LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
THE WAR: BRITISH RISKS AND BRITISH PREPARATIONS.
LTO THE EDITOR OP THE "SPECTATOR."
Srn,—A few words of comment on your admirable article in the Spectator of December 10th, in which you suppose us to be at war with Germany, Russia, and France,—a not impossible situation, as you rightly warn us, in spite of all our Arbitra- tion Treaties, if next year goes badly with Japan, whether we stand by to see her overwhelmed or no.
During the recent Russian scare, when war with Russia seemed imminent, the first task of the War Office would have been, in terms of their agreement with India, to despatch sixty thousand men immediately to reinforce the Indian garrison. It is, how- ever, not generally known that this could, in the present depleted condition of the Reserve, only have been done by denuding Eng- land entirely of Regular troops, and by calling in addition for volunteers from the ranks of the Auxiliary Forces.
Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Council of the Royal United Service Institution, held recently, the subject proposed for the Gold Medal Essay for the coming year was "the best method of utilising the Auxiliary Forces in dealing with an invasion of England?' The subject was rejected on the representations of the naval members, in spite of the open dissent of their military colleagues, that the defence of England was the charge of the Navy alone, and that no invasion was possible which should exceed the official estimate of four or five thousand men.
In view of these facts, I submit a forecast of events which it is surely idle to reject as improbable should we be forced to war with three European PowerS:—
(1) India is threatened by Kuropatkin with three hundred thousand heroes from Manchuria. The "striking force" and
all the "home service" Regulars are despatched to meet the pressing danger, and reinforce an Indian Army which is without reserves and has 30 per cent. of its strength permanently in hospital.
(2) The Germans in South-West Africa raise the Boer mal- contents in the neighbouring Colonies. The South African Army, reinforced by Colonial contingents, is occupied in dealing with the rising.
(3) The Mediterranean Fleet corks the bottles that contain the Black Sea and Toulon Fleets.
(4) The Atlantic Fleet is similarly engaged outside Brest and Cherbourg.
(5) The Reserve Squadrons are on lines of communication. (6) The Channel Fleet is outnumbered and defeated by the German and Russian Baltic Fleets, and blockaded in the Forth.
(7) The allies land twenty thousand men a day in " Lets- pretendia" from Hamburg. (8) The Militia has been abolished. The Volunteers and Yeomanry number sufficient men to deal with the official raid of four or five thousand men, and no more. The remainder have been struck off as "redundant" Our artillery is obsolete.
(9) Portsmouth, Devonport, and St. Mary's Hope are stormed by a French, a German, and a Russian expeditionary force respectively.
(10) The Prime Minister is hanged in Whitehall.
That such an untoward combination of circumstances was not contemplated by Mr. Arnold-Forster and the Committee of Defence will probably afford us no consolation in our distress.
What is more, I do not believe that it is considered as at all an improbable one by a large section of the experts. What, for instance, does the Army Council say to it ? Hitherto we have only heard the voice of Mr. Arnold-Forster, who has apparently no time to listen to the Army Council, and of General Lyttelton, who can only tell us that while the Army is in the "melting- pot " the members of the Council are each snug in his " water- tight compartment." But it is an open secret that no member of the Army Council agrees with its soi-disant mouthpiece, still less with the Admiralty officials who rule any talk of a real inva- sion out of order, unless it be the "authorised raid" of four to five thousand men.
The cost of the recent invasion of "Letepretendia" was limited to 470,000. For this sum ten thousand men were landed.
General French has told us that the little make-believe was dear at the price. No doubt it was ; but does the Army Council really believe that Europe, if she attempted invasion at all, would be so accommodating as to send the " authorised" force only on such a venture, or that for 4700,000 she could not land a hundred thousand men, or for 47,000,000 a million men ?
Mr. Arnold-Forster apparently believes all kinds of things that nobody else does, and it is surely high time, before we commit
ourselves to his day-dreams on so important a question as the invasion of England, that we should hear the views of the new Council speaking as a Council.
In war it is the unexpected that always happens. Is it, then, even tolerably safe to put all our trust in a set scheme of action expected of our potential enemies by a War Minister who, with the Blue-Water School behind him and the Budget in front of him, but assuredly without the approval of the Army Council, finds it essential to reduce our land forces, and unnecessary to arm the remainder with quick-firing guns I —I am, Sir, &c., T.
[We are of the Blue-Water School, but that does not prevent us from sympathising with a great deal of what is said by our correspondent. In our opinion, the new Army scheme stands condemned by the fact that if it is carried out, and if we, after that, have war in India, we shall be deprived of the forces from whose so-called redundancy we drew the men to supply the corps without which we could not have ended the South African War. The hundred thousand men given us directly by the Militia, and the thirty thousand men directly or indirectly by the Volunteers, either actually to go to the front or else to free Regulars for the front, were absolutely necessary to our success. Why they should not be required in the case of a far graver war—a war which the Government must have contemplated when they made the Japanese Alliance—we are entirely at a loss to discover.—En. Spectator.]