The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
New Zealand in the Next Great War
New Zealand in the Next Great War.
The Continent of Europe is at the present time armed to the teeth. It would appear as though some horrible rumour were abroad which terrifies the nations with unforseen dangers, the more terrible because arising from sources the least apprehended of, and which cause mutual distrust among the nations from one end of the Continent to the other.
At the present moment there are standing under arms in Europe some 3,690,000 soldiers, whose numbers, should it be deemed necessary, would be immediately raised to 16 millions of trained soldiers, and could be swelled to a figure greater than 17 millions. And these troops are armed with the deadliest weapons the world has ever known.
In the days of Timur the Tartar and of Sultan Bajazet, huge armies existed—armies which fifty years ago were looked upon as stupendous—but their numbers and powers of destruction fade into nothingness when compared with those of the armaments of the present day. Never before in the world's history have such armies existed, neither in point of numbers nor in powers of destruction, as those that terrorise the world in these cultured times—so much so, that, we shrink from contemplating the awful carnage that would occur should war break out—armies which are a burden to page 2 the countries which support them; whose ranks are filled wit's millions of men who would otherwise be swelling the agricultural and commercial wealth of their respective countries or be following the arts of peace, whereas they are a menace to the prosperity of other nations and a hindrance to the people to whom they belong; armies which are the curse of the world.
One naturally asks "How have things come to this pass?" The answer is simple to give. These stupendous armies exist through the mistake of the great German statesmen of 1871, and the pride and hot-headedness of the French nation—and for their awful powers of destruction we have to thank the much-lauded powers of Modern Invention and Science, child and mother, a pretty pair, bringing the mean of ease and comfort in one hand and, in the other, holding the menace of death.
What has been described as the greatest political blunder of the nineteenth century—the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by Germany in 1871—caused France to re-organize and develope her military resources, with the object of, one day winning back the lost territory, and thus of healing her wounded pride. To have been conquered is painful enough to France, but to have been conquered by the despised German, the now hated German—the thought is unbearablell
Germany has been forced, in turn, to arm in the same proportion as her dangerous neighbour. And so the two great armies sprang into existence, and the other Powers, feeling uneasy in the presence of such armaments, in turn increased their armies, and perfected their military organisations—all except England, and she has felt that an immense army would be of little service to her in case of war—until the enormous figures which I have quoted have been reached. And, while the armies thus increased, every effort has been made by scientific inventors to perfect the means of destruction to be placed in the bands of these myriads of soldiers—and, truly, those means have been brought to an awful state of perfection; the last invention for destroying life being that of M. Turpin, the inventor of the famous page 3 melinite gun, who boasts that he has perfected a weapon capable of discharging a fabulous number of missiles per minute and worked by electricity.
But why, it may be asked, has England abstained from the enormous military extravagance indulged in by the five Great Powers and, to some extent, by the lesser States?
All England's interests are maritime: the sea is her kingdom: her wealth is dependent on her commerce, which is conducted entirely by sea. The British Empire is invulnerable to the huge territorial armies existing, save in India only, so that, while the command of the sea is ours, commerce flourishes and our people, over 300,000,000 in number, are in security and unthreatened by the calamity which territorial war could bring upon them.
Though our naval heroes of the Elizabethan time and the indomitable Blake did much to make England's fame at sea what it is, yet it is from the year 1674 (the year when peace was concluded with the Dutch who, it must be owned, for a short time had England at their mercy) that in truth our sovereignty of the seas dates. Since that year we have been unquestionably the first naval Power.
The Ocean is the possession of the British nation, and upon our sovereignty of the seas depends our existence as an Empire—so long as we can hold our possession, we are perfectly safe. And, although the possession of the sea necessitates a large naval equipment, we are justified in spending every penny needful for building the warships that are required to make our sovereignty unquestioned.
Should any foreign power, anxious to wrest this sovereignty from us, increase her Navy to such proportions as to outnumber our own; or should two or more foreign nations suddenly effect an alliance which should give them a combined naval force superior to our own; if either of these two emergencies suddenly occurred, it would be our immediate duty to spare no money or labour in building such a numbs of warships as should give us once more the necessary superiority. Even the great Cobden, who is said to have established the 'no foreign politics' theory, gave it as his opinion that, if France should by secret means suddenly endeavour to outnumber us in our naval establishment, he would immediately propose the voting of as great a sum of money as £100,000,000, should that sum be required for building the necessary warships.
But, it may be asked, what is the proportion in which our Navy should stand to those of other naval powers so as to give us the unquestioned superiority, which is necessary to the safe conduct of our commerce and to the safety of our Colonies from invasion? This question necessitates an argument.
In order that our merchant-ships may cruise in safety is times of war as well as of peace—and the importance of the inter-communication thus afforded will be understood when page 5 it is said that Great Britain, upon whose freedom from Invasion our freedom in these Colonies depends, cannot subsist upon the food produced within its limits, but depends largely upon supplies sent from abroad—in order that the integrity of the Empire may be maintained, it is necessary for us to be in a position to immediately blockade each military port of our enemies with such a naval force, superior to that of the enemy within it, that we could annihilate their ships should they put to sea; and to hold in reserve a sufficient force to sweep from the surface of the the ocean such war-ships, opposed to us, as might remain at large.
This policy was first adopted by Lord St. Vincent in 1803, and was crowned with the greatest success, and it is the policy recommended by the Committee on the Naval Manœuvres of 1888, which Committee consisted of three Admirals of the Navy, and whose opinion it was that we should possess a force of battle-ships sufficient to place five ironclads to watch every three of the enemy's in their harbours, and to hold in reserve a fleet such as is usually-deemed sufficient to defend the English Channel. In other words, to carry out this naval policy we should possess about twice as many ironclads and protected cruisers as are possessed by any foreign Power or combination of foreign Powers that may be, in any way, likely to go to war with us.
Let us see whether we possess such a naval superiority. Compared individually with the great maritime nations, Prance, Italy, Russia and Germany, Great Britain has the greater number of ironclads. But France combined with either Italy, Germany, or Russia would outnumber us.
Since then many ships have been added to the above Navies, especially in the case of France. During last year; France launched 4 battle-ships, 6 cruisers, 1 torpedo cruiser 2 torpedo boats, 1 submarine boat; and since 1892 Russia has built 24 torpedo boats, besides other vessels, and will launch this year 3 ironclads, 2 torpedo rams and 8 torpedo boats.
The Austrian Navy consists of 14 ironclads, 12 torpedo gunboats, 62 torpedo boats, besides 62 other vessels.
To which will be added almost immediately 5 ironclads, 14 cruisers, 7 torpedo gunboats, 1 torpedo catcher. Besides which 1 ironclad, 2 sloops, 3 torpedo catchers are in course of construction. And large additions are contemplated.
More perfect figures can be obtained when the Naval Annual for 1894 reaches us; however, with additions to the Navies of foreign nations, the above lists give, nearly, the number of ships of war that could be put to sea in case of war.
And, should peace be broken with us, what would most likely be the naval forces opposed to us? One thing is certain, we should have to fight no one of the above Navies by itself. We should have to fight either Germany and Italy and Austria together, or else France and Russia together.
The former emergency is highly improbable, but the latter is considered possible.
At the latter end of last year, France and Russia entered into a secret Alliance—we all remember the telegrams conveying news of the extraordinary antics displayed by the French towards the sailors of the Russian Fleet when in Paris last October. To support my statement as to the secret Alliance between these two Powers, I would quote from the famous article by Admiral Maxse, in the 'National Review':—"As far as appearances go the Russian-Franco Alliance is a fait accompli . . . . If the extraordinary fraternization and embracing which took place in the streets page 7 of Paris did not mean an alliance, there was no meaning in the demonstration . . . . Although official France would fain reassure England, we know the immediate consequence of the entente has been that the Russian and French Chancelleries have been working together wherever there has been a conflict of French and English interests. If France can always rely upon Russia to support her when there is a difference between France and England, that is bad for England; and it is equally bad that in Russian and English disputes the former can rely upon French support. We have thus two Powers always united against us."
Besides this isolated opinion, it is evident that the population of Britain is awake to the danger that exists through the Dual Alliance, or else why the loud demands to sell the Suez Canal Shares in order to at once build sufficient warships that our Navy may outnumber that of the Dual Alliance? Why is the whole of England in a ferment over the question of our Naval superiority?
It is indeed a recognised fact that France and Russia have entered into a secret Alliance. Therefore there is a combined fleet of 97 Ironclads, 104 Cruisers, 131 Sloops and Gunboats, 282 Torpedo Craft, and 1 Submarine Boat (not counting all the recent additions to the French and Russian Navies) which might possibly be opposed to our fleet of 80 Ironclads. 121 Cruisers, 128 Sloops and Gunboats, 167 Torpedo Craft, and 1 Torpedo Ram (counting the ships that will be 1 completed during the present year to March.)
Have we, therefore, a sufficient Naval force to carry out the policy recommended by the three Admirals, the policy pursued by Lord St. Vincent in 1803, the policy which alone insures perfect safety to our trade in time of war?
Have we twice the number of warships that any Naval Power or combination of Naval Powers might bring against us? No.
However, is there any possibility of war being declared between the Dual Alliance and Great Britain?
Truly, there is no likelihood of such a war if England be left to declare it. Our interests demand peace, our commerce page 8 is fostered best under conditions of peace, our young Colonies need peace in order to develope their resources. The Englishman does not hate war, but he does not court it He fights, if it is necessary, and sets to work circumspectly and with a will, and heretofore he has always, save once, come out of the melee successfully. But his instincts incline him to commerce, and therefore to peace.
It will then only be under great provocation that Great Britain will declare war with the Dual Alliance.
Is, however, the Dual Alliance likely to proclaim war against Great Britain? If we shuffle out of Egypt, and so endanger our communication with India; if we disclaim all interest in the welfare of Turkey and the independence of Constantinople; if we sever our lately made treaty with the Ameer of Afghanistan; if we withdraw our fleet from the Mediterranean and surrender the sovereignty of the seas; if we agree to forfeit our position as the greatest commercial nation of the world, then, probably, No. If Lord Cromer's threat to oust the Khedive, should he again prove refractory, be carried out; should the pacific Czar be blown up or be poisoned, as he appears to be afraid may be the case any day: should Russia on the strength of her newly formed Alliance make a step towards Constantinople, or encroach on the Ameer's border; should a score of other things happen, then, possibly, Yes. To quote again from Admiral Maxse:—"Russia is an aggressive Power, and aggressive in a direction which must ultimately force a war upon England. Every good Russian frankly admits that Russia's slumbering ambition is to occupy Constantinople and extend southwards . . . . Should we resist her attack on Turkey in Europe, or the extension of her power in Asia Minor? Over this Great Britain has a Protectorate. It depends rather upon the Government which is in office at the time. Suppose Great Britain declines to defend Turkey, another challenge and occasion for war will arise later, when English prestige has been damaged by her previous inaction: India will be threatened, and, I take it, that at this last ditch of our supremacy as an Oriental Power, we shall stand and page 9 employ the whole resources of the Empire to defend India from Russian invasion . . . . To the French people the Alliance (with russia) means—whensoever the propitious moment may arrive—a war for the recovery of the provinces (Alsace-Loraine),—or it may mean a war with detestable Albion . . . . Our future relations depend on her own disposition."
But a war with Russia now means a war with France too, and a war with France means a war against Russia.
The 17th of December last was the centenary of the recapture of Toulon by the French. That town had been occupied by the British at the invitation of the Dauphin and a large proportion of the inhabitants, and when we evacuated it on the approach of a force of 60,000 Republican troops, our ships conducted 15,000 of the inhabitants to England for protection. Of the remainder of the inhabitants, nearly one half, 7000 souls, were massacred with the most diabolical cruelty, irrespective of age or sex, by the Republican troops of their own nation.
However, last December the present inhabitants of Toulon celebrated the centenary of the recapture of their city from the British. At the celebration of that centenary, a patriotic Frenchman, M. Deloncle, made a most vehement and unbridled speech, attacking England, which country was, he said, "the implacable enemy of his race." This incident is worth noting
The Melbourne 'Age' lately printed these ominous words—"Russia alone is to be feared as England's death foe. The future is to England or Russia; and whether it shall be to us or her we must decide without delay. Unless there were grounds for more than disquiet, Lord Roseberry would never have uttered warning words to the departing Viceroy of India, and we trust that Lord Elgin's words of quiet determination are a happy augury of the future. We English have prided ourselves on our ability to realize facts, and to face them with a calm and firm courage. The vigour of the English nation is yet alive, though perhaps a little enervated by peace and prosperity. But it is there, and if the call on page 10 it shall come it will be displayed as in the past. He is no true man who despairs of the state. Yet one thing there is and this that we must make ready our house and be strong and prepared for whatever may happen. This is the only way It preserve ourselves and the Empire built up by our forefathers with so much blood and treasure; this is the only way to be true to the great traditions of our race." And never did simple, strong words contain greater truth. 'Haud semper erret fama.'
There is—it is evident to everyone who has any knowledge of European politics—a possibility of our being precipitated into a war with the Dual Alliance, almost at any time.
It is also a fact beyond dispute that the combined fleets of France and Russia outnumber our own.
What then is the course that our Statesmen should follow at the present junction of affairs? Some would advise that Great Britain join the Triple Alliance, and seek shelter in that way. Some would advise the immediate building of sufficient warships to successfully cope with the Navies of the Dual Alliance, and this, it is calculated, would necessitate the immediate expenditure of £23,000,000. Some, the little-minded, no-minded folk, say 'All is secure. Do not fear. There will be no war. And even if there were, it would not come this way' and then they refix their minds on the making of money, which is all in all to their souls, blind to the fact that the gold which they so cherish is the attraction which is likely to bring war their way. Great Britain's territories, which are her wealth—India, Australia, for example—are possessions which would prove a welcome prize to the Russian and French nations should those Powers be able to acquire them.
Neither is it wise to lull our minds into a sense of security by saying broadly, as Mr. Gladstone does, that the tonnage of our Navy is greater than that of Russia and France combined, and therefore to infer that our superiority is unquestioned. The tonnage of the Invincible Armada was 59,120 tons and that of our opposing fleet 29,744 tons, and yet this feature of strength did not save Spain from disaster.page 11
And for aught we know the very hugeness and unwieldiness of our great battle-ships may be a curse to our naval Strength rather than a blessing. To make a perfect critical comparison between the Navies under consideration, it would be necessary to compare not only the tonnage but the state of the guns, the build of the vessels, their rate of speed and consumption of coal, the number of naval depots, the position and condition of the coaling stations and dry-docks, the state and organisation of the reserves, and a great many more features the comparison of which would fill a volume. A very searching comparison has been made by Mr W. Laird Clowes, and published in the Nineteenth Century, of the Mediterranean Fleets of Great Britain and France. He shows that in that sea France has more ironclads than we have, that the average age of the French ships is about six months younger than that of the British ships, that though the tonnage of the French fleet is less than ours their average speed is greater, that the French Mediterranean fleet carries 654 guns to our 592, that the French bases of operation are stronger than ours in that sea, that her naval docks are more in number and in a better condition of usefulness than ours, that her naval reserves are superior to our own. "All of which I think," he says, "helps to bear out my contention that navally France is stronger in the Mediterranean than we, and further that she is much readier."
In the Mediterranean, France has 18 ironclads, 3 armoured cruisers, 7 protected cruisers, 1 unarmoured cruiser, 4 torpedo cruisers, 3 armoured gun-vessels, 6 torpedo gun-vessels and 81 torpedo boats.
In the same sea, we have 11 ironclads, 3 armoured cruisers, 1 unarmoured cruisers, 4 smaller cruisers. 1 torpedo ram, 2 torpedo gun vessels, 1 coast defence ironclad, and 12 torpedo boats. Our deficiency in this sea is obvious without enumerating the Russian Mediterranean fleet. Another writer, signing himself Nauticus, and writing in the Fortnightly Review upon the question of our naval supremacy, says, "Great Britain is dreaming while the world is hastening onward with ever increasing rapidity. Her sea-power has page 12 ceased to be convincing, undoubted, recognised. To-morrow it could be shattered, perhaps immediately, by France alone if only France had no other preoccupation, and if she wed assured beforehand of Italy's non-interference. For the citadel of British sea-power, the vantage-point upon whin rests the centre of the British position in Europe is the Mediterranean, and, excluded from the Mediterranean, the United Kingdom would, in a few years, be no weightier factor in international politics than the Netherlands on Denmark."
The French Minister of Marine, Admiral Le Fevere, replying to M. Lockroy who had brought charges against the condition of the French Navy, corroborated the statements of the two writers just quoted. He declares the French Fleet, guns and projectiles to be superior to those of Great Britain. The faults that exist in the French Fleet are he says, of no serious nature. Then it must not be forgotten that the Russian Fleet must be taken into consideration in conjunction with the French Fleet.
It is interesting to notice that Mr. Gladstone distinctly denied these assertions, when he lately referred to our superiority of tonnage. He pointed out that, of what are calls first-class battle-ships, we have 19 while Russia and Flaw have 14 together. With his usual cunning, Mr. Gladstone directs the notice of his audience to that point in his subject which gives him the advantage. However, he never said anything about our numerical deficiency to carry out the policy of the three Admirals, he never remarked that those very first class battle-ships, that he so vaunted in, have been severely criticised since the Victoria catastrophe, he never mentioned the behaviour of H.M.S, Resolution in the Bay of Biscay, when officers and men thought their ship might capsize any moment in the gale that overtook them. It is not sufficient to take one class of ships and build a comparison that.
I regret the fact, but it appears to be beyond all doubt that through the sudden Alliance of France and Russia a fleet has sprung into existence which is in the matter of iron- page 13 clads, sloops and torpedo craft numerically superior to our own, but slightly inferior in the number of gunboats, and in the number of cruisers inferior by 17 (and this after counting all the additions made to the British Navy and not counting all the additions made to the French and Russian Navies). In other matters, such as physique and training, quality of weapons, speed and condition of ships, though I have no space or opportunity of comparing with accuracy, I am well within the truth when I say that France is as ready to go to war as we are; some writers and the French Minister of Marine assert that she is readier.
The methods of Naval warfare, as pursued in the next war, art almost unknown factors—but it is tolerably clear that the torpedo and the lighter, quick craft will play a very important part, and in the matter of torpedo craft and sloops the Dual Alliance has a numerical superiority over us, and further, in the matter of French torpedo boats, it has been asserted, by an English authority who has had the opportunity of seeing the last named craft at work, that they are superior to our own not only in numbers but also in the manner in which they are worked.
It is evident, therefore, in the case of war breaking out between the Dual Alliance and ourselves, that the famous and comfortable policy of Lord St. Vincent, namely that of blockading the enemy's naval strongholds before her ships could put to sea, and then of sweeping from off the ocean her stray vessels of war—which plan of manoeuvring would require a numerical superiority on our part of about two to one—is perfectly impracticable.
What other method could be adopted? Seeing the enormous coast line we would have to defend against attack, and considering the comparatively small coast line to be defended by France and Russia, it would seem that it would have to be a method of defence on our part.
The plan adopted by Lord Howe would appear to be the one we should be forced to fall back upon. His plan was to station a strong fleet at the mouth of the English Channel with a reserve at St. Helen's, and thus be in a position to page 14 defend the English Channel, which is the highway to the heart of the country—London. Of course, at the present time, when our Colonies would have to be defended, fleets would be stationed so as to guard our coasts, abroad as well as at home. Dilke and Wilkinson point out that this plan 'leaves the enemy's fleet free to proceed to any part of the ocean, to support his cruisers, or to make raids upon our; own coasts, such as those which have been illustrated by naval manœuvres of recent years. . . . . . . .This plan would leave our sea-borne trade exposed to attack of a character far more serious than any that is possible if the blockading or masking policy be adopted, and would expose the communications between the various ports of the Empire to the enemy's attack until such a time as our Admirals had solved the exceeding difficult problem of finding and of forcing to fight an enemy's fleet which had for its first object to avoid a decisive encounter.'
It is perfectly plain, in the case of war breaking out between the Dual Alliance and Great Britain, that our Empire would be harassed at its weakest points. Thou points are, as it was with the Roman Empire, her Colonies.
Though we New Zealanders hold dear the prosperity and safety of our sister Colonies in Australia, in the East and West Indies, in Africa and in North America, yet it is but natural that we should consider our own position to be of the first importance. With this plea at the end of my pen. I shall therefore proceed to speak of the defence of this Colony against attack, overlooking the other Colonies, and considering Great Britain—the dear Mother of us all—safe, beyond all doubt.
In the first place, we are comparatively of small importance when compared with other parts of the Empire: and secondly, we are at the very Antipodes of the Earth-blessed fact! It therefore follows that we have but a comparatively weak defending-force stationed so as to protect us from invasion. There are half a dozen gunboats stationed in the Pacific Ocean which might avail us somewhat, but our defence would mainly depend on the Australian fleet. page 15 This fleet consists of one ironclad and eleven cruisers and gunboats, whose duty it is to protect the coasts of New Zealand and Australia, some nine or ten thousand miles of coast-line in all. We should therefore have something like one ship and a half to defend the whole of New Zealand after the other Australian Colonies had been provided for, and supposing the fleet to have been divided. Supposing the fleet to work in a body, it might, with great possibility, be assiduously guarding, let us say Sydney, whilst the enemy's squadron was bombarding Auckland, or vice versa-since nothing is more difficult than to find an enemy's fleet at sea.
Being at the Antipodes gives this advantage to us, that a hostile fleet to reach us from Europe would have to come a great way, and would be forced to run the gauntlet of our fleets stationed in other seas and would also be subjected to the risk of falling short of coals and provisions.
However, in the case of the famous French expedition to Egypt, though Nelson did his best to intercept the French fleet of men-of-war and two hundred transports; though he lay off Toulon waiting for them to come out, nevertheless they got away without him seeing them, and landed safely at Aboukir Bay and conquered Egypt whilst Nelson was hunting for two and a half months with the idea of discovering their whereabouts. Nelson made up, for this non-success, at the Battle of the Nile, it is true; but the fact remains that an invading naval force has in its favour every possibility of reaching its destination. In these days of the telegraph, it may be argued that no fleet could travel far without its course being known. The weakness of this hope is in the fact that cables are so easily destroyed and so difficult to repair. It is no too strong a truth to assert that, should the war we are speaking of break out, Oceania would be completely in the dark as to what might be taking place in other parts of the world.
"There appears to be no cable communication directly between Great Britain and any point South of the line from British Guiana to Cape St. Vincent. Even the cables to page 16 Gibraltar touch the laud at Lisbon. Nothing could be easier in time of war than to cut of telegraphic communication between England and the South Atlantic, including all the west coast of Africa. Again all our telegraphic communications with the East" and through the East all our telegraphic news comes "except that which depends upon Russia, passes either through Egypt or through the district of Asia between Diarbekr and Erzeroum. It is evident, therefore that our telegraphic communications would be in the time of war pre-carious."—Dilke and Wilkinson.
In the matter of the fleet of the Dual Alliance, which had been despatched for the purpose of subduing this Colony, falling short of coals and provisions, it might be as well to point out that New Caledonia, which belongs to France, contains fine harbours, one of which is fortified, and has 3000 soldiers and 5000 well drilled convicts as a garrison, and produces coal, wheat and all other necessaries of life.
Here, then, the attacking force would have its basis of operations against New Zealand or Australia; and to meet hat attack we should have the protection of a fleet that has to defend a coast-line great out of all proportion to the number of war-ships available for defensive purposes.
The London Correspondent to the Christchurch Weekly Press lately wrote thus "France and Russia in combination are declared to be far stronger than the Triple Alliance, an assertion which is not without support even on the part of eminent English authorities. England's weight might turn the balance of power in favour of the Triple Alliance. But Mr. Gladstone's lukewarmness, if not hostility, to the Alliance is notorious, and England is no longer regarded as a secret party to that union . . . . . When it is remembered that the Navies of England and Italy are the only two that could possibly cope with those of France and Russia, the significance of the two contemporary demonstrations is accentuated. New Zealand cannot remain an uninterested spectator of these national chess-games, for nothing is more certain than that in case of the Mother Country unhappily becoming involved in a war with either Russia or France, New page 17 Zealand would have to fight for her own existence. I believe all miliary authorities here agree in the conviction that a vigorous effort would be made to seize New Zealand, as Russia was prepared to do in 1885. So it is well that your Colony should attentively watch the progress of events, and not allow itself to be lulled into a delusive security, or induced for motives of economy to neglect the important duty of preparation for defence in case of war."
And our defences are about one gun-boat and a half, when the other Australian Colonies have been provided for, 145 Permanent Artillerymen, divided into four batteries and stationed at the four large ports, 4 torpedo boats, stationed at the the four large ports, 64 Permanent Militiamen who have charge of the forenamed torpedo boats, and a Volunteer force of 5821 men, armed at present with obsolete Snider rifles. I have not gone so far as to include in the above list the 2,000 school cadets.
This Colony which in point of natural resources is second to none of the British Colonies south of the line; costing our fathers endless toil to subdue it and cultivate it that we might enjoy the fruit of their labours; fertile to an extent that is incredible to the European; well stocked with cattle and sheep; containing coal and iron and everything requisite to a commercial people; having on its coasts many fine harbours; its forests abounding in splendid timber; in short, a country capable of supporting some ten millions of people, and actually containing upwards of 600.000, has its main defence in a force of 5821 Volunteers, the best equipped portions of which force would appear to be, at present, the Garrison Bands!
It is not in the spirit of an alarmist that the foregoing pages have been written. The intention has been to give, as far as it is possible to do at this end of the world and without the help of exact official documents, the present status of the respective Navies of Europe; to draw attention to the possible hostility that might occur between ourselves and the Dual Alliance; to illustrate that, in event of such a war being forced upon us, our Navy would be inadequate to pre- page 18 vent the combined Navies of our enemies from making raids upon the most vulnerable points of the British Empire—has Colonies. It is a matter of impossibility to foretell whether this Colony would be selected as that or one of those to be attacked, or, if it were made the object of a naval expedition, whether our Australian fleet would be able to intercept and oppose a superior force to that attacking. But it is certain that this Colony is supposed to have attracted Russia's naturally strong greed for territory, and that she entertains a notion of acquiring possession of it in the event of war (and there is good reason for thinking that these opinions hold good, for the Power that possesses New Zealand possesses the most important group of islands in the Pacific Ocean: a country that supports itself with food; having harbours as good as need be desired; possessing a graving dock the best, it is said, this side ci the line, besides three other graving docks of considerable proportions) indeed, this is a country that would afford a perfect basis of naval operations to a Naval Power desirous of acquiring command of the Pacific Ocean and the possession of the Australian Colonies.
There seems, therefore, to be a grave possibility, if war were to break out between Great Britain and the Dual Alliance, of this Colony being made an object of attack; there seems to be a possibility of an attacking force reaching these shores without being intercepted by our cruisers; there seems reason to believe that our Colonial forces might be inadequate to cope with an invading force. If such possibilities grew into facts, what would likely be the upshot? Certainly some of our towns would be bombarded, certainly a landing might be effected, and possibly parts of our country harried, our houses pillaged, our cattle killed, and our women ill-treated. After a calm and collected consideration of the Russian character, I am distinctly dubious of the likelihood of her soldiers and sailors waging a war of invasion in a humane manner. 'Scratch the Russian and you find the Tartar' is a common saying—and the Tartar is cruel.
The Berlin Correspondent to the New York Herald lately wrote as follows; "The Kaiser, I hear, following a report page 19 of Count York von Wartenberg, Military Attache at St. Petersburgh, has just read the recently published book by Colonel Baikow, of the Russian Staff, the intimate friend of General Gourko" (the latter has died since, I believe) "upon the war of the future. The official Militair Wochenblatt takes up the criticism of the work. It shows what we may expect with the next war with Russia. Baikow professes himself a partisan of not only crushing the opposing army and all appertaining to it, but also all the resources of an adversary's country. He advocates radical destruction, without pity, so as to exercise upon the inhabitants a material and moral pressure. Destruction of every means of communication, of victuals, etc., appears to him the dominating aim of action. Baikow admits that his theory of making war would cause vivid protests from the humanitarian point of view, from that of international right, etc. But he is of opinion that no attention should be paid to such protests. He wishes war to the knife without quarter."
Such being the desire of what may be called an educated and refined Russian, it would not be surprising to find an echo to his sentiments in the breasts of a vulgar soldiery.
But why do I assert that an attacking force, which had eluded our cruisers, might acquire a footing on our country?
In the first place, I argue that there are some eighteen undefended ports and harbours in New Zealand, containing various depths of water—two at least containing a depth of water and a circumference sufficient to hold the whole combined fleets of France and Russia—and these ports would have to depend for defence upon the badly equipped and few Volunteers that might be collected in their immediate neighbourhoods. I would mention Tauranga, Napier, New Plymouth, Timaru, Oamaru, Nelson, Akaroa, Kaipara, Kawhia, Picton, Westport, and Greymouth, as places not sufficiently defended against attack, and at which a force might effect a landing in spite of the exertions of such Volunteers as might be ready to oppose it.
To be sufficiently defended from attack this Colony needs page 20 to have many armed ships and torpedo boats at her disposal and an armed force of some twenty thousand well equipped and well drilled men, and should place in a state of defence other ports than those of the four great centres.
Of course this scheme is, at present, out of the question
"Dans le conseils d'un etat il ne faut pas lant regarder a qu'on doit faire que ce qu' on pent faire."†
And what is it that can be done?
In our present state of defencelessness, in case we wen invaded, there is but little doubt that we should fall a prey to the invader, until a more powerful force than that of the enemy was collected and despatched by the Imperial an thorities to blow up the ships of the invading force. Nelson accomplished just such a feat at the battle of the Nile, and it is to be hoped that such a thing would be accomplished by a British fleet, in the future, should occasion arise.
But what I maintain is that it is a great disgrace to the British nation that there should be any possibility of such an occasion arising. The British sovereignty of the seas should be unquestioned to such an extent as to effectually prevent any schemes of invasion of our territories being entertained by our enemies.
"I think it is clearly shown that in the matter of naval ship-building, we, who have vast colonies and commerce to protect, have been sleeping, whilst other nations whose colonies and commerce are but a fraction of our own have been making enormous strides."—London Correspondent to the Canterbury Times.
Of a truth John Bull has for the last twenty years had his head so deep in his money bags that he has had eyes for nothing else than the glitter of his gold, and now he has awakened to the fact that, if he wishes to adequately protect his treasure, he must spend some £23,000,000 upon building warships without delay. But he loves his gold dearly, so dearly that it is doubtful whether he will spend a fraction page 21 to ensure the safety of the whole. John Bull will do badly to degenerate into a miser.
But what can we of New Zealand do? Ours is a country worth defending, and it would be a great blow to British prestige—not to consider the pitiable condition of the colonists themselves—were it to fall into the hands of a foreign Power.
I shall proceed to draw two hypothetical conditions under which an invading force might find us—the present state and the possible state—and thereby endeavour to answer this question.
I take it for granted that, if a blow be struck at us, it will come from the Dual Alliance. I also take it for granted, as Russia's policy has ever been that where she conquers there she stops, that in case of a Franco-Russian invasion, the object of our enemies would be not merely to raid and harry but to conquer and occupy the country, with the idea of making it a basis of naval operations in the Pacific, a naval basis from which perhaps to attack Australia.
I would picture an armed force landing at Picton or Tasman Bay, and I would ask what resistance could the inhabitants of the Wairau Valley or of Nelson and the Vaimeas give to prevent the invaders gaining a footing?
The Volunteers would doubtless do all they could to beat bock the invaders, but I firmly believe that, armed as they are and being so few in number, they would be unable to give such resistance as would prevent an attacking force from landing under the cover of the heavy and quick-firing guns of its squadron.
Nelson and Blenheim would become a prey and would, no doubt, be pillaged, and the inhabitants would be forced to take to the hills for protection. The invaders might easily and in a short time so successfully fortify the two towns and harbours of Nelson and Picton as to make them impregnable against our attack, and possibly against that of our Australian fleet; they would find sufficient food at that end of the island to keep them alive for an indefinite period of I time. And I fear that no force that we possess would be able page 22 to prevent them from extending their conquests southwards In other words, we could not call the property, which we have acquired with so much labour, the land, which we have changed from a wilderness to fertile fields, our own, but would have the chagrin of seeing men of a foreign nation possessed of what we so value.
Whether such a force would be expelled by our Australian ships, before its numbers were swelled from its basis of operations, it is hard to tell, but one thing is certain, namely that the inhabitants of the parts subdued would, for a time if not indefinitely, lose their property, if not their liberty, and 'Etre pauvre sans etre libre, c' est le pire etat ou l'hom me puisse tomber.'*
In the case of the invasion of Egypt by the French, though their fleet was destroyed at Aboukir Bay by Lord Nelson, for three years they held command of Egypt (during which time they massacred 4,000 prisoners at Jaffa by the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte) until expelled by Abercrombie. Now Egypt is a hard land to defend, as it has no natural strong holds. New Zealand is an easy land to defend on account of the numberless natural defences it possesses. We have the recollection of our struggles with the Maoris to remind us of the fact. Therefore, though the fleet of an invading force were destroyed, it does not necessarily follow that that force would be immediately subdued. On the contrary, it is a fact that should demand our grave consideration, as well as our thankfulness if we are prepared to act on it, that there are parts of this Colony which, if held by a well equipped force, could be held indefinitely. However, are our forces sufficient in numbers and well enough equipped to hold such places? Supposing that they could defend the strongest parts of our islands, there is reason for thinking that an enemy might hold and occupy the plain country the country where we are now living—but that if by statagem the enemy became possessed of a tract of country easily defended it is more than doubtful whether our present page 23 Colonial forces would be able to cope with them.
It is humiliating to think that there is any possibility of any part of the British Dominions falling into foreign hands, and it is more than humiliating to us to think that if a foreign force landed on our New Zealand shores there is a possibility of it gaining a foothold, but when we think of the misery and perhaps brutality that would be suffered by the inhabitants concerned, then, I flatter my fellow countrymen sufficiently to suppose that there is not one New Zealander whose blood does not boil at the thought. Again I ask 'What is there possible for us to do?
I would now take my second hypothetical case. There are in New Zealand some 100,000 men, physically developed and strong, capable of bearing arms. It is not possible at a few months warning to efficiently organise and drill those men, but it is possible in a few months to arm them, or for them to arm themselves.
I do not go so far to say that, if these men were armed, they in conjunction with the Volunteers would, be able to prevent an invading force from landing under cover of its guns, for I cannot forget Abercrombie's landing in Egypt, though I think that the possibility of so doing would become greater than it is at present. But what I do maintain is that with such a force of armed men in this country it would be impossible for any armed force, that could be sent across the seas, to subjugate any part of it; impossible then for that invading force to live here if its fleet were destroyed. I believe, that, under such circumstances, not an invader would leave the country alive. I believe that with such a force of armed men, roughly drilled and trained though they might be, our lives and those of our wives and children, together with the bulk of our property, would be safe so long as we chose to light. I feel convinced that such a force of armed guerillas would so harass a force that might have gained a landing on these shores, would so reduce its numbers, that, without the danger of incurring a pitched battle between our unfiled force and a drilled one, we might gradually reduce the numbers of the enemy to zero.page 24
I take it for granted that each colonist worth calling a man, and I go so far as to flatter my country that there are 100,000 such men in it, would like to have the means of defence in his hands in case of invasion. If that privilege were given him in conjunction with his fellows, I believe that we should all be safe so far as our lives and liberty and the bulk of our property are concerned. With such a force of armed men at our disposal, men whose liberty and deares interests depended on their own exertions, I would be hopeful, since the natural strength of the country is so great that it could be successfully defended by them.
Further, I would appeal to the men, who might go to from such a force, and I would ask them whether they are not desirous of making it impossible for a foreign people to gain a footing here, I would ask them, whether;they would not prefer to be in such a position as to aunihilate; piecsmeal, perhaps, but effectually and beyond all doubt, any invading force that might land on our shores? I believe is in their power, to place themselves in such a position.
I would advocate the formation of a large Defence. Association, which should import arms and munitions of war with which to equip the man of this land. And I would suggest that the; Association be enrolled without decay, since it might become impossible to procure the required arms after any such time as war had broken out, and that it be formed of all such men as are capable of carrying a weapon.
The guns imported should become the property of members of the Association, and each member should, receive good value for the money he subscribed me £2 or £3—which should give him membership to the Association and a weapon for defence.
Such an Association should enjoin allegiance to the Queen and the Government of this Colony, and should necessitate periodical inspection, and instruction in the use of the arms but Should not necessitate continual drill except in time of war. In support of this theory of improving our defence. I maintain that, should it be carried out, in numbers and efficiency the Volunteer force would receive an impetus that page 25 would greatly benefit it; that such a theory was that which was carried out by the men of the Transvaal when their country was invaded by our troops, and culminated in our defeat at Majuba Hill, and freed their country from invasion; that there exists such a force, as I have suggested, in many countries where there is no standing army. I would quote Canada, which has an Active Militia of 38,000 men and a reserve, composed of such men as I speak of, of 1,030,000 men. Now we should be in the same position, proportionately. Would the Dual Alliance contemplate a descent upon Canada, in case of war? I fancy not. If a naval forcé conducting an army were to effect a footing in Canada, would there be any prospect of it subduing the country? I think, none whatever.
With some ten thousand efficient Volunteers and 100,000 active armed men in this Colony, we would, I believe, be safe from attack.
However, if a better suggestion, as to the means by which we may place this Colony in a condition of safety, were to be made. I should be the first to advocate it.
In conclusion, I would quote the words spoken in the House of Commons by one who lived at a time when the existence of the British Empire and the safety of England were threatened by Napoleon's contemplated invasion of Great Britain. "A state of war is in itself, a state of evil; We wish not for it'; we would fain avoid it; we would be at peace, could we be so with honour and security to ourselves. But whether at war or in the most profound peace, let us never neglect to encourage and maintain a military aptitude and spirit in the people. History teaches us that, in all nations and times, the extinction of this spirit has been rapidly followed by the every other national virtue.
Nelson, February, 10th. 1894page break
Printed by Alfred G. Betts,
† "In the councils of the state it is not so necessary to examine what ought to be done as what can be done."
* "To be poor without being free is the worst state into which a man can fall."