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Whatever the cause of the trouble may be, the remedy now to be adopted of lowering the age for admission to the military colleges, in accordance with Mr. Haldane's theories on the prohibitive cost of education, is surely a step in the wrong direction. The conditions of modern warfare demand an increasing level of education and intelligence from officers, in addition to the resourcefulness and force of character which have always been the first essentials, and which no examination can ever gauge; and there can be little doubt that a boy's last year at his public school, when he becomes an influential and responsible member of his miniature world, furnishes him with an experience of the utmost value in any subsequent career, and in none more valuable than the Army. It is just possible that the saving of a year's school-fees might attract a few more competitors for the military colleges, which must always form the most important channels to a commission. But the relief could hardly be anything but temporary, and any gain in numbers would be dearly bought by the consequent curtailment of the years spent in general education.
If there be any truth in the belief so widely held that the present dearth of officers is due rather to a shrinkage in the rising generation of the classes that have hitherto been the backbone of the Army, it would seem a wiser policy to seek to attract a larger proportion than before of the dwindling numbers of these classes, wherever they are to be found; at an age, moreover, less likely to suffer from the effects of the tropical climates to which so many young officers are sent as soon as they are gazetted to their regiments, than would be the case with cadets who enter Sandhurst at the age of seventeen.
Now nowhere is there a more abundant supply to be found of the very finest material than at the Universities. Every year the cream of the public schools rises continually to Oxford and Cambridge, and it is no exaggeration to say that scores of the best type of public schoolboy matriculate with but the vaguest idea of the form their future careers are to take. Till within recent years the tendency of University education has been to direct their unformed views of life into any direction but that of the Army. The whole atmosphere of the place was not merely unmilitary, but almost positively antagonistic to anything of the kind. Politics, the Church, the Bar, the Civil Service, educational appointments, and many other professions-all these the University curriculum provided for; but from the Army the authorities stood rigorously aloof. Latterly it has begun to dawn. upon some few of them that the military services of the Crown also have some claim upon the chief seats of national education. Oxford led the way by instituting schools' which enable a degree
to be taken in military studies, an admirable example which Cambridge was not slow to follow. So great is the favour these schools have found in the eyes of the War Office that within the last few weeks they have been officially accepted as substitutes for the War Office examination of University candidates. The powers that be therefore in Oxford have some claim upon the gratitude of the Army. But it is the astonishing growth of military spirit in the modern undergraduate, coupled no doubt with the increasing difficulty of obtaining an adequate supply of candidates elsewhere, that has compelled attention to the value of the Universities as recruiting grounds. The War Office, however indifferent they may have been in the past to the possibilities of this source, have recently shown a quick appreciation of the rising tide of warlike enthusiasm, and have spared no effort to keep it at high-water mark. During the last few months a succession of new regulations has been sanctioned, all designed to make smooth the path from the University to the Army.
Paramount in importance are the new provisions regarding antedate of commissions. Hitherto the one great bar to entering the Army through a University has been the question of seniority. The age handicap was bad enough when the maximum age was twenty-two, and the University candidate could qualify for Sandhurst, where he had to be trained for a year, by merely passing Moderations. That, however, is ancient history. It became far worse when the regulations of 1904, still in force, demanded a degree and at least three years' residence at the University, and as a necessary corollary raised the age-limit to twenty-five. That means that the average University candidate, on joining his regiment at the age of twenty-two or twenty-three, is always liable to find himself junior to boys who might have been his school fags, while his chances of ever obtaining a command are insignificant. It is true the regulations offer a year's antedate to any candidate who graduates with first-class honours. But the value of such an offer is sufficiently shown by the fact that no single candidate from either of the two great Universities, who form all but an insignificant proportion of the whole number of candidates, has ever benefited by it. Six candidates from one of the minor Universities certainly have been granted the extra year's antedate for a first-class. But standards no doubt differ, and for Oxford and Cambridge the rule has been a deadletter. More to the point is a rule which, though it professes to be no more than a temporary expedient and has never been announced in any official regulations, has nevertheless been carried out for six years. This provides that a University candidate, on being posted to his regiment, is given such an antedate as will give him precedence over any brother officer who has
joined the same corps from Sandhurst-not from Woolwichduring the previous twelve months. In point of fact the majority of candidates do benefit thereby to a limited extent. The drawback is that if a man joins a regiment in which there has been a long block, and no vacancies have arisen to be filled by a Sandhurst cadet during the last year, he gets no antedate whatever. So that it is a matter of pure chance what antedate, if any, is given at all; and it happens often enough that a candidate high on the nomination list of his University starts his service junior by anything up to twelve months to one at the bottom. When the new regulations come into operation, at the nomination of next Christmas, all University candidates alike are promised a definite antedate of eighteen months from the day on which they are gazetted; while an additional six months, counting moreover, unlike the first eighteen, towards pension, may be awarded to those who graduate with first- or second-class honours.
The regulations of 1912 introduce another change that removes a grievance which has long rankled among Oxford candidates, due to the proportion in which the total number of University commissions offered every six months is distributed. This was a point which the War Office left for the decision of the University members of the Advisory Board, whom they might naturally suppose to be best qualified to deal with it. Now the Universities,' in common parlance, means Oxford and Cambridge. The general public is only dimly aware that there are a number of other institutions which lay claim to that title. But the War Office, in their scrupulous zeal for strict impartiality, invited representatives to the Advisory Board from all manner of Universities, many of which were never likely to be of the least value as recruiting grounds, with the result that any one of these had as much voice in framing the regulations as the representatives of the two great Universities-and one or two, it is said, a good deal more. Consequently, for purposes of nominations, the 1904 regulations arranged the Universities into six groups, consisting of:
(a) The University of Oxford.
(d) The University of London.
(e) The Universities of Scotland.
The same number of commissions-viz. five-in Cavalry, Infantry, or Guards, with a subsequent addition of one in the Indian Army and one in the Royal Artillery, has been offered regularly every six months to each one of these six groups alike. The last three in seven years have between them furnished ng
more than seven candidates. Trinity College, Dublin, have never taken up all the vacancies placed at their disposal, but nevertheless have been able to accept an average of five commissions a year, and therefore have a strong claim to consideration. The numbers of candidates from Oxford and Cambridge now invariably exceed and frequently very largely exceed-the number of commissions to which they are entitled. Happily there is a further provision-that, if any of the groups are unable to award their commissions, the unallocated surplus shall be available for distribution among the candidates of other groups. In effect, therefore, there are forty-two commissions offered every six months to the Universities; and the insignificant number claimed by the other four groups leave a margin that has hitherto proved amply sufficient for the needs of Oxford and Cambridge, though it seems highly probable that these two alone will shortly require more commissions than up to the present have been available for the whole six groups.
But while the two principal Universities have always been granted commissions for every candidate they were able to nominate in one branch of the Service or another, they have not had anything like their fair share of the Indian commissions, for which the competition is always keen. The unallocated surplus is distributed on a definite system of rotation which pays no regard whatever to the numbers of candidates nominated by the several Universities. For instance, last summer Oxford nominated twenty-one candidates, Cambridge eighteen, Dublin two, and Edinburgh one. The two spare Indian commissions not taken up by the remaining groups fell to the turn of Cambridge and Dublin. So three Indian commissions went to two groups who had only furnished three candidates, and the same number to two groups who furnished thirty-nine. The chances on this occasion against an Oxford man getting the Indian Army were twenty to one; against the Cambridge man nine to one; while the Dublin and Edinburgh men got it for the asking. The case was very similar at the summer nomination of the previous year, when Oxford with twenty-one candidates again only got one Indian commission, Cambridge two with seventeen candidates, Dublin two with four, and Edinburgh one with the first and only candidate they had ever yet produced. And yet these allotments were entirely in accordance with the system laid down for the distribution of such commissions.
Instances of such flagrant anomalies repeated in successive years proved beyond dispute the need for a revision of the old system. Oxford renewed the protests on this subject raised the year before, and the 1912 regulations classify the Universities more in accordance with their value for this particular purpose4 E
VOL. LXXI-No. 424
and perhaps for any other. The six old groups disappear, and are replaced by three new ones-viz. (a) Oxford, (b) Cambridge, (c) the rest. Moreover, assurances have been given, though not embodied in the new regulations, that in future the coveted Indian commissions are to be distributed among the three groups in proportion to the total number of candidates nominated.'
There is one rule, still remaining in the 1912 regulations, which seems to do less than justice to the University candidate. Officers of any other Auxiliary Forces attached for instruction to Regular Units draw the full pay of their rank during the whole period of their attachment, as well as messing allowance and travelling expenses. University candidates, on the contrary, who receive temporary commissions in the Territorial Force before undertaking the course of instruction with a Regular Unit, which is one of the necessary conditions of obtaining a nomination, receive no pay or allowances whatever, and bear the whole cost of living in a mess during six weeks of one of their vacations out of their own pockets, or rather, those of parents whose resources may very well already be strained by the ordinary expenses of a University career. To some extent this anomaly may be justified by the fact that all other Auxiliary officers undertake responsibilities on accepting commissions which are not incurred by the University candidate, on whom the country can make no claim. Instances occur, too, of University candidates abandoning their intentions of taking commissions in the Regular Army after completing all their attachment. But both of these objections would be met by granting pay and allowances for the periods of attachment on condition of subsequently joining the Army, and only issuing them when the candidate had received his commission and was about to purchase his outfit.
That particular branch of the War Office which deals with the Universities and their Army candidates has laid them under so great obligations during the last few months that it seems a pity so small a matter as this should not be adjusted. The regulations of 1912 are as great an advance upon those of 1904 as the latter were on anything that had gone before. The barriers between the War Office and the Universities are vanishing fast. There is probably no public department which is the target for more irresponsible and ill-informed criticism than the War Office. The extremely able and experienced officers who compose its staff, hampered and tied as they are by financial and political considerations of which the outside public has no conception, pestered by all sorts of claims which take no account of the results their satisfaction would entail, endure with an ruffled reticence the constant clamour of foolish chatter that ever assails the Office they serve when it declines to entertain any