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   Chapter 2 THE WORLD'S GREATEST CONTEST

The Audacious War By Clarence W. Barron Characters: 13599

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The Censorship-The Warship "Audacious"-Mine or Torpedo?-The Battle

Line-War by Gasolene Motors-The Boys from Canada-The Audacity of it.

The war of 1914 is not only the greatest war in history but the greatest in the political and economic sciences. Indeed, it is the greatest war of all the sciences, for it involves all the known sciences of earth, ocean, and the skies.

To get the military, the political, and especially the financial flavor of this war, to study its probable duration and its financial consequences, was the object of a trip to England and France from which the writer has recently returned.

One can hear "war news" from the time he leaves the American coast and begins to pick up the line of the British warships-England's far-flung battle line-until he returns to the dock, but thorough investigation would convince a trained news man that most of this war gossip is erroneous.

This war is so vast and wide, from causes so powerful and deep, and will be so far-reaching in its effects that no ill-considered or partial statements concerning it should be made by any responsible writer.

The difficulty of obtaining the exact facts by any ordinary methods is very great. There is a strict supervision of all news, and to insure that by news sources no "aid or comfort" is given to the enemy, a vast amount of pertinent, legitimate, and harmless news and data is necessarily suppressed. The censors are military men and not news men, and act from the standpoint that a million facts had better be suppressed than that a single report should be helpful to the enemy. Only in Russia are reports of news men from the firing line allowed.

One hears abroad continually of the battle of the Marne, of the battle of the Aisne, of the contest at Ypres, and the fight on the Yser, but no outside man has yet been permitted to describe any of these in detail, or to give the strategy, beginning, end, or boundaries of them, or even the distinct casualties therefrom. Indeed, it is doubtful if the official histories, when they are written, can do this, for these are the emphasized portions of one great and continuous battle that went on for more than one hundred days.

To illustrate the strength of the hand on the English war news, it may be noted that there is no mention permitted in the English press of such a ship as the "Audacious." Yet American papers with photographs of the "Audacious" as she sinks in the ocean are sold in London and on the Continent. Outside of London not ten per cent of the people know anything concerning this boat or her finish.

This word "finish" would be disputed in any newspaper or well-informed financial office in London where it is daily declared that although the "Audacious" met with an accident, her guns have been raised and will go aboard another ship of the same size, purchased, or just being finished, and named the "Audacious." Indeed, I was informed on "good authority" that the "Audacious" was afloat, had been towed into Birkenhead and that the repairs to her bottom were nearly finished. You can hear similar stories wherever the "accident" is discussed. I have heard it so many times that I ought to believe it. Yet if one hundred people separately and individually make assurances concerning something of which they have no personal knowledge, it does not go down with a true news man. I was able to run across a man who saw the affair of the "Audacious." He laughed at the stories of shallow water and raised guns. His position was such, both then and thereafter, that I was sure that he knew and told me the truth.

Later I learned that the "Audacious" was too far off the Irish coast to permit of talk of shallow water, and that neither guns nor 30,000-ton warships are raised from fifty-fathom depths.

Yet I am willing to narrate what has not been permitted publication in England, and I think not elsewhere: that the mines about Lough Swilly, along the Scotch and Irish coasts, and in the Irish Sea, were laid with the assistance of English fishing-boats flying the English flag. These boats had been captured by the Germans and impressed into this work.

There are also stories of Irish boats and Norwegian trawlers in this work, but I secured no confirmation of such reports.

It is still unsettled in British Admiralty circles as to whether the "Audacious" came in contact with a mine or torpedo from a German submarine. Two of her crew report that they saw the wake of a torpedo. Reports that the periscope of a submarine showed above the water I have reason to reject.

English reports were suppressed-the admiralty claimed this right, since there was no loss of life-in the belief that if the ship was torpedoed by a submarine, the Germans would give out the first report, and thereby be of assistance in determining the cause. But to-day the Germans have their doubt as to where the "Audacious" is, and as to whether or not she was ever really sunk.

Expert opinion is divided in authoritative circles in England as to the cause of the disaster; but more than 400 mines have been swept up along the Irish and Scotch coasts by the English mine sweepers.

While upon this subject, I ought to narrate that the study of this topic has convinced me that the Germans have a long task if they hope within a reasonable number of months to reduce by submarine torpedo practice the efficiency of the English navy to a basis that will warrant German warships coming forth to battle.

Every battleship is protected by four destroyers. Submarines, when detected, are the most easily destroyed craft. They have no protection against even a well-directed rifle bullet. Their whole protection is that of invisibility. Their plan of operation is to reach a position during the night, whence in the early morning they can single out an unprotected warship or cruiser not in motion, and launch against her side a well-directed torpedo, before being discovered.

The place for England's battleships is where they are: in the harbors with their protecting nets down until they are called for in battle. In motion or action, submarines have little show against them.

The Japanese at Port Arthur found that protecting nets picked up many torpedoes and submarines. Since that time, torpedoes have been made with cutting heads to pierce steel nets encircling the warships, but their effectiveness has not so far been practically demonstrated.

It is Kitchener's idea to keep the enemy guessing. Therefore he was rather pleased than otherwise when the story of Russians coming through England from Archangel was told all over the world. The War Office winked at the story and certainly had no objection to the Germans getting a good dose of it. I think that story might have been helpful at the ti

me when the Allies were at their weakest, but they do not now need Russians, or stories of Russians, from Archangel.

The story must also go by the board that a submarine north of Ireland meant either a new type of boat that could go so far from Germany, or an unknown base nearer Scotland.

Submarines as now built could go from Germany around the British Isles and then across the Atlantic-in fair weather.

The eastern boundary of France divides itself into four very nearly equal sections. Italy and Switzerland are the lower quarters of this boundary line; and of the upper quarters Belgium is the larger and Germany the smaller. The southern half of the German quarter boundary is a mountain range and on the open sections stand the great fortifications of France and Germany, regarded by both countries as practically impregnable. The defence of France on the Belgian frontier was the treaty which guaranteed the neutrality of the smaller country.

When Germany's conquering hosts came through Belgium, the war soon became a battle of human beings rather than of fortifications. Neither the French nor the Germans had learned from practical experience the modern art of fighting human legions in ground trenches, but both sides quickly betook themselves to this rabbit method of warfare.

To-day from Switzerland to the North Sea is a double wall of 4,000,000 men, all fighting, not only for their own existence but for the existence of their nationality-their national ideals. They are protected by aeroplanes, flying above, that keep watch of any large movements.

They are backed by 4,000,000 men in reserve and training who keep the trenches filled with fighting men, as 10,000 to 20,000 daily retire to mother earth, to the hospitals, or to the camps of the imprisoned. On the North Sea and the English Channel they are supported by fleets of battleships, cruisers, submarines, and torpedo boat destroyers that occasionally "scrap" with each other, the German boats now and then attacking the English coast and harbors and the English boats now and then assisting to mow down the German troops when they approach too near the coast. But the great dread and key to this naval warfare is the modern submarine.

Submarines, aeroplanes, and motor busses are three elements of warfare never before put to the test; and the greatest of these thus far is the gasolene motor-car. By this alone Germany may be defeated. France and England are rich in gasolene motor power, and supplies from America are open to them. A year ago there were less than 90,000 motor-cars in Germany, and Prince Henry started to encourage motoring to remedy this, but the Germans are slow to respond in sport. Indeed they know little of sport as the English understand it, of sportsman ethics or the sense of fair play in either sport or war. They do not comprehend the English applause for the captain of the "Emden" and stand aghast at the idea that he would be received as a hero in England. When a daring aeroplane flier in the performance of his duty has met with mishap and, landed on German soil, he is not welcomed as a hero. He is struck and kicked.

The German is not to be blamed. It is the way he has been educated to "assert himself," as the Germans phrase it. Indeed, when the captain of the "Emden" was taken prisoner and was congratulated by the Australian commander for his gallant defense, he was so taken aback that he had to walk away and think it over. He returned to thank his adversary for his complimentary remarks. With true German scientific instinct he had to find his defeat in a physical cause, remarking, "It was fortunate for you that your first shot took away my speaking tubes."

The English are sports in war,-too sporty in fact. General Joffre warned General French over and over again, "Your officers are too audacious; you will soon have none to command," and his words proved true. The English officers felt that the rules of the game called upon them to lead their men. They became targets for the guns of the foe, until one of the present embarrassments in England is the unprecedented loss of officers.

This has now been changed and Kitchener insists that both officers and men shall regard themselves as property of the Empire, that the exposure of a single life to unnecessary hazard is a breach of discipline. For this reason Victoria Crosses are not numerous, less than two dozen having been conferred thus far; and it has been quietly announced that no Victoria Crosses will be conferred for single acts of bravery or where only one life is involved. It must be team work and results affecting many.

For this reason also it has been decreed that the 33,000 Canadians in training at Salisbury Plain shall not be put in the front until they have learned discipline in place of the American initiative.

These Canadian boys receive their home pay of four shillings, or $1 per day, while the English Tommy gets one quarter of this amount. The Canadians are fine fellows, feeling their independence and anxious to be on the firing line, but the War Office recognizes that soldierly independence cannot be allowed in this war. It is not improbable that the Canadian troops will eventually be dispersed that their strong individual initiative may be thoroughly harnessed under the organization before they are trusted in the trenches. They are not to be permitted to go there to be shot at, but to use their splendid physiques, fighting abilities, and patriotism-more British than the English themselves-in strict organization.

This is not to be an audacious war on the part of the Allies. It is first a defensive war in which the Germans are the heaviest losers. On the part of the Germans it is an audacious war and its very audacity has astounded the whole world. But Germany never meant to war against the world collectively. That was the accident of her bad diplomacy.

The audaciousness of Prussian war conceptions began in the latter part of the last century. They did not grow out of the war with the French in 1870, for Bismarck's legacy to the German nation was a warning against any war with Russia. The German scheme was concocted by the successor of Bismarck himself, none other than Kaiser William II. He planned a steady growth of German power that would first vanquish the Slav of southeastern Europe and give Germany control through Constantinople and Asia Minor to the Persian gulf; then, as opportunity arose, a crushing of France and repression of Russia; and the overthrow of the British empire; and then the end of the Monroe Doctrine, to be followed by American tariffs dictated from Germany.

This seems so audacious a program as to be almost beyond comprehension in America. Yet it will be made clear in the next chapter.

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