To this must be added, as I rather from the same source, 1,700,000 Territorials, with their "reserve," from which a reduction of 25 per cent., or roughly 450,000 men, must be made.
If it is assumed that, in case of war, the distribution of the arms will correspond to that in peace, the result is, on the basis of the strength of separate arms, which the Budget of 1911 anticipates, that out of the 2,300,000 field and reserve troops there must be assigned—to the infantry, about 1,530.000; to the cavalry, about 230,000 (since a considerable part of the reservists of these arms are employed in the transport service); to the artillery, about 380,000; to the pioneers, 70,000: to train and administration services (trains, columns, medical service, etc.), 90,000.
No further increase in these figures is possible, since in France 90 per cent, of all those liable to serve have been called up, and the birth-rate is steadily sinking. While in 1870 it reached 940,000 yearly, it has sunk in 1908 to 790.000. Recourse already has been had to the expedient of requiring smaller qualifications than before, and of filling the numerous subsidiary posts (clerks, waiters, etc.) with less efficient men, in order to relieve the troops themselves.
Under these conditions, it was necessary to tap new sources, and the plan has been formed of increasing the troops with native-born Algerians and Tunisians, in order to be able to strengthen the European army with them in event of war. At the same time negroes, who are excellent and trustworthy material, are to be enrolled in West Africa. A limited conscription, such as exists in Tunis, is to be introduced into Algeria. The black army is at first to be completed by volunteers, and conscription will only be enforced at a crisis. These black troops are in the first place to garrison Algeria and Tunis, to release the troops stationed there for service in Europe, and to protect the white settlers against the natives. Since the negroes raised for military service are heathen, it is thought that they will be a counterpoise to the Mohammedan natives. It has been proved that negro troops stand the climate of North Africa excellently, and form very serviceable troops. The two black battalions stationed in the Schauja, who took part in the march to Fez, bore the climate well, and thoroughly proved their value. There can be no doubt that this plan will be vigorously prosecuted, with every prospect of success. It is so far in an early stage. Legislative proposals on the use of the military resources offered by the native Algerians and the West African negroes have not yet been laid before Parliament by the Government. It cannot yet be seen to what extent the native and black troops will be increased. The former Minister of War, Messimy, had advocated a partial conscription of the native Algerians. An annual muster is made of the Algerian males of eighteen years of age available for military service. The Commission appointed for the purpose reported in 1911 that, after the introduction of the limited service in the army and the reserve, there would be in Algeria and Tunisia combined some 100,000 to 120,000 native soldiers available in war-time. They could also be employed in Europe, and are thus intended to strengthen the Rhine army by three strong army corps of first-class troops, who, in the course of years, may probably be considerably increased by the formation of reserves.
As regards the black troops, the matter is different. France, in her West African possessions combined, has some 16,000 negro troops available. As the black population numbers 10,000,000 to 12,000,000, these figures may be considerably raised.
Since May, 1910, there has been an experimental battalion of Senegalese sharp-shooters in Southern Algeria, and in the draft War Budget for 1912 a proposal was made to transfer a second battalion of Senegalese to Algeria. The conclusion is forced upon us that the plan of sending black troops in larger numbers to Algeria will be vigorously prosecuted. There is, however, no early probability of masses of black troops being transported to North Africa, since there are not at present a sufficient number of trained men available. The Senegalese Regiments 1, 2 and 3, stationed in Senegambia, are hardly enough to replace and complete the Senegalese troops quartered in the other African colonies of France. Although there is no doubt that France is in a position to raise a strong black army, the probability that black divisions will be available for a European war is still remote. But it cannot be questioned that they will be so some day.
Still less is any immediate employment of native Moroccan troops in Europe contemplated. Morocco possesses very good native warriors, but the Sultan exerts effective sovereignty only over a part of the territory termed "Morocco." There cannot be, therefore, for years to come any question of employing this fighting material on a large scale. The French and Moroccan Governments are for the moment occupied in organizing a serviceable Sultan's army of 20,000 men to secure the command of the country and to release the French troops in Morocco.
The annexation of Morocco may for the time being mean no great addition to military strength; but, as order is gradually established, the country will prove to be an excellent recruiting depot, and France will certainly use this source of power with all her accustomed energy in military matters.
For the immediate future we have, therefore, only to reckon with the reinforcements of the French European army which can be obtained from Algeria and Tunisia, so soon as the limited system of conscription is universally adopted there. This will supply a minimum of 120,000 men, and the tactical value of these troops is known to any who have witnessed their exploits on the battlefields of Weissenburg and Woerth. At least one strong division of Turcos is already available.
Next to the French army, we are chiefly concerned with the military power of Russia. Since the peace and war establishments are not published, it is hard to obtain accurate statistics; no information is forthcoming as to the strength of the various branches of the service, but the totals of the army may be calculated approximately. According to the recruiting records of the last three years, the strength of the Russian army on a peace footing amounts to 1,346,000 men, inclusive of Cossacks and Frontier Guards. Infantry and sharp-shooters are formed into 37 army corps (1 Guards, 1 Grenadiers, and 25 army corps in Europe; 3 Caucasian, 2 Turkistanian, and 5 Siberian corps). The cavalry is divided into divisions, independent brigades, and separate independent regiments.
In war, each army corps consists of 2 divisions, and is in round figures 42,000 strong; each infantry division contains 2 brigades, at a strength of 20,000. Each sharp-shooter brigade is about 9,000 strong, the cavalry divisions about 4,500 strong. On the basis of these numbers, we arrive at a grand total of 1,800,000 for all the army corps, divisions, sharp-shooter brigades, and cavalry divisions. To this must be added unattached troops and troops on frontier or garrison duty, so that the war strength of the standing army can be reckoned at some 2,000,000.
This grand total is not all available in a European theatre of war. The Siberian and Turkistanian army corps must be deducted, as they would certainly be left in the interior and on the eastern frontier. For the maintenance of order in the interior, it would probably be necessary to leave the troops in Finland, the Guards at St. Petersburg, at least one division at Moscow, and the Caucasian army corps in the Caucasus. This would mean a deduction of thirteen army corps, or 546,000 men; so that we have to reckon with a field army, made up of the standing army, 1,454,000 men strong. To this must be added about 100 regiments of Cossacks of the Second and Third Ban, which may be placed at 50,000 men, and the reserve and Empire-defence formations to be set on foot in case of war. For the formation of reserves, there are sufficient trained men available to constitute a reserve division of the first and second rank for each corps respectively. These troops, if each division is assumed to contain 20,000 men, would be 1,480,000 men strong. Of course, a certain reduction must be made in these figures. Also it is not known which of these formations would be really raised in event of mobilization. In any case, there will be an enormous army ready to be put into movement for a great war. After deducting all the forces which must be left behind in the interior, a field army of 2,000,000 men could easily be organized in Europe. It cannot be stated for certain whether arms, equipment, and ammunition for such a host can be supplied in sufficient quantity. But it will be best not to undervalue an Empire like Russia in this respect.
Quite another picture is presented to us when we turn our attention to England, the third member of the Triple Entente.
The British Empire is divided from the military point of view into two divisions: into the United Kingdom itself with the Colonies governed by the English Cabinet, and the self-governing Colonies. These latter have at their disposal a militia, which is sometimes only in process of formation. They can be completely ignored so far as concerns any European theatre of war.
The army of the parts of the Empire administered by the English Cabinet divides into the regular army, which is filled up by enlistment, the native troops, commanded by English officers, and the Territorial army, a militia made up of volunteers which has not reached the intended total of 300,000. It is now 270,000 strong, and is destined exclusively for home defence. Its military value cannot at present be ranked very highly. For a Continental European war it may be left out of account. We have in that case only to deal with a part of the regular English army. This is some 250,000 strong. The men serve twelve years, of which seven are with the colours and five in the reserve. The annual supply of recruits is 35,000. The regular reserve is now 136,000 strong. There is also a special reserve, with a militia-like training, which is enlisted for special purposes, so that the grand total of the reserve reaches the figure of 200,000.
Of the regular English army, 134,000 men are stationed in England, 74,500 in India (where, in combination with 159,000 native troops, they form the Anglo-Indian army), and about 39,000 in different stations—Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt, Aden, South Africa, and the other Colonies and Protectorates. In this connection the conditions in Egypt are the most interesting: 6,000 English are stationed there, while in the native Egyptian army (17,000 strong; in war-time, 29,000 strong) one-fifth of the officers are Englishmen. It may be supposed that, in view of the great excitement in the Moslem world, the position of the English is precarious. The 11,000 troops now stationed in South Africa are to be transferred as soon as possible to Mediterranean garrisons. In event of war, a special division will, on emergency, be organized there.
For a war in Continental Europe, we have only to take into account the regular army stationed in England. When mobilized, it forms the "regular field army" of 6 infantry divisions, 1 cavalry division, 2 mounted brigades and army troops, and numbers 130,000 men, without columns and trains. The regular troops in the United Kingdom which do not form part of the regular field army are some 100,000 strong. They consist of a very small number of mobile units, foot artillery, and engineers for coast defence, as well as the reserve formations. These troops, with some 13,000 militia artillery and militia engineers, constitute the Home Army, under whose protection the Territorial field army is completing its organization. Months must certainly elapse before portions of this army can strengthen the regular field army. At the most 150,000 men may be reckoned upon for an English expeditionary force. These troops compose at the same time the reserve of the troops stationed in the Colonies, which require reinforcements at grave crises. This constitutes the weak point in the British armament. England can employ her regular army in a Continental war so long only as all is quiet in the Colonies. This fact brings into prominence how important it will be, should war break out, to threaten England in her colonial possessions, and especially in Egypt.
Against the powerful hosts which the Powers of the Triple Entente can put into the field, Germany can command an active army of 589,705 men (on peace establishment, including non-commissioned officers) and about 25,500 officers; while Austria has an army which on a peace footing is 361,553 men and about 20,000 officers strong. The combined war strength of the two States may be estimated as follows:
In Germany there were drafted into the army, including volunteers and non-combatants, in 1892, 194,664 men; in 1909, 267,283 men; or on an average for seventeen years, 230,975 men annually. This gives a total of 3,926,575 men. If we estimate the natural decrease at 25 per cent., we have 2,944,931 trained men left. By adding the peace establishment to it, we arrive at an estimated strength of 3,534,636, which the French can match with about the same figures.
The annual enlistment in Austria amounts to some 135,000. Liability to serve lasts twelve years, leaving out of account service in the Landsturm. Deducting the three years of active service, this gives a total of 1,215,000, or, after the natural decrease by 25 per cent., 911,250 men. To this must be added the nine yearly batches of trained Landsturm, which, after the same deductions, will come likewise to 911,250. The addition of the peace strength of the army will produce a grand total of 2,184,053 men on a war footing; approximately as many as Russia, after all deductions, can bring into the field in Europe.
In what numbers the existing soldiers would in case of war be available for field formations in Germany and Austria is not known, and it would be undesirable to state. It depends partly on the forces available, partly on other circumstances winch are not open to public discussion. However high our estimate of the new formations may be, we shall never reach the figures which the combined forces of France and Russia present. We must rather try to nullify the numerical superiority of the enemy by the increased tactical value of the troops, by intelligent generalship, and a prompt use of opportunity and locality. Even the addition of the Italian army to the forces of Germany and Austria would not, so far as I know, restore numerical equality in the field.
In France it has been thought hitherto that two or three army corps must be left on the Italian frontier. Modern French writers [A] are already reckoning so confidently on the withdrawal of Italy from the Triple Alliance that they no longer think it necessary to put an army in the field against Italy, but consider that the entire forces of France are available against Germany.
[Footnote A: Colonel Boucher, "L'offensive contre l'Allemagne."]
The peace establishment of the Italian army amounts, in fact, to 250,000 men, and is divided into 12 army corps and 25 divisions. The infantry, in 96 regiments, numbers 140,000; there are besides 12 regiments of Bersaglieri, with which are 12 cyclist battalions and 8 Alpine regiments in 78 companies. The cavalry consists of 29 regiments, 12 of which are united in 3 cavalry divisions. The artillery has a strength of 24 field artillery regiments and 1 mounted regiment of artillery, and numbers 193 field and 8 mounted batteries. Besides this there are 27 mountain batteries and 10 regiments of garrison artillery in 98 companies. Lastly, there are 6 engineer regiments, including a telegraph regiment and an airship battalion. The Gendarmerie contains 28,000 men.
On a war footing the strength of the field army is 775,000. Some 70,000 men are enrolled in other formations of the first and second line. The militia is some 390,000 strong. The strength of the reserves who might be mobilized is not known. The field army is divided into 3 armies of 9 army corps in all, to which are added 8 to 12 divisions of the Territorial army and 4 cavalry divisions.
As to colonial troops, Italy can command in Benadir the services of 48 officers and 16 non-commissioned officers of Italian birth, and 3,500 native soldiers; in Eritrea there are 131 officers, 644 non-commissioned officers and privates of Italian birth, and 3,800 natives.
Italy thus can put a considerable army into the field; but it is questionable whether the South Italian troops have much tactical value. It is possible that large forces would be required for coast-defence, while the protection of Tripoli, by no means an easy task, would claim a powerful army if it is to be held against France.
The Turkish military forces would be of great importance if they joined the coalition of Central European Powers or its opponents.
The regular peace establishment of the Turkish army amounts to 275,000 men. In the year 1910 there were three divisions of it:
I. The Active Army (Nizam):
Infantry 133,000 Cavalry 26,000 Artillery 43,000 Pioneers 4,500 Special troops 7,500 Train formations 3,000 Mechanics 3,000
A total, that is, of 220,000 men.
2. The Redif (militia) cadres, composed of infantry, 25,000 men. Within this limit, according to the Redif law, men are enlisted in turns for short trainings.
3. Officers in the Nizam and Redif troops, military employes, officials, and others, more than 30,000.
The entire war strength of the Turkish army amounts to 700,000 men. We need only to take into consideration the troops from Europe, Anatolia, Armenia, and Syria. All these troops even are not available in a European theatre of war. On the other hand, the "Mustafiz" may be regarded as an "extraordinary reinforcement"; this is usually raised for local protection or the maintenance of quiet and order in the interior. To raise 30,000 or 40,000 men of this militia in Europe is the simplest process. From the high military qualities of the Turkish soldiers, the Turkish army must be regarded as a very important actor. Turkey thus is a very valuable ally to whichever party she joins.
The smaller Balkan States are also able to put considerable armies into the field.
Montenegro can put 40,000 to 45,000 men into the field, with 104 cannons and 44 machine guns, besides 11 weak reserve battalions for frontier and home duties.
Servia is supposed to have an army 28,000 strong on a peace footing; this figure is seldom reached, and sinks in winter to 10,000 men. The war establishment consists of 250,000 men, comprising about 165,000 rifles, 5,500 sabres, 432 field and mountain guns (108 batteries of 4 guns); besides this there are 6 heavy batteries of 4 to 6 cannons and 228 machine guns available. Lastly come the reserve formations (third line), so that in all some 305,000 men can be raised, exclusive of the militia, an uncertain quantity.
The Bulgarian army has a peace establishment of 59,820 men. It is not known how they are distributed among the various branches of the service. On a war footing an army of 330,000 is raised, including infantry at a strength of 230,000 rifles, with 884 cannons, 232 machine guns, and 6,500 sabres. The entire army, inclusive of the reserves and national militia, which latter is only available for home service and comprises men from forty-one to forty-six years of age, is said to be 400,000 strong.
Rumania, which occupies a peculiar position politically, forms a power in herself. There is in Rumania, besides the troops who according to their time of service are permanently with the colours, a militia cavalry called "Calarashi" (intelligent young yeomen on good horses of their own), whose units serve intermittently for short periods.
In peace the army is composed of 5,000 officers and 90,000 men of the permanent establishment, and some 12,000 serving intermittently. The infantry numbers some 2,500 officers and 57,000 men, the permanent cavalry (Rosiori) some 8,000 men with 600 officers, and the artillery 14,000 men with 700 officers.
For war a field army can be raised of some 6,000 officers and 274,000 men, with 550 cannons. Of these 215,000 men belong to the infantry, 7,000 to the cavalry, and 20,000 to the artillery. The cavalry is therefore weaker than on the peace footing, since, as it seems, a part of the Calarashi is not to be employed as cavalry. Inclusive of reserves and militia, the whole army will be 430,000 strong. There are 650,000 trained men available for service.
Although the Balkan States, from a military point of view, chiefly concern Austria, Turkey, and Russia, and only indirectly come into relations with Germany, yet the armies of the smaller Central European States may under some circumstances be of direct importance to us, if they are forced or induced to take part with us or against us in a European war.
Of our western neighbours, Switzerland and Holland come first under consideration, and then Belgium.
Switzerland can command, in case of war, a combined army of 263,000 men. The expeditionary force, which is of first importance for an offensive war, consists of 96,000 infantry and 5,500 cavalry, with 288 field guns and 48 field howitzers (the howitzer batteries are in formation), a total of 141,000 men.
The Landwehr consists of 50.000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry, with 36 12-centimetre cannons belonging to foot artillery. It has a total strength of 69,000 men. The Landsturm finally has a strength of 53,000 men.
The Dutch army has a peace establishment averaging 30,000 men, which varies much owing to the short period of service. There are generally available 13,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, 5,000 field artillery, 3,400 garrison artillery, and I,400 engineers, pontonniers, and transport troops. The field army in war is 80,000 strong, and is made up of 64,000 infantry, cyclist, and machine-gun sections, 2,600 cavalry, 4,400 artillery, and goo engineers. It is formed into 4 army divisions each of 15 battalions, 4 squadrons, 6 batteries, and 1 section engineers. There is, further, a garrison army of 80,000 men, which consists of 12 active and 48 Landwehr infantry battalions, 44 active and 44 Landwehr foot artillery companies, and 10 companies engineers and pontonniers, including Landwehr. The Dutch coast also is fortified. At Holder, Ymuiden, Hook of Holland, at Voelkerack and Haringvliet there are various outworks, while the fortifications at Flushing are at present unimportant. Amsterdam is also a fortress with outlying fortifications in the new Dutch water-line (Fort Holland).
Holland is thus well adapted to cause serious difficulties to an English landing, if her coast batteries are armed with effective cannons. It would easily yield to a German invasion, if it sided against us.
Belgium in peace has 42,800 troops available, distributed as follows: 26,000 infantry, 5,400 cavalry, 4,650 field artillery, 3,400 garrison artillery, 1,550 engineers and transport service.
On a war footing the field army will be 100,000 strong, comprising 74,000 infantry, 7,250 cavalry, 10,000 field artillery, 1,900 engineers and transport service, and is formed into 4 army divisions and 2 cavalry divisions. The latter are each 20 squadrons and 2 batteries strong; each of the army divisions consists nominally of 17 battalions infantry, 1 squadron, 12 batteries, and 1 section engineers. In addition there is a garrison army of 80,000, which can be strengthened by the garde civique, Antwerp forms the chief military base, and may be regarded as a very strong fortress. Besides this, on the line of the Maas, there are the fortified towns of Liege, Huy, and Namur. There are no coast fortifications.
Denmark, as commanding the approaches to the Baltic, is of great military importance to us. Copenhagen, the capital, is a strong fortress. The Army, on the other hand, is not an important factor of strength, as the training of the units is limited to a few months. This State maintains on a peace footing some 10,000 infantry, 800 cavalry, 2,300 artillery, and 1,100 special arms, a total of 14,200 men; but the strength varies between 7,500 and 26.000. In war-time an army of 62,000 men and 10,000 reserves can be put into the field, composed numerically of 58,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, 9,000 artillery, and 2,000 special arms.
Sweden can command eight classes of the First Ban, which comprises units from twenty-one to twenty-eight years of age, and is 200,000 strong, as well as four classes of the Second Ban, with a strength of 90,000, which is made up of units from twenty-eight to thirty-two years of age. There are also available 30,000 trained volunteers, students and ex-students from twenty-one to thirty-two years of age.
The eight classes of the Landsturm are 165,000 men strong. It can, accordingly, be roughly calculated what field army can be raised in case of war. The entire First Ban certainly comes under this head.
In Greece, which does not signify much for a European war, but might in combination with the small Balkan States prove very troublesome to Turkey, and is therefore important for us, an active army of 146,000 men can be put into the field; there are besides this 83,000 men in the Landwehr and 63,000 men in the Landsturm.
Spain has a peace army of 116,232 men, of whom 34,000 are permanently stationed in Africa. In war she can raise 327,000 men (140,000 active army, 154,000 garrison troops, 33,000 gendarmerie). The mobilization is so badly organized that at the end of a month 70,000 to 80,000 men could at most be put into the field.
As regards the naval forces of the States which concern us to-day, the accompanying table, which is taken from the Nauticus of 1911, affords a comparative epitome, which applies to May, 1911. It shows that, numerically, the English fleet is more than double as strong as ours. This superiority is increased if the displacements and the number of really modern ships are compared. In May we possessed only four battleships and one armed cruiser of the latest type; the English have ten ships-of-the-line and four armed cruisers which could be reckoned battleships. The new ships do not materially alter this proportion. The comparative number of the ships-of-the-line is becoming more favourable, that of the armoured cruisers will be less so than it now is. It may be noticed that among our cruisers are a number of vessels which really have no fighting value, and that the coast-defence ironclads cannot be counted as battleships. France, too, was a little ahead of us in the number of battleships in May, 1911, but, from all that is hitherto known about the French fleet, it cannot be compared with the German in respect of good material and trained crews. It would, however, be an important factor if allied with the English.
Battle- Armoured Armoured Armoured Protected Number N S Nation. ships Coast Gunboats Cruisers Cruisers of u u above Defence and Torpedo m b 5,000 Vessels Armoured Vessels b m Tons. from Ships e a 3000 Tons under r r to 5,000 3,000 i Tons Tons i - - - - o n No Displ. No Displ. No Displ No Displ. No Displ. From f e 200 80- s Tons 200 Tons - - - - - - GERMANY: Ready 25 332,410 5 20,600 - - 10 114,590 33 122,130 117 70 12 Voted or building 12 - - - - - 4 - 7 - 14 ENGLAND: Ready 50 793,260 - - - - 38 484,970 66 333,540 223 36 53 Voted or building 12 286,640 - - - - 6 145,320 20 101,320 51 19 FRANCE: Ready 22 314,930 - - - - 22 214,670 10 50,780 71 191 52 Voted or building 4 93,880 - - - - - - - - 13 19 ITALY: Ready 8 96,980 - - - - 10 79,530 4 10,040 53 39 7 Voted or building 4 84,000 - - - - - - 3 10,200 14 28 13 AUSTRIA- HUNGARY Ready 11 102,620 - - - - 3 18,870 4 10,590 18 66 7 Voted or building 5 94,500 - - - - - - 3 - 6 RUSSIA: Baltic Fleet Ready 4 62,300 - - 1 1,760 6 64,950 4 27,270 60 19 13 Voted or building 8 - - - - - - - - - 1 1 Black Sea Fleet Ready 6 72,640 - - - - - - 3 13,620 17 10 4 Voted or building 4 - - - - - - - - - 14 7 Siberian Fleet - - - - - - - 2 9,180 20 7 13 UNITED STATES: Ready 30 434,890 4 13,120 - - 14 181,260 16 65,270 40 28 19 Voted or building 7 190,000 - - - - - - - - 14 20 JAPAN: Ready 13 194,690 2 8,540 - - 13 139,830 12 49,170 59 49 12 Voted or building 3 - - - - - 4 107,120 3 15,000 2 1 - - - - - -
Let us assume that in event of war England as well as France must leave a certain naval force in the Mediterranean, which need not be stronger than the combined Italian and Austrian fleets, but might be smaller, in event of a change in the grouping of the States; let us further assume that numerous cruisers will be detained at the extra-European stations—the fact, however, remains that England and France together can collect against Germany in the North Sea a fleet of battleships alone three times as strong as that of Germany, and will be supported by a vastly superior force of torpedo-vessels and submarines. If Russia joins the alliance of these Powers, that would signify another addition to the forces of our opponents which must not be underestimated, since the Baltic Fleet in the spring of 1911 contained two large battleships, and the Baltic fleet of cruisers is always in a position to threaten our coasts and to check the free access to the Baltic. In one way or the other we must get even with that fleet. The auxiliary cruiser fleet of the allies, to which England can send a large contingent, would also be superior to us.
As regards materiel and training, it may be assumed that our fleet is distinctly superior to the French and Russian, but that England is our equal in that respect. Our ships' cannons will probably show a superiority over the English, and our torpedo fleet, by its reckless energy, excellent training, and daring spirit of adventure, will make up some of the numerical disadvantage. It remains to be seen whether these advantages will have much weight against the overwhelming superiority of an experienced and celebrated fleet like the English.
Reflection shows that the superiority by sea, with which we must under certain circumstances reckon, is very great, and that our position in this respect is growing worse, since the States of the Triple Entente can build and man far more ships than we can in the same time.
If we consider from the political standpoint the probable attitude of the separate States which may take part in the next war against Germany, we may assume that the intensity of the struggle will not be the same in every case, since the political objects of our possible antagonists are very different.
If we look at France first, we are entitled to assume that single-handed she is not a match for us, but can only be dangerous to us as a member of a coalition. The tactical value of the French troops is, of course, very high; numerically the army of our neighbour on the west is almost equal, and in some directions there may be a superiority in organization and equipment; in other directions we have a distinct advantage. The French army lacks the subordination under a single commander, the united spirit which characterizes the German army, the tenacious strength of the German race, and the esprit de corps of the officers. France, too, has not those national reserves available which would allow us almost to double our forces. These are the conditions now existing. But if the French succeed in making a large African army available for a European theatre, the estimate of strength of the French army as compared with ours will be quite different. This possibility must be borne in mind, for, according to the whole previous development of affairs, we may safely assume that France will leave no stone unturned to acquire, if only for a time, a military superiority over Germany. She knows well that she cannot reach her political goal except by a complete defeat of her eastern neighbour, and that such a result can only be obtained by the exercise of extraordinary efforts.
It is certain that France will not only try to develop her own military power with the utmost energy, but that she will defend herself desperately if attacked by Germany; on the other hand, she will probably not act on the offensive against Germany unless she has increased her own efficiency to the utmost limit, and believes that she has secured the military supremacy by the help of active allies. The stakes are too high to play under unfavourable conditions. But if France thinks she has all the trumps in her hands, she will not shrink from an offensive war, and will stake even thing in order to strike us a mortal blow. We must expect the most bitter hostility from this antagonist. Should the Triple Alliance break up—as seems probable now—this hour will soon have struck.[B] If the war then declared be waged against us in combination with England, it may be assumed that the allied Great Powers would attempt to turn our strategical right flank through Belgium and Holland, and penetrate into the heart of Germany through the great gap in the fortresses between Wesel and Flushing. This operation would have the considerable advantage of avoiding the strong line of the Rhine and threatening our naval bases from the land side. From the superiority of the combined Anglo-French fleet, the army of invasion could without difficulty have its base on our coasts. Such an operation would enormously facilitate the frontal attack on our west frontier, and would enable the French to push a victorious advance onward to the Rhine, after investing Metz and Diedenhofen.
[Footnote B: Written in October, 1911.]
England, with whose hostility, as well with that of the French, we must reckon, could only undertake a land war against us with the support of an ally who would lead the main attack. England's troops would only serve as reinforcements; they are too weak for an independent campaign. English interests also lie in a quite different field, and are not coincident with those of France.
The main issue for England is to annihilate our navy and oversea commerce, in order to prevent, from reasons already explained, any further expansion of our power. But it is not her interest to destroy our position as a Continental Power, or to help France to attain the supremacy in Europe. English interests demand a certain equilibrium between the Continental States. England only wishes to use France in order, with her help, to attain her own special ends, but she will never impose on herself sacrifices which are not absolutely necessary, for the private advantage of her ally. These principles will characterize her plan of campaign, if she sees herself compelled by the political position and the interests of her naval supremacy to take part in a war against us.
If England, as must be regarded probable, determines sooner or later on this step, it is clearly to her advantage to win a rapid victory. In the first place, her own trade will not be injured longer than necessary by the war; in the second place, the centrifugal forces of her loosely compacted World Empire might be set in movement, and the Colonies might consult their own separate interests, should England have her hands tied by a great war. It is not unlikely that revolutions might break out in India and Egypt, if England's forces were long occupied with a European war. Again, the States not originally taking part in the war might interfere in our favour, if the decision were much delayed. It was important for us in 1870-71 to take Paris quickly, in order to forestall any interference of neutrals. Similar conditions might arise in the case of England. We must therefore make up our minds that the attack by sea will be made with the greatest and most persistent vigour, with the firm resolve to destroy completely our fleet and our great commercial centres. It is also not only possible, but probable, that England will throw troops on the Continent, in order to secure the co-operation of her allies, who might demand this guarantee of the sincerity of English policy, and also to support the naval attack on the coast. On the other hand, the land war will display the same kind of desperate energy only so far as it pursues the object of conquering and destroying our naval bases. The English would be the less disposed to do more than this because the German auxiliaries, who have so often fought England's battles, would not be forthcoming. The greatest exertions of the nation will be limited to the naval war. The land war will be waged with a definitely restricted object, on which its character will depend. It is very questionable whether the English army is capable of effectively acting on the offensive against Continental European troops. In South Africa the English regiments for the most part fought very bravely and stood great losses; on the other hand, they completely failed in the offensive, in tactics as in operations, and with few exceptions the generalship was equally deficient. The last manoeuvres on a large scale, held in Ireland, under the direction of General French, did not, according to available information, show the English army in a favourable light so far as strategical ability went.
If we now turn our attention to the East, in order to forecast Russia's probable behaviour, we must begin by admitting that, from a Russian standpoint, a war in the West holds out better prospects of success than a renewed war with Japan, and possibly with China. The Empire of the Czar finds in the West powerful allies, who are impatiently waiting to join in an attack on Germany. The geographical conditions and means of communication there allow a far more rapid and systematic development of power than in Manchuria. Public opinion, in which hatred of Germany is as persistent as ever, would be in favour of such a war, and a victory over Germany and Austria would not only open the road to Constantinople, but would greatly improve the political and economic influence of Russia in Western Europe. Such a success would afford a splendid compensation for the defeats in Asia, and would offer advantages such as never could be expected on the far-distant Eastern frontiers of the Empire.
Should Russia, then, after weighing these chances launch out into an offensive war in the West, the struggle would probably assume a quite different character from that, for example, of a Franco-German war. Russia, owing to her vast extent, is in the first place secure against complete subjugation. In case of defeat her centre of gravity is not shifted. A Russian war can hardly ever, therefore, become a struggle for political existence, and cause that straining of every nerve which such a struggle entails. The inhabitants will hardly ever show self-devotion in wars whose objects cannot be clear to them. Throughout the vast Empire the social and also political education, especially among the peasants, is so poor, that any grasp of the problems of a foreign policy seems quite out of the question. The sections of the people who have acquired a little superficial learning in the defective Russian schools have sworn to the revolutionary colours, or follow a blind anti-progressive policy which seems to them best to meet their interests. The former, at least, would only make use of a war to promote their own revolutionary schemes, as they did in the crisis of the Russo-Japanese War. Under the circumstances, there can be little idea of a united outburst of the national spirit which would enable an offensive war to be carried on with persistent vigour. There has been an extraordinary change in the conditions since 1812, when the people showed some unanimity in repelling the invasion. Should Russia to-day be involved in a Western war with Germany and Austria, she could never bring her whole forces into play. In the first place, the revolutionary elements in the heart of the State would avail themselves of every weakening of the national sources of power to effect a revolution in internal politics, without any regard for the interests of the community. Secondly, in the Far East, Japan or China would seize the moment when Russia's forces in the West were fully occupied to carry out their political intentions towards the Empire of the Czar by force of arms. Forces must always be kept in reserve for this eventuality, as we have already mentioned.
Although Russia, under the present conditions, cannot bring her whole power to bear against Germany and Austria, and must also always leave a certain force on her European Southern frontier, she is less affected by defeats than other States. Neither the Crimean War nor the greater exertions and sacrifices exacted by her hard-won victory over the Turks, nor the heavy defeats by the Japanese, have seriously shaken Russia's political prestige. Beaten in the East or South, she turns to another sphere of enterprise, and endeavours to recoup herself there for her losses on another frontier.
Such conditions must obviously affect the character of the war. Russia will certainly put huge armies into the field against us. In the wars against Turkey and Japan the internal affairs of the Empire prevented the employment of its full strength; in the latter campaign revolutionary agitation in the army itself influenced the operations and battles, and in a European war the same conditions would, in all probability, make themselves emphatically felt, especially if defeats favoured or encouraged revolutionary propaganda. In a war against Russia, more than in any other war, c'est le premier pas qui coute.
If the first operations are unsuccessful, their effect on the whole position will be wider than in any other war, since they will excite in the country itself not sympathetic feelings only, but also hostile forces which would cripple the conduct of the war.
So far as the efficiency of the Russian army goes, the Russo-Japanese War proved that the troops fight with great stubbornness. The struggle showed numerous instances of heroic self-devotion, and the heaviest losses were often borne with courage. On the other hand, the Russian army quite failed on the offensive, in a certain sense tactically, but essentially owing to the inadequacy of the commanders and the failure of the individuals. The method of conducting the war was quite wrong; indecision and irresolution characterized the Russian officers of every grade, and no personality came forward who ever attempted to rise above mediocrity. It can hardly be presumed that the spirit of Russian generalship has completely changed since the defeats in Manchuria, and that striking personalities have come on the stage. This army must therefore always be met with a bold policy of attack.
When we contrast these conditions with the position of Germany, we cannot blink the fact that we have to deal with immense military difficulties, if we are to attain our own political ends or repel successfully the attack of our opponents.
In the first place, the geographical configuration and position of our country are very unfavourable. Our open eastern frontier offers no opportunity for continued defence, and Berlin, the centre of the government and administration, lies in dangerous proximity to it. Our western frontier, in itself strong, can be easily turned on the north through Belgium and Holland. No natural obstacle, no strong fortress, is there to oppose a hostile invasion and neutrality is only a paper bulwark. So in the south, the barrier of the Rhine can easily be turned through Switzerland. There, of course, the character of the country offers considerable difficulties, and if the Swiss defend themselves resolutely, it might not be easy to break down their resistance. Their army is no despicable factor of strength, and if they were attacked in their mountains they would fight as they did at Sempach and Murten.
The natural approaches from the North Sea to the Baltic, the Sound and the Great Belt, are commanded by foreign guns, and can easily fall a prey to our enemies.
The narrow coast with which we face to the North Sea forms in itself a strong front, but can easily be taken in the rear through Holland. England is planted before our coasts in such a manner that our entire oversea commerce can be easily blocked. In the south and south-east alone are we secured by Austria from direct invasion. Otherwise we are encircled by our enemies. We may have to face attacks on three sides. This circumstance compels us to fight on the inner lines, and so presents certain advantages; but it is also fraught with dangers, if our opponents understand how to act on a correct and consistent plan.
If we look at our general political position, we cannot conceal the fact that we stand isolated, and cannot expect support from anyone in carrying out our positive political plans. England, France, and Russia have a common interest in breaking down our power. This interest will sooner or later be asserted by arms. It is not therefore the interest of any nation to increase Germany's power. If we wish to attain an extension of our power, as is natural in our position, we must win it by the sword against vastly superior foes. Our alliances are defensive, not merely in form, but essentially so. I have already shown that this is a cause of their weakness. Neither Austria nor Italy are in any way bound to support by armed force a German policy directed towards an increase of power. We are not even sure of their diplomatic help, as the conduct of Italy at the conference of Algeciras sufficiently demonstrated. It even seems questionable at the present moment whether we can always reckon on the support of the members of the Triple Alliance in a defensive war. The recent rapprochement of Italy with France and England goes far beyond the idea of an "extra turn." If we consider how difficult Italy would find it to make her forces fit to cope with France, and to protect her coasts against hostile attacks, and if we think how the annexation of Tripoli has created a new possession, which is not easily defended against France and England, we may fairly doubt whether Italy would take part in a war in which England and France were allied against us. Austria is undoubtedly a loyal ally. Her interests are closely connected with our own, and her policy is dominated by the same spirit of loyalty and integrity as ours towards Austria. Nevertheless, there is cause for anxiety, because in a conglomerate State like Austria, which contains numerous Slavonic elements, patriotism may not be strong enough to allow the Government to fight to the death with Russia, were the latter to defeat us. The occurrence of such an event is not improbable. When enumerating the possibilities that might affect our policy, we cannot leave this one out of consideration.
We shall therefore some day, perhaps, be faced with the necessity of standing isolated in a great war of the nations, as once Frederick the Great stood, when he was basely deserted by England in the middle of the struggle, and shall have to trust to our own strength and our own resolution for victory.
Such a war—for us more than for any other nation—must be a war for our political and national existence. This must be so, for our opponents can only attain their political aims by almost annihilating us by land and by sea. If the victory is only half won, they would have to expect continuous renewals of the contest, which would be contrary to their interests. They know that well enough, and therefore avoid the contest, since we shall certainly defend ourselves with the utmost bitterness and obstinacy. If, notwithstanding, circumstances make the war inevitable, then the intention of our enemies to crush us to the ground, and our own resolve to maintain our position victoriously, will make it a war of desperation. A war fought and lost under such circumstances would destroy our laboriously gained political importance, would jeopardize the whole future of our nation, would throw us back for centuries, would shake the influence of German thought in the civilized world, and thus check the general progress of mankind in its healthy development, for which a flourishing Germany is the essential condition. Our next war will be fought for the highest interests of our country and of mankind. This will invest it with importance in the world's history. "World power or downfall!" will be our rallying cry.
Keeping this idea before us, we must prepare for war with the confident intention of conquering, and with the iron resolve to persevere to the end, come what may.
We must therefore prepare not only for a short war, but for a protracted campaign. We must be armed in order to complete the overthrow of our enemies, should the victory be ours; and, if worsted, to continue to defend ourselves in the very heart of our country until success at last is won.
It is therefore by no means enough to maintain a certain numerical equality with our opponents. On the contrary, we must strive to call up the entire forces of the nation, and prepare and arm for the great decision which impends. We must try also to gain a certain superiority over our opponents in the crucial points, so that we may hold some winning trumps in our hand in a contest unequal from the very first. We must bear these two points in mind when preparing for war. Only by continually realizing the duties thus laid on us can we carry out our preparations to the fullest, and satisfy the demands which the future makes on us. A nation of 65,000,000 which stakes all her forces on winning herself a position, and on keeping that position, cannot be conquered. But it is an evil day for her if she relies on the semblance of power, or, miscalculating her enemies' strength, is content with half-measures, and looks to luck or chance for that which can only be attained by the exertion and development of all her powers.
THE NEXT NAVAL WAR
In the next European land war we shall probably face our foes with Austria at our side, and thus will be in a position to win the day against any opposing forces. In a naval war we shall be thrown on our own resources, and must protect ourselves single-handed against the superior forces which will certainly press us hard.
There can be no doubt that this war will be waged with England, for, although we cannot contemplate attacking England, as such an attack would be hopeless, that country itself has a lively interest in checking our political power. It will therefore, under certain conditions, attack us, in order to annihilate our fleet and aid France. The English have, besides, taken good care that the prospect of a war with them should always be held before our eyes. They talk so much of a possible German attack that it cannot surprise them if the light thrown on the question is from the opposite point of view. Again, the preparations which they are making in the North Sea show clearly that they certainly have contemplated an attack on Germany. These preparations are like a strategic march, and the natural extension of their naval bases leaves no doubt as to their meaning. The great military harbour of Rosyth is admittedly built for the eventuality of a war with Germany, and can mean nothing else. Harwich has also been recently made into an especially strong naval base, and, further, the roadstead of Scapa Flow in the Orkney Isles has been enlarged into a cruiser station. These are measures so directly and obviously directed against us that they demand an inquiry into the military position thus created.
The English have only considered the possibility of a German war since 1902. Before that year there was no idea of any such contingency, and it is therefore not unnatural that they are eager to make up for lost time. This fact does not alter the hostile character of the measures and the circumstance that the English preparations for war are exclusively directed against Germany.
We must therefore—as the general position of the world leads us to believe—reckon on the probability of a naval war with England, and shall then have to fight against an overwhelming superiority. It will be so great that we cannot hope for a long time to be able to take the offensive against the English fleet. But we must contemplate the possibility of becoming its master in one way or another, and of winning the freedom of the seas, if England attacks us. We shall now discuss this possibility. On this matter I am expressing my personal views only, which are not confused by any technical naval knowledge, and rest exclusively on general military considerations, in which our presupposed antagonists can, and will, indulge quite as well as myself. I shall not betray any secrets of the Admiralty, since I do not know any. But I consider it expedient that the German people should clearly understand what dangers threaten from England, and how they can be met.
In the view of these dangers and the circumstance that we are not strong enough to entertain any idea of provoking a battle, the question remains, What are the means of defensive naval strategy to secure protection from a superior and well-prepared enemy, and gradually to become its master?
The plan might be formed of anticipating the enemy by a sudden attack, instead of waiting passively for him to attack first, and of opening the war as the Japanese did before Port Arthur. In this way the English fleet might be badly damaged at the outset of the real hostilities, its superiority might be lessened, and the beginning of the effective blockade delayed at least for a short time. It is not unthinkable that such an attempt will be made. Such an undertaking, however, does not seem to me to promise any great success.
The English have secured themselves against such attacks by comprehensive works of defence in their exposed harbours. It seems dangerous to risk our torpedo-boats and submarines, which we shall urgently need in the later course of the war, in such bold undertakings. Even the war against the English commerce holds out less prospects than formerly. As soon as a state of political tension sets in, the English merchantmen will be convoyed by their numerous cruisers. Under such circumstances our auxiliary cruisers could do little; while our foreign service ships would soon have to set about attacking the enemy's warships, before coal ran short, for to fill up the coal-bunkers of these ships will certainly be a difficult task.
The war against the English commerce must none the less be boldly and energetically prosecuted, and should start unexpectedly. The prizes which fall into our hands must be remorselessly destroyed, since it will usually be impossible, owing to the great English superiority and the few bases we have abroad, to bring them back in safety without exposing our vessels to great risks. The sharpest measures must be taken against neutral ships laden with contraband. Nevertheless, no very valuable results can be expected from a war against England's trade. On the contrary, England, with the numerous cruisers and auxiliary cruisers at her disposal, would be able to cripple our oversea commerce. We must be ready for a sudden attack, even in peace-time. It is not England's custom to let ideal considerations fetter her action if her interests are at stake.
Under these circumstances, nothing would be left for us but to retire with our war-fleet under the guns of the coast fortifications, and by the use of mines to protect our own shores and make them dangerous to English vessels. Mines are only an effective hindrance to attack if they can be defended. But they can cause considerable damage if the enemy has no knowledge of their existence.
It would be necessary to take further steps to secure the importation from abroad of supplies necessary to us, since our own communications will be completely cut off by the English. The simplest and cheapest way would be if we obtained foreign goods through Holland or perhaps neutral Belgium; and could export some part of our own products through the great Dutch and Flemish harbours. New commercial routes might be discovered through Denmark. Our own oversea commerce would remain suspended, but such measures would prevent an absolute stagnation of trade.
It is, however, very unlikely that England would tolerate such communications through neutral territory, since in that way the effect of her war on our trade would be much reduced. The attempt to block these trade routes would approximate to a breach of neutrality, and the States in question would have to face the momentous question, whether they would conform to England's will, and thus incur Germany's enmity, or would prefer that adhesion to the German Empire which geography dictates. They would have the choice between a naval war with England and a Continental war with their German neighbours—two possibilities, each of which contains great dangers. That England would pay much attention to the neutrality of weaker neighbours when such a stake was at issue is hardly credible.
The ultimate decision of the individual neutral States cannot be foreseen. It would probably depend on the general political position and the attitude of the other World Powers to the Anglo-German contest. The policy adopted by France and Russia would be an important factor. One can easily understand under these circumstances that the Dutch are seriously proposing to fortify strongly the most important points on their coast, in order to be able to maintain their neutrality on the sea side. They are also anxious about their eastern frontier, which obviously would be threatened by a German attack so soon as they sided with our enemies.
I shall not enter further into the political and military possibilities which might arise if Holland, Belgium, and Denmark were driven to a sympathetic understanding by the war. I will only point out how widespread an effect the naval war can, or rather must, exercise on the Continental war and on the political relations generally. The attitude of Denmark would be very important, since the passage to and from the Baltic must mainly depend on her. It is vital to us that these communications be kept open, and measures must be taken to insure this. The open door through the Belt and the Sound can become highly important for the conduct of the war. Free commerce with Sweden is essential for us, since our industries will depend more and more on the Swedish iron-ore as imports from other countries become interrupted.
It will rest with the general state of affairs and the policy of the interested nations whether this sea route can be safeguarded by diplomatic negotiations, or must be kept open by military action. We cannot allow a hostile power to occupy the Danish islands.
Complicated and grave questions, military as well as political, are thus raised by an Anglo-German war. Our trade would in any case suffer greatly, for sea communications could be cut off on every side. Let us assume that France and Russia seal our land frontiers, then the only trade route left open to us is through Switzerland and Austria—a condition of affairs which would aggravate difficulties at home, and should stimulate us to carry on the war with increased vigour. In any case, when war threatens we must lose no time in preparing a road on which we can import the most essential foodstuffs and raw materials, and also export, if only in small quantities, the surplus of our industrial products. Such measures cannot be made on the spur of the moment. They must be elaborated in peace-time, and a definite department of the Government must be responsible for these preparations. The Ministry of Commerce would obviously be the appropriate department, and should, in collaboration with the great commercial houses, prepare the routes which our commerce must follow in case of war. There must be a sort of commercial mobilization.
These suggestions indicate the preliminary measures to be adopted by us in the eventuality of a war with England. We should at first carry on a defensive war, and would therefore have to reckon on a blockade of our coasts, if we succeed in repelling the probable English attack.
Such a blockade can be carried out in two ways. England can blockade closely our North Sea coast, and at the same time bar the Danish straits, so as to cut off communications with our Baltic ports; or she can seal up on the one side the Channel between England and the Continent, on the other side the open sea between the North of Scotland and Norway, on the Peterhead-Ekersund line, and thus cripple our oversea commerce and also control the Belgo-Dutch, Danish, and Swedish shipping.
A close blockade in the first case would greatly tax the resources of the English fleet. According to the view of English experts, if a blockade is to be maintained permanently, the distance between the base and the blockading line must not exceed 200 nautical miles. Since all the English naval ports are considerably farther than this from our coast, the difficulties of carrying on the blockade will be enormously increased. That appears to be the reason why the estuary at Harwich has recently been transformed into a strong naval harbour. It is considered the best harbourage on the English coast, and is hardly 300 nautical miles from the German coast. It offers good possibilities of fortification, and safe ingress and egress in time of war. The distance from the German ports is not, however, very material for purposes of blockade. The English, if they planned such a blockade, would doubtless count on acquiring bases on our own coast, perhaps also on the Dutch coast. Our task therefore is to prevent such attempts by every means. Not only must every point which is suitable for a base, such as Heligoland, Borkum, and Sylt, be fortified in time of peace, but all attempts at landing must be hindered and complicated by our fleet. This task can only be fulfilled by the fleet in daytime by submarines; by night torpedo-boats may co-operate, if the landing forces are still on board.
Such close blockade offers various possibilities of damaging the enemy, if the coast fortifications are so constructed with a view to the offensive that the fleet may rally under their protection, and thus gain an opportunity of advancing from their stations for offensive operations. Such possibilities exist on our north coast, and our efforts must be turned towards making the most varied use of them. We must endeavour by renewed and unexpected attacks, especially by night, partly with submarines and torpedo-boats, partly with battleships, to give the blockading fleet no breathing-time, and to cause it as much loss as possible. We must not engage in a battle with superior hostile forces, for it is hardly possible at sea to discontinue a fight, because there is no place whither the loser can withdraw from the effect of the enemy's guns. An engagement, once begun must be fought out to the end. And appreciable damage can be inflicted on the enemy only if a bold attack on him is made. It is only possible under exceptionally favourable circumstances—such, for example, as the proximity of the fortified base—to abandon a fight once begun without very heavy losses. It might certainly be practicable, by successful reconnoitring, to attack the enemy repeatedly at times when he is weakened in one place or another. Blockade demands naturally a certain division of forces, and the battle-fleet of the attacking party, which is supposed to lie behind the farthest lines of blockade and observation, cannot always hold the high seas in full strength. The forces of the defending party, however, lie in safe anchorages, ready to sally out and fight.
Such a blockade might, after all, be very costly to the attacking party. We may therefore fairly assume that the English would decide in favour of the second kind. At all events, the harbour constructions, partly building, partly projected, at Rosyth and Scapa Flow, were chosen with an eye to this line of blockade. It would entail in the north the barring of a line about 300 nautical miles long, a scheme quite feasible from the military aspect. Only a small force is required to seal up the Channel, as the navigation route is very narrow. In addition to all this, the great English naval depots—Dover, Portsmouth, Portland, and Plymouth—are situated either on the line of blockade or immediately behind it. Besides, every advance against this line from the north is flanked by Sheerness and Harwich, so that a retreat to the German coast might be barred. The conditions for the northern line of blockade will be no less favourable when the projected harbour works are finished. The blockading fleet finds, therefore, a base in the great harbour of Rosyth, while a cruiser squadron might lie in support off the Orkney Isles. Every attacking fleet from the German north coast will be unhesitatingly attacked on the flank from Rosyth and Sheerness, and cut off from its line of retreat. It is thus almost impossible, owing to the English superiority, to inflict any serious damage on the blockading fleet on this line, and the only course left is to advance from the Baltic against the north-eastern part of the blockading line. Here we should have a tolerably secure retreat. This accentuates once more the supreme importance to us of keeping open, at all costs, the passage through the Sound and the Great Belt. The command of these straits will not only secure the Baltic basin for us, but also keep open the sally-ports for our offensive operations against the English blockading fleet.
In spite of all the advantages which the extended system of blockade offers to the English, there are two objections against it which are well worth considering from the English point of view. Firstly, it prejudices the interests of a number of nations whose coasts are washed by the North Sea and the Baltic, since they are included in the blockade; secondly, it compels England to break up her fleet into two or three divisions.
As to the first objection, we have hinted that England will scarcely let herself be hindered in the pursuit of her own advantage by the interests of weaker third parties. It is also conceivable that some satisfactory arrangement as to the blockade can be made with the States affected. As regards the splitting up of the fleet, no especially disadvantageous conditions are thereby produced. It is easy to reunite the temporarily divided parts, and the strength of the combined fleet guarantees the superiority of the separate divisions over the German forces at sea. Nevertheless, this division of the attacking fleet gives the defending party the chance of attacking some detached portions before junction with the main body, and of inflicting loss on them, if the enemy can be deceived and surprised by prompt action. The demonstrations which are the ordinary tactics in war on land under such conditions cannot be employed, owing to the facility with which the sea can be patrolled.
This blockade would ultimately weaken and weary the attacking party. But it must be recognized that it is a far easier plan to carry out than the close blockade, and that it would tax the offensive powers of our fleet more severely. We should not only have to venture on attacks in far-distant waters, but must be strong enough to protect efficiently the threatened flank of our attacking fleet.
After all, it is improbable that the English would have recourse to a mere blockade. The reasons which would prompt them to a rapid decision of the war have been already explained. It was shown that, in the event of their fighting in alliance with France, they would probably attempt to land troops in order to support their fleet from the land side. They could not obtain a decisive result unless they attempted to capture our naval bases—Wilhelmshaven, Heligoland, the mouth of the Elbe, and Kiel—and to annihilate our fleet in its attempt to protect these places, and thus render it impossible for us to continue the war by sea.
It is equally certain that our land forces would actively operate against the English attempts at landing, and that they would afford extraordinarily important assistance to the defence of the coast, by protecting it against attacks from the rear, and by keeping open the communications with the hinterland. The success of the English attack will much depend on the strength and armament of the coast fortifications. Such a war will clearly show their value both as purely defensive and as offensive works. Our whole future history may turn upon the impregnability of the fortifications which, in combination with the fleet, are intended to guard our coasts and naval bases, and should inflict such heavy losses on the enemy that the difference of strength between the two fleets would be gradually equalized. Our ships, it must be remembered, can only act effectively so long as our coast fortifications hold out.
No proof is required that a good Intelligence system is essential to a defensive which is based on the policy of striking unexpected blows. Such a system alone can guarantee the right choice of favourable moments for attack, and can give us such early information of the operative movements of the hostile fleet that we can take the requisite measures for defence, and always retreat before an attack in superior numbers. The numerical superiority of the English cruisers is so great that we shall probably only be able to guarantee rapid and trustworthy "scouting" by the help of the air-fleet. The importance of the air-fleet must not therefore be under-valued; and steps must be taken to repel the enemy's airships, either by employing specially contrived cannons, or by attacking them directly.
If it is possible to employ airships for offensive purposes also, they would support our own fleet in their contest with the superior English force by dropping explosives on the enemy's ships, and might thus contribute towards gradually restoring the equilibrium of the opposing forces. These possibilities are, however, vague. The ships are protected to some extent by their armour against such explosives as could be dropped from airships, and it is not easy to aim correctly from a balloon. But the possibility of such methods of attack must be kept in mind.
So far as aviation goes, the defending party has the advantage, for, starting from the German coast, our airships and flying-machines would be able to operate against the English attacking fleet more successfully than the English airships against our forts and vessels, since they would have as a base either the fleet itself or the distant English coast.
Such possibilities of superiority must be carefully watched for, and nothing must be neglected which could injure the enemy; while the boldest spirit of attack and the most reckless audacity must go hand in hand with the employment of every means which, mechanical skill and the science of naval construction and fortification can supply. This is the only way by which we may hope so to weaken our proud opponent, that we may in the end challenge him to a decisive engagement on the open sea.
In this war we must conquer, or, at any rate, not allow ourselves to be defeated, for it will decide whether we can attain a position as a World Power by the side of, and in spite of, England.
This victory will not be gained merely in the exclusive interests of Germany. We shall in this struggle, as so often before, represent the common interests of the world, for it will be fought not only to win recognition for ourselves, but for the freedom of the seas. "This was the great aim of Russia under the Empress Catherine II., of France under Napoleon I., and spasmodically down to 1904 in the last pages of her history; and the great Republic of the United States of North America strives for it with intense energy. It is the development of the right of nations for which every people craves." [A]
[Footnote A: Schiemann.]
In such a contest we should not stand spiritually alone, but all on this vast globe whose feelings and thoughts are proud and free will join us in this campaign against the overweening ambitions of one nation, which, in spite of all her pretence of a liberal and a philanthropic policy, has never sought any other object than personal advantage and the unscrupulous suppression of her rivals.
If the French fleet—as we may expect—combines with the English and takes part in the war, it will be much more difficult for us to wage than a war with England alone. France's blue-water fleet would hold our allies in the Mediterranean in check, and England could bring all her forces to bear upon us. It would be possible that combined fleets of the two Powers might appear both in the Mediterranean and in the North Sea, since England could hardly leave the protection of her Mediterranean interests to France alone. The prospect of any ultimately successful issue would thus shrink into the background. But we need not even then despair. On the contrary, we must fight the French fleet, so to speak, on land—i.e., we must defeat France so decisively that she would be compelled to renounce her alliance with England and withdraw her fleet to save herself from total destruction. Just as in 1870-71 we marched to the shores of the Atlantic, so this time again we must resolve on an absolute conquest, in order to capture the French naval ports and destroy the French naval depots. It would be a war to the knife with France, one which would, if victorious, annihilate once for all the French position as a Great Power. If France, with her falling birth-rate, determines on such a war, it is at the risk of losing her place in the first rank of European nations, and sinking into permanent political subservience. Those are the stakes.
The participation of Russia in the naval war must also be contemplated. That is the less dangerous, since the Russian Baltic fleet is at present still weak, and cannot combine so easily as the English with the French. We could operate against it on the inner line—i.e., we could use the opportunity of uniting rapidly our vessels in the Baltic by means of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Canal; we could attack the Russian ships in vastly superior force, and, having struck our blow, we could return to the North Sea. For these operations it is of the first importance that the Danish straits should not be occupied by the enemy. If they fell into the hands of the English, all free operations in the Baltic would be almost impossible, and our Baltic coast would then be abandoned to the passive protection of our coast batteries.
THE CRUCIAL QUESTION
I have examined the probable conditions of the next naval war in some detail, because I thought that our general political and military position can only be properly estimated by considering the various phases of the war by sea and by land, and by realizing the possibilities and dangers arising from the combined action of the hostile forces on our coasts and land frontiers. In this way only can the direction be decided in which our preparations for war ought to move.
The considerations, then, to which the discussion about the naval war with England and her probable allies gave rise have shown that we shall need to make very great exertions to protect ourselves successfully from a hostile attack by sea. They also proved that we cannot count on an ultimate victory at sea unless we are victorious on land. If an Anglo-French army invaded North Germany through Holland, and threatened our coast defences in the rear, it would soon paralyze our defence by sea. The same argument applies to the eastern theatre. If Russian armies advance victoriously along the Baltic and co-operate with a combined fleet of our opponents, any continuation of the naval war would be rendered futile by the operations of the enemy on land.
We know also that it is of primary importance to organize our forces on land so thoroughly that they guarantee the possibility, under all circumstances, of our victoriously maintaining our position on the Continent of Europe. This position must be made absolutely safe before we can successfully carry on a war by sea, and follow an imperial policy based on naval power. So long as Rome was threatened by Hannibal in Italy there could be no possible idea of empire. She did not begin her triumphal progress in history until she was thoroughly secure in her own country.
But our discussion shows also that success on land can be influenced by the naval war. If the enemy succeeds in destroying our fleet and landing with strong detachments on the North Sea coast, large forces of the land army would be required to repel them, a circumstance widely affecting the progress of the war on the land frontiers. It is therefore vitally necessary to prepare the defence of our own coasts so well that every attack, even by superior numbers, may be victoriously repelled.
At the same time the consideration of the political position presses the conviction home that in our preparations for war there must be no talk of a gradual development of our forces by sea and land such as may lay the lightest possible burden on the national finances, and leave ample scope for activity in the sphere of culture. The crucial point is to put aside all other considerations, and to prepare ourselves with the utmost energy for a war which appears to be imminent, and will decide the whole future of our politics and our civilization. The consideration of the broad lines of the world policy and of the political aspirations of the individual States showed that the position of affairs everywhere is critical for us, that we live at an epoch which will decide our place as a World Power or our downfall. The internal disruption of the Triple Alliance, as shown clearly by the action of Italy towards Turkey, threatens to bring the crisis quickly to a head. The period which destiny has allotted us for concentrating our forces and preparing ourselves for the deadly struggle may soon be passed. We must use it, if we wish to be mindful of the warning of the Great Elector, that we are Germans. This is the point of view from which we must carry out our preparations for war by sea and land. Thus only can we be true to our national duty.
I do not mean that we should adopt precipitately measures calculated merely for the exigencies of the moment. All that we undertake in the cause of military efficiency must meet two requirements: it must answer the pressing questions of the present, and aid the development of the future. But we must find the danger of our position a stimulus to desperate exertions, so that we may regain at the eleventh hour something of what we have lost in the last years.
Since the crucial point is to safeguard our much-threatened position on the continent of Europe, we must first of all face the serious problem of the land war—by what means we can hope to overcome the great numerical superiority of our enemies. Such superiority will certainly exist if Italy ceases to be an active member of the Triple Alliance, whether nominally belonging to it, or politically going over to Irredentism. The preparations for the naval war are of secondary importance.
The first essential requirement, in case of a war by land, is to make the total fighting strength of the nation available for war, to educate the entire youth of the country in the use of arms, and to make universal service an existing fact.
The system of universal service, born in the hour of need, has by a splendid development of strength liberated us from a foreign yoke, has in long years of peace educated a powerful and well-armed people, and has brought us victory upon victory in the German wars of unification. Its importance for the social evolution of the nation has been discussed in a separate chapter. The German Empire would to-day have a mighty political importance if we had been loyal to the principle on which our greatness was founded.
France has at the present day a population of some 40,000,000; Russia in Europe, with Poland and the Caucasus, has a population of 140,000,000. Contrasted with this, Germany has only 65,000,000 inhabitants. But since the Russian military forces are, to a great extent, hampered by very various causes and cannot be employed at any one time or place, and are also deficient in military value, a German army which corresponded to the population would be certainly in a position to defend itself successfully against its two enemies, if it operated resolutely on the inner line, even though England took part in the war.
Disastrously for ourselves, we have become disloyal to the idea of universal military service, and have apparently definitely discontinued to carry it out effectively. The country where universal service exists is now France. With us, indeed, it is still talked about, but it is only kept up in pretence, for in reality 50 per cent., perhaps, of the able-bodied are called up for training. In particular, very little use has been made of the larger towns as recruiting-grounds for the army.