§ *THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
My Lords, I rise to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War the following Questions: (1) How many of the 15-pounder guns for the armament of the Territorial Force have now been converted. What further number will be available for distribution at the end of the month; (2) what County Associations have already been supplied with a gun or guns; and (3) in what order will guns be supplied to other County Associations? There is a subsequent question which has recently been brought to my attention, and of which I have given the noble Earl the Under-Secretary private notice—it relates to riding schools. I am informed by one of those gentlemen who have most patriotically come forward to raise a battery of field artillery in my county that it is absolutely necessary that the men should be taught in a riding school; and my own scanty knowledge of horsemanship certainly suggests that in the early stages privacy is of some advantage. I do not know whether anything has been settled, but I hope the noble Earl will be able to answer my Question, namely, whether, if riding schools are absolutely necessary, assistance will be given to the County Associations to provide them.
With regard to the guns for the armament of the Territorial Force, the noble Earl told us the other night that the distribution would depend on the rapidity with which garrison artillery are converted into field artillery. Since that answer was given we have had an interesting debate raised by my noble friend below me, Lord Midleton, in the course of which the opinion of Lord Wolseley was quoted. We also had a very interesting speech from the noble and gallant Field-Marshal on the cross benches, Lord Roberts, and this morning there is a letter in The Times from Lord Denbigh who has had considerable experience in connection with the Honourable Artillery Company. All these opinions go to prove that there are considerable difficulties awaiting those who are contemplating the creation of a large force of artillery on the conditions proposed, and that badly-trained artillery might be even an actual danger. I do not wish 113 to question what has been said. I have no experience to justify my doing so, but, speaking as a representative of a County Association, I do realise that one of the heaviest duties which has been imposed upon us is the raising of this force.; and, if the Government insist on our endeavouring to raise this large number of men, we shall want all possible assistance from the military authorities. One of the districts in my own county, which we had looked upon as promising ground for raising a battery of field artillery, has, as a result of the debate in your Lordships' House the other day, come to the conclusion that it is most undesirable to raise a force which might be "a positive danger." That is the difficulty in which we are placed.
The point I particularly wish to emphasise in regard to the distribution of guns is this. We are told that the distribution will depend on the rapidity with which garrison artillery are converted into field artillery. I am informed by an officer of considerable experience who will command the brigade in the north of my county, and who has to raise 23 officers and 919 men, that he cannot get the men to convert, or secure recruits, until they get the guns. The guns are not to be given till the men are converted or raised, but the men will not convert or join until they get the guns. The men are hesitating because they have been frequently promised that the new guns are to be given to them; those promises have been so often falsified that the men do not believe in the new guns at all. I am told that one of the converted 15-pounders was seen to-day in the vicinity of your Lordships' House. I did not see it, but I understand it was on view. I hope the guns will be distributed to the County Associations as soon as possible. The Artillery Volunteers have always been handicapped in this way, and I hear that they are threatened with having to do this year's training with the old guns—guns which were old when they were distributed nineteen years ago. If some thing is not done speedily it will be quite impossible for the County Associations to raise the numbers expected of them.
114 I do not know how far the noble Earl has influence with the Government he represents, but I should like, on behalf of the County Associations, to suggest that he and his colleagues should be a little careful about the legislation they introduce. In one district in my county the people are unable to think of anything but the Licensing Bill and what its results in that particular locality will be, and as we had hoped to raise a considerable number of men of various Arms from that district we are again considerably handicapped. If the noble Earl could induce his colleagues to be a little more careful about what they do in regard to general legislation it would be very much better for the Territorial Force. In Staffordshire we have five excellent battalions, one of which will have to go, and it is difficult to say which ought to be sacrificed. A Report was drawn up as long ago as the end of January, but it is still somewhere in the War Office; no one in the country has heard anything of the matter since. I would point out that it is essential that it should be known which particular unit is to be disbanded. We have had instructions from the War Office as to the character of the flag which we who double the part of President of the County Association and Lord-Lieutenant may fly, and as to the character of the cuff to be worn by deputy-Lieutenants when in undress uniform. These are very interesting, but they are not, if I may venture to say so, essential to the success of this scheme, and I think it is more important that these unfortunate men who are to be disbanded should be given that information before we interest our selves with regard to minor points.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
Before the noble Earl replies, I should like to put to him one or two Questions of which I have given him private notice. First, I should like to ask whether the equitation allowance of £1 will be given to mounted men of the Territorial Artillery as well as to the Yeomanry. The desirability of this is obvious. The artillery driver is more skilled than the Yeoman, and if one is deserving of the equitation allowance the other is deserving also. We are not to be allowed, as I understand, to enlist in the new 115 Territorial batteries, artillerymen who are in the Reserve. Therefore, we shall have to rely for drivers either on civilians or on men who have left the artillery for five years at least, and who probably in that time will nave got pretty rusty. I hope, therefore, the noble Earl will be able to tell us that the equitation allowance will be granted to all mounted men in the Territorial Artillery. I hope he will be able to tell us, also, that the guns of ordinary batteries when they are issued will be issued complete with a suitable proportion of range finders and signalling apparatus of all kinds. Officers tell me that it is impossible to train a battery properly unless these appliances are there with the guns. Next, I should like to ask whether the compensation for loss of horses announced by the Secretary of State on Thursday, will be given under the same conditions as those stated in the existing Yeomanry Regulations, Paragraphs 303 and 304; and whether veterinary expenses, which are laid down in Paragraph 308 of the Yeomanry Regulations, will still be allowed.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I should like to put to the noble Earl before he rises to reply, a question concerning the Volunteer regiment in the north of England, which I have the honour to command. We have converted ourselves from heavy garrison artillery into field artillery, and I gather, from what the noble Earl said the other day, that those regiments that most speedily convert themselves into field artillery will be the first to receive the guns. In the county with which I am connected we have already formed our three field artillery batteries with headquarters at our own drill hall. The question I wish to ask the noble Earl is this, when can we hope to be provided with modern guns? We have loyally undertaken the new duties in our desire to support the Territorial scheme, but there must obviously be a certain amount of lukewarmness until we get the guns.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Earl of PORTSMOUTH)
Will the noble Marquess tell me the name of his corps?
§ *THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
Before the noble Earl replies I should like to say that I hope he will take care that the noble Marquess does not get more than one gun before the other County Associations get their guns.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
My Lords, I think it would be as well if, at the outset of my reply, I give the information which I promised to Lord Midleton. The figures for the Reserve of the Royal Horse and Field Artillery on 1st March last were as follows: Total Royal Horse Artillery Reserve, 1,707; total Royal Field Artillery Reserve, 9,815; combined total, 11,522.
In reply to Lord Dartmouth I have to say that forty-eight 15-pounder guns have bean converted and are now being inspected and issued as rapidly as possible. Conversion of these guns is proceeding at the rate of about nine a week. Twelve guns have been issued to twelve brigades in the Western and Scottish Commands. These have been allotted, on the recommendation of the general officers commanding-in-chief, one each to the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th Lancashire Garrison Artillery, and one each to the 1st Shropshire and Staffordshire Garrison Artillery, the 1st Forfar, the 1st Aberdeen, the 1st Lanark, the 1st Mid Lothian, and the 1st Ayr and Galloway Garrison Artillery. In addition to these, orders have already been given to issue one gun each to the 1st, 2nd, and 4th West Yorkshire Garrison Artillery, the 1st Cardigan, the 1st Monmouthshire, the 1st Cheshire, the 2nd East Riding of Yorkshire, the 1st Durham, and the 1st Northumberland Artillery. The issues will be continued at the rate of at least six guns a week, and if possible nine a week, but the general order of the units to which these issues will be made will be governed by the information furnished by the general officer commanding-in-chief of the command in which the unit is located.
As to the provision of riding schools for the training of men and horses for field artillery, expenditure of that kind, 117 as in the case of drill halls, ranges, gun sheds, etc., will be met by grants from Army Funds, wherever the Army Council consider such provision necessary for the proper discharge of the functions of the Association. For instance, if the acquisition on lease or other agreement of property of this kind is sanctioned by the Army Council, a grant would be made on the basis of the rent for which the Association is liable. I gathered from the remarks of my noble friend that he had some complaint on the ground of having received no reply from the War Office as to the five existing Infantry units in Staffordshire, one of which is to be disbanded. I am afraid that in regard to this matter there must be some misunderstanding. I have made inquiries, and I cannot trace that any reply is due from the War Office to my noble friend on this subject. I presume that my noble friend drew up a report for the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the northern command, and he, in the ordinary course, would embody that report in the statement forwarded to the War Office in regard to the whole of his command. Any reply from the War Office would be sent to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, who is the proper person to communicate with my noble friend, and to whom in regard to this matter I must refer him. All I have been able to ascertain is that the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Command was informed on 3rd March that he might inform the County Associations of the allotment of units.
As regards Staffordshire, it is proposed that there shall be four infantry battalions of 1,000 strong under the new organisation, instead of the existing five. This will necessitate the amalgamation of two of the existing battalions into one after 31st March, and this duty will devolve upon the County Association. Lord Fortescue has asked whether the capitation allowance of £1 will be given to the mounted men of the Territorial Artillery as well as to the Yeomanry. I understand that the answer to that is no. The second Question asked by Lord Fortescue was whether the compensation for loss of a horse, which has 118 been announced, will be given under the same conditions as those stated in the existing Yeomanry Regulations. New Regulations are about to be issued, but I am not able to speak definitely upon them because they have not yet received Treasury sanction. The maximum compensation for the loss of a horse will be £40. My noble friend's third Question was whether veterinary expenses would be allowed. No allowance beyond £5 will be allowed for veterinary expenses.
§ *THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
I should like to explain the object of my last Question, which was not on the Paper. I had no intention of bringing any complaint against the War Office. I am reserving complaints for a future time. I quite understood that we who represent the County Associations were to indicate the battalion to be disbanded or merged, and that that information was to go, in the first place, to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief. In this case that was done; we drew up the Report together. But when I went to the War Office I was told that the Report of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief was somewhere in the building. I now gather that it is by the allocation of units, about which we have been inundated with telegrams during the last few weeks, that the disbanded battalion is to be merged, and we shall get no formal intimation as to which it is to be. As to the guns, I gather from the noble Earl's Answer that one gun has been allotted to Shropshire and Staffordshire. By this scheme these counties have been divided, and I am afraid Shropshire has got the gun. Can the noble Earl tell me whether the gun has gone to the Shropshire side?
§ [No Answer was returned.]
§ EARL FORTESCUE
The noble Earl has not answered my Question as to whether range finders and signalling apparatus will be supplied with the guns.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
If the noble Earl will give me notice of any Questions I will give him an Answer.
§ *THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
Where is my gun? Cannot the noble Earl tell me whether Shropshire has got it.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I rise to ask the Under-Secretary to take one matter into consideration. The Earl of Dartmouth stated that he believed one of these guns had been seen to-day in the precincts of your Lordships' House. That was not so. The gun was supplied for the inspection of Members of the other House, and I rise to ask the noble Earl if he will give us an opportunity of seeing what Members of the other House have been able to see. Very many of your Lordships are desirous of seeing this gun, and I would also suggest that one of the new quick firers should be sent down at the same time in order that we may compare them. A similar request was made in the House of Commons, but the Secretary of State replied that the new quick-firing gun could not be got into Palace Yard, and therefore he was unable to show it to Members of the House of Commons. It need not go near Palace Yard in being brought down for the inspection of your Lordships, and I therefore hope that we shall be allowed an opportunity of seeing and comparing these guns.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I will communicate at once with the military authorities and see what can be done in the matter.