Page images

although this is infinitely the shortest line of advance to Khartoum.

To return, however, to the history of our Intelligence Department and to its gradual formation. At first, as I have already mentioned, the Quartermaster - General's department was held to be responsible for all information, and to it were attached a few engineer officers and clerks, termed the "Topographical Staff," whose special province was to prepare and correct maps. In course of time, principally through the action of the late Lord Cardwell, this so-called "Topographical" department was enlarged and expanded: more officers were attached to it, and the special duties were assigned to it of collecting information regarding our colonies and foreign countries, which was collated, printed, and put into a handy form, so as to be available for reference at any moment. A specially selected officer of rank and experience was placed at the head of this new branch, and it was dignified by the name of the Intelligence Department.

It was my good fortune to be employed in it just twenty-five years ago, when it was in its infancy. At that time I received no extra pay, nor did any of the officers thus employed, except two or three, who were on the permanent staff of the Horse Guards, as the military side of the War Office was then termed. fact, money for such a fangled and, as many considered it, such a useless institution



could not be wrung out of the Treasury. It not infrequently happened that British officers travelled and laboured to obtain valuable information for the Government, and were not even repaid their out-of-pocket expenses, or any portion of them. I could quote many instances of this in one case the officer in question had been put to very great extra expense from having been specially requested by the Intelligence Department to undertake a very hazardous and costly expedition in a certain part of Asia. On his return with maps, plans, reports, and information, he was told that he had performed great and valuable service, but that unfortunately there was no money available to reimburse him even a portion of his outlay. The officer in question, who shall be nameless, as he now holds a high command, but who told me the story himself, was a man of means, and was really indifferent as to whether he got any money or not. was, however, so disgusted with the meanness of such treatment that he said, "Then those plans and reports are my property; please hand them over,"-and he absolutely refused to give them up until at least that portion of his expenses was refunded to him.

I myself had a similar experience. In January 1877, when the relations between Russia and Turkey were somewhat strained, it was quietly intimated to me that the Government were very anxious to find out whether any preparations had been made for the invasion of Turkey, and in what

condition the Turks were to resist such an attack in case it took place. At the time all the information received through the ordinary sources was to the effect that there had been no such warlike preparations, a condition which entirely coincided with the pacific protestations of the Russian Government. There was, however, a lurking suspicion that these peaceful assurances were not entirely to be trusted. As I happened to be less ignorant of foreign languages than the majority of Englishmen, who have received the ordinary public school and university education, I was told that if I managed to get reliable information on this point it would be very acceptable; at the same time I was clearly to understand that if I got into a scrape, I must not invoke the assistance of Government officials to get out of it.

So off I started. In Paris I was so fortunate as to pick up a charming travelling companion, poor Eugene Brett of the Scots Guards, a son of the late Lord Esher. Alas! he fell a victim to enteric fever, after the 1882 campaign in Egypt. He united to a charming temperament and natural sweetness of disposition great ability and talent, with firmness of character and devotion to his profession. Had his life been spared, he must have risen to distinction.

not an enjoyable one, and it was most expensive. I was, however, enabled to report home in detail the Russian preparations, which in my opinion indicated that war was inevitable as soon as roads, or rather tracks, in that country were fit for traffic. I declared my conviction that war would be declared about April 25th. As a fact it was declared on the 26th, and the Russian army commenced to cross the Pruth on the same day. My reports reached England about the middle of February, and but little attention was paid to them at the time. When, however, my predictions proved absolutely correct, I had the privilege of being sent for by the principal Secretaries of State, and was directed to draw up a memorandum, which was printed for the information of the Cabinet; but neither I nor my travelling companion received a sixpence towards our expenses. Nor was I in any respect benefited professionally, as the views which I had expressed were entirely at variance with those which had previously been put forward by some illustrious and exalted personages who were then in power; and to make matters worse, I happened to be right and they to be wrong. Hence for some little time I was practically in disgrace, and nearly a year elapsed before the late Sir Patrick Macdougall, at that time head of the Intelligence Department, could obtain permission to employ me in his office.

We travelled all through Southern Russia, Roumania, and Northern Bulgaria, the scene of the war in the following year. It was the depth of It may be said that until winter, and the weather was comparatively recently the most severe; our journey was manner in which the Intelli

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

When we come to consider the enormous extent of our empire, our many interests, our many vulnerable points, and, as recent events have proved, our many rivals and enemies, it would seem that our Central Bureau for collecting information should be at least as large and as well provided with funds as that of Italy. It may be urged, and with reason, that the Central Bureaux of other countries are not purely for intelligence, but are for the education and training of the General Staff. This opens a wider question, too complicated to be here discussed. It is to be hoped that when our promised army reorganisation takes place we may also have a similar organisation created. The fact, however, remains that these departments are relieved of all routine or executive work; they have the time to devote to the elaboration of plans of campaign, and the perfection of all the various details which enable their country not to be taken at a disadvantage should war suddenly and unexpectedly break out. Nowadays it will not do to start unprepared, trusting

that we may muddle through somehow before it is all over. We have had sufficient warnings of the danger of such an attitude by our reverses and misfortune at the commencement of the present war in South Africa, when only opposed to a confederation of farmers.

Although, as I have already said, the formation of a "General Staff" bureau, such as exists in Germany, and which has often been advocated for the British army, cannot be discussed within the limits of an article, still, judging by what we have learnt in South Africa, it is most desirablenay, even necessary-that those officers who are employed in the Local Intelligence Department during war should as a rule have received previously in peace a careful training for this special service. It is not every class of mind that is adapted for such duty, hence it is all the more important that only those should be selected who have a special aptitude for it, and this selection can only be satisfactorily made by one who has a personal knowledge and experience of

the officers whom he selects. I will illustrate what I mean by an incident coming within my own knowledge.

Thirty years ago I was A.D.C. to Lord Strathnairn, then commanding the forces in Ireland, and under his command was an officer, now passed away, who held a high staff appointment, and who was a never-failing source of irritation to my chief whenever there was a field-day on the Curragh or elsewhere. The officer in question was a highly educated and cultivated man, a first-rate linguist, a good draughtsman, a fair musician, and a charming companion, besides being a thorough gentleman in every sense. He was, however, perfectly incapable of directing the movements of troops in the field, of mastering the rudiments of drill, or even of placing points on a proper alignment.

Lord Strathnairn frequently in private lamented to me this extraordinary peculiarity, and invariably added, What a splendid head of an Intelligence Department he would make! In fact, although such work had nothing whatever to do with his military position, he was frequently utilised in this manner, as these were Fenian and troublous times. In course of years this officer attained general's rank, the Intelligence Department chanced to fall vacant, and he applied for the post, which was refused him, and conferred on another officer, by common consent unfitted for it, and who held it but a short time, while my friend was given the command of a brigade at Aldershot, where I remember

He was

paying him a visit. not happy, and appeared to be conscious that he was unfitted for the position he held, and, what was worse, as invariably happens his contemporaries and those under his command very soon made the same discovery. I fear that during his three years of command he did not add to his military reputation or confer much benefit on those whom he was supposed to instruct.

No doubt the Military Secretary of the day conscientiously believed that these officers were respectively suited to the appointments for which he recommended them, but such fitting of round pegs in square holes could scarcely have occurred had there been a chief of the General Staff who had made it his special duty to study the idiosyncrasies of each officer, and how his talents could best be utilised for the benefit of the State, or even had the recorded opinion of such an official been available.

Nothing could be further from my wish than to suggest any reflection on the officers employed in the Local Intelligence Department during the present campaign-I do not personally know any one of them, or even their names. It would, however, appear from all one can read and hear that the service would be better of reorganisation if we are to be properly served in any future war.

It is admitted in the official despatches, in private letters, in the published communications of correspondents, that whereas the Boers knew all about our movements, we knew next to

[ocr errors]

nothing of theirs. In fact, we "could scarcely move a gun without the circumstance being reported to the enemy, while they moved large bodies of troops without a hint of such movements reaching us. One correspondent who was with the Ladysmith relief force mentions that a complete copy of all General Buller's orders, including his celebrated speech declaring that he would be in Ladysmith within a week, was found translated into Dutch in the Boer laager at Monte Cristo. The same correspondent suggests that a large retaining fee, granted to some superior Boer official, would have been money well invested. Another correspondent, who was shut up in Ladysmith during the siege, is even still more explicit, and gives the impression that in his opinion with better management our want of reliable information might have been obviated. doubt we had exceptional difficulties to contend with, operating as we did in a country full of Boer sympathisers, although not all overtly hostile, and with an almost unlimited supply of money spent by our enemies on spies and corruption.


Until the secret history of this war is written the British public will never understand how great a part Secret Service money has played both before its commencement and during its course. Lord Salisbury recently mentioned that £800,000 was spent in one year before the war by the Transvaal Government in this manner; it would be interesting to ascertain how much has been spent since last October. Of course the

Continental press press has been largely subsidised, and with palpable results, as otherwise the burst of anti-English feeling could scarcely have been so very generally excited or so long maintained. Any one who has read Von Busch's 'Life of Bismarck' will realise how even respectable foreign papers are open to such influences. I fear, moreover, it can scarcely be maintained that all people in this country have entirely clean hands. Boer officials have proved themselves past-masters in the art of corrupting and being corrupted; they have reduced the practice to a science which was not excelled, perhaps not even equalled, in the corruption practised in former years by Russian generals on Turkish pashas.

It certainly does seem hard to believe that all those who are so enthusiastic in the Boer cause, who have spent so much money in deluging Members of Parliament and others with pro-Boer literature, are entirely disinterested that they are solely animated by a pure admiration for that "pastoral," God-fearing," and "simpleminded" people.


Our Local Intelligence Department in Egypt, from all accounts, left little to be desired, and I cannot help thinking that had money been more liberally spent in South Africa better results might have been attained.

To return, however, to our central organisation in this country, should the terrible misfortune occur of a European war, our War Department should have nothing to do but to draw

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »