28 March 2014
This is the book that frightened the life out of many British people, proclaiming a German threat a decade ahead of the First World War. – Max Hastings
What if the First World War had taken an alternative path, and had been fought on English soil? Journalist William Le Queux considers this possibility in 1906 at a time when Britain was experiencing national hysteria over the threat of a German attack.
If England Were Invaded charts a fictional war fought on British homeland after a German invasion sweeps across the United Kingdom. Battles rage across the country from Essex and Chelmsford to Sheffield and Manchester, culminating in the final battle for the city of London. Le Queux brings the chilling narrative to life through his authentic and powerful descriptions of the experience of war and the suffering accompanying it, along with realistic accounts of media coverage and propaganda which would have been used during such an event.
Compelling and lifelike, If England Were Invaded was intended as a warning that Britain was unprepared against military attack. It offers a fascinating insight into the Germanophobia and fears that gripped the nation before war had even been declared. With fictional proclamations by Wilhelm II, defence maps and news bulletins weaved within the narrative, the book brings to life this intriguing ‘what if’ scenario while remaining true to the realities of war.
The idea for portraying this catastrophic scenario may have originated from Field Marshal Earl Roberts, who advocated conscription in Britain and was keen to ensure that British civilians were prepared for war. First serialized in the Daily Mail on 19 March 1906, the story featured many towns and villages with high Daily Mail readership, boosting the newspaper’s circulation and ensuring the story’s popularity. Subsequently released as The Invasion of 1910, the novel was wildly successful; it sold over one million copies and was translated into twenty-seven languages. To Le Queux's dismay, an unauthorised German translation with a very different ending appeared the same year: Die Invasion von 1910: Einfall der Deutschen in England. As a mark of its success, a film version of the book was released in October 1914 (three months after the start of World War I), under the title If England were Invaded.
Released in time for the centenary anniversary of the First World War, this title is a must-read for history enthusiasts and fans of the dystopian and alternative history genres alike. Le Queux presents readers with both an entertaining and educational read, and today his book offers a prescient view of war with Germany and is considered a major player in the genre of invasion literature.