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better paid than infantry officers, though probably their allowances are less. The field-artillery subaltern is only slightly better paid than his infantry brother, and he has some considerable additional expense thrown on him on account of being mounted, and having to pay and clothe a groom.
It would be easy to enlarge upon the calls made upon officers in general, but enough has been said to make it clear that the average subaltern with an allowance of 100l. per annum, after he has met the claims which are compulsory, as well as those from which in practice he cannot escape, is left with, if any balance at all, one microscopically small; and that his position is very much worse than that of the private soldier, who, with proficiency pay, can count on receiving from 5s. to 10s. a week after all his expenses are paid. The officer, indeed, if of Spartan habits, may keep his head above water, but the ordinary subaltern, lively, active, untrained in habits of abstention, unaccustomed to manage a narrow income, is only too likely to fall, and, in fact, does almost consistently fall into a position from which escape is difficult and often impossible.
The subalterns of the Army serving at home and in the Mediterranean may be divided into three classes:
(1) Those with their heads above water in all weather.
(2) Those with their noses above water in calm weather, but from time to time washed by any passing storm, coming up again when the surface is calm, spluttering and exhausted.
(3) Those hopelessly immersed and beyond resuscitation from any efforts of their own.
Any attempt to assign the proportion of officers serving to each of these classes would obviously be the merest guesswork, and it is only as guesswork that I estimate that over 75 per cent. of the subalterns will be found in classes (2) and (3), and that of those in class (2) a large number require only a little extra heavy weather to qualify them for transfer to class (3); whilst every one in class (2), unless obtaining relief in one or other direction, must eventually pass to class (3). If this estimate has any claim to be even approximately correct, there must be some evidence of the state of affairs. An officer cannot remain below water in his finances without giving some indication. His liabilities must set him in motion in one direction or another. And, in effect, they do move him. There is a constant flowing tide carrying the young officers of the Army away from their corps at home. Some, the more fortunate ones, get appointments at home, in the Colonies, in the Egyptian Army or elsewhere; some go to their foreign units; many take a tour to the West Coast of Africa, that Alsatia of capitalists with an adverse balance; some go to the East Coast; some to other parts of the world; and some leave
their corps for good, to start life afresh in the Colonies or at home with little equipment, material or mental, for their new undertaking; whilst a remnant disappear altogether into a lower stratum of society. The public are ignorant of this great movement, which never comes before their notice except in the case of those gazetted out of the Service. When they read in the papers that Lieutenant Blank has been selected for appointment to some distinguished African corps, they are ignorant of the qualifications which have gained him that distinction, and that he is seeking the regions of the tropics not because he finds the British Isles too cold for him, but for exactly the opposite reason.
No doubt the greater number of the officers who thus migrate from their corps at home and in the Mediterranean are not lost to the Service, and probably return some day to the fold they have left. But they are removed for the time from the most important part of the regular army, the expeditionary force; if they return it is probably with discontented spirits and with lowered health, and, on the whole, the country is undoubtedly a loser through the misfortunes of its youngest servants. And it would be the greatest mistake to regard them as criminals or wasters, or men of no parts. They represent generally the activity, the high spirits, the initiative which go to make the best qualities in an officer. They have passed out of bounds because their environment has been found too narrow. Surely they are worth saving.
But from what direction is salvation to come? No remedies which are within reach will make the subaltern's position impregnable. The influences which affect an officer's attitude towards questions of expenditure lie too deep-rooted in regimental tradition, regimental customs and in the circumstances of his daily life to be brought under control by ordinary methods. It has been shown, for example, that an officer, if a rigid abstainer, and if he takes no part in voluntary subscriptions or in recreations, can live on his pay and a moderate allowance. Is the country prepared to see the subaltern, as we now know him, converted into such an ascetic, and if this conversion were possible, would the Service be benefited by it? It is, however, mere waste of time to contemplate a reform which it would take something like a miracle to effect. A solution of the expense question in this direction is neither possible nor is it to be desired.
The revision of the pay of the junior regimental officers is a subject upon which a vast expenditure of ink and paper has been incurred for years past without producing any result. And yet no one denies that the subaltern is inadequately paid. What he receives is not only no living wage; it is not a living wage when supplemented by such allowance as can be called reasonable.
Within the last hundred years everything has changed for him except his rate of pay. He is no longer the man of means and of leisure that he was in purchase days, and when the Army was much smaller. His expenses have increased, as well as his work and responsibilities, and at the same time the ability of parents and guardians to make large allowances has disappeared. In some way or other an improvement in the conditions of service as affecting his financial position is imperative. There is absolutely nothing to be urged against it except the cost to the country. That argument had some force when there were from five to ten candidates for every commission offered, but to-day when there is rarely more than one candidate forthcoming for every commission, and when boys have been admitted to cadetships even for the artillery and engineers without examination and without selection, it falls to the ground. A decade ago, when this matter was much before the public, some steps were taken to reduce the subaltern's expenses. He was relieved of band subscriptions, his uniform was simplified, and some of his adornments were removed (not altogether to his satisfaction nor to the benefit of his pocket), and in other ways attempts were made to curtail expenditure in messes. On the whole he benefited by the alterations carried out, but the net reduction of expenditure was small. Some of the salutary measures adopted then have gradually fallen into disuse; some have been outmanoeuvred by strategical means easy of application to any regulation, and, in general, regimental expenses have recovered from the temporary check they experienced ten years ago. When the number of vacancies in the commissioned ranks exceeds the number of candidates for the Army, this question of the subaltern's expenses must be handled seriously, if it is it is not touched till then. Many schemes, no doubt, for helping the officer without great cost to the State will be considered. The War Office might, for example, copy the Admiralty, and make an allowance to subalterns on account of messing, as, I believe, is done in certain naval messes on shore. A subaltern might have such an allowance as would reduce his actual messing charge to 2s. per diem. This would diminish the mess bill by 31. to 31. 15s. in a thirty-day month, and would be a great help to the young officer. It would at the same time add no very heavy burden to the estimates, more particularly if some experts were commissioned to examine the charges for messing in all officers' messes, and to report how far value for the money expended was obtained. It is quite probable that with expert supervision the messing might be vastly improved with advantage to officers' pockets, or, in this case, to the coffers of the State. Such a concession to officers represents a very small boon, and if proffered at a time when candidates were not forthcoming it might probably be
regarded as inadequate, and a considerable increase in pay might then be the only means of stopping the gap.
But whatever means may be adopted, now or in the future, to better the subaltern's position, money alone, let it be granted in what form it may, will never rescue him from the difficulties which are at present the means of driving him from the ranks of the home army. Whatever sum may be added to his emoluments, it will be swallowed up at once by the innumerable harpies that swarm round every garrison town, into whose hands regimental tradition is only too ready to play. These harpies, it is true, deal in wares for the most part innocent and even desirable, but they come in such numbers as to produce an effect that is overwhelming. The young officer nowadays is fortunately no idle man. His duties keep him well occupied. But he has some spare time, and during that time every form of recreation, sport, and entertainment is not only offered to him, but is practically forced down his throat at the point of the bayonet. It is much to be desired that officers, to whom physical prowess is an important qualification, should be proficient in outdoor sports and recreations; but when they are encouraged to join in cricket, lawn tennis, hockey, football, racquets, squash, as well as to hunt, shoot, and fish, it is obvious that a serious attack on their finances will be the result. It is true that all these recreations and sports can be enjoyed by an officer, by means of regimental subscriptions, at a much less cost than by civilians; but therein lies a danger. They are so advantageously placed before him that he feels it is throwing away money not to make use of his opportunities. And the outfit alone probably eats up more than the remnants of his allowance.
Again, an officer is a victim to subscriptions in a way that is quite unknown to members of other professions, and all in aid of good and deserving objects. There are subscriptions to regimental charities and institutions, to the numerous great military charities, to special objects of general or local interest, and to others too numerous to detail. A mess is rarely without subscription list of some sort. Those interested in charities and public objects of subscription regard it as a specially desirable orchard to rob. Subscriptions are collected without any trouble, and if they can only get the commanding officer to put some pressure on the subordinates, or even to head the subscription list himself, everything will go right. The fate of the subaltern is indifferent to them so long as they get their own interest benefited.
In the way of social intercourse and entertainment much is demanded of the subaltern. Every garrison is a centre of attraction, which draws to itself all the floating population not definitely
tied to other localities. No doubt the positive electricity generated by large concentrations of young men produces by induction an equivalent amount of negative electricity in female form in the immediate neighbourhood. At any rate, whatever the cause, the facts are plain. And where large numbers of residents are found, as in practically all garrison towns, the regimental mess is not unnaturally regarded as the centre round which all social functions revolve. Residents quite frankly believe that officers' messes are sent into their towns with the object of making an agreeable diversion for their benefit, and if this duty is neglected, it is obvious that the most important interests of the State are suffering. From the officers' point of view it would be churlish, unnatural, and, indeed, unwise to ignore all the offers of social intercourse and entertainment open to them. But here, again, come in calls on their pockets.
Lastly may be mentioned, among other expenses, that a subaltern may have a London club to subscribe to, and also that he may be a member of one or more of those most important institutions, the Royal United Service, the R.A., the R.E., the Royal Geographical Society, etc., all of which are of great value to him professionally; and that he will probably be expected to attend his annual regimental dinner in London.
Anyone considering this table of expenditure, which is by no means exhaustive, will understand how necessary it is that the young officer should be saved, not only from his friends, but also from himself, and at the same time how difficult it is to encompass his rescue. It will be clear also that a mere addition to his pay will effect little.
It will probably be argued that all subscriptions, except the one regulation mess subscription, all entertainments, and all games and sports are purely voluntary, and that the subaltern need not put his hand in his pocket for any of them. It is quite true that all these matters are voluntary. So is the march of the condemned criminal from his cell to the gallows voluntary. He knows what the public expect of him, and he does it. And in all matters involving expense the subaltern does what is expected of him, knowing full well that to be singular or to oppose by his action anything supported by senior officers is not only to make himself uncomfortable, but further to injure his prospects in his regiment.
If we assume that a subaltern has received such an addition to his pay as to make it possible for him to live on it when supplemented by a moderate allowance, then the first and most important requirement to keep him afloat is the active support and supervision of his commanding officer. Without such assistance his prospects are gloomy. The young officer joins his regi