Page:Britain's Deadly Peril.djvu/157

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
151
THE PERIL OF APATHY

a declaration that he will enlist in the Regular Army when called upon unless he can show some good and sufficient reason why he should not do so.

Here we have the cause of all the trouble. The Army Council, in spite of all entreaties, obstinately refuses to state what constitutes a good and sufficient reason for non-enlistment. One such reason, it is admitted, is work on Government contracts. But it is impossible for us to shut our eyes to the fact that there are many thousands of men of military age and good physique who, however much they may desire to do their duty, are fully absolved by family or business reasons from the duty of joining the Regular Army. Many of them have dependents whom it is simply impossible for them to leave to the blank poverty of the official separation allowance; many of them are in businesses which would go to rack and ruin in their absence; many of them are engaged on work which is quite as important to the country as anything they could do in the field, even though they may not be in Government employ. To withdraw every able-bodied man from his employment would simply mean that industry would be brought to a standstill, and as this country must, to some extent, act as general provider for the Allies, it is, plainly, our duty to keep business going as well as to fight.

Rightly or wrongly, this particular provision is looked upon as an attempt to introduce a veiled form of compulsion. It has been pointed out that there is no power to compel men to enlist, even if they have signed such a declaration as is required. But the men, very properly, say that Britain has gone to war in defence of her plighted word, and that they are not prepared to give their word and then break it.

What is the result? Many thousands of capable