§ 2.45 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN rose to call attention to the Memorandum by the Secretary of State for War on Army Estimates, 1962–63 (Cmnd. 1631); and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the Army debate last year, there was emphasis amongst your Lordships in general and certainly in my own observations to your Lordships on the anxieties and, indeed, fore-bodies we had as to the likelihood, or otherwise, of the Regular Army achieving the minimum standard of numbers which Her Majesty's Government had laid down. I am glad to be able to say to your Lordships to-day that those forebodings have largely been dissipated and I begin with the pleasant task of making my compliments to those who have achieved this rather unforeseen and perhaps remarkable result, which seemed so distant only a year ago.
§ The present Regular other ranks in the Army number 130,000—that is, they are up by 13,000 since last year. The average monthly intake of six and nine years' engagements together number about 2,500 this year against 1,700 twelve months ago. I do not know, because there are no official figures published on the subject, how many re-engagements there have been, but my information is that they have been following very much the same trend. So it looks as if, contrary to what in general 190 we had anticipated this time last year, the floor figure of 146,000 Regular other ranks will be reached by the prescribed date—January 1 next. These, with 19,000 officers, make up the 165,000 which is the minimum number which the Government have thought necessary to meet all requirements. I am not accepting the view that 165,000 is the right number. What I am saying to your Lordships is that 165,000 seemed a long way off twelve months ago; but to-day it looks as if it were indeed going to be achieved.
§ By January 1 of next year, all National Servicemen would have been released from the Army but for the recent Army Reserve Act, which authorised the retention of National Servicemen for a further six months beyond their National Service obligation. There is also, as your Lordships will recall, power to bring back released National Servicemen for six months in the Regular Army. The Act has been applied thus far only to men in the British Army of the Rhine and in the supporting arms of that Army. I understand that it is doubtful whether more than 2,000 National Servicemen will be serving next January. No men have been recalled. This should be remembered when considering whether the strength is sufficient for our commitments, because these men constitute what one might call an uncovenanted reserve.
§ By virtue of the Army Reserve Act 20,000 men could be kept or added, 10,000 serving and 10,000 recalled. The fact that they have not been kept reflects, presumably, the Government's belief that an Army of 165,000 actually embodied is sufficient. I should like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is to speak next, whether it is still the considered view that 165,000 is sufficient. But I will not ask him that question now, because it would really be a question opening a debate, and perhaps I may make some contribution to the answer to that question in such further observations as I have to make.
§ It is quite clear that the Army has current over-all weaknesses, and they are reflected by the state of individual units. Units have been encouraged, I am glad to think, to get their own men rather than rely upon the recruiting campaign as a whole. This has had a singular 191 result. It has resulted in a situation of great imbalance. Some lucky, rich or enterprising units, mostly cavalry regiments, have done well and are up to establishment; but virtually all the Army's line battalions, and certainly all the supporting arms, are seriously under strength. The basic fact would seem to be that now as we discuss this matter the Army can scarcely "be deemed strong enough by any criterion to conduct operations in any theatre without a substantial use of the Reserve Forces. There is a grave weakness; and the problem confronting us all now is how to remedy this weakness.
§ The official policy, as I understand it, is something like this. Forty-five thousand men in the Army Emergency and Regular Army Reserves are liable for pre-Proclamation service. They are mostly specialists, and there are special units like port operating companies which may be called up as units. In addition, there are 100,000 National Servicemen with liability under the National Service Act, now reinforced by the Army Reserve Act, and liable to be called up for six months' Regular service; but this 100,000 will be run down to zero by the end of 1964. Then there is the post-Proclamation force of the Territorial Army—post-Proclamation so far as embodiment goes. Then we have this new element, the "Ever-Readies", a force created by the Army Reserve Act, but up to this time only, I think, existing on paper; although there was a suggestion in an interesting article by The Times defence correspondent on Monday last that some steps may be about to be taken with regard to the "Ever-Readies", but he was not very optimistic as to numbers.
§ I wish to ask the First Lord this question. I should like to know what progress has been made in organising the "Ever-Readies", and how, where and when they will be trained. The idea, as I understand it, is that up to 60,000 volunteers from the Territorial Army and from the 100,000 National Servicemen still under liability would accept entirely new liability for six months' Regular service at any time. In this way—and this is a notable and important fact—the normal Regular ceiling of 182,000, as well as the floor of 165,000, will in theory be reached. But even that 192 ceiling is 10,000 below the minimum recommendations by General Hull, now Chief of the Imperial General Staff, two or three years ago as the most effective Army to fulfil commitments in the 'sixties.
§ At present the Regular Army is deployed around the world in relatively small packets, indicating the view that there will be time to bring the units up to establishment from the Reserves in time of crisis, and also reflecting a policy of maintaining existing garrisons, even though progressively reducing them. Let us look at what in general is the deployment of the Army. Roughly speaking, it is divided 50–50 between the United Kingdom and overseas—"overseas" in this context, though not officially, including the Army of the Rhine. Of this overseas element half is in the Army of the Rhine and half in various parts of the world: Hong Kong, for instance, 10,000; Singapore and Malaya, 15,000; Aden, 5,000; Bahrain, 2,000; Kenya, 6,000; Libya, 5,000; Cyprus, 3,000; and Gibraltar, Malta and the West Indies, 1,000 each. That is the distribution of half the available British Regular Army; and I think it worth consideration by those with whom rest policy and the decision whether the time has not come when we should abandon altogether the maintenance of some of these garrisons where the forces we have there would be little able to give effective assistance in the territory concerned and where they no longer have the use which they bad in those days when the map was splashed with red; they are no longer needed either as coaling stations or as bases. I think the Government might well give some consideration to that question of restricting the number of overseas bases.
§ Here at home not more than 20,000 men are committed to the Central Strategic Reserve and also to attached units which are supposed to be liable for immediate overseas service. The remainder in this country are recruits—depôt, the training cadre and the administrative tail. To the 20,000 I must add the Gurkha Brigade who have recently arrived in the United Kingdom from Malaya; they must be added to the Order of Battle and are no doubt a powerful reinforcement. This force will be the 51st Brigade of the 3rd Division, and that Division, of course, is the Army 193 of the Rhine's United Kingdom-based reinforcement. A question that I would put to the First Lord—and I think your Lordships would like to know—is whether the new 51st Brigade is earmarked specifically and solely as an Army of the Rhine reinforcement, or whether it will be liable to be sent anywhere as circumstances may arise. Is it a specific reinforcement, limited to the Army of the Rhine, or is it a reinforcement available at large? If it is available at large, then it is clear that the Army of the Rhine will still need assurance of a specific reinforcement.
§ Although garrisons are being reduced in the Mediterranean and the Near East, most of the active Army is still committed to securing British interests overseas rather than NATO interests. No significant strengthening of the Army of the Rhine or its support in the United Kingdom has yet been effected. I wonder whether the First Lord can say anything about that. With a still modest Transport Command and very limited sea-borne mobility, the British Army is static and dispersed in small pockets throughout the world, able to do little more than garrison particular areas. I wonder whether the First Lord will be able to tell your Lordships how rapidly the mobility of the Naval Task Force, referred to in the Defence White Paper is developing. The policy, so far as I can see, is to maintain overseas commitments with a small and, by unit standards, weak Army, and to rely on the United Kingdom-based Strategic Reserve to reinforce the Army of the Rhine, and also the Near East. Is that so? Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to say. If he cannot say now, perhaps he will be able to say later.
§ The Middle East and Far East Commands will not be reinforced in this way, but will rely increasingly on naval task forces, comprising warships, amphibious vessels and fast transports, to reinforce local garrisons. I have already asked the noble Lord whether he will say when this will be effective; but it looks as if, until 1964, Middle and Far Eastern Commands will still be able, in a real crisis, to call on the Central Strategic Reserve. But if the Central Strategic Reserve is used for that purpose, it cannot at the same time be used for the Army of the Rhine. That would be what was 194 described in The Times on Monday, in an article by its distinguished Defence correspondent, as "double accounting". It is impossible to use the same reserves at the same time in two different places. The further units have to be transported from the United Kingdom Central Strategic Reserve, the bigger the strain on Transport Command. At present, it could not simultaneously airlift units to Germany and elsewhere, although it is true that by the end of 1962 a medium-range transport vehicle, the Argosy, should be in service.
§ My Lords, I now wish to turn to a matter which refers perhaps rather more to the Defence White Paper than to the Army Estimates. There is a situation which seems to be arising upon which it would be interesting to know what the Government wish to say to your Lordships. It looks as though the Central Strategic Reserve units may be training in Germany this summer. This raises the question of what tactics they are to be trained in. At present, the 3rd Division is trained entirely on the assumption that nuclear weapons would be used from the outset of any conflict; that we are going to rely more and more, perhaps exclusively, on the use of nuclear weapons. In the light of the recent discussions at Athens, so far as we have been permitted to know of them, it looks as if this view is in conflict with the policies adumbrated there, and with the view expressed by the United States Defence Minister as to the extension of the use of conventional weapons and the introduction of larger numbers of conventional troops.
§ The idea has got about that there may be some intention of building up the Army of the Rhine from 55,000 to 65,000, or possibly 75,000, men. It must be pretty clear that it cannot be intended to station either 65,000 or 75,000 men actually in Germany. But if the increase is in contemplation, then a new total would presumably be arrived at by adding to the Rhine figure of 55,000 10,000 men on the Strategic Reserve and 10,000 "Ever-Readies". It would be interesting to know whether the assumption on which I speak is correct. There was some discussion about this point in another place yesterday or the day before, but no very clear information was disclosed.195
§ What I would say to your Lordships on this score is this: if we are going to attempt to enlarge our commitments in Germany on such a scale, it looks as if conscription may be only around the corner. I think we must face that desolating fact. I very much hope that it is not just around the corner, but I have no great conviction in that regard. While military men are, in general, inclined to favour conscription as being of benefit to the Army, and economists and others say that it is bad for the nation, the better view, I think, is that voiced by General Hull (who has added so much distinction to the Office of Chief of Imperial General Staff), speaking the other day at Nairobi, when he said that conscription may be good for the nation but it is bad for the Army. We must strain every nerve to keep our commitments in manpower and defence expenditure within the not-too-elastic limits of our resources and economy. Above all, we must try to establish some stability in policy and firmness in action. The present situation of the Army is apt to be too much that the only certainty is uncertainty.
§ My Lords, when I was speaking from this place last year I said that I would seize an opportunity of referring to the Territorial Army and putting down a specific Motion in that regard. The opportunity has not served and what I have to say I would seek your permission to say in a few moments now. When I referred to that subject on a previous occasion I pointed out that the new system of amalgamation of Territorial units had scarcely come into operation at that date and that nothing could usefully be said until one had some actual experience of how it operated. I can give your Lordships some personal experience of that in depth rather than in extent because I can speak only of the regiment with which I am myself associated. When I speak of being with "the regiment", I must explain that originally there was a single regiment. In 1955 it became an amalgamation of three regiments and this time last year two other regiments, each comprising three originally, were amalgamated with my already amalgamated regiment, so that I am now associated with what was only a short while ago nine regiments instead of with the one to 196 which I was originally appointed. But I have had the advantage of being able to observe the effects of amalgamation both in 1955 and now in the one which has recently been effected.
§ Speaking from my own observation and experience—and I spent some time in camp with my regiment last summer in order to see for myself—I would say that the amalgamation has been a success. It was a great success in 1955, when there was soon created a spirit of a single, harmonious, coherent whole and I think that it is fair to say that, though difficulties have been much greater, the same result is being achieved under the amalgamation made last year. But I must say to Her Majesty's Government that I think they might perhaps usefully look at the deployment of regiments a little more closely. The regiment with which I am concerned has an area which begins in Highgate, in North London, and stretches all the way to Southend, in Essex. I say, as a matter of practical operation in the everyday life of a Territorial regiment, that it is not practicable for a single commanding officer to operate effectively a bailiwick so extensive. He cannot keep in touch with it or survey it.
§ The other day I was anxious to get the warrant officers and sergeants of the Regiment, about 80 in number, to a central place where I could speak with them; because, after all, it may fairly be said that they are the backbone of any regiment. In order to get them to a central place we had to employ quite a number of motor buses because the distances were so great and there were only small numbers of these men in any particular place. Some of them had to leave work early in order to be able to reach London in time. I would suggest to the First Lord of the Admiralty that there should be an effort made either to concentrate units or to deploy them in such a way that the outlying troops or batteries of particular regiments are allied to others in the neighbourhood instead of being in such a long stretch, such as from Highgate to Southend.
§ The other point which I would mention in the same connection as a practical matter is that with a regiment so widely distributed it is impossible to carry out the ordinary procedure of promoting officers according to seniority, 197 because an officer who is senior and well qualified for promotion who is stationed in Highgate cannot, as a matter of practical business, accept responsibility for travelling to and from Leigh-on-Sea on regular military duty. I think that this is a matter which has given rise to a good deal of feeling: junior officers have been promoted over competent senior officers because the distances involved do not allow the ordinary procedure to be adopted.
§ I have delayed speaking about the Territorial Army to the end of my observations because, if for a moment I may strike a personal note, this is rather an occasion for me. This is the last time that I shall be addressing your Lordships on the Territorial Army as one actually associated with it. I have just completed 25 years as Honorary Colonel of my Regiment and my time is drawing to a close. It began a very long time ago, in fact over 50 years ago, when I was an original member of the Territorial Army, and I should like to be allowed to say to your Lordships that one of those preoccupations which have given me the greatest satisfaction—and which I hope has been useful to the Territorial Army—is my long and agreeable association with it. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (LORD CARRINGTON)
My Lords, once again we are greatly indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for giving us the opportunity of discussing the Army. His Motion and his speech have now become an annual occasion which I think all your Lordships who are interested in the Army greatly enjoy. As he has reminded your Lordships, this is a very special year for him. It is the Silver Jubilee of his appointment as Honorary Colonel of 300 Regiment, R.A., and I think your Lordships will also know that he was one of the original officers of the Territorial Army. Twenty-five years is a long time to be associated with one regiment, and I know that every one in the House will be pleased to congratulate the noble Lord and to thank him for the work he has done. I only hope that before he goes to camp this year the weather will become warmer than it is now. If not, perhaps we can offer him a trip in an air-conditioned warship. 198 When I say that everybody would like to congratulate my noble friend I am not sure whether I ought to include in that the honourable and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, behind me, because I think that to him the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, must appear as one of the most powerful, dangerous and entrenched "tribal chiefs".
My Lords, I may say that I am rather sorry to see that there are no members of the Liberal Party taking part in this debate—a debate of some importance, as the Liberal Party and their defence policy are very much in the news at the present time. I think that your Lordships would have welcomed an opportunity to hear from an official spokesman from the Liberal Party the plans they have for the Army, since it is clear that their defence policy entails a re-introduction of conscription. If this is really what they intend, I should have thought the electors are entitled to know from them exactly how they would set about it.
My Lords, I should like to intervene just for a moment, and noble Lords will not, I think, be surprised that I do so. We are this afternoon, of course, discussing the great difficulty of discharging important tasks with insufficient forces, and I would plead that that certainly applies to the Liberal Party in this case as on many other occasions. The noble Lord has probably never been in a position where his Party apparently represents 50 per cent. of the political opinion of the electorate but has only 1 per cent. in Parliament. Of course it is quite clear ever since his Party came into office that if and when we are to have an alternative Government they wish it to be the Socialist Party. This gives rise, quite fairly, to the slogan "If you want Socialism, vote Tory." I would only say that if out of the last 111 Peerage creations made by the present Government a single one had been a Liberal, that Peer might well be speaking for our Party to-day from these Benches.
My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to congratulate the noble Lord on what I think may be his first speech in this House as a Privy Counsellor. In any case I would on your Lordships' behalf like to con- 199 gratulate him most warmly on that honour. But to return to my point, I do not want to labour it very much but it does seem to me that the Liberal Party are offering themselves as an alternative Government, and I understand that they have been quite successful in by-elections. There are two coming off quite soon, and I should have thought the electors would be interested to hear whether the Liberal Party do wish to see the return of conscription, because it is a matter in which the people of this country are quite interested.
My Lords, I suppose that the two main issues on which this debate will centre are whether or not the Army is strong enough to meet its commitments, and secondly whether we are going to get enough men to meet our targets. I will, if I may, concentrate on those two points, and if there are other points your Lordships raise during the debate my noble friend Lord St. Oswald will answer them at the end.
Perhaps I may say, first of all, that the 1962 Defence White Paper makes it perfectly clear that in the Government's view the basic decisions which were taken five years ago—that is to say, to go for a smaller, mobile, all-Regular Army—are still valid in the circumstances of to-day. We have no intention of returning to the wasteful system of conscription if we can possibly avoid it. Of course, there is room for argument about the balance to be struck, as, for example, between conventional and nuclear weapons, and as between the size of our Forces overseas and in Germany, all of which affect the strength of the Army. These are immensely difficult questions and I do not really think that there are any precise and self-evident answers. The recent debates we have had in this House have shown that there are as many different views about it as there are Members of your Lordships' House. But the Government, having weighed all the factors and with the knowledge that they have, have taken the view that we have the balance about right in our plans for the future Army.
The new Defence White Paper makes it clear that during the next five years there will be further changes in our overseas commitments and in the deployment of our Armed Forces. For example, as more and more of our colonial terri- 200 tories become independent the task of providing overseas garrisons and internal security forces will diminish and we shall find it easier to meet our other commitments throughout the world. But these other commitments, the fulfilment of our treaty obligations and the maintenance of internal security in those of our territories which remain dependent on us, are substantial and they will remain so unless we are to abrogate our Alliances, which are such a vital part of our own and the Free World's system of defence against the spread of Communism. And, as I said in the recent debate on Defence, it is illogical, when the boundaries of the Communist Empire are thrown so wide and the threat to peace has become so universal, to attempt to distinguish between the relative importance of our obligations towards NATO, on the one hand, and CENTO, SEATO and our own purely national responsibilities on the other. All, it seems to me, are vitally important to us and to the Free World.
So our defensive strategy in the 1960's will continue to rely on the maintenance of strong Forces throughout the world, concentrated in the three main bases: in the United Kingdom, from which the Strategic Reserve can be deployed within a matter of days to Germany and Europe; Aden, from which we can cover our vital interests in the Middle East: and Singapore, which is the focal point for any military operations in South-East Asia. In all these bases we must keep balanced ground Forces, and the means to transport them quickly to any area where trouble threatens; and we must resist the temptation to build up our strength in any one potential area of conflict at the expense of our preparedness in others.
I have dwelt a little on the importance of our overseas commitments because I believe that it cannot be too strongly emphasised that the first and most vital part of the Army's rôle—described in the Memorandum on Army Estimates for 1962–63, of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War as being "to assist in the defence of this country"—does not begin and end in Europe. However, I recognise that there has been a great deal of criticism recently about the strength of B.A.O.R., and that this has been interpreted as a sign that the Government are being less than wholehearted in their support of 201 NATO. My Lords, nothing could be further from the truth. We recognise that support for the NATO Alliance is the Army's most important single task. I wonder whether your Lordships, and the public at large, appreciate what a very large proportion of the Army is represented by B.A.O.R. It accounts, in fact, for nearly a third of our total numbers, and much more in terms of fighting units. But the question remains: is the strength of our Forces in Germany enough? So many figures have been bandied about in the Press and elsewhere, and by the noble Lord himself earlier on this afternoon, that I think it is worth trying to set the record straight.
Our original commitment under the Brussels Treaty was to maintain four divisions on the Continent, but this was subsequently reduced, by agreement, and our current obligation to Western European Union is to maintain seven brigade groups at a peace-time strength of 55,000 men. In fact B.A.O.R. at the present time numbers just over 51,000 men, including several thousand National Servicemen who have been retained for six months under the Army Reserve Act, 1962, which your Lordships passed two or three months ago. We are thus nearly 4,000 below strength.
It is no good trying to gloss over this deficiency. We always knew that our manpower would be tightly stretched in the early 1960s while the Regular Army was building up to full strength. It is unfortunate that this state of affairs coincided with a period of tension in Europe, which is why the Government took special measures in the Army Reserves Act to enable us to maintain B.A.O.R. at its present strength. Later, as Regular recruiting builds up, and provided that the present trend continues, we shall go on to meet our full obligation. In addition, of course, we have another division in the United Kingdom earmarked to go to Germany in an emergency, of which the 51st Brigade, about which the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, asked, is at present a part. I think that that answers his question, except that I might add that B.A.O.R. itself would be available, should there be a serious emergency anywhere else. There is a waiver in the Treaty which enables us to use the whole of B.A.O.R., if necessary, in an emergency elsewhere. Plans are ready 202 for large-scale reinforcements to be flown to the Continent very quickly to bring B.A.O.R. up to its full war strength, making use of heavy equipment which is stockpiled for them in peace time.
This is our position, and I do not think we need be ashamed of it. The Americans and our other NATO Allies are, of course, fully aware of the situation, and they know that we shall build up to our full treaty commitment as soon as possible. Moreover, my Lords, I think it only right that we should remember that the maintenance of 55,000 men in Germany is a very big commitment for this country, and one Which we did not have to face before the war. In spite of the relief which German arms purchases in this country will bring, it does impose an extra strain on our balance of payments.
So much for the Army's commitments. The Army's efficiency and its ability to carry out these commitments in modern conditions is closely bound up with the efficiency of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. As my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence has said, we must all in future think less in terms of separate Services, and more of a single defence force in which each Service has an essential part to play in support of the others. As the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, has pointed out, the size of the Army is governed partly by the degree of mobility which we can give it; and this, in turn, depends very largely on the Navy, its amphibious warfare capability and on the Royal Air Force Transport Command.
The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, asked when we should have a task force in the Far East. Of course, in effect, we already have a task force in the Far East. The Navy have their amphibious warfare squadron, and I think the noble Lord will have read the plans for its development which the Government have and which are outlined in the Defence White Paper of this year. The Naval Amphibious Warfare Squadron will gain greater capability as the new ships now being built come into service. And as I said in the debate on the Air Estimates last month, we are re-equipping Transport Command with new and better aircraft. I do not take quite the same dismal view of Transport Command's capabilities as do noble Lords opposite. 203 Co-operation between the Army and Transport Command is constantly being tested and improved in the various large-scale exercises which are carried out.
Last year the Army's programme of overseas training was expanded to include Canada, and this form of training in different parts of the world will be continued in order to give our troops experience of fighting in all kinds of conditions. The Army's ability to move quickly, with the excellent co-operation of the Navy and Transport Command, has also been amply demonstrated in the past twelve months by the actual operational and rescue tasks which it has had to carry out in widely scattered parts of the world. Kuwait is an obvious example. Others are the maintenance of law and order in British Guiana; flood and famine relief in Kenya; and the assistance which the Army gave in the West Indies after "Hurricane Hattie", I do not think that the Army has been found wanting as a "fire brigade force" in any of the emergencies of the last few years, and I am quite certain that, with its new weapons and equipment, and its rapidly increasing mobility, it will be able to carry out its tasks, both in Europe and elsewhere, without larger numbers than are at present planned for it.
I should like to turn now, my Lords, to recruiting. The manpower situation, as a whole, is good. Great efforts have been made, as the noble Lord opposite acknowledged at the beginning of his speech, by the redesigned recruiting organisation, helped by a number of your Lordships, who I know have done a great deal in this field; and these efforts are now showing excellent results. When he presented the Army Estimates in another place on March 8, the Secretary of State for War said that he hoped to reach the minimum target of 165,000 men by the beginning of 1963. Since then recruiting has gone very well, and if the trend continues we may do even better than this. If we use 1960 as a yardstick, then during the last four months of 1961, and again in the first four months of this year, there has been an improvement of over 40 per cent. That is a large figure, and we have every hope that this proportionate increase will continue. A most satisfactory feature 204 of other ranks recruiting is that about half of our recruits sign on for nine years, and of those who sign on for six years, a large number change to the nine-year engagement within a few months of joining. Boys recruiting also continues to go well. This time last year, there were in the Army about 7,500 boys under training: this year, the figure is 9,000. Two new junior tradesmen regiments have been opened, at Troon and Rhyl, for drivers, driver operators and clerks, and axe half-way through their first term.
The general picture is promising, but we must acknowledge that there are some less satisfactory features. It is one thing to get the numbers needed; it is another to get them in the right categories. The build-up has not been even throughout all the corps. Particularly, the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Army Medical Corps face difficulties. Our Sandhurst entry was not entirely satisfactory, since the January entry this year had about 20 unfilled places. Again, although the university entry has increased, the Army would still welcome more officers from this source. The most serious of the shortages, however, is that of medical and dental officers, and I should like, if I may, to say a special word about this.
It has been apparent for some time that, with the run-out of National Service and short-service officers, there would be a critical situation this year and next. As my right honourable friend has said in another place, he is taking the most vigorous steps to solve this problem. The first thing that has been done is to ensure that the Army offers the medical student and the doctor from civil life a worthwhile career. The professional scope for doctors in the Service is being widened, and fuller opportunities are being provided for clinical work. Many of the doctors who come into the Army are being trained for at least five years as specialists and every opportunity will be given to Army specialists to become consultants, fully comparable in status with consultants in civil life. At the same time, the terms of service of Army doctors have been considerably improved. Among other things, the career will in future be longer; promotion will be earlier; and greater recognition will be given to previous experience in civilian practice. 205 And there have been very considerable increases in pay—designed to give Army doctors a substantial lead over the remuneration which they could expect to get at a comparable stage in civilian life.
Most of the measures which are being taken for doctors will apply to dentists also, and of course to doctors and dentists in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force as well. Now that these new terms and conditions have been agreed, and we can offer both doctors and dentists a worthwhile, well-paid career, we should have some considerable success. At any rate, we have embarked on an intensive recruiting campaign. It is too early to judge the results yet, but I think we are offering very attractive terms indeed.
My Lords, a corollary to small Regular Forces is Reserve Forces at a high state of readiness who can be called on to supplement the Regular troops in an emergency. This is why, in the situation over Berlin last year, the Government introduced the Army Reserve Bill. Your Lordships will recall that this Bill had three clauses: the retention of National Servicemen already serving, the recall of part-time National Servicemen, and the creation of the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve. My Lords, some months have now passed since the Bill became law and I think it may be convenient and perhaps interesting if I report progress. I turn, first, to the retention of National Servicemen. It was originally thought that about 15,000 would be needed, but with the improvement in Regular recruiting I am glad to be able to say that we now expect to be able to manage with considerably less. Retention started in April and men are being retained for six months. At least two months' warning is being given and almost all those who will be affected have now been notified. Secondly, we have the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
NO; I am afraid I could not give the exact number, but it is considerably less than the 15,000.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
No, not as much as that; between 50 and 75 per cent.—a figure of that order. Recruiting for the "Ever-Readies" opened in April, and building up this Reserve really cannot be rushed. Applications have to be carefully sifted by commanding officers and record officers to select the right men. It is too early yet to forecast the ultimate success of the scheme, and certainly too early for the gloomy forecasts which I have recently heard in some quarters. The quotas which have received some publicity were of course "ceilings" and not "targets": they have been laid down to ensure that these engagements do not all start and run out together, because of course that would be most inconvenient from the point of view of this Reserve.
I think, too, there has been some misunderstanding about the purpose of the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve. This is a completely new Reserve which is being created for use in the long-term; it has only a limited application to our present short-term difficulties. Our plans for building up the strength of B.A.O.R. do not depend upon it in any way; nor shall we depend solely on the T.A.E.R. to supplement the Regular Forces of the Army in periods of tension. That is also the job of the part-time National Servicemen, though, in so far as there is a response to the "Ever-Readies", the need to recall National Servicemen would be less. Indeed, so far no steps have been taken to make use of the powers under Section 2 of the Army Reserve Act, and, unless there is some worsening of the international situation, I very much hope that we shall not have to do so.
The noble Lord opposite asked how the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve would be trained. The answer is that their training would be fitted in with that of the Territorial Army and they would be trained with the appropriate T.A. unit.
I have this afternoon reviewed the two important issues which I am sure will be in your Lordships minds during this debate. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War said the other day in another place that the Army is 207 at a very significant moment in its history. We are trying, and I think succeeding, to build up a new all-Regular Army, and in order to do this we are asking Parliament this year to provide £518 million. With this sum we believe that we shall be able to go on providing an adequate contribution to the NATO Alliance, and to discharge our commitments in the Middle East, the Far East and other parts of the world where our presence is needed.
My Lords, when the decision was taken to abolish conscription and to rely on all-Regular forces, we believed—as I believe now—that this was the most efficient method of discharging our commitments and one which led to the best sort of Army. I do not believe that the events of the last five years have in any way proved us wrong. We remain confident that the Army, which we are building and equipping with modern weapons, mobile, flexible and backed by adequate reserves, will, in the future as it has done in the past, do any job it is called upon to do.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, my noble friend who has just sat down echoed, I am sure, the feelings of the whole House in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, on introducing this Motion, and thus adding to the services which over the years he has performed for the Army in general and the Territorial Army in particular. Congratulations are also due to Lord Nathan on his silver jubilee as Colonel of the Regiment of the Territorial Army, of which, after many permutations and commutations, he is still the head. Those congratulations will go out from a much wider circle than the circle of friends who joined him a little while ago in the Royal Artillery mess at Woolwich.
My Lords, this statement is a very much gayer document and makes better reading than some of the statements a few years ago. As my noble friend has just said, the Operations section, dealing with Kuwait, British Honduras, the Cameroons and other places, gives clear evidence of the pattern of the new Army which is beginning to emerge. It also shows that the operational plans are workable, in that it is possible to mount 208 an operation of this kind at short notice, to get the answers right and to produce adequate Naval and Air Force co-operation at the same time. All I think one need add at this point is that all those operations are small operations, and it does not therefore follow that because they were so successfully mounted it will be possible in the same way to mount an operation on a larger scale. But we hope that we can do so.
It also appears that during the year progress has been made in shifting the responsibility for operations of this kind away from the three Service Departments as such towards the Ministry of Defence. If so, I am sure in my own mind that that is a good thing, because, however repugnant it may be to tradition and to certain vested interests that matters of this sort should go from a Service Department to the Ministry of Defence, I, for one, am becoming increasingly certain it is the right course to take. And I feel that if we do not take it at the proper moment we shall waste a lot of money and, what is worse, not make the progress we should. So far so good, my Lords. What I am much less certain about is whether this pattern is going to turn out to be the right one, and whether, in particular, our manpower policy is going to stand up to events. Equipment policy is almost equally important, but is harder to discuss in a debate such as this. I think that is one of the reasons why we concentrate on manpower—we know more about it and the figures are more in the open than are the equipment figures, which are not in the open at all.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has made it abundantly clear, if it was not clear before, that Her Majesty's Government are set on an all-Regular Army. So indeed are the bulk of their advisers, though not necessarily for the same reasons; and so, with a certain number of notable exceptions, are honourable gentlemen in another place. I myself do not differ from them, but, none the less, I feel one must repeat, as I have said in former years, that the fact that recruiting is going so well (which I shall come to in a moment) would not at the present juncture justify any feeling that in no circumstances should we be forced to resort to National Service. I 209 hope, of course, that it will not be necessary.
To turn now to the question of recruiting, as my noble friend has just said there has been a very notable improvement during 1961. That improvement is not completely borne out by Table II of the Red Paper, because the improvement in man-years has, I think, been greater than the improvement in actual enlistments, as it represents more of the six-year and nine-year periods while the earlier figures represent more three-year attestations. So that the picture is slightly better than a modest War Office have made it out to be.
I must at this point pay tribute not only to my right honourable friend and to those who have helped him in the War Office, but to all ranks of the Army all the way down the line, in every corps and regiment, who have really done their best to make the policy of voluntary recruiting a success—and in fact have done much to bring about its success. I think it is important that it should not appear that the War Office are half-hearted in these matters. To take an example, the other day a Question was answered in another place, which showed that recruiting had been stopped for a number of cavalry regiments—five battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment and the Green Jackets. The choice for the War Office was either to have too many men, some in the wrong "boxes", or to tell those men to go away. I am aware of all the cast-iron arguments for adopting the course they did, but "I still think they would have been wiser to show willing: because, after all, if an emergency arose would it not be better to have too many cavalry men, even though you were left with too few people in the R.A.M.C.? However, there it is.
What I think is more doubtful and more beyond the control of Her Majesty's Government and the War Office is whether our commitments are rightly estimated at 165,000. They fit in reasonably well with an all-Regular policy, but, seeing that we are not an aggressor nation, we can never be certain that our commitments will be only those which we should like them to be. I think we must always keep that background against any debate we have on manpower, or things of that sort.
210 I myself, unfortunately, was not here when the Army Reserve Bill was debated, but when I read it in Hansard I saw that a good many, shall I say, disquieting undertones appeared in the debate. I think those undertones were not in opposition to the policy of Regular recruiting but were caused by apprehension that during the transitional period, which everybody admits we must go through during our voluntary recruitment policy, events might overtake us and produce a situation Which could not be property dealt with in that way. There is little we can do in a debate in this House to deal with that problem, because it is out of our control. It is certainly producing a situation as described in the Memorandum, where we are cutting down more and more our overseas garrisons, as the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said. In fact, as I understand it, in most of them we are reducing our commitments to those which are necessary to keep the landing grounds in these different strategic places at our disposal; and thus to concentrate more and more troops at home, fully trained and ready to go to any part of the world at short notice.
But, my Lords, magnificent as the British Regular Army is, the versatility, or should I say the virtuosity, of those troops will have to be terrific. Certainly it presents a very great technical problem to those who have to see that the troops are trained for the variety of operations which they may have to undertake at short notice, to keep the equipment available not only for operations but for training, and to have those plans ready. No doubt they are equal to the problem, but a problem it is, and I wish them the best of luck.
I cannot help feeling that our world commitments in the next two or three years may possibly be bigger than they have been in the last three or four years. Who is able to say what effect any degree of nuclear disarmament will have on what we call the conventional forces? Who is able to say whether the political forces at work in Western Europe will make it harder, or easier, to keep NATO on the right lines and to make our support of NATO—as my noble friend Lord Carrington so rightly stressed—as efficient as it is vital for us that it should be? So one wants to keep this manpower 211 policy under constant review. I have not mentioned so far, and I should like very shortly to mention, the possibility that SEATO may make a call on us at some time in the foreseeable future. Our friends in New Zealand certainly think so, because they have just introduced a system of selective service, no doubt with that emergency in mind.
There is one matter which is only very lightly touched on in the Red Paper, and that is the organisation of the infantry. I believe that that is being studied in the War Office rather more than the Red Paper would have us believe, and I cannot help thinking—though I do it with the greatest regret—that the time has come when little good will be had by stopping short of a Corps of Infantry. I feel that statistically any other solution will be vulnerable. After all, reliable figures which I have been given tell me that, whereas in 1900 the infantry formed 59 per cent. of the whole of the Army, in 1962 they form only 25 per cent. Therefore, it is not surprising that the old corps organisation should not work properly and, in fact, should be statistical nonsense, as I regret to believe it is.
I feel fairly certain that these particular remarks of mine will not be popular in all quarters, to which I would answer that the cavalry regiments and the Royal Tank Regiment form part of the Royal Armoured Corps—and that is a similar organisation in armour to what I am advocating in the infantry—and it has been found perfectly possible for the regimental spirit and the regimental organisation to continue to flourish. Therefore, while I am advocating a Corps of Infantry, I am by no means saying that if you take that course you do so at the expense of the regimental spirit of the infantry regiments, of which we are so proud. That, at any rate, is my own belief, however wrong, I may be thought to be in other quarters.
May I come for one moment to the auxiliary forces? The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, spoke at length about these, and I would make only one or two remarks. I feel that now the pattern of the Regular Army is beginning to take shape, as appears from the Memorandum, the time is approaching more and more when really basic consideration of the 212 future of the Territorial Army cannot be long delayed. More and more, the Territorial Army in its training is becoming something quite different from the Regular Army and its training, and that is not a state of affairs that makes a great deal of sense, or will make a great deal of sense to those who are likely to join the Territorial Army. It is perfectly true that during the transitional period which we have been going through a line of that sort was the wise line to take, and I think it is perfectly true that it has satisfied the Territorial Army up to now. But I think that now we know what the Regular Army is going to do, and know how few of its members there will be available for any other task, we must think how the Territorial Army fits into this pattern.
It may be that the Territorials will be wanted in the divisional organisation, such as was designed a few years ago for NATO. It may be that they will be wanted in smaller packets, ones that can be trained for such a thing, for jobs elsewhere in the world. It may well be—and it may possibly be more likely—that, with the Regular Army so largely out of this country, their rôle is more and more home defence and co-operation with Civil Defence, anti-sabotage duties and all the rest, which, as I think I have said "before, have been less explored than they should have been and can be well explored now on the basis of seeing to it that the Armed Forces and the Civil Defence Forces fight one war, and not two as they are invited to do under the 1947 Civil Defence Act.
I have one last word, my Lords, on the pre-Service organisations. They get only a passing mention, but I think a good deal more consideration of their future is going on in the War Office than the Memorandum admits, and rightly so from two points of view. First of all, as the pattern of the forces, the Regular and the auxiliary forces, changes, so the contribution of the pre-Service organisations cannot remain the same but must fit in with the requirements of the Regular and Territorial Armies, whatever those may be. This, no doubt, is the time to have another look. But when we come to considerations of this sort we must remember one other thing, and that is that, as the Regular Army grows smaller and is seen less, it is desperately important for the future of our Armed 213 Forces, and therefore for the future of this country, that the Army image, the image of the Services, should be kept at all times in front of the nation and of those communities and circles who are to produce the recruit.
We are a long way away from the 18th century, when the Army was a body of ruffians officered by aristocrats, and the middle piece of the nation took no part in it. Nowadays there is a need for people from every walk of life to serve in the Forces, because the structure of the Forces demands people of all kinds and of all trades. If that is to be a reality, then serious steps must always be taken to see that the idea of the Army, its image and the need for it, should be kept in front of the nation at large. That can be done in more than one way. It can be done by the Territorial Army; it can be done even better by the pre-Service organisations which operate among boys of school age—that is immensely important; and, last but not least, it can be done by those who have served and returned to civil life and are drawing pensions. I am going only to touch on the pension aspect now, because that will be in your Lordships' minds from the Question which my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale asked last week. But all those three aspects must be watched, not only for their intrinsic merits but in order to make sure that they represent, up and down the country, and particularly among those age groups which really matter, the need for efficient defence forces and for the personal sacrifice and service which those demand. My Lords, I have spoken too long, and I do not want to delay the deployment of the strategic reserves which I believe are behind me, so may I once again thank the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for introducing this Motion, and my noble friend in front of me for so full a statement on the Army's needs?
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ LORD BOSTON
My Lords, although this debate is mainly on manpower, may I, just for a few moments, touch on one or two administrative matters which affect married quarters? This is one of the few opportunities we have of saying anything about the Army, and I should therefore like to give your Lordships the result of a brief visit which I had the privilege of paying, with Members of 214 another place, to the B.A.O.R., during which my attention was drawn to the need to relate amenities for the married families with the welcome increase of married quarters then expected. Let me say, first of all, how impressed I was at the type of design of the quarters built by the German authorities for occupation by our married families; but, in a letter recently received, some concern was expressed over the somewhat slower progress made in recent months. The scheme for the supply of multiple hiring houses was begun in 1960, but, although completion was expected in nine months, that expectation has in fact proved wildly optimistic and has led to a certain amount of disappointment. I understand that this may be due to the possibility of the re-deployment of the Rhine Army hinted at in the Press recently, but I hope that the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, in his reply, may be able to give the House reassurance that the delay is only temporary. It is only right that I should mention that my information comes from one division only.
The main issue of my remarks is based on the need to ensure that amenities for married families keep in step with progress over married quarters, to which I have just referred. In this connection, I would remind the House that Germany is regarded as being a home station, and that many of our soldiers and their families may spend three years in the Far or Middle East and then find themselves doing their so-called home tour in Germany instead of in the United Kingdom. So long as that state of affairs exists, it is of vital importance that every effort should be made to give them as far as possible the environment and the amenities that they would find in the United Kingdom. The problem is increasing, as the number of families, Which amounted to approximately 1,000 in 1958, was expected to increase to 3,000 by 1962. The soldier and, more particularly, his family do not merge easily into the German community, and this applies both to social life and to everyday shopping. They are therefore very dependent upon the provision of an access to such English things as the NAAFI, the C.V.W.W., and the A.K.S. cinemas, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, to the church, family clubs and library. I was reminded also that the facilities provided at a German 215 hotel are normally below those of the English equivalent, and that there is seldom any kind of lounge or sitting room, so the unfortunate wife is restricted largely to her bedroom. It is essential, therefore, that sufficient C.V.W.W. clubs and canteens should continue to provide a place where the soldier and his wife can go, especially in small stations, even if it is difficult for the dub to pay its way.
The other main problem is that of transport for recreation, visits to church, libraries and clubs. These English amenities are often at a distance from the units they serve, and are often inaccessible by public transport. The rules for recreational transport allow these facilities to a certain extent, provided the vehicles, petrol and oil are available; but the War Office does not regard such things as NAAFI shopping, going to the cinema or visits to hospital patients as reasons to support the provision of coach transport on establishment. The requirements I have referred to are somewhat outside the scope of the White Paper we are debating, but as there is seldom an opportunity to draw your Lordships' attention to them I have done so in the hope that the noble Lord, in his reply on behalf of the Government, will make reference to them, because they are so important and vital to the morale of the Forces, who would, I am sure, much appreciate some assurance that their welfare and amenity problems are in the Minister's mind.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I feel no little diffidence in rising to make a brief intervention in this debate on Army affairs, since I must explain that I was trained as a sailor. However, I suspected that the speech for the Government would be made by my noble and gallant friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I decided that I should like to have a try. But What really emboldened me to do so was the fact that two or three years ago the Old Comrades' Association of the 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, did me the very great honour of electing me a member of that association. This was not on account of any merit of mine, but because it so happens that it was that Battalion which my father commanded in the trenches 216 in Flanders in 1916 and 1917. I have attended this association's annual meetings, and your Lordships may be surprised to know that at the last one, only a few weeks ago, some forty old comrades attended. I mention this because, to me, this was a remarkable, practical demonstration of the way these regimental loyalties and associations persist through the years. After all, it is 45 years since these men were fighting in the trenches in Flanders, and there has since then been another war.
I am sure that these regimental and battalion loyalties are not peculiar to the Bedfordshire Regiment—which, incidentally, has disappeared from the Army List, and now, with the Essex Regiment, forms the 1st Battalion (I think I am right in saying) of the 3rd East Anglian Regiment. This amalgamation, like so many others of recent times, and even earlier, will be loyally accepted as part of the reorganisation necessary to meet modern conditions. But I do hope—and this is really the purpose of my rising—that very special efforts will be made to assist in keeping the old traditions alive. I believe that much is already being done, but I have in mind that further regimental surgery (if that is the right word) may prove to be necessary.
My noble friend Lord Bridgeman has referred to some of the possibilities of further reorganisation of the infantry; and if these are planned and take place, it will be more important, and perhaps even more difficult, to preserve these old traditions. The noble Lord opposite, Lord Nathan, gave us a very interesting example of his own regiment, which has now absorbed, I think, nine others. In particular, I hope that everything possible will be done to precipitate the work of the regimental secretaries, which my experience with the Old Comrades of the 8th Bedfords leads me to believe have a vital part to play in this matter of preserving the old tradition; and, of course, these old comrades' associations and their traditions have a very important part to play in recruiting.
I have read with great care the Memorandum on the Army Estimates. I have also re-read what the Defence White Paper has to say about the Army's rôle in our defence plans for the next five years. As some of your Lordships will 217 know, I am a strong supporter of a maritime strategy; and, frankly, I dislike the political necessity which compels us to commit so much of our Army and other forces in support of the continental strategy of NATO. However, I accept that this must be so, though to my mind it creates very special difficulties, particularly in the matter of training our army. For instance, the White Paper says:The Army will increasingly be trained to be ready to fight in widely differing types of terrain and climate, and thus become accustomed to rapid changes of environment.If 55,000 men settled down in B.A.O.R., it is going to be very difficult to implement that policy, with which I entirely agree. The Memorandum on the Army Estimates says:They"—that is the Army—must be well exercised in every form of cooperation with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, for we depend on them to move us quickly to trouble spots.My Lords, I submit that this emphasis on the responsibility of the other two Services to transport armies to the scene of action is, to a certain extent, missing the point. Of course, the Navy and the Royal Air Force must transport the Army to the scene of action—that is most important. But this co-operation between the Services must extend a great deal further than in this pure question of transport. Training with the Royal Air Force must, I think, to a certain extent, be easier for the Army than training with the Navy, and I propose to confine my few remarks to training with the Navy. In any case, I am not qualified to speak about training with the Air Force; perhaps the noble Lord opposite who is to reply for the Opposition will refer to them in his speech.
It seems to me that with the Navy, small in numbers and scattered in small units all over the world, it is particularly difficult for the Army and Navy to arrange suitable combined training programmes. Yet, my Lords, should one of these so-called "brush-fire incidents" arise, it is possible, even probable, that the Army will have to rely for its initial air cover and support on the Navy. This can be effective only if the two Services have trained together. Similarly, in the circumstances that I have envisaged the Army might well 218 require bombardment support from the ships. Alas! we no longer have the old "Warspite" and her like to aid the Army with her 15-inch guns; but I think it is relevant to inquire whether basic training is being given in this important aspect of combined operations.
Of course, my Lords, communications play a most important part in both these forms of support which at any time the Navy may be called upon to give the Army. In the last war it took us some time to develop the techniques and to train the bombardment liaison teams, together with their necessary communications. The same thing can be said of the liaison officers and communications teams required for air support from the carriers. I hope that, in his reply, the Minister will be able to assure us that these important facets of training are receiving high priority in the training programme.
Before I sit down, I should like to refer briefly to two other comparatively minor matters in which I am interested. The first is the amphibious load-carrying vehicle which in the last war came to be known as the "DUKW"—though I cannot remember if I ever knew what "DUKW" stood for. Some time ago, I read in the Press of experiments being carried out, I think in the Isle of Wight, or at the Amphibious Warfare School, and the question I should like to ask is this. Is the modern DUKW out of the experimental stage and in issue to the troops? I think that a few DUKWS would have been quite a help at Kuwait, and they certainly would be at any place where we might not be quite so fortunate as we were at Kuwait in the matter of landing places.
My last question refers to another small matter. Although we now live in the Jeep era, past experience shows that in some types of terrain (and we are told in the White Paper that the Army is to be trained to fight in all sorts of terrains) animal transport is needed. This matter is in my mind because in World War I I spent many weary hours escorting transports from Cyprus to Salonika full of donkeys, who were the load carriers which the Army then had. And in World War II I well remember the rush arrangements which had to be made in North Africa to Suit L.S.T.s(that is Landing Ships, Tank)to take hundreds of 219 mules to Italy, not to mention those awe-inspiring soldiers, the Goums, who moved with their womenfolk, their horses, their camels, their sheep, and their goats. I believe that there used to be an animal-training centre at Alder-shot, and if the Minister can tall me, I should be very interested to know whether this is still in being.
I will not detain your Lordships any more except to say that I believe that the Memorandum on the Army Estimates (Cmnd. 1631) shows that the Army of the 1960's is being equipped and trained so that, if called upon to fight, it will be able to give as good an account of itself as did the Old Comrades of the 8th Bedfords and the Army they served in, and as did their successors in the 1939–45 War: I am sure that the same spirit is there. But, my Lords, the soldier of the 1960's has an immense number of new techniques to absorb compared to his predecessors of earlier wars; or so it seems to me. My noble friend Lord Bridgeman referred to this versatility, or virtuosity, which is required, and I agree very strongly with him. Training, it seems to me, is ever more important; and, in particular, training to fight with the sister Services, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
§ 4.20 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships long this afternoon. I have just a few words that I would say concerning the manpower situation in the Territorial Army. But before going on to that, may I offer a word of congratulation to those responsible for the training and recruiting of Regular soldiers? During the last year or so, about eighteen young men whom I know have gone into the Regular Forces. I have met them when they have come back on leave and I must confess that I have never seen a happier set of men. That was something one did not use to see among Regular soldiers. Obviously, they were enjoying their work. I think that every congratulation is due to those responsible.
I would mention with regret the rather strange remarks made by the Secretary of State for War concerning the possible fate of some of the Highland regiments, which appear to be too successful in 220 gaining recruits. Surely, where there is success we have to support it. I also hear that recruits who wish to get into specific regiments do not find it so easy as it might seem. They enter the recruiting office determined to enter the regiment of their choice, but the personnel selection officer will do his best to lure them into the regiment for which he thinks they are best suited. I know of many cases of men going into a recruiting office firmly intending to go into a certain regiment, and coming out in the uniform of a completely different one.
To turn to the Territorial Army, in reading this Memorandum I was rather unhappy about paragraph 92 which refers to the modern equipment being issued to the Territorial Army. It says:Issues of Saladin armoured cars and of self-loading rifles are now complete.The issue of self-loading rifles is not very large. It is like being shown new toys. They are very nice to have, but if those are all we are going to get, it will be hardly worth it. The figure works out at 50 per battalion. That does not go very far among 700 men. I would draw attention to the category of man in the Territorial Army known as "not available". Civilians coming into the Territorial Army come under certain labour categories—railwaymen, iron and steel workers, workers in the generating side of the electrical industry, fitters and mechanics, agricultural workers and miners of all types. These men cannot be enlisted in the Teritorial Army without being screened, and it is up to the Minister of Labour to decide whether they can come in or not.
If they are allowed to enter, they come into two categories. Either they must be enlisted in their own trade—this mainly applies to fitters and mechanics, who have to be employed in R.E.M.E. or the Ordnance Corps in places where they would be doing their ordinary civilian jobs, which is quite sensible—or they come under the category of "not for embodiment", which I understand to mean that, should an emergency arise in which they would have to be embodied, these men have to stay at home. This applies to agricultural workers and men in the mining industry. Naturally, there are whole districts in which one industry or another is the main source of employment. There are rural districts where 221 agriculture is the main industry, and other areas where mining is the main industry. I know a company of Territorials of about 50 strong, of whom 42 are employed by the National Coal Board and only two of them are not underground workers, so that 40 have the category of "not for embodiment". I mentioned this last year when I spoke and when I arrived home I was delighted to be able to state that this restriction had been lifted from agricultural workers and miners aged between nineteen and 26. This appeared to make the situation much better, but lately it has become worse.
The position is this. A man of nineteen joins the Territorial Army and, if he is not screened, there is no restriction on his coming in. He serves loyally until he is 26 and then he can be removed by the Minister of Labour against his will. Thus is really the point I am trying to get at. I do not object to the restriction, but, surely, if a man is permitted to enter and serve, it should not be possible for the Minister of Labour to have him removed just at will. Every battalion is restricted to a percentage of these men, which is about ½ per cent. of its total strength; so if an ordinary service battalion builds up with men over twenty, as they go over the 26 mark they will not be allowed to re-engage. I wonder whether the Government could look into this matter sympathetically—I do not expect an announcement on it to-day—to see whether there cannot be a better understanding with the Minister of Labour, so that it is possible for those who have joined and given loyal and honourable service in the Territorial Army to continue to do so, if they desire it.
§ 4.27 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for starting off this debate and to congratulate him on his 25 years as Colonel of one of the Territorial regiments. Some time has passed since the publication of the Army Estimates, but this debate gives us a useful opportunity to discuss the Army in the widest sense. I feel rather like one of those who, in the old days of the music halls, appeared in the second half as a not-so-well-known act, put on while waiting for the big stars to come back. Before we 222 were three stars—and very powerful ones at that. It so often happens in these debates that one has come sincerely determined to criticise the Government, but this occasion is one on which we certainly do not have to criticise the Government. In fact, I should like to congratulate them. All in the Army's garden is not perfect by any means, but I am convinced that Her Majesty's Government are doing all they can to correct what is wrong. I do not suppose that all noble Lords or certain Members on either side in another place would agree with me in this, but I feel that they are doing all they can.
One thing we must congratulate them on is recruiting. Noble Lords have done so already. As one of them said, from the Government right down into the ranks of the Army itself, all who have taken part have done their best to make the start of the new Regular Army a success. The Government's publicity, and all that goes with it, has been a good job. But they must not relax at all. There is always a grave danger, when things are going moderately well, in taking a slight breather before making greater efforts; as jockeys in the Derby and other races have discovered to their great distress, if you give your animal a slight breather, you are not always able to get him going again. There are one or two things which I still believe deter people from going into the Army—my noble and gallant friend Lord Bridgeman mentioned some, in passing—and one is the question of pensions. I am not going into this to-day, other than to say that we all know that if people are not satisfied with their pensions they are apt to say to their sons, "Do not go near the Army". We must see that this does not happen.
We all know that recruiting for certain categories is bad. The noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, told us this. It is particularly so with regard to doctors, and the noble Lord also mentioned the Royal Corps of Signals. I cannot remember whether he included the R.A.S.C, but when we were in Germany recently this certainly applied in their case. There it is, and we have to make the best of it. On that visit to Germany—admittedly, it was as long ago as February—I found the Army there much more confident in themselves 223 than some noble Lords opposite and other people in the country are in the Army. They are determined that they can and will give a good account of themselves, as, indeed, they are doing.
I mentioned the question of boys' service (to which my noble friend Lord Bridgeman referred) on the Army Reserve Bill, although, of course, it was not really applicable. I was greatly impressed with the men who I saw in Germany who had come up from the boys' service. I know that the Government are getting on with this and expanding it, but we must again ask them not to relax their efforts. I believe I am right in saying (though I am open to correction here) that men who have had boys' service do not get married so early and, therefore, do not cause so much trouble about married quarters.
The amenities in the Army have been improved a great deal. I mentioned the visit to Germany, and this is only natural, because it remains in one's mind: it was well done and laid on for us and was most enjoyable. The amenities out there have been greatly improved. Everything possible is being done to provide married quarters. They will not be completed yet, but I think I am right in saying that it is hoped to complete them in a year or two. There is a waiting list. As I say, every effort is being made to provide these quarters, including temporary caravan dwellings, which, after all, are better than nothing.
My noble friend Lord Boston remarked on some things which go with amenities, including transport for married families. One commanding officer told me that his own military car had been doing practically nothing but move married families—wives wishing to go to hospital to have babies, taking people to see doctors, and every conceivable thing to do with married families. Possibly there is some improvement that we could make in that direction. I have only one point to make about the NAAFI. Most NAAFIS we saw out there were good; but I was told that NAAFI personnel in Germany could only be paid at the same rates as the Germans themselves pay. I do not know whether that is so. I am not particularly asking to have a reply to that point to-day, but possibly it might 224 be looked into. I see no reason why the NAAFI, if they wish to pay people at a particular rate, should not be allowed to do so.
The air trooping and the air leave system is, in my view, very good. I am certain that sending people by aircraft on leave is a very good thing. I think my noble friend Lord Molson asked a question about soldiers who were being detained by bad weather, or something of that sort, at an airport in Manchester and who were being housed in rather expensive hotels. The point is that if you lay on an air leave service, it is no doubt a morale raiser: a man going home one leave does not have a dreary journey by train, an uncomfortable sea journey and a delay hanging about at Harwich, but gets into a small aircraft and is home in no time; and, going back, he does not really have time to "wear off the leave gingerbread" before he gets back. I think that is important, and we should do all we can to see that such a service runs smoothly.
On the matter of equipment, I think that its issue ought to be speeded up. We do not hear much about it, but I believe that the period between trials and the equipment actually getting down to the units is a very long time indeed. Noble Lords will remember that we all used to complain bitterly about the Ministry of Supply when they were responsible for hold-ups. I do not think matters are as bad now, but it is of the utmost importance that once a piece of equipment is decided upon it should be got through quickly. I am not going into details of minor equipment, but I have heard moans about small training equipment, such as blank bullets and fireworks, which are in very short supply; they are not particularly expensive, and I should have thought we could afford them.
My next point is about helicopters: it is really a Ministry of Defence point, but unfortunately when the Defence debate took place I was sick and therefore unable to raise it. There are among the senior officers of B.A.O.R. complaints—and I think justifiable complaints—that they have no medium-size load-carrying helicopters. There are the Alouettes, in which I travelled for the first time in my life, piloted by an officer of the Army Air Corps; it was great 225 fun and very safe. They have some of these, although not enough; but they have no medium-size load-carrying helicopters. The point is that they need them for carrying stretcher cases, to train with and for many other purposes. Most noble Lords will know how important helicopters are these days. Your Lordships will also know that there is an agreement between the Army Air Corps and the Air Force that Army pilots are allowed to fly aircraft only up to a certain weight; and I think I am right in saying that the Alouette is the largest aircraft they are allowed to fly, Incidentally, they are serviced by R.E.M.E. who do a very good job on them. I hope it is not a question of the old battle between the Army and the Air Force, of which we had so much in the past.
It has been said many times in this debate that the greater part of the Army is in B.A.O.R.; and yet they have no helicopters there at the present time. There are some, I understand, which took part in an exercise last year. They are kept back for the strategic reserve. I suppose the answer is that we have not enough helicopters, but I would ask the Government what are the priorities for helicopters. I was told that B.A.O.R. are at the bottom of the list. I trust that that is not so. I think that in a few weeks the Canadian Brigade Group will have more helicopters to its name than the whole of the rest of the Army there.
Now I turn to training. I remember that during the War, when I went to the Staff College I was invited to start off a discussion on how to make higher forms of training more enjoyable for the troops. I believe it was a discussion they had every term. I remember I got into trouble because I said that we must be a very clever lot there, because in 45 minutes we were answering a question which the Army Council had failed to solve for the last 25 years. To my mind, the important thing about training is that it must be interesting. It cannot be interesting unless it is realistic, and it cannot be realistic unless all the weapons with which the Forces are equipped can be used and unless there are sufficient grounds upon which they can be used. B.A.O.R. are very restricted in training grounds and there are many bidders for them. The other NATO countries— 226 not all of them, but some—have the same right as we have; and, of course, with the German army growing, they will need more and more. Yet they come over here to train. I do not object to that, but I would ask whether there is anything that can be done about the increase of training areas in Germany. Nothing is worse than having bored soldiers, and I do not see how, unless you can give them good training areas, good equipment and sufficient petrol, that training can be of any real use.
Finally, may I say a word about reorganisation? I disagree with my noble and gallant friend Lord Bridgeman on the question of the Corps of Infantry. I am frightened that it may come; I think it would be the greatest error if it did. As the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, said, there is a great deal in territorial associations—and I use "territorial" in its geographical sense. I am all for grouping which has been done either geographically, or the grouping of units of the same type—that is to say, light infantry units where they can all march at the same speed, like the Rifle Brigade. I hope that, if there is any reorganisation, every effort will be made to keep these old territorial affiliations. I am certain not only that it has a great influence on the men themselves in the unit, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, said, through its associations with ex-Servicemen it has also a great bearing on recruiting. I hope there is not to be any further reorganisation for regiments who have not had easy times in amalgamating but have made a jolly good "go" of it. I hope those regiments will now be left in peace. The Memorandum on Army Estimates, describes how our Forces have taken part in exercises and operations of various degrees all over the world. They did jolly well. I think we should be most grateful to the Army, and wish them every success in the future.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, I understand that in our Chamber, if the subject under discussion is one in which you have an interest, you must declare your interest. The other day a noble Lord was—I was going to say "ticked off", because he had not done that. I should 227 like to make it quite clear that I am interested in the Army because it pays me—totally inadequately, but there it is. I do not think it is suitable to discuss the Army except within the context of the Armed Forces as a whole, because no one Service can achieve anything by itself. It is very easy in a debate of this sort (to discuss all the trees. I should like to have a look at the wood. The first thing you find is that an efficient, well-trained and highly disciplined Army is a vital element in our defence organisation. How that Army is to be organised will depend on how it is going to be used in war and in peace. I should like to take war first.
The next war on land will be very different from the last one, in that we shall have to fight it in a different way. In reaching a decision on that matter, we must first be clear about certain rules of war. Rule 1, on page I of the book of war, is: "Do not march on Moscow". Various people have tried it, Napoleon and Hitler, and it is no good. That is the first rule. I do not know whether your Lordships will know Rule 2 of war. It is: "Do not go fighting with your land armies in China". It is a vast country, with no clearly defined objectives, and an army fighting there would be engulfed by what is known as the Ming Bing, the people's insurgents.
The more I study the problem of future war, which I do a good deal, the more I reach the conclusion that air power and sea power will provide the main offensive punch in an unlimited nuclear war of the future. Their offensive power must be mobile. Land power will be essential as a direct "stop" on the ground, in order to protect vital territories and peoples. But the strategy of those who fight on land will be defensive, since any considerable movement will not be possible owing to the terrific destruction caused to communications by nuclear bombardment, as well as by the movement of refugees. This latter is a terrific problem, and during the ten years in which I served in Supreme Headquarters in Europe, we never could get the refugee problem seriously tackled. The sea must be exploited increasingly to give surface strategical mobility, and to provide 228 mobile launching sites for nuclear weapons.
Our task is so to organise our Fighting Services that we can use the new weapons of the 1960s the most effectively, realising that weapons will usually outstrip strategy and tactics, and that the gap to-day is bigger than ever before. In our present defence organisation there is a tendency towards Service self-sufficiency. I agree that this tendency has been checked to some extent during recent years, but not altogether. In future war, the decision will go to that side which can take the appropriate initial action most quickly, and which uses its armoury of weapons in the best possible way from the outset. This involves a very clear definition of the object, or the aim, and then all pulling together on the same rope. And I would cite, as an example of that, what happened when we went over to Normandy. We had a very clearly defined object. The Army could not possibly have done its business if the Navy had not taken it there and nourished it over the sea with everything it needed. We could not have got on land if the Air Force had not helped us by putting everything it had on to the beach; and then, when we had established the bridgehead, isolated it from enemy reinforcements quickly coming against it.
In the field of administration the Army needs air transport on a gigantic scale. Stockpiling is very fashionable in peace, but we must understand that munitions of war on a large scale will be needed at many places not foreseen during planning. Some people think that this question of administration in war is a business of assembling large depôts of supplies and transport well behind the shield of fighting forces in the forward areas. That is no longer the case. Long-range air power and missile bases in enemy hands will make it impossible to erect large sanctuaries for the vast supplies the forces need. We must get away from the tremendous administrative tail which we had to drag behind us from Normandy to Berlin. We must develop methods of sustaining our forces so that the whole system does not collapse when one part of the system is destroyed. I do not for a moment suggest that we can move everything by air or that air transport can replace our sea life-lines—at least, in any foreseeable 229 future. But I do suggest that, as things stand to-day, if the navies were to lose control of the seas the Western Alliance would have to go out of business. So we need air transport on a far larger scale than we have to-day to move men and essential munitions of war very quickly.
May I turn now to the Army in peace? In times of peace—or perhaps one ought to say so-called peace—the Army has to be prepared and ready to play its part in the cold war, and, indeed, in limited war. I should describe "limited war" as war in a clearly defined and limited geographical area, against one enemy as against a group of nations. I suppose another definition of it might be "the cold war hotted up". For that type of operation a balanced Army is not necessary; and by a balanced Army I mean one with exactly the right proportion of artillery, engineers, armoured units, infantry and so on; a balanced Army such as you must have in wartime. The chief requirement in a cold war operation is infantry, and they must be on the spot very quickly. The cold war type of activity generally begins with a company requirement, as was recently proved in British Guiana. Cold war demands that we introduce more flexibility into the organisation of the Army, into all arms which at present suffer from a degree of rigidity—not omitting the infantry.
In a debate in your Lordships' House in March last I made some remarks on this subject and I have since received a number of letters from the "tribal areas" affirming that the Highland regiments are the corps d'élite of the British Army and must never be interfered with. I would not agree with that statement. I had in battle all three Scottish Divisions under my command at the same time—the 15th Scottish, the 51st Highland and the 52nd Lowland Divisions—and all the rest of the British infantry too; and I think I am quite a good authority to talk on this matter. I did tell the Highland Division once that they were "the cat's whiskers" and they were pleased. But I did not tell them they were the corps d'élite of British infantry, and they are not. In my view the corps d'élite of the British infantry are the Guards. The Guards are the finest infantry in the world and their standard of efficiency, discipline and reliability is an example to everybody. I 230 do hope that that will be accepted by the "tribal chiefs".
The point is, my Lords, that any reorganisation of the infantry arm needs to be carried out with minimum damage to the traditions and customs of regiments, which have been built up over the centuries; and I have no doubt that that will be done. I must entirely disagree with my noble friend, Lord Bridge-man, who wants to go over to a Corps of Infantry. It may be that we shall do that after the next war, but not before it. I suggest that we must scale down preparing our Army to fight in an all-out nuclear war. The aim should be rather to step up the deterrent value of the Army within, of course, the deterrent context of the Armed Forces as a whole. It must not only be a good Army but it must be seen to be good; it will then be a deterrent for cold war and for limited war, as well as for nuclear war. The Air Force must get the Army to the scene of conflict quickly, in sufficient numbers and with the right equipment; and there have been speakers to-day who have doubted whether they could do that. It means, of course, a really good large freighter aircraft.
I should like to say that I probably know the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, who introduced this Motion better than anybody else in your Lordships' House. We were at school together and in the Corps together. So far as I can remember he was a cadet officer and I was a full private. The rôles have been somewhat altered lately. I should like to say a few words about National Service because he mentioned it. National Service was brought in by the Labour Government in peace time, and I believe, and I have always thought, that the Labour Government have never been given full credit for that very courageous act. They brought it in after the War, in peace time, and at that time we could not possibly have carried out our commitments without it. I was Chief of the Imperial General Staff at the time and I know that we simply could not have met our commitments without it. That National Service brought into the Army a cross-section of the young men of our land, and they "did their stuff" right well. From their numbers came practically ail the non-commissioned officers, from the rank of corporal downwards, a good few sergeants, most of the 231 specialists and some of the best young officers in our regiments. The mesh through which the National Service boy had to go to become an officer was much smaller than the mesh he had to go through to get to Sandhurst. He had to be extremely good to become an officer.
My noble friend Lord Nathan has mentioned that a senior officer, General Hull, said in East Africa that while National Service had been good for the nation it "nearly ruined the Army"; and I think Lord Nathan said that he agreed with that statement. I agree that it was good for the nation. I am quite unable to agree that it nearly ruined the Army; we could not have done without it. And if it did nearly ruin the Army, I would say that it was the fault of the Army for not operating the system better. And now it is coming to an end.
My view, my Lords, is that the Army owes a great debt of gratitude to the National Service boy, and I think it is unworthy to say that he "nearly ruined the Army". I know very well what happens when one says something: a sentence is taken out of its context, tossed all around the world; and without having the whole context it is difficult to say what was really meant. I know that just as well as most people. These young men, these National Service boys, lent us a hand when we were having very great manpower troubles. They fought magnificently in Korea; they fought splendidly against the Mau Mau; they fought in the jungles of Malaya against the Communist guerrillas, and they fought in Cyprus, against archbishops and all sorts of people. I hope that we may find we can do without the National Service boy as we move towards an all-Regular Army. I hope it, but I doubt it. In any case we are going to miss the breath of fresh air which the National Service boy brought with him into the somewhat rigid mentality of the peace-time Army.
I should like to say a word or two on the question of cadet corps in schools. I am not convinced that we are getting the best value from the money spent by the War Office on the cadet corps. In many schools, service in the corps is unpopular. I joined the corps when I was 232 at school because one wore a uniform, and I thought it looked rather nice. I never rose beyond the rank of full private. Weapons in these school corps are nearly always completely out of date, and the tactical training bears no relation whatever to modern war.
I very much hope that the money spent by the War Office on cadet corps will not be reduced, but I should like to see it spent in a different way. I think that the Army units in the Combined Cadet Force should be entirely voluntary, and small—not a large corps of about 300 or 400 boys, but a small one of about 100. They should be given the most modern weapons and equipment which the Army has, which could be done with a small corps. Instead of going to camp, and carrying out exercises which have no relation at all to modern war, I suggest that the boys should be attached to units of the Regular Army. They should go and live in officers' messes, go to practice camp with the artillery, train with the armoured units, take part in bridging exercises with the Royal Engineers and so on—in fact, be introduced to the life of the modern Army, see the life of the Army officer and what goes on. That would vastly interest the boys. It would make the corps popular and difficult to get into, and would possibly produce some very good officers for the Army.
I am quite unable to agree with those who say that the British Army of the Rhine is too small and must be brought up to a higher strength in manpower at once. What the Army needs in peace time is the maximum flexibility. In our various commitments and possessions overseas we need small garrisons to act as a deterrent and to have something on the spot immediately. We then need the maximum strength as a strategic reserve in this country, suitably armed, equipped and trained, and available to be flown very quickly by the Royal Air Force anywhere in the world. It is exceedingly difficult to carry out that strategy because we are over-insured in Germany. We are over-insured in the one area in the world where there will not be a shooting war involving the armed forces of Russia; that is to say, no major war. Far from the Rhine Army being increased, my view is that it should be reduced. To keep 51,000 soldiers in 233 Germany and to build them up to 55,000, or whatever it may be, is a great embarrassment to those who are trying to meet our world-wide commitments within the limits of manpower and money. And to say that the number should be increased is, I suggest, merely to display an ignorance of military strategy.
I have one last point. It has become the fashion recently to attack the Minister of Defence. He has been under attack a good deal in the Press and in another place. There have been nine Ministers of Defence since the office was first created in 1946. They are all alive to-day, and I know them all, some of them very well. I will read the list—I will not attempt to grade them. The first one was the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, sitting opposite; the second one was Shinwell, the third the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Alexander of Tunis; then we had four in the space of two years—Macmillan, Selwyn Lloyd, Monckton, Head—four in two years. Finally, we had Number 8, Sandys, and Number 9, Watkinson. Far from criticising the Minister of Defence, it is my considered opinion that Mr. Watkinson is easily the best of the nine; he can hit all the others for six, and I reckon he is doing a first-class job in very difficult conditions. My Lords, I hope that that will be borne in mind in any further criticism.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, it is not long since I had to speak in equally difficult circumstances, after the noble Lord, Lord Reith, and the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, had their own private war. There is no doubt the noble and gallant Field Marshal has transformed this debate. What he has transformed it into, I am not quite sure. He gave us one or two very blinding truths—the next war will be different from the last. He advised the Government not to march on Moscow and not to go fighting with land armies in China, and I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is likely to do either. The noble and gallant Field Marshal says we do not need a balanced Army, and in this matter he is in full support of the Government because the Government have not given us a balanced Army. He 234 said one agreeable thing in regard to my noble friends on this side. He congratulated the Labour Government on introducing conscription. It is a fact that if conscription had not been introduced, we should never have had the Treaty of Dunkirk and, in due course, NATO.
I would suggest to the noble and gallant Field Marshal that when we come to our debates next year, instead of having these subjects, on which we are in fact debating one thing when he wants to debate another, it would be a good idea if he were to put down on the Order Paper his own Motion and that he himself should speak first and tell us what his particular theories are. They are exceedingly stimulating. I should have loved to join with him in discussing the question of sea power, and such matters as the vulnerability of carriers and what will happen if we lose control of the sea. But I find it a little difficult to do so in a debate on the Memorandum accompanying the Army Estimates. I think there would be much to be said.
I think that really the burden of the lesson we should learn from his speech is that perhaps the time has come—I know other noble Lords consider this to be so—when we ought not to debate the Services on this standardised pattern of a Defence White Paper followed by three separate debates on each of the Services, because it is apparent that it is almost impossible to do so. Although I shall attempt in a moment to get back to the subject of to-day's debate, I would think that this is a matter for consideration before next year's debates take place. It may even reduce the occasional ill-feeling that occurs between my noble Leader and myself when we debate the Navy, if we could in fact join harmoniously in some co-operative effort. Indeed, this is a subject which is mentioned in the Memorandum, and the noble and gallant Field Marshal drew attention to this question of inter-Service co-operation.
However, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I turn to some of the particular matters to which I had intended briefly to refer, and even to some criticisms of the Government. I think, first, that I should do something which will be agreed in all parts of the House—namely, to thank my noble friend Lord Nathan for introducing the debate. We 235 all recognise his own great personal contribution as Senior Honorary Colonel, not only of his particular group of gunnery tout, I believe, of all the Territorial gunner regiments in the British Army. Certainly he has a long and distinguished record.
If I may look briefly at one or two points in the Memorandum which seem to be worth just touching on and which have not yet been referred to, it is right of course that, as in other Service debates, we should recognise the splendid work that the Armed Services do quite apart from their obvious military activities. There is reference to their welfare work, particularly during the British Honduras hurricane. I think I should like to draw attention to one rather strange and interesting point. I believe it is the first time in any Service Memorandum that there has appeared a quotation from a schoolgirl—in fact, to be more precise, a school-leaver—in regard to the damage at Belize. There is a most compelling description. I happen to have read the original article. In fact it comes from one of the girl volunteers of a voluntary service overseas, and only yesterday there was an announcement in another place that the Government were providing further co-operation and encouragement in this regard.
It is rather interesting that this letter was written by one of these young volunteers out in British Honduras at the time. It fits in well with the attention that has been given to the subject of adventure training. It is a matter for regret that, as the result of the disappearance of National Service, many young people who would have been able to go overseas will not now have the opportunity. I think it is most valuable that at least the Services are developing adventure activities of one kind or another.
I should like to return once again to a subject which I know is so boring to the noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty—indeed, I think it is becoming boring to us all: it is the numbers game. It is quite extraordinary how the Government contrive to produce confusion in this matter. Whether or not we need a larger army in Germany—the noble and gallant Field Marshal may 236 have his views in contradiction of the views of General Norstad and of the NATO Council, but I am not entering into that argument—the policy at the moment is that we should meet certain commitments, and our present commitment has cut back from the original Brussels Treaty obligation, which, incidentally, was introduced for another purpose entirely, primarily as part of the guarantee we were giving when France agreed to German rearmament.
Leaving that aside, the fact remains that we are 4,000 under strength in our commitments. The Government now admit it freely. I do not know why they do not say that they are ashamed of it, because this is something that has led to ill-feeling. It is quite obvious that at the Athens meeting Mr. Watkinson—our finest Minister of Defence, as we are told—has been bullied or persuaded, at any rate has agreed with Mr. McNamara, that we should increase our numbers to 55,000 at an early date, provided we are not compelled to say so in public. Since then, the Minister of Defence has gone round saying a good deal in private. There have been these off-the-record briefings of the Press. I am all for off-the-record briefings of the Press, but I am also in favour of the information being given to Parliament.
At first the Minister of Defence presented a quite bland view that he really had said nothing that had not been said to the House. But I should like to ask the noble Lord where these figures of 64,000 and 74,000 have come from. I know it is not the job of the Government to confirm or deny this. I would only ask noble Lords to speak to some of the Lobby correspondents and Press people who are quite freely saying this. This is frequently said by people of reliability. I know it is not the job of Ministers to confirm or deny what appears in the Press; but can we be told that The Times statements in regard to this matter are completely inaccurate?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but there has been a great deal of discussion about all this in another place over the last fortnight or so, and I would have thought that if the noble Lord had read what had taken place and what my right honourable friend the Minister had 237 said, the situation would be perfectly clear to him. Indeed, I have reiterated it in my speech this afternoon.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, it is precisely because I have read every word that was said by the Minister of Defence that I am drawing attention to this extraordinary discrepancy between what is apparently being said outside Parliament and what is being said inside. It is my complaint that the First Lord of the Admiralty has taken this flat line that the Minister of Defence took in another place, when we all know—I say this in all seriousness—that there has been talk on this particular point. Perhaps we shall get another denial from the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald. I know that both noble Lords are entirely honourable men, but I can only say that it is my opinion that certain things have been said on this—indeed, Mr. Watkinson himself referred to these figures. He did not say that they were necessarily going to be aimed at, but he said there was talk of them. We should like to know in more detail, since anyway this is public knowledge, what took place at the Athens meeting.
§ LORD FRASER OF NORTH CAPE
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but I do not know that the First Sea Lord said anything, so far as I know.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I beg any First Sea Lord's pardon; and the First Lord's pardon, come to that. Such is the heat I have for a moment generated in this matter. But I must confess that I find the situation intensely irritating.
I would ask the Government to realise that this is not something in which I am merely working up a Party fury. There is genuine feeling on this matter among people in all Parties. In another place criticism came from another side as to what was the planning target for the Army, because there is good reason to believe that they cannot possibly meet the commitments which they now say they are going to meet with less than 180,000 men. It may be that there are other noble Lords who have more expert knowledge, but it would seem that the Army have been steadily doing their planning on the basis of 180,000 men, while publicly saying that 165,000 was their target for the moment. Last year 238 the First Lord did, in fact, refer to a secondary target of 182,000. I think that this figure of 182,000 is in fact the main figure; and if we do not achieve this we shall fail to maintain the strength necessary in the units that we have in the Army at present.
Although perhaps the noble Lord does not go to Back Bench meetings upstairs, there has been a report—which I have had on reliable authority, not just from the Press—that in fact the Secretary of State for War did give information to a meeting upstairs on the strength of the Army and likely developments. I would urge that, whatever may be said "off the record" to the Press, something more might be said in public to Parliament. In passing, I would also ask: may we have some statement on the future of the Gurkha Brigade? Has the noble Lord any information on this? There was a report (again I have done my best to confirm it by speaking to people) that there had been some discussion on the future of that Brigade.
If I may very briefly touch on the subject of recruiting, I would congratulate the Government on the results achieved. They have achieved them, of course, by breaking their own pay pause, when they were in a difficult position and when also they were being accused of breaking their obligations to the Forces to carry out the recommendations of the Grigg Report. I only hope that this burst of recruiting is not followed by a trough. I do not know whether the noble Lord can say that it is the view of the experts that the present recruiting drive is not primarily connected with the recent pay increase, and that they have every hope that it will be maintained. I know that it is very difficult to look far into the future, but it would be helpful to have the Government's views on whether in fact this present drive is going to go forward.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, perhaps I might just interrupt the noble Lord, on the question of Army numbers, because my noble friend Lord St. Oswald was not proposing to deal with this point—in fact I thought I had dealt with it in my opening remarks. The answer is very simple. The minimum target is 165,000, which we hope we shall get, and expect to get, by January 1 next year. 239 Last year I said that we should go on to recruit to a total of 182,000. I think the easiest way I can explain this is to quote what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War said in another place [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 655 (No. 71), col. 611]:The new Defence White Paper makes it perfectly plain that the next five years will see further changes in commitments and deployment.He then went on:… let me say quite plainly and clearly that there will be no further large-scale reorganisation of the Army like there was in 1957. It may be that when all the staff tables have been revised, in the course of the next few months, our manpower requirements will be a little different from the previous ones …He continued:Our immediate task is to go flat out with our recruiting campaign—past the 165,000 signpost and upwards.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
It certainly answers the point on recruiting; but it does not meet the point that, unless the Government do get their 180,000 men, the planning they have done will fail to mature satisfactorily. This is certainly the information I have. If the noble Lord can assure us in due course that the Army can fulfil its commitments; that it can provide the men necessary in Germany to bring our forces up to what is our present commitment in order to ensure that our strategic reserves—the third division—are up to strength and that we can get through on 165,000 men, I shall be content. But I do not think he can assure us on those lines.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I do not think the noble Lord has followed my speech at the opening of the debate. I made perfectly clear what were the plans of the Government: that we would go on after 165,000, and we were sure that the plans at that stage would make it possible to carry out all the commitments the noble Lord has mentioned.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
What I was saying to the noble Lord was that it cannot be done on 165,000, and that it 240 will be necessary to go further. This is important, because the Government have been telling us, with a good deal of complacency, that we shall get the 165,000 by the end of this year. I do not want to press this matter any further. But, however pained the noble Lord is, not only am I, but many other people are, extremely dissatisfied with the Government's attitude in this matter.
I thought the noble Lord was also rather "touchy" on the subject of recruiting for the "Ever-Readies". He said that we do not want to be too despondent about our bad recruiting; that we must be careful to see we have a steady flow of them. But is it a true statement that we expect to recruit 6,000 by the end of June?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I do not want to interrupt each time, but I do not think the noble Lord can have listened to what I said in my speech. I said that the 6,000 was the quota, the ceiling figure above which we would not recruit any more. If we recruited too many at any one time, they would all run out together.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Presumably, if you fix a quota and have a ceiling, you are hoping to get somewhere near that figure.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
If the noble Lord does not know, perhaps he can find out before the end of the debate, This is part of the confusion upon which it would be helpful to have some clarity.
I should also like to ask this question, which again may or may not be a serious matter: if these "Ever-Readies" are called up, will it have a serious effect on the units with which they are trained, or will their position be recognised within their units? Presumably, the "Ever-Readies" in their particular Territorial units will be the sort of men who will be valuable in those units. It is going to be somewhat disturbing if, as the situation gets more critical, certain key men are suddenly to be called up in advance of the rest. It may be that we have to accept this disadvantage, but it does seem to me to be quite a serious one.
241 My Lords, we have spent rather a long time in my unsatisfactory—so far as I am concerned—attempt to obtain some further facts from the Government on the manpower situation. I should now like to turn to a statement made by the noble Lord, the First Lord, when he said that the balance is about right. I did not quite understand whether he was talking about the balance in the Army or the balance as between the Services and other activities, because the one thing we have been told by many experts— in fact, I think by all the experts except the noble and gallant Field Marshal—is that we do not have balanced forces, and we ought to have them. The Prime Minister himself said this——
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I am sorry that my speech was so obscure that the noble Lord has not understood anything I said. What I was trying to say was that the balance between the number of troops that we have in Germany, and the troops that we have overseas and at home, is about right. I expressly went on to say that I was worried about the recruiting of certain arms.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, that makes it a completely meaningless statement, because I simply do not know how one arrives at that particular balance. You have so few and you divide them up, and you are quite unable to cover any of your responsibilities, and at that point you say: "I reckon the balance is about right". Therefore, I do not regard that as a particularly helpful statement.
I should like to turn to the question of mobility. Here I think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and I will, perhaps for the first time in this debate, be in agreement; that is, on the importance—to which the noble and gallant Field Marshal drew attention, as did other noble Lords—of greatly improved inter-Service co-operation, particularly between the R.A.F. and the Army, in regard to mobility. Here I would express a personal opinion—it is a statement I have made previously—that, leaving aside the question of our commitments and our obligation to maintain certain troops in Germany, I should have thought that the time might be coming (and this is why I am glad the noble and gallant Field Marshal said this) when 242 we ought to think completely differently about this matter. Is there any reason why troops, who are fully mobile and fully air mobile, will not be as conveniently placed for military operations in Europe if they are in this country, provided that they do, in fact, have the necessary air transport? Clearly, of course, there will have to be troops in Germany, but the situation now is changing and there is no reason why it should not change very much more; so why should we not be able to meet our commitments by enormously improved air mobility? This means, of course, that we must spend more money on Transport Command and must concentrate more on it. This, again, brings me back to the wider question of the balance between nuclear and non-nuclear forces.
One or two statements have been made in this House—and I think, indeed, that the noble Lord on the other side told me this—that there was a possibility that the Belfast might be capable of carrying a medium tank. I must confess that I was surprised to hear it, and was inclined to take the view that this was not possible. But if it were possible to transport a tank by air, this would seem to me to be a tremendous advantage. If the object is to spread men and equipment thinly, the best way is to contrive to be as nearly as possible in two places at the same time. The only way that can be achieved is by enormously increased mobility, which will also provide the concentration which is essential. It would be interesting if the Government could look further into this subject. Could they tell us whether there have been studies in regard to the possibility of carrying a medium tank by air?
Are the Government in a position to tell us anything more about Blue Water? Again, without going into the question of the balance of tactical nuclear and other weapons, there is reason to believe that such nuclear artillery as we have is in fact already out of date, and we are being compelled more and more at the moment—although we hope the Government are now going to redress the balance—to rely on tactical nuclear weapons of a kind of which there has been so much criticism and a great deal of discussion, following Sir Solly Zuckerman's Report, which I will not 243 go into. We have not in this debate discussed as much as usual the question of equipment. I was rather horrified to hear it said—I think by the noble Marquess, Lord Ailsa—that the statement that Territorial units were now fully equipped with the self-loading rifle was not true, or at least not as true as it might be. If that is so—that there are only 50 of these rifles per battalion—this would seem to be a contradiction of the statement in the Memorandum.
I do not wish to prolong this debate any further, beyond saying that there is one small question which I think the House would be interested to know about; that is, what is going to happen about the officer who bought his discharge by paying an election deposit. It is an intriguing subject. It may be one of those embarrassing matters which are perhaps better dealt with in a Press conference. But it is certainly true that at the end of the last war a number of people thought this was an easy way to get out of the Services. They were all very devoted supporters of their particular Parties. They then got into Parliament and found they could leave the Services, but they also found that they could continue being in the Services and being in Parliament. Some of us, very happily, were pluralists for a few months, having served as officers. It is a privilege which I imagine is confined only to Field Marshals, when they happen to stand for Parliament. It is a minor point in which there will be some interest.
I am sorry that we have not had an opportunity, in to-day's debate at any rate, to discuss co-operation between Commonwealth forces. I know that the noble Lord, the First Lord, made some reference to this. Again, it is a topic which might be a subject for a separate debate, if we were to depart from our established pattern of the past, because clearly a subject like inter-Commonwealth defence co-operation can get only a few passing references in a debate of this kind. But if the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, would like to add anything on the matter, and particularly on the subject of inter-Service relationships and staff relationships, it would be of considerable interest.
My Lords, I must apologise if I have brought what is for me a little unwonted 244 heat into this debate. I ask your Lordships to believe that I take a very serious and, indeed, anxious view. My statements were based on a pretty careful study of the matter, and the admirable and agreeable speech of the noble Lord, the First Lord, has not gone very far to resolve my doubts. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, will perhaps succeed in resolving them. I would end only by saying again, as all of your Lordships do on these occasions, that we are all immensely proud of the Army and of the standards that are maintained in it. We wish it good luck and, above all, hope that it will be permitted to go on playing its extremely valuable rôle, but in peace time.
§ 5.39 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I certainly see absolutely no reason for the noble Lord to apologise for the heat he engendered. Indeed, as I hope he knows, I always find his warm personality enchanting, and it is a delight to follow him in debate. On this occasion I think the whole House will probably have found the final passage of this debate, up to my own speech, livelier than the remainder. I listened to the noble and gallant Field Marshal saying that the Rhine Army was too big and need not be balanced; I listened to the noble Lord opposite saying that the Rhine Army was too small and had to be balanced. They having bombarded each other above my innocent and unprotected head, I am prepared to call the contest a draw. I might, I think, be forgiven for concluding, after listening to that exchange, that the Government's policy had been usefully vindicated. On the other hand, we say, and have said, that we are not satisfied with the present balance as amongst the different arms of the Services—and I shall refer to that later.
The criticism by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in this area was dealt with and partly accepted by my noble friend in his opening speech, of which the noble Lord opposite appeared to hear so very little. But, frankly, we are not ashamed; and, in view of the circumstances fully described by my noble friend, we do not believe that any Government could have done better at this point of time. On the other hand, I can give him the assurance which I 245 understand he is seeking: that the Athens Conference was a notable success and was considered to be so by those who took part. He asked whether the existence of "Ever-Readies" in units would affect the viability of those units, in the event of going to war, after the "Ever-Readies" had been withdrawn. The answer is that they are held additional to the strength of the unit to which they are attached. The noble Lord also called into doubt some of our weapons. I can assure him that Blue Water is a very up-to-date system, an advanced system, and is expected to be in service until 1965.
Then he asked the Government their views on the question of the officer leaving the Army on a false pretext. I think I can say quite frankly that we deplore the misuse of Parliamentary procedures and privileges in this way, and I am sure that in this we have the support of all noble Lords present.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I just interrupt the noble Lord? I am sorry; but, going back to Blue Water, he told us for how long that would last. Can he tell us when it will begin? When is it coming into service? Is it in service now?
LORD ST. OSWALD
No, my Lords, it is not in service yet.
My noble friend dealt extensively with recruiting, and with the problems connected with a volunteer Army under a Welfare State, and a Welfare State enjoying full employment. Recruiting has in fact been immensely assisted by the effective publicity campaign of recent months, but this campaign could have been effective only in a willing field. When Army life is well and honestly described to those for whom that sort of life has a genuine appeal, then the recruits will come in, and we believe that they will continue to come in. That I say in answer to the direct question put by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
My noble friend Lord Bridgeman has spoken of the need to keep the Army in the public eye, and this we shall continue to do. I agree with him that something is required to compensate, in this context, for the ending of National Service. Teams from units from the strategic reserve and from Germany, and 246 teams from the Territorial Army, will be active in this, but I shall refer a little later to other means which we have in mind. What has been rooted out entirely, I hope, is any sort of illusion, implication or nuance that recruiting thrives on unemployment. My hackles have always tended to rise whenever I have heard it suggested that such is the sort of Army we had before the war or are seeking to-day. Regional recruiting figures give the complete lie to this effectively to-day. The best returns are coming from such places as the West Riding of Yorkshire and the Midlands, Where there are many more civilian jobs than there are men to fill them. We have reason for confidence in the future of recruiting, and part of that confidence is rooted in the belief that more will come in and more will stay in when the Army is once more all-Regular. Noble Lords have pointed out the shortage of specialists in certain branches. I should have thought that one could fairly regard that as inevitable in an age when we see on every hand that there are not enough of these specialists to go round in civilian life, and the Army has to compete for their services in an epoch of scarcity.
What I might describe as an uplifting success is in the province of recruiting the young men and boys. My noble friend has referred to the figures: we have 9,000 at present and we expect to be up to nearly 11,000 by the beginning of 1963. In fact, the limiting factors are now training facilities and accommodation rather than candidates. They can be dealt with and will be dealt with. The capacity of the boys' units is being expanded. The two new junior leaders' battalions, one at Troon in Scotland and one at Rhyl in North Wales, referred to by my noble friend, are now flourishing. There are nine of such units altogether, with 4,900 junior leaders in them. These will produce an additional 1,000 tradesmen a year, and will soon be making an important contribution to filling those specialists' jobs which I have referred to earlier as an existing difficulty.
This, of course, is not the only means available for giving an opportunity to boys to enter a military career before they are of military age. My noble friend Lord Goschen knows more than 247 I about the Junior Guardsmen's Company at the Guards Depôt. When I had the pleasure of visiting them there recently, there was a tangible climate of pride and enjoyment in a soldier's life. These boys not only feel that they have discovered what the Army is, but they are able to demonstrate it to others while enjoying themselves hugely, travelling about our own country and overseas. For instance, last summer some of them were sent on a tour to Switzerland, and gave concerts at Rapperswill at the end of Lake Zurich and in Zurich itself in front of the Stadthaus, where the trams on the Bahnhofstrasse were stopped to accommodate them and where 3,000 normally undemonstrative Swiss waxed lyrical in listening to them. That concert was followed by others, including one at Geneva, where the President of the States of Geneva himself read the address of welcome and where they were cared for by the Swiss Army and cheered by 400 Swiss soldiers. Concerts at Nice and Monte Carlo ended a somewhat "offbeat" military exercise to the general benefit and satisfaction of everyone involved. This is the sort of thing which is being done, and effectively done, to encourage boys to get their first taste of a military life. That first taste generally satisfies them that it is the life for them.
My noble friend Lord Bridgeman asked about the Combined Cadet Force. I can tell him that the War Office has been reviewing the aims and organisation of the Army component of the Combined Cadet Force in the context of the reorganisation of the Army into a small, all-Regular force. The object of this review is to assess the problems facing the Combined Cadet Force and to consider how these might be overcome in the light of the limitations on what the Service can do for this force. Discussions with representatives of the Headmasters' Conference, the Incorporated Association of Headmasters and the Combined Cadet Force Association on ways of solving these problems are now going on.
My noble friend Lord Boston dealt at some length with housing. I would rather write to him about the specific question of housing in Germany, in which he was particularly interested, but 248 I can, in fact, speak in some detail of the housing task which the War Office has set itself. It is an aspect of Army life which my right honourable friend considers to be of major importance, and he takes a very personal interest in housing for the soldier, for his family and for the day-to-day work and administration of the Army. This last type of building—that is to say, depôts, workshops and the like—naturally comes later in time than the proper accommodation for the man and his family, an essential requirement for the new, all-Regular Army. The programme of building new depots and workshops is only now being examined in detail, but on barracks and married quarters we are beginning to see results. Work has been going ahead at a brisk pace at home for several years now, determining the Army's requirement of barracks and married quarters and planning for the necessary buildings. During this planning period there is, of course, disappointingly little to show, but the new barracks at Chelsea are almost complete and will be occupied at the end of onis summer. Half a dozen other major new barracks will be completed during the current financial year. Married quarters are now being produced at the rate of 1,500 a year, and the programme for more married quarters is being pressed on as a requirement of primary importance.
Overseas it has not been easy to go ahead with increasing momentum, if only because a review of our overseas garrisons has made it necessary to review our requirements of new buildings. Nevertheless, in some places where it is clear that we shall need new buildings for the Army, we are going ahead. At the beginning of this year I myself saw the building that is being done in Singapore, and especially in Aden, where the whole face of the town is being changed in spectacular fashion by new quarters for Servicemen. This building programme includes such things as swimming pools and amenities of which the old soldier of my day scarcely dreamed. Some noble Lords may have seen the model of a striking new barracks which my right honourable friend hopes to start building in Gibraltar; and in Hong Kong projects for a new hospital and new barracks are going ahead. Overseas, as at home, the married soldier is being looked after, 249 and in B.A.O.R. good use is being made of an arrangement whereby large numbers of flats are being erected by private enterprise, with a firm understanding that they will be leased for occupation by Army families. In detail, as well as in the broad sweep, the Army's building programme is going well.
I hope some noble Lords may have seen the exhibition at the Chelsea Flower Show last year of a patio garden, which forms an interesting part of the housing scheme for new soldiers' married quarters at Aldershot. By this kind of forethought, we hope that the Army will be accommodated not only adequately, but with a real sense of modern amenity.
There is, of course, no denying that for the intelligent and highly-skilled soldier of to-day the availability of this sort of comforts and aids to useful leisure and exercise is entirely and properly necessary. So also is the companionship of his family. We are doing as much as we can to meet these requirements.
Nor is there any denying that the soldier is a soldier because he may be required to fight in his country's or in humanity's cause, and however excellent his peace-time conditions may be, the good soldier is poignantly interested in the quality of his weapons and other equipment. Some noble Lords will undoubtedly have seen displays of this equipment in recent months. I hope they have been as impressed as I. The improvement in weapons and vehicles and wireless sets, since the last time I served, about twelve years ago, is little short of startling. By the middle 1960's almost every weapon which was in use in the middle 1950's will have been replaced by something far better. Air-portability—and here I think I can satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on one point—continues to be the core of the main objectives in the development of new equipment for the Army; that is to say, equipment that can be carried in or dropped from medium-range transport aircraft. The new machine gun (which gives a greater fire power than the Vickers, for half its weight) is starting to reach the infantry this year.
We have bought from Italy the 105mm. pack howitzer and we shall 250 continue to equip the Army with the powerful anti-tank guided missile Malkara, which gives the Strategic Reserve an airportable weapon system capable of defeating the heaviest enemy tank. And a wide range of new wireless sets is now in use. A new 81mm. mortar with its high rate of fire and range of over three miles is undoubtedly the best mortar in the world. In addition, a new 105mm. self-propelled field gun, the Abbot, which has a range of over 11 miles (remarkable for a gun of this size) will be coming into service shortly. New light-weight guided missiles which will make the battlefield a much more dangerous place for the enemy's armour are also under development for R.A.C. and infantry. Vehicles, both fighting vehicles and transport vehicles, also demonstrate the work of brilliant and dedicated minds and a lucid, vivid appreciation of battle conditions, and I am thinking now of the battlefield of the future. No longer can it be said that our Army is training for the war before last, and I understand that the noble and gallant Field Marshal agrees with that.
I should like to say a special word about the Chieftain tank, and even crave the indulgence of the House for a moment or two of nostalgia over its predecessor, the Centurion. Having served through a large part of the Second World War in armoured fighting vehicles which were always a year or two behind the enemy's in vehicle design and gun capability, it was indeed heartening to return to the Army, as I did, in 1950, to find my regiment equipped with the best tank in the world with which to fight in Korea. Noble Lords may think me fanciful when I say that those tanks in action were respected by my companions in arms in somewhat the same way as their predecessors felt towards their horses. Their performance was prodigious in climbing capacity, dependability, and the effectiveness of the 20-pounder gun. There was an incident I recall when four Centurion tanks came down a mountain out of cloud on to a Chinese position, and that was more than the Chinese could take.
Soon the Centurion will be "old hat". For hitting power and impregnability it had to be partly replaced by the Conqueror, which, however, weighs 251 several tons more, with all the accruing disadvantages of additional weight. It might reasonably be supposed that a demand for a new tank with the armour and gun power of the Conqueror, combining the nimbleness of the Centurion and less than the Centurion's weight, would require the work of a wizard. It seems to me that the staff of the Armoured Flighting Vehicle Research Station at Chobham are little short of technical wizards. For such a tank has been evolved in the Chieftain, which has now been through rigorous trials and seems to have very few, and only a very few, teething troubles still remaining.
We believe it will be the best of its generation in the world. It has an extremely powerful gun, far more powerful than the present tank armament, strong armour, and it has a multi-fuel engine which runs equally well on heavy diesel oil or high-grade petrol. It has good cross-country performance. It can even swim. My noble friend beside me, with his naval prejudices, saw fit to doubt this possibility when I told him of it a few minutes ago; but the fact is that the Chieftain tank is made to swim with a very small and easily erected adaptation which the crew themselves can erect, and perhaps only a former tank soldier can tell what a very valuable quality that is. Through its armour, we believe it would give excellent protection on the nuclear battlefield.
One of its most important qualities, most appreciated by its crews, is its silhouette. This is not simply an aesthetic appreciation (though I think nobody will be likely to deny that cavalry soldiers are of a more cultured, sensitive stamp than those in other arms) but it is directly related to the self-preservation interest. It determines the sort of target you present to an enemy. And in this context the Chieftain provides maximum comfort for its crew and the maximum frustration for the enemy seeking to destroy it.
I have purposely mentioned the Chieftain before coming on to other new vehicles, and noble Lords will understand why. Vehicle development has had two vital factors in mind: maximum mobility about the battlefield, and air-portability. Although it gives us admirable mobility on the battlefield, the Chieftain cannot be air transported.
252 In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on this question of an aircraft capable of carrying a medium tank, I can tell him only this. I understand that it has been worked out, on paper, that an aircraft could be made capable of carrying such a tank completely stripped down, which would mean that it would then have to be reassembled at the other end, and the vast expense of evolving and building such an aircraft is not considered, at any rate at the moment, as commensurate with the advantages gained, because of the fact, as I see it, that a special team would have to be waiting at the other end practically to reconstruct the tank when it arrived. On the other hand, the new family of lighter, though still formidable, A.F.V.s enjoy both those advantages, mobility and airportability.
In modern war the infantry and the gunners must be able to go with the tanks of the battle group, and hence we are introducing the tracked A.P.C. and the Abbot gun which I have just mentioned, together with logistic vehicles of comparable performance. However, mobility on the battlefields of Northwest Europe is not enough. We have commitments in many others parts of the world and we must therefore have equipment which can be transported quickly by air to wherever trouble arises, whether it is in Kuwait, South-East Asia or the West Indies. I have already mentioned air-portable anti-tank weapons and the light weight howitzer, but these are not exceptions. All the Army's new equipment is now designed with air-portability very much in mind, and, with very few exceptions—such as tanks—it will go into the transport aircraft now coming into service. I think this partly answers the question of the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill. In answer to another question by the noble Lord, I am informed that the "Duck", which he was unable to interpret, is DUKW, which stands for Detroit Union Kaiser Works. This, although it has rather un-romantic and even sinister echoes from a previous war, was the designation taken from the original factories in America, where the vehicle was made.
My noble friend Lord Goschen, to whom I am very grateful for his congratulations, was worried about the availability of helicopters for the Rhine 253 Army. In speaking of helicopters, he is, so far as I am concerned, preaching to the converted. I learned to value the helicopter in the campaign in Korea, for one thing, among many others: for the evacuation of wounded. It was noticeable that what men were really worried about was not being killed in battle, but being wounded and dying on the way back over 15 miles of rough road, perhaps wanting to be dead and probably dying on the way; whereas a helicopter arrived, with its courageous pilot, and in twelve minutes they were back, being looked after. That is only one of the recommendations of the helicopter. I can satisfy my noble friend's mind, at least in this: that there are more helicopters available in the hands of the R.A.F., in the Rhine Army or available to the Rhine Army, than he would imagine, and I can also tell him that the number is increasing. He is right in saying that there is a limit to the size of aircraft that the Army is entitled to pilot—that is to say, 4,000 lb. all-out weight is the dividing line—but there is absolutely no question of the R.A.F.'s holding these craft back. They want them themselves. But, of course, they are very limited in number and very expensive.
I come to the question of the Territorial Army, which was brought up authoritatively by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, in his nine-fold colonelcy, which he is so soon to leave. I am sure it is a sad day for many other than himself that this should come. I think that on the personal level he will know how sincere that tribute is. We continue to attach the greatest importance to the Territorial Army, which is now at a higher state of training and readiness than ever before in peace time. It is now reorganised with a peace-time establishment of 123,000, which can quickly expand on mobilisation to about 190,000. Its present volunteer strength is about 105,000 and we are anxious to close the gap between that figure and its peace-time establishment.
We now have in hand a re-equipment programme which, in the next few years, will put into the hands of the Territorial Army many more of the items of equipment which are in general use in the Regular Army. Where, because of the high cost of modern weapons, it is not feasible to equip the whole of the 254 Territorial Army with them, we are ensuring that opportunities exist for members to familiarise themselves with the new equipment. Additional new equipment is being made available to members of the Territorial Army who undertake the TAER engagement. In addition to this and as a further earnest of the importance we attach to the Territorial Army, we are now planning for the replacement and renewal of all old Territorial Army centres and buildings, at a cost of £6 million, over the next five years. In the present financial year, for example, the provision for new major works is more than double last year's figure.
The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, mentioned the cumbersome size of certain territorial unit areas. Clearly this disadvantage accompanies amalgamation and we have done what we can, but I can assure him that specific cases he may mention where we have failed to take it fully into account, will be brought to the notice of my right honourable friend and carefully considered by him.
My noble friend Lord Bridgeman referred to civil defence. It is fully realised that to-day there is no sharp dividing line to be drawn between military and civil defence. If this country is ever subject to an atomic or thermonuclear attack, the first task of all available forces will be to maintain order, to save life and to do what they can to restore the life of the community. This is fully realised by the Territorial Army, and virtually all units which may be expected to be in this country in the event of global war now train for one year in every four in the civil defence rôle.
My noble friend Lord Bridgeman also asked about the present other ranks strength of the Army. On May I it was 141,979, only 5,054 of whom were serving an engagement of three years or less. Both my noble friend and my noble friend Lord Ailsa expressed anxiety that the success of the recruiting drive was having the result of recruits being turned away from some units which had reached completion. In fact, recruiting for regiments is never stopped. It may be restricted, but men with strong family connections will be allowed to join the unit of their given preference. Experience shows that we are generally successful 255 in deflecting recruits from restricted to unrestricted regiments and very little loss is occurring for that reason.
My noble friend Lord Bridgeman and the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, suggested that perhaps we were asking too much of the Strategic Reserve to expect it to be able to fight at very short notice anywhere in the world under cold, temperate or tropical conditions. There are several points to make here. The first is that a great deal of a soldier's background and military training is to equip him for any conditions in which he may find himself. The habit of discipline, skill in arms, knowledge of organisation and how to look after himself are basic military virtues which form the greater part of a soldier's training. And it must be remembered that we are now dealing with Regular soldiers, many of whom will have had as many years as National Service men have had months, in learning and absorbing this knowledge.
Secondly, the Regular soldier is trained in all the technicalities of quick air movement. This should mean that in many cases, as in Kuwait last year, troops will arrive in time to prevent trouble starting rather than find themselves in action at once. The training which formations of the Strategic Reserve undertake with the Territorial Army nowadays include areas as different as Canada, Libya and Kenya. Any training, in fact, is now in a completely different epoch from the time when annual manœuvres on Salisbury Plain were the climax of the training season, such is the development of the Air Transport concept. I at one time or another served in a variety of theatres and have had reason to appreciate the British soldiers' remarkable adaptability. I also recall that on the way back from the Far East at the end of the war it was deemed necessary to give us two days' stop at Lydda Airport in Palestine to enable us to acclimatise ourselves to returning to this country. That is no longer considered in any way necessary.
I am happy to express my appreciation of my noble friend Lord Ampthill's remarks on the importance of old comrades associations. I am reasonably active in the British Legion in my part of Yorkshire, and I am happy to say 256 that I am looking forward to attending my own old comrades association dinner the week after next. He asked also about animals. I can tell him that at Melton Mowbray the Royal Army Veterinary Corps have a war dog training unit and an equitation unit. At Aldershot, in the R.A.S.C. Training Establishment, there is a unit for training pack animals. Abroad we have war dog training units in Hong Kong, Cyprus, Malaya and East Africa, and pack animal units in Hong Kong and East Africa.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked me a question about the future of the Gurkhas. I think I must restrict myself to saying that earlier this afternoon in another place Questions were tabled and answered by my right honourable friend, and the pith of his reply was that no decision as to their future has yet been taken, and no decision will be taken until next year.
I am not sure that noble Lords would wish me to answer many more questions. There was one question on the large infantry regiment. On this, also, all I can say is that no decision has been taken. What has happened is that the War Office, bearing in mind the need for flexibility in the organisation of the Army, is studying the question of whether the time has come to move towards a system based on a smaller number of larger regiments and has appointed a Committee to go into the matter. I know that there are in this House advocates of the larger regiment, the noble and gallant Field Marshal being among them; but I am equally aware that there are others who feel that any change in the present system, with its regimental traditions, would be a serious mistake. We have heard both points of view put forward to-day. All I can do at the moment is to assure noble Lords that the matter is being carefully considered, and that no change will be made unless it is demonstrated that it would have definite advantages. At this stage it would be premature for me to say more than that.
The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, asked a question, which has been asked repeatedly before, as to whether B.A.O.R. could fight a conventional war. Strangely enough, the answer is the same as before. It is true, in a sense, that 257 the Rhine Army alone could not deal with a full-scale Russian attack with conventional weapons. That, I think, is recognised by everybody. But we are not alone; we are part of the N.A.T.O. Alliance, and the Rhine Army, like the other Armies under the command of the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, is trained and equipped for both conventional and nuclear war. In the event of an act of aggression on this front it could fight back for a limited period without recourse to nuclear weapons. This is in complete accordance with N.A.T.O.'s strategic doctrine. My Lords, this has been, as usual, an informative and challenging debate. I have done my best to answer as many questions as I could. I think the result of the debate is bound to be an encouragement to the Army, whose welfare and future we all have at heart.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, everyone in your Lordships' House will appreciate the great care shown by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the noble Lord who has just addressed us. I am sure it has been worthwhile to hold this debate. For me the debate has been of particular interest and distinction because of the fact (something which has not, I think, happened previously to me) that I was participating in a debate in which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal made, as always, an entertaining and constructive contribution. It would be quite wrong to enter into any of the numerous points that have been discussed in the course of the afternoon, and I propose to refrain from any comment upon them. I make only one comment on the course of the debate—namely, that I am sure that those in every branch of the Army who read the Report of the debate, as I hope they will to-morrow, will feel that the House of Lords takes an interest in them.