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OUR LONDON LETTER, Issue 15666, 3 December 1914
OUR LONDON LETTER
[By W. hj. George,]
London is at last having a mild taste of “the horrors of vrar ” in the shape of various regulations destined to neutralise the effect of the Zeppelins and German aeroplanes. which it is expecting half phiegmaticallv and half in pleasurable excitement- liver since the fall of Antwerp wo have been waiting for the German bombthrower. which is a little unreasonable when we consider that a Zeppelin can easily cover 600 miles, and that therefore is was quite as easy to bombard London from Liege as it is from Antwerp. Personally, i am a little surprised that a few bombs have not been thrown on London. It is net that aircraft are likely to do us much damage, for, eo far, the bombthrowing from above on Antwerp and on Paris has had very small results. The last raid on Paris" produced only four killed and 21 wounded, and a little damage done to Xotro Dame. It hardly seems worth the ammunition; but, still, I have been expecting a raid, because the Germans probably realise that England is so ignorant of war that a few bombs in the West End might produce a panic most inconvenient to the Government. At any rate, wc have lately been getting ready by fixing searchlights on all the hills and high buildings, and by erecting aeroplane guns at a number ot points. These have been kept so secret that 1 know the location of only one, and that by chance. Preventive measures are, however, much more in favor. The police authorities have for the last fortnight been reducing every night the number of lights we are allowed. In most streets not more than one lamp post is alight out cf every four; the sky-signs have been put out, and several publicans have got into trouble lor lighting their bars too brilliantly. Even the motor buses have become less obvious, and have been compelled to mask their lights inside the vehicle by a coat of paint. Tho effect is peculiar, for the West End, which used to be in certain places as bright as .New York, is now aa gloomy as a provincial town. Tho traffic, tearing collisions, glocs slowly ; the big stores in the late afternoon are, for the first time in tneir lives, unobtrusive; in suburban streets there is, indeed, nothing really alight except the policeman’s bull’s-eye. I suppose that if a single bomb is thrown on too town we shall nave a general curfew about sunset. So far, we are not much inconvenienced, and in a vague way 1 believe London feels that if tho Zeppelins came it would bo rather fun. Tho civilians would then not be swindled out of their share of horrors. They iecl, also, that tho chances of disaster in a city of this size are about 7,C00,000 to 1 against, and they are willing to lake the risk. Tits authorities have, as usual, managed to make themselves a- little ridiculous by issuing advice in case of bombardment—namely, that we should retire to the ocila is. The humorous part of this is that in England there are no celiais. There are basements, most of them entirely exposed to the .dr, none of them vaulted, ami affording no protection at all. 1 believe, however, that the War Office is really advising us to repair to the coalhoie. As mine .holds but one ton, I consider, without enthusiasm, the space available for my entire household. Other measures are, of Course, being taken, and it ia nndoihtood that a fleet of aeroplanes is available. As you are aware, the aeroplane, in point of mobility, stands to tho Zeppelin dirigible balloon in the same relation as the gull does to the hen. Its speed is at least three times greater, and it can rise and sink at will almost irrespective of the wind. If an airship raid is indeed attempted over London, and we arc not taken by surprise, I do not believe that much damage will be done to us, while the German dirigibles can hardly escape. ■it ****** A great number of, people, however, have (juffeted from bombardments in a way that does not compare with what we may have to undergo I refer to the Belgians, of whom there are now so many in England that I am unable to give any figures. The day before yeeterday 15,000 arrived from Antwerp alone, and I understand from on© of the Belief Committee, that this has been ttoing on lor two more days, so that if wo add on the refugees Com Malines and Oaten J, and the continuous inflow of email groups during the last month, it is likely that well over 100,000 Belgians are living among us to-day, I interviewed some of them yesterday—• people of the well-to-do classes. It was the usual story of houses entirely destroyed at Malines, of a burned flight with nothing except the clothes they stood in and their pet dog, with which I will not weatv you They seemed entirely quiescent.' and confident that they would be well treated in England. So fai as I can gather, their confidence is justified, for thev are eo many’ that tho Government have been compelled to interfere
them homes and to feed them. An im« menße number are being kept by the voluntary relief fund in private houses and all sorts of other buildings. Town halls, drill halls, assembly rooms have been hurriedly fitted up. Lady Enunot has established at her house an immense depot for clothing, and, generally speaking, tin, State is doing what it can. More will, however, have to be done coon if the war is to continue much longer, for it seems perfectly clear that the Germans are termined to use Northern France aad Belgium as a battle-ground ns long as possible. It is already rumored that tho Government propose to form Belgian settlements in euch part* of England as offer land for reclamation and affoieetation. As many of the Belgian refugee* are agriculturists, they will be provided with remunerative employment, and the State will not lose too much on the business. Still, this is a condition of chaos, and I fear that any trouble between the German* and the civilians in Brussels oi Antwerp may at any moment intensify our problem, ******* The fall of Antwerp has provoked an unpleasant little argument in the Press as to Mr Churchill’s responsibility for sending our Naval Division of 8,000 men into the town. It is suggested that everybody knew Antwerp would fall, and that to send a naval brigade there was sheer waste. It is said also that tho men were ill-equipped and had only a few machineguns ; that in the trenches they were not supported by any field artillery. More serious still, Mr Churchill is accused of having done all this on. his own responsibility. without consulting tho Board of Admiralty. This is the main indictment of the ‘Morning Post,’ and for two days the argument seems to have raged between that, paper and (on the other side) the ‘Daily Mail’ and the ‘Pall Mall Gazette.* to which * Tho Times ’ offers a sort ot benevolent neutrality. The supporters of Mr Churchill in these columns maintain that it is impossible for Mr Ghnrchill to have taken such a step without consulting a board that contains so eminent a seaman as Lord Fisher; they point out that tho entire Cabinet is responsible, and, much more powerful, that we were right to send, what we could, so that the Belgians might see that, even if our force was small and ill-equipped, wo were not going to back out of our share of defending their city. I must say I am greatly impressed "by that argument. The Naval Division was of quite recent formation, and was doing nothing at Ostend. It waa very desirable to show that the alliance was not one of words, and it will have its good effects now that at least a full army corps of Belgian troops has achieved its junction with tho Albed forces in Northern France. At any rate this discussion is most unfortunate, for the German Press will construe it as a sign of dissensions •which do not exist, and I would not have mentioned it to you at all if it had not been already abundantly ventilated in tha London Press. ******* I am glad to report a notable improve, ment in the condition of our trade. In August our exports fell over 24 millions compared with last year: in September the decline is under 16 millions-r-that is a recovery of 50 per cent, over last month, I 'have been making private inquiries among merchants, with varying results. Wholesale drapery houses are doing well; printing is bad; the leather trade is booming ; cotton is unsteady. Ono of tho peculiar difficulties of the cotton industry was stated by Sir Charles Macara-, of Manchester. It appears that the over - supply of cotton in America, due to the stoppage of German and Austrian purchases, and to the great reduction in Trench purchases, lias resulted in prices so fluctuating that our factories hardiy know how to buy. .Also, of course, their markets have shrunk, as the demand just row is entirely for woollens We aro attempting to meet this by work;>g lalf-time, but I am afraid that tv.v shortly a ruiniu - of mills in the Nortel of England will haw to ho erted ttwi. Still, there is no denying that cur trade conditions axe infinitely better than those of Germany can t>e, for wo have the command of tho sea and no difficulty in collecting euch food and raw material as we need. Cheese, dairy produce, and butter aro coming freely from Holland aad Denmark, while even timber is being freely shipped from Norway. This is one of the most encouraging point* in the contest, for if wo can maintain our industry at twothirds its usual figure we shall have no difficulty in financing the war through tha taxes and through the money market. Unices something quit© unexpected happens, I cannot very well *ce in finance any immediate cause for anxiety for the British Government. Of course, all trading with the enemy has been stopped, and very little has been attempted so far as can be seen. WVi suffer a certain amount of inconvenience owing to tho loss of certain Gerpian patent articles, notably medicines; two of tho most valuable of these—Sanatogen and Formamint —are, I understand, being replaced by Britinh-mado articles of analogous name. This is now possible, because nil German patent rights have been suspended in this country —I do uot think they have been revoked, lor it would not he advisable to do this in view of tho many German patents held by British companies ; ihc patent lights will presumably be restored to the German* after the war, they granting a similar privilege to our own"patents in Germany. Somehow, and you may ea.ll me quixotic, 1 dp not much like this snatching of patent rights, in spite of all temptations, I should like to see war more heroic, and more divorced: from trade, and England inclined to do more in a generous spirit than she is bound to do in sheer equity. For this reason lam glad to put on record a circular letter from the president of the Publishers’ Association, which points out that for the time being all the German copyrights have lapsed, and yet asks British publishers to refuse to publish translations of any German works for which proper contract* have not been obtained, and in respect of which fees are not paid to German authors. That is a spirit which I am glad manifests itself in days when fear and brutality tend to breed meanness, for it ir the spirit of an English gentleman. ******* Yen have no doubt been greatly interested by tho [dot of General Maritz in th« fiouth African Dominion. So far, it is a complete fa lure, as the rebel seems to have onlv 500 men. including Germans, and I do‘not doubt that he will be easily suppressed bv General Botha. It is an extraordinary "affair, nr.d it is evident that Maritz must be as simple as he is fanatical. I cannot understand how he can have believed that the Germans would allow him to form a South African Republic after lie had shaken off English rule. It is suggested that he hr? been bought, which is quite possible; but somehow I am inclined to think that Maritz belongs to the visionary typo, and that he has been carried nwav liv his hatred of tho English. You will recall that be was the officer who led the Cape rebels during the Boev War, in 1900, I believe. It may be that he is puite an honest man—a revolutionary of the type of Garibaldi, or Bolivar, who would" have been acclaimed as the Saviour of his country (like Jameson) if he had succeeded. Even if ho has taken German rnonev I cannot find it in my heart to detest him, for he belongs to that old Boer stock that has always taken the attitude (hat it hated English rule, and that by hook or by crook it would get rid of it. I suppose one cannot blame any steps a man may choose to take when ho considers ho is freeing his country from an oppressor, and such little things as tho breach of an oath of allegiance nave always been held in history as justified in such a cause. One point, however, arises: it is impossible to understand how a man who led a rebellion can have been given a command in the South African army. It « all very well enlisting Boer generals who previously led armies against ns in the defence of their own independence 5 it is quite another thing extending the same privilege to one who placed himself at the hea * of rebellious British subjects. This is nst a prejudice on my part, for, as you observe, 1 am not holding up Maritz as a traitor; but I cannot help thinking that Genera! Botha did very wrong in appointnig an ex-rebel" to a post of importance, or iri maintaining him there if he found him in nflunaoioiL
OUR LONDON LETTER, Issue 15666, 3 December 1914
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