Secrets of Crewe House/Chapter 4
OPERATIONS AGAINST GERMANY
Early British neglect of propaganda—War Office establishes a department—Lord Northcliffe takes office—Mr. H. G. Wells's and Mr. Hamilton Fyfe's work—The final "intensive" campaign—Ways and means.
The successful launch of the "propaganda offensive" against Austria-Hungary raised high hopes for the success of the corresponding campaign against the Germans on the Western Front. These hopes were shared by the Prime Minister, who wrote to Lord Northcliffe on May 16, 1918:—"It seems to me that you have organised admirable work in your Austrian propaganda…. I trust that you will soon turn your attention towards German propaganda along the French and British Fronts. I feel sure that much can be done to disintegrate the moral of the German army along the same lines as we appear to have adopted with great success in the Austro-Hungarian army."
For the first eighteen months of the war all propaganda had been sadly neglected by the British Government. Few realised its value, and officially it was regarded as an unimportant "side-line." That it might be a weapon of warfare, equal in effect to several army corps, would at that time have been ridiculed. Money for such purposes was grudgingly spent, while the whole-hearted endeavours of a few enthusiasts were disparaged as the exuberances of harmless "cranks."
In October, 1914, Lieutenant-Colonel (now Major-General) Swinton, who was then acting as "Eye-Witness" with the British Army, prepared a propaganda leaflet, a reproduction of which appears in this book. To enable him to produce it. Lord Northcliffe lent the aid of his Paris organisation, and a large number of copies were printed and distributed by aeroplane among the German troops. But the Army chiefs at that time did not show any enthusiasm for the innovation, and Colonel Swinton was unable to proceed with the project.
Propaganda against the enemy was, during a long period, almost a single-handed campaign by Mr. S. A. Guest. He struggled on, despite official discouragement or lack of encouragement, undeterred by all the vicissitudes through which British propaganda passed. Indeed, the early direction of British propaganda was like an epidemic; it occasionally took strange forms and occurred in unexpected places. Mr. Guest's work was the institution and maintenance of those agencies by which propagandist literature was produced and smuggled into Germany and Austria-Hungary.
Within the War Office, there were some in favour of propagandist activity, but for a long time they were in a minority. Early in 1916, Major-General (now Lieutenant-General) Sir George Macdonogh, K.C.M.G., C.B., returned from France to become Director of Military Intelligence, and mainly owing to his efforts and those of Brigadier-General G. K. Cockerill, C.B. (then Director of Special Intelligence), a propaganda branch of the Military Intelligence Department of the War Office was established. From small beginnings, the activities of this branch grew.
It was in the spring of 1916 that a sub-section of this branch began the preparation of leaflets in German for distribution among enemy troops. One use of the leaflets was to disprove the false beliefs spread among German soldiers that the British and French treated their prisoners with great severity. To counteract this, reproductions of letters actually written by German prisoners of war, photographs and descriptions of prisoners and their camps, and similar material, were prepared and distributed. As the political and social discontent in Germany increased it was thought useful that the German soldiers should be provided with more evidence of the internal conditions in their own country than their officers would allow them to have, and leaflets prepared from German sources, as, for instance, from suppressed editions of German pamphlets and newspapers, were scattered on the lines and rest billets.
It then undertook the publication of an excellent weekly news sheet, entitled Le Courrier de l’Air, containing news in French for circulation among the French and Belgian inhabitants of occupied districts. This newspaper, save for one short break, was regularly distributed by air until November, 1918, and naturally was greatly valued by those who otherwise would only have received "news" from German sources.
During 1917 reports obtained by the examination of prisoners and information derived from more secret sources showed that the propaganda campaign was achieving useful results, and the Directorate of Military Intelligence, in co-operation with the G.H.Q. in France, made arrangements for the work to be extended, until by the spring of 1918 about a million leaflets monthly were being issued.
The task of distribution of propaganda literature by air would have been simpler but for an extraordinary military decision. When this work was started by the military authorities the leaflets were dropped from aeroplanes. This method had the widest limits, and, at the same time, was the best means of carrying a large bulk and of distributing with accuracy. Perturbed by the success attained, the Germans threatened to inflict severe penalties upon airmen captured when performing such duties, and, on capturing two British airmen, followed their threats by action. Instead of instituting immediate reprisals, the British authorities tamely submitted and gave instructions for the discontinuance of the use of aeroplanes for the purpose.
In consequence of this weak action, experiments had to be undertaken to find a substitute for the aeroplane. There were a number of possible, although inferior, methods. Hand and rifle grenades were devised to burst and shower leaflets over a limited area among enemy troops. Trench mortars would serve a similar purpose. But thanks to the progress of military meteorological science during the war and to several months' patient experimenting with various devices, it was found possible to utilise specially adapted balloons. The Air Inventions Committee, the Munitions Inventions Department, the Inspectorate of H.M. Stores, Woolwich, Army Intelligence officers experienced in the use of silk balloons for other military purposes, and the manufacturers, all assisted the War Office in arriving at a result which proved to be effective and as nearly as possible "fool-proof." Designs and apparatus were tested in the workshop and laboratory, at experimental stations near London, and on Salisbury Plain. They were taken out to France and tried under the actual conditions of war, and gradually each difficulty was overcome and each detail reduced to its simplest form.
In its standard form in which it was being manufactured at the rate of nearly 2,000 a week the propaganda balloon was made of paper, cut in 10 longitudinal panels, with a neck of oiled silk about 12 inches long. The circumference was about 20 feet and the height, when inflated, over eight feet. The absolute capacity was approximately 100 cubic feet, but the balloons were liberated when not quite taut, containing 90 to 95 cubic feet of hydrogen. Hydrogen readily passes through paper, and the part of the experimental work that caused most trouble was the discovery of a suitable varnish, or "dope," to make the paper gas-tight. After many disappointments, a formula was arrived at, the application of which prevented appreciable evaporation of the gas for two or three hours, and which left a balloon with some lifting capacity after thirty-six hours.
The lifting power of a balloon is the difference between the weight of the hydrogen and the weight of the same bulk of air, less the weight of the balloon itself. The weight of the paper balloon was just over one pound; the available lifting power varied with the degree of tautness to which the balloon was filled, the height of the barometer and the temperature, but on the average, at ground level, the balloon as inflated would just support five and a half pounds. After a good deal of experiment the load of propaganda and releasing apparatus was fixed at four pounds and a few ounces, this allowing from 500 to 1,000 leaflets, according to their size, to be carried by each balloon, the balance of lifting power being sufficient to take the balloon sharply into the air to a height of five or six thousand feet. As a balloon rises the pressure of the air decreases and the contained hydrogen expands. In the earlier experiments the neck of the balloon was tied after inflation, and, to allow for expansion, the balloon was filled only to a little over two-thirds of its capacity. This was unsatisfactory; it reduced the load of propaganda and led to many failures from bursting and to great uncertainty as to where the load would fall. It was found more satisfactory to inflate the balloon nearly to its full capacity and to liberate it with the neck open, or with a large slit cut at the base of the neck, to allow the gas to escape as it expanded. At a height of, on the average, from 4,000 to 6,000 feet the escape of gas had reduced the free lift to a negative quantity, and the balloon would begin to drop slowly, but for the liberation of ballast.
After several ingenious mechanical devices had been tested, a method of releasing leaflets by the burning of a fuse was adopted. A suitable length of prepared cotton wick, similar to that used in flint pipe-lighters, and burning evenly at the rate of five minutes to the inch, was securely threaded to a wire by which it was attached to the neck of the balloon. Several inches of the upper end were left free, and the load of leaflets was strung in small packets by cotton threads along the length of the fuse. As soon as a balloon was inflated and the loaded release attached, the free end of the fuse was cut to the required length, so as to burn for five, ten, or so many minutes, before the first packet was reached, the cut end was lighted, usually from the pipe or cigarette the soldier was smoking, and the balloon sent off on its journey. The release of each packet acted as a discharge of ballast, and the balloon, although continually losing gas, kept in the air until the end of its course. The arrangement used most frequently was designed for liberating the balloons a few miles behind the front lines and for distributing the leaflets from the enemy lines to a few miles behind them. The total length of fuse was twelve inches, giving an hour's run. The first six inches were left free to be cut before lighting according to the position of the station and the strength of the wind; the load of propaganda was arranged over the second half-hour at intervals of two and a half minutes. Much longer fuses, with the load distributed at greater intervals, were used for longer runs. Experiment showed that the lateral scattering of the leaflets, dropped from a height of 4,000 feet and upwards, was considerable. The length of the track varied with the strength of the wind.
The unit for distribution consisted of two motor lorries, which took the men, the cylinders of hydrogen, and the propaganda loaded on releases to a sheltered position selected in the morning by the officer in charge after consultation with the meteorological experts. The vans were drawn up end to end, separated by a distance of about ten feet, and a curtain of canvas was then stretched on the windward side between the vans, thus forming a three-sided chamber. The balloon was laid on the ground, rapidly filled, the release attached and lighted, and the balloon liberated, the whole operation taking only a few minutes.
The load of the balloons was chosen according to the direction of the wind. If it was blowing towards Belgium, copies of Le Courrier de l’Air were attached; if towards Germany, propaganda leaflets for enemy troops. The experimental improvement of the "dope" with which the paper was treated in order to prevent loss of gas by diffusion, and the manufacture of balloons of double the standard capacity, had placed runs of upwards of 150 miles well within the capacity of the method before the Armistice suspended operations, but the bulk of the propaganda was distributed over an area of from 10 to 50 miles behind the enemy lines. Fortunately, during the late summer and autumn of 1918 the wind was blowing almost consistently favourable for their dispatch.
When Lord Northcliffe took office in February, 1918, Austria-Hungary was the most urgent field for his operations, as has been explained. While Crewe House was concentrating upon that work he desired the War Office to continue on his behalf the admirable and assiduous work carried on since 1916. Early in May, 1918, Mr. H. G. Wells accepted Lord Northcliffe's invitation to direct the preparation of propaganda literature against Germany, with the co-operation of Dr. J. W. Headlam-Morley. The first need was felt to be the definition of a policy to be followed against Germany, in order to prevent dissipation of energy and diversity of treatment. It was obvious that this propaganda policy must be in accord with the general policy of the Allies. In some points it followed the declared aims of the Allies; in others, it preceded the general policy as a pathmaker and pacemaker. Mr. Wells undertook to prepare a memorandum on the position of Germany at that time from the point of view of propaganda. This was submitted by Mr. Wells to the Enemy Propaganda Committee and fully discussed. A preface was prepared and upon the two statements was based a letter to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as in the case of the propaganda policy against Austria-Hungary, asking for the assent of the British Government to the policy therein contained.
Mr. Wells's memorandum was of the highest interest as a contemporary study of Germany, by a master of psychology, at that juncture when Germany was making her great (and, fortunately, her final) bid for world-mastery. The document possesses no little historical value; much that was prophetic has been forged into history by the rapid march of events; and the non-fulfilment of much of what has not attained to its consummation is due to lack of political wisdom in the chancelleries. Following is the text of preface and memorandum:—
"Propaganda in Germany, as in other enemy countries, must obviously be based upon a clear Allied policy. Hitherto Allied policy and Allied war aims have been defined too loosely to be comprehensible to the Germans.
"The real war aim of the Allies is not only to beat the enemy, but to establish a world peace that shall preclude the resumption of war. Successful propaganda in Germany presupposes the clear definition of the kind of world-settlement which the Allies are determined to secure and the place of Germany in it.
"The points to be brought home to the Germans are:—
"1. The determination of the Allies to continue the war until Germany accepts the Allied peace settlement.
"2. The existing alliance as a Fighting League of Free Nations will be deepened and extended, and the military, naval, financial and economic resources of its members will be pooled until—
"(a) Its military purpose is achieved, and
"(b) Peace is established on lasting foundations.
"German minds are particularly susceptible to systematic statements. They are accustomed to discuss and understand coordinate projects. The ideas represented by the phrase 'Berlin-Baghdad' and 'Mittel-Europa' have been fully explained to them and now form the bases of German political thought. Other projects, represented by 'Berlin-Teheran' and 'Berlin-Tokyo' are becoming familiar to them. Against these ideas the Allies have not yet set up any comprehensive and comprehensible scheme of world-organisation. There is no Allied counterpart of Naumann's 'Mittel-Europa' which the neutral and the German Press could discuss as a practical proposition. This counterpart should be created without delay by competent Allied writers. It would form an effective basis for propaganda, and would work automatically.
"It follows that one of the first requisites is to study and to lay down the lines of a practical League of Free Nations. The present alliance must be taken as the nucleus of any such League. Its control of raw materials, of shipping, and its power to exclude for an indefinite period enemy or even neutral peoples until they subscribe to and give pledges of their acceptance of its principles should be emphasised. It should be pointed out that nothing stands between enemy peoples and a lasting peace except the predatory designs of their ruling dynasties and military and economic castes; that the design of the Allies is not to crush any people, but to assure the freedom of all on a basis of self-determination to be exercised under definite guarantees of justice and fair play; that, unless enemy peoples accept the Allied conception of a world peace settlement, it will be impossible for them to repair the havoc of the present war, to avert utter financial ruin, and to save themselves from prolonged misery; and that the longer the struggle lasts the deeper will become the hatred of everything German in the non-German world, and the heavier the social and economic handicap under which the enemy peoples will labour, even after their admission into a League of Nations.
"The primary war aim of the Allies thus becomes the changing of Germany, not only in the interest of the Allied League, but in that of the German people itself. Without the honest co-operation of Germany, disarmament on a large scale would be impossible, and, without disarmament, social and economic reconstruction would be impracticable. Germany has, therefore, to choose between her own permanent ruin by
Leaflet No. 3.For translation see Appendix, page 238.
Leaflet No. 4.For translation see Appendix, page 239.
"It has become manifest that for the purposes of an efficient pro-Ally propaganda in neutral and enemy countries a clear and full statement of the war aims of the Allies is vitally necessary. What is wanted is something in the nature of an authoritative text to which propagandists may refer with confidence and which can be made the standard of their activities. It is not sufficient to recount the sins of Germany and to assert that the defeat of Germany is the Allied war aim. What all the world desires to know is what is to happen after the war. The real war aim of a belligerent, it is more and more understood, is not merely victory, but a peace of a certain character which that belligerent desires shall arise out of that victory. What, therefore, is the peace sought by the Allies?
"It would be superfluous even to summarise here the primary case of the Allies, that the war is on their part a war to resist the military aggression of Germany, assisted by the landowning Magyars of Hungary, the Turks, and the King of Bulgaria, upon the rest of mankind. It is a war against belligerence, against aggressive war, and the preparation for aggressive war. Such it was in its beginning, and such it remains. But it would be idle to pretend that the ideas of the Governments and peoples allied against Germany have not developed very greatly during the years of the war. There has been a deepening realisation of the danger to mankind of existing political divisions and separations, a great experience in the suffering, destruction, and waste of war; a quickening of consciences against conquests, annexations, and subjugations; and a general clearing up of ideas that have hitherto stood in the way of an organised world peace. While German Imperialism, to judge by the utterances of its accredited heads, and by the behaviour of Germany in the temporarily disorganised States on her Eastern Front, is still as truculent, aggressive, and treacherous as ever, the mind of her antagonists has learnt and has matured. There has arisen in the great world outside the inner lives of the Central Powers a will that grows to gigantic proportions, that altogether overshadows the boasted will to power of the German junker and exploiter, the will to a world peace. It is like the will of an experienced man set against the will of an obstinate and selfish youth. The war aims of the anti-German Allies take more and more definitely the form of a world of States leagued together to maintain a common law, to submit their mutual differences to a conclusive tribunal, to protect weak communities, to restrain and suppress war threats and war preparations throughout the earth.
"Steadfastly the great peoples of the world outside the shadow of German Imperial domination have been working their way to unanimity, while the ruling intelligences of Germany have been scheming for the base advantages of conquest; while they have been undermining, confusing, and demoralising the mentality of Russia, crushing down the subject peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Imperialism, and threatening and cajoling neutrals there has been a wide, free movement in the minds of their antagonists towards the restraint and wisdom of a greater and nobler phase in human affairs. The thought of the world crystallises now about a phrase, the phrase 'The League of Free Nations.' The war aims of the Allies become more and more explicitly associated with the spirit and implications of that.
"Like all such phrases, 'The League of Free Nations' is subject to a great variety of detailed interpretation, but its broad intentions can now be stated without much risk of dissent. The ideal would, of course, include all the nations of the earth, including a Germany purged of her military aggressiveness; it involves some sort of International Congress that can revise, codify, amend and extend international law, a supreme Court of Law in which States may sue and be sued, and whose decision the League will be pledged to enforce, and the supervision, limitation, and use of armaments under the direction of the international congress. It is also felt very widely that such a congress must set a restraint upon competitive and unsanctioned 'expansionist' movements into unsettled and disordered regions, must act as the guardian of feeble races and communities, and must be empowered to make conclusive decisions upon questions of transport, tariffs, access to raw material, migration, and international intercourse generally. The constitution of this congress remains indefinite: it is the crucial matter upon which the best thought of the world is working at the present time. But given the prospect of a suitable congress there can be little dispute that the great Imperial Powers among the Allies are now prepared for great and generous limitations of their sovereignty in the matter of armaments, of tropical possessions and of subject peoples, in the common interest of mankind. The spectacle of German Imperialism, boastful, selfish, narrow, and altogether hateful, in its terrible blood-dance through Europe, has been an object-lesson to humanity against excesses of national vanity and national egotism and against Imperial pride. Among the Allies, the two chief Imperial Powers, measured by the extent of territory they control, are Britain and France, and each of these is more completely prepared to-day than ever it has been before to consider its imperial possessions as a trust for their inhabitants and for mankind, and its position in the more fertile and less settled regions of the world as that of a mandatory and trustee. These admissions involve a plain prospect and promise of the ultimate release and liberation of all the peoples in these great and variegated Empires to complete world-citizenship.
"But in using the phrase 'The League of Nations,' it may be well to dispel certain misconceptions that have arisen through the experimental preparation by more or less irresponsible persons and societies of elaborate schemes and constitutions of such a league. Proposals have been printed and published, for example, of a Court of World Conciliation, in which each sovereign State will be represented by one member—Montenegro, for example, by one, and the British Empire by one—and other proposals have been mooted of a Congress of the League of Nations, in which such States as Hayti, Abyssinia, and the like will be represented by one or two representatives, and France and Great Britain by five or six. All such projects should be put out of mind when the phrase 'League of Free Nations' is used by responsible speakers for the Allied Powers. Certain most obvious considerations have evidently been overlooked by the framers of such proposals. It will, for example, be a manifest disadvantage to the smaller Powers to be at all over-represented upon the Congress of any such League; it may even be desirable that certain of them should not have a voting representative at all, for this reason, that a great Power still cherishing an aggressive spirit would certainly attempt, as the beginning of its aggression, to compel adjacent small Powers to send representatives practically chosen by itself. The coarse fact of the case in regard to an immediate world peace is this, that only five or six great Powers possess sufficient economic resources to make war under modern conditions at the present time, namely, the United States of America, Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and, doubtfully, Austria-Hungary. Italy suffers under the disadvantage that she has no coal supply. These five or six Powers we may say, therefore, permit war and can prevent it. They are at present necessarily the custodians of the peace of the world, and it is mere pedantry not to admit that this gives them a practical claim to preponderance in the opening Congress of the World League. It may be pointed out that a small State with a voice in the discussions, but no vote in the decisions of the League, would logically be excused from the liability to assist in enforcing those decisions.
"But this question of the constitution of a world Congress is not to be solved by making a coarse classification of States into large and war-capable Powers, and small and weak Powers. Take the case of Italy, for example: though she is almost incapable of sustaining a war against the world by herself because of her weakness in the matter of coal, she can as an ally be at once of enormous importance. Take the case of Spain again, a very similar case. And whatever the war ability of Latin-America may be to-day, there can be no question that this great constellation of States must count very heavily in the framing of the world of tomorrow. Then, again, we have to consider the vast future possibilities of the Chinese Republic, with coal, steel, and a magnificent industrial population, and the probable reconstruction of Eastern Europe and a renascence of Russia which may give the world a loose-knit but collectively-important Slavonic confederation. While an isolated small Power within the orbit of attraction of a large Power, a State of 5,000,000 people or less, must always remain a difficult problem in the world representation, it is clear that something like an adequate representation of small and weak Powers becomes possible so soon as they develop a disposition towards aggregation, for the purposes of world politics, into associations with States racially, linguistically, and historically akin to them. The trend of Allied opinion is to place not Peru or Ukrainia, nor Norway, nor Finland on a level with the United States of America or the British Empire at the League of Nations Congress, but to prepare the way for adequate representation through a preliminary Latin-American or a Slavonic or a Scandinavian Confederation, which could speak with a common idea at the World Congress.
"It should be manifest that there is one Power whose splendid achievement in this war, and whose particular needs, justify her over-representation (as measured by material wealth, and millions of population) upon the Congress of the League, and that is France. It is open to question whether Italy should not also be disproportionately over-represented, seeing that she will not have, as Spain will have, the moral reinforcement of kindred nations over seas. And with regard to the British Empire, seeing that there exists no real Imperial legislature, it is open to consideration whether Canada, South Africa, and Australasia should come into the Council as separate nationalities. The Asiatic and African possessions of Britain and France, Belgium and Italy, possessions, that is, which have no self-government, might possibly for a time be represented by members appointed by the governing power in each case. These are merely suggestions here, indications of a disposition of mind, but they are suggestions upon which it is necessary for the Allied Powers to decide as speedily as possible. The effective working out of this problem of the League of Nations Congress by the Allies without undue delay is as vital a part of the Allied policy as the effective conduct of the war.
"It has to be recognised that the institution of a League of Nations precludes any annexations or any military interference with any peoples whatever, without a mandate from the Congress of the League. The League must directly or indirectly become the guardian of all unsettled regions and order must be kept and development promoted by it in such derelict regions as Mesopotamia and Armenia, for example, have now become. In these latter instances it is open to consideration whether the League should operate through some single power acting as a mandatory of the League, or else by international forces under the control of the League as a whole. Theoretically the latter course is to be preferred, but there are enormous practical advantages in many cases to be urged for the former. The Allies have indeed had a considerable experience during the war of joint controls and joint expeditions; there has been a great education in internationalism since August, 1914; but nevertheless the end of the war is likely to come long before any real international forces have been evolved. It is, however, towards the ultimate use of international forces in such cases that the joint policy of the Allies is plainly and openly directed.
"The bringing of the League into practical politics profoundly affects the question of territorial adjustment after the war. The Allies are bound in honour to follow the will of France in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, and the rectification of the Italian frontier and the bringing of the bulk of the Italian-speaking population, now under Austrian dominion, into one ring-fence with Italy, also seem a necessary part of a world pacification. It is, however, of far less importance in the war aims of the Allies that this and that particular scrap of territory should change hands from the control of one group of combatants to that of the other, than that the present practical ascendency of German Imperialism over the resources of the Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Jugo-Slav, Finnish, and Roumanian peoples should cease. The war aim of the Allies in Eastern Europe is to create in the place of the present Austro-Hungarian Empire a larger synthesis of associated States, something in the nature of an 'East Central European League,' within the League of Nations, a confederation that might possibly reach from Poland to the Black and Adriatic Seas, and have also access to, if not a port upon, the Baltic at Danzig. The Allies are necessarily obliged to wait upon the development of affairs in Russia, but the hopes and efforts of the Allies are towards a reconciliation of at least Great Russia, Siberia, and Ukrainia into a workable association within the League. It is premature to speculate upon the grouping of Finland at the present time. Relieved of the feverish and impossible ambitions the political weaknesses of these peoples have stimulated, a free and united Germany could then become one of the predominant partners in the World League of Free Nations. The Allies do not propose an unconditional return of the former African possessions of Germany, but they contemplate an over-ruling international régime in Africa between the Sahara and the Zambesi, restraining armament, reorganising native education, and giving absolute equality of trade to all the nations in the League. Such an international régime under the League may not be incompatible with the retention of national flags in the former 'possessions' of the leagued Powers.
"Exact territorial definition does not appear to the Allies to be of nearly such importance as the establishment of a common system of disarmament and a common effort to restore the ravages of the war. The full effect of the war is still not realised by the mass of the belligerent peoples, more especially in America and Western Europe, where life is still fairly comfortable. There has already been a destruction not merely of the political, but of the social order over great areas of the world, especially in Eastern Europe, and it is doubtful whether any peace can restore these disorganised areas to anything like their former productivity for many years. A universal shortage not merely of man-power, but of transport and machinery available for the purposes of peace cannot be avoided. It is doubtful, moreover, if social discipline in the ports of the British Empire and America will be strong enough to restrain an organised resistance to the use of German shipping after the war for any purpose and to the use of Allied shipping for the transport of goods to and from Germany on the part of Allied and neutral seamen and transport workers indignant at the U-boat campaign; moreover, there is a world-wide cry for a vindictive trade after the war against Germany, and for organised boycotts that may further restrict the process of economic world recovery. It is doubtful if the menace of these 'revenge' movements and the difficulty of controlling them in democratic States is properly appreciated in Germany. The militarist Government of Germany, fighting now for bare existence, is concealing from its people this world-wide disposition to boycott German trade and industry at any cost to the boycotting populations, and buoying them up with preposterous hopes of 'business as usual' as soon as peace is made. The fact has to be faced that while the present German Government remains no such economic resumption is possible. The 'War after the War' possibility has to be added to the economic destruction in Russia, Belgium, and elsewhere in any estimate of the situation after the war."The plain prospect of material disorganisation thus opened should alone suffice to establish the absolute necessity for peace now of such a nature as will permit a worldwide concentration upon reconstruction, in good faith and without any complications of enmity and hostility. But in addition to the material destruction and dislocation, and to the 'hatred' disorganisation already noted, the financial transactions of the last few years have created a monetary inflation which, without the concerted action of all the Powers, may mean a collapse of world credit. Add now the plain necessity for continued armament if a real League of Nations is not attained. Without any exaggeration the prospect of the nations facing these economic difficulties in an atmosphere of continuing hostility, intrigue, and conflict, under a continuing weight of armaments, and with a continuing distrust, is a hopeless one. The consequences stare us in the face; Russia is only the first instance of what must happen generally. The alternative to a real League of Nations is the steady descent of our civilisation towards a condition of political and social fragmentation such as the world has not seen since the fall of the Roman Empire. The honest co-operation of Germany in the League of Nations, in disarmament, and in world reconstruction is, therefore, fundamentally necessary. There is now no other rational policy. And since it is impossible to hope for any such help or co-operation from the Germany of the Belgian outrage, the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, the betrayal of Ukrainia, the changing of Germany becomes a primary war aim, the primary war aim for the Allies. How Germany is to be changed is a complex question. The word Revolution is, perhaps, to be deprecated. We do not, for instance, desire a Bolshevik breakdown in Germany, which would make her economically useless to mankind. We look, therefore, not so much to the German peasant and labourer as to the ordinary, fairly well-educated mediocre German for co-operation in the reinstatement of civilisation. Change there must be in Germany; in the spirit in which the Government is conducted, in the persons who exercise the control, and in the relative influence of different classes in the country. The sharpest distinction, therefore, has to be drawn between Germany and its present Government in all our propaganda and public utterances; and a constant appeal has to be made by the statesmen of the Alliance, and by a frank and open propaganda through the Germans of the United States of America and of Switzerland, through neutral countries and by every possible means, from Germany Junker to Germany sober. We may be inclined to believe that every German is something of a Junker,
Leaflet No. 5.For translation see Appendix, page 239.
"And meanwhile, the Allies must continue with haste and diligence to fight and defeat Junker Germany, which cannot possibly conquer but which may nevertheless succeed in ruining the world. They must fight the German armies upon the fronts, they must fight an unregenerate Germany economically and politically, and they must bring home to the German reason and conscience at home, by an intensive air war and by propaganda alike, the real impossibility of these conceptions of national pride and aggressiveness in which the German population has been bred."
These documents were used as a basis for the policy of Crewe House, which was summarised into seven parts in Lord Northcliffe's subsequent letter to Mr. Balfour, extracts from which follow:—
"I wish to submit to you the following general scheme of policy as a basis for British—and eventually Allied—propaganda in Germany. Propaganda, as an active form of policy, must be in harmony with the settled war aims of the Allies:—
"1. The object of all propaganda is to weaken the will of the enemy to war and victory. For this purpose it is necessary to put in the forefront the ultimate object of the Allies, and the use which they would make of victory, for this is the matter with which the Germans are most concerned. We cannot, of course, expect that the war aims of the Allies should be determined solely by the effect which they may have upon the German people, but, on the other hand, it is clearly undesirable to put forward for propaganda purposes objects which it is not really intended to secure. It appears to me, however, that our war aims, as I understand them, are such as could, if presented in a suitable form, be made to do something to strengthen whatever 'opposition' exists in Germany.
"2. From such information as is available as to the internal condition of Germany two points emerge which are of the greatest importance for immediate purposes:—
"(a) There is much evidence that the German people as a whole desire above all a cessation of the war. They are suffering more than their opponents, and war weariness has advanced further with them than it has with us. They acquiesce in the continuance of the present offensive chiefly because they are assured by their leaders that this is the only way in which a speedy peace can be achieved. It is, therefore, necessary to impress upon them that they are face to face with a determined and immutable will on the part of Allied nations to continue the war at whatever cost, notwithstanding German military successes, and that for this reason military success is not the way to bring about the peace they desire. It must be made plain that we are prepared to continue a ruthless policy of commercial blockade.
"(b) Side by side with this we have another motive of the highest importance. One of the chief instruments of the German Government is the belief which they foster that any peace that the Allies would, if they had their way, impose would mean the internal ruin of Germany, and this again would mean that each individual German family would find itself without work, without money, and without food. As against this it is necessary to impress on the German nation that these results might happen, but that they can be avoided. They will happen if the Government of Germany continues to carry out its openly avowed design of subjecting the other free nations of Europe to its domination. They can be avoided if the German nation will resign these projects of domination and consent to accept the Allied scheme for a new organisation of the world.
"These two points (a) and (b) must be kept in close connection; the first provides the element of fear, the second provides the element of hope.
"3. The first point presents no difficulty to us; we can go ahead in full confidence that we are in harmony with both the nation and the Government. As to the second, on the other hand, I must ask for your guidance and support. Hitherto Allied policy and war aims have been defined too loosely to be comprehensible to the Germans, and there have been apparent inconsistencies, of which they have quickly taken advantage. Moreover, it has been possible for German writers to misrepresent our war aims as dictated by Imperialistic ambitions, similar in kind to those by which they are themselves actuated, and involving 'annexations and indemnities,' such as have in the past been too often the result of victory in war. I take it that the real object of the Allies is, after defeating Germany, to establish such a world peace as shall, within the limits of human foresight, preclude another conflagration. It seems necessary, therefore, that the separate aims which would, of course, be maintained, such as the restoration of Belgium, the liberation of Alsace-Lorraine, the establishment of civilised government in Mesopotamia and Palestine, should be put forward in their proper places as individual but essential points in the general scheme for the settlement of world politics on a basis which would go far to remove the causes of future wars.
"4. Any such scheme would, in effect, amount to the constitution of a 'League of Free Nations.' It is, I presume, generally understood that eventually Germany would be invited to take her place in such a League on condition that she accepted the principles of its foundation. Her admission to the League would be in itself her guarantee against the establishment of, e.g., a hostile monopoly of raw materials. Our terms of peace, therefore, can be represented as the conditions on which Germany should be invited to take her part in such a League. In order to secure the economic benefits she would have to accept the political conditions. If this is so, the task of propaganda is greatly lightened, for it would be easier to put our aims in such a form as to make them to some extent acceptable to the moderate elements in Germany than if they were put forward merely as terms to be imposed on a defeated enemy.
"5. It is, however, obvious that propaganda conducted on these lines will be of little use unless it is supported by public and authoritative statements from the Allied Governments. Otherwise, it would be represented that the real object is to beguile Germany into accepting a peace of renunciation, and that, as soon as this object has been achieved, these schemes will be repudiated, and a weakened Germany will find herself face to face with an Anglo-Saxon combination which aims at dominating the world, and keeping Germany permanently in a position of political inferiority.
"6. No such statement has yet been made, so far as I am aware, by the British Government or by the Allies. What, therefore, I should venture to ask is for such support from you as will enable us to carry on our work with the full consciousness that we have behind us the support of His Majesty's Government. If it were known that the Government itself, in conjunction with the Allies, was investigating the problem with a view to speedy action, this knowledge would give a great and needed incentive to the more popular work which we should be doing.
"7. I am well aware of the very great practical difficulties which are bound to arise so soon as an attempt is made to give formal expression to the general idea of a 'League of Free Nations.' But for the purposes of our work, it is of the most urgent importance that some statement of this kind should be put forward at the earliest possible date. Such a statement would in effect be an offer to the Germans of peace on stated conditions. If it were accepted, Germany would be able shortly after the conclusion of the war to come into the new society of nations; if it were refused, the war would have to continue. But it should also be made clear to the German people that the privilege of admission to this society would inevitably be postponed for a period proportional to the length of time that they continued the war."
In answer to an inquiry. Lord Northcliffe wrote a supplementary letter, dealing with propaganda policy as to the German colonies. The following is an extract:—
"I have no settled views as to the future of what were the German colonies, beyond a very strong conviction that they must never again be allowed to fall, for any military or naval purpose, under German control. But, broadly, my feeling is this: The whole situation of the Allies in regard to Germany is governed by the fact that Germany is responsible for the war. The Allies are, therefore, entitled to demand from her restitution, reparation, and guarantees as preliminary conditions of any peace settlement. The territories which the Allies have taken from Germany in the course of their legitimate self-defence do not come into the same category as the territories seized by Germany, and the allies of Germany, in the course of their predatory aggression. To contemplate barter or exchange between one set of territories and the other would be to assimilate, by implication, the moral situation of the Allies to that of Germany. Therefore, however closely we may study the question, or rather the questions—for there are several—of the German colonies, we ought to make it clear that the ultimate settlement of those questions will be reserved for treatment by the Allies as a fighting league of free nations, or by the general League of Nations should the behaviour of Germany entitle her to admission to it in time to take part in any scheme of world reorganisation."
The policy laid down in these letters was approved by the Government as a basis for propaganda, and Mr. Wells was able to develop his work in many directions.
He kept in close touch with the different organisations at home and abroad which were endeavouring to promote the League of Nations. In conjunction with Mr. Steed, Mr. Wells assisted in the drawing up of a restatement of the aims of the League of Nations Society in Great Britain and in the formation of a new association for the study of the problems arising out of the League proposal. This movement was always kept prominently before the German mind, for it was a threat of future isolation, with its resultant economic disabilities, and yet was an invitation to national repentance.
A second line of action was designed to appeal to the German workers. For this purpose Mr. Wells arranged, among other things, for the preparation and issue of a short and compact summary of the British Labour War Aims, which was subsequently used with much effectiveness not only in Germany but also in Austria.
Economic conditions, both during and after the war, were made by Mr. Wells and his co-workers the subject of systematic and scientific study with the object of undertaking a propaganda of economic discouragement and persuasion in Germany. Signs were not lacking of the existence of misgivings among the commercial communities in that country at the prospect of loss of commerce, ships, and colonies in the case of defeat. Here was an opportunity to bring home to the Germans the conviction that the longer they persisted in continuing the war, so would their loss and sufferings increase.
Unfortunately, in July, Mr. Wells found himself unable to continue the direction of the German Section and, at his request, the Enemy Propaganda Committee accepted his resignation of that office, although he retained his membership of the Committee. Mr. Hamilton Fyfe was appointed to succeed him and continued in the important post until the end. Mr. Fyfe developed the work along the lines already laid down.
From the time of Mr. Wells's appointment, Crewe House and the enemy propaganda section of the Military Intelligence Department maintained close touch with each other, but in July, 1918, Lord Northcliffe wrote to the Secretary of State for War expressing his considered view that it would be advisable that British propaganda agencies against the enemy should, both for technical reasons and in order to preclude possible differences of statement in propaganda literature, as far as possible be closely co-ordinated. While gladly recognising the most friendly relations which had been cultivated between his department and the enemy propaganda branch of the War Office, through Major the Earl of Kerry, Lord Northcliffe thought that the time had come for the whole of the work of production to be centralised at Crewe House. This did not alter the arrangements for distribution through military channels which were always admirably organised and carried out by the military authorities. And, as a matter of fact, a large proportion of the literature, apart from the "priority" leaflets referred to hereinafter, was produced by the War Office on Lord Northcliffe's behalf. Lord Northcliffe asked for urgent consideration of the matter, in view of the necessity for the intensification and extension of propaganda on the Western Front. On Lord Milner's agreeing to this reorganisation, it was arranged that the services of Captain P. Chalmers Mitchell, who, well known in civil life as a distinguished man of science, had been the officer immediately in charge of this enemy propaganda branch, should be transferred to Crewe House. He was a valuable acquisition, and his experience, knowledge, and counsel were of great practical service. Captain Chalmers Mitchell also acted as liaison officer with the War Office (in succession to Lord Kerry) and with the Royal Air Force, and, in conjunction with Mr. Hamilton Fyfe, co-ordinated production and distribution.
This centralisation soon bore fruit. One of the earliest developments aimed at abolishing the delays which might have caused the contents of leaflets to become stale owing to the time which elapsed between their composition and their distribution. This defect was obviated by dividing the leaflets into two classes, namely, "priority" leaflets for those of a news character and "stock" leaflets with matter of a less urgent nature.
A time-table was prepared for the "priority" leaflets in which the time allotted for the different processes of composition, translation, printing, transport to France, and distribution, was cut down to an absolute minimum. With the willing aid of Messrs. Harrison and Son, the printers, and of Messrs. Gamage, who undertook the work of attaching the leaflets to the "releases," it was found possible to arrange for these news bulletins to be in the hands of the Germans within approximately forty-eight hours of their being written. Three times a week a consignment of not fewer than 100,000 leaflets of this character was rushed over to France for prompt dispatch to the Germans. This "speeding-up" became a factor of the highest importance when military events moved so rapidly in the closing months of the war.
In June and July the number of leaflets dropped over the German lines and behind them totalled 1,689,457 and 2,172,794 respectively. During August an average of over 100,000 a day was attained, the actual number of leaflets issued by the Enemy Propaganda Department in that month being 3,958,116, in September 3,715,000, and in October 5,360,000, while in the first ten days of November, before the Armistice put an end to such activities, 1,400,000 were sent out. The Germans were greatly disturbed. One of their writers described the flood of leaflets picturesquely as "English poison raining down from God's clear sky." Marshal von Hindenburg, in his autobiography, "Out of My Life" (Cassell & Co.), admits that this propaganda intensified the process of German demoralisation. "This was a new weapon," he continues, "or rather a weapon which had never been employed on such a scale and so ruthlessly in the past."
The leaflets were written in simple language, and aimed at letting the Germans know the truth which was being concealed from them by their leaders. They gave information as to the progress of the war in all theatres, and showed at a glance, by means of shaded maps, the territory gained by the Associated Nations. Great stress was laid upon the large number of troops arriving daily from the United States. While, by the use of diagrams, the steadily progressive increase of the American forces was strikingly illustrated, German losses and the consequent futility of making further sacrifices in a losing cause were strongly emphasised. We have again the testimony of Hindenburg's autobiography as to the effect on the German troops: "Ill-humour and disappointment that the war seemed to have no end, in spite of all our victories, had" (he writes) "ruined the character of many of our brave men. Dangers and hardships in the field, battle and turmoil, on top of which came the complaints from home about many real and some imaginary privations! All this gradually had a demoralising effect, especially as no end seemed to be in sight. In the shower of pamphlets which was scattered by enemy airmen our adversaries said and wrote that they did not think so badly of us; that we must only be reasonable and perhaps here and there renounce something we had conquered. Then everything would be soon right again and we could live together in peace, in perpetual international peace. As regards peace within our own borders, new men and new Governments would see to that. What a blessing peace would be after all the fighting! There was, therefore, no point in continuing the struggle. Such was the purport of what our men read and said. The soldier thought it could not be all enemy lies, allowed it to poison his mind, and proceeded to poison the minds of others."
Despite such compliments as to the effectiveness of the distribution, this branch of the work provided the thorn in the Crewe House flesh. Distribution by aeroplane was the ideal method, and the decision to discontinue the use of aeroplanes for the purpose was a serious handicap to Lord Northcliffe's work. Balloon distribution was dependent upon favourable winds, and could only be performed in one direction, whereas aeroplanes could cover a much more extensive area at great speed. On several occasions Lord Northcliffe pressed for the resumption of their use. Lord Milner replied to the first request, early in May, to the effect that the British authorities were disputing the German contention that the distribution of literature from aeroplanes was contrary to the laws of war, and had given notice that they intended to institute prompt reprisals if they received information that any British airmen were undergoing punishment for similar action. Although distribution by aeroplane on the Western Front had been temporarily suspended, they held themselves free at any moment to resume it, and stated that meanwhile literature would be distributed by other and, as they thought, more effective means. Yet it was admitted that there had been no stoppage of the use of aeroplanes for the purpose on the Italian Front.A month later. Lord Northcliffe again wrote, asking if anything had been done to cancel the temporary suspension of the distribution of leaflets by aeroplane on the Western Front. He and his co-workers felt strongly that propaganda work against Germany was being severely handicapped by
Leaflet No. 7.For translation see Appendix, page 242.
Many weeks passed before the War Cabinet agreed to the resumption of the use of aeroplanes, and even then the Air Ministry raised further objection. Finally, all obstacles were overcome, but not until the end of October. In one week 3,000,000 leaflets were prepared for the interior of Germany, and the distribution of these was begun just before the Armistice.
With the turn of the tide of military events in the summer of 1918, propaganda had assumed greater importance than ever. Military defeat rendered the German soldier more amenable to propagandist influences, to which in victory he could afford to turn a blind eye and deaf ear. Moreover, the Allied successes seriously disturbed the German nation, and as the news was disseminated by the various agencies carefully organised by Crewe House the spirit of the people became generally depressed. The commercial classes exhibited great fear at the threatened economic war. Thus the soil became fertilised for the reception of propagandist views. One obvious but important way of spreading such views was by ensuring that important speeches of leading British statesmen should be adequately and promptly reported in enemy countries. Means were found of accomplishing this object. When occasion arose, publication in neutral newspapers of interviews with British public men on important subjects was arranged for, and these were widely quoted in the enemy Press.
The valuable material collected by Mr. Wells on British progress in those lines of industry in which Germany had excelled was used by Mr. Fyfe in many ways. Articles on the subject were sent to, and published by, German-Swiss papers, which were known to be much read in Germany. Pamphlets were written in German in tones of serious warning and distributed through channels prepared by the perseverance and ingenuity of Mr. S. A. Guest. By these means, also, a large number of descriptive catalogues of an exhibition in London of British scientific products were introduced into Germany and were snapped up and read with avidity. Treatment of these issues was found to influence enlightened German opinion more than any other kind of propaganda.
From time to time special topics were selected. For instance, a series of "London Letters" was sent to Swiss and Scandinavian papers purporting to be written with a pro-German flavour, but containing, under this disguise, a true picture of food and other conditions in Great Britain. It was gratifying to find these reprinted in enemy papers, for the German reader was thus led to institute mental comparisons with the much worse conditions prevalent in Germany. Secret means, too, were found to circulate in German naval ports, as a deterrent to men picked for service in submarines, leaflets (of which a reproduction appears in this volume) containing a long list of U-boat commanders, dead or captured, with description of their rank. Particulars so easy of verification proved the mastery of the British Navy over the U-boat campaigners and created great depression in the German ports.
In addition to the "priority" leaflets containing news of Allied successes, illustrated with shaded maps and diagrams, a "trench newspaper" was prepared in a style which exactly resembled a German publication. The propaganda pill was coated to make it attractive. The newspaper was homely in appearance—its title-decoration included a head of the Kaiser—and it provided excellent reading matter which would appeal to the German soldier, while revealing facts hitherto carefully hidden from him. As many as from 250,000 to 500,000 copies of each weekly issue were distributed. Some leaflets, on the other hand, were in religious vein, for there is a deep religious strain in the German character. These leaflets pointed out that their military defeats were a just retribution for the crimes of their Government. One was a little sermon on the text "Be sure your sin will find you out."
With knowledge of the dwindling of their own reserves, the Germans became increasingly anxious about the supply of American troops, artillery, and munitions. No opportunity was lost by Crewe House of keeping the enemy armies and civil populations fully aware of the wonderful extent of the American effort, A series of leaflets was prepared which gave in succinct and vigorous form the latest details about that effort, both in the field and at home in the factory, the shipyard and the farm.
British propagandist work against Germany was both positive and negative. Its aim was to give the German people something to hope for in an early peace and much to fear from the prolongation of the war — that is, to make it clear to them that the only way to escape complete ruin would be to break with the system that brought the war upon Europe, and to qualify for admission eventually into the League of Nations on the Allied terms. In addition to these very necessary educative efforts, the enemy armies were supplied with constant and invariably truthful information about the actual military position. Its veracity was a more essential factor to its success than its quantity. The news withheld by the German authorities was supplied by us. Hence the cries of alarm from Marshal von Hindenburg and General von Hutier, to which fuller reference is made in the next chapter.
In the "intensive propaganda" of the last few weeks of hostilities the Hohenzollern Government was denounced. It was pointed out that all Germany's sufferings and tribulations were due to its "Old Gang," of which a clean sweep would have to be made before the world would make friends or do business with Germans again. Chapter and verse were given to prove that the German Government could not be trusted, and that it was a great obstacle to peace. Attention, too, was drawn to the changes then taking place in Germany, to the cries raised for the abdication of the Emperor, and to the growing demand for the punishment of all who had brought Germany to her disastrous situation. German soldiers were urged to consider whether it was worth while to risk being killed when they had nothing left to fight for, and it was suggested that their best course was to make off to their homes and ensure the safety of their families. The consequences to Germans of the continuation of the war were plainly indicated. Maps and diagrams showed at a glance how Allied air raids over Germany had increased in number, how larger and larger Allied air squadrons and more powerful bombs were being provided and how easily it would be possible to attack Berlin, Hamburg, Hanover, and other places which had previously escaped. A map was also prepared showing all the steamship routes by which food, munitions, and raw materials were being brought to Great Britain and France, and demonstrating the falsity of the German leaders' assurance that we could be starved into submission.
By the courtesy of the Admiralty and of the Ministry of Information, use was regularly made of wireless telegraphy as a means of disseminating information, combating false German statements, and influencing German opinion through neutral newspapers and public opinion.
Many other agencies for introducing propagandist material into enemy countries were organised by Mr. Guest, whose work demanded extraordinary patience and perseverance. He experimented with many methods, and, despite the vigilance of the Germans, the inflow into Germany increased. Some of the methods can never be revealed, but it is permissible to hint that, for instance, among foreign workmen of a certain nationality who went into Germany each morning and returned each evening there might be some to whom propagandist work was not uncongenial. And, of course, all secret agents were not necessarily Allies or neutrals. Somehow, huge masses of literature were posted in Germany to selected addresses from which the German postal revenues derived no benefit. Easiest of all were certain obvious channels left wholly or partially open in most incredible fashion, as, for instance, the book trade, which was by no means as closely supervised as might have been expected. None were more amazed at the facility with which such valuable propaganda material as Prince Lichnowsky's pamphlet achieved clandestine circulation in Germany and Austria than were British propagandists. Perhaps, as a gratuitous hint to the curious, it may be added that the outside covers with titles of works by revered German authors did not always correspond to the contents of the books, but, oft-times, as the poet said, "things are not what they seem."
Personal propaganda among enemy subjects resident in neutral countries—and especially those unsympathetic to the perverted ideals of their respective nations—was tactfully pursued. Neutrals in prominent positions in any walk of life whose views were likely to react on enemy opinion were brought within the orbit of salutary personal intercourse. Enemy newspaper correspondents were carefully "nursed." No avenue of approach into enemy countries was considered too insignificant, for each had its particular use.