The Times, 8 August 1914
The question how long this great war is likely to last interests every soul in Europe, but it is astonishing to see how wide apart are the different estimates. From three weeks to three years have been suggested as the probable duration of the contest, with every variety of intermediate estimate, and it is evident that few people have given the matter much serious thought.
We are quite accustomed to dragging wars which go on for years. We are generally unready for war, and in our Colonial wars it does not usually matter whether we strike soon or late. The enemy, as a rule, is not in a position to make us pay very heavily for unreadiness, so we take our time to muddle through.
But this war, this whirlpool of wars, in which we are suddenly engulfed, stands in a different category altogether. We must regard it from the German point of view because Germany has been the aggressor and will be the peace-maker. For Germany a long dragging war is sheer disaster. Her position between two great and hostile military states, the closing of the sea, and the paralysis of her whole maritime industries, together with the dangers which her overseas colonies will incur, absolutely prohibit any German from thinking of a dragging war. There are certainly four, it may be six, million Germans in arms counting garrisons, depots, and reserves, and though German financial experts who have written on war have suggested ways and means for raising the wind for a period of six months, no one has been able to see beyond that term, and moreover the calculation has not considered that more than three million men would be in the field.
The Germans are employing all the ‘forces vives’ of their country to deliver a crushing blow at France, and their hope is to deliver the blow with such force and weight that it will be irresistible. It is absolutely necessary that the blow shall be prompt and crushing so that it may produce the political as well as the military effect desired, and preserve for Germany the prestige of invincibility upon which she has so long and so successfully traded…
The German Navy keeps quiet, but we must consider that the possible dispatch of British troops to Belgium or France has not been left out of sight by the German Staff. It would be quite in accord with the principles expounded in the most authoritative German military literature for the German Navy to act with its whole strength to prevent the passage of our troops. Such attack our Navy will naturally be prepared to prevent, and will welcome the chance of measuring itself with the Kaiser’s sailors. The silence and the calm of these last few days are entirely deceptive. Whatever the German plan may be, we must be prepared for an onset by the whole German Navy and by every German ship that floats. It will be great day indeed when the German Navy comes proudly out to fight, and warm indeed will its reception be.