§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND,
in rising to call attention to the Return as to Chest Measurement of Recruits (presented to the House on the 28th of April last), and to the state of the Army as regards recruiting generally, said, he would not discuss the details of the Return for which he moved some time since, respecting the measurement of recruits, inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had admitted it to be inaccurate, and on the part of the Government had undertaken to present another, in which the error should be corrected. There were, however, one or two points which deserved attention in reference to it. That Return, which had achieved some little notoriety, had thus been commented upon by an hon. and gallant Member of the other House—The Returns in some cases disclosed the fact that a certain laxity existed somewhere, and that men had been enlisted under regulation measurement. Where this was found to be the case, the Returns were sent back from the War Office with orders to the commanding officers to transfer the men enlisted under the regulation measurement from a column in the Return noting that fact to a column which showed them to be over the regulation measurement, and in such altered form was the Return presented.It was not surprising that such a letter, appearing in The Times, and signed by his hon. and gallant Friend, was not allowed to pass unnoticed. Accordingly, Sir John Pakington put a Question, in answer to which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said—
§ "When the Duke of Richmond's Return was moved for, it appeared that in some regiments recruits had been accepted, without any application for that special permission, who were below the regulation measurement. When this became known at the Horse Guards, the following memorandum was issued:—
§ Horse Guards, War Office.
§ April 16, 1873.
§ 'His Royal Highness the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief directs that the accompanying Return be amended in the following way—viz., all the men shown therein as under 33 inches chest-measurement to whom no objection was raised by you or by the officer commanding at the time being, on their being finally passed into the service, must be accounted for as of the regulated chest-measurement of 33 inches.
§ 'C. A. EDWARDS.'
§ "It cannot be disputed that this was a grave error. The matter in question was the preparation of a Parliamentary Return, and the actual fact alone ought to have been looked to. Directions have been given which will prevent a recurrence, and for the amendment of the Return."
Now, that language was, to say the least, most unfortunate; for though he did not impute to the right hon. Gentleman any intention of casting an imputation on the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, the answer conveyed to himself, and he believed to many others, the impression that it was His Royal Highness by whom the fact had not been looked to in the preparation of the Return. He was therefore extremely glad that His Royal Highness took the earliest opportunity of explaining in that House his part in the transaction, and of showing beyond all question that though as the head of the Department he was responsible for everything that went on in it, he could not be held responsible for that Memorandum. His Royal Highness said last night—
I never saw the Return or the Circular that went out in my name on the subject, and I never intended any Circular to go out. I thought it was a mere ordinary correction, which must frequently occur in an office. Had I been aware how the Return was prepared, I should not have authorized what has been done.
That was only consistent with His Royal Highness's conduct upon all occasions. It was obvious that a great deal must be left to subordinates, and that it was impossible for any one at the head of a Department dealing with a multiplicity of details to go into the minutiœ daily dealt with. His Royal Highness added that he considered it merely a breach of discipline on the part of officers commanding regiments, that he understood the number of men in question was very
small; and that he dismissed the subject from his mind, as one not requiring further thought. Now, he desired to know whether the Returns sent in to the War Department were confined to those of officers who had accepted the men under-measurement, and had thus as it were condoned the offence; or whether the Department had not Returns, showing that a great number of men in certain regiments, of 31 and 32 inches chest-measurement, had been objected to, in some cases by commanding officers, and in others by generals commanding districts. If the Department, as he believed, possessed such knowledge, they ought not only to have refrained from issuing the Memorandum, but to have communicated the information to the House. His Royal Highness having proved that he was not answerable for the error acknowledged by the right hon. Gentleman to have been committed, some one in the War Department must be, responsible for it. The recruiting department was the department which must have had the information at the time the Return was made, and the Inspector General of Recruiting was responsible for all these Returns. That was shown by the 25th section of the Queen's Regulations, No. 1,330, which was in these terms—
The Inspector General of Recruiting is charged with carrying out all orders and regulations on subjects connected with the recruiting service, and attending to the details of that department.
He would ask, therefore, whether within the knowledge of the Inspector General, and within reach of the Department, there were not the names of men undoubtedly under the prescribed chest-measurement? He would now pass on to the larger and higher subject of recruiting generally, as it was now carried out; and respecting which it could not be denied that anything that tended to deteriorate the high character of the personnel of the Army was a thing to be deprecated and stopped. In an earlier part of his political life he (the Duke of Richmond) used to hear a great deal about "the sliding scale;" the sliding scale, however, so much talked of in former days, vanished into empty air compared with that adopted of late years in recruiting. On the 1st of February, 1868, the recruits were 5 feet 6 inches to
5 feet 8 inches in height, and 33 inches chest-measurement, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches, and 34 inches, and 5 feet 10 inches and over, and 35 inches, the minimum height thus being 5 feet 6 inches. In March, 1869, when reductions were made in the Army, the height was raised to 5 feet 8 inches. In June, 1869, it was reduced to 5 feet 6 inches. In October, 1869, the chest-measurement was altered, it being taken with the arms hanging down instead of raised. In February, 1870, when there were again reductions, the height was raised to 5 feet 8 inches. In March, 1870, all recruiting was suspended. In July of that year, with prospects of war on the Continent, the minimum height was reduced to 5 feet 6 inches, while in September it was further reduced to 5 feet 51 inches, and by special authority to 5 feet 5 inches. In December, 1870, an order was issued directing that the measuring tape should not be drawn so tight as to compress the surface, and in July, 1871, the minimum height was reduced to 5 feet 5 inches. Thus, since July, 1868, a uniform standard had scarcely been maintained for four consecutive months. The fact was, that the system of short service without pensions was distasteful to the people of the country, and was obliging them to take what men they could get, and those who were of little use to them after they had got them. That was shown by the only accessible authority, the Reports of the Inspector General of Recruiting for 1871 and 1872, which set up one set of theories and arguments on one page and contradicted them on the next. The only conclusion, however, which he (the Duke of Richmond)—and he thought anybody else—could come to, who examined the Reports independently, was that the whole recruiting service of the country was in a most unsatisfactory state. In 1871, there was a deficit of 1,783 men—the deficiency in 1872 was nearly the same—on which the Inspector General remarked—
The number shown proves that at present the supply of men has not been quite sufficient, and the time possibly may not be far distant, if the increased rate of wages, the demand for labour, with the lessened number of working hours continue to affect the labour-market, that the present inducements to voluntary enlistment will be found to be insufficient. There is good reason to believe that the physique of the recruits taken during the last year gives promise of these men becoming very effective soldiers.
He would ask whether these were men of 33 inches, or 32 inches. The Report continued—
In nearly every case commanding officers have expressed themselves satisfied with the description of recruits sent to join their regiments.
That was quite at variance with what he had understood to be the case, and he should like to know to whom such satisfaction had been expressed, and whether there was any objection to produce these letters. As to the working of the system, the Report remarked—
There is a fear that short service without a claim to pension, may become distasteful, and that men should give up six years of their lives, with only the prospect of 7l. a year for six years afterwards, while serving in the reserve force, is a condition that cannot be generally expected. Recruits still look to and inquire what pension they will get, whilst they see the majority of discharged soldiers enjoying such retiring allowances. Although against this uncertainty as to pension the recruit may feel the advantage in some cases that he is only bound for six years instead of a much longer period.
Now, in the face of that Report he wanted to know whether the noble Lord meant to go on with short service without pensions? He believed that if they were to issue a Circular to competent persons throughout the country, inviting them to express an opinion on the present system of service, it would be found that it was one that could not long be carried out consistently with the interests of the country. He wanted to know whether they intended to go on with the system of short service without pensions? He did not think that the system could be carried on practically for any length of time. In an extraordinary paragraph the Inspector General went on to say—
The standard in height has been nearly all the year 5 ft. 5 in., and great attention has been paid to chest measurement, and careful medical examination before approval, so that the reports of the physique of the men are most favourable. As short service becomes more general, it may be questioned whether this stringency of medical examination may not be a little relaxed, as a man having slight blemishes, which now disqualify, will be fit for home service, and afterwards well qualified for service in the Reserve forces, and quite capable of meeting the exigences of any emergency that may then be required of him.
If that observation meant anything it meant this—that in the present system of recruiting for short service they were recruiting under the idea that the men would never be called upon to serve
abroad, and therefore they might take an inferior class of men—first, for short service with the flag, and afterwards, to use a railway expression, in effect to shunt them into the Reserve force. It had often been said that the noble Earl (Earl Granville) had been very lenient with foreign Powers on more than one occasion, when he ought to have sent an army abroad. That might be accounted for if the Army was recruited on the assumption of its services never being required abroad. The Report went on to say—
it may be fairly surmised that the present inducements to enlist on these conditions will not hereafter be sufficient to meet the increasing demand, and in face of the constant rising of the rate of wages in the labour market.
That was precisely his own view, that unless there was long service with pension there would not be sufficient inducement to enter the Army for the class of men such as had for years been our pride. Turning to the Report for 1873, he found a remarkable paragraph—
The Autumn Manœuvres of 1871 and 1872 have elicited the fact that the physique of the Royal Artillery and cavalry has been such as to excite unqualified approbation; and, by a careful observer, it has been remarked that the nation may be assured that the infantry are such as could be desired, and have maintained their long-established character of efficiency.
A distinction was thus drawn between the artillery and cavalry and the infantry, conveying a suspicion that the physique of the latter was not such as should be desired. The "careful observer" clearly was not His Royal Highness, whose Reports, to use a Scotch expression, did not condescend to these particulars, but dealt in more general terms. He understood the Secretary of State for War was out in the Manœuvres, and took as prominent a part as a civilian could do in them. It had occurred to him that he might be the "careful observer." If so, that right hon. Gentleman had shown his care not to praise the infantry except in the most qualified terms, whilst he placed the artillery and the cavalry in the from for his emphatic eulogy. The Report also contained a paragraph in which the Inspector General of Recruiting took this modest view of his position—
The appointment of Inspector-General of Recruiting, as recommended by the Commission of 1867, has been attended with the great advan-
tage of allowing every circumstance connected with the recruiting service throughout the kingdom to be minutely and carefully inquired into.
He suspected that in the next Report, after the disclosures as to recruiting and the preparation of Returns, there would be some ground for modifying that opinion. The Report gave the number of recruits passed into the service last year as 17,371, and the casualties as 18,779. There must be something wrong in the system which produced such results. It would appear that our forces were diminishing in numbers year after year, and that, so far as he knew, no steps had been as yet taken to remedy such an unsatisfactory state of affairs. According to the Report—
The casualties for the year 1872 have been increased above the average by a greater number of invalids, an increased discharge of men of bad character, by a facility of obtaining discharge by purchase and free, and by many desertions—the two last having been occasioned by the great demand for labour.
That fact might lead to the inference that those had been enlisted who were unfit for the service, and ought never to have been enlisted—an inference which was further borne out by the statement of the increased number of men of bad character who had been discharged. In reference to that subject, a report was current in military circles that a confidential Circular had been issued to courts-martial, directing them to dismiss with ignominy men found guilty of desertion or absence without leave, if physically unfit for the service. In other words, every opportunity was to be taken of dismissing as of bad character men who had been improperly enlisted. He now came to the last paragraph, which the Government ought to regard with considerable apprehension—
contemplating the greatly increased number of men which will be required in the year 1876, and subsequent years, when the discharge of men enlisted for short service will affect materially the number of men required to be raised to replace them, and knowing that all these men must be taken by a system of purely voluntary enlistment, the increased inducements to enlist are for the consideration of statesmen; and, without such increased inducements, it is more than probable that the present system of the recruiting service will fail to supply the necessary demand.
§ He knew that he had wearied the House by the length at which he had addressed them, but he trusted that their Lord 1615 ships would think that the statement he had made would justify him in their opinion for having brought this subject under consideration. He believed that the present system was radically wrong, and that, practically, it was an utter failure; and that it could only be improved by increasing the inducements to men to enlist, and he maintained that the responsibility for this failure rested, as it ought to rest, upon Her Majesty's Government. He was satisfied that Her Majesty's Government would be assisted in everything that could conduce to the improvement of the service by His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, he had hoped that when His Royal Highness the illustrious Duke on the cross benches closed last night a statement which the noble Duke opposite himself characterized as satisfactory, the last had been heard of the unfortunate mistake as to the measurement of recruits. He thought that, under the circumstances, the supplementary defence of the illustrious Duke which had been undertaken by the noble Duke opposite might have been dispensed with upon the present occasion. What was the reason which had been assigned by the noble Duke for undertaking that supplementary defence of the illustrious Duke? The noble Duke said that he had felt compelled to undertake it, because he regarded the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War's statement in the other House as casting blame upon the illustrious Duke. He begged to protest against that interpretation of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. His statement was a mere recapitulation of the facts of the case.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
said, he was anxious that he should not be misunderstood in this matter. He had made no imputation whatever against the Secretary of State for War. What he said was, that the right hon. Gentleman had expressed himself in words that might convey the impression out-of-doors that blame was to be attached to the Commander-in-Chief in the matter. He had no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman had expressed himself in perfect good faith.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, he had in no way misapprehended the meaning of the noble Duke, who had complained of the Secretary of State for 1616 War's statement as calculated to give rise to the impression out-of-doors that blame was to be attached to the illustrious Duke. The right hon. Gentleman could not do otherwise than read the exact words of the document which had been sent out by the Adjutant General's department, and the illustrious Duke himself had not detracted in the least from the responsibility attaching to that department. The noble Duke had asked whether it was within his personal knowledge that there were in the department of the Adjutant General other Returns from officers commanding regiments which disclosed the fact that there were in their regiments men whose measurements did not come up to the regulation standard. All he could say was, that if Returns meriting this description existed anywhere, he had no personal knowledge whatever of their existence, although he believed that there was one regiment in which some doubt had arisen as to the sufficiency of the chest measurements of the men. In that case, an officer had been sent down to examine and report upon the case. The noble Duke had proceeded to speak of the position of the Inspector General of Recruiting, and perhaps the House would permit him to point out that Colonel Anson, in his letter which had appeared in The Times, and several other of our military critics, seemed to be under a misapprehension with regard to the position of that officer. It was clearly indicated in the Regulations with respect to recruiting, that far from being a mere War Office official, the Inspector General of Recruits was an independent officer. The present tenant of the office was moreover appointed by the Commander-in-Chief before the present Government came into office, and therefore there was no excuse whatever for supposing him to be the screen of the present Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, that this was at all events the impression produced on the mind of the House by the noble Duke's observations. The noble Duke having dealt with the Inspector General of Recruits, passed on to consider the subject of recruiting generally. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was anxious to say a few words with regard to the effect 1617 of the changes which had been introduced into the recruiting system by the present Government. The noble Duke said that any deterioration which had occurred in the quality of the recruits was traceable to the system of short service, which he most severely condemned. He was not about to discuss the relative merits of long and short service upon the present occasion; but he was convinced that, in a country where neither compulsory service nor the cost of a large standing Army would be endured, a system of short service with Reserves was the only one that could be carried out. With regard to the quality of the recruits who had enlisted under the short-service system, he wished to point out to the noble Duke one or two facts which appeared in the Report to the Adjutant General by the Inspector General of Recruits, dated January, 1872, on the recruiting for the year 1871. The Report stated that commanding officers had expressed themselves satisfied with the description of recruits sent to join their regiments. The noble Duke challenged that statement in the Report, and desired to know what means the Department had of ascertaining whether this satisfaction was the case. The noble Duke had placed him in a rather embarrassing position, because he must know that the Reports of the commanding officers were confidential, but he could assure the noble Duke that before the Inspector General of Recruiting had made his Report, he had access to authentic information furnished by commanding officers themselves. Further on, in the Report appeared a statement founded on medical statistics, which was of considerable importance. It was as follows—Inquiry has been made to ascertain how many of these men have not completed their first year's service, and it is found that the number invalided in that period is 13.19 per 1,000; which, allowing for such diseases as develop themselves at that age, for the change of life on first joining, and the necessary drill, is very small, and will bear favourable comparison with the corresponding state of health of men in civil life of that age…. as far as can be ascertained, the recruits of this augmentation have not, after one year's trial, proved less efficient than those taken in former years, at the ordinary rate of recruiting, to supply the usual casualties.Considering that it was necessary to have recourse to the lower stratum of the population for recruits, the best 1618 authorities believed that they were likely to find more healthy men, and therefore men who were likely to make the most efficient soldiers, among those from 18 to 19 years of age, than among older men, who would join the Army probably because they found themselves unfit for any other profession or trade. That opinion was well expressed in the Report of General Edwards, who said—Between the ages of 18 and 19 years many youths have not acquired regular employment. If these men enlist, they are at once well clothed and cared for, and by the time they have acquired the age of 20, there can be no doubt are worth in physique in strength of constitution more than the man who though enlisted above that age, had till then existed on very uncertain means.There were also passages in the Report with respect to recruiting in 1872, the tenor of which was very similar, but he would not trouble the House by quoting them. He wished, however, to be allowed to add that the noble Duke was under a misapprehension, when he stated that the standard of height was lower than it had ever been before. He could assure him that at different times in 1864, and, he believed, again in 1868, the height was not greater than 5ft. 5in., which was the present standard. Having said thus much with respect to the quality of the recruits, he would add a few words with reference to their quantity. The noble Duke was not perhaps aware that we had now between 2,000 and 3,000 over our full establishment, and it was therefore obvious that it was not necessary that we should obtain the full number of recruits. The real working of the system could not possibly be tested before 1876, by which time the short-service men would begin to pass into the Army Reserve. He was far from wishing to convey to the House that the Government regarded the problem to be solved as one which was certain or easy of solution. The views of General Edwards on the subject were very clear, and the War Department were perfectly alive to the possibility that the inducements now held out might in the face of the continually increasing competition of the trade at no distant day be found inadequate to obtain the necessary supply of men. But something, it must be borne in mind, had been done to increase these inducements. The pay of the Army had not long ago been increased; and it was 1619 proposed in the present year, to make a change with reference to the pay of the soldier which would it was hoped have the effect of increasing the attractions of the Army to the class of men who were likely to join it as recruits. He need only add that he shared the opinions of the noble Duke as to the great importance of recruiting, and that the Government had no intention whatsoever of looking upon the existing system as incapable of improvement.
LORD DE ROS
thought there was no good reason for regarding the Reports as to the number of recruits as confidential as the noble Marquess seemed to suppose; consequently, all the Reports which had been referred to might be laid on the Table of the House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, that if the illustrious Duke on the cross benches thought there was no objection to the production of the Reports in question, he should not be disposed to throw any obstacle in the way.
said, he was sure their Lordships and the country would feel that they were under a deep obligation to the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) for having brought the subject under their consideration. It was a subject of extreme importance, and no one could have listened to the statement which had been made with respect to it without coming to the same conclusion as he had—that the state of things connected with the Army was altogether unsatisfactory. Many years would, he was convinced, not have elapsed before we should have come to lament the ill consequences which would flow from the virtual abolition of the system of pensions in the service. It was true pensions were not nominally done away with, but practically such was the case, and soldiers enlisting for a very short term had now no means of winning a provision for their old age. How could it then, he would ask, be expected that men would give up the six or seven best years of their lives to military employment, and give up the opportunity of obtaining the skill necessary for civil employment, if at the end of that period they found themselves without the means of obtaining a livelihood, and turned adrift to make what provision they could for old age? It was unreasonable to expect men to enter freely into the Army 1620 under conditions so discouraging, and he was happy to hear his noble Friend the Under Secretary for War say that the Government were not entirely satisfied with the present system, and that they contemplated the probability of having to revise it. What was wanted was not so much increase of pay, as that the soldier should be placed in a position in which he could make tolerably sure of a provision for life. By that means, too, would success in the policy of creating an Army of Reserve be best attained. Hitherto the Army of Reserve had been a failure, it could not be relied upon to come up when required; and the best course to pursue, he maintained, was to let the men serve for a short time in the active Army, to take the utmost pains during that time to give them the highest training, and having done that, to encourage them to enter the Reserve, allowing them to count their service as a means of ultimately obtaining a pension. The consequence in troublous times of the course which was now being pursued might be serious. If they trained large numbers of men to arms and then turned them adrift with no assured means of subsistence, they might in troublous times become a serious danger to the country, whereas the system of pensions had this advantage—that when they dismissed pensioned soldiers they continued to have a hold over them, and knew they were not likely under any circumstances to be arrayed against the established authorities of the State.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
maintained that the observations of the noble Earl who had just spoken could not be sustained by the facts. The plan of the Army Reserve must necessarily take some years to come into full operation. The new scheme of short service could not come into full operation until 1876; so that when the noble Earl spoke of it as a failure, his opinion could only be regarded in the light of a prophecy, which might or might not be fulfilled. As to the present system of recruiting, the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) had quoted from the Reports only those passages which told in favour of his arguments, while he had omitted those which were opposed to them. That the present system of recruiting did not lead to complete failure as to the physical qualities of the men enlisted was 1621 shown by the last Report of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, in which the power of marching and of bearing fatigue displayed by the infantry, the mainstay of the Army, was spoken of very highly.
§ VISCOUNT HARDINGE
maintained that the short service system had fairly broken down. When the system was first proposed in the House of Commons, the difficulties that would attend it were pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. Among them was this one—that after the expiration of the first period of service, the men would go back to their parishes, and, being selected from a low stratum of society, they would have the greatest difficulty in finding employment. In answer to that, the right hon. Gentleman said he would get quite a different and superior class of men, such as village tradesmen and persons who could easily turn their hands to profitable industry when they went back to their parishes. Now, from all the information he could collect, that anticipation had not been realized. Under the short service system they still got the waifs and strays of society, and as far as getting a superior class of men went, it was all moonshine. He hoped the amended Return of chest measurements would be produced, and also the letters from the officers commanding regiments. They were much indebted to the noble Duke for bringing that question forward; for the more the short service system was discussed, the more its difficulties would become apparent.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
found, from the Army Medical Report presented in 1872, that about 6,000 out of every 10,000 men examined were under the age of 20, and of the recruits about two-thirds were between 18 and 21. When the short service system became the rule a great proportion of the Army would consist of boys instead of seasoned soldiers.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
said, he could not help regarding the system of chest measurement now adopted as very fallacious. A high authority in gymnastic matters, whom he knew when a young man, used to hold that the circumference of a man's chest measured with a tape did not give a fair idea of what his constitutional powers and his amount of wind might be, because a man with a narrow and a flat 1622 chest, if he had a very great deal of muscle in his chest, would measure many inches in circumference, whereas a man with a deep round chest, although he had not the same quantity of muscle, and measured fewer inches, would be the stronger man of the two. The depth and not the mere circumference of the chest should be taken with callipers with which the diameter of trees was measured, if they wished to test a man's strength of constitution and power of bearing fatigue.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
said, he was perfectly satisfied with the course of the debate; but he wished to point out one thing to the noble Duke who sat opposite (the Duke of Argyll). The noble Duke took the noble Earl on the cross benches (Earl Grey) to task for having ventured to prophesy on this subject, and in a manner, he said, which was not unfrequent with him. The noble Earl did not indulge in a spirit of prophesy, but merely followed the example of the Inspector General of Recruiting, who said—Without such increased inducements, it is more than probable that the present system of Recruiting Service will fail to supply the necessary demand.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
maintained that the scheme of founding the Army of Reserve on short service had not been sufficiently tried to entitle anyone to say that it had failed. There was a disposition manifested by some noble Lords to regard the result yet to be attained as a foregone conclusion, instead of looking upon the system in a philosophic spirit and as an experiment in course of trial, and one which had certainly not failed.