Supremacy of the British Soldier (19 april 1917)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Supremacy of the British Soldier is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Daily Chronicle on 19 april 1917.

Supremacy of the British Soldier

A Striking Comparison of Captures

Sir, — It may be of interest to remind your readers how completely, judged by every test, the British soldiers have mastered the German during the war.

After the foolish gibe of the Emperor, and the constant sneers of the German Press, which made merry for so long over our attempts to raise an army, it is instructive to get down to the actual figures, which would be infinitely more favourable if it were not for the losses in the first week of actual fighting, when we were in the presence of forces which outnumbered us by five to one.

In prisoners we have at least double, the British prisoners in Germany being about 34,000 in number, while we have close upon 70,000 Germans. Only during the Mons retreat have the Germans taken any considerable number of prisoners from us. Our losses during that week came to nearly 15,000 men.

On the other hand, on the Marne, at Loos, again and again at the Somme, on the Ancre, and now at Arras and the Vimy Ridge, we have made captures which run into thousands.

The comparison of captured guns is even more remarkable. Our losses during the Mons retreat may be put at about 60, the great majority of which were at the glorious defeat of Le Cateau. Afterwards, the guns which we have lost could be counted upon the fingers of one's hands. There were two at the La Bassee action in October 1914, four heavy guns in the poison gas action of April 23, 1915, and possibly one or two at different times, but the total certainly could not exceed 70.

Against this, we have up to date taken about 200 in the present fighting, and 140 in the fighting on the Somme. Eight were taken in the Battery L action and four by the cavalry next day. Six were taken by the Lincolns on September 9, and about a dozen others, mostly disabled, during the Marne retreat. Twenty-one were taken at Loos.

Altogether, our total amounts approximately to 400 guns, as against 70 which we have lost.

It would be well if some prominence could be given to such figures in those little neutral countries where it is not yet understood that the German soldier has found his master. The superstition of Prussian supremacy never rested upon any very firm basis, and now it has been destroyed for ever.

Giving our enemies credit for all the military virtues which they undoubtedly possess, it has none the less been clearly shown that brave slaves led by clever fiends can and will be beaten by freemen led by gentlemen.

Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex April 18, 1917.