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THE NAVY LEAGUE ESSAY, Issue 15669, 7 December 1914
THE NAVY LEAGUE ESSAY
THE FOUNDATIONS (MORAL AND MATERIAL) OF NAVAL GREATNESS.
The following essay was awarded the Fenwick prize in the recent Navy League (Ota-go branch) essay examinations. It was written by Miss Vida M. Barron, formerly of Braemar House, and now of the Otngo Girls' High School : At a time, like this, when the gloomy clouds of war hang over our heads, and the whole world resounds with the clash of arms, above which rises a continual wail of suffering and of woe, when every crv is for action, and mere theories seem things of the past, it is hard to write of what our Navy needs to he. At present we are proud of it, and justly so. British overseas trade has been hampered only in a comparatively small degree, while the foreign trade of Germany _is practically at a standstill. We receive our goods and mails from the other side of the world almost as if nothing were happening to derange commerce. Certainly, it is our fleet that is doing this for us. Yet the German fleet is strong, though at present it is "bottled up," or, rather, has "bottled" itself up, and its commanders have begun to employ a policy that is harder to stand up against than'open fighting, ship to ship. Britain, therefore, must, now as ever, keep up the fighting strength of her fleet. Even if we win in thi3 great war—as, pray God, we shall—we must maintain our Navy at eueh a strength that no other nation will over dare to show fhrht, and thus wo may be " free from the nightmare of perpetual expectation of war." To those who would cry out against the pecuniary cost let Lord Charles Beresford's remark be made: " Battleships are cheaper than war." Alas' the nations of Europe arc now Teaming to their cost the truth of this statement. When we speak of the foundations of our naval greatness wo touch the very heart of the life of the ration, the foun-tain-head of our Imperial greatness and liberty. To be truly great a nation must have pure morals, and" must add to these other and more material weapons, such as may defend har in time of eutw-ird stress. Thus, whatever be our subject—naval, military, social, or political greatness—we have to consider the same main essentials. To begin with, let us lock at the material foundations of our naval cTentness. This is too wid*? a subject to discuss deeply. buta few of tba main points mny be dealt with. It is cf primary importin this department" that "the be?t possible weapons he available. It is to this end that such large sums of money are sp?nt on the maintenance of the fleet. This expense has increased year by year, and the power and efficiency of the weapons provided has increased in proportion. It seems strong* to think that in the earliest period of our history our ancestors possessed for conveyance on the sea nothing stronger than a 'tiny coracle. "Each bark built out of a forest tree Left leafy and rough as first it grew. And nailed all over the gaping sides. Within and without, with black bull hides. Seethed in fat and suppled in flame To bear the leaping billows* game.** In such craft as this our early ancestors dared to cross the sea. Though thev had no proper fighting to do at' that "time, their prowess and daring even then earned them the name of "wolves of the sea " It waa not till the time of Alfred or thereabouts that anvthing resembling a fleet came into being. At that time "the principal ship was the galley, or row-boat. In the fourteenth century "this tvpe disappeared as a capital ship, and the galleon, with sail as main motive power, took its place. The galleon was to tho fleet of the mid-fourteenth century what the ironclad was at the end cf the nine, teenth century or the Dreadnought »t the end of the first de- ?"*?«,, °£. tho twentieth century. Jn. 1417 ships known as "Dromons" weie bruit at Southampton, but these were more of the nature* of Royal vachts than of warships. Up to the reign of Henry tHe Seventh, ships had been requisitioned as required for war purposes, and, the war over, reverted to the mercantile service. During thi3 reign, however, this system was changed, and the regular navy, as we now understand the term, was founded. From this period we may mark how the ships came more and more to adapt themselves to their special function.
In the reign of Henry the Eighth canBon were introduced, and also a now form . ot warship known as the pinnace, which was to some extent analogous to the torpedo craft of to-day. Portholes, too. tvere invented, and this made it possible for guns to be mounted on the upper deck and thus be increased in numbers. At the time of the Armada the ships were small, active, and handv, proving but a very small target for the gun* of the enemy. As time went on, the vessels Increased in size and efficiency. Wars and voyages of exploration taught many lessons, and the strenuous times of our forefathers were of great advantage in perfecting oar fleet. Gradually improvements were made; but what we now consider so essential for a ship—namely, propulsion by steam—was not introduced till well on in the nineteenth roulury, when its success in the mercantile marine induced the Admiralty to try the experiment in warships. About this time iron instead of oak began to be used ns a material for shipbuilding, as the increased power of the _ guns necessitated btrongcr ships, and this kind of vessel was first used in the Crimean War, at which time great changes were made in the Navv. both in weapons and tactics. At this time the Navy was, in fact, iti a very miserable condition, and this state of affairs was forced on the realisation of the British people by certain articles in German newspapers. Great agitation prevailed, ana in consequence there was a. rise iri Naval Estimates. Since that time Great Britain has taken more care of her fleet, though there have been periods of comparative neglect, and the result is that to-day the British Navy is perhaps the freateat instrument of war in the world. he ironclad of the 19th century has given J lace to the Dreadnought and superIreadnought of to-day, and the idea is current that even these mighty weapons will eoon be out of date, as their huge bulk exposes a largo target for torpedoes, and to protect them from three they require a number of small ships round them. For this purpose a great number of extra ships would have to be built that might serve in a better way. What the skill of naval architects can. produce further remains to be seen. By this brief sketch of tfie evolution of the warship wo can see tnat our present navy is the outgrowth of long experiment, and the lessons learnt in its making are of the greatest possible use. With our numerous other weapons—submarines, destroyers, torpedo boats, etc. —we have produced a formidable array of weapons. To maintain our greatness, then, we must not let our Navy decline in any way. But these weapons are of little use if we have not men fit to use them. The " man behind the gun" must be alert and ready for his work, or the most efficient ship will be in action nothing better than a prixe for the enemy. The officer* must be men who have the confidence and respect of their subordinates; men to whom those under their t command are not mere _ machines, whose fife or death matters little. lTie ordinary seamen must be well-trained, strong, and courageous, and possessed of the spirit that makea them eager to get to their work in "anything that floats/' It is the whole system of discipline in our Jfavy that has produced our best men. The majority cf our victories have not been gained because our admirals were superior ta strategical skill to opposing admirals, or because our sailors wera more courageous than those of othar nations. Somatimes this has been th? caso, but on the whole "the real secret of naval success has surely lain in the possession of naval wchitecte able to create the kind of ship belt suited to stand hammering, and hardhearted folk in authority, who created a discipline that, however unrcasonibls it may now seem, ensured victory.'' This discipline is still part of naval training. * and, though it mayseem hard to tie, it is £.,,*» hound up in the traditions of the Navy :
that it would be dangerous to tamper with it now. It is this discipline that is going to win our battles for us in the future.
Given, then, efficient men and weapons, there remains the policy to be pursued in war. In former days the main object was to "smash" the enemy; but, as ether na- . tions grew stronger and more wary, another policy had. to bo adopted. It was seen that it was essential to destroy the enemy's fleet. This achievement was worth many land victorias, whereas if the Uritish fleet were destroyed Great Britain would soon be starred" into .surrender. This was the reason for maintaining the two-Power standard, and, later, the. three-to-two standard, so that our Navy might always be able to defend our island Mother Land. From the time of Alfred it has boen understood that the best method in warfare is to attack the enemy first, to consider the fleets and coasts of the enemy the frontiers of Britain. Thus Great Britain has always been the invader, not the invaded, and by adopting thi» course she has always triumphed. The naval policy at present is in the hands of onr admirals, and we who know little of affairs in the North Sea and elsewhere can say little about it.
Let us, then, keep up our Navy efficient and prepared. Let us never be willing to stand still, but persevere to "improve the best," and so keep up our prestige and influence among other nations. But there is a foundation has iiui deeper than mere outward show and pomp of armaments— namely, the foundation laid by pure morals and upright living. The laying of this foundation is not in the hands only of the naulicauy expert, but is the work and privilege of every citizen oi the State. " The safety and sovereignty of England has never "been in the i-ofc keeping of the diplomat, the admiral, and the general. It has ever been, and will ever be, in all who stand for the Empire of Christ, who know that the foundations of true dominion arc dug not with the sword ; that a natron is great not by the sweep of its territory, but by the justice and mercy of its rule; that national wealth is not "a thing of square miles and golden millions, but of godliness, truth, ar.u love of power to see and fitness to serve the high abiding spiritual interests ( of "bur common humanity." This, kind of greutnets is not an outward appearance, out an inward sense, and is of tar more lasting value than any material greatness, however awc-in-sptring that may be. The latter produces fear and otten jealousy ju oilier nations; the former can produce nothing but admiration and respect. "There are a groat many pessimists probably in every nation who* are continually asserting that their corntry is degenerating in every respect, and is steadily! on the downward grade. Yet thi'Sc s*lfstyled prophets are usually the least ready to sacrifice anything that they may stay this spiritual decay"in tho nation. They! deplore tho wickedness of ti;pir„ country, but forget that by purifying their own lives they may by their example help many on to a higher plane of morais. and £0 promote in their own native land that "righteousness that exalt .-th a nation." Every man has a certain sphere of influence, and ho ie rot paying his debt as a privileged citizen of ths Empire unless ho uses that influence for the good of the State. We are a free, democratic people, and every citizen has a share, whether great or small, in the government of the State. It is our duty, then, to see '.hat those we make rulers over us are upright men, who will act' up to the best traditions of our race—traditions of which we are justly proud. Some people, in a spirit ot false "fvumuAty, neglect tho study oi this branch of our history.. It is not conceit that makes us thrill to the sound of the names of our great men, but. the right kind of pride, that learns with readiness from the live.* of th?sc heroes. AVhy should we not be proud of them? They represent the best in our race, and if they form our ideals we shall be a better people, and our ruleis, who are from the people and of the people, will be worthier men. Thus tho material foundations laid in the past will blossom into moral foundations even better and stronger than the former. Wo aro living in an age of such luxury —so manv inventions have made life easy for us—that we are very much inclined to think that everything should be com ortablc and convenient. In past years Britain's struggle for existence and supremacy left "men little time for selfish indulgence, but the years of peace and safety have led to looser living.
0 thou, who knewest not a conqueror, Unchecked desires hnve multiplied in thee, Till with their bat-wings they ehut out
the sun. These "unchecked desires " must be rooted out of a nation's life if that nation is to be strong- Nothing /so weakens the will as yielding without restraint to one's sensual passions, and this L> what wt; must guard against. Hannibal's army, was invincible till the luxuries and licentiousness of Capua demoralised it, and then it wa3 worthless, undble to stand up against- the hardy Romans. This present war it> a terrible thing, but it will have done ,-nm* good in the end if it rouses the nation to higher ideals, stricter living, ami purer morals. Already this "nation of shopkeepers" has shown itself ready to disregard all thought of less, and riek its all for tho sake of an ideal—for honor. An abstract term, raayba; only a small matter concerning a 'scrap of paper" with the name of Britain on it. But it has stirred all hearts to i<?spond to its call as one man, and in its unity to day our Empire is stronger than it ha* «?ver been. It is true to our honor we must remain, for an Empire founded on treachery and dishonor is truly like a house, built upon the sands, and thn storms of the vents will soon bring about its fall. We have in trust a great Empire, and as our greatness is so is cur responsibility. Our acquisition <>f power has not been accidental, nor has ii been the work of a few years; but it has ben bought with the lffe-blood of our forefathers, who have handed down to v* a glorious heritage. Ts it not, then, our duty to do what Ave can to add to its lustre, and hand down in turn to our posterity a still greater power and unstained honor? There must be no 10 who say : " L:t all have a turn. Britain ha? V:n been supreme; let her give place now." Our Empire is a sacred charge, end Jf blood be the pike of Admiralty, Lord oc<!, we ha' bought it fair. Our forefathers, have fought and died to maintain it, unci it is for u.-. to do the same. Withoql beaming, v.e may say that under tho British Flag there is more heedom,' better treatment of conquered peoples, and better administration of government, especially in colonies, than tinder anv other flag* Tt is right, then, that we 'should letam this power, that the Unio.i Jack may ever be powerful to help the weak ar.d'pnt down the aggrossor. And it is through the. Navy that we shall maintain thu supremacy. Our geographical position, all our traditions, our very instincts, tell us that the sea is our element. Napoleon knew this, and his words concerning it arc of weight: " England can never become a Continental Fower, and in the attempt must bo mined. Let her maintain the empire- of the. seas, and she can send her Ambassadors to the Courts of Europe and demand what she pleases" If, then, wo secure this power, we can maintain it only by using it well, and " power is never a good unless a nation be good that has it." Wo hav? proclaimed that our sway i:= just. We must therefore be just and tiue in private life, in order that this sway may remain jvst. Let us give ovrselvec willingly to the perfecting of th? Stat?, spending and being spent willTngTy in its service. We cannot all do great, deeds for th 1 Empire, and our names may never be written on the pages of history; but what we are and do Jay by day is layinz the foundation on which*n»*terity will have to build and from whiclrhistcry will l««t made. Therefore, bs strong, be stxosjg, Ye that remain, nor fruitletaiy rcvoiva, Darkling the rid Iks that y« cannot solvo, But do the works that unto you belong.
THE NAVY LEAGUE ESSAY, Issue 15669, 7 December 1914
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