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10/08/2017

If the minds of the people

When the crisis occurred in July 1914, when Germany proceeded to action, when events took place which for years past had been foretold and discussed very fully on both sides of the North Sea, it was as if a bolt had fallen from the blue. Uncertainty was apparent in all quarters. The very thing which had been so often talked of had happened. Germany was collecting her armies and preparing to crush France. The neutrality of Belgium was threatened. Yet up to, and on, Sunday, August 2, there was doubt and hesitation in the Cabinet, and until some days later, also in Parliament and the country.[5]

When, finally, it was decided to declare war, the course of action which that step required still appears to have remained obscure to our rulers. Until the Thursday following it was not decided to send the Expeditionary Force abroad. Then, out of timidity, only two-thirds of it were sent.[6] Transport arrangements which were all ready for moving the whole force had to be hastily readjusted. The delay was {236} not less injurious than the parsimony; and the combination of the two nearly proved fatal.

and their leaders were not prepared for what happened, if in the moral sense there was unreadiness; still more inadequate were all preparations of the material kind—not only the actual numbers of our Army, but also the whole system for providing expansion, training, equipment, and munitions. It is asking too much of us to believe that events could have happened as they did in England during the fortnight which followed the presentation of the Austrian Ultimatum to Servia, had the Committee of Imperial Defence and its distinguished president taken pains beforehand to envisage clearly the conditions and consequences involved in their policy of 'Security.'

As regards naval preparations, things were better indeed than might have been expected, considering the vagueness of ideas in the matter of policy. We were safeguarded here by tradition, and the general idea of direction had been nearly sufficient. There was always trouble, but not as a rule serious trouble, in establishing the case for increases necessary to keep ahead of German efforts. There had been pinchings and parings—especially in the matter of fast cruisers, for lack of which, when war broke out, we suffered heavy losses—but except in one instance—the abandonment of the Cawdor programme—these had not touched our security at any vital point.