26 DECEMBER 1914, Page 8


likrE wish to acknowledge once more the generous response made by a considerable portion of our readers to the Home Guards Fund. In spite of our going to Press so early this week that we lose, as it were, the acknow- ledgment of nearly two days' subscriptions, the Fund has increased by almost £400 since our last issue. We sincerely trust that we shall receive enough by our first issue in the New Year to reach a total of £2,000. The first letter in our issue of to-day shows that already the Home Guards have been of use in the war. For ourselves, we desire to say that the closer the consideration we have been able to give the subject, and the more we have entered into the details of what is being done, the more complete has become our assurance that the Home Guards movement is one well worth supporting—one which if persisted in for the next few months, and properly directed, organized, and con- trolled, will very greatly increase our military power. We believe that after they have had a few months' training, and have learned the use of the rifle and the spade, the Home Guards, or at any rate a very large portion of them, will have a considerable military value of their own, and will be fully equal to a large section of the German Landsturm. More than that, the Home Guards will, we are sure, be able, in case of invasion, to free an enormous number of soldiers from duties which must be carried out, and which now absorb a very large number of active troops, if no second-line troops can be got to perform those duties. By trench-digging, by guarding bridges and railways and other vulnerable points, and by assisting the police in controlling and helping the civil population, the Home Guards might at this moment set free thousands of troops for the firing line. After they have had training for a dozen weeks or so they may well be capable of a good deal more. The essential thing is to train them on the right lines, to imbue them with the military spirit, to give them uniforms, and ultimately, when they know how to use them and when the supply is adequate, to place arms in their hands.

All this costs money, and very large sums of money. Even if most corps can by means of local funds—as, for instance, that section of the Home Guards or National Guards which is being formed in the City—provide all that is required for themselves in the way of uniform and arms, there are still a great many duties that fall on the central body which are bound to prove very expensive. In- spection by officers who know the realities of war is of the utmost importance, but such inspection throughout the length and breadth of the country cannot be carried out without heavy charges. The figures of the Home Guards are becoming literally enormous. The inspection expenses alone might easily absorb £2,000 to £3,000. The biggest item, however, will of course be the sub- sidies which will be very naturally asked for by the poorer corps. In the industrial districts you cannot expect men to find their own uniforms, much less their arms. Their drillings and marchings will entail a con- siderable sacrifice on the men, and in certain districts they cannot be asked to do more than this. The spirit is willing enough, but the purse is weak.

We should have thought that we had made the nature of the Home Guards Fund quite clear already in these columns. We are asked, however, in a letter from Sunderland, the following questions, and urged to give them an answer :— " What is this Fund?"

" How and for what purpose are the subscriptions to be applied ?"

The best reply we can give is, we think, to quote from our article of a fortnight ago. The following extract answers both questions :— "We publish elsewhere an appeal from the Central Association of Volunteer Training Corps for funds to enable them to carry out the difficult and responsible work with which they have been entrusted by the War Office—that of organizing and rendering efficient the corps of Volunteers or Home Guards, formed of men beyond the military age, which are springing up all over the country. The corps that are affiliated to the Central Association will be recognized. The corps that are not affiliated will not merely be without Government sanction, but will in fact incur official disapproval. This means, of course, that all Home Guards in order to live must be affiliated with the Central Volunteer Association. To enable the Association to perform efficiently this much-needed work, central funds are absolutely necessary. They are required, in the first place, in order to carry on the central organization and the work of inspection and encourage- ment, which will be very heavy; and they are also needed in order to help by substantial donations the poorer corps which cannot for obvious reasons help themselves. In a rich county like, say, Buckinghamshire, the local Home Guards will be able to support themselves easily enough. But take the case of a borough like West Ham or Bethnal Green or Hackney. There the patriotic spirit will, we know, be quite as great and quite as self-sacrificing as in the richer districts. But there it will be absolutely impos- sible for the majority of the men to find the whole of their own outfit, and it will also be practically impossible to appeal for help to the rest of the district. There must be central funds in order to produce some sort of equalization, and to render the Home Guards the really popular movement which they must be if they are to succeed.

So much impressed are we by the need of rendering immediate help to the Central Volunteer Association in its appeal for money that we are going to do what we greatly hoped we should not have been obliged to do during the present war—to make a special appeal to readers of the Spectator. We fully recognize the many and grave objections to starting new funds, and we recognize also that our readers belong to classes which have probably already not only had to make great private sacrifices in order to give war subscrip- tions, but which will be specially hit by the great additions to the Income Tax and the Super Tax. Again, many of our readers belong to the professional classes, and these have suffered very greatly in income owing to the war, and must, we fear, continue to suffer. It is therefore only after mature consideration and with great reluctance that we have decided to establish a Spectator War Fund. We feel, however, that the establishment of a Spectator Fund for this particular purpose has an appropriateness which cannot be gainsaid."

We may add the passage in which we pointed out the need for the organization of what we may call "middle-aged" effort in the matter of home defence :— " In case there may still bo some of our readers who do not understand the reasons for the formation of Home Guards from the men of non-military age, we will restate them very shortly. Though we personally have the profoundest belief in the Navy, and hold that it has done and will do everything that could possibly be expected of it, there always remains the possibility of a raid. Therefore we must make preparation for home defence in these islands, and we must make it among the men who are pronounced to be of non-military age as well as among those of military age, as do the Germans and all other Continental nations. It is right to admit that, owing to his limited powers of marching and the difficulty of giving him a rapid training unless he has been trained already, the man of over thirty-eight is not an appropriate recruit for the New Army or for the Territorials. If, however, he has learnt the elements of drill, if he knows how to handle a rifle, and, last but not least, if he knows how to handle a spade, he is capable of doing a great deal of auxiliary military work. If three months hence we could point to a million and a half of men between thirty-eight and sixty or sixty-five formed throughout the country into corps with a rough organization, we should not, of course, have men to whom alone the defence of these islands could be entrusted without any stiffening, but we should have a force which would enable us to out down the Regular and Territorial Force in this country to a great deal lower strength than is possible without such middle-aged Home Guards. No doubt the immobility—i.e., the local character—of the Home Guards would prevent them from being as useful as they might be if they were mobile, but it would bo an enormous advantage in each and every theatre of the war in case of invasion if our defend- ing Army could always count on what we may term organized local military assistance. Let us take the case of Essex and Suffolk, or of Sussex and Kent. The central striking force, when it fell upon an army that had made a surprise landing in any or all of these counties, might find an organized force of Home Guard riflemen, trench-diggers, and general auxiliaries with local knowledge exceedingly useful. Home Guards properly organized will give us all the advantages of the leek en masse, with none of its dis- advantages. To cut the matter short, there is, we are convinced, a real if a somewhat humble place for the Home Guards in our system of military defence. We must never forget, however, that they must be kept in their proper sphere. They must never be allowed to interfere with recruiting, and they must make no claims to a first call, or even a parallel call, upon rifles and ammunition and other equipment. Only after the first line and the second line have been served can the third line be considered. Then, of course, it can get itself fully equipped, and the sooner the better."