THE EARL OF MEATH
My Lords, I rise to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War when an answer may be expected to the application of the head-master of the Grocers' Company's School for the recognition of his school battalion as a non-uniformed cadet corps, in accordance with a reply which the noble Earl gave to my question of 16th December last.† It may be in the recollection of some of your Lordships that on that day I asked the Under Secretary several questions connected with cadets, and the noble Earl, in replying, professed great alarm, and said he would have to take his courage in both hands to reply to my most formidable list of questions. Why the noble Earl should have been so alarmed I cannot tell. One of those questions† See (4) Debates, cxvi., 1304.1762 was in the sense of the one I have just asked, which certainly is not very alarming; it simply appertains to the clothing of little boys. I think that perhaps the alarm that was professed by the noble Earl did not apply to this request, because, while in answering the other questions which I submitted, he laid great stress upon the fearful financial burdens they would involve, in replying to this particular question I was very glad to hear him say he admitted that the suggestion would have very little financial effect. He went on to say—I believe the only additional cost would be the charges for the instruction of such officers as might be granted commissions. If the noble Earl is convinced that a uniform is not required, and that boys would be induced to join these corps if they were allowed to do so without the wearing of uniform being obligatory, I see no reason why the Secretary of State should not grant the request.The Secretary of State had already previously given expression to similar views. On November 25th a deputation from the Lads Drill Association waited on Mr. Brodrick. Amongst other matters they brought this question of non-uniformed cadet corps to his attention, and in his reply he stated that he could see no objection to the request being granted. In consequence of having these two replies, those who had attended the deputation to the right hon. Gentleman and those who supported me in this House seemed to think that the privilege had been granted, and so Mr. Gull, who is the headmaster of the Grocers' Company's School, and has taken very great interest indeed in all matters connected with cadets, and who, I may add, is the chairman of the Headmasters Association and chairman also of their Military Training Committee, and consequently the representative of a very large body of masters, addressed a letter to the Secretary of State for War drawing attention to the reply that had been made in this House by the noble Earl, and requesting that his corps might be authorised as a non-uniformed public school junior Volunteer corps. Up to this date there has been no reply, unless the reply has been sent since I placed this notice on the Paper, and I cannot make out why there should have been such delay. Have the War Office changed their mind or have they not? In 1763 the face of the reply which the Secretary of State for War gave to the deputation, and in face of the statement of the noble Earl the Under-Secretary, I hardly think they can have changed their mind. Why is it, then, there has been any delay in replying? It does not seem a formidable matter as to whether little boys are to be put into uniform or not, and the Under Secretary himself admits that it will involve no very large additional charge on the country. Can it be that the War Office are unable to find in the pigeon-holes of the Department any stereotyped reply—I know they are very fond of stereotyped replies—to give to Mr. Gull? If there is no stereotyped reply I shall be very glad indeed, because I think that in regard to this matter they should fall back upon their own intelligence and form a precedent.
I would like to draw your Lordships' attention to some remarks which were made by Mr. Gull at the deputation referred to, for I think he very clearly put before the Secretary of State the reasons why it was advisable that some schools should be permitted to allow their lads who wished to drill not to be in uniform. I want to make it perfectly clear to your Lordships that neither Mr. Gull nor anyone else desires to lay down any rule for others. He quite recognises that Eton, Harrow, Winchester and all the great schools where boys are sent from the upper and richer classes, are quite anxious and desirous that they should be put into uniform. The uniform is an attraction to the lads, but, on the other hand, there are a large number of schools filled by the sons of gentlemen of just as good birth, but whose purses are not so long as those of parents who send their sons to Eton and Harrow; and it is a matter of serious consideration to those parents when they are asked to supply a uniform for their sons to drill in. The result is that these lads are unable to learn the use of arms in early youth. I believe we ought to do all we can to train our young men from the ages of fourteen to eighteen in the use of arms. These young men, many of whom will afterwards, no doubt, enter the Army as officers, are unable in their early years to learn anything connected with the military profession. Quite irrespective 1764 of that, the head masters of these schools believe that this constitutes a very excellent training for the lads in the way of discipline. Mr. Gull says—The aim of both the Head Masters Conference and the Head Masters Association—two bodies which together represent the whole of the public secondary schools—is that every boy, if in sufficient bodily health, in their schools should be trained in the use of arms. This object can never be attained by cadet corps, for the conditions laid down for them prevent universal enrolment.That is to say, they are obliged to have uniform, and as long as uniform is necessary the drill has to be carried on in play time, whereas if they were not required to have uniforms it could be carried on in school time as part of the curriculum of the school. Mr. Gull goes, on to say—No school can make military service in a cadet corps part of its ordinary curriculum. The wearing of uniform is the real crux. So long as uniform is compulsory so long enrolment must be voluntary. I venture to submit that from the point of view of the national safety the important point is that all boys should be trained to shoot straight, to move at the word of command, and to be accustomed to obey the military signals. I look forward to the time, which I admit has not yet arrived, when no school shall be permitted to have a cadet corps which has not also universal military training.I have heard a rumour—I hope it is not true—that the War Office, unable to find a stereotyped reply in their pigeon-holes, and undesirous of using their own intelligence in the matter, are going to throw the whole responsibility of deciding this question on to the Royal Commission on Militia and Volunteers. I hope it is not true. I cannot for one moment imagine that His Majesty's Government would do anything which to my mind would seem so utterly ridiculous. What we want is that the War Office should themselves take the responsibility of deciding this matter. We want to see these lads at work during this summer, and if we are to wait till a Royal Commission—a Royal Commission which has absolutely nothing to do with little boys, but has been appointed to decide questions with regard, to the Militia and Volunteers—has reported, I do not know when we may get to work. The Grocers' Company's School has been giving sound military training for the last twenty-two years. The Head Masters Association has been recently taking active steps to encourage 1765 military training in their schools. They have sent out a series of questions to all the schools under their authority, and have received answers with regard to those schools that have military training and those that have not. These show that 201 already give training in military drill, and 103 give instruction in shooting on Morris Tube targets. The present is the psychological moment. The public schools of the country are ready to undertake this duty. They ask only for cordial recognition and helpful sympathy; they do not ask for money grants. The application from the Grocers' Company's School is a test case. The only difference between this application and others is that uniforms should not be required; and the sole object of this change is to enable schools to train the whole of their boys in military drill and in shooting, as part of the school course under official supervision, which is impossible so long as the regulation with respect to uniforms is in force. There can be no question that this school training, adequately given, will greatly increase the military strength of the Empire, and I trust that the War Office will see their way to grant this request.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The EARL of HARD-WICKE)
My Lords, the specific question asked is, What reply is going to be sent to Mr. Gull's application to allow a corps to be formed without the boys being compelled to wear uniform? and my answer is that Mr. Gull is already aware that the matter is going to be, among other questions, referred to the Royal Commission—not the specific question as regards the wearing of uniform, but a much larger question, which this application is involved in. I will deal with that in a moment. When the noble Earl feigned such innocence as to whether it was true that this matter was going before the Royal Commission it seemed to me a little unnecessary, inasmuch as I myself wrote to say that it was going to be so referred, and I understand that the noble Earl is aware that I wrote that letter.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
Mr. Gull, at any rate, has received it. The noble Earl referred to remarks I made at the end of last year in replying to some questions he asked me, and he quoted, quite accurately, the statement I made with regard to the point in question. I certainly stated that I did not see any reason why the Secretary of State should not grant the request, but I also went on to point out that as regards the supply of arms, which is a very important matter, the difficulty was to know to what extent the War Office might be committed financially. The question whether a cadet corps wears a uniform or not I consider to be a very small one, but if the War Office sanction cadet corps without uniform it may result in a very large number of these cadet corps being formed. That would necessitate the War Office supplying to them 50 per cent. of serviceable arms and 50 per cent. of what are known as D.P. arms, and the War Office do not see their way to supply an unlimited amount of arms. At the present moment we have only 3,500 single-loading carbines available, and we require 9,000 for Volunteer noncommissioned officers and men and staff sergeants, and we have promised 5,400 rifles to uniformed cadet corps, so that even if we allowed this corps to be formed, at the present moment we could not possibly supply the arms, and if we are unable to supply arms it seems unnecessary to allow the cadet corps to be formed. The question that is going to be referred to the Royal Commission is, as I have said, a very much larger one. The question is, how far it is right that Army funds should be charged with the expenses of these cadet corps. We recently made an offer to cadet battalions of a bounty on each boy who joined the Regular Army, but that offer did not commend itself to the authorities concerned. They replied that they did not wish to be associated with the Army in any way, and that to let it be known that a bounty was given to any boy who joined the Regular forces would deter parents from allowing their boys to join these battalions. 1767 In these circumstances I think the question arises, if it is merely physical drill that these boys require, whether it is right that Army funds should be charged with the expenses? And that is a question we propose to put before the Royal Commission. In the meantime, I am afraid we shall be unable to give any decision with regard to the various applications that come from time to time from cadet corps and cadet battalions.
THE EARL OF MEATH
The remarks of the noble Earl as regards the bounty are confined to cadet battalions, which are filled with lads of very much lower status.