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Jericho was occupied on Feb. 21, and a month later the Jordan was crossed on the road to Amman, a station on the railway twenty-five miles east of the river. On two occasions in March and April an advance was made beyond the Jordan, and mounted troops did some damage to the railway; but, the Turks being in strength, the force had ultimately to withdraw to the west bank of the river. In Mesopotamia our forces defeated the Turks in several engagements, and, before the hot weather brought the operations to a close, had advanced up the Tigris to a point 140 miles beyond Hit; and, on the road to Mosul, had occupied Kifri and Kirkut, and driven the enemy across the Lesser Zab, 150 miles north of Baghdad.
The situation in the Turkish theatre of war has been profoundly influenced by the surrender of Russia. Germany, feeling her position in Persia secure, could afford to disregard our progress in Mesopotamia, and to concentrate the Turkish forces in Palestine, which she regards as the key of the military situation in the East. If the Germans should hereafter be in a position to support the Turks, Egypt, not Mesopotamia, would probably be their objective. The re-occupation of Mesopotamia would not directly affect the situation in Egypt, whereas the conquest of the latter, by severing the communications of the British Empire at their most vital point, would decide the fate of Mesopotamia, and cause us grave embarrassment further east, the nature of which is sufficiently obvious. Moreover, an attack on Egypt would appeal to the Turks, and enlist their best efforts; and, the lines of communication being shorter and the railway system complete, the concentration and maintenance of a large force would be more easily effected.
The enemy's activities in the Middle East have, accordingly, been chiefly of a political nature. The Turks, overcoming the opposition of the improvised Armenian forces, have recovered Armenia, and occupied the southern part of Caucasia; and their Kurdish irregulars, having overrun north-western Persia, are said to be advancing towards the Caspian. These quasi-military operations are, however, subsidiary to the machinations of the swarms of German emissaries, referred to by Lord Chelmsford at the Delhi Conference, who, penetrating by way of the
Ukraine, have begun a fresh campaign of intrigue; the design being, according to hints dropped by the German press, to promote an anti-British agreement between Persia and Afghanistan, the Amir being won over to the side of Germany by promises of territorial extension and of a port on the Mekran coast.
The requirements of the Western front, and the increase of the forces opposed to him, have not made General Allenby's position easier. Being hemmed in on the west by the sea, which, owing to the want of a harbour, is useless for purposes of transport, his line of communication is less secure than that of the Turks, who have ample space for manœuvre. To continue his
advance he would need more reinforcements than are likely to be forthcoming until the situation on the Western front changes definitely in favour of the Allies. His masterly operations during the past campaigning season have, however, secured Egypt against any possibility of attack unless there should be a marked change in the present balance of forces, the prospect of which is remote. The Turks have evidently passed the zenith of their military power; and their resources are definitely on the decline. A successful offensive would be far beyond their means without liberal help from Germany-help which could only be available in the event of Germany being victorious in the West.
On the Western front the Allies have continued to suffer the consequences resulting from the distribution of their forces at the beginning of the German offensive on March 21. The establishment of a war council entrusted with the executive functions of supreme command, while it satisfied political requirements by conveying the semblance of unity of direction, and thus disarmed the critics who had been incited to inconvenient activity by Mr Lloyd George's notorious Paris speech, carried with it certain fresh embarrassments, the influence of which quickly came to light when the capabilities of the new creation were put to the test. It was inevitable that the supreme executive authority should assemble, and keep in its own hands, a considerable force for use as a general reserve. Without such a force its power of directing the course of a
battle would be imaginary, and its claim to supremacy a mere pretence; for it is a truism that, once battle is joined, the ability of the chief command to control the fight is limited to the employment of the reserves at its disposal. When these have been expended, its power of control vanishes; unless, indeed, it should descend to interference with the action of subordinate commanders, a course which, in the past, has usually led to unfortunate results. The general reserve could only be drawn from the armies of the commanders-in-chief in the field, whose forces would, in consequence, be depleted. If this was not one of the causes which resulted in the inadequacy of the forces at the disposal of the British Commander-inChief to resist the German offensive, it is hard to see where an explanation is to be sought.
But the mischief did not end here. Assuming that the original dispositions of the general reserve were the best that could be made under the difficult conditions which existed, its effective use would depend on promptitude of decision, and on rapidity of transport to the points where it could exercise the maximum effect on the operations. A council of war, especially one composed largely of civilians, could only act after deliberation, and on expert advice. The delay involved might well be fatal to the timely intervention of the reserve; especially as the means of lateral communication were far inferior to those at the disposal of the Germans, who, on the front from the sea to the Moselle, held the interior lines, and, consequently, the shorter routes. In the present state of public knowledge one can only judge from results; and it is on this basis that these observations are founded. Whether owing to faulty dispositions at the outset, or to delays in decision and transport, forces drawn from the general reserve generally arrived too late on the scene of action, and came into action in driblets. In the first two phases of the German offensive a week passed before the Allies were strong enough to oppose effectively the enemy's advance; and we have, besides, the spectacle of French, British, and American troops fortuitously intermingled in the fighting line, which has been hailed by the newspapers as glorious evidence of comradeship, but which, in reality, implies inevitable want of cohesion, and, consequently, impaired
efficiency. Those who had been most clamorous in the demand for unity in the supreme command were keenest in their appreciation of a state of things which involves complete dislocation in the command of the troops immediately at grips with the enemy.
That, under such unfavourable conditions, things have not gone worse, is much to the credit of the troops and their leaders; and it testifies to the good understanding and mutual confidence which prevails among all ranks of the composite Allied forces. But the testimony has been bought at a high price, which the troops have had to pay. To claim credit for the supreme command is another matter. The admixture of units, which in previous wars has distinguished bad generalship, has, at the present juncture, become an admixture of different nationalities, each characterised by differences of organisation, method, and armament, and, in some cases, speaking different languages-a serious impediment to command when, as often happens in the turmoil of battle, officers and non-commissioned officers have to lead groups of men belonging to strange units. The inefficiency of the War-Council as the supreme executive authority became so obvious that the objections which had been urged against the appointment of a generalissimo had sunk into insignificance when its functions of command were transferred to General Foch.
The assurance, repeatedly given, that the Allies in France were not numerically inferior to the enemy, is difficult to reconcile with the fact that, in the two phases of the hostile offensive in which the British troops were principally concerned, as well as on the Aisne, the Allied forces were, at the outset, heavily outnumbered by the Germans. The disparity, on some occasions, is stated to have exceeded three to one. That this was so may be attributed partly to surprise, for the Germans showed considerable skill in concealing their intentions; but, assuming the situation to have been correctly gauged. sufficient reserves should have been left at the disposal of the Commander-in-Chief to guard against the effects which actually resulted from surprise. In view of the alleged equality of forces it should have been possible to make these reserves strong enough to guarantee the safety of any part of the front where attack was probable
until the general reserve could come into action; and the dispositions of the latter should have ensured the intervention, at the decisive moment, of a force sufficient to stem the enemy's advance if not to obtain victory. It would seem that the local reserves were not strong enough to gain time for the concentration of the general reserve; or, in other words, that the latter was too far away to arrive in time. Assuming that the dispositions of the general reserve were the best that could be devised, having regard to the means existing for its transport to those sections of the front where it might conceivably be required, the obvious remedy for this state of things would have been to restrict its numbers, in order that the forces at the disposal of the Commander-in-Chief might be augmented; for the safety of the defensive front should have been the first consideration.
But the fact is that the Allies were not so favourably situated. The assurance referred to has been materially qualified by the admission that it was based, not on a comparison of the strength of the fighting forces on either side, but on an estimate of the total numbers, combatant and non-combatant; and this novel method of arriving at the fighting strength of the opposing armies was justified by the amazing assertion that the distinction between the combatant and non-combatant services is merely technical; the latter being necessary for the maintenance of the former, and being, therefore, an integral part of the fighting force. This argument might carry some weight if the proportion between the combatant and non-combatant services were approximately the same in the Allied and German armies in France. This, however, is not the case, because the sea-bases of the British and American armies, and the entire administrative machinery of the French, are in France, and are, therefore, included in the estimate; whereas the bases, recruiting and training organisations, and the greater part of the hospital and other administrative services of the German army, being beyond the frontier, are excluded from the calculation. If, for these reasons, we put the excess of Allied over German non-combatants, employed on purely auxiliary services in France, in the neighbourhood of a quarter of a million, we should,