« AnteriorContinuar »
ever we do with our forces at home, immature boys shall not be sent abroad for Indian or war service. The army is full of boys, and is yearly becoming fuller. The foreign demand for men must, however, be met by the executive according to the fiat of Parliament. But further, the question may be asked, whether it is quite fair to British interests proper, to our view of the conservation of the national honour, that every regiment serving at home should annually be robbed of its best constituents, and that we should be left with battalions of fledglings to face European complications? The question is certainly a grave one, but it conveys an absolute truth and the most serious warning, according to the conditions at present obtaining in the British army for the supply of men at home and abroad.
It is to be recollected that we rely still on the antiquated mode of recruitment which once prevailed in all the Continental countries. The so-called voluntary system, of which some of our politicians are so fond of bragging, is really the most immoral one that can be conceived. It is the devolution of important state duties on, we will not say the lowest classes, but on those who, from want, inexperience, or early irregularity, seek a livelihood in a profession which has ever been viewed with singular distaste and aversion by the community at large.
This class, gathered for the most part from the large towns, is attracted by all the arts and the falsehoods of the recruiting sergeant. In a modified form precisely the same devices prevail, the like expedients are employed, the like traps are deliberately formed to catch the flies 'as in very old times. Unhappily, among the flies' may be found frequently insects of a more dangerous and doubtful character. It is the interest of the recruiting sergeant to get any lad or man passed pro-, vided he can show the requisite number of inches of height and round the chest required by the very moderate standard. Consequently, as heretofore, besides being the receptacle for those in want, or who for fault of conduct in early life are led to enlist, the army becomes the refuge of jail-birds, and occasionally men of the worst antecedents. It is true in these days we freely discharge men of bad characters. On the other hand, there is not the slightest check on the entertainment of men of this description. It is a matter of daily occurrence to see men re-enlisted by the recruiting sergeant who had been previously discharged for crimes of different kinds, including felony, habitual drunkenness, insubordination, and so forth. Hence it is that desertion from the army has come to take the rank of an industry among the lower classes of our
towns. Not only is the army, but the population at large is simply debauched by the immorality of the system. The lad deserts who takes a disgust because he considers he has been originally deluded or entrapped. The hardened offender deserts with a view to future trading on the advantage of enlistment, the conventional crime of fraudulent enlistment being thus positively devised and created by our method of dealing with the people for the purposes of the army.
And this is the miserable system of which we boast when we thank God we are not as other nations, and do not enforce national duties on the person as we do on the purse. If, however, this immoral and shameful system were successful, if it supplied the wants it is meant to nieet, something might be said for it. But when this is so notoriously not the case, it is impossible to understand the tenacity with which men dignified with the name of statesmen can hold on to the obsolete and rotten method ; how men of authority can get up gravely in Parliament, ignore the real facts, appeal to returns which in truth are only useful for blinding those not able to pierce below the surface, and talk egregious platitudes about the history of the army.
And to such miserable and unworthy stuff we are annually treated, till patience is fairly exhausted.
But let us examine this matter still more closely. Evidence has been afforded of the difference of the demands in point of numbers made on the country for military purposes in these modern times as compared with the years immediately succeeding the Napoleonic wars. Thus the complete requirement in 1835 was 101,000 men for the army, including every possible item, there being no Militia, no Volunteers, and the vast development of police in the United Kingdom which we now see not having attained the proportions of these days.
Now our peace demands on account of the Army proper amount to 186,000 men, that is to say, to nearly double those of 1835. It follows then that in order to maintain these numbers effectively, the supply of recruits must be at least double what was found necessary when the military establishments were on the scale denounced by the Duke of Wellington and recognised as miserable and inadequate. But as shown above, this by no means represents the increased difficulty, whether as regards the numbers of the forces or the means of supply. Thus, in a system of long service, one recruit only is wanted on an average of from twelve to fifteen years for those serving in the ranks. If men are enlisted for six years we require a new supply of one-sixth of the establishment every year at the least, or say, that irrespective of death, loss by
desertion, and discharge by purchase, the battalion undergoes renewal at the expiration of every sixth year. This rough calculation receives a reduction in the fact that in defiance of the system according to which reserves are ultimately to be formed, many men are led to enlist on a sort of modified longservice scale, while a proportion is induced to prolong the original term for which they enlisted by a system of re-engagements.
In round numbers, however, it may be admitted, provided there be no official diminution of establishment to assist the executive authorities in presenting their reports to Parliament, that the Army is complete, and there is no difficulty in obtaining recruits,' we should be able to lay our hands every year with certainty on a minimum of 40,000* men of full age for service in the Artillery, Cavalry, Engineers, and Infantry, composing the British Army.
We revert to 1835 for å useful comparison. The number of recruits raised in that year was 5,933 (see the Report of the Commission on Recruiting held in 1859). In all the country districts, and in the great majority of the large towns, the Militia now compete with the Line for the same raw material. It is true that many lads will seek the Militia who are not inclined to a Line service, and possibly vice versâ. In the villages and country towns the same aversion is perhaps not found towards the former among the old people as towards the latter. But on the whole, speaking broadly and comprehensively, the Militia and the Line compete in the same classes to fill their ranks respectively. This is a fact of great importance, which cannot too steadily be borne in mind.
* The Parliamentary returns dated April 1875, and entitled Statistical Tables relating to Recruiting for the Army and Militia,' shows that an average of about 20,000 men have been obtained for the Army annually in the seven years closing with 1874. During this time the strength of the Army has been occasionally reduced, the demand for recruits having been diminished proportionally, and the 80-called Short Service System with the result of early discharge has not as yet come into operation. This takes place next year.
The average of deserters for the last fourteen years is shown to stand in the proportion of 24 per cent to the number of recruits obtained in that period. Recruits joined 229,826. Deserters 55,266. In 1874 the acts of desertion amounted to
5,572 Rejoined from desertion.
Net losses by desertion
Therefore the Secretary of State when he wishes to lay his hands on his 40,000 recruits annually wanted for the Line, finds his greatest rival in another force also under his direction, which numbers 140,000 men, and is looking for other 30,000* or 40,000 men on its own account; considerations not occurring to the War Office when the regular forces themselves were comparatively slender, but little exceeding 100,000 men throughout the empire, the Militia being non-existent.
The number of men thus wanted yearly for the two descriptions of force is at least twelve times what was required for recruitment before the accession of the Queen. Yet the means of raising the men remain identical, although there may have been some modification and redistribution in the superior agency, as indicated by the institution of the brigade centres, and the duties assigned to the commanding officers.
The practical question requiring settlement at the hands of the State having been thus stated, we may consider some of the conditions affecting the public interests and those of the men henceforward to fill our armies. It is unnecessary to reiterate the argument so often pressed home, the truth of which is clear and obvious to all except the obstinately official mind, that unformed lads are not able to perform the hardest work which can be demanded from men, a definition fairly enough representing the labours of the soldier during an active campaign. We may rest satisfied with the averment of the Duke of Cambridge on this point, and with the observation of Professor Parkes, who does not consider lads fit even for the heavy duties of peace till they are at least twenty years of age. On the question of humanity thus started, as well as the result of inefficiency following on the admission of such lads under the style and title of men, no more remains to be said. It is shown on indubitable authority that such young persons cannot do what is asked of them, the calculation of wastefulness in life and health having been reduced with great care to terms of pounds, shillings, and pence.
We are under great obligations to Sir Lintorn Simmons, t the late governor of the Royal Academy at Woolwich, for the manner in which he has worked out the figures, and the patriotic boldness which has caused him to present them to the country. By these figures it is incontrovertibly estab* The number of recruits enlisted for the Militia in the
1874 was 29,831 ; the enrolled strength of the Force being short of the establishment by about 27,000 men.
† His speech at the United Service Institution is published in vol. xix. of the Journal.
lished that a cavalry soldier who enlists at 18 years of age, by the time he is 21 has cost 236]. ; an infantry soldier enlisted at the former age has had about 1261. spent upon him before he is 21, that is before he is fit for hard work. observed by Sir Lintorn Simmons, the money thus spent on immature boys, if distributed properly in the form of pay and wages to men of full age, would go far to settle the difficulties of recruitment on the voluntary principle. The General then shows that the boys, miscalled men, who joined the Army before the age of 20 in 1873 cost, exclusive of training expenses, 741,0371., or what would have amounted to 5d. a day being added to the pay of every man enlisted * for the whole period of his Army Service. This, however, by no means completes the case. The recruits thus painfully and extravagantly obtained disappear by wholesale. Of the 25,568 recruits enlisted in 1871, 6,289 or 267 per 1,000 had vanished from the ranks in one way or other in 1873. Similar allegations affect other years, the fatal unpopularity of the Service under existing conditions being thus convincingly proved. The men are absolutely lost. They are none of them in the Reserve. The money loss, as stated by our witness, is indeed the least part of the difficulty, as affecting the future of the Army. The so-called old soldiers pursue a like course, and show their disgust by deliberately sacrificing the prospective advantage of pension already secured to them by twelve years' service. Others buy their discharges in vast numbers. The men discharged from the Army during the last five years may be thus classified :Discharged after twelve years' service
19,642 Discharged by purchase
12,088 By indulgence
5,703 Bad characters
69,534 Pensioned, or gone to the Reserve.
11,442 Died .
11,331 Left from unassigned causes
99,854 It may then be said that as one result of our system, the last five years have produced nearly 70,000 men, who are persuading the community to have nothing to do with the Army, they being persons who have tried and know it.
It is evident from the above exposition that our system of