already done, that the cavalry in the Royal Armoured Corps are in many ways the most efficient tactically because they have their cavalry spirit and high mobility and high tactical efficiency and quick action, which in the nature of things the men of the more newly formed heavy armoured regiments have not got in the same way. I believe that, for that reason alone, it is very necessary that the cavalry should retain their identity.
I would only say one more word about the cavalry tradition, and that is to reinforce what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford about the fact that the Prime Minister was a Regular cavalryman, imbued with the cavalry spirit and a first-rate cavalry officer. 1 cannot say—I have no right to say—but I feel certain that I know what the Prime Minister thinks about any attempt to put the cavalry regiment in a general hotch-potch, with, I will not say mediocrity, but a general hotch-potch, in which there would be no regimental distinction and no regimental tradition remaining and no outward or visible sign of it. I hope my right hon. Friend will see his way to granting these cavalry regiments, and as far as possible all other regiments, Territorial regiments, the right to retain their distinction and their badges which they have won so well, and which their efficiency justifies so fully.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Sir James Grigg)
I think perhaps it will be a good thing if I remind the House of some of the difficulties with which the War Office has had to contend on the "A" side in the last three years. I dealt with them at some length in my Estimates speech, but I am afraid that hon. Members have forgotten some of the things I said then. Therefore I make no excuse for dealing with them again, for I sometimes think that an insufficient appreciation of those difficulties is at the root of accusations I hear that the War 2518 Office is quite impervious to all that concerns regimental traditions and esprit de corps. In February last. I said:The House will remember that in the months immediately after Dunkirk, when the defence of the coast line and vulnerable points all over the country was the primary necessity, new intakes into the Army were predominantly disposed as infantry and a large number of new infantry units were formed. As the immediate crisis grew less acute, the first preparations were undertaken for the ultimate return to the offensive. Some of the infantry was converted to armour, some of it to artillery and some of it was used to provide the ever growing signal requirements.?I also said that this whole re-organisation had been carried out against the background of man-power shortage. I went on to say:No more than any other service or branch of the war effort has the Army been allotted all the men it believes it needs. In the earlier part of the war it was equipment that was short. Now that equipment is available in vast quantities we cannot get all the men we want. The demand for men is insatiable.?"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1943; col. 330, Vol. 387.]That has not become any less true in the six months that have gone since I first said that. The character of the war is continually changing. We have had to prepare for new kinds of war, and we are constantly having to switch between infantry and other arms. Moreover, the incidence of casualties has been quite different from what was expected as between the different arms.
Another consideration, taking into account the geographical distribution of the population available for military service and in the historical county regiments, it is quite clear that it is not always possible, in some cases not ever possible, to fill these up with men from the appropriate part of the country. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) seemed to find some deep-laid plot against the county regiments here in that men were not always enlisted through their own depots. I thought I had explained in my Estimates speech that primary entry was into a primary training centre, and that it is only after they have been to that that men go on to their corps training or infantry training. It is at that stage that we try as far as possible to allocate men to the county regiments of the part of the country from which they come. I explained, though, that it was not by any means always 2519 possible to choose people so that they could go to the regiments of their neighbourhood, and that quite often it was not even possible to fill the county regiment from that part of the country. It has been a constant feature of this war; it was a constant feature of the last war. There is no geting away from it.
§ Major York
Is it not possible for the primary training centres only to take from their immediate regions, and would not the men therefore go there naturally?
§ Sir J. Grigg
No, it is not in the least possible, because the object of the primary training centres is to sort people out according to their aptitude, not necessarily to allocate them even to their corps. These are the facts of the case which produce the necessity of compromising which the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton made such heavy play about. It is not the War Office who are compromising, even though he complained that I had said something about compromising between the facts of the case and traditions. It is not I who produce the compromise, it is the hard facts which produce the necessity of compromising.
It is from those hard facts of the case from which have come the breaches in what we should like to do, and it is from those breaches that this feeling has grown up that the War Office no longer care for tradition and esprit de corps. I must say that I have been very sensitive on these matters, but I am a little reassured from the recollections that some of the hon. Members older than myself have brought forward that exactly the same thing was going on in the last war, and exactly the same accusations were being made. The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) talked about some mysterious principle, some mysterious love of uniformity on the part of officialdom. Having been an official myself, I should pretty certainly have known if there had been any love of uniformity on the part of officialdom. I must say that I have not noticed it. If it had been there, I have learnt enough in the last 15 months of the strength of feeling in this House and the Army against this sort of deadening spirit of uniformity not to have taken on my shoulders more trouble than was necessary. I personally have seen no sign of this neglect or hatred of tradition and 2520 esprit de corps on the part of the War Office. I have not the slightest doubt that some mistakes have been made. Members have produced to me from time to time instances where there has been great stupidity in posting people to the wrong places. It is only natural that that should happen, and most of the instances have occurred under the stress of the rapid need for reinforcement of units cut up in actual fighting—I do not say all, but most. My general intention is to preserve tradition and esprit de corps to the maximum extent that the hard facts of the case make possible. Let me come to the Army Council Instruction which is being attacked.
§ Sir J. Grigg
May I make my own case? As it says on the face of it, this Instruction has as one of its objects the fostering of esprit de corps. Hon. Members have reminded me that it says "esprit de corps," and not "esprit de bataillon" or "esprit de compagnie." There was a second object: to put an end to the vast multiplicity of badges and signs which battalions and companies, and even units and sub-units, got into the habit of assuming. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] There was abundant reason why they should not. Most of them were unauthorised, and many were ridiculous. I suppose that I am the only person who has seen a complete album of them. It was extremely frightening to see the extent to which separatism had developed in the matter of signs and badges, and how far down it had gone. It was clear that the team spirit had been abused. I have seen the whole album, so I am not speaking without being informed on the subject. As I said the other day, in my replies to supplementaries, to which some exception has been taken, I claim that the very careful plan which was drawn up is the best possible compromise that we could devise between the previous system of a few very special shoulder badges and the esoteric and separatist variety that we were rapidly getting into. The badges were allotted on a corps basis. In this connection, greatly daring, I will go so far as to claim that each infantry regiment of the line, with its separate badge, is for these purposes a separate corps. Similarly, the Royal Artillery, the Royal Engineers, the Royal Signals, the Royal Ordnance Corps and so on, are separate corps. Members have talked about the 2521 Royal Artillery as if there were no analogy between that and the Royal Armoured Corps. But my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Colonel A. Evans) made the point that the London Welsh is a separate regiment, although it is part of the Corps of Artillery. The main shrines of Welsh military tradition and valour are the three Welsh infantry regiments, which wear their separate titles. There is no doubt that the Royal Armoured Corps is one corps. On the other hand, it has separate components. The Royal Tank Regiment and the old cavalry regiments have preserved to a very considerable extent their identities.
When the plan for the original amalgamation was drawn up before the war the Committee which drew it up, presided over, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Sir E. Makins) pointed out, by a Guards officer, expressed the view that when war came it would be necessary completely to merge the cavalry regiments and the Royal Armoured Corps. In the meantime, however, they were to retain their separate badges and titles and their separate lists, so far as officers were concerned. Other ranks were enlisted into the Royal Armoured Corps, and not into the cavalry regiments. The war produced these difficulties in this scheme of amalgamation, which was drawn up—I will place all the secrets of the charnel house before the House—in 1938. Two years ago the question of a complete merger was brought forward, but after careful consideration it was rejected. But it was decided that the first entry of officers, as of other ranks, should be into the Royal Armoured Corps, and not into separate regiments, and that reposting on special employment could be anywhere within the corps. That is the present position. Naturally, in reposting, every attempt is made, and I think successfully, to take account of the original homes of officers, so as to preserve the regimental tradition and their individual association with it as much as possible. In these circumstances, and at a time when, as I have pointed out, the Army Council were reviving shoulder titles, for service at home only, for the period of the war, with the dual purpose of fostering esprit de corps and preventing what I might call fantastic separatism of subunits, I think that, for this purpose, and for the purpose of these titles only, it was right to treat the cavalry units as part of 2522 the Royal Armoured Corps. At the same time, the retention of the regimental flash and the old regimental cap badges was decided upon. What distresses me about this Debate is that some Members have thought that this whole business was in pursuance of a deeply-laid plot to effect a complete merger of the cavalry regiments into the Royal Armoured Corps and to abolish their identity. I have no such desire. I am not looking for trouble; I have no intention of trying to disturb the solution of a contentious and difficult problem. Indeed, I claim that what I have done is entirely in harmony with that solution.
I end where I began. I am no foe to tradition and esprit de corps. I am certainly not engaged in a deeply-laid plot, designed to undermine them. Indeed, I will do my utmost to preserve them to the maximum extent that the hard pressure of war allows. My hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft says, "What about postwar?" I cannot project myself into that great unknown. All the same a great deal of thought is being devoted to the kind of Army we shall need after the war. In the description and fears of what is going on in the War Office, as made by the hon. Member for Lowestoft, I do not recognise anything I have seen. [Interruption.] The hon. and gallant Member for Peters-field (Sir G. Jeffreys) said that he had it from a very high staff officer in the last war: perhaps that is where it came from. I am clear about one thing, that esprit de corps and the regimental spirit will play in the, post-war army a part not less important than it has done hitherto.
§ Mr. Turton
Why are the Rifle Brigade allowed to have shoulder titles of their own colours, while other infantry regiments are not?