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which would enable those who so desire and behave well to make the army their profession, and render it possible for those who find military duty distasteful to revert, while still young, to civil life.
While admitting that the territorial system has many advantages from the administrator's point of view, from the soldier's it has certain drawbacks, which necessitate greater freedom in the conditions of his service. In the first place, the constitution of our army, to say nothing of the unforeseen demands which may be made upon it on account of war, prevents the system (as at present applied) being carried out in its integrity. In some districts the supposed local recruiting ground is almost entirely barren, and consequently the regiments called after these districts are territorial only in name. War breaks out, and to enable the ranks of the battalions going on service to be filled, we are obliged to have recourse to the system of bounty (so universally condemned), in order to attract volunteers from other battalions; men who have extended their service to remain in India, and whose time is not up when their battalion returns to England, must be transferred to complete their tour of foreign service to some regiment belonging to another district unless they are relieved by their linked battalion; re-engaged men, who wish to prolong their service in India, are permitted to volunteer for any battalion having a certain number of years of Indian service still to run. In this way, a man who originally enlisted at Exeter for the Devonshire regiment, may be transferred to the Royal Munster Fusiliers to complete his time abroad, and, by volunteering, may possibly end his career in the Gordon Highlanders. Seeing, then, the impossibility of the territorial system being carried out at present, in the manner its originators no doubt hoped it would be, and seeing that considerable laxity has to be permitted in its working, it seems but right that the system should be susceptible of some corresponding elasticity to meet the inclination of the soldier.
As a rule, the battalion in which a man first makes his home is the one he will like best to the end of his service, and constant compulsory change, or even a liability to such change, does more to make soldiers dislike the army, and kill the 'esprit de corps' that used to exist, than anything else. What possible sympathy can the man have who has been drilled and set up as a Royal Scot with his future comrade the Royal Dublin Fusilier? Each regiment, nay each battalion, has its own particular ideas on the subject of interior economy, and what the young soldier has been taught to consider the correct thing in his old regiment may be deemed a breach of barrackroom etiquette in his new corps. A soldier cannot understand why it should be thought that the fact of his having entered the Queen's service should make him indifferent to all considerations of country, climate, or friends. Formerly, when a man made up his mind to become a soldier, he knew pretty well what he was about; if he enlisted
for a particular regiment, it was because he could reckon on remaining in it; if he wished to go abroad for a certain number of years, he chose a corps which would, in all probability, return home at the expiration of the desired time; if he wished to serve at home, he picked out a regiment which had just returned from foreign service; and if he was actuated by none of these considerations, he frequently (and this especially as regards the better class of recruits) selected a regiment to which he was attracted by the presence of friends and acquaintances, or of officers who were interested in himself or his family.
The would-be soldier of the present day cannot suit his fancy or convenience in any of these particulars, and instead of being able to settle down in some corps, and make it his home, he must be prepared to join a strange battalion in China or the East or West Indies, with as perfect equanimity as if he had no more feeling than a bale of goods. He finds himself suddenly separated from his friends and acquaintances, and being thrown amongst an entirely new set of men, has, so to speak, to begin the world over again. He arrives as a stranger; his former efforts to raise himself in the estimation of his superiors are lost; his capabilities are unknown. It is deemed necessary to put him through his drill again from the commencement of the field exercise, and although he may have prided himself on being one of the smartest men in his old battalion, in his new corps he is known only as 'one of that wretched draft we got the other day from the home battalion.' He becomes discontented and indifferent as to how he puts in his time, and when remonstrated with, replies, 'Oh, I'm only for six years, what does it matter? What do I care whether the battalion is considered smart or not? home, I shall be handed over again with the barrack furniture.'
When it goes
There are other causes which affect the present condition and prospects of the soldier, and react in dissuading the would-be recruit; notably, the frequent changes in the terms of service, which have been so varied that men can feel no certainty, even as to their immediate future. Many a man who would like to remain in the army, and might be invaluable as a non-commissioned officer, is deterred by the fear of some new warrant, materially affecting his future, being unexpectedly issued, and so hesitates to accept his stripes or prolong his service. He remains in an unsettled state, until some day a petty punishment or a whim makes him desert, or determine to leave the army as soon as his first period of service is up. Soldiers do not, as a rule, study Royal Warrants, but they know and can see that changes are continually going on, and that a good man, who wishes to prolong his service, is ruthlessly discharged one day, while a few months later a large bounty is offered to try and induce any sort of character to extend his service. This is extremely puzzling to the soldier, who, on failing to account on common-sense principles for what he sees
going on, becomes suspicious. Ask him what it is that has caused him to purchase his discharge, or prevented him from re-engaging; the answer in most cases will be, 'Well, sir, I don't care to soldier any longer; it's the uncertainty, you see, sir.'
Further causes of discontent, which would seem to point to the necessity of some elasticity in our army system, are the many petty troubles and inconveniences soldiers are subjected to, without apparently any reason or necessity. Objectless repetitions of purely parade movements; constant guard mounting, with its accompaniment of impaired health from 'sentry go;' being associated with bad characters; the constant and distasteful work required from recruits; the dismissal to which non-commissioned officers were lately subject when reduced by a court-martial; the want of recreation (this applies especially to India); and their low social position. Some of these are inseparable from military service, but should be made as light as possible; others are capable of remedy, and should be removed. Again, on enlistment a man is told that he will get one shilling a day with free rations. He afterwards finds that heavy deductions1 are made for messing, necessaries, washing, hair-cutting, barrack damages, library subscriptions, &c., and (in India) for cooking and summer clothing. All these demands considerably reduce the shilling which had such attractions for the recruit, and, as he is not told of them beforehand, they seem to him a breach of faith.
Then, again, whatever may be the reasons which induce a man to enlist, he may find after a time that he has made a mistake; the unaccustomed habits of discipline and the monotony of routine life become intolerable to him, and he begins to think how he can escape from them. If it were possible to get away after a short probation, he would most likely resolve to make the best of a bad business and serve
So far we have noted the stoppages which are invariably deducted from the soldier's pay, but there are other expenses which must be paid for by him. For necessaries,' viz., drawers, shirts, socks, towels, blacking, knife and fork, summer clothing, &c., a sum of money is deducted from his monthly pay whenever he may have to replace any of the above articles, averaging 28. a month in England, and Rs. 1-8-0 in India while experience shows that the men find it necessary to supplement the Government ration by extra food, such as meat, flour, and vegetables, the ration itself being insufficient.
out his time; but with six or seven weary years before him he becomes desperate, and deserts. Or, a man may have private reasons which render his return to his village or family imperative, but if he is unable to purchase his discharge he cannot get out of the army until he has served his time. A story was told me the other day, by an officer of experience in one of our Line regiments, which bears on this point. Shortly before his battalion embarked for India, one of the best men in his company asked leave to speak to him. The man's story was a simple one. His father had lately died, and his mother, who had no other near relation, had made up her mind to go to America. The son declared that he could not let his mother go alone, and appealed to his old friend Major—, who had known him since his recruit days, to help him. The Major heard the man's story, but he had to tell him, as kindly as he could, that it was impossible to meet his wishes, and as he had no money to purchase his discharge, he must make up his mind to embark for India. A few days afterwards the private deserted, but, before the battalion sailed, Major got a letter from him, returning his kit, and expressing his deep regret at the step he had felt himself compelled to take. Now, had some rule been in force, such as the one which obtains in our Indian army, by which a soldier can claim his discharge after three years' service, the private whose story I have just related could have left the army a free man, instead of being obliged to avoid all who had known him, lest he should be recognised and punished as a deserter. The privilege of being able to claim their discharge is one that is highly appreciated by native soldiers, and is not made use of to any inconvenient extent; and it is, without doubt, the chief cause that desertion is a crime almost unknown in the Indian army.
The causes I have above enumerated are, as any regimental officer will say, the principal reasons of the army being unpopular; and they are discussed in all their bearings in every canteen and barrack-room throughout the service. This is to be expected. England has every right to demand that the men who are paid to fight her battles should obey their officers implicitly, and be prepared to sacrifice themselves, when necessary, for their country's good. Of their readiness to do this the British army is one long and glorious proof: upon subjects, however, which closely affect their personal comfort and prospects, it is useless to expect that men will not have their own ideas, or will not comment freely upon them one to another.
I will now endeavour to show how, in my opinion, matters may be remedied. The basis of any future reforms should be
(1) That soldiers should be made to understand exactly the terms under which they enlist, and once they have accepted those terms, no change should be made in them without their consent.
(2) That army service generally should be made easier and freer;
the status of the soldier raised; and, so far as may be practicable, more consideration paid to his wants and feelings.
There must, in fact, be free trade and reciprocity in the army, by which I mean, the sweeping away of many hard-and-fast rules, which now unnecessarily hamper the soldier's life, from the hour of his enlistment until the day of his leaving the army. Men ought not, and, indeed, in these days of enlightenment, will not, be forced to submit to this, that, or the other irksome condition, to which when enlisting, they had no sort of idea they would be subjected.
What we want is, that the contract to be made between the State and the soldier should be advantageous to the former and satisfactory to the latter. The State on its side requires an army, sufficient both for its home duties, and for the protection of its widely scattered possessions, capable also of expansion, to meet the heavy demands that a European war would entail upon England's limited military force. At the same time, it not unreasonably desires that men should be employed only so long as they can efficiently perform their work, and that the cost of the army should be reduced as much as possible, not only in its current expenses, but as regards future charges on account of pensions. These requirements cannot be obtained by the adoption of a long service, which is incompatible with a reserve, nor of a short service, such as the present one, which is not short enough to form an adequate reserve. Our present difficulties would, indeed, seem to have arisen from a determination to create a reserve out of our small first line, and at the same time keep up a fighting army to meet the varied demands made upon it by India and the colonies. We must look for some system which will possess the advantages of both a long and a short service, by means of which a reserve can be formed, an effective army maintained, and the number of men serving for pension restricted to those who make the army their profession, either from choice or necessity, and whose lengthened employment in the ranks will be well worth paying for.
The term of service for which a man now enlists, and which may be assumed to average about seven years, is perhaps as fatal a period as could have been fixed upon, whether the convenience and welfare of the soldier or the interests of the State be considered. Let us take the three classes, artisans, labourers, and loafers, from which our recruits are mainly drawn, and see how it affects each of them.
The artisan gives up his trade just at the age when he should be finishing his apprenticeship. At the end of his seven years' service he is too old to begin learning again, or to have any hope of obtaining the position, or earning the wages he might have expected, had he devoted those seven years to perfecting himself in and practising his trade. It does not seem, therefore, to the advantage of the artisan to be sent adrift after seven years with nothing to show for his military service but a well-set-up figure, and 21. in his pocket, and