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University of California.




Principles and Problems
of Imperial Defence


Professor of Military A rt and History at the Staff College

Author of

"A Restrospect on the South African War"

' ' Field Artillery with the other Arms "

' ' Guns and Cavalry "

etc. etc.







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I HAVE been induced to write the following pages by
some, probably most partial, friends, who have assured
me that they would help the study of Imperial defence.
It was with considerable hesitation and reluctance that
I acceded to such representations, because I. felt that
I should have to refer to many topics which could be
better dealt with by a sailor. On the other hand, lay
the argument that the part our army must play in
world warfare was sometimes underrated, and that,
though secondary to the navy, its efficiency was still
an essential element in the force which secured our
safety or existence. Imperial defence, although it
cannot be carried out at all without a navy, cannot
be accomplished by a navy alone ; and, the two services
being complementary to one another, it seemed not
illogical to endeavour to view them in combination
and lay stress on the correlation that exists between
them. But that all the armed forces we possess should
be regarded as a whole was a view I had long held ;
and such being my opinion, I had the less difficulty
in persuading myself to write. In addition, an even
more powerful motive actuated me. A constant
examination of the history of past campaigns had
impressed on me the value of a habit of examining
war, and the preparation for war, from the business
point of view. A continual search for the causes that
lay at the root of success or failure had established
the fact that, whereas the glowing pages of military
history often attribute victory to the personal courage



or readiness of individuals, triumphs have most
frequently been arranged for at the desk.

From immemorial ages poets have glorified the
warrior ; painters and sculptors have exhausted their
imaginations in the effort to idealise and exalt the
actions of the heroes whose names they have sought
to perpetuate. Even Religion has not withheld the
promise of spiritual advantage to the resolute fighter.
Fanaticism, patriotism, ambition, greed, even fear, are
in turn invoked to nerve men to the sticking-point.
Ardent rhetoric and glowing colours, storied stones
and imperishable verse, each in turn are made to
appeal to the pride or vanity of great or little men.
To hide the hideousness of war, or warm the chill
virtue of self-abnegation, every device has to be
resorted to. Therefore we find the great leaders of
all ages entering, as it were, into the conspiracy, still
further inflaming popular imagination, and appealing
rather to the emotions than to the reason of those
whom they command. Generals and admirals, artists,
poets, and politicians, are all thus joined together in
diverting attention from the prosaic side of war ; while
the experiences of savage warfare, where something of
the old chivalry still lingers and the personal factor
has still a considerable share in influencing the combat,
assist to give a false idea of what a great struggle in
modern times will involve.

To the people of England a great war would mean
more than it would in the case of any other nation.
Almost every transaction of daily life would be upset.
Every cottager would have to adjust his means to
vastly altered conditions. An ever-increasing pressure
would be imposed on the resources of our working-
people during every month that hostilities went on.
On the Continent it is true that nations in arms
would face one another, but in our case the healths


and lives of wives and children, as well as those of
husbands and brothers in the ranks, would be involved.
Because food, not for the armies only but also for the
inhabitants of our country, would have to be provided.
When the effects of war make themselves keenly felt
in every village, errors and miscalculations have far-
reaching consequences and are not readily condoned.
Much more than the military reputations of individuals
or the lives of fighting men are at stake. Mis-
management will be resented, as any other mismanage-
ment that costs lives on a large scale is resented and
condemned in civil life.

In short, the conduct of war is, or should be, made
a business transaction. The healths and lives of his
men represent the capital of a general. He cannot
reckon on unlimited funds : he must exercise economy,
and utilise what he has to the best purpose. The
force that can be provided by the country is limited,
and it must be made to go as far as possible. Apathy
in peace, and panic in war, are the dangers that have
to be avoided ; and of these the former is perhaps less
dangerous than the latter, — panic, the child of forget-
fulness and the mother of waste, which calls ruinous
prodigality into being to destroy what careful economy
has painfully succeeded in building up, which endea-
vours in a week to make good the omissions of a
decade, and sees the edifice reared by strenuous
exertion crumble away when just completed and
just ready for use.

We have recently witnessed a most salient example
of what spasmodic effort can accomplish, and we have
been surprised by the warlike vigour which the country
has shown. Yet the army and its administration
has met with the most severe criticism, because it was
felt that the exertions made during the war exhibited
energy rather than skill, and zeal rather than wisdom.


And now, no doubt, it is to be feared that when
the skies have cleared, the uproar will die away.
When the rains are over, many reputable rivers in
South Africa disappear. Innumerable grains of sand
have waylaid and obstructed the thin trickle of the
failing stream. Split into millions of tiny drops, the
mighty volume of the great watercourse has finally
become obliterated amid the infinity of the little
particles ; and you may walk across the dry sands of
a river-bed incredulous that water can for years have
flowed there. Yet if you dig a little way below the
surface you will perhaps find forms of aquatic life ; it
may be that there are even fish ; just as amid inimical
conditions spirit and vigour may survive. When the
inevitable storms break in due season, a raging torrent
will again appear rolling millions of gallons of water
in wanton prodigality to the sea. It is possible to
rescue those wasted waters, to dam and save, to cut
channels judiciously and irrigate, — the generosity of
one season being called to redress the parsimony
of another ; the same quantity of water making a
whole countryside green, where now a narrow band
of verdure alone marks the course of the wayward
stream. Energy, imagination, and forethought, as well
as water, are sometimes smothered and lost amid the
illimitable little worries and obstructions of routine.
Thousands will come forward at moments of national
danger to swell the wild surges of unorganised force.
Then the tumult, short-lived as it is violent, will sub-
side, leaving no permanent trace of its volume or
even of its existence behind.

To legislate to make the most of what we have,
to employ it so that it may be productive and re-
munerative in the future, should be our aim ; so
that we can obtain men without a panic, as it is
possible to obtain water without a flood. These are


the true lessons of the war. We have fought in an
abnormal country against an abnormal foe. We have,
perhaps, learnt how to act in that particular region
and against that particular enemy. We know his
strength and his weakness, and we can gauge our
chances against him. But tactics vary with the cir-
cumstances of the moment, with the character of the
enemy, with the armament on both sides, and, above all,
with the ground. While certain very valuable lights
have been thrown on technical matters, on the manu-
facture, pattern, and durability of equipment, on the
effect of fire both of infantry and artillery, and, to
some extent, on formations, the value of our deduc-
tions is not absolute but relative. Against an European
foe we might find South African formations fail, and we
know that they would not be adopted against a savage
enemy. But the lessons we have gleaned as to the war-
like spirit that still inspires our fellow-citizens, the vital
necessity for trustworthy intelligence, for preparation,
for method, are applicable to every period and to every
war. The great truths of strategy have again asserted
their immutable and inexorable force. Politics and
strategy should go hand-in-hand. The plan of cam-
paign should be adapted not only to the force of the
enemy, but to that with which we can take the field.
The security of lines of communication, the danger of
an open base — these are absolute lessons, and no matter
where we may next fight we shall infringe them at
our peril. But beyond them we have been given
lessons equally absolute, more original, and, for us,
even more important. The need for cultivating, not
only the intelligence but the characters of both officers
and men, the inculcation of soldierly virtues, self-
reliance, determination, discipline, patience — what may
be termed the moral qualities of a good soldier, these
must not be left out of sis^ht. And we have learnt the


importance of training for war, not for any particular
nature of warfare, but for war generally — principles
and not rules, manoeuvre and not drill, military in-
stinct and not pedantry. Most of all, when Imperial
defence is considered, have we learnt the value of
Colonial assistance, and the undeveloped possibilities
that lie before our Colonies. Yet, on the subject of
the training of our Colonial forces, or even of their
place in Imperial defence, I have said but little. As
regards the latter I have, in the chapter on organisa-
tion, given the reasons which have kept me silent ;
as regards the former much might be said, but it is
not my place to say it. The training of our Colonial
troops for war is in the hands of competent men, who
will do whatever is needed, and are now doing it.
To my comrades of the Colonies, or to those of them
who may perhaps imagine that spontaneous and in-
dividual efforts are of more value in war than any
that bear the imprimatur of official sanction, I may,
however, say that when we next fight shoulder to
shoulder it will help us if we completely understand
one another's methods and ideas. All soldiers under
one flag should speak the same tactical language.
The broad methods of every man succeeding to
leadership should be the same ; thus shall the system
flourish when the individual passes away, the chances
of error diminish, the rubs of friction be reduced to
vanishing-point. And if intelligent and genial co-
operation be demanded on the battlefield, how much
more are they to be sought and secured when land
and sea forces join against a common danger?

The co-operation of the services is, indeed, the
corner-stone of Imperial defence; co-operation, above
all, in the council chamber. It can be readily learnt
in actual practice. We have had some experience,
and the results have been encouraging ; but far-


reaching and not quickly to be amended are the
misunderstandings of great principles. Co-operation
in conception is more important even than in execu-
tion, and in weighing the relative importance of naval
and military needs it is the fate of the nation which
is often swinging in the balance.

Edward S. May.

DuRLEY House, Camberley,
isf November 1902.



Foundations of Empire

The Basis of our Empire is Sea-Power — Our Empire primarily a
Commercial Organism — The Outcome of Individual Enter-
prise and of Natural Selection — Warfare hinges on Com-
munications — They are as essential to Commerce as to
Armies and Fleets — On what does Sea- Power depend?
"Great Shipping" — Water and Land Transport — The
Internal Communications of a Country and their Protection
— The Protection of the Greater Lines of Supply and of the
Trading Station — The Evolution of Naval Bases — England
specially favoured in the Development of Sea- Power — The
Population of an Island can concentrate its Attention on
the Sea — Natural Advantages of our Southern Coasts-
Disabilities of our Opponents— Russia, Denmark, Germany,
Holland, P>ance, Spain, Italy — The Effect of the Nature
of a Country in developing Sea- Power — Cold and Want
Incentives to Industry — Venice, Holland, Carthage — The
Prosperity of England compared to that of Holland — The
Necessity to bear in mind the Commercial Basis of our
Empire — The Relation of the Mercantile-Marine to War-ships
— The Quality rather than the Quantity of Recruits must be
considered — The former Naval Resources of France and
England compared — Reserve Forces are of as much Im-
portance as ever — The Beneficent Nature of a Sea- Power
based on Commerce — Aggression leaves small substantial
Results — The Effect of the Manner in which Wealth
is acquired — The Necessity to protect Merchant-Shipping
called forth Naval Strength — The Aims of Commercial
Activity have Continuity of Purpose — The P'oreign Policy of
Cromwell — The Influence of our Rulers has assisted us —
The Efforts of Colbert— Fatal Policy of Louis XIV.— The
Dangers of a Commercial Spirit ....



The Analogy between Land and Sea Warfare
and their influence on one another

The Art of War is applicable to Sea as well as Shore Opera-
tions — Former distinction between the Crew that fought
and the Crew that propelled or navigated the Ships — At
former periods Leaders often commanded on both Elements
— Prince Rupert, Don John of Austria, Monk, Coligny — War
an effort of Force, and in our case must always have a Naval
element— The Army and Navy complementary to one another
— The broad Principles of Strategy are applicable to both —
An Analogy may be established between Land and Sea War-
fare — Neither a purely Naval or purely Land War possible for
us — All our Forces should be used in Combination — Com-
munications must be secured — A great Fortress in Isolation
becomes a splendid Tomb — Bazaine, Mack, Cornwallis, Menou

— Imperial Strategy regards Sea-Power as Indispensable —
The various Aspects of the Sea — Its very Openness baffles us

— Physical Features of a Country often help Strategy —
Nothing circumscribes the Mobility of Ships — We may not
be able to reach our Enemy — But we may make the Enemy
acknowledge our Predominance — Crimea, Turkey, Franco-
German War — The special Characteristics of Naval War
— Evasion is easy to Ships, Flights may be continuous,
Vessels do not grow weary — "The Fleet in Being" — Its
Counterpart on Shore — The Russians in 1877 — Napoleon in
1814 — The Allies in the Crimea — The War between China
and Japan — A Fleet at large is, however, always Dangerous
— Fixed Defences only valuable to free the Fleet — Fortresses
unprepared for War may hamper rather than assist Armies
— Geographical Points in themselves of small value where Sea
Warfare is concerned — Only valuable if they supply Bases to
powerful Fleets — On Shore, too. Mobility is demanded if River
Lines or Froritiers are to be defended — Strategic "Keys" —
"The Key of India is London" — Our Objective must be
the hostile Fleets — The principles of Defensive Strategy are
the same on Sea and Land — The Imperceptible Force of
Strategy . ......

The Predominance of the Navy

The Safety of the Empire founded on Sea Supremacy, but not
on Sea Supremacy alone — Claims on the Exchequer by Army
and Navy — How is Naval Strength to be measured? — The



Two-Power Standard — The Frontiers of the Empire— The
Policy of Blockade— Its Monotony and Strain, but its Value
towards Training — Its true object — Menace of a Fleet at large
— Cervera's Squadron — The Distribution of the Fleets —
Necessity for good Intelligence— Blockading, Then and Now
— The Enemy must be brought to Battle— Difficulties in
doing so— Speed of Fleets — Duty and Strength of Navy
defined by St Vincent's Policy — Proportion of Battleships
and Cruisers— Cruisers for Commerce Protection— Protection
of Interests in Foreign Waters — Is our Navy equal to the
task?— Lord Brassey's Opinion— How Force is judged in
War— The Quality of our Seamen formerly— The Value of
Practical Training — The American War cf 1812-14 — More
Ships the most Pressing Cry in Imperial Defence— The Safety
not only of England but her Dependencies rests on the Navy
— The Transport of Troops to India and Canada — The
Defence of the Commonwealth — Special attributes of Sea-
Power — Special Colonial Squadrons need not be tied to
Colonial Waters— The Enemy must start from a Base in the
Northern Hemisphere— The Security of the Colonies depends
on the Navy— Commence Protection falls also to the Navy. 46


The Function of the Army

Dependence of the Army on the Navy— A predominant Navy has
its Limitations — All the Forces we can command must take a
Share in the Defence of the Empire— Army and Navy must
play into one another's Hands- At the opening of a great
Struggle the Army will play a Subordinate Part— The Army
holds the Communications of the Navy— A Navy cannot live
on the Country— The Army holds the Bases for the Navy and
thus frees the Navy— The Protection of Bases against Raids-
Safety ol Coal and Ammunition— Protection of Commerce-
How Strong must Garrisons be?— Bombardments— Dangers
from the Land Side— Landing Parties— Difficulties of Limiting
Defence— Mobility of Garrisons— Co-operation between the
Services— Element of Time— The Size of a Garrison often a
Deterrent— Large Expeditions necessitated — Small Works can
be bombarded — Margins for Waste— Civil Population — We
must make Counterstrokes- Ships confer Mobility on Troops
— Possible Objectives — Three Army Corps and a Cavalry
Division— No Jealousy between Army and Navy should exist
— The Potentialities of Combined Operations — The Peninsular
War- The Crimea— The Black Sea Littoral— The Danger of
a Raid on our Home Territory— The Home Army frees the
Navy— Summary— Invasion must never be . . -70



Combined Naval and Military Operations

Conditions of Warfare of the Present Day— Railroads, Telegraphs,
and Steamships — Disabilities of an Invading Force — Balance
of advantage to Sea- Power not so great as formerly — Capacities
of Warships in Transporting Men — Disembarkations from
big Ships slower than from small — Opportunities for over-sea
Expeditions — Choice of Objective — A substantial Impression
on the Enemy must be sought — Difficulties of a Blockade —
An Expedition to seize a Hostile Port — Examples from the
American War — Seizure of Strategic Points such as Gibraltar
and Malta — Expeditions against Semi-Civilised Races — Naval
and Military Expeditions in Shore — The Federal Ships of
War in the Mississippi — Rivers compared to Railways as a
means of Transport — Federal Strategy in 1861 — Forts
Donelson and Henry — Porter and Vicksburg — Expeditions
to effect Diversions — Expeditions to foment Discontent —
Co-operation of Navy and Army to effect a change of Base —
Examples of the Operation — France and Germany in 1870 —
Command of the Sea essential to the Success of Expeditions

— Preparation for Contingencies — Ill-considered Expeditions
— The question of Command— The Duties of the two Services
in embarking and disembarking Troops — -Desiderata in such
Operations — The Landing at Aboukir Bay iSoi — At Maceira
Bay in 1808 — Algiers 1830 — The Operation as difficult as ever
— Number of Transports for a Force — Calculation of Tonnage
required — Co-operation does not necessarily cease when the
Disembarkation is finished — Examples from the Expedition
to Egypt 1801, and the Crimean War — Chinese Expeditions —
Expedition to Egypt 1882 — ^Japan and China 1S94— Success
can be assured by careful Preparation

Naval Bases and Coaling-Stations

Distinction l)etween Naval and Military Bases — The Naval
Fighting Line carries its Impedimenta with it — Relation
between Coal Endurance and locality of Coaling-Stations —
Coal Endurance of Ships — Taking in Coal at Sea — Commerce
Destroyers — Our Position as regards Coaling-Stations — Classes
of Coaling-Stations — Our Fleet Stations and their Bases — The
Mediterranean — The South African Station — Mauritius —
Chagos Islands — East Indian Station — China Station — Straits
Settlements— Hong Kong ~Wei-IIai- Wei— Australian Station

— South - East American Station — Falkland Isles — North


American and West Indies Stations— Bermuda, Halifax,
Jamaica, St Lucia, Barbadoes— Pacific Station— Esquimault
—The Duties of our Army with regard to these Bases— Various
forms of Attaclc— Raids— Torpedo Boat Attack — Bombard-
ment of Coast Towns— Set form of Attack— Transference
of Garrisons — Considered in the case of Hong-Kong and
Wei-Hai-Wei — Dangers from Land Attack at Hong-Kong
—At Esquimault— Garrisons of Labuan — Sierra Leone-
Sufficiency of Naval Bases in each Fleet Station — The
Situation as regards India — Objections to adding further to
our Responsibilities — Decentralisation in Manufacture of
Warlike Stores, etc.— The Eastern Question is shifting to
the far East — Growing importance of Hong-Kong — The
reply to Port Arthur should be a great Base in Australia —
The Isthmian Canal— Who will command it?— A Squadron
and Base in the Caribbean Sea— The Burthen of Empire
grows heavier daily ......


The Great Cable Communications of the Empire

Facility of Communication throughout the Empire — A Strategic need
— Cables called into being by Commerce — The Cables of the
World described — They favour us, because mostly in our own
Hands— Importance of Secrecy to our Navy— The History of
the "All-British Cable"— Route of the "All-British Cable"
— Report of Inter-departmental Committee, 1902 — Call for
cheap Cablegrams — -New German and Dutch Cable — The
Neutrality of Cables in War Time— Importance of Time in
Commercial Transactions— Influence of All-British Cables in
Uniting the Empire— Further Arguments in favour of All-
British Cables— Cypher Codes— Cutting of Cables by War-
ships — Experiences of Spanish- American War — Action of
American Government — Absence of International Claims in
Cuba — Efforts of the Wampatuck — Attempts at Ponce and
Porto Rico— Cutting of two Cables in July— Cuba remained
in Communication with Spain — Dewey's Action at Manila —
The extent to which our Cables are open to Interruption-
Commercial and Military Lines considered — The Danger off
Newfoundland— A Reserve of spare Cables and Material for
Repair— Experiences during former Wars — The Cable will
follow the Fleet— Capacity of the Country for Cable Pro-
duction and for Repair of Cables — Number of Cable Ships
in the World — Policy in Protecting Cables — The weaker
Navy will be forced to deep Waters — Wireless Telegraphy
— The Cape to Cairo Railway and Telegraph . .163


Our Food Supply in time of War

Acreage under Wheat in England — Importations of Foreign Corn
— The Example of Rome — Corners in Wheat — Financial
Difficulties in their Way — The Transport across the Sea of
our Food Supplies — Some Statistics from the Past — Increase
of our Population — The Remedies suggested — A Duty on
Imported Wheat — Establishment of Granaries — Mr Marston's
Scheme — Silos at Malta— Mr Yerhurgh's Suggestions — Experi-
ments which have been made — Subsidies to Private Firms and
Farmers — The System of Rationing the Population — The
various Estimates of Supplies available in the Country —

Online LibraryEdward Sinclair MayPrinciples and problems of imperial defence → online text (page 1 of 27)