Permanent link to this item
AN INVINCIBLE ARMY, Issue 15692, 5 January 1915
AN INVINCIBLE ARMY
BKITISir ANT) GKK.MAX COMPAKED. WHY OXE ARMY IS SIOEE LFFICIEXT. A REPLY TO GEXERAL BEHNIIARDI. [By Sir A. Conan Doyle] Early last year, in the course of =-nme comments which I made upon tho slighihm remarks about our army by Genera! Von Bernhardi, I observed: ""It' may be noted that General Von Bcruhnnli lias a pom' opinio.! of our troops. This nerd no!, trouble us. We are what, we are, and words will not alter if. From very earlv days our soldiers have left thoir mark upon Continental warfare, and we have no reason to think thai we have declined from the. manhood of nur forefathers." Since then ho has returned to the attack. With that, curious power of coming aficr deep study to the absolutely diametrically wrong conclusion which the German expert, political or militarv, appears to possess, he says in his 'War o'f To-day': "The English Anny trained more for the purpose of fho-.v tlian for modern war." ajldinft in the same sentence a sneer at our " inferior colonial levies." He will have, an opportunity of reconsidering his views presently upon the fighting value of our oversea troops, and, surelv, so far as our own are concerned, he must already be making some interesting notes for his next edition.' or. rather, for the learned volume upon ' crmany and the Last. War." which will, no doubt, come from hi?: pen. He is a man io whom we mightwell raisa a statue, for I am convinced that, his frank confession of German policy has been worth at least an army corps lo this country. Wc may address to him John Davidson's lines to his enemy: Unwilling friend, let nob your spite abate, Spur us with scorn, and strengthen us with hate" There is another German gentleman who must be thinking rather furiously. He is a certain Colonel Gadke, who appeared officially at Aldershot some years ago, was hospitably treated, being shown all that he desired to see, and on his return to Berlin published a. most depreciatory description, of our forces. He found no good thing in them. I have some recollection that General French alluded in a public speech to this critic's remarks, and expressed a modest hope that ho and his men would sonic day have the opportunity of showing hew far thcy wcrc deserved. Well, he has had his opportunity, and Colonel Gadke, like so many other Germans, seems to have made a miscalculation. —Germans Untried in War —■ An army which has preserved the absurd parade schritt-, an exercise which is painful to tho bystander, as he feels that. it. is making fools of brave men, must have, a tendency to throw back to earlier types. These Germans have been trained in peace and upon tho theory of books. In all that vast host- (hero is hardly a man who has stood at the wrong end of a loaded gun. They live on traditions of close formations, vast cavalry charges, and other things which will not fit into modem warfare. Braver men do not exist, but it is the bravely of men who have been taught, to lean upon each other, and not tho cold, self-contained, resourceful bravery of tho man who has learned to fight for his own hand. The. British have had the teachings of two recent campaigns fought with modern weapons—that of tho Tirah and of South Africa. Xow that the reserves have, joined tho colors there are few regiments, which have not a fair sprinkling of vcLcrana from these wars in their ranks. The Pathan and the, Boer have been their instructors in something more practical than those Imperial grand manoeuvres where tho all-highest played with his puppets in such a fashion that one of his generals remarked that the chief practical difficulty of a campaign so conducted would be the disposal of the dc-.'l. Boers and Paihaus have been hard masters, and have given many a slap to their admiring pupils, but the lesson has been learned. It was not show troops, general, who, with two corps, held five of your best day after day from Mens to C'ompiegne. If is no re proach to your valor, but you were up against, men who were equally brave and knew a great deal more of the game. This must begin to break upon you, and will surely grow clearer as the days go by. We shai! often in the future, take the knock as well as give it, but, you will not say that we are. a show army if you live to chronicle this war, nor will your Imperial master be proud ■ f the adjective which he has demeaned himself in using before his troops had learned their lesson. —The- South African Lesson.— Tho fact is that the German army, with all its great traditions, has been petrifying" for many years buck. They never learned the lesson of South. Africa.. It was not, fur the want of hiving it expounded to thein, for their military attache—" "im with the. spatchcock on. 'is helmet," as ! heard him described by a British orderly-missed nothing of what, occurred, as is evident from their official history of the war. And yet- they missed it, and with it, all those ideas of individual efilciency and elastic independent formation which are the essence of modern soldiering. Their own more liberal thinkers were aware of it. Here arc tho words which were put. into tho month of Uuniz, the representative of the younger school, in iievcrlem's famous novel; "Tho organisation of the, Gorman army rested upon foundations which had been laid a hundred years ago. Since tho great war they had never seriously been put to tho proof, and during the last three decades thev had only been altered in the mosl trifling details. In three long decades! And in one of those decades the world at large had advanced as much a-s in the previous centurv. [nstc.ad of turning this highlydeveloped intelligence to good account lhey bound it, hand and foot on the. rack of an everlasting drill which could not have been more soullessly mechanical in the dnys of Frederick. It held them together as an iron hoop holds iogether a cask the, dry staves of which would fall asunder at the. first kick." Lord Roberts has said, that if 10 points represent the complete soldier 8 should stand for his efficiency as a, shot. The German maxim has rather been that-8 should stare! for his efficiency as a drilled marionette. It has been reckoned that about, 200 books a year appear in Germany upon military affairs, 'against about 20 in Britain. And vet, after nil this expert, debate, the o«p,-i----tial point of all seems to have "been mhse.d —that in the end everything depends upon the nia.il behind tho frun._ upon his bittinig his opponent, and upon his taking cover so aa to avoid being hit himself.
AN INVINCIBLE ARMY, Issue 15692, 5 January 1915
Use these buttons to limit your searches to particular dates, titles, and more.
Print, save, zoom in and more.