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OUR AUXILIARY CAVALRY.
It is a very general military opinion that our Auxiliary Cavalry as at present organised and equipped is not adapted for the duties which on an emergency it might be called upon to perform. Hussar jackets, antiquated head-dresses, gaudy horse-trappings, and clattering scabbards may still bring down the gallery at an inspection, but are out of touch with the practical ideas of the soldier of to-day.
At the same time we must remember that our Yeomanry material is all the best that England can produce, the health and strengtb and spirit and horsemanship of the country, officered and led by its country gentlemen. It is impossible to imagine a finer force or one more representative of the stuff of which the country districts are composed. It should be our aim to render it as efficient as possible for the work for which it is intended : it should be encouraged to keep pace with the march of military organisation and equipment, and to fit into its place in the machine of our Auxiliary Army.
The Yeomanry and the Militia are the representatives of a Reserve army of bygone days; they were raised when another military system existed, and to them has been added a Volunteer army of some 225,000 men. On whatever footing the three forces are serving, they at any rate represent an Auxiliary army intended specially for home defence, whose interests are practically identical ; whilst the Volunteer movement has brought not only an addition of drilled men to our defensive strength, but has given rise to a flood of military thought and military criticism. Tactical societies for purposes of instruction in military subjects, lectures which are given under their direction, the 'war games' inaugurated by them, and the tactical examinations passed by many Volunteer officers, bear witness to the eagerness with which professional knowledge is sought for. The efficiency and the imperfections of the Auxiliary army are anxiously discussed, and amongst many burning questions none perhaps excites more interest than the organisation and equipment of our Auxiliary Cavalry. Is it possible to create efficient Cavalry in ten days' training? Are we making the best use of our Yeomanry material ? Are we not pursuing a phantom in aiming at Cavalry perfection ? Do we not sanction unnecessary expense and unsuitability for field
work in permitting unworkmanlike and gaudy uniforms ? Are we not ignoring the great capabilities the inen possess for reconnoitring work, outpost work, and above all of becoming good rifle shots?
This Auxiliary Cavalry is required for home defence—that is to say, the highest object of its ambition should be to render itself as capable as possible of assisting to repel an invasion; it is not intended for foreign service. What would its work be in case of an invasion ? Would it be expected to act according to all the strictly Cavalry maxims—to manæuvre in regiments or brigades ? to trust to its sword, and to watch for opportunities of 'shock'? Or would its individual knowledge of country be its most valuable quality ?-its power of scouting and giving rapid information, of orderly work, escorting of convoys, and, if properly armed, of holding important posts with small parties, and of checking an enemy's advance in an unfriendly country by its long-range
fire ? Criticism asserts that the force is not suitably armed or equipped for these latter duties. Our regular Cavalry have shortened their sling belts, have attached their swords to the saddle, have adopted a workingdress for campaigning; but the Yeoman is prepared only to take the field in a uniform that is out of date-in most cases an extremely expensive and unserviceable one—is taught to rely upon a bad sword as his first weapon, which in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he would never be called upon to use, and is supplied with an inferior firearm.
The Auxiliary Cavalry consists of thirty-nine regiments of Yeomanry, but there are also one regiment of Volunteer Light Horse, and one corps of Volunteer Mounted Rifles. They represent a total strength of 11,500 men. All the regiments are recruited from the country districts, and though some of them draw a considerable number of men from the large towns in their neighbourhood, the ranks are filled as a rule by farmers riding their own horses, and their officers are the county gentlemen.
The Yeomanry are enrolled under the Army Act, and are subject to military law while assembled for training; Light Horse and Mounted Rifles serve under the Volunteer Act—the most visible difference between the two services being that the Yeoman draws pay, and the Volunteer does not.
Enrolment under the Army Act, giving as it does greater powers of discipline than the Volunteer Act, is probably the most suitable form of enlistment for a class of men who, usually living at great distances from headquarters, see nothing of their officers in a military sense except during their regimental training, and are perhaps hardly sufficiently inclined to recognise the seriousness of the duties they accept on joining their regiment. Both Acts provide for a money grant to regiments on certain conditions of efficiency, but the
· There are also several corps of Volunteer Mounted Infantry, but they are practi. cally parts of certain Infantry battalions, and do not belong to the Volunteer Cavalry.
Yeomanry grant, besides being intended to cover expenses of equipment, provides for a certain scale of daily pay to officers and men. The Volunteer Act, of course, has no pay to deal with, and sanctions only a capitation allowance for efficiency.
It will be necessary later on to refer in greater detail to the distribution of these money grants; but I have no hesitation in saying that, from my experience in the command of a corps of Mounted Volunteers, the Yeomanry system of a daily payment to the men, and a money grant for their equipment, is the right one for an Auxiliary Cavalry, and that the Volunteer system of finance is entirely unsuitable for mounted corps, the capitation grant not being sufficient to meet the necessarily heavy expenses of a Cavalry equipment, or to make any provision for the extra risks incurred by a mounted man.
But though we may approve the terms of Yeomanry service, the extravagant expenditure on uniforms and equipment which the grant has been quite insufficient to meet, and the unpractical nature of the drill instruction of the force, cannot excite admiration.
The Yeomanry imitate all the full-dress magnificence of the Regular Cavalry, and in some cases even retain ornamental peculiarities which the Regular Cavalry have for the sake of greater efficiency discarded. They possess a purely Cavalry organisation; that is to say, they are drilled with the intention of making them as like a Cavalry regiment as possible. Their arms are those of the Regular Cavalry.
The Volunteer Light Horse and Mounted Rifles are in comparison very inexpensively clothed, whilst the latter differ from all other
corps in that they carry the long Martini-Henry rifle and have adopted a drill more in accordance with the probable duties of the men on service than that of the Cavalry drill-book. It will, I think, be generally admitted that a system of instruction in purely Cavalry drill extending over a period of ten days annually, which is the time for which all the regiments assemble, is not likely to produce great Cavalry perfection.
A very cursory examination of the peculiarities of our Auxiliary Cavalry at once suggests the possibility of an enormous reduction in Yeomanry expenditure, with a corresponding increase in efficiency by the adoption of a working-dress in the place of the present unserviceable uniforms; and if the Yeoman could, whilst reforming his dress, be persuaded to accept the arms, accoutrements, and drill system of Mounted Riflemen, he would incalculably increase his capabilities in the field.
Without going into minute details of organisation and equipment, let us glance at the chief characteristics of the three species of Auxiliary Cavalry.
The commanding officer of a Yeomanry regiment receives from
Government annually a money grant, called a contingent allowance, of 21. per man for every efficient Yeoman, and is also authorised to draw on the Bank of England for a sum sufficient for the payment of his men, calculated on an estimate made out by himself previous to the permanent duty of his regiment, and checked by the Treasury. Out of the annual revenue afforded him by the contingent allowance the commanding officer is expected to pay for clothing, equipment, and saddlery for his men, as well as for the cost of ranges, drill-sheds &c. Arms are supplied by Government.
The men are paid at the following rates :
So that the actual cost of each Yeoman to the country is
8. 3 0
The Yeoman provides his own horse; but he gets a free kit on joining his regiment, with the exception of a very few articles, and besides his uniform is supplied with a military saddle and bridle, sheepskin, valise and other heavy military horse-furniture. The whole outfit is supposed to be paid for from the regimental fund constituted by the contingent allowance. It is difficult to estimate the exact cost of a recruit, but on an average it would appear to be-uniform, 12l.; saddlery, 71. 188.; or a total of nearly 20l. per recruit.
The uniform provided consists of the full dress and undress uniform of a Cavalry regiment.
Arms are supplied by Government, viz. the Cavalry sword in a metal scabbard, and the Martini-Henry carbine, carried in a bucket behind the saddle as in the Regular Cavalry. Ammunition is also supplied by Government; but the men's pouches hold only fifteen rounds.
The regiments assemble for ten days' training annually; and though the amount of outpost and reconnaisance work has increased of late years, the training may be said to be devoted almost entirely to Cavalry field movements; the regiment is to resemble a Cavalry regiment as much as possible, and the object aimed at is perfection in Cavalry drill. Much time is wasted over the sword exercise,
? Permanent duty is composed as follows: One day's marching in; two days' troop drills; six days' permanent duty; one day's marching (dismissals); total, ten.
whilst the amount of carbine practice officially required is next to nothing. 3
Volunteer Light Horse and Mounted Rifles are on an entirely different footing financially to the Yeomanry. They serve on the Volunteer system of a capitation grant for efficient men, paid annually to the regimental fund. The grant at present amounts to 378. per efficient, with which the Volunteer commanding officer is asked to meet exactly the same regimental requirements as the Yeomanry commanding officer is required to do with a grant of 21. per man. Arms and ammunition are supplied by Government. The men provide their own horses, and they receive no pay. The cost of each man to the country is therefore 378.
The Light Horse appear to have been raised with the intention of their working on exactly the same lines as the Yeomanry; they were to be Yeomanry Cavalry, but on the Volunteer financial system. There is at present only one regiment in existence--the Fife and Forfar, commanded by Colonel Anstruther Thomson. The Duke of Manchester's Light Horse, which had a great reputation, but which has long ceased to exist, was, I believe, the model upon which Colonel Thomson's corps was organised. The men's kit is very simple and workmanlike. Their tunics are loose and serviceable; they use hunting saddles and bridles; their arms are the Cavalry sword and Martini-Henry carbine. Part of a recruit's kit is paid for from the regimental fund; for, notwithstanding the simplicity of the uniform, the capitation grant is totally inadequate to meet the entire expense. Their commanding officer, fully recognising the importance of good shots, has, I understand, contrived to obtain rather more than the forty rounds of Government ammunition which is issued to the Yeomanry.
As in the case of Light Horse, there is only one corps of Mounted Riflemen-viz. the Border Mounted Rifles. To its organisation and equipment I would venture to call particular attention. Owing to some confusion as to the nature of such corps at the time they were originated, it possesses, according to the Volunteer regulations, an Infantry establishment, but as a matter of fact is organised as a squadron, and is under the Inspector of Auxiliary Cavalry for the Northern District. The first corps of this description was raised in Hampshire by Colonel Bower. His men carried the rifle (then the Snider); they were distinguished for the workmanlike simplicity of their uniforms, and for the ease with which they worked across-country, and they relied for drill instruction chiefly upon a very practical and simple drill-book drawn up by their commanding officer. The Hampshire regiment is unfortunately no longer in the Army List, but to Colonel Bower the credit of the original idea of raising Volunteer Mounted Riflemen must be conceded. The Border Mounted Rifles followed his example. Their
3 The amount of Government ammunition supplied is forty rounds ball, twentyfive rounds blank.
Capitation grant 358., and 28. for each great-coat.