CAPTAIN BERNARD ACWORTH, D.S.O., R.N. (retired), one of the country's best experts on naval warfare and war strategy, argues, in two articles, that the maintenance of conscription in this cohntry is militarily indefensible.
CONSCRIPTION for the armed
forces as a peace-time measure has come as a shock to many, if not to most. Yet many who oppose this innovation on principle are constrained to support it on the ground of supposed necessity in a world seething with rivalries and " ideological " hatreds. National selfpreservation is a natural. and therefore reasonable, ingtinct, and one that is apt to prevail over all others in national consciousness.
The argument for conscription rune something like this : In the modern world Peace and War are " indivisible." War between any two nations must in future mean another world war, which must inevitably involve the clash of armies, the exchange of bombs, and a universal ruin which will transcend the one we have recently finished, if. indeed, it is finished. Pending, therefore, the unification ofall nations into one World State in which peace ill be enforced by " teeth " gnashed by a World " Authority," Britain must have enough forces of her own, of all sorts, to defend herself against any interim attack. It is this latter aspect of the problem that concerns us here and now, and the one that is responsible for the generally detested, and detestable, policy of Conscription. Indeed. it is. fear. and the consequent supposed necessity of Conscription, from which support for a World State and a World Police Force controlled by a World Authority derives support, rather than from any higher motive.
The Two Assumptions
Thus there are two assumptions upon which acceptance of Conscription rests. The first, the political one, is the apparent determination that the next war shall be a world one unless a World Authority is politically established to -prevent it by force. The second assumption, grounded in the first, is strategic, and rests upon the conviction that the means and methods of waging the next war must, from the nature of things, be similar to those employed in the last, but on a finally calamitous scale : that, in short, the over-all strategy of the last war was fundamentally sound. and that there was, and for the future can be, no alternative.
With the first, and political, assumption I am not concerned beyond saying that on the desirability of a World-State, our nation. like others, is divided. On the strategic issue. however. there seems to be a unanimity which is strange in a country which. for centuries. has prided
itself on its " sea-sense and it is the strategic issue which will here, very briefly, he considered.
he leading characteristics of British strategy in the late war should be recalled.
Itrimediately on iteoutbreak it Was declared to he "Total," that is to say, " Totalitarian " war: this, it should be noted, was a deliberate decision, and one at variance with the historic principle that an island kingdom, if compelled to fight, should only do so to the degree that suited its strategic singularity; an option made possible only by the possession of sea-supremacy. Though the decision to wage totalitarian war was a political one, it was represented as being a strategical necessity because, with the development of air power. England, it was said, was no longer an island. Furthermore. so the country was persuaded. invasion was almost a certainty if the Channel ports were in hostile hands. In any case. from the Channel ports enemy submarines could starve us into submission. Our Continental Military Strategy The old military maxim-" Offence is the best form of Defence --sound in the tactical sphere. was therefore transferred to the. strategic sphere where, in the unique position of this country, it is not applicable. We thus became saddled with a Continental military strategy which entailed the raising. equipping and maintaining of an army which, though straining our resources to the limit, and, as we now know, beyond it, was dependent for success against the Axis, even with the aid of American armies, upon the Russian hosts. From the moment it was landed for the second time in France, British control of British strategy ceased, and became vested in those who controlled the actions of the U.S.S.R.
This inevitable military weakness (in point of numbers) was used as the justification for the building up of an Independent Bombing Force to blast into one vast ruin Western and Central Europe which it would he our subsequent business to occupy. From such a policy the U.S.S.R. had the sound strategical sense to abstain, with the results we now know. Thus did our Continental military and bombing strategy involve us in a form of warfare which we had always reprobated in our enemies when they pleaded, as we came to do-Necessity.
The enormous drain on our overall resources reduced proportionately those available for sea-power. Notwithstanding the devotion and skill of our seamen, never excelled in our history, we lost something like 14.000,000 tons of shipping with its freight, and tens of thousands of lives. For a few obsolete American destroyers for convoy our naval bases in the West Indies were bartered away. In the Balkans and the Libyan Desert, after Lord Wavell's great victory, we suffered disaster from the itch of political strategists for landing armies on the Continent, the Navy suffering heavy losses in transportation and rescue work. In the Far East, for lack of sea-power. we suffered the greatest defeats and humiliations in British history. In 1935, owing to our lack, or alleged lack of sea-power, and our ludicrous "Collective Security" and the League of Nations, for which our sea-power had been hamstrung, we betrayed Abyssinia and brought into existence the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis.
Who Won the War ?
By our strategy, pivoted on Russia, our enemies, it is true, were crushed to a point which is now causing at least as much apprehension as did Germany at the height of her power. But who " won" the war. if its afterntath is any criterion of true victory? And yet, with the devastating lessons of the late war at our disposal we seem to be committed to preparation for the next one on exactly the same strategic lines, whether nationally or internationally, except that our sea-power seems to be treated to a diminishing extent as our first, because natural, line of defence.
To conclude : there eve three aspects of our past and prospective strategy which it is well to hear in mind.
First : Lacking sufficient " manpower " for the contemplated strategy as well as for producing exports to ensure a tolerable standard of living, we can be coerced into an undesirable foreign policy in Peace Time.
Second: Lacking adequate seapower, we can be starved into surrender without the firing of a shot, or the dropping of a bomb, in War Time.
Third: The bombing of Europe and the landing of a conscript army on the Continent are no defence of this island against hostile bombing or invasion: on the contrary, they make bombing a certainty and invasion a possibility.
Thus the Ministry of Defence," charged with the business of planning for " Total " war. an activity for which Field-Marshal Kcitel has recently been hanged as a common criminal, is not a Ministry (or Soviet) of true Defence. but one of Offence by way of wholesale and indiscriminate destruction.
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THE greenhouse or consere a tory just now seem as dead as the rest of the garden; but really the New Year is moving fast. Anyone with glass is strongly recommended to set about growing a vine, especially one of the hardier kinds like Black Hamburgh or Poster's Seed
ling (white). Of course, the very hardy 'kinds for outdoor work, like Reine Olga and the various Frontignan grapes, are also very suitable. Pieces taken now and stuck into fairly sandy soil, are almost certain to root.
Growth in cuttings is not really noticeable until March, but before long the established vines and trees under glass will be moving too fast for us. Any pruning here should be done at once, especially with vines. The work consists simply of cutting back all laterals to the fat bud at the base, and shortening the leaders to about half to one-third of the new growth. Those beginning to train a vine will do well to train it as a twoor three-pronged fork at one end of the house. Pruning done now will have no ill effect whatever. but if we leave it much longer the vines may begin to " bleed."
The bark of sines becomes strawy. This does no harm unless your house is full of pests. In that case the loose bark may be scrubbed off with a fairly rough piece of wood. After that, spray with a good winter wash.
E. J. KING.
[ BOOKS RECEIVED I The good advice on Prayer. givssi by Fr, Ferdinand Valentine, 0.P., in Whatsoever lie Shall Say (Blackfriars Press. ds.) is discounted by the artifice of imaginary replies to the imaginary letters of a young lady. Theophila is too " arch "! The instruction on p. 114 lacks realisation of •Thanksgiving during Mass as social rather than personal.
Pardon and Peace (Fr. Alfred Wilson, C.P. Shced, 10s. 6d.) apparently intended for lay folk will, we think, be more useful to priests who wish to give colloquial instructions on the Sacrament of Penance.
The Young Worker and the Home Y.C.W. Publications, Is.) The second part of the Family Plan of Campaign for the Young Christian Workers will have its value for all Catholics. The social inquiries worked out for the young people deal strictly with matters that link up with domestic problems, on all planes. The Gospel inquiries provide a sound and living Christian background.
The Gertrude Stein First Reader and Three Ploys, with decorations by Francis Rose. (Maurice Fridberg, 7s. ed.) Sense is what you make of it. . . The late Gertrude Stein wrote a lot of words in a very strange order, but there was order and very sound sense in all she Wrote. The sense emerges sometimes a long way behind the words. In this collection of far from simple stories is a message to a bewildered gelieranon. The message comes belatedly to the reader, who is at first amused lightly: it comes like the point of a subtle joke but its effect is more like that of an exploding time-bomb, Sir Francis Rose's embellishments have the author's qualities of fragility and apparent lightheartedness hiding a purpose.
We Fell Among Greeks. By Denys Hampsou. (Cape. 10s. 6d.) In 1942 a party of British volunteers parachuted into Italian-occupied Greece to cut the railway hinging supplies to Piraeus for shipment to the Afrika Korps. This is a laconic account, by one of the officers taking part, of the dangers and hardships they endured in the starving hinterland of Greece. Squabbles between the rival bands of Greek guerrillas. the blunders a the. Cairo Headquarters and the long weeks of marching across the mountains are described with a compelling honesty which makes the book a worthy companion to George Millar's Maquis.
7'he Art of Narraril C. by Phyllis Bentley. (Home and Van Thal, 5s.) Miss Bentley modestly describes her essay as mere '' notes.' It will prove invaluable to the aspirant to the trade of fiction, absorbing and enlightening to the " common reader." She outlines in :dear cut, terse chapters the mechanics of movement in the novel, illustrating each point with excellent quotations from her fellow-workers ranging from Defoe to Virginia Woolf. An interested and interesting writer.
America at the Movies. by Margaret Farrand Thorpe. (Faber and Faber Ltd. 12s. 6d.) America at the Movies is dated-1939, and in parts out-ofdate. It is a book on American Ulnas and their effect on American society. If you are interested in advertising, and in particular, film advertising, you will find the first few chapters interesting. amusing and instructive. The later and the better chapters deal with the sociological influence of the film. The chapler on reform of the movies should prove valuable to all who are keen on keeping the screen clean.
The Guinea Pig, by Warren Chetham Strode. (Sampson Low, 6s) Dramatic version of the Fleming Reportthis play puts across the human problems that must as inevitably be solved by individuals interested in education as those of finance or building or the training of teachers which the ministry is facing. A topical play with timeless values.
Saint Madeleine Sophie Boat (Convent of the Sacred Heart, Hove. Mother Beret, the foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart, which has educated girls all over the world for nearly 150 years, bad a curiously uneventful life in the worldly sense but achieved spiritually a magnificent work. Her children, said an observer of the education system instituted by Mother Barat, are Very strong, very innocent and determined to do something for God in their life."
Janet Erskine Stuart. An abridged life by L. Keppel. (Duckett, Strand.) Mother Stuart, a superior-general _of the Society of the Sacred Heart, was one of its most distinguished msmbers. She was also a typical Englishwoman. If her name finds its way into the calendar of the saints, this island will have a modern St. Hilda to be proud of. Her life has been ably Interpreted by Mother KeppeL The Vision Splendid. By Nevile Watts. (Sheed and Ward. 7s. 6d.) Mr. Watts must be an inspiring teacher. His enthusiasms are infectious. In his collection of essays of various aspects of poets and poetry he transfers his enthusiasm to paper and gives excellent introductions to all the subjects be touches. His criticism is not profound hut it is sincere and wellgrounded.
Poetic Inspiration: An Approach to Virgil, by W. F. Jackson Knight. (Raleigh Press, 2s.). In this 50-page essay on the nature of the poetic impulse, the author of Rumour Virgil combines great erudition with an attractive simplicity of style.
What is Pluralism? Proposals for the Redistribution of Property in an Industrial Age. (Pluralist Society, Ise Dartford Priory. The History of the English Dominicanesses, by the Dominicans of Headington. (Blackfriars, 2s.) .4 Certain Dr. Mellor, by P. P. Maguire. (Browne and Nolan. 63.) Catholic Abnanack and Register, 1947. 413.0.W., Is.) His Will is Our Peace (Fr. Vann. 0.P., Sheed, 3s.) is so good that we wish its 54 pages of sanctified common sg,nse could have been produced in a stiff wrapper for 6d. Intrinsically it is invaluable.