Britain's Deadly Peril/Foreword

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The following pages—written partly as a sequel to my book "German Spies in England," which has met with such wide popular favour—are, I desire to assure the reader, inspired-solely by a stern spirit of patriotism.

This is not a book of "scaremongerings," but of plain, hard, indisputable facts.

It is a demand for the truth to be told, and a warning that, by the present policy of secrecy and shuffle, a distinct feeling of distrust has been aroused, and is growing more and more apparent. No sane man will, of course, ask for any facts concerning the country's resources or its intentions, or indeed any information upon a single point which, in the remotest way, could be of any advantage to the barbaric hordes who are ready to sweep upon us.

But what the British people to-day demand is a sound and definite pronouncement which will take them, to a certain extent, into the confidence of the Government—as apart from the War Office, against which no single word of criticism should be raised—and at the same time deal effectively with certain matters which, being little short of public scandals, have irritated and inflamed public opinion at an hour when every man in our Empire should put forth his whole strength for his God, his King, and his country.

Germany is facing the present situation with a sound, businesslike policy, without any vacillation, or any attempt to shift responsibility from one Department of the State to another. Are we doing the same?

What rule or method can be discerned, for example, in a system which allows news to appear in the papers in Scotland which is suppressed in the newspapers in England? Why, indeed, should one paper in England be permitted to print facts, and another, published half a mile away, be debarred from printing the self-same words?

The public—who, since August 4th last, are no longer school-children under the Head-Mastership of the Prime-Minister-for-the-Time-Being—are now wondering what all this curious censorship means, and for what reason such an unreliable institution—an institution not without its own scandals, and employing a thousand persons of varying ideas and warped notions—should have been established. They can quite understand the urgent necessity of preventing a horde of war correspondents, at the front, sending home all sorts of details regarding our movements and intentions, but they cannot understand why a Government offer of £100 reward, published on placards all over Scotland for information regarding secret bases of petrol, should be forbidden to be even mentioned in England.

They cannot understand why the Admiralty should issue a notice warning the public that German spies, posing as British officers, are visiting Government factories while at the same time the Under-Secretary for War declares that all enemy aliens are known, and are constantly under police surveillance. They cannot understand either why, in face of the great imports of foodstuffs, and the patriotic movement on the part of Canada and our Overseas Dominions concerning our wheat supply, prices should have been allowed to increase so alarmingly, and unscrupulous merchants should be permitted to exploit the poor as they have done. They are mystified by the shifty shuttlecock policy which is being pursued towards the question of enemy aliens, and the marked disinclination of the authorities to make even the most superficial inquiry regarding cases of suspected espionage, notwithstanding the fact that German spies have actually been recognised among us by refugees from Antwerp and other Belgian cities.

The truth, which cannot be disguised, is that by the Government's present policy, and the amusing vagaries of its Press Censorship, the public are daily growing more and more apathetic concerning the war. While, on the one hand, we see recruiting appeals in all the clever guises of smart modern advertising, yet on the other, by the action of the authorities themselves, the man-in-the-street is being soothed into the belief that all goes well, and that, in consequence, no more men are needed and nobody need worry further.

We are told by many newspapers that Germany is at the end of her tether: that food supplies are fast giving out, that she has lost millions of men, that her people are frantic, that a "Stop the War" party has already arisen in Berlin, and that the offensive on the eastern frontier is broken. At home, the authorities would have us believe that there is no possibility of invasion, that German submarines are "pirates "—poor consolation indeed—that all alien enemies are really a deserving hardworking class of dear good people, and that there is no spy-peril. A year ago the British public would, perhaps, have believed all this. To-day they refuse to do so. Why they do not, I have here attempted to set out; I have tried to reveal something of the perils which beset our nation, and to urge the reader to pause and reflect for himself. Every word I have written in this book, though I have been fearless and unsparing in my criticism, has been written with an honest and patriotic intention, for I feel that it is my duty, as an Englishman, in these days of national peril to take up my pen—without political bias—solely for the public good.

I ask the reader to inquire for himself, to ascertain how cleverly Germany has hoodwinked us, and to fix the blame upon those who wilfully, and for political reasons, closed their eyes to the truth. I would ask the reader to remember the formation in Germany—under the guidance of the Kaiser—of the Society for the Promotion of Better Relations between Germany and England, and how the Kaiser appointed, as president, a certain Herr von Holleben. I would further ask the reader to remember my modest effort to dispel the pretty illusion placed before the British public by exposing, in The Daily Telegraph, in March 1912, the fact that this very Herr von Holleben, posing as a champion of peace, was actually the secret emissary sent by the Kaiser to the United States in 1910, with orders to make an anti-English press propaganda in that country! And a week after my exposure the Emperor was compelled to dismiss him from his post.

Too long has dust been thrown in our eyes, both abroad and at home.

Let every Briton fighting for his country, and working for his country's good, remember that even though there be a political truce to-day, yet the Day of Awakening must dawn sooner or later. On that day, with the conscience of the country fully stirred, the harmless—but to-day powerless—voter will have something bitter and poignant to say when he pays the bill. He will then recollect some hard facts, and ask himself many plain questions. He will put to himself calmly the problem whether the present German hatred of England is not mainly due to the weak shuffling sentimentalism and opportunism of Germanophils in high places. And he will then search out Britain's betrayers, and place them in the pillory.

Assuredly, when the time comes, all these things—and many more—will be remembered. And the dawn of the Unknown To-morrow will, I feel assured, bring with it many astounding and drastic changes.

William Le Queux.

Devonshire Club, S.W
April 1915.