Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

During the early part of the period under review the alliance between German and Turk ripened into a kind of forced and ephemeral activity. The invasion of the Caucasus, begun at the close of last year, was speedily brought to an end by the battles of Ardahan, Sarikamish, and Kara Urgan, fought in snow breast-deep. The excursion into north-western Persia, undertaken soon afterwards, effected nothing beyond inflicting great sufferings on the inhabitants, and causing a temporary redistribution of the Russian local forces. Most abortive of all was the attack on the Suez Canal on Feb. 3, for which a force said to exceed 50,000 Turks, with numerous Beduin auxiliaries, had been preparing for three months. The German dreams of a jihad, which would at least chain the British forces to India and Egypt, and which might result in the overthrow of British power in the East, were quickly dispelled. Even the hope that the Russians and the British might be driven to an embarrassing dissipation of force was not realised. The situation in the Caucasus was met by the three local army corps with the aid of a corps from Turkestan. Egypt proved a convenient halting-place for troops coming from Australia, New Zealand and India, where their organisation and training could be completed. On the other hand, the Turks were deprived of the suzerainty of Egypt, and lost all their ports on the Persian Gulf. The net result of the alliance has been that the Germans gained nothing, the Turks lost much, while the forces of the Allies in France and Poland suffered no diminution.

But the participation of Turkey in the war had more far-reaching results, which are all to the advantage of the Allies. Turkey was more valuable to Germany as a secret friend than as an active ally. To the Allies her open hostility was less dangerous than a doubtful neutrality. So long as her attitude should continue undefined, the situation on the vulnerable flank of the Germanic armies must remain indeterminate. Bulgaria was an uncertain factor. Greece and Rumania, whatever their inclinations might be, dared not risk making a false move, and were therefore forced to remain inactive, waiting on events. Turkey, by yielding to German influence, provided the opportunity for clearing up the situation. Of this the Allies availed themselves, as soon as the course of events set free the necessary naval force, by striking straight at the heart of the Turkish Empire.

[graphic]

The attack on the Dardanelles has unfortunately been impeded by adverse weather, robbing it of some of its moral effect, and increasing its difficulty by giving time for the defensive measures which its initial stages showed to be advisable. The increased power of modern artillery having rendered fixed defences liable to destruction, the artillery of the defence, equally with that of the attack, must seek immunity in concealment and mobility. The Turks, under German guidance, appear to have done much, during the prolonged intervals of the attack, to prepare a mobile defence by means of heavy guns and howitzers mounted on trucks having an extended range of movement by means of concealed railways. Hidden batteries have also proved a source of annoyance difficult to cope with. This system of defence seems likely to prove more effective against ships confined by the narrow waters of the straits than any combination of armourprotected guns in fixed positions ; and it can be adequately met only by a force on land co-operating with the naval attack. The two operations must go hand in hand, the ships supplying highly mobile artillery of great power, while the military force operates against the enemy's field army, and occupies the country adjoining the straits on either side. It is evident that the operation must prove one of considerable magnitude. The distribution of the Turkish army is not publicly known, for it is likely that drafts have been made on the force in Europe to reinforce the army in the Caucasus. At the end of last year five army corps and three or four cavalry brigades were quartered in European Turkey, the total strength, including fortress troops, amounting to between 200,000 and 250,000 men. It would be unsafe to put the force now available for the defence of Constantinople below the former figure.

It would be inexpedient to discuss the probable course of the operations. Enough has been said to show that a military force of considerable strength will be required. It was announced at Paris on March 6 that a French force was being concentrated in Northern Africa; and it has since become known that a British contingent is to take part in the operations. It may be presumed that, when the weather conditions permit the resumption of the attack, it will be pushed forward simultaneously by sea and land. Success will depend largely on unity of purpose and close co-operation between the naval and military commanders; and those who recall the ill-success which on various occasions attended such combined operations in the past, under conditions far less formidable, may feel doubtful as to the result. Fears on that account may, however, be dismissed. The failures of the past were due chiefly to jealousy or differences of opinion between the two commanders. There was also a want of knowledge and appreciation of the respective functions and powers of naval and military forces. The two services, when called on to co-operate in war, suffered from lack of association during peace. These defects have been remedied since the formation of the Naval War Staff and the General Staff of the Army. During recent years the best brains of the Navy and Army have been trained and exercised together under competent instructors ; community of thought has been inculcated; and a closer association between the Services generally has promoted mutual confidence and an appreciation by each of the capabilities and limitations of the other which was lacking in former years.

Dispersion of force consequent on the employment of troops on subsidiary enterprises away from the principal scene of operations is a violation of the great principle of war which enjoins the concentration of all available forces for the accomplishment of a single object. The attack on the Dardanelles may seem open to objection on this account; but a survey of the general situation will dispel what is certainly an illusion due to a too rigid application of the principle and a narrow view of the issues involved. While France is a principal theatre of war, six months of fighting have failed to bring about a decision; and experience has given some reason to doubt whether the results of the offensive are commensurate with the losses involved. Unless the existing balance of force undergoes material change, it may be doubted whether the ultimate decision of the war will be obtained in France. Instead of a general advance to the Rhine and a march to Berlin, the talk is now of a war of attrition; and the results of engagements are estimated by the supposed losses of the enemy, as though the object of war were to kill rather than to conquer.

[graphic]

This being the situation, there may be room for doubt as to the expediency of locking up superfluous troops in France. Now, as to the situation in South-eastern Europe, there are three main issues involved—first, the destruction of Turkey's military power, releasing Russian troops from the Caucasus and British troops from Egypt, and giving liberty of action to the Balkan States; secondly, the opening of the Black Sea, enabling muchneeded munitions of war to reach the Russian armies, and allowing the export of Russian corn; lastly, the possible exposure of the southern flank of the Germanic armies, the only flank in either theatre of war that can be considered vulnerable. Incidentally the operation brings into play the amphibious power of the Alliesthat elusive power which magnifies the merely numerical value of forces by reason of the speed and secrecy with which they can be transported, and brought into action in unexpected localities. The possibilities of the situation are fully apparent to the German General Staff. Hence the strenuous efforts made to keep the Russians out of Hungary, which have made the Carpathians the scene of the most persistent fighting and the bloodiest battles of the whole war.

The events of the past three months in France admit of little notice in a brief review which attempts to deal with the larger problems of the war. The story is one of unremitting activity, resulting in the improvement of the Allies' positions in certain localities. In some instances this progress has been effected by slow degrees, as in Champagne, where the French by continuous fighting have made a substantial advance in the neighbourhood of Perthes and Beau Séjour on a front exceeding two miles. In others it has been the result of one concentrated effort, as at Neuve Chapelle, and on the heights of Notre Dame de Lorette north of Arras. But. looking at the situation from a broader point of view, the most important effect of the operations has been to keep the Germans in a state of constant disquietude, and thus to oblige them to retain large forces in France while reinforcements have been urgently needed in the

[graphic]

reserve.

East. Official statements issued at Paris show that, since November, while the Germans have been restricted to the defensive, the German army in France has been reduced by only 44 army corps-probably about 150,000 men-to which must be added about 20,000 cavalry and an uncertain force of heavy artillery. The 47 army corps which remain have been allowed to fall considerably below establishment.

All the Powers engaged have been busy training new troops and improvising new armies. Germany has lately put four new army corps into the field, the accommodation thus vacated being filled by fresh batches of recruits called to the depôts for training. During the war Austria has augmented her field army by the addition of six new army corps, and is also assiduously training fresh levies. An official Note recently issued at Paris states that the field army of France numbers 2} millions, with approximately half that number in

The state of British recruiting has not been disclosed. Strict secrecy is also maintained concerning the Russian preparations for the Spring campaign.

Apart from the supply of men, the provision of guns, arms, and munitions of war has been a serious problem for all the Powers concerned. Guns are not everlasting; and heavy demands have been made on their endurance. The consumption of ammunition has far exceeded even the anticipations of the Germans, who had made careful provision for the war. All armies have at times suffered a shortage in this respect. The British army has not been the least affected, for our means of manufacture, though sufficient to meet normal requirements, have naturally proved inadequate for the supply of the large force now in the field. An ample supply of ammunition for artillery, especially for heavy guns, is a matter of the first moment, because, both in attack and defence, artillery superiority, besides being a material factor of success, saves many lives.

While our voluntary system of recruiting seems thus far to have produced the men required, it has proved a source of weakness in some ways that had not been generally anticipated. The chief of these is the promiscuous withdrawal of men from industrial occupations, especially those on which the supply of the army depends.

« VorigeDoorgaan »