Friday, 11 July 2014

Countdown to War, day 14. 11 July: why spend on the army when we're at peace? And there's that business about the Austrian Archduke again...

One hundred years ago today, on Saturday 11 July 1914, our young Mancunian railwayman might well have felt his worries of the day before justified by that morning’s edition of the Manchester Guardian. It seemed that Parliament too was concerned about the burden of constantly spending huge amounts on armaments.

Not many in Parliament, though. “From ten to twenty members sat through to-day’s debate on foreign affairs...
 he read. “As the general talk went on the attendance became smaller and smaller, for on such occasions it is the habit of members only to wait to read their own speeches. Little pretence is made of debating any particular question.”

“MPs, they’ve got their legal practices to look after.” said the Cynic, “Their banks. Their families. Can’t expect them to spend all their time in Parliament. Specially if it
’s to listen to other people.” 

At least the select band who showed up did consider the question that had been bothering Martin: why spend heavily on weapons at a time when war was such a distant prospect? Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, attempted an answer.

Why armaments should be so steadily increasing, despite the present conditions of mutual amity among the Powers, the Minister could not explain. “But it should be observed,” he added, “that the most notable increase in recent years has not been in naval but in military expenditure, and for that part of the increase this country is not responsible.” Speaking with a sarcasm which Mr. Dillon afterwards deprecated as out of place, Sir Edward ... contrasted the suggestions pressed on the Government for a disarmament crusade with the demands with which they were confronted at the same time for a greater display of activity in their foreign relations, particularly in Persia and the Middle East, and even in respect to the internal government of Russia.

The British Army:
why spend so much on it when there's no prospect of war?
Andrew Bonar Law, leader of the Conservative Party and the Opposition pointed to another great trouble spot of the time, much closer to home:

Here is the House of Commons lecturing the Foreign Secretary on the duty of keeping the peace throughout the world, although we all know that it is his duty and that of others to keep the peace within our own borders.

“That means Ireland,” said the Cynic, “they think of Ireland as within our borders. They cant cope with the idea that it might be a different country.

“It isnt,” replied another railwayman, “Just an unruly part of this one.

Certainly, it was proving as difficult as ever to keep the peace in Ireland. The paper talked of a meeting of the “Provisional Government” of Ulster. The best that could be said of it was that it had turned out to be a damp squib. It seemed that the:

... portentous announcement of the day before that “something serious” would be done at the meeting of the Ulster “Provisional Government” in Belfast yesterday was falsified by the result. The meeting was held, and Sir Edward Carson presided over it, but, according to the official report, nothing was done at all but to pass a declaration reaffirming the familiar attitude of the Ulster Unionists towards Home Rule.

Martin was thankful the outcome had been such an anti-climax, but where else, he wondered, could a rebel organisation operate under the leadership of a prominent lawyer and member of Parliament, and the government take no action? 

Another story was turning into a recurring theme: “General Huerta’s tottering Government in Mexico has suffered another heavy blow...” Rebels had just captured the country’s second city. No sign of things settling there, then.

Back in the news after all:
the Archducal couple head for the car in which they will be murdered
An apparently closed chapter had also re-opened:

Europe has not heard the last of the Sarajevo outrage. Articles in the Vienna press are preparing the way for official Austro-Hungarian representations to Servia. Any attempt to make the Belgrade Government responsible for the Greater Servia agitation, to which the Archduke Francis Ferdinand fell a victim, is certain to anger further the Serbs, already violently excited. Signs are multiplying that the assassination has seriously increased the many grave dangers to the peace of Eastern Europe.

The “Neue Freie Presse” observes that the pan-Servian murder had aroused the conscience of Europe, not only of its peoples, but also of its Governments. The journal refers to the moral isolation of the pan-Servian movement, and points out that the whole German people stands by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. It believes that Austria-Hungary’s ally Italy also shares the feeling of the German Empire...

England, proceeds the article, will most certainly use her great influence in order to bring Servia to her senses and secure the European outlawing of pan-Servdom. Great Britain is never found wanting when she hears the voice of justice. France and Russia can scarcely wish to separate themselves from England in these views.

He tended to sympathise with underdogs, and Serbia certainly seemed an underdog, but that assassination had been a shameful crime. And it was true that Britain was as sorry as anyone about what had happened – why, the same issue of the paper told him that even in Salford, right here on his doorstep in Manchester, there’d been a Requiem mass for the murdered Archduke and his wife the previous day. But – “Grave dangers to peace”
? He didn’t like that kind of talk. Surely there was no need for things to come to that?

In more cheerful news, Lancashire had secured a famous victory over Leicestershire. No major scalp, since Leicestershire was one of the minnows of 1914’s Championship. But then, Lancashire too might be one of the smaller fish that year. He
’d take what satisfaction he could from any victory.


Anonymous said...

Keep em coming.


David Beeson said...

Day by day. Till 5 August. Plenty of time to get tired of 'em.