Page:Britain's Deadly Peril.djvu/56

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pouring of wealth will have bled Europe white, we, at least, cannot afford to falter. For our own land, the struggle is really, and in very truth, a struggle of life and death.

If we endure and win, civilisation, as we understand it to-day, will be safe; if we lose, then Western civilisation and the British Empire will go down together in the greatest cataclysm in human history. Now are we doing everything in our power to avert the threatening peril? Moreover—and this is of greatest importance—are our Allies persuaded that we are really making the great efforts the occasion demands? This gives us to pause.

Let us admit we are not, and we have never pretended to be, a military nation in the sense that France, Russia, and Germany have been military nations. We have been seamen for a thousand years, and the frontiers of England are the salt waves which girdle our coasts. Seeking no territory on the Continent of Europe, and unconcerned in European disputes unless they directly—as in the present instance—threaten our national existence, our armed forces have ever been regarded as purely defensive, yet not aggressive. For our defence we have relied on our naval power; perhaps in days gone by we have assumed, rather too rashly, that we should never be called upon to take part in land-fighting on a continental scale.

Even after the present war had broken out, it was possible for the Parliamentary correspondent of a London Liberal paper to write that certain Liberal Members of the House of Commons were protesting against the sending of British troops to the Continent on the ground that they were too few in number to exercise any influence in a European war! Perish that thought for ever! I