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proficiency of units did not exist. It was far simpler and quicker to test parade efficiency. The Algerian experiences of the French army prior to 1870 must have produced many of the results from which we have suffered. In a striking passage General Lewal has contrasted the slow promotion, the unnoticed and unrewarded years of toil which Von Moltke patiently endured, with the high rank and reputation cheaply won by French officers during the same period :
While this major laboured in Berlin without great recompense, highsounding reputations, prodigious promotions were being won in Algeria. Men of the same age were attaining the highest rank, and, later, fate was to bring these brilliant generals face to face with this persevering old Prussian major in an immense convulsion, in which the French army was to succumb.'
It is of the essence of the German military system that it could bring such a man as Von Moltke to the forefront as an organiser and as a director of war. If we have a Von Moltke, it is certain that he will live and die in obscurity. Our system has no place for him ; he could not fulfil any of the conditions necessary to bring his genius before the army and the public. The successful leader of some petty expedition against savages would soar over his head. A military administration cannot, however, be justly charged with full blame for the defects, moral and material, of the organism which it controls. An army is largely the reflex of a nation. A State which is in a sound and healthy condition, and a people animated by the true and earnest patriotism which lies deeper than words, will generally succeed in creating and maintaining an effective army. It was a national regeneration, not a military movement, which uplifted Prussia after the crushing disaster of 1806. And in seeking the causes which have led to many mishaps and some humiliation in South Africa, it is necessary to search outside and beyond the War Office.
Probably no war in which Great Britain has engaged began more inauspiciously than that now drawing to a close. We maintain a large and expensive establishment for the conduct of foreign affairs. By the accident of circumstance, the negotiations upon which peace or war depended devolved upon another department of State untrained in diplomacy. The result was naturally unsatisfactory.
While some powerful interests may have inclined towards war, the Government undoubtedly wished for peace, and it was therefore unfortunate that in the eyes of foreign observers the tenour of the negotiations was capable of an opposite interpretation. Trained diplomacy would have carefully avoided the risks of a misconstruction of motives. In such cases, even the turn of a phrase may be important. As the possibility of a war, which has since been pronounced
inevitable,' must apparently have been taken into account, it may be assumed that early in the spring of last year the War Office was asked to give some idea of the extent of the preparations which would be required. National policy and military considerations cannot be safely divorced, and all War Offices except our own have a special department
a charged with the duty of studying military contingencies and of tendering reasoned advice. The establishment of such a department had been forcibly urged by a Royal Commission nine years previously without any result. The Intelligence Branch had, however, prepared a sing accurate statement of the armed strength of the Dutch Republics, including detailed particulars of the guns and ammunition purchased from abroad. The information in regard to the personnel and matériel of the possible enemy was, therefore, quite exceptionally exact. There remained, as uncertain factors, the attitude of the Free State, the extent of the defection of Cape Colonists, and the measure of fighting power which the Boers were likely to develope. Of these, the last only was a military question, and the experience of the war of 1890-81, together with the known character of the Dutch people as stubborn fighters, which is deeply graven on history, provided sources of enlightenment, while the Austrian campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina supplied a grave warning. There were, however, false prophets who asserted, first that sufficiently strong language would bend the Dutch Republics to our will, and secondly that the military power of the Boers was a bubble easily pricked. The military authorities originally considered that a force of 35,000 men would meet the requirements, and the Cabinet, so informed, shaped its policy accordingly. History nowhere records so colossal an error.
The army at home was organised on the theory that it should be able, as a second phase of a struggle with a ' first-class Power, to send two army corps abroad.'* The army corps is a product of the German territorial system which has never existed nor can exist in this country. In the English language, it means only a printed list of units,
Mr. Wyndham in the House of Commons, March 19, 1900.
horses, vehicles, and details which have to be collected from all parts of the United Kingdom when required, and supplied with a hastily improvised staff. Successive Cabinets and Parliaments must be assumed to have acquiesced in this theory, and no special fault can, therefore, be found with the War Office for not having provided for such a contingency as a war with the Dutch Republics which has entailed the employment of the numerical equivalent of more than six army corps. An expeditionary force consisting of a so-called army corps, a cavalry division, and seven infantry battalions for the line of communications, in all about 47,000 men, having been at length decided upon, and some weeks being available before mobilisation was decreed, there was ample time to make necessary preparations.
Meanwhile, there was a grave deficiency of ammunition. As Lord Rosebery's Government had been defeated on a motion with regard to the reserves of this essential requisite of war, and as the statement of military experts, which the then Secretary of State for War adduced, failed to satisfy the House of Commons, it was universally believed that the Cabinet which assumed office had made good all possible shortcomings. This belief proved ill-founded. When war was declared, ammunition both for artillery and small arms was dangerously deficient. Now that, after great efforts, this deficiency has been remedied, it may be stated that if in October last we had been involved in a war with a European Power, and if the navy as well as the army had required ammunition, national disaster would have been inevitable.
From the Boer point of view, it was most desirable to postpone bostilities till rain had fallen; but as early as July the Government of Natal became uneasy, and in the first days of September the Governor forcibly pointed out the defencelessness of the colony. The regular troops in South Africa at this time numbered about 9,500 men, with eighteen field and six mountain guns, a force obviously inadequate to the mere passive defence of Her Majesty's dominions. The organisation of the British army was such that not a single unit at home was ready to take the field. To mobilise might prejudice the negotiations in progress; but it was evidently necessary to take some action, and on September 8 reinforcements amounting to about 9,000 fighting men, with six field batteries, were ordered to South Africa. There were 106,000 nominal effectives in the regular army at home; but only one weak battalion,
another which chanced to be at Aldershot en route from Crete to the West Indies, and three field batteries made up to war strength by a wholesale drafting of men and horses could be provided. By drawing a brigade, three field batteries, and three cavalry regiments from India, and two battalions from colonial garrisons, the meagre reinforcement was made up. If 30,000 men couid have been sent out at this period the whole course of the war would have been different, and no more striking object lesson of the unsuitability of our organisation to Imperial requirements can be imagined
Throughout September, Natal was at the mercy of the Boers, whose preparations were happily incomplete. On October 3 the first Indian transport reached Durban, and others rapidly followed. On the 11th the period fixed by President Kruger's ultimatum expired, and a state of war supervened. Meanwhile, the mobilisation of the expeditionary force was ordered on the 7th ; but the earliest departures did not take place till the 20th, and the distance from Southampton to Cape Town is nearly 6,000 miles.
A more dangerous situation than that which arose on October 11 is hardly to be found in the annals of war. It was open to the Boers to occupy our troops fully in Northern Natal and to sweep down into Cape Colony. A general rising of their colonial sympathisers would certainly have occurred, and we should have been driven to defend Cape Town at all cost. At the best, we should have had to reconquer South Africa from the sea northwards. At the worst, we should have lost Cape Colony. Natal, however, offered the shortest route to the coast, and reminiscences of 1880-81 may have inclined the Boers in this direction. Upon Natal the storm of invasion burst. In England the entire situation had been hopelessly misunderstood, and the local military view has not yet transpired. The general officer commanding in South Africa, who was not in political sympathy with the High Commissioner, was recalled at the moment when his presence was most needed, and became at once the object of violent attacks, although debarred by his position from all means of self-defence. Whether any definite idea existed as to how the possessions of the Crown were to be protected against invasion is at present unknown, and the responsibility for such measures as were taken is undetermined. In Natal, military stores were accumulated at Ladysmith, which had been utilised as a camp without the smallest consideration of its defensive capabilities.
Kimberley was to be held as the centre of the great diamond industry, and Mafeking either on account of its association with the raid of 1896, or with a vague notion of maintaining communication with Rhodesia. A detachment of British troops was sent to the former, and capable officers were placed in charge of both. Both positions were partially provisioned, and at Mafeking local foresight happily added to the supplies. That a long line of railway is peculiarly vulnerable, and that both Kimberley and Mafeking were certain to be isolated for months, was apparently not realised by the authorities. In Natal, political sentiment was naturally opposed to abandoning territory, and it was urged that Newcastle, thirty miles from Volksrust, where the Boers were concentrated, should be held. This was, however, too obviously preposterous, and Major-General Sir W. Symons, who had arrived from India, took post at Dundee, thirty-five miles further south, The Quartermaster-General of the British army, removed from his post just when its duties were becoming vitally important, arrived in Natal a few days before the outbreak of war to take command, and was persuaded by the Governor, against his better judgement, to acquiesce in the occupation of Dundee.
The military situation on October 11 was thus absolutely false. About 4,000 men were occupying an impossible position at Dundee, and the railway thither from the frontier had been left intact for the use of the invaders. Another force of about 6,000 men was at Ladysmith, a place totally unfitted for defence, and no effective measures for artificially strengthening either had been taken. There was a small reserve at Pietermaritzburg, and Durban could be guarded by the Navy Kimberley, Vryburg, and Mafeking were completely en l'air ; the whole frontier of Cape Colony was open to any form of attack, and no reinforcements could be expected at the front for five weeks. At the northern apex of Natal about 16,000 Boers were ready to advance, and at least 6,000 more were preparing to move on Ladysmith from Van Reenen's Pass. In England it was generally believed that a repulse with moderate loss would suffice to break up the enemy's forces.
During the night of October 19 the Boers, with artillery, occupied Talana Hill, north of Dundee, and opened fire at daybreak on the British camp. Their guns were quickly silenced, and the first position ever defended by magazine rifles was gallantly stormed by the British infantry. Most unfortunately, Sir W. Symons fell mortally wounded, and