Editorial – The European War has Come Upon Us

8 August 1914

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 08 August 1914

The Blow – The European War is Come Upon Us

The long-dreaded European war has come upon us at the last with terrible suddenness. Within a week Great Britain has been converted from a busy commercial nation into a powerful military engine poised ready to strike, to strike for liberty and freedom, ‘the civilisation and progress of Europe, and it may be of the world.

Exactly a hundred years Napoleon made his last despairing bid for the right to crush a continent beneath his iron heel. German militarism aims just such another blow at righteousness and freedom to-day, and as a consequence finds arrayed against her practically the whole of the public opinion of the world. The War-Lord of Potsdam has set Europe by the ears in the fond imagination that through a welter of blood he will be able to shape the destinies of a world-powerful over-shadowing Teuton race. With a courage which would be sublime if the cause were righteous, and a hardihood as colossal as the wickedness of its inspiration, he finds himself encountering on the sea the three great Powers of Europe, including the supreme Navy of the world, that of Great Britain, while on land he has one feeble ally, Austria, which is preoccupied with the small but semi-savage Balkan State, Servia.

By flagrant and cynical violation of their integrity he has alienated the neutral States of Belgium and Holland, and already the Belgians, whom he sought to brush contemptuously aside, are giving him pause. The Flemish blood, it seems, is capable of waxing as hot with indignation as that of the overbearing Emperor himself. Contest the simple dignified appeal of the King of the Belgians to his people, and the message of his Majesty the King to the British Navy, “the sure shield of Empire,” with the vainglorious’ bombast which is emanating from Potsdam day by day! We are making no; theatrical appeals to Heaven, hut’ quietly, soberly, kating the war, but loving the triple virtues of truth, honour and justice, we are going into this struggle to fight; to strike with all our might for the right, for liberty, and for peace. It was an evil day when the German Emperor conceived the policy of placing his Empire and the welfare of his people at hazard, and inviting the retribution which is hourly 1 drawing in upon him.

For the German nation we have sincere sympathy in this dark hour. They have been forced irresistibly into a calamitous war by the personality of their Emperor, at whose hands the account for their misfortunes will surely be required Our conscience in the matter is perfectly clear. The Blue Book issued on Wednesday as statement of the history of Britain’s diplomatic efforts for peace, will satisfy every Englishman that the quarrel has been none of our seeking, and that our action in definitely joining the struggle was utterly inevitable.

Sir Edward Grey may well say with the Psalmist, ” I labour for peace, but when I talk to them of peace they make them ready for battle.” The timely publication of this Blue Book should have a salutary influence upon the Stop-the-War campaign. The Little Englandism which inspired it is already subsiding rapidly in the face of the cold, stern fact of Britain’s peril and patriotism. It is evident that the spirit chrystalised in the attitude of Mr. John Redmond, who flung aside at once in the face of the higher duty, his Home Rule policy, and urged the Government to leave Ireland entirely to the protection of the Nationalist and Ulstermen Volunteers, has spread to every corner of the Empire. Whatever of amusement our domestic troubles, our fears for the peace of Ireland, our Labour unrest, our Suffrage rioting, may have occasioned our neighbours, the instant unity and harmony produced among the jangling and discordant elements in the face of a common foe, must have struck them with corresponding admiration.

We are ready, we are absolutely ready, for whatever the day may bring forth, and are waiting the shock of battle with calm dour confidence and courage. Fleet and Army are mobilised and are as efficient as the last resources of science can make them. The reserve forces all over the country are rapidly mustering, and here we have more strikingly illustrated than anywhere else, the quiet, undemonstrative enthusiasm with which the nation is pervaded. What is going on in this district is going on all over the country, and here hundreds of collier lads are rallying to the flag. The thin red line has no limit to its length while we have an able-bodied man with British blood in his veins and British’ courage in his heart. The fire that kindled with the perils of the Tudor dynasty, that glowed afresh in the terrible ordeal of the Napoleonic wars, that lighted our path to the Crimea and to South Africa, burns as fiercely to-day as ever it did in the course of the construction of our island story.

There are one or two domestic features of the unprecedented state of the British Isles at the present time, with which we propose to deal very shortly. The nation has behaved so beautifully in the face of this trying ordeal that it would be almost an insult to iterate the appeals already issued by the Press to the people to keep cool, and not to lose their self-command. At the same time there are certain elementary rules of conduct which, followed out by every citizen, would tremendously assist the preservation of public safety, and these are put so clearly and concisely in a “Times” article of Thursday that we cannot do better than quote them :

First and foremost.—Keep your heads. Be calm. Go about your ordinary business quietly and soberly. Do not indulge In excitement or foolish

Secondly.— Think of others more than you am wont to do. Think of your duty to your neighbour. Think of the common weal.

Try to contribute your share by doing your duty in your own place and your own sphere. Be abstemious and economical. Avoid waste.

Do not store goods and create an artificial scarcity to the hurt of others. Remember that it is an act of mean and selfish cowardice.

Do not hoard gold. Let it circulate. Try to make things easier, not more difficult.

Remember those who are worse off than yourself. Pay punctually what you owe, especially to your poorest creditors, such as washerwomen and charwomen.

If you are an employer think of your employed. Give them work and wages as long as you can, and work short time rather than close down. If you are employed remember the difficulties of your employer. Instead of dwelling on your own privation think of the infinitely worse state of those who live at the seat of war and are not only thrown out of work but deprived of all they possess.

Do what you can to cheer and encourage our soldiers. Gladly help any organisation for their comfort and welfare.

Explain to the young and the ignorant what war is, and why we hate been found to wage it.

Here, at any rate, is something that we non-combatants can do to keep the good old ship of State riding easily until the equilibrium of Europe is restored. After that we can only wait for our forces to strike with all their might against the adversary,—for the blessings of Peace.