« VorigeDoorgaan »
Mr H. Chancellor.
Mr H. Manfield. Mr A. C. Morton.
Mr H. Nuttall. Sir W. P. Beale.
Mr E. Jones. Mr P. A. Molteno.
Mr P. Alden. The Hon. F. McLaren.
Dr Addison. Major McMicking.
Mr A. Rowntree. Mr T. E. Harvey.
Mr J. M. Henderson, Mr F. Kellaway.
Mr H. J. Glanville. Mr A. Marshall.
Mr J. W. Pratt. Sir S. Collins.
Mr J. A. Bryce. The Hon. R. Denman.
Mr D. V. Pirie. Mr J. A. Baker.
Mr W. M. R. Pringle. Mr D. M. Mason.
Mr A. MacCallum Scott. Mr Leif Jones.
Mr T. Lough. Dr Chapple.
By this action, the above-named members singled themselves out for special reprobation; but the views which they held were those which a large number of members expressed on every possible occasion in the House of Commons. Most of the Liberal Party and almost all the members of the Labour and Nationalist Parties protested against the scale of naval expenditure demanded from Parliament year by year.
Fortunately the majority of them were more intent upon obtaining the fruits of the Parliament Act than anything else, and were content to postpone the day of reckoning with the Government until the Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, and Plural Voting Bills had been put upon the Statute Book. Let it be admitted that the Government, in its successive Navy Estimates, not only went beyond the wishes of its supporters in the House of Commons, but had driven to exasperation by its standard of naval expenditure—the sum rose to 51,500,0001. this spring—the majority of those electors throughout the United Kingdom on whose good opinion its continuance in office depended.
Now that war is in progress, we are paying in ships and in valuable lives the penalty of economy. The cruisers which were not built are the cruisers which we now need. There is no incident in history more astounding than the failure of the people of this maritime empire to realise what sea-power means to them. Reference has already been made to the action of the majority in the House of Commons and the opinions which were held by the vast proportion of the electors of the United Kingdom. Even the Unionist Party, which criticised the Government's proposals for the Navy, lacked the courage to come out boldly in advocacy of a standard of two keels to one against the next greatest naval Power. The oversea Dominions, which are now pouring out their men and treasure with magnificent generosity, failed to recognise the peril which threatened them. The Imperial Squadron which was advocated five years ago at the Imperial Conference-being then described as fleet units -had no existence when hostilities opened.* Five years were lost; and, when the crisis came, there was no squadron of battle-cruisers and scouts to take up the task of patrolling the great trade-routes and hunting down the German cruisers which have succeeded in doing so much damage to British shipping. Had the Admiralty had at their disposal, for these operations in the outer seas, six or eight battle-cruisers, each mounting eight 12-inch guns and of high speed, the “Good Hope' and · Monmouth' would never have been destroyed. Had the naval authorities possessed eight or twelve cruisers of the Town class, the old cruiser Pegasus' with her crazy engines would have never been caught broken down at Zanzibar and been converted into a shambles by the gunfire of the Königsberg,' and the careers of the 'Emden' and other German cruisers would have been shortened. As has ever been the case in our history, economy in war preparations, during the years of peace, has proved the grossest extravagance in time of war; and unhappily the price has had to be paid, not by those who were responsible for the economy, but by those who realised where it tended.
The lessons which the naval war has taught are the value of speed and the importance of numbers. In the Bight of Heligoland twelve large ships, because they were swift, could operate in the enemy's waters though they were known to be infested with submarines. The same moral was reinforced by the sinking of the slow cruisers in the North Sea. Owing to their high speed and the immensity of the seas, the German cruisers which have been harassing our commerce succeeded for many weeks in eluding action; and even now only two of them have been rounded up. Although it is too early in the war to reach any final conclusion as to the menace of the submarine, a succession of incidents has already suggested that it is neither invincible nor invulnerable, and that the surface ship has in high speed, gun power, and the ram an effective means of reprisal. “More frigates'-fast sailing ships of small size—was the continual cry of Nelson in the last century; we may be sure that it is the cry which our admirals are now making. Speed is the weather-gauge
* Australia and New Zealand, it should in fairness be added, did build some ships. The latter Dominion's battle-cruiser assisted in the smart engagement—the first of the war-in the Bight of Heligoland, and the Commonwealth's small cruiser ‘Sydney' sank the 'Emden.'
. of modern war; and, so far as we have been called upon to suffer losses, the reverses have been due to rejection of the two Nelsonian maxims— More frigates' and Only numbers can annihilate.'
It is impossible to ignore the losses which we have incurred, but there is solid satisfaction to be drawn from the inevitable conclusion that nothing has happened which can affect adversely our fortunes upon the seas. Despite incidents which are regrettable, the naval organisation has triumphed to an extent which we had no reason to expect; and we have been supplied with convincing proof that in two important factors we are supreme. The Board of Admiralty has worked with
energy and success; and the officers and men of the fleets at sea have shown that, though the ships have changed and many new and embarrassing conditions of naval warfare have been introduced, they are still instinct with the same spirit that gave into our keeping the trident over a hundred years ago.
The fog of war, which lies so heavily upon all Europe since the beginning of last August, has naturally obscured the eastern campaign which Austria-Hungary so lightly undertook against Serbia. But greater events nearer
home must not allow us to underestimate the influence of the Balkan situation upon the conflict as a whole. It deserves our attention for various reasons. In the first place the Austro-Serbian dispute, and the Southern Slav problem which underlies it, formed the causa causans of the European war; and its final settlement, in whatever form, is one of the most essential preliminaries to a stable peace in Europe. Secondly, Serbia has rendered very signal services to the common cause of the allies; for throughout the opening months of the campaign she has held at bay four Austrian army corps which might otherwise have been employed in Alsace or in Belgium, and which might perhaps even have turned the scale at a critical moment. It was Serbia's need which brought Russia into the field, just as it was the fate of Belgium which finally decided our own intervention; and it is becoming more and more obvious that, just as Germany regards Belgium not merely as a right of way but as a permanent acquisition, so Austria-Hungary aims at the complete subjugation of the two Serb kingdoms.
When Austria-Hungary arrogantly announced her ‘punitive expedition,' many persons in this country jumped to the hasty conclusion that Serbia was doomed, and that her resistance would be overcome long before Russia could come to her aid. They may perhaps be excused for thus underestimating Serbia's capacity as a military power, for her reputation had been clouded by the regicide of 1903; her achievements in the first Balkan war-at the battles of Kumanovo and Monastir-had been persistently belittled or ignored by blind admirers of Bulgaria; and the very scanty records of the second Balkan war, which reached these shores, failed to give any adequate idea of Serbia's exploits at the Bregalnitza. Even those who had formed a juster opinion, might fairly be excused for imagining that the exhaustion produced by her recent wars with Turkey and Bulgaria would seriously affect her powers of resistance in a war against one of the great Powers. In thus arguing, however, they forgot not merely the extraordinary recuperative force of the Serb peasantry, but above all the intensity of the national feeling which nerved the nation to resist. Rightly or wrongly, every Serb has for years past regarded a conflict with Austria as inevitable; and it is no secret that Serbia's efforts to perfect her army in the four years which elapsed between the Bosnian annexation and the Balkan war had defence against Austria rather than aggression against Turkey as their objective. To the Serb, then, the war means a struggle for existence against an irreconcilable foe, and at the same time for the liberation of his enslaved kinsmen from a foreign yoke.
While, however, the war is for Serbia a national war in the most literal sense of the term, there are very obvious limits to her resources, and even the greatest gallantry cannot hold out against overwhelming odds. In the first Balkan war the Serbs succeeded in putting 356,000 men into the field, exclusive of the last line of defence, which was employed upon internal lines of communication. Despite their losses against the Turks, it is calculated that the forces with which they opposed Bulgaria amounted to 348,000, a number of new drafts having been hurriedly enrolled in the interval. During the last year a new division, that of the Vardar, has been raised from the population of the newly acquired territory; but, after all necessary allowances have been made, it would still not be safe to estimate the effective forces of the Serbian army during the present war at a higher figure than 350,000, though doubtless another 50,000 or 100,000 would have to be accounted for, before the final resistance could be quelled.
The Serbs are weak in cavalry, though the few regiments which they have are of good quality; but the hilly nature of the country which they have to defend explains and minimises the defect. It is more than atoned for by their infantry, which has repeatedly shown powers of endurance and an élan of which any army in the world might be proud. This is still further strengthened by the almost ideal relations which prevail between officers and men—a feature which must have impressed every one who has visited their camps and shared their mess. The great difficulty has always been, not to spur them on, but to hold them back. Men to whom Marko Kraljević, the hero of their national ballads, is no mere myth, but a heroic reality, heading their columns on his white charger and waving them on to victory-such men are not to be judged by the ordinary