28 APRIL 1939, Page 21


[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR]

SIR,—Many must have compared, in a general way, our present situation with that of the Napoleonic crisis of 1803-05. Both have at least one feature strikingly in common, for in both the problem of man-power dominates. In the earlier crisis, it is true, the emphasis lay more heavily upon what was more strictly " national " defence, since the forces of the enemy then lay massed and ready upon the other side of the Channel, threatening direct invasion. But fundamentally the problem is the same.

A passage in Sir John Fortescue's Wellington—written nearly 15 years ago—which refers to the earlier crisis, reads, therefore, with a new and forceful significance in the light of recent events. The passage is in no need of italics ; it speaks its warning clearly enough of itself : "Further, since the renewal of war in 1803 the whole nation had been called under arms, though with a confusion, mis- management, and imbecility that can hardly be credited. Addington's Government, fearful of imposing by compulsion on every able-bodied citizen his natural duty to defend his country, had permitted the formation of countless bodies of volunteers ; and this weakness in allowing men to evade real military service. . . had gone far to deprive both Militia and Regular Army of their lawful share of recruits."

Food for thought, you will agree—and for those who find its substance not too indigestible, perhaps for more than thought?