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SUGGESTIONS FOR THE REORGANIZATION OF THE MILITIA.
By Alah Chaxbbe, Major 5th Royal Lancashire.
The experience of the last war shewed the great value of the militia as a reserve force; and the necessity of placing it on a more effective footing has been felt by all those who are acquainted with its present organization. It would have been impossible to fill up the vacancies in the ranks of the regular army without drafts from the militia; but in numerous instances, as it was hastily organized, the volunteers for active service were growing youths, who were not in proper condition for hard work. The consequence was, many were not able to undergo the fatigues of a severe campaign. Circumstances may again occur in which we must fall back upon that useful and constitutional force, and in order to prepare for all eventualities it should be so constituted as to form an available reserve whenever required. To effect this many plans have been proposed; but there are none sufficiently practical to merit serious consideration. I must premise what I have to say on the subject, by observing that the present system of calling out the regiments for 28 days' training is not only useless, but a waste of the public money. Four days are necessary for giving out and returning the arms and clothing into store. Three or four Sundays intervene, and one year with another, some wet days, when nothing can be done; so that little more than fourteen days remain for company and battalion drill; and just as the non-commissioned officers and men are beginning to settle down to their respective duties, the period arrives for sending them back again to their homes. In addition to this, the time of service is so short, that it holds out no inducements to good men to forego other occupations. When the militia was disbanded in the commencement of 1856, the subaltern officers received six months' pay as a bonus; the surgeons and paymasters also were not forgotten, but the superior officers and captains were only paid up to the day of disembodiment inclusive. In the event of another war, or the militia being put upon permanent duty, I do not see what inducement there is for properly qualified young men to serve as subalterns. The pay of ensigns and lieutenants is so small, that they cannot possibly live upon it. They must give up any profession for which they were intended, their outfit is expensive, and the only remuneration they have in prospect is a-fratuity of £40 or £50 on being disbanded; leaving them not only out of pocket, but without an occupation also; for they have lost much valuable time, that should have been employed in qualifying themselves for one.
Before offering any suggestions for a reorganization of the force, it will be necessary to show the actual cost of the militia as at present constituted. We have no official returns to fall back upon, to make the necessary calculations; but although there is, nominally, a great number of men enrolled and attested, I do not think in reality that we can count upon more than 60,000 effective rank and file with any certainty, if the whole were embodied at the same time. This arises from various causes. Some have taken the bounty twice over, by engaging in more than one county regiment. Some who never intended to join at all. Others are sick, or suffering from accidents. Many are gone to Australia or America, besides recruits who have joined as single men and prove to be married, with families. If we are to have a small but effective army, why not apply the same rule to the militia? Sixty thousand well-selected men would be more valuable, and certainly more serviceable, than larger numbers of lower stature, and inferior physical qualifications. There would be no difficulty in keeping up this strength, because, owing to the local influences of the colonels and other officers, recruits are always to be met with. Many of the corps, which, at the commencement of 1856, were much reduced from the large drafts they had given to the line, are now again at their full complement. If proof were necessary of the facilities attending recruiting for the militia, the 32,000 men who volunteered for active service during the Crimean war would afford a satisfactory one, as the vacancies were soon filled up by equally good men. For these and other reasons, I take for the basis of my argument the certainty of always having 60,000 effective men in the militia.
The present cost per 1000 men and officers per annum is as follows :
Average enrolment expenses
28 days' training
11 months disembodied
Total per 1,000 .. £6,443 3 0J* Multiplying this by 60 would give a grand total of £386,589 Is. 3d. In order to render the force effective, and form a reserve fit for garrison duty, if circumstances rendered their services necessary, I would alter the present system altogether; and the plan I propose is this:— I would embody one-third of the whole annually, for three months, leaving the remaining two-thirds in a disembodied state, to be called out in succession afterwards. The expense of 20,000 men during three months' training would be—
£ s. d. Difference of pay of staff-sergeants, drummers, &c ] „ .„„ . -
in an embodied and disembodied state j'
20,000 average enrolment expenses .. .. 6,000 0 0 „ Training 3 months .. .. .. 222,001 7 6
£231,033 17 6 To ascertain, however, the cost of the whole 60,000 during the year, it would be as follows:— £ s. d.
20,000 men training, brought down .. 231,033 17 6
The same 20,000 nine months disembodied 19,117 5 0 40,000 twelve months disembodied .. 50,979 6 8
,, ,, Average enrolment expenses .. , , 12,000 0 0 60,000 clothing expenses .. .. .. 70,120 1 3
Grand Total .. £383,250 10 5
* See Appendix B.
If therefore, as I have shown, 60,000 militia under the present system cost £386,589 Is. 3d. and that by the plan I propose they would cost £383,250 10s. 5d., it follows that there would result a saving of £3,338 10s. lOd. to Government. This would be the pecuniary gain, but with the additional advantage of creating a reserve army, fit for garrison or other duties. Supposing, however, for the sake of argument, that the whole militia, embodied and paid by the country, amount to 75,000 men, it does not invalidate my argument. That number would cost, under the present system, annually, including the 28 days' training, £482,236 6s. 6d.* and by calling out 25,000 for three months, the expense would be £479,086 8s. 7d. leaving a saving of £3,149 17s. lid.
I will next proceed to indicate other improvements which have suggested themselves to me, on considering the subject. In the first place, I would raise the standard and take no recruits under 5 feet 5 inches, and that should be the minimum height, even for growing boys; nor would I accept anyone over 25 years of age. Great discrimination should be exercised in enrolling and attesting the recruits; and it would be well, as they receive Government pay in the shape of bounty, that they should be bound to show themselves once a month to the inspector or sergeant of police wherever they reside, subject to a penalty for disobeying the order, to ensure their being forthcoming whenever wanted.
In order to make the men respect the profession of arms, I would give them some little privileges after five years service, with credit. This would induce others to follow their example, and it would bring a better class of men into the ranks. It would be desirable to raise the bounty, but it is useless entering upon that subject, as parliament would not, in all probability, sanction a larger sum than that now given on attestation. The 60,000 or 75,000 men, then, being all drilled during the three years, for three months continuously, would form a fine reserve force, always available. If it so happened that there was a great demand for men in the line regiments, which it was important to obtain as speedily as possible, I would, a week before the disembodiment of those in training, send down officers from corps not up to their full complement, for the purpose of obtaining volunteers; and they would get numbers ready drilled and fit for service.
On first joining, recruits feel the restraint of military discipline; and it is not till they have overcome the monotony of their preliminary drills that they begin to prefer their new calling to their former occupations. Many would take advantage of the bounty and enter the regular army at the expiration of the three months' training. But I would go still farther, and do away with the present system of recruiting altogether; thereby effecting a considerable saving. This might be done at once, by adding that duty to those of the adjutants and permanent staff of militia corps, who have better opportunities of getting good men, than recruiting sergeants, who are sent to towns and villages, where they have no local influence, and are unacquainted with the people from whom they expect to obtain recruits. I think I have shown sufficient to prove, that my plan would be
* See Appendix A.
preferable to the present organisation of our militia forces, whether as regards the expense, their effectiveness, or their general utility. I must not omit, however, the subject of their armament, which is now very defective. The old brown Bess, with a percussion lock, has been served out to all the corps, with the exception of the Rifles. These muskets are valueless in the present day, when such superior arms are in use in other services; and when the importance of superior weapons is considered, it is high time the militia had theirs taken into store, and better issued in lieu of them. I do not think it would be necessary, or even desirable, to give the Enfield, the Minie, or any other rifle, to more than the flank companies, but they should be composed of the best shots in each regiment. It is not enough to give a man a good weapon, he must also know how to use it. Take any number of soldiers, you will always find a great many who never would be good shots if they practised all their lives. The battalion companies should have lighter and better muskets than those now in use; but the rifle I would reserve for those on the flanks, partly for the reasons I have stated, and partly from economical motives.
I have mentioned the probability of a deficiency of subaltern officers hereafter, and even if a third of the militia were embodied for three months annually, the same want would be felt. It occurs to me that their places might be filled by some such arrangement as the following: I would attach young men, who purpose making the army their profession, to the 20,000 or 25,000 in training during three months; and when they were disembodied, I would place them under the adjutants of militia depots, to acquire a thorough knowledge of company drill, the interior economy of a regiment, and the routine of the orderly room. They might serve as cadets; and in addition to the examination, as to their literary qualifications, I would require them to produce a certificate from the officer commanding the regiment to which they might be attached, specifying not only that they had made themselves acquainted with regimental duties, but also that they were physically qualified for the service. This would prevent any joining the army if they were constitutionally unfit for it; besides which, they could at once commence doing duty. I may add, as regards the privates, that twentyeight days' training only prove very trying to lads who have not been well fed, and are out of condition. The officer commanding is naturally desirous of pushing them on in their drills, and, feeling weak and tired, they get disgusted with the service, and are glad to return to their usual avocations.
By spreading the drills over a longer period, the men acquire strength, and no longer consider them oppressive. In conclusion, 20,000 or 25,000 men embodied for three months would enable the adjutants to form good non-commissioned officers, which it will be almost impossible to do under present circumstances. Those who come from the line, and act as pay-sergeants, are often nearly worn out, and are not fit for active service, or hard work. I had once thought it possible to recruit the army entirely from the ranks of the militia; but, on consideration, I see many difficulties, that appear to me insurmountable in such a project. If, during the Crimean war, militia regiments had been allowed to volunteer with their officers, it would have been easy to have sent oat from 20,000 to 30,000 well-drilled soldiers on that service. There were 10,000 at Aldershot, 7,000 or 8,000 in the Mediterranean, and plenty in the various garrisons at home, who would have gone to a man. As it was, our army would have been reduced to a mere skeleton, if it had not been for the drafts that joined it from that force. The foreign legion must have cost infinitely more than the militia would, if the Government had thought fit to employ the material it already possessed. I think, therefore, I am justified in saying, that the plan I have sketched out—although, no doubt, many modifications of it may be suggested, by persons more competent than myself to weigh its advantages and disadvantages—is, on the whole, one that would be more efficient than the present system and I have shown by figures; that it is not so expensive.
I have seen a good deal of that branch of the service, and I am convinced it only requires good management to make it a most useful force, available on all occasions, and under any circumstances.
Appendix (A). Expense ofTo,000 Militia as at present constituted.
Average enrolment . . . . £22,500 0 0
28 days' training . . . . 277,500 0 O
Disembodied expenses . . . . 95,586 5 O
Clothing ditto . . . . 86,650 1 6
Total per annum . . £482,236 6 6
Calling out 25,000 of the above for three months, yearly.
Difference of staff-pay between embodied and
disembodied state Average enrolment, 25,000 men Training 25,000, three months . .
The annual expenses would then be—
Brought down £288,815 12 G
25,000 disembodied nine months .. 23,896 11 3
50,000 enrolment expenses . .' 15,000 0 O
50,000 disembodied twelve months 63,724 3 4
75,000 clothing expenses . . 87,650 1 6
Grand total . . £479,086 8 7