Page:Britain's Deadly Peril.djvu/23

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17
THE PERIL OF "MUDDLING THROUGH"

Naturally, our preference for waiting till the battle opened before we began to train for the fight led us into some of the most amazing muddles that even our military history can boast of. When the tocsin of war rang out, our young men poured to the colours from every town and village in the country. Everybody but the War Office expected it. The natural result followed: recruiting offices were simply "snowed under" with men, and for weeks we saw the most amazing chaos. The flood of men could neither be equipped nor housed, nor trained, and confusion reigned supreme. We had an endless series of scandals at camps, into which I do not propose to enter: probably, with all the goodwill in the world, they were unavoidable. Still the flood of men poured in. The War Office grew desperate. It was, clearly, beyond the capacity of the organisation to handle the mass of recruits, and then the War Office committed perhaps its greatest blunder. Unable to accept more men, it raised the physical standard for recruits. No one seems to have conceived the idea that it would have been better to take the names of the men and call them up as they were needed. Naturally the public seized upon the idea that enough men had been obtained, and there was an instant slump in recruiting which, despite the most strenuous of advertising campaigns—carried out on the methods of a vendor of patent medicines—has, unfortunately, not yet been overcome.

Following, came a period of unexampled chaos at the training-centres. Badly lodged, badly fed, clothed in ragged odds and ends of "uniforms," without rifles or bayonets, it is simply a marvel that the men stuck to their duty, and it is surely a glowing testimony to their genuine patriotism. I do not