A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 75

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A Popular History of The Great War   ·   Volume 1: The First Phase - 1914   ·   Chapter 4: The Opposing Forces
CHAPTER 4
The Opposing Forces


BY the evening of August 4 seven European nations were at war. Germany and Austria, known as the Central Powers, formed one group. The others, called usually the Allies, consisted of Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, and Serbia. Later others were to join in the fray, but before their participation is recorded it will be well to say something about the strength of the forces, on land, on sea, and in the air, that were ranged against each other when hostilities began.

Of the combatants Great Britain alone had no form of compulsory military service. The wisdom of depending entirely upon a voluntary army had been hotly disputed. The advantage of voluntary service for a long term of years is that greater professional ability is obtained, and that, as all who join do so willingly, there are likely to be fewer shirkers. The superiority over a compulsory service army due to this cause has been calculated by authorities at 30 per cent. That is to say, a voluntary service army of 100,000 men should be equal to a compulsory service army of 130,000 men. As against these advantages there are signal defects. A long service voluntarily recruited force is very costly. It will be small in numbers and will have no large reserves. It is apt to become a class apart from the population. The officers, because they have not constantly to strain all their faculties in teaching a continual succession of short-service men, are liable to deteriorate, though it must be said that the British officer in the Great War showed that to this rule there are marked exceptions.

For many years before the war Earl Roberts, in speeches and in writing, had urged upon his fellow countrymen the need of accepting some form of compulsory service for home defence. Almost alone, he foresaw the German menace, but when he pointed to General von Bernhardi's book, "Germany and the Next War," which proclaimed the necessity of humbling Great Britain, he was accused of libelling Germany, and was denounced in certain sections of the press and by a few politicians

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