results ; if they had been made by the most insidious and most hostile of our foreign rivals, they could not have been better devised. They lulled the people of this country into a feeling of false security, they encouraged them to believe what they wished to believe, and retarded for many years any adequate measures being taken for the effective defence of the heart of our vast Empire. It is, however, only fair to state that for this unfortunate result Mr. Balfour, although Prime Minister at the time, cannot be held in any way personally responsible. He merely acted as the mouthpiece of the Secretary for War and the Council of National Defence which prompted him. Mr. ArnoldForster, who was then at the War Office, when introducing the Army Estimates on the 28th of March, 1905, is reported to have made the following statement, to which attention was called in the article already referred to, but which it would seem here desirable to reproduce as illustrating the astounding views held by responsible officials at that date.

He said:

The Prime Minister has simply echoed what is, so far as I am able to ascertain, the view of every single naval and military authority of any competence whatever on the subject of invasion. He said that the question of the invasion of these islands in such a force as to inflict a fatal blow or threaten our independence was impossible. In that he speaks with the absolute and undivided authority of the Committee of Defence; and I want to know, who is the honourable member who is going to question this ? The naval view is that the crew of a dinghy could not land in this country in face of the Navy.


[ocr errors]

It is impossible for anyone who was in the House of Commons with Mr. Arnold-Forster, or who has watched his Parliamentary career, not to respect him for his energy and ability, and not to admire the industry with which, even long before he was in office, he tackled many problems connected with the Army. Had, however, he pursued his studies a little further into the theory and practice of war, as illustrated by the history of the past, he would have realised that among the chances, possibilities, risks, uncertainties, and surprises connected with warfare there is no room for 'cocksureness, as it is termed, of any kind. The same warning might be given to our present Under-Secretary for War, Lord Lucas, who a few days since is reported to have stated that the Territorials would be able to assemble at any point threatened by an invader in time to prevent him landing his heavy guns.' I ask, Does this youthful politician for one moment imagine that a handful of our Territorials hurried to a certain point on the coast—even if collected and transported there, as is stated to have been done recently, in motor-omnibuses, and even if supported by the quarter-trained Territorial field artillery--would be able to offer an effective resistance to the fire of heavy ship guns, perfectly manned, with an effective range of over five miles, under whose cover the artillery of an invading force would be undoubtedly landed ?

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Lord Roberts's speech in the House of Lords on the 23rd of November was followed a few days afterwards by letters in the Times from various Admirals, who complained that their service had not been represented in the discussion which followed. These writers, and a great many adherents of what is termed the 'blue-water' school, appear to think that a slur has been cast on the naval service by those who do not wish to risk all their eggs in one basket, who are not satisfied in trusting to only one line of defence, however efficient that may be. One of these Admirals complains of the 'bogey' being revived that the fleet might be decoyed away; another, in reply to a suggestion of the possibility that the main body of our fleet might not be in the vicinity of the North Sea at the critical moment, states that no Minister of the Crown fit for that position would dream of allowing the fleet to be absent at such a time.

It seems almost futile to reply to such arguments. Has it not occurred in history that our fleet, commanded by the most brilliant naval commander on record, was decoyed away when an invasion was threatened ? Where was our fleet at the time of the Dogger Bank incident? When the secret history of this period is written, it will be realised how near we then were to war, perhaps even invasion. Moreover, does any sailor-or, indeed, sane person-wish our ships to be tethered, like a dog at his kennel, to these shores? The Navy is essentially an offensive force. If kept on the defensive, it loses nearly all its value and is subject to the risks and dangers which proved the destruction of the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. Could any position be more pitiable than that of a British Admiral who, knowing that a hostile fleet was on the sea a fleet which it was his business to follow, fight, and destroy-was ordered by the Ministry of the day not to leave the North Sea for fear that an expeditionary force should be landed on our shores? Are the other portions of our island kingdom, are all the outlying dependencies of our vast Empire, to be left entirely without protection ? is our commerce to be harried and practically destroyed, because, forsooth, we are so foolish, so indolent, or so parsimonious that our land defences are neglected and there is no organised force to protect our hearths and homes? I maintain that those who are the most jealous for the repute and honour of our Navy should do all in their power to encourage the British nation to establish a thoroughly efficient system of land defence, so far as that is possible, if only to free the Navy to pursue its proper vocation, to act on a vigorous offensive and to strike sudden and unexpected blows on the most vulnerable points of our enemy. These “antiquated Admirals,' as they are irreverently called, by advocating the • blue-water 'theory in season and out of season, and thus dissuading the people of this country from at once undertaking the burden of home defence, are doing their own service what cannot be otherwise than irreparable injury.

Unfortunately vague statements unsupported by reliable facts and figures do not appear to be the monopoly of former Ministers for War. It would appear that Mr. Haldane has recently indulged in the statement that compulsory military training would cost twenty millions a year. This unsupported statement has been caught up and most eagerly quoted by the opponents of any form of compulsory training. As pointed out by the military correspondent of the Times, such a gigantic estimate of expense is in no way borne out by the experience of other countries where compulsory service exists. Bulgaria has an ordinary annual expenditure of under 1,500,0001., and has 380,000 trained men; Roumania 555,000 for 1,807,4771.; Switzerland 274,000 for 1,642,4891.; and, lastly, Japan 1,000,000 trained men for a cost in 1906-7, ordinary and extraordinary expenditure included, of 5,322,3101. It would be certainly interesting to know who provided Mr. Haldane with his figures, which seem as utterly fallacious as those supplied to Mr. Arnold-Forster in 1905 of three tons per head, which was supposed necessary in order to transport any force during about thirty-six hours on board ship across the North Sea.

It is not the object of the writer in the present instance to advocate universal compulsory service for home defence, since it is evident that at present the public mind is not prepared or ripe for such a step. Universal military training for all our youth is quite a different matter; similar to that which is advocated by the National Service League, of which Lord Roberts is president. Many who at present would never lend their support to compulsory service-or 'conscription, as it is termed—are well aware of the moral, physical, and economic adantages which such a system of military training would confer on the youth of our country, quite apart from the protection it would afford in time of national danger or emergency. At all events, we should be spared the expense and humiliation of again seeing, as in the closing stages of the Boer War, a number of able-bodied young men, dressed up in uniform, armed with rifles, dignified by the name of Imperial Yeomanry, and, from want of previous training, in many instances an incumbrance rather than a support to the trained soldiers whom they were despatched to reinforce.

Until some such system is in force our Territorial Army cannot be otherwise than a sham and a delusion, even were the numbers at the extreme limit contemplated by Mr. Haldane not absolutely inadequate. As often pointed out, no enemy is likely to be so obliging as to wait for six months until our Territorial Army is properly trained. Moreover, as stated by Lord Roberts, in the event of an expeditionary force of our regular Army being employed in India or elsewhere-and heaven knows there are enough vulnerable points in our Empire to render at any time its absence from home imperative--I repeat, in such a case, out of the 240,000 more or less trained men staying at home, after making allowance for our necessary garrison, including

[ocr errors][merged small]

Ireland, only about 40,000 would be left to face an expeditionary force of 70,000 men, as is now admitted to be possible, but which it is considered by those who have entered into the calculation with the greatest care and labour is more likely to be 150,000, 200,000, or even more.

The veriest tyro in military knowledge can scarcely regard the above figures without apprehension. It is also to be remarked that in these calculations no allowance whatever has been made for the

wastage of war '--that is, the number of men required to keep up the fighting force to its normal strength and it may be presumed that our expeditionary force would be more or less fighting. We have had some experience recently of the reinforcements required during the Boer War to maintain our army in the field, but the actual figures have not yet been published in a succinct form. It may, however, be interesting to refer to a paper issued on this subject by our Intelligence Department in 1890. From this it appears that in the Franco-German War of 1870, in order to keep the field armies fairly up to their strength of 650,000 men, reserves of 522,000 were required; so that, roughly, for every six men sent in the first instance to the front five reserve men were required in six and a half months. The statistics which are available for other recent wars are still more remarkable. In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 it appears that about 600,000 men took part in the European campaign and 250,000 men in Asia, while the armies in Europe never exceeded 350,000 men and in Asia 150,000. In a German work on the same war it is stated that it took 933,000 men to keep armies of 420,000 in the field for nine months. The examples of other wars might be recapitulated. Probably if we only had the figures, the wastage in the recent Russo-Japanese War would prove even more appalling. Enough however has been said to answer our purpose, which is to prove that in order to maintain any expeditionary force at its normal strength it would be necessary to have an almost equal number of men available in this country as reinforcements, and these should be at least fairly well trained and not of the same stamp, as regards efficiency, as the last batches of Yeomanry despatched to South Africa.

There is another matter of very grave importance which cannot be too vividly brought before the public—that is, the element of surprise. Lord Rosebery, in his speech of the 4th of December, very rightly and justly repudiates the idea of such an act of insidious treachery as an unprovoked attack on this country by Germany or any other Power. He most truly says that such a suggestion would be a serious persion on a great enlightened and friendly nation.'

Still we are bound to look facts in the face. From a return quoted by the writer in the article before referred to, of May 1905, it appears that between

, 1700 and 1870 there were 104 cases of hostilities commencing without a declaration of war. We could not have had a better illustration


[ocr errors]

of this than what occurred recently in the Russo-Japanese War. There had been no declaration of war at the time when the Russian fleet, riding at anchor at Port Arthur, was permanently disabled ; in fact, so little idea had the Russian officers of their danger that many at that very moment were attending a ball on shore. This sudden and unexpected attack had a far-reaching effect on the ultimate fortunes of the war, since the Japanese were thereby enabled to transport their huge army over to the mainland, across a sea far broader and more tempestuous than that which separates Great Britain from Northern Europe. It is true that this sudden action of the Japanese, when they had done nothing more than recall their Ambassador, has been denounced by the Russians and others as an act quite unjustifiable according to the law of nations. Still the results remain ; there is no use in retrospective censures after the mischief has been done. To use a familiar illustration, it is useless to lock the stable door when the horse is gone. The writer, of all men, is the last who would wish to suggest any sinister designs at present or in future times to the German nation or the German army, with which he was for some time closely associated, and for which he entertains a most profound respect and admiration ; but, to quote the words of Lord Rosebery, we must be secure against risks

, which can be contemplated by any sane man capable of forming a judgment.'

There is another aspect of this question to which it would appear no reference has yet been made, and which was not even alluded to in the debate in the House of Lords on the 23rd of November ; that is, the possibilities of aerial flight. Hitherto it has been almost the universal custom to regard anyone who claimed a practical future for flying machines as next door to an irresponsible madman. Strange things, however, have happened within the memory of the present generation. Who ever contemplated the invention of the safety bicycle, even in the days when the velocipede was considered a triumph of mechanical art ? Twenty, or even ten, years ago who would have believed any man who predicted the general use of motor-carriages ? Still less would the utility of wireless telegraphy have been deemed within the region of human possibility. To go further back, did former generations ever dream of railways, telegraphs, or telephones ? In fact, far stranger things have happened within the memory of those now alive than the perfection of aerial motors. With respect to this subject it is interesting to read the speech of Councillor Martin, a writer of considerable note on aerial navigation, who addressed a meeting at Berlin recently, and characterised his remarks as a reply to Lord Roberts. He is reported to have said that the Field-Marshal was certainly wrong when he spoke of the possibility of the unobserved landing of 200,000 men in England, and went back to the days of Julius Cæsar, William the Conqueror, and

« VorigeDoorgaan »