Page images
PDF

It is the fact that the German power is amphibious which renders it so formidable. England cannot hit back; she is placed virtually on the defensive, and the defensive, as Pitt said a hundred years ago, spells ruin. She has to face unlimited risks, while for Germany the risk is limited. A glance at the map, which shows roughly the strength of the organised British military force available for foreign service, will prove the truth of this statement. Either we must reinforce our navy by an army which can hit back, or we must find some ally with the necessary fighting arm on land, while reinforcing our own fleet to the utmost. The nation can choose between the alternatives; it deludes itself if it supposes that either of them will enable it to lower its expenditure on defence. There is, of course, the third alternative, of half arming and meeting the fate of France in 1870. But that in the long run is likely to cost infinitely more.

EFFICIENCY AND ORGANISATION.—It is unhappily a fact that British organisation is still markedly behind the German. The clearest indications of this are the absence of a General Staff for the navy, and the indifferent shooting of a great part of our fleet. The navy is still without a brain. Something has been done, no doubt, and under that distinguished officer, Prince Louis of Battenberg, the strength of the Intelligence Department, which represents a starved and stunted brain, has been raised in the present year from twenty-nine to forty-four, while the vote has been increased from £12,831 in 1903, to £21,422. But much larger credits and a far stronger personnel than this are needed, if our preparedness is to reach the German standard. It would inspire confidence" if our Naval Intelligence Department published such literature as is issued in France, Germany, Russia, and the United States, by the corresponding military or naval departments, with the result that foreign officers are kept perfectly informed of naval progress and history. We have no such technical periodical as the German Marine Rundschau or the Italian Rivista Marit/ima.

As for the shooting of the fleet, it is not perfectly clear to what extent the bad gunnery is due to defective sights. It is known that the battleship Centurion was sent out to the Far East with her sights in an admittedly defective condition. The admission revealed inefficiency, but it provoked little remonstrance in the press, and none in Parliament. It is said that a large sum of money is needed to put the sights of the fleet in thorough order, and to supply the latest appliances, but whether the sum will be voted remains doubtful. If it should be voted,

* The literature published is the only test of the capacity and method of a General Staff in time of peace.

the nation will have to thank Mr. Arnold White for his public-
spirited and patriotic agitation, rather than the Admiralty Board.
We have now fallen into the habit of deriding Russian
inefficiency; let us remember that there were Russian ships
which shot quite as well as our best, while there are some
British ships which cannot shoot at all, and flagships amongst
them. But bad shooting does not seem to operate as a bar to
employment. It is not the younger officers who are at fault
here, but some occult influence at headquarters. There are
large fleets, such as the Channel, where through the close
personal attention of the Admiral and the zeal of his subor-
dinates the results are all that could be desired. What they
can do others should be able to copy.
It is significant of something wrong at headquarters that,
while shooting with the big guns is apparently regarded as of
secondary importance, useless exercises, such as rifle practice,
are cultivated with immense zeal. If more of the energy
which is wasted upon boat-pulling and small-arms firing were
devoted to gunnery and battle tactics, the British Navy would
be far more formidable than it is to-day. A want of concen-
tration of purpose is noticeable in the training as in the strategic
dispositions, and even in the design of the ships. British
battleships and cruisers carry about in them tons of useless
stores, where other emancipated navies, such as the German,
American, and Japanese, carry guns and ammunition. Thus
we have armoured cruisers of Io, ooo tons which would stand no
chance of holding their own against Japanese vessels of the
same size and date. The British Admiralty has in recent years
wasted hundreds of thousands in building weak, unarmoured
cruisers, slow gunboats, and sloops, because it has been domi-
nated by officers who have been out of touch with the progress
of our day.
NAVAL LESSONS OF THE PRESENT WAR.—The lessons of
the present war are in the main these :
(1) That the Power which takes the initiative and attacks
resolutely has an immense advantage ; but that such a resolute
policy is only possible where the Government is well informed,
determined, and perfectly prepared. Wars are really won in our
own day by the completeness of the preparations made in peace.
Unless the instruments are ready, nothing can be done. Unless
there is a definite policy, i.e., a will which is exercised, there can,
however, be no concentration of purpose in the preparations.
Success goes more than ever to forethought ; less than ever to
improvisation. An initial disaster under modern conditions,
with an alert opponent, will spell final ruin. Thus the Japanese

[ocr errors]

fleet in February acted with the extremest energy because it was ready, and because the Japanese Government was decided. On February 5 diplomatic relations are broken off; on the 7th the fleet leaves Sasebo early in the morning; on the night of the 8th contact is gained with the main Russian fleet 580 miles away, and such losses are inflicted on the Russians as to place them in a position of distinct inferiority. The distance from Sasebo to Port Arthur is greater by 130 miles than that from Emden, the nearest German base, to Portland, and twice as great as that between Emden and Chatham. The British Navy will therefore be exposed to similar surprises if there is any hesitation at the critical point on the part of our Government. (2) That concentration is necessary in the dispositions. The Russians had four or five good ships in Europe (as we in China); they further left a weak detachment exposed to attack at Chemulpho. But for the action of the neutral ships (including, it is said, the British cruiser Talbot, though I find it hard to believe that a British captain could be capable of enforcing the rights of neutrals to the detriment of our ally) the Russian detachment would have been captured and added to the Japanese navy, instead of being sunk. (3) That decided superiority in armoured ships is essential for victory. The Russians were compelled to remain at Port Arthur because they could only dispose of eight powerful armoured ships at the point of contact, to the twelve Japanese. Counted in points, the Russian force was 7.1 to the Japanese 9.8. The weaker fleet is peculiarly liable to injury by torpedo and mine attacks, from which the stronger has little to fear. Thus the powerful armoured ship is indispensable, and the war is showing more and more every day that all depends upon it. Torpedo craft are apparently able to do little against a superior fleet at sea. (4) That even a great superiority in force does not enable a victorious fleet to impose a close blockade. The Japanese, allowing for the detachment of three armoured cruisers to watch the Vladivostock fleet, can now bring against Port Arthur a force represented by 9. The Russian force has sunk to 5.1, owing to the disablement of the two best battleships.” Yet, as Admiral Yamamoto told the Japanese Parliament, the Japanese fleet is not strong enough to blockade, though there are bases close at hand to Port Arthur which the Japanese have seized. It is plain that England cannot rely upon blockading the

* This was written before the catastrophe of April 13, which removed two more battleships and reduced the Russian force to 3.5.

[graphic][graphic]

hostile fleets in their ports in the event of a war with an
alliance, and perhaps not even in the event of a war with a
single strong Power. Mr. Jane's calculations give England in
1906 a force of 91.8 points; France, 42.5 ; Russia, 27.7 ; and
Germany, 26.4. The British force would bear to the Franco-
Russian one a proportion lower than the Japanese bears to
the fleet of Admiral Makaroff, and Japan has no commerce
and food-supply to protect, while she has a great army. The
British dispositions require to be reconsidered ; and a strong
reserve of powerful armoured ships, which England does not
possess, is more than ever necessary. If the enemy's ports are
to be left open, the attack upon our commerce and food-supply
becomes a simple matter for our adversaries, and will certainly
prove disastrous to us.
(5) That unless there is a good margin for mishaps, such as,
in 1899, Lord G. Hamilton declared to be necessary, bold
tactics cannot be adopted by our Admirals, and the war may
be indefinitely prolonged. On the morning of February 9,
Admiral Togo had the remnant of the Russian fleet at his mercy
if he had been prepared to run some risk from the forts and
mines. But Japan's navy was too weak to permit of such risks
being run, and the opportunity had reluctantly to be thrown
away. For success on a Napoleonic scale great risks must be
run, and it is “not victory but annihilation that the country
wants.” Nelson always insisted on the importance of numbers;
“only numbers can annihilate ” was one of his wisest sayings,
forgotten by our Mr. Robertsons, Winston Churchills, and
other demagogues.
There is nothing new in any of these points; nothing unfore-
seen by those who have studied naval history, which ever repeats
itself. The lesson of the war is certainly that for us any economy
in the construction of powerful armoured ships will have the
most untoward consequences.
ARMIES OF ENGLAND AND GERMANY. —There can be no
comparison between the military strength of Germany and
England. The German force represents the whole nation,
perfectly organised, trained and prepared in peace by the
officers who will lead it in war. At a short distance from the
German seaboard are eight army corps, totalling at war strength
Some 4oo, ooo men ; while if Russia and France could be
“squared,” twenty-three such corps would be available, with
three millions of trained men. In England the military force
represents only a small part of the nation, is indifferently
organised, and insufficiently trained, and in its auxiliary
branches lacks officers and transport. Three army corps are,

[ocr errors]

or were till recent changes, nominally organised in Great Britain, but they are incomplete in many details, and it is exceedingly doubtful if they could rapidly take the field. The question whether the German Army could be brought to bear is a naval one, and the proper way to prevent that army from being brought to bear is to maintain an adequate navy with a good margin for mishaps and miscalculations on the part of admirals. No admiral is infallible, and we are much too apt to argue that equality of strength will give victory over adversaries, and to assume that on our side no mistakes will be made. Yet even Nelson and Napoleon made great mistakes. Should the German fleet be much strengthened, without any reply on our part or without our obtaining allies, as I have stated already, the risks will be very grave indeed. Should Germany obtain the support of any other first-class Power, it is doubtful whether we should not be compelled to consent to a disastrous peace. POSSIBILITY OF AN ALLIANCE.-In view of the fact that the resources of the nation are limited, is there any possibility of obtaining an alliance, so as to ensure our security ? In the Far East we have guaranteed Japan against the intervention of a second Power, and the world is watching to see how or whether we shall fulfil our pledge. That guarantee must clearly carry with it security against underhand assistance granted by another Power to Russia, enabling her to move her ships out to the Far East, or to strengthen her fleet, so that the possibilities of complication are at any moment very serious, the more so as there is no well-defined international law on the subject of coaling. But Russia, by her declaration of coal as contraband, has rendered it difficult for her own ships to coal at French or British coaling-stations. She will have to keep or to be kept to her own interpretation of the law of nations. Unfortunately, England has no reciprocal guarantee from Japan. As soon as possible the existing alliance should be modified and completed by a Japanese guarantee of intervention under conditions analogous to those which bind England to move. Japan's good faith may be thoroughly trusted. Secondly, yet closer relations with France are to be desired, But here there is an impasse ; England is the ally of Japan, who is at war with Russia; France is the ally of Russia, who is at war with Japan. How can two neutral allies of these opposed Powers reach an alliance f But while it would be preposterous for us to ask France for help against Russia or for France to expect assistance from us against Japan, it is

« PreviousContinue »