« AnteriorContinuar »
would be one under which large depôts should be formed in order to contribute the necessary recruits for both the home and the foreign army.
My experience of depôts does not lead me to the conclusion that this is in any way expedient; nor do I consider that the expense incurred in keeping up a trained and sufficient depôt staff would represent sufficient value for money spent.
That if possible more recruits should be raised at the existing depôts I have no doubt, but I am equally certain that they should be passed through the ranks of the home battalions before going abroad.
Lord Lansdowne hints that groups of four battalions may be formed to remedy the existing evil. In my opinion this would be a fatal policy and utterly inconsistent with the territorial system now in force.
Take as an instance the Northamptonshire Regiment, one battalion of which has lately gained laurels in the frontier fighting in India, and towards which a strong county attachment has lately publicly been shown. Recruit, if possible, sufficient men at the depôt to enable the second battalion to send the requisite drafts abroad without being themselves reduced to a skeleton, this will to a great extent remedy the evil. Group them with the Bedfordshire Regiment or with any other county, you are at once striking a blow at the territorial system, at the very esprit de corps, which all practical soldiers will say is of such inestimable value when the critical moment arrives.
The Gordon Highlanders at the Dargai heights are a notable instance in support of my contention.
I quote the words of a letter written by a distinguished officer who watched the operations from a hill a short distance away: ‘No nobler deed was probably ever achieved in the annals of the British
To sum up, may I shortly suggest what I believe to be reforms which are necessary to sustain the equilibrium of the military forces of the Crown?
1. An equivalent number of battalions should be raised to balance exactly the number of battalions required abroad.
If the state of recruiting is such that it is found impossible to raise the extra battalions, the number of battalions abroad would have to be reduced, and the system of making use of marines for certain coaling stations would have to be applied.
No reasonable objections have, as far as I know, ever been produced to condemn this scheme, and the opinion I hold in company with many others, that it is desirable from every point of view, is also strongly supported by many marine officers of distinction.
2. In order to raise these battalions and to promote recruiting :
a. The territorial, the sentimental, the county attractions should be fostered and encouraged, not repressed.
6. Mature soldiers should receive 18. a day clear.
c. Every Government office should be compelled to give the preference to old soldiers when making appointments.
d. Reserve pay should be entirely done away with. The policy of inducing men to leave the army should be reversed. They should be encouraged to continue in it, to make a career of it, and moderate pensions should be given only after the completion of twenty-one years' service.
e. Reservists should be allowed to re-engage in their own regiments within a limited time, if they wish to do so, subject to the commanding officer's consent.
f. Powers should be taken to recall Reservists to the colours for small wars if necessary for the first twelve months of their Reserve service.
3. There should be a careful investigation of all departmental expenses.
4. The Militia force consists of 121 battalions of Infantry—86 English, 12 Scotch, 23 Irish, numbering with the Militia Artillery 90,000. Of this number 30,000 constitute what is known as the Militia Reserve—that is, they are men belonging to each Militia battalion who receive an additional bounty of 11. a man, and for this sum stand bound to be transferred to the ranks of the regular army whenever their services are required abroad.
I am told this service is popular, that there has been no difficulty whatever in keeping the number up.
Why not double this? Why not, if necessary, pay 21. a year bounty?
Sixty thousand men at 21. a year = 120,0001. Careful economy in many directions would probably produce this sum without increasing the estimates.
5. There is again a source of supply to which a distinguished officer has already drawn attention—I allude to the Volunteer forces.
Could any objection be found to having a Volunteer Reserve to be used in time of war only? The suggestion has been made that a certain sum, say 51., might be offered to any Volunteer who would register his name for this purpose, and an additional sum of 21. might be offered per man to the regiment he belongs to for training purposes; and for each man so registering his name an extra Volunteer might be taken: 30,000 men might easily be enrolled in this manner at a cost of 210,0001.
With the increased Militia Reserve this would produce 90,000 trained men as an efficient reserve at a cost of 330,0001.
These, then, are my criticisms and suggestions in a somewhat crude and imperfect form. I have purposely refrained from details, and have endeavoured to take a broad and general view of the problems which will shortly be before Parliament.
If a final decision can now be arrived at
2nd. As to the principle on which it should be organised and if the War Office will abandon the optimistic position which has brought them into such disfavour, to use Lord Wolseley's own words, "The machinery will work like clockwork.'
DO WE NEED AN ARMY FOR
A WARM discussion having arisen as to the need for increasing and strengthening our Army, a certain school of writers who would have us rely solely on the Navy, and nothing but the Navy, have as usual come forward to throw cold water on any proposal for that object. Especially they contend that an army cannot be required for home defence, and that in point of fact to suggest such a thing is a slur upon the Navy.
The mode of reasoning is this. We must have an all-powerful Navy which shall command the sea, because if our commerce is interrupted by an enemy or our food supplies intercepted we shall starve. But if we command the sea no enemy could come across the water to attack us ; therefore we need make no preparation to defeat any such enterprise by land forces or land works. Q. E. D.
Those who have come to another conclusion have no hesitation in accepting the postulate that we must have an all-powerful Navy to command the sea for the reasons stated ; but the inference that we need make no preparations for resistance on land they do not accept, They are quite well aware, too, that if the Navy is utterly and finally smashed up, our only hope of salvation would be that the vultures who would flock to the carcass might fall out over our remains.
The whole question turns on the meaning attached to the words command of the sea,' which these writers treat as if it meant absolute superiority at all times and places, and excluded the possibility of any of those local and temporary reverses which are the ordinary chances of war, and as if it could never be necessary to provide the Navy with time to recover from such mishaps. When England had destroyed the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar, had taken possession of the Danish feet and a part at least of the Russian, she had incontestable command of the sea, and a hostile landing was of course impossible so long as that state of things lasted. But this completeness of command of the sea is obviously the result of a period of war during which, and especially at the beginning, the term can only mean general superiority at sea-not superiority at all times and places—and this is in fact all that can be meant at such a moment as the present, when we are content to measure our necessities by the size of possibly hostile fleets and determine to be larger than any two of them. It means only that we shall have the odds in our favour at starting, but clearly it must leave the full and incontestable command of the sea to be fought for, and this may be a long process, during which the risks and the ups and downs of a state of warfare have to be reckoned with. We had been twelve years fighting before Trafalgar settled the business. The art of war consists in having a superior force at the vital point, and this of course may be achieved by a force which is on the whole inferior, or else a contest might be settled before it was begun by merely counting ships and men.
When Lord Randolph Churchill had taken up the rôle of opposing all increase of warlike expenditure, naval as well as military, he told us that we might rely on our “undying memories.' Put baldly in this way, it seemed rather a shadowy system of defence; but we are very apt to assume with some complacency that our ultimate successes in past warfare represent the natural and normal result which must at once follow
any contest we are engaged in. We forget our periods of weakness and danger, and our reverses are lost sight of in the dazzle of victory.
To assume that they must win is a most admirable frame of mind for soldiers and sailors to enter into battle with, but it does not do either for generals, admirals, or statesmen to act on the supposition that it is so surely a law of nature that it is not necessary to take any steps to guard against the consequences of partial defeat, or to recover from it if it should befall.
Yet we find writers indignant at the very idea that it is proper to provide against a possible naval reverse. To do so is said to be to
place no faith whatever in the Navy; 'we are told we have ‘ no right to assume defeat,' because it is only an 'indefinite possibility,' and it implies ‘utter distrust of the right arm of Great Britain,' &c. This is not the language of persons of the highest responsibility, but it is held by some who undertake to instruct the public, and, so far as it succeeds in misleading them, it does a great deal of harm. Yet what a number of obvious contingencies have to be ignored in order to justify that blind faith in the absolute immunity of the Navy from the possibility of even temporary reverse which we are expected to feel under pain of being charged with 'distrust of the Navy,' as if there were no medium between crushing superiority at all times and all places and complete 'naval collapse'!
Assuming that we have at the outset of war a superior fleet-an assumption which is notoriously much more than past history warrants -it is obvious that every combination in war, naval and military, must be subject to certain chances, and may be defeated by events which no human foresight can provide against, as by failure of some