In the Boer war, for example, every one in England, official and civilian, believed that 30,000 men would be more than enough to defeat the South African burghers. Yet ten times 30,000 British soldiers were operating in the Transvaal and Orange Free State before the war ended.
In the present conflict Lord Kitchener himself admits that there are many times the number of British soldiers in France than was thought would be necessary when war was declared. And even up to May 6 the British public was not thoroughly aroused. Many of the peasants in the back counties hardly believed the war was a reality. Recruiting was slow, there was but little enthusiasm, and Lord Haldane’s thinly veiled hint that a draft might soon become necessary was almost unnoticed.
But the sinking of the Lusitania has brought the war home to England as nothing else has or could have done, and all England is aflame with a bitterness against Germany which is already increasing the flow of recruits and cannot but add to the fighting efficiency of the men now at the front. The effect will be far-reaching throughout the British Empire, and will do much to solve the problem which faced the organizers of Great Britain’s forces of how to get sufficient volunteers to swell the volume of the French expeditionary force and to replace the casualties.
To turn to the direct military operations in the various theatres of war, no week since last Fall has witnessed more important activities or offensive movements conducted on such a scale. On both western and eastern fronts truly momentous actions involving great numbers of men have been under way, and though not yet concluded, have advanced so far as to give a reasonable basis for estimating the results.
On the western front the principal scenes of action have been the front from Nieuport to Arras, the Champagne district, and the southern side of the German wedge from its apex at St. Mihiel to Pont-a-Mousson. On the northern part of the Allies’ line from Ypres to Nieuport the Germans have been the aggressors. They have selected as the principal points of attack the Belgian line back of the Yser just south of Nieuport and the point of juncture of the British with the Belgian lines.
Both attacks have the same general object—the bending back of the line between these two points with a vision, for the future, of Dunkirk and Calais. The attack along the Yser has not been pushed to any extent, and what advantage there is rests with the Belgians. In fact, the Belgians have advanced somewhat and have been able to throw a bridge across the Yser near St. George, just east of Nieuport, on the Nieuport-Bruges road.
Around Ypres the fighting has been more than usually fierce and desperate. Blow after blow has been struck, first by one side, then by the other. Both German and British have admittedly suffered enormous losses, but the positions of their respective lines are almost unchanged from those occupied a week ago. The German gains of last week in the vicinity of Steenstraate produced in the British lines around Ypres a sharp salient, and it is against the sides of this salient that the Germans have been hurling their forces.