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THE

EDINBURGH REVIEW,

OCTOBER, 1900.

No. CCCXCIV.

ART. 1.-1. Official Despatches from the Seat of War.

2. Press Military Correspondence from South Africa. WAR has usually found Great Britain unprepared. We

have commonly underrated our enemies. Our information in regard to the conditions under which a campaign would have to be fought has generally been inadequate. The Crimean campaign was entered upon with the almost unanimous support of the people who had not the smallest knowledge of the military situation, and whose ideas as to the rights of the quarrel scarcely went beyond a vague impression that it was desirable to humble the growing power of Russia. The diplomatic preliminaries of this great contest reflected little credit upon our sagacity. A masterful representative abroad, an equally masterful Minister at home, a foreign sovereign who had personal reasons for promoting a European war in which he desired to play a leading part, many misrepresentations—these were the main determining factors. What is called the

feeling of the country' ran high, and when the press clamoured for an invasion of the Crimea, after the action of Austria and the failure before Silistria had caused the Russian army to recoil from the Principalities, the British Cabinet, without knowledge, without an equipped field army, and without misgivings, undertook a task which nearly led to absolute disaster. The wholesale loss of gallant lives, and the untold suffering directly entailed by administrative incompetence, are already half-forgotten. The period of direst stress passed, and there was time during which the immense resources of Great Britain could be brought to bear upon the needs of war. Strong resentment pervaded all ranks throughout the country, and the depart

VOL. CXCII. NO. CCCXCIV.

T

ments were forced to set aside routine and pedantry. Freed for the moment from the trammels of red tape, the natural vigour of the race came to the relief of a miserable system, and when fighting had ended and Napoleon III. had begun to incubate peace, a fine British force, fully equipped, was at length assembled in the Tauric Chersonese. There were the usual inquiries, too late to be of use, and we soon reverted 'to our customary condition of military inefficiency.'*

The campaigns of 1866 and 1870–71 profoundly impressed the imagination of Europe and ushered in an era of army reform. Reorganisation on German principles was widely undertaken, and, partially awaking from our slumbers, we have since extensively tinkered our military system, borrowing copiously from German sources, while ignoring the essential conditions which conferred brilliant success upon the German arms. There was no attempt to formulate the military requirements of the British Empire and to frame an organisation capable of fulfilling those requirements. Germany possessed a rigid territorial system, which automatically evolved regiments, brigades, divisions, and army corps as soon as mobilisation was decreed.

We attempted to follow suit, and, by dropping the numbers of our historic regiments in favour of complicated territorial and other titles, it was fondly believed that we had taken a further step in advance. Germany, perpetuating the principles devised by Scharnhorst and Stein in the days of Prussia's humiliation, upheld short service with the colours, followed by a long period of furlough, succeeded by a further period in the army reserve. We effected a compromise by instituting a period of seven or eight years with the colours, followed by five or four years on furlough. Men thus relegated to furlough were entitled army reservists, and as these men were required on a general mobilisation to make up the peace cadres to war strength it followed that there was no army reserve. It was sought to remedy this deficiency by giving a retaining-fee to a certain number of Militiamen who volunteered to serve in the ranks of the army in the event of war. Such men were designated as the Militia • Reserve.' It is impossible to overrate the confusion and the misapprehensions to which these misnomers have given rise. The · Army Reserve' is not a reserve, but a body of

# The War in the Crimea,' Sir E. Hamley.

† Enlistments for three years with the colours were afterwards sanctioned in the Guards.

men liable to be called up to fill out the peace cadres to war strength. The 'Militia Reserve' is not a reserve for the Militia, which does not exist, but an indifferent army reserve which can only be called into being by depleting and disorganising the Militia.

German conditions require a powerful army always at home in peace time, with its units always quartered in their territorial districts, and capable, in whole or in part, of being placed on a war-footing at the shortest notice. British conditions demand that one half of the army should be always abroad and on a war-footing. It was therefore arranged that each infantry regiment should have two battalions,* one of which was to be always abroad, while the other was to act as a depôt at home. As equality of battalions at home and abroad has never been and could never be maintained, the system was invariably out of gear, and makeshift measures of various kinds were applied to conceal the chronic breakdown. The conditions of the British Empire further demanded the frequent despatch of expeditionary forces to distant parts of the world. The home army could only meet this demand by calling up men from its misnamed reserve, a body created only for the purposes of a great war, by promiscuously drafting men from several units to make one unit complete, or by creating temporary units out of men skimmed from the whole of the home army. These three expedients, all equally objectionable and destructive alike of regimental esprit de corps and of the vaunted territorial principle, have been adopted at various times.

It was inevitable that such an organisation as is above sketched should be subjected to continuous criticism, and while in other armies defects of detail have been attacked with beneficial results, our system has been unsparingly condemned in principle. The distinction is vital, and the reasoned strictures which have been heaped upon our organisation, combined with the general distrust and dislike of the War Office which permeate the British army, have unquestionably exercised an unfortunate moral influence upon all ranks. A military force which, rightly or wrongly, feels no confidence in its central administration cannot be in a sound and healthy condition.

The military renaissance which dates from 1870 led to other changes in this country. Field manœuvres, which the Prussians regarded as the keystone of their system of train

* Four in the case of two Rifle regiments.

ing, were imported into England, and occasionally practised on a considerable scale. There was, however, no attempt to imitate the thorough and complete progressive methods which formed the basis of the German system, and our autumn manæuvres have been parodies of their prototypes. It would be unjust to assert that they have taught nothing; it is certain that the benefits which they might have conferred upon all ranks have been heavily discounted. Meanwhile, the startling success of the German arms, and the tragic collapse of the military system of France, produced intellectual effects of importance. A powerful impetus was imparted to military study among civilians and soldiers alike. Thought was everywhere directed into this comparatively unaccustomed channel, and the result was shown by an immense increase in the literary output. Writers on military subjects became numerous, and publishers quickly discovered that the general public was interested in military matters. The intellectual revival in the army itself was marked, and an earnest desire to learn was manifested which, if wisely directed, would have worked wonders. Unfortunately, the practical aspects of military training were ignored, and a system of theoretical examinations, borrowed from the wisdom of China, was introduced, which set a premium upon military pedantry. Elaborate analyses of the details of the Franco-German war usurped the place of field training, and a large class of officers arose which could critically discourse upon the operations round Metz, but could not place outposts in the field. Education in this country, long neglected or left to chance, still remains unpractical, unscientific, ill-organised, and inadequate to the requirements of a people involved in keen commercial rivalry with other nations. The palpable defects in our military education which the South African war has brought to light are but manifestations of national weakness in a single and a limited aspect.

Other influences have been at work to undermine the efficiency of the army as a fighting machine. Prior to the Crimean War the distribution of rewards and decorations was niggardly in the extreme. The heroes of the Peninsula for the most part received nothing. In 1854–55, however, a new system was inaugurated. A heavy shower of honours and promotions descended upon the officers who had served in the Crimea, and the distribution was in the main ill-directed. Staff-officers who had shown exceedingly little capacity, and who had in some cases spent only a few

months at the seat of war, were extravagantly rewarded, while men who had served continuously with their regiments through the niseries of the winter siege were ignored. It soon became an article of faith in the British army that regimental duty was a thing to be avoided as much as possible, and that honours were the prerogative of the staff. Subsequent experience tended to crystallise this impression. Onwards from the days of the Crimea there has been an almost continuous series of small wars. One expeditionary force after another has been improvised, and, as no military body ready for war existed in this country, it was necessary to appoint staffs ad hoc. The numerous posts were eagerly sought after, and the fortunate officers selected were withdrawn from duties of the most varied patures. Once thus employed, decorated, and promoted, an individual would naturally have strong claims to be selected on another occasion, so that a starring system was inaugurated, akin to that which renders good opera almost impossible in this country, and officers whose names had been made familiar to the public by the press found themselves in an exceptionally favoured position. Our numerous small wars have taught some useful lessons; but as our opponents were for the most part ill-armed and ignorant of all military science, generalship was not severely tested, and liberties could be taken which in less favourable circumstances would have entailed disaster. Among the results of these wars the following must be reckoned :--All sense of scale in military operations was lost, and relative importance depended principally upon the amount of space which, having regard to other current affairs, the press was disposed to accord. Personal gallantry, the display of which is largely a matter of chance, was extolled at the expense of military capacity. High rank was attainable by officers who had never commanded a battalion or proved that they could handle a brigade. The military administrators of the War Office remained for many years passing from one post to another, growing more and more out of touch with the

army,

and forming, with their adherents, a charmed circle from which outside ability was excluded. Manœuvres rigorously carried out on German principles would have supplied a corrective to some of these evils; but trained directors were wanting, and gross mistakes were treated as amusing incidents which had no influence on the professional advancement of their perpetrators. Tactics were of minor importance in small wars, and inspecting generals who could gauge the tactical

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