§ LORD BURGHCLERE
My Lords, I rise to call attention to the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War with regard to the reorganisation of the Army, and, if necessary, to move for further Papers on the subject. No one in this House is more conscious than I am that in the remarks which I shall venture to address to you with regard to this Memorandum I shall require the fullest indulgence which your Lordships can give me; but, at the same time, I am equally certain that the subject of this Memorandum, the new Army scheme as put forward by the Secretary of State, is a matter which requires no apology whatever for bringing forward in your Lordships' House. It is a subject of vital interest to the nation at large, and as there seems no indication that His Majesty's Government proposes themselves to make a statement on the subject in this House, or to draw our 681 attention to it, it is only natural that at this waning period of the session we should take the first opportunity that presents itself in order to bring the subject under your Lordships' attention, and to obtain some further elucidation from His Majesty's Government.
In this Memorandum we are invited by the Secretary of State to approach this question outside the arena of Party discussion, and the Secretary of State shows in his Memorandum that if we do not do so there is not much chance of his scheme being a success. I suppose that the Secretary of State means by "outside the arena of Party discussion," that we should put it, as it is called, above Party. That is an ideal to which for my part I am very sympathetic in regard to matters of such high national import as the Navy and Army—I put them in their historical precedence—but, at this, same time, political strife and political Party feeling is the very breath of our Parliamentary nostrils, and it is difficult for us when a subject is brought forward by the Government of the day to entirely eliminate from our discussion of it that feeling which is so common to both of the great Parties of the State. But if His Majesty's Government really wish to take us into their confidence and to ask us to assist them, as it were, in the discussion of this scheme of national import, I think it follows as a matter of course that His Majesty's Government should extend to us also their fullest confidence in the matter, that they should lay before us a definite scheme on which they have come to a final opinion, and not ask us to go into council and discuss with them matters on which they themselves, as far as I can see, have not finally arrived at a determination.
Before I venture to criticise in any detail the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War, I would ask to be allowed, in the first place, to point to several matters in it which are on this side of the House believed to be in the right direction, and for which we have a considerable sympathy. In the first place, I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State on having once and for all exploded the notion that a vast Army 682 on the Continental model is necessary for I the defence of this country. I venture to congratulate His Majesty's Government that they have at last arrived at the conclusion that it is not necessary to have a great number of Army Corps, millions of men, and all the paraphernalia of a vast Continental Army in order to defend frontiers which do not exist, or to repulse vast bodies of invaders who cannot possibly land on our shores. I am delighted to find that His Majesty's Government have at last come the conclusion that a huge Army on this Continental method is a proposition which our insular position does not demand from us as a necessity, and which our financial position forbids us as a luxury.
In the second place, I wish to congratulate His Majesty's Government and the Secretary of State on their desire in the direction of economy. on their recognition that economy is necessary in our national expenditure, and that, if we are to economise, the War Office is one of the great spending Departments in which economies can rightly and properly be made. I am sure your Lordships will agree that vast as are the resources of this great country, and great as is our financial position, yet with this enormous burden of expenditure which, year after year, is increasing upon our shoulders, the time must arrive when there will be a limit to that expenditure. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that economy should be effected in some direction or another, and I am glad to put upon record that His Majesty's Government have to-day considered the Army and the War Office as departments in which economy may be justly exercised. That is a proposition which we accept on this side of the House, and I am sure that successive Governments will not forget it when they come into office.
I am one of those who fully recognise that the Army and the Navy are our national insurances against national disaster, and that great as may be the burden of taxation that may fall upon our shoulders in order to keep these insurances in proper state, yet at the same time the burden of disaster which might fall upon us in the event of defeat would 683 be even greater than the burden of taxation we now have to bear if that taxation is put upon the proper shoulders. I recognise that in the War Office, as in every great Department, inefficiency has in the past spelt waste and extravagance, and that efficiency, which is what, I suppose, the Secretary of State aims at by this scheme, may in the future spell economy without any danger to the State. I have not finished my list of congratulations yet. I wish also to congratulate the Secretary of State on having definitely, and, as I believe, for all time, laid the bogey of compulsory service in our Army in this country. That is a spectre of which we have seen a good deal in the country of late, and.I think occasionally it has flitted somewhat fitfully through your Lordships' Chamber; but I think we may now take it for granted, after this statement of the Government, that once and for all the system of compulsory service, and, possibly, the system of the Ballot Act, has been done away with as regards this country for all time.
I am sure we all have great sympathy with the doctrine that every able-bodied citizen of a certain age should be called upon to defend his country against those who invade it; but, at the same time, I think that the history of this country shows that, while our people are prepared to carry out that doctrine, they wish that the service should be a voluntary one and not a compulsory one. I remember only the other day hearing my noble friend Lord Wemyss, in a debate which took place in this House, tell us, wishing to show that the Ballot Act was much easier for the people than conscription, that conscription is like shooting people down wholesale whilst the Ballot Act is only decimating them. If that is the best case that can be made out for compulsory service by those who support it, then I do not think it will commend itself to the country.
But there is one overwhelming reason why compulsory service is not fitting to this country, and that is the limited size of our Army. On the Continent conscription means that every citizen has to pass through the army, but in this country, if I understand the well-meaning efforts of my friends who are in favour of conscrip- 684 tion, they say that our recruiting system has broken down—they may be right—that we therefore want to supplement the present recruiting system by a body of people who will reinforce our regiments, and that as they do not come voluntarily we must get them compulsorily. But that is not conscription. You cannot pick out a certain number of men and say they shall join. That is the press gang, not conscription. Conscription means that every man in the country must serve, and then it follows that the expense that would be entailed would raise the cost of the Army to about three times its present cost. We have gratefully to acknowledge that His Majesty's Government have once and for all put an end to that bogey, and we need not fear for the future that recourse will be had to it.
I now come to the Memorandum of the Secretary of State, which, in my humble opinion, is founded upon one doctrine—a doctrine with which we, on this side, I believe, have the completest sympathy. I refer to what it called the theory of the "blue water school." I need not explain to your Lordships what the theory of the blue water school really is. What it comes to is this, that the supremacy of our Fleet renders it only necessary for us to maintain an Army here to protect us against accidental raids. It is not necessary to maintain a huge Army, because invasion in force is impossible under modern conditions. I think there is a good deal to be said for that. Personally I should be very sorry to be on board an enemy's flotilla, anchored off the coast of England. With our present system of destroyers in the channel, our present torpedo system, and our submarine boats, I do not think that there can be any doubt what would happen to such a flotilla.
The adoption of the theory of the blue water school is the absolute bed-rock foundation of the whole system of the Secretary of State for War. For my part I welcome it, but I am bound to say that it is a momentous decision. It is the first time, I believe, that any Government bas given its official sanction to the doctrine of the blue water school. It is a momentous decision, and it must have in the future 685 very far-reaching effects. Incidentally, the adoption of that theory will bring about a co-ordination between the two great Departments—the War Office on the one hand, and the Admiralty on the other. The man in the street has for a long time past thought, rightly or wrongly, and, I believe, rightly, that with regard to the defence of these islands, the schemes of the War Office and the Admiralty have practically been in water-tight compartments, one of them, the Admiralty, saying we can rest for the defence of these shores on the Navy, and the other, the War Office, saying that we cannot rest on the Navy but must have a huge Army. I think that incidentally the adoption of the theory of the blue water school has brought about a very great benefit both in the matter of the efficiency of the public service and the economy of our national expenditure.
The theory of the blue water school is the bed-rock principle, in my humble opinion, upon which this scheme is founded. What does the Secretary of State propose? He is able, by adopting this theory, to propose a reduction of what he calls an enormous Army. He is able to propose that we should have two smaller efficient armies, and he is able to propose for the first time a great economy of expenditure owing to the reduction in the number of men. He is going, as I understand it, to create two systems—one for general service abroad and one which he calls a territorial Army at home. There are many, I know, who wish to address your Lordships on this subject to-night who will speak with greater authority than myself, and I will, therefore, confine the few remarks that I still have to make to the territorial Army which the Secretary of State proposes to create, and to the infantry of that Army, to which he himself principally refers.
I gather from the speech of the Secretary of State, and the Memorandum, that in the creation of this Army he proposes to have thirty-eight Regular battalions of the Line only—battalions 500 strong, instead of 8OO. They are to have their full complement of officers so that in case of a general war these battalions can be raised to their full war strength without having to import other 686 officers. And to that—and this is the principal point I wish to raise—the Secretary of State proposes to add a certain number of battalions from the Militia. If I understand his scheme correctly, the men in those battalions from the Militia are to become Regular soldiers under all the conditions of the Line at the present moment. In other words, they are to belong to the territorial Army and will be bound to go abroad in the event of serious war, and serve in exactly the same manner as the Regular Army. I venture to think I shall be able to show to your Lordships that as the theory of the blue water school is the bed-rock foundation of the scheme of the Secretary of State, so the absorption and consequent partial abolition of the Militia is the only means by which he can carry out that reduction of the Army and that economy which he undoubtedly has at heart.
The territorial Army is to be smaller, of course, and is to be more efficient. The whole scheme of the Secretary of State is to have a smaller Army, an efficient Army, and to bring about economy, and it follows as a matter of course that if he really wishes to be economical, and, at the same time, to have an efficient Army, he must cut his territorial Army down to what I will venture to call an effective minimum. That is to say, everybody who belongs to that Army must be an effective soldier, and must he prepared to serve abroad when called upon. That I consider to be the pivot of the right hon. Gentlemen's scheme—the absorption and abolition of certain battalions of Militia. By that the scheme rises or falls. I do not think it is possible to carry out this scheme. Of course, you may bring in another scheme containing, perhaps, many of the advantages which the right hon. Gentleman has in his Memorandum, but this particular scheme on which we are invited by His Majesty's Government to give our countrymen advice, hangs entirely on the absorption and the abolition of the Militia as we understand the Militia.
I do not wonder that His Majesty's Government hesitated to give their assent to so sweeping a change as this. The history of the Militia is one which I am sure the people of this country 687 look upon with honour and respect. The traditions of that ancient citizen Army are revered by every one who knows the history of this country. The Government naturally hesitated, as I say, to abolish the Militia; but if they thought it vital to the scheme that the Militia should be absorbed or abolished, then I think His Majesty's Government should have put the safety of the country even before the sentiment of the people, brought in a whole-hearted scheme embodying the wishes and the intentions of the Secretary of State, and assented to the absorption of certain Militia battalions and to the abolition of those that were unnecessary. But, if they thought that was wrong, as it may be, they should not have put this scheme before the country; they should have waited some time. If they were not prepared to go the length of the Secretary of State and give every chance to his scheme to be carried in its entirety and with every possibility of success, then for the sake of the country they ought to have put forward another scheme and one founded on a different principle altogether.
I suppose this Memorandum is an official document. It is rather unusual that a speech made in another place by a Minister should be issued as an official document; but that is a matter of no concern. I find in this summary, with regard to the territorial Army, to which, as I have said, I shall mainly confine my remarks, that the Secretary of State informs us on his own authority, and with the assent, I suppose, of his colleagues, that the making of a true territorial Army is dependent upon the amalgamation of the Militia with the Line. That is to say, the abolition of the Militia, as we know it, is the only way in which to bring about a true territorial Army, and that can only be done" if public opinion will allow." But how is His Majesty's Government going to find out whether public opinion will allow or not? Are they going to send a referendum to the constituencies during the recess? Are they going to start a league for getting the citizens of this country to allow them to abolish the Militia; or are they going to take their opinions from some of the popular journals of the day? I venture to think that the only way in which a responsible Government can 688 arrive at what public opinion will allow or, not is to lay before both Houses of Parliament a definite, final, and reasoned scheme by which the Government are prepared to stand or fall, and not by circulating a Paper of this indefinite nature.
The fact of the matter is, the abolition of the Militia, whether it be right or wrong, is the foundation of the Secretary of State's scheme, and the insertion of "if public opinion will allow," was a concession, I suppose, to those who did not agree with him when the matter was discussed. If it is to be left in that nebulous and unsatisfactory state you are going to raise a huge superstructure of vital and great importance to the country upon a foundation which the Government themselves consider absolutely unsettled. Let us consider what will happen. If public opinion will allow, we are to have a true territorial Army, but how are we to get the reduction of forces and the economy of expenditure? I suppose the Secretary of State will go on creating his territorial Army, which must be an efficient Army, and, above all, it must be an Army which is bound to serve abroad whenever wanted. I do not think that either the Duke of Norfolk's Commission or the Secretary of State left us in any doubt that the position of the Militia at the present time is not an effective one, and the Secretary of State draws our attention to the fact that the Militia is not bound to serve abroad. We know that, much to their honour and glory, they have volunteered in great numbers in the past, but if you are going to create an effective minimum of a territorial Army, every person in it must be efficient and prepared to go abroad and serve abroad if necessary. The Militia are not bound to serve abroad, and I deduce from that that the Secretary of State will leave the Militia and say we are to have a territorial Army from which we are to get economy of expenditure, plus the Militia, which will be maintained at a certain strength in order to supply the Army with recruits every year. I contend that that is a very expensive way for the nation to get its recruits.
There is one other condition which I fancy is in the mind of His Majesty's Government, and probably of the Secretary of State. If public opinion will 689 not allow this at the present moment, says the Secretary of State, he thinks public opinion might allow it nine months or a year hence. How will that affect the reduction of expenditure? You will have your territorial Army formed; the Secretary of State will have spent public money on improving the Militia force; and if a year hence public opinion will allow this proposal, then all this money which has been spent upon the Militia in order to bring it to an effective state, plus the territorial Army, will be thrown away. Whatever our opinion may be as to the retention or abolition of the Militia, there can be no question that the scheme of the Government rests entirely on the abolition of the Militia and the amalgamation of certain Militia battalions with the Regular Line forces.
I really placed this Notice on the Paper, not for the purpose of giving any final criticism on the scheme as a whole, but fur the purpose of obtaining from His Majesty's Government some further elucidation of what I venture to think is a difficult document to understand, and also of evoking in your Lordships' House the opinions and counsels of many noble Lords who are so well qualified to speak on questions affecting the Army. No doubt we shall have a speech from the noble Earl the Under-Secretary. He will, I am sure, agree with me that on this side of the House at any rate, his efforts and his ability during the short time he has been at the War Office have not been unappreciated; but there is another in this House who can speak with even greater authority on the subject. I allude to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. The noble Marquess speaks with an authority in the Government second only to the Prime Minister. He speaks with authority in this House, being its Leader, but he speaks with special authority on this particular subject because he himself has administered the great Department of the War Office during a time of special stress and special difficulty. How great that stress and difficulty were the Government themselves have confessed by the appointment of the Esher Committee and Lord Elgin's Commission, and by this second scheme which they have put forward in four years. Therefore, I venture to hope we shall not be 690 deprived in this debate of the counsel and advice of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House.
As I have said, we have been called upon by the Secretary of State to throw aside all Party feeling on this subject. If the Government will give us their real opinion, if they will give us a scheme which represents their final opinion on this subject, then I do say, with regard to such questions as the Army and Navy and national defence, they are subjects on which we should try to rise above Party feeling; and if we receive from the Government a scheme of the description I have mentioned, though we are bound on this side to criticise minutely such a scheme, still our criticism in those circumstances would take the form rather of assistance and amendment than an endeavour to attack and destroy. It was in that spirit that I put down this Notice, and it is in that spirit that I have ventured to commend it to your Lordships.
My Lords, as it is; not often that I avail myself of the privilege of addressing your Lordships' House, I trust I may claim your attention for a few moments in this debate. First of all, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the somewhat peculiar attitude in which it stands in regard to the matter of Army reform. Your Lordships will recollect that it is some eighteen months ago since we discussed Mr. Brodrick's scheme of Army reform in this House. Your Lordships expressed your approval of that scheme by a majority of, roughly, I think, four to one. In the light of recent events it is a little difficult to understand how this scheme was passed by such a large majority. Whether it was due to something peculiarly seductive in the term Army Corps, or whether it was due to the persuasiveness of my noble friends Lord Waldegrave and Lord Churchill, I do not know; but, at any rate, I know that that scheme was passed by this very large majority. And now what do we find from the statement of the Secretary of State himself? We find that as a result of this scheme the Army is imperfectly prepared for war, is wasteful in its methods, is unsatisfactory in its results, and is one of the most costly 691 machines ever devised. That is the statement of the Secretary of State for War in another place. I do not wish to dwell further on this aspect of the question except to express a hope that in your next attempt to deal with this question of Army reform your Lordships will meet with better success.
The next event in the military world after that discussion in your Lordships' House was the issue of the Report of the Esher Committee. That Report has already been called attention to in this House by the Duke of Bedford, and has been fully discussed, so I will not say more than that it is a matter of doubt to many people besides myself how a Committee consisting, as this one did, of an energetic sailor, a retired soldier, and a distinguished courtier and retired man of business, was able to effect a complete reformation of the whole of the War Office organisation in so short a time as three months. If you wished to reform any other Department, say, the Inland Revenue or the Admiralty, I do not believe you would expect a detailed reform in that short time. Although, no doubt, many of the reforms instituted by that Committee are such as will commend themselves to your Lordships' House; still, I cannot help thinking that some of the minor reforms will be found difficult to work.
Since the publication of the Report of the Esher Committee the War Office has been in a state of chaos, for after that came the War Office deluge. Officers of European reputation were dismissed from their appointments wholesale. Some of these were forthwith put upon the shelf; others were subjected to a treatment not wholly dissimilar from that accorded to another distinguished soldier of a bygone age. I allude to that gallant and harshly treated officer Udall the Hittite. Some of these officers have been sent to the scene of war in the Far East, and I hope that in their capacity as military attachés they will escape the inconveniences occasionally incidental to being placed in the forefront of battle. These officers, as I say, were summarily dismissed. Your Lordships in dismissing a servant or retainer, in dismissing, say, a groom of the chambers or a footman, give at least one month's notice. It is a matter for regrot that similar courtesy could not have been 692 extended to officers who had spent the greater part of their lives in His Majesty's service.
These, as Lord Rosebery once said, are questions of taste and temperament. I will not deal further with them except to touch on one case, that of General Nicholson. It is, I believe, a matter of common knowledge that General Nicholson is the ablest intelligence officer in our Army to-day. As an intelligence officer it has been his duty to draw up schemes and memorandums for War Office reforms and for Army reorganisation. It is also, I believe, no secret that General Nicholson provided many of the memorandums for the Esher Committee upon which they acted, and I put it to your Lordships whether it is not rather hard that the authorities should take a man's memorandums, his schemes, and use the outlines laid down, and then, instead of giving this officer a chance of tendering his advice on the details of his schemes, send him thousands of miles away where his advice cannot -be obtained. I am not speaking on behalf of General Nicholson personally. No doubt he prefers being in Japan or anywhere else to being in the War Office at the present time. But it does seem to me, in the interests of this country, false economy to send the greatest expert we have on Army reorganisation out of the country at the very time when his services are most required.
Some months after the Report of the Esher Committee was issued, there came the Report of the Duke of Norfolk's Commission. I do not propose to discuss the vexed question of conscription or compulsory service. In my humble judgment the question of compulsory service is altogether outside the domain of practical politics to-day, but I cannot quite agree with my noble friend Lord Burghclere in his acquiescence in the statement of Mr. Arnold-Forster that the introduction of conscription would add some £25,000,000 to the Army Estimates. I do not think that was a correct or a fair statement to make. I had hoped that the Duke of Norfolk would have been in his place to-day to have given us his views on this question, because it is a totally incorrect statement to have made. Mr. Arnold-Forster, in alluding to this subject, also seemed 693 to go out of his way to cast a doubt upon the industry of your Lordships' House; but that is not the matter to which I wish to allude. I do not think it was a fair argument to use to say that the introduction of compulsory service would add this large sum to the Army Estimates. It would probably cost very little more than our present system. I do not state this in defence of the Duke of Norfolk or his colleagues, who I am well aware are perfectly able to defend themselves; but I would like to cite it as an instance of the treatment which is generally accorded now-a-days to anybody connected with the Auxiliary Forces. Whether you serve in the Yeomanry, the Volunteers, or the Militia—and it applies especially to the Militia—you cannot escape being snubbed by the powers that be.
I should like to go into detail in the case of the Militia. That force sent 43,000 men to the war in South Africa. Since their return from that country they have been ignored or neglected, except when some highly placed officer has gone out of his way to snub them. How can you, therefore, wonder that the Militia is 30,000 below strength to-day? In South Africa I was on trek with a Militia battalion. I have seen the work of several Militia battalions in the war, and though I do not pretend, nor would any Militia officer lay claim, that the Militia battalions can be rated so high as the Line battalions, yet the particular Militia battalion with whom I went on trek would well stand comparison with some of our Regular battalions in the service. Therefore, I trust that His Majesty's Government will go most carefully into this question before they do anything to merge this force into the Line, or to abolish it altogether. Under this new scheme the immediate future of the Militia connot be described as very bright, for what naturally will happen is this: that a great many of those men who would formerly have enlisted in the Militia will now enlist in the short-service home Army. Therefore, I am afraid that unless some active steps are taken the Militia is bound to be still further reduced in numbers, and then I think it is possible that the threats of the Secretary of State for War against this force may be carried out.
694 I will only add one word with regard to the rest of the scheme. The Army, General Lyttelton told us the other day, is in the melting pot. It has remained for so long in the melting pot that it has shown unmistakable signs of melting away altogether. Now, at last, it is tenderly, carefully, possibly I may say tentatively, withdrawn from the melting pot, a poor bedraggled creature, I fear, in comparison with the gaudy, pretentious article that went into the melting pot some months ago. I have read with interest the criticisms which have appeared of Mr. Arnold-Forster's scheme. I cannot share the pessimism of my noble friend Lord Wemyss, who said, or is reported to have said, that the whole scheme was only another castle in the air. I do not think that that is quite a fair view to take.
I have also read the comments in the Berlin and Paris Press. I find it stated that Germany has ceased to take British Army schemes seriously, and the Paris journals also fail to take any editorial notice of the new scheme. Yet in my humble judgment there is very much in this scheme that is good. For instance, there is the abolition of drafts from home battalions to foreign-service battalions, there is the enlargement and improvement of our depots, and there are many other points in this scheme which I believe will work wholly for the good of the service. But there is one grave defect, a defect so grave that I cannot overlook it. According to the new system you will want some 20,000 men annually for your drafts for the foreign-service Army. You pay the men in your foreign-service Army, I believe, 1s. 6d. a day. I am not quite sure whether I am right.
You have already seen the three-years system break down at that rate of par, and it is a well-known fact that the longer the period the 695 more men dislike it. Therefore, it will be impossible for you to get the number of recruits you want for your foreign-service Army unless you greatly increase the rate of pay. This question of recruiting is a very serious one. In fact, it is the most serious with which we have to deal. In or about the year B.C. 1670, as far as my biblical knowledge goes, a nation not wanting in astuteness discovered to their cost that it was impossible to make bricks without straw. Here, in the year of our Lord, 1904, the Government of the greatest Empire the world has ever seen appears to ignore the fact that it is impossible to have an Army without men. Unless you raise the pay of these men to somewhere about 2s. or 2s. 6d. a day, I venture to think you will certainly not get them; and if you do raise their pay to this figure, what, then, is to become of your Army Estimates? There are other smaller defects in this scheme with which I will not weary your Lordships by discussing to-day. In conclusion, I will venture to make a personal appeal to the Under-Secretary. I fear that from my somewhat outspoken criticisms he is not likely to be well disposed towards myself, but I make this appeal to him, not as a Member of this House, but as a member of the Army Council. It seems to me that as a member of that Council he has more power and more influence than any of his predecessors in his office. He has shown us in this House this session, as my noble friend Lord Burghclere has said, that he possesses considerable ability and considerable persuasive powers. I ask him to look into this question of recruiting for himself. I ask him to go into it and give it his fullest attention, and to urge upon his colleagues the necessity of taking it up at once. If he and his colleagues can solve this question, then I say that no praise will be too high for them. But if they fail, then it is quite certain that this scheme will be merely another of those kaleidoscopic changes which have been such failures in recent years and which will prove equally futile in the future.
§ EARL ROBERTS
My Lords, the question under debate to-day is of such supreme importance to the Army and to the nation at large that I most earnestly hope it will not be decided upon without 696 the most careful consideration and investigation. I have always been in favour of progress and reform in the Army, and I will continue to advocate any change which, in my opinion, will tend to make the profession to which I have the honour to belong as efficient as it is possible to be. But, my Lords, I would remind you that change does not always spell efficiency or improvement. I believe that the Army is now suffering from an endeavour hastily to respond to the uninformed and irresponsible clamour for change that came after the war in South Africa. Any change now made in the same hasty manner may make things worse than they are at present. Reform, I admit, is undoubtedly needed, but it must be most carefully thought out. It is not advisable to take up this large scheme of reform at the fag end of the session, when there is no time for full examination. There are many points in the Secretary of State's scheme which commend themselves to me; but there are others which do not commend themselves to me, and which I believe would be detrimental to the interests of the Army. At any rate, I think it is most desirable that we should know exactly what the effects of these changes will be in the Army before they are carried out. The Royal Commission presided over by the Earl of Elgin clearly showed our shortcomings—shortcomings which it is our bounden duty to endeavour to remedy. But whatever those shortcomings may be, I would remind your Lordships that the Army of the present day is vastly superior to the Army in the time of the Crimean War. I venture to say that it would not have been possible for the Army of 1855 to have carried to a satisfactory conclusion the war of 1899–1902. It behoves us, therefore, to be very cautious in accepting changes—changes which, to a very great extent, are contrary to the reforms which enabled us to be successful in south Africa.
* VISCOUNT HARDINGE
My Lords, I think the problem we have to solve at the present moment as regards the Army is how to procure the men we require, not only in the matter of numbers but also in the matter of intelligence and physique; that is to say, how we can induce the pick of the manhood of the nation, not the dregs of it which we have 697 hitherto had in our Army, to join the ranks of His Majesty's forces. As my noble friend Lord Denman truly said, it is but a short time ago that Mr. Brodrick, the then Secretary of State for War, told us that he could very easily fill up the Army by having a short service of three years, with the promise of a further increase if willing to extend for a longer period, and thereby being available for service abroad. He further stated that he would grant the soldier all sorts of indulgences. He promised that he would do away as much as he possibly could with garrison guards and regimental guards, thereby reducing very considerably that hateful thing to the soldier, sentry-go; that he would allow well-behaved men to sleep out of barracks; that in all new barracks cubicles should be provided for the men, and also that soldiers when they pass the recruits' course should have free messing, for which in former years they were charged 3d. per day. In spite of all these inducements we find that the men are not forthcoming.
In order to keep our forces abroad up to their proper establishment, the Government are paying large sums of money in bounties to induce men to extend their service. This is an expensive procedure. It gives us, no doubt, splendid men of fine physique, but it must not be forgotten that this procedure is greatly reducing the Reserve of the Army. When the Secretary of State for War is devising some scheme for getting the men he requires for the Army, I cannot understand why he does not ask himself why there is no difficulty in getting good men for the cavalry, notwithstanding the fact that the duties of the cavalry are double those of their brothers in arms, the infantrymen. In my opinion, the answer is perfectly plain. The smart uniform of the mounted forces is what induces smart men to join. That being the case, why is it not possible to invent some smart uniform for the infantry of the Line? Up to now, to use an expression one often hears used in the Army, the uniform can only be called shoddy, and it has prevented smart men from joining the Army.
Another important inducement and encouragement to good men to come into 698 the Army would be a declaration by the Government that in future appointments in the Civil administration would be open to men who had served their country well in the Army and Navy. Perhaps this is a problem with which the Secretary of State is thinking of dealing, for he alluded in his speech the other day to the employment of Reservists. He, however, told us in that speech that he hoped to get men for the Army by allowing them to enlist for two years and to serve longer in the Reserve. No doubt he will get those men and be able to form a very large Reserve; but, as Lord Denham said just now, I do not believe he will get the 20,000 long-service recruits that he will require very nearly every year in order to fill up the ranks of the long-service Army. For that reason I adhere to what I said last week, that the true solution of the recruiting difficulty is some form of compulsory service for home defence. I say this in spite of Mr. Arnold-Foster's figures as to the cost, which I venture to say are absolutely inaccurate. I think that the saving would be immense, whilst the indirect economic gain to the nation is such that no people without it can hope in these and days to come to hold a high position amongst the nations of the world.
I now pass to the Militia, to which I have the honour to belong, and I must candidly confess that I do not understand the proposals of the Secretary of State with regard to this force. I am glad to think, however, that he has been induced to reconsider the case of the Militia, which I confidently believe he had a very stroll; idea of abolishing. I do not think that the War Minister is to be congratulated on the tone of his references to the defects and deficiencies of the Militia—defects and deficiences for which the War Office has itself long been responsible. Apparently he thinks otherwise, and I suppose it is for this reason that these rumours have been floating about with regard to the abolition of the Militia. I am glad to think that the noble Marquess the Leader of this House, who has himself been a distinguished War Minister, does not think the Militia responsible for its defects, for speaking 699 in your Lordships' House the other day he said—I am bound to confess that it seems to me that the Auxiliary Forces have not sufficiently received the consideration for many years past which we have certainly of late desired to give them.I entirely agree with the noble Marquess in that statement, and I venture to hope that he, in conjunction with other noble Lords in His Majesty's Government who command Militia Regiments, will see that this old constitutional force is not unfairly dealt with. I trust that the Under-Secretary of State will explain what is proposed to be done with this force, as the uncertainty which at present hangs over it is most unfair to officers, noncommissioned officers, and men.
§ LORD HENEAGE
My Lords, I hope I may be allowed for a few moments to deal with one or two of the points in the Memorandum which require explanation. I was exceedingly glad to hear my noble friend Lord Burghclere say that he considered that money spent on the Army and Navy was a national insurance, and that he does not grudge money well spent on those forces. I cannot, however, entirely agree with him when he says that Mr. Arnold-Forster's scheme is based solely upon the theory of the blue water school, because I find it distinctly stated in the Memorandum that if we have the command of the sea we can prevent any invading army landing, and that if we have not the command of the sea it will not be necessary for an army to land as the meaty could starve us into submission. That is the practical view of the question. If we lose the command of the sea; it will not take three months, with the amount of bread and flour there is in this country, to compel us into submission. Therefore, the one great thing is to prevent the Navy from losing that power, to keep it up to its full strength. I do not think we want a very large Army for home defence.
The foundation of Mr. Arnold-Forster's scheme is to be found in the abolition of the linked battalion system, with all its evil effects on the Line and on the Militia, and the division of the Army into a general-service and a home-service Army. There can be no doubt that Mr. Arnold-Forster's condemnation of the linked battalion system was unequivocal 700 and complete, and I believe it was absolutely justified. This system has ruined the Army and destroyed the traditions of many regiments in the Army, and now we are told by the Secretary of State for War that it only causes confusion and inconvenience and does not work. It is not the Army alone that has been affected by this linked battalion system. By it the Militia has been turned into merely a nursery for the Line. I should like to know whether it was not the Militia that did practically the whole of the good work during the late war. They were called upon from start to finish. All their best men were taken away from them, and as soon as they had recruited and got up to strength again, men were again taken away from them. I know regiments which volunteered for service in South Africa two or three times over. They had recruited up to their strength each time, and thought themselves perfectly qualified to go, but time after time, just after they had volunteered, recruiting sergeants came down and took away the men for the Line, and they were left without their full complement to enable them to go.
Then you have the depot system, which has been the greatest injury to the Militia. Militia recruits and Army recruits were drilled side by side by the same sergeant and under the same adjutant, who were both under the district colonel. All their inclinations led them to do everything they could to get the men to go into the Line, and not to think very much about the Militia. In addition to that, it was to their interest to do so, because every sergeant who obtained a recruit for the Militia got 2s. 6d., and after drilling him and making him an effective Militiaman he got an extra Is. 6d. if he induced hint to go into the Line. Therefore, I say it is high time that the linked battalion system was got rid of.
After this unmitigated condemnation by the Secretary of State for War of the linked battalion system, which I maintain is perfectly true, why is there a reservation for the preservation of the "valuable features" of that system? I do not know what those valuable features are. It is said that this is done for the purpose of enabling exchange of officers and men, but that is unnecessary. If 701 the officers and men wish to exchange they can do so, and, unless you are proposing to put the home battalions in the same position that the Militia have been in under the linked battalion system, I do not see why you want to keep this system for that purpose. But there is another reason why you should not perpetuate this unpopular system. According to the scheme of Mr. Arnold-Forster, you are to have large depots and a home-service army. That renders the keeping up of the linked battalion system, even in the smallest degree, altogether unnecessary. It appears to me that one of the essential proposals in Mr. Arnold-Forster's scheme is that there must be a barracks in every county, otherwise you will have nowhere for the territorial regiment to be placed. There are several of the largest counties in England without barracks from one end to the other, and, therefore, there is the question of building new barracks; and in several counties where there are barracks the buildings have been long condemned. With regard to cavalry barracks, there is hardly a single one in England which will hold a whole regiment. There are about four, I believe, in the United Kingdom—one in Ireland, one at Aldershot, one at York, and the other at Edinburgh, but at Edinburgh there is not sufficient ground for the troops to be trained on. Therefore, this barrack question looms very largely in this scheme, although very little has been said about it up to the present time. As we all know, bricks and mortar are very costly, and I should like to know where the money is to come from. If you do not have barracks in every county the whole of the home Army scheme falls to the ground. Therefore, I press for some information with regard to the barrack system.
I have the greatest confidence in my old friend the Secretary of State for War. I believe he has given for many years the closest attention to Army questions, and I am sure he will never allow individual opinions or fads to outweigh what he believes to be for the benefit of the service. But I hope he will not minimise the difficulties of bringing forward this new scheme. I do not approach this scheme myself in any unfriendly spirit, but I agree entirely with the noble and gallant Field-Marshal that 702 this is a question which cannot be considered in a hurry.
There is one other question to which I wish to allude, and it is perhaps the most difficult question for all, namely, that of the Militia. The home-service Army must be formed on one of two principles—either strictly on Army lines or strictly on a Militia basis. You must level the Militia up, or, if you do not, the old constitutional force will disappear. It is quite impossible to have a home-service Regular Army and a Militia Army as an auxiliary force, both of them together in the county. They would destroy one another for all recruiting purposes. According to the Secretary of State's scheme, there will be about thirty-two, thirty-five, or thirty-eight battalions, or, as I would prefer to call them, regiments, more than will be required for the general-service Army abroad. The question, therefore, appears to me to be this, whether these regiments are to be abolished or to be made into the home-service Army. If they are retained, then the Militia must be reduced in numbers. I the Militia are to remain exactly on the same footing, then it is quite clear that these regiments will have to be abolished.
I have looked very carefully into this scheme of the Secretary of State for War, and while I do not at all like the idea of doing away with the old constitutional force, the Militia, I admit that there is a great deal to be said for what he has proposed. It must be perfectly clear to everyone that a large number of the present Militia regiments will have to be done away with. Some of them have hardly any men at all; others have hardly any officers. They must be absolutely reorganised; and after doing away with those that can hardly be said to really exist, and amalgamating others, there will be very few regiments indeed which might not be brought up to the standard of a home-service Army. I do not believe for a moment that Militia regiments would refuse to be enlisted for service abroad in case of war. I believe they would volunteer in any circumstances, and I do not think they need be put on a different footing from that of the other regiments I have mentioned.
703 With regard to the men I do not think there will be any great difficulty, but there will be a great difficulty when you come to the officers. You are to have about twenty officers of the Army in each of these territorial regiments, as they are called in the Memorandum, and you are to have, besides them, ten officers of Militia. I cannot help thinking that these ten Militia officers will be looked upon in the regiments of the future as the Militia recruits are now looked upon by the Army recruits—as half soldiers; and I think so all the more for the reason that it appears to be one of the conditions to be laid down that the Militia officers who join these regiments can never look forward to either becoming second in command or commanding the regiments. I hope this question will be considered. I cannot see why Militia officers should not be allowed to be second in command, or to command regiments, provided they have made themselves efficient, have passed examinations, and are recommended by those in authority over them. I am certain that if you want to make the regiments popular and to get recruits in the different counties, you must have those regiments commanded by local men. I do not think the professional soldier is looked upon with very great favour by the men who join the Militia.
I believe it will be quite possible to make the staff of the Militia regiments more efficient than it is. It is the staff of the Militia regiments which has let them down so much in the past. Why should not one of the majors of every Militia regiment be a staff major and assist the colonel in command during that portion of the year when the whole regiment is not out? According to Mr. Arnold-Forster's scheme the recruits in these territorial regiments are for the first two years to be at the barracks all the year round. I am quite certain that none of the officers who give their services in the Militia can afford to give their time all the year round, but if you had a staff officer who could drill the recruits and he responsible for their efficiency, this difficulty would be got over.
I have made these suggestions in no unfriendly spirit, but with a view to contributing something to the threshing out of this matter. When the Under- 704 Secretary comes to reply I will ask him the Questions standing in my name on the Paper—namely, whether the linked battalion system is to be entirely abolished, and whether under the present proposals of the Government those regiments which were deprived of their regimental numbers and traditions under the linked battalion system will now have their numbers restored to them, together with their regimental status and traditions; secondly, whether the Government will consider in any proposals for the construction of new barracks the desirability and advantage of erecting them in those counties where there is now no barrack accommodation for either cavalry, artillery, or infantry; and, thirdly, whether the Secretary for War will further consider the strong feeling in favour of the Militia retaining their traditional character and name, whilst giving them a distinct and improved staff, who shall be responsible for the drilling of both officers and recruits as well as for recruiting purposes, together with other practical suggestions for restoring the former prestige of the Militia as recommended by the Royal Commission.
My Lords, the noble Lord who initiated this discussion stated that the question of the Militia was the pivot on which this system would stand or fall. I beg entirely to agree with what he said, and I ask your Lordships' permission to say a few words on the question whether the Militia should be ended or mended. I think I am justified in asking your Lordships' attention to this subject because on page 12 of Mr. Arnold-Forster's Memorandum he. makes this statement—A change upon this magnitude can only come about after much fuller public discussion than has yet been given to it.The greatest argument against the Militia as at present constituted is that no scheme could be made by the Intelligence Department or any other department, because of the uncertainty of whether the Militiamen would or would not consent to serve abroad. By forming the Militia into territorial regiments you at all events know how many men you have got to deal with and to go abroad in a national emergency.
705 The second point against the Militia as it is at present constituted is the question of officers. I would like to show how the company officers stand in the ordinary Militia regiments at the present moment. You should have in your battalions eight companies and twenty officers. The Militia are deficient of a quarter of their officers, which reduces the number in the ordinary regiment to fifteen. On the day that war is declared a further three will certainly go off to join the Regular Army, which reduces the number of officers to twelve. If you act in brigades and divisions, you will have to supply at least one for your divisional staff and one for your brigade staff, which brings the number of officers down to ten. Further than that, if the Militia regiment forms part of a brigade, it would have to have an advance base officer, and officer in charge of the machine guns, or a signalling officer, which reduces the number of officers of the battalion to eight. It practically comes to this, that the ordinary Militia regiment would go into service with only one officer to each company, and if that officer was wounded you would immediately have a company commanded by a sergeant. This is a state of things which alone makes the Militia not a fighting force.
I need not go into the question as regards the men of the Militia. We have had a statement in the other House that there are 38,000 of them who are practically unfit for the Line. With regard to musketry, I would only refer you to the Report of the Duke of Norfolk's Commission in proof of the statement that the musketry of the Militia is rushed through, and bad shooting exists in many battalions. Then, again, with regard to the transport of the Militia and Volunteers, I would quote the answer given to Lord Elgin's Commission by the Assistant Quartermaster-General, in reply to Lord Derby, as showing that in the case of invasion the transport would have to be officered by Militia officers, and not by the Army Service Corps. Having regard to all these facts I cannot help coming to the conclusion that as the Militia stands at present it does not fulfil its object as a safeguard to these shores.
On the other hand, no doubt it can be argued that the Militia have done very 706 great service in the past. We know what they did in the time of Wellington and the opinion that Wellington had of them. We know the excellent work they did in the South African War, mainly, of course, on the lines of communication. They were held on the lines of communication, presumably because they had not a sufficient number of officers, and because the men were not of sufficient physique to stand the hard work of trekking. They were not able to find the officers necessary for the various staffs, nor were the men physically fit to stand long marches; but, notwithstanding that, they did good work where employed. It is certain, therefore, that both points of view, whether the Militia is a possible defence for the country or not, will be hotly contested.
I venture to think that, instead of merely discussing the matter in this House and in another place, there is one means by which we could really find out if the Militia is or is not a practical force—namely, by the mobilisation of two Army Corps of Militia. I do not see why this should not be done. It is essential that the country should come to a definite conclusion as to the capabilities of the Militia, and the only means of arriving at that, if we fail to get at it by discusssion, is by practical demonstration. If we mobilised our Militia and marched them for a certain distance in order to see whether they were able actually to take the field, we could come to a conclusion on this point. They could be mobilised for a week and be required to shift camp a distance of ten or twelve miles every day. You would then see if the regimental organisation and the transport were sufficient. I am quite aware that the objection will be raised that it would involve great expense, but there is very little valuable information of this kind which can be procured without expense.
It may be said that it would be difficult, owing to the time of the year at which these experiments would have to be made. to manœuvre in the country owing to the crops in the ground; but as a great portion of this trial would be whether the troops were actually able to march, and whether the organisation for transport was sufficient, it would not be necessary to have the same extent of Manœuvring 707 area as is required for manœuvres now. It may also be argued that this has already been tried, but I would point out that it has really never been given a chance. Picked Militia regiments have been used on manœuvres, but they have been under the organisation of Regular officers and not under Militia organisation. I hold that if a definite trial were given to the scheme of mobilising two Army Corps of Militia, containing 70,000 men, many advantages would result. In the first place, we could see for certain what the actual value of these troops was. Secondly, we could see whether the staff produced from the Militia was sufficient to run the regiments in the field. Thirdly, we could get at all the facts as to the distances that Auxiliary Forces can march and the time occupied between various points. At present no living man is aware of the distances which Irregular troops can cover. It would also be a magnificent individual training to every man who took part in it.
To make this an effective demonstration it would be necessary for the troops to move a distance of, say, twelve miles every day. It would be necessary that no staff of officers should be allowed outside the staff which the Militia could be expected to draw when the first Army Corps was out of the country; it would be necessary not to allow any officers outside the Militia to take part in the work, and the transport would have to be run on the lines laid down by the Assistant Quartermaster-General. That is to say, it would have to be run entirely by Militia officers themselves. I ask the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State to consider this suggestion, which I think would be more effective than any oratory in either House on the subject. This practical experiment, costly though it may be, would show whether our Militia is worth what the supporters of it believe it to be worth, or whether the organisation throughout is so faulty that it would be impossible to work it as a defensive force.
* LORD HARRIS
My Lords, I do not intend to address your Lordships at any length upon this scheme, for I feel that we want some more explanation from the War Office upon it before we can thoroughly understand it. I entirely agree 708 with what the noble and gallant Field-Marshal said just now, that it requires most careful consideration. In those circumstances, I do not feel that I am in a position to attempt any real criticism. I should be very much helped towards that position if the noble Earl the Under-Secretary could give us information on one or two points. The noble Lord who initiated this debate said he thought the important hinge upon which the whole scheme hung was the absorption or the abolition of the Militia. That may be a very important hinge. But this seems to me still more important—Is the Secretary of State going to get men to enlist for nine years with the colours? It is quite true that there are men serving now for that length of general service, but I fancy a good many of them are in the cavalry. I do not imagine that the noble Lord expects to have any difficulty in getting recruits for the cavalry, but I cannot help thinking that a good number of the men who are serving in the infantry for eight years with the colours and four years in the Reserve, or seven years and five years respectively, were recruited when they had no chance of joining for three years, much less for two years. What the War Office has to look forward to is the attractiveness of the two-years service competing against the proposed nine.
The noble Lord. I have no doubt, will be able to, and I hope he will, give some statistics of the experience of the War Office in recruiting for these longer terms. If my recollection is right, when the longer term was the normal term, recruiting almost entirely depended on the demand for labour in civil employment. It went up and down according to that demand. I do not suppose the noble Lord is excluding that from his calculation, and I hope he will be able to show us upon what ground the Secretary of State confidently anticipates that he will be able to get the number of recruits he is looking forward to for the longer service.
On page 10 of the Memorandum reference is made to the striking force. I believe it is to be a force of some 16,000 men. Can the noble Lord tell us how many years it is anticipated that the units will remain in that force? I presume that the regiments that come home from foreign service are not to be 709 put in it. I suppose the regiments for that force will be drawn from the general service battalions at home. [The Earl of DONOUGHMORE nodded assent.] How long does the noble Earl anticipate that units will remain in that striking force? Obviously they are not going to remain there for ever. They are part, I presume, of the general-service Army at home, and will have to take their turn for service abroad. Attached to that is the further question. What does the War Office anticipate will in future be the length of the foreign service of a unit? I believe the foreign service at present is something like eighteen years. I would like to know what they anticipate in the future will be the foreign service of a regiment of the infantry of the Line. That is also a question which will affect recruiting. It is quite true that the men only enlist for eight years. Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to tell us how long he anticipates that men will have to serve abroad. If regiments are away from the country for a long time, even longer than they are now, without a linked battalion to help them in recruiting at home, there is a chance of men going to battalions they do not know anything about, making enlisting for long service unpopular. That is another thing he has to calculate upon.
Again, are these general-service battalions when they are at home included in the idea of territorialisation? Take the case of my own county regiment, the East Kent. Are they never to be quartered in East Kent again? The Secretary of State has shown an interest in the traditions of the Army and has spoken in high terms of the historic regiments. Well, there are many noble Lords in this House who are extremely interested in their county regiments. I take the liberty of being so in mine. I ask whether the county regiment which I am interested in is going to be included in the territorialisation scheme? The noble Lord shakes his head. Does that mean that when the East Kent Regiment comes back the men are not going back to East Kent? If that regiment is to serve for a number of years abroad, and when it comes home is not going back to East Kent, I am not quite sure that you are going to get as many 710 East Kent men to recruit for it. I believe that at the present moment eight-tenths of the men who are in that regiment belong to East Kent. Is the local interest in these regiments to be lost? I hope the noble Lord will give us some information upon this point.
On page 12 of the Memorandum there is a reference to large depots for the home-service Army. I should be very much obliged if the noble Earl would explain this. Why cannot the home-service Army train their own recruits? Why is it necessary to have large depots for the home-service territorialised regiments? If the recruit who only joins for two years is going for six months to the depot and only to be eighteen months in the home-service regiment, his interest in that regiment will be very slight I should think, and it does seem to me rather unnecessary that in a short service of that time he should be in two different units, one the depot and the other the regiment. That is one of the points which I have no doubt the noble Earl will be able to explain. It seems to me to be rather redundant and to involve a great deal of unnecessary expense.
I may say, by the way, looking back some twenty years, that large depots were not so popular with the War Office then as they seem to be now. Of course, of late years there have had to be larger depots, and I cannot help thinking that it is the force of necessity that has made them popular rather than that it has been suddenly discovered that they were more economical or efficient than the smaller ones. There is an important point on page 14 as regards non-commissioned officers for the depots, for the home-service regiments, and for the staffs of the Auxiliary Forces. It is held in this Memorandum as rather an encouragement to recruiting that there are going to be a great number of places for non-commissioned officers in these various units and establishments, and it is said that the arrangements contemplated.will go far towards supplying a reasonable certainty of employment for the soldier who has served his time.I cannot quite understand that. The larger proportion of the men who will come back will not be non-commissioned 711 officers. Surely the number of non-commissioned officers fit to go to these places will not be in excess of the present number. I do not see how that encourages the ordinary soldier who never becomes a non-commissioned officer to look forward to employment when he leaves the service.
That is the last question I have to ask, and I may say I do not ask these questions in any spirit of adverse criticism. I quite see that it is absolutely necessary to do something if we are not to have conscription. Owing to our having so many more battalions abroad than at home the linked battalion system has broken down, and something else has to be done, and owing to the increase of the Army since the war, the demand for recruits has, of course, largely increased. It is with a desire to support this scheme that I ask the noble Earl to give us all the information he possibly can about it. I confess I do not think on some important points the Memorandum gives sufficient information.
* THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, the noble Lord who is responsible for this discussion has fully recognised, I think, the appeal that was made by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War in another place, that this question should not be treated as a Party question. It is quite true that the noble Lord entered a caveat and mentioned that it was very difficult to avoid Party politics in such a matter as this. At the same time, I hope I may be allowed to say that I think he himself avoided the difficulties he thought of in a most complete way, and in my opinion the prospect of evolving a successful scheme for the re-organisation of the Army has been greatly improved thereby. After all, my Lords, this is not a reform that is to be carried out by a stroke of the pen; it is a question which will need consideration, probably for some considerable time. It is a question which will require the attention of Governments for years to come, and I can only express the hope that, if it starts under such favourable auspices as the good-will of both sides, the ultimate end obtained may be that which we all unadoubtedly wish for.
712 The noble Lord mentioned that, after all, the military problem with which this country has to deal is a unique one in the history of the world. Our main purpose is to have an Army for service beyond the seas. As the noble Lord stated, for that purpose we do not need a huge Army on the Continental model. It is, above all, an Army that must be voluntarily raised. Our main difficulty is to get an Army to go abroad in time of peace. There is not so much difficulty in getting the forces that we require to go abroad in time of war. But in the difficulty of getting an Army to go abroad in time of peace the broad principle of military problems, as foreign nations know them, are of no use to us whatever, and it is that which makes this problem such a unique and difficult one. There is a reference in these notes of the speech of my right hon. friend to reforms which have been recently carried out in the War Office, and they have been touched upon this evening by my noble friend opposite (Lord Denman). These reforms have already been discussed in your Lordships' House, quite lately, and I do not therefore intend to go into their details to-day. I do not think my noble friend would want me to follow him in certain personal questions which he raised; but I would like to say, as he mentioned Sir William Nicholson, that I am confident there is no sphere in which that officer could be of more service to his country than in the position which he is now filling.
In considering this matter I would like to make an appeal to your Lordships—an appeal which is necessary even after the extremely moderate speech of the noble Lord who initiated this discussion—I would appeal to your Lordships to consider this scheme, not piecemeal, but as a whole.
Briefly, what is the outline of the scheme as it comes into our minds? First of all, there is the general-service Army, intended primarily for service beyond the sea, and for service beyond the sea in time of peace, enlisted for nine years with the colours and three with the Reserve, spending about one-fourth of its time at home, and fed from depots direct to any part of the world in which it may be at the moment stationed. Then, secondly, there is the home-service or territorial 713 army, enlisted for two years with the colours, thoroughly territorialised, fed from large depots, going abroad only in time of war, and, if I may coin a phrase, to describe it, it will be our Reserve-making machine. Thirdly, there are the Auxiliary Forces, mounted arid unmounted, the Yeomanry and the Volunteers, the latter divided into two parts according to a principle the correctness of which your Lordships will admit. There are in the Volunteers men who are anxious and able to give a great deal of time to their volunteering; there are also men who are anxious to give all the time they can. At the present moment, you have both these classes mixed up in the same units. We intend to divide them. That briefly is the scheme as it presents itself to my mind, and I hope that this discussion, and in the discussions which possibly may follow this scheme, the relative bearings of the various parts of the scheme upon each other may always be kept in the forefront of your Lordships' minds.
My Lords, the noble Lord opposite recognised the need for economy. I do not know whether it was in his mind to include further particulars upon that head in the Motion which he makes for additional Papers, but I understand that a Return has been asked for in another place, giving further particulars upon this point, and I will see that that Return is presented to your Lordships at the same time as it is presented elsewhere. I do not intend, therefore, to go in detail into the economical side of the question, but as regards the other side, the efficiency side, I will do my best to deal with the various criticisms which have been made.
I would ask your Lordships to think of some of what we consider the defects of the present system, and the manner in which our proposals attempt to remedy thorn. First of all, there is the question of the linked-battalion system. The linked-battalion system presupposes that you have an equal number of battalions at home as abroad and that the home battalions feed the foreign battalions with drafts. At the time that s system was originally adopted the theory was held that you needed a large Army for home defence; the theory of what is called the blue water school, as far as I am aware, had not been evolved. But my Lords, we have now—and I gather 714 from the speech of the noble Lord opposite that the view is accepted on both sides—recognised that the main purpose of our Army is to go abroad, and that we do not need a large Regular Army at home; therefore the necessity for a large number of battalions at home disappears. Obviously, such being recognised, the feeding of the foreign battalion from the home battalion must disappear also. At present you have a depot, you have the home battalion and you have the foreign battalion, and. as was undoubtedly proved before Lord Elgin's Commission, as the result of that, you have only one efficient unit, viz., the foreign battalion. We hope, by initiating a process of feeding battalions from a large general' service depot direct, to simplify the system, and at the same time to economise by getting much better value for money by not having the battalion at home which requires such complicated treatment in order to make it sufficiently efficient to 11 go out into the line of battle. The depot system is not a new system. It exists with the Guards with admirable results; it exists with the Royal Marines with equally admirable results; it is the system which exists at Winchester with the Rifle Brigade, also with admirable results; and we have every hope that the extension of the system to the whole Army will be equally satisfactory in every way.
My noble friend Lord Heneage seemed a little apprehensive lest, in consequence of the phrase in the Secretary of State's Memorandum that the battalions will be linked for the purpose of exchanging, but not for the purpose of drafting, some evil connected with the linked-battalion system might remain to vitiate the reform which we hope to carry out I can conceive two or three ways in which that might work, and I think my noble friend will admit that no harm could come from the process. As the noble Lord knows, there are some twenty long-service officers in the territorial battalions. We intend that they should exchange freely with the thirty officers in the long-service battalions. I do not think that any evil connected with the linked-battalion system lies in that fact. In fact, I 715 should think it was rather the other way. Naturally one does not expect an officer who spends his whole life in the regiment, as opposed to the man who spends only nine years, to spend his whole time abroad. We wish to give him the opportunity of coming home, on the other hand, we wish to give the officer in the home battalions the opportunity of going abroad if he wants to. The power to extend I conceive might also be exercised in this way. I fancy that a certain number of two-years men, if they wish to, will be allowed to exchange and join a general-service battalion. We do not count on anything like the number that have to exchange from the present three years service—the 75 per cent.—but possibly one-fifth or one-sixth of those who join originally for two years may wish to extend. I do not wish to lay down any definite limit to the number who will be allowed to extend, but I fancy that some will be allowed to, and, if they wish, to join a battalion abroad corresponding to that in which they have served at home. I imagine that that would come under the process to which I have referred, and against that I think the noble Lord will not have any objection.
* THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
No, but I think that suitable arrangements can be made. I have spoken of the question of drafts. At the present moment, we need 75 per cent. of those who enlist for three years to extend their service to enable us adequately to send drafts to India and the Colonies. Nothing like that number has extended, especially in the infantry. My right hon. friend the Secretary of State has mentioned that something like 12 per cent. have extended. I need scarcely point out that that average is of no use to us. Even if the average were 75 per cent, the situation might not be entirely satisfactory, because you need 75 per cent. in every unit to extend, and there are three units in which only 4 per cent., and one in which only 2 per cent. have extended. Obviously, by the adoption of the principle of enlisting men for the purpose of 716 going abroad and feeding battalions direct from depots, the situation becomes much easier to work and much more certain.
Then, my Lords, I come to the question raised by the noble Lord behind me of the striking force. Your Lordships no doubt remember perfectly well a sentence in the Report of Lord Elgin's Commission referring to the need for more troops in Natal at the beginning of the recent war, and the effect that those troops might have had. The reason of this striking force is perfectly obvious. At the present moment you cannot send a single battalion out of this country without either the complicated arrangement of mobilisation or some arrangement for taking men from one regiment and putting them into another—an arrangement which is also complicated and unsatisfactory. By having these general-service battalions at Aldershot we look forward to being able to send a small force of 15,000 or 16,000 men abroad at the very shortest notice, and such a force might have a very important bearing on the ultimate result of every campaign in which we were engaged. The noble Lord behind me asked how long the battalions would be in the striking force. I have not the figure actually in my memory, and I do not like to hazard a guess, but I think it is for about one-third of their service at home. I understand that the sort of proportion—not the exact proportion, but the sort of proportion—that we hope to work to would leave about twenty-six general-service battalions at home, and the noble Lord may say that for about one-third of their service at home they find themselves in the striking force, perhaps a little less. But I will ascertain the exact figure if the noble Lord wishes, and let him have it.
I am also asked, my Lords, how long units will be abroad. Again, I do not care to trust my memory exactly, but it will not be for anything like the present eighteen years. The present eighteen years, however, does not mean much more than the fact that the regimental plate is abroad for eighteen years. because the men are continually going backwards and forwards in drafts out and home. It will make very little difference—certainly no difference to the transport—if you make 717 the tour shorter, and send the regiment itself back more often than at present, and I fancy you will have to do it in order to keep up the circulation as we certainly wish to keep it up.
As regards the question whether the general-service battalions will be quartered in their own counties, I hope that we shall be able to manage that, but they, will not be part of the territorial army, which is to consist only of men enlisted for two years and, as such, be spread about eventually all over the country, thoroughly territorialised. But I certainly hope that it may be possible to make an arrangement by which these general-service battalions will be quartered in their own counties as far as possible while they are at home.
Now, my Lords, I come to a question which has been raised by several Members of your Lordships' House—first of all, I think, by Lord Denman. I mean the recruiting question. After all, the important question in the whole scheme is whether or not we shall get the recruits. No man can say for certain that you will get recruits as long as you have a voluntary Army. So long as you have a voluntary Army there will always be a certain amount of uncertainty with regard to recruiting, and it must always be a source of anxiety to the statesman responsible for the Army, whether he be in your Lordships' House or in another place. If you adopted conscription it would simplify your problem, but very few of even the extreme advocates of conscription have got up and said we ought to have conscription for the Army that is to be sent abroad to serve in foreign and sometimes unhealthy climates. I would venture to offer your Lordships a few figures to explain the manner in which we regard this recruiting problem. I take the infantry, because the infantry is always the great anxiety. At present we have 156 battalions of infantry. We are proposing to reduce fourteen battalions, bringing the number down to 142. I will assume—this is not a final figure; I am assuming these numbers simply as a hypothetical case; they depend upon certain considerations of great importance now before the Committee of Imperial Defence—but I will assume 718 that of those 142 battalions you take 104 for general service. That leaves you thirty-eight home-service battalions and, assuming the scheme receives the assent of Parliament in its entirety, thirty-three home service battalions drawn from the Militia. As I have said, these are not final figures; they are simply for the purposes of illustration. The number is there or thereabout. Under such a division you would require for the infantry alone—which is the main problem—not 20,000 recruits for the general-service battalions, but 11,600, and 22,000 for the home-service battalions; that is, 33,600 recruits for the infantry.
* THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
It is the number of recruits you would require each year for the hypothetical case which I have put forward. I see the noble Lord's point about wastage. We hope with big depots to decrease wastage very largely; it is a point that has not been lost sight of. But I am only stating a hypothetical case for the purpose of illustration. That is a total of 33,600 for the infantry, or for all arms, not for infantry alone, 42,800 recruits. In answer to a Question put in another place, I think, this afternoon, my noble friend the Secretary of State stated that the number of recruits we obtained during the past year amounted to 83,000 —that is for the Militia and for the Line. But you must deduct 19,000 who go on from the Militia into the Line, and therefore had been counted twice over. That leaves a total of 64,000 recruits, or an excess of 22,000 over our requirements under this scheme.
* THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
Yes, that is so. For a two years enlistment the probabilities are that more will come, for nine years, possibly not.
719 Now I come to the general-service battalions. I would ask your Lordships to compare the position of these general-service battalions with the present position. The position now is that you enlist men for three years, and you require 75 per cent. to re-engage, otherwise you have to resort to some sort of outside arrangement in order to carry out your drafts to India. The first point that may be argued—and I admit it, because I want to argue the whole case fairly—is that you do not enlist these general-service men until they are nineteen years of age. We do get 19,000 men of the age of nineteen years, but there are two attractions that we should be able to offer these general-service men that we are not able to offer them now. The first is that after six months service at the depot they will get their service pay; they will get their 4d. a day on joining the battalion, and they will get 6d. a day on qualifying in musketry.
* THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
1s. 11d. I think. What does that mean? At present you offer a man an extra 6d. after he has served two years; this offers him an extra 6d. after he has served six months. That extra sixpence means half-a-guinea a week in the man's pocket and all found. There are not many labourers in this country who can feed and clothe themselves and have half-a-guinea to spend at the end of the week. Then the second thing is the point raised by my noble friend Lord Harris. We hope to make the prospects of re-employment for these men after they have served their nine years considerably better than they are now. The prospects are not so very had now. In the Report of the Inspector-General of Recruiting for 1902, it is stated that in practically all districts the same conclusion is arrived at—that when Reservists leave the colours with good characters they can obtain work if they choose to accept it. I do not wish to go into details as to how this is done—the re-employment registers, and so forth, with which your Lordships are familiar,—but I may say 720 that between January and October, 1903, 35,000 men left the Army with satisfactory characters, and 25,000 of those 35,000 are known to have obtained employment.
But what can we do in the future? As the noble Lord has said, you have to find non-commissioned officers for the home-service battalions, for all depots, and for the Volunteers, and we believe that it is to these nine-years men after they have left the colours that we should have to look for non-commissioned officers for those purposes. We do not close the door to a certain number of the two-years men being promoted to lance-corporals or even lance-sergeants, but your Lordships' will understand that two years service will not be long enough to qualify many of these short-service men for the posts of non-commissioned officers. Therefore we believe that for a great many of the nine-years men with good characters after they leave the general-service army we should be able to find employment in these units that I have mentioned. That is an additional point which, when realised by the recruit will, we believe, have a considerable effect in persuading men to join the long-service battalions, opening to them as it does a life-long employment.
I am afraid I am detaining your Lordships at considerable length, but I have come now only to the second branch of the subject, viz., the question of the territorial Army, which, as your Lordships know, is intended to go abroad only in time of war. We intend to feed it from large depots, The idea is, I believe, to have large depots feeding about eight battalions. With the experience we have of the Guards depots and of the Winchester depot, it is intended that the short-service men should spend three months at the depot, and twenty-one months with their regiment. We believe that this will facilitate their training, as it will concentrate attention on the recruit drill, the first licking of the recruit into shape, at the depot, leaving the higher training to be done when the men go to their battalions. The noble Lord, Lord Heneage, asked a Question about new barracks. I am able to assure him that our ideal is to have eventually, perhaps not a barrack in every county, because there are some counties which could not support a regiment, but to have the territorial Army spread about all 721 over the country in so far as the present barrack accommodation and any future accommodation will allow. But, of course, the noble Lord will understand that it will be some time before we lose the use of all the barracks that we have at present, and therefore it is a reform that can be carried out only gradually, but it is certainly the ideal to which we hope to work.
I now come to the position of the Militia, which has been touched upon by several of your Lordships. I wish it to be most distinctly understood that I do not for an instant deprecate what the Militia did during the war-in South Africa. They came forward at a time of great stress, and they rendered most valuable service. But since the war we have had the Report of the Duke of Norfolk's Commission, and we cannot but regard that document as disclosing a most serious state of things. My noble friend Lord Denman represents that his Militia regiment was every bit as good as most Line regiments when it went to South Africa. I congratulate him upon the excellence of his regiment, but the Report of the Royal Commission does not lead us to think that that is a definition of excellence that could be applied to the whole of the Militia. I may perhaps be allowed to remind your Lordships of one or two paragraphs in that Report. For instance, it states—At the earliest age at which a man is physically fit for the hardships of a campaign, and deducting the men returned as below that age, we find that in round figures an average strength of 104,000 Militiamen yields only 82,000 fit as regards age to take the field. In many cases, moreover, the age given by a Militia recruit on enlistment is above his real age, so that the figures exaggerate to some extent the proportion of men that we obtain of the ages specified.Again the Commission says—As regards the infantry, there is a consensus of opinion both amongst Militia officers and those Regular officers who have had special opportunities of observation, that the average Militia battalions would not be fit to take the field except after several months continuous embodiment. The less training in the rank and file, the higher is the training required in the officer, and the training of the Militia officer is inadequate to enable him properly to lead troops, and especially incompletely trained troops.Again they point out that the strength of the battalions was such that their proper grouping into the larger tactical 722 formations required for the field would be a matter of great difficulty, and—We are forced to the conclusion that in its existing condition the Militia is unfit to take the field for the defence of the country.That is a very serious state of affairs. The plan for the Militia to which the Army Council hope to obtain the assent of Parliament is briefly as follows. Your Lordships will understand that for many reasons some reduction in the Militia is necessary. There are, first of all, those units which are mentioned by the Royal Commission—nine units of under 300 men. It would be impossible—and I am sure your Lordships would admit it—to retain those u fits in their present condition. It would also, I think, be unreasonable when you are making reductions in the Regular Army not to call for some reduction in other branches of the military forces. We are actually reducing the Regular Army by 28,600 men, and I do not think it would be defensible to suggest that while we are making that reduction in the Regular Army we should leave the Auxiliary Forces entirely out of account. There are two or three points that must be borne in mind in connection with the Militia. First of all, the Militia does undoubtedly compete with the Line. The Militia obtains about 40,000 recruits every year, of whom about 19,000 go on into the Line, and it is the opinion of many people who know more about the subject than I do that if their physical condition allowed it many more than that 19,000 would go. This may be good or it may be bad for the Line; it is certainly very bad for the Militia. Another thing from which the Militia suffers is the want trained commissioned and non-commissioned officers. The Militia is now 7,000 officers short, and not even all the officers that it has are highly trained. The plan that the Army Council hope to see approved by public opinion and by Parliament is that of welding the Militia into the territorial Army. We believe that by so doing the services of not a single useful officer or man who is now in the Militia will be lost to the country. The position in the future will be such that the Militia will no longer compete for recruits with the Line; they will be thoroughly territorialised as the 723 county battalions; they will have the advantage of being trained by twenty Regular officers, men who are making a life-study of their profession, and by a considerable number of professional noncommissioned officers, the want of which they feel so much at present, and they will be available for service abroad in time of war.
* THE EARL OFDONOUGHMORE
Yes, the whole of the territorialised Army will be available for service abroad in time of war. My noble friend Lord Heneage raised the question of the position of the Militia officer under this scheme. I do not think that his position will be so bad as the noble Lord thinks. I doubt very much if the Regular officer will look down upon the Militia officer who is associated in the battalion with him. I have had a very short experience; I was in the Militia only some five years, but I knew the officers of the Regular battalion to which I was attached pretty well, and I am not conscious of having been much looked down upon by them; on the contrary, I received nothing but civility at their hands. After all, what would be his position We hope he will be a county gentleman; he will be a member of the mess; he will come into his county town where we hope his regiment will be quartered; he will find when he gets there officers with whom he is associated during the month he is out for training. I really do not think that his position will be a very bad one from his point of view; I think it will be very much better than at present. He will have the opportunity of training alongside officers and men very much more highly trained than at present, and of having in his company many non-commissioned officers of a much better class than he now has. Your Lordships will see that it would not be easy to allow him to be the commanding officer of his regiment, because under the new conditions it will be necessary for the commanding officer of 724 the regiment to be busy all the year round, and the general run of Militia officers cannot give sufficient time for that or they would probably be already in the Line, but we hope that by giving them an honorary step in rank on retirement, by keeping the post of deputy-lieutenant open for them, and by letting them understand that in time of war when their regiments have gone abroad it is to them we look to organise the Reservists and the men coming on from the depots into their regiments which in turn will be looked to go to the war—we hope that that will present a state of affairs which will not be uncongenial to their frame of mind.
I have asked your Lordships to consider this scheme homogeneously at all times, and I would like your Lordships to remember this point in connection with the welding of the Militia into the Line. It is a point from the Army point of view rather than from the Militia point of view, but it is an important point. The basis on which we have worked has been this. We have to maintain the existing Indian garrison and adequate garrisons in the Colonies. We have to despatch fifty-two battalions of infantry and drafts to India as early as we can in any war that breaks out. Look at the position. Assume that you do not weld the Militia into the Line, and that you retain only thirty-eight home battalions or about thirty-eight. If war breaks out you have to send fifty-two battalions abroad. You would then have in the country thirty-eight of these home battations and about twenty-six general-service battalions, a total of sixty-four. Of those you have to send immediately fifty-two to India. In that sixty-four is included your striking force, so that if you had already utilised your striking force for some purpose you would have practically no Regular troops left in the country within a very few minutes after war had been declared.
* THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
No but it is included in the sixty-four. There is no reason why it should not be used in the fifty-two, but it does not necessarily follow that you would want to use it in 725 the fifty-two. The position I have suggested would, I venture to think, represent a very serious state of affairs. But if you have thirty-three Militia battalions welded into the service Army you will have a very much bigger margin with which to work as the war goes on.
Then there is another point—a financial point—which I would ask your Lordships to bear in mind. The present cost of the Militia is about £17 or £18 per man. If we were to carry out the recommendations of the Duke of Norfolk's Commission—that is to say, train the men for six months on enlistment and have six weeks in training afterwards—you would increase the cost to £22 per man. The cost of the home-service soldier on mobilisation—and I hope to make it perfectly clear how the estimate is arrived at—is £29 2s. 7d. The way in which we arrive at that estimate is as follows. We take the cost of the two year battalions and depots, the cost of the men during the six years service in the Reserve, and we divide that total cost by the total number of men available—all the two years men serving with the colours and the Reservists who are available on mobilisation—and by that division we obtain the total of £29 2s. 7d. That is only £7 more than the cost of the Militiaman when you have carried out the recommendations of the Duke of Norfolk's Commission. In other words, for the same money as it casts you to produce, 69,000 Militiamen, men who have been six months in training as recruits and have had six weeks training every year, you can obtain 53,000 men who have had two years training on enlistment and one month's training twice over during their Reserve service. If a General wore asked whether he would rather have 69,000 of the Militiamen or 53,000 of the short-service men, I have very little doubt as to what his answer would be.
The question of the Volunteers has not been raised this evening, and therefore I do not intend to say anything about it, though it naturally must be kept in mind as a homogeneous part of the scheme. The Report of the Royal Commission is serious also as regards the Volunteers, and we hope by the proposals that we are making to effect a vast improvement in the efficiency of that force.
726 There is another point which has not been mentioned this evening, but which is of considerable importance, namely, the encouragement that we are going to give to rifle clubs. We believe that this will be a considerable advantage in giving men who cannot afford the time for Volunteering some opportunity of getting at any rate a small knowledge of the rifle and a knowledge which must admittedly be useful upon mobilisation.
I do not know that there is any other point to which I ought to refer before I sit down. I am afraid I have given a very inadequate account of the scheme of the Government, but what I wish to enforce is that it should be regarded as a homogeneous scheme—a scheme laying down lines of policy which all Parties can adopt, and which meets many of our present defects and eases difficulties which have been apparent in the past. I trust, my Lords, that the scheme may be so regarded by all Parties, because I am certain that, unless such a view be taken, the task of organising the Army in accordance with our Imperial needs will be one almost impossible of solution.
My Lords, I very cheerfully accede to the request of the noble Earl that we should not speak upon this question in any captious Party spirit. For my part I am very glad to think that there are a great many important provisions in this scheme which are probably very wise. Like the noble Lord behind me, I am a humble disciple of the blue water school, and I cannot say that I am in the least alarmed at the prospect of the decrease of the Army by about 28,000 men, which I am told is the upshot of this scheme. My opinion;n this respect is not in the least shaken by the circumstances which only last year the Prime Minister denounced in the strongest terms—a proposed diminution of the Army by 27,000 men. I suppose as he blesses this scheme he must, as it were, have recanted his impassioned utterances of last year in regard to the "lunacy" of decreasing the Army. As to the striking force, I am not going to rush in where Lord Roberts feared to tread. I do not propose to give my opinion, nor if I gave it would it he worth anything, in regard to the details of the scheme. If the striking force is 727 in the nature of a luxury, as some people think, it is at all events a much less expensive luxury than the Army Corps of Mr. Brodrick. With regard to large depots, I think it is very probable that the Government is right. I do not quite understand, however, the position which is taken up by the Government with regard to the linked battalions. Do I understand that the men at one of these large depots will be enlisted for particular regiments, or that they will go to a depot and have to stand their chance of being placed in any regiment that may be in need of men? I am not clear upon that point. It is very likely that the provision of the Government with regard to the linked battalions may work well, and although I think it doubtful whether the reduction of the Volunteers and the division into classes is a wise step, I am quite ready to admit that the Government may be right on these points. I am particularly thankful to the noble Lord and the Secretary of State for War for having put their foot down absolutely upon the possibility of conscription, although I am sorry to find that there is still a noble Lord in this House who advocates compulsory service. However, we have had it on the authority of the Secretary of State for War himself and of the Under-Secretary that in their opinion conscription is absolutely dead.
My Lords, the Under-Secretary of State has told us that this scheme needed further consideration. We were constantly asking that the scheme should he produced to the House, but we were always told that it would be very unfair to press the Government to introduce a piecemeal scheme, and that if we waited we would get a complete and perfect scheme. We readily agreed that that was the right and proper thing to do, and therefore we did not press the Government prematurely to produce their scheme; we waited very patiently, but I doubt very much whether even now we have got a complete scheme. Whether or not it is a complete scheme hinges to a great extent upon what the Government propose to do with regard to the Militia. For the life of me I cannot make out from the statement of the Under-Secretary of State whether or not it is part of the Government programme 728 that the Militia should be absorbed into the Line. That, after all, is the absolute pivot of the whole system. The Secretary of State for War has over and over again assured the House of Commons that the public would be very wrong indeed—I do not know whom he means by the public; I suppose he means his colleagues in the Cabinet or on the Army Council as part of the public—that they would be very wrong indeed if they did not agree with him and allow the Militia to be absorbed into the Regular home-defence Army. He has stated that the Militia as now constituted was useless for purposes either of defence or of offence, and that this force cost the country nearly £2,000,000 of money per annum, but he added that although the force was useless and although it cost the public nearly £2,000,000 of money, he was not going to absorb it because public opinion would not allow it. But here, and I am clad to see it, the Under-Secretary of State has taken a totally different line, and has suggested that it is absolutely essential—and I believe it is—to the success of the scheme, at all events from a financial point of view, that the Militia should be absorbed into the Regular Army The noble Earl called it "welding." I do not know that there is much difference between "welding" and "absorbing," but at all events the Under-Secretary was very strong on the proposition that you must absorb the Militia into the Regular Army. I entirely agree with the Under-Secretary of State that, if the scheme is to stand, that must be done. I do not understand this go-as-you-please method of proceeding, of leaving it to the man in the street to settle most difficult questions of policy. I do not understand the practice of leaving everything an open question. That appears to me to be a system not of government, but of abdication of government.
The chief objection, my Lords, that I take to this scheme, is not a technical objection in the very least, nor is it one that requires a military mind to understand it. My chief objection is one which has been urged very forcibly in the course of this debate, namely, that the scheme will not work because you will not get the necessary recruits. I agree with Sir Neville Lyttelton, or with what I gather from his speech to be his opinion, that it 729 is extremely doubtful whether you can carry this scheme through without general conscription for foreign sere ice. That appears to me to be the necessary out-come of this scheme if you carry it out as at present constituted, and I need scarcely say that it will be quite impossible to get from the country a mandate to do anything of the kind. I have read a great many criticisms of the Government scheme, some of them favourable and others unfavourable, but I have not come across a swingle critic, however favourable to the scheme, who did not express doubts as to whether the Government could get anything like the number of recruits they require. In this matter I confess that I have some difficulty in following the figures given by the noble Earl. The Under Secretaty told us that the number of long-service recruits that would be required was something like 11,200 a year.
I am taking the infantry of the Line only, because I entirely agree that it is with this force that recruiting is the main difficulty. The noble Earl told us that he wants only 11,200 nine-years men to fill 104 battalions of 1,000 men each. How are you going to do it?
Very well; 11,600. Even if we multiply that number by nine, it is only 104,000; therefore it appears to me to be perfectly clear that if there is any wastage at all, it is impossible to suppose that you will not want more than 11,600 recruits. There is bound to be wastage from illness and desertion and other causes.
Then there is another matter to which I should like to call the attention of the noble Earl. He said, greatly to my astonishment, that he proposed to have only 104 foreign-service battalions in all.
The curious thing about that is that, according to the 730 latest Army Abstract, we have, within 250, no less than 93,000 infantry of the Line serving either abroad or on the high seas on their way to and from England. That would leave you only 11,000 men home defence, for which yon are said to require 26,000 men. Therefore, on the noble Earl's own showing he is 15,000 to the bad, assuming that our present garrisons are kept up at the existing level. Not only that, but the noble Earl has entirely left out of account the 6,000 men who will have to be in training at the depot to feed the battalions. Therefore, it appears perfectly clear, on the noble Earl's own showing, that if he wants about twenty -six battalions at home, and if he mast have, as I at home, and if he must have, as I suppose he must, ninety battalions either serving abroad or on the high seas, he will want about twenty battalions more that the 104 which he has suggested, having regard to the number of men who would necessarily be at the depot.
I confess that on reading the scheme I did not understand that anything like twenty-six battalions of nine-years-service men were to be employed at home. It appears to me, that, without having any of those 26,000 men employed in strengthening the home Army, you would have abundant employment for more than your 104 battalions. These nine-years men will, as I understand it, have three functions to perform; in the first place, some of them are to be sent to stiffen the home Army, and I thought that the extent to which they would be called upon for that purpose would be to send 100 men to each of the home battalions of 500 each. That would mean a very small force comparatively of nine years men; 4,000 would amply fulfil all requirements in that respect. Then there is the striking force. I imagine that in the striking force You will want something like 8,000 infantry of the Line, because the striking force has to be composed of all arms, and I have no doubt that you will have a considerable contingent of the Guards employed upon it. Therefore, we may take it at the outside that for the purpose of stiffening the home battalions and for the striking force you will want 12,000 men. Then apparently you are to have about 14,000 men who are to serve at home. In that way the noble Earl makes it out that 731 these men are to serve for only three-quarters of their time abroad. But in totalling up this time the noble Earl must recollect that for six, perhaps twelve, months they will have to be in training at the depot before they are sent abroad, and I should think that they will be extremely lucky if, after serving their time in the depot, the men have more than a year or eighteen months service, out of the whole of the remaining eight or eight and a half years of service, in England.
The noble Earl has gone into detail, and it was necessary that he should, with regard to recruiting and the advantages which he says this scheme offers to the nine-years recruits. Now the Secretary of State for War said that the nine-years service was the exact equivalent, or at any rate an equivalent, of the present service of seven years and five years with the Reserves. It is nothing of the kind. It is quite true that the seven-years men at the end of their service, if they found themselves abroad, could be made to serve for one year longer, but no more; therefore the utmost limit of their service was eight years, and they might reasonably expect in many cases to get off at the end of seven years. That is a very different thing from nine years. It must also be remembered that these men are be at least nineteen years of age; that is to say, they will not, even under the most favourable circumstances, have a chance of re-entering civil life until they are twenty-eight years of age. Therefore, as regards length of service there is a considerable difference between the short service as we have known it under Lord Cardwell's scheme and the nine years service as now proposed. In two respects the recruit is at a great disadvantage. He will be abroad nearly the whole of his time, and under the most favourable circumstances he will not return to civil life until he is twenty-eight years of age.
Then, my Lords, there is another matter to which I desire to call the serious attention of the Under-Secretary of State on the question of recruiting, and that is the extreme unpopularity of the service in South Africa. I do not think that General Sir William Butler put it at all too strongly when he said that South Africa was the grave of 732 recruiting. The men serve in South Africa under a most intense sense of grievance. They are made to do constabulary work for which, even under the new conditions, they will receive only about one-third of the pay given to the constabulary. That gives the men a constant sense of grievance, and, in order to intensify that grievance ten-fold, what have the Government done? The troops in South Africa are told that the climate there is so good that their service is to count, not as foreign service, but as home service, and consequently some of the men, who otherwise might have been sent back to England, are sent at the end of their term of service in South Africa to India. When eventually they return to England they are in a most exasperated state of mind; they form most enthusiastic missionaries against recruiting, and will not, if they can help it, permit any of their friends or relations to serve in the Army. That is a most serious state of things, about which nothing has hitherto been said. As if that were not enough to increase the difficulties of recruiting, His Majesty's Government have recently passed a Reserve Forces Bill, doing away with the privilege by which Reservists set great store, namely, the privilege when recalled to the colours of serving in the arm of the service in which they originally enlisted. That, again, will be a severe blow to reuniting. All these drawbacks are to be compensated for by a payment of 1 s. 6d. a day, and I think for proficiency in rifle shooting they are to get another 4d. Is that so?
Those who have looked into the matter have assured me that nothing under 2s. 6d. a day will have the slightest chance of attracting recruits in sufficient numbers, and if you have to pay anything like 2s. 6d. a day I should like to know where your saving is to come in. Then there is another grievance the recruit will put forward. We 733 have been told by the Secretary of State for War that the recruits who join at the age of nineteen and for nine years service are not to be entitled to serve for a pension. It is perfectly impossible that that part of the scheme can stand. It would be utterly inhuman that these men who want to be soldiers and who are of good character should after serving nine years abroad, perhaps in unhealthy climates, be turned adrift and not be permitted to make the Army their profession. That part of the scheme will have to go, and the Government will have to add to the non-effective Vote, because it is perfectly certain that if recruits are taken at nineteen instead of eighteen years of age, and have to serve for nine years instead of for seven years, a great many more will desire to remain on in the service.
I should like to call attention, in conclusion, to a rather remarkable and grandiloquent sentence in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War. He uses these words—The War Office will no longer be dependent for its general-service soldiers upon the caprice of boys who may or way not decide to extend.All I would say on the subject is that these "boys," as the Secretary of State terms them, must have arrived at least at the age of twenty before they have the option to extend, and the Secretary of State forgets that the very existence of the general-service Army will depend not upon the caprice of youths of twenty, but upon the caprice of youths who may be not more than nineteen years of age, and who may prefer a civil career to the eight and a half years expatriation at 1s. 6d. a day. While I quite agree that this scheme has in many of its particulars been carefully thought out and is in some respects a good scheme, yet it appears to me to rest on no solid foundation inasmuch as you will certainly not get the necessary recruits.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
The noble Lord opposite who commenced this discussion made such a pointed appeal to me that I find it impossible, without departing from the respect which I owe him, to remain in my place; but I confess I rise without much hope of illuminating your Lordships upon the matters of detail which arise in connection with this scheme.
734 With regard to its main principles, I listened with great satisfaction to what fell from the noble Lord who spoke first, for in the opening passages of his speech he paid an unstinted compliment to what I conceive to be the general principles which are embodied in these proposals. He expressed his satisfaction at finding that His Majesty's Government desired to keep the strength of the Army within moderate limits. He rejoiced that we did not consider it necessary to retain at home a force larger than would be necessary for the purpose of resisting attacks from hostile raids, and he complimented us, with perhaps rather less than his usual felicity of language, on having adopted the blue water theory as what he called the "bed-rock" of our system.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
He also expressed himself in terms of satisfaction with regard to the desire shown throughout the scheme to keep within limits the large and growing expenditure upon the Army; and I must say that I shuddered when I heard the noble Lord who spoke last, who is, as we know, an advocate of economy in all its forms, suggest that nothing short of an offer of half-a-crown a day would be sufficient to obtain suitable recruits for the military forces of the Crown.
But, my Lords, the principal criticism which fell both from the noble Lord who spoke first and the noble Lord who spoke last was directed to show that His Majesty's Government were to blame for not laying before your Lordships a scheme representing what I think the noble Lord called the final conclusions of His Majesty's Government upon these important subjects. Well, my Lords, let me say frankly to your Lordships that the Paper which your Lordships have before you does not represent what can be described as the final conclusions of His Majesty's Government upon all the subjects to which it has reference. The noble Earl will remember how much he pressed me to lay upon the Table some document which would serve as a useful basis; for our discussion. The Paper, as appears on the face of it, represents 735 a number of notes which were put together by the Secretary of State for the important statement which he lately made in the other House of Parliament. If your Lordships will read it with the attention to which it is entitled you will see that there are throughout it passages which show that the proposals indicated are proposals which are to receive further consideration at a subsequent time. I do not think that either the Secretary of State or his colleagues need be the least ashamed for coming here and admitting that they had not said their last word upon these matters. We have had, comparatively speaking, only a short time in which to turn to account the lessons learned during the South African War; and I do not think that any one can accuse us of having sat with folded hands during that time. We have introduced into the War Office changes of the most drastic and important kind; and we are ready to give your Lordships a general idea of the direction in which our minds are moving as to Army organisation, although we are not prepared to present full details of the whole of the proposals we think should ultimately be adopted. When I say that, of course I do not mean that, with regard to what I would call the main principles of the scheme, we do not see our way; when I speak of main principles I mean, for example, the proposal that the main object of our Regular Army is service out of this country and that it is, therefore, necessary that the greater part of it should be specially organised with regard to such service.
That is one point, and it has led us to announce that we propose that henceforth there shall be two Armies— a general-service Army, with battalions maintained at high strength, taking its recruits at an older age, and for longer service, and holding out to them the inducement of a higher rate of pay; and, on the other hand, a home-service Army, smaller in dimensions, with battalions of lower strength, and taking recruits somewhat younger, for a much shorter period of service, and at a somewhat lower rate of pay, and intended in a great measure for the purpose of producing that most essential element in all sound military systems—a numerous Reserve.
736 Then, my Lords, complaint was made that our proposals with regard to the Militia were not of a more definite kind. I must say that the difficulty which confronts us in regard to the Militia is very typical of the class of difficulty that Army reformers in this country have to contend with. There can be no doubt. as my noble friend has pointed out, that if this question had to be dealt with upon purely financial grounds, it would be very much cheaper to absorb the Militia into the home-service Army, to greatly in' crease its efficiency, and to get rid of any Militia battalions not required for that purpose. But then we have to take into consideration arguments of a very different kind—arguments of which we are bound to recognise the force, and described in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State in which he says with very great frankness that he recognises that popular sentiment against such a change is at present too strong to justify him in recommending it. The noble Lord who spoke first, in the only passage of his speech to the tone of which I could take any exception, taunted us because, as he said, we were in this important matter timidly waiting on public opinion; and the noble Lord who spoke last asked what public opinion we were waiting for; were we, he said, waiting for an opinion from the man in the street? If the noble Lord had read the Secretary of State's Memorandum, he would have seen that in one direction at any rate the Secretary of State desires to be fortified by an expression of public opinion of a kind of which I am sure the noble Lord will not speak slightingly—he proposes to take into consultation representative officers of Militia and to discuss with them proposals for any further changes that it might be desirable to introduce. Could any proposal be more reasonable or show a greater desire to deal considerately and respectfully with the Militia? I think that noble Lords opposite, far from having any reason to complain of us because our proposals are not in a more final and complete state, owe us sonic little gratitude for having gone out of our way to place them before the House while Parliament is still sitting and while debate upon them is possible.
With regard to the disappearance of the linked battalions, I may say a few 737 words. It has often been my lot to defend in this House the system of linked battalions. I remain of opinion that, given the circumstances of the time, we had in these linked battalions a very valuable system for supplying the wants of the Army, but it was a system which, as your Lordships will remember, depended upon an approximation between the number of battalions required for service at home and the number required for service abroad. I shall continue to believe that the arrangement under which the home battalions acted as what I may call feeders to the foreign battalions, and in their turn, when fortified by the additions of Reservists, became fighting units, was a very good system, and certainly at the outbreak of the South African War it enabled us to put into the field a larger and more efficient force than ever left these shores before.
But from the moment when other principles were admitted with regard to the distribution of the Army, from the moment that it was recognised that the bulk of our Regular troops are required for service out of the country, and that consequently the number of Regular battalions at home must represent a very insignificant number indeed compared with the battalions abroad—from that moment the linked-battalion system was doomed, and we were bound to discover some alternative. The only alternative possible was the substitution of depots for linked battalions. When I had the honour of being connected with the Army I remember very well that military opinion leaned strongly to the view that the young soldier was better trained with the battalion than at the depot; but I gather that military opinion, which is not always constant in these matters, is different at the present time.
I will not detain your Lordships on matters of detail. Once again I ask your Lordships' favourable consideration of proposals produced under somewhat difficult circumstances. We have had to take into account the experience of a great war, we have had to consider the question of expense, and we have had also to take into account the changes consequent upon a very considerable alteration 738 in what I may describe as the bases of our system of Imperial defence. All these considerations necessitated a courageous revision of our existing arrangements. We have advanced as far as was possible within the time at our disposal. We are laying these new proposals before your Lordships on the clear understanding that the Paper you have in your hands contains, not a final recapitulation of military proposals accepted by the Government of the day, but a broad sketch of the general principles which, with a full knowledge of the views of his colleagues, and with the full approval of his military advisers, the Secretary of State has laid down for adoption.
§ * EARL SPENCER
I am exceedingly sorry, both on my own account and on the account of the House, to have to say anything at this late hour of the evening, but the speech of the noble Marquess Makes it necessary for me to offer a few remarks. When we came down to the House we were grateful to the noble Marquess for having provided us with a Paper recapitulating the proposals made by the Secretary of State in another place in order that we might have a good basis for our discussion but I am surprised to find from the remarks the noble Marquess has just made that we are not to consider any of these proposals as settled proposals for a scheme for Army reform. That is what I understand from the noble Marquess—in fact, that what has taken place here and elsewhere at the initiation of the Government is academic discussion on various texts which they have provided. I will come presently to one point on which I knew there was to be reservation of opinion. Allusion has already been made to the point by different speakers, but before dealing with it there are two or three other matters to which I should like to refer. I was very much struck with what was said by the distinguished Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, the late Commander-in-Chief. He made some small criticisms on this scheme, declaring that he approved of some proposals and disapproved of others, but he urged the high importance of not hurrying in this matter, and of not rushing another new Army scheme before the country. I feel the force of that advice very strongly.
739 Many critics have forgotten what was so remarkable and good in the sending of troops to South Africa. Great mistakes were made in that war, but I do not wish to dwell on them to-day. But there were some remarkable facts which from time to time have been powerfully referred to by the Prime Minister as facts upon which we might congratulate ourselves in relation to what had been done in South Africa under the old system. First there was the question of the Reserves. It was certainly remarkable that this system, originated by Lord Cardwell, which had never really been practically tried before, produced within six days nearly 98 per cent. of those who were serving in the Reserve. Not only that, but we were able with great rapidity to send our forces with all apparatus necessary for the campaign 7,000 miles over sea, and that is a performance which very few countries in the world could have carried through. This system also gave to many regiments in South Africa the best personnel—I do not much like the word though my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty often uses it—I will say the finest body of soldiers that probably had ever been seen in any regiment either in this country or abroad. Why was that? It was on account of the splendid men who went out as Reservists. I know it may be said that that is not the proper use of Reservists—that they should be formed into separate regiments and form the second line of attack or defence. Abroad the peace establishment of a regiment is often 600 and their war establishment 1000, and as far as I know this large increase is made up by what we call Reservists. Having this success in view, were the Government justified in rushing at once into a new scheme? The scheme given us is for discussion apparently and has not been settled. Why was this necessary It is mainly on account of the change which the Government themselves rushed through a few years ago. That system has broken down because three years service was introduced universally. The system was copied from the Guards, and the moment men found they could enlist for the short service in their own localities recruiting for the Guards fell off, and that arm is now largely deficient in men. Serious difficulties, I understand, have 740 been found in sending out reinforcements and changes of men to India. Men have not re-engaged, and the expense of transport in sending short-service men back- wards and forwards will be enormous. All that trouble has been caused by rushing through a new plan without full consideration by the Government, and now they are obliged to take some steps to remedy this serious state of things. I protest, therefore, against an endeavour to impose a cut-and-dried scheme on the country—perhaps the statement of the noble Marquess to-night will dissipate that impression—when we know that under the former state of things such excellent results were secured by which, a large Army was sent to South Africa. I do not say that there are not things which ought to be changed; but I do say that to try to change the whole system—which I thought this was an endeavour to do—seems to me very unwise and imprudent; and I sympathise very much with the gallant Field-Marshal in what he said on this matter.
Now, my Lords, I agree with all that has been said by my noble friend who introduced the subject as to the Militia being the pivot of this scheme. That is a very important point, and we certainly seem to have heard two voices from the Government in reference to it to-night. The noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War clearly, as I understand, said that what they wanted was the welding of the Militia into the home service Army.
§ * EARL SPENCER
I certainly understood him to represent that the Government desired it, and it very much corresponded with the shrewd guesses previously made by many people outside as to the difficulty in producing this scheme, and we came to the conclusion that there had been serious 741 opposition on the part of the Secretary of State's colleagues to what he wanted. I certainly think that the Under-Secretary's statement corroborates those rumours; but the noble Marquess leaves the subject—as it is left in the Memorandum—an open question. It is clear that in this, as in other questions, the Government are not quite distinct in their views on important matters, and though they lay down principles on certain points, they leave others open. If they are going to weld the Militia into these regiments, a gnat constitutional force is practically destroyed. I am not saying that this great force is in a perfect state. I believe it has been neglected to a great extent, and had it been dealt with on different lines this great territorial force might be much more efficient than it is now. Every one would wish to see great efforts made to preserve a force so popular in this country, and a force which during the late war furnished something like 2,000 officers and 40,000 or 70,000 men to the Army in South Africa. The country would be much staggered if it thought this force would he shortly destroyed. The Militia has doubtless fallen off a great deal in the matter of recruits. One of the reasons has been the passion—which is very good in some respects but which when given way to to too large an extent is ruinous to recruiting—for bringing the men into brigades for camping. I went to see my own county Militia this year. It was the first time for five years the Militia had been trained at Northampton. Though I warmly support the occasional brigading of the Militia and the bringing of them into camp, to do so every year is destructive to their local influence and ruinous to recruiting in the different localities.
Then, my Lords, I must say a few words with regard to the Volunteers; as I do not think we are likely to have another discussion of this matter before the end of the session. I have always been a very warm supporter of the Volunteers. I was one of the first to join the force. I did more than probably anybody else to raise a battalion in may own county, and I had the honour of commanding that battalion at the first Volunteer review in London 742 before Her late Majesty. I have also had a great experience in regard to rifle shooting, and had much to do with the formation of the National Rifle Association, which has had so enormous an effect on rifle-shooting throughout the country. In my belief nothing has happened in this country which has done more good in many ways not only to the military, but to the people at large, socially and physically, than the establishment of Volunteers. We have got a most admirable class of men in the Volunteers; there has always been a keenness among them not only to learn their drill, but also to become skilful and good riflemen. I should very greatly regret it if anything were done to discourage the force—I will not say to diminish its numbers, because I frankly admit that in certain respects some diminution might be advisable. A medical examination might be required, but I do not imagine that that would cut out a very large number. But what is the proposal here? The proposal of the Secretary of State is to divide the Volunteers into two classes, one class composed of men who can give more time to drill and to camp, and the other class composed of men who are so occupied that they cannot give so much time away from their homes. I imagine that this proposal carries with it larger grants to one class than to the other. I am afraid you run a very great danger in this. From my experience I know that probably the most intelligent and the best kind of Volunteers are those who are the most occupied; and if you put a premium on those who are the least occupied I am afraid you will not secure the very best men for the service. I am happy to think that the strong prejudice which existed years ago against Volunteers amongst military men has largely disappeared. Officers in the Army were wedded to the system of men being drilled in barrack squares, and they preferred men so drilled to men who, although more intelligent, did not possess that qualification. But opinion in that respect has now changed. I agree in the desirability of camps for Volunteers, but I think the Government have been over-straining that point. I have commanded camps of Volunteers time after time, and it is surprising the progress they make 743 with even a week's drill in camp. I think the Government have made a mistake both as to the length of the camp and the distance from home. We have not had a camp in Northamptonshire for some time. The men are taken off to Suffolk, and the local people never see them in camp. That is a great mistake. There ought to be brigade camp once or twice in three years, but if you wish to keep up the Volunteers you should do more to encourage local camps. I think there is considerable danger that if you have these two classes of Volunteers it will result in the ruin of a great many corps. The idea appears to be that the most intelligent, and therefore the better, men are to be found in the towns; but though I greatly appreciate many splendid town corps my experience is that rural corps contain the finest men. You must look to the rural districts for the strongest and most vigorous men. I know that in a tug of war the rural corps will always pull over the town corps. I have said these few words, not wishing to criticise in a Party spirit the proposals of the Government; but this is a subject of great national importance, and I thought it was necessary that we should offer certain criticisms, and I thank your Lordships for the attention you have given me.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes past eight o'clock, till to-morrow Twelve o'clock.