« PreviousContinue »
additional heavy guns, and after weeks of almost handto hand fighting occupied the hills of Gutchevo, between Shabatz and the Bosnian border. Their numbers have been gradually increased by new levies, until they are believed to amount to 5 or even 6 army corps; and the Serbs, after falling back upon Valyevo, have at length found it necessary to evacuate that town altogether and to take up a strong defensive position in central Serbia, with the town and military arsenal of Kraguyevatz as their centre.
It is impossible to attempt any estimate of the losses of the campaign. The Serbs have admittedly suffered far more severely than in either of the Balkan wars, and their scanty medical resources have been strained to the uttermost. On the other hand, the Austrian casualties have been appalling. According to a seemingly authentic report which has reached the Morning Post’ from Budapest, the campaign against Serbia is officially, though not publicly, admitted to have cost the Dual Monarchy up to the end of October 791 officers and 37,647 men killed, 2219 officers and 90,736 men wounded, and 118 officers and 17,087 men missing-in other words, a total of 148,598! Such is the heroic record of the Serbian army, whose destruction is likely to strain the resources of Austria-Hungary to the uttermost.
R. W. SETON-WATSON.
Art. 8.-RECRUITING, AND THE CENSORSHIP. THE military situation, so far as this country is concerned, gives ample food for thought. In some respects it is satisfactory, in others not. The War Office merits high praise for the celerity and smoothness with which our Expeditionary Force was mobilised, concentrated and despatched to the Continent, prepared in every respect to take the field. The Fleet was ready even before the declaration of war, and has, with comparatively slight loss, performed its difficult and dangerous task of holding the seas.
Above all, the officers and men of our army in the field have shown a degree of self-sacrifice, courage and endurance unsurpassed in the most glorious pages of our military history, and, in conjunction with our Allies, have succeeded in stemming the tide of invasion which had engulfed Belgium and threatened the existence of France. All this is so much to the good; it is matter for legitimate satisfaction. Indeed, we were so agreeably surprised at the efficiency displayed, at our readiness for war, so far as the Expeditionary Force was concerned, that we have never ceased to congratulate ourselves upon it since. It has saved at least some portion of that self-complacency which is our national besetting sin, and has half obscured the unpleasing fact that we are, as usual, in a spasm of belated anxiety, only doing our best to 'muddle through.' Forewarned was not, in our case, forearmed; the warnings were in plenty, but they were unheeded or ignored. We were caught unprepared, and we are now improvising an army in the middle of a war.
Nothing is to be gained by recrimination now; and, although Ministers who have ruled the country for the last eight years must bear the principal blame for the present difficult and even dangerous situation, the Opposition cannot escape its share. The Unionist party, as a whole, have indeed striven manfully to prevent the reductions in our naval and military forces to which benighted pacifists sought, only too successfully, to coerce their leaders; but they never came out clearly-as did a few members like Col. Weston-in favour of any measure which could give us real security. To the pleadings of the war-worn veteran who has just been laid to rest in St Paul's, Conservatives were only a shade less deaf than
Liberals. But it is necessary to point out the results of the policy which has been pursued, and to consider the difficulties in which we are now involved.
To begin with, the whole scheme of defence launched some years ago, after so much hard thinking,' has proved utterly inadequate and has had to be abandoned. One of the first things the Government did after the outbreak of war was to send for Lord Kitchener; * and the first thing Lord Kitchener did was to call for a million of men, not for home defence but for service abroada demand which has since then been largely increased. What becomes of the repeated assurances so comfortably, we might say unctuously advanced, that an Expeditionary Force of 160,000 men was all that could be required ? The Territorial Army was to consist of some 300,000 men (it never reached nearly that figure before the war); that number has now been exceeded by at least 50 per cent. Its duties were to be those of home defence-to guard the coast and repel raids or even invasion; this limitation has been abandoned, and a large proportion of the men have volunteered for foreign service. Many of its units have gone to our dependencies and foreign possessions; others are fighting in Belgium, and more will doubtless go. They have, in fact, become the reserves of the Expeditionary Force. And all this rearrangement has had to be made in the midst of war, a war in which we are struggling for national existence hardly a hundred miles from our own coast. Has the parable of the Foolish Virgins ever received more damning illustration ?
On what grounds, again, it may well be asked, was the number of the Expeditionary Force fixed at just 160,000 men? What military problem was this number designed to meet? What particular enemy was to be faced? The answer was given by that especially hard thinker,' Lord Haldane, only a short time ago when, in the debate on the Army Annual Bill 1913, he said : The six divisions, the 160,000 men, of the Expeditionary Force owe their origin to no calculation of what sort of an army we should require on the Continent or in any other place.'
• Incidentally it may be remarked that, if the Ulster imbroglio did nothing else for us, it at least gave us Lord Kitchener in our time of need; for it may be presumed that, but for Col. Seeley's resignation, the present Secretary would now have been wasting his energies in Egypt.
It can hardly, then, be called a miscalculation, for there appears to have been no calculation at all. Whatever it was, we have paid and are paying bitterly for it. Our little army-numbering, at first, little over half the promised total-was flung, like a forlorn hope,' into the breach; and it has suffered the losses of a 'forlorn hope.' By this time its losses amount to about the full number of men originally sent to the front. That it escaped complete destruction at the outset was due, not to the non-calculations of the late Secretary for War, but to its own extraordinary fighting qualities, which barely averted a disaster more crushing than any that has hitherto befallen the British arms. Had we been able to put only half a million trained men in the field, that risk need never have been run. Since the first woeful inroads upon its strength during the retreat from Mons, that little force has displayed, in the battles on the Marne and the Aisne, a recuperative vigour and a courage in attack which are nothing short of marvellous; while, in the defence of Ypres, it has withstood day after day, night after night, and week after week, the repeated and concentrated attacks of overwhelming armies. A more magnificent example of stubborn endurance in defence and of courage and vigour in counter-attack has never been displayed. But at what a sacrifice of noble lives has the victory been won! We do not envy the feelings of the politicians—if indeed they are capable of remorse—when they survey the results of a blind and cheese-paring policy which condemned that thin khaki line, daily growing thinner, to bear a brunt which required at least thrice its strength.
That crisis over, the immediate danger staved off, we have now, after nearly three months of fierce and incessant fighting, another problem to solve-how to get, and how to train and equip, the armies which will be required to wear down the resistance of a brave, skilful and resolute enemy. How to get them, first; the rest, we may assume, will follow. A fine response has been made to Lord Kitchener's demand-a response the like of which has never been made in this country before. Speaking at the Mansion House, the Secretary for War avowed that he had no complaint to make on this score; and again, in the House of Lords, on Nov. 26, he expressed
himself as satisfied with the results. But at the same time he made it clear that he would want more, many more men; and, when the time came, he would make the appeal. Is he so sure, then, and can we be sure, that they will come when called; or will he, like Glendower, call in vain? The future safety of the country, and the durability of the peace that will end the war, depend apon the answer to this question. Recruits are coming in now, Lord Kitchener tells us, at the rate of approximately’ 30,000 a week. That is well, so far as it goes ; but at this rate it will take between eight and nine months to collect another million of men, and it will be a year or fifteen months before a considerable proportion of these will be ready to take the field. That is not the way in which this war can be brought to a successful termination; at all events we cannot contemplate without
l dismay the idea that the summer of 1916 may find us still engaged. Nothing is so futile as to go on indefinitely dribbling-in reinforcements merely to make good losses. If it is true on land, as Nelson held it to be at sea, that only numbers can annihilate, at this rate we shall never have the numbers. We shall manage to defend positions, to repel attacks, perhaps even to make some progress, but we shall never win the decisive victory. A year hence we shall be holding trenches in Flanders as we are to-day. For the Germans can play this game as well as we; and, unless the Austrians desert their allies, or the Russians completely crush their opponents—which is too much to hope for within many months—they will continue to do so.
The fact to be faced, then, is that we want a great many more men; and the problem is to ascertain what causes hinder us from getting them, or from getting them quickly enough. We can perhaps afford a longdrawn conflict better than our opponents ; but, even if we were to think of ourselves alone, we cannot contemplate without the gravest anxiety the economical and other effects of a prolonged struggle. But we are not to think of ourselves alone. War is not raging in this country; it is raging, with all the disastrous results of a ruthless invasion, in France, Belgium, Russia and elsewhere. It was a most unfortunate suggestionfor which certain Ministers are not devoid of blame