The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 3 (August 1, 1931)
World Affairs — The Debts Holiday—Byron and Greece—Sport and Diplomacy—Air Conquest
Seven in Seance.
The long drawn out tragedy of the war debts marches from act to act. The curtain fell last month on President Hoover's proposal for a year's moratorium—a year's postponement of all war debt payments. Since then the scene has reverted from Washington to Europe, which staged in London a Seven Powers' Conference under pressure of a threat of immediate financial collapse in Germany. At the moment it seems that the Conference has devised financial machinery and credits that will both prop up Germany and enable the moratorium to be carried out. At any rate, the Conference ended amid a subdued chorus of affirmation that these safety measures are assured. “We have provided,” said U.S. Secretary Stimson, “machinery necessary to meet the situation, however it may develop.” But to outline the developments pending would require the gift of prophecy.
Eyes Still on France.
It may be that credits have been arranged that will prevent a major bankruptcy; but has this economic accommodation relaxed the political tension? Exchanges between the Paris and the Berlin newspapers indicated the old trouble—a France that would make financial concessions to Germany contingent on reduced German naval building, and a Germany that professed a preference for bankruptcy rather than be put in a new naval strait-jacket. Germany, it was said, would have a second “pocket” battleship even though her pocket be otherwise empty. France was challenged to choose between financial concessions to Germany or German default. The usually reliable Daily Telegraph's diplomatic correspondent even stated, on 24th July, that the British Foreign Minister told the French Premier that if Germany declared a moratorium it would be followed by one in England.
Bank Rate and Gold.
Under pressure France did, concede something, but “Paris political circles,” on 23rd July, referring to the just concluded Seven Powers' Conference, claimed that she had conceded little, that the Conference results were relatively unimportant, and that France had secured “a diplomatic triumph over Mr. Snowden.” Whether or not there is any truth in the report of the Laval-Henderson incident, appearing in the Daily Telegraph, the fact remains that London gold again began to drift to France. At first London cabled that “the city was unperturbed” page 10 over this recrudescence of the gold drift, but the tune soon changed. On 23rd July the Bank of England discount rate, unusually low at 2 1/2 per cent., was raised to 3 1/2 per cent. Meanwhile, experts of all countries are engaged in implementing those Conference decisions that Secretary of State Stimson says will meet any new line of development the financial drama may precipitate.
The first effect of the moratorium is found in the Treasuries. Budgets all over the world are lightened. New Zealand gains a respite to some degree, and so does Australia, whose Budgetry outlook—apart from New South Wales—is much less stormy than it was three months ago. If the immediate benefit in the Treasuries of Governments is paralleled by corresponding benefit in trade all over the world, then the case will be strengthened for a reduction of war debts. Thus the moratorium, or “year's holiday,” may be extended into a much bigger cooperative measure of mutual relief. Note that, in post-conference articles on 23rd July the Morning Post and The Times express the opinion that “a reduction in war-debt burdens is necessary. Public opinion in America is not yet ripe, but the issue must be faced sooner or later.”
Gladly one turns from the sordid story of debts to a traveller in what Keats has called the realms of gold. A little more than a hundred years ago died Lord Byron, poet and friend of Greece; and his fame has survived sufficiently to inspire an unannounced philanthropist (said to be Sir Julian Cahn) to purchase Newstead Abbey, the Byron ancestral home, and transfer it to the public care of the City of Nottingham. Newstead Abbey, according to a British Official Wireless despatch of 17th July, is “to be maintained in perpetuity” by Nottingham for the enjoyment of the people. In Byron's time, and ever since, there have been many of his own countrymen inclined to belittle his poetic merit. In his own life-time his fame stood distinctly higher on the Continent than at Home. But the great Goethe said that whatever the English might think of Byron, “this is certain: that they show no poet who is to be compared with him.”
Poetry and Politics.
Poets of the late 18th and early 19th centuries were apt to die young. Burns died at 37 years of age, Byron at 36, Shelley at 30, Keats at 26. But measured in terms of real poetry, the work of these men in their short lives was immense. Byron, moreover, left a political mark in the Mediterranean and the Aegean. To the Newstead Abbey ceremonies on 16th July, in honour of the young man Byron, came the Grand Old Man of Greece, Eleutherios Venizelos, who said:
Modern Greek history had been enriched with the magic of the great English poet, and nobody could think of a free Greece without thinking at the same time of Byron and his death for the freedom of Greece.
The actual vicissitudes of modern Greece and of Venizelos himself have been more strange than even a Byron could have imagined. Venezilos has been alternately Greek leader and Greek exile, even since the Great War. Yet Greece survives all attempts to break her—even the financial coup of a Minister of Finance, who in 1922, raised a forced internal loan by cutting in half all the bank notes.
Sport has a diplomatic importance these days, and cricket has a peculiar place in the diplomacy of the British Empire. Cricket Tests provide an arena in which old wars and present financial acrimony can be forgotten—an arena in which England, Australia, and South Africa are already prominent. Lately the West Indies, New Zealand, and India have been knocking at the door, and when the English cricket control gave the West Indies three Tests and New Zealand only one, there was, of course, some comment. Fortunately Lowry's team did so well in the one Test—a draw honourable to both page 11 sides—that two more Tests have now been provided. So far the New Zealanders have suffered only one defeat (Middlesex) and handsomely beat M.C.C. They are enterprising batsmen, and nearly everybody who can bat at all has scored at least one century. Political heroes cause mixed feelings, but Britain, Australian, South African, and New Zealander, all rejoice in a Bradman, a Hobbs, and a Dempster.
Athletic Romance Races.
If cricket is the diplomatic game of the Empire, lawn tennis has a similar place in world diplomacy. The United States gave Europe the League of Nations, then ran away from it. But the United States also gave the world the Davis Cup, and the world, including the United States, has been “Davis Cupping” ever since, with the result that W. T. Tilden is remembered when Woodrow Wilson is almost forgotten. Even the professionalisation of Tilden has scarcely dulled the big man's lustre. But Davis Cup contests know him no more, and in mid-July in Paris, the British Davis Cup team beat the Americans for the first time for twenty-five years. This left the final to France (holder) and Britain. Borotra (the “Bounding Basque”) lost both his matches, but Cochet won both his, and France thus retained the Cup by winning the doubles. The names of Lenglen, Lacoste and Cochet place France high in tennis, and if Carnera carries the heavyweight boxing crown into the Romance world, the Blonde Races will have to look to their laurels.
The arrival of the German Zeppelin (Dr. Eckener) at Leningrad on 25th July, is said to mark the real start of the Zeppelin's projected North Polar cruise, via Russian Archangel. Wilkins' submarine suffered in cruising the Atlantic, but his faith in the under-the-ice cruise remains. Chichester, a wonderful navigator, after completing the Tasman crossing via Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands, flew to Manila, en route to Asia. Lindbergh plans a great flight from the United States via Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, to the Old World. An aerial sham fight, the attack and defence of London, has caused some publicity, but the published reports to date have not carried that problem very much farther.
“The Finest Ski Run In The World.”
Shunters At Work On The N.Z.R.
(R'y. Publicity photos.)
(1) (2) Shunting operations in progress; (3) view of the passenger yard at Lambton Station, Wellington; (4) (5) coupling up chains and the Westinghouse hose; (6) the shunters' cat; (8) marshalling the Wellington-Auckland “Limited” Express; (9) shunting a car.