Can Germany Invade England?/Chapter8
"There be many examples where sea-fights have been fina in the war, . . . but this much is certain, that he that commands the sea is at great liberty, and may take as much and as little of the war as lie will; whereas those that be strongest on land are many times, nevertheless, in great straits." —Bacon."No armed millions can save her, no matter under what conditions they are raised and trained; nothing can save Great Britain but her Navy, and on that rests what may be called her credit-note, not only in Europe, but throughout the world.""We, the British Isles, must keep ourselves free from entangling alliances in Europe, first, because they would involve us in the military rivalries of Continental Powers and deflect our policy from its normal course, and secondly because such alliances and their responsibilities would be an obstacle to closer Imperial Federation."
'The United Service Gazette, June 27 1912.
The foregoing pages have been written in no spirit of boasting or national arrogance, but in the hope of dissipating an illusion which is doing incalculable harm both to England and Germany, and of giving the coup de grace to certain ambitious schemes which, dimly suspected by the people of both countries, tend to destroy and embitter relations that, in the true interests of each, should always be open and friendly.
With this object in view, I have stated frankly and fully the strategical advantages inherent in Great Britain's geographical position, and set forth her great superiority in ships, sailors, and armament. It is no insult to Germany to show her that she cannot hope to rival us on the sea, and to point out the futility of her attempts to create a Navy equal to ours, since her inferiority is due not to any defect in her people, to any weakness in her Government, but to the limitations imposed upon her by Nature.
On the other hand, it is not pandering to the jingo spirit in my own countrymen to compel them to recognise their great naval strength, for the facts and arguments by which I have disproved the possibility of a German Invasion of England, demonstrate our weakness for attack, and the futility of cherishing the ambition of playing an active part on land In any future European war. People may talk glibly of creating a Striking Force, Ministers may adopt the term, but the thing itself can never come into existence, for the simple reason that long before such a force could be thrown into the scales of war, the decisive battle would have been fought, unless, indeed. It were so small as to be a negligible quantity.
It is well that France, too, should recognise this fact and cease to hope for effective British military aid in any future struggle with Germany; and It is well for her, well for Germany, and well for England, to understand that In sealing Germany's ports—the only helpful step we could take as France's ally—we should be drying up a large part of our own trade, and creating a fierce reaction against engagements by which we stand to lose much, and to gain nothing; for in what respect should we be the better for the crippling of a great and, in many directions, the most advanced nation in the world?
I am not one of those who believe that this earth was intended by God to be a cockpit to the end of time; but I know that so long as the cockpit view of the world continues dominant, there will be constant changes in the nations pitted against each other. I therefore deprecate any policy based on the assumption that France will always be our friend and Germany always our foe, and I desire to see a return to that independent position in which all our arrangements can be based upon our own needs—safety for our island home, protection for our trade, and uninterrupted, uninterruptible communication with India and our Colonies.
The Navy necessary to the maintenance of such a position would not necessarily be a menace to any other nation, and it is not demanding too much of Germany to ask her to recognise that, till the affairs of the world are managed on better principles than those prevailing at the present time, we cannot have the supremacy of the sea, on which the conditions of our national existence depend, wrested from us, nor allow it to slip from our hands.
Such a recognition would do much to bring her people and ours into stable relations, and pave the way to a relaxation of the cruel pressure put upon both countries by a rivalry which, however far it may be carried, will do nothing to alter their relative naval strength.
THE ADMIRALTY MEMORANDUM OF NOVEMBER 19TH, 1910, ON THE RISK OF INVASION
The really serious danger that this country has to guard against in war is not invasion, but interruption of our trade and destruction of our Merchant Shipping.
The strength of our Fleet is determined by what is necessary to protect our trade, and, if it is sufficient for that, it will be almost necessarily sufficient to prevent invasion, since the same disposition of the ships to a great extent answers both purposes.
The main object aimed at by our Fleet, whether for the defence of commerce or for any other purpose, is to prevent any ship of the enemy from getting to sea far enough to do any mischief before she is brought to action. Any disposition that is even moderately successful in attaining this object will almost certainly be effective in preventing a large fleet of transports, than which nothing is more vulnerable or more difficult to hide, from reaching our shores.
To realise the difficulty that any enemy would have in bringing such a fleet of transports to our coast and disembarking an army, it is necessary to remember that all the ships operating in Home waters, whether they are in the North Sea, the Channel, or elsewhere, are in wireless communication with the Admiralty and the Commander-inChief, so that if a fleet of transports is sighted anywhere by a single cruiser, or even by a merchant ship if she is fitted with wireless, every ship which happened to be in a position to intercept the transports would at once get the order to concentrate as necessary for the purpose, whether she was at sea or in harbour.
It is further necessary to remember that, even supposing that by some extraordinary lucky chance the transports were able to reach our coast without being detected, their presence must be known when they arrive there; and long before half the troops could be landed, the transports would be attacked and sunk by submarines which are stationed along the coast for that purpose.
Besides the submarines there would be always a large force of destroyers, either in the ports along the coast or within wireless call, as, in addition to those that may be definitely detailed for coast defence, the system of reliefs for those acting over sea will ensure a large number being actually in harbour at their respective bases, or within call while going to or returning from their stations. These destroyers, though not specially stationed with that object, will always form, in conjunction with submarines, a very effective second line of defence in the improbable event of such a second line being required.
To understand thoroughly the small chance of an invasion from the other side of the North Sea being successful, it is necessary to put oneself in the place of the officer who has to undertake the responsibility of conducting it.
His first difficulty will be to consider how he is to get his great fleet of transports to sea without any information of it leaking out through neutral nations or otherwise. Next, he will consider that somewhere within wireless call we have nearly double the number of battleships and cruisers that he can muster, besides a swarm of destroyers.
He has probably very vague and unreliable information as to their positions, which are constantly changing.
His unwieldy fleet will cover many square miles of water, and as all the ships will be obliged to carry lights, for mutual safety, they will be visible nearly as far by night as by day. How can he hope to escape discovery?
Many of his transports will have speeds of not more than ten to twelve knots, so that there will be no hope for escape by flight if he is met by a superior force.
If he is sighted by any of our destroyers at night, they will have little difficulty in avoiding the men-of-war and torpedoing the transports.
Is it possible to entice part of our Fleet away by any stratagem? Possibly. But even if he succeeds in drawing off half our Fleet, the other half, in conjunction with destroyers and submarines, would be quite sufficient to sink the greater part of his transports, even if supported by the strongest Fleet he could collect. The Fleets would engage each other while the destroyers and submarines torpedoed the transports.
Finally, even if he reached the coast in safety, he would see that it was quite impossible to guard his transports against the attacks of submarines while he was landing the troops; and that it was quite certain that a superior force would be brought to attack him before the landing could be completed.
Taking all these facts into consideration, he would probably decide, as the Admiralty have done, that an invasion on even the moderate scale of 70,000 men is practically impossible.