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Wednesday, 23 November 1910

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) .- The Minister's explanation has emphasized the position which ought to be maintained. He has made it quite clear that the officers of the Citizen Forces will rise from the ranks to various positions. It is highly probable that in time of war they will be one of the main fighting arms in directing and using our Forces in the field. What is the object of the Military College to be established ? It is to provide means of instruction for the officers of the Citizen Forces. It is highly essential to the attainment of that object to have a central instructional staff, composed very largely of young men of exceptional or pronounced ability, who have gone through a rigid course of training in every department of study which would enable them to understand thoroughly and to exercise the art of war. It must be evident to the Committee that war is becoming very largely a matter of the exercise of, not merely big battalions, but also big brains. The nucleus of the brain force which will determine the efficiency of the Army is to be found in the instructional staff. In time of war the main strategic operations will be planned, ordered, and directed very largely by officers who have passed through the Military College'. Lord Kitchener had that very point in view, I think, when he insisted so strongly upon the principle being applied to military matters which is applied to most other matters ; that is, that if we want efficient officers in time of war, we must act nearly all the while on the maxim, " Catch the officer young."

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And pay him well.

Senator ST LEDGER - We are training the officer for a profession, and if he shows that he has assimilated the training, and displays efficiency,' it is not merely a commission in the Citizen Forces that he looks to, but a commission in the Permanent Forces. When he reaches that stage', he ought to be well paid. Again, the duty of an officer in time of war is such as to require the highest intelligence, and, at times, the highest class of bravery. In order that the officers in the Citizen Forces may be properly qualified, they must be trained by young men in the prime of physical and intellectual vigour. That was the principle which, I dare say, animated Lord Kitchener when he was called upon to advise the Government. It was embodied in the Bill, but, unfortunately, it has been modified. It has been said over and over again, that had the British officers in the Boer war been trained with the same keenness and with what one might call the same intellectuality, as the German officers showed in their last two great campaigns, the loss of British soldiers would have been infinitely less. Having regard to the work they have to do, the complicated weapons of war with which they have to deal, the massing and the management of artillery before and during battle, the engineering feats which an army is called upon to perform whenever it has to make a rapid movement, honorable senators will recognise at. once that a high intellectual standard must be' required in our officers. It is idle to think that the officers in the Citizen Forces cannot obtain that knowledge at second-hand, otherwise they will be practically useless in time of war. From time to time they must be drafted into the Military College to receive instruction in artillery work, engineering work, and, possibly, torpedo work, until such time as we can fill the College with students. Possibly part of the instructional staff must go to drill the Citizen Forces. Anything which weakens the essential principle which the Bill, as it left the Senate, sought to enforce, weakens the system at a very important point. There never has been, probably, a time when a knowledge of both strategy and tactics is so essential to success in offensive or defensive war as at present. It is a complicated study. The highest engineering talent is sometimes required to bring out a strategic movement successfully.

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