Puslapio vaizdai

probably, be well within the mark. The supposed equality of forces is, therefore, illusory; and a comparison between the respective fighting strengths based on the number of Allied and German divisions-in which the proportion of combatants to non-combatants is approximately identical-would show a preponderance in favour of the enemy somewhere in the neighbourhood of five to four; a superiority greater than the Allies have enjoyed during their offensive operations on the Western front.

When these facts are considered, there is less reason to be surprised at the large measure of success which has attended each stage of the German offensive. A more efficient system of command, better lateral communications, and a general preponderance of force, together with the advantage conferred by the initiative, have enabled the enemy, on each occasion, to throw superior forces against some weak spot in the Allied line, which, if not previously ascertained, was discovered by attacking, at the outset, on a wide front.

There are also other circumstances that contributed to their success. Their tactical methods differ fundamentally from those hitherto employed by the Allies. They have not adopted the system of the restricted offensive, which appoints a definite objective for each stage of the attack, beyond which the advance is not to proceed. For this formal system, which has the disadvantage of preventing the troops from following up a local success, and of giving the adversary time to repair a weak spot by bringing up reinforcements, they substituted complete freedom of action, relying on being able to confirm a local advantage, and to extend its scope, by the prompt use of reserves. Needless to say, this method was not uniformly successful; and, when it fails, large losses are likely to result from the inability of the artillery to give adequate support to the infantry, with which it inevitably loses touch. But that it proved, on the whole, effective is apparent from the results achieved. It needs a high standard of training on the part of the troops and their leaders in independent fighting, to compensate for the absence of superior control which it involves. It owed its success to the constant maintenance of pressure, which, by allowing the defending troops no respite in which to re-form and entrench, accelerated the

advance. The artillery, except the lighter guns, was outpaced; but this disadvantage was not seriously felt until the Allied reserves were encountered in sufficient strength to bar further progress. It then became necessary to await the arrival of the heavy artillery; and the delay thus caused enabled the Allies to prepare a new line of defence, the attack of which promised to be so costly that the Germans preferred to seek a fresh objective.

When the Germans broke through the prepared defensive zone into the open country beyond, the training of their troops in independent fighting, and the practice which the higher commanders had gained on the Eastern front during the past three years, gave them an advantage over our forces, whose training was not so well adapted for the new conditions. It would be wrong to attribute this lack of training to remissness on the part of the British commanders. As Sir Douglas Haig observed in his despatch on the campaign of 1917, drafts for the army have always been provided too late to admit of their being thoroughly trained before they were required to take their place in the fighting line. Inability to foresee requirements, and the false optimism which has persistently under-estimated the enemy's resources, are responsible both for the defective training of our troops, and for the depleted state of our divisions at the most critical stage of the war.

While it would be rash to affirm that the crisis is past, signs may be perceived which suggest that the situation is undergoing a change favourable to the Allies. At the time of going to press, more than three weeks have elapsed since the onslaught on the French armies was brought to a standstill; and, during the past fortnight, the Germans not only have remained inactive, but have accepted several local rebuffs at the hands of the Allies, who have displayed a spirit of enterprise which was wanting during the similar pause which followed the abortive offensive in Flanders. As on that occasion, the enemy's prolonged inactivity amounts to a tacit confession of failure; while the energetic action of the Allies, which has deprived the Germans of vantage-points in various localities, indicates a change in the balance of forces, which, thanks to the efforts of America, is tending towards equilibrium. The irreparable failure of the

Italian adventure is the heaviest blow sustained by the Germans since the Austrian débacle in Volhynia forced them to abandon their attack on Verdun; and their temerity in entrusting an enterprise of such importance to an ally who, when left to his own resources, had given repeated proofs of incompetence-if not due to inability to provide the stiffening of German troops which, judging from past experience, might at least have averted disaster—was the greatest blunder they have made since, in the early days of the war, they assigned to Austria the task of invading Poland. An Austrian victory was as necessary to the success of their plans for the destruction of the Allied armies in France as it had been in 1914; and the Supreme War-Council were guilty of no exaggeration in describing the victory of the Italians on the Piave as an invaluable contribution to the eventual success of the Allied cause.' It will need all the efforts of the newly appointed German commanders to revive the spirit of the defeated Austrian army, and to urge it to any further exertion.

With the campaigning season half spent, the Germans are still faced by the dilemma which confronted them at its commencement. They have to choose whether they will persist in their endeavour to force a military decision while they retain a local superiority in France which now depends rather on efficiency than on numbers, or conserve their strength for the defensive campaign which, in the event of failure, they must anticipate next year, hoping to gain their ends by indirect methods. Their choice will probably be governed less by military than political considerations, the exigencies of which are best appreciated by the Germans themselves.



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(1) In the Q. R. for April last (No. 455), p. 301, last line and note, and p. 319, lines 8 and 9, for Ralph Nevill, "Florest Etona," read An Etonian, "Eton Memories."'


(2) P. 465, line 2, for 'mountain, built' read mountainbuilt.'

(3) P. 474, line 9 from foot, for 'Ode to Autumn' read 'Ode to Maia.'



No. 457








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