This then is perhaps the first point to notice in the landscape of the war, as we look back on the last three months. For on it everything else, Naval and Military, depends:—on the incredibly heightened output of British workshops, in all branches of war material, which has been attained since the summer of last year. In it, as I have just said, we see an effect of a great cause—i.e., of the “effort” made by Great Britain, since the war broke out, to bring her military strength in men and munitions to a point, sufficient, in combination with the strength of her Allies, for victory over the Central Powers, who after long and deliberate preparation had wantonly broken the European peace. The “effort” was for us a new one, provoked by Germany, and it will have far-reaching civil consequences when the war is over.
In the great Naval victory now known as the Battle of Jutland, on the other hand, we have a fresh demonstration on a greater scale than ever before, of that old, that root fact, without which indeed the success of the Allied effort in other directions would be impossible—i.e., the overwhelming strength of the British Navy, and its mastery of the Sea.
In a few earlier pages of this book, I have described a visit which the British Admiralty allowed me to make in February last to a portion of the Fleet, then resting in a northern harbour. On that occasion, at the Vice-Admiral’s luncheon-table, there sat beside me on my right, a tall spare man with the intent face of one to whom life has been a great arid strenuous adventure, accepted in no boyish mood, but rather in the spirit of the scientific explorer, pushing endlessly from one problem to the next, and passionate for all experience that either unveils the world, or tests himself. We talked of the war, and my projected journey. “I envy you!” he said, his face lighting up. “I would give anything to see our Army in the field.” My neighbour was Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, commanding the First Cruiser Squadron, who went down with his flagship H.M.S. Defence, in the Battle of Jutland, on the 31st of May last, while passing between the British and German fleets, under a very heavy fire. “It is probable,” said Admiral Jellicoe’s despatch, “that Sir Robert Arbuthnot, during his engagement with the enemy’s light cruisers, and in his desire to complete their destruction, was not aware of the approach of the enemy’s heavy ships, owing to the mist, until he found himself in close proximity to the main fleet, and before he could withdraw his ships, they were caught under a heavy fire and disabled.” So, between the fleets of Germany and England, amid the mists of the May evening, and the storm and smoke of battle, my courteous neighbour of three months before found, with all his shipmates, that grave in the “unharvested sea” which England never forgets to honour, and from which no sailor shrinks. At the same luncheon-table were two other Admirals and many junior