A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 80

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THE OPPOSING FORCES


The army reservists were training to fill the ranks of the regular battalions, including the Guards.

The above facts and figures make no mention of the vast reserves of men in the various British possessions overseas as, for obvious reasons, these could not make an immediate appearance in the fighting line. India possessed a regular army of considerable size and proved valour, but the self-governing Dominions — Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa — had only small forces raised and trained for home defence. These, however, formed nuclei round which gathered in a few months armies exceeding in size and rivalling in valour the host that Napoleon led at Austerlitz or Wellington at Waterloo far greater than the armies with which Marlborough and Frederick the Great won their immortal victories.

Efficient though the British force was, its numbers, comparatively speaking, were small, so immense was the scale of the struggle. It was inevitable, therefore, that the main share of the task of withstanding the tremendous German onslaught in the west should fall to the French, whose leaders, whatever hopes they may have built on Britain's aid, had never thought it could be otherwise.

The enormous increase in the German forces announced in April, 1913, which was to bring the peace strength of the German army up to the unprecedented figure of 866,000 men, demanded an instant reply from France if the margin of military strength between herself and her rival were not to be allowed to broaden beyond all possibility of adjustment. However much it might be urged in Germany that the menace of the ever-growing military strength of Russia was the reason for the constant increase in the German army, France realized that it was herself that these vast armaments chiefly threatened. For she knew that if the day of war came, the slowness with which the mobilization of her Russian ally must necessarily be carried out would expose her, for a month at any rate, to the full weight of the German military power. During that month every effort would be made to crush France in time to hurry the victorious German armies back across the whole width of the empire to meet the slowly gathering hosts of Russia.

It was the perception of this danger that brought into being the famous Three Years' Service bill, which, after dividing France into two opposing camps for eighteen months, was

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