Page:Great Speeches of the War.djvu/321

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Great Speeches of the War

many years when the people of this country as a whole credited them with quite different motives, our enemies in their careful calculations have always built on a process of attrition, have always counted on a process of attrition—the waste of ships by mine and torpedo and other methods of the warfare of the weaker Power, by which the numbers and strength of our Fleet would be reduced to such a point that they would be able to steel their hearts and come out and fight. [Laughter.] Well, we have been at war for five or six weeks, and so far, though I would certainly not underrate the risks and hazards attendant on warlike operations and the vanity of all over-confidence, so far the attrition has been on their side and not on ours, and the losses which they have suffered have greatly exceeded any which we have at present sustained.

I have made careful inquiries as to the condition of our sailors afloat under the strain put on them by this continued watching and constant attention to their duty under warlike conditions, and I am glad to say that it is reported to me that the health of the Fleet has been much better since the declaration of war than it was in times of peace, that the percentage of sickness and the character of the sickness have been more favourable, that there is no reason why we should not keep up the same process of naval freedom and of the same exercise of sea power as that on which we have lived and are living for what is almost an indefinite period. [Cheers.] By one of those dispensations of Providence which appeal so strongly to the German Emperor, the nose of the bulldog has been slanted backwards, so that he can breathe with comfort without letting go. If we have been successful in maintaining naval control thus far in the struggle, there are also sound reasons for believing as it progresses the chances in our favour will not diminish but increase. In the next twelve months the number of great ships which will be completed for this country is more than double the number that will be completed for Germany and the number of cruisers three or four times as great. [Cheers.] Therefore I think I am on solid ground when I come here to-night and say that you may count upon the naval supremacy of this country being effectively maintained as against the German power or as long as you wish. [Cheers.]

And now we must look at the Army. [Cheers.] The Navy has been, under every Government and throughout all periods of modern history, the darling of the British nation.