IN REVIEWING the events of previous years it has not seldom been our good fortune to chronicle the averting of the great war to which all Europe has looked forward as inevitable. In 1911, after the incident of Agadir, war was avoided only by humiliating concessions on the part of France. In 1913 the conflict in the Balkans was with difficulty restrained to the peninsula, the Great Powers were very nearly involved. To-day that which all diplomatists and every nation with interests in Central Europe have dreaded has to be recorded 1914 will be known to all time as the year of the opening of the Great War.
The year began ominously, with a tension among the nations, and with an exacerbation of their internal difficulties, which boded ill for the preservation of peace.
The plot of assassins
It was, as ever, in the Balkans that the first symptoms of danger appeared. Under the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 Austria had taken over the administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, pledging herself not to detract from the rights of the Sultan over them. Thirty years later she had annexed them. They contain a large Serb population. Serbia has always resented the annexation as detrimental to her rights, and as giving Austria that predominance in the Balkans which Germany declares to be her due. On the 23rd of June the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his consort, the Duchess of Hohenburg, visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, and fell victims to the plot of assassins.
The crime shocked Europe, in Austria it produced an immediate storm of anti-Serbian feeling. The Austrian Government delayed its action, its reticence prevented negotiations which might have resulted in peace. But a month later it demanded from Serbia the most abject humiliation, a submission [that] would have been beneath the dignity of even the smallest of sovereign states. Forty-eight hours were allowed by Austria for the acceptance of her conditions, and even then Serbia accepted ten out of the twelve, referring the other two to arbitration. Russia was immediately interested in the fate of Serbia, and her government stated that she could not remain indifferent. Austria, nevertheless, declared war against Serbia on July 28, and Russia began to mobilize. Germany, whose knowledge of the Austrian note is admitted, declared war against Russia on August 1.
Meanwhile, England was labouring to keep the peace. The war against Russia involved also war with her ally, France, and the agreement with France morally involved England’s protection of the northern and western coasts of France by the British Fleet. Further, Germany’s plan of campaign in the event of a war on two fronts demanded the immediate crushing of France, and that concluded, the transference of her armies to the eastern field to meet the more slowly mobilizing Russian armies. But to strike swiftly at France involved the violation of the neutrality of Belgium, of which Germany was herself a guarantor. France had given England her pledge not to violate Belgium, Belgium also had pledged herself to maintain neutrality. Military considerations determined Germany’s action. On the first of August her troops passed through Luxemburg towards Belgium, and as a consequence war was declared by Great Britain on the fourth.
PAThe Battle of Jutland, photographed from a British Destroyer during the action
War could never have found Great Britain more ready to act, according to the measure of her preparation. The Fleet had for the first time in its history completed its manoeuvres under war conditions, with its reserves called up, and it proceeded at once to the North Sea. The Expeditionary Force was ready, and within eleven days was on French soil. Meanwhile the heroic resistance of Liège had held up the German army of invasion for several precious days, and the Belgian field army retiring slowly upon Antwerp inflicted severe losses upon the advancing hosts. But the forts of Namur, from which so much had been expected, were only able to hold out for a day; the Germans swept on southward to Mons, where for the first time they encountered the serious resistance of the Allies, who had been unable to bring help to the Belgians on the Meuse and the Sambre.
The Allied armies withdrew towards Paris, fighting desperately, and retiring in admirable order. Paris prepared hastily for another siege, the French Government withdrew to Bordeaux, a German victory seemed assured. But at the end of the first week in September the tide turned. Why the Germans before Paris suddenly diverged eastward is not yet fully known. The failure of the Crown Prince in the centre had weakened their whole line, the presence of vast French reserves behind Paris had been discovered. The German advance faltered. Upon their hesitating line the Allied armies were flung, they retreated through Champagne, and in a few days General Joffre was able to announce that the victory of the Marne had been incontestable and complete. A new battle began upon the Aisne, where in positions entrenched to the point at which a battle becomes a siege the Germans have hitherto maintained themselves with little variation of their line.
The Belgians cling on
At the end of the first week in October the Belgian army evacuated Antwerp with little loss, rather than be entrapped within fortifications of which the value was now proved to be negligible. The Germans were now advancing from Brussels towards the coast, the line of the Allies was extended northwards to meet an outflanking movement, and failing the attainment of their first objective, Paris, the Germans made renewed attempts, characterized by desperate fighting on both sides, to win Calais. That attempt also failed. The Belgians, clinging heroically to the last few square miles of their country, flooded the low-lying fields of Flanders, the British troops fought with the utmost gallantry round Ypres, on the north of the line the fleet shelled the German positions from the sea. The attacks gradually lessened in force, and with the development of the Russian campaign it has become necessary to transport every available German unit to the eastern frontier.
PAThe ruins of Ypres Cathedral
Russia, slowly mobilizing, had begun the war with an act of the finest chivalry. Throwing every available man into East Prussia, and invading Galicia, she had endeavoured to detach as many troops as possible from the attack on France. Beaten at Osterode, her forces were compelled to retreat to the line of the Niemen, there to await the completion of the mobilization. That accomplished, Russia pursues her way. The Germans have failed of wintering in Warsaw, as they have failed of wintering in Paris and Calais. The rich province of Silesia is threatened, both in East Prussia and further south her armies have sustained the most frightful losses. Five months after her declaration of war Germany finds that the flower of her army has been expended in vain upon the attempt to pierce the Allies’ line by frontal attacks. The French have proved themselves as stubborn in defence as they are brilliant in attack. In General Joffre has been discovered a master of Fabian tactics, in the Grand Duke Nicholas a master of strategy, in Sir John French one whose resourcefulness has twice saved the little British Expeditionary Force from being overwhelmed and the German attack from succeeding.
Mastery of the seas
Nor at sea have the Germans been hitherto successful in their avowed policy. The fleet had naturally to take refuge in its harbours, for the presence of a small Russian fleet in the Baltic necessitates the keeping of a force to watch it, lest the coast of Prussia should lie open to bombardment and invasion. But the policy of whittling down our fleet has not been very brilliantly pursued, the war of attrition has been waged by Britain also, to the great disadvantage of Germany. We have lost fine ships and many gallant men, both in the North Sea and the South Pacific; something, too, has been effected against our commerce. Yet little by little our ascendancy grows, towards the day of the great sea fight which is inevitable, unless Germany should ignominiously retain her fleet as a counter to bargain with. The fight off the Falkland Islands shows that on sea as on land Englishmen can — in Sir John French’s phrase — establish an individual ascendancy. Our mastery of the seas is shown in the fact that commerce now goes on without interruption, that troops can be transported on the high seas, that the King can visit his forces in the field, that the Fleet can even take its part in coast battles.
The entry of Turkey into the war as the tool of Germany has had for its first results the annexation of Cyprus by Great Britain, the proclamation of a British Protectorate over Egypt, the deposition of the Khedive, and the accession of Hussein Kamil as Sultan of Egypt.
The solidarity of the Empire has been enormously strengthened. Von Bernhardi and other writers had told Germany that England’s hands would be held in a Continental war, that her colonies would throw off the yoke, and India be plunged into rebellion. These things have not happened. A few unhappy Boers have met the penalty of their folly. But every colony has eagerly sent its best, and among the great things of history will be set the telegram from the Rajput Princes to the Viceroy of India, “What orders for us from the King-Emperor?”
PAKing George V decorates a British Cavalryman on a visits to the troops in France. Sir Douglas Haig looks on, leaning on a walking stick
At home, as in the field, England has proved herself efficient. A grave crisis was met with singular success. The Imperial Council of Defence had quietly made many preparations for a great war, even to the text of the proclamations which succeeded one another in bewildering rapidity during the first week. Finance has been skilfully managed, its heavy burdens adjusted: the credit of England is still the best in the world. The State has without rebuke assumed unwonted functions, organizing industries, insuring merchant ships, fixing prices, buying foodstuffs, regulating individual action in a hundred different ways. Hundreds of thousands have enlisted in the New Army.
Refugees from Belgium
Charity has shown itself capable of providing for national needs, and for the thousands of refugees whom we welcome from devastated Belgium. Old differences have been sunk, long-standing quarrels suspended. The nation is not altogether decadent, though with the revelation of national strength there has also been a revelation of certain moral weaknesses, with which it is the duty of the Church to deal. Hers also is the task of maintaining such an attitude of mind in the nation as shall render reprisals impossible, when once the resistance of Germany is broken down. It will have been of no use to protest, with all the civilized world, against the frightful excesses against persons and property which Germany has committed in Belgium, if the allied armies themselves allow any such things to be done as the Kaiser counselled his men to do in China, and as they have actually done in France, Poland and Belgium.
Opportunities of service
The war has brought to the Church tremendous opportunities of service, and in certain localities problems which are difficult to solve. The formation of the new armies has suddenly transformed country parishes into vast camps, with all that is involved in that change. Other parishes it has deprived of almost all lay workers. Many hundreds of the younger clergy have offered their services as chaplains, and the chaplains have done excellent work at the front, though some criticisms were passed upon the narrowness of view shown at first in their selection. The naval chaplains have been untiring; never has the fleet been more zealously served. Intercession has almost everywhere been properly organized. The services and prayers put forth by authority have been less satisfactory than those appointed during the Boer War, and the Church, as usual, seems to have been less prepared than the State to meet sudden needs.
PAGeneral Allenby, who took JerusalemFOR the second time the dawn of a New Year will find the greater part not only of Europe but of the entire population of the world at war. All prophecies of a speedy peace which were made twelve months ago have proved vain. To-day peace might seem no nearer than it was then, but for the fact that the Central Powers, ringed round with an iron fence and severed from communication with countries over sea, have clearly less lasting power than the nations of the Entente.
“The end is not yet in sight,” said the King in his message to his people not many weeks ago, when he summoned them to fresh efforts. Yet if the end is not in sight, the end of our endurance is equally out of sight. The nation has set itself to a great task, and it is determined to carry it through. There is probably less of war weariness to-day than there was in the later part of the summer. We are at times depressed, but there is no thought of yielding. Peace-movements like those of the egregious Mr Ford and of the dames who recently assembled on Dutch soil find no active support in England. With the realization of the terrors which a German overlordship would mean for the world, there is a renewal of courage.
The example of the King
To the maintenance of the spirit of the people the example of the King has contributed in no small degree. His Majesty has toiled unceasingly for their welfare. His visit to the Front in the autumn was marred by an unfortunate accident, of which the effects have not yet wholly disappeared, but it had already had the effect of greatly encouraging the troops. For the rest, apart from the incessant business of State, His Majesty has been continually occupied in the inspection of troops and munition works, in visits to numerous military hospitals, and in aiding the charitable activities of his people. The Prince of Wales has remained constantly on active service.
The measures necessary for the defence of the realm, and the criticism of government action and prominent personalities have occupied the attention of Parliament. Of domestic legislation there has been practically none. The Liberal Government, which had held office for more than nine years, came to an end in May, and — in Mr Asquith’s phrase — the Government was “reconstructed on a broader personal and political basis”. That it is on paper a ministry of all the talents has not exempted it either from mistakes or from consequent criticism. But at least criticism has had some effect. As in previous wars, the people have been stronger than the Government. Public opinion has consistently pressed for a greater co-ordination between the forces of the nation itself, and between the Allies; and towards the end of the year it has become apparent that in regard to the diplomatic policy of the allied nations, their operations in the field, and their finance and resources, a very high degree of coordination has been attained.
A Great War Council
The high officers of the Allies have more than once met in a Great War Council, the operations are now evidently conducted with reference to the one aim which they share. A certain tenseness between more than one of the Allies and ourselves has disappeared, there is a greater mutual confidence. Within our own Cabinet a War Committee of five has been appointed. There has been redistribution of offices, tending to greater efficiency. The country is less discontented than it was with the conduct of the war, more resolved patiently to await the turn of the tide. The efforts of the enemy to sow seeds of dissension and distrust among the Allies have failed, the adhesion of Italy to that pact of London by which the Allies have pledged themselves not to seek separate peace has been an answer to hostile intrigue.
The Bishop of London, A. F. Winnington-Ingram, with the British troops in France, early in the war
New era of State socialism
Only by degrees, and as it became increasingly clear that the war must be of far longer duration than anyone expected, have the forces of the nation been thrown into it and organized. The outburst of zeal at the beginning led to some overlapping of effort and multiplication of agencies. The effort has been brought under direction and co-ordination has taken the place of competition. The Government has employed the surplus of labour, has arranged for the transference of many thousands of workers from superfluous industries to munition works and the like, and has taken under its control and adapted for war purposes many factories. Only in the spring did it become evident that the expenditure of shells was on a far greater scale than in any previous war, and that in a fortnight’s hard fighting, as at Neuve Chapelle, as much ammunition might be expended as in the whole period of the South African war. The appointment of Mr Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions centralized the control and made great developments possible, so that in September nearly a thousand works, employing nearly a million workmen, were under his supervision.
The Government has closely regulated other industries and employments, the liquor traffic especially. It has itself become a purchaser and vendor on a large scale; it controls to a large extent the food supplies of the nation. It has taken in hand even the oversight of the comforts which voluntary workers provide for the troops in the field. It has regulated finance in many spheres outside the national budget; rents, the issue of new stocks, and insurance are three fields in which it has assumed control. Quietly, and by necessity, we have passed into an era of State socialism.
Battle of Ypres
The opening of the year found the Allies in positions of great advantage. The battle of Ypres had ended in the repulse of the German forces, after terrific fighting, which cost the British 40,000 casualties. In the East the Germans had thrice essayed the capture of Warsaw, and had thrice been defeated. The Russians were approaching the western border of the Bukovina. The Austrians had been driven out of Belgrade, after a disastrous defeat at Kolubara, in which they lost 40,000 prisoners. The Germans were still in possession of the whole of Belgium save one insignificant corner, and of a large part of Northern France, rich in mineral wealth and in manufactures. But against that might be set the Russian occupation of Galicia, and the near prospect, as it then seemed, of a descent into the plains of Hungary. The situation was, on the whole, favourable to the Allies.
On the two fronts the conditions were very different. The Germans had stretched from the Vosges to the sea lines of defence of the utmost strength. If they had failed to break through to Paris and to Calais, at least their own flank had been secured, they had taken up positions from which they could not be dislodged without operations most costly in men and material. On the Western front conditions were different. There the length of the line gave no opportunity for such trench warfare as had become the rule in the West. There was still room for the movement of armies. The German General Staff resolved therefore to hold the Western front without attempting any further advance, and to concentrate their new levies and their winter accumulations of munitions upon thrusts which might be decisive in the Eastern theatre of war.
Russia now seemed to Germany to be the weaker foe. The war had found her far better prepared than had been anticipated. But the expenditure of munitions in this war had proved to be on a vaster scale than any of the contending Powers had deemed possible, and while a highly developed manufacturing country could expand her industries, and adapt her factories, Russia was unable to meet the demand. Japan and America came to her assistance, and supplied munitions, but the lack of ice-free ports and the length of the Trans-Siberian Railway hampered all the efforts that Russia could make to supply herself from outside.
In that defect lay the secret of the German success in the later spring. The great Galician drive began in May. Przemysl fell at the beginning of June, Warsaw at the beginning of August; Ivangorod, Kovno and Novo-Georgievsk preceded Brest Litovsk only by a few days. By a wonderful series of strategic movements, and by the dauntless heroism of those troops to whom the rearguard actions were entrusted, the Russian armies were saved from envelopment and defeat, though for a moment the Russian lines was pierced in September by 50,000 German cavalry.
Russian spirit unbroken
The Germans had penetrated far into Russia, but they had obtained no decision. They were still confronted by armies unbeaten and formidable. The further they advanced the more their difficulties of transport and communication increased. They had lost touch with their own elaborate system of strategic railways; they found themselves in a land where motor-transport was crippled, a land incapable of supporting their armies, and of which the climate was less deadly to the Russian than to the German troops of the second line, of whom a great proportion had been recalled from the soft civilian life to which the German burgher so soon succumbs.
The proud prophesying of the speedy capture of Petrograd and Moscow died away; even Riga, dangled before the German army of the north as comfortable winter quarters, remained untaken. In Russia the German armies came to a halt without having achieved any substantial success; the mere occupation of territory, though it has its political and economic effect, is not necessarily of military value. The spirit of Russia is unbroken, is even higher than ever. It was at the darkest hour of all that the Emperor assumed the supreme command of his armies in the field, transferring the Grand Duke Nicholas to the Caucasus.
Germans gain Bulgaria
PAFerdinand of Bulgaria, the “Balkan Fox”What the Germans had failed to do by the might of their own armies they then attempted to accomplish by intrigue. It counted for much that the astute Coburger sat on the throne of Bulgaria, admired by his people for his diplomatic skill, though despised by them for some of his personal characteristics. It counted for still more that Bulgaria should have emerged disappointed from the second Balkan war, and that there remained an enmity with the Serbians upon which it was possible for Germany to work. The war could be represented to the simpler Bulgarians as one against Serbia in the first place, for the attainment of lawful ambitions, and indeed rights.
Bulgaria once gained, the combined invasion of Serbia was planned. Von Mackensen at the end of September had massed a quarter of million men on the Serbian frontier, Bulgaria massed also her forces on the eastern frontier. On October 6 the Austro-German invasion began, on the fourth day afterwards the Bulgarian forces were also at work. The Serbians, exhausted by three campaigns, and by the typhus which the Austrians had left as the deadliest effect of their invasion, fought heroically, but have been overwhelmed. Much of the army has been saved, and is in security for the moment. It will be heard of again. But Serbia is under the heel of Germany and Bulgaria; it suffers the fate of Belgium. For neither is there any mercy.
Treachery of Greece
The catastrophe might have been prevented by Greece. The treachery which prevented her from coming to the aid of Serbia when Bulgaria threatened has been defended by the literal interpretation of a treaty. But that did not excuse Greece’s hampering of Serbia’s action at a critical moment. She declined her obligations of honour, if not of law, through her King. M. Venezelos had hoped that his country would fulfil them, and it was at his invitation that in the beginning of October French and British troops had landed at Salonika to support a Serbo-Greek force. The Allied troops were left without support, even in a critical position, for it was at least possible that Greece might attack them. They fought along the Yardar River in relief of the Serbian army without decisive effect, and at great disadvantage, and were compelled eventually to retire upon their base at Salonika, there to entrench themselves until a further advance is possible. At present Serbia is without help, though it is promised from Italy, and in Bessarabia the collection of a great Russian force leads to the hope that Russia may be able to bring effective assistance from the north.
Bulgarian zeal waning
The bombardment of the Bulgarian coast towns in the Aegean and the Black Sea has not been without its effect on the Bulgarian people, whose zeal is apparently waning. Bulgar desertions show that the people are by no means united; even the assassination of King Ferdinand — who came to his throne with the expressed intention of being on the side of the assassins — has been attempted. The people have already found that for those who join with Germany there is but one will, the Kaiser’s, and that German “cooperation” can be as brutal and overbearing for them as for the Turks. The Eastern situation is critical, but since it has held unpleasant surprises for us in the past it may yet prove to hold unpleasant surprises for the Central Powers. It is an extension of their line which could only be justified by the most substantial gains, and the gains may not prove all that were expected.
In the Dardanelles and Gallipoli the flower of the Turkish Army has been held up by a British force, which itself has not been able to make any advance. The purely naval attack in February failed in its effect. How nearly it succeeded has not perhaps been generally recognized. It gave warning to the Turks, and the landings on the peninsula in April were not effected without desperate fighting and losses. Another landing at Suvla Bay in August proved also extremely costly, and the positions at Suvla Bay and Anzac have now been evacuated by extremely skilful operations involving only three casualties. The losses of the fleet included five large ships, but the operations of our submarines in the Sea of Marmora may well be set against them, including as they do the destruction of enemy battleships, gunboats, transports, and nearly two hundred supply vessels. Small Turkish forces reached the Suez Canal at the beginning of February, but the attack was never seriously threatening, and the enemy losses in the desert and at the Canal were considerable. Our Mesopotamian expedition, after penetrating within a few miles of Bagdad, has been compelled to retire.
General Botha’s advance
At the beginning of the year the rebellion in South Africa had not been wholly suppressed, January saw a defeat of rebels at Upington. But its power was broken, and the way was clear for General Botha’s advance into German South-west Africa, which was finally surrendered on July 9. Of her great colonial Empire Germany has now only a diminishing part of the Cameroons, and her East African colony, which has been left until preparations for its occupation are complete. The sea power by which those colonies were to be defended, for which the German people have made sacrifices, and upon which they have built high hopes, has not proved adequate to its purpose; it has scarcely hindered for a moment the taking of those colonies which, in almost every case, Germany had specially designed as bases for further colonial advance. Those which Australia and South Africa have taken with their own forces will not be surrendered, whatever else may be matter for bargaining in the day of final account.
Honour of our fleet
Throughout the year the Navy has sustained, under new conditions, the ancient honour of our fleet, and has proved, as the King anticipated at the declaration of war, the sure shield of Britain. It has kept constant watch against a possible sally of the German squadrons, and in the battle of the Dogger Bank in January it repulsed an intended raid upon the English coast with so heavy a loss that Germany has not renewed an attempt which had twice proved partially successful. It has subdued the menace of the submarine blockade of England. It has driven the German flag from the seas, and made possible the transport of enormous armies, it has reduced by daring submarine work the German domination of the Baltic, and the value of the Germano-Turkish navy. Though it has sustained losses, it is stronger relatively to the German fleet than when the war began.
Church Times ArchiveHenry King, a Church Times reporter, who was killed in a Zeppelin raid on LondonIt is only in the larger air-craft that Germany remains superior. The supremacy of the air is with the Allies in the lighter craft; but the Zeppelins are as yet unchallenged, and the raids upon London and the eastern counties, though of no value from the military and little value from the political point of view, have caused much annoyance and some loss of life. But not a few Zeppelins have been lost, some by direct attack, as on the Russian front and in the ease of Lieutenant Warneford’s brilliant exploit, others by attack on the sheds, and by accident.
Upon the neutral countries which lie nearest the theatres of war the conflict has imposed heavy burdens. If the Dutch and the Swiss have been able to increase their trade in some directions, it has been severely restricted in others, and the necessity of mobilizing a large part of their armies has been an enormous expense. Moreover, the large humanity of the Dutch and Swiss has led them, at very heavy cost, to take upon themselves the care of Belgian and French refugees, with a wealth of charity which is the admiration of the world. The United States also have been practically responsible for the feeding of destitute Belgium, a task of which Germany has been relieved, or rather which she has declined, though law and humanity alike made it of obligation.
In return, Germany has insulted and injured the United States in every possible way. She has destroyed American ships and American lives, she has stirred up the treacherous German element in the United States to acts of hostility. Her agents have planned and plotted against the country to which many of them were accredited, and the conduct or Dr Dumba, Captain Boy-Ed, and Captain von Papen has been so defiant of all international etiquette that their recall has been necessary. The United States have had their differences of opinion with England, for they have contended that the means which this country has adopted to stop German trade have constituted an interference with the rights of neutrals. But they have not unduly pressed their claims, and their ambassadors and consuls have worked unremittingly for the protection of interned civilians and prisoners of war, and for the observance of the laws of humanity. America has gained enormously by her supply of munitions of war to the Allied nations, and this and her loan to Europe have caused financial supremacy to pass to New York.
Chaplains’ noble service
The great task to which the nation is committed has determined the direction to be given to the energies of the Church. She has not been slothful in her service of the troops, whom she has considered among her first responsibilities. Her priests in large numbers have done noble service in the field. Those numbers might have been larger if certain obstacles to the employment of sufficient numbers out of the many who volunteered had not first to be overcome. The administration of the chaplains’ department, to which much criticism has been addressed, is now considerably improved. Many of the chaplains have been decorated for valour, some have died with the men whom they served, nearly all have used their opportunities and have been welcomed as comrades and priests by the officers and men alike. In the great camps at home and in the military hospitals the chaplains have also done splendid service, the little chapels which they have provided are often well used, much good has been effected among men to whom religion before the war meant little or nothing. The C.E.M.S. [Church of England Men’s Society] missed a splendid opportunity at the beginning of the war, and strives too late to remedy it; where it failed the Y.M.C.A. has stepped in, and its work, in which Churchmen have taken a good share, has been of the highest value.
No religious revival
The nation as a whole, apart from the troops, has not shown any signs of awakening. The war has not been accompanied by any such revival of religion as the more sanguine anticipated; rather in many places where wages are high and restraints are removed there has been a lamentable deterioration in moral force and in self-control. The anniversary of the declaration of war was kept with solemn supplication, the great service at St Paul’s, at which the King and the high officers of state were present, was a fitting expression of the better thought of the nation. The New Year also is to open with a day of national intercession.
Yet more than this is needed if the lessons of the war are to be driven home to the conscience of the people. The Archbishop of Canterbury forecasts a general effort of a missionary kind. That will have its value, if also its dangers. But the work of the Church in converting the nation has yet to be begun in earnest. The Church has perhaps waited too long for the war to teach where the Church should have been the teacher. It maybe true to say that while the stress of the last eighteen months has made many of the devout more devout, has touched the hearts of many who have suffered bereavement, and has made the Church aware of its shortcomings, it has not turned the people of England to God. Yet it has had some good effects. The knowledge of the religion of France, Belgium, and Russia which has been brought home to English people has removed many prejudices against Catholicism. The sorrow of mourners has led them to seek consolation in the faith and practice of the Church in regard to the faithful departed. The religion of many an average man, vague or latitudinarian, has become more defined and orthodox. These are real gains, to be made the most of.
PEACE is as yet far off; the German armies, checked in almost every area of the conflict, are as yet unbeaten in Europe, and though there are signs that the German nation is thoroughly tired of the war it fights on, desiring even to dictate a victor’s peace.
But the past year has seen the turning of the tide of fortune. When it began there was a deadlock on the Western Front. In the East, Serbia had been overrun, with Montenegro. The gallant Serbian army had effected a retreat over the mountains of Albania, and was refitting at Corfu; the Serbian nation had for the time being ceased to have existence as a State. Gallipoli was evacuated, after the loss of more than 200,000 men by casualties and sickness. On the Russian Front, the armies of our Ally had been driven back. Nor was that to complete the tale of loss and defeat. Though to the north of Asia Minor the forces of General Judenitch, under the Grand Duke Nicholas, made a swift and victorious advance upon Erzeroum, our own force was compelled to surrender Kut-el-Amara at the end of April, after a stubborn defence.
PAThe Prime Minister, H. H. Asquith, and Mrs Asquith leave St Paul’s Cathedral, after an occasion in 1916
Recovery of the Allies
But the recovery of the Allies was to come in the summer. In the middle of February the Germans began a terrific attack upon Verdun, announcing its imminent capture, the taking of Paris, and the end of the war. There were indeed fears that Verdun might fall, it was not expected to hold out beyond the end of July. But the desperate resistance of General Petain and the valour of his troops prevented the Germans from taking Verdun, either by assault or by wearing down the defence. The Germans were themselves exhausted in the attack, and later in the year the French recovered in a few days what had cost the Germans as many months to gain. It was the turning-point of the war. In May the Austrian armies made a violent attack upon the Italians, who were forced to give ground for a few miles, but soon recovered themselves in a magnificent counter-offensive, in which Gorizia fell to their arms. Early in June the Russians profited by the withdrawal of Austrian troops to the Italian front and swept westward to Lutz and Czernovitz and the Carpathians.
Offensive on the Somme
In July an Anglo-French offensive on the Somme was begun, with brilliant success. The supremacy of the Allied armies in artillery, in the air and in infantry attacks, was proved, and though the Germans had the advantage of positions prepared during two years of assiduous toil they were forced back, with very heavy casualties and with a shaken moral. Further advances were made in September, at the moment when the Germans had announced that the Somme offensive had definitely ceased, and the great fortresses of Combles and Thiepval, untaken in the first advance, fell to the Allies. Sixty-five thousand prisoners had been taken in the operations; the casualties on the German side were estimated at 700,000; in generalship and in valour the new armies of Great Britain and her colonies had proved their worth.
In one area only have the forces of the Central Powers achieved some success. Rumania had entered the war towards the end of August, and had invaded the Hungarian province of Transylvania, probably against the wish of the Allies, certainly against the true principles of strategy. Germany seized the situation; Falkenhayn was deposed from his post of Chief of the General Staff of the Field Army, and Hindenburg, a popular hero since the Russian defeat at Tannenberg in the early days of the war, was appointed in his place, with Ludendorf as his chief quartermaster-general. He concentrated all the available forces upon Rumania, and though the Rumanian army held its own to the north, it was forced back in the south, slowly but relentlessly, until in December Bucharest fell. But the Rumanian forces remain unshattered, and supported by the Russian. Only a small force was cut off and compelled to surrender. The Rumanian campaign may yet take another turn, and end in another German discomfiture.
The Greek King
Further South the Serbians have advanced from the Allied base at Salonica, and have occupied Monastir. But the Salonikan forces have been rendered in a great degree ineffective by the action of Greece. King Constantine has learnt from his German tutors how to treat solemn pledges. He has refused that aid to Serbia which by treaty he was pledged to bring. He has suffered the loss of half his kingdom, which follows the leadership of Venizelos — to whom Constantine owes his throne and his powers of mischief — and a large part of Greece and nearly all the islands are in revolt against him.
Much time was wasted in dallying and negotiations, which merely gave the King an opportunity of proving his subtlety. But on December 14 a Note was presented in the name of the Allied Governments, pointing out that neither the Greek King nor the Greek Government were in possession of sufficient control over the Greek Army to prevent it from becoming a menace to the peace and security of the Allied Armies in Macedonia, and demanding the immediate carrying out of certain movements of troops and war material, and the cessation of other movements in a contrary direction, refusal of the demand to be regarded as a hostile act. The blockade, which had begun some days before, was to be continued until the Government of Greece had made full reparation for the attack upon the Allied troops in Athens, and until sufficient guarantees for the future had been given.
Battle of Jutland
At sea the fleet has proved itself the sure shield of Britain. After weary months of waiting it had on May 31 its first opportunity of action on a large scale. The Battle of Jutland, the greatest action ever fought, resulted in the withdrawal of the German fleet with very heavy losses. The German claim to victory is negatived by the admission that after the battle, when the main British fleet had withdrawn from the pursuit, a squadron of older battleships appeared off the German coast and remained there for some hours. Had the German fleet been able to reap the fruits of its alleged victory, that squadron would not have reached British waters again. But it was not attacked.
War in the air
In the air the Allied aviators, inferior at first to the enemy, have during months of arduous fighting achieved a supremacy so decisive that the battle of the Somme owed its success to the fact that for weeks the German aviators were not able or willing to venture over our lines, while their own observation work was rendered useless by our superior force and skill. Even Zeppelin attacks, which had caused much loss of civilian life without achieving any military result, were gradually rendered less dangerous by the development of our anti-aircraft defences; and in the last few raids several Zeppelins have been brought down in flames, on English soil or in the North Sea.
The submarine menace was of a more serious kind. Disregarding every law of nations or of humanity, the German submarines have torpedoed with an equal impartiality, and without warning, British and neutral ships, lessening the tonnage available for carrying food supplies to Britain. The aim of the Germans is doubtless so to cripple other nations that they themselves may remain in possession of the carrying trade of Europe at the close of the war, and the policy of the Allies must be directed towards preventing this, whether by the demand of “ton for ton” or by some economic weapon.
‘An honourable peace’!
Surveying the situation from above, the German eagle determined in December to pose as a dove, and announced the intention of Germany to open peace negotiations. Two years ago Germany talked of huge indemnities for the war which, had been forced upon her, a year ago she still talked of annexations and tribute, to-day she asks the world to survey the war map, to reflect whether the time has not come when in the interests of humanity a term may be put to slaughter, and an honourable peace concluded. An honourable peace! The nations which have systematically violated all the courtesies and chivalries of war, which have set aside all the prescriptions of that international law to the building up of which they have contributed, now ask for a peace which shall leave them supreme in Europe, and free to enslave the smaller nations whenever the opportunity shall again present itself.
To the neutral nations as to the Allies the proposal has seemed merely a sign of weakening powers; those only have taken it seriously who have most to gain, represented by the crowds who waited in a Berlin snowstorm to hear if there were any signs among the Allies or the neutrals of a favourable answer to the suggestion from the Central Powers The good German sword has become somewhat dinted, Michel himself goes hungry. But if he would have peace there is one way that he must take, and he is not yet willing.
Lloyd George Prime Minister
Throughout the year the Government had been exposed to a criticism sometimes acrid and unjust, but not altogether without justification. The Coalition Ministry, or some members of it, were becoming stale, lacking initiative and force, failing to command the support of the country. He who three years ago would have prophesied that Mr Lloyd George would become Prime Minister, with Mr Balfour and Mr Bonar Law in subordinate posts, would have been derided. Yet it has come to pass. The new Government is essentially a business government. Many professional politicians have disappeared in its formation. There is a break with traditions of long standing. It remains to be seen whether it will achieve its one end, the more resolute and successful prosecution of the war. It has the goodwill of the country, and its forcefulness is already beginning to be felt.
If in the process of converting Great Britain into a great military power, and the mobilization of all her resources for the purposes of the war, there have been local and occasional difficulties, it must be frankly acknowledged that labour has risen to undreamed heights of patriotism, and has come to understand what the war means to the whole body of the commonwealth. It is hard for those who are normally outside the sphere of trade unionism to recognize the concessions which organized labour has made, with what self-sacrifice it has set aside for the moment many things won through long years of struggle.
PAAt the Battle of Passchendaele, a Canadian soldier is carried by stretcher-bearers through shell holes to the wounded aid post
The foreign missions of the Church have been hard hit by the war. During 1915 the contributions to missionary work fell little short of the normal, but the present year will end for many societies with a serious decline on the receipt side of the accounts. That, however, is the least grave disturbance, the hindrance to work in hand is far more to be regretted. In every field of work there has been some amount of interruption, missionaries have been withdrawn to serve with the forces in the field, or they have found, as in Canada, their congregations diminished by the withdrawal of men, or have suffered by the general unrest of the world.
The missions which have experienced most hardship are those in Central Africa. The stations of the Universities’ Mission and of the C.M.S. in German territory, where the missionaries had always worked most loyally with the civil authorities, were closed, the workers interned, and treated with harshness. There seems a possibility that the stations in German territory will be abandoned, if it should revert to its original possessors, and the whole future of many flourishing centres of mission work in other places is imperilled.
In India the stations of the German Lutheran missions have been placed under the general supervision of our own bishops, and, if German missionaries are not permitted to return to them, will ultimately become an additional responsibility. There are compensations elsewhere, as in West Africa, where the war has drawn the native races closer to the English missionaries, and has shown them on which side the best hopes of the backward peoples lie.
Those who have passed to their reward after faithful service of the Church on earth are many in number, and the Church especially mourns their loss at a time when her ministry is so heavily taxed, and when the number of candidates for ordination has been so greatly reduced. Of priests, we must first make general mention of the thirty-five chaplains in the naval and military services who have laid down their lives in serving others, eight of whom were killed in the Battle of Jutland.
A FOURTH year ends with war as the dominating interest, a war that is now not merely world-wide, but is become by the entry of America and China almost universal. If exhaustion is supervening on some of those engaged, new forces are entering the field, and the end is not yet in sight. It is no longer these and those who are concerned; the few neutrals suffer almost as much as belligerents, the world is at war, and it will be the work of the world to find peace. The solidarity of mankind, once a dream, is become a stern reality.
The fortunes of war have fluctuated, but on the whole they have been against the Allies. After a brief and brilliant offensive in the early summer, Russia has collapsed into anarchy. The Rumanian army has made a gallant and successful stand against renewed attack; but is helpless by the side of the helplessness of Russia. The Italian gains on the Isonzo have been swept away, owing to a sudden failure which has not yet been wholly explained, with enormous losses of men and material; all the Venetian Plain has been overrun by the invader French and British reinforcements generously poured in do but enable the defenders so far to hold with admirable tenacity the new line that covers Venice and Lombardy. In Macedonia the forward movement to Monastir which seemed a year ago to be full of promise, has come to a standstill, and in twelve months there has been no action of importance.
On the Western front the long and bitter fighting of last year bore fruit in the spring; unable to face renewed pressure, the German armies were withdrawn from the wide battlefield of the Somme, and fell back to elaborately prepared positions, wasting the country as they went after a fashion almost without example in history. But this retreat, though forced, was a strategic gain to the enemy, causing the loss of much precious time before the attacks on him could be started afresh in full vigour.
Assault on Arras
How ready things were for those attacks was shown by the brilliant British onslaught on the sector of Arras in April. The French attack on the Chemin des Dames was less immediately successful, and there are ugly rumours of treachery in high places which led to comparative failure; but later in the year the work was completed by splendid generalship with small losses, and the way to Laon was laid open. After his fine overture at Arras, Sir Douglas Haig, for reasons which will be known to historians, left to the enemy the coal district of Lens, which seemed to be falling into his bands like ripe fruit, and concentrated on Flanders. The ill-famed Ypres salient was enlarged on all sides, the greater part of the Passchendael Ridge being occupied after much fierce fighting, and the relative positions of advantage have been reversed after three years of complete immobility; but persistently bad weather, Flemish mud, and the terrible destruction of the ground by shell fire, made the gains so difficult and slow that the campaign has ended without further result.
Church TimesAn attack on Beirut by RANS sea-planes, depicted by the artist Donald Maxwell when he was sent on duty to Palestine by the Admiralty in 1918
In November the long-delayed movement against the new positions of the enemy to the south was ready. It opened splendidly with a surprise most creditable to the British commander and his Staff. A long stretch of the boasted “Wotan Line”, which our men call the “Hindenburg Line”, was proved to be anything but impregnable. What was the actual limit set to the offensive is a secret of the Staff; it seems probable that it was even overpassed and hopes were high, but the premature joy-bells of London only served to show how foolish is elation over a tactical success in this war; within ten days a return surprise cancelled a great part of the gains, with heavy loss to our troops, and the one solid result is the holding of some nine miles of the enemy’s defensive system in front of Cambrai. It has been a year of tactical victories which leave the strategic position little affected.
Threat to merchant shipping
The sea-affair has brought little more cheer. We have to remind ourselves of the constant pressure maintained on the enemy by blockade and the complete denial to him of the great ocean routes. His High Sea Fleet has attempted no adventures. The British Fleet keeps silent watch. But the enemy’s light forces have run through its guard on more than one disconcerting occasion. It is doubtless impossible entirely to prevent such occurrences, but their repetition has stirred a demand for searching inquiry into their cause, which is not likely to be denied: it is no tradition of the Navy to throw a cloak over failures. But the main interest is elsewhere. It has been a year of submarines. The announcement of unrestricted piracy — the word must be used — directed against the merchant shipping of belligerents and neutrals alike, made by the German Government on the last day of January, was at first expected to bring little change; the submarines were supposed to be already doing their worst. Two months later, the seriousness of the threat became evident.
England’s grave peril
The deadly activity of April has been reduced, but losses remain high, and the vast resources of the British Fleet, backed by the three which rank next to the German in value, are taxed to the uttermost in keeping them within bounds. The intention of the operations was avowed, and indeed obvious. Without England the great alliance would collapse; the strength of England was dependent on sea-communications; if these could be ruined, if the tonnage of the world flying all flags could be reduced below the level of bare needs, England must come to her knees. The consummation was hailed as due within a few months. The result has been a bitter disappointment for the enemy, but a grave peril for ourselves and our cause. The peril can be met only by rigid economy of shipping, rigid economy in the use of sea-borne commodities, and enormous labour in the replacement of lost tonnage. It has been the heavy task of the British Government and people during the year to secure the working of these three remedies.
This rather gloomy outlook has not been without compensating lights. The last German colony has been reduced. The prolonged defence of East Africa, cut off as it was from all communication with the Government at home, was most creditable to the administrative qualities of the Germans on the spot, but their honour has been utterly tarnished by abominable outrages committed alike against the unhappy natives of the country and the English missionaries. The mistakes and disasters of the earlier campaign in Mesopotamia have been splendidly redeemed, though the sudden death of General Maude from cholera has robbed the British Army of one of its brightest ornaments.
On the Egyptian front the peril of attack has been far removed. The first advance against the Turkish positions at Gaza led to a lamentable failure in March, but after months of preparation Sir Edmund Allenby delivered a swift blow, and by a series of fine strategic movements drove the enemy in seven weeks from the whole of Southern Palestine, and delivered Jerusalem from the Ottoman misrule which has lasted four hundred years. The military gain here is not small; the political gain in the ruin of Turkish prestige is immense. Success in these secondary theatres of war may have a far-reaching effect.
United States in the war
These minor operations are satisfactory, but the greatest event of the year is the entry of the United States into the war. It brings invaluable material support to the cause of the Allies, and moral support in even greater measure. President Wilson clung to his neutrality longer than some of his friends could wish, but it is clear that he had to secure the entire confidence of his people before moving. The political ineptitude of the enemy gave him two opportunities: the declaration of unrestricted submarine war coupled with an insulting offer of limited facilities for American traffic, and the intercepted letter of the, German Secretary of State, Herr Zimmermann, inviting Mexico in case of war to the conquest of Texas. These two revelations made neutrality impossible.
The President cautiously freed himself from his Mexican entanglement, which had the good effect of providing him with elements of a seasoned army, and moved steadily to a decision. Pacificists made a weak and discreditable stand; the nation was evidently behind the President; the millions of German descent, with whose anger and evil machinations he had been threatened, proved to be in the main good Americans; preparations were pushed forward with characteristic energy, and on April 5 Congress declared war. The President’s address demanding this action set the objects to be sought on the highest possible plane, and his more recent utterances have deepened the effect then produced. The American Navy has already done good work, and the first divisions of a vast army to come are now on the French front.
Revolution in Russia
The apparent stalemate of war has led to manoeuvres, honest or not, for bringing about a general peace. A year ago the German invitation to a congress with, undefined aims was contemptuously rejected, though apparently supported in January by a Note from President Wilson. His subsequent conduct showed that this, his last effort as a neutral, was not at first rightly understood. It had the good effect of drawing from the Allies a definite statement of their aims, while the Central Powers refused any disclosure of theirs. Current rumours attributed to the Government of the Tsar the purpose of negotiating a separate peace, and early in March the world was startled by the news of a successful revolution in Russia, the leaders of which avowed the express object of removing the men who would thus betray the cause of the Allies, and of proceeding vigorously with the war. For a time they seemed to be having their way, but from the first there were other elements in the revolutionary movement which gradually got the upper hand. Russia has been lying for months in a welter of anarchy, with provisional Governments based on no intelligible principle and having no recognizable national mandate. The year closes with the Bolsheviks in power at Petrograd and Moscow, threatening a Red Terror, and doing the very thing for attempting which the Tsar’s Government was overthrown. Never has Revolution devoured its children more swiftly. It is impossible to say from hour to hour what the next news may be, but Russia seems to be permanently out of the war.
The Pope’s letter
PAPope Benedict XVIn August the Pope issued a letter addressed to the belligerent Governments, well meant, but so obviously tending to the advantage of the Central Powers that his Holiness was inevitably suspected of writing to Austrian dictation. The letter was eagerly welcomed by the Ministers of the Central Powers in speeches to their respective parliaments; from the side of the Allies there was no response except a dignified letter, addressed to the Pope through British channels by President Wilson, who said plainly that there was no room for negotiation with the present German Government, which repudiates all international obligations. Towards the end of the year Lord Lansdowne published an unfortunate letter, in which he seemed to suggest the desirability of an inconclusive peace as a result of mere weariness. The delight with which it was received in Germany and Austria shows what is desired there. The author has rejected this interpretation of his words, and declares himself to be in line with the President of the United States.
Empire stands firm
The community of nations which is the British Empire stands firm under severe trials. Our former enemies in South Africa have taken a leading part in the expulsion of the Germans from the continent, and General Smuts is one of the most honoured helpers of the War Cabinet.
Government departments continue with varied success and failure to grapple with the many problems of administration, with constantly rising prices and with difficulties of distribution. Compulsory rationing is in sight; the policy of laisser aller is openly abandoned; for good and for evil its return in full force seems altogether improbable.
The Church, both in England and elsewhere, has been subject to violent criticism, some of which is not undeserved. It certainly has not risen to the height of the occasion, and the causes of failure are imperfectly explored. The results of the National Mission of last year cannot be estimated, because there is no available standard of success, but they are not conspicuous on the surface. A strong impulse towards Christian union seems to be at work without defined aims; its manifestations are not always good; combinations of dissentient bodies have been common both among Army chaplains and in services at home connected with the war, and the good will which they evince is not free from perils of compromise endangering the foundations of the Faith.
The depletion of the ranks of the clergy has proceeded apace, and ordinations have inevitably been few. The Rev. N. A. W. Back was killed while serving as chaplain of the Vanguard on July 9th. No fewer than twenty-six Army chaplains of our communion, including the Hon. Maurice Peel, vicar of Tamworth, have given their lives on active service, for the most part while ministering under fire. Nor may we forbear to mention among devout laymen Henry King [killed in a Zeppelin raid on London], who from boyhood served this journal with rare loyalty and unflagging enthusiasm.
A VERITABLE Annus Mirabilis draws to a close. It has seen mighty empires crumble to ruin, the greatest and most perfectly ordered army of the world go down in shameful defeat, crowns and thrones fall like leaves in autumn, a colossal war come with bewildering suddenness to an unlooked-for end. This from the world’s point of view.
During the last year of the war, the work of the Church in the Army has been, so far as we can judge, more efficient, and we have received far fewer complaints either of the inefficient and partial administration of the Chaplains Department or of the failure to leach particular units in the field, complaints which at one time used to reach us regularly and in considerable number. The excellent work of the newly-formed chaplains’ instruction camps at home has undoubtedly made the padres far more effective in the field on their first going abroad. Nearly 3000 of the clergy have served during the war as military chaplains, and in October the approximate number on active service in all fields was 1230, while 700 were engaged at home, in addition to the large number of parochial clergy who have added ministrations to the forces to their already heavy burden of work.
PAGeorges Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson, and David Lloyd George at the Peace Conference in Versailles
To the splendid and often heroic work of the chaplains the highest naval and military authorities have given their testimony. Nearly 100 have been killed in action, and far more have been seriously wounded. The V.C. has been awarded to three chaplains, the D.S.O to 35, the Military Cross to a 176. Similar statistics of the work of the naval chaplains are not at present available. Just about 240 temporary and permanent chaplains are now serving. For the Air Force, constituted as a separate arm in April, a separate chaplains’ department has been created, with the Rev. H. D. L. Viener as Chaplain-in-Chief, the scheme receiving sanction in October.
The Rev. E. H. Mosse gave his life in service of his people during an air-raid. Of the 45 priests who have been killed or who have died on service during the year, we mention only the Rev. T. B. Hardy: V.C., M,C., D.S.O., who was in his 51st year when he won these rewards of high valour.
The year opened with anxiety in respect of the war. The rout of the Italians at Caporetto had been one of those dramatic strokes with which the German High Command tried to end each campaigning season, to hearten their people for the winter and to aid their “peace offensive” during the months of inactivity. The failure of the British attack on Cambrai after a promising opening had enabled the enemy to score another point of the same kind. The progressive disintegration of Russia threatened an immense release of reinforcements from the Eastern Front which might be used against the Allies at some indeterminable part of the line between Belgium and Baghdad. The brilliant successes of Mesopotamia and Palestine were apparently not being followed up. The submarine war, though held in check by the sleepless watch of the Navy, was an unquestionable danger, of which men thought more than they said. There were signs suggesting the exhaustion of the manpower of France. The promised succours from America were despatched on their perilous course with the least possible publicity, and seemed to be slow in arriving.
There was confidence, undue confidence, in the ability of the allied armies to hold the line in France against any concentration of enemy force. Weakened by the despatch of aid to Italy, the British armies nevertheless extended their front, relieving some French divisions. Confidence was rudely dispelled when on March 21 an attack was delivered from St Quentin, exactly where it was expected, and the Fifth Army broke after a fashion, the cause of which has been the subject of much gossip and conjecture, but of little sure knowledge. The situation was full of peril. The enemy pushed his advantage many miles, almost reached Amiens, cut important lines of communication, and seemed likely to press on to Abbeville, severing the British armies from the French, a state of things which would probably have made it necessary to evacuate the whole of Northern France and the Channel ports. But by dint of great efforts the victors were fought to a standstill before Amiens.
This disaster had conspicuous results, good and evil. It hastened the halting plans of the Allies to set up a unified command, in which the genius of General Foch ultimately found scope, in England it produced some measures which, in the wisdom that comes after the event, can only be called movements of panic. Men were recklessly called to the colours from essential industries which could not spare them, at the risk of crippling the national life through lack of coal and other necessary things. The age of military service was extended to a limit which included great numbers of useless months. By these means men were obtained whom it was impossible to train for effective service before the crisis was passed, and this in face of enormous reinforcements of the best quality pouring in from America.
Even worse was the effect of this panic on the treatment of Ireland; there was an attempt to extend conscription to that country, contrary to explicit pledges, and with the slenderest prospect of success, and the pill was sugared with promises of Home Rule, in which nobody believed, and which soon came to their expected end.
PAThe French General Foch (second from right) and members of the German and French delegation on 11 November 1918 in front of the rail carriage in Compiegne, France, where armistice was declaredFrom the time of the check before Amiens the plans of the enemy went strangely wrong, and the strategic brain seemed to have become fogged. He struck wildly, right and left; towards Ypres, towards Paris, and finally southwards in the way of the Marne, which he had found so fatal in 1914. The blows were all dangerous, all created alarm, except perhaps in General Foch and his Staff, but all were endured without further disaster. Their only effect was to engage the enemy in a series of awkward salients, now no longer covered by vast defensive works. On July 18 General Foch, now raised to the rank of Marshal of France, made his first counterstroke on the western flank of the Marne salient. This began a series of successful attacks, in which with hard fighting and heavy casualties the Allies hammered to pieces the whole German front. On August 8 the English armies began their advance, and on September 12 the American First Army under General Pershing moved forward on the Meuse. Before the beginning of October almost all the elaborate field fortifications of the enemy were carried or turned and some of the invading armies were finding even retreat precarious.
Quadruple alliance broken
Meanwhile, on June 14, the Austrians had made a feeble offensive against the Italians, and were afterwards compelled to send several divisions to reinforce the Germans in France. On September 18, after some not very successful operations during the summer, General Allenby delivered a well-prepared stroke against the Turks in Northern Palestine, routed their armies, and within a few days overran the whole of Syria to Aleppo and beyond. About the same time the Turkish forces on the Euphrates and the Tigris were completely broken up. The German reverses in the West now made it safe to move in Macedonia; the Serbs, with French and English support, advanced in brilliant fashion, drove the Bulgars from positions reckoned impregnable, and rapidly recovered their devastated country as far as the Danube. The great quadruple alliance of Germany, Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey at once broke up.
On September 28 the Bulgarians sued for an armistice, which was granted only on terms of the most complete and unconditional surrender. The Turks speedily followed suit, and a sudden offensive of the Italians on the Piave, with a small British force in support, showed that the enemy was exhausted, on this front also. He asked for terms, which were imposed with the same severity as on his Eastern allies. The Germans were now isolated, and by the end of October they also were concerned to find means for saving their armies in France and Belgium, if possible, from overwhelming disaster. They applied for an armistice, which was granted on November 11 the terms being much less stringent than in the other cases, but such as seemed to make any resumption of hostilities impossible: a great part of their fleet, including all submarines, was to be surrendered, and the Allies were to occupy the whole country as far as the Rhine, together with extensive bridge-heads beyond the river.
The war is won
The war was won, in the field and by sea, many months earlier than had seemed possible even to the most optimistic observer, but complicated problems confronted victors and vanquished alike. The defeat of the Central Powers had effects extending far beyond the cessation of hostilities. Internal confusion and revolution completed the work. Thrones began to fall like leaves in autumn. Ferdinand of Bulgaria was the first to go, and was followed within a few days by his son Boris. The ramshackle Austro-Hungarian Empire broke in pieces at once, the Emperor Charles renouncing both his imperial dignity and the Hungarian crown. The German Kaiser, finding even his army a more than doubtful support, fled ignominiously to a refuge in Holland, and was speedily followed by the Crown Prince. The other German kings and princes abdicated without a show of resistance, and republics were everywhere proclaimed under the direction of Social Democrats or Socialists of a redder hue. At present there is no German Government with which the Allies can treat of peace with any degree of certainty.
PAKaiser Wilhelm “sets the Thermos fashion” for Zeppelin crewThe explanation of this amazing state of affairs must be sought some little way back. The Russian revolution of the previous year had been fomented, especially as regards its more violent phases, by German intrigue and German money. The Bolshevik group which seized power towards the end of 1917, dispersing the Constituent Assembly, opened negotiations for peace. Unable to obtain tolerable terms, Lenin and Trotzky, the adventurers in command, simply declared Russia out of the war. The Germans treated this declaration with contempt, and compelled their dupes or their agents to sign the outrageous treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3. This was based on the pretence of “self-determination” for all the debatable regions lying between Germany and Russia proper, a self-determination which the Germans proceeded to impose for their own profit on the peoples concerned.
Separate governments, more or less republican in form, were set up in the Ukraine, and in Esthonia; Finland was encouraged to declare its independence, with obvious dependence on the victorious Power; Courland and Lithuania were moved to demand the German Kaiser or his nominee as sovereign; a fragment of Poland became a bone of contention between the allied German and Austrian Governments. Incidental results of the treaty were the final betrayal of Rumania, and the admission of the Turks to work their will in Russian Armenia and beyond to the shores of the Caspian; it was understood that the Turanian movement meant further Turkish adventures far into Central Asia, with designs on the North-West frontier of India in the service of German policy.
The authors of the treaty probably did not consider its possible repercussion within their own territories; or in the flush of victories won and expected they thought themselves strong enough to meet the danger. They were deceived. The principle of self-determination, dishonestly accepted and used by them, became more honestly the watchword of the oppressed nationalities within the Austro-Hungarian dominions. It was not long before the Czecko-Slovaks were applying it, and the Allies speedily recognized the State thus formed, with a Government in exile in Paris and a vigorous agitation at home. A similar movement of the Yugoslavs had much to do both with the failure of the Austrian offensive in June and with the subsequent collapse before the Italian advance.
The publication by the Bolsheviks of the secret treaty of London, which assigned to Italy important tracts of Yugoslav territory, made reconsideration necessary, and by the Pact of Rome, arranged in the early summer between the Italian Government and the Yugoslav Committee the projected wrong was remedied. Yugoslav union was also acknowledged by the Allies, and the intended members of the new State, hitherto Austrian subjects, were no longer treated as enemies. It was found also that Bolshevism knew no frontiers. The contagion spread, in part responsible for the Italian disaster at Caperetto, it began to infect even the disciplined army and people of Germany, and the movement which Prussian statesmen had fostered for their own ends became their undoing. How far it will succeed in Germany remains to be seen, but Bolshevism and self-determination together have already gone far to undo the work of Bismarck. Europe east of the Rhine and the Alps has become a welter of disorganized fragments, of which the most hopeful are precisely those Slav nationalities which are throwing in their lot with the Allies. The work of reconstruction and settlement will be the heaviest task of the coming Peace Congress.
League of Nations
That there are statesmen of calibre for the task is not quite evident, but may fairly be hoped. The greatest among them is unquestionably President Wilson, whose present visit to Europe — an occurrence without precedent — sets the seal to his predominance. His idealism, tempered by sturdy common-sense, has proved at once an inspiration and a motive power. The presence of two millions of American soldiers on the battle-fields of France was the decisive factor in the war, and ends the long isolation of the United States. The result is a practical linking up of the whole world. The conception of a League of Nations, which the President has made peculiarly his own, moves apace, though hopes of its speedy achievement are certainly exaggerated. There are nations to be rebuilt from the foundation before it can be constituted.
NOT until January 18, more than two months after the armistice, did the Peace Conference meet in Paris. The delay seems to have been partly due to the preoccupation of the British Government with an unnecessary general election, partly to the inability of the President of the United States to arrive much earlier. It was soon evident that the interval had not been employed in useful preparation, and it had afforded opportunity for the emergence of grave difficulties in the whole Eastern part of Europe, where the total collapse of the Habsburg Monarchy, the ruin of the effective power of Germany, and the anarchy of Russia, had set free nationalist passions and ambitions which were venting themselves in a confused series of petty wars.
Only the victors
The plenary Conference, including representatives of so many allied and associated States, was an unwieldy body, and the conduct of business speedily fell into the hands of the more powerful — the United States the British Empire, France, Italy, and Japan, familiarly known as the “Big Five”. These took practical control of the whole of belligerent Europe, except where the Soviet Government of Great Russia set them at defiance. Peremptory orders were issued to the minor States existing or in process of formation, and Germany was repeatedly called to order by a threatened denunciation of the Armistice.
The Conference departed from all precedents in admitting only the victors; the four defeated Powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey, were allowed no part in it. Peace was to be imposed, rather than negotiated. The scope of the business was immense: it was no case of exacting indemnities and minor cessions of territory, with the revision of former treaties that had lapsed owing to war; a great part of Europe had to be wholly reconstituted, and all the overseas dominions of Germany were at the disposal of the Allies. No such business had ever been attempted before, and there was a conspicuous lack of great statesmen equal to the task.
Danzig for Poland
The chief obstacle was the state of civil war in Russia. A comprehensive treaty was thus made impossible. Failing this, the Peace Conference addressed itself to the task of imposing a treaty on Germany, the one enemy Power which was still, though broken, potentially formidable. At the instance, again, of the American President, the Covenant of a future League of Nations, drafted by a Commission at Paris, in which Lord Robert Cecil with the British delegation took a leading part, was incorporated in the document. This incorporation determined the form of a great part of the Treaty; for to the League was committed the supervision of many of its conditions, notably those concerning the Free City of Danzig, which was to be the seaport of reconstituted Poland, and the former dominions of Germany overseas, the administration of which was to be entrusted to various Powers under a mandate from the League. It was recognized that Alsace-Lorraine had automatically reverted to France by the cancellation of the Treaty of Frankfort.
Onerous terms present or future were imposed on the vanquished enemy, including the restoration of a part of Slesvig to Denmark, the cession of all Polish districts, the surrender of almost the whole fleet, severe limitation of armaments, the occupation of the Rhine Province for a term of years, indeterminate but immense indemnities of reparation to Belgium, France, and the sufferers from submarine warfare.
More unusual, and introducing a new principle international law, were provisions for the surrender of certain persons to stand their trial for criminal acts committed in the conduct of the war, and, above all, an agreement that the dethroned Kaiser should himself be held liable to similar procedure before an international tribunal.
Signing at Versailles
The draft of the Treaty was ready by May 6, and on the following day it was presented to the German delegates convened to Versailles for the occasion, where the plenary Conference met them in the great saloon which was the scene of the proclamation of the German Empire in January, 1871. They were informed that no discussion would be allowed, but that written comments might be considered.
There followed six weeks of angry protests in Germany; notes were delivered to the Conference and answered; some slight modifications were allowed; at last, on Sunday, June 22nd, the National Assembly at Weimar decided by a majority vote to authorize the signing of the Treaty. It was signed by the delegates at Versailles on the following Sunday, June 29th.
German ships scuppered
Much remained to be done before the Ratification could be complete, and the “Big Five” resolved themselves into a Supreme Council, pending the establishment of the League of Nations, to supervise and control the procedure. One step was immediately necessary. On June 21 the world was startled by the news that all the German warships interned at Scapa Flow had been sunk by order of the admiral in command. Admiral von Reuter’s excuse for this act of piracy was that he understood the Treaty to have been rejected by his Government, and the Armistice to have consequently ceased. There is reason for thinking that he acted on provisional instructions secretly conveyed to him some days earlier.
A treaty of peace with Austria has been signed, but this small remnant of a great Empire is in the gravest economic condition. Union with Germany is forbidden, a prohibition which it will be difficult ultimately to enforce against the will of the people.