THE FIRST WINTER OF THE WARWhen the war started, the German Kaiser promised his troops that they would be home by fall. The war lasted 4 1/2 years and most of the men that left for the front at the start of the war, would never return. The first winter of the war was especially difficult because both sides were unprepared for winter fighting and lacked supplies and suitable clothing.
The lull which followed the battle of Ypres was not entirely due to the winter season or to the Flanders mud, for both sides had other reasons for quiescence in the West. The Germans had definitely failed in their original plan of destroying the French armies before the Russians could intervene, and they were now threatened with the ruin of their Austrian ally and the invasion of their own Silesian borders. The steam-roller, which had been moving to and fro across the Polish plains, seemed to have at last secured a solid impetus in the forward direction which might conceivably carry it to the Brandenburg Gate by Christmas. Württemburgers and Bavarians might afford to keep their eyes fixed on the Channel ports and their troops in Belgium; but the affections of Prussians were set on their homes in the East, and Hindenburg was calling for reinforcement more clamantly than the Western commanders. Defence was for many a month to be the German strategy in the West, and, in spite of the failure of their higher ambitions, they had secured a good deal worth defending. Belgium, with its great mining and other industrial resources, was theirs to relieve the strain on German labour and raw materials; from the Briey district in Lorraine they were drawing ores without which they could not long have continued the war; and the coalfields of northern France were divided between their owners and the invaders. The strain which the lack of these resources put upon the industries and shipping of Great Britain was incalculable, and the inability of the Entente to defend the French and Belgian frontiers or to expel the invader prolonged the war for at least a couple of years.
There were thus compensations for the Germans if they could merely hold what they had taken from other people; and the Entente on its side had its reasons for quiescence. French reserves, which were too late at Charleroi and Sedan, were in time at Arras and Ypres, but our own were still in the making. A dreadful toll had been taken of the heroes of Mons, and the original Expeditionary Force had been sadly depleted. It was a difficulty which time would remedy, for Great Britain was teeming with recruits in training from every quarter of the Empire. The response to its need had been almost overwhelming, and the Government was hard pressed to embody the hundreds of thousands of volunteers at home and to provide transport for those overseas. At one moment in September the War Office took the extraordinary step of checking the rush by refusing all recruits, however fit, who were less than 5 ft. 6 in. in height; and to arm and equip and train the accepted was a task which required time and a vast readjustment of industry. It was not assisted by a business community which took as its early motto "business as usual," and was mainly alarmed by the fear of unemployment. But the traditions of peace were potent in other than Government circles, and history afforded no precedent for the crisis, nor for the spirit in which it was met by the youth of the Empire, who feared less for their lives than most of their elders did for their profits.
The first source from which the regular forces could be recruited was the Territorials. They had been formed before the war on the idea that they were required merely for home defence, and no one had yet thought of the equivocation that home defence included that of India, Egypt, Belgium, and France, or offence in Mesopotamia and the Dardanelles. There was no need for the Government to rely on that quibble, for the Territorials volunteered almost in mass for foreign service, and the difficulty was to impress Lord Kitchener with the value of a force with which his absence in the East had made him unfamiliar. As it was, some of the best of the regiments, like the London Scottish, put in an appearance at Ypres, while numbers were sent to Egypt and India to release for service in Europe the regular forces there. With them came native Indian regiments, Sikhs, Gurkhas, and Bhopals, whose voluntary service provided the most touching testimonial to its character that the British Empire has ever received; for they did not govern themselves, and it is no small thing to govern others in such a way as to provoke loyalty unto death. No less moving was the response from Dominions which were thought by the ill-informed to be straining at the leash of Imperial domination. The Canadians, having the shortest route, were the first to come, and on 16 October the advance guard disembarked at Liverpool. They were followed by scores and then hundreds of thousands from Australia and New Zealand, and finally from South Africa, where for the moment the task of suppressing rebellion and dealing with German South-West Africa kept them at more immediate duties nearer home. They were all volunteers; for although Canada adopted conscription in the last year of the war, Australia rejected the proposal twice, and it was never made in South Africa; and the splendid colonial troops which covered themselves with glory in the war contained no conscripts among their numbers.
During the winter of 1914-15 Great Britain was a vast camp of men from all quarters of the Empire training for that offensive in the spring on which men's hopes were set. A saying attributed to Lord Kitchener passed from mouth to mouth, to the effect that he did not know when the war would end, but that it would begin in May. Hitherto our forces engaged had been merely an advance guard of our manpower, and it was a common anticipation that the Allied offensive would bring the war to a successful conclusion by the end of 1915. With such hopes President Poincaré cheered the French troops in their trenches at Christmas, and in January a semi-official communiqué announced that the French had broken the German offensive and could break the German defensive whenever they chose. This pleasing illusion was maintained, not so much by a censorship of the truth as by incapacity on the part of those in authority to discern it, and by a natural tendency of the wish to be father of the thought. German communiqués afforded some means of correction, but they were universally disbelieved or discounted as containing an amount of falsehood of which no ally could be guilty, although, until the last few months of the war, they were rather less misleading than our own. Nor was it only official news that was delusive. "The Times," for instance, in January put the total German "losses" down to date at two million and a quarter; and an expert historian debited Germany with a "dead loss, perhaps, of little less than three million by the beginning of April," whereas the casualties barely reached half that figure, and of the casualties a vast percentage consisted of slight wounds which did not prevent a speedy return to the fighting-line. Medical science prolonged the war by reducing disease and restoring the sick and wounded; and the military statistician went as far astray in his prophecies of the exhaustion of Germany's man-power as the economist in his predictions of its bankruptcy and starvation by blockade.
Nevertheless the conviction that, whether we or the Germans attacked, they had double our casualties, comforted the public during the war of trenches; not merely were we holding our own while our reserves in training were mounting to millions, but all the time we were thought to be wearing down the enemy's strength, and his prudent economy in the use of men and munitions was taken as proof of his poverty in resources. His real work in those winter months was done behind the lines in factory and in barracks, and its value was tested and revealed in the coming campaign, which found the front in the West almost precisely where it was left to the autumn. Here and there a village or a line of trenches had been taken, but by different sides, and the balance was hardly worth counting. A sand-dune was captured near Nieuport, a trench in front of St. Eloi, and ten days' fighting round La Bassée, which severely tried the Indian troops, nearly led to the loss of Givenchy, but quite to the gain of a brickfield. Early in December the French took the château of Vermelles and improved their positions at Lihons and Quesnoy, but suffered in January a reverse north of Vailly. In Champagne they captured Perthes in February and made some progress in the Argonne; in the Woevre they nibbled at both sides of the St. Mihiel wedge, while in Alsace they acquired Steinbach but lost the Hartmannsweilerkopf. But against this balance of gain must be set a more subtle but comprehensive loss. The contest was not limited to the occasional bursts of fighting or to the steady endurance required for holding the trenches amid the discomfort of mud and water, bombs and shell-fire. It also took the form of incessant competition in the perfection of surface and underground defences. The Germans excelled in this art; but even if they had not, the silent development of the strength of defence would have told in the defenders' favour when the time came for attack; and it was an advantage which told all along the line and more than atoned for the local loss of a trench or position. The truth was that during a seeming stalemate the Germans made ample provision for holding their lines in the West while they prepared and dealt a staggering blow at their formidable foe in the East.
A week before the Prussian Guard made its final charge at Ypres, Belgians reported the moving of masses of German troops away to the East. We have seen that the need was urgent, for Cossacks were already across the Silesian frontier, and Hindenburg required all the help he could get for his counter-offensive. He was planning an attack from Thorn up the Vistula primarily to strike the right flank of the Russian advance through Poland on Silesia and Cracow, and secondly to menace Warsaw. The command was entrusted to Mackensen, while Ruszky withstood the Germans with his right near Plock on the Vistula, his centre behind the Bzura, and his left stretching out towards Lodz. The Germans attacked all along the line on 18 November, but Ruszky's left seemed to afford the easiest prey; it had no natural line of defence, and Hindenburg's devastation during his retreat in October made the arrival of reinforcements from Ivanov farther south unlikely. Nevertheless Mackensen's most impetuous drive was against Ruszky's centre across the causeway at Piontek; it promised a dramatic success, and nearly ended in resounding disaster. The Russian centre was broken and the left thrust back upon Lodz, where it was attacked on three sides and seemed doomed to destruction. But the wedge was not sufficiently wide; it merely created a pocket in the Russian line. The sides held fast and Ruszky began to close the mouth. For three days, 24-26 November, the Germans fought desperately to get out, and at length the remnant succeeded, owing mainly to the lateness of reinforcements sent by Rennenkampf at Ruszky's request. Troops, however, were rapidly being rushed up to Mackensen's help, and on 6 December the Russian left withdrew from Lodz, the industrial capital of Poland with half a million inhabitants. The advantage of the retirement was to straighten the Russian line in face of the determined effort which Hindenburg was bent on making to secure Warsaw as a Christmas present for the Kaiser (see Map, p. 146).
The line selected for defence ran almost due north to south from the Vistula up the Bzura and its tributary the Rawka to Rawa and thence across the Pilitza to Opocznow. The territory abandoned was well worth the security gained on this line, and for three weeks the Germans stormed against it in vain. A flank attack from the north of the Vistula was driven back by the Russians at Mlawa, and no better success attended the German frontal onslaughts at Sochaczew, where the main road to Warsaw crosses the Bzura, and at Bolimow, where another crosses the Rawka. The Germans spent their Christmas in the trenches instead of in the Polish capital, thirty-five miles away. Somewhat better fortune was experienced by the Hungarian offensive against the Russians in Galicia, which was part of Hindenburg's plan. Dmitrieff was almost in the suburbs of Cracow at the beginning of December, but his left was then threatened by the Hungarian seizure of the Dukla pass, and he had to retreat to the line of the Dunajec and the Nida with his flank drawn back to Krosno and Jaslo. Presently the Hungarians threatened also the Lupkow and Uszok passes farther east; but reinforcements arrived, Brussilov closed the passes, and Dmitrieff's left swung forward again. It did not, however, advance beyond the Biala, and the Russians spent their Christmas as far from Cracow as the Germans did theirs from Warsaw.
Winter, however, brought less respite from war on the frozen plains of Poland than on the sodden soil of Flanders. The first and second attacks upon Warsaw were followed by a third in January; there was a winter battle by the Masurian lakes in February, and a fierce struggle along the Niemen in March; and the Russian offensive across the Carpathians was only stopped by the German spring campaign. The Russians, indeed, were doomed to bear the brunt of the war in 1915, at first with success and afterwards in adversity; for the Germans had reversed the strategy with which they had begun the war. Then they had relied on the defensive in the East while they gathered up all their strength for the crushing of France. That blow having failed, they were now preparing to drive Russia out of the war, while they trusted to their line in the West to hold against any efforts to break it. The change of plan was probably a mistake, though it brought such success at the moment that volatile critics in England were persuaded that the original war on the West had been merely a blind for real designs in the East. At any rate, in the West we had cause to be thankful that the German attacks were but local, and that the serious offensive against Verdun did not come until 1916, when we were prepared to counter it on the Somme.
Meanwhile there was some excuse for the German choice. There was safety enough for the moment in France and Flanders, and events justified Germany's confidence that no Entente attack in 1915 could seriously disturb the German lines. No such grounds for complacence existed on her Eastern frontiers. East Prussia was not yet free, and graver danger threatened the Hungarian ally on which the Prussian relied only less than he did on himself. Galicia was in Russian hands, and Russian man-power was thought to be inexhaustible. The menace on both the Carpathian and the Prussian flanks could only be properly met by destroying the central position in Poland, and persistence in the attacks on Warsaw was essential to German strategy in the East. The frontal attack at the end of January which failed for the third time was followed by a flanking attack on the Niemen which also failed, and then by a drive on the southern flank in Galicia which turned the whole Russian front of 900 miles, led to a wholesale retreat, and precipitated the greatest set-back the Allies suffered in the war. Germany failed against the democracies of the West, she succeeded against a government more autocratic than her own.
During January the Russian centre in front of Warsaw had been weakened for the sake of movements against the enemy's extreme flanks, which were undertaken in response to requests from the Western Powers in order to divert German reinforcements from France and Flanders. There was a fresh advance towards the Masurian lakes in East Prussia, and far to the south Alexeiev captured a Carpathian pass at Kirlibaba. Mackensen took advantage of this dispersion to organize a strenuous attack on the Russian lines near the confluence of the Bzura and the Rawka. It began on the night of 1 February, and the Russians were on the 2nd and 3rd pressed back from their position on the heights at Borzymow and Gumin. But two railways from Warsaw ran north and south of the threatened front, and reinforcements brought up along them stopped the German advance. It would in any case have been held before the still stronger lines at Blonie which were the real defences of Warsaw on the west, and Hindenburg now gave up the frontal attack as hopeless. It was only, however, to turn to the northern flank and repeat his attempt of October to pierce the great chain of fortresses which defended Poland along the line of the Niemen and the Narew from Kovno to Novo Georgievsk.
His movement was further provoked by the Russian raid which had already advanced once more across the border to close on Tilsit, Insterburg, and Angerburg and well to the west of Lyck. Hindenburg was ever fertile in surprises on this familiar ground, and on 7 February his left, commanded by Eichhorn, drove the Russians back along the railway to Kovno, and within a week had occupied Mariampol. His right was also well across the frontier, marching on Grodno and Ossowiec. Superior forces and railway communications accounted for his success, and one Russian corps met with a disaster. But conditions on the Russian side of the frontier equalized matters. The Germans occupied Suwalki and Augustowo, and even crossed the Niemen at Drusskeniki between Olita and Grodno, while farther north they seized Tauroggen. But they were unable to cut the Kovno-Warsaw railway which ran but ten miles east of the Niemen, and Ossowiec farther south successfully stood a siege. By the middle of March Hindenburg had withdrawn his left and centre to cover the Prussian frontier. He had suffered considerably, but his right got off even less lightly.
It was here that his main strategic objective lay. The thrust against the Niemen had been simply designed to drive the Russians out of Prussia and protect the left of the German offensive to the south on the Narew and Warsaw. Since the German failure in December a Russian army had been pushing slowly down the right bank of the Vistula in front of Plock. This movement was checked in February, and the Germans hoped by an advance from Mlawa to get across the Narew south of Pultusk. The centre of the Russian defence was at Prasnysz where eight roads meet, but the defending force was weak, and on 24 February the Germans captured the town. But the extreme Russian left made a heroic stand on the ridge between Prasnysz and Ciechanow against Germans in front and on both sides of them. Their resistance produced a situation somewhat resembling that at Lodz, for a rapid concentration of Russian reinforcements swept round to the help of the flank at Ciechanow, while others attacked the German left at Krasnosielce. The Germans encircling Ciechanow found themselves encircled at Prasnysz, and as at Lodz they had to fight desperately for three days to escape. They were assisted by the rudimentary equipment of the Russian forces; rifles and ammunition were scarce, bayonets and hand-grenades were none too plentiful, and some of the privates are even said to have fought with pitchforks. By such hand-to-hand and bloody warfare the Germans were driven out of Prasnysz back towards Stegna and Chorzele and their flank attack on Warsaw foiled. Ruszky's strategy and Russian heroism had gained one of the most singular victories in the war.
At the other end of the Russian front, along the Carpathians, politics were beginning to exert a powerful influence upon strategy. South-Eastern Europe was reacting to the Serbian successes in December, and Rumania, like Italy, and with similar Latin feelings, was negotiating with the Entente about terms of intervention. On 27 January a loan of five million pounds was arranged by Great Britain, and while we provided financial inducements Russia dispatched a sympathetic force to overrun the Bukovina, a country kindred to Rumania which she might acquire by co-operation. There would be little risk in joining the war if Russian armies could debouch from the Carpathians; and the intervention of Rumania would link up the Serbians with the Russians and envelop unfortunate Hungary on three sides. But the spring was not yet, and Rumania would wait and see. Her king was a Hohenzollern, and his people were divided in their sympathies. If there were Rumanes under Magyar rule across the Transylvanian Alps, there were also Rumanes under Russian rule across the river Pruth; and the filching of Bessarabia by Russia in 1878 still rankled in the Rumanian mind. Bratianu, the Prime Minister, was a cautious statesman, quite capable of seeing that the occupation of the Bukovina by the Russians was a political demonstration rather than a proof of military capacity to burst the Carpathian barrier. But another argument was thus adduced to show the Prussians the need of victory in the East unless they wished the defence of their two existing fronts to be complicated by another in the south. Hungary was their chief economic, political, and military bastion outside their own dominions, and the subtle bond between Magyar and Prussian notions of government, which gave them a common interest in the war, was now drawn closer by the appointment of Tisza's henchman, Count Burian, as Foreign Secretary to the Hapsburg Empire. For Tisza, the Hungarian Premier, was in all but nationality a Prussian Junker, and his domination depended as much upon a Teutonic victory over the Slavs as a Teutonic victory did upon the retention of the Hungarian granary and a bulwark in the south.
The Carpathians were therefore the key to the future of the war and history of south-eastern Europe. The Russians had in the autumn established a solid control of the Galician outlets from the mountain passes, but had made no serious attempt to achieve the far more difficult task of securing command of the foothills south of the range, which alone would enable them to conquer the plains of Hungary. For a mountain pass is like a river bridge-head; one may often possess it without being able to debouch. The Austrians experienced that difficulty in their winter offensive against the Russian flank in Galicia. They made little progress against Brussilov at the Dukla and Lupkow passes, but farther east they seized most of the mountain routes, and Alexeiev was pressed back in Bukovina. Their centre under Linsingen was, however, held up by the Russians at Hill 992 near Kosziowa, and all efforts to dislodge the defenders failed. This defence saved Galicia for the time and prevented the relief of Przemysl, which otherwise would have been certain. For the Austrian right succeeded late in February in recovering Czernowitz, Kolomea, and on 3 March, Stanislau. Reinforcements, however, now reached the Russians; Stanislau was recaptured, the Austrians lost much of what they had gained, and on the 22nd Przemysl weakly surrendered. Its fame as a fortress had been enhanced by its five months' siege since October, but it did not redound to the credit of its defenders. They were superior in numbers to the besiegers, were amply provisioned, and well supplied with heavy artillery and all the munitions of war. Every sort of blunder seems to have been committed by the commander, who apparently regarded the siege as a relief from more arduous work in the field, and capitulated because the repulse of the rescuing expedition foreboded an increase of inconvenience.
The surrender liberated the besieging force for operations elsewhere, and the Russians began a serious effort to surmount the Carpathian rampart. They got well to the south of the Dukla, made substantial progress in the centre through the Rostoki pass, and by the middle of April held the crests for a continuous seventy miles; cavalry penetrated much farther down the slopes, and the Austrians prepared to evacuate the Ungvar valley. Reciprocal raids occurred elsewhere on the Eastern front: the Russians seized and burnt Memel, and the Germans retaliated by the bombardment of Libau. Despite warnings like that of "The Times" Petrograd correspondent on 13 April to the effect that the Germans had not only sent enormous reinforcements to the Carpathians, but had taken charge of the operations, there was general confidence in the West in a coming triumphant Russian offensive. Dmitrieff himself had no suspicion of what was in store until a few days before the storm broke; and a Panslav society in Petrograd passed and published abroad a resolution that in view of the victorious progress of the Russian armies across the Carpathians, the contemplated intervention of Italy in the war was belated and undesirable.
The Russian Government cannot have been ignorant of the weakness of Russian armies, not in man-power, still less in skill or courage, but in artillery and equipment; but it had no conception of the material and mechanical force which Germany was prepared to bring to the urgent task of relieving the pressure on her ally. Nor was it for nothing that Turkey had been cajoled and bribed into making war. Turkish generalship and organization were negligible quantities, but Germany could supply those defects, and Turkish bravery and man-power could be used as a valuable means of distracting Russia's attention and diverting forces from the Polish and Galician fronts. This had been the main purpose of the campaign in the Caucasus which Turkey waged in the winter. They began by seizing Tabriz in the province of Azerbaijan, which though nominally Persian had been for some time occupied partly by Russian and partly by Turkish troops; but the Russians were first across the Russo-Turkish frontier and captured Bayazid, Khorasan, and Kuprikeui. These advance-guards were, however, pushed back by the Turks, whose leader and evil genius, the half-Polish and German-educated adventurer, Enver, had conceived an ambitious design of encircling the Russian armies between Sarikamysh and Ardahan. In December the Turks succeeded in making their arduous way across the snow-clad mountains, and on 1 January they were in Ardahan. But the task would have tried the German Army itself in summer, and Enver had attempted more than he could achieve. His army corps were successively isolated and defeated in a series of engagements collectively known as the battle of Sarikamysh, and driven back across the frontier with heavy losses. Tabriz was reoccupied by the Russians, though they were not able to follow up their victory by the capture of Erzerum (see Map, p. 182).
The other diversion, which the Turks were used to create against the Entente, was in Egypt. British rule, in spite of the vast benefits it conferred, was not universally acceptable to the Egyptian people and still less to Egyptian officials; and chief among those who resented their restriction to the straight and narrow path of honest administration was the Khedive Abbas II. He threw in his lot with the Turks, and was deposed in his absence, while the shadowy Turkish suzerainty over Egypt was converted into a substantial British protectorate. Cyprus, which had been in British occupation since 1878, was annexed at the same time to the British Crown. The Turks had been deluded by the Germans with hopes of recovering their ancient control of Egypt, and they at once began their feeble efforts to realize their ambitions. In November an expedition started from Palestine to cut the Suez Canal, a main artery of the British Empire, and stir the embers of Moslem fanaticism in Egypt. It disappeared in the sands of the intervening desert. Another, better prepared with German assistance, reached the east bank of the Canal at various points on 2 February, but miserably failed to effect a crossing; its only success was its escape, which was partly explained by a sandstorm, and Egypt had rest until the winter brought the campaigning season round again (see Map, p. 352).
The British retort to Egypt and the Caucasus lay in the Persian Gulf and the Dardanelles. The Persian Gulf had long been a scene of British trade and political enterprise to which the inertia of its rulers rendered Persia susceptible; and its position as a possible Russian outlet to the sea on the flank of our communications with India had produced some rivalry for Persian favours. The advent of a third comer in the shape of the Germans, with their plans for a Germanized Turkish Empire controlling the Berlin-Baghdad route, changed the rivalry into co-operation; and an attack on the Turks at the head of the Persian Gulf was an obvious reply to the Turkish campaign in the Caucasus. It afforded an easy means of employing the native Indian army in the common cause without the long sea journey to France or the risks inflicted by northern winters upon sub-tropical races. During the first half of November detachments of the Indian army sailed up the Shat-el-Arab, the joint estuary of the Tigris and the Euphrates, defeated the Turks at Sahil on the 17th, occupied Basra on the 22nd, and cut off Kurna, which surrendered on 9 December. The local Turks were weak in numbers and equipment, and distance removed them from the stimulus of Enver's energy and German organization. It was not until April 1915 that an effective reaction to the British advance was attempted. Then the Turks and Arabs concerted a movement against the whole line stretching round from Ahwaz within the Persian frontier to Shaiba south-west of Basra. The real attack was on Shaiba, and the battle lasted from 12 to 15 April. The Turks were completely defeated, with some 6000 casualties; but the most important effect was to convert the Arabs into our allies. The advantage was pressed in June, and on the 3rd Amara was captured seventy-five miles to the north of Kurna. The way was open for an advance on Baghdad as soon as autumn made exertion possible in that torrid zone (see Map, p. 177).
Sir John Nixon's success in the Mesopotamian delta was, however, but a pin-prick in a distant part compared with the blow that was aimed at the heart of the Turkish Empire in the Dardanelles; and the merits of that famous but ill-starred enterprise, and of the strategy which inspired it, have been one of the most debated questions of the war. Soldiers and civilians, writers and talkers, and even thinkers were divided into two camps, Westerners and Easterners, those who believed that the war could only be won by frontal attack in the West, and those who discerned a way round to victory in the Near or the Farther East. Volumes might be, and no doubt will be, written on this controversy, and its implications have infinite variety. It involved questions of policy as well as strategy, and therefore raised the delicate problem of the relations between civil and military authority. The soldier only deals with armies, and in the field his voice is properly supreme; but policy may be as far above strategy as strategy is above tactics; and policy may dictate a strategy which would not commend itself on military principles. The soldier has nothing to do with the policy, but policy and diplomacy may or may not bring fresh allies into the war and fresh armies into the field; and a strategy which may be unsound on purely military grounds may be completely justified by political reasons. The diversion of a force from the main field of operations where it is needed to a more distant objective, seems suicidal to the general in command; but if, without provoking disaster on the field it has left, it has the effect of turning the enemy's flank, detaching his actual or deterring his potential allies, and inducing neutrals to intervene, it may win a war although it postpones or risks the success of a campaign.
On the other hand, it was urged that the fundamental principle of strategy is to concentrate all available forces where the enemy has concentrated his, beat him there, and thus win a victory which will carry with it the desired results in all the subsidiary spheres. Germany once beaten in the West, it was argued, there would be no need to trouble about the Balkans or the amateur strategy which looked to Laibach or Aleppo as the vital spot in the situation. This principle was erected into a dogma, and dogma is a dangerous impediment to the art of war. War is an art, and therefore consists in the adaptation of varying means to conditions which are not constant. Strategy is not, apart from its mechanical adjuncts, a science in which properties are fixed, axioms can be assumed, and the results of experiments foretold; the combination of two armies and a commander-in-chief does not produce the same uniform result as the combination of two parts of hydrogen and one of oxygen; and formulae are as irrational in war as in any other human art. Dogmas deduced from the experience of some wars are inapplicable to others; and the science of wars between France and Germany becomes mere imposture when it seeks to dictate dogma to wars in which the British Empire is involved. The particular dogma about concentration had three defects: it left the initiative to the enemy, thus surrendering the advantage, secured by the command of the sea, of being able to strike in other directions; it assumed that the enemy could be beaten on that front without disturbance on his flanks or in his rear; and it abandoned the Near and the Farther East to any schemes on which the Germans might choose to employ their own or their allies' subsidiary forces.
No one, on the other hand, imagined that the Western front could be denuded of the armies required to maintain it. The question was really how to use the considerable margin of force between what was essential for defence and what was needed for a successful offensive. Should it be employed for frontal attack in the West, or flank attack in the East? Caution counselled one course, adventure suggested the other. Surplus force intended for an offensive on the West would be available, if need arose, for defence; it would not, if it were a thousand miles away, and our needs in the spring of 1918 seemed to supply an effective answer to arguments drawn from our later successes in the Balkans and in Syria. The antithesis is, however, largely a false one, due to the exigencies of popular debate and the habit of treating war as an abstract science independent of changing but actual conditions. No one denies that a diversion of our main effort from France to Laibach in the winter of 1917 would have been fatal to us in the spring of 1918, but it is not clear that the thousands of troops we lost at Loos and the French in Champagne in the autumn of 1915 might not better have been employed in saving Serbia or forcing the Dardanelles.
There was much to be said for the policy, and even the strategy, which led to the Dardanelles expedition. Flanks had disappeared on the Western front; the lines extended from the Alps to the sea, and it was natural that, commanding the sea, we should seek to turn them farther afield. We had asked Russia to relieve the pressure on our Western front by using her military force in Prussia and Galicia; and it was reasonable enough for Russia to ask us to reciprocate and relieve the Turkish pressure on her flank in the Caucasus by a naval attack on Turkey. The German Fleet lay snug in port beyond the reach of naval power: could not our supremacy on the sea find an offensive function somewhere else? There was, moreover, our own position in Egypt to be defended; no one proposed evacuation, and the best defence of Egypt was a blow at the Dardanelles in the direction of Turkey's capital. It was, in fact, no more a dissipation of forces to send troops to force the Dardanelles than to send them to hold the Suez Canal, and from the point of view of policy, which was even more important, the effect of the expedition might be a concentration of power or Powers against the Central Empires. Serbia had successfully held the gate of the Balkans against Austria: Rumania's intervention would extend the lines of possible attack, Greece inclined in the same direction, and the forcing of the Dardanelles would assuredly have deterred Bulgaria from hostile intervention, and almost certainly have decided her to join a common Balkan move against the Teutons and the Turks. To the war on the Eastern and Western fronts, which was already a German nightmare, would be added one on an almost undefended Southern frontier. Austria could not long resist if Italy also intervened, and the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire would open up an advance against Germany from the south which would circumvent the Rhine and the Oder and turn the gigantic bastion she had constructed in France and Belgium into a house of cards. Well might the Dardanelles expedition be hailed in the press as a stroke of strategical genius and associated with Mr. Churchill's imagination. Easy also is it to understand the concentrated fear and force which the Germans put into Mackensen's coming drive in Galicia.
There is, indeed, less material for censure in the policy of the Dardanelles expedition than in the Allies' decision to couple with it a military offensive on the Western front and to divorce the naval and military efforts in the Aegean. Divided counsels produced divided efforts. Mr. Churchill, backed up, we are led to infer, by Mr. Lloyd George, secured his naval expedition; but he failed, until it was too late, to secure its military complement because the troops were earmarked for costly and premature attacks on the German lines in France. Deprived of this assistance, the naval expedition seems to have relied on the hope of Greek co-operation to the extent of two army corps, which Venizelos was only prevented from dispatching by the vigour of the Prussian Queen of Greece and by the veto of the King. Possibly there was precipitation, for the naval attack did not await the arrival of the military forces, which were before long on the way, extorted, it would seem, by impetuous pressure from a reluctant and unconvinced authority.
For this purely naval attack on the defences of the Dardanelles there is little to be said; for no argument of advantage from success can justify an attempt which is fore-doomed to failure, and history demonstrated beyond a doubt the strength of modern forts against the modern battleship. Nor was it in the Dardanelles a test between an ordinary sea attack and a normal land defence. The strength of the position attacked was trebled by the forts on both sides of the channel and by its twist at the Narrows, which enabled the land batteries to concentrate fire on the attacking fleet from in front as well as on both flanks. There was no room to manoeuvre in a channel less than a mile in width, and even when the mine-fields had been swept, the Turks could send fresh mines down the constant stream, and discharge torpedoes from hidden tubes along both shores. Against such formidable defences even the guns of the Queen Elizabeth were an inadequate attack, and forts that were said to be silenced repeatedly renewed their bombardment.
The first stage of the attack began on 19 February; it consisted in demolishing by concentric fire the outpost fortifications at Kum Kale and Cape Helles. This proved comparatively simple, and after a week of bad weather the mine-sweepers were able to clear the channel for four miles. It was a different matter when the real defences in the Narrows were attacked early in March. The chief bombardment was from outside in the Gulf of Saros, where it was hoped that the guns of the Queen Elizabeth and her consorts would by indirect fire dispose of Chanak and the other forts. None of them were, however, silenced with the possible exception of Dardanos, and Turkish howitzers, cunningly concealed in the scrub along the shore, provided an unpleasant surrise by hitting the Queen Elizabeth. Nevertheless, it was thought that enough had been effected to justify an attempt to force the Narrows on the 18th. Three successive squadrons of British and French ships were sent up the Straits, but the Turks had only waited till the channel was full of vessels to release their floating mines and land-torpedoes. First the French Bouvet, then the Irresistible, and thirdly the Ocean were struck by mines and sunk, the Bouvet with most of her crew. Three battleships and 2000 men had been lost in an attack which did not even reach the entrance to the Narrows; and for six weeks occasional bombardments hardly concealed the fact that the frustrated naval attack was awaiting the co-operation of the army to give it some chance of success.
More progress was happily made during the winter in still more distant spheres, although the conquest of German colonies was regarded by the pure strategist as belonging to the illegitimate and divergent rather than to the legitimate and subsidiary type of military operation. Policy may, however, outweigh strategy, and the circumstance that the victor only retains as the price of peace his conquests, or part of them, made in war, extenuates if it does not justify divergent operations. They were divergent enterprises which gave us India, Canada, and the Cape of Good Hope; and assuredly the defeat of Germany on the Western front would not alone have brought German colonies under the sceptre of a League of Nations. Even from the point of view of a strategy limited to Central Europe these operations had their value; for they enlisted against the common foe forces which would certainly not have been employed had we merely stood on the defensive in the overseas Dominions, and when their work was done in distant parts these forces gravitated towards the centre with a weight which would have grown more crushing had resistance been prolonged. Only surrender by the enemy stayed Allenby's and Marshall's Oriental hosts in Asia and anticipated the arrival on the Western front of further aid from Africa. A blow at the heart may be the normal strategy, but it is not the only nor always the best means of dealing with an antagonist clad in a breastplate of steel.
The scene of the least successful of these colonial wars was still East Africa. The reverse of Tanga in November was followed by another at Jassin on 19 January, and at the end of the winter the Germans could claim that their territory was clear of our troops while several German detachments were in ours; but we had seized the island of Mafia off the mouth of the Rufigi and declared a blockade of the German East African coast. On the other side of the continent we made steady progress in reducing the vast territory of the Cameroons; but the success of the season was Botha's conquest of German South-West Africa. The last remnants of the rebellion under Maritz and Kemp were stamped out at Upington on 3 February, and on 14 January Swakopmund was captured from the sea. Botha selected that as his base, while Smuts directed three columns farther south. The first advanced on the capital Windhoek from Luderitz Bay, the second from Warmbad near the Orange River, and the third from Kimberley. The second, under Van Deventer, had the heaviest work, but the fighting was not as a rule severe. The campaign was a triumph of forethought, strategy, and organization which left the Germans no choice but a series of retirements, culminating in the surrender of Windhoek on 12 May, and the capitulation of the entire remaining German forces at Grootfontein on 9 July.
On the sea the Germans had abandoned hope of victory. The balance of power in our favour, which had been insufficient to relieve Jellicoe of considerable anxiety, began to increase rapidly with the completion of the Queen Elizabeth class in April; and Germany turned her anticipatory gaze towards her submarines. Just as Napoleon's efforts by means of the Berlin and Milan decrees to ruin us by war on commerce came after the final collapse of his naval ambitions at Trafalgar, so Germany's submarine campaign followed upon her recognition of the hopelessness of her naval situation. On 18 February she proclaimed the waters round the British Isles a war zone in which enemy merchantmen would, and neutrals might, be sunk by submarines irrespective of the risks to non-combatants and neutrals. This was a flagrant violation of the rules of international law which safeguarded the shipping of neutrals, and only sanctioned the condemnation of contraband goods in prize courts, and the destruction of enemy vessels when they could not be taken into port and provision had been made for the safety of their crews and passengers. The German submarines were not in a position to guarantee any of these conditions; and trading on the legal maximum that no one can be required to do what is impossible, the Germans claimed immunity from these obligations.
To this the British Government replied on 1 March with a blockade which was more humane and more effective, but none the less involved an autocratic extension of belligerent rights. All oversea trade with Germany was to be as far as possible intercepted; goods, whether contraband or not, were at least to be detained; and the right of search was to be rendered more secure by being exercised in British ports, to which neutral ships were brought, instead of on the high seas amid the danger of submarine attack. These measures inflicted no loss of life and no loss of property that was not contraband. But they made havoc with the ideas that neutrals were entitled to trade with both belligerents, and that neither belligerent could intercept commerce which did not directly serve for military purposes. It was not, for instance, a breach of neutrality to sell munitions to a belligerent, though belligerents were entitled to seize them if they could; and we ourselves bought vast quantities from the United States. America was, however, deeply attached to that "freedom of the seas" which enabled neutrals to sell, without interference, goods which were not contraband, to either belligerent; and our extension of contraband to cover food supplies gave deep offence. The difficulty arose not only from the inevitable tendency of law to disappear amid the clash of arms, but from the modern absorption of all energies, civilian as well as military, in the warlike operations of the State. The food of civilians making munitions became a vital element in the conduct of war, and the distinction between civil and military purposes was lost in the fusion of all activities for a common end.
Disquieting as was the course of military operations during the spring, the diplomatic situation caused even more anxiety; and public opinion was as impervious to the one as to the other. American protests against our action on the seas were received with ill-concealed resentment, popular newspapers adjured the Government to "stand no nonsense from the United States," President Wilson's name was hissed by British audiences, and the man in the street seemed bent on estranging the neutral on whose assistance we were in the end to rely for victory in the war. It needed all the resources of an unpopular wisdom and diplomacy to steer between the Scylla of alienating friends by our blockade and the Charybdis of being, in Mr. Asquith's words, "strangled in a network of juridical niceties." The Germans came to our aid with a colossal crime. On 7 May the passenger-ship Lusitania was torpedoed off the south coast of Ireland with the loss of 1100 souls, many of them women and children, and some of them Americans; and the news was hailed in Germany with transports of delight from ministers of religion and all but an insignificant section of the people; medals were officially struck to commemorate the deed. British lives had been lost through Russian action off the Dogger Bank in 1904 without provoking war, and the sinking of the Lusitania did not precipitate war between Germany and the United States. But it eased the friction over our blockade, and gave for the first time some general American support to the pro-Entente sentiment which had from the beginning been strong in the New England States. A moral force was created in reserve which would in time redress the military disasters which the Entente had yet to encounter.