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* 1 OUR LONDON LETTER. 1

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1 OUR LONDON LETTER. 1 [Prom Our Special Corretpondent.] I From Admiral of the Fleet to midship- mit, all officers of the Royal Navy have a soft spot in their hearts for the Britannia, the famous old training-ship which is now ending an hjnourable career in the hands of the shipbreakers. For nearly half-a-century naval cadets were trained on board her, and in many a ward-room all over the world the news of her end will be received with regret, and officers will swap yarns of the days when they were young. King George was a cadet on board the Britannia, joining her with his brother, Prince Albert Victor, in 1877. Many of their fellow-cadets now hold high position in the Navy, and one would like to know what has become of the inquisitive cadet who put to Prince George the questions, "I say, how do you like being a Prince? Do you ever get licked? The Britannia was built in 1820 as a line-of-battle ship, and saw service in the Crimean War thirty-four years later. Battleships had longer lives in those days than now. The importance of the part played by the Britannia subsequently may be judged from the fact that during forty years over five thousand cadets were entered on board her. While our wheat imports have naturally fallen off considerably owing to the war, it is satisfactory to know that farmers at lome are doing something to remedy the deficiency. The official statements published some weeks ago seemed to show that owing to various causes not much was being done in this direction, but returns which have since been furnished to the Board of Agri- culture point to a considerable increase in the acreage devoted to wheat. About four- fifths of the area intended for wheat had been sown by December 1, and there is an increase of about ten per cent. in the acreage as compared with the position of a year ago. This brings our total wheat acreage up to about two million acres, and it is quite possible that the fifth left over for spring sowing may be increased, if the weather is favourable and the shortage of labour difficultv can be satisfactorily met. At present we grow about one-fifth of the wheat we consume annually, and the ques- tion of increasing the proportion resolves itself for the farmer into the simple ques- tion of whether it will pay or not. With prices at their present level the answer to the question, as they say in Parliament, is in the affirmative. The German threat to blockade these islands, a bsurd as it is, has causrxl us all to think a good deal of our food supply and from whence it comes. Wheat is rightly re- garded as the most important item, and of that, as has been said, we import about four-fifths. All the same, the alarmist statements which have been made from time to time, that in a state of war the country could be starved in a few weeks, are not by any means justified. If bread were all, the case would be different, but there are other things, and even if we had to use barley and oatmeal as a substitute for wheaten bread, we could manage to hold out for quite a while. Of other items in the nation's food supply, it will perhaps surprise some people to learn that—with the exception of sugar, tea, coffee, and cocoa, of which our produc- tion is nil, "and fruit, of which we grow less than one-third of our annual consumption— we produce considerably more than we im- port. It is quite evident that even if the German Navy held the sea3 and our own ships remained in harbour, instead of the other way about, it would take the Kaiser and his Grand Admiral von Tirpitz quite a long time to starve us out. Among the newest recruits to the colours are a number of men who have 'been en- rolled as a result of the householders' census conducted by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. The census was an excellent idea. No statement has been mnde as to the total number of those who gave their names as being ready to enliist if called upon, but it must be very considerable. It has now been announced that these vol un- teers are being called up. As a matter of fact, many of them have been in training for some time. A few days after Christma3 signatories in the London area received a notification that their services were re- quired, and that, as accommtxlation was now available, they were to report themselves at the recruiting stations within seven days. Railway men are to have increased wagea. Conferences between the general maniPers of the companies and the executives of the men's unions have been held, with the result that an agreement has been arrived at, by which men earning less than thirty* shillings a week are to receive an immediate increase of three shillings, while men earning thirty shillings or more are to receive two shil- lings. The original demand of the men was five shillings, while the first response of the managers was an offer of one shilling. The decision represents the splitting of. the difference. The agreement is to apply to all wage-earning employees of eighteen years of age and upwards, and the arrange- ment is to remain in force during the con- tinuance of the present agreement between the Government and the railway companies. By this agreement the Government guaran- tees the companies their profits, so that presumably the concession will cost them nothing. At the same time, the fact that the companies have recognised the unions and negotiated with them directly is a very considerable point gained from the men's (point of view. While the question of whether the Zeppe- lins intend to pay us a visit quite fails to cause any excitement or agitation, even to the most nervous amongst us, the authori- ties are quite rightly takiu; precautions for the safeguarding o some of the nation's treasures if the Germans should ever trans- late their threats into action. The British Museum authorities have placed the Elgin Marbles in safe keeping in one of the base- ment galleries. This gallery is protected by heavv arches, and is as safe a place as the trustees have at their disposal. Other trea- sures of the museum have been similarly bestowed. The Marbles were placed in the museum in 1816, having been purchased for- the nation for £ 36,000. The removal of celebrated sculptures from Athena was effected by the Earl of Elgin, who was Envov Extraordinary to Constantinople from 1799 to 1802. The whole operation cost him more than £ 50,000. From the experience of the last two Symphony Concerts at Queen's Hall it would seem that established favourites are quite as good a "draw" as noveltis. There was again a very large audience on Satur- day, when Sir Henry Wood gave his patrons a Haydn Symphony (Le Midi), the Schubert Ic U- il finished," a Mozart Concerto, and the third of the Brendenburg Concertos of Bach. This was all fare to which Queen's Hall habitues are well accustomed, and that it met with their unqualified approval was shown bv the heartiness of the applause. It goes without saying that all the works men- tioned were finely played. The soloist was Mr. de Greef, the Belgian pianist, and he played Mozart with much distinction. Be- Eides the works mentioned, the programme also included Dukas's broadly humorous "L'Apprenti Sorcier," Debussy's HI; Après Midi d'un Faune," and Elgar's stirring "Cockaigne overture. A. E. 31

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