Serbia’s dire peril as it faces fearful odds

THE full effect, political and military, of Germany’s effort to make the Balkans the principal war theatre has yet to be seen.

Except the Serbian resistance was greater than anticipated and that consequently the enterprise has been vastly more costly than had ever entered into their calculations, the Central Powers have so far scored.

Whether by creating this huge diversion they have thinned, or will thin, the Allies’ Western line, and thus ward off for a prolonged period their dreaded expulsion from France and Flanders remains to be seen.

Neither do we know if the call for men elsewhere is likely to seriously hinder Russia’s contemplated general offensive in the East or further, what effect the new campaign will have upon our operations in Gallipoli and the Dardanelles.

On this last point, as upon the situation and policy generally, we have, apparently, to wait for information until General Sir Charles Monro sends word. He was expected to reach the Eastern Mediterranean yesterday and has been instructed to report on all the aspects of the case.

Lord Lansdowne, replying to a speech of which he knew nothing in advance - the terms of his answer suggesting no preparation - painted a very dismal picture of the present position of affairs.

The British force landed at Salonika, in response to Serbia’s appeal for help, consisted of about 13,000 men!

Although he told us this contingent was the precursor of a large force that was under orders at the same time and although it is understood that the French troops now cooperating with the Serbs at the Bulgarian frontier are in fairly large numbers, it is difficult to refrain from agreeing with Lord Lansdowne that “it is highly improbable that the Serbian army will be able to withstand for any great length of time the attack to which it is exposed from the Austro-German forces in the north, added to the stab in the back it is receiving from Bulgaria”.

We learnt too that the use of which our larger force is to be put “must depend upon the situation which exists when it arrives upon the scene”.

Lord Lansdowne suggested, however, that it would probably be used for the purpose of “countering the movements of the Central Powers across Bulgaria”.

Briefly put, Lord Lansdowne’s statement was to the effect that there remains a possibility of barring the enemy’s way at a later stage in his advance.

We have clamoured for news and we have got it with a vengeance.

Our enemies everywhere will read translations of the speech with delight but as the wickedly pessimistic stuff published in a section of the British Press has already wrought us such deadly harm in Bulgaria, Greece and perhaps Romania, Lord Lansdowne’s speech cannot make matters much worse.

It is to be hoped, however, that no feeling of pessimism will be created sufficiently acute to interfere with recruiting in this country, or to damp the fine enthusiasm which is beginning to manifest itself.

These are critical days and while it is well that our need for more men should be again and again emphasised, nothing should be said or written calculated to undermine that fine spirit of calm confidence which has so many times enabled Britain to emerge smiling from the tightest of tight corners.