It might sound amazing today, but in terms of sheer national paranoia the late Victorian and all of the Edwardian era Great Britain was suffering worst than at anytime in 150 years. Much of the middle classes were obsessed with the prospect that England was going to be invaded at any moment. This page is a transcript of the feeling in the nation and its lack of preparedness incase this unknown invader should come knocking (image: The working class had more to worry about than an invisible fear of invasion) (I have transcribed this using voice recognition software and it might contain grammatical errors).
A little list of things the War office ought to do today.
Fresh attention has been drawn by a number of famous experts during the past few days of the possibility of an invasion of this country, and of the terrible consequences it would entail to every man, woman, and child under our present state of unprepared ness.
As has been pointed out, the probability is that an invasion would only be attempted by a foreign power at the time — such as might occur at any moment — when the greater part of our regular Army and Navy were absent owing to a war in some other part of the empire, such as India or with some other power in some distance clime.
There are many parts of the world where treaty obligations and other considerations might render it necessary to dispatch a large army at short notice.
In this event, if an invasion were attempted — and many such attempts have been made in the past without any real cause of battle or formal declaration of war — we should be forced to rely almost exclusively upon territorial forces.
The latter, although excellent in their way, are insufficiently numbers for the task. Moreover, the War office authorities have confessed that they have no courses to mount them in case of emergency — they have not even nearly and forces to put the regular Army on a war footing — and there are not enough horses in Britain to manage both branches of the army if every available horse, good, bad, and indifferent, were commandeered for the purpose.
But although the horse problem is serious, it is not so serious as the shortage there would be of men: and the War office is doing nothing at present to cope with the deficiency. It is very well to lecture, as very many famous generals and others have done, on the need for universal service, or conscription, but the fact remains that at present we have not got universal service in this country, and do not seem likely to get it at any very immediate date.
Meanwhile, the need for men might well become urgent at any moment. It might be necessary to mobilise all the territorials and caller other force of reserves for Garrison and other duties at a moments notice.
Instead of worrying their heads so much about taking a sentence of horses, the War office authorities should take censors of the available “useful” men. They should make enquiry throughout the whole kingdom in order to find out how many men there are who can ride and shoot, and where they reside.
In an invasion of England they would be few battles of a spectacular kind. The fighting would be almost entirely of a gorilla character — small bodies of troops defending villages, destroying railways and bridges, harassing the enemy on its flank, destroying its lines of communication, and other ways hindering and delaying its advance.
For work of this kind there is a huge body of men, numbering several hundred thousand, who would be drawn upon in an emergency, and who could be relied upon to give a good account of themselves. But unless their whereabouts, their numbers, and their ages and other qualifications are known and registered in advance the delay which would take place in preparing them to take to the field would be fatal.
Below will be found a few suggestions as to where the needful men might be found, and also the opinions which have been expressed during the past week or so by leading military men and other experts on our present state of unprepared ness.
Nobody wants war, but to be forewarned and fully prepared is the surest guarantee of peace.
Finding the men.
The urgency of the situation which will be created in the case of an invasion of this country or other European war is revealed by the fact that, owing to having conscription, the “peace” armies of the various great powers do not represent anything like therefore military resources.
Russia in time of war is supposed to be able to mobilise five millions of men, Germany if war broke out could also call 5 million men to its standard, France nearly 4 1/2 million is, Italy 3 million is and Austria about two and half million is, whilst even Turkey has a nominal wall strength of 1 1/2 million.
It will thus be seen that we should have urgent need of every man in the country who can ride and shoot.
Information should be obtained without delay, from all livery stable keepers, of all their employees who are able to write, and of all their customers who’ve had horses for hire for riding purposes in the past few years. The master of every pack of foxhounds in the country should be asked for similar information, and all other people who might be supposed to be able to do any help of this kind.
Then, too, the 200,000 members of the civilian rifle clubs in this country should be organised as part of exhilarate army.
The secretary of the Society of miniature rifle clubs has been agitating to this end the years, but so far in vain.
Although during the past few years the number of rifle clubs existing in this country has increased by leaps and bounds those responsible for the organisation of this movement are still waiting for a reply to a question which is frequently put on by the members of these clubs — “what position should we occupy in time of war?”.
“It must be borne in mind,” says the secretary, “that there are many other walks of life besides that of bearing arms. England could not expect to hold its position amongst the nations if every man were trained to be a soldier and the question of business training were made one of secondary importance. Consequently it naturally follows that there must be a large section of the community who are unable to give the time necessary to become an effective territorial.
” I am secretary of an institution which has a membership of 200,000. I am told that we are doing our utmost to put the men of this country into a condition to defend their hearths and homes in the event of invasion, and I am also rightly asked what steps we have taken to see that in the interests of these men are safeguarded.
“In time of war will they be treated as franchisers? Or is it not possible that some definite position could be allotted to them? Can they not have some badge or some equipment which will enable them to take their place with the regular forces? Can they not been made and national reserve of some sort?
“We are an increasing body of men actuated by patriotic motives. I am in a position to be able to offer to the War office the names of 200,000 men who threw various rifle clubs have become skilled in the handling of a weapon which can be used in the defence of this country.
“Men who are in a position to judge, such as Lord Roberts, General Sir Ian Hamilton, General Sir John French, and Lieutenant-General Baden Powell, who are great supporters of the rifle club movement. They have publicly stated on numerous occasions the rifle club shooting constitutes 4/5 of the training of a soldier. This being the case, I think we are entitled to consider that we are of some use to the country. Under our present constitution we should be considered a non belligerent force in time of war.”
Col Sir Edward Ward has stated; “there is no limitation of plummeting rifle clubs to become military bodies who will be armed and perform drills, and so on, as such an organisation would be entirely antagonistic to the territorial Force scheme.”
Another important scheme, one for the information of the national volunteer reserve, has been put forward by Col Ford last year, but who was snubbed by the War office who held that “the raising of such a force in the manner contemplated was illegal”!
The value of the Boy Scouts.
Last week it was shown that the ever increasing Boy Scout movement could render invaluable aid during mobilisation, apart from what Red Cross service they might be able to render later in the campaign. Last Thursday night, when a portion of the London cyclist Battalion was mobilised, the health of the Boy Scouts was invoked. The assistance given was invaluable. It was the number one new cross company of Boy Scouts — the “Greys,” as they style themselves — who turned out to assist the cyclists in mobilising. They were able to assist in giving the alarm, in carrying messages, in going in search of absentees, in fact in a dozen little ways. The practical result was excellent.
There appears to be no good reason why each territorial unit should not get in touch with the Boy Scout company or patrols in its area. The organisations could render some much mutual help. The territorial officers and non-commissioned officers could teach their young friends so many things, and arrange lectures and small scouting tests. The boys could reciprocate by furnishing recruits as they grew up, and especially by playing an important role in the scheme for hasty mobilisation.
It must be remembered, however, that the Boy Scout movement is not a military one, and shooting is not taught in its ranks; but there are at least five other lads Brigade’s when not only is military drill taught, but in many cases shooting as well. Between them these five brigades show a total membership of 119, 000, made up as follows: –
Boys Brigades — 65,000
Church Lads Brigade (1400 companies, say) — 40,000
London Diocesan Church Lads Brigade — 7000
Catholic Lads Brigade (about) — 4000
Jewish Lads Brigade — 3000.
Once a week, or oftener, each company assembles arrayed in full military equipment, armed with dummy rifles, or much more frequently with disused cavalry carbines, and goes through the intricacies of squad or company drill. Every now and again the various companies in a district assemble for Battalion parade, when course of work becomes more trying; while on great field days and suchlike the battalion itself is merged into the formal regiment or Brigade.
Once a year the majority of the lads spend a week in account at the seaside, where they combine with a cheap, enjoyable, and most undeniably healthy holiday of learning of more combine to drill than can be learned in six months at home. Nor does this end the usefulness of the concern.
Shooting has lately come much to the fore in the movement. Of the five brigades mentioned above, with a combined membership of 119,000, it is safe to say that a least 20,000 are already doing a certain amount of shooting with a miniature rifle. The boys Brigade has hardly touched the matter going to the prejudice against “militarism” amongst some of its supporters. But the two Church of England brigades and the Catholic lads Brigade are waking up considerably to the necessity of teaching musketry in their ranks; while in the Jewish Brigade practically every boy gets a certain amount of shooting.
Sufficient has been said to show that there is plenty of good material at hand if pressure could only be brought to bear upon the authorities to organise it for southern use in conjunction with our existing forces. It is no good waiting until the emergency occurs.