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leaving the colours. The problem is difficult, but not impossible; the War Office has lost the confidence of the country, and the condition of the Army is deplorable, as the Times remarks; but a little common sense and à not inordinate expenditure would bring about its solution.
FRED. CARNE RASCH.
At last-at last the country has awoke from its slumber and begins to realise the real condition of the British Army. It has often been said that the attitude of the House of Commons on any great question is merely a reflection of public opinion out of doors. Nothing could more fully illustrate the truth of this saying than the behaviour of Members of Parliament at the discussion of the Army estimates during the last two or three sessions. No sooner has the Under Secretary of State for War risen to ask the House to vote over eighteen millions of the public money for the defence of the country than the House is almost cleared. On the Opposition side the benches are practically empty; there are one or two members, like Sir Charles Dilke and Sir Wilfrid Lawson, who take an interest in Army matters, but from different points of view; a few Irishmen, who make speeches which appear to savour rather of obstruction than interest or criticism—these are often the only occupants. Perhaps towards the close of the debate, after the dinner hour, the late Secretary of State for War or the late Financial Secretary may look in and say a few words comforting or otherwise. On the Government side of the House the aspect is scarcely more enlivening. As a rule, the Under Secretary of State for War in solitary state adorns the front bench, while he is from time to time relieved by the Financial Secretary. On the back benches may be seen a few service members, who in turn air their ideas to empty benches and sleepy reporters; thus millions are voted away, apparently the one object of the Government, no matter what party may be in power, being to get the votes through, to avoid all discussion, and to evade all embarrassing inquiry. It may now be expected, and it is most fervently to be hoped, that in the next session of Parliament Army matters will be treated in a different spirit; public opinion now seems thoroughly roused, and a conviction is daily becoming more and more rooted that all is not as it should be, and that those pertinacious and troublesome spirits who for years have been protesting and preaching are after all not so foolish, not so ignorant, as officialism has declared them to be.
Let us face the matter boldly and see how we stand. According to the general annual return of the British Army for 1896, we find the average effective strength is 220,742 of all ranks, namely: officers 7,765, warrant officers 910, sergeants 14,125, trumpeters, drummers, and buglers 3,418, rank and file 194,524. Of this force 76,937 of all ranks are quartered in England, Wales, and the Channel Islands, 3,630 in Scotland, and 25,841 in Ireland, being a total of 106,408 at home. While in Egypt and the colonies 38,884 are quartered, and in India 75,450, or a total of 114,334 abroad.
The Army abroad is declared to be in the highest state of efficiency, and, with the exception of some battalions in the Mediterranean, whose linked battalions are in India, to be also of an age such as is best suited for the hardships and trials of a campaign. It is with the Home Army that we have reason to be dissatisfied, not on account of their training, or of the zeal and military qualifications of the officers, but solely because of the youth of the rank and file. Our home battalions have been aptly compared by the present Commander-in-Chief to squeezed lemons,' and they are acknow ledged to be, one and all, wholly unfitted to engage in a campaign. All but perhaps two or three hundred men in each battalion would have to be left behind, and the battalion would have to be filled up to its war establishment of about 1,000 strong by the addition of seven or eight hundred reserve men. This is a prospect regarded with equanimity by civilian officials, whose sole personal acquaintance with the Army is gathered from watching the sentry over the War Office from their windows in Pall Mall. They maintain that. this is all as it should be—foreign armies do the same; these reserve men are, they say, the finest possible soldiers, and could be got into shape long before ships could be provided to convey them to any point of attack.
Regimental officers, however, take an entirely different view; they declare that it is one thing to fill up the ranks with a small number of reserves, say about a third of the whole, as is done abroad, but when you have two-thirds or three-fourths of your entire strength composed of men who have retired to civilian life, who during their reserve service practically have had no training, who have lost the habits of obedience and discipline, and who, moreover, are now placed under non-commissioned officers junior to them in age and experience, we cannot look for efficiency or discipline-nay, more, we court disaster if opposed to a trained and disciplined foe.
It is well that the public should know as regards these reservists— although as Lord Lansdowne stated in Edinburgh, they draw their pay every quarter with great regularity—that the majority practically receive no training whatever from the time when they leave the colours until the date of their final discharge from the Army. From a War Office pamphlet recently issued purporting to give · Instructions for the Drill and Training of the First-class Army Reserve,” it appears that this training is restricted to sections B and C of the first class, who, in case of infantry, are entering on the tenth year of their Army engagement, or in the case of the Guards on the sixth or tenth year of
their service. Those, moreover, who do come up for training cannot complain of being overworked ; they have the option of three clear days' training or of attending twelve drills of one and a half hour's duration each. The purpose of the drill appears mainly to be instruction in the magazine rifle, but there is no shooting practice what
The penalty for failing to come up for training is simply loss of deferred pay for the year. It is likewise added that such defaulters are liable to prosecution,' but there is no record of any such prosecution ever being carried out.
We may explain to the uninitiated that according to the present terms of enlistment men engage for twelve years, seven being with the colours and five with the reserve, and that it is the custom in many instances if a man wishes to go, or has got some post in civil life, to pass him to the reserve at the termination of his fifth year of service, allowing him to spend the remaining seven years in the
It would be as well that the nation should now thoroughly realise that these men, to be hurriedly summoned in a great emergency, the greater proportion for years untrained and unaccustomed to the use of any of the weapons they will have to use, and long since relieved from the restraints of control and discipline, would form our first fighting line, which would exhaust the whole of them. Can anyone regard such a state of things without the gravest apprehension ? It has been urged, and no doubt will be urged again, by the apologists of the present system, that our reserve men are better trained than those of foreign Powers, as they serve longer with the colours. Other countries, however, unlike ourselves, see that their reserve men do not forget what they have once learnt. They moreover compress an immense amount of drill and training into a short time, carrying it out with a rigour and strictness which could not be attempted in a voluntary army.
If our reserve is to be our fighting line, it may be asked, What forms our real reserve? This is composed of the immature boys left behind, and our militia reserve with the militia itself in the background. According to Sir Arthur Haliburton's estimate, these boys would number 18,886, and the militia reserve 24,628, while he adds 8,492 of reserve men who he declares would not be used up by filling the ranks of the ordinary battalions. He takes certainly a most optimistic and official view of the situation, which, considering the notorious amount of waste from sickness and other causes, would scarcely be carried out in reality.
Even, however, if we accept these views regarding our military situation in the event of a great war, when we are empowered to call out the reserves, how do we stand as regards small expeditions ? There is also another point which has been overlooked by writers on this question, although I called attention to it in the debate on the Army estimates last session. Circumstances may arise, and have frequently arisen before, when in order to insure peace or even safety it is necessary strongly to reinforce the troops on some one of our many frontiers. We see on the Continent this occurring not unfrequently. A few years since Russia moved large bodies of her troops to her western borders. This was met with a corresponding reinforcement of the German and Austrian garrisons on their eastern frontier, not as a menace, but as a precaution. The same thing occurred on the French and Italian frontiers about the same time. We have recently had a case in point connected with our own possessions. After the Jameson raid the Boers commenced to spend large sums in warlike armaments, and adopted such a hostile and threatening attitude towards Natal as to cause serious disquietude in the colony, which was practically at the mercy of any marauders who might choose to invade it. It was therefore very wisely determined to reinforce the garrison there by some battalions of infantry and three field batteries. The same thing may occur at any moment in Canada, in India, in Egypt, or elsewhere, We may require the services of ten or even twenty thousand seasoned and efficient troops under circumstances which do not admit of our calling out reserves, even those who, according to the new scheme, as recently propounded by Lord Lansdowne, will then be available. These twenty thousand men according to our present system we do not possess, and could not possibly obtain. As has been frequently pointed out, it was only possible to furnish three batteries for service in South Africa by means of reducing to a state of inefficiency almost every battery of our First Army Corps : no fewer than 189 men and 272 horses were required to place them on a war footing.
Perhaps here it may be as well to call attention to the great distinction made by foreign Powers, where the reserve system is in full force, between the reserves of the infantry and those of the artillery and cavalry. While infantry reservists are considered capable of taking their places in the ranks and doing their duty efficiently at short notice, quite another view is taken of the capabilities of cavalry and artillery, so much so that the former are detailed for train and transport duties, officers' servants, and such like, and the latter for similar duties not connected with actual gunnery in the artillery. In point of fact, with continental armies the cavalry is nearly always kept up to a war establishment, and the artillery as regards gunners almost the same, although not as regards drivers, guns, or horses. It is as well that the British public should bear this in mind, and also that of our nominal reserve, numbering nearly 80,000 men, only about 51,000 belong to the infantry.
It may be remarked, as was done by Lord Lansdowne in Edinburgh the other day, that all the various critics of the present system, while pulling to pieces what exists, carefully abstain from stating how they would improve or replace it. To this it may be replied that it is the duty of those in power, of those in office, to frame schemes and draft bills, while it is the business of outsiders to criticise and amend them. It is so far satisfactory to find that the Secretary of State for War, and still more the present Commander-in-Chief, take the country into their confidence, and are asking for more men and greater powers to render those men efficient. As long as the War Office maintained the attitude adopted by Sir Arthur Haliburton, and declared that everything was incapable of improvement, or occupied themselves, in Quixotic fashion, tilting at imaginary windmills, by demolishing the old system and demonstrating that the present one was far better, there was but little hope.
No one like the writer, who has had practical experience of both systems, or who has really studied the question seriously, would maintain that it is possible to revert to the Long Service enlistment, or that the present condition of the Army, defective as it may be, is not superior to what it was in 1870.
The real difficulty is the recruiting question: were this solved all would be plain sailing. Formerly it was impossible to get the 18,000 odd recruits which were required annually; now we get about 40,000, although it must be remembered that the standard of height and chest measurement has been lowered to a minimum, and that, notwithstanding this concession, about 30 per cent. are what is termed specials,' i.e. men who do not come up to these most moderate physical requirements, but it is hoped will grow into them eventually. It is likewise universally admitted that a very large number of recruits are under age, boys whose statements regarding the dates of their birth cannot be verified, and whom the authorities are only too glad to accept if they show any signs, in course of time, of becoming full-sized and efficient soldiers. Here again the British public must bear in mind what they have to pay for maintaining a voluntary army. In Germany no man is accepted in the ranks until he is not only twenty years of age, but the full equivalent of twenty in strength and development; should the latter condition not be fulfilled, he is put back for a year or so and brought up again for further inspection.
It is satisfactory to see that, from what Lord Lansdowne said in Edinburgh, the Government are in earnest and will spare no efforts to solve this recruiting problem. They intend, if possible, to make service in the Army with a good character a certain stepping-stone to