« PreviousContinue »
1. The Reorganisation of Europe
II. General Louis Botha
Joseph. II. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand. III.
Karl the First and Last
QUARTERLY REVIEW W
No. 467.-APRIL, 1921.
Art. 1.—THE SAVING GRACE.
1. The Life of Admiral Mahan. By C. C. Taylor. Murray,
1920. 2. The Victory at Sea. By Rear Admiral William Sowden Sims. Murray, 1921.
God worketh all things here amongst us mediatly by a secondary means, the which means of our defence and safety being shipping, and sea forces, are to be esteemed as his guifts and then only availeable and beneficiall, when he withall vouchsafeth his grace to use them aright.'-RALEIGH. THE German Fleet, provided with everything which science and ingenuity could suggest, created for one purpose only, and superior, as Lord Jellicoe has pointed out, in many material respects to other Fleets, lacked the one thing needful; and, in consequence, lies for the most part in a dishonoured grave, as the price of its disobedience to the unchanging laws which are committed to the charge of seamen of all nations. Germany's rulers had learned, from Admiral Mahan, the Influence of Sea Power upon history; but what they had not learned was the Influence of the Sea Spirit upon the use of Sea Power. And so the day inevitably arrived when she literally fulfilled Mahan's prediction that her future upon the sea would end in a sail to English ports to surrender.
A great deal has been said and written about what has been termed Lord Jellicoe's failure to achieve victory in a decisive Fleet action ; and so ingrained in the human mind is the idea that the triumph of one force
Vol. 235,-No. 467..
over another is the only satisfactory end, especially to a naval engagement, that the real lesson of the ultimate surrender and subsequent fate of the German Fleet has been overlooked. And yet it seems obvious enough, unless we are prepared to deny that God worketh all things here amongst us mediatly by a secondary means.' Had the German Fleet been destroyed at Jutland, the victory would have been largely that of force over force; and, as such, nothing very new or startling. The surrender of that Fleet, however, was something far more significant; it was the visible manifestation of the triumph of the human or spiritual element over the material, and in consequence perhaps the greatest victory in history, the triumph of Right over Might.
When the nation offered up its thanks for the victory of the Right, it is to be supposed that it recognised, even in modern days, that those who fought to uphold the Right were directed by the Power to which its thanks were offered. Otherwise the thanks were meaningless
Lord Jellicoe acted, as he always would do, in accordance with what he believed to be the best for his country and regardless of any personal considerations whatsoever. As a result, his failure to achieve the end which seemed most satisfactory to human intelligence, alone rendered possible a far greater victory, and one of such deep significance that no one, except Mahan, ever dreamed of it. This is a very old story in human affairs. But there seems to be a lesson in it which eclipses any to be found in even the greatest of Nelson's victories. For it is precisely the neglect of any consideration of those spiritual forces that have been the real secret of our Sea Power, which constitutes our gravest peril at the present time.
For their recognition might in turn lead to a reconsideration of the world's problems from the only standpoint which can promise any. lasting results. Great Britain would, no doubt, be extremely hard pressed to find the means to enter upon a new naval competition, by whatever name it be called; but her pause at the present time is, I believe, based upon an instinctive disinclination to demand 'guifts,' solely for the purpose of their exhibition as the strongest Fleet in the world. One writer has complained that the Jutland battle has left
us little in the way of guidance as to our future naval construction. If this be so, it seems that herein lies one of the principal lessons of the late war at sea, and one which, it may be, we are, albeit unconsciously, taking to heart. Two facts appear to stand out from the past years of
With the obvious peril to civilisation, naval construction took a definite form, and the ships were built, in the main, with the clear knowledge of the nature of their opponents and the principal and determining theatre of operations. The peril, in fact, was revealed, and the sea spirit or instinct was guided in providing the means by which the most obvious danger might be met. In the absence of any definite threat, or theatre of operations, since Japan and the U.S.A. are ruled out by common consent, there is also an absence of guidance as to the means of defence, which has resulted in the widely divergent views that have been expressed on the subject.
It is true that many auxiliaries and accessories were not provided; but this only emphasises the second fact. Soon after the outbreak of war, just because the waiting battle fleets dominated the position in seeming inactivity, it became necessary for the enemy to adopt methods for which we were totally unprepared, as he did on land and as will always happen, to surprise us in fact. Neglecting, however, to use those methods aright, he simply invoked in his opponents a double portion of those spiritual forces latent in a naturally maritime nation, forces of whose powers he has never had the smallest conception.
And mark what followed. Firstly, the inspired merchant seamen went about their business with renewed determination; and, secondly, there was called into active service that power of improvisation which is our greatest national asset in emergency, especially amongst our seamen. This was, no doubt, quite natural; but that is what secondary means ' invariably are.
We habitually hold ourselves up to scorn for our seemingly chaotic methods of preparation, a national quality which might verily reassure those who accuse us of evil intent. With the necessary money and powers, it is possible, of course, to organise a whole nation until it becomes a war machine of remarkable mechanical efficiency, as the ruins of more than one dead nation
testify. It requires, however, a people with a soul to .muddle through.' In any case, a little reflexion and facing of facts will show us that any final solution of the question of future construction of ships for the sole purpose of destroying one another is quite impossible. Any other solution will only intensify the ultimate ruin. Such a ship, from the moment her design is sealed, and to whatever type or class, generally speaking, she belongs, becomes from her very nature and mission in life the object upon which the designers of every possible opponent, as well as her own, concentrate their attention with the express purpose of finding means to compass her destruction. This is the designer's recognised, remunerative, and curious business. Until comparatively recently a new ship, built by a foreign power, produced in somewhat leisurely fashion a more or less adequate answer, and there the matter rested awhile. Their respective officers, indeed, frequently compared notes with considerable friendliness.
Germany, however, with a new and special object in view, and Mahan's works by no means completely digested, introduced a novel and intense form of competition on a scale hitherto unknown; which, as Admiral Fiske truly remarks, must have been amazing to the man who was so largely responsible for it. Heedless of the largely artificial nature of these efforts, there seems some danger of the nations perpetuating this form of national enterprise for no ostensible object; while freely admitting that the next great war, which, if unchecked, it is quite certain to provoke, will wreck civilisation for good and all.
Further, among the many lessons which competition should have taught those at least who participated in it, is this. Whatever be the beginnings of any particular type of ship, she will, and indeed must, inevitably grow in size and cost, in proportion to the growth and numbers of the enemies which her peculiar offensive qualities automatically create. Ultimately, in some cases, where her powers for defence or counter-attack no longer be self-contained, she will demand
attendant satellites to supplement them, and the whole will require increasing facilities for their upkeep and the possible healing of their complicated wounds.