Tuesday, 1 June 1909

This post is part of a series post-blogging the phantom airship scare of 1909. See here for an introduction to the series, and here for a conclusion.

The new Fortnightly Review (actually a monthly, of course) is out today. Each issue opens with a review of 'Imperial and foreign affairs', which is usually written by J. L. Garvin, editor of the Observer and a figure of great influence in Conservative politics. Assuming that it is he who penned this Review's review, Garvin uses the scareship episode as an excuse to attack the Liberal government. It's part of a long excursion which takes in the recent death of novelist George Meredith (who, although a Liberal, supported conscription); the collapse of Britain's diplomatic position (somewhat at odds with the Foreign Secretary's opinion, it would seem); the deleterious effect of a lack of British military power on its seapower; Lord Robert's recent statement that the Army is 'sham'; and so on. Returning to Meredith, Garvin quotes (1006) his recent poem 'The Call' for its evocation of how weak Britain is without a real Army to defend it:

Under what spell are we debased
By fears for our inviolate isle,
Whose record is of dangers faced
And flung to heel with even smile?

Garvin goes on to show just how debased the British are, when instead of facing the 'real and immense dangers' facing the nation, with a 'silent and settled resolution worthy of a great people',

we bemuse ourselves with irrelevant hysterics about German waiters and phantom airships and secret squadrons hovering about our coasts.

Meredith would have known what to do, to steel the national nerve: introduce compulsory service!

Who can doubt that he was right, and that all the democracies of all the Britains must follow him if they mean to hold the Empire together by their united strength and severally to preserve their national liberties under a common flag.

As an indication of just how much defence issues have come to dominate the national press recently, the first five issues of the Fortnightly this year had at most one article on the topic (excluding Garvin's column). This month there are four: 'Our duty to our neighbour: the defence of France' by Cecil Battine; 'The Admiralty Board and the Army Council' by George T. Lambert; 'Do dreadnoughts only count?' by Navalis; and 'War and shipping' by Benjamin Taylor. Nothing about airships, though, it must be said.

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2 thoughts on “Tuesday, 1 June 1909

  1. Erik Lund

    One of my favourite bits from Morris was his brief reference to German "Cossack scares." IIRC, at one point in 1911, the Kaiser abandoned a holidy at his East Prussian hunting estate when told that a Russian Cossack division was exercising just across the frontier.
    Flee the Mongol hordes, before it's too late!
    Which clearly proves that Schlieffen and Falkenhayn were right. Germany wasn't conscripting enough men. The problem was that their eyes were on France rather than the national morale.

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