29 JUNE 1912, Page 28


[TO THE EDITOR Or TIER °SPECTATOR...I SIR,—May I explain briefly the raisons d'être and aims of the Soldiers' Land Settlement Association? The need for the work which the Association will undertake was considered in a little book, "Land Settlement for Soldiers" (Clowes and Sons, Ltd.), which I lately wrote. Others have now taken the idea up, with the result that the Association has been formed. It is now practically certain that definite action will be taken.

The term of service, which is rendered necessary in the British Army by the duty of furnishing garrisons abroad and at the same time feeding the Reserve, being neither "short," as in the conscript services of the Continent, nor "long," as in former days in this country, inflicts great injustice on the soldier. In the conscript armies the period of service with the colours is so short that it does not sever the connexion with civil life. Moreover, conscription is fair to all, since all have to serve, and no one is handicapped in relation to others. "Long" service gave the soldier a career and a pension. But our medium term of service effects a break with civil occupation, but affords the man neither a life career nor the means of living after he is discharged. He returns to civil life, normally at the end of seven years, and still in receipt of pay, usually 6d. a day, till he has completed in the Reserve a total of twelve years' service from first enlistment. He thus has to compete in an overstocked labour market with men who have had several years' start in acquir- ing proficiency at their callings while he has been serving his country. A certain number of the men, of course, find suit- able employment. The Post Office and other Government Departments provide for some. But a large proportion, including many men of excellent character and more than average natural qualifications, never succeed in obtaining permanent occupation and drift into chronic destitution. It is difficult to obtain accurate figures as to the numbers who thus fall victims to the system, but there is good reason to believe that some hundreds of thousands of old soldiers are, as the normal state of things, living in conditions which would break all but the stoutest hearts, and which are disgraceful to the nation.

The Soldiers' Land Settlement Association believes that the time has come when a practical, if partial, remedy can be found. The idea of settling soldiers on the land is not new. It has often, though not always, been successful. Soldiers of the Regular Army who were given land grants in New Zealand after the New Zealand War have proved efficient settlers. There are at this moment soldiers sent out by certain agencies farm- ing and doing well in Canada and Australia. In spite of the partial failure of the small-holdings movement in this country, there are old soldiers prospering on co- operative settlements organized by the Agricultural Organization Society. But I rely in calculating the prospects of success, not on these isolated examples, but on three con- siderations which combine at this hour to make that possible which perhaps has never been possible before. They are the system of co-operative agricultural organization introduced by Sir Horace Plunkett ; the " Witzwyl " system, applied with such success by Herr Otto KellerhaIls in Switzerland, which quickly renders the most unskilled labour profitable in agriculture by employing it along with a large proportion of skilled workmen, who labour themselves and teach by example; and the carefully thought-out schemes of assisted settlement now in operation under several of the Dominion Governments and a few great railway companies, like the Canadian Pacific, and other land-owning corporations.

The conditions of service already described, though dig. advantageous when other occupations are contemplated, fit well into a system of training for agriculture. The period of service in the Reserve during which most of the men must remain in the United Kingdom corresponds with the time necessary for thorough training, and on final discharge the men are usually just at the best age for starting inde. pendently.

The Association will equip training farms at which a thorough preparation will be given for settlement either at home, or in the Dominions oversee, or for wage-earning em- ployment on the land. It will make arrangements for pro-. viding openings for the men so trained.

The need of the Army is great and the field for agriculture within the Empire unlimited. The benefits which the scheme, if successfully carried through, will secure are self-evident. It is confidently believed that, after an experimental stage, the training farms can be made self-supporting.—I am, Sir, &c., HENRY PILKINGTON. Llye.y.Gwyni, Holyhead.

[We welcome this excellent scheme, and are delighted to see that it is intended to train men for home settlement quite as much as for the oversee. Dominions. We see no reason why the experimental farms should not be self-supporting ; they can be, we are sure, if too much money is not sunk in unnecessarily costly buildings—the curse of all philanthropic adventure. The scheme, we may add, should both help and be helped by the organization of "Time National Reserve."--. ED. Spectator.]