THE BATTLE OF DORKING
GEORGE TOMKYNS CHESNEY
Towards the end of the Nineteenth Century writers began to realise that future wars would not resemble those which had been fought up until that point as science and technology would inevitably change the forces of aggression.
Colonel G T Chesney anonymously published “The Battle of Dorking” in 1871. He wrote it order to make Britain aware of the huge advances that Germany was making in applying technology to warfare.
The narrator is a man who fought in the war and is telling the story to his grandchildren. At some time in the near future (from 1871) Germany invades Britain and finds an army still using Napoleonic weapons and tactics. The First Army Corps engages the enemy at Guilford but its cavalry charge is easily defeated. The British retreat, only to have the Woolwich Arsenal fall into enemy hands, thus losing all their supplies. The remnants are crushed at Dorking; London is captured and unconditional surrender soon follows.
The British Empire is dismantled and many of the native population are forced to flee as refugees.
Chesney makes it clear that it was the superior technological equipment which defeated the plucky Brits.
He closes with these words, which may seem reminiscent of current events:
“Truly the nation was ripe for a fall, but when I reflect how a little firmness and self-denial, or political courage and foresight, might have averted the disaster, I feel that the judgement might really have been deserved. A nation too selfish to defend its liberty, could not have been fit to retain it. To you, my grandchildren, who are now going to seek a new home in a more prosperous land, let not this bitter lesson be lost upon you in the country of your adoption.”
Chesney’s work inspired a slew of “Future War” stories, leading ultimately to H G Wells and “The War of the Worlds.”