§ 2.48 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN rose to call attention to the Memorandum relating to the Army Estimates (Cmnd. 669); and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Army is passing into a period, of crucial change in its form, its organisation and its content; and for the purposes of to-day's discussion, more particularly in its content. I should like to preface my observations to your Lordships by paying a tribute, as perhaps is not unseemly for me, since it was from that Box opposite that I introduced the National Service Bill under which so many who have passed through the Army in these recent years have served—a tribute which I believe will be shared by your Lordships as a whole—to the contribution which the National Servicemen have made in the Armed Forces of the Crown, and, for the purposes of to-day's debate, particularly in the Army. They have served in many parts of the world wherever duty has taken them. I believe that it may fairly be said of them that they 'have done so with a good spirit and great courage, and with the intention, whilst serving in the Army, of serving it where they found themselves and with whom they found themselves, to the best of their ability and with a high heart. The records of the time will show that the National Serviceman has deserved well of the country.
§ I think, my Lords, that it may fairly be said that the presence of the National Servicemen throughout the ranks of the Army has had a very broadening effect on the Army itself. At the same time I think we should all realise what a tremendous benefit it has been to the National Servicemen themselves to have served in the Army. I must tell your Lordships that in my own observation and experience I have found that whether or not these young men have served in the Armed Forces makes a tremendous difference to them. Youngsters have left my employment and entered the Armed Forces, and when they have returned they have been very different—and to their advantage—from what might have been expected had they not served in the Forces. We must do what we can to substitute something for the young generation of to-day and the future to replace what service in the Armed Forces of the 22 Crown has done for others in the past, though how that is to be done and by what machinery arises not in this discussion. It might be well worth discussion at some other time on some other Motion on the Paper.
§ With the Regular Army of volunteers for long service as a career, and with the ending of the encumbering task of having to train these National Servicemen, the Army enters upon a new sphere of its existence. Somehow we have to give to the Army the opportunity of embodying the fine spirit that existed in former days, so that it may have the capacity essential to keep abreast of modern weapons and modern developments in war, and, to carry out the task demanded of our fighting soldiers under the various and often harsh conditions of modern war. The new Army, reduced in size, all over a Regular Army, will have to carry out a traditional role of helping to keep the peace throughout the world wherever British interests, or those of our Allies with whom we are joined, are concerned.
§ If all this is to be done, the first essential is stability. By that, I mean that the strength of the Army must be such that it is within measurable distance of being able to meet its commitments, and not always be living from hand to mouth, with the inevitable difficulties that then automatically arise for everyone concerned. We no longer have linked battalions with exchanges within the regiment between home and overseas; we have not yet reached the stage where the brigade group adequately takes their place. The feeling of an officer or one of the other ranks on joining or returning to a unit should be one of satisfaction to be back with those to whom he belongs and where he can give of his best, and at the same time be should not feel that he is always being chased from pillar to post, not knowing exactly to where and to whom he belongs.
§ There is a great deal to be done as the new scheme develops for ensuring that this feeling of stability becomes a reality so that he may feel pride of calling and have confidence in his chance of a good career in the Army and a good prospect in civilian life when he leaves the Army. I know quite well that Service authorities have this matter very well in mind and will do their best to bring it about. We here have our responsibility, too, and we 23 must ensure that anything we can do to help in creating the right atmosphere and in pointing the right path is done.
§ My Lords, recruiting figures have been very satisfactory—far more satisfactory than I, at least, thought they would be when I spoke from this Box last year. The reason, no doubt, is in part due to the somewhat changed economic situation, but I would not attach too much importance to that. There is a tendency perhaps to think that it has had a greater influence than has indeed been the case. Those who are concerned with the machinery of recruiting deserve a word of commendation. I do not often read advertisements, I am bound to say, but I have made a point of reading advertisements in the newspapers with regard to defence and recruiting issued by the Defence Department; and whoever it may be who has been advising the Department deserves, I think, a word of congratulation (as do those also who have taken the advice), because I have felt that the advertisements and the adjurations have been well attuned to the circumstances of the time and to the minds of those to whom they were directed; and the result is to be seen in the encouraging and increasing recruiting figures. I hope, indeed it must be the aim of all in the Army to secure, that those who join as Regular soldiers as a result of the recruiting campaign will find that their life in the Army comes up to their hopes and their expectations. My reading of the position is that the Army is determined that the Regular Army with its new intake of Regulars shall be a success. They have confidence in making it so.
§ I am very familiar with the fact that there has been a considerable difficulty in getting officers, far more so than in getting recruits to join the other ranks. I am glad to know of the school scholarship scheme that has been initiated and I wish it every success. The best recruitment factor for the Army is the satisfaction of those who are in it; and I think that no opportunity should be lost for giving a new start for the New Model Army on its all-Regular basis by seizing with both hands every opportunity to make those entering it feel that it offers a really worthwhile career with worldwide interest and with possibilities of exchanges with the Dominions and with 24 America and elsewhere offering scope and variety and a reasonable chance of a career until the age of 55, or even over that age.
§ We should not disguise from ourselves the fact that more than once in the life of the oldest among us, at all events, all ranks in the Army—but especially, perhaps, officers—have suffered a great discouragement. More than once it has been found necessary to reduce the officer corps, and that numbers of officers have become redundant. That happened, indeed, as recently as a year or so ago. It is scarcely likely that parents will be inclined to encourage their boys to take Regular commissions in the Army at the very moment when they find that others are being declared redundant, and are being given gratuities to ease the situation for them and to smooth them over the transition period back to a civilian life. I think that a good deal of thought should be given to how to induce in the parents of prospective officers, and in the young men themselves, the feeling that the Army, despite all the disappointments and discouragements of the past, does, in fact, present a good opportunity for public-spirited young men—and not only public-spirited young men, but those intent upon making a career for themselves —to do so to their own satisfaction. I would commend that suggestion to those on whom the responsibility in this matter rests.
§ My Lords, I mentioned just now that if the Regular Army is to feel confidence in itself it must have a feeling of stability. That stability must depend upon a confidence that the overall strength of the Army is adequant for the duties which it may be called upon to perform. I do not want to over-emphasise the need for an adequate overall strength of the Army. We have, first of all, to make our contribution to the N.A.T.O. effort —and we have an undertaking to keep four divisions on the Continent for this purpose. I would ask: is a figure of 55,000, reducing possibly to 45,000, a reasonable and proper contribution for Britain to make to the N.A.T.O. effort in Europe, and are our Allies satisfied that it is so? Should we not, in any case, call a halt for the present to any future reduction, and meanwhile do everything we can to make this contribution immediately battleworthy, streamlined, 25 self-sufficient, and independent of reinforcement from elsewhere as regards men, equipment, vehicles and weapons? It must he able to stand on its own.
§ Then, of course, there is the difficult and debatable question that always arises with regard to the Strategic Reserve. Part of the Strategic Reserve is in this country, part of it is in Kenya, and other parts of it would seem to be elsewhere, judging by the very useful map annexed to the Memorandum covering the Estimates —this document upon which, formally, this debate is based. Let me make some analysis of the figures—and I am adapting figures that have been used in another place by a former Minister of Defence.
§ If we reckon 45,000 men in Germany (I take the lower figure, 45,000 instead of 55,000, because that is fairer to those concerned), and add 70,000 in the home base who are engaged on various duties (but excluding the Strategic Reserve) and 25,000 for non-operative purposes—men on leave, military detail, and so on—one would be lucky to have 25,000 left to cover the needs of the Strategic Reserve in every part of the world—and our commitments are wide. With 55,000 in Germany, instead of 45,000, the effective Strategic Reserve would be down to 15,000. In his speech in another place, the Minister of Defence has given an estimate of 75,000 likely to be available as Strategic Reserve, but he has not shown us the arithmetic upon which this figure is based. The arithmetic which I have displayed to your Lordships' House can be checked by anyone in Hansard tomorrow. I think the figures will be found to be rather as I have suggested.
§ I do not know how many of your Lordships have looked at Appendix C, annexed to the Memorandum on the Army Estimates, but if you study it you will see that all over the world there are contingents of troops of one kind or another. They may be United Kingdom troops; they may include, as in the Caribbean, West Indian forces; they may include, as at Aden, local levies; they may include, as in Malaya, Commonwealth troops; and they include East African forces in East Africa and West African forces in West Africa.
§ In addition to those I have mentioned, there is a deployment of a part of the Strategic Reserve. It is impossible to say 26 from this map the number of troops drawn from the Strategic Reserve to these various places spotted in red on this map of the world; but it is abundantly clear that if we have any sizable force, any measurable number, at each of these places, the Strategic Reserve must be strained to the utmost, and far beyond the figure which would leave us any reasonable Strategic Reserve properly described as such, either in this country or elsewhere. That statement, my Lords, is based upon the present situation and the deployment of an Army of 250,000, approximately the present strength. When it is reduced to 180,000, as it is Her Majesty's Government's policy to do, how will that map look then? Either British troops will be much "thinner on the ground", compared to the figures shown on the map of the world in Appendix C, or they will be many fewer here at the home bases. It is certainly clear that the number will be insufficient to maintain our position in those various parts of the world where it is thought necessary to maintain it to-day.
§ I do not know what situation is deemed likely to arise in the next few years that will make it reasonable that we should diminish those forces at the various places shown upon this map or, alternatively, diminish the mobile Strategic Reserve in this country. When the noble Earl replies. I should be greatly interested to know his answer to these observations. They are of importance; indeed, they go to the root of the matter.
§ I have spoken of the Regular Army. I have said a word or two of commendation and farewell to the National Serviceman. I turn now, in the concluding part of my observations, to the Territorial Army. And I can speak with a great length of knowledge of the Territorial Army, for over fifty years ago I was gazetted to the Volunteer Force and was thus an original Officer of the Territorial Army, in which I fill an appointment at this day. It seems to me that the spirit of the Territorial Army is something that ought to be most warmly commended by your Lordships' House. In attending camp in Norfolk last summer with the regiment with which I am associated, I was much struck at how gratified—I might almost say how exhilarated—all members of the regiment were to find themselves in training on their own. Last year there were no National Servicemen, 27 and they all belonged to the same party, to the one family, and knew one another. I must tell your Lordships that, well though I think the Z Reserve men did when called to camp in previous years, in the estimation of those who attended, so far as I could judge, last year was the best year there had been since the war, at least in the interest afforded by the training and the enjoyment obtained from it. I find that spirit widely pervasive.
§ The Territorials of the late war are now, to use a colloquialism, "getting a little long in the tooth," but they still stand by their old regiment. They still have a deep affection for the Territorial Army. And I am glad to tell your Lordships that in my observation there has lately been a great enhancement in the number of recruits for the Territorial Army. Last evening I was making some inquiries. not only because I happened to be with a battery of my regiment and was interested in how they were getting on, but also (I will be frank with your Lordships) because I knew I was going to speak in your Lordships' House to-day. I am glad to tell your Lordships that since the beginning of this year the recruits to this Territorial regiment are up by 16 per cent.—not, I think, an indifferent increase.
§ Every Territorial regiment depends to a large extent upon the interest shown in it, not only by its own officers, but also by people outside, by local dignitaries like the mayor. and by anyone of any public position who has been associated with the regiment and is so devoted as to take the trouble to come to it and show himself. On this occasion last evening, which was a battery function, the battery representing one of the three regiments now amalgamated, one of those who came was the noble and gallant Field Marshal who is with us to-day, Lord Harding of Petherton. It was a battery of the regiment in which he had started his military career as a Territorial, before he became one of the old Regular Army. And I may tell your Lordships, as I have told the noble and gallant Lord, that the presence of so distinguished an officer had an electrifying effect upon those in the ranks of the regiment in which he had himself served. They were, as they always are, delighted to see him there. The self-confidence of the Territorials is vastly increased if 28 men who have some public reputation take the interest and the time to visit these Territorial regiments. I think that many noble Lords might be able to make a positive contribution to the Territorial units in their areas by showing some active interest in them, even if they are not associated with them in an official capacity.
§ I believe that the Territorial Army may well develop to the numbers and importance it had before the war; but I must strike one word of warning to your Lordships. As I see it, the position has in it some element of doubt and danger. When the Territorial Army was first formed, fifty years ago, it was for the purpose of home defence only, and no one could be sent abroad as a result of embodiment without his express consent. When the moment came in 1914, as like myself some of your Lordships will remember, invitations were issued to Territorials to volunteer for foreign service and there was an almost unanimous affirmative response. The Territorial who joined for home defence to help the country wished to have his part in any fighting that was going.
§ In the last war the Territorials did not have a very good deal. Despite some glorious episodes abroad, to a large extent they were kept at home, on antiaircraft duties. They were even denied the same distinctions in the way of medals and the like as were given to those who had been sent abroad. That has left a lasting scar upon the minds of the Territorials. They were not treated as if they were soldiers but as if they were some higher degree of Civil Defence workers, and they did not want that. The Territorials regard themselves as, and want to be, fighting men, if there is any fighting to be done.
§ The danger at the moment, as I see it, is this. There has been a good deal of publicity about Territorials being used, mostly, though not entirely, in the preservation of law and order, and for the support of the civil power and as a sort of supplementary Civil Defence Organisation. I am sure that that is a mistake. I am sure that if the Territorial Army is to be re-founded on a solid basis as a compact and growing force, as we want it to be, there must be held out to the Territorials not only the hope but also the prospect and expectation, and, indeed, the undertaking, that they will 29 have a part to play in any warlike activities in which the country is involved, as they wish to do and as they have shown themselves well qualified to do in the past. I hope that these observations may find some reflection in the minds of those who have the responsibility for the Territorial Army in their hands. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.20 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, has opened this debate with a comprehensive survey. I do not propose to follow him in all the directions that he took, but I should like to add my word of thanks to all the men who passed through the Army in the National Service. As the noble Lord said, they did a wonderful job of work; and although they will not admit it, I think a great many of them thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
In the Defence Debate last week a great many purely Service matters were discussed. To-day I expect that many of them will be mentioned again, with possibly some new ones brought out and some old ones emphasised. I should like to say, first of all, that I think the Memorandum, the actual document we are discussing, is an extremely good one. I should have liked it to be a little longer, but with the photographs and everything in it, it is interesting and well got up. I wish that the history of the activities of the Army, as set out in the Memorandum, could have far greater publicity. As I have often said before, too many people in this country outside the main military centres have little or no idea of what goes on in the Army or of its work. But if there is any rumour of any soldier or unit making a mistake, then immediately much is made of it.
In the history as set out in the Memorandum we are reminded of the fact that the overseas Commonwealth land forces have also been taking part in operations and are doing good work. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, mentioned the assistance given by the British Army to the Commonwealth forces, both in loaning and seconding officers and N.C.Os, and in arranging courses in this country for Commonwealth Servicemen. This assistance, to my mind, should be continued and, if possible, expanded. I know of one 30 officer from the Canadian Guards who is at this moment doing an attachment with a unit of the Brigade of Guards. He is given executive jobs to do; he has worked hard and takes an active interest in everything the unit is asked to perform, and thoroughly enjoys doing it. I may say also that his presence with the unit not only is welcomed but probably does the officers of the unit a lot of good as well.
The recruiting figures for other ranks, as the noble Lord said, are most satisfactory. I see that more technicians are wanted, and more recruits for the Women's Services. But the position in regard to recruiting officers is not good. This is a most important matter, and we should emphasise it as much as possible, and do all we can to improve the situation.
I should like now to quote from the speech of the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton, in the Defence Debate, when he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 214 (No. 48), col. 900]:I think your Lordships will agree that, no matter how good are the equipment and armaments that are provided, no matter how perfect our defence organisation may he, and no matter how highly trained the men in the ranks are, all this will he of no avail unless the supply of officers of the right type for all three of the Armed Forces of the Crown is fully maintained in the future.That, to my mind, is the crux of the whole matter. Two points make this statement particularly applicable to the Army. While the other Services are mostly concerned with training for something which we all trust will not occur, namely, a global war, the Army's tasks are world-wide and never-ending. They have to take part in major wars, limited wars and so-called peace-time emergencies, which of course include policing. Since the last war, hardly a month has gone by when units have not been engaged in actual operations to keep the peace. This has always been so, but I think nuclear parity has accentuated it. The absurdity of this situation is such that I believe the Russians will probably use other means to gain their ends; therefore it is the day-to-day tasks of the Army that are important. Still more important is that the leadership of the Army is first-class. I think it is essential that the job of the Army in all conditions and the importance of officers should be stressed.
31 The problem, of course, is how to get these things well known and to explain what we have to offer. What have we to offer? Before the war we had virtually nothing but the loyalty of the officers in their wish to serve the country. But now we have some selling points. As the noble Lord said, there is the scholarship scheme for 40 cadets a year, each providing for two years' tuition, plus a maintenance fee of £100, subject to a means test. At the Royal Military Academy now no fees have to be paid—in fact, as we all know, the cadets get paid. Training at the pre-military school at Welbeck is virtually free for those who cannot afford to pay. The Military College of Science, at Shrivenham, and Cambridge University provide together a total of 90 vacancies a year. Therefore, one in four cadets in the Royal Military Academy can qualify for a university degree. It is well known that the recent increases in pay and allowances have brought officers more into line with salaries paid outside the Service. But I believe that what is more important still is that matters which have long been hard on officers have now been taken into account. I am thinking, for example, as I said in the Defence Debate, of the new scale of special education allowances, free passage each year for children whose parents are serving overseas and so on. Both these points were recommended by the Grigg Committee and have now been accepted in toto.
The next question is how to get all this across and make people realise that the Army is in a position to offer a boy joining it a much better job than before. There are two main classes of recruitment. There are what the Grigg Committee calls the traditional Army schools, most of which, as we know, are situated in the South. Then there are the grammar schools, most of which are situated in the industrial North. In the old days nearly all the cadets at Sandhurst and Woolwich came from the former, the Army school. Except for two or three of the last commandants at Sandhurst, I believe that I am one of the few officers who has had the honour of instructing at both the old "shop", at Woolwich and at Sandhurst. The cadets from the old Army schools are still in the majority, though not altogether, I believe, for the reason suggested 32 by the Grigg Committee—the difficulty experienced by selection boards in assessing the real quality of the boys from the grammar schools—but because the tradition of the grammar schools and the schools in the North is for industry. It always has been. Thus, most of the best boys from these schools go into industry, and the less able ones are the ones who opt for the Army. I feel that we should make every effort to change this situation.
The old tradition in the Army schools has been weakened, and surely our first task must be to build it up again. Among the many reasons for this weakening some of which the noble Lord has already mentioned—are the post-war drive by industry to secure public school recruits; doubts in the minds of parents, masters and the boys themselves about their future in the Army in what is called the "press-button age"; the financial and other difficulties of officers with families; the effects of amalgamations and reorganisations, and the treatment of retired officers and widows. A great deal has been done to clear up and get rid of nearly all these difficulties, and I trust that the rest will be got rid of very soon. I am certain that it is most important that all this should be made clear in every possible way, even if it costs money. I know that the Army are doing a great deal through television and by other means—perhaps they may be able to do more—to make it clear to the boys that there is a real job for them. Central conferences with headmasters to explain this are being and have been carried out for some time, and I consider them most important. It is also important they should be followed up at all levels. School liaison officers should be youngish officers, though possibly not newly joined, who have recent experience to tell the boys, and not more elderly and senior officers who are sometimes apt to look back. I believe that all this boils down to the fact that the old tradition must be built up again and further expansion of the non-traditional must follow.
Are there any other steps we can take? It may be that two can be considered. First of all, there is the cadet entry. There is, of course, the problem of the entrance examinations. The fighting officer, I believe, needs leadership before academic qualifications. It is true that the Army is becoming increasingly technical, and 33 that the high standard of entrance examination interests masters at schools arid encourages competition. But to-day the need of the Army, or the fighting portion of the Army—as shown in Malaya, Cyprus and in many parts of the world—is for those old-fashioned factors of initiative and guts. Many good young boys who have these attributes may be lost if the academic standard is kept too high. On the other -hand, openings for these university degrees—the ones I described a short time ago—are not fully taken up because there are not enough with academic qualifications.
My Lords, this problem seems to be extremely difficult. Would it be possible. without lowering the general standard—and:it must not on any account be lowered—to have two standards in the examination for the Royal Military Academy? We know that there is a precedent. Before the war, the examination into Woolwich was a great deal stiffer than the one into Sandhurst. I went 'to Sandhurst. Therefore, the distinction was between the Sappers, the Gunners and the Royal Corps of Signals, on -the one hand, and the rest of the Army on the other. If you had these two standards in the examination at Sandhurst, the distinction then would be between the technical arms and corps of the Service on the one hand, and the central fighting arms on the other.
Then there is the career aspect. I think the setting up of a Committee under General Goodbody is an excellent step, in that the main proposals of the Grigg Committee can be carefully considered The suggestion in the Grigg Committee that officers should serve until the age of 60 is, of course, an ideal, but almost impossible to carry out under present conditions. The tasks of the Army call for fit and active commanders, and continued service must therefore be outside the active list. The system of employing retired officers at static headquarters might be extended, bin the rates of pay will have to be carefully gone into, because I do not believe that officers who have held a fairly senior rank will be prepared to go down as low as they -have been doing in the past, when officers who held first-grade appointments in the Army went back and became the equivalent of a staff captain in the static headquarters.
There is also the question of offering them Government employment outside 34 the Service. I understand that the Treasury have already come to a decision about the employment of ex-officers in senior positions in the Civil Service. Another suggestion of the Grigg Committee was that the crucial decision about the officer's future should be taken when he is still in his thirties. That possibly is an easier matter, but if such an officer does get promotion at some time in his thirties and stays on, he should then have, and must have, a very good chance of reaching the rank of full colonel or brigadier, thus serving until he is 52 or 54 and then becoming eligible for much improved benefits on his retirement. The general status of the Staff officer has been lowered; it was lowered at the beginning of the war. Could not many of the Grade I appointments of Staff officers be raised again to the rank of full colonel? It would probably in itself cost more, but, on the other hand, it would lead, almost certainly, to a reduction in general in the level of Staffs, because each level would go up in responsibility and status.
I fear I have talked rather long on the officer problem, but I consider it to be one of major importance. As to the rest, I know that many noble Lords are going to talk about equipment and other aspects of the Army, and I would only say that I am convinced in my mind that the Army as it is to-day is in very good form and in good shape. There is nothing wrong, and there never has been with the British Army. It needs re-equipping, which we are certain will be done soon, but I am equally certain that all parts of the Army if called upon to do so will give an excellent account of themselves, as usual, with whatever equipment they may have at the time.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ LORD HARDING OF PETHERTON
My Lords, it is a particular pleasure for me to have the opportunity of speaking in this debate on a Motion standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. As he has already explained, he is closely associated with me in one particular regiment. He happens to be the honorary colonel of the regiment in which I began my military career, and last night, as he has told your Lordships, we were together at a very happy and encouraging social function of the battery of his regiment which now carries on the name and tradition of my original regiment. So it is a 35 particular pleasure for me to be here this afternoon and to take part in this debate. The noble Lord's interest in the Army, and particularly in the Territorial Army is well known, and I can assure him from my own personal experience that that interest and support is very greatly appreciated.
The British Army is at a very critical stage in its long and distinguished history. The regular Army is on its way back to an all-Regular basis, and in the course of that it is going through the process of a difficult and severe reorganisation. The Territorial Army is already back on an all-volunteer basis. These changes present for the Army as a whole very considerable problems—serious problems of manpower and of equipment, of organisation and of training.
At the risk of being considered a bore, I should like to refer again to the question which I raised in the debate last week on the Defence White Paper, and which has already been mentioned this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen: that is, the supply of officers for the Army. I believe that that is the most critical of the many problems which the Army to-day is facing. Ever since the end of the last war the Army has been overstrained; its commitments have been in excess of its resources and units have been for the greater part under strength. This stress has imposed a severe strain on the Army as a whole, and particularly on the officers. I would stress, with all the emphasis at my command, that the most critical problem facing the British Regular Army to-day is this question of the supply of officers. It has been dealt with at length, and I had the opportunity last week of a talk with General Goodbody who is now engaged as the head of a Committee considering this problem. All I would say on that matter is to urge the Government and the Army Council to press on with all speed in the completion of the studies and the discussions of this Committee and to publish the Report as quickly as may be so that it can be considered and action can be taken on it.
As I indicated in the debate last week, there is one question which I think can be dealt with in advance of the publication of the Report of the Goodbody Com- 36 mittee, and that is to resolve to put out of their uncertainty the very large number of officers who still remain in Category C in the Army. Their uncertainty, as I said last week, is the worst possible advertisement for young men who think of making the Army their career, and I hope that the noble Earl who is to reply for the Government will be able to assure your Lordships that it will not be long before these officers—and there are many of them— are given definite information about their future. I feel certain that that will have a direct bearing on the recruitment of officers in the Army during the next few years.
Now may I turn for a moment to the question of the strength of the future all-Regular Army. This has already been discussed this afternoon. The point I should like to make is that the strength of the Army depends on two factors: one is its commitments in terms of formations and units, and the other is what I would describe as the economic strength of the various units; and each type of unit has a different economic strength. If I may illustrate my point by reference to an infantry battalion, I would say, out of my experience, that in these days the economic strength of an infantry battalion overseas is somewhere of the order of 750, all ranks. If the strength falls below that figure, then the battalion becomes less and less operationally efficient and its overheads are more and more extravagant in relation to the tasks that it can carry out.
At home, a battalion needs, in my view and experience, to be at a minimum strength of about 650, all ranks. If it falls below that strength then training becomes unrealistic and, what is worse, when that unit has to go overseas, as it may well have to do at very short notice, there is bound to be considerable cross-posting from other regiments; it must be from other regiments because there are no regiments these days with more than one battalion. A cross-posting between regiments is bad enough for the National Servicemen; it is much worse for Regular soldiers whose roots go deeper into the regiment and who have every right to look upon their regiment as their military home. So although it is impossible to forecast the future commitments of the British Army in terms of units and formations, it is, I am certain, possible to be quite definite about the 37 strength at which units should be kept if they are to be operationally efficient, if they are to be economic in terms of overheads and if their training is to be realistic. If these three "ifs" are not met, then the country is not getting proper value for the money, the material and the manpower which is being provided for the Army.
I have said that it is impossible to forecast what the commitments of the Army will be in future. That is true. But it is all the more reason for maintaining in this country and in suitable stations overseas, an adequate strategic reserve as the cushion against unforeseen commitments. But there is another corollary of that—namely that these units of the strategic reserve must be kept at an economic strength, their equipment must be up to date and their training must be of the highest order. A good deal of discussion has taken place in another place and in the Press about the total strength of the future all-Regular Army, but, as I have said, no one without the fullest information of all the facts and factors can give an accurate forecast. My guess is that those who have put the figure at 220,000 are likely to be proved much nearer the mark than those who have thought or hoped that 165,000 would be sufficient. As I understand it, the figure is now 180,000; but I would implore Her Majesty's Government, in order to maintain an adequate strategic reserve at a high standard of operational efficiency and, above all, in order to maintain units at an economic strength, that if it is found that the Regular Army can recruit up to 200,000 then they should be allowed to do so.
On the question of recruiting there is one matter which causes me, as colonel of a regiment, considerable concern; it is the misappropriation (I do not think that that is too strong a word) of regimental funds that is going on to-day in order to sustain the recruiting campaign. I have here two pamphlets, the one produced by the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the other by the Royal Tank Regiment. They are both excellent, but they can have been produced only out of regimental funds which were subscribed and made available for other purposes. I maintain that that is absolutely wrong in principle. What is more, it is apt, or likely, to lead to unhealthy competition in the field of recruiting between regi- 38 ments and corps, and it also puts a premium on those regiments and corps which have the longest purses. If the Government are not prepared to find all the funds that are needed to sustain recruiting at the moment they have certainly no right to claim all the credit for the results; and I would urge that this question of the availability of funds for the special needs of individual regiments for recruiting purposes should be reviewed, and that arrangements should be made so that there are sufficient funds available for the special needs of the regiments and there is no need to draw on regimental funds for these purposes.
May I now turn for a moment to the question of the regimental system, which, as your Lordships are so fully aware, has been in existence in the British Army almost since its very beginning. I was, I must confess, surprised—I might say shocked— by some remarks made by the noble Earl. Lord Lucan, in the debate last week on defence, in which, if I understood him aright, he claimed, or said, that the regimental system was to blame for the shortcomings and deficiencies in the Army's attitude towards co-operation and integration on an inter-Service basis. I am certain, out of my own experience, that that is not so. There may have been individual cases where, because he put the interests of his regiment first, an officer may have been prejudiced in inter-Service matters. But, in my experience, the better an officer is as a regimental officer and as an Army officer, the better service he will give and the more devoted he will be to the whole business of inter-Service co-operation and integration. The regimental system has certain defects and disadvantages, mainly of an administrative nature; but they are not those which were mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan.
On the other hand, after some considerable service in the Army and certain experience in both world wars, I am convinced that the regimental system is a very great source of strength to the British Army, and I most devoutly hope that the remarks which were made last week do not imply that the Opposition have, or would have, any intention of tampering with the regimental system if they came into power. The regimental system has shown itself to be adaptable. It is not a "Blimpish", old-fashioned organisation, and it has been the great 39 strength behind the amalgamations which have taken place in the reorganisation of the Army and, with one exception, have been carried through smoothly and effectively. I would make a very strong plea that your Lordships should give your full support to the retention of the regimental system as the basis of organisation in the British Army.
If I may detain your Lordships one moment longer, I should like to make some reference to the Territorial Army. As the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said, I started my military career in the Territorial Army, and as your Lordships will remember I had the privilege of speaking in the debate on the Territorial Army on the occasion of the Territorial Army Jubilee last year. The only point I wish to make about the Territorial Army is that if the present very encouraging trend of improvement in recruiting is to be maintained, then, having got the recruiting campaign going so well—with the aid of regimental funds—and having the equipment problem under control, as we all hope from the report that has been given in the White Paper on the subject and from statements made in another place, the Army Council and the Ministers responsible would be wise, I believe, to turn their attention to the future of the Territorial Army.
I would not suggest for one moment that there should be any revolutionary changes in the organisation of the Territorial Army or that there is a need for any form of surgical operation; but if the Territorial Army is to feel, as it must do, that it is playing a full part in the defence organisation of our country then it must be progressively, if not in revolutionary fashion, remodelled on a functional basis. That is as much as I would say at this stage, but I believe that that is a subject to which those responsible, the Ministers and the Army Council, should give their attention and on which they should work. May I conclude as I started and say again that in my view and out of my experience the most pressing problem of the Army to-day is the supply of officers. If Her Majesty's Government and the Army Council can solve it they will deserve well of the Army and of the nation.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I should first thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Jeffreys, for allowing me to 40 speak before him. It so happens that I have an important meeting upstairs in about twenty minutes; and so I, a very junior officer, am given the privilege of following a very senior officer—and may I say immediately that I appreciate that privilege. As I see it, the Army Estimates to-day represent a certain new confidence in the future of the Army after many years of doubt. The recommendations of the Grigg Committee have been accepted, as the noble Viscount. Lord Goschen has shown, almost in entirety. But if I may come back to the officer problem, to which the noble and gallant Lord has referred. I would say that there is left over the one issue that I understand is usually referred to as the "career structure of the officer". May I put this issue in the form of a fairly simple question? Can an officer be given the choice of retiring in his late thirties, when it is still possible for him to carve out for himself a new career in civil life, or, alternatively, can he be offered the inducement to serve on to the age of 60 or more? Can, in fact, a modified pension or a terminal grant be offered to an officer after about fifteen years' service, and, if so, can we ensure that the young officer of ability who obviously would go very far remains in the Service and does not avail himself of that opportunity to go? Equally, can we ensure that officers of obvious lesser value will not remain on?
It seems to me that in this dilemma some form of selection is involved, and that is an extremely difficult problem to handle. At the other end of the scale the recommendations of the Grigg Committee are to the effect that an officer should be allowed to stay on until the age of 60 or beyond, apparently on the assumption that after 60 an officer may not need to be employed—an assumption which I suggest, if observed in relation to the services of your Lordships in this House. might leave us rather thin on the ground, both in numbers and certainly in wealth of experience. The Goodbody Committee are studying these problems, and I believe they deserve our sympathy, because it is an extremely difficult subject. If, in his reply, the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, can give us information on this point without divulging what the Committee under General Goodbody is in fact deciding, we shall be very grateful.
41 There is only one other question of fact which I would raise, and I do so as a junior officer. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, referred to the strategic reserve. Command Paper 669 refers only in one place, as far as I can discover, to a strategic reserve as such, and that is in paragraph 65, where it is stated that accommodation is to be built in Kenya for two battalions of the strategic reserve. Putting my mind back about thirty years, I recall that the term "strategic reserve", used for the purposes of a promotion examination, conjured up a picture of a great number of troops, fluctuating, perhaps, according to the situation, centrally placed and highly mobile. It is a term which has come to be used very frequently and rather loosely, and if the noble Earl can give us some guidance as to what exactly constitutes the strategic reserve I would suggest that much military thought and military comment and writing would receive some necessary and clear direction.
So much for factual matters. May I, in conclusion, refer to a matter rather of theory? Your Lordships will need no reminding of the great range of tasks that faces the Army to-day. The position was stated to me extremely concisely by a senior officer two days ago, when he said that the demands upon the Army to-day on the one hand represent weapons and on the other hand represent men. On the one hand, we have the demands of Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty—a demand mainly for missiles, the conception being that missiles will fill the gaps where we have not a sufficient number of men; and. on the other hand, we have the situations that are going on all over the world in Cyprus, Aden, Oman, perhaps Kenya, perhaps even Nyasaland—and situations of that sort demand emphatically men on the ground, in contrast to missiles. Yet we cannot have two Armies. It surely suggests that the soldier of to-morrow has to borrow from the technique of the Navy and regard himself as a jack-of-all-trades. He has to be highly intelligent, extremely adaptable and physically fit to meet the circumstances of all climates under all conditions.
To attract that kind of soldier it seems to me that the Army must be built up in the eyes of the public as a corps délite, a service in which it is a privilege to serve. I suggest that the old happy days when an officer and a soldier served four years in a settled station in this country, 42 to be continued with four or eight happy years in Meerut or Shanghai, are days that have gone for ever, and we have to face it. To-day perhaps Cyprus represents the conditions, and the conditions have neither the glamour of war nor the settlement of peace. While the recruiting figures certainly reveal confidence, to obtain soldiers for that kind of Army, it seems to me, still requires that the inducement to enlist must be the inducement that the man is joining a very exclusive kind of club.
I know that the Public Relations Office at the War Office are working very hard and with great imagination on this aspect of Army affairs; but this is the sum total of what I have to say: the final responsibility for this matter does not rest with the Army; it rests far beyond the Army; it rests with the nation itself. If it is true that every people get the Government that they deserve, it is also true that every people get the Army of their desserts. As I see it, progressive people, conscious of their achievement and without false pride, with confidence in the part they have to play in international affairs, could only dispose an Army of the highest quality in terms of morale or training or contentment; and I think that, with that in mind, the soldier is entitled to turn to the nation as a whole and remind us of the poet who said:Get you the men your fathers got,And God will save The Queen.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
My Lords, although recruiting has greatly improved of late, it is still necessary to make the Army more attractive to the potential recruit. One thing, in particular, needs attention, and that is that barracks should be very much better, more convenient and more comfortable. I do not mean that barracks should be luxurious. Soldiers have to live so as to be hard and fit and active; I do not mean that they should live in luxury in any sort of way. I do, however, mean that barracks should be less inconvenient than they often are, and should have ample facilities both for baths and for games, to mention only two things. It is curious that the troops look forward to being quartered in Germany—and they do look forward to it—where the Nazis at least knew how to build barracks and to make men reasonably comfortable.
43 Another thing is that the men should be given a reasonably smart walking-out dress. Possibly in the first place that might be given chiefly to men who are voluntary recruits and not to conscripts. I think that both leave conditions and food in the Army have very much improved; but I would add, having opened on the subject of barracks, that there are no worse barracks in the Army than those close to us here, in London. Wellington Barracks were built in the reign of King William IV; Chelsea Barracks are early Victorian, and undoubtedly bad. I would add that nowhere but in London would the Guards Chapel, a blackened ruin, destroyed in the course of service, be allowed to stand unrepaired within 400 yards of Buckingham Palace, the residence of the Sovereign. My Lords, when I was commanding the London District, which is more than twenty years ago, there were estimates for rebuilding these barracks, but those estimates were turned down because they were considered to be too high. It would cost very much more to rebuild those barracks to-day.
There is, of course, a shortage of officers, and the Government have been reduced to offering scholarships at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst —a very great difference from the corn-petition which used to exist not so many years ago. I would venture to agree with the noble and gallant Lord who preceded me by one and who said that the supply of officers is the most important thing in the British Army. I entirely agree. Incidentally, a Committee is being set up now to examine the problem of the recruitment of officers. It is not surprising, in my view, that there should be difficulties, for boys do not fail to take note of their parents' conditions; and there is an urgent need to improve the conditions of the retired officers and of their widows. I propose to refer to those matters a little later in my speech.
But first of all I wish to refer to the proposed reduction of the Brigade of Guards. The Government have decided to reduce two battalions, neither of which. I would say, can be spared. Owing to the deficiency of barracks and the quartering of Guards battalions elsewhere, in Germany, in Cyprus and so forth, there are now only three battalions, sometimes 44 only two, available for the duties in London for which five battalions were formerly available. In consequence, the men are constantly on guard or duty, and they get little or no time for training. Some people think that the Brigade of Guards in London have an easy time. They little know of the long hours of guard duty, for which spotless turn-out is required; and that, because the men must have some rest, there is no spare time, whether for training or for recreation or for anything else.
The Government have selected for reduction the two Third Battalions, presumably because they are Third Battalions, regardless of the fact that one of these is literally the oldest battalion—the oldest, that is, with continuous service under the British Crown; not with continuous service under, shall we say, a revolutionary Government, or under a foreign Sovereign—whilst the other Third Battalion (a very good battalion, too, as I can say, because I have had it under my command) was raised during my service, which is not so very long ago. But they are both good battalions, I would say, and cannot be spared. Is there no other practicable method of achieving what is required, short of abolishing them altogether? For instance, could not each battalion be reduced to possibly two companies, or less—in fact, to a skeleton? It is a bad blow to abolish two battalions, and it is bound to make the brigade short in the future for their legitimate duties.
The noble and gallant Field Marshal made the remark that the supply of officers is one of the most important things—in fact, the most important thing—when considering the Army. I entirely agree with him; and I make no apology for reverting to the subject of officers' pensions—a matter which is responsible for much of the shortage of officers. This shortage is due largely to the Treasury theory as to the immutability of pensions. In fact, it is due quite largely to the Treasury theory that pensions cannot be changed. Why the Treasury adhere to this ridiculous doctrine no one knows, but it has been shown to be futile and unworkable by the Government's decision to review pay and pensions every two years. Are the Treasury going to say that this cannot be done; that it is impossible, and that it is contrary to all the principles to which they adhere?
45 There are a few surviving officers who retired before 1914: I believe there are something like 30 of them. Since they retired the cost of living has risen by 330 per cent.—330 per cent., my Lords! Their pensions are, therefore, worth practically nothing. But immutability, no doubt, in the opinion of the Treasury, comes before starvation, and is more important. Many retired officers have had to commute up to half their retired pay in order to meet such commitments as their children's education, and are therefore living on half, or less than half, of their retired pay. My Lords, I would make the suggestion that there should be only two codes of retired pay: the first applicable to officers retiring after the date of the authorisation of the code—in other words, if an officer retired last month, then he would get his full pension—and the second applicable to all officers who retired before that date; that is to say, those who retired on the pre-1919, 1919 or 1945 codes, which would be raised to the 1950 rate, since when retired pay has depreciated, I may say, by over 48 per cent.
Lastly, there is the case of officers' widows. At present, if an officer dies leaving a widow, that widow gets one-third of the officer's rate of retired pay—that is, if he died last month, or quite recently. But in the case of an officer who died before 1952 leaving a widow, that widow remains on the old rates. which were described in the Grigg Report as "ludicrously low". I do trust that the widows of officers may receive the full rate, whatever it may be. The cost of this would be very small, for many of these widows are now old ladies, and their expectation of life cannot be very long.
I venture to hope that it may be possible to continue to station in Libya such forces as may be required there. There are many reasons for regretting the loss of the Indian Army; and I think that we ought to take all steps that we possibly can to give troops that are stationed in outlying parts of Europe—for instance, Cyprus or Malta—the chance of some training. Finally, I would say, as I said last week, that I pray that the outbreak of another war may not find us unprepared, as we always have been in the past. We have always been unprepared at the beginning of wars: unprepared, at any rate, so far as land 46 and air defences have been concerned. It is our custom to be unprepared at the beginning of a war, and often the reason is said to be expense. No doubt it is true at the beginning. But, my Lords, unpreparedness is itself terribly expensive—expensive in life, expensive in money, and expensive in material. I pray that, if we are to have war again, we may be ready when it comes: ready with all our Forces, whether by land, air, or sea, to face the difficulties which must inevitably occur.
§ 4.29 p.m.
LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL
My Lords, for the second time I have followed my noble and gallant friend Lord Jeffreys on a debate on this subject. This time he has dealt so clearly with the problems that will inevitably arise in the Brigade of Guards, in which we both served, that I will not follow him in any detail on that matter. He has put the position very clearly before your Lordships.
Like many other noble Lords, I also had taken the view that the most important problem arising out of the Memorandum was the question of manpower and recruiting. The noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton, raised the question of the use of regimental funds for actual recruiting documents or circulars. I had another point, rather on the same lines, though from a completely contrary aspect. I understand that, for security reasons, the regimental magazines, which are extremely good recruiting material, are not allowed to be sold on railway bookstalls, where they would have a large potential public to buy them and could be an extremely useful method of advertisement and Army recruiting.
I do not want to repeat all the arguments that have been gone into extremely fully, especially after the brilliantly clear way that my noble and gallant friend brought out all the problems of recruiting, both for other ranks and for officers; but there is one point as regards the recruiting of other ranks that I should like to put before your Lordships. It is clear from the fact that the fighting Army is recruiting extremely well that the recruit likes to join a fairly closed community, where he can have intimate comradeship, and is not so anxious to join the more open communities of the 47 Service—the technical, supply and maintenance services. I put forward, very tentatively, a possibility that might help to ease this matter. At the moment the policy is to civilianise heavily all the static depôts. Of course, if this civilianisation gets to an extreme stage, it must make great complications in the command and control of depôts in dealing with two completely different types of people and discipline. I wonder whether there would be any future in some form of local recruitment for service in these depôts as members of the Army, on condition that in the event of an emergency service would become normal general service. Such a scheme could possibly be extended to recruit men of an age older than the ordinary Army recruiting limits.
There is a rather similar problem in the Army Emergency Reserve. So far as I am aware, the Army Emergency Reserve has received very little publicity of late. It is losing its intake of National Service volunteers and will have to depend entirely on ordinary volunteers, in the same way as the Territorial Army, and I think that it is disturbing that these figures are showing a tendency to drop. I do not know whether my noble friend will be able to give any information on that point.
On the question of dress, I entirely agree with everything my noble friend Lord Jeffreys said, but I would add that I hope that, when this new walking-out dress, No. 1 dress, is produced, whatever type is decided on, it will be absolutely forbidden that the battledress should be cut about and made tight—what is supposed to be smart. It should remain completely as a fighting dress. Incidentally, I saw that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said in another place that trials of a new type of mackintosh were to start in April. I only hope that he has not had previous information about an extremely wet summer.
As regards the recruitment of officers, I have nothing to add to what has already been said, except that I think it extremely important that something should be done about the point raised by my noble friend Lord Goschen concerning the regrading of Staff officers and the making of more full colonels into Grade I Staff officers. I would say, in reinforcing what my noble friend said, that the object of this is to 48 give an officer who reaches fairly senior major rank a really good chance of going on to the rank of full colonel, and so to an age of about 54, instead of 47. That would have the double advantage of keeping him employed for longer and of giving him a considerably higher rate of retired pay.
I hope that this problem is being looked at seriously. In November, the Secretary of State said that the War Office had been examining it for some months, and now this Committee under General Sir Richard Goodbody has been set up. I hope that the terms of reference of that Committee have been made as wide as possible, because unless they consider every aspect of an officer's service in the Army, they cannot really begin to find any solution to the problem. They ought to think completely afresh on all the problems, and should not be tied by any preconceived ideas of what has always happened in the past.
There is one point that I should like to make on the Territorial Army—and I made a similar remark last year. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said that he thought it was a bad plan that the Territorial Army should be given, as one of their major rôles in war, that of Civil Defence. I think it ought to be made absolutely clear that in those circumstances the Territorial Army would function as units and would be doing exactly the same as the Regular Army would do, and have done under similar conditions, if the Regular Army were available to do it. They are merely replacing the Regular Army in that rôle.
Finally, my Lords, there is one other point that I should like to bring up. We have every right in the world to congratulate the Army on its service in Cyprus, but I believe that we are sometimes apt to overlook the fact that there are other smaller operations happening at intervals. There was one small and, so far as one could judge, from reading the newspapers, extremely well carried out operation in Oman. I think that if that type of work were given more publicity, it would help even more than other conditions have helped in improving the recruiting figures for the Army.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I agree with everything that the noble Lord who has just spoken said in relation to 49 the good work done by the Army, but I consider that in this year's Memorandum the accent is on mobility—strategic, tactical and battlefield. Air-portability is to be a major feature, with the added qualification of utmost speed and excellent striking power. I do not intend to weary your Lordships with a detailed list of new weapons or equipment which are or will be coming into service, but I would mention a few in order to emphasise the two points I wish to make on the subject, namely, the question of delivery of equipment and weapons to the Army units and of aircraft capacity—and by that I mean the question of payload. Our Army is or will be equipped with the battalion Mobat anti-tank gun, the Saladin armoured car, the Ferret scout car, the L70 Bofors anti-aircraft gun for low level attacks, and the Thunderbird mobile weapon for higher level attacks. There is also to be, we are told, an air-portable 105 millimetre howitzer. This is from an Italian design and is at present undergoing tests.
It is stated in the Memorandum that we are working on the design of a 105 millimetre self-propelled gun. During the course of a similar debate in another place a few days ago the Minister of Supply referred to the 105 millimetre gun and said that it is in production now. I wonder whether that has reference to the same gun. The first words would seem to indicate that it is still at the drawing-board stage, but if it is in production it is certainly well advanced. Could the noble Earl also say whether the advanced guided missile anti-tank system refers to the Australian Malkara weapon, or is it a modified Vickers 891 weapon? In 1955 the Secretary of State for War, during the course of the Army Estimates debate, referred to a guided weapon under development. The new design of armoured personnel carrier referred to in paragraph 71 is, I suppose, basically the tracked cargo carrier which may be seen in photographic form in the Memorandum. But as the Saracen has now been completely introduced within the units which are to receive this type of vehicle, it would seem that the words of the Secretary of State for War, that "Re-equipment is a continuing process," are borne out.
If re-equipment is a "continuing process", could the process be speeded up? 50 Way back in 1956 the Saladin Mark II—which is, I think, the type of vehicle still being handed over to our units—was being tested; in fact, one could see it in photographic form in an S.M.M.T. publication entitled British Military Vehicles. I had a personal experience a few years ago with regard to specialist vehicles. A feature of this particular type of vehicle was that it had air conditioning facilities and a greatly increased floor area, particularly useful when one wished to use this particular type of vehicle under static conditions. When I enquired as to progress on this vehicle, I was informed by the member of the department concerned that (to use his own words), "Everything is going according to plan". During the same period of time that this one prototype vehicle was produced and completed a complete range of similar vehicles was produced in Germany. Possibly the time taken for tests and modifications within Ministry of Supply establishments could also be decreased.
My second point is the question of air-portability capacity and the mobility of our strategic reserve. We are told that that is to be achieved by the expansion of the Royal Air Force Transport Command. Britannias will be coming into service this year; Britannics have recently been ordered. For shorter hauls, Armstrong Whitworth 660s will supplement the Beverleys and the Hastings; in other words, civilian Hermes will be used in a tactical capacity. In 1957 it was stated by the Secretary of State for War that every new item of equipment ordered by the Army would be looked on as potential air freight. I think, therefore, that there is a case for the Government to assist now the independent air transport operators; and by assistance I mean the provision, or the consideration, at any rate, of longer-term contracts for trooping, and also possibly for air freight movement. That capacity could be invaluable in a case of emergency, and the experience gained now by the crews would serve them greatly in such an emergency. As I understand it, seven private operators have, either in service or on order, and mainly the latter, 23 Viscounts and 3 Britannias. I also have in mind the question of carriage of our air-portable equipment of the future. Could the Government not assist to a greater extent the private operators, so 51 that they could be in a position to envisage the necessary capital expenditure for the acquisition of modern aircraft which could equally well be used for trooping or the carriage of weapons and equipment?
Finally, I should like to compliment Her Majesty's Government on the most encouraging increase over the last year in the number of other ranks who are committed to a period of service of six years and over. During the course of last year I believe that the figure exceeded 15,000. I should also like to compliment Her Majesty's Government on the most encouraging increase in the recruiting for the Territorial Army. I believe the figure for last year was an increase of 23,000 members—certainly a very excellent increase indeed. May I ask the noble Earl who is to reply for the Government whether he could define exactly what the future rôle of the Territorial Army will be? Here I would say I agree completely with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton. I should like to ask the noble Earl whether, in the case of a limited war, the rôle of the Territorial Army will be as outlined in paragraph 48 of last year's Memorandum—namely, that it will be to make good gaps in the structure of the Regular Army—or whether, in the case of a major war, the Territorial Army will be entrusted solely with the responsibility of Civil Defence, as stated in paragraph 59 of the present Memorandum.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I should like first to apologise to your Lordships' House for not being present in the Chamber at the beginning of this debate, as I was attending a Committee upstairs. As I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, quoting the new equipment which has been promised to the Army, I felt that he had some doubt about how quickly this equipment would be available to the Services, particularly those overseas. No doubt he had in mind the story of the F.N. rifle. I believe that that rifle was being discussed and was promised to the Army a matter of six or seven years ago; and we heard from the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, only the other day, in the Defence debate, that this rifle, 52 the soldier's best friend, would be available to the "teeth" sections of the Army some time this year. I do not know to what part of the Army in Germany he was referring when he talked about "the teeth". My experience as a soldier is that when times are difficult, even the N.A.A.F.I. manager and his staff become part of the "teeth". I hope that the story of the Saladin and the other vehicles which will be coming to the Army will be vastly different from the story of the F.N. rifle.
In the few moments in which I wish to speak I want to say something on the question of transport. I believe that, particularly between the last two wars, insufficient attention was paid by the War Office to the question of transport. As those of us who served in the Desert during the war will know—and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord (Harding of Petherton will bear me out—it was the "soft-skinned" transport which eventually brought us victory; at least, it was highly complementary to victory. It was only the ability to move vast quantities of stores and ammunition, and even bombs for the Royal Air Force, that brought us victory over Rommel.
But what was the story in 1940 and 1941? I believe that General Wavell's Forces depended largely on captured Italian vehicles. When I read the comments in the Grigg Report I wondered whether the situation might not be the same to-day. It was there said that if the commanding officer went out, it was necessary for a spare vehicle to follow, so that he could complete his journey. This is not the only comment that has been made on the situation in Germany. However, I was reading in the Report of the debate in another place that conditions have somewhat improved, or possibly radically improved. I believe that last year the number of new vehicles delivered to the Army in Germany was 12 per cent. of the total. To-day I believe that the proportion has been raised to 84 per cent., and that shortly the whole Army should be equipped with new vehicles. This is an encouraging position.
What I should like to ask the Minister this afternoon is whether he can tell us the sort of vehicles with which the Army has been equipped. Has there been any standardisation? Are the engines and the spare parts of the transport service 53 interchangeable with each other? I believe that that is a most important point. I was in transport in the Desert, and I know our great difficulty on the question of spare parts. In the lines of communication in 1942 we had in the 3-ton group at least three or four different makes. The engines were not interchangeable and neither were the carburettors. Therefore, if one had a number of vehicles off the road one had to wait until the spare parts came up. It was impossible to borrow from a neighbouring unit because it was equipped with different vehicles. I believe this standardisation of transport to be absolutely essential. It would be vastly cheaper and vastly more efficient. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some information on that matter this afternoon.
I would now ask the Minister one question on staff cars. When I went to Germany last year I was not able to see the Army, but I am wondering whether my impression of the Army is correct from what I saw in regard to the Royal Air Force. I was amazed at the number of staff cars that were German Mercedes-Benz cars. On this particularly Parliamentary Mission we were transported in German Mercedes cars. I do not know the explanation—whether the Army were able to buy Mercedes more cheaply than they could British cars—but I think it is wrong that our Army and Air Force in Germany should be using German vehicles as staff cars. I think it is equally wrong that if Members of Parliament go to these countries they should be transported in such vehicles.
One other point with which I wish to deal on the question of equipment in Germany is radio. When I was over there I heard that the radio equipment of the Army left a lot to be desired. This was supported by an article in the Manchester Guardian some time ago, when the writer referred to the radio equipment of the Army as "junk". I do not know whether he was being too strong, but there was no doubt that there were reasons for disquiet. We understand that improvements have been made. Could the noble Lord give us any indication about what part of the Army is being supplied with radio equipment? Is it being supplied only to the "teeth" units, or is it to be supplied to the lines of communication?
54 One last point I would mention, switching from Germany to Malaya. I see from the Army Estimates that work is proceeding on the construction of a cantonment to house the Commonwealth Brigade at Malacca. Can the noble Earl tell us how far that work has gone? I should also like to ask the noble Earl whether he can give any information with regard to the recruiting of Gurkha troops. There is a Gurkha division which has played a prominent part in the campaign against Communists in Malaya, and I am wondering whether recruits for that worthy division are forthcoming. Before I conclude, I would express a word of appreciation and congratulation to the Government on the success of recruiting. I do not think the Government should be in any way complacent. We have a long way to go before we get the figures we want, while there is too big a degree of unemployment which may help—I say "may help"—recruiting. I believe that we have got to use energy and foresight if we are to attain the figures that all three Services require.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, we have had a valuable debate ably initiated by my noble friend, Lord Nathan. We are, I am sure, particularly pleased with the contribution of the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton, whose great experience and close association with the Army, not only of the past but of the present, is very valuable to your Lordships. There have been two or three threads running through the debate and I propose to comment on them very shortly in the course of my speech, but before doing so, in case I forget, I would just touch on a point that has not, as I remember, been touched on; that is the necessity for training grounds—very much larger training grounds than anything we can possibly manage in this country. I referred to it in my speech in the Defence debate on the 10th of this month, when I suggested that we might, in conjunction with our partners in the Commonwealth, establish in Australia or Canada really large training grounds where the Commonwealth Forces, including our own and also the Territorial Army, could go for training.
I think it is important that we establish such training areas, because in the near 55 future the strategic reserve will be a reality instead of a figment; we shall have in this country a large number of troops and they must be able to train somewhere. We all remember how difficult it was, even before the war, to have any realistic training, with orchards and gentlemen's gardens and all the rest of it cut out; you could not go here or there because of this piece of private property or that piece of public property; and I am told that to-day it is even worse. It is more important for the Army than for the Navy or the Air Force. The Navy has the wide seas and the Air Force has the open sky, or what is left apart from what is used by civil aviation. The Army has nothing in this country but the little bit left from civilian use. I would suggest that the Government take that point seriously.
One of the threads running through the debate is the question of the strategic reserve. It was referred to by my noble friend Lord Nathan, and he gave the figure which he had arrived at for the strategic reserve as being somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25,000; that is not only for the strategic reserve but also a figure to cover those troops which are needed for garrisons overseas other than Germany. So far as I can make out from my own arithmetic, I think that that is probably about the figure it will be when the strategic reserve is formed here and the troops are back from Cyprus and elsewhere. I understand the set-up of the strategic reserve is that the G.O.C. Southern Command will be responsible for its command, certainly the command of the strategic reserve in this country and maybe also of the part in East Africa, but that has not been definitely stated.
The strategic reserve will not all be in Southern Command but spread over England, parts in Eastern Command and parts in Southern Command. It will be organised largely into the 1st and 3rd divisions. So far as the home forces are concerned, the General Officer Commanding in Chief Eastern Command is also now the General Officer Commanding in Chief Home Forces, and therefore the Eastern Command and the Territorial Army will in future be responsible for home defence, whereas Southern Command and the strategic reserve will be responsible for overseas operations. That is, as I see it, the general picture. The 56 overseas garrisons are likely to be five or six thousand men in Cyprus, three divisions in Germany, about three battalions in East Africa, two to three battalions in Malta and North Africa, two to three battalions elsewhere in the colonial territories, and, as I have said, the balance in the strategic reserve in this country, making it, I suppose, somewhere about 20,000.
The point is that when we come down to it, the strategic reserve in this country will be no more than 20,000, and I think, on the calculations of my noble friend Lord Nathan, probably even less. We come to the point made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, as to whether that is enough. He did not actually give the figures, but if you boil them down you will see from the numbers the Government are depending upon, namely, 180,000—the total number in the Army has been increased from 165,000 to 180,000—that they make the strategic reserve about 20,000. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, has told us that that is woefully insufficient, in his view, for the purposes of the strategic reserve. With his experience, I think the Government must listen very carefully and closely to what he said. With the many commitments that this country may have to face in the future, I imagine that he is quite right in warning us that a figure of that kind is too small for us to rely on.
If the Government do have success with their recruiting campaign, then I am sure it will be the wish of noble Lords on all sides of the House that they should not stop at the ceiling of 180,000 but go on considerably, whether or not they are getting assistance in the recruiting campaign from the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the other regiment mentioned by the noble Lord, about which I am going to say a little in a moment. The noble Lord's regiment before the war was always regarded as one of the worst offenders in this respect, but I will say a word about that in a moment.
In view of the fact that very soon we shall have a real strategic reserve in this country and not a figment, would the noble Earl who is to reply inform the House what progress is being made with the preparation and the establishment of dumps of heavy equipment abroad, so that the strategic reserve will be able to carry 57 out its strategic mobility? In the Memorandum the Government have stressed the need for strategic mobility. One of the ingredients in this is that the troops who are to be strategically mobile must have in vital areas certain heavy equipment available for them when they get there. As the Memorandum says, you cannot carry that heavy equipment by air; it must be there located in those various centres beforehand; it must be there available for the troops who arrive by air when they come.
The second thread that has been running through the debate is the question of weapons and equipment. Obviously, it is desirable—indeed essential—as the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, and others have pointed out—that where we have a modern, mobile, although small, professional Army, it must have up-to-date equipment and arms. When can we expect that our Regular forces will be so equipped and armed? New equipment seems very slow in coming forward. Your Lordships will remember that in the debate on the tenth of this month the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, spoke of the difference in time between promise and performance, and of how frustrating it was to those who were on the ground, either in this country or abroad, when the time lag between the promise in Parliament and performance in the field was very great, as it has been ever since the war, or at least for the last seven or eight years. When, for example, is the Thunderbird anti-aircraft guided weapon to be provided for the air defence of troops in the field? There is a handsome photograph in the Memorandum, but when is it going to be provided for the troops in the field? What of the anti-tank guided missiles? Will they come into service in the near future? My noble friend Lord Shepherd has spoken once more—he has spoken of it many times before—of the new F.N. rifle, and he has pressed on the Government, quite rightly, the need to supply the troops with that rifle which they have been promised for such a long time.
The third thread running through the debate has been the question of the quality of officers and men in the Forces. We are comparatively happy about the numbers, but what about the quality? In the case of other ranks, I was rather con- 58 cerned to read just lately a comment from General Martin, whom many of us know and who is a distinguished military correspondent. He said this:A matter which must give more concern is the general quality of the Army recruits obtained. There are disturbing reports that far too many are failing in their trade training, and that far too many more present disciplinary problems. A small and highly technical Army cannot afford to accept misfits.There we should agree with General Martin, and we should like to know from the Minister whether there is any truth in this statement by General Martin about the quality of the recruits, and particularly those who are needed as tradesmen.
As to the officer position, we have had a statement to-day by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, which must be received by all noble Lords with considerable concern. He said (I took note of it) that the most critical problem affecting the Army to-day is the supply of officers. The Memorandum refers to the difficulty of obtaining officers, and paragraph 42 says:For some time the War Office has been concerned at the decreasing numbers of suitable young men coming forward to seek commissions as Regular officers.So the War Office themselves are obviously aware of this problem. We should like to know this evening, if the noble Earl can tell us, what they are doing about it. If there is a problem, then we want to have assurance that the Government are tackling it. It is essential in any fast-moving Army to have high quality. In mass armies you can put up with a certain number of people who are misfits or of low quality, because they will go along with the rest; but in the sort of Army that we are now creating it is quite impossible, as General Martin says, to have a number of misfits. This comes down to recruiting.
The noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, has told us of a certain amount of private enterprise in recruiting. He mentioned the Royal Regiment of Artillery and one other, the name of which I have forgotten for the moment.
§ LORD OGMORE
The Grigg Report commented upon this matter with disfavour. They referred to the fact that certain Corps were giving inducements to 59 recruits. It was not only advertising; sometimes there were inducements as well. They referred to it, and the War Office in their reply, in commenting on that criticism in the Grigg Report, rather waved it aside and said, "Well, as long as it is not overdone, private enterprise in this sphere may be quite a good thing." Those are not the words they used, of course, but that is the upshot of what they said.
I have mentioned before in this House the fact that in pre-war days, when the fee to the recruiting sergeant for getting a recruit was about 5s. a head, the Life Guards and the Horse Guards paid 30s. a head—about six times the normal tariff for a recruit. I was always told in those days that it was the great aim of every recruiting sergeant to recruit a Life Guardsman or a Horse Guardsman because he got so much more money for him. I was always told in those days that the balance came from regimental funds. After hearing what the Colonel of the Life Guards has said to-day, if the regiment is still indulging in a little private enterprise, perhaps it will quickly stop doing so, because obviously it will receive the condemnation of its Colonel.
Lastly, I want to turn to the Territorial Army, to which also a certain amount of reference has been made today, although not very much. Could the noble Earl give us the present numbers in the Territorial Army? The Memorandum says that there are 100,000, but that number may have increased since the Memorandum was published. It would be interesting to have the latest figures. Is there a recruiting drive for the Territorial Army both by the War Office and by the Territorial Army Associations? It is most essential, of course, to have high quality in all ranks, but there is always a temptation in the Territorial Army, when their numbers are low, to take people who really are not going to be any good to the particular unit. I would say that, even if it means that the numbers are low, they should at all costs keep up the quality of the officer and other rank recruits. It is a small and intimate force, and anybody who is a misfit is apt to stick out like a broken tooth in the life of the regiment or the battalion.
60 Again, the Memorandum refers to the question of officers. It says:The recruitment for officers is not so satisfactory as for other ranks in certain parts of the country. There are difficulties in obtaining the required number of officers who live locally, but every encouragement will be given to suitable candidates to join the rapidly expanding units.Officer recruitment is absolutely vital, as we all know, in the Territorial Army, because in these areas so much depends on the existing officers and on the lead they can give to people in their areas. I hope that everything will be done by the War Office and by the Territorial Army Association, by publicity methods and by personal contact, to ensure that the right types of officers and other ranks are obtained for the Territorial Army. I felt that in both wars the Territorial Army did not have, in some ways, the support that it should have had from the War Office.
The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, has mentioned one matter—that of the medal. I thought that it was an absolutely iniquitous decision not to give that medal to people who had served in this country, for in many cases there was far more danger in taking an anti-aircraft battery into action in London, and there may have been far hotter action here than was experienced by many units which were abroad. The decision that that medal should not be given at the end of the war to those who had served for less than six months abroad, which was what happened, was one which it will take a long time to live down, though no doubt the Territorial Army, which has been used to a good many kicks in the past, will be able to live that down, too—in fact, I am sure it will. Nevertheless, it is the kind of thing which should not happen. I suppose that it is now too late to alter that decision, but I hope that there will be no more decisions like that.
There is one other point that I should like to mention with regard to the Territorial Army before I close. This is of just as great importance for officers as for other ranks. At this season of the year, when the Territorial Army is about to go to annual training, it is vitally important for Her Majesty's Government to let it be known among employers that they are expected to give their men fourteen days' leave for annual training with pay, in addition to their annual holidays. A Territorial 61 Army training camp is not a holiday: as a rule it is jolly hard work, And although I do not know, I am rather afraid that there may be a tendency in nationalised industry or in private industry to be grudging about letting officers and other ranks off for annual training in addition to annual leave. This applies just as much to officers as to other ranks. After all, in the Territorial Army the country is getting an Army—and a very good Army—"on the cheap". This Army is faced with immensely important duties and those in it should at least not be expected to give up their annual holiday when they go on training. If Her Majesty's Government can persuade employers to do this willingly and enthusiastically, and not just grudgingly, I am sure they will do quite a lot to support the Territorial Army in the duties which it has to perform.
§ 5.23 p.m.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I believe that we shall all agree that this has been an interesting and constructive debate, and I would, first of all, add my praises, for what they are worth, to those which the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, who initiated the debate, gave to the Regular Army, the National Servicemen and the Territorial Army. Having spent over half my life in, or very closely connected with, the Regular and Territorial Armies, it is a particular pleasure to me to participate in this debate. Generally in debates in your Lordships' House, the range gets wider and wider, but I was pleased from my own point of view, having to do my best to give a satisfactory answer to the debate, to find that its range has been somewhat narrow. Although one or two incidental points were raised by some noble Lords—to which I shall come later—having listened to all the speeches I think it is fair to say that the main emphasis was on the question of recruitment and, in particular, the recruitment of officers.
By 1963, the Regular Army, as forecast, will require 18,000 officers. At the moment those officers are not being recruited at the speed we should like so as to get to that level by that date. But those of your Lordships who have read the Report of the debate in another place will have noted that when my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War was questioned on this subject he stuck to his guns—and I am sure all 62 in this House would agree with him in doing so—in saying that the British Army deserved only the best officers, and that, so far as he was concerned, they would get only the best. That is merely saying in slightly different words what Napoleon said many years ago: that there are no bad regiments, but there are sometimes some bad officers.
It may well be that one reason we are not getting officers quickly enough to make up the numbers we should like, is because the standard of selection is so high in ensuring that we get only the best. I believe that that is a wise policy, and perhaps I may amplify that for a moment, speaking from my own personal experience. Having commanded two regiments in war, and one in peace, I believe that it is quite easy to have one's establishment made up so that it all looks nice and tidy for those who make establishments, with the result that the commanding officer and the troops concerned will have "duds" serving around them. It is better for a regiment to be short-handed and for one man to do perhaps an extra one and a half hours' work, if necessary, than for a regiment to have unsuitable officers for the sake of bringing it up to establishment.
In the last war a very famous regiment, the 11th Hussars, with whom my regiment was very closely connected, would never allow a young officer sent to them in the Desert to command its troops until that officer was desert-worthy. The troop-sergeant commanded and the young officer went into the troop-corporal's tank. No one complained of that, and if the officer was any good he quickly obtained the respect of the troops and was able to command them. The troop-sergeant might be an extremely worthy and efficient man, though not necessarily suitable for a commission; nor, perhaps, did he want a commission. On the other hand, all of us who served in the last war or have any appreciable knowledge of soldiering will know that, by and large, soldiers quickly recognise a man whom they can respect and who can lead them. One may well find a good N.C.O., perhaps with a personal decoration, who does not necessarily make a good field officer. One may also find, as I have done in the past, that quite a callow, almost beardless, spotty-faced youth appears on the scene, and in a short time gains the respect of the men 63 and quickly becomes well known as a junior commander.
I believe that that is the point we have to watch. So as to get the right standard, it is better to go short than to fill up, either for political or other reasons, the numbers that are allegedly required, and to carry rubbish as a result. After all, nobody who was connected with the Army before or at the beginning of the war would deny that there were quite a number of officers who on paper appeared adequate in peace time, but who quickly disappeared into thin air; while quite obscure young majors became world-famous Generals, and obscure young subalterns and captains became well-known lieutenant-colonels and brigadiers within a comparatively short time. I believe your Lordships will agree with me, therefore, that even if we do not get the numbers we need as quickly as we want, it is wise policy to go continually for a 100 per cent. high standard, or as near as we can get to that standard, because I believe that that is the whole essence of the British Army.
From that point of view, I do not believe that it matters very much what it is armed with, for an Army with bows and arrows is still essentially the same Army as one now armed with missiles: its family make-up is the same; and it is leadership from the officer point of view that counts. That is what we must seek. We must look for leadership as the first qualification in dealing with those who apply to become officers. Of course, as your Lordships know, there is a new scheme now: recruits can now apply straight away for a commission on a six-year basis, and, provided that they possess the necessary qualifications, they will get a commission.
The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys—and other noble Lords, but he made rather a feature of the matter—touched on the question of barracks, and particularly barracks here at home. I am happy to tell him (though perhaps it may be sad for him, in some ways, because his memories of it must be long and mixed) that Chelsea Barracks is coming down this year and that there will be built in its place the first 20th century new barracks to be built in London. The new Chelsea Barracks should be completed by 1962. After that, we shall see a great change 64 in London, because Knightbridge, Wellington and Regent's Park are all going to follow.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Yes, my Lords, I think I can. It is because they have to pull it down first, find somewhere else to put the soldiers who were in it before it was pulled down, and build it up again. I think that that, roughly speaking, is the answer.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, they are all going: first, Chelsea; then Knightsbridge, Wellington, followed by Regent's Park, which is Albany.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I take it from what the noble Earl has just said to my noble friend that new barracks will be erected in the same places as the old ones.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
That is the idea, and that is the difficulty. As soon as Wellington Barracks is up, the Household Cavalry, who are occupying Knightsbridge Barracks, will go into Wellington Barracks. Then Knightsbridge Barracks will come down—and I must say, having spent quite a bit of time in it, I should not be sorry to see it come down. And then so on round the clock. Then Catterick, Salisbury Plain and Aldershot; and also abroad—the noble Lord asked about the position in Malaya and Singapore—extensive building is either in process or will be started during the 1959–60 financial year.
The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, mentioned also the question of pensions, and it has so far been agreed to adopt the Grigg Report suggestions that there should be an increase in the pensions for future widows; that is, future widows of existing officers or existing retired officers. A protest has been raised about existing widows, and that is being examined by the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Pensions, because, I understand, it is a subject that cannot be taken in isolation from other public servants' widows. But it is being examined and not just passed to one side.
65 Several noble Lords asked about equipment, and in particular about the F.N. rifle. As I understand it at the moment, 47,000 of these rifles have been produced in this current year ending in April, and there will be another 60,000 produced next year.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, am I to understand from those figures that the rifle has been in production for only twelve months?
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I could not answer the noble Lord directly on that question offhand, but I understand that that is the figure of rifles that were actually handed over to the Army this year. As to how many there were before, I am afraid I have not the figure, but I will look into it and let the noble Lord know. There will be a further 60,000 handed over to the Army in the coming year.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, asked me about lorries and I am happy to be able to put his mind at rest and to tell him they will all be standardised. As to the German staff cars, which he complained about because he was asked to ride in them, these are vehicles that we acquired as part payment. I gather, as Occupation Forces. So they became our property in that way rather than because we were not buying British. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked about dumps abroad. Certainly stockpiles are being strategically placed; but I think he would agree it would not be in the public interest for me to disclose where or what these are.
The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, asked about guns. There are two to which I would refer. There is the 105 millimetre self-propelled gun which we make, and that is in the design stage at the moment. The other is the Italian 105, which is not in production but is on trials in Italy, and we are obtaining some for our own trials this year. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked also about training areas. I understand that the situation at the moment is that we have one in the Far East, in North Borneo, which will be going full blast next year. There is the Luneburg one in Germany, for which we have arrangements with N.A.T.O.; and we have about 460,000 acres at home, actually in the British Isles, for training purposes. I understand, again, that from 66 time to time arrangements are either being made or will be made within N.A.T.O. to do special training exercises as and when various weapons and new tactics and strategies are thought out and are being tried out.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I hope you will excuse me. Even in the N.A.T.O. area, except at places such as Luneburg Heath, it is not very easy to get wide areas which are not cultivated, and so on. I am not asking for a reply now, but would the Government look at this question to ascertain whether in Australia or elsewhere they could get a really big area for mobile training?
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I much appreciate the noble Lord's question. I can assure him that the matter is being thought about. At the moment it is rather felt that so far as Australia or Canada are concerned it would be extremely costly to ship people there. Also there is the question of the distance involved should we wish to get back a fairly large body of men who are an important part of our strategic reserve.
The noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton, raised the question of the use of recruiting funds by regiments. I was not aware that his and my old regiment spent 30s. a recruit—
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
—pre-war, but it may well be so. But I understand that the figure that was allowed last year was £3,000. It has now been raised to £10,000, which is quite a generous lift, so perhaps the regiments about which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal complains will be able to keep their finances in their pockets for more private purposes.
The noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, in his remarks raised the question—and I think it is one of which we should all take note—of there going out from this House, and from other responsible places, our general appreciation of what the Army of to-day, or the post-war Army, has done in various theatres of war since the Great War of 1945; and he said that this would be a great enhancement to recruiting. I think we should shout and cry from the housetops our appreciation of what our 67 soldiers have done, in appalling conditions, in various places like Korea, Singapore, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, and other places. Only the other day there was this small but extremely difficult little campaign in Oman, where a small force actually scaled the Jebel Akhdar, which is 9,000 feet straight up, in extraordinarily hot and unpleasant conditions, and managed to rout the rebels completely and capture vast equipment, with no casualties to themselves. I believe the only casualties they had out there were three, two of them caused by mines. I am not quite certain of it, but I think that that was the cause. However, I know from personal reasons—because my son is out there—that, in spite of it all, their morale is extremely high. I think I have answered most of the questions which noble Lords have put to me, but should there be any that I have left out, or should any noble Lord feel dissatisfied, if he asks me afterwards I will certainly take the greatest pains to furnish him with the information he requires.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, I am sure that all your Lordships have been interested in the reply given by the noble Earl to my Motion, which I now beg leave to withdraw.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.