Shall we have a Channel tunnel?
SHALL WE HAVE
Delivered in Aberdeen, on Tuesday, February 6th,
ABERDEEN: A. BROWN & CO.
EDINBURGH : JOHN MENZIES & CO.
LONDON : SIMPKIN, MARSHALL & CO.
SHALL WE HAVE A CHANNEL TUNNEL?
To this question I would reply "No," decidedly and emphatically "No," and for reasons which it is the purpose of this Lecture to point out and maintain. But before doing so, it will be desirable to make some preliminary observations bearing upon the subject generally.
(1) When I intimate, as I have just done, my purpose and intention of opposing any scheme for making a Channel Tunnel, I do not desire to preclude myself or my audience from either listening to or considering any arguments in favour of this scheme, which may be brought forward by any speakers at the close of this Lecture, and indeed I propose myself to bring before you some arguments and evidence in support of it. But I would simply desire at the outset to state my own conviction that the arguments against are overpoweringly greater than any that can be adduced in support of this scheme. But whichever of these two views may be taken by different persons, I claim a fair and patient consideration of the question in all its bearings. I deprecate most strongly the allegation which has been or may have been made against those who oppose the construction of the Channel Tunnel, that they are actuated by unreasonable, imaginary, causeless, and unworthy fears. I wish the matter to be looked at as one intimately connected with the prospects of Great Britain for good or for harm, as in fact a great National question of the deepest moment and concern. Any such arguments as those implying that the opposers of the Tunnel show fear and distrust of their neighbours across the Channel, should be most scrupulously avoided as unfair and ungenerous. Treachery and insurrectionary principles, which lurk hidden and it may be almost unsuspected in the midst of a nation till some favourable opportunity occurs for their outward display, do not by any means involve the whole nation in a charge of holding revolutionary ideas or unneighbourly intentions. The opposers of the Tunnel may well consider what additional opportunities its construction would give to disaffected persons on this side the channel, at some future time it might be, to coalesce with disaffected persons on the other side, without being accused of entertaining groundless fears, and without being charged with distrusting a whole nation. No indictment is made against a whole people, because precautions are taken against insurrectionary bands. Just as Sir George Grey in regard to Ireland drew this distinction: the alarming increase of crime had taken place only in a few counties, and he said in introducing a bill for the repression of crime in November, 1847, "The present, therefore, is no general indictment against a whole people". The matter before us this evening is, I venture to say, one well worth the most careful consideration of all true lovers of their country, and it is with this view of it that I invite your most careful attention.
(2) One observation I must be allowed to make and to maintain most strongly, that nothing further should be permitted to be done on this side the channel in connection with any scheme for constructing a Tunnel, till the opinion and decision of Parliament have been obtained. I do not think that any Government in this country should have the power of supporting or furthering this scheme, or giving it any encouragement without the direct sanction of Parliament, which can alone decide in so weighty a matter. I suppose that money has already been spent and labour employed in view of the scheme being carried out, starting from our own shores, but I cannot consent that these facts should be used or pressed forward as arguments or reasons in themselves for carrying out the scheme, or that they should be allowed to have the least weight in determining so important a matter. I regret extremely that under the circumstances any such money should have been employed, while the question in all its bearings had as yet never been considered by Parliament, but this cannot be thought of for a moment as a counter-balance in favour of the project, if on national grounds it ought to be opposed. It should not be regarded simply in the light of a private enterprise or as a personal matter in any way, but as a national concern, and if it should receive the approval of Parliament (an approval which I earnestly trust it may not obtain), it would certainly be necessary that the Tunnel, whether constructed by a private company or not, should be sufficiently under Parliamentary control. It is not intended here to take into consideration the advantages or disadvantages to other countries that might result from carrying out this project, but to view the matter only from a British standpoint; and as this Lecture is not intended to be a scientific one, it will not be debated whether a Channel Tunnel (it may be one or more) could be made, but it will be allowed, for the sake of argument, that there is nothing physically to liinder it. We have the much wider question to consider first of all, whether it would be expedient to do so, if we could, and this Parliament must decide for us, and meanwhile no grievance or hardship can reasonably be shown or proved, in not allowing any works in connection with or preparatory to a Tunnel to be carried on, till such decision has been obtained.
(3) It has been stated that it is not the intention of this Lecture to treat the matter from an engineering or scientific point of view, neither is it my purpose to enter upon any geological enquiry, as to when Great Britain became an Island. Doubtless the animal life in days gone by may have been very different from what it is amongst us at present, and we may at one time have been joined on to the Continent of Europe. It is quite sufficient for my purpose to take you back only as far as the time of Julius Caesar. We know (at least I believe it to be so) that he made two invasions or descents upon England in the years 55 and 54 B.C., and that both times he came by sea. We are, therefore, authorised in affirming that all the after invasions of Saxons and Danes were also made by sea, and that Great Britain was then in truth an Island, a sea-girt land. Again the landing of William the Conqueror A.D. 1066, of which it is narrated that, "He passed the sea in a great ship and came to Pevensey," carries us on one step further in this chain of circumstantial evidence, though only to prove so far that the sea was not then our protection from invasion, which it was some years after so signally proved to be. For, pass a few centuries, and what do we see? The mighty forces of a mighty conqueror are gathered on the opposite coast for the invasion of England, and from August to September, 1805, the hostile camp at Boulogne menaced the conquest of England. But it was not to be; the narrow strait, the "silver streak," divided us: his troops were all ready to embark, "but there was no protecting fleet of men-of-war in the channel," and Napoleon had to give it up, to turn away, baffled we doubt not and deeply disappointed. It is then one great and main argument against constructing a Tunnel, that we so far destroy our Insular position by joining ourselves on to the Continent of Europe. We should render our navy, the natural creation and necessity springing from this position, the glory and boast of England, of much less value to us in case of invasion; I should rather say of no value in preventing an invasion, if we could at any time be taken unawares, and either by treachery or stratagem, the Tunnel which we have ourselves made, should point the way to accomplish this and prove our own destruction, or at least entail upon us loss of life and suffering. If then we bring trouble and expense (for that must inevitably follow) upon ourselves or our descendants by under-bridging the channel and thus destroying our present natural safe-guard and defence, we shall have only ourselves to blame, we shall do so with our eyes open to the possible if not probable evil consequences, and in opposition to the valuable military authorities and opinions which I shall presently give you.
(4) Before going further, a few observations may be made on the possible motives or reasons or desires or advantages in constructing a Tunnel, and it might be, that different promoters might have especially or more particularly different motives in view. It would of course do away with the discomforts of the sea passage, and that not only as regards the uncomfortable effects arising from the restlessness of the ocean in general, and the fluctuations of the waves in the narrow straits (feelings in which I heartily sympathise) but it would obviate the further discomforts arising from the necessity of the change, as at present from the train to the boat of passage. It would obviously be a great convenience and comfort to travellers from our shores to the Continent, and more especially to invalids seeking a warmer climate with the least amount of fatigue. But I must calmly submit to you and press upon you the consideration, that all such advantages, be they in themselves ever so great, are as nothing, if weighed against the possible, if not probable, disadvantages that would arise from the construction of the Tunnel, the disadvantages I mean of increased expenses, continual preparation and readiness against invasion, if not fighting itself with all its attendant sufferings and loss of life. In what way or to what extent Trade and Commerce would be affected by a Tunnel I shall not consider, further than to throw out an idea or suspicion I have, that it might be detrimental to the west-end shopping interest of London, if it led to a more certain and rapid method of communication with Paris, that is to say, so long at least as the communication through the Tunnel was in good working order and uninterrupted. But all questions regarding Trade, whether advantageous or the contrary, equally with considerations of personal convenience, or increase of travelling on the Continent, must all be laid aside as really of no moment till we have solved the really important point, which seems to be simply this. Should we he doing right in a National or Military point of view to allow a Tunnel to he made, or should we be running possible or probable, great and unnecessary risks? And so we come back to the point from which we started and ask, Shall we have a Channel Tunnel? I cannot forbear giving you here the words of Sir Garnet, now Lord Wolseley, whom I shall in future quote under the latter title, which he has now so honorably obtained. He says (p. 218 Parliamentary report) "Surely John Bull will not endanger his birth-right, his liberty, his property, in fact all that man can hold most dear, whether he be a patriot or merely a selfish cosmopolitan, and whether this subject be regarded from a sentimental or from a material point of view, simply in order that men and women may cross to and fro between England and France without running the risk of sea-sickness. Even now when protected by our 'silver streak' we suffer from periodical panics, which are as injurious to trade as they are undignified; this Tunnel would render their recurrence much more frequent, thereby increasing the loss they occasion. The night does not follow the day more surely than will a vastly increased annual military expenditure follow upon the construction of the Tunnel. Are we to be taxed additionally for these new military establishments in order to save a certain number of travellers and tourists of all nations from sea-sickness?" Lord Wolseley then refers to an argument which had been used in favour of the Tunnel, called by the writer the best argument, that "It is impossible to base the arrangements of a great country like England upon the idea of wars and invasions. To do so would necessitate at once, not only a curtailment of our mercantile activity, and therefore of the population, but even an abolition of free trade in corn." To this he replies, "If this question is not to be discussed on military grounds, but if in pursuit of increased 'mercantile activity' we are to ignore all dangers which this hunt after riches may possibly entail upon the nation, the outlook for the country is bad indeed".
(5) After these preliminary remarks, we are coming to the evidence which is to help us to decide the important question (Shall we have a Tunnel?) which has already been asked, the evidence I mean contained in the Parliamentary Blue Book, and it is to this I shall soon ask your attention, and the references which I give further on are to the pages of this report. Long before I had opened a page of this book or even seen it, I had formed, I believe, a decided opinion of my own against the Tunnel scheme, and that on the ground of what may be called treachery amongst ourselves, that is disaffected persons on this side the channel coalescing (as I have before mentioned) with disaffected persons on the other, and so combining by agreement to obtain possession or the use of the Tunnel for their own purposes, though of course that might only be for a very short time, though long enough to lead to much discomfort and probably to bloodshed. It has since occurred to me, supposing another Napoleon should arise, what use could he or would he make of the Tunnel to our disadvantage? Would not its existence tend to induce or promote the invasion or attempts to invade this country, when our Island has ceased to be, and we have joined ourselves on to the Continent? Such was the opinion of Lord Wolseley, who says (p. 226), "I think that the existence of the Tunnel would be a great inducement to France to invade England". But in your own minds you are no doubt refuting these, perhaps you will say shallow reasonings, by thinking there are plenty of ways that we have of blocking the Tunnel and interrupting the communication. Don't be afraid. I am not going to keep this information from you. You will hear enough about it before I have done. But put it the other way and let us suppose that even in apparently peaceful times, a train starts from our end, and the unlucky passengers find a mine has been sprung near the opposite end of the Tunnel or water has been let into it, what would be their situation and their feelings? Or let us suppose something less dreadful than this, that the train breaks down half way, and we will call the length of the Tunnel about 20 miles (see p. 218), under what circumstances, the reverse of pleasant, would the walk of the ten miles be conducted? And indeed however excellent the arrangements between England and France might be at first starting, and however good, at the time of opening the Tunnel, the mutual understanding between the two countries might be, would there be any sufficient guarantee for their permanency and would not an element of uncertainty, risk, and possible danger to ourselves be introduced? However perfect the machinery for blocking the Tunnel or interrupting the communication at our end might be (and it might of course get out of order from want of use (see regarding "Mines" p. 228) and not be found in order when it is wanted, see conclusion of Report of Sir A. Alison's Committee, p. 258), it is impossible, I think, not to allow that the existence of a Tunnel would keep us in a state of frequent, if not perpetual alarms, and involve us in increased military expenditure. There is moreover an air almost of absurdity, if I may say so without offence to the promoters or supporters of the scheme, in the idea of constructing a costly Tunnel, which would have to be so jealously guarded and might be partially at least destroyed, if not on our side from necessity, on the other from evil design. But it would be affectation on my part to detain you longer with my own opinions or views, when we have before us the prospect of listening to the words of those competent to give an opinion, and I now therefore apologise for having done so, and proceed forthwith to lay before you the evidence I promised you from
The Parliamentary Blue-Book.
This book is entitled " Correspondence with reference to the proposed Construction of a Channel Tunnel, presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of Her Majesty, 1882. Printed at the War Office." It consists of 368 pages, containing correspondence, reports of Committees, evidence, and opinions of military authorities, prefaced by a Précis or Summary of eight pages. This summary gives a brief historical account or narrative of the proceedings in connection with the Tunnel scheme; and I propose first giving you this in a brief form, placing the circumstances before you as there given in order of time, and after that give fuller extracts from the 368 pages I mentioned just above.
Summary.—First Period, from 1867 to 1870.—The narrative regarding the proposed Channel Tunnel opens with the year 1867. In that year "an Anglo-French Committee of Promoters obtained from the Emperor of the French an expression of willingness to consider such a project, and certain borings having been made, the French Government was in 1868 requested by the Promoters to guarantee interest on the capital required for further investigation.
"In August, 1868, a Committee was appointed by the French Government, and, in consequence of the report of this Committee, the French Government, in March, 1869, declined to enter into the engagement requested.
"For about a year no further correspondence took place, but in March, 1870, the Anglo-French Committee of Promoters applied to the French Government for a perpetual sole concession for the construction of a submarine railway.
"Up to this time no interchange of views as to the proposed Tunnel had taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the French Government, but in April, 1870, the French Ambassador in London wrote to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to ask what support the English Government was disposed to give to the project, and whether it would regulate, by a diplomatic agreement, the conditions for the construction and working of such a line.
"Lord Clarendon, in reply, requested to be informed of the views taken by the French Government with regard to the enterprise, and vouched for the respectability of the English promoters.
"The Marquis de la Valette, by direction of M. Ollivier, soon afterwards repeated his enquiry as to whether a diplomatic agreement should be entered into, and requested that an answer might be given.
"This correspondence was referred to the Board of Trade, who replied on the 4th July, but expressed no decided opinion on the subject.
"The declaration of war with Germany on the 19th July, 1870, interrupted these negotiations between the English and French Governments, and the question raised by the French Ambassador was left undecided."
Second Period, from 1871 to 1876.—"In July, 1871, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs having heard from the Channel Tunnel Committee that they were about to renew their application to the French Government, enquired of the British Ambassador in Paris as to the course the French Government intended to pursue.
"Lord Lyons, in reply, stated that the application in question not having as yet been made, the views of M. Thiers' Government could only be conjectured, and expressed a wish to receive very distinct instructions as to the nature and amount of support which Her Majesty's Government would desire to give to the scheme.
"In the following November, the Channel Tunnel Committee, who had previously renewed their application to the French Government, wrote to Lord Granville, requesting that an understanding between the two Governments might be arrived at as speedily as possible, in order to facilitate the granting of the concession for which he had applied.
"To this request the Channel Tunnel Committee was informed that in view of other projects, Lord Granville considered that Her Majesty's Ambassador at Paris could not properly be instructed to advocate the interests of anyone in particular (pp. 7, 8).
"Soon after the receipt of the Channel Tunnel Committee's renewed application in August, 1871, the French Government informed the British Ambassador in Paris, that before taking any steps with regard to it, the French Government considered it indispensable to know the opinion of Her Majesty's Government on the principle of the enterprise.
"This despatch was forwarded to Lord Granville in December, 1871, and immediately transmitted to the Board of Trade for consideration.
"The reply of the Board of Trade (December 23, 1871; p. 11) contained a review of the general question of international intercommunication, and pointed out the objections to granting a perpetual monopoly to the promoters of the Tunnel, but stated that in the existing state of the question it was impossible to give very specific suggestions or advice."
From this letter and two others, of July 15, 1873, and December 9, 1874, the Board of Trade were evidently anxious to see some "improvement in the communication between this country and the Continent" (pp. 20, 36). In the letter already quoted of December 23, 1871, mention is made (p. 12) of four different projects for accomplishing this: (1) "A Bridge across the Channel"; (2) "The Submarine Tunnel between Dover and Calais"; (3) "A scheme, which may be called the Steam Ferry Scheme, for making very large additions to the harbours on each side the Channel, so as to enable steamers to be used of 450 feet in length, upon which both passenger and goods trains may be ferried across without change of carriages or trucks"; (4) "A scheme for more moderate extension of the harbours on both sides, so that steamers may be used such as now carry the traffic between Holyhead and Kingstown". Of the first of these it is briefly said, "To the bridge it is unnecessary to refer". Regarding the Tunnel, it is said, "The financial difficulties are very great indeed. The time mentioned by the promoters as needed for the execution of the work is ten years, and the estimated cost 10,000,000l."
"On the 15th January, 1872, the Channel Tunnel Company was formally incorporated and registered in London, but the French Government refused to consider the application of the promoters till they knew the opinion of Her Majesty's Government as to the principle of the scheme.
"Early in June, 1872, the promoters of the Channel Tunnel applied to the Foreign Office for an expression of acquiescence on the part of Her Majesty's Government in the principle of their scheme, and this application was referred to the Board of Trade.
"The Board stated (June 15, 1872; p. 16) that subject to the observations contained in Mr. Farrer's letter of the 23rd December, 1871 (the letter referred to just above), they saw 'no objections in principle to the proposed Tunnel between France and England,' and in accordance with these views. Lord Granville (Foreign Secretary in Mr. Gladstone's Ministry) informed Lord Lyons (in a despatch dated. Foreign Office, June 22, 1872) that Her Majesty's Government did not consider it advisable to give its consent to the Tunnel, if ever constructed, becoming a perpetual private monopoly, but that subject to this observation, it saw no objection in principle to the proposed Tunnel between France and England (pp. 17, 18).
"A communication to this effect was accordingly made by Lord Lyons to the French Government" (Paris, June 24, 1872, p. 19).
I pass over the correspondence and negotiations of the years 1873, 1874, except to observe that (dating from Foreign Office, December 1874), Lord Derby (Foreign Secretary in Mr. Disraeli's Ministry) wrote to the French Ambassador in London, (Count de Jarnac) in reply to a communication from him, that "Of the utility of the work in question, if successfully carried out, there appears no reason for any doubt, and Her Majesty's Government would, therefore, offer no opposition to it, provided they are not asked for any gift, or loan, or guarantee, in connection therewith "(p. 39).—We come now to the year 1875.
"On the 18th January, 1875, a bill for the French section of the Tunnel was laid on the table of the National Assembly, and on the 20th January, 1875, a copy of the English Channel Tunnel Bill, to be submitted in the approaching Session of Parliament, was sent by the Board of Trade to the Foreign Office, with a recommendation that this Bill should be so modified during its passage through Parliament as to secure the public interests involved in the construction of the Tunnel" (p. 40).
On the 10th of February, 1875, the appointment of "a joint committee of representatives from both nations to draw up a provisional code of regulations," was suggested in a communication from the Secretary to the Treasury with the Foreign Office (pp. 62, 63).
"On the 14th February, 1875, Lord Lyons proposed to the French Government the appointment of such a Joint Commission," which was agreed to, and accordingly three Commissioners were appointed on each side. Before, however, the Joint Commission met, "both Bills were passed in the course of the summer, receiving the assent of Her Majesty, and of President MacMahon respectively, on the same date (2nd August, 1875)."
It will be proper to mention before going further, that the British Commissioners, who were Captain Tyler, RE., Mr. Kennedy, and Mr. Horace Watson, held a preliminary investigation, examined witnesses (between 21st April and 10th May, 1875; pp. 90-113), among whom were Lord Richard Grosvenor, M.P., the Chairman of the Channel Tunnel Company (who was also examined, November 22, 1875, p. 175), Sir John Hawkshaw, and Mr. Brunlees, the Engineers, Mr. Bellingham, the Secretary, Sir Edward William Watkin, M.P., Mr. James S. Forbes, Mr. John Shaw, and Colonel C. Nugent, and they presented a preliminary report to the Treasury, May 10th, 1875 (pp. 81-84).
"The character of these two Bills" (those above mentioned) "was very different, the French measure being a definite concession to the promoters of the proposed railway, of a right to make a Tunnel towards England, provided certain conditions were fulfilled, while the English Act of Parliament (pp. 40, 41) merely authorized the Channel Tunnel Company (Limited) to acquire lands at St. Margaret's Bay, and carry out such operations as might be authorized by the Board of Trade, under the proviso that the Company should be bound by any conditions which might afterwards be imposed, in consequence of negotiations with the French Government."
The actual words of the Bill are, that "the Company should be empowered to purchase and take certain lands, houses, and buildings at the foot of the cliff in St. Margaret's Bay, in the parish of St. Margaret at Cliffe, in the county of Kent, lying between Ness Point and Coney Burrow Point, and including the beach and foreshore abutting on the said lands". The village of St. Margaret at Cliffe is three miles, or three miles and a half, N.E. of Dover, a high situation on the chalk cliff, and not far from the South Foreland.
"The Joint Commission met at Paris from the 29th January, 1876, to the 5th February, 1876, and in London, from the 22nd to the 30th May, 1876 (p. 166).
"The Joint Commission agreed to the jurisdiction of each Government, ceasing at a point to be marked in the centre of the proposed Tunnel, and recommended the appointment of an International Commission of six members to advise the two Governments on the construction, maintenance and working of the submarine railway.
"The Commissioners further agreed that each Government should have the right to suspend the working of the railway by damaging, destroying, or flooding the Tunnel, whenever such Government should in the interest of its own country, think necessary to do so, though the concession to the French Company only gives the French Government the right of stopping the traffic. Their report is given pp. 166-174.
"At the close of 1876, the position of affairs was as follows:—
"The French promoters had obtained their concession subject to certain conditions and the capital required was to be found, half by the Chemin de fer du Nord, one quarter by the French House of Rothschild, and one quarter by the promoters and their friends.
"The English Company had no concession but merely the right to experiment at St. Margaret's Bay, and they only issued a prospectus proposing to raise a capital of 80,000l for experiments. This capital, partly owing to commercial depression, was never raised, and the year allowed for the purchase of land having expired in August, 1876, the work remained in abeyance. This being so, the works of the French promoters (who held their concession partly on condition of agreeing with an English Company working to meet them), appear to have languished also, and consequently no efforts were made to proceed with the ratification of the Treaty of which the report of the Joint Commission was to have been the basis.
"Since the termination of the proceedings of the Joint Commission above referred to, there have been no negotiations between the English and French Governments with regard to the proposed Tunnel."
We now come to the last stage or period in our narrative of the history of the Channel Tunnel Scheme, from 1880 to 1882, thus bringing us down to the present time, and as far as we are concerned, it is the most important, as it was during this period that the question was really investigated in this country by the appointment of committees, the taking of evidence, and the obtaining of the opinions of those competent to give opinions with authority on the military aspect of the case. I shall first briefly run over the sequence of the chief points in chronological order (which is found in pages XIII. to XVI. of the Precis or summary), and then give extracts from the report of one committee, the evidence brought before two committees, and sum up with the opinions of Lord Wolseley, and H.E.H, The Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief (the Duke of Cambridge).
From 1880 to 1882.
"On the 2nd August, 1880, five years had elapsed since the concession had been granted to the French promoters, and according to the terms of that concession they ought within this period to have come to terms with a duly authorised English company having powers to tunnel to meet them. This not having been done, the promoters were obliged to apply for the extension of three years provided for in the concession."
"In the same year, however, a second English scheme was brought forward, in addition to the original 'Channel Tunnel Company'. This new scheme was initiated by the chairman of the South Eastern Railway Company, and was based on the results of experiments made by sinking shafts on the property of that railway company in the neighbourhood of Dover.
"These experiments, for which the South Eastern Railway Company, under the sanction of an Act of Parliament, had authorised the directors to spend 20,000l, were continued during 1881, and at an extraordinary general meeting of the South Eastern Railway Company held in London on the 16th June, 1881 (reported in the 'Times' of the 17th June, 1881, see p. 182), the Chairman (Sir Edward W. Watkin, M.P.), announced to the shareholders that the results showed the possibility of completing an experimental Tunnel seven feet in diameter within a period of five years, work being carried on simultaneously from both ends. The Chairman, moreover referred to an understanding between himself and M. Raoul Duval, one of the original French promoters, to whom the concession of 1876 had been granted.
"The report of this meeting having attracted the attention of the Board of Trade, a suggestion was made to the War Office that a Departmental Committee should be appointed, the War Department, the Admiralty, and the Board of Trade being represented on the Committee (p. 182).
"In consequence of this suggestion a Committee, composed as follows, was appointed on the 22nd August, 1881.—(pp. 182-185).
Mr. Farrer, Chairman, representing the Board of Trade.
Vice-Admiral Phillimore, „the Admiralty.
Colonel J. H. Smith, E.E., „the War Office.
"The documents brought before the Committee comprised a memorandum by Lord Wolseley, dated 10th December, 1881 (p. 210; from which I have already quoted, and shall refer to again further on), and a memorandum by Sir John Adye, dated War Office, January, 1882" (p. 218), to which I shall also refer again, not to interrupt the narrative of events just now.
The Committee also took the evidence of Sir Edward Watkin, Bart., M.P., on the 13th December, 1881 (p. 194):— that of Sir John Hawkshaw, on the 16th December, 1881 (p. 204; these two gave evidence "upon the rival schemes," see p. 192):—that of Lord Wolseley, on the 25th January, 1882 (p. 220):— and that of Sir John Adye, on the 26th January, 1882 (p. 227; these two officers had been selected by the Secretary for War (see p. 192), to all which evidence 1 may have occasion to refer later.
To this period of time also belongs a letter from Admiral Sir A. Cooper Key to Lord Northbrook (First Lord of the Admiralty at the commencement of the present Ministry in 1880). This letter is dated 31st January, 1882 (p. 190), and to it I shall again have occasion to refer.
"The Committee took evidence as to the rival schemes, but on the 1st February, 1882, the chairman informed the president of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) that during the course of the inquiry the effect which such schemes might have on the military defences of the country had assumed great importance, and that the Committee desired to have further military and naval evidence on this subject (p. 192).
"In reply (on 2nd February), the President of the Board of Trade informed the chairman that as the final decision of a question of such magnitude would not rest with a Departmental Committee, but must be settled on the responsibility of the Government as a whole, he would not prolong the labours of the Committee.
"The investigations of Mr. Farrer's Committee being thus brought to a close, the Board of Trade immediately notified on 3rd February to the War Office (and a similar communication was made to the Admiralty), the circumstances under which this Committee had been dissolved, and forwarded copies of the evidence taken and of other documents brought before the Committee, in order that such further enquiry as the Secretary of State for War considered necessary, might be made.
"It was then decided by the Secretary of State for War that before the wider military question involved in the Channel Tunnel scheme was submitted to the Government, the opinion of a scientific Committee composed of both military men and civilians, should be obtained, as to the practicability of effectually closing such a Tunnel if made. On the 23rd February, 1882, the gentlemen whose names are given below, were accordingly appointed, by the Secretary of State for War, to carry out this duty (p. 241).
Major-General Sir A. Alison, Bart., K.C.B.
C. H. Gregory, Esq., C.E., C.M.G.
Major-General Gallwey, Inspector-General of Fortifications.
Colonel Sir John Stokes, K.C.B., E.E., Deputy-Adjutant-General, Royal Engineers.
Colonel Sir Andrew Clarke, K.C.M.G., C.B., E.E, Commandant of the School of Military Engineering.
E. Graves, Esq., Engineer-in-Chief to the General Post Office.
Colonel H. J. Alderson, E.A., Assistant-Director of Artillery and Stores, War Office.
Colonel V. D. Majendie, C.B., H.M. Chief-Inspector of Explosives, Home Office.
Professor Abel, C.B., F.E.S., Chemist to the War Department.
"The Committee were directed to make a full and exhaustive investigation from a scientific point of view (and without reference to the ulterior question of national expediency), into the practicability of closing effectually a submarine railway Tunnel, proposed to be constructed between France and England. They were to satisfy themselves whether it was certain, beyond any reasonable doubt, that, in the event of war or apprehended war, the Tunnel and its proposed approaches under existing Acts and the Bills then before Parliament, would be rendered absolutely useless to an enemy and in what manner. A very detailed discussion of the various means to be used was called for; the Committee were to consider and report what appliances, whether of destruction, of obstruction, of flooding, or of all combined, should be provided, including any works defending or commanding the exit, so that the use of the Tunnel in every imaginable contingency may be, beyond doubt, denied to an enemy. The Committee were further informed that in their recommendations they should not be influenced by considerations of cost, from recommending any particular appliances, as the first charge and maintenance of all necessary works would have to be defrayed by the owners of the Tunnel." (See letter from the War Office to Sir A. Alison, p. 241, and Precis, p. XV.)
"Sir Archibald Alison's Committee met on the 27th February, 1882, and on the following day the composition of the Committee was announced in the House of Commons by Mr. Childers (Secretary of State for War at the commencement of the present Government in 1880), who stated that they had not been appointed to consider the Channel Tunnel scheme generally, but had received the specific instructions mentioned above."
"On the 28th April, in reply to a question in the House of Commons, Mr. Chamberlain stated ' that he had given most explicit directions to the South-Eastern Railway Company that the works were not to proceed below the level of low-water'; and on the 1st May he announced that 'the Government had come to the conclusion that it was desirable that what is called the experimental boring of the Channel Tunnel should be stopped, and that further expenses should, as far as possible, be avoided, until Parliament has come to a decision whether the Tunnel is to be made or not'."
"The works referred to (just above) were being carried on under the authority of the South Eastern Railway Act, 1881. This Act gave the Company power to acquire compulsory, for experimental borings and other works in connection with the construction of a Channel Tunnel, certain lands, including the beach and foreshore, in the neighbourhood of Dover. The Act provided that if the construction of a Tunnel should be eventually authorised by Parliament, the Company should accept such conditions as might be imposed by the orders of Her Majesty in Council."
"Sir Archibald Alison's Committee completed their inquiries on the 12th May, 1882. The following are the main features of their report (as given in the Précis, p. XV.).
"The Committee considered that it was undesirable that the end of the Tunnel should be within effective range from the sea (one member of the Committee, Sir John Stokes, dissented from this recommendation, see p. 259), and decided that the following conditions were essential:—The Tunnel should not emerge within any fortification, but its exit as well as the airshafts, pumping apparatus, &c., should be commanded by the advanced works of a fortress.
"There should be means of closing the Tunnel by a portcullis, and also of discharging irrespirable gases into it.
"There should be power to produce a temporary demolition of the land portion of the Tunnel by means of mining.
"There should be arrangements for a temporary flooding of the Tunnel by sluices.
"There should be arrangements for a permanent flooding of the Tunnel by mines which should open a direct communication between the bottom of the sea and the Tunnel.
"The mechanical arrangements required for temporary obstruction should be capable of being controlled from different points within the fortifications, and the means of destroying the Tunnel should be controlled, not only from the central work of the fortress, but also from one or more distant places, which should have distinct communications with the mines, independent of those of the fortress.
"The Committee also considered the two schemes for which Bills are before Parliament, and decided that neither of these schemes, as defined by the Bills, could be recommended; inasmuch as they failed to fulfil some of the conditions mentioned above as being essential.
The Committee concluded by recording their opinion that "it would be presumptuous to place absolute reliance upon even the most comprehensive and complete arrangements which can be devised, with a view of rendering the Tunnel absolutely useless to an enemy in every imaginable contingency".
The full Report of this Committee is given from pages 251 to 259, which includes the remarks by Sir John Stokes, and records his dissent from one very important principle, which the majority of the Committee had adopted, "namely, that the tunnel should not emerge within rage of effective fire from the sea". He says (p. 259), "I am strongly of opinion that the exit of the tunnel should be under the fire of our fleet," and he recommends that "no defences should be erected, as suggested by the Committee, to protect the land approaches to the Tunnel from fire from the sea, for the country would have more to hope for from its own navy, than to fear from hostile ships ".
This Committee also took evidence from Sir Edward W. Watkin, Bart, M.P., Chairman, South Eastern Railway, on 28th March, 1882 (p. 260)—from Francis Brady, Esq., C.E, (p. 263)— from Lord Richard Grovenor, M.P, Chairman of the Channel Tunnel Company, on 30th March, 1882 (p. 265)—and from Sir John Hawkshaw, one of the Engineers of the Channel Tunnel Railway Company (p. 266).—Some of this evidence I may have to refer to afterwards.
"On the Report of this Committee being referred by the Secretary of State for opinion:—(see p. XVI. of Précis)
"The Surveyor-General of Ordnance" (Sir John Adye, in Memorandum, dated May, 1882, p. 269) "considered that the recommendations of the Committee would amply suffice for the object in view. Nothing, in his opinion, was more obvious than the facility with which the Tunnel could be denied to an enemy by means which no vigilance on his- part could prevent or remove."
"The Adjutant-General" (now Lord Wolseley, in a second Memorandum, dated Horse Guards, War Office, 16th June, 1882, pp. 271-298) "was strengthened in his conviction that the hour when the tunnel was sanctioned, would be for England a most disastrous one. He maintained that there could be no stronger proof of the existence of danger than the magnitude and elaborate nature of the precautions recommended by the Committee."
I come now to the last dates with which I shall have to trouble you. On the 26th May, 1882, the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Childers) informed the Duke of Cambridge that, "The inquiry into the Channel Tunnel schemes has now reached the stage at which Her Majesty's Government will be glad to receive your Royal Highness' views on the strategical and military aspects of the question" (p. 270).
The reply to this is contained in "Observations by His Royal Highness The Field-Marshal Commanding in Chief, dated, Horse Guards, War Office, 23rd June, 1882" (pp. 299-305), from which I will give you some extracts before the close of this Lecture.
Besides the above opinions, there is at p. 235 a "Paper purporting to give the views of Colonel Sir Andrew Clarke, C.B., K.C.M.G., C.I.E., on the Channel Tunnel," in favour of it, to which I shall again allude.
There is some further correspondence down to 29th August, 1882, to which I think it will not be necessary for my purpose to refer.
We have thus gone over the chronological history of the Channel Tunnel scheme, and we come now to consider some of the evidence and opinions on both sides of the question—-for and against it.
The evidence and opinions I shall bring before you are the following:—
|Sir Edward Watkin,||Evidence before Mr. Farrer's Committee, 13th December 1881, p. 194.|
Evidence before Sir A. Alison's Committee, 28th March, 1882, p. 260.
|Sir John Hawkshaw,||Evidence before Mr. Farrer's Committee, 16th December, 1881, p. 204.|
Evidence before Sir A. Alison's Committee, p. 266.
|Sir John Adye,||Memorandum, January, 1882, p. 218.|
Evidence before Mr. Farrer's Committee, 26th January, 1882, p. 227.
|Lord Richard Grosvenor,||Evidence before Sir A. Alison's Committee, 30th March, 1882, p. 265.|
|Sir Andrew Clarke,||Paper purporting to give his views, p.235|
|Sir A. Alison's Committee,
"Channel Tunnel Defence Committee"
|Report of, 17th May, 1882,pp. 251-259.|
|Sir A. Cooper Key,||Letter to Lord Northbrook, 31st January, 1882, p. 190|
|Lord Wolseley,||Memorandum, 10th December, 1881, pp. 210-218.|
Evidence before Mr. Farrer's Committee, 25th January, 1882, p. 220.
|H.R.H. The Duke of Cambridge,||Observations, &c., 23rd June, 1882, pp. 299-305.|
Sir Edward Watkin, M.P.
(1).—Evidence before Mr. Farer's Committee.
"As far as I am concerned, this question of a Tunnel arose out of the desire of everybody, I may say, to improve the means of communication between England and the Continent, and there were several proposals which had been discussed for a very great many years. One was, and is still, that of deep water harbours on the two sides of the Channel, so as to permit of the employment of boats of the Holyhead class, or large boats of that description. Another was a proposal to construct harbours, and boats which would take a whole train across, that is to say, receive the train on one side, take it across, and deliver it on the other. Then there was another project for a bridge over the Channel itself, which, I think I need not say very much about. And then there was a proposal for a tube to be laid at the bottom of the Channel through which trains might pass" (p. 194).
"There is no doubt that there is an opinion prevalent in quarters, and in influential quarters, that any Tunnel would be a dangerous thing to the supremacy of this country; but what I want to point out, first of all, is this, that if that is so in 1881, it was so in 1876, and if that is so, and the Government think so, it is odd that a junior member of the Government should be Chairman of a rival Channel Tunnel Company. It is odd also that countries far more exposed than we are … have not been jealous of the connection and of the obliteration of mountain barriers and barriers of different kinds. All I can say is, that I will undertake in half-a-dozen different ways, to enable you or the War Office, or anybody sitting at your desk, and touching a common button, to destroy a Tunnel or an enemy if you like. You can very easily build up in the wall a material, of which I will send you a piece, made of bitumen and sand, and one or two other things, which are perfect non-conductors, and you may have as many miles of wire as you like, and you may put in a false brick of this material, explosive material, and you may touch a button at the Horse-Guards and blow the whole thing to pieces" (p. 199).
"I think there are very few men in England who know what the general opinion of the public in England is better than I do, and there is not a man in a million, I believe, who entertains those ideas about the danger of having a Tunnel; but if you want to destroy it, I can show you many ways. In addition to that, you could drown it in five minutes or five seconds, and in addition to that, by hydraulic arrangements you could close it up, and if you unship the machinery, nobody on earth could open it again for months. It is just as if you had^a descending floor, and you closed it up (p. 200).
"There should be between the two Governments and other Governments, a convention by which this Tunnel should not be used in time of war."
"Admitting the whole question, admitting that we are beaten in the Channel, admitting that an enemy has landed and got the mouth of our Tunnel, then I say I can show you some dozen different ways, either by water, or by steam, or by explosives, or by stoppage, of rendering it absolutely useless, and not only that, if your enemies come in you may kill them all before you have done with them, if you would like to do so" (p. 200). And in reply to the question which immediately follows, "Could you do that from a distance?"; the answer is—"Yes, from any distance you like."
With regard to the time it would take to go through the Tunnel, Sir E. Watkin says:—
"I am sanguine enough to believe that we shall work through the Tunnel in less than half-an-hour," as against the present boat passage of an hour and a half, or an hour and 20 minutes as an exceptional thing (p. 201).
"Then another important matter is, that a man gets into his carriage at Aberdeen, or Liverpool, or London, or anywhere, and he goes through, without change, to Marseilles, or anywhere he pleases. And that I think is an untold advantage as a matter of health, and a great economy of time; in fact it is an immense economy of health and life to have it so agreeably and quickly done."
In answer to the question, 'How many lines of rails do you anticipate laying down?' he says "At first I should make two separate Tunnels side by side, with one line of rails in each, and for this reason, that we expect the two Tunnels will ventilate each other. In addition to that, in case of an accident, of course we are not likely to have an accident in both Tunnels at once" (p. 202).
(2.)—Evidence before Sir A. Alison's Committee.
"We have no doubt that our tunnel will go through an impermeable stratum, and we say that that is the result of all our experiences, which have been very wide, and of all the experiences of the French Tunnel Engineers, who are men of great ability" (p. 260).
With regard to filling the tunnel with water, and the enemy pumping it out, he says:—"It would be very unlikely that the enemy could pump it out; but my own mode of drowning would keep it in such a position, that as they pumped that water out, the sea-water would run in; therefore, it would be hermetically closed for a time. With reference to the use of explosives, I have a great experience in explosives used in the construction of works, and know how very easily you can bring down half a mountain almost in a second or two" (p. 261).
Sir John Hawkshaw.
(1.)—Evidence before Mr. Farrer's Committee.
He is speaking of the plan proposed by the Channel Tunnel Company, and says:—"The Tunnel will emerge within the circle of the forts surrounding Dover. The Tunnel will pass under the corner of Dover Castle, about 300 feet below it. From this point a shaft could be sunk in the fort down to the Tunnel, by means of which transit through the tunnel could be effectually stopped in half-an-hour, and the process of stopping could not be hindered unless an enemy had previously taken the fort (p. 206).
"There is abundance of means of stopping it from the shaft in such a way as not to destroy or even injure the Tunnel. Throwing chalk down the shaft w^ould speedily block the Tunnel. If necessary, provision could be made for admitting sea-water … and so flooding the Tunnel sufficiently to prevent its use.
"To me it appears to be of great advantage that we, who are now isolated, should, as regards intercommunication for travelling purposes, at all events, be connected with the European system of railways. At present, I believe this Channel passage does prevent innumerable people from going at all. It prevents a vast number of people going, except when they cannot help it. I know one gentleman who would not cross the Channel for any amount of compensation, and it is no doubt a great obstruction to travelling" (p. 209).
"My being on the Fortification Commission in former times brought me into communication with several military men, and I have never heard until lately the military question raised as an objection: it had not frightened anybody in my recollection until quite lately."
(2.)—Evidence before Sir A. Alison's Committee.
"As a Civil Engineer my function would rather be to say what could be done, than what should be done. It would be practicable to place a fort within the ordnance ground, the guns of which would point into the mouth of the Tunnel. That will be obvious to you without any suggestion of mine. It would be quite practicable, as I have suggested on a previous occasion, to sink a shaft within the fort of Dover Castle down to the Tunnel, which shaft would be in the command of that fort, and could not be got at unless that fort were taken, and from that shaft the Tunnel could be easily stopped; from that shaft there might also be access to the Tunnel, and to a mining gallery passing behind the wall of the Tunnel, from which gallery the side of the Tunnel could be blown in. It would be easy so to arrange that you could stop the Tunnel in half-an-hour by having shingle ready, placed in receptacles made of a hopper form, with suitable doors; by opening the doors, the shingle would run down the shaft into the Tunnel, and thus obstruct the passage through it. And with regard to the question of flooding the Tunnel, I may observe, that it would be wholly unnecessary to fill the Tunnel as some persons seemed to have supposed. It would be sufficient if water were let into the Tunnel in a sufficient quantity to cover the rails to a depth of five or six feet at the point where the two inclines meet" (p. 267).
Sir John Adye.
(1.)—Memorandum:—"I must confess that the idea of any great danger to this country being created by the completion of a submarine Tunnel, did not come across my mind when I heard of it, nor after more careful consideration of the circumstances, has my opinion changed" (p. 218).
"No general, I presume, would dream of bringing his troops (or even of sending an advanced party) for the invasion of England by rail (supposing the rail still there) from France to England, through a Tunnel over 20 miles long, and with only a hole to emerge from at the exit. Considering the extreme facility of destroying the invading troops as they successfully arrived, by means of a small force, with a gun or two, at the mouth of the Tunnel, that idea may be dismissed; it hardly requires argument. So that, even assuming the Tunnel to be in perfect order, no force could possibly use it with any prospect of success, unless they had previously secured possession of our end of it, and were in a position to hold it."
"Possession of the English end of the Tunnel, therefore, is the first point to be gained, and this can only be obtained either by force or by treachery."
He discusses these two points and then sums up the military aspect of the case:—"The Tunnel may be a foolish venture. It may never be completed, it may, even if completed, be financially a failure; it may not realise any of the objects intended. On all these points I do not care to give an opinion, but as to its dangers in a military sense, and with the most ordinary precautions, I am unable to perceive them. The invention of steam as a motive power for ships, and the creation of large harbours on the French coast, are more serious matters for us in a military point of view than any amount of Tunnels are likely to be" (p. 219).
(2.)—Evidence before Mr. Farrer's Committee.
"The first thing that you would do would be to take up a few rails at as many places as you liked, which would at once stop the traffic" (p. 227).
"A few men resorting to treachery would not suffice; but if you are to suppose such a thing possible" (that the mouth of the Tunnel has been seized by a very considerable body of men) "I should not be alarmed, because I should then blow up the Tunnel" (p. 228).
"The means of obstruction, in short, are not only various, but are independent of each other, and many of them could be improvised or multiplied even at the last moment. Nothing, indeed is more obvious than the facility with which the Tunnel can be denied to an enemy, by means which no vigilance on his part could prevent or remove" (p. 270).
Lord Richard Grosvenor, M.P.
Evidence before Sir A. Alison's Committee.
Speaking as chairman of the Channel Tunnel Company, he says:—"We flatter ourselves that from a strategical point of view, we have succeeded in two particulars (but that, of course, the Committee are the best judges of): that our exit will be defended by the guns of the Castle; that communication can be made (which will be pointed out, and I believe has been pointed out by Sir John Hawkshaw), into the interior of the Tunnel; and that the position of our central station at Dover, lying as it does not far from the present line of the London, Chatham, and Dover Company, will give an easy communication for troops direct from Chatham or any parts immediately to Dover if required" (p. 265).
Sir Andrew Clarke.
Paper purporting to give his views.
"The objections are almost solely of a military character, and I believe are of such a kind that they may be easily met. I should hold that the resources of military forethought and science are not so used up, but that we could reduce to a minimum, if not obliterate, all possible risk of danger or even of panic from the making of a Tunnel between the two countries" (p. 236).
"On all grounds, therefore, I think that the objections against the Tunnel being made are not capable of being sustained" (p. 238).
Report of Channel Tunnel Defence Committee
(Sir A. Alison's).
The Committee came to the conclusion that "measures for rendering a Channel Tunnel absolutely useless to an enemy are embraced under two heads:—
|I.||Surprise from Within.|
|II.||Attack from Without.|
"Against the first a Tunnel may be secured by :—
|2.||Closure or temporary obstruction.|
|3.||Explosion by mines or charges.|
"Arrangements should be made for flooding the Tunnel mechanically by means of culverts.
"The total closure of the Tunnel by flooding can be effected by the simultaneous discharge of mines so placed that their explosion will open a direct communication between the bottom of the sea and the Tunnel.
"Any means for destroying the tunnel, by the combination of mines and flooding, should be controlled not only from the central work of the fortress, but also from one or more distant places, the communications from which to the mines would be quite distinct from those of the fortress" (p. 252).
The Committee were "of opinion that in adopting measures for securing a submarine tunnel against attack from without, it is imperative that the tunnel should emerge in the immediate vicinity of a first-class fortress, in the modern acceptation of the term, a fortress which could only be reduced after a protracted siege, both by land and sea" (p. 257).
The Committee then considered the two schemes, but could not recommend either of them "as at present planned" (p. 257).
They concluded their Report by saying, "They desire to record their opinion that it would be presumptuous to place absolute reliance upon even the most comprehensive and complete arrangements which can be devised, with a View of rendering the Tunnel 'absolutely useless to an enemy,' 'in every imaginable contingency'" (p. 258).
Admiral Sir A Cooper Key.
Letter to Lord Northbrook.
"I have observed with much surprise and regret, that the proposal to construct a Tunnel under the Channel, to unite England and France by a railroad, is becoming a reality, and that operations with this object have commenced" (p. 190).
"I consider all arrangements that are hinted at, by which the Tunnel, 200 feet below the surface, could be destroyed by dynamite or flooded by opening valves, are dangerous delusions, which would fail at the hour of trial" (p. 191).
"The only alternative is that we should maintain a standing army equal to those of other European nations."
(1).—Memorandum:—"The proposal to make a Tunnel under the Channel, may, I think, be fairly described as a measure intended to annihilate all the advantages we have hitherto enjoyed from the existence of the 'silver streak,' for to join England to the Continent by a permanent highway, will be to place her under the unfortunate condition of having neighbours possessing great standing armies, a state of things which prevents any of the Continental nations from disarming, as long as any one of them refuses to follow suit. The construction of the tunnel would place us under those same conditions that have forced the Powers of Europe to submit to universal service. It is to be hoped, therefore, that these measures may not be treated simply as 'private bills,' but that the question may be dealt with as one of great national importance" (p. 210).
"I do not think there is a naval or military man of any experience who does not consider that the construction of a Sub-marine Tunnel between England and France would introduce a new element of danger into the problem involved in the defence of England from invasion, although some may differ as to the extent of that danger. There may be some who will say, 'You can effectually counteract this danger, protect yourself against it, in fact, nullify it; 'but that the Tunnel does mean a new danger is virtually undisputed, and I believe that all thoughtful students of war will admit this to be the case. But whilst all will, I think, acknowledge that danger is involved in the scheme, a large number will go further, and will assert that, whatever precautions be taken, and even if it be assumed that more money is spent on fortifications than any British Cabinet is ever likely, in time of peace, to ask from Parliament, it will be impossible completely to provide against the risk. You may, by a very great outlay, of money, in the first instance, and a considerable annual expenditure on the maintenance of fortifications and on other necessary precautions, do a great deal to mitigate the evil; but you cannot remove it altogether, except by the creation of an army fully equal in every respect to that which France can put into the field, and I am sure the people of England have no intention of imposing such a fearful burden upon themselves" (p. 210).
He says:—"I very much doubt the possibility of making certain of being able to flood the Tunnel by the explosion of a mine in the Tunnel itself. The Tunnel is to have, I understand, a depth of about 200 feet beneath the bottom of the sea. With what sort of a mine or mines is it proposed to blow an opening from the Tunnel into the sea, through that amount of rock or densely compressed chalk?" And again he asks, " What certainty can we have that the mines will explode when required?" (p. 215).
"But the greatest of all dangers to which the construction of this Tunnel will lay us open, is that one end of it may be seized by surprise or treachery, without any warning, and before the machinery designed for its destruction had been put in motion" (p. 215).
"It must be remembered that the works at our end of the Tunnel may be surprised by men sent through the Tunnel itself, without landing a man upon out shores. A couple of thousand armed men might easily come through the Tunnel in a train at night, avoiding all suspicion by being dressed as ordinary passengers" and the fort at our end of the Tunnel might so fall into the hands of an enemy (p. 216).
(2.)—Evidence before Mr. Farrer's Committee.
"By the construction of a Tunnel between England and France you destroy the great defence of the country upon which we have hitherto depended, namely, you destroy the value of the channel. You join us on to the Continent and we must when so joined on to the Continent, sooner or later, if we wish to remain an independent people, become like the Continental nations a military power," involving military service and enormous expense (p. 220).
"I have seen a series of the most carefully planned mines one after the other refuse to explode" (p. 221).
"We have in the past depended chiefly for our defence upon the Channel, and upon our fleet, and the proposed scheme annuls the use of both" (p. 221).
(3.)—2nd Memorandum:—This is of great length from page 271 to 298, but as I have already quoted, I hope sufficiently for my purpose of Lord Wolseley's valuable opinion, I will only give a short summary from p. xvi. of the Précis, and the concluding paragraph of this Memorandum on the question of panics—"In spite of all precautions, our end of the Tunnel could be seized by a coup de main. The improved harbours on the French coast would make a surprise more easy. Surprises during peace were the common-places of history. The Tunnel would directly tempt invasion—it would be the most unassailable line of communications in the world. The successful invasion of England, with the Tunnel in the enemy's hands, would be the permanent ruin of the country. Neither fortifications nor scientific agencies could be trusted. It would be impossible to keep secret any military arrangements connected with mines. The danger of the Tunnel would be an increasing one, because, as time went on, the precautions would be neglected. Why should a new danger be added to those which already existed? From the commercial aspect, even a shadow of danger would be a heavy balance against any possible advantages. The liabilities to panics would be increased," He says in conclusion:—"We hear much of the panic-monger in the writings of those who favour the construction of this Tunnel. But who is the real panic-monger? Is it he who would have us create a work that must be the prolific parent of panics, or is it the man who strives to warn his countrymen against such an error?" (p. 298).
H.R.H. The Duke of Cambridge.
Observations:—These extend from page 299 to 305, which I shall give as condensed in the Précis or Summary, p. xvi.
"His Royal Highness The Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief could not too strongly express his satisfaction that the country was in no way committed to any definite engagement either to France or to any body of promoters. There was a large Committee, and the statements of the case put forward by that Officer had his Royal Highness's entire approval. In the Report of the Committee, the words used must be given their full force, and a first-class fortress, in the modern acceptation of the term, meant such a fortress as certainly could not be constructed for less than three millions sterling, and which would require a garrison equal to the great garrisons on the Continent. The whole of the money required 'for this as well as for the multiplication of methods, which the Committee considered it imperative to have for rendering the tunnel impassible, should be paid over to the Treasury before permission was given to begin the Tunnel at all.of military opinion, which found expression in the evidence of the Adjutant-General before the Board of Trade
"The report of the Committee amounted to an absolute condemnation of every existing proposal for a Channel Tunnel, and it was imperative that if any new or modified schemes were brought forward they should be submitted to the Committee.
"The Committee admitted that the most elaborate scheme of defence would not give immunity from danger. No reliance could be placed on the electrical communication with distant points unless the wires were tested every few ^hours. All therefore, depended on the security of the great fortress and the adoption of precautionary measures when there was a prospect of war. But as the stoppage of the Tunnel would be taken as a sure indication of coming war, an English Cabinet would be unwilling to order it. The majority of wars had commenced before diplomatic relations had been broken off. It was not only the possibility of a rupture with France that had to be considered. Any power at war with France, after taking possession of Belgium, might seize Calais. The only positive security against the danger of the Tunnel would be the maintenance of a vast army, entailing probably a compulsory system of universal military service. His Eoyal Highness's plain duty, on military grounds, was to protest most emphatically against the construction of the Tunnel."
I give the conclusion of these observations in His Royal Highness's own words:—"Only a few years ago Chester Castle was the object of an ill-organized, badly-managed Fenian attack. Who can guarantee us that such a seizure of Dover by persons from within might not be made. Such a seizure might be carefully arranged to take place precisely at the moment when the passions of a foreign country were so excited against us that any means might be deemed justifiable to attain so great an object.
"When, in addition to these risks, I consider the actual experience of the French War of 1870, where, even after war had been already some time commenced, the Vosges tunnels were left intact from an unwillingness to destroy such splendid engineering works, and when, in consequence, the invading armies, despite all arrangements that had been made for destroying those tunnels, were able freely to employ them, I feel it to be my solemn duty to warn Her Majesty's Government of the great risk and danger which will be entailed upon the country by permitting, under any circumstances, and even though all precautions have been taken, any tunnel to be constructed.
"I do not think that this conclusion depends at all upon the single possibility of a rupture with France. I should especially urge upon the attention of Her Majesty's Government the peculiar geographical position of Calais. That town lies in so isolated a position on the extreme north of the French coast line, and the boundary between France and Belgium falls away so rapidly to the south from near Calais, that Antwerp and Brussels are both much nearer to Calais than Paris is.
"Any power, therefore, which, when at war with France, had taken possession of Belgium, would find it possible to seize Calais, and might find it convenient even to punish an alliance of ours with France by a sudden seizure of Dover.
"When once it is realised that if this tunnel were constructed we might, despite all our precautions, very possibly some day find an enemy in actual possession of both its ends, and able at pleasure to pour an army through it unopposed, I cannot believe that the people of this country would consent to accept this positive danger for any problematic amount of commercial profit.
"The military force in Great Britain is not large enough to contend against the army which any of the great continental powers that had obtained possession of the tunnel could send into England through it.
"We alone, of all European nations, have hitherto escaped the necessity of arming and organizing the entire population, but if this tunnel be constructed, I wish to record my opinion—an opinion shared by the ablest of our officers—that our only positive security can be found in following the example of our neighbours by creating a vast army like theirs, an army which would probably entail the necessity of a compulsory system of universal military service.
"All the sacrifices which Frenchmen and Germans make, year after year, in order that vast armies, which are now literally reckoned by the million, may be at the disposal of the State would indeed be senseless and absurd if, when once they can bring the question to fair trial on dry land, they were not, despite all the courage of our soldiers and the abilities of our officers, able to overpower the little army which we keep up.
"Nothing perhaps shows more clearly the extent to which our population, immersed in peaceful pursuits, remains unaware of the military condition of neighbouring states than the tone which was at first adopted on this question by many of the public.
"It was asserted by many intelligent writers that if the tunnel were constructed there would be no more reason why a foreign power should find its advantage in seizing Dover than we should gain by seizing Calais. But Her Majesty's Government know well what is the difference in point of military preparation between England and all the continental states. They know well that if once the question of military superiority were brought to an issue between us, and any one of these great powers upon English soil, the end could only be our destruction as a free nation.
"They know well that no delusion can be greater or more fatal than to imagine that an army of unorganised and very partially trained Volunteers and Militia could, by anything short of a miracle, stand up successfully against a regularly trained and well-organised army; they know what would be the effect upon our commercial credit, and upon our most delicate mercial system of the appearance of a foreign army within sight of London; they know how the mere chance of success in such a scheme would tend to cause attempts to be made; they must feel, as well as I do, that the construction of a tunnel—do what we might to neutralize its danger—would multiply the recurrence of panics, and of the evils and commercial losses they entail.
"They can measure these dangers, and knowing that we should be exposed to them, if in time of war, or even when there was any possibility of war, an enemy obtained possession of Dover and the tunnel by surprise, or by treachery, or if our mechanical contrivances for the destruction of the tunnel failed to work when required, I would most earnestly beg of Her Majesty's Ministers to pause ere they accepted for the nation, whose destinies are in their hands, a new element of danger that would threaten our very national existence.
"For me, at all events, there is one plain duty, and that is, on military grounds, to protest most emphatically against the construction of this tunnel between England and France" (p. 305).
Conclusion.—We have, I trust, heard enough of the dangers and risks, to which this country would be exposed by the construction of a Channel Tunnel, to warn us against giving in any way our consent or approval to such a scheme. The many and elaborate plans for defending the Tunnel and rendering it useless are themselves the best arguments against its construction. Whatever advantages or gains are to be derived from it, and these I will not discuss, they are all as nothing in comparison of the disadvantages. The Tunnel if made would be not the messenger of peace and good-will, but the harbinger and forerunner of increased military expenditure, of panics and apprehensions, of possible invasions, strife and bloodshed, and asking once more the question with which I commenced, "Shall we have a Channel Tunnel?" I reply again, decidedly and emphatically, "No".
But I have still one wider and broader reason to give you for not consenting to the Tunnel scheme in view of the increased expenditure it would entail, and that is we have already enough on our hands at present. Egypt is unsettled and may give occupation to our army and navy. And turn your eyes to the East, to Central Asia, and read the articles in the Morning Post of January 29 and 31, regarding the Russian army in the Caucasus, and the Russian Railway scheme. Trouble, expense, and increase of troops to defend our Indian possessions are looming in the future, and it may be no distant future for us, so systematically is the Russian advance seen to be conducted, and we have I say enough on our hands without increasing our defences and our troops on our own shores. One word more and I have done; if the Channel Tunnel should be made, and I trust it will not be so, I will ask as a favour of the promoters and doers of the work, that they will agree to have inscribed in large and conspicuous letters on our end of it, these words,
SIC TRANSIT GLORIA BRITANNIÆ.