This is a posting about demographics, so I could be taking this opportunity to talk about the British Army and the late Roman Empire while complaining about the fate of Generation X. I'm not going to, though, because politics blah.
So I put it elsewhere.
Besides, this is tricky demographics. As I keep saying, one way of assessing the catastrophe of 5/40 is that the Commonwealth did not have enough men at the front. Yet there were plenty of men who were not at the front. So it must be that there were not enough men qualified to be there. I find it implausible that countries that could draw on limitless supplies of (admittedly aging) veterans, a significantly larger population in the case of the Canadian junior partner; and a cohort subject to conscription beginning three months before the outbreak of the war 8 months ago could field fewer fusiliers than in 03/15. So we are talking about men with a set of qualifications that could not be produced in eightish months.
That's a deduction a priori, or, to put it another way, I pulled it out of my ass. So let's look at evidence. It ought to be more fun than proctology!
If we're looking at the British army's manpower situation, we're looking at a body accelerating from rest. So, start at rest. Or, to put it another way, I have a photocopy of the 1924-25 Army Estimates kicking around, and maybe there's something to be learned from it.
So let's. That the army's authorised size exclusive of forces serving in India ("Vote A number") has fallen from 525,000 (including 186,000 wounded and sick still carried on the books!) to 161,600 across five estimates. (If you're wondering what total army strength including India is, you won't find it here, because the Estimates don't account for British subjects enrolled in the Indian Army. It does give the British Army strength in India, allowing me to state the total strength of the British Army: 161,600+71,100=231,700. Of course, this is authorised enlistment, and the units can be as much as 20% understrength. It's a wonder that the War Office managed to spend all the money allocated for manpower costs. Oh. Wait. No it's not.)
Net cash expenditure --again, exclusive of India-- has fallen from £169 million to 45 million, although along the way the army has picked up a nice £400,000 credit from the Colonial Office for its efforts in bringing peace and democracy to Iraq, down from £21 million at the height of the surge in 1921--2. (Must....resist....low...hanging...fruit.) That's actually less than a third of the total interdepartmental credit in British books, but the one with the most impact on army readiness.
Look at the numbers lost! That's a huge redundancy, and precious institutional knowledge must have been lost in the cuts. Or that's what the tank guys say, but they're a terrible example. When the lifeboats come in the night to pick up the survivors from the wreck, it is not the ones whose voices are loudly heard by their friends who are forgotten slip away in the night. Look at the way this just disappeared between 1918 and 1942. Now that's "lost." Has anyone ever even studied this?
What's this army look like? Here are branch strengths rounded off because some totals were cut off by the copier, officers/total (+Indian numbers in brackets): Cavalry, 407/9100 (+162/3600); Artillery 1168/24,800 (+312/7200); Engineers, 700/7051 (+425/690); Signals (240/5000 (+156/2200); Infantry 3000/77,500 (+1260/41,000); Tanks 213/4157 (+81/983); Military Police, 0/740; RASC (logistical services) 430/5900 (+150/983); Medical 586/4252 (+332/774); Ordnance 250/3500 (+10/207).
So here's an interesting bit. If we picture the British army in our mind, it's brave boys fighting and dying "for the tartan o' the gallant forty-twa."
It's an "army of regiments!" People said so! And they wouldn't lie!
And since the total infantry, cavalry and tank strength is 64% of the army at home, 67% of the army in India, it looks like they might be right. For the officer corps, though, it is only 47%. This is in part because of the doctors, accountants, educators and veterinarians, but even comparing the technocratic versus non-technocratic combatant and service arms, we get 5114 versus 3677. The engineers and artillery, in particular, each make up over 10% of the officer corps.
So what does this cost per unit (at home)? Cavalry regiment, £113,000; mechanised artillery brigade, 100,700; AA brigade of the garrison artillery, 105,000; searchlight battalion, 142,700; engineer field squadron, 31,000; Divisional Signal Company, 71,800; infantry battalion, 121,000; Corps of Military Police, 67,200; Tank battalion, 263,100.
Here's a cost-by-man breakdown: cavalry, £197; artillery, 201; engineers, 212; Signals, 184; infantry, 156; MP, 176; tanker, 335; RASC, 198; Medical, 240, Ordnance, 239; Dental, 331; Vets, 373; paymasters, 353; accountants, 286; teachers, 346. the tanks are expensive, as we'd expect, as are all the professional/officer heavy corps. The outlier here, and it is a huge outlier, is the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. What's going on here? Unfortunately, the breakdown is not very itemised, but I can tell you that it is definitely not officer's pay. The RAOC breaks down into a Store Section, which has officers and costs £231/head; an Armourer's Section, with Warrant Officers, NCOs and men at 234/head, and an Armaments Artificer's section that costs £279 per head. That's only £50/head below the dental corps!
It is also entirely unmysterious. A corps consisting of of mostly certified tradesmen will cross over the payroll curve for one consisting of dentists (or doctors) plus all their support staff at some point as the proportion of well-paid artificers rises and that of helpers falls. The ordnance has crossed the curve, and for good reason. A second lieutenant in a combatant arm receives 0/1/7 per diem; An Ordnance Officer, 4th Class, on enlistment, 1/8/6. A lieutenant colonel in a combatant arm receives a command pay per diem (there's various bonusses to keep his hands out of the cookie jar, obviously) 1/7/4, less than an Ordnance Officer, 3rd Class. The Surgeon Major-General receives 4/15/0; the Principle Ordnance Officer, 4/10/0.
so have the tankers, but I'm not entirely clear why. And so do the veterinarians. Even the RASC stands out compared with the infantry, and the artillery is more expensive than the cavalry. Since such a large proportion of these costs come out of payroll, I predict grim recruiting for the horse cavalry in the future compared with the tanks. (It's like I'm psychic, but in the past!) If you can arrange it, though, I would suggest being drafted into the ordnance.
The regulars are not the entire army. The Territorial Army is going to cost £4,734,800 this year. The new Supplementary Reserve is too tenuous to be a cost item, but does have 30 instructors assigned to the 8000 men who will be training in peacetime, but presumably not to the 12,700 who do not. They have authorised enrollment (some illustrative costs) of Yeoman cavalry, 362/5,100 (£10,400); artillery, 1786/36,000 (£21,600); engineers 426/12,000 (£16,600); signals, 330/6500 (£11,800); Air Defence Troops, 374/8600; Infantry, 3360/112,000 (£14,600); Tanks 112/1600 (£5400); RASC 112/1600; ordnance, 43/470; Engineer and Railway Staff Corps, 60/-. The cost numbers I offer only because the Estimates does, as comparing the budget of a 300 man Yeomanry regiment with that of a 191 man armoured car company (£10,000 to £5400) is ...well, it tells you what it tells you. Mainly that the Yeomanry are disproportionately expensive compared with regular cavalry.
What does training look like? Here's financials: Royal Military Academy Woolwich: £122,000; RMC Sandhurst, 253,000; Staff College, 137,000; Senior Officer's School, 23,000; School of Equitation, 58,000; Artillery, 250,000; School of Military Engineering, 97,800; School of Electrical Lighting, 23,400; AA School, 31,200; School of Signals, 29,800; Tank Schools, 109,300*; Machine Gun School, 45,800; Small Arms School, 60,500, Gas Defense School, 3300; RASC College, 65,200; Medical College, 36,000; School of Hygiene, 10,600; Pharmacy, 700; RAOC School, 10,700; PE School+Staff (no, seriously), 52,000; Music, 19,050; "Cookery," 9,660; Farriery, 4750; Boy's Technical School, 63,400.
*If you're wondering about the factoid about the army spending more on teaching equitation than on the tank schools, I don't know, either. I'm sure it's not technically wrong for some set of numbers, somewhere, but clearly not for these Estimates.
I highlight that last because the army is a recent entry into the boy's technical training sweepstakes. The RN began running its own technical high school before the outbreak of war in 1914, and RAF Halton was a key part of Lord Trenchard's "foundation" for the RAF. At that point, the army was soldiering on with the traditional apprentice wing at Woolwich. In the short years since the war, it has gone from that to running a specialised technical school at Aldershot with an authorised maximum enrollment of 550 boys. A second school will be opened soon, with an ultimate enrollment aim of 1000 boys. And if you are thinking that the engineering and artillery schools could have a higher budget, remember that the army is still issuing technical pay bonusses on the basis of passing the Institutions of Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering exams. Now that is making the private sector work for you, although the RAF will soon break with this practice and start adding supplementary instruction in a number of engineering fields.
Finally, the army has some schools for separating men. If you qualify, a ranker can spend his last six months before going into the reserve at one of two Army Training Centres set up after 1918. The one for training agricultural labourers is not exactly flourishing, but the one that teaches the construction trades is doing quite well, much to the satisfaction of Parliament, which is afraid that it might otherwise have to fund pensions for single-term veterans! (For similar reasons, much of the costs associated with the Army Education Corps goes to literary outreach in the barracks. Oh for the day when literacy training and maybe driving schools could transform an ex-soldiers' economic possibilities.)
You can get more out of the Estimates, for example, it looks like it might be possible to extract unemployment benefits paid to recently separated men (social historians might be interested?), and the institutional costs of research and development are covered in detail, even if the Army Estimates, unlike the Air Force ones, do not give a global account of R&D expenditure. But I think I've hit the ones that will be worth following up on when we look at the 1939--40 Estimates debated in April 1939.
- Postblogging Technology, October, I: Forest for the Trees
- The Bishop's Sea, III: The Real Presence
- Gathering the Bones, 18: Hew Down the Bridge!
- Postblogging Technology, April 1944, I: Ancestral Voices
- Postblogging Technology, November, 1943: Caesar's New Clothes
- Postblogging Technology, March 1944, I: Pulling In the Horns
- Old Europe: Always Falling
- Gather the Bones, 17: To Our Mother of the Lakes
- From Now On, No Defeats: Alamein, III: "Look for me at dawn on the third day."
- Postblogging Technology, September, 1945 II: Praying for a Good Victory