12 AUGUST 1905, Page 13


Sra,—Your article in last week's issue admits very truly that the real difficulty in providing a force for home defence, and for the expansion of the Regular Army in times of need, lies not in the supply of men, but of competent officers. The suggestions there made, if adopted, would undoubtedly be a great benefit both to the Regular and Auxiliary Forces, but it is very doubtful whether they would be of much use in finding officers for the Volunteers, if it is hoped that this force should continue to draw its officers from professional and business men.

May I, as one who for more than ten years in peace has held a commission in the Volunteers, relate what that involved, and let your readers judge whether any increase on that can be expected from those who have to compete in life with others whose time is not subject to similar demands ? In the first place, I had to put in from thirty to forty drills each year in the spring and early summer months, for I found, particularly after I had command of a company, that if I missed more than two or three drills in a season the average attendance of my company was prejudicially affected. Then one or two of my half-holidays in the summer had to be spent on the rifle range helping the lame ducks of the company through their class-firing. Then came a week in camp, which generally clashed with a cricket week in which I should have liked to take part. Twice a year there was a

meeting of the district Tactical Society, invaluable as a means of instruction, but involving a journey to some plaee or other and two days and nights away from home. These meetings I seldom missed when they were within a reasonable distance, say three hours or so by rail. In the close season there were frequently lectures to attend, either by way of example, or for purposes of instruction; and all through the year in the evenings were meetings of Committees, or with your non-commissioned officers for various necessary purposes. During several winters my leisure evenings were devoted to reading up tactics, fortification, &c., in order ' to pass the various military examinations. In addition to all these regular calls on one's time, a whole month had once• to be devoted to the School of Instruction in London and another three weeks to Ilythe. I say nothing about the time I spent on shooting, or on two visits to Bisley, as this was for my own amusement, though incidentally it was rather a useful method of amusement than otherwise. At the end of all this I had the merest smattering of military knowledge. In no other profession could I have been considered on such slender grounds to have any claim whatever to have passed a training in the science of my profession.

Now if you are going to require in the future from Volun- teer officers that they shall undergo such a training as will make them really competent, they will certainly have to devote more time to their military duties than I was ever able to afford. And I ask whether it is reasonable to expect that under the present conditions it will be possible to get officers in anything like sufficient numbers to bear the very heavy demands on their time which I have indicated. On the other hand, if every young man had to serve either in the ranks or as an officer, and if there were also some real kudos attached to the holding of a com- mission, there should be no difficulty in finding the necessary numbers, and it would be possible so to raise the qualifications insisted upon in the junior ranks that real efficiency could be looked for.

One other point in your article to which I take exception is where it is stated that if boys learned the elements of drill at school, the work of the Volunteers could be confined to their more practical duties in the field. This may be true as to country corps, but it is impossible on the extenuated drill- grounds of town corps to do really useful field training. Drills would have to be confined to half-holiday afternoons when the men could be taken right out into the country. Putting aside the question of expense and the difficulty of getting land to manoeuvre upon, it is a fact that in most towns the artisans and commercial classes have their half-holiday on a Saturday, while the shopkeepers and professional classes have theirs on some other day. In itself this is a difficulty, but in addition to this it would mean that you could not hope to get recruits among those youths who play games, who are physically the pick of the better class of artisans and lower middle class. Even under present conditions, with drills mainly confined to summer evenings, it is exceptional, especially in the commissioned ranks, to find a man who has any real aptitude for games taking up Volunteering; yet these are just the men who, if you can get them, make the best soldiers, understanding as they do something of the value of self-discipline as well as of discipline applied to numbers.

Here again, were service universal, you would get the men who would from a physical point of view improve the force, instead of, or rather besides, the men who by joining the force hope to improve themselves physically.