We do not wish you a Merry Christmas, for to none of us, neither to you at sea nor to us on land, can Christmas be a merry season now. Nor, amid so much misery and sorrow, does it seem, at first sight, reasonable to carry the conventional phrase further and wish you a Happy New Year. But happiness is a different thing from merriment. In the strictest sense of the word you are happy in your great task, and we doubly and trebly happy in the security that your great duties, so finely discharged, confer. So, after all it is a Happy New Year that we wish you.
If you could have your wish, you of the Grand Fleet—4well, we can guess what it would be. It is that the war would so shape itself as to force the enemy fleet out, and make it put its past work and its once high hopes to the test against the power which you command and use with all the skill your long vigil and faithful service have made so singly yours to-day. And in one sense—and for your sakes, because your glory would be somehow lessened if it did not happen—we too could wish that this could happen. But we wish it only because you do. Although you do not grumble, though we hear no fretful word, we realize how wearing and how wearying your ceaseless watch must be. It is a watchfulness that could not be what it is, unless you hoped, and indeed more than hoped, expected that the enemy must early or late prove your readiness to meet him, either seeking you, or letting you find him, in a High Seas fight of ship to ship and man to man. We, like you, look forward to such a time with no misgiving as to the result, though, unlike you, we dread the price in noble lives and gallant ships that even an overwhelming victory may cost.
Your hopes and expectation for this dreadful, but glorious, end to all your work do not date from August, eighteen months ago. When as little boys you went to the Britannia, you went drawn there by the magic of the sea. It was not the sea that carries the argosies of fabled wealth; it was not the sea of yachts and pleasure boats. It was the sea that had been ruled so proudly by your fathers that drew you. And you, as the youngest of the race, went to it as the heirs to a stern and noble heritage. So, almost from the nursery have you been vowed to a life of hardship and of self-denial, of peril and of poverty—a fitting apprenticeship for those who were destined to bear themselves so nobly in the day of strain and battle. To the mission confided5 to you in boyhood you have been true in youth and true in manhood. So that when war came it was not war that surprised you, but you that surprised war.