It is laid down in German strategical textbooks that the time for making war is not when you have a political cause for it, but when your troops are ready and the enemy is unready; and that to strike the first blow is the best way to declare war.
I recounted all this at the time in a private lecture to officers, illustrated with lantern slides and maps, as a military problem which would be interesting to work out on the actual ground, and it was not really until the report of this leaked into the papers that I realised how nearly I had “touched the spot.” For, apart from the various indignant questions with which the Secretary of State for War was badgered in the House of Commons on my account, I was assailed with letters from Germany of most violent abuse from various quarters, high and low, which showed me that I had gone nearer the truth than I had even suspected.
“You are but a brown-paper general,” said one, “and if you think that by your foolish talk you are to frighten us from coming, you are not right.”
It is difficult to say where exactly a spy’s work ends in war, and that of a scout begins, except that, as a rule, the first is carried out in disguise.
The scout is looked up to as a brave man, and his expedients for gaining information are thought wonderfully clever, so long as he remains in uniform. If he goes a bit further, and finds that he can get his information better by adopting a disguise—even at the greater risk to himself through the certainty of being shot if he is found out—then he is looked down upon as a “despicable spy.” I don’t see the justice of it myself.
A good spy—no matter which country he serves—is of necessity a brave and valuable fellow.
In our Army we do not make a very wide use of field spies on service, though their partial use at manoeuvres has shown what they can do.
In “Aids to Scouting” I have stated: “In the matter of spying we are behind other nations. Spying, in reality, is reconnaissance in disguise. Its effects are so far-reaching that most nations, in order to deter enemies’ spies, threaten them with death if caught.”
As an essential part of scouting, I gave a chapter of hints on how to spy, and how to catch other people spying.
Spy-catching was once one of my duties, and is perhaps the best form of education towards successful spying. I had been lucky enough to nail three and was complimented by one of the senior officers on the Commander-in-Chief’s staff. We were riding home together from a big review at the time that he was talking about it, and he remarked, “How do you set about catching a spy?” I told him of our methods and added that also luck very often came in and helped one.
Just in front of us, in the crowd of vehicles returning from the review-ground, was an open hired Victoria in which sat a foreign-looking gentleman. I remarked that as an instance this was the sort of man I should keep an eye upon, and I should quietly follow him till I found where he lodged and then put a detective on to report his moves.