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LOOKING AHEAD, Issue 15642, 5 November 1914
THE MOST SPLENDID FIGHTING IN THE WORLD. [By H. G. Weixs.] Tho " war fog " of which we have heard co much lifts now a little, and we can begin to picture something of the battles that are in progress and the possibilities of the near future. Many old prophecies have become absurd; soma have failed through a kind of conspiracy on either side to avoid the methods that would have tested them; tho Bloch prophecy, for instance, of the invincibility of the properly entrenched defensivo; 1 cannot understand why the French havo not attempted an entrenched defensive. And some mow stand clearly confirmed.
On the whole, ve who declared that the huge national service armies of the Continent would necessarily include great masses of unsoldierly men, that thoy would fight only in solid formations and at an immense inferiority to specialised soldiers such as our own, can claim to have had this opinion sustained. The strategy of the Allies, which is not English strategy, has put upon our men the obligation "of difficult and unprofitable retreats, but whero they have stood they have stood a iino of men against masses. Moreover, it is clear that France, taken by surprise, has not fully mobilised even to this day. The Gerinam advantage in this great advance upon Paris hn6 been due to these two things, and to their admirable transport and to their superiority in aeroplanes and gtms. It is indeed in these latter respects—in the elaborate equipment of their scientific arm—and not in their millions of men that their real power resides. But for these two superiorities, which have nothing to do with compulsory service but only with administrative efficiency, the great battle- in the north of Fra'nco would at the present time bo a rout and a massacre of Germans.
After all, it' becomes clear that this war is a war in the air. Its two surprises have been the vast warm of aeroplanes that have been rapidly ard secretly prepared bv Germany and the unprecedented quantity of guns whose fire is directed by these scouts. The Germans have had from the outset the command of the air, and it is only by wresting this horn them that the tide of battle will be turned. There have no doubt been isolated instances of heroic adventure on the pait of French. Belgian, and British aviators, but that has nob affected the general predominance. And so. while tho Allied armies have been blind, the Germans have seen.
—Urgent Need of Air Scouts.— In that is to be found the clue to all the strategic surprises of the last three weeks. I'or long days the tremendous Get man attack upon our left gathered. Hail a dozen air scouts could havo told of that. They never did. The French were etill blindly groping nbout to the north of Dinana when the German blow descended. Still to this day that blindmetis lasts. It is not onlv that the German command of the air "has been a monstrous disadvantage- to the Allied strategy; it is also a tremendous tactical disadvantage in evejy battle. Time after time we read of German aeroplanes soaring over our firing lino and marking for the Gorman gune. Time after time we read of British troops surprised by sudden gnnfire. Were it not for that one weakness in our equipment it is not too much to say that our casualty lists might be a third shorter today than they are. jSow, it would be possible to write much and bitterly of the financing starvation, and the mismanagement and folly on the part more particularly of the Army Aerial Department, which havo kxl to this state of affairs. One might recdl Cody snubbed and the beautiful Dunn i-eroplar.e rejected :_ a pitiful and now maddening history ot officialism at its worst; bnt-thereare-thine-* more urgent now to consider than the rehearsal of o'd-time sores. A hundred voices warned Government and country in vain. Tho ordinary common sense of the amateur and the journalist was better than the sceptical wisdom of the military expert. At first they would not listen to " imaginative fools," and when at last the activities abroad roased them to an imitative activity, great care was taken to exclude "imaginative fools" from any ihaie in the matter. " Inventors " and such-like disturbing people were mercilesslv snubbed, and aviation was dealt with as an eccentric development of tho balloon department. But even before the war began a new spirit had appeared in these matters.
It is no secret how great a part the intelligent adventurousness of Mr Winston Churchill has played in quickening this branch of our public service. It is no secret that we and our Allies do now set ourselves deliberately to wrest back from the Germans the lost control of the air. It is in the next two months and in the air that the fortunes of this great world battlo in tho west will be turned and decided. There is need for tho grimmest resolution, there is need for tremendous effort, but there is no reason at all for despair. In tho air hovers the tindecided issue of this war. —Give Our Men Aeroplanes.— Now let England take this opportunity of achieving the crowning glory that war will ever yield before she turns her mind to the thought and establishment of peace. Let us not leave it to the French and Russians to outdo us in this terrible and magnificent adventure. Here in this safe island we can build and launch, train our men, send them out. There will bo seen in these coming months such heroism as never has been seen in the world before. Even the men in our submarines and destroyers will envy these airmen who will go up to death or victory. It is their task to bully the Germans out of the sky, and what we know of Englishmen and French men and Germans, when it is a matter of bayonet, sabre, lance, or destroyer, leaves but little doubt of who will have to go. Give our men only machines enough and support enough, and they will do their work. When at last this huge German host turns homeward it must be a blinded host, and it must be the Allies who will soar in the heavens and see. It must be the Allies whose bombs will smash bridges, encumber railways with shattered trains, and choke roads with tho wreckage of transport. This task that we are asking from our aviators is one of the most dazzling and terrible that men have ever faced. The single combats that distinguished the age of chivalry, when champion rode against champion iu front of the closing hosts, wore but tame exhibitions beforo the starry deeds these men will have to do. Up they will go, to dash themselves into Zeppelins, to slash tho Zeppelin envelope with trailing knives, to outfly the hostile aeroplanes and pick off the pilots, duels in the giddy void in the sight of armies. So at least it seems to mo such fighting must be done. Since we have no Dunns available in which a man may free his hands to shoot, it i> two men at least I who must go up together with a. locked but roleasaole second control, su< hj as our teaching aeroplane possesses. Each will be an aviator, but one must be the pilot and on-3 tho man with the gun, and their mark is the enemy pilot and his wheei It may be that presently we shall rind that two or three aeroplanes acting in concert may bo able to manoeuvre more easily to a position of advantage, but essentially the struggle will be for the upper hand the first shot. Essentially it will be duelling—a fight between champions.
LOOKING AHEAD, Issue 15642, 5 November 1914
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