To All Who Endured
THE HIGH COMMAND
Every great nation in times of crisis has its own way of doing things. The Germans looked to their Kaiser—the All-Highest—whose word was law—but they also looked after him. In some way or other the changing group of dominating personalities at the head of the German Empire worked the Imperial Oracle. We too in England have our own methods, more difficult to explain to foreigners perhaps than any others—and on the whole more inchoate, more crude, more clumsy. Still—they work. And there is also the French method. Studying French war-politics, one is struck first of all by their extreme complexity. The number of persons involved, the intricacy of their relations, the swiftness and yet the smoothness with which their whole arrangement is continually changed, all baffle the stranger during the event, and weary him afterwards in the tale. The prevailing impression is that of a swarm of bees—all buzzing together, and yet each bee—or nearly every bee—with a perfectly clear idea of what has got to be done in the practical interests of the hive.
THE BLOOD TEST
The events divide themselves naturally into three time-periods: the first, 1914; the second, 1915, 1916 and 1917; and the third, 1918: the First Shock; the Deadlock; and the Final Convulsion. The first period is at once the simplest and the most intense. The trained armies of Germany and France rushed upon each other, grappled furiously, broke apart for a brief space, endeavoured vainly to outflank each other, closed again in desperate conflict, broke apart once more, and then from the Alps to the sea lay gasping and glaring at each other not knowing what to do. Neither was strong enough to overcome the other, neither possessed the superior means or method required for the successful offensive. In this condition both sides continued for more than three years unable to fight a general battle, still less to make a strategic advance. It was not until 1918 that the main force of the armies on both sides was simultaneously engaged as in 1914 in a decisive struggle. In short, the war in the West resolved itself into two periods of supreme battle, divided from each other by a three-years’ siege.
In all, five great Allied assaults were made.
(i) By the French in Champagne and Artois in the spring and early summer of 1915.
(ii) By the French in Champagne during the late autumn and winter of 1915, and by the British simultaneously at Loos.
(iii) By the British and French on the Somme from July to October, 1916.
(iv) By the British at Arras and by the French on the Aisne, from April to July, 1917, and
(v) By the British virtually alone at Passchendaele in the autumn and winter of 1917.
In these siege-offensives which occupied the years 1915, 1916 and 1917 the French and British Armies consumed themselves in vain, and suffered as will be seen nearly double the casualties inflicted on the Germans.