England) Voluntary Service Committee (London.

The case for voluntary service; the handbook of the Voluntary Service Committee online

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The Case For
Voluntary Service

The Handbook of the
VohtntarY Service Committee



Orchard House, Westminster

London :

Printed by the National Press Agency Limited,.

Whitefriars House, Carmelite Street, E.G.




I. The Problem in its Political and Social

Aspect I

II. The Imperial and Military Policy in

Outline i8

III. Voluntary and Compulsory Armies ... 31

IV. The Territorial Force ... ... ... 50

V. The Particular Problem of Home Defence 81

y\. Alternative Schemes Examined ... ... 98

VII. The National Service League's Army

Estimates 119

VIII. Summary and Conclusion 134



I. Notes Containing- the Admiralty View of

the Risk of Invasion ... ... ... 148

II. Note on the Word " Conscription " ... 151

III. Compulsory Service in the Dominions ... 156

IV. Some Opinions on \'oluntary Service and

the Territorial Force i6c

(a) Voluntary Service as a Policy ... i6(>



(h) Lord Roberts's Opinion of the

Territorial Force — and Others ... 163

(c) Some Leaders of Industry ... ... 169

(d) Some Press Views of the National

Service League's Campaign ... 171

V. Musketry 177

VI. Principal Terms of Enlistment in the

Regular Army ... ... ... ... 178

VII. The Failure of Compulsory Service Pro-
posals to Secure Support in the Houses
of Parliament i<S3

VIII. A " Stale Libel" 190

IX. Territorial Force Composition Tables ... 191

Index ... 195

It is sometimes said that the principle of voluntary
service is so secure, and the attack on it so little likely
to be successful, that elaborate arguments in its defence
are unnecessary. The writers of this book do not take
this view. They believe that it is dangerous to leave
any accepted principle undefended when it is exposed
to constant and organised attack by a zealous body of
propagandists. They have, therefore, attempted in
this volume to supply a full and careful account of the
reasons which, in their opinion, render it imperative
that the voluntary system of recruiting should be re-
tained in the United Kingdom and a firm resistance
offered to all efforts to establish the principle of

/Aluch has already been written on the moral and
social aspects of this question and the importance of
these can never be exaggerated ; but the special object
of this book is to explore the military and strategical
points of view and to show that the voluntary svstem of
recruiting, which now obtains in our Regular Army
and Territorial Force, is better suited than any other
to the special needs and conditions of the British


If once the generous chief arrive

To lead him willing to be lead,
For Freedom he will strike and strive,

And drain his heart till he is dead.
In an age of fops and toys,

Wanting wisdom, void of right,
Who shall nerve heroic boys

To hazard all in Freedom's fight- -
Break sharply off their jolly games,

Forsake their comrades gay.
And quit proud homes and youthful dames,

For famine, toil, and fray ?
Yet on the nimble air benign

Speed nimbler messages,
That waft the breath of grace divine

To hearts in sloth and ease. "'^

So nigh is grandeur to our dust.

So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, " Thou must,"

The youth replies, " I can."

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

By permission of Messrs. Macmillan and Co. Ltd.




Part I. — Considerations of International Politics

Section i. — Armaments and Competition

Before effecting any fundamental change in our
national military policy, it is essential that we should
ask ourselves what wall be the result upon our inter-
national relations and upon the policy of other nations.
All military power is relative, and if a change, though
it may make our military forces larger and more
' (Ticient, is likely to have an adverse effect on our inter-
national relations or on the policy of other nations, it
may end in leaving us relatively weaker than before.
To gauge the effect of the adoption of compulsory
military service, it is not sufficient merely to state our
own intentions. We may be quite certain that the
least favourable construction will be placed on our
actions elsewhere, and if we are to form any reliable
forecast, we must endeavour to put ourselves into the
position of a suspicious, even an unreasonably
suspicious, outsider. Thus the recent increase in the
German Army was ascribed in Germany to the change


in the situation in the Near East; but its effect in
France was instantaneous and obvious. Some of the
advocates of compulsion openly avow that the army of
their dreams is to be available for operations on the
Continent. Others, more thoughtful of the opposition
which they have to face at home, assure us that this
army is to be confined to strictly defensive operations
in this country. Yet even the latter cannot argue for
five minutes without disclosing the thought which is at
the back of their minds that the weapon which they
are forging is one which in fact, though not in theory,
is to be available for foreign adventure.* If these are
the views expressed at home, can it be doubted that
foreign nations will not view the proposed army as
intended solely for use against an invasion which they
in their turn will say cannot reasonably be appre-
hended? So momentous a change in the military
policy of a power which claims to be mistress of the
seas will inevitably be interpreted as meaning that the
military pow'er so created is intended, or may at some
future time be used for the only purpose which it can
usefully serve, i.e., operations upon territories other
than our own, and equally inevitably the reply will be
a demand on the Continent for the most effective
weapon to prevent the possibility of such operations,
i.e., increased naval armaments.

To a Continental rival military power on our part
signifies a weapon of offence to which their defence is
increased powder on the seas. To us such an increase
will represent an addition to the offensive power of our

* " The question is, can we supply France with a force strong
enough to redress her numerical weakness? ... In other words,
can we supply at least 300,000 men?" — Fallacies and Facts, p. 118.


rivals. Thus the vicious circle is completed and the
certain effect of a revolution in our military policy will
be to add to the difliculty of maintaining our
superiority in the one form of power which is really
essential to our safety.

Do not let the argument be misunderstood. We
are not to be deterred from taking any step by the mere
fear that our motives may be misconstrued. It is not
that, but the realisation of what will be the actual effect
of the step proposed, which gives us reason to pause
before we take it.

Section 2. — Armaments and Co-operation

The question of the army which may be required
to take part in a Continental war belongs to the
military problem which is considered in a later
chapter; but it is often urged that, unless a change is
made, the other parties to the entente will modify their
policy and the whole balance of power will be shifted.

It is sufficient to point out that there is no evidence
to support any such suggestion ; the entente came into
existence under the present system, and there would
not appear to be any reason why it should not continue.
Our Navy is, after all, no inconsiderable contribution
to the strength of the entente, and the maintenance of
its supremacy is of far more importance than the power
to furnish any increased military force which the
adoption of compulsory service would possibly enable
us to send abroad. If, as will be argued later, com-
pulsory service would impair the efficiency of both the
Navy and Regular Army, our power to support the
entente would be diminished instead of increased.



Section 3. — Armaments and the Picture

Finally, there is the consideration that the step once
taken is irrevocable. A voluntary system can be
adapted to the changing circumstances of the time.
Once start on the road to universal compulsion, and
there can be no return. There are few of us who
regard armaments and military force otherwise than
as an expedient necessary to combat the forces of evil
which beset our path. Who can question that for one
more nation to enmesh itself in the toils of a military
system which is to be compulsory not only on the
present generation but on their descendants will be
to add one more obstacle to the triumph of right over
might, of reason over force ?

Part II. — Considerations of National Politics

The advocates of compulsory service frequently
adduce arguments to show that, apart from any
question of military necessity, the system is desirable
in itself. Very little consideration will sufifice to show
that the reverse is the case. The following are some
of the very obvious objections.

I. The Cost. — Details as to the cost of some of the
systems proposed are given in Chapter VII. and
Appendix III. The figures show that on any system a
heavy addition to the National Budget is inevitable.
Not only is this addition a serious matter in itself,
but when a large section of the electorate is already of
opinion that the present expenditure is excessive, the
result is bound to be that the demand for a reduction
in other directions will be much increased. Whether


this demand deserves sympathy or not, it exists, and
it is folly to deny its influence. Those who recom-
mend this large addition must face the fact that it will
make it far more diflficult to obtain for the Navy or
the Regular Army the money required, and that the
question is not merely: "Can the additional
expenditure be met? " but, " Can it be met without
injury to the other forces of the Crown? "

But the addition to the Budget is only a part of the
cost. The adoption of compulsory service means that
thousands are annually transferred from productive to
unproductive work. The compulsionists boast that
they will take the best, and therefore the most valuable,
men. Some of the work which would otherwise be
done by the men who are training may, no doubt, be
done by inferior men who would otherwise be out of
work; but allowing even ten shillings a week for each
man and four months as the period, the industrial loss
would, on this head, workoutat;[^i, 200, 000 per annum.
To this must be added the loss due to the periodical
removal of the trained men called out annually. These
men's places cannot be filled, and allowing ;^i per
week for 400,000 men for a fortnight, we have another
;^8oo,ooo. But even this is only a fraction of the loss.
It is the constant theme of employers that if Brown
goes to camp, it means that Jones and Robinson,
whose work depends on Brown being there, cannot
get on ; and there are many employers who say that if
all the men liable to train under a compulsory system
were called out it would mean shutting down work for
the fortnight, so that five or six men would be rendered
idle for every one actually called out for training. It
is impossible to make any estimate approaching to


accuracy, but that the economic loss would amount to
several millions per annum is unquestionable.

2. Interference with Personal Liberty. — This
again is a far more serious objection than is often
imagined. In this country, above all others, inter-
ference with personal liberty is resented. Compulsory
armies, whatever their type, involve the necessity of
taking steps to see that the service is not evaded. The
police and civil authorities must be enabled to keep
their eye, not only on the men who are on the active
list, but on the reservists. Anyone who cares to study
the practical working of a compulsory system will do
well to turn to the elaborate German law on the
subject. A few examples of the obligations are the
following : —

To notify to the police any change of address even
in the case of a temporary holiday.

To obtain special permission to emigrate.

To come up for training when and where it
suits the military authorities.

Then again it is proposed to place restrictions on
employers. — though how they are to be worked in
practice nobody knows — to prevent any employee from
being penalised by his liability to serve.

Some may say that it is no bad thing to make a
shirker do some hard work, but the objection to
military service on ethical or religious grounds is wide-
spread, and is an objection which even those who do
not agree with it cannot easily condemn. The propor-
tion of those who will refuse to submit in this country
is certainly not likely to be less than, say, in Australia


and New Zealand; and the number of convictions
calculated in proportion to the population would be
startling* — a somewhat significant example of the
lessons which compulsionists are always bidding us
learn from the Dominions.

3. Inequality of the Burden. — " Universal service
must be, and universal service alone can be, fair " is a
favourite theme. But those who dilate on it forget
that " universal service " has never been proposed by
anyone. The National Service League's estimate
of numbers provides for the training of only about one-
third of the men reaching military age. These will
be selected according to physical standards, but this
does not imply that those who will not be trained are
physically unfit for industrial competition. The man
who is short, or narrow-chested, or who has bad sight
or any other slight defect which results in his not
being chosen, may be just as effective in a dozen walks
of life as the man who has to serve. Yet one will have
to serve, while the other escapes. Most secure of all
will be the alien who, whatever his efficiency, will
always be free. Under the present system, when the
l)urden is light and when the man who cannot under-
take it is not forced to do so, there is no real unfair-
ness; under any system of compulsory service it will
be a very different story.

So also as regards employers, something has
already been said of the loss which will be infiicted,
but the loss will not fall equally on all. In some forms
of industry, the men can easily be spared; in others

*The total number of defaulters in New Zealand, to April ist,
T913, was 3,903 ; and in Australia, up to May 31st, 1913, the prosecu-
tions were 12,373.


only with the utmost inconvenience. Even in the
same industry it may be easy for the large employer to
spare his proportion of men, while for the man who
employs only a few hands, the loss of even one may
mean complete dislocation of his business. Then,
again, in the selection of employees, there will be the
temptation for the less patriotic employer to select his
men from those who are ineligible for service.

At present the men can be obtained by following
the line of least resistance. If there is occasional
grumbling at either the master or the man who does
not shoulder the small burden which others think he
might well bear, there is no real sense of injustice.
Masters and men volunteer to give their share, and,
when all is said and done, they are gratified to feel
they have done so. Under compulsion it will be a
very different matter. There will be real and serious
inequalities, and compliance with an obligation from
which there is no escape will bring no compensating
sense of satisfaction.

4. Moral and Physical Effects. — When faced with
objections such as those mentioned above, the
advocates of compulsion point triumphantly to the
moral and physical benefits which are supposed to
follow from the discipline and exercise which the train-
ing will involve. The physical benefit is undoubted,
but to see that those who most need the benefit will
not get it, it is only necessary to point out again that
the section of the population who alone will get this
benefit will be the men who are chosen on account
of the physical advantages they already possess.
As a scheme of physical regeneration the proposal is
ridiculous, and it is noteworthy that the late Mr. Price-


Collier, in his work on " Germany and the Germans,"
though recognising the improvement in the physique
of individuals, is by no means impressed with the
general level throughout the country. He states
(p. 290), that according to the army standard, both the
German peasant and the urban dweller are steadily
deteriorating; and (p. 457) that the German recruit,
especially from the towns, in whatever part of the
country, is losing vigour and stamina. And this is in
Germany where the process of physical regeneration
extends over two years, while according to the least
unpopular scheme proposed for this country it will
only last for four or six months! Nor should it be
forgotten that, although Lord Roberts paints in
attractive colours the comforts and the advantages of a
period of life in barracks, the League, of which he is
the President, makes no provision in its estimates for
permanent accommodation of any kind.

The moral benefit is also open to doubt. In a
period of two years, and when the recruit at once joins
his future regiment, a good deal may, perhaps, be
achieved, but even then the result is apt to be some-
thing of a sealed pattern article. On the other hand,
under the system of the National Service League, the
segregation of some thousands of young men for a
very limited period under a few outside instructors
with no regimental tradition, no esprit dc corps, no
common bond, except that all have to sul^mit for a time
to a system which not a few will cordially resent, does
not strike one as an ideal school for morals ; nor is it
likely that the training of successive contingents of
raw — and probably in many cases unwilling — recruits,
will prove so pleasant a task as to attract the best


instructors, while the fact that the recruits themselves
at the end of their first period will be lost sight of,
will remove the most powerful encouragement to an
instructor — the knowledge that the future of his unit
depends on his efforts.

The presence of even a small number of recal-
citrants will render necessary a rigidity of control, a
resort to driving instead of leading, which will not
mean discipline in its true sense. In an army recruited
voluntarily, attraction must play its part, but in a com-
pulsory army it is unnecessary and extravagant. As
a nation we are, perhaps, more used to comfort than
most. The average Territorial camp does not strike
us as anything out of the ordinary in the way of com-
fort, yet General Langlois wrote of his visit in 1909:
** So comfortable an installation for fifteen days' stay
profoundly astonished us in comparison with the poor
equipment of our own permanent camps."* Retired
colonels from their arm-chairs may deplore our
national characteristics as decadent, but a four months',
training for a fraction of the population will not prove
a panacea. On the contrary, it is far more likely that
the result will be to create an unfavourable impression
and a false idea of what true discipline means.

Part III. — The Effect of the Agitation for
Compulsory Service

At first sight it might seem illogical to base an
argument against compulsory service upon a condition
of affairs which would cease to exist if compulsory

* " The British Army in a European War." p. i8.


service became the law. But just as the value of an
investment cannot be judged only by the price it may
ultimately realise, to the exclusion of any question of
the immediate return, so it is impossible to decide the
question of compulsory service without regard to the
risks involved in the process of obtaining it. It is,
therefore, not irrelevant to point to those risks as an
argument in favour of deciding once for all against
compulsory service.

In the first place, any system of compulsory
service, even if the principle had been decided upon,
would take years to bring into full working order.* But
the effect on the present organisation would be im-
mediate, f and the intervening period one of chaos. If
it is true that unscrupulous foes are ever on the watch
for an opportunity to attack us, their chance would
come long before the proposed reorganisation could
have achieved anything except the destruction of our
present forces.

But there is an antecedent question which must be
answered : — What practical prospect is there of carry-
ing a measure of Compulsory Service either in the near
or more distant future? We doubt whether there is
anyone, however ardent and optimistic a supporter of
compulsion he may be, who can honestly say that he
sees any prospect whatever. The leaders of the Liberal

* See Appendix III.

tThe National Service League's Rill proposes to prohibit the
re-engagement of any soldier in the Territorial Force after the
passing of the Rill. As the engagements of about 80,000 will
normally expire each year, including most of the N.C.O.'s, it will
no longer be possible for the Force to train, much less to take the
field. There will be no officers available to train the League's
recruit contingent, so that it will be three or four years before we
have any force at all besides the Regular Army.


Party have pronounced emphatically against it; to the
Labour Party it is anathema; individual members of
the Unionist Party have in considerable numbers
expressed opinions in favour of it, but no one has
ventured to suggest that the proposal should be made
an item of the pa*ty programme, and many Unionists
are among its most determined opponents.*

Compulsory service can only be carried as a
Government measure. It cannot be so carried unless
it has been before the electors at a General Election
recommended by the party victorious at the polls.
The leaders of the Liberal Party could not, even if
they were so minded, recede from their attitude of
opposition without destroying their party. The
Unionist Party, in the face of a Liberal and Labour
opposition, could not hope to win an election if they
supported compulsory service as a practical pro-
gramme. Not long ago the success of Colonel Weston
at Kendal was hailed as a victory for the National
Service League and Lord Roberts. In fact, it was a
testimony to the hopelessness of their cause, for the
gallant colonel found it necessary in the clearest terms
to dissociate himself from anything like the League's
policy by the following announcement: " My scheme
is simply that young fellows — not all, mind you, but as
many as may be necessary — should be called upon in
the winter evenings to do a bit of drill. In addition to
the drills, which the young fellows would really enjoy,
if they were so arranged as to suit their occupations,
the young fellows would be asked in the spring
months, on days convenient to them, to go to the rifle
range. ... If they had six musketry attendances

* See Appendix IV.


in the year, it would be sufficient." That the advocacy
of such a policy, which, be it observed, does not even
involve a compulsory camp of any description, should
be regarded as a feat of electoral heroism, is the most
convincing evidence of how far we are from the time

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Online LibraryEngland) Voluntary Service Committee (LondonThe case for voluntary service; the handbook of the Voluntary Service Committee → online text (page 1 of 14)