[Editor: This copy of the newspaper column, “Sparks from the Anvil”, was published in the Clarence & Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW), 11 January 1910. It deals with defence issues (putting an emphasis on naval defence), and the visit to Australia of Lord Kitchener (the British Field Marshal).]
Sparks from the Anvil.
(For the “Examiner.”)
Lord Kitchener can laugh, and does laugh. All the same, he is a silent man. Says little that amounts to anything when you filter it.
Having had Lord Kitchener here, what of inviting Lord Fisher? This country wants sea defence more than land. A doctor for medicine, but a surgeon for the saw.
Cook and Kitchener travelling together suggests what jokes we could make if the Field-Marshal’s name ended with the “n.”
The great victor of Omdurman is noted for his despatch. Couldn’t he, for a fee of a hundred thousand guineas, be induced to let us bleed him, and put some of his electric corpuscles into the veins of the telegraph service. The “Examiner” might then not have to so often complain of delayed wires.
Lord Kitchener views the Australian as a soldier naturally, and also as an Imperial asset for fighting elsewhere. Good, but he knows there is nothing for a soldier to fight here.
The longer a disease goes the harder it is to cure it. The longer we place Army first and Navy second the more bitter must be the awakening.
England feared that Australia was to be invaded 25 years ago, from the north. Lord Loftus got a cable to prepare for defence. He at once saw Admiral Tyron, who ran his eye over the ships flying the blue naval reserve flag. The Massilia was taken in this way, and in 24 hours she was flying the white ensign and preparing for sea. It is only on the sea that we can defend Australia.
China is waking up rapidly. Read what Mr. James Hill, the American railway magnate, says. Given 20 years, and she will have a first-class navy. Can she fight? Yes! The Japanese at Yalu River only just won. They found the Chinese nut had a harder shell than the Russian. Let Australia count noses while yet she may.
If all the Australian debts being pooled were converted into the lowest possible interest-bearing stock, we should have enough money between that and what they cost now to finance quite a few ships.
In twenty years, or less, it is more than likely that the first-class battleship will carry two flying machines of the Zeppelin type. Imagine such a ship 20 miles off Sydney, sending her airships along to dynamite us. They could come and go, and come again. Now imagine a fleet.
It has been said that no civilised nation dare use dynamite. Rubbish! The Americans used dynamite flying torpedoes against Santiago, using the ship Vesuvius to fire them.
Captain Collins says that Australia has never been involved in war. Nonsense! The British fate of Australia was sealed at Trafalgar. The French were in possession of our southern shore right to Adelaide, and were challenged after Trafalgar. They gave up their claim to the territory through that. The British Navy has twice prevented invasion since by the threat of her Navy. Then Australia sent troops to help England in New Zealand 50 years ago, and twice since, once to Egypt and then to South Africa.
It is not generally known that we had a naval fight off Sydney Heads one hundred years ago — British ship and Dutch ship. The Dutchman was small, but he fought, and we brought the prize into Sydney. The story is recorded in the “Picturesque Atlas.”
Lord Chelmsford came up to Sydney to welcome Lord Kitchener. The son of a great officer welcoming a great officer.
The Victory carried just as many men as the Dreadnought. Wonderful! But it only shows what machinery does. It took as many men to handle a Victory as a Dreadnought because she was hand worked throughout. The modern ship is a machine.
Captain Collins, in England, speaks of our great length of coast line. It is our weakness, as the greater the exposure the greater the target.
Fifty years ago Australia’s isolation was her strength. Now it isn’t. The big ship of now thinks nothing of the voyage which appalled the little one of then. At the some time we are just as far off England and further off her by a long way than off China, Japan, and America!
It has been persistently said that Lord Kitchener has a glass eye, said too in some of the best English papers. The question, has he? It seems that he has been misrepresented in other things. Perhaps, too, in this.
Darwin wrote of the Missing Link. Apropos Port Darwin there is a decided missing link — a railway to connect with it. Why speak of the north of Australia as our back door? Our back door is to the bergs of Antarctica. Our front door faces our neighbours, and it is on our northern frontier.
Never leave for to-morrow what you can do to-day. Always do to-day what you should have done yesterday, and didn’t.
It is to be hoped Lord Kitchener doesn’t see the many South African war medals on view in our big city pawn shops. There ought to be a law preventing brokers from taking such pledges. It is understood there is in England in regard to one medal — the Victoria Cross.
Lord Kitchener is the second Field-Marshal to visit Australia. Sir Henry Norman was the other. We have had many Generals.
It is well that Lord Kitchener is making only a flying visit. If society got hold of him he might be captured by some fair Australian. Zounds, wouldn’t we cheer if Australia supplied a Lady Kitchener?
Clarence & Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW), 11 January 1910, p. 6
The joke in the third paragraph is referring to the humorous possibilities of two leaders named “Cook and Kitchen”.
apropos = (French) à propos, literally “to purpose” (i.e. with regard to the purpose); pertinent, relevant; opportune, fitting, at the right time; with reference to, with respect to, with regard to the present topic
berg = an abbreviation of “iceberg”
Chelmsford = Frederic John Napier Thesiger (1868-1933), 1st Viscount Chelmsford, known as Lord Chelmsford, a British statesman who served as Governor of Queensland (1905-1909), Governor of New South Wales (1909-1913), and Viceroy of India (1916-1921)
Cook = Joseph Cook, federal parliamentarian 1901-1921, who served as Prime Minister of Australia during 1913-1914
Darwin = Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882), biologist and author of On the Origin of Species, who developed the theory of natural selection
Fisher = John (Jacky) Arbuthnot Fisher (1841-1920), 1st Baron Fisher, known as Lord Fisher, an Admiral of the Royal Navy (United Kingdom)
guinea = a gold coin produced in the United Kingdom 1663-1814; guineas contained approximately one-quarter of an ounce of gold; the name derives from the Guinea region in West Africa, the original source of the gold used to make the coins; although nominally worth twenty shillings, the worth of the coin changed at various times, due to fluctuations in the price of gold, however, in 1717 the coin’s value was officially fixed at twenty-one shillings
Henry Norman = Sir Henry Wylie Norman (1826-1904), a British officer in the Indian Army, and a statesman; he was a member of the Council of India, Governor of Jamaica (1883-1889), and Governor of Queensland (1889-1895); he was given the rank of Field Marshal in 1902
Kitchener = Herbert Kitchener (1850-1916), a British Army officer who served in the Mahdist War (the Anglo-Sudan War), the Boer War, and the First World War; he was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal in 1909
Omdurman = a city in Sudan (located in north-east Africa); during the Anglo-Egyptian conquest of Sudan (1896-1899), on 2 September 1898, the Battle of Omdurman was fought 11 kilometres north of the city, in which a British-Egyptian force (led by Herbert Kitchener) defeated a Sudanese army of the Mahdist Islamic State (led by Abdullah al-Taashi)
Santiago = a city in Cuba, located on the southern coast of the island
Vesuvius = the USS Vesuvius, launched in 1888, a ship of the US Navy 1890-1921; it bombarded the city of Santiago (in Cuba) during the Spanish-American War (1898), as Cuba was a Spanish colony (1492-1898) at that time
white ensign = the ensign, or flag, of the Royal Navy (United Kingdom), bearing the cross of Saint George, with a Union Jack in the canton (top left of the flag); the ensign, or flag, of the Royal Australian Navy, being the same design as the Australian flag, but on a white background (in use since 1967)
Yalu River = (also as the Amrok River) a river on the border between China and North Korea; it was the location of a naval battle between China and Japan, the Battle of the Yalu River (1894), during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895)
Zeppelin = a type of dirigible, or rigid airship, named after Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (of Germany); due to the success and fame of the Zeppelins, the word “zeppelin” came to be used as a synonym for “dirigible”; Zeppelins were used for passenger transport and military purposes; however, the infamous disaster of the Hindenburg airship, which burned and crashed in 1937, basically ended the prospects of the dirigible industry
zounds = an archaic exclamatory oath which expresses surprise, anger, or indignation (an abbreviation of the phrase “God’s wounds”, referring to the wounds suffered by Jesus Christ)
[Editor: Changed “our back door.” to “our back door?”; “fair Australia” to “fair Australian”; “Lady Kitchener.” to “Lady Kitchener?”.]