15600. I thought there was only a short portion of that time allotted to each unit for field work?
That depends on where the unit is; if the unit is in a single barrack they have all that time, but if the unit is at Aldershot
15601. Of course, in barracks, but I mean in the field; in training they entrench and so forth?
They are taught at their barracks; we cannot dig up ground unless it is ground of our own which we have to dig up.
15602. Have they no ground in barracks to dig up?
They cannot go into another man’s garden and dig it; you have to come to your own ground to dig upon.
15603. You must go to your training ground for that?
Not necessarily, because you teach them how to dig in one place, and you teach them where to dig in another. You would always have to do that.
15604. How would you train the officers to entrench?
They are taught first of all the profile of the entrenchment they have to create, and they know the shape of the thing they have to dig, and then they are taken out on the ground, and are taught the conditions which regulate the position in which they would put that entrenchment if they had to dig in that particular spot.
15605. Are the officers actually taken out with the men, and then the men under their supervision throw up entrenchments?
Yes, the men dig.
15606. That is what I want to know. What time is allotted for such purpose?
The actual training in the year for digging is about a week.
15607. Do you consider that sufficient?
Yes, I think so.
16608. To train the officer and the men?
The officer is not trained at that time; the officer is usually taught at Sandhurst, but at any rate if he is a young officer he is with the men at that time, and having been once taught to dig he is not taught again.
15609. But in training the men he trains himself?
When he first joins he is trained with the men; after that he is supposed to know, and he then is a trainer.
15610. Have you seen a German Regiment at that sort of work?
I have seen them; I was never with them.
15611. Have you noticed that there the young officer goes out constantly with different units of men—the same young officer— for the purpose not only of training himself under certain circumstances but of training the men under those circumstances to entrench?
Our officers train different units of men. I do not think our training is bad. I do not know that I quite follow the point you want me to answer.
15612. The point is whether there is sufficient time devoted to the purpose of enabling the officer to train the men and enabling the officer himself to learn by teaching his men?
Yes, I think so. I think, looking to the number of things we have to teach in the year, there is enough time allotted to digging, because there is an enormous difference between learning to dig a trench and learning to know where a trench should be dug, and that is a thing you have to teach the officer, and you have not to teach the men at all.
15613. There is no difficulty, perhaps, in teaching a man how to dig a trench, but the thing is to know how to place that trench?
That he does not want the men for.
15614. If he has not the men to dig the trench he cannot do it?
You need not dig the trench to teach that.
15615. However, you think a week in the year enough for that purpose?
For digging, yes.
15616. With regard to shooting, what time in the year is allotted for training the men in shooting?
A good deal now: it practically goes on throughout the year. We do not, to my mind, allot enough, but we allot as much as we have range accommodation for.
15617. Take Company A in a certain regiment, what time is allotted to teach that company shooting in the year?
I think the recruits of that company take rather more than a month, practically the best part of six weeks; I cannot say off-hand, but it is rather more than a month in the case of the recruits, because they do a double course.
15618. What about the men who are not recruits?
The course lasts about a fortnight, but they shoot besides that; that is the teaching course, and they then have practices which go on throughout the year as occasion offers.
15619. Then it is not the case that men are given a certain amount of ammunition, say, for about a fortnight, and they fire away that ammunition in the fortnight and never fire another shot during the whole year?
No, I do not think that is at all a fair way to put it: the amount of ammunition that is allowed to a regiment regulates the amount of firing that is done, and that firing is spread over the year according as the officers think they can best expend it for the training of the men. If a man is a bad shot he fires more ammunition than a man who is a good one.
15620. Do you think the time allotted for training the men in shooting is sufficient?
I was satisfied in South Africa with the result.
15621. (Viscount Usher.) Did you select your own staff when you went out to South Africa?
No, I did not, they were selected for me.
15622. Do you think that a desirable thing, that the General Officer Commanding, or the Commander-in-Chief, should not be allowed to select his own General as well as his personal staff? I know the system, but I want to know what you think about it?
Personally I have got a grievance about it, and I do not want to air a grievance.
15623. Take it as a general principle?
I think an officer who is going to command should be made to submit a list of his own staff, and if they cannot be appointed he should go on submitting names .until one has been found that suits the authorities, because he may select men that it is impossible to spare from other duties, but I do not think he should be handed over a staff and told to take that lot.
15624. Is the General Officer in command of the First Army Corps under existing circumstances allowed to choose his general staff? He is not in point of fact, is he?
I should say he is consulted.
15625. Do you think that is sufficient?
Well, I think it is very difficult to avoid it I think in peace time you might want, for example, to train a particular man under a particular General; it is all very well for the General to say, “I want somebody else,” but it is for the advantage of the Army that the man should go to that particular place, and therefore you cannot lay down hard and fast rules that a man should choose his own staff, but when it comes to war and the General has to go alone and stand on his own feet these conditions should be over-ridden and he should be allowed to select his own staff.
15626. Do you think the number of trained Staff Officers is sufficient under normal conditions—this South African War was abnormal?
My complaint is that there are so very few trained Staff Officers; they are not trained.
15627. When you say they are not trained, what do you consider the best training for a Staff Officer in time of peace?
The best training in time of peace for a Staff Officer is to be a Regimental Adjutant, to go to the Staff College, and to be employed on various Staff appointments.
15628. Of course, the Staff College takes a very limited number of officers under existing conditions?
Yes, I think it has been increased, but I think they are longer in now than they need be.
15629. You think the course might be reduced by perhaps a year?
I think so; my own idea is that I would require from all officers to whom I meant seriously to think of giving Staff appointments a knowledge equal to that which is required by the entrance examination of the Staff College.
15630. Do you approve of the system of examining officers on going into the Staff College?
Yes, I approve of the system of examinations altogether.
15609. You think it is the only way of selecting officers for the Staff College, by examination?
Yes, but I do not approve of the system of selecting officers by competition for the Staff College; I would have every officer who goes to the Staff College nominated, and I would not allow the nomination of any officer to go to the Staff College unless he had been an Adjutant or Acting Adjutant, or had held some sort of Staff appointment somewhere, and had acquired an elementary knowledge of military subjects.
15610. You would not allow him to qualify by examination for the Staff College?
No, I would make him qualify by some sort of service.
15611. Do you not think that all the theoretical training, as apart from practical, could be easily obtained at the Staff College within one year?
I do most distinctly.
16634. If he is an intelligent man whom you would think of employing as either a Quartermaster General or Adjutant General?
Yes, we want a Staff Officer with a certain amount of all-round knowledge, but we do not want him to be an expert in all things.
15635. In that way of course you double the capacity of the Staff College?
Yes, and I think you might do so; but, above all things, you want an Inspection Staff for military education in the ranks and everywhere. You want to see that you have a system of instruction, and that it is being properly carried out in the different garrisons. All generals are not equal, and they ought all to have help; it is extraordinary what you can do in our Army by inspection if you can once get the generals and officers to understand that you do not mean to interfere with them but to help them.
15636. There is only one other question I want to ask. Supposing that you were to hold the office of Secretary of State for War, what would be the very first administrative act which you would do in the War Office to commence your series of reforms? Have you ever thought of that?
Yes, I have often.
15637. Not in general terms; what would be your first specific act?
I should send for the Commander-in-Chief, and I should say, “Look here, your business is to command the Army and to see that the sum I allot you under the Estimates are not wasted; that is your business, and I will support you as far as ever I can. I shall expect you, if any question of criticism arises, to be able to explain it to my satisfaction, and as long as you can do that you may rely on my most cordial support. With regard to the policy of the Army I shall consult you in every way. You will be a member of my Advisory Board, but your main duties will be to keep the Army that I tell you I want, efficient.” That would be the first thing I would do.
15638. You used the expression "Advisory Board.” Would you, as Secretary of State, think you were in a stronger position at the War Office if you had an Advisory Board on the lines of the Board of Admiralty?
Not exactly on the lines of the Board of Admiralty. What I should like to see would be a small Board in the office of the Secretary of State, and it should have somebody, preferably a military officer, as its permanent head, and a clerk or two to keep records. That board should consist of about six people, three of whom would have to be Parliamentary men and three would be soldiers, the Commander-in-Chief being one of them, and they should study any proposals put forward, and should endeavour to arrive at two things. One the lines along which what I may call the social expenditure of the Army should go—because an enormous amount of the Army expenditure is fixed entirely by the question of numbers—the lines along which the social expenditure and expenditure for comforts and that sort of thing should go. The other to tell the Commander-in-Chief what really is the Army that he is to maintain, and for what purposes that Army is required. I was 25 years in the War Office, and every year we asked that last question and we never succeeded in getting it answered, except once, and then it was answered wrong.
15639. You would not propose that the Secretary of State himself should preside over that Board?
Not at all. He could come there and have the right to be there whenever he liked ; it would be his office; he would have the right to join in the discussion if he liked, he would expect the Board to give him an opinion, and he would be perfectly justified, in fact it would be his duty, to ask anybody else he liked in the Cabinet or elsewhere as to their opinion, but he would always have a record of all the different proposals that were made. That would be the duty of his secretary, the man who in Lord Hartington’s Commission was called the Chief of the Staff; it was a very unfortunate name, but the principle, in my opinion, is perfectly sound.
15640. Why I asked you whether it would be an advantage to the Secretary of State to have his Board round him was that you must recollect, that one of the drawbacks to which the Secretary of State is subjected is that he is constantly in the position of having one of his principal officers coming and telling him in his private room one thing and another coming and telling him exactly the opposite?
Latterly that has been more so than ever.
15641. It has always been the practice at the War Office. Has it not occurred to you that if he met his Board, and publicly discussed these questions with them, as is the practice at the Admiralty, it would be an advantage?
It has not always been the practice at the War Office, but we need not discuss that. I quite think that if there is a big question, and probably every year before he compiled his annual estimates, he would discuss the matter not as he does now with individual men, but with his Advisory Board, and he would then call in his Commander-in-Chief or whoever the great official was whose estimates they were discussing, and cross-examine him, and he would be in a position to do it, but at the present moment the Secretary of State has no information whatever. The late Secretary of State, if I may say so, tried to meet this difficulty, in my opinion, in entirely the wrong way. He reduced the power of the Commander-in-Chief, and divided all the great officials into separate heads, so that he never had a chance of getting at a military opinion that was the combined opinion of them all. He formed the Army Board to do that, but as long as I was in the War Office, the Army Board was not allowed to consider any question except a question submitted to them by the Secretary of State.
15642. And in that way it ceased to be of practical use?
It was no use, and I fear I might go further. This Committee that has just been indicated by Mr. Balfour will have exactly the same end, because it is the wrong thing. What is wanted is not a Committee of the Cabinet to control or to inspire the Secretary of State, but an office in the War Office to assist him. Except the one telegram to me. of which I do not impute to them the slightest knowledge, where in all your enquiry have you found the least proof of the work of the so-called Committee of Public Defence? Are they wanted? No! If the Cabinet does its duty, they have no occupation. If the Cabinet neglects its duty, they have no power. What is the use of giving them an office?
15643. (Chairman.) You want the collective opinion of the military officials at the War Office?
Yes, I want the collective opinion of the Army officials to be given in and to be reconsidered by an authority that will sift it properly, but that is not the case at present.
15644. Are you aware that throughout the War the Army Board did meet and did give a collective opinion?
I am aware of that, but it was a scratch pack; it was not a Board that was according to the Regulations of the War Office at the time.
15645. It was an institution of the War Office, only it seems to have had a spasmodic existence. It used occasionally to come into operation, but throughout the War, from June, 1899, onwards, it was in active existence?
I do not know whether you would like to put it down, but I should rather like to contradict that statement. What really happened was this: I came up from Aldershot early in July, and I told the Under Secretary of State for War that, if the War Office telegrams were published hereafter, he would be hanged. I said, “ Every head of every Department of the War Office is sending out telegrams on the same subject, but in a different sense, to that poor unfortunate General at the Cape, and you will drive him mad”; he asked me, “ What would you do to remedy it? ” and I said, “ The remedy is to assemble the old Adjutant-General’s meeting, which is now called the Commander-in-Chief’s meeting, and which was originally dispersed by Lord Lansdowne’s order.” He agreed with me, and it was done, and the Commander-in-Chief’s meeting, which really was the meeting of the military chiefs, was recreated, and began to do very good work; and all these different military Departments were thrown into line through meeting at the Commander-in-Chief’s meeting. I think the one mistake they made—they did not want it to be known at the time that they were meeting, because it was rather contrary to the Regulations of the War Office—is that I should have attended as Commander-in- Chief designate, but that is a detail. After the Permanent Under Secretary of the War Office returned from leave he found out that this was going on, and he then added to that Commander-in-Chief’s meeting either himself or his Deputy and the Accountant-General, and that was afterwards called the Army Board; but it was in a false position, and if you will turn to an old Army List you will see that an Army Board has always been provided for War up till now, but its constitution has been different. It has been called the Mobilisation Committee, and the Mobilisation Committee is really the sort of Committee that ought to be assembled in every war, as it brings together the Departments of the Army as well as the Military Chiefs. A Mobilisation Committee, to the best of my belief, was never assembled. If it had been I do not think there would have been half the trouble that there was.
15646. We have seen the Minutes of the Army Board, and that was in full work from June or July, 1899, through the War?
Yes, it did a great deal of good. Sir Frederick Stopford was the Secretary, I think, and he will agree that my history of it is correct. I think it was started somewhere about the 10th July. When it was started it omitted some officers who are usually summoned to the Mobilisation Committee, and the expedition suffered through that. The doctor was not called; he never joined the Army Board, and he ought to have been on it because the only way in which you can know numbers and details in a big office like the War Office is by a meeting at which every head attends and knows what is going on.
15647. I was not putting forward the idea that the Army Board as then constituted was perfect, but I say there was an institution like that, and an institution like that possibly with the additions you propose would give a collective military opinion, and that is what you would desire to see?
Yes, that is exactly it. I was only saying what happened to the Army Board to show that it was not as complete as I would have liked it to be.
15648. (Viscount Esher.) Yes, but we must not get a confusion here; there is a great distinction between the Mobilisation Committee in time of war and what you were talking about just now as an Advisory Board in time of peace?
Yes, a great distinction. I propose the Advisory Board for the assistance of the Secretary of State. The Mobilisation Committee is merely a wheel in the machinery of the Commander-in-Chief.
15649. I am afraid that someone reading the evidence might get confused between the two, whereas the two things are absolutely distinct?
I would like to draw this distinction particularly, that the Advisory Board is the Secretary of State’s office and the Mobilisation Committee is in the Commander-in-Chief’s office.
15650. It was to an Army Board consisting of six members such as you have described just now that you would specially look to give advice upon all important questions to the Secretary of State?
Yes, an Advisory Committee—an intellectual equipment. To put it as shortly as I can it would be this : —I do not think the Secretary of State in case of war has fair play, and the reason he has not fair play is because he has no assistance. The final decision must rest with the Cabinet. If the Secretary of State does not agree with the Commander-in-Chief he is now alone in opposition, but if the matter has been thrashed out by the Advisory Board, of which the Commander-in-Chief is a member, and that Board supports the Secretary of State, he will be powerfully assisted in the formation of the views which he has to present to the Cabinet.
15651. (Chairman.) Is there anything else you would like to add?