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The Haldane Reforms - Planning For The First World War

1914 saw the British Army deploy to France, the Haldane reforms that followed on from the Boer war were crucial to the survival of the British Army and the course of the First World War

Date : 11/01/2016


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Uploaded by : Paul
Uploaded on : 11/01/2016
Subject : History

The Haldane Reforms #150 How far did government reform the British Army after the experience of the Boer War?


Britainís experience in the Second South Africa War 1899-1902 proved a costly one involving 448,000 troops from Britain and its empire at a cost of £201 million pounds. The casualties were also high 5,774 men had been killed, 22,829 were wounded, over 16,000 had died of disease, and another 75,000 were sick enough to have left South Africa before the warís end. There were not surprisingly widespread calls for the reform of the army and the War Office.

Lord Roberts (one of the two key generals leading the army at the time of the Boer War) started on reforms of training and the introduction of a new drill manual. The infantry were equipped with the new Lee Enfield rifle and quick firing guns were introduced into the artillery.

William Broderick (the Secretary of State for War) started on organisational reforms of the army. He proposed the creation of an army of six corps involving a vast increase in enlistment and a 50% increase in expenditure for the army. Recruits would enlist for a minimum of three years with improved rates of pay especially those who chose to extend their service but his pans for such a massive increase were his downfall and he was replaced by Hugh Arnold -Foster.

Foster was a noticeable critic of the Cardwell reforms and set about reforming the War Office. His investigative committee called for the creation of an Army Council with a permanent secretariat (administrative staff). The creation of a General Staff was an important change. Foster faced a number of problems, firstly there was a massive recruiting crisis as volunteers who had signed up out of patriotism during the Boer War had completed their three years and were leaving the army. Secondly the Treasury expected substantial economies now that the war was over. Foster abandoned the Corp plan of his predecessor and set about a new plan based on two types of enlistment. Nine year men would garrison the foreign postings and provide a striking force while three year men would be retained at home and form the basis of a reserve. Arnold-Foster like many before him saw the navy as the main defence against invasion and saw little need for large auxiliary forces at home, he therefore disbanded the militia system of volunteers incorporating about half of the men into the reserve.

Arnold-Foster faced considerable opposition but why?

He was tactless and opinionated Within Parliament he faced opposition from within the Cabinet but also within Parliament itself as many M.Pís were themselves volunteers in the Militia. The House of Lords opposed the reforms for much the same reasons Three of the four members of the Army Council opposed the changes, two of them former Ministers for War Arnold-Foster finally gained Cabinet approval for his nine-year long service enlistment plan and for an experiment in short-term recruiting for three years starting in 1905 but he achieved little as the scheme had too little time to take effect before the government fell at the next general election. Arnold Fosterís scheme lacked credibility failed to gain the support of important supporters and did not bring the savings the Treasury expected.

The new Liberal Secretary of State for War Richard Burton Haldane started afresh. He had no preconceived ideas but was determined to conform to a treasury limit of £28 million pounds as an acceptable budget. Assisted by his military secretary one Colonel Ellison Haldane planned a two-line army, a striking force of three army corp supported bu elements of the militia and the yeomanry, and a Territorial Force, created from the volunteers and the rest of the militia and yeomanry that could support and expand the existing striking force in the later stages of a major war. The Territorial Force would be strongly linked to counties and based on voluntary service the difference being that this force would have no role in home defence except repelling local raids but could and would serve abroad in war. Haldane later claimed that Sir Edward Gray as Foreign Secretary had quietly warned Haldane about the possibility of a German attack on France and that Haldane took account of this in his plans. So than how did Haldane reform the army?

To meet the demands for drafts (replacements) for units serving overseas and to keep within his budget Haldane restored the Cardwellian System of seven or eight years service with the colours followed by four or five in the reserves He increased the number of Battalions at home from 71 to 74 by reducing those serving overseas. This made possible the creation of an expeditionary force of six large divisions plus a cavalry division. In effect the largest force that could be raised from within the existing army. The withdrawal and disbanding of some units on overseas service proved popular. The General Staff came into being as a planning body for the army The 1907 Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill created the Territorial Force based on the Counties. However Haldane also faced resistance, The Yeomanry resisted county control, the Militia protested about the possibility of overseas service and this provision was removed. The concessions that Haldane had to make to get the 1907 bill through weakened its purpose and the size of the new force as exemptions were made.

So what was achieved?

Haldaneís plan of linking the Territorial Force to the Counties was a good one and ensured that the wealthy county families would both support and encourage the new force. The setting up of Officersí Training Corps (OTC) at public schools and universities helped to supply potential officers for any war expansion. However neither the OTC or the special reserve set up for militia men to provide 6 months training as a support for the expeditionary force reached their planned numbers despite a general rise in recruiting during the German invasion scare of 1909. As usual part-time soldiering had little appeal for the general public and the Territorial Force remained linked to home defence rather than overseas service but it was better equipped and organised than before. It had engineers, artillery, supply and medical units which although not ready for war could be made so in a relatively short time. Haldane had a serious ally in the form of Major-General Douglas Haig who helped with the administration and organisation of the new force. Plans were also started on how to mobilize the forces involving talks with the various railways and the vital issue of shipping and movement of large forces in war although this needed to continue after Haldane left office.

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