Hardest Fighting.

A Struggle for a Wood.

Enemy’s Huge Losses.

German Reserve Strength.

Harden’s Figures.

THE desperate fighting for the possession of the wooded triangle known as Trones Wood, the determination with which the German came again and again to attack until he once more succeeded in forcing an entry, is a sufficient reminder of the fact, previously insisted upon, that we have heavy work to carry through before the back of the enemy’s resistance is broken.

Happily for our national morale no writer with any sense of responsibility minimised the task that faced our troops, and there has never been any suggestion that the rolling up of the German lines would speedily follow the launching of our offensive.

It has to be admitted, however, that, while the impregnability of Verdun had induced many to doubt the possibility of the Allies smashing their way through the German lines, the first news of our offensive dissipated all forebodings and raised hopes almost extravagant in character.

Thus, although we have really made astonishing progress, something like a reaction has set in, and the warnings so freely uttered seem to have been so much wasted breath (or ink).

Perhaps fresh warnings may prove more effective.

Taking it for granted that we have got to beat the enemy in the field (Germany will not be starved this year) the first point to clear up is the strength by which we are, and are not likely to be, opposed.

Here at once we find a difficulty, a question which it is almost impossible to answer.

Where military experts disagree the civilian cannot be expected to decide, and there is certainly a conflict of opinion among those who ought to know or to be able to judge best.

Mr Hilaire Belloc, with all the caution he has displayed, had to recede, at least once, from his time estimate as to the exhaustion of the German reserves, and now we have Mr Edgar Wallace, who has seldom adopted a pessimistic tone, quoting almost approvingly the statements of Max Harden, the “candid friend,” who is believed to be actually present the views of the Government which is typified in the person and policy of Bethmann-Hollweg.

Harden has recently revealed the extent of the German reserves and Mr Wallace thinks we may believe him.

Harden says it is “absurd to talk of beating Germany when she has still 30 corps in German garrisons and can raise 600,000 recruits every year”.

This latter claim our authority shires at. He can swallow the rest, but this is “a great exaggeration”.

She can do no more than raise 400,000 by normal methods, and unless she takes boys of 17 she cannot even raise this number in 18 class now, but “apart from this there are still in Germany a little over a million soldiers in the various garrison towns”.

There may be – it is very likely – but surely that is a small number. Moreover, Germany is now losing at an abnormal rate – 250,000 to 300,000 a month – and will lose more as the present fighting, East and West, inevitably extends.