§ THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
My Lords, I rise, in accordance with the Notice standing in my name on the Paper, to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War when commanders of units of the Territorial Force may expect the additions to the permanent staff already sanctioned. I am sure your Lordships fully realise the importance that the recruits who have been enlisted should have an experienced staff in order that they might receive the necessary instruction. In the past they have been a good deal hampered by a shortage in the staff. In one of my own units there were in camp no fewer than 600 recruits, and the extra work thrown on the shoulders of the reduced staff made it extremely difficult to give the necessary instruction. If that is so in an ordinary infantry unit, the difficulty is obviously much greater in the scientific units; and where you have a new arm, all the surroundings of which are entirely strange to the men, it is clear that if you are going to secure that efficiency for which the County Associations have been made responsible there must be a proper staff to give the instruction. Sanction has been given up to eight permanent staff per Infantry battalion, and, in addition to that maximum the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief may sanction the attachment of any number of temporary instructors. These extra instructors beyond the maximum of eight depend, I understand, upon the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, but I do not propose to raise this point now. All I wish to-day is to urge upon my noble friend the great importance of this question and the 760 pressing necessity for the promised instructors. Nothing would encourage the Territorial Force more than the completion of their staff, and the completion of the equipment that has been promised. I would also ask my noble friend if he could tell us how many of these additional members of the permanent staff have been appointed, and how soon commanders of units may expect to have their full complement.
My Lords, I desire at the same time to call the noble Lord's attention to the grave deficiency in the staff for training the Artillery. As the noble Earl has said, the Artillery require more careful training, possibly, than any other branch of the service. They have more work to learn, and owing to the Field Artillery and Horse Artillery being entirely new corps, taking the place of garrison batteries, not only the men but also the officers are in most cases, in a sense, recruits. Yet for the instruction of a battery thus composed there are no competent instructors except the adjutant and the non-commissioned officer. In an average battery there are from sixty to eighty absolute recruits, but there are only two men—the instructor and the adjutant—to put them through the difficult and varied work they have to learn. It is quite impossible, even in a matter like foot-drill or riding, to take more than twenty men at a time, and when it comes to instruction in signalling, gun-laying, and such matters, the class, if the instruction is to be at all adequate, should not consist of more than six men. Is it not possible to admit the principle, where units have been raised absolutely de novo and where the whole of the men are untrained, as is the case in the Horse Artillery batteries, and, to a lesser extent, in certain Field batteries, that additional instructors should be given. I know that some of the Generals have stated that the work is going on admirably, but I would like to quote two other opinions. One is that of an officer of the French General Staff, who came over to address a meeting on the subject. He stated that the whole question of Artillery must turn on your permanent staff of instructors. The other day I took a German officer of Artillery over a certain battery, and, while expressing himself interested in the work that was done, he pointed out that, with the small number of instructors that were present, it would be impossible, even with Regular soldiers, to get them properly 761 trained. In the British Isles we give only forty drills to Artillery recruits and the fortnight's training. Is it not, therefore, essential that they should receive the best instruction possible? I would suggest that, if we cannot get Regular non-commissioned officers, we should be willing in these Artillery regiments to put up with corporals, bombardiers, or men who had been in the ranks and had just left. They could, at any rate, relieve the permanent staff of some of the instruction.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE FOR WAR (LORD LUCAS)
My Lords, I am sorry if I did not make the point clear in my reply to the noble Earl, Lord Dartmouth, the other day. In the statement I then made I did not intend to convey that eight sergeant-instructors were to be appointed to each battalion. That number was to be the maximum, and was only to be given to very scattered battalions.
§ THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
I did not mean to suggest that I thought that every unit throughout the country was to have eight men. I understood the noble Lord to say that the maximum was to be eight.
The eight sergeant-instructors were only to be given in the case of very scattered battalions, with no companies within, say, a distance of five miles. There are very few of such battalions in existence. The average per battalion is very much smaller than eight. If the noble Earl will give me an instance where he thinks that it is clearly impossible for the work to be done by the present permanent staff, I would be very glad to have the matter considered. With regard to the point raised by Lord Lovat, I would point out that the whole of this question of permanent staff is complicated by the fact that we have at the present time a very large number of recruits; and, although anxious to see these recruits properly trained, we do not want to lay down an establishment of permanent staff on the basis of the work that is to be done at the present time. I quite admit that when you have anything like a hundred recruits in a battery a permanent staff of two is inadequate; but we provided for that some time ago by saying that if cases were brought to our notice—we asked that they should be—where more instructors were required we would attach temporary instructors. If there are cases of that sort 762 we would be very glad to have them considered from that point of view. But that is an entirely different question from having a permanently larger establishment of permanent staff.
Numerous batteries that I know of have made application for extra instructors, but have not obtained them.
It has to be remembered. that an instructor on the permanent staff is a very expensive item, and costs altogether, if you take into consideration the non-effective charges as well as the actual cost of the man himself, between £150 and £200 a year. If the County Associations could arrange to have the clerical work now done by the instructors transferred to somebody else the instructors would be free to give more time to their proper and more important duty. I do not say that that would meet the difficulty entirely, but it is worthy of consideration. I will undertake to see that the case of the Artillery shall be considered. Our reputation is very much involved in the success of the Territorial Artillery, and we will do all we can to give it the very best chances possible.
§ THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
With the permission of the House, I should like to ask a supplementary Question. Am I to understand that all that the County Associations have to do is to satisfy the Army Council that the existing staff is not sufficient for the work, and that in that case the necessary additions will be made. Obviously, expense is involved. You cannot run a Twentieth Century national defensive force on principles of Elizabethan finance. You have to pay for it, and if the force is to be a success I do not think expense ought to stand in the way.
I hope the noble Earl will not think that I wish in the least to speak slightingly of the Associations, whose representations on this point, as on others, will receive the fullest consideration. But this is primarily a military matter as apart from administration, and we are bound to look at it in that light. We are not inspired in this matter by niggardly questions of pounds, shillings, and pence, but there is behind it the consideration as to how far the training of the Territorial Force should be entirely in the hands of men of the Regular Army attached to it for that purpose. One 763 encouraging feature that I see arising is the fact that in a great many places Territorial non-commissioned officers are coming forward and doing this work very satisfactorily indeed. That was comparatively unknown before. The efficiency of the non-commissioned officers is one of the elements on which the Force as a whole will depend, and 764 one of the effects of this apparent shortage of the permanent staff is to bring these men out and improve their efficiency by inducing them to do this work.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes past Seven o'clock, till Tomorrow, half-past Ten o'clock