Page:Britain's Deadly Peril.djvu/21

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15
THE PERIL OF "MUDDLING THROUGH"

"Bobs," it was hardly surprising that they jeered at me.

I am speaking of the nation as a whole. To their eternal honour let it be said that there were nevertheless some who, for years, had foreseen the danger, and had done what lay in their power to meet it. Foremost among these we must place Mr. Winston Churchill, and the group of brilliant officers who are now the chiefs of the British Army on the Continent. To them, at least, I hope history will do full justice. It was no mere coincidence that just before the outbreak of war our great fleet—the mightiest Armada that the world has ever seen—was assembled at Spithead, ready, to the last shell and the last man, for any eventuality.

It was no mere coincidence that the magnificent First Division at Aldershot, trained to the minute by men who knew their business, were engaged when war broke out in singularly appropriate "mobilisation exercises." All honour to the men who foresaw the world-peril, and did their utmost to make our pitiably insufficient forces ready, as far as fitness and organisation could make them ready, for the great Day when their courage and endurance were to be so severely tested.

But when all this is said and admitted, it is clear that our safety, in the early days of the war, hung by a hair. Afloat, of course, we were more than a match for anything Germany could do, and our Fleet has locked our enemy in with a strangling grip that we hope is slowly choking out her industrial and commercial life. Ashore, however, our position was perilous in the extreme. Men's hair whitened visibly during those awful days when the tiny British Army, fighting heroically every step of the way against overwhelming odds, was driven ever