[Preparation for war]

14964. It was in June, I understand, that you first were selected to hold the Command-in-Chief in South Africa?
About the middle of June. I was told I should treat the appointment confidentially, but I was told if there was a war I should be Commander-in-Chief.

14965. So that there was at any rate an apprehension that a war might take place at that time?

14966. Did you form an opinion that a war was likely?
I said that in my opinion the war was inevitable, but on the question of bringing it on, that I doubted that the Boers would bring it on unless we did.

14967. We have had a good deal of evidence to the effect that although there was that general apprehension of war, no distinct preparations were made at that time?
I know nothing about the preparations for war, except by hearsay. I was commanding at Aldershot at the time, and had a good deal to do, and was very little in London, and whenever I came to London I saw the Commander-in-Chief, and I gathered from him that preparations for war were not being made on the scale that he thought necessary.

14968. All that had been done, as far as you were concerned, was the agreement you mentioned that your force if it was sent out should be an Army Corps and Cavalry Division, and so on?
I was told that it was the intention of the Government to send that force, and I accepted it.

14969. You accepted it as sufficient?
Well, I did not actually accept it as sufficient; I accepted it as a basis on which we should mobilise. At that time I was perfectly ignorant of whether I was going to fight with that force the Transvaal alone or the Transvaal and Orange Free State, and the only information I got from the Secretary of State was that the Orange Free State was out of account.

14970. But in July you heard of a different projeot?

14971. And to that proposal to send out a division of infantry, you had some objections, I think?
I did object to it very strongly. I objected to sending out any portion of what was intended to be our fighting force before we had a plan of campaign, and before we had, at any rate, come to a decision as to in what portion of the very large country, South Africa, the fighting force was really intended to be employed.

14972. Was not the object of sending out the 10,000 men then proposed simply to strengthen the existing garrisons in Cape Colony and Natal?
No, it was not; it was a definite force.

14973. But you were aware of the state of the garrisons in the Colonies at the time?
Yes, I was, and I pressed that those garrisons should be completed on a scale which could be made, as I put it, a safe ground for the fighting force to be based on, but that was not done.

14974. You were aware that there were local schemes of defence for the Colonies?
I cannot say that I was. I imagined that there were such schemes, and I knew there had been the year before a question of preparing a large scheme of defence for both Colonies, and that to a certain degree it was in the hands, I understood, of Sir William Butler at the time, but I certainly was not aware of any perfected scheme of defence.

14975. Did you ever see the schemes of defence?
Never to my knowledge; originally I saw General Goodenough’s, and did not approve of it at all, but it was to be changed, and I left office as Adjutant-General and I did not after 1897 see any schemes of defence.

14976. They were not brought to your notice when you went to South Africa?
Oh, no.

14977. The circumstances had so much altered?.
The circumstances had entirely changed then.

14978. Of course those local schemes of defence were drawn up, as the Regulations provide, simply for the existing garrisons?
Yes, for the existing garrisons. The garrison was changing the whole of that year, and they were to a certain degree increasing it. I know Lord Wolseley was continually urging to increase the garrisons, and they were being increased.

14979. What I was alluding to was that you did not consider the garrisons as they had been placed in the Colonies sufficient?
I did not, and I go further than that; the conditions we were obliged to look at at the moment were the conditions of an actual war with, possibly, the Free State, but certainly the Transvaal, and no scheme of defence, according to my belief, had ever been prepared for those conditions, and therefore practically there was no scheme of defence.

14980. Did you form any idea in your own mind what would have been an adequate garrison—independently of an expeditionary force —for the two Colonies for the purposes of defence?
I did. My own idea at the time—I only mentioned it in conversation, and very vaguely, to Lord Wolseley—was that I thought about 15,000 men in Natal, just in front of Estcourt, somewhere about Frere, behind the Tugela, in fact, would have been sufficient to have protected Natal. The apex of the triangle which Natal forms is mostly a Dutch district, and that I should have given up and massed the troops in position where they would be mutually supporting, covering the ground south of the Tugela, and, with regard to Cape Colony, I had several conversations with Lord Wolseley, who was rather anxious to fortify the bridges over the Orange River, but personally I was very much against that. I did not wish to push any troops forward into places where they could be surrounded by the enemy on the outbreak of war, and I would rather keep as many troops as possible in hand further back in the Colony, but I never thought there would be any serious invasion of the Cape Colony until there had been a great success of the enemy in Natal. That was my idea always.

14981. You thought they would attack, if they did attack, in Natal?

14882. You gave us the number of 15,000 for Natal; had you any number in your mind for Cape Colony?
No; the question of Cape Colony really was much more a political than a military one, and I thought the General Officer at the time would probably have done very much what I did the moment I got out there—that is, held the western and eastern lines, and left the midland line to the Dutch.

14883. Could he have done that with the normal garrison?
Well, it was done with the normal garrison in the three very critical weeks; he could have done it, I think. I should not have increased the garrison in Cape Colony, and for political reasons I think it would have been better not to do anything to irritate the Dutch in Cape Colony.

14884. Then that 15,000 men in Natal includes the normal garrison; that is, the total you wanted?

14885. Was not that very much an increase of about 10,000 men in South Africa?
Yes, I have not the actual figures in my head, but I think it would have been rather more. I think we had about 9,000 men in Natal in June; that is my impression.

14886. I mean there was not so very much difference then with regard to the number of men between your proposals and the proposals which the Government were discussing in July, 1899?
No, but then you come to my Minute of the 6th July. My first objection was the main objection. I did not like the idea of commencing operations in South Africa by sending out four Generals and a force of 10,000 men. It was a complete force that it was proposed to send out. If they had been merely going to send 10,000 men to reinforce the garrison of South Africa, I should have jumped at it, but this was a force to be sent out as a complete consolidated fighting force—one division of infantry and one brigade of cavalry—and I thought they would simply be lost; I thought the Boers would surround them, and that it would be rather like putting a bait out. That was my opinion, and I was against it. I was never asked any question as to sending out 10,000 men to reinforce the garrisons.

14887. I have got here the numbers: there were 4,462 in Cape Colony and 5,827 in Natal, or a total of 10,289 effectives of all ranks in June?
Somewhere about 10,000, perhaps more.

14888. So that as regards numbers, you and the Government were pretty well agreed, but, as you explain, the purpose of the force was different?
The employment of those numbers would have been totally different. The proposal to send 10,000 men was not to send the 10,000 men to Natal; again, if it had been there I should have jumped at it, but it was to send it to Cape Colony.

14889. But I think you say in your paper that you were not able to find out where exactly the Government were to send it?
No, I was not able to find out where, but I did gather that the idea was that it would be somewhere about the bridges.

14890. (Viscount Esher.) Did not the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Wolseley, know?
This proposal was submitted to me by Lord Lansdowne. I had not seen the Commander-in-Chief at the time. I was visiting in Devonshire when summoned, and I had no opportunity of conversation with the Commander-in-Chief before I saw Lord Lansdowne.

14891. {Chairman.) Is there anything else you would like to say about the position in July? 
No; I have put in the narrative the summary of what I wrote to the Commander-in-Chief, and it was really a summary of my observations to Lord Lansdowne. He wrote a minute on that paper which I have never seen to this day. I do not know what he said or whether he agreed with me or not. I gathered he more or less agreed.

14892. Who wrote the minute—the Commander-in-Chief?
Yes. I sent him my minute of the 6th July as being merely a reproduction of what I had said to Lord Lansdowne, and I understood he wrote a minute on it, but I have never seen that minute.

14893. You heard nothing more for some time after that, but you became anxious as to the situation?
Yes, mobilisation requires a preliminary expenditure at the moment, and I gathered that that expenditure was not being carried out, so that we were not ready to mobilise.

14894. We had a good deal of evidence about the position at that time, and that is the case ; there were certain preparations which the military authorities considered necessary, and which were not taken because of the absence of money; that appears from the evidence, and that is your position about it?
Yes, that was all I knew.

14895. You thought that, considering your position as being designated for commanding the force in the field, it was your duty to put your views forward, and you did so in the beginning of September?
Yes, I thought I was going to find myself in a hornet’s nest, and that I ought to do what I could to protect myself.

14896. You put it forward in a memorandum which you addressed to the Commander-in-Chief?

14897. Would you say shortly what your view of the position was at that time
My view was that we were moving, I thought, rather rapidly towards war, and that our preparations were not keeping up with the situation.

14898. And you had an apprehension that if the negotiations, or any failure of negotiations, led to war, that absence of preparation would be of very serious consequence?
Yes, I was impressed with the fact that it was not my duty as a soldier to take any measures to make peace impossible or even difficult, but there were ordinary measures of preparation that could have been done privately and could not really have affected any peace negotiations, and those were not being taken, and, in my opinion, we had not enough time to spare to make it wise to delay them.

14899. Did you base that upon considerations of how long it would take to reinforce the forces in South Africa?
I based that upon considerations of the difference of time that it would take between the moment at which we could put our force in the field and the moment at which the enemy could put their force in the field.