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A time will come

A time will come

Colonel Seely, who, when he touches arithmetic soars at once into the region of poetry, has pronounced confidently that one of our voluntary soldiers is worth ten men whom the law compels to serve. Sir John Simon was still of opinion—even after several months of war—that one of our volunteers was worth at least three conscripts; and he was convinced that the Kaiser himself already knew it. What a splendid thing if Colonel Seely were right, or even if Sir John Simon were right!

But is either of them right? So far as our voluntary army is superior—and it was undoubtedly superior in certain respects at the beginning of the war—it was surely not because it was a 'voluntary' army; but because, on the average, it had undergone a longer and more thorough course of training than the troops against which it was called upon to fight. Fine as its spirit was, and high as were both its courage and its intelligence, who has ever heard a single soldier maintain that—measured through and through—it was in those respects superior to the troops alongside which, or against which it fought?

As the war has continued month after month, and men with only a few months' training have been {388} drafted across the Channel to supply the British wastage of war, even this initial superiority which came of longer and more thorough training has gradually been worn away.
, no doubt—possibly it has already come—when Germany, having used up her trained soldiers of sound physique, has to fall back upon an inferior quality. But that is merely exhaustion. It does not prove the superiority of the voluntary system. It does not affect the comparison between men of equal stamina and spirit—one set of whom has been trained beforehand in arms—the other not put into training until war began  The entire room was faced
with polished granite..

Possibly Colonel Seely spoke somewhat lightly and thoughtlessly in those serene days before the war-cloud burst; but Sir John Simon spoke deliberately—his was the voice of the Cabinet, after months of grim warfare. To describe his utterances as cant does not seem unjust, though possibly it is inadequate. We are proud of our army, not merely because of its fine qualities, but for the very fact that it is what we choose to call a 'voluntary' army. But what do they say of it in foreign countries? What did the whole of Europe say of it during the South African War? What are the Germans saying of it now?

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