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¡MARCH 14. 1918.
THE WOKK OF THE NAVY.
A aignmca-nce unsuspected by many lurks in Mr. Asqurth'e defence in the House elf Commons this week of the con- duct of the navy. For not everyone ~ aware of the lengths to which the cam- paign of vitupération against those answer ahV for the command of the fleet h_s been carrie- by critics who aro d_sati_fied with the imnreasurable services rendered by that fleet, "not mer&iy in _e_yi_g the use of the sea to German trade, but by render- ing it posible for Greai.^ Bri hin io carry oa tue TT-x at ali. Iii a letter to the
London '-»aily Telegraph" Sir Cyprian Bridge, formerly cemmander-in-ehief on the Australian Btation, says he,has heard all through the war almost nothing else about the fleet but attacks upon it, couched in such word«? as "The navy is rotten/' that it is either "toe proud or afra'd to fight," and that it haa "lost the confidence of the nation." Even moderate commentators who admit the value of its services find fault with what they deem the Jack of vision and enterprise shown in its control; and it is really time the critics were asked to state plainly what they want and whether mry other policy than has been adopted could have produced becter re-
Another question -moy be added-whether a différent policy, especially of the kind itlio amateur strategists appear to favor, could have . been: followed without the gravest disaster. There haa been, thev declare, too much of the kind of service involve- in standing and waiting and too little of the aggressive kind. They want a ¡ess sluggish procedure-in other words, a gamble. Taey have seen armies cutting wire entanglements, storming trenches, and taking forts, and they cannot understand why the Grand Fleet does not also "get a move oin." AVhat is needed to correct such insane notions is a deeper appreciation of the irnmease difference between the
British navy-"the anchor of the Allied cause," as Air. .Lloyd George aptly calls it-V-and the British army. One need not ask for a more'admirable statement ox the case thaa is supplied by the "Daily, Tele- graph" in the remark that "a nation takes risks with its land forces which it cannot accept in the case of its sea forces, .ern anny'can. be created'in a few months; a fleet _ the work of- many years." JNo doubt the misconception as to naval pos- sibilities has been encouraged by such incautious words as Sir. Churchill's, "We shall dig the rats out of their holes," as though an attack could be made on s fleet sheltering, as .the "Daily Telegraph" puta it, "behind minefields, submarines, and destroyers, . guarded'' by the most powerful 'coastal defences .that have ever 'existed, and with Heligoland as an ad- vanced hase, mosquito vessels and aircraft giving this fortress added strength and reach." No Admiralty, no Government could erist" that dared to play ducks and drakes with battleships or battle cruisers that » take three years to build, or even light ' crui- sers that take ' a* year less. A matter, too, of years is the training of officers and men; and in the midst of a war that has made incalculable inroads on man-power dt would he less foolish than criminal to take the risks oí a policy the failure to adopt which has earned ior"*the navy tne condemnation of the thoughtless.
This airy policy of "sail in and wiu" finds no support from the history of naval I ¿warfare; for even in days when coasts
were without the protection of high- j
powered guns, mines, submarine de
stroyers, and scouting aircraft, experienced seamen gave them a wide berth. Indeed, before the present war strategists were .discussing whether a blockade was possible at all; but the war has s>hown that sea power ia- what -it always was, invaluable when properly emplojed. The Dardanelles experiment w-is an illustration of what comes of the misuse of warships, and as the "Telegraph" reminds us, Japan in her two Far Eastern wars, and America in her war -with Spain, did not attempt to assail entrenched fleets, bun waited till their land forces bad seized their bases and forced tneni to sea. And Germany is the last Power with which experiments in tac- tic can be tried, lor her fleet is not so far behind our own in strength as "to Tender it impossible for iier to dream of a time when 'some blunder might place them on an equality. Moreover she may hopo be- fore long to have her navy reinforced by that of. Kussia, whicl> with its sailors de- serting ifc ' is.iin a, sufficiently precarious' position gust nowv^ Yet ia a war with such a foe as Germany the critics are asking' more from* the British navy than it has ever been asked to/ do be- fore. The conditions of naval war- fare do, not-'" lend 'themselves to such decisive coup3 *as are possible on land. The Franco-Prussian war virtually terminated with the battle* of Sedan; but the Anglo-French "war continued for ten years after the French lost their fleet at Trafalgar. Were the war to last long enough the silent, irresistible pressare of the British fjeet would be "tal; but every- one is looking to tbe war to be over before jthe enemy are starved out.