« ForrigeFortsett »
He at all events shows, as was to be expected, that he very clearly understands that the question of the power of artillery depends on its concentration at the right point at the right time, and that, until that employment was given to it, it was useless to discuss the quality of the armament as a serious factor in the war.
Next, however, in importance as regards the power of England comes his calculation that, seeing that all the vast amount of special services and special material that will be required for the army in the field will have to be transported from England, it will be impossible for such a campaign to be carried out. The cart, for lack of them, will still stick in the mud. The answer under this head is complete. All, and far more than all, that he calculates as necessary has been transported to the shores of Africa and moved up to the front. Never in any campaign, as we now have testimony upon testimony, have the medical supplies, medical comforts, and medical care for sick and wounded been provided in such ample profusion at so great a distance from home for so large an army. From the point of view under which we are now discussing the question the accuracy or inaccuracy of Mr. Burdett-Coutts's statements does not affect it. The Government may not have seen fit to send as many lady nurses as it was advisable that they should have sent. There is no doubt that if that prove to be true it was due to an error in judgement and not to a deficiency in the supply. If in Bloemfontein any medical stores were deficient it was due to the combined effect of a sudden outbreak of typhoid consequent upon the conditions of the campaign, and to a temporary breakdown of the railway at the moment when that epidemic was at its worst. It was not in any sense due to a deficiency of resources in Britain either in what was needed or in the organisation for delivering it at the front. It was a deplorable incident of the campaign. It represented no failure which greater resources in men or material could have warded off. Great rivers have had to be bridged; smaller bridges innumerable have had to be restored. These restorations have all been made with a marvellous rapidity, and, while necessarily the delay involved in replacing such great structures as those over the Orange River and the Modder have affected for a time the movements of the Army, the ordinary repair of railways and their protection from destruction after they have been repaired has been a triumph alike of engineering skill, of mechanical re
sources, and of skilful organisation. Despite General Schmeling's positive prediction to the contrary, the line by Kimberley to Bulawayo has been seized, repaired, and protected, and our troops have crossed from that western side completely over to Bloemfontein, to Johannesburg, and to Pretoria at four several points and at four different periods. Whereas he looked upon the guarding of the one short line from Durban to Pretoria as sure so completely to exhaust our army in its defence that only a small remnant would be available for his assumed siege of Pretoria, we have seized and then guarded not only that little line but the two great trunk-lines by Bloemfontein and by Kimberley and all the feeders from East London and Port Elizabeth. The enemy have attempted against us every form of injury that he imagined. In one or two minor instances they have been successful in injuring the railway, both by treacherously devised collisions, by local surreptitious attempts, and in one recent instance by outwitting and evading the troops assigned for the protection of the line. Taken as a whole, their efforts have been signal failures. The ordinary railway lines—which, to do them justice, the Boers very effectually broke up in their retreat-have been repaired almost as fast as the arıny required them for supply. One most serious injury was inflicted upon us by a Boer surprise—the capture, namely, near Jacobsdal, of the convoy which had been made ready for providing the forage and food for the great movement for the relief of Kimberley, the captures of Cronje and of Bloemfontein. As a result of that loss and of the severe exertions entailed upon horses and transport animals working without forage, our cavalry, mounted infantry, and artillery, as well as most of the transport, was from the time of Lord Roberts's arrival in Bloemfontein practically destroyed as a mobile force. The Boers took full advantage of their opportunity, and the disasters of Hornspruit and of Reddersburg were, whatever local mistakes may have contributed to bring them abont, the direct consequence of that great misfortune. It is safe to say that it was a disaster of such a kind that Lord Roberts's resolution in carrying out his original enterprise for the relief of Kimberley and the subsequent operations was one of the boldest ever undertaken in war. Had he allowed himself to be frightened off by the risks and actual disaster to which the mounted arms on which he especially depended were really exposed, the transformation-scene, which he in fact effected in the whole character of the campaign, could not have been brought about. Nevertheless, on the other hand, it is true also that this tremendous loss of material resources at one of the early stages of the campaign, to which our German general looked forward when he wrote bad not entered into his calculations, and that had he known of it he would have assumed it as certain that those material resources of Britain, which he looked upon as altogether inadequate without that misfortune, must have even more completely broken down than he had anticipated. In fact, however, the provision made by the organisation in England behind the army in the field had been so complete that the severe losses entailed by this great catastrophe were replaced with a delay which was little more than that necessarily due to the great obstruction to the sending forward of fresh supplies of animals, occasioned by the effective destruction of the bridge over the Orange River. This could not have been secured had it not been the case that just about twice as many animals were sent by the home organisation from all parts of the world to South Africa as were asked for from that country. From the point of view, therefore, which we are now specially discussing—that of the material war-resources of Great Britain as made available in South Africa—the disaster only increases the stringency of the proof that General von Schmeling completely underrated our capacity for the delivery in South Africa of the needed resources.
But, as is natural in the work of a man trained in the experience of previous wars, so far as these may be learnt from their history, there is another reason why our critic is convinced that the cart must stick in the mud for ever. He knows how in all wars the attrition, which takes place from disease produced by inevitable exposure to unhealthy conditions, by the using up of men for all sorts of necessary duties, and the numbers temporarily hors de combat as a result of minor engagements, tends to reduce the strength of cadres, so that after a few weeks' or months' campaigning the company, which according to its paperstrength should be 100 strong, in fact numbers only fifty, and the squadron that should have 120 mounted men cannot turn out with sixty. The Wellington Despatches from the Peninsula are full of such statements as this : “You reckon • that I have 60,000 men in the field, but I can muster on
parade only 30,000. This is the common experience of all wars-French, German, English, and other. Seeing, therefore, that our German critic was in these matters
deriving his impressions from English sources, and that he was informed by Mr. Arnold-Forster and Mr. Spenser Wilkinson, accepted, as he knew, as great authorities by the public in such matters, that we had no reserves whatever behind the army in the field, what could he do but assume, as he does, that in this war our cadres would be finally and utterly depleted, that we might talk of squadrons, batteries, and battalions, but that they would be mere names ? We had put, he was told, all our reserves' into the field to make up our first line. We had no means of keeping our strength at its proper figure. It may be doubted whether reports of the despatch of ships from England with reinforcements for the several battalions, batteries, and squadrons, have during the war reached General von Schmeling with sufficient regularity to startle his self-complacency in this matter. Week by week, month by month, they have been reported. They must have been read by Mr. Arnold-Forster, Mr. Spenser Wilkinson, and our other heaven-born and infallible critics. No one word has issued from any of them admitting that they have been in this matter wbolly and merely wrong and that they are the source of these errors of our foreign critics. How completely wrong they have been it is easy to show by a special example. It happens that, at a dinner of the United
Club' early in the year, Mr. Arnold-Forster made a speech in which, in order to show how hopelessly rotten our system of providing an army for the field was, he selected as à test-specimen one battalion which he knew exceptionally well—the Irish Rifles. The battalion went out 874 strong. It was made up to war-strength by adding from the territorial system 210 men.
Mr. Arnold-Forster's point was, that there it was, and that that was the end of what we could do for it. All its reserves were used up. No more could be sent. What has, in fact, occurred is, that successive drafts have reached it of 300 to replace the casual. ties of the Stormberg disaster, of 100 to allow for normal waste, and of 382 to replace the casualties of Reddersburg. Thus in all 1,866 men have been sent out for this one battalion. All of them were over 20 years of age. All of them were trained men. All of them came in regular course from the territorial system. What has happened with this battalion has happened normally with cavalry, artillery, and infantry units. We select it only because Mr. Arnold-Forster himself chose it as a crucial test of the unimpeachable accuracy of his own assertions.
VOL. CXCII. NO. CCCXCIII.
5-in. gun 4:7 gun
The fact that these things are so, and not as the German was led by his English advisers to imagine them, is another and a very important reason why the cart has not continued to stick in the mud.
How stupendous has been the amount of material that has been delivered in South Africa may be judged from this, that over 170 millions of small-arm ammunition have been sent out; that for the various artillery weapons there have been sent Over 105,000 rounds for the 12-pounder horse artillery gun 330,000
15-pounder field gun
pom-pom' (37 millimètres) But this comprises only the actual supply of ammunition. In addition to this, clothing has been sent to the following amounts:Drab suits
much over 200,000 Khaki suits
about 80,000 Boots (pairs)
over 370,000 Woollen drawers
400,000 Jerseys ...
200,000 Worsted socks
850,000 Cotton socks
170,000 Flannel belts
400,000 Flannel shirts
500,000 Then, besides those taken with men or horses, there have been sent, as general stores, Circular tents
18,000 (or there
over 420,000 Waterproof sheets
300,000 Camp kettles
.. nearly 6,000 Of food the proportions have been even more gigantic, though immense quantities have been collected in the country itself. The following figures will give some idea of what these amounted to. There were fifty-eight different items at least, comprising meat, bacon, cheese, pea soup, rations of meat with vegetables, emergency rations, biscuit, yeast, groceries of all kinds-tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, and the like-compressed vegetables, rice, lime-juice,