TOPICS OF THE DAY.
RECRUIT ! RECRUIT ! RECRUIT! THE time has come when we must deal with the recruiting problem in earnest. Our essential need is more men. Unless we can get them rapidly and train them rapidly we can never end the war, and a prolonged war is the greatest disaster with which the nation can be faced. It spells ruin. What do we mean by saying that the recruiting problem must be dealt with in earnest ? We mean that the military authorities must not be allowed to turn the tap on or off, and check or encourage the flow of recruits, when and where it suits their con- venience. We acknowledge to the full the splendid and successful efforts which the military authorities are making for organizing the men and training them. Nothing could be better, and the country will never forget the service rendered by Lord Kitchener and those who are working under him. No one wants to interfere with their activities in either of these directions. But the raising of the men, and also the providing of what we may call the non-military side of the equipment—that is, the providing of their clothes and kit—are matters which can be accom- plished just as well by competent civilians as by competent soldiers. As, however, at the moment our competent soldiers are ten times as busy as our competent civilians, it is a proper division of labour that the procuring of the human raw material of the Army should be largely placed in civilian hands. What is wanted, in the first place, is to ascertain without delay : (1) What men are willing to offer their services voluntarily to their country, and to register their names and addresses as would-be recruits.
(2) To have these men medically examined—the standard for height and chest measurement being reduced to the point below which the best authorities agree that a man cannot be an efficient fighter and marcher.
(3) To swear in and make soldiers of the men whose names and addresses and fitness have thus been ascertained ;- the attestation form should be altered and simplified so that it will require no signature beyond the man's declara- tion of service. (4) To pay the men thus accepted as soldiers a weekly sum as a retaining fee until the military authorities are ready to take them and train them. Mean- while they should live in their own homes and work at their trades.
By adopting this course, and adopting it not in a haphazard way but systematically, we shall quickly have ear- marked the men ready and willing to be trained as soon as the military authorities can accommodate them. All the War Office would have to do would be to apply to the recruiting offices for the men as they were needed. They would be able, that is, to carry out their ideal of a tap which they could turn on or off to suit their convenience, and yet be able to do so without discouraging recruiting in the amazing way in which it has lately been dis- couraged. To be specific, we should like to see these recruiting duties carried out by a Commission of Array formed for the sole purpose of getting men and turning them over as and when required to the military authorities. The Commission of Array would be a receiving house and nothing else. At the top such a Commission of Array should consist of a dozen of the most influential men in the country under the presidency of the Prime Minister. Half of them should be retired soldiers who are known to the country, and first among them Lord Roberts, who is undoubtedly the greatest recruiting influence in the nation. The civilians should include great employers of labour and representatives of the Trade Unions and men of political importance. These Chief Commissioners of Array should not be numerous. Twelve in all would be quite enough. They should not, of course, break up the exisiting recruiting organization, which, in spite of the tap-turning and the sudden raising of the standard to the Guards level, has been doing admirable work, but should supplement it wherever necessary. Their object should, indeed, be to decentralize as much as possible, and ultimately to get down to a small district unit coin- cident with the ward in a town or the polling district in a county. The procedure should be thoroughly to search this primary unit for volunteers. Deputy Commissioners of Array and the officers below them should not be satisfied until they had ascertained the name of every man willing to volunteer in this primary topographical unit. We have used the words " ward " and " polling district " advisedly, because the Commissioners should work on the Parliamentary register, and should not be satisfied until they had asked and answered the question, "Is he willing to volunteer P " in regard to every man on that register. If the register were well worked—and that could easily be done with the aid (paid of course) of the Parliamentary agents of both parties—we should soon know exactly where we stood in the matter of human raw material. For example, the names on the register, when treated as we desire, would ultimately have beside them such words as : "Already joined," " Medically unfit," " Over age." The remainder of the names would be those of men to whom the recruiters' appeals must be made. The Commissioners of Array would, indeed, proceed very much in the same way as the men who constructed the Elizabethan musters, or as Abraham Lincoln's officers when they mustered the men in the Northern States preliminary to the Draft. In the present case we are assuming, and, we believe, rightly assuming, that the men can be got without any form of compulsion. All that is necessary, we are proud to think, is to let the men know that they are wanted. But in order to do this thoroughly and systematically there must be some such machinery as we have described. We are quite certain that after a. careful muster we can get on the purely voluntary system another million and a, half men registered and attested as soldiers, and ready to be called out for their training the moment the military authorities can accommodate them.
It may seem as if that would be far enough for the Com- mission of Array to go. We desire, however, that they should go one step further, because we feel sure that they could take that step without in any way embarrassing the military authorities or interfering with them, and could at the same time help and facilitate the tremendous task of training and organization. While the attested men were waiting for their call we would, wherever it was physically possible, begin to give them a certain amount of drill and rifle practice. In big towns, indeed, we would train a portion of the men in what we may describe as "day-boy" battalions. There is no reason why very efficient training should not be given in this way, provided that the officers, non-commissioned officers, and staff could be established. Up till the time of the Boer War there was at least one, and we think there were two bat- talions of London Militia who were always trained on the "day-boy " system. The men lived in their own homes, and came to the depot each day for their recruit training, just as they might go to a factory or a mine. The units in question, while other Militia battalions were usually much below establishment, were always at full strength, and there were no disciplinary difficulties. In fact, the battalion of the Tower Hamlets Militia, to which we are alluding, was in many ways a model Militia battalion. No doubt a good many objections will be raised to such a course as we propose, and, remember, it is not an essential part of our scheme. We do suggest, however, that it would be quite worth while for the Government to experi- ment with two or three of these " day-boy " battalions. The scheme is a different one from that of billeting regi- ments on a town, as is already being done. In our proposed " day-boy " battalions the men would stay in their own homes. Surely this experiment might be tried, say, in London, in Manchester, in Liverpool, in Glasgow, and in Newcastle. If it were not thought satisfactory, no harm would have been done. If it succeeded, as we believe it would, then it would be very easy to follow up the example. We do not suggest, of course, that the final training could be given at home, but simply the pre- liminaries, including a certain amount of rifle practice. After these preliminaries had been concluded, the men would of course be put either under canvas or in barracks near some good open training ground where they could get proper field exercises and do their rifle practice. In conclusion, we would most seriously urge upon the Government, and if they will not listen, upon the country, the imminent need of facing the recruiting question at once. We must have the men, for if we do not get them we are undone. They are waiting for us eagerly, only wanting to be given a lead. Why will not the Government give it in deed as well as in word ? They ,have implored the youth of the country to come forward, but when they come they find a sergeant barring the way to their service with an unnecessarily high standard and red- tape restrictions which are supposed to be required to prevent an embarrassing rush. That is not the way to get men. The way to get them is the way we have described. When they are got all embarrassing rushes can perfectly well be avoided in the way we have suggested. All that is wanted is division of labour—the separation of the work of get- ting the men from that of training and organizing them. Let us reap and store the grain at once. When the millers and bakers are ready they will turn it into flour and bread. To refuse to reap the field because the oven is not yet hot is little short of madness.
A word in postscript as to equipment. The plea of an embarrassing rush as regards camps and training and organization is, we admit, a wholly justifiable one. It is not justifiable in the matter of equipment in the sense of making uniforms and kit generally. These ought in great measure to be provided locally. There is not the slightest reason why the thing should only be done, as the War Office appears to think it can only be done, through big contractors. There is no reason why every village tailor and small town tailor in the land should not be set working, -wherever possible with the help of soldiers' wives, mothers, and sisters, for they should have the first call on the needlework. We do not know how it may be at the moment, but not very long ago it was, we believe, quite common for the uniforms of Marines— and they were as smart as any in the Army—to be cut out by master tailors, but all the sewing given out to the womenkind of the men who were to wear the uniforms. It is on these lines that the uniform problem is to be solved. A. Commission of Array properly decentralized, and with small Equipment Committees working throughout the length and breadth of the land, would soon produce a million uniforms. " They could not get the khaki ? " Very possibly, but they could get serviceable cloth which would do just as well till the khaki began again to flow freely from the woollen factories. We must get ahead, and not be stopped by punctilios either in the matter of men or of their clothes. We must have the men.