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Title: Towards the Goal
Author: Ward, Humphry, Mrs., 1851-1920
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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TOWARDS THE GOAL


By MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
Author of "ENGLAND'S EFFORT," etc.



With an introduction by
THE HON. THEODORE ROOSEVELT

1917


To
ANDRÉ CHEVRILLON
True Son of France
True Friend of England
I dedicate this book.



INTRODUCTION

England has in this war reached a height of achievement loftier than
that which she attained in the struggle with Napoleon; and she has
reached that height in a far shorter period. Her giant effort, crowned
with a success as wonderful as the effort itself, is worthily described
by the author of this book. Mrs. Ward writes nobly on a noble theme.

This war is the greatest the world has ever seen. The vast size of the
armies, the tremendous slaughter, the loftiness of the heroism shown,
and the hideous horror of the brutalities committed, the valour of the
fighting men, and the extraordinary ingenuity of those who have designed
and built the fighting machines, the burning patriotism of the people
who defend their hearthstones, and the far-reaching complexity of the
plans of the leaders--all are on a scale so huge that nothing in past
history can be compared with them. The issues at stake are elemental.
The free peoples of the world have banded together against tyrannous
militarism and government by caste. It is not too much to say that the
outcome will largely determine, for daring and liberty-loving souls,
whether or not life is worth living. A Prussianised world would be as
intolerable as a world ruled over by Attila or by Timur the Lame.

It is in this immense world-crisis that England has played her part; a
part which has grown greater month by month. Mrs. Ward enables us to see
the awakening of the national soul which rendered it possible to play
this part; and she describes the works by which the faith of the soul
justified itself.

What she writes is of peculiar interest to the United States. We have
suffered, or are suffering, in exaggerated form, from most (not all) of
the evils that were eating into the fibre of the British character three
years ago--and in addition from some purely indigenous ills of our own.
If we are to cure ourselves it must be by our own exertions; our destiny
will certainly not be shaped for us, as was Germany's, by a few towering
autocrats of genius, such as Bismarck and Moltke. Mrs. Ward shows us the
people of England in the act of curing their own ills, of making good,
by gigantic and self-sacrificing exertion in the present, the folly and
selfishness and greed and soft slackness of the past. The fact that
England, when on the brink of destruction, gathered her strength and
strode resolutely back to safety, is a fact of happy omen for us in
America, who are now just awaking to the folly and selfishness and greed
and soft slackness that for some years we have been showing.

As in America, so in England, a surfeit of materialism had produced a
lack of high spiritual purpose in the nation at large; there was much
confusion of ideas and ideals; and also much triviality, which was
especially offensive when it masqueraded under some high-sounding name.
An unhealthy sentimentality--the antithesis of morality--has gone hand
in hand with a peculiarly sordid and repulsive materialism. The result
was a soil in which various noxious weeds flourished rankly; and of
these the most noxious was professional pacificism. The professional
pacificist has at times festered in the diseased tissue of almost every
civilisation; but it is only within the last three-quarters of a century
that he has been a serious menace to the peace of justice and
righteousness. In consequence, decent citizens are only beginning to
understand the base immorality of his preaching and practice; and he has
been given entirely undeserved credit for good intentions. In England as
in the United States, domestic pacificism has been the most potent ally
of alien militarism. And in both countries the extreme type has shown
itself profoundly unpatriotic. The damage it has done the nation has
been limited only by its weakness and folly; those who have professed it
have served the devil to the full extent which their limited powers
permitted.

There were in England--just as there are now in America--even worse foes
to national honour and efficiency. Greed and selfishness, among
capitalists and among labour leaders, had to be grappled with. The
sordid baseness which saw in the war only a chance for additional money
profits to the employer was almost matched by the fierce selfishness
which refused to consider a strike from any but the standpoint of
the strikers.

But the chief obstacle to be encountered in rousing England was sheer
short-sightedness. A considerable time elapsed before it was possible to
make the people understand that this was a people's war, that it was a
matter of vital personal concern to the people as a whole, and to all
individuals as individuals. In America we are now encountering much the
same difficulties, due to much the same causes.

In England the most essential thing to be done was to wake the people to
their need, and to guide them in meeting the need. The next most
essential was to show to them, and to the peoples in friendly lands,
whether allied or neutral, how the task was done; and this both as a
reason for just pride in what had been achieved and as an inspiration to
further effort.

Mrs. Ward's books--her former book and her present one--accomplish both
purposes. Every American who reads the present volume must feel a hearty
and profound respect for the patriotism, energy, and efficiency shown by
the British people when they became awake to the nature of the crisis;
and furthermore, every American must feel stirred with the desire to see
his country now emulate Britain's achievement.

In this volume Mrs. Ward draws a wonderful picture of the English in the
full tide of their successful effort. From the beginning England's naval
effort and her money effort have been extraordinary. By the time Mrs.
Ward's first book was written, the work of industrial preparedness was
in full blast; but it could yet not be said that England's army in the
field was the equal of the huge, carefully prepared, thoroughly
coordinated military machines of those against whom and beside whom it
fought. Now, the English army is itself as fine and as highly efficient
a military machine as the wisdom of man can devise; now, the valour and
hardihood of the individual soldier are being utilised to the full under
a vast and perfected system which enables those in control of the great
engine to use every unit in such fashion as to aid in driving the mass
forward to victory.

Even the Napoleonic contest was child's play compared to this. Never has
Great Britain been put to such a test. Never since the spacious days of
Elizabeth has she been in such danger. Never, in any crisis, has she
risen to so lofty a height of self-sacrifice and achievement. In the
giant struggle against Napoleon, England's own safety was secured by the
demoralisation of the French fleet. But in this contest the German naval
authorities have at their disposal a fleet of extraordinary efficiency,
and have devised for use on an extended scale the most formidable and
destructive of all instruments of marine warfare. In previous coalitions
England has partially financed her continental allies; in this case the
expenditures have been on an unheard-of scale, and in consequence
England's industrial strength, in men and money, in business and
mercantile and agricultural ability, has been drawn on as never before.
As in the days of Marlborough and Wellington, so now, England has sent
her troops to the continent; but whereas formerly her expeditionary
forces, although of excellent quality, were numerically too small to be
of primary importance, at present her army is already, by size as well
as by excellence, a factor of prime importance, in the military
situation; and its relative as well as absolute importance is
steadily growing.

And to her report of the present stage of Great Britain's effort in the
war, Mrs. Ward has added some letters describing from her own personal
experience the ruin wrought by the Germans in towns like Senlis and
Gerbéviller, and in the hundreds of villages in Northern, Central, and
Eastern France that now lie wrecked and desolate. And she has told in
detail, and from the evidence of eye-witnesses, some of the piteous
incidents of German cruelty to the civilian population, which are
already burnt into the conscience of Europe, and should never be
forgotten till reparation has been made.

Mrs. Ward's book is thus of high value as a study of contemporary
history. It is of at least as high value as an inspiration to
constructive patriotism.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT.

SAGAMORE HILLS,

_May 1st_, 1917.



CONTENTS


No. 1

England's Effort--Rapid March of Events--The Work of the Navy--A Naval
Base--What the Navy has done--The Jutland Battle--The Submarine
Peril--German Lies--Shipbuilding--Disciplined Expectancy--Crossing the
Channel--The Minister of Munitions--Dr. Addison--Increase of
Munitions--A Gigantic Task--Arrival in France--German Prisoners--A Fat
Factory--A Use for Everything--G.H.Q.--Intelligence Department--"The
Issue of the War"--An Aerodrome--The Task of the Aviators--The
Visitors' Chateau.


No. 2

A French School--Our Soldiers and French Children--Nissen Huts--Tanks--A
Primeval Plough--A Division on the March--Significant Preparations
--Increase of Ammunition--"The Fosses"--A Sacred Spot--Vimy
Ridge--The Sound of the Guns--A Talk with a General--Why the Germans
Retreat--Growth of the New Armies--Soldiers at School.


No. 3

America Joins the Allies--The British Effort--Creating an Army--_L'Union
Sacrée_--Registration--Accommodation--Clothing--Arms and Equipment--A
Critical Time--A Long-continued Strain--Training--O.T.C.'S--Boy
Officers--The First Three Armies--Our Wonderful Soldiers--An Advanced
Stage--The Final Result--Spectacle of the Present--Snipers and
Anti-snipers--The Result.


No. 4

Vimy Ridge--The _Morale_ of our Men--Mons. le Maire--Ubiquitous
Soldiers--The Somme--German Letters--German Prisoners--Amiens--"Taking
Over" a Line--Poilus and Tommies--"Taking Over" Trenches--French
Trenches--Unnoticed Changes--Amiens Cathedral--German Prisoners
--Confidence.


No. 5

German Fictions--Winter Preparation--Albert--La Boisselle and
Ovillers--In the Track of War--Regained Ground--Enemy
Preparations--German Dug-outs--"There were no Stragglers"
--Contalmaison--Devastation--Retreating Germans--Death,
Victory, Work--Work of the R.E.--A Parachute--Approaching Victory.


No. 6

German Retreat--Enemy Losses--Need of Artillery--Awaiting the
Issue--Herr Zimmermann--Training--A National Idea--Training--Fighting
for Peace--Stubbornness and Discipline--Training of Officers
--Responsibility--The British Soldier--Soldiers' Humour--A Boy
Hero--"They have done their job"--Casualties--Reconnaissance--Air
Fighting--Use of Aeroplanes--Terms of Peace.


No. 7

Among the French--German Barbarities--Beauty of France--French
Families--Paris--To Senlis--Senlis--The Curé of Senlis--The German
Occupation--August 30th, 1914--Germans in Senlis--German Brutality--A
Savage Revenge--A Burning City--Murder of the Mayor--The Curé in the
Cathedral--The Abbé's Narrative--False Charges--Wanton Destruction--A
Sudden Change--Return of the French--Ermenonville--Scenes of
Battle--Vareddes.


No. 8

Battle of the Ourcq--Von Kluck's Mistake--Anniversary of the
Battle--Wreckage of War--A Burying Party--A Funeral--A Five Days'
Battle--Life-and-Death Fighting--"_Salut au Drapeau_"--Meaux
--Vareddes--Murders at Vareddes--Von Kluck's Approach--The
Turn of the Tide--The Old Curé--German Brutalities--Torturers
--The Curé's Sufferings--"He is a Spy"--A Weary March--Outrages
--Victims--Reparation--To Lorraine.


No. 9

Épernay-Châlons--Snow--Nancy--The French People--_L'Union
Sacrée_--France and England--Nancy--Hill of Léomont--The Grand
Couronné--The Lorraine Campaign--Taubes--Vitrimont--Miss Polk--A
Restored Church--Society of Friends--Gerbéviller--Soeur
Julie--Mortagne--An Inexpiable Crime--Massacre of Gerbéviller--"Les
Civils ont tiré"--Soeur Julie--The Germans come--German
Wounded--Barbarities in Hospital--Soeur Julie and Germans--The French
Return--Germans at Nancy--Nancy saved--A Warm Welcome--Adieu to Lorraine


No. 10

Doctrine of Force--Disciplined Cruelty--German Professors--Professor von
Gierke--An Orgy of Crime--Return Home--Russia--The Revolution--Liberty
like Young Wine--What will Russia do?--America joins--America and
France--The British Advance--British Successes--The Italians--A
Soldier's Letter--Aircraft and Guns--The German Effort--April
Hopes--Submarines--Tradition of the Sea--Last Threads--The Food
Situation--More Arable Land--Village Patriotism--Food Prices--The Labour
Outlook--Finance--Messines--The Tragedy of War--A Celtic Legend--Europe
and America



TOWARDS THE GOAL

No. 1

_March 24th, 1917._

DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,--It may be now frankly confessed--(you, some time
ago, gave me leave to publish your original letter, as it might seem
opportune)--that it was you who gave the impulse last year, which led to
the writing of the first series of Letters on "England's Effort" in the
war, which were published in book form in June 1916. Your appeal--that I
should write a general account for America of the part played by England
in the vast struggle--found me in our quiet country house, busy with
quite other work, and at first I thought it impossible that I could
attempt so new a task as you proposed to me. But support and
encouragement came from our own authorities, and like many other
thousands of English women under orders, I could only go and do my best.
I spent some time in the Munition areas, watching the enormous and rapid
development of our war industries and of the astonishing part played in
it by women; I was allowed to visit a portion of the Fleet, and finally,
to spend twelve days in France, ten of them among the great supply bases
and hospital camps, with two days at the British Headquarters, and on
the front, near Poperinghe, and Richebourg St. Vaast.

The result was a short book which has been translated into many foreign
tongues--French, Italian, Dutch, German, Russian, Portuguese, and
Japanese--which has brought me many American letters from many different
States, and has been perhaps most widely read of all among our own
people. For we all read newspapers, and we all forget them! In this vast
and changing struggle, events huddle on each other, so that the new
blurs and wipes out the old. There is always room--is there not?--for
such a personal narrative as may recall to us the main outlines, and the
chief determining factors of a war in which--often--everything seems to
us in flux, and our eyes, amid the tumult of the stream, are apt to lose
sight of the landmarks on its bank, and the signs of the
approaching goal.

And now again--after a year--I have been attempting a similar task, with
renewed and cordial help from our authorities at home and abroad. And I
venture to address these new Letters directly to yourself, as to that
American of all others to whom this second chapter on England's Effort
may look for sympathy. Whither are we tending--your country and mine?
Congress meets on April 1st. Before this Letter reaches you great
decisions will have been taken. I will not attempt to speculate. The
logic of facts will sweep our nations together in some sort of intimate
union--of that I have no doubt.

How much further, then, has Great Britain marched since the Spring of
last year--how much nearer is she to the end? One can but answer such
questions in the most fragmentary and tentative way, relying for the
most part on the opinions and information of those who know, those who
are in the van of action, at home and abroad, but also on one's own
personal impressions of an incomparable scene. And every day, almost, at
this breathless moment, the answer of yesterday may become obsolete.

I left our Headquarters in France, for instance, some days before the
news of the Russian revolution reached London, and while the Somme
retirement was still in its earlier stages. Immediately afterwards the
events of one short week transformed the whole political aspect of
Europe, and may well prove to have changed the face of the war--although
as to that, let there be no dogmatising yet! But before the pace becomes
faster still, and before the unfolding of those great and perhaps final
events we may now dimly foresee, let me try and seize the impressions of
some memorable weeks and bring them to bear--so far as the war is
concerned--on those questions which, in the present state of affairs,
must interest you in America scarcely less than they interest us here.
Where, in fact, do we stand?

Any kind of answer must begin with the Navy. For, in the case of Great
Britain, and indeed scarcely less in the case of the Allies, that is the
foundation of everything. To yourself the facts will all be
familiar--but for the benefit of those innumerable friends of the Allies
in Europe and America whom I would fain reach with the help of your
great name, I will run through a few of the recent--the ground--facts of
the past year, as I myself ran through them a few days ago, before, with
an Admiralty permit, I went down to one of the most interesting naval
bases on our coast and found myself amid a group of men engaged night
and day in grappling with the submarine menace which threatens not only
Great Britain, not only the Allies, but yourselves, and every neutral
nation. It is well to go back to these facts. They are indeed worthy of
this island nation, and her seaborn children.

To begin with, the _personnel_ of the British Navy, which at the
beginning of the war was 140,000, was last year 300,000. This year it is
400,000, or very nearly three times what it was before the war. Then as
to ships,--"If we were strong in capital ships at the beginning of the
war"--said Mr. Balfour, last September, "we are yet stronger
now--absolutely and relatively--and in regard to cruisers and destroyers
there is absolutely no comparison between our strength in 1914 and our
strength now. There is no part of our naval strength in which we have
not got a greater supply, and in some departments an incomparably
greater supply than we had on August 4th, 1914.... The tonnage of the
Navy has increased by well over a million tons since war began."

So Mr. Balfour, six months ago. Five months later, it fell to Sir Edward
Carson to move the naval estimates, under pressure, as we all know, of
the submarine anxiety. He spoke in the frankest and plainest language of
that anxiety, as did the Prime Minister in his now famous speech of
February 22nd, and as did the speakers in the House of Lords, Lord
Lytton, Lord Curzon and Lord Beresford, on the same date. _The attack is
not yet checked. The danger is not over._ Still again--look at some of
the facts! In two years and a quarter of war--

  Eight million men moved across the seas--almost without mishap.

  Nine million and a half tons of explosives carried to our own armies
  and those of our Allies.

  Over a million horses and mules; and--

  Over forty-seven million gallons of petrol supplied to the armies.

  And besides, twenty-five thousand ships have been examined for
  contraband of war, on the high seas, or in harbour, since the war
  began.

And at this, one must pause a moment to think--once again--what it
means; to call up the familiar image of Britain's ships, large and
small, scattered over the wide Atlantic and the approaches to the North
Sea, watching there through winter and summer, storm and fair, and so
carrying out, relentlessly, the blockade of Germany, through every
circumstance often of danger and difficulty; with every consideration
for neutral interests that is compatible with this desperate war, in
which the very existence of England is concerned; and without the
sacrifice of a single life, unless it be the lives of British sailors,
often lost in these boardings of passing ships, amid the darkness and
storm of winter seas. There, indeed, in these "wave-beaten" ships, as in
the watching fleets of the English Admirals outside Toulon and Brest,
while Napoleon was marching triumphantly about Europe, lies the root
fact of the war. It is a commonplace, but one that has been "proved upon
our pulses." Who does not remember the shock that went through
England--and the civilised world--when the first partial news of the
Battle of Jutland reached London, and we were told our own losses,
before we knew either the losses of the enemy or the general result of
the battle? It was neither fear, nor panic; but it was as though the
nation, holding its breath, realised for the first time where, for it,
lay the vital elements of being. The depths in us were stirred. We knew
in very deed that we were the children of the sea!

And now again the depths are stirred. The development of the submarine
attack has set us a new and stern task, and we are "straitened till it
be accomplished." The great battle-ships seem almost to have left the
stage. In less than three months, 626,000 tons of British, neutral and
allied shipping have been destroyed. Since the beginning of the war
we--Great Britain--have lost over two million tons of shipping, and our
Allies and the neutrals have lost almost as much. There is a certain
shortage of food in Great Britain, and a shortage of many other things
besides. Writing about the middle of February, an important German
newspaper raised a shout of jubilation. "The whole sea was as if swept
clean at one blow"--by the announcement of the intensified "blockade" of
the first of February. So the German scribe. But again the facts shoot
up, hard and irreducible, through the sea of comment. While the German
newspapers were shouting to each other, the sea was so far from being
"swept clean," that twelve thousand ships had actually passed in and out
of British ports in the first eighteen days of the "blockade." And at
any moment during those days, at least 3,000 ships could have been found
traversing the "danger zone," which the Germans imagined themselves to
have barred. One is reminded of the _Hamburger Nachrichten_ last year,
after the Zeppelin raid in January 1916. "English industry lies in
ruins," said that astonishing print. "The sea has been swept clean,"
says one of its brethren now. Yet all the while, there, in the danger
zone, whenever, by day or night, one turns one's thoughts to it, are the
three thousand ships; and there in the course of a fortnight, are the
twelve thousand ships going and coming.

Yet all the same, as I have said before, there is danger and there is
anxiety. The neutrals--save America--have been intimidated; they are
keeping their ships in harbour; and to do without their tonnage is a
serious matter for us. Meanwhile, the best brains in naval England are
at work, and one can feel the sailors straining at the leash. In the
first eighteen days of February, there were forty fights with
submarines. The Navy talks very little about them, and says nothing of
which it is not certain. But all the scientific resources, all the
fighting brains of naval England are being brought to bear, and we at
home--well, let us keep to our rations, the only thing we can do to help
our men at sea!

How this grey estuary spread before my eyes illustrates and illuminates
the figures I have been quoting! I am on the light cruiser of a famous
Commodore, and I have just been creeping and climbing through a
submarine. The waters round are crowded with those light craft,
destroyers, submarines, mine-sweepers, trawlers, patrol boats, on which
for the moment at any rate the fortunes of the naval war turns. And take
notice that they are all--or almost all--_new_; the very latest products
of British ship-yards. We have plenty of battle-ships, but "we must now
build, as quickly as possible, the smaller craft, and the merchant ships
we want," says Sir Edward Carson. "Not a slip in the country will be
empty during the coming months. Every rivet put into a ship will
contribute to the defeat of Germany. And 47 per cent, of the Merchant
Service have already been armed." The riveters must indeed have been
hard at work! This crowded scene carries me back to the Clyde where I
was last year, to the new factories and workshops, with their
ever-increasing throng of women, and to the marvellous work of the
ship-yards. No talk now of strikes, of a disaffected and revolutionary
minority, on the Clyde, at any rate, as there was twelve months ago.
Broadly speaking, and allowing for a small, stubborn, but insignificant
Pacifist section, the will of the nation, throughout all classes, has
become as steel--to win the war.

Throughout England, as in these naval officers beside me, there is the
same tense yet disciplined expectancy. As we lunch and talk, on this
cruiser at rest, messages come in perpetually; the cruiser itself is
ready for the open sea, at an hour and a half's notice; the seaplanes
pass out and come in over the mouth of the harbour on their voyages of
discovery and report, and these destroyers and mine-sweepers that he so
quietly near us will be out again to-night in the North Sea, grappling
with every difficulty and facing every danger, in the true spirit of a
wonderful service, while we land-folk sleep and eat in peace;--grumbling
no doubt, with our morning newspaper and coffee, when any of the German
destroyers who come out from Zeebrugge are allowed to get home with a
whole skin. "What on earth is the Navy about?" Well, the Navy knows.
Germany is doing her very worst, and will go on doing it--for a time.
The line of defensive watch in the North Sea is long; the North Sea is a
big place; the Germans often have the luck of the street-boy who rings a
bell and runs away, before the policeman comes up. But the Navy has no
doubts. The situation, says one of my cheerful hosts, is "quite healthy"
and we shall see "great things in the coming months." We had better
leave it at that!

Now let us look at these destroyers in another scene. It is the last day
of February, and I find myself on a military steamer, bound for a French
Port, and on my way to the British Headquarters in France. With me is
the same dear daughter who accompanied me last year as "dame secrétaire"
on my first errand. The boat is crowded with soldiers, and before we
reach the French shore we have listened to almost every song--old and
new--in Tommy's repertory. There is even "Tipperary," a snatch, a ghost
of "Tipperary," intermingled with many others, rising and falling, no
one knows why, started now here, now there, and dying away again after a
line or two. It is a draft going out to France for the first time, north
countrymen, by their accent; and life-belts and submarines seem to amuse
them hugely, to judge by the running fire of chaff that goes on. But,
after a while, I cease to listen. I am thinking first of what awaits us
on the further shore, on which the lights are coming out, and of those
interesting passes inviting us to G.H.Q. as "Government Guests," which
lie safe in our handbags. And then, my thoughts slip back to a
conversation of the day before, with Dr. Addison, the new Minister of
Munitions.

A man in the prime of life, with whitening hair--prematurely white, for
the face and figure are quite young still--and stamped, so far as
expression and aspect are concerned, by those social and humane
interests which first carried him into Parliament. I have been long
concerned with Evening Play Centres for school-children in Hoxton, one
of the most congested quarters of our East End. And seven years ago I
began to hear of the young and public-spirited doctor and man of
science, who had made himself a name and place in Hoxton, who had won
the confidence of the people crowded in its unlovely streets, had worked
for the poor, and the sick, and the children, and had now beaten the
Tory member, and was Hoxton's Liberal representative in the new
Parliament elected in January 1910, to deal with the Lords, after the
throwing out of Lloyd George's famous Budget. Once or twice since, I had
come across him in matters concerned with education--cripple schools and
the like--when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education,
immediately before the war. And now here was the doctor, the Hunterian
Professor, the social worker, the friend of schools and school-children,
transformed into the fighting Minister of a great fighting Department,
itself the creation of the war, only second--if second--in its
importance for the war, to the Admiralty and the War Office.

I was myself, for a fortnight of last year, the guest of the Ministry of
Munitions, while Mr. Lloyd George was still its head, in some of the
most important Munition areas; and I was then able to feel the current
of hot energy, started by the first Minister, running--not of course
without local obstacles and animosities--through an electrified England.
That was in February 1916. Then, in August, came the astonishing speech
of Mr. Montagu, on the development of the Munitions supply in one short
year, as illustrated by the happenings of the Somme battlefield. And
now, as successor to Mr. Montagu and Mr. Lloyd George, Dr. Addison sat
in the Minister's chair, continuing the story.

What a story it is! Starting from the manufacture of guns, ammunition
and explosives, and after pushing that to incredible figures, the
necessities of its great task has led the Ministry to one forward step
after another. Seeing that the supply of munitions depends on the supply
of raw material, it is now regulating the whole mineral supply of this
country, and much of that of the Allies; it is about to work qualities
of iron ore that have never been worked before; it is deciding, over the
length and breadth of the country, how much aluminium should be allowed
to one firm, how much copper to another; it is producing steel for our
Allies as well as for ourselves; it has taken over with time the whole
Motor Transport of the war, and is now adding to it the Railway
Transport of munitions here and abroad, and is dictating meanwhile to
every engineering firm in the country which of its orders should come
first, and which last. It is managing a whole gigantic industry with
employes running into millions, half a million of them women, and
managing it under wholly new conditions of humanity and forethought; it
is housing and feeding and caring for innumerable thousands;
transforming from day to day, as by a kind of by-work, the industrial
mind and training of multitudes, and laying the foundations of a new,
and surely happier England, after the War. And, finally, it is
adjusting, with, on the whole, great success, the rival claims of the
factories and the trenches, sending more and more men from the workshops
to the fighting line, in proportion as the unskilled labour of the
country--men and women, but especially women--is drawn, more and more
widely, into the service of a dwindling amount of skilled labour, more
and more "diluted."

       *       *       *       *       *

But the light is failing and the shore is nearing. Life-belts are taken
off, the destroyers have disappeared. We are on the quay, kindly
welcomed by an officer from G.H.Q. who passes our bags rapidly through
the Custom House, and carries us off to a neighbouring hotel for the
night, it being too late for the long drive to G.H.Q. We are in France
again!--and the great presence of the army is all about us. The quay
crowded with soldiers, the port alive with ships, the grey-blue uniforms
mingling with the khaki--after a year I see it again, and one's pulses
quicken. The vast "effort of England" which last year had already
reached so great a height, and has now, as all accounts testify, been so
incredibly developed, is here once more in visible action, before me.

Next day, the motor arrives early, and with our courteous officer who
has charge of us, in front, we are off, first, for one of the great
camps I saw last year, and then for G.H.Q. itself. On the way, as we
speed over the rolling down country beyond the town, my eyes are keen to
catch some of the new signs of the time. Here is the first--a railway
line in process of doubling--and large numbers of men, some of them
German prisoners, working at it; typical both of the immense railway
development all over the military zone, since last year, and of the
extensive use now being made of prisoners' labour, in regions well
behind the firing line. They lift their heads, as we pass, looking with
curiosity at the two ladies in the military car. Their flat round caps
give them an odd similarity. It is as if one saw scores of the same
face, differentiated here and there by a beard. A docile hard-working
crew, by all accounts, who give no trouble, and are managed largely by
their N.C.O.'s. Are there some among them who saw the massacre at
Dinant, the terrible things in Lorraine? Their placid, expressionless
faces tell no tale.

But the miles have flown, and here already are the long lines of the
camp. How pleasant to be greeted by some of the same officers! We go
into the Headquarters Office, for a talk. "Grown? I should think we
have!" says Colonel----. And, rapidly, he and one of his colleagues run
through some of the additions and expansions. The Training Camp has been
practically doubled, or, rather, another training camp has been added to
the one that existed last year, and both are equipped with an increased
number of special schools--an Artillery Training School, an Engineer
Training School, a Lewis Gun School, a Gas School, with an actual gas
chamber for the training of men in the use of their gas helmets,--and
others, of which it is not possible to speak. "We have put through half
a million of reinforcements since you were here last." And close upon
two million rations were issued last month! The veterinary accommodation
has been much enlarged, and two Convalescent Horse Depots have been
added--(it is good indeed to see with what kindness and thought the Army
treats its horses!). But the most novel addition to the camp has been a
Fat Factory for the production of fat,--from which comes the glycerine
used in explosives--out of all the food refuse of the camp. The fat
produced by the system, here and in England, has already provided
glycerine _far millions of eighteen-pounder shells_; the problem of camp
refuse, always a desperate one, has been solved; and as a commercial
venture the factory makes 250 per cent. profit.

Undeterred by what we hear of the smells! we go off to see it, and the
enthusiastic manager explains the unsavoury processes by which the bones
and refuse of all the vast camp are boiled down into a white fat, that
looks _almost_ eatable, but is meant, as a matter of fact, to feed not
men but shells. Nor is that the only contribution to the fighting line
which the factory makes. All the cotton waste of the hospitals, with
their twenty thousand beds--the old dressings and bandages--come here,
and after sterilisation and disinfection go to England for gun-cotton.
Was there ever a grimmer cycle than this, by which that which feeds, and
that which heals, becomes in the end that which kills! But let me try to
forget that side of it, and remember, rather, as we leave the smells
behind, that the calcined bones become artificial manure, and go back
again into the tortured fields of France, while other bye-products of
the factory help the peasants near to feed their pigs. And anything,
however small, that helps the peasants of France in this war, comforts
one's heart.

We climb up to the high ground of the camp for a general view before we
go on to G.H.Q. and I see it, as I saw it last year, spread under the
March sunshine, among the sand and the pines--a wonderful sight.
"Everything has grown, you see, except the staff!" says the Colonel,
smiling, as we shake hands. "But we rub along!"

Then we are in the motor again, and at last the new G.H.Q.--how
different from that I saw last year!--rises before us. We make our way
into the town, and presently the car stops for a minute before a
building, and while our officer goes within, we retreat into a side
street to wait. But my thoughts are busy. For that building, of which
the side-front is still visible, is the brain of the British Army in
France, and on the men who work there depend the fortunes of that
distant line where our brothers and sons are meeting face to face the
horrors and foulnesses of war. How many women whose hearts hang on the
war, whose all is there, in daily and nightly jeopardy, read the words
"British Headquarters" with an involuntary lift of soul, an invocation
without words! Yet scarcely half a dozen Englishwomen in this war will
ever see the actual spot. And here it is, under my eyes, the cold March
sun shining fitfully on it, the sentry at the door, the khaki figures
passing in and out. I picture to myself the rooms within, and the news
arriving of General Gough's advance on the Ancre, of that German retreat
as to which all Europe is speculating.

But we move on--to a quiet country house in a town garden--the
Headquarters Mess of the Intelligence Department. Here I find, among our
kind hosts, men already known to me from my visit of the year before,
men whose primary business it is to watch the enemy, who know where
every German regiment and German Commander are, who through the aerial
photography of our airmen are now acquainted with every step of the
German retreat, and have already the photographs of his second line. All
the information gathered from prisoners, and from innumerable other
sources, comes here; and the department has its eye besides on
everything that happens within the zone of our Armies in France. For a
woman to be received here is an exception--perhaps I may say an
honour--of which I am rather tremulously aware. Can I make it worth
while? But a little conversation with these earnest and able men shows
plainly that they have considered the matter like any other incident in
the day's work. _England's Effort_ has been useful; therefore I am to be
allowed again to see and write for myself; and therefore, what
information can be given me as to the growth of our military power in
France since last year will be given. It is not, of course, a question
of war correspondence, which is not within a woman's powers. But it is a
question of as much "seeing" as can be arranged for, combined with as
much first-hand information as time and the censor allow. I begin to
see my way.

The conversation at luncheon--the simplest of meals--and during a stroll
afterwards, is thrilling indeed to us newcomers. "The coming summer's
campaign _must_ decide the issue of the war--though it may not see the
end of it." "The issue of the war"--and the fate of Europe! "An
inconclusive peace would be a victory for Germany." There is no doubt
here as to the final issue; but there is a resolute refusal to fix
dates, or prophesy details. "Man for man we are now the better army. Our
strength is increasing month by month, while that of Germany is failing.
Men and officers, who a year ago were still insufficiently trained, are
now seasoned troops with nothing to learn from the Germans; and the
troops recruited under the Military Service Act, now beginning to come
out, are of surprisingly good quality." On such lines the talk runs, and
it is over all too soon.

Then we are in the motor again, bound for an aerodrome forty or fifty
miles away. We are late, and the last twenty-seven kilometres fly by in
thirty-two minutes! It is a rolling country, and there are steep
descents and sharp climbs, through the thickly-scattered and
characteristic villages and small old towns of the Nord, villages
crowded all of them with our men. Presently, with a start, we find
ourselves on a road which saw us last spring--a year ago, to the day.
The same blue distances, the same glimpses of old towns in the hollows,
the same touches of snow on the heights. At last, in the cold sunset
light, we draw up at our destination. The wide aerodrome stretches
before us--great hangars coloured so as to escape the notice of a Boche
overhead--with machines of all sizes, rising and landing--coming out of
the hangars, or returning to them for the night. Two of the officers in
charge meet us, and I walk round with them, looking at the various
types--some for fighting, some for observation; and understanding--what
I can! But the spirit of the men--that one can understand. "We are
accumulating, concentrating now, for the summer offensive. Of course the
Germans have been working hard too. They have lots of new and improved
machines. But when the test comes we are confident that we shall down
them again, as we did on the Somme. For us, the all-important thing is
the fighting behind the enemy lines. Our object is to prevent the German
machines from rising at all, to keep them down, while our airmen are
reconnoitering along the fighting line. Awfully dangerous work! Lots
don't come back. But what then? They will have done their job!"

The words were spoken so carelessly that for a few seconds I did not
realise their meaning. But there was that in the expression of the man
who spoke them which showed there was no lack of realisation there. How
often I have recalled them, with a sore heart, in these recent weeks of
heavy losses in the air-service--losses due, I have no doubt, to the
special claims upon it of the German retreat.

The conversation dropped a little, till one of my companions, with a
smile, pointed overhead. Three splendid biplanes were sailing above us,
at a great height, bound south-wards. "Back from the line!" said the
officer beside me, and we watched them till they dipped and disappeared
in the sunset clouds. Then tea and pleasant talk. The young men insist
that D. shall make tea. This visit of two ladies is a unique event. For
the moment, as she makes tea in their sitting-room, which is now full of
men, there is an illusion of home.

Then we are off, for another fifty miles. Darkness comes on, the roads
are unfamiliar. At last an avenue and bright lights. We have reached the
Visitors' Château, under the wing of G.H.Q.



No. 2

_March 31st, 1917_.

DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,--My first letter you will perhaps remember took us
to the Visitors' Château of G.H.Q. and left us alighting there, to be
greeted by the same courteous host, Captain----, who presided last year
over another Guest House far away. But we were not to sleep at the
Château, which was already full of guests. Arrangements had been made
for us at a cottage in the village near, belonging to the village
schoolmistress; the motor took us there immediately, and after changing
our travel-stained dresses, we went back to the Château for dinner. Many
guests--all of them of course of the male sex, and much talk! Some of
the guests--members of Parliament, and foreign correspondents--had been
over the Somme battlefield that day, and gave alarmist accounts of the
effects of the thaw upon the roads and the ground generally. Banished
for a time by the frost, the mud had returned; and mud, on the front,
becomes a kind of malignant force which affects the spirits of
the soldiers.

The schoolmistress and her little maid sat up for us, and shepherded us
kindly to bed. Never was there a more strangely built little house! The
ceilings came down on our heads, the stairs were perpendicular. But
there was a stove in each room, and the beds though hard, and the floor
though bare, were scrupulously clean. In the early morning I woke up and
looked out. There had been a white frost, and the sun was just rising in
a clear sky. Its yellow light was shining on the whitewashed wall of the
next cottage, on which a large pear-tree was trained. All round were
frost-whitened plots of garden or meadow--_préaux_--with tall poplars in
the hedges cutting the morning sky. Suddenly, I heard a continuous
murmur in the room beneath me. It was the schoolmistress and her maid at
prayer. And presently the house door opened and shut. It was
Mademoiselle who had gone to early Mass. For the school was an _école
libre_, and the little lady who taught it was a devout Catholic. The
rich yet cold light, the frosty quiet of the village, the thin French
trees against the sky, the ritual murmur in the room below--it was like
a scene from a novel by René Bazin, and breathed the old, the
traditional France.

We were to start early and motor far, but there was time before we
started for a little talk with Mademoiselle. She was full of praise for
our English soldiers, some of whom were billeted in the village. "They
are very kind to our people, they often help the women, and they never
complain." (Has the British Tommy in these parts really forgotten how to
grouse?) "I had some of your men billeted here. I could only give them a
room without beds, just the bare boards. 'You will find it hard,' I
said. 'We will get a little straw,' said the sergeant. 'That will be all
right.' Our men would have grumbled." (But I think this was
Mademoiselle's _politesse_!) "And the children are devoted to your
soldiers. I have a dear little girl in the school, nine years old.
Sometimes from the window she sees a man in the street, a soldier who
lodges with her mother. Then I cannot hold her. She is like a wild thing
to be gone. 'Voilà mon camarade!--voilà mon camarade!' Out she goes, and
is soon walking gravely beside him, hand in hand, looking up at him."
"How do they understand each other?" "I don't know. But they have a
language. Your sergeants often know more French than your officers,
because they have to do the billeting and the talking to our people."

The morning was still bright when the motor arrived, but the frost had
been keen, and the air on the uplands was biting. We speed first across
a famous battlefield, where French and English bones lie mingled below
the quiet grass, and then turn south-east. Nobody on the roads. The
lines of poplar-trees fly past, the magpies flutter from the woods, and
one might almost forget the war. Suddenly, a railway line, a steep
descent and we are full in its midst again. On our left an encampment of
Nissen huts--so called from their inventor, a Canadian officer--those
new and ingenious devices for housing troops, or labour battalions, or
coloured workers, at an astonishing saving both of time and material. In
shape like the old-fashioned beehive, each hut can be put up by four or
six men in a few hours. Everything is, of course, standardised, and the
wood which lines their corrugated iron is put together in the simplest
and quickest ways, ways easily suggested, no doubt, to the Canadian
mind, familiar with "shacks" and lumber camps. We shall come across them
everywhere along the front. But on this first occasion my attention is
soon distracted from them, for as we turn a corner beyond the hut
settlement, which I am told is that of a machine-gun detachment, there
is an exclamation from D----.

_Tanks_! The officer in front points smiling to a field just ahead.
There is one of them--the monster!--taking its morning exercise;
practising up and down the high and almost perpendicular banks by which
another huge field is divided. The motor slackens, and we watch the
creature slowly attack a high bank, land complacently on the top, and
then--an officer walking beside it to direct its movements--balance a
moment on the edge of another bank equally high, a short distance away.
There it is!--down!--not flopping or falling, but all in the way of
business, gliding unperturbed. London is full of tanks, of course--on
the films. But somehow to be watching a real one, under the French sky,
not twenty miles from the line, is a different thing. We fall into an
eager discussion with Captain F. in front, as to the part played by them
in the Somme battle, and as to what the Germans may be preparing in
reply to them. And while we talk, my eye is caught by something on the
sky-line, just above the tank. It is a man and a plough--a plough that
might have come out of the Odyssey--the oldest, simplest type. So are
the ages interwoven; and one may safely guess that the plough--that very
type!--will outlast many generations of tanks. But, for the moment, the
tanks are in the limelight, and it is luck that we should have come upon
them so soon, for one may motor many miles about the front without
meeting with any signs of them.

Next, a fine main road and an old town, seething with all the stir of
war. We come upon a crowded market-place, and two huge convoys passing
each other in the narrow street beyond--one, an ammunition column, into
which our motor humbly fits itself as best it can, by order of the
officer in charge of the column, and the other, a long string of
magnificent lorries belonging to the Flying Corps, which defiles past us
on the left. The inhabitants of the town, old men, women and children,
stand to watch the hubbub, with amused friendly faces. On we go, for a
time, in the middle of the convoy. The great motor lorries filled with
ammunition hem us in till the town is through, and a long hill is
climbed. At the top of it we are allowed to draw out, and motor slowly
past long lines of troops on the march; first, R.E.'s with their store
waggons, large and small; then a cyclist detachment; a machine-gun
detachment; field kitchens, a white goat lying lazily on the top of one
of them; mules, heavily laden; and Lewis guns in little carts. Then
infantry marching briskly in the keen air, while along other roads,
visible to east and west, we see other columns converging. A division,
apparently, on the march. The physique of the men, their alert and
cheerful looks, strike me particularly. This pitiless war seems to have
revealed to England herself the quality of her race. Though some credit
must be given to the physical instructors of the Army!--who in the last
twelve months especially have done a wonderful work.

At last we turn out of the main road, and the endless columns pass away
into the distance. Again, a railway line in process of doubling; beyond,
a village, which seems to be mainly occupied by an Army Medical
detachment; then two large Casualty Clearing Stations, and a Divisional
Dressing Station. Not many wounded here at present; the section of the
line from which we are only some ten miles distant has been
comparatively quiet of late. But what preparations everywhere! What
signs of the coming storm! Hardly a minute passes as we speed along
without its significant sight; horse-lines, Army Service depots bursting
with stores,--a great dump of sandbags--another of ammunition.

And as I look out at the piles of shells, I think of the most recent
figures furnished me by the Ministry of Munitions. Last year, when the
Somme offensive began, and when I was writing _England's Effort_, the
_weekly_ output of eighteen-pounder shells was 17-1/2 times what it was
during the first year of the war. _It is now_ 28 _times as much_.
Field howitzer ammunition has _almost doubled_ since last July. That of
medium guns and howitzers _has more than doubled_. That of the heaviest
guns of all (over six-inch) _is more than four times_ as great. By the
growth of ammunition we may guess what has been the increase in guns,
especially in those heavy guns we are now pushing forward after the
retreating Germans, as fast as roads and railway lines can be made to
carry them. The German Government, through one of its subordinate
spokesmen, has lately admitted their inferiority in guns; their retreat,
indeed, on the Somme before our pending attack, together with the state
of their old lines, now we are in and over them, show plainly enough
what they had to fear from the British guns and the abundance of British
ammunition.

But what are these strange figures swarming beside the road--black
tousled heads and bronze faces? Kaffir "boys," at work in some quarries,
feeling the cold, no doubt, on this bright bitter day, in spite of their
long coats. They are part of that large body of native labour, Chinese,
Kaffir, Basuto, which is now helping our own men everywhere to push on
and push up, as the new labour forces behind them release more and more
of the fighting men for that dogged pursuit which is going on
_there_--in that blue distance to our right!--where the German line
swings stubbornly back, south-east, from the Vimy Ridge.

The motor stops. This is a Headquarters, and a staff officer comes out
to greet us--a boy in looks, but a D.S.O. all the same! His small car
precedes us as a guide, and we keep up with him as best we may. These
are mining villages we are passing through, and on the horizon are some
of those pyramidal slag-heaps--the Fosses--which have seen some of the
fiercest fighting of the war. But we leave the villages behind, and are
soon climbing into a wooden upland. Suddenly, a halt. A notice-board
forbids the use of a stretch of road before us "from sun-rise to
sunset." Evidently it is under German observation. We try to find
another, parallel. But here, too, the same notice confronts us. We dash
along it, however, and my pulses run a little quicker, as I realise,
from the maps we carry, how near we are to the enemy lines which lie
hidden in the haze, eastward; and from my own eyes, how exposed is the
hillside. But we are safely through, and a little further we come to a
wood--a charming wood, to all seeming, of small trees, which in a week
or two will be full of spring leaf and flower. But we are no sooner in
it, jolting up its main track, than we understand the grimness of what
it holds. Spring and flowers have not much to say to it! For this wood
and its neighbourhood--Ablain St. Nazaire, Carency, Neuville St.
Vaast--have seen war at its cruellest; thousands of brave lives have
been yielded here; some of the dead are still lying unburied in its
furthest thickets, and men will go softly through it in the years to
come. "Stranger, go and tell the Lacedaemonians that we lie here,
obedient to their will:"--the immortal words are in my ears. But how
many are the sacred spots in this land for which they speak!

We leave the motor and walk on through the wood to the bare upland
beyond. The wood is still a wood of death, actual or potential. Our own
batteries are all about us; so too are the remains of French batteries,
from the days when the French still held this portion of the line. We
watch the gunners among the trees and presently pass an encampment of
their huts. Beyond, a high and grassy plateau--fringes of wood on either
hand. But we must not go to the edge on our right so as to look down
into the valley below. Through the thin leafless trees, however, we see
plainly the ridges that stretch eastward, one behind the other,
"suffused in sunny air." There are the towers of Mont St. Eloy--ours;
the Bertonval Wood--ours; and the famous Vimy Ridge, blue in the middle
distance, of which half is ours and half German. We are very near the
line. Notre Dame de Lorette is not very far away, though too far for us
to reach the actual spot, the famous bluff, round which the battle raged
in 1915. And now the guns begin!--the first we have heard since we
arrived. From our left--as it seemed--some distance away, came the short
sharp reports of the trench mortars, but presently, as we walked on,
guns just behind us and below us, began to boom over our heads, and we
heard again the long-drawn scream or swish of the shells, rushing on
their deadly path to search out the back of the enemy's lines in the
haze yonder, and flinging confusion on his lines of communication, his
supplies and reserves. He does not reply. He has indeed been strangely
meek of late. The reason here cannot be that he is slipping away from
our attack, as is the case farther south. The Vimy Ridge is firmly held;
it is indeed the pivot of the retreat. Perhaps to-day he is economising.
But, of course, at any moment he might reply. After a certain amount of
hammering he _must_ reply! And there are some quite fresh shell-holes
along our path, some of them not many hours old. Altogether, it is with
relief that as the firing grows hotter we turn back and pick up the
motor in the wood again.

And yet one is loath to go! Never again shall I stand in such a
scene--never again behold those haunted ridges, and this wood of death
with the guns that hide in it! To have shared ever so little in such a
bit of human experience is for a woman a thing of awe, if one has time
to think of it. Not even groups of artillery men, chatting or completing
their morning's toilet, amid the thin trees, can dull that sense in me.
_They_ are only "strafing" Fritz or making ready to "strafe" him; they
have had an excellent midday meal in the huts yonder, and they whistle
and sing as they go about their work, disappearing sometimes into
mysterious regions out of sight. That is all there is in it for them.
They are "doing their job," like the airmen, and if a German shell finds
them in the wood, why, the German will have done _his_ job, and they
will bear no grudge. It is simple as that--for them. But to the
onlooker, they are all figures in a great design--woven into the
terrible tapestry of war, and charged with a meaning that we of this
actual generation shall never more than dimly see or understand.

Again we rush along the exposed road and back into the mining region,
taking a westward turn. A stately chateau, and near it a smaller house,
where a General greets us. Lunch is over, for we are late, but it is
hospitably brought back for us, and the General and I plunge into talk
of the retreat, of what it means for the Germans, and what it will mean
for us. After luncheon, we go into the next room to look at the
General's big maps which show clearly how the salients run, the smaller
and the larger, from which the Germans are falling back, followed
closely by the troops of General Gough. News of the condition of the
enemy's abandoned lines is coming in fast. "Let no one make any mistake.
They have gone because they _must_--because of the power of our
artillery, which never stops hammering them, whether on the line or
behind the line, which interferes with all their communications and
supplies, and makes life intolerable. At the same time, the retreat is
being skilfully done, and will of course delay us. That was why they did
it. We shall have to push up roads, railways, supplies; the bringing up
of the heavy guns will take time, but less time than they think! Our men
are in the pink of condition!"

On which again follows very high praise of the quality of the men now
coming out under the Military Service Act. "Yet they are conscripts,"
says one of us, in some surprise, "and the rest were volunteers." "No
doubt. But these are the men--many of them--who had to balance
duties--who had wives and children to leave, and businesses which
depended on them personally. Compulsion has cut the knot and eased their
consciences. They'll make fine soldiers! But we want more--_more!_" And
then follows talk on the wonderful developments of training--even since
last year; and some amusing reminiscences of the early days of England's
astounding effort, by which vast mobs of eager recruits without guns,
uniforms, or teachers, have been turned into the magnificent armies now
fighting in France.

The War Office has lately issued privately some extremely interesting
notes on the growth and training of the New Armies, of which it is only
now possible to make public use. From these it is clear that in the
Great Experiment of the first two years of war all phases of intellect
and capacity have played their part. The widely trained mind, taking
large views as to the responsibility of the Army towards the nation
delivered into its hands, so that not only should it be disciplined for
war but made fitter for peace; and the practical inventive gifts of
individuals who, in seeking to meet a special need, stumble on something
universal, both forces have been constantly at work. Discipline and
initiative have been the twin conquerors, and the ablest men in the
Army, to use a homely phrase, have been out for both. Many a fresh, and
valuable bit of training has been due to some individual officer struck
with a new idea, and patiently working it out. The special "schools,"
which are now daily increasing the efficiency of the Army, if you ask
how they arose, you will generally be able to trace them back to some
eager young man starting a modest experiment in his spare time for the
teaching of himself and some of his friends, and so developing it that
the thing is finally recognised, enlarged, and made the parent of
similar efforts elsewhere.

Let me describe one such "school"--to me a thrilling one, as I saw it on
a clear March afternoon. A year ago no such thing existed. Now each of
our Armies possesses one.

But this letter is already too long!



No. 3

_Easter Eve_, 1917.

DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,--Since I finished my last letter to you, before the
meeting of Congress, great days have come and gone.

_America is with us!_

At last, we English folk can say that to each other, without reserve or
qualification, and into England's mood of ceaseless effort and anxiety
there has come a sudden relaxation, a breath of something canning and
sustaining. What your action may be--whether it will shorten the war,
and how much, no one here yet knows. But when in some great strain a
friend steps to your side, you don't begin with questions. He is there.
Your cause, your effort, are his. Details will come. Discussion will
come. But there is a breathing space first, in which feeling rests upon
itself before it rushes out in action. Such a breathing space for
England are these Easter days!

Meanwhile, the letters from the Front come in with their new note of
joy. "You should see the American faces in the Army to-day!" writes one.
"They bring a new light into this dismal spring." How many of them?
Mayn't we now confess to ourselves and our Allies that there is already,
the equivalent of an American division, fighting with the Allied Armies
in France, who have used every honest device to get there? They have
come in by every channel, and under every pretext--wavelets, forerunners
of the tide. For now, you too have to improvise great armies, as we
improvised ours in the first two years of war. And with you as with us,
your unpreparedness stands as your warrant before history, that not from
American minds and wills came the provocation to this war.

But your actual and realised co-operation sets me on lines of thought
that distract me, for the moment, from the first plan of this letter.
The special Musketry School with which I had meant to open it, must wait
till its close. I find my mind full instead--in connection with the news
from Washington--of those recently issued War Office pamphlets of which
I spoke in my last letter; and I propose to run through their story.
These pamphlets, issued not for publication but for the information of
those concerned, are the first frank record of _our national experience_
in connection with the war; and for all your wonderful American resource
and inventiveness, your American energy and wealth, you will certainly,
as prudent men, make full use of our experience in the coming months.

Last year, for _England's Effort_, I tried vainly to collect some of
these very facts and figures, which the War Office was still
jealously--'and no doubt quite rightly--withholding. Now at last they
are available, told by "authority," and one can hardly doubt that each
of these passing days will give them--for America a double significance.
Surpass the story, if you can; we shall bear you no grudge! But up till
now, it remains a chapter unique in the history of war. Many Americans,
as your original letter to me pointed out, had still, last year,
practically no conception of what we were doing and had done. The
majority of our own people, indeed, were in much the same case. While
the great story was still in the making, while the foundations were
still being laid, it was impossible to correct all the annoying
underestimates, all the ignorant or careless judgments, of people who
took a point for the whole. The men at the heart of things could only
set their teeth, keep silence and give no information that could help
the enemy. The battle of the Somme, last July, was the first real
testing of their work. The Hindenburg retreat, the successes in
Mesopotamia, the marvellous spectacle of the Armies in France--and
before this letter could be sent to Press, the glorious news from the
Arras front!--are the present fruits of it.

Like you, we had, at the outbreak of war, some 500,000 men, all told, of
whom not half were fully trained. None of us British folk will ever
forget the Rally of the First Hundred Thousand! On the 8th of August,
four days after the Declaration of War, Lord Kitchener asked for them.
He got them in a fortnight. But the stream rushed on--in the fifth week
of the war alone 250,000 men enlisted; 30,000 recruits--the yearly
number enlisted before the war--joined in one day. Within six or seven
weeks the half-million available at the beginning of the war had been
_more than doubled._

Then came a pause. The War Office, snowed under, not knowing where to
turn for clothes, boots, huts, rifles, guns, ammunition, tried to check
the stream by raising the recruits' standards. A mistake!--but soon
recognised. In another month, under the influence of the victory on the
Marne, and while the Germans were preparing the attacks on the British
Line so miraculously beaten off in the first battle of Ypres, the
momentary check had been lost in a fresh outburst of national energy.
You will remember how the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee came into
being, that first autumn?--how the Prime Minister took the lead, and the
two great political parties of the country agreed to bring all their
organisation, central or local, to bear on the supreme question of
getting men for the Army. Tory and Radical toured the country together.
The hottest opponents stood on the same platform. _L'union sacrée_--to
use the French phrase, so vivid and so true, by which our great Ally has
charmed her own discords to rest in defence of the country--became a
reality here too, in spite of strikes, in spite of Ireland.

By July 1915--the end of the first year of war--more than 2,000,000 men
had voluntarily enlisted. But the military chiefs knew well that it was
but a half-way house. They knew, too, that it was not enough to get men
and rush them out to the trenches as soon as any kind of training could
be given them. The available men must be sorted out. Some, indeed, must
be brought back from the fighting line for work as vital as the
fighting itself.

_So Registration came_--the first real step towards organising the
nation. 150,000 voluntary workers helped to register all men and women
in the country, from eighteen to sixty-five, and on the results Lord
Derby built his group system, which _almost_ enabled us to do without
compulsion. Between October and December 1915, another two million and a
quarter men had "attested"--that is, had pledged themselves to come up
for training when called on.

But, as every observer of this new England knows, we have here less than
half the story. From a nation not invaded, protected, on the contrary,
by its sea ramparts from the personal cruelties and ravages of war, to
gather in between four and five million voluntary recruits was a great
achievement. But to turn these recruits at the shortest possible notice,
under the hammer-blows of a war, in which our enemies had every initial
advantage, into armies equipped and trained according to modern
standards, might well have seemed to those who undertook it an
impossible task. And the task had to be accomplished, the riddle solved,
before, in the face of the enemy, the incredible difficulties of it
could possibly be admitted. The creators of the new armies worked, as
far as they could, behind a screen. But now the screen is down, and we
are allowed to see their difficulties in their true perspective--as they
existed during the first months of the war.

In the first place--accommodation! At the opening of war we had
barrack-room for 176,000 men. What to do with these capped, bare-headed,
or straw-hatted multitudes who poured in at Lord Kitchener's call! They
were temporarily housed--somehow--under every kind of shelter. But
military huts for half a million men were immediately planned--then for
nearly a million.

Timber--labour--lighting--water--drainage--roads--everything, had to be
provided, and was provided. Billeting filled up the gaps, and large
camps were built by private enterprise to be taken in time by the
Government. Of course mistakes were made. Of course there were some
dishonest contractors and some incompetent officials. But the breath,
the winnowing blast of the national need was behind it all. By the end
of the first year of war, the "problem of quartering the troops in the
chief training centres had been solved."

In the next place, there were no clothes. A dozen manufacturers of khaki
cloth existed before the war. They had to be pushed up as quickly as
possible to 200. Which of us in the country districts does not remember
the blue emergency suits, of which a co-operative society was able by a
lucky stroke to provide 400,000 for the new recruits?--or the other
motley coverings of the hosts that drilled in our fields and marched
about our lanes? The War Office Notes, under my hand, speak of these
months as the "tatterdemalion stage." For what clothes and boots there
were must go to the men at the Front, and the men at home had just to
take their chance.

Well! It took a year and five months--breathless months of strain and
stress--while Germany was hammering East and West on the long-drawn
lines of the Allies. But by then, January 1916, the Army was not only
clothed, housed, and very largely armed, but we were manufacturing for
our Allies.

As to the arms and equipment, look back at these facts. When the
Expeditionary Force had taken its rifles abroad in August 1914, 150,000
rifles were left in the country, and many of them required to be
resighted. The few Service rifles in each battalion were handed round
"as the Three Fates handed round their one eye, in the story of
Perseus"; old rifles, and inferior rifles "technically known as D.P.,"
were eagerly made use of. But after seven months' hard training with
nothing better than these makeshifts, "men were apt to get depressed."

It was just the same with the Artillery. At the outbreak of war we had
guns for eight divisions--say 140,000 men. And there was no plant
wherewith to make and keep up more than that supply. Yet guns had to be
sent as fast as they could be made to France, Egypt, Gallipoli. How were
the gunners at home to be trained?

It was done, so to speak, with blood and tears. For seven months it was
impossible for the gunner in training even to see, much less to work or
fire the gun to which he was being trained. Zealous officers provided
dummy wooden guns for their men. All kinds of devices were tried. And
even when the guns themselves arrived, they came often without the
indispensable accessories--range-finders, directors, and the like.

It was a time of hideous anxiety for both Government and War Office. For
the military history of 1915 was largely a history of shortage of guns
and ammunition--whether on the Western or Eastern fronts. All the same,
by the end of 1915 the thing was in hand. The shells from the new
factories were arriving in ever-increasing volume; and the guns were
following.

In a chapter of _England's Effort_ I have described the amazing
development of some of the great armament works in order to meet this
cry for guns, as I saw it in February 1916. The second stage of the war
had then begun. The first was over, and we were steadily overtaking our
colossal task. The Somme proved it abundantly. But the expansion _still_
goes on; and what the nation owes to the directing brains and ceaseless
energy of these nominally private but really national firms has never
been sufficiently recognised. On my writing-desk is a letter received,
not many days ago, from a world-famous firm whose works I saw last year:
"Since your visit here in the early part of last year, there have been
very large additions to the works." Buildings to accommodate new
aeroplane and armament construction of different kinds are mentioned,
and the letter continues: "We have also put up another gun-shop, 565
feet long, and 163 feet wide--in three extensions--of which the third is
nearing completion. These additions are all to increase the output of
guns. The value of that output is now 60 per cent, greater than it was
in 1915. In the last twelve months, the output of shells has been one
and a half times more than it was in the previous year." No wonder that
the humane director who writes speaks with keen sympathy of the
"long-continued strain" upon masters and men. But he adds--"When we all
feel it, we think of our soldiers and sailors, doing their
duty--unto death."

And then--to repeat--if the _difficulties of equipment_ were huge, they
were almost as nothing to the _difficulties of training_. The facts as
the War Office has now revealed them (the latest of these most
illuminating brochures is dated April 2nd, 1917) are almost incredible.
It will be an interesting time when our War Office and yours come to
compare notes!--"when Peace has calmed the world." For you are now
facing the same grim task--how to find the shortest cuts to the making
of an Army--which confronted us in 1914.

In the first place, what military trainers there were in the country had
to be sent abroad with the first Expeditionary Force. Adjutants,
N.C.O.'s, all the experienced pilots in the Flying Corps, nearly all the
qualified instructors in physical training, the vast majority of all the
seasoned men in every branch of the Service--down, as I have said, to
the Army cooks--departed overseas. At the very last moment an officer or
two were shed from every battalion of the Expeditionary Force to train
those left behind. Even so, there was "hardly even a nucleus of experts
left." And yet--officers for 500,000 men had to be found--_within a
month_--from August 4th, 1914.

How was it done? The War Office answer makes fascinating reading. The
small number of regular officers left behind--200 officers of the Indian
Army--retired officers, "dug-outs"--all honour to them!--wounded officers
from the Front; all were utilised. But the chief sources of supply, as
we all know, were the Officers' Training Corps at the Universities and
Public Schools which we owe to the divination, the patience, the hard
work of Lord Haldane. _Twenty thousand potential officers were supplied_
by the O.T.C's. What should we have done without them?

But even so, there was no time to train them in the practical business
of war--and such a war! Yet _their_ business was to train recruits,
while they themselves were untrained. At first, those who were granted
"temporary commissions" were given a month's training. Then even that
became impossible. During the latter months of 1914 "there was
practically no special training given to infantry subalterns, with
temporary commissions." With 1915, the system of a month's training was
revived--pitifully little, yet the best that could be done. But during
the first five months of the war most of the infantry subalterns of the
new armies "had to train themselves as best they could in the intervals
of training their men."

One's pen falters over the words. Before the inward eye rises the
phantom host of these boy-officers who sprang to England's aid in the
first year of the war, and whose graves lie scattered in an endless
series along the western front and on the heights of Gallipoli. Without
counting the cost for a moment, they came to the call of the Great
Mother, from near and far. "They trained themselves, while they were
training their men." Not for them the plenty of guns and shells that now
at least lessens the hideous sacrifice that war demands; not for them
the many protective devices and safeguards that the war itself has
developed. Their young bodies--their precious lives--paid the price. And
in the Mother-heart of England they lie--gathered and secure--for ever.

       *       *       *       *       *

But let me go a little further with the new War Office facts.

The year 1915 saw great and continuous advance. During that year, an
_average number of over a million troops_ were being trained in the
United Kingdom, apart from the armies abroad. The First, Second, and
Third Armies naturally came off much better than the Fourth and Fifth,
who were yet being recruited all the time. What equipment, clothes and
arms there were the first three armies got; the rest had to wait. But
all the same, the units of these later armies were doing the best they
could for themselves all the time; nobody stood still. And
gradually--surely--order was evolved out of the original chaos. The Army
Orders of the past had dropped out of sight with the beginning of the
war. Everything had to be planned anew. The one governing factor was the
"necessity of getting men to the front at the earliest possible moment."
Six months' courses were laid down for all arms. It was very rare,
however, that any course could be strictly carried out, and after the
first three armies, the training of the rest seemed, for a time, to be
all beginnings!--with the final stage farther and farther away. And
always the same difficulty of guns, rifles, huts, and the rest.

But, like its own tanks, the War Office went steadily on, negotiating
one obstacle after another. Special courses for special subjects began
to be set up. Soon artillery officers had no longer to join their
batteries _at once_ on appointment; R.E. officers could be given a seven
weeks' training at Chatham; little enough, "for a man supposed to know
the use and repairs of telephones and telegraphs, or the way to build or
destroy a bridge, or how to meet the countless other needs with which a
sapper is called upon to deal!" Increasing attention was paid to staff
training and staff courses. And insufficient as it all was, for months,
the general results of this haphazard training, when the men actually
got into the field--all short-comings and disappointments admitted--were
nothing short of wonderful. Had the Germans forgotten that we are and
always have been a fighting people? That fact, at any rate, was brought
home to them by the unbroken spirit of the troops who held the line in
France and Flanders in 1915 against all attempts to break through; and
at Neuve Chapelle, or Loos, or a hundred other minor engagements, only
wanted numbers and ammunition--above all ammunition!--to win them the
full victory they had rightly earned.

Of this whole earlier stage, the _junior subaltern_ was the leading
figure. It was he--let me insist upon it anew--whose spirit made the new
armies. If the tender figure of the "_Lady of the Lamp_" has become for
many of us the chief symbol of the Crimean struggle, when Britain comes
to embody in sculpture or in painting that which has touched her most
deeply in this war, she will choose--surely--the figure of a boy of
nineteen, laughing, eager, undaunted, as quick to die as to live,
carrying in his young hands the "Luck" of England.

       *       *       *       *       *

But with the end of 1915, the first stage, the elementary stage, of the
new Armies came to an end. When I stood, in March 1916, on the
Scherpenberg hill, looking out over the Salient, new conditions reigned.
The Officer Cadet Corps had been formed; a lively and continuous
intercourse between the realities of the front and the training at home
had been set up; special schools in all subjects of military interest
had been founded, often, as we have seen, by the zeal of individual
officers, to be then gradually incorporated in the Army system. Men
insufficiently trained in the early months had been given the
opportunity--which they eagerly took--of beginning at the beginning
again, correcting mistakes and incorporating all the latest knowledge.
Even a lieutenant-colonel, before commanding a battalion, could go to
school once more; and even for officers and men "in rest," there were,
and are, endless opportunities of seeing and learning, which few wish
to forgo.

And that brings me to what is now shaping itself--the final result. The
year just passed, indeed--from March to March--has practically rounded
our task--though the "learning" of the Army is never over!--and has seen
the transformation--whether temporary or permanent, who yet can
tell?--of the England of 1914, with its zealous mobs of untrained and
"tatterdemalion" recruits, into a great military power,[This letter was
finished just as the news of the Easter Monday Battle of Arras was
coming in.] disposing of armies in no whit inferior to those of Germany,
and bringing to bear upon the science of war--now that Germany has
forced us to it--the best intelligence, and the best _character_, of the
nation. The most insolent of the German military newspapers are already
bitterly confessing it.

       *       *       *       *       *

My summary--short and imperfect as it is--of this first detailed account
of its work which the War Office has allowed to be made public--has
carried me far afield.

The motor has been waiting long at the door of the hospitable
headquarters which have entertained us! Let me return to it, to the
great spectacle of the present--after this retrospect of the Past.

Again the crowded roads--the young and vigorous troops--the manifold
sights illustrating branch after branch of the Army. I recall a draft,
tired with marching, clambering with joy into some empty lorries, and
sitting there peacefully content, with legs dangling and the ever
blessed cigarette for company, then an aeroplane station--then a
football field, with a violent game going on--a Casualty Clearing
Station, almost a large hospital--another football match!--a battery of
eighteen-pounders on the march, and beyond an old French market town
crowded with lorries and men. In the midst of it D---- suddenly draws my
attention to a succession of great nozzles passing us, with their teams
and limbers. I have stood beside the forging and tempering of their
brothers in the gun-shops of the north, have watched the testing and
callipering of their shining throats. They are 6-inch naval guns on
their way to the line--like everything else, part of the storm to come.

And in and out, among the lorries and the guns, stream the French folk,
women, children, old men, alert, industrious, full of hope, with
friendly looks for their Allies. Then the town passes, and we are out
again in the open country, leaving the mining village behind. We are not
very far at this point from that portion of the line which I saw last
year under General X's guidance. But everything looks very quiet and
rural, and when we emerged on the high ground of the school we had come
to see, I might have imagined myself on a Surrey or Hertfordshire
common. The officer in charge, a "mighty hunter" in civil life, showed
us his work with a quiet but most contagious enthusiasm. The problem
that he, and his colleagues engaged in similar work in other sections of
the front, had to solve, was--how to beat the Germans at their own game
of "sniping," which cost us so many lives in the first year and a half
of war; in other words, how to train a certain number of men to an art
of rifle-shooting, combining the instincts and devices of a "Pathfinder"
with the subtleties of modern optical and mechanical science. "Don't
think of this as meant primarily to kill," says the Chief of the School,
as he walks beside me--"it is meant primarily to _protect_. We lost our
best men--young and promising officers in particular--by the score
before we learnt the tricks of the German 'sniper' and how to meet
them." German "sniping," as our guide explains, is by no means all
tricks. For the most part, it means just first-rate shooting, combined
with the trained instinct and _flair_ of the sportsman. Is there
anything that England--and Scotland--should provide more abundantly?
Still, there are tricks, and our men have learnt them.

Of the many surprises of the school I may not now speak. Above all, it
is a school of _observation_. Nothing escapes the eye or the ear. Every
point, for instance, connected with our two unfamiliar figures will have
been elaborately noted by those men on the edge of the hill; the officer
in charge will presently get a careful report on us.

"We teach our men the old great game of war--wit against wit--courage
against courage--life against life. We try many men here, and reject a
good few. But the men who have gone through our training here are
valuable, both for attack and defence--above all, let me repeat it, they
are valuable for _protection_."

And what is meant by this, I have since learnt in greater detail. Before
these schools were started, _every day_ saw a heavy toll--especially of
officers' lives--taken by German snipers. Compare with this one of the
latest records: that out of fifteen battalions there were only nine men
killed by snipers _in three months._

We leave the hill, half sliding down the frozen watercourse that leads
to it, and are in the motor again, bound for an Army Headquarters.



No. 4

_April 14th_, 1917.

DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,--As the news comes flashing in, these April days,
and all the world holds its breath to hear the latest messages from
Arras and the Vimy ridge, it is natural that in the memory of a woman
who, six weeks ago, was a spectator--before the curtain rose--of the
actual scene of such events, every incident and figure of that past
experience, as she looks back upon it, should gain a peculiar and
shining intensity.

The battle of the Vimy Ridge [_April 8th_] is clearly going to be the
second (the first was the German retreat on the Somme) of those
"decisive events" determining this year the upshot of the war, to which
the Commander-in-Chief, with so strong and just a confidence, directed
the eyes of this country some three months ago. When I was in the
neighbourhood of the great battlefield--one may say it now!--the whole
countryside was one vast preparation. The signs of the coming attack
were everywhere--troops, guns, ammunition, food dumps, hospitals, air
stations--every actor and every property in the vast and tragic play
were on the spot, ready for the moment and the word.

Yet, except in the Headquarters and Staff Councils of the Army nobody
knew when the moment and the word would come, and nobody spoke of them.
The most careful and exact organisation for the great movement was going
on. No visitor would hear anything of it. Only the nameless stir in the
air, the faces of officers at Headquarters, the general alacrity, the
endless _work_ everywhere, prophesied the great things ahead. Perpetual,
highly organised, scientific drudgery is three parts of war, it seems,
as men now wage it. The Army, as I saw it, was at work--desperately at
work!--but "dreaming on things to come."

One delightful hour of that March day stands out for me in particular.
The strong, attractive presence of an Army Commander, whose name will be
for ever linked with that of the battle of the Vimy ridge, surrounded by
a group of distinguished officers; a long table, and a too brief stay;
conversation that carries for me the thrill of the _actual thing_, close
by, though it may not differ very much from wartalk at home: these are
the chief impressions that remain. The General beside me, with that look
in his kind eyes which seems to tell of nights shortened by hard work,
says a few quietly confident things about the general situation, and
then we discuss a problem which one of the party--not a soldier--starts.

Is it true or untrue that long habituation to the seeing or inflicting
of pain and death, that the mere sights and sounds of the trenches tend
with time to brutalise men, and will make them callous when they return
to civil life? Do men grow hard and violent in this furnace after a
while, and will the national character suffer thereby in the future? The
General denies it strongly. "I see no signs of it. The kindness of the
men to each other, to the wounded, whether British or German, to the
French civilians, especially the women and children, is as marked as it
ever was. It is astonishing the good behaviour of the men in these
French towns; it is the rarest thing in the world to get a complaint."

I ask for some particulars of the way in which the British Army "runs"
the French towns and villages in our zone. How is it done? "It is all
summed up in three words," says an officer present, "M. le Maire!" What
we should have done without the local functionaries assigned by the
French system to every village and small town it is hard to say. They
are generally excellent people; they have the confidence of their fellow
townsmen, and know everything about them. Our authorities on taking over
a town or village do all the preliminaries through M. le Maire, and all
goes well.

The part played, indeed, by these local chiefs of the civil population
throughout France during the war has been an honourable and arduous--in
many cases a tragic--one. The murder, under the forms of a
court-martial, of the Maire of Senlis and his five fellow hostages
stands out among the innumerable German cruelties as one of peculiar
horror. Everywhere in the occupied departments the Maire has been the
surety for his fellows, and the Germans have handled them often as a
cruel boy torments some bird or beast he has captured, for the pleasure
of showing his power over it.

From the wife of the Maire of an important town in Lorraine I heard the
story of how her husband had been carried off as a hostage for three
weeks, while the Germans were in occupation. Meanwhile German officers
were billeted in her charming old house. "They used to say to me every
day with great politeness that they _hoped_ my husband would not be
shot. 'But why should he be shot, monsieur? He will do nothing to
deserve it.' On which they would shrug their shoulders and say, 'Madame,
c'est la guerre!' evidently wishing to see me terrified. But I never
gave them that pleasure."

A long drive home, through the dark and silent country. Yet everywhere
one feels the presence of the Army. We draw up to look at a sign-post at
some cross roads by the light of one of the motor lamps. Instantly a
couple of Tommies emerge from the darkness and give help. In passing
through a village a gate suddenly opens and a group of horses comes out,
led by two men in khaki; or from a Y.M.C.A. hut laughter and song float
out into the night. And soon in these farms and cottages everybody will
be asleep under the guard of the British Forces, while twenty miles
away, in the darkness, the guns we saw in the morning are endlessly
harassing and scourging the enemy lines, preparing for the day when the
thoughts now maturing in the minds of the Army leaders will leap in
flame to light.

       *       *       *       *       *

To-day we are off for the Somme. I looked out anxiously with the dawn,
and saw streaks of white mist lying over the village and the sun
struggling through. But as we start on the road to Amiens, the mist
gains the upper hand, and we begin to be afraid that we shall not get
any of those wide views from the west of Albert over the Somme country
which are possible in clear weather. Again the high upland, and this
time _three_ tanks on the road, but motionless, alack! the nozzles of
their machine guns just visible on their great sides. Then a main road,
if it can be called a road since the thaw has been at work upon it.
Every mile or two, as our chauffeur explains, the pavé "is all burst up"
from below, and we rock and lunge through holes and ruts that only an
Army motor can stand. But German prisoners are thick on the worst bits,
repairing as hard as they can. Was it perhaps on some of these men that
certain of the recent letters that are always coming into G.H.Q. have
been found? I will quote a few of those which have not yet seen
the light.

Here are a batch of letters written in January of this year from Hamburg
and its neighbourhood:

"It is indeed a miserable existence. How will it all end? There is
absolutely nothing to be got here. Honey costs _6s. 6d_. a pound, goose
fat _18s_. a pound. Lovely prices, aren't they? One cannot do much by
way of heating, as there is no coal. We can just freeze and starve at
home. Everybody is ill. All the infirmaries are overflowing. Small-pox
has broken out. You are being shot at the front, and at home we are
gradually perishing."

" ... On the Kaiser's birthday, military bands played everywhere. When
one passes and listens to this tomfoolery, and sees the emaciated and
overworked men in war-time, swaying to the sounds of music, and enjoying
it, one's very gall rises. Why music? Of course, if times were
different, one could enjoy music. But to-day! It should be the aim of
the higher authorities to put an end to this murder. In every sound of
music the dead cry for revenge. I can assure you that it is very
surprising that there has not been a single outbreak here, but it
neither can nor will last much longer. How can a human being subsist on
1/4 lb. of potatoes a day? I should very much like the Emperor to try
and live for a week on the fare we get. He would then say it is
impossible.... I heard something this week quite unexpectedly, which
although I had guessed it before, yet has depressed me still more.
However, we will hope for the best."

"You write to say that you are worse off than a beast of burden.... I
couldn't send you any cakes, as we had no more flour.... We have
abundant bread tickets. From Thursday to Saturday I can still buy five
loaves.... My health is bad; not my asthma, no, but my whole body is
collapsing. We are all slowly perishing, and this is what it is all
coming to."

" ... The outlook here is also sad. One cannot get a bucket of coal. The
stores and dealers have none. The schools are closing, as there is no
coal. Soon everybody will be in the same plight. Neither coal nor
vegetables can be bought. Holland is sending us nothing more, and we
have none. We get 3-1/2 lb. of potatoes per person. In the next few days
we shall only have swedes to eat, which must be dried."

       *       *       *       *       *

A letter written from Hamburg in February, and others from Coblenz are
tragic reading:

" ... We shall soon have nothing more to eat. We earn no money,
absolutely none; it is sad but true. Many people are dying here from
inanition or under-feeding."

Or, take these from Neugersdorf, in Saxony:

"We cannot send you any butter, for we have none to eat ourselves. For
three weeks we have not been able to get any potatoes. So we only have
turnips to eat, and now there are no more to be had. We do not know what
we can get for dinner this week, and if we settle to get our food at the
Public Food-Kitchen we shall have to stand two hours for it."

"Here is February once more--one month nearer to peace. Otherwise all is
the same. Turnips! Turnips! Very few potatoes, only a little bread, and
no thought of butter or meat; on the other hand, any quantity of hunger.
I understand your case is not much better on the Somme."

Or this from a man of the Ersatz Battalion, 19th F.A.R., Dresden:

"Since January 16th I have been called up and put into the Foot
Artillery at Dresden. On the 16th we were first taken to the
Quartermaster's Stores, where 2,000 of us had to stand waiting in the
rain from 2.30 to 6.30.... On the 23rd I was transferred to the tennis
ground. We are more than 100 men in one room. Nearly all of us have
frozen limbs at present. The food, too, is bad; sometimes it cannot
possibly be eaten. Our training also is very quick, for we are to go
_into the field in six weeks_."

Or these from Itzehoe and Hanover:

"Could you get me some silk? It costs 8s. a metre here.... To-day, the
24th, all the shops were stormed for bread, and 1,000 loaves were stolen
from the bakery. There were several other thousand in stock. In some
shops the windows were smashed. In the grocers' shops the butter barrels
were rolled into the street. There were soldiers in civilian dress. The
Mayor wanted to hang them. There are no potatoes this week."

"To-day, the 27th, the bakers' shops in the ---- Road were stormed....
This afternoon the butchers' shops are to be stormed."

"If only peace would come soon! We have been standing to for an alarm
these last days, as the people here are storming all the bakers' shops.
It is a semi-revolution. It cannot last much longer."

To such a pass have the Kaiser and the Junker party brought their
countrymen! Here, no doubt, are some of the recipients of such letters
among the peaceful working groups in shabby green-grey, scattered along
the roads of France. As we pass, the German N.C.O. often looks up to
salute the officer who is with us, and the general aspect of the men--at
any rate of the younger men--is cheerfully phlegmatic. At least they are
safe from the British guns, and at least they have enough to eat. As to
this, let me quote, by way of contrast, a few passages from letters
written by prisoners in a British camp to their people at home. One
might feel a quick pleasure in the creature-comfort they express but for
the burning memory of our own prisoners, and the way in which thousands
of them have been cruelly ill-treated, tormented even, in Germany--worst
of all, perhaps, by German women.

The extracts are taken from letters written mostly in December and
January last:

(_a_) " ... Dear wife, don't fret about me, because the English treat us
very well. Only our own officers (N.C.O.'s) treat us even worse than
they do at home in barracks; but that we're accustomed to...."

(_b_) " ... I'm now a prisoner in English hands, and I'm quite comfortable
and content with my lot, for most of my comrades are dead. The English
treat us well, and everything that is said to the contrary is not true.
Our food is good. There are no meatless days, but we haven't any
cigars...."

(_c_) Written from hospital, near Manchester: " ... I've been a prisoner
since October, 1916. I'm extremely comfortable here.... Considering the
times, I really couldn't wish you all anything better than to be
here too!"

(_d_) " ... I am afraid I'm not in a position to send you very detailed
letters about my life at present, but I can tell you that I am quite all
right and comfortable, and that I wish every English prisoner were the
same. Our new Commandant is very humane--strict, but just. You can tell
everybody who thinks differently that I shall always be glad to prove
that he is wrong...."

(_e_) " ... I suppose you are all thinking that we are having a very bad
time here as prisoners. It's true we have to do without a good many
things, but that after all one must get accustomed to. The English are
really good people, which I never would have believed before I was taken
prisoner. They try all they can to make our lot easier for us, and you
know there are a great many of us now. So don't be distressed
for us...."

X is passed, a large and prosperous town, with mills in a hollow. We
climb the hill beyond it, and are off on a long and gradual descent to
Amiens. This Picard country presents everywhere the same general
features of rolling downland, thriving villages, old churches,
comfortable country houses, straight roads, and well-kept woods. The
battlefields of the Somme were once a continuation of it! But on this
March day the uplands are wind-swept and desolate; and chilly white
mists curl about them, with occasional bursts of pale sun.

Out of the mist there emerges suddenly an anti-aircraft section; then a
great Army Service dump; and presently we catch sight of a row of
hangars and the following notice, "Beware of aeroplanes ascending and
descending across roads." For a time the possibility of charging into a
biplane gives zest to our progress, as we fly along the road which cuts
the aerodrome; but, alack! there are none visible and we begin to drop
towards Amiens.

Then, outside the town, sentinels stop us, French and British; our
passes are examined; and, under their friendly looks--betraying a little
surprise!--we drive on into the old streets. I was in Amiens two years
before the war, between trains, that I might refresh a somewhat faded
memory of the cathedral. But not such a crowded, such a busy Amiens as
this! The streets are so full that we have to turn out of the main
street, directed by a French military policeman, and find our way by a
détour to the cathedral.

As we pass through Amiens arrangements are going on for the "taking
over" of another large section of the French line, south of Albert; as
far, it is rumoured, as Roye and Lagny. At last, with our new armies, we
can relieve more of the French divisions, who have borne so gallantly
and for so many months the burden of their long line. It is true that
the bulk of the German forces are massed against the British lines, and
that in some parts of the centre and the east, owing to the nature of
the ground, they are but thinly strung along the French front, which
accounts partly for the disproportion in the number of kilometres
covered by each Ally. But, also, we had to make our Army; the French,
God be thanked, had theirs ready, and gloriously have they stood the
brunt, as the defenders of civilisation, till we could take our
full share.

And now we, who began with 45 kilometres of the battle-line, have
gradually become responsible for 185, so that "at last," says a French
friend to me in Paris, "our men can have a rest, some of them for the
first time! And, by Heaven, they've earned it!"

Yet, in this "taking over" there are many feelings concerned. For the
French _poilu_ and our Tommy it is mostly the occasion for as much
fraternisation as their fragmentary knowledge of each other's speech
allows; the Frenchman is proud to show his line, the Britisher is proud
to take it over; there are laughter and eager good will; on the whole,
it is a red-letter day. But sometimes there strikes in a note "too deep
for tears." Here is a fragment from an account of a "taking over,"
written by an eye-witness:

Trains of a prodigious length are crawling up a French railway. One
follows so closely upon another that the rear truck of the first is
rarely out of sight of the engine-driver of the second. These trains are
full of British soldiers. Most of them are going to the front for the
first time. They are seated everywhere, on the trucks, on the roof--legs
dangling over the edge--inside, and even over the buffers. Presently
they arrive at their goal. The men clamber out on to the siding, collect
their equipment and are ready for a march up country. A few children run
alongside them, shouting, "Anglais!" "Anglais!" And some of them take
the soldiers' hands and walk on with them until they are tired.

Now the trenches are reached, and the men break into single file. But
the occasion is not the usual one of taking over a few trenches. _We are
relieving some sixty miles of French line._ There is, however, no
confusion. The right men are sent to the right places, and everything is
done quietly. It is like a great tide sweeping in, and another sweeping
out. Sixty miles of trenches are gradually changing their nationality.

The German, a few yards over the way, knows quite well what is
happening. A few extra shells whizz by; a trench mortar or two splutter
a welcome; but it makes little difference to the weary German who mans
the trenches over against him. Only, the new men are fresh and untired,
and the German has no Ally who can give him corresponding relief.

It has all been so quietly done! Yet it is really a great moment. The
store of man power which Great Britain possesses is beginning to take
practical effect. The French, who held the long lines at the beginning
of war, who stood before Verdun and threw their legions on the road to
Péronne, are now being freed for work elsewhere. They have "carried on"
till Great Britain was ready, and now she is ready.

       *       *       *       *       *

This was more than the beginning of a new tour of duty [says another
witness]. I felt the need of some ceremony, and I think others felt the
need of it too. There were little half-articulate attempts, in the
darkness, of men trying to show what they felt--a whisper or two--in the
queer jargon that is growing up between the two armies. An English
sentry mounted upon the fire-step, and looked out into the darkness
beside the Frenchman, and then, before the Frenchman stepped down,
patted him on the shoulder, as though he would say: "These
trenches--_all right_!--we'll look after them!"

Then I stumbled into a dug-out. A candle burnt there, and a French
officer was taking up his things. He nodded and smiled. "I go," he said.
"I am not sorry, and yet----" He shrugged his shoulders. I understood.
One is never sorry to go, but these trenches--these bits of France,
where Frenchmen had died--would no longer be guarded by Frenchmen. Then
he waved his hand round the little dug-out. "We give a little more of
France into your keeping." His gesture was extravagant and light, but
his face was grave as he said it. He turned and went out. I followed. He
walked along the communication trench after his men, and I along the
line of my silent sentries. I spoke to one or two, and then stood on the
fire-step, looking out into the night. I had the Frenchman's words in my
head: "We give a little more of France into your keeping!" It was not
these trenches only, where I stood, but all that lay out there in the
darkness, which had been given into our keeping. Its dangers were ours
now. There were villages away there in the heart of the night, still
unknown to all but the experts at home, whose names--like Thiepval and
Bazentin--would soon be English names, familiar to every man in Britain
as the streets of his own town. All this France had entrusted to our
care this night.

Such were the scenes that were quietly going on, not much noticed by the
public at home during the weeks of February and March, and such were the
thoughts in men's minds. How plainly one catches through the words of
the last speaker an eager prescience of events to come!--the sweep of
General Gough on Warlencourt and Bapaume--the French reoccupation
of Péronne.

One word for the cathedral of Amiens before we leave the bustling
streets of the old Picard capital. This is so far untouched and
unharmed, though exposed, like everything else behind the front, to the
bombs of German aeroplanes. The great west front has disappeared behind
a mountain of sandbags; the side portals are protected in the same way,
and inside, the superb carvings of the choir are buried out of sight.
But at the back of the choir the famous weeping cherub sits weeping as
before, peacefully querulous. There is something irritating in his
placid and too artistic grief. Not so is "Rachel weeping for her
children" in this war-ravaged country. Sterner images of Sorrow are
wanted here--looking out through burning eyes for the Expiation to come.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then we are off, bound for Albert, though first of all for the
Headquarters of the particular Army which has this region in charge. The
weather, alack! is still thick. It is under cover of such an atmosphere
that the Germans have been stealing away, removing guns and stores
wherever possible, and leaving rear-guards to delay our advance. But
when the rear-guards amount to some 100,000 men, resistance is still
formidable, not to be handled with anything but extreme prudence by
those who have such vast interests in charge as the Generals of
the Allies.

Our way takes us first through a small forest, where systematic felling
and cutting are going on under British forestry experts. The work is
being done by German prisoners, and we catch a glimpse through the trees
of their camp of huts in a barbed-wire enclosure. Their guards sleep
under canvas! ... And now we are in the main street of a large
picturesque village, approaching a château. A motor lorry comes towards
us, driven at a smart pace, and filled with grey-green uniforms.
Prisoners!--this time fresh from the field. We have already heard
rumours on our way of successful fighting to the south.

The famous Army Commander himself, who had sent us a kind invitation to
lunch with him, is unexpectedly engaged in conference with a group of
French generals; but there is a welcome suggestion that on our way back
from the Somme he will be free and able to see me. Meanwhile we go off
to luncheon and much talk with some members of the Staff in a house on
the village street. Everywhere I notice the same cheerful, one might
even say radiant, confidence. No boasting in words, but a conviction
that penetrates through all talk that the tide has turned, and that,
however long it may take to come fully up, it is we whom it is floating
surely on to that fortune which is no blind hazard, but the child of
high faith and untiring labour. Of that labour the Somme battlefields we
were now to see will always remain in my mind--in spite of ruin, in
spite of desolation--as a kind of parable in action, never to be
forgotten.



No. 5

_April 26th_, 1917.

DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,--Amid the rushing events of these days--America
rousing herself like an eagle "with eyes intentive to bedare the sun";
the steady and victorious advance along the whole front in France, which
day by day is changing the whole aspect of the war; the Balfour Mission;
the signs of deep distress in Germany--it is sometimes difficult to
throw oneself back into the mood of even six weeks ago! History is
coming so fast off the loom! And yet six weeks ago I stood at the
pregnant beginnings of it all, when, though nature in the bitter frost
and slush of early March showed no signs of spring, the winter lull was
over, and everywhere on the British front men knew that great things
were stirring.

Before I reached G.H.Q., Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig had already
reported the recapture or surrender of eleven villages on the Ancre
during February, including Serre and Gommecourt, which had defied our
efforts in the summer of 1916. That is to say, after three months of
trench routine and trench endurance imposed by a winter which seemed to
have let loose every possible misery of cold and wet, of storm and
darkness, on the fighting hosts in France, the battle of the Somme had
moved steadily forward again from the point it had reached in November.
Only, when the curtain rose on the new scene it was found that during
these three months strange things had been happening.

About the middle of November, after General Gough's brilliant strokes on
the Ancre, which gave us St. Pierre Divion, Beaucourt, and Beaumont
Hamel, and took us up to the outskirts of Grandcourt, the _Frankfurter
Zeitung_ wrote--"For us Germans the days of the crisis on the Somme are
over. Let the French and English go on sacrificing the youth of their
countries here. They will not thereby achieve anything more." Yet when
this was written the German Higher Command was already well aware that
the battle of the Somme had been won by the Allies, and that it would be
impossible for Germany to hold out on the same ground against another
similar attack.

Three months, however, of an extraordinarily hard winter gave them a
respite, and enabled them to veil the facts from their own people. The
preparations for retirement, which snow and fog and the long nights of
January helped them to conceal in part from our Air Service, must have
actually begun not many weeks after General Gough's last successes on
the Ancre, when the British advance paused, under stress of weather,
before Grandcourt and Bapaume. So that in the latter half of February,
when General Gough again pushed forward, it was to feel the German line
yielding before him; and by March 3rd, the day of my visit to the Somme,
it was only a question of how far the Germans would go and what the
retreat meant.

Meanwhile, in another section of the line our own plans were maturing,
which were to bear fruit five weeks later in the brilliant capture of
that Vimy ridge I had seen on March 2, filling the blue middle distance,
from the bare upland of Notre Dame de Lorette. If on the Somme the anvil
was to some extent escaping from the hammer, in the coming battle of
Arras the hammer was to take its full revenge.

These things, however, were still hidden from all but the few, and in
the first days of March the Germans had not yet begun to retire in front
of the French line further south. The Somme advance was still the centre
of things, and Bapaume had not yet fallen. As we drove on towards Albert
we knew that we should be soon close behind our own guns, and within
range of the enemy's.

No one who has seen it in war-time will ever forget the market-place of
Albert--the colossal heaps of wreck that fill the centre of it; the new,
pretentious church, rising above the heaps, a brick-and-stucco building
of the worst neo-Catholic taste, which has been so gashed and torn and
broken, while still substantially intact, that all its mean and tawdry
ornament has disappeared in a certain strange dignity of ruin; and last,
the hanging Virgin, holding up the Babe above the devastation below, in
dumb protest to God and man. The gilded statue, which now hangs at right
angles to the tower, has, after its original collapse under shell-fire,
been fixed in this position by the French Engineers; and it is to be
hoped that when the church comes to be rebuilt the figure will be left
as it is. There is something extraordinarily significant and dramatic in
its present attitude. Whatever artistic defects the statue may have are
out of sight, and it seems as it hangs there, passionately hovering,
above the once busy centre of a prosperous town, to be the very symbol
and voice of France calling the world to witness.

A few more minutes, and we are through the town, moving slowly along the
Albert-Bapaume road, that famous road which will be a pilgrims' way for
generations to come.

"To other folk," writes an officer quoted by Mr. Buchan in his _Battle
of the Somme_, "and on the maps, one place seems just like another, I
suppose; but to us--La Boisselle and Ovillers--my hat!"

To walk about in those hells! I went along the "sunken road" all the way
to Contalmaison. Talk about sacred ground! The new troops coming up now
go barging across in the most light-hearted way. It means no more to
them than the roads behind used to mean to us. But when I think how we
watered every yard of it with blood and sweat! Children might play there
now, if it didn't look so like the aftermath of an earthquake. I have a
sort of feeling it ought to be marked off somehow, a permanent memorial.

The same emotion as that which speaks in this letter--so far, at least,
as it can be shared by those who had no part in the grim scene
itself--held us, the first women-pilgrims to tread these roads and
trampled slopes since the battle-storm of last autumn passed over them.
The sounds of an immortal host seemed to rush past us on the
air--mingled strangely with the memory of hot July days in an English
garden far away, when the news of the great advance came thundering in
hour by hour.

"The aftermath of an earthquake!" Do the words express the reality
before us as we move along the mile of road between Albert and La
Boisselle? Hardly. The earth-shudder that visits a volcanic district may
topple towns and villages into ruins in a few minutes. It does not tear
and grind and pound what it has overturned, through hour after hour,
till there is nothing left but mud and dust.

Not only all vegetation, but all the natural surface of the ground here
has gone; and the villages are churned into the soil, as though some
"hundred-handed Gyas" had been mixing and kneading them into a devil's
dough. There are no continuous shell-holes, as we had expected to see.
Those belong to the ground further up the ridge, where fourteen square
miles are so closely shell-pocked that one can hardly drive a stake
between the holes. But here on the way to La Boisselle and Contalmaison
there is just the raw tumbled earth, from which all the natural covering
of grass and trees and all the handiwork of man have been stripped and
torn and hammered away, so that it has become a great dark wound on the
countryside.

Suddenly we see gaping lines of old trenches rising on either side of
the road, the white chalk of the subsoil marking their course.
"British!" says the officer in front--who was himself in the battle.
Only a few steps further on, as it seems, we come to the remains of the
German front line, and the motor pauses while we try to get our
bearings. There to the south, on our right, and curving eastward, are
two trench lines perfectly clear still on the brown desolation, the
British and the enemy front lines. From that further line, at half-past
seven on the summer morning for ever blazoned in the annals of our
people, the British Army went over the parapet, to gather in the victory
prepared for it by the deadly strength and accuracy of British guns;
made possible in its turn by the labour in far-off England of millions
of workers--men and women--on the lathes and in the filling factories of
these islands.

We move on up the road. Now we are among what remains of the trenches
and dug-outs described in Sir Douglas Haig's despatch. "During nearly
two years' preparations the enemy had spared no pains to render these
defences impregnable," says the Commander-in-Chief; and he goes on to
describe the successive lines of deep trenches, the bomb-proof shelters,
and the wire entanglements with which the war correspondence of the
winter has made us at home--on paper--so familiar. "The numerous woods
and villages had been turned into veritable fortresses." The deep
cellars in the villages, the pits and quarries of a chalk country,
provided cover for machine guns and trench mortars. The dug-outs were
often two storeys deep, "and connected by passages as much as thirty
feet below the surface of the ground." Strong redoubts, mine-fields,
concrete gun emplacements--everything that the best brains of the German
Army could devise for our destruction--had been lavished on the German
lines. And behind the first line was a second--and behind the second
line a third. And now here we stand in the midst of what was once so
vast a system. What remains of it--and of all the workings of the German
mind that devised it? We leave the motor and go to look into the
dug-outs which line the road, out of which the dazed and dying Germans
flung themselves at the approach of our men after the bombardment, and
then Captain F. guides us a little further to a huge mine crater, and we
sink into the mud which surrounds it, while my eyes look out over what
once was Ovillers, northward towards Thiépval, and the slopes behind
which runs the valley of the Ancre; up and over this torn and naked
land, where the new armies of Great Britain, through five months of some
of the deadliest fighting known to history, fought their way yard by
yard, ridge after ridge, mile after mile, caring nothing for pain,
mutilation and death so that England and the cause of the Allies
might live.

"_There were no stragglers, none_!" Let us never forget that cry of
exultant amazement wrung from the lips of an eye-witness, who saw the
young untried troops go over the parapet in the July dawn and disappear
into the hell beyond. And there in the packed graveyards that dot these
slopes lie thousands of them in immortal sleep; and as the Greeks in
after days knew no nobler oath than that which pledged a man by those
who fell at Marathon, so may the memory of those who fell here burn ever
in the heart of England, a stern and consecrating force.

  "Life is but the pebble sunk,
   Deeds the circle growing!"

And from the deeds done on this hillside, the suffering endured, the
life given up, the victory won, by every kind and type of man within the
British State--rich and poor, noble and simple, street-men from British
towns, country-men from British villages, men from Canadian prairies,
from Australian and New Zealand homesteads--one has a vision, as one
looks on into the future, of the impulse given here spreading out
through history, unquenched and imperishable. The fight is not over--the
victory is not yet--but on the Somme no English or French heart can
doubt the end.

The same thoughts follow one along the sunken road to Contalmaison.
Here, first, is the cemetery of La Boisselle, this heaped confusion of
sandbags, of broken and overturned crosses, of graves tossed into a
common ruin. And a little further are the ruins of Contalmaison, where
the 3rd Division of the Prussian Guards was broken and 700 of them taken
prisoners. Terrible are the memories of Contalmaison! Recall one letter
only!--the letter written by a German soldier the day before the attack:
"Nothing comes to us--no letters. The English keep such a barrage on our
approaches--it is horrible. To-morrow morning it will be seven days
since this bombardment began; we cannot hold out much longer. Everything
is shot to pieces." And from another letter: "Every one of us in these
five days has become years older--we hardly know ourselves."

It was among these intricate remains of trenches and dug-outs, round the
fragments of the old chateau, that such things happened. Here, and among
those ghastly fragments of shattered woods that one sees to south and
east--Mametz, Trônes, Delville, High Wood--human suffering and heroism,
human daring and human terror, on one side and on the other, reached
their height. For centuries after the battle of Marathon sounds of armed
men and horses were heard by night; and to pry upon that sacred
rendezvous of the souls of the slain was frowned on by the gods. Only
the man who passed through innocently and ignorantly, not knowing where
he was, could pass through safely. And here also, in days to come, those
who visit these spots in mere curiosity, as though they were any
ordinary sight, will visit them to their hurt.

       *       *       *       *       *

So let the first thoughts run which are evolved by this brown and torn
devastation. But the tension naturally passes, and one comes back,
first, to the _victory_--to the results of all that hard and relentless
fighting, both for the British and the French forces, on this memorable
battlefield north and south of the Somme. Eighty thousand prisoners,
between five and six hundred guns of different calibres, and more than a
thousand machine guns, had fallen to the Allies in four months and a
half. Many square miles of French territory had been recovered.
Verdun--glorious Verdun--had been relieved. Italy and Russia had been
helped by the concentration of the bulk of the German forces on the
Western front. The enemy had lost at least half a million men; and the
Allied loss, though great, had been substantially less. Our new armies
had gloriously proved themselves, and the legend of German
invincibility was gone.

So much for the first-fruits. The _ultimate results_ are only now
beginning to appear in the steady retreat of German forces, unable to
stand another attack, on the same line, now that the protection of the
winter pause is over. "How far are we from our guns?" I ask the officer
beside me. And, as I speak, a flash to the north-east on the higher
ground towards Pozières lights up the grey distance. My companion
measures the hillside with his eyes. "About 1,000 yards." Their
objective now is a temporary German line in front of Bapaume. But we
shall be in Bapaume in a few days. And then?

_Death_--_Victory_--_Work_; these are the three leading impressions that
rise and take symbolic shape amid these scenes. Let me turn now to the
last. For anyone with the common share of heart and imagination, the
first thought here must be of the dead--the next, of swarming life. For
these slopes and roads and ruins are again alive with men. Thousands and
thousands of our soldiers are here, many of them going up to or coming
back from the line, while others are working--working--incessantly at
all that is meant by "advance" and "consolidation."

The transformation of a line of battle into an efficient "back of the
Army" requires, it seems, an amazing amount of human energy,
contrivance, and endurance. And what we see now is, of course, a second
or third stage. First of all there is the "clearing up" of the actual
battlefield. For this the work of the men now at work here--R.E.'s and
Labour battalions--is too skilled and too valuable. It is done by
fatigues and burying parties from the battalions in occupation of each
captured section. The dead are buried; the poor human fragments that
remain are covered with chlorate of lime; equipments of all kinds, the
litter of the battlefield, are brought back to the salvage dumps, there
to be sorted and sent back to the bases for repairs.

Then--or simultaneously--begins the work of the Engineers and the Labour
men. Enough ground has to be levelled and shell-holes filled up for the
driving through of new roads and railways, and the provision of places
where tents, huts, dumps, etc., are to stand. Roughly speaking, I see,
as I look round me, that a great deal of this work is here already far
advanced. There are hundreds of men, carts, and horses at work on the
roads, and everywhere one sees the signs of new railway lines, either of
the ordinary breadth, or of the narrow gauges needed for the advanced
carriage of food and ammunition. Here also is a great encampment of
Nissen huts; there fresh preparations for a food or an ammunition dump.

With one pair of eyes one can only see a fraction of what is in truth
going on. But the whole effect is one of vast and increasing industry,
of an intensity of determined effort, which thrills the mind hardly less
than the thought of the battle-line itself. "Yes, war _is_ work," writes
an officer who went through the Somme fighting, "much more than it is
fighting. This is one of the surprises that the New Army soldiers find
out here." Yet for the hope of the fighting moment men will go
cheerfully through any drudgery, in the long days before and after; and
when the fighting comes, will bear themselves to the wonder of
the world.

On we move, slowly, towards Fricourt, the shattered remnants of the
Mametz wood upon our left. More graveyards, carefully tended; spaces of
peace amid the universal movement. And always, on the southern horizon,
those clear lines of British trenches, whence sprang on July 1st, 1916,
the irresistible attack on Montauban and Mametz. Suddenly, over the
desolate ground to the west, we see a man hovering in mid-air,
descending on a parachute from a captive balloon that seems to have
suffered mishap. The small wavering object comes slowly down; we cannot
see the landing; but it is probably a safe one.

Then we are on the main Albert road again, and after some rapid miles I
find myself kindly welcomed by one of the most famous leaders of the
war. There, in a small room, which has surely seen work of the first
importance to our victories on the Somme, a great General discusses the
situation and the future with that same sober and reasoned confidence I
have found everywhere among the representatives of our Higher Command.
"Are we approaching victory? Yes; but it is too soon to use the great
word itself. Everything is going well; but the enemy is still very
strong. This year will decide it; but may not end it."

       *       *       *       *       *

So far my recollections of March 3rd. But this is now April 26th, and
all the time that I have been writing these recollections, thought has
been leaping forward to the actual present--to the huge struggle now
pending between Arras and Rheims--to the news that comes crowding in,
day by day, of the American preparations in aid of the Allies--to all
that is at stake for us and for you. Your eyes are now turned like ours
to the battle-line in France. You triumph--and you suffer--with us!



No. 6

_May 3rd_, 1917.

DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,--My last letter left me returning to our village
lodgings under the wing of G.H.Q. after a memorable day on the Somme
battle-fields. That night the talk at the Visitors' Château, during and
after a very simple dinner in an old panelled room, was particularly
interesting and animated. The morning's newspapers had just arrived from
England, with the official communiques of the morning. We were pushing
nearer and nearer to Bapaume; in the fighting of the preceding day we
had taken another 128 prisoners; and the King had sent his
congratulations to Sir Douglas Haig and the Army on the German
withdrawal under "the steady and persistent pressure" of the British
Army "from carefully prepared and strongly fortified positions--a
fitting sequel to the fine achievements of my Army last year in the
Battle of the Somme." There was also a report on the air-fighting and
air-losses of February--to which I will return.

It was, of course, already obvious that the German retreat on the Somme
was not--so far--going to yield us any very large captures of men or
guns. Prisoners were indeed collected every day, but there were no
"hauls" such as, little more than a month after this evening of March
3rd, were to mark the very different course of the Battle of Arras.
Discussion turned upon the pace of the German retreat and the possible
rate of our pursuit. "Don't forget," said an officer, "that they are
moving over good ground, while the pursuit has to move over bad
ground--roads with craters in them, ground so pitted with shell-holes
that you can scarcely drive a peg between them, demolished bridges,
villages that give scarcely any cover, and so on. The enemy has his guns
with him; ours have to be pushed up over the bad ground. His
machine-guns are always in picked and prepared positions; ours have to
be improvised."

And also--"Don't forget the weather!" said another. Every misty day--and
there were many in February--was very skilfully turned to account.
Whenever the weather conditions made it impossible to use the eyes of
our Air Service, men would say to each other on our side, "He'll go back
a lot to-day!--somewhere or other." But in spite of secrecy and fog, how
little respite we had given him! The enemy losses in casualties,
prisoners, and stores during February were certainly considerable; not
to speak of the major loss of all, that of the strongly fortified line
on which two years of the most arduous and ingenious labour that even
Germany can give had been lavished. "And almost everywhere," writes an
eye-witness, "he was hustled and harried much more than is generally
known." As you go eastward, for instance, across the evacuated ground
you notice everywhere signs of increasing haste and flurry, such as the
less complete felling of trees and telegraph posts. It was really a fine
performance for our infantry and our cavalry patrols, necessarily
unsupported by _anything like our full artillery strength,_ to keep up
the constant pressure they did on an enemy who enjoyed almost the full
protection of his. It was dreadful country to live and fight in after
the Germans had gone back over it, much worse than anything that troops
have to face after any ordinary capture of an enemy line.

The fact is that old axioms are being everywhere revised in the light of
this war. In former wars the extreme difficulty of a retreat in the face
of the enemy was taken for granted. But this war--I am trying to
summarise some first-hand opinion as it has reached me--has modified
this point of view considerably.

We know now that for any serious attack on an enemy who has plenty of
machine-guns and plenty of successive well-wired positions a great mass
of heavy and other artillery is absolutely indispensable. And over
ground deliberately wrecked and obstructed such artillery _must_ take
time to bring up. And yet--to repeat--how rapidly, how "persistently"
all difficulties considered, to use the King's adjective, has the
British Army pressed on the heels of the retreating enemy!

None of the officers with whom I talked believed that anything more
could have been done by us than was done. "If it had been we who were
retreating," writes one of them, "and the Germans who were pursuing, I
do not believe they would have pushed us so hard or caused us as much
loss, for all their pride in their staff work."

And it is, of course, evident from what has happened since I parted from
my hosts at the Château, that we have now amply succeeded during the
last few weeks in bringing the retreating enemy to bay. No more masked
withdrawals, no more skilful evasions, for either Hindenburg or his
armies! The victories of Easter week on and beyond the Vimy Ridge, and
the renewed British attack of the last few days--I am writing on May
1st--together with the magnificent French advance towards Laon and to
the east of Reims, have been so many fresh and crushing testimonies to
the vitality and gathering force of the Allied armies.

What is to be the issue we wait to see. But at least, after the winter
lull, it is once more joined; and with such an army as the War Office
and the nation together, during these three years, have fashioned to his
hand--so trained, so equipped, so fired with a common and inflexible
spirit--Sir Douglas Haig and his lieutenants will not fail the hopes of
Great Britain, of France--and of America!

At the beginning of March these last words could not have been added.
There was an American professor not far from me at dinner, and we
discussed the "blazing indiscretion" of Herr Zimmermann's Mexican
letter. But he knew no more than I. Only I remember with pleasure the
general tone of all the conversation about America that I either engaged
in or listened to at Headquarters just a month before the historic
meeting of Congress. It was one of intelligent sympathy with the
difficulties in your way, coupled with a quiet confidence that the call
of civilisation and humanity would very soon--and irrevocably--decide
the attitude of America towards the war.

       *       *       *       *       *

The evening at the Château passed only too quickly, and we were sad to
say good-bye, though it left me still the prospect of further
conversation with some members of the Intelligence Staff on my return
journey from Paris and those points of the French line for which, thanks
to the courtesy of the French Headquarters, I was now bound.

The last night under the little schoolmistress's quiet roof amid the
deep stillness of the village was a wakeful one for me. The presence of
the New Armies, as of some vast, impersonal, and yet intensely living
thing, seemed to be all around me. First, as an organisation, as the
amazing product of English patriotic intelligence devoted to one sole
end--the defence of civilisation against the immoral attack of the
strongest military machine in the world. And then, so to speak, as a
moral entity, for my mind was full of the sights and sounds of the
preceding days, and the Army appeared to me, not only as the mighty
instrument for war which it already is, but as a training school for the
Empire, likely to have incalculable effect upon the future.

How much I have heard of _training_ since my arrival in France! It is
not a word that has been so far representative of our English temper.
Far from it. The central idea of English life and politics, said Mr.
Bright, "is the assertion of personal liberty." It was, I suppose, this
assertion of personal liberty which drove our extreme Liberal wing
before the war into that determined fighting of the Naval and Military
Estimates year after year, that determined hatred of anything that
looked like "militarism," and that constant belittlement of the soldier
and his profession which so nearly handed us over, for lack of a
reasonable "militarism," to the tender mercies of the German variety.

But, years ago, Matthew Arnold dared to say, in face of the general
British approval of Mr. Bright, that there is, after all, something
greater than the "assertion of personal liberty," than the freedom to
"do as you like"; and he put forward against it the notion of "the
nation in its collected and corporate character" controlling the
individual will in the name of an interest wider than that of
individuals.

What he had in view was surely just what we are witnessing in Great
Britain to-day--what we are about to witness in your own country--a
nation becoming the voluntary servant of an idea, and for that idea
submitting itself to forms of life quite new to it, and far removed from
all its ordinary habits; giving up the freedom to do as it likes;
accepting the extremities of discomfort, hardship, and pain--death
itself--rather than abandon the idea; and so putting itself to school,
resolutely and of its own free will, that when its piece of self-imposed
education is done, it can no more be the same as it was before than the
youth who has yielded himself loyally to the pounding and stretching of
any strenuous discipline, intellectual or physical.

Training--"askêsis"--with either death, or the loss of all that makes
honourable life, as the ultimate sanction behind the process, that is
the present preoccupation of this nation in arms. Even the football
games I saw going on in the course of our drive to Albert were all part
of this training. They are no mere amusement, though they are amusement.
They are part of the system by which men are persuaded--not driven--to
submit themselves to a scheme of careful physical training, even in
their times of rest; by which they find themselves so invigorated that
they end by demanding it.

As for the elaboration of everything else in this frightful art of war,
the ever-multiplying staff courses, the bombing and bayonet schools, the
special musketry and gas schools, the daily and weekly development of
aviation, the technical industry and skill, both among the gunners
abroad and the factory workers at home, which has now made our artillery
the terror of the German army: a woman can only realise it with a
shudder, and find comfort in two beliefs. First, that the whole horrible
process of war has _not_ brutalised the British soldier--you remember
the Army Commander whom I quoted in an earlier letter!--that he still
remains human and warm-hearted through it all, protected morally by the
ideal he willingly serves. Secondly, in the conviction that this
relentless struggle is the only means that remains to us of so chaining
up the wild beast of war, as the Germans have let it loose upon the
world, that our children and grandchildren at least shall live in peace,
and have time given them to work out a more reasonable scheme of things.

But, at any rate; we have gone a long way from the time when Matthew
Arnold, talking with "the manager of the Claycross works in Derbyshire"
during the Crimean War, "when our want of soldiers was much felt and
some people were talking of conscription," was told by his companion
that "sooner than submit to conscription the population of that district
would flee to the mines, and lead a sort of Robin Hood life
underground." An illuminating passage, in more ways than one, by the
way, as contrasted with the present state of things!--since it both
shows the stubbornness of the British temper in defence of "doing as it
likes," when no spark of an ideal motive fires it; and also brings out
its equal stubbornness to-day in support of a cause which it feels to be
supreme over the individual interest and will.

But the stubbornness, the discipline, the sacrifice of the armies in the
field are not all we want. The stubbornness of the nation _at home_, of
the men and the women, is no less necessary to the great end. In these
early days of March every week's news was bringing home to England the
growing peril of the submarine attack. Would the married women, the
elder women of the nation, rise to the demand for personal thought and
saving, for _training_--in the matter of food--with the same eager
goodwill as thousands of the younger women had shown in meeting the
armies' demand for munitions? For the women heads of households have it
largely in their hands.

The answer at the beginning of March was matter for anxiety. It is still
matter for anxiety now--at the beginning of May.

Let us, however, return for a little to the Army. What would the
marvellous organisation which England has produced in three years avail
us, without the spirit in it,--the body, without the soul? All through
these days I have been conscious, in the responsible men I have been
meeting, of ideals of which no one talks, except when, on very rare
occasions, it happens to be in the day's work like anything else to talk
of ideals--but which are, in fact, omnipresent.

I find, for instance, among my War Office Notes, a short address given
in the ordinary course of duty by an unnamed commandant to his
officer-cadets. It appears here, in its natural place, just as part of
the whole; revealing for a moment the thoughts which constantly
underlie it.

"Believe me when I tell you that I have never found an officer who
worked who did not come through. Only ill-health and death stand in your
way. The former you can guard against in a great measure. The latter
comes to us all, and for a soldier, a soldier's death is the finest of
all. Fear of death does not exist for the man who has led a good and
honest life. You must discipline your bodies and your minds--your bodies
by keeping them healthy and strong, your minds by prayer and thought."

As to the relation between officers and men, that also is not talked
about much, except in its more practical and workaday aspects--the
interest taken by officers in the men's comfort and welfare, their
readiness to share in the men's games and amusements, and so on. And no
one pretends that the whole British Army is an army of "plaster saints,"
that every officer is the "little father" of his men, and all
relations ideal.

But what becomes evident, as one penetrates a little nearer to the great
organism, is a sense of passionate responsibility in all the finer minds
of the Army towards their men, a readiness to make any sacrifice for
them, a deep and abiding sense of their sufferings and dangers, of all
that they are giving to their country. How this comes out again and
again in the innumerable death-stories of British officers--those few
words that commemorate them in the daily newspapers! And how evident is
the profound response of the men to such a temper in their officers!
There is not a day's action in the field--I am but quoting the
eye-witnesses--that does not bring out such facts. Let a senior
officer--an "old and tried soldier"--speak. He is describing a walk over
a battlefield on the Ancre after one of our victories there
last November:

"It is a curious thing to walk over enemy trenches that I have watched
like a tiger for weeks and weeks. But what of the boys who took those
trenches, with their eleven rows of barbed wire in front of them? I
don't think I ever before to-day rated the British soldier at his proper
value. His sufferings in this weather are indescribable. When he is not
in the trenches his discomforts are enough to kill any ordinary mortal.
When he is in the trenches it is a mixture between the North Pole and
Hell. And yet when the moment comes he jumps up and charges at the
impossible--and conquers it! ... Some of the poor fellows who lay there
as they fell looked to me absolutely noble, and I thought of their
families who were aching for news of them and hoping against hope that
they would not be left unburied in their misery.

"All the loving and tender thoughts that are lavished on them are not
enough. There are no words to describe the large hearts of these men.
God bless 'em! And what of the French on whose soil they lie? Can they
ever forget the blood that is mingled with their own? I hope not. I
don't think England has ever had as much cause to be proud as she
has to-day."

Ah! such thoughts and feelings cut deep. They would be unbearable but
for the saving salt of humour in which this whole great gathering of
men, so to speak, moves suspended, as though in an atmosphere. It is
everywhere. Coarse or refined, it is the universal protection, whether
from the minor discomforts or the more frightful risks of war. Volumes
could be filled, have already been filled, with it--volumes to which
your American soldier when he gets to France in his thousands will add
considerably--pages all his own! I take this touch in passing from a
recent letter:

"A sergeant in my company [writes a young officer] was the other day
buried by a shell. He was dug out with difficulty. As he lay, not
seriously injured, but sputtering and choking, against the wall of the
trench, his C.O. came by. 'Well, So-and-so, awfully sorry! Can I do
anything for you?' 'Sir,' said the sergeant with dignity, still
struggling out of the mud, '_I want a separate peace_!'"

And here is another incident that has just come across me. Whether it is
Humour or Pathos I do not know. In this scene they are pretty close
together--the great Sisters!

A young flying officer, in a night attack, was hit by a shrapnel bullet
from below. He thought it had struck his leg, but was so absorbed in
dropping his bombs and bringing down his machine safely that, although
he was aware of a feeling of faintness, he thought no more of it till he
had landed in the aerodrome. Then it was discovered that his leg had
been shot away, was literally hanging by a shred of skin, and how he had
escaped bleeding to death nobody could quite understand. As it was, he
had dropped his bombs, and he insisted on making his report in hospital.

He recovered from the subsequent operation, and in hospital, some weeks
afterwards, his C.O. appeared, with the news of his recommendation for
the D.S.O. The boy, for he was little more, listened with eyes of amused
incredulity, opening wider and wider as the Colonel proceeded. When the
communication was over, and the C.O., attributing the young man's
silence to weakness or grateful emotion, had passed on, the nurse beside
the bed saw the patient bury his head in the pillow with a queer sound
of exasperation, and caught the words, "I call it _perfectly childish!_"

That an act so simple, so all in the bargain, should have earned the
D.S.O. seemed in the eyes of the doer to degrade the honour!

       *       *       *       *       *

With this true tale I have come back to a recollection of the words of
the flying officer in charge of the aerodrome mentioned in my second
letter, after he had described to me the incessant raiding and fighting
of our airmen behind the enemy lines.

"Many of them don't come back. What then? _They will have done their
job._"

The report which reaches the château on our last evening illustrates
this casual remark. It shows that 89 machines were lost during February,
60 of them German. We claimed 41 of these, and 23 British machines were
"missing" or "brought down."

But as I write the concluding words of this letter (May 3rd) a far more
startling report--that for April--lies before me. "There has not been a
month of such fighting since the war began, and the losses have never
reached such a tremendous figure," says the _Times_. The record number
so far was that for September 1916, in the height of the Somme
fighting--322. But during April, according to the official reports, "the
enormous number of 717 aeroplanes were brought to earth as the result of
air-fights or by gun-fire." Of these, 369 were German--269 of them
brought down by the British and 98 by the French. The British lost 147;
the French and Belgian, if the German claims can be trusted, 201.

It is a terrible list, and a terrible testimony to the extreme
importance and intensity of the air-fighting now going on. How few of
us, except those who have relatives or dear friends in the air-service,
realise at all the conditions of this fighting--its daring, its epic
range, its constant development!

All the men in it are young. None of them can have such a thing as a
nerve. Anyone who betrays the faintest suspicion of one in his first
flights is courteously but firmly returned to his regiment. In peace the
airman sees this solid earth of ours as no one else sees it; and in war
he makes acquaintance by day and night with all its new and strange
aspects, amid every circumstance of danger and excitement, with death
always at hand, his life staked, not only against the enemy and all his
devices on land and above it, but against wind and cloud, against the
treacheries of the very air itself.

In the midst of these conditions the fighting airman shoots, dodges,
pursues, and dives, intent only on one thing, the destruction of his
enemy, while the observer photographs, marks his map with every
gun-emplacement, railway station, dump of food or ammunition,
unconcerned by the flying shells or the strange dives and swoops of
the machine.

But apart from active fighting, take such a common experience as what is
called "a long reconnaissance." Pilot and observer receive their orders
to reconnoitre "thoroughly" a certain area. It may be winter, and the
cold at the height of many thousand feet may be formidable indeed. No
matter. The thing is done, and, after hours in the freezing air, the
machine makes for home; through a winter evening, perhaps, as we saw the
two splendid biplanes, near the northern section of the line, sailing
far above our heads into the sunset, that first day of our journey. The
reconnaissance is over, and here is the first-hand testimony of one who
has taken part in many, as to what it means in endurance and fatigue:

"Both pilot and observer are stiff with the cold. In winter it is often
necessary to help them out of the machine and attend to the chilled
parts of the body to avoid frost-bite. Their faces are drawn with the
continual strain. They are deaf from the roar of the engine. Their eyes
are bloodshot, and their whole bodies are racked with every imaginable
ache. For the next few hours they are good for nothing but rest, though
sleep is generally hard to get. But before turning in the observer must
make his report and hand it in to the proper quarter."

So much for the nights which are rather for observation than fighting,
though fighting constantly attends them. But the set battles in the air,
squadron with squadron, man with man, the bombers in the centre, the
fighting machines surrounding and protecting them, are becoming more
wonderful, more daring, more complicated every month. "You'll see"--I
recall once more the words of our Flight-Commander, spoken amid the
noise and movement of a score of practising machines, five weeks before
the battle of Arras--"when the great move begins _we shall get the
mastery again, as we did on the Somme._"

Ask the gunners in the batteries of the April advance, as they work
below the signalling planes; ask the infantry whom the gunners so
marvellously protect, as to the truth of the prophecy!

"Our casualties are _really_ light," writes an officer in reference to
some of the hot fighting of the past month. Thanks, apparently, to the
ever-growing precision of our artillery methods; which again depend on
aeroplane and balloon information. So it is that the flying forms in the
upper air become for the soldier below so many symbols of help and
protection. He is restless when they are not there. And let us remember
that aeroplanes were first used for artillery observation, not three
years ago, in the battle of Aisne, after the victory of the Marne.

But the night in the quiet village wears away. To-morrow we shall be
flying through the pleasant land of France, bound for Paris and
Lorraine. For I am turning now to a new task. On our own line I have
been trying to describe, for those who care to listen, the crowding
impressions left on a woman-witness by the huge development in the last
twelve months of the British military effort in France. But now, as I go
forward into this beautiful country, which I have loved next to my own
all my life, there are new purposes in my mind, and three memorable
words in my ears:

"_Reparation--Restitution--Guarantees!_"



No. 7

_May 10th_, 1917.

DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,--We are then, for a time, to put France, and not the
British line, in the forefront of these later letters. For when I went
out on this task, as I think you know, I had two objects in
mind--intimately connected. The first was to carry on that general story
of the British effort, which I began last year under your inspiration,
down to the opening of this year's campaign. And the second was to try
and make more people in this country, and more people in America,
realise--as acutely and poignantly as I could--what it is we are really
fighting for; what is the character of the enemy we are up against; what
are the sufferings, outrages, and devastations which have been inflicted
on France, in particular, by the wanton cruelty and ambition of Germany;
for which she herself must be made to suffer and pay, if civilisation
and freedom are to endure.

With this second intention, I was to have combined, by the courtesy of
the French Headquarters, a visit to certain central portions of the
French line, including Soissons, Reims, and Verdun. But by the time I
reached France the great operations that have since marked the
Soissons-Reims front were in active preparation; roads and motor-cars
were absorbed by the movements of troops and stores; Reims and Verdun
were under renewed bombardment; and visits to this section of the French
line were entirely held up. The French authorities, understanding that I
chiefly wished to see for myself some of the wrecked and ruined villages
and towns dealt with in the French official reports, suggested, first
Senlis and the battle-fields of the Ourcq, and then Nancy, the ruined
villages of Lorraine, and that portion of their eastern frontier line
where, simultaneously with the Battle of the Marne, General Castelnau
directed from the plateau of Amance and the Grand Couronné that strong
defence of Nancy which protected--and still protects--the French right,
and has baulked all the German attempts to turn it.

Meanwhile, in the early days of March, the German retreat, south of the
Somme and in front of the French line, was not yet verified; and the
worst devastation of the war--the most wanton crime, perhaps, that
Germany has so far committed--was not yet accomplished. I had left
France before it was fully known, and could only realise, by hot
sympathy from a distance, the passionate thrill of fury and wild grief
which swept through France when the news began to come in from the
evacuated districts. British correspondents with the advancing armies of
the Allies have seen deeds of barbarism which British eyes and hearts
will never forget, and have sent the news of them through the world. The
destruction of Coucy and Ham, the ruin and plunder of the villages, the
shameless loot everywhere, the hideous ill-treatment of the country
folk, the deportation of boys and girls, the massacre of the fruit
trees--these things have gone deep into the very soul of France, burning
away--except in the minds of a few incorrigible fanatics--whatever
foolish "pacificism" was there, and steeling the mind and will of the
nation afresh to that victory which can alone bring expiation,
punishment, and a peace worth the name. But, everywhere, the ruins with
which northern, central, and eastern France are covered, whether they
were caused by the ordinary processes of war or not, are equally part of
the guilt of Germany. In the country which I saw last year on the
Belgian border, from the great phantom of Ypres down to Festubert, the
ravage is mainly the ravage of war. Incessant bombardment from the
fighting lines has crumbled village after village into dust, or gashed
the small historic towns and the stately country houses. There is no
deliberate use of torch and petrol, as in the towns farther south and
east. Ypres, however, was deliberately shelled into fragments day after
day; and Arras is only a degree less carefully ruined. And whatever the
military pretext may be, the root question remains--"Why are the Germans
_in France at all_?" What brought them there but their own
determination, in the words of the Secret Report of 1913 printed in the
French Yellow book, to "strengthen and extend _Deutschtum_ (Germanism)
throughout the entire world"? Every injury that poor France in
self-defence, or the Allies at her side, are forced to inflict on the
villages and towns which express and are interwoven with the history and
genius of the French, is really a German crime. There is no forgiveness
for what Germany has done--none! She has tried to murder a people; and
but for the splendid gifts of that people, she would have achieved
her end.

Perhaps the tragedy of what is to be seen and heard at Senlis, on the
battle-grounds of the Ourcq, and in the villages of Lorraine, was
heightened for me by the beauty of the long drive south from the
neighbourhood of G.H.Q.--some hundred and forty miles. It was a cold but
clear March day. We had but parted from snow a little while, and we were
soon to find it again. But on this day, austerely bright, the land of
France unrolled before us its long succession of valley and upland,
upland and valley. Here, no trace of the invader; generally speaking no
signs of the armies; for our route lay, on an average, some forty miles
behind the line. All was peace, solitude even; for the few women, old
men, and boys on the land scarcely told in the landscape. But every mile
was rich in the signs and suggestion of an old and most human
civilisation--farms, villages, towns, the carefully tended woods, the
fine roads running their straight unimpeded course over hill and dale,
bearing witness to a _State sense,_ of which we possess too little in
this country.

We stopped several times on the journey--I remember a puncture,
involving a couple of hours' delay, somewhere north of Beauvais--and
found ourselves talking in small hot rooms with peasant families of all
ages and stages, from the blind old grandmother, like a brooding Fate in
the background, to the last toddling baby. How friendly they were, in
their own self-respecting way!--the grave-faced elder women, the young
wives, the children. The strength of the _family_ in France seems to me
still overwhelming--would we had more of it left in England! The
prevailing effect was of women everywhere _carrying on_--making no
parade of it, being indeed accustomed to work, and familiar with every
detail of the land; having merely added the tasks of their husbands and
sons to their own, and asking no praise for it. The dignity, the
essential refinement and intelligence--for all their homely speech--of
these solidly built, strong-faced women, in the central districts of
France, is still what it was when George Sand drew her Berri peasants,
nearly a hundred years ago.

Then darkness fell, and in the darkness we went through an old, old town
where are the French General Headquarters. Sentries challenged us to
right and left, and sent us forward again with friendly looks. The day
had been very long, and presently, as we approached Paris, I fell asleep
in my corner, only to be roused with a start by a glare of lights, and
more sentries. The _barrière_ of Paris!--shining out into the night.

Two days in Paris followed; every hour crowded with talk, and the vivid
impressions of a moment when, from beyond Compiègne and Soissons--some
sixty miles from the Boulevards--the French airmen flying over the
German lines were now bringing back news every morning and night of
fresh withdrawals, fresh villages burning, as the sullen enemy
relaxed his hold.

On the third day, a most courteous and able official of the French
Foreign Office took us in charge, and we set out for Senlis on a morning
chill and wintry indeed, but giving little sign of the storm it held
in leash.

To reach Senlis one must cross the military _enceinte_ of Paris. Many
visitors from Paris and other parts of France, from England, or from
America, have seen by now the wreck of its principal street, and have
talked with the Abbé Dourlent, the "Archiprêtre" of the cathedral, whose
story often told has lost but little of its first vigour and simplicity,
to judge at least by its effect on two of his latest visitors.

We took the great northern road out of Paris, which passes scenes
memorable in the war of 1870. On both sides of us, at frequent
intervals, across the flat country, were long lines of trenches, and
belts of barbed wire, most of them additions to the defences of Paris
since the Battle of the Marne. It is well to make assurance doubly sure!
But although, as we entered the Forest of Chantilly, the German line was
no more than some thirty-odd miles away, and since the Battle of the
Aisne, two and a half years ago, it has run, practically, as it still
ran in the early days of this last March, the notion of any fresh attack
on Paris seemed the merest dream. It was indeed a striking testimony to
the power of the modern defensive--this absolute security in which Paris
and its neighbourhood has lived and moved all that time, with--up to a
few weeks ago--the German batteries no farther off than the suburbs of
Soissons. How good to remember, as one writes, all that has happened
since I was in Senlis!--and the increased distance that now divides the
German hosts from the great prize on which they had set their hearts.

How fiercely they had set their hearts on it, the old Curé of Senlis,
who is the chief depository of the story of the town, was to make us
feel anew.

One enters Senlis from Paris by the main street, the Rue de la
République, which the Germans deliberately and ruthlessly burnt on
September 2nd and 3rd, 1914. We moved slowly along it through the
blackened ruins of houses large and small, systematically fired by the
German _pétroleurs_, in revenge for a supposed attack by civilians upon
the entering German troops. _Les civils ont tiré_--it is the universal
excuse for these deeds of wanton barbarism, and for the hideous
cruelties to men, women, and children that have attended them--beginning
with that incident which first revealed to a startled world the true
character of the men directing the German Army--the burning and sack of
Louvain. It is to be hoped that renewed and careful investigation will
be made--(much preliminary inquiry has already of course taken
place)--after the war into all these cases. My own impression from what
I have heard, seen, and read--for what it may be worth--is that the plea
is almost invariably false; but that the state of panic and excitement
into which the German temperament falls, with extraordinary readiness,
under the strain of battle, together with the drunkenness of troops
traversing a rich wine-growing country, have often accounted for an
honest, but quite mistaken belief in the minds of German soldiers,
without excusing at all the deeds to which it led. Of this abnormal
excitability, the old Curé of Senlis gave one or two instances which
struck me.

We came across him by chance in the cathedral--the beautiful cathedral I
have heard Walter Pater describe, in my young Oxford days, as one of the
loveliest and gracefullest things in French Gothic. Fortunately, though
the slender belfry and the roof were repeatedly struck by shrapnel in
the short bombardment of the town, no serious damage was done. We
wandered round the church alone, delighting our eyes with the warm
golden white of the stone, the height of the grooved arches, the flaming
fragments of old glass, when we saw the figure of an old priest come
slowly down the aisle, his arms folded. He looked at us rather dreamily
and passed. Our guide, Monsieur P., followed and spoke to him.
"Monsieur, you are the Abbé Dourlent?"

"I am, sir. What can I do for you?"

Something was said about English ladies, and the Curé courteously turned
back. "Will the ladies come into the Presbytère?" We followed him across
the small cathedral square to the old house in which he lived, and were
shown into a bare dining-room, with a table, some chairs, and a few old
religious engravings on the walls. He offered us chairs and sat
down himself.

"You would like to hear the story of the German occupation?" He thought
a little before beginning, and I was struck with his strong, tired face,
the powerful mouth and jaw, and above them, eyes which seemed to have
lost the power of smiling, though I guessed them to be naturally full of
a pleasant shrewdness, of what the French call _malice_, which is not
the English "malice." He was rather difficult to follow here and there,
but from his spoken words and from a written account he placed in my
hands, I put together the following story:

"It was August 30th, 1914, when the British General Staff arrived in
Senlis. That same evening, they left it for Dammartin. All day, and the
next two days, French and English troops passed through the town. What
was happening? Would there be no fighting in defence of Paris--only
thirty miles away? Wednesday, September 2nd--that was the day the guns
began, our guns and theirs, to the north of Senlis. But, in the course
of that day, we knew finally there would be no battle between us and
Paris. The French troops were going--the English were going. They left
us--marching eastward. Our hearts were very sore as we saw them go.

"Two o'clock on Wednesday--the first shell struck the cathedral. I had
just been to the top of the belfry to see, if I could, from what
direction the enemy was coming. The bombardment lasted an hour and a
half. At four o'clock they entered. If you had seen them!"

The old Curé raised himself on his seat, trying to imitate the insolent
bearing of the German cavalry as they led the way through the old town
which they imagined would be the last stage on their way to Paris.

"They came in, shouting '_Paris_--_Nach Paris!'_ maddened with
excitement. They were all singing--they were like men beside
themselves."

"What did they sing, Monsieur le Curé?--Deutschland über alles'?"

"Oh, no, madame, not at all. They sang hymns. It was an extraordinary
sight. They seemed possessed. They were certain that in a few hours they
would be in Paris. They passed through the town, and then, just south of
the town, they stopped. Our people show the place. It was the nearest
they ever got to Paris.

"Presently, an officer, with an escort, a general apparently, rode
through the town, pulled up at the Hôtel de Ville, and asked for the
Maire--angrily, like a man in a passion. But the Maire--M. Odent--was
there, waiting, on the steps of the Hôtel de Ville.

"Monsieur Odent was my friend--he gave me his confidence. He had
resisted his nomination as Mayor as long as he could, and accepted it
only as an imperative duty. He was an employer, whom his workmen loved.
One of them used to say--'When one gets into M. Odent's employ, one
lives and dies there.' Just before the invasion, he took his family
away. Then he came back, with the presentiment of disaster. He said to
me--'I persuaded my wife to go. It was hard. We are much attached to
each other--but now I am free, ready for all that may come.'

"Well, the German general said to him roughly:

"'Is your town quiet? Can we circulate safely?'

"M. Odent said, 'Yes. There is no quieter town in France than Senlis.'

"'Are there still any soldiers here?'

"M. Odent had seen the French troops defiling through the town all the
morning. The bombardment had made it impossible to go about the streets.
As far as he knew there were none left. He answered, 'No.'

"He was taken off, practically under arrest, to the Hôtel, and told to
order a dinner for thirty, with ice and champagne. Then his secretary
joined him and proposed that the _adjoints_, or Mayor's assistants,
should be sent for.

"'No,' said M. Odent, 'one victim is enough.' You see he foresaw
everything. We all knew what had happened in Belgium and the Ardennes.

"The German officer questioned him again.

"'Why have your people gone?--why are these houses, these shops, shut?
There must be lights _everywhere_--all through the night!'

"Suddenly--shots!--in the Rue de la République. In a few seconds there
was a furious fusillade, accompanied by the rattle of machine guns. The
officer sprang up.

"'So this is your quiet town, Monsieur le Maire! I arrest you, and you
shall answer with your life for the lives of my soldiers.'

"Two men with revolvers were set to guard him. The officer himself
presently took him outside the town, and left him under guard, at the
little village of Poteau, at the edge of a wood."

       *       *       *       *       *

What had happened? Unluckily for Senlis and M. Odent, some of the French
rear-guard--infantry stragglers, and a small party of Senegalese
troops--were still in the southern quarter of the town when the Germans
entered. They opened fire from a barrack near the Paris entrance and a
sharp engagement followed which lasted several hours, with casualties on
both sides. The Germans got the better, and were then free to wreak
their fury on the town.

They broke into the houses, plundered the wine shops, first of all, and
took fifty hostages, of whom twenty-six perished. And at half-past five,
while the fighting was still going on, the punitive burning of the town
began, by a cyclist section told off for the work and furnished with
every means for doing it effectively. These men, according to an
eyewitness, did their work with wild shouts--"_cris sauvages_."

A hundred and seventeen houses were soon burning fiercely. On that hot
September evening, the air was like a furnace. Before long the streets
were full of blazing débris. Two persons who had hidden themselves in
their cellars died of suffocation; yet to appear in the streets was to
risk death at the hands of some drunk or maddened soldier.

At the opening of the French attack, a German officer rushed to the
hospital, which was full of wounded, in search of francs-tireurs.
Arrived there, he saw an old man, a chronic patient of the hospital and
half idiotic, standing on the steps of the building. He blew the old
man's brains out. He then forced his way into the hospital, pointing his
revolver at the French wounded, who thought their last hour had come. He
himself was wounded, and at last appeared to yield to the remonstrances
of the Sister in charge, and allowed his wound to be dressed. But in the
middle of the dressing, he broke away without his tunic, and helmetless,
in a state of mad excitement, and presently reappeared with a file of
soldiers. Placing them in the street opposite the rooms occupied by the
French wounded, he ordered them to fire a volley. No one was hurt,
though several beds were struck. Then the women's wards were searched.
Two sick men, _éclopés_ without visible wounds, were dragged out of
their beds and would have been bayoneted then and there but for the
entreaties of the nurses, who ultimately released them.

An awful night followed in the still burning or smouldering town.
Meanwhile, at nine o'clock in the evening a party of German officers
betook themselves to the hamlet of Poteau--a village north of
Senlis--where M. Odent had been kept under guard since the afternoon.
Six other hostages were produced, and they were all marched off to a
field near Chamant at the edge of a wood. Here the Maire was called up
and interrogated. His companion, eight or nine metres away, too far to
hear what was said, watched the scene. As I think of it, I seem to see
in the southern sky the glare of burning Senlis; above it, and spread
over the stubble fields in which the party stood, a peaceful moonlight.
In his written account, the Curé specially mentions the brightness of
the harvest moon.

Presently the Maire came back to the six, and said to one, Benoit
Decreys, "Adieu, my poor Benoit, we shall not see each other again
--they are going to shoot me." He took his crucifix, his purse
containing a sum of money, and some papers, out of his pocket, and asked
that they should be given to his family. Then pressing the hands held
out to him, he said good-bye to them all, and went back with a firm step
to the group of officers. Two soldiers were called up, and the Maire was
placed at ten paces' distance. The soldiers fired, and M. Odent fell
without a sound. He was hastily buried under barely a foot of earth, and
his six companions were left on the spot through the night expecting the
same fate, till the morning, when they were released. Five other
hostages, "gathered haphazard in the streets," were shot the same night
in the neighbourhood of Chamant.

Meanwhile the Curé, knowing nothing of what was happening to the Maire,
had been thinking for his parishioners and his church. When the
bombardment began he gathered together about a hundred and twenty of
them, who had apparently no cellars to take refuge in, and after
sheltering them in the Presbytère for a time, he sent them with one of
his _vicaires_ out of the town. Then--to continue his narrative:

"I went to the southern portal of the cathedral, and stood there
trembling at every burst of shrapnel that struck the belfry and the
roof, and running out into the open, at each pause, to be sure that the
church was still there. When the firing ceased, I went back to the
Presbytère.

"Presently, furious sounds of blows from the _place_. I went out. I saw
some enemy cyclists, armed with fragments of stone, breaking in one of
the cathedral doors, another, with a hatchet, attacking the belfry door.
At the sight of me, they rushed at me with their revolvers, demanding
that I should take them to the top of the belfry. 'You have a machine
gun there!' 'Nothing of the sort, monsieur. See for yourselves.' I
unlocked the door, and just as I put my foot on the first step, the
fusillade in the town began. The soldiers started. 'You are our
prisoner!' cried their chief, turning to me, as though to seize me.

"'I know it. You have me in your hands.' I went up before them, as
quickly as my age allowed. They searched everywhere, and, of course,
found nothing. They ran down and disappeared."

But that was not the end of the Abbé's trouble. He was presently sent
for to the German Headquarters, at the Hotel du Grand Cerf, where the
table spread for thirty people, by the order of M. Odent, was still
waiting for its guests. The conversation here between the Curé and the
officer of high rank who spoke to him is worth repeating. From the tenor
of it, the presumption is that the officer was a Catholic--probably
a Bavarian.

"I asked leave to go back to the Presbytère.

"'Better stay here, Monsieur le Curé. You will be safer. The burning is
going on. To-morrow, your town will be only a heap of ruins.'

"'What is our crime?'

"'Listen to that fusillade. Your inhabitants are attacking us, as they
did at Louvain. Louvain has ceased to exist! We will make of Senlis
another Louvain, so that Paris and France may know how we treat those
who may imitate you. We have found small shot (_chevrotines_) in the
body of one of our officers.'

"'Already?'--I thought. How had there been any time for the post-mortem?
But I was too crushed to speak.

"'And also from your belfry we have been fired on!'

"At that I recovered myself.

"'Sir--what may have passed in the streets, I cannot say. But as to the
cathedral I formally deny your charge. Since war broke out, I have
always had the keys of the belfry. I did not even give them to your
soldiers, who made me take them there. Do you wish me to swear it?'

"The officer looked at me.

"'No need. You are a Catholic priest. I see you are sincere.'

"I bowed."

A scene that throws much light! A false charge--an excited reference to
Louvain--monstrous threat--the temper, that is, of panic, which is the
mother of cruelty. At that very moment, the German troops in the Rue de
la Republique were driving parties of French civilians in front of them,
as a protection from the Senegalese troops who were still firing from
houses near the Paris exit from the town. Four or five of these poor
people were killed by French bullets; a child of five forced along, with
her mother, was shot in the thigh. Altogether some twenty or thirty
civilians seem to have been killed.

Next day more houses were burnt. Then, for a time, the quiet of
desolation. All the normal population were gone, or in the cellars. But
twenty miles away to the southeast, great things were preparing. The
German occupation of Senlis began, as we have seen, on a Wednesday,
September 2nd. On Saturday the 5th, as we all know, the first shots were
fired in that Battle of the Ourcq which was the western section of the
Battle of the Marne. By that Saturday, already, writes the
Abbé Dourlent:

"There was something changed in the attitude of the enemy. What had
become of the brutal arrogance, the insolent cruelty of the first days?
For three days and nights, the German troops, an army of 300,000 men,
defiled through our streets. It was not the road to Paris, now, that
they asked for--it was the way to Nanteuil, Ermenonville, the direction
of the Marne. On the faces of the officers, one seemed to read
disappointment and anxiety. Close to us, on the east, the guns were
speaking, every day more fiercely. What was happening?"

All that the Curé knows is that in a house belonging to persons of his
acquaintance, where some officers of the rear-guard left behind in
Senlis are billeted, two of the young officers have been in tears--it is
supposed, because of bad news. Another day, an armoured car rushes into
Senlis from Paris; the men in it exchange some shots with the German
soldiers in the principal _place_, and make off again, calling out,
"Courage! Deliverance is coming!"

Then, on the 9th, just a week from the German entry, there is another
fusillade in the streets. "It is the Zouaves, knocking at the doors,
dragging out the conquerors of yesterday, now a humbled remnant, with
their hands in the air."

And the Curé goes on to compare Senlis to the sand which the Creator
showed to the sea. "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther." "The grain
of sand is Senlis, still red with the flames which have devoured her,
and with the blood of her victims. To these barbarians she cries--'You
want Paris?--you want France? Halt! No road through here!'"

       *       *       *       *       *

This combination of the Curé's written and spoken account is as close to
the facts as I can make it. His narrative as he gave it to me, of what
he had seen and felt, was essentially simple, and, to judge from the
French official reports, with which I have compared it, essentially
true. There are some discrepancies in detail, but nothing that matters.
The murder of M. Odent, of the other hostages, of the civilians placed
in front of the German troops, and of four or five other victims; the
burning out by torch and explosive of half a flourishing town, because
of a discreditable mistake, the fruit of panic and passion,--these
crimes are indelibly marked on the record of Germany. She has done worse
elsewhere. All the same, this too she will never efface. Let us imagine
such things happening at Guildford, or Hatfield, or St. Albans!

We parted with M. le Curé just in time to meet a pleasant party of war
correspondents at the very inn, the Hôtel du Cerf, which had been the
German Headquarters during the occupation. The correspondents were on
their way between the French Headquarters and the nearest points of the
French line, Soissons or Compiègne, from whose neighbourhood every day
the Germans were slowly falling back, and where the great attacks of the
month of April were in active preparation. Then, after luncheon, we
sallied out into the darkening afternoon, through the Forest of
Ermenonville, and up to the great plateau, stretching north towards
Soissons, southwards towards Meaux, and eastwards towards the Ourcq,
where Maunoury's Sixth Army, striking from Paris and the west, and the
English Army, striking from the south--aided by all the gallant French
line from Château Thierry to the Grand Couronné--dealt that staggering
blow against the German right which flung back the German host, and,
weary as the way has been since, weary as it may still be, in truth,
decided the war.

But the clouds hang lower as we emerge on the high bare plain. A few
flakes--then, in a twinkling, a whirling snow-storm through which we can
hardly see our way. But we fight through it, and along the roads every
one of which is famous in the history of the battle. At our northernmost
point we are about thirty miles from Soissons and the line. Columns of
French infantry on the march, guns, ammunition, stores, field kitchens,
pass us perpetually; the motor moves at a foot's pace, and we catch the
young faces of the soldiers through the white thickened air. And our
most animated and animating companion, Monsieur P----, with his
wonderful knowledge of the battle, hails every landmark, identifies
every farm and wood, even in what has become, in less than an hour, a
white wilderness. But it is of one village only, of these many whose
names are henceforth known to history, that I wish to speak--the
village of Vareddes. In my next letter I propose to tell the ghastly
story of the hostages of Vareddes.



No. 8

_May 17th_, 1917.

DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,--Shall I ever forget that broad wintry plateau of
the Ourcq, as it lay, at the opening of March, under its bed of snow,
with its ruined villages, its graves scattered over the fields, its
utter loneliness, save for the columns of marching soldiers in the
roads, and the howling wind that rushed over the fields, the graves, the
cemeteries, and whistled through the gaping walls of the poor churches
and farms? This high spreading plain, which before the war was one scene
of rural plenty and industrious peace, with its farm lands and orchards
dropping gently from the forest country of Chantilly, Compiègne, and
Ermenonville, down to the Ourcq and the Marne, will be a place of
pilgrimage for generations to come. Most of the Battle of the Marne was
fought on so vast a scale, over so wide a stretch of country--about 200
miles long, by 50 broad--that for the civilian spectator of the future
it will never be possible to realise it as a whole, and very difficult
even to realise any section of it, topographically, owing to the
complication of the actions involved. But in the Battle of the Ourcq,
the distances are comparatively small, the actions comparatively simple
and intelligible, while all the circumstances of the particular struggle
are so dramatic, and the stakes at issue so vast, that every incident
is, as it were, writ large, and the memory absorbs them more easily.

An Englishwoman, too, may be glad it was in this conspicuous section of
the battle-field, which will perhaps affect the imagination of posterity
more easily than any other, that it fell to the British Army to play its
part. To General Joffre the glory of the main strategic conception of
the great retreat; to General Gallieni the undying honour of the rapid
perception, the quick decision, which flung General Maunoury, with the
6th Army, on Von Kluck's flank and rear, at the first hint of the German
general's swerve to the southeast; to General Maunoury himself, and his
splendid troops, the credit of the battle proper, across the broad
harvest fields of the Ourcq plateau. But the advance of the British
troops from the south of the Marne, on the heels of Von Kluck, was in
truth all-important to the success of Maunoury on the Ourcq. It was the
British Expeditionary Force which made the hinge of the battle-line, and
if that hinge had not been strong and supple--in all respects equal to
its work--the sudden attack of the 6th Army, on the extreme left of the
battle-line, and the victory of General Foch in the centre, might not
have availed. In other words, had Von Kluck found the weak spot he
believed in and struck for, all would have been different. But the weak
spot existed only in the German imagination. The British troops whom Von
Kluck supposed to be exhausted and demoralised, were in truth nothing of
the sort. Rested and in excellent condition, they turned rejoicing upon
the enemy, and, in concert with the French 6th Army, decided the German
withdrawal. Every one of the six Armies aligned across France, from
Paris to the Grand Couronne, had its own glorious task in the defeat of
the German plans. But we were then so small a proportion of the whole,
with our hundred and twenty thousand men, and we have become since so
accustomed to count in millions, that perhaps our part in the "miracle
of the Marne" is sometimes in danger of becoming a little blurred in the
popular English--and American--conception of the battle. Is not the
truth rather that we had a twofold share in it? It was Von Kluck's
miscalculation as to the English strength that tempted him to his
eastward march; it was the quality of the British force and leadership,
when Sir John French's opportunity came, that made the mistake a
fatal one.

How different the aspect of the Ourcq plateau at the opening of the
battle in 1914, from the snowy desolation under which we saw it! Perfect
summer weather--the harvest stacks in the fields--a blazing sun by day,
and a clear moon by night. For the first encounters of the five days'
fighting, till the rain came down, Nature could not have set a fairer
scene. And on the two anniversaries which have since passed, summer has
again decked the battle-field. Thousands have gone out to it from Paris,
from Meaux, and the whole country-side. The innumerable graves, single
or grouped, among the harvest fields and the pastures, have been covered
with flowers, and bright, mile after mile, with the twinkling tricolour,
as far as the eye could see. At Barcy and Etrépilly, the centres of the
fight, priests have blessed the graves, and prayed for the dead.

There has been neither labour nor money indeed as yet wherewith to
rebuild the ruined villages and farms, beyond the most necessary
repairs. They stand for the most part as the battle left them. And the
fields are still alive with innumerable red flags--distinct from the
tricolour of the graves--which mark where the plough must avoid an
unexploded shell. In a journal of September 1914, a citizen of Senlis
describes passing in a motor through the scene of the fight, immediately
after the departure of the Germans, when the scavenging and burying
parties were still busy.

"How can I describe it? Where to begin? Abandoned farms, on hills of
death! The grain-giving earth, empty of human beings. No labourers--no
household smoke. The fire of the burning villages has smouldered out,
and round the houses, and in the courtyards, lie the debris of their
normal life, trampled, dirty and piecemeal, under foot. Poor farms of
the Ile-de-France!--dwellings of old time, into whose barns the rich
harvests of the fields had been joyously gathered year by year--old
tiled roofs, clothed with ancestral moss--plain hospitable rooms where
masters and servants met familiarly together:--you are no more than
calcined and blackened stones! Not a living animal in the ruined stalls,
not an ox, not a horse, not a sheep. One flies from the houses, only to
find a scene more horrible in the fields. Corpses everywhere, of men and
horses. And everywhere in the fields unexploded shells, which it would
be death to touch, which have already made many unsuspecting victims.

"Sometimes, as the motor draws near, a man or a woman emerges from a
building, having still on their faces the terror of the hours they have
lived through. They scarcely look at us. They are absorbed in their
losses, in the struggle to rescue something from the wreck. As soon as
they are sure it is not the Germans come back, they turn away, with slow
steps, bewildered by what they have suffered."

The small party in the motor includes a priest, and as it passes near
Betz, at the northern end of the battle-field, they see a burying-party
of French Territorials at work. The officer in charge beckons to the
priest, and the priest goes to speak to him.

"Monsieur l'Abbé, we have just buried here twenty-two French soldiers."
He points to a trench freshly dug, into which the earth has just been
shovelled.

"They are Breton soldiers," the officer explains, "and the men of my
burying company are Bretons too. They have just discovered that these
dead men we have gathered from the fields were soldiers from a regiment
recruited in their own district. And _seven_ of them have recognised
among these twenty-two dead, one a son, one a son-in-law, one a brother.
Will you come, Monsieur l'Abbé, and say a few words to these
poor fellows?"

So the Abbé goes to the new-made grave, reads the _De Profundis_, says a
prayer, gives the benediction, and then speaks. Tears are on the strong,
rugged faces of the bare-headed Bretons, as they gather round him. A
group, some little distance off, which is writing the names of the dead
on a white cross, pauses, catches what is going on, and kneels too, with
bent heads....

It is good to linger on that little scene of human sympathy and
religious faith. It does something to protect the mind from the horror
of much that has happened here.

       *       *       *       *       *

In spite of the storm, our indefatigable guide carried us through all
the principal points of the battle-line--St. Soupplêts--Marcilly--
Barcy--Etrépilly--Acy-en-Multien; villages from which one by one, by
keen, hard fighting, the French attack, coming eastwards from Dammartin
to Paris, dislodged the troops of Von Kluck; while to our right lay
Trocy, and Vareddes, a village on the Ourcq, between which points ran
the strongest artillery positions of the enemy. At Barcy, we stopped a
few minutes, to go and look at the ruined church, with its fallen bell,
and its graveyard packed with wreaths and crosses, bound with the
tricolour. At Etrépilly, with the snow beating in our faces, and the
wind howling round us, we read the inscription on the national monument
raised to those fallen in the battle, and looking eastwards to the spot
where Trocy lay under thick curtains of storm, we tried to imagine the
magnificent charge of the Zouaves, of the 62nd Reserve Division, under
Commandant Henri D'Urbal, who, with many a comrade, lies buried in the
cemetery of Barcy.

Five days the battle swayed backwards and forwards across this scene,
especially following the lines of the little streams flowing eastwards
to the Ourcq, the Thérouanne, the Gergogne, the Grivette. "From village
to village," says Colonel Buchan, "amid the smoke of burning haystacks
and farmsteads, the French bayonet attack was pressed home."

"Terrible days of life-and-death fighting! [writes a Meaux resident,
Madame Koussel-Lepine] battles of Chambry, Barcy, Puisieux,
Acy-en-Multien, the 6th, 7th, and 8th of September--fierce days to which
the graves among the crops bear witness. Four hundred volunteers sent to
attack a farm, from which only seven come back! Ambuscades, barricades
in the streets, loopholes cut in the cemetery walls, trenches hastily
dug and filled with dead, night fighting, often hand to hand, surprises,
the sudden flash of bayonets, a rain of iron, a rain of fire, mills and
houses burning like torches--fields red with the dead and with the
flaming corn fruit of the fields, and flower of the race!--the sacrifice
consummated, the cup drunk to the lees."

Moving and eloquent words! They gain for me a double significance as I
look back from them to the little scene we saw at Barcy under the
snow--a halt of some French infantry, in front of the ruined church. The
"_salut an drapeau_" was going on, that simple, daily rite which, like a
secular mass, is the outward and visible sign to the French soldier of
his country and what he owes her. This passion of French
patriotism--what a marvellous force, what a regenerating force it has
shown itself in this war! It springs, too, from the heart of a race
which has the Latin gift of expression. Listen to this last entry in the
journal of Captain Robert Dubarle, the evening before his death
in action:

"This attack to-morrow, besides the inevitable emotion it rouses in
one's thoughts, stirs in me a kind of joyous impatience, and the pride
of doing my duty--which is to fight gladly, and die victorious. To the
last breath of our lives, to the last child of our mothers, to the last
stone of our dwellings, all is thine, my country! Make no hurry. Choose
thine own time for striking. If thou needest months, we will fight for
months; if thou needest years, we will fight for years--the children of
to-day shall be the soldiers of to-morrow.

"Already, perhaps, my last hour is hastening towards me. Accept the gift
I make thee of my strength, my hopes, my joys and my sorrows, of all my
being, filled with the passion of thee. Pardon thy children their errors
of past days. Cover them with thy glory--put them to sleep in thy flag.
Rise, victorious and renewed, upon their graves. Let our holocaust save
thee--_Patrie, Patrie_!"

An utterance which for tragic sincerity and passion may well compare
with the letter of an English officer I printed at the end of
_England's Effort_.

On they go, into the snow and the mist, the small sturdy soldiers, bound
northwards for those great and victorious attacks on the Craonne
plateau, and the Chemin des Dames, which were to follow so close on our
own British victory on the Vimy Ridge. They pass the two ladies in the
motor car, looking at us with friendly, laughing eyes, and disappear
into the storm.

Then we move on to the northern edge of the battle-field, and at Rosoy
we turn south towards Meaux, passing Vareddes to our left. The weather
clears a little, and from the high ground we are able to see Meaux to
the west, lying beside its great river, than which our children's
children will greet no more famous name. The Marne winds, steely grey,
through the white landscape, and we run down to it quickly. Soon we are
making our way on foot through the dripping streets of Meaux to the old
bridge, which the British broke down--one of three--on their retreat--so
soon to end! Then, a few minutes in the lovely cathedral--its beauty was
a great surprise to me!--a greeting to the tomb of Bossuet--ah! what a
_Discours_ he would have written on the Battle of the Marne!--and a
rapid journey of some twenty-five miles back to Paris.

But there is still a story left to tell--the story of Vareddes.

"Vareddes"--says a local historian of the battle--"is now a very quiet
place. There is no movement in the streets and little life in the
houses, where some of the injuries of war have been repaired." But there
is no spot in the wide battle-field where there burns a more passionate
hatred of a barbarous enemy. "Push open this window, enter this house,
talk with any person whatever whom you may happen to meet, and they will
tell you of the torture of old men, carried off as hostages and murdered
in cold blood, or of the agonies of fear deliberately inflicted on old
and frail women, through a whole night."

The story of Vareddes is indeed nearly incredible. That English, or
French, or Italian troops could have been guilty of this particular
crime is beyond imagination. Individual deeds of passion and lust are
possible, indeed, in all armies, though the degree to which they have
prevailed in the German army is, by the judgment of the civilised world
outside Germany, unprecedented in modern history. But the instances of
long-drawn-out, cold-blooded, unrelenting cruelty, of which the German
conduct of the war is full, fill one after a while with a shuddering
sense of something wholly vile, and wholly unsuspected, which Europe has
been sheltering, unawares, in its midst. The horror has now thrown off
the trappings and disguise of modern civilisation, and we see it and
recoil. We feel that we are terribly right in speaking of the Germans as
barbarians; that, for all their science and their organisation, they
have nothing really in common with the Graeco-Latin and Christian
civilisation on which this old Europe is based. We have thought of them,
in former days,--how strange to look back upon it!--as brothers and
co-workers in the human cause. But the men who have made and are
sustaining this war, together with the men, civil and military, who have
breathed its present spirit into the German Army, are really moral
outlaws, acknowledging no authority but their own arrogant and cruel
wills, impervious to the moral ideals and restraints that govern other
nations, and betraying again and again, under the test of circumstance,
the traits of the savage and the brute.

And as one says these things, one could almost laugh at them!--so strong
is still the memory of what one used to feel towards the poetic, the
thinking, the artistic Germany of the past. But that Germany was a mere
blind, hiding the real Germany.

Listen, at least, to what this old village of the Ile-de-France knows of
Germany.

With the early days of September 1914, there was a lamentable exodus
from all this district. Long lines of fugitives making for safety and
the south, carts filled with household stuff and carrying the women and
children, herds of cattle and sheep, crowded the roads. The Germans were
coming, and the terror of Belgium and the Ardennes had spread to these
French peasants of the centre. On September 1st, the post-mistress of
Vareddes received orders to leave the village, after destroying the
telephone and telegraphic connections. The news came late, but panic
spread like wildfire. All the night, Vareddes was packing and going. Of
800 inhabitants only a hundred remained, thirty of them old men.

One of the emigrants did not get far from home. He was a man of seventy,
Louis Denet by name. He left Vareddes with his wife, in a farm-cart,
driving a cow with them. They went a day's journey, and put up for a few
days at the farm of a friend named Roger. On Sunday the 6th, in the
morning, four Germans arrived at the farm. They went away and came back
again in the afternoon. They called all the inmates of the farm out into
the yard. Denet and Roger appeared. "You were three men this morning,
now you are only two!" said one of the Germans. And immediately they
took the two old men a little distance away, and shot them both, within
half a mile of the farm. The body of Roger was found by his wife the day
after; that of Denet was not discovered for some time. Nobody has any
idea to this day why those men were shot. It is worth while to try and
realise the scene--the terror-stricken old men dragged away by their
murderers--the wives left behind, no doubt under a guard--the sound of
the distant shots--the broken hearts of the widow and the orphan.

But that was a mere prelude.

On Friday, September 4th, a large detachment of Von Kluck's army invaded
Vareddes, coming from Barcy, which lies to the west. It was no doubt
moving towards the Marne on that flank march which was Von Kluck's
undoing. The troops left the village on Saturday the 5th, but only to
make a hurried return that same evening. Von Kluck was already aware of
his danger, and was rapidly recalling troops to meet the advance of
Maunoury. Meanwhile the French Sixth Army was pressing on from the west,
and from the 6th to the 9th there was fierce fighting in and round
Vareddes. There were German batteries behind the Presbytère, and the
church had become a hospital. The old Curé, the Abbé Fossin, at the age
of seventy-eight, spent himself in devoted service to the wounded
Germans who filled it. There were other dressing stations near by. The
Mairie, and the school, were full of wounded, of whom there were
probably some hundreds in the village. Only 135 dead were buried in the
neighbourhood; the Germans carried off the others in great lorries
filled with corpses.

By Monday the 7th, although they were still to hold the village till the
9th, the Germans knew they were beaten. The rage of the great defeat, of
the incredible disappointment, was on them. Only a week before, they had
passed through the same country-side crying "Nach Paris!" and polishing
up buttons, belts, rifles, accoutrements generally, so as to enter the
French capital in _grande tenue._ For whatever might have been the real
plans of the German General Staff, the rank and file, as they came south
from Creil and Nanteuil, believed themselves only a few hours from the
Boulevards, from the city of pleasure and spoil.

What had happened? The common cry of men so sharply foiled went up.
"Nous sommes trahis!" The German troops in Vareddes, foreseeing
immediate withdrawal, and surrounded by their own dead and dying, must
somehow avenge themselves, on some one. "Hostages! The village has
played us false! The Curé has been signalling from the church. We are in
a nest of spies!"

So on the evening of the 7th, the old Curé, who had spent his day in the
church, doing what he could for the wounded, and was worn out, had just
gone to bed when there was loud knocking at his door. He was dragged out
of bed, and told that he was charged with making signals to the French
Army from his church tower, and so causing the defeat of the Germans.

He pointed out that he was physically incapable of climbing the tower,
that any wounded German of whom the church was full could have seen him
doing it, had the absurd charge been true. He reminded them that he had
spent his whole time in nursing their men. No use! He is struck,
hustled, spat upon, and dragged off to the Mairie. There he passed the
night sitting on a hamper, and in the morning some one remembers to have
seen him there, his rosary in his hand.

In one of the local accounts there is a touching photograph, taken, of
course, before the war, of the Curé among the boys of the village. A
mild reserved face, with something of the child in it; the face of a man
who had had a gentle experience of life, and might surely hope for a
gentle death.

Altogether some fourteen hostages, all but two over sixty years of age,
and several over seventy, were taken during the evening and night. They
ask why. The answer is, "The Germans have been betrayed!" One man is
arrested because he had said to a German who was boasting that the
German Army would be in Paris in two days--"All right!--but you're not
there yet!" Another, because he had been seen going backwards and
forwards to a wood, in which it appeared he had hidden two horses whom
he had been trying to feed. One old man of seventy-nine could only walk
to the yard in which the others were gathered by the help of his wife's
arm. When they arrived there a soldier separated them so roughly that
the wife fell.

Imagine the horror of the September night!--the terror of the women who,
in the general exodus of the young and strong, had stayed behind with
their husbands, the old men who could not be persuaded to leave the
farms and fields in which they had spent their lives. "What harm can
they do to us--old people?" No doubt that had been the instinctive
feeling among those who had remained to face the invasion.

But the Germans were not content without wreaking the instinct--which is
the savage instinct--to break and crush and ill-treat something which
has thwarted you, on the women of Vareddes also. They gathered them out
of the farmyard to which they had come, in the hopes of being allowed to
stay with the men, and shut them up in a room of the farm. And there,
with fixed bayonets, the soldiers amused themselves with terrifying
these trembling creatures during a great part of the night. They made
them all kneel down, facing a file of soldiers, and the women thought
their last hour had come. One was seventy-seven years old, three
sixty-seven, the two others just under sixty. The eldest, Madame
Barthélemy, said to the others--"We are going to die. Make your
'contrition' if you can." (The Town Librarian of Meaux, from whose
account I take these facts, heard these details from the lips of poor
Madame Barthélemy herself.) The cruel scene shapes itself as we think of
it--the half-lit room--the row of kneeling and weeping women, the
grinning soldiers, bayonet in hand, and the old men waiting in the
yard outside.

But with the morning, the French mitrailleuses are heard. The soldiers
disappear.

The poor old women are free; they are able to leave their prison.

But their husbands are gone--carried off as hostages by the Germans.
There were nineteen hostages in all. Three of them were taken off in a
north-westerly direction, and found some German officers quartered in a
château, who, after a short interrogation, released them. Of the other
sixteen, fifteen were old men, and the sixteenth a child. The Curé is
with them, and finds great difficulty, owing to his age, the exhaustion
of the night, and lack of food, in keeping up with the column. It was
now Thursday the 10th, the day following that on which, as is generally
believed, the Kaiser signed the order for the general retreat of the
German armies in France. But the hostages are told that the French Army
has been repulsed, and the Germans will be in Paris directly.

At last the poor Curé could walk no farther. He gave his watch to a
companion. "Give it to my family when you can. I am sure they mean to
shoot me." Then he dropped exhausted. The Germans hailed a passing
vehicle, and made him and another old man, who had fallen out, follow in
it. Presently they arrive at Lizy-sur-Ourcq, through which thousands of
German troops are now passing, bound not for Paris, but for Soissons and
the Aisne, and in the blackest of tempers. Here, after twenty-four more
hours of suffering and starvation, the Curé is brought before a
court-martial of German officers sitting in a barn. He is once more
charged with signalling from the church to the French Army. He again
denies the charge, and reminds his judges of what he had done for the
German wounded, to whose gratitude he appeals. Then four German soldiers
give some sort of evidence, founded either on malice or mistake. There
are no witnesses for the defence, no further inquiry. The president of
the court-martial says, in bad French, to the other hostages who stand
by: "The Curé has lied--he is a spy--_il sera jugé_."

What did he mean--and what happened afterwards? The French witnesses of
the scene who survived understood the officer's words to mean that the
Curé would be shot. With tears, they bade him farewell, as he sat
crouched in a corner of the barn guarded by two German soldiers. He was
never seen again by French eyes; and the probability is that he was shot
immediately after the scene in the barn.

Then the miserable march of the other old men began again. They are
dragged along in the wake of the retreating Germans. The day is very
hot, the roads are crowded with troops and lorries. They are hustled and
hurried, and their feeble strength is rapidly exhausted. The older ones
beg that they may be left to die; the younger help them as much as they
can. When anyone falls out, he is kicked and beaten till he gets up
again. And all the time the passing troops mock and insult them. At
last, near Coulombs, after a march of two hours and a half, a man of
seventy-three, called Jourdaine, falls. His guards rush upon him, with
blows and kicks. In vain. He has no strength to rise, and his murderers
finish him with a ball in the head and one in the side, and bury him
hastily in a field a few metres off.

The weary march goes on all day. When it ends, another old
man--seventy-nine years old--"le père Milliardet"--can do no more. The
next morning he staggered to his feet at the order to move, but fell
almost immediately. Then a soldier with the utmost coolness sent his
bayonet through the heart of the helpless creature. Another falls on the
road a little farther north--then another--and another. All are killed,
as they lie.

The poor Maire, Liévin, struggles on as long as he can. Two other
prisoners support him on either side. But he has a weak heart--his face
is purple--he can hardly breathe. Again and again he falls, only to be
brutally pulled up, the Germans shouting with laughter at the old man's
misery. (This comes from the testimony of the survivors.) Then he, too,
falls for the last time. Two soldiers take him into the cemetery of
Chouy. Liévin understands, and patiently takes out his handkerchief and
bandages his own eyes. It takes three balls to kill him.

Another hostage, a little farther on, who had also fallen was beaten to
death before the eyes of the others.

The following day, after having suffered every kind of insult and
privation, the wretched remnant of the civilian prisoners reached
Soissons, and were dispatched to Germany, bound for the concentration
camp at Erfurt.

Eight of them, poor souls! reached Germany, where two of them died. At
last, in January 1915, four of them were returned to France through
Switzerland. They reached Schaffhausen with a number of other
_rapatriés,_ in early February, to find there the boundless pity with
which the Swiss know so well how to surround the frail and tortured
sufferers of this war. In a few weeks more, they were again at home,
among the old farms and woods of the Ile-de-France. "They are now in
peace," says the Meaux Librarian--"among those who love them, and whose
affection tries, day by day, to soften for them the cruel memory of
their Calvary and their exile."

A monument to the memory of the murdered hostages is to be erected in
the village market-place, and a _plaque_ has been let into the wall of
the farm where the old men and the women passed their first night
of agony.

       *       *       *       *       *

What is the moral of this story? I have chosen it to illustrate again
the historic words which should be, I think--and we know that what is in
our hearts is in your hearts also!--the special watchword of the Allies
and of America, in these present days, when the German strength _may_
collapse at any moment, and the problems of peace negotiations _may_ be
upon us before we know.

_Reparation_--_Restitution_--_Guarantees_!

The story of Vareddes, like that of Senlis, is not among the vilest--by
a long, long way--of those which have steeped the name of Germany in
eternal infamy during this war. The tale of Gerbéviller--which I shall
take for my third instance--as I heard it from the lips of
eye-witnesses, plunges us in deeper depths of horror; and the pages of
the Bryce report are full of incidents beside which that of Vareddes
looks almost colourless.

All the same, let us insist again that no Army of the Allies, or of
America, or of any British Dominion, would have been capable of the
treatment given by the soldiers of Germany to the hostages of Vareddes.
It brings out into sharp relief that quality, or "mentality," to use the
fashionable word, which Germany shares with Austria--witness the
Austrian doings in Serbia--and with Turkey--witness Turkey's doings in
Armenia--but not with any other civilised nation. It is the quality of,
or the tendency to, deliberate and pitiless cruelty; a quality which
makes of the man or nation who shows it a particularly terrible kind of
animal force; and the more terrible, the more educated. Unless we can
put it down and stamp it out, as it has become embodied in a European
nation, European freedom and peace, American freedom and peace, have
no future.

But now, let me carry you to Lorraine!--to the scenes of that short but
glorious campaign of September 1914, by which, while the Battle of the
Marne was being fought, General Castelnau was protecting the right of
the French armies; and to the devastated villages where American
kindness is already at work, rebuilding the destroyed, and comforting
the broken-hearted.



No. 9

_May 24th_, 1917.

DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,--To any citizen of a country allied with France in
the present struggle, above all to any English man or woman who is
provided with at least some general knowledge of the Battle of the
Marne, the journey across France from Paris to Nancy can never fail to
be one of poignant interest. Up to a point beyond Châlons, the "Ligne de
l'Est" follows in general the course of the great river, and therefore
the line of the battle. You pass La Fertée-sous-Jouarre, where the Third
Corps of General French's army crossed the river; Charly-sur-Marne,
where a portion of the First Corps found an unexpectedly easy crossing,
owing, it is said, to the hopeless drunkenness of the enemy rear-guard
charged with defending the bridge; and Château Thierry, famous in the
older history of France, where the right of the First Corps crossed
after sharp fighting, and, in the course of "a gigantic man-hunt" in and
around the town, took a large number of German prisoners, before, by
nightfall, coming into touch with the left of the French Fifth Army
under Franchet d'Espercy. At Dornans you are only a few miles north of
the Marshes of St. Gond, where General Foch, after some perilous
moments, won his brilliant victory over General Billow and the German
Second Army, including a corps of the Prussian Guards; while at Châlons
I look up from a record I am reading of the experiences of the Diocese
during the war, written by the Bishop, to watch for the distant
cathedral, and recall the scene of the night of September 9th, when the
German Headquarters Staff in that town, "flown with insolence and wine,"
after what is described as "an excellent dinner and much riotous
drinking," were roused about midnight by a sudden noise in the Hôtel,
and shouts of "The French are here!" "In fifteen minutes," writes an
officer of the Staff of General Langle de Gary, "the Hôtel was empty."

At Épernay and Châlons those French officers who were bound for the
fighting line in Champagne, east and west of Reims, left the train; and
somewhere beyond Épernay I followed in thought the flight of an
aeroplane which seemed to be heading northwards across the ridges which
bound the river valley--northwards for Reims, and that tragic ghost
which the crime of Germany has set moving through history for ever,
never to be laid or silenced--Joan of Arc's Cathedral. Then, at last, we
are done with the Marne. We pass Bar-le-Duc, on one of her tributaries,
the Ornain; after which the splendid Meuse flashes into sight, running
north on its victorious way to Verdun; then the Moselle, with Toul and
its beautiful church on the right; and finally the Meurthe, on which
stands Nancy. A glorious sisterhood of rivers! The more one realises
what they have meant to the history of France, the more one understands
that strong instinct of the early Greeks, which gave every river its
god, and made of the Simois and the Xanthus personages almost as real as
Achilles himself.

But alas! the whole great spectacle, here as on the Ourcq, was sorely
muffled and blurred by the snow, which lay thick over the whole length
and breadth of France, effacing the landscape in one monotonous
whiteness. If I remember rightly, however, it had ceased to fall, and
twenty-four hours after we reached Nancy, it had disappeared. It lasted
just long enough to let us see the fairy-like Place Stanislas raise its
beautiful gilded gates and white palaces between the snow and the
moon-light--a sight not soon forgotten.

We were welcomed at Nancy by the Préfet of the Department, Monsieur Léon
Mirman, to whom an old friend had written from Paris, and by the
courteous French officer, Capitaine de B., who was to take us in charge,
for the French Army, during our stay. M. Mirman and his active and
public-spirited wife have done a great work at Nancy, and in the
desolated country round it. From the ruined villages of the border, the
poor _réfugiés_ have been gathered into the old capital of Lorraine, and
what seemed to me a remarkably efficient and intelligent philanthropy
has been dealing with their needs and those of their children. Nor is
this all. M. Mirman is an old Radical and of course a Government
official, sent down some years ago from Paris. Lorraine is ardently
Catholic, as we all know, and her old Catholic families are not the
natural friends of the Republican _régime_. But President Poincaré's
happy phrase, _l'union sacrée_--describing the fusion of all parties,
classes, and creeds in the war service of France, has nowhere found a
stronger echo than in Lorraine. The Préfet is on the friendliest of
terms with the Catholic population, rich and poor; and they, on their
side, think and speak warmly of a man who is clearly doing his patriotic
best for all alike.

Our first day's journeyings were to show us something of the qualities
of this Catholic world of Lorraine. A charming and distinguished
Frenchwoman who accompanied us counted, no doubt, for much in the warmth
of the kindness shown us. And yet I like to believe--indeed I am
sure--that there was more than this in it. There was the thrilling sense
of a friendship between our two nations, a friendship new and
far-reaching, cemented by the war, but looking beyond it, which seemed
to me to make the background of it all. Long as I have loved and admired
the French, I have often--like many others of their English friends and
admirers--felt and fretted against the kind of barrier that seemed to
exist between their intimate life and ours. It was as though, at bottom,
and in the end, something cold and critical in the French temperament,
combined with ignorance and prejudice on our own part, prevented a real
contact between the two nationalities. In Lorraine, at any rate, and for
the first time, I felt this "something" gone. Let us only carry forward
_intelligently_, after the war, the process of friendship born from the
stress and anguish of this time--for there is an art and skill in
friendship, just as there is an art and skill in love--and new horizons
will open for both nations. The mutual respect, the daily intercourse,
and the common glory of our two armies fighting amid the fields and
woods of France--soon to welcome a third army, your own, to their great
fellowship!--are the foundations to-day of all the rest; and next come
the efforts that have been made by British and Americans to help the
French in remaking and rebuilding their desolated land, efforts that
bless him that gives and him that takes, but especially him that gives;
of which I shall have more to say in the course of this letter. But a
common victory, and a common ardour in rebuilding the waste places, and
binding up the broken-hearted: even they will not be enough, unless,
beyond the war, all three nations, nay, all the Allies, do not set
themselves to a systematic interpenetration of life and thought,
morally, socially, commercially. As far as France and England are
concerned, English people must go more to France; French people must
come more to England. Relations of hospitality, of correspondence, of
wide mutual acquaintance, must not be left to mere chance; they must be
furthered by the mind of both nations. Our English children must go for
part of their education to France; and French children must be
systematically wooed over here. Above all the difficulty of language
must be tackled as it has never been yet, so that it may be a real
disadvantage and disgrace for the boy or girl of either country who has
had a secondary education not to be able to speak, in some fashion, the
language of the other. As for the working classes, and the country
populations of both countries, what they have seen of each other, as
brothers in arms during the war, may well prove of more lasting
importance than anything else.

       *       *       *       *       *

But I am wandering a little from Nancy, and the story of our long
Sunday. The snow had disappeared, and there were voices of spring in the
wind. A French Army motor arrived early, with another French officer,
the Capitaine de G----, who proved to be a most interesting and
stimulating guide. With him I drove slowly through the beautiful town,
looking at the ruined houses, which are fairly frequent in its streets.
For Nancy has had its bombardments, and there is one gun of long range
in particular, surnamed by the town--"la grosse Bertha," which has done,
and still does, at intervals, damage of the kind the German loves.
Bombs, too, have been dropped by aeroplanes both here and at Lunéville,
in streets crowded with non-combatants, with the natural result. It has
been in reprisal for this and similar deeds elsewhere, and in the hope
of stopping them, that the French have raided German towns across the
frontier. But the spirit of Nancy remains quite undaunted. The children
of its schools, drilled to run down to the cellars at the first alarm as
our children are drilled to empty a school on a warning of a Zeppelin
raid, are the gayest and most spirited creatures, as I saw them at their
games and action songs; unless indeed it be the children of the
_réfugiés_, in whose faces sometimes one seems to see the reflection of
scenes that no child ought to have witnessed and not even a child can
forget. For these children come from the frontier villages, ravaged by
the German advance, and still, some of them, in German occupation. And
the orgy of murder, cruelty, and arson which broke out at Nomény,
Badonviller, and Gerbéviller, during the campaign of 1914, has scarcely
been surpassed elsewhere--even in Belgium. Here again, as at Vareddes,
the hideous deeds done were largely owing to the rage of defeat. The
Germans, mainly Bavarians, on the frontier, had set their hearts on
Nancy, as the troops of Von Kluck had set their hearts on Paris; and
General Castelnau, commanding the Second Army, denied them Nancy, as
Maunoury's Sixth Army denied Paris to Von Kluck.

But more of this presently. We started first of all for a famous point
in the fighting of 1914, the farm and hill of Léomont. By this time the
day had brightened into a cold sunlight, and as we sped south from Nancy
on the Lunéville road, through the old town of St. Nicholas du Port,
with its remarkable church, and past the great salt works at Dombasle,
all the country-side was clear to view.

Good fortune indeed!--as I soon discovered when, after climbing a steep
hill to the east of the road, we found ourselves in full view of the
fighting lines and a wide section of the frontier, with the Forest of
Parroy, which is still partly German, stretching its dark length
southward on the right, while to the north ran the famous heights of the
Grand Couronné;--name of good omen!--which suggests so happily the
historical importance of the ridge which protects Nancy and covers the
French right. Then, turning westward, one looked over the valley of the
Meurthe, with its various tributaries, the Mortagne in particular, on
which stands Gerbéviller; and away to the Moselle and the Meuse. But the
panoramic view was really made to live and speak for me by the able man
at my side. With French precision and French logic, he began with the
geography of the country, its rivers and hills and plateaux, and its
natural capacities for defence against the German enemy; handling the
view as though it had been a great map, and pointing out, as he went,
the disposition of the French frontier armies, and the use made of this
feature and that by the French generals in command.

This Lorraine Campaign, at the opening of the war, is very little
realised outside France. It lasted some three weeks. It was preceded by
the calamitous French reverse at Morhange, where, on August 20th,
portions of the 15th and 16th Corps of the Second Army, young troops
drawn from south-western France--who in subsequent actions fought with
great bravery--broke in rout before a tremendous German attack. The
defeat almost gave the Germans Nancy. But General Castelnau and General
Foch, between them, retrieved the disaster. They fell back on Nancy and
the line of the Mortagne, while the Germans, advancing farther south,
occupied Luneville (August 22nd) and burnt Gerbéviller. On the 23rd,
24th, and 25th there was fierce fighting on and near this hill on which
we stood. Capitaine de G---- with the 2nd Battalion of Chausseurs, under
General Dubail, had been in the thick of the struggle, and he described
to me the action on the slopes beneath us, and how, through his glasses,
he had watched the enemy on the neighbouring hill forcing parties of
French civilians to bury the German dead and dig German trenches, under
the fire of their own people.

The hill of Léomont, and the many graves upon it, were quiet enough as
we stood talking there. The old farm was in ruins; and in the fields
stretching up the hill there were the remains of trenches. All around
and below us spread the beautiful Lorraine country, with its rivers and
forests; and to the south-east one could just see the blue mass of Mont
Donon, and the first spurs of the Vosges.

"Can you show me exactly where the French line runs?" I asked my
companion. He pointed to a patch of wood some six miles away. "There is
a French battalion there. And you see that other patch of wood a little
farther east? There is a German battalion there. Ah!" Suddenly he broke
off, and the younger officer with us, Capitaine de B----, came running
up, pointing overhead. I craned my neck to look into the spring blue
above us, and there--7,000 to 8,000 feet high, according to the
officers--were three Boche aeroplanes pursued by two French machines. In
and out a light band of white cloud, the fighters in the air chased each
other, shrapnel bursting all round them like tufts of white wool. They
were so high that they looked mere white specks. Yet we could follow
their action perfectly--how the Germans climbed, before running for
home, and how the French pursued! It was breathless while it lasted! But
we did not see the end. The three Taubes were clearly driven back; and
in a few seconds they and the Frenchmen had disappeared in distance and
cloud towards the fighting-line. The following day, at a point farther
to the north, a well-known French airman was brought down and killed, in
just such a fight.

Beyond Léomont we diverged westward from the main road, and found
ourselves suddenly in one of those utterly ruined villages which now
bestrew the soil of Northern, Central, and Eastern France; of that
France which has been pre-eminently for centuries, in spite of
revolutions, the pious and watchful guardian of what the labour of dead
generations has bequeathed to their sons. Vitrimont, however, was
destroyed in fair fight during the campaign of 1914. Bombardment had
made wreck of the solid houses, built of the warm red stone of the
country. It had destroyed the church, and torn up the graveyard; and
when its exiled inhabitants returned to it by degrees, even French
courage and French thrift quailed before the task of reconstruction. But
presently there arrived a quiet American lady, who began to make friends
with the people of Vitrimont, to find out what they wanted, and to
consult with all those on the spot who could help to bring the visions
in her mind to pass,--with the Préfet, with the officials, local and
governmental, of the neighbouring towns, with the Catholic women of the
richer Lorraine families, gentle, charitable, devout, who quickly
perceived her quality, and set themselves to co-operate with her. It was
the American lady's intention--simply--to rebuild Vitrimont. And she is
steadily accomplishing it, with the help of generous money subsidies
coming, month by month, from one rich American woman--a woman of San
Francisco--across the Atlantic. How one envies that American woman!

The sight of Miss Polk at work lives indeed, a warm memory, in one's
heart. She has established herself in two tiny rooms in a peasant's
cottage, which have been made just habitable for her. A few touches of
bright colour, a picture or two, a book or two, some flowers, with
furniture of the simplest--amid these surroundings on the outskirts of
the ruined village, with one of its capable, kindly faced women to run
the _ménage_, Miss Polk lives and works, realising bit by bit the plans
of the new Vitrimont, which have been drawn for her by the architect of
the department, and following loyally old Lorraine traditions. The
church has been already restored and reopened. The first mass within its
thronged walls was--so the spectators say--a moving sight. "_That sad
word--Joy_"--Landor's pregnant phrase comes back to one, as expressing
the bitter-sweet of all glad things in this countryside, which has
seen--so short a time ago--death and murder and outrage at their worst.
The gratitude of the villagers to their friend and helper has taken
various forms. The most public mark of it, so far, has been Miss Folk's
formal admission to the burgess rights of Vitrimont, which is one of the
old communes of France. And the village insists that she shall claim her
rights! When the time came for dividing the communal wood in the
neighbouring forest, her fellow citizens arrived to take her with them
and show her how to obtain her share. As to the affection and confidence
with which she is regarded, it was enough to walk with her through the
village, to judge of its reality.

But it makes one happy to think that it is not only Americans who have
done this sort of work in France. Look, for instance, at the work of the
Society of Friends in the department of the Marne,--on that fragment of
the battlefield which extends from Bar-le-Duc to Vitry St. François. "Go
and ask," wrote a French writer in 1915, "for the village of Huiron, or
that of Glannes, or that other, with its name to shudder at, splashed
with blood and powder--Sermaize. Inquire for the English Quakers. Books,
perhaps, have taught you to think of them as people with long black
coats and long faces. Where are they? Here are only a band of workmen,
smooth-faced--not like our country folk. They laugh and sing while they
make the shavings fly under the plane and the saw. They are building
wooden houses, and roofing them with tiles. Around them are poor people
whose features are stiff and grey like those of the dead. These are the
women, the old men, the children, the weaklings of our sweet France, who
have lived for months in damp caves and dens, till they look like
Lazarus rising from the tomb. But life is beginning to come back to
their eyes and their lips. The hands they stretch out to you tremble
with joy. To-night they will sleep in a house, in _their_ house. And
inside there will be beds and tables and chairs, and things to cook
with.... As they go in and look, they embrace each other, sobbing."

By June 1915, 150 "Friends" had rebuilt more than 400 houses, and
rehoused more than seven hundred persons. They had provided ploughs and
other agricultural gear, seeds for the harvest fields and for the
gardens, poultry for the farmyards. And from that day to this, the
adorable work has gone on. "_By this shall all men know that ye are My
disciples, if ye love one another_."

       *       *       *       *       *

It is difficult to tear oneself away from themes like this, when the
story one has still to tell is the story of Gerbéviller. At Vitrimont
the great dream of Christianity--the City of God on earth--seems still
reasonable.

At Hérémenil, and Gerbéviller, we are within sight and hearing of deeds
that befoul the human name, and make one despair of a world in which
they can happen.

At luncheon in a charming house of old Lorraine, with an intellectual
and spiritual atmosphere that reminded me of a book that was one of the
abiding joys of my younger days--the _Récit d'une Soeur_--we heard from
the lips of some of those present an account of the arrival at Lunéville
of the fugitives from Gerbéviller, after the entry of the Bavarians into
the town. Women and children and old men, literally mad with terror, had
escaped from the burning town, and found their way over the thirteen
kilomètres that separate Gerbéviller from Lunéville. No intelligible
account could be got from them; they had seen things that shatter the
nerves and brain of the weak and old; they were scarcely human in their
extremity of fear. And when, an hour later, we ourselves reached
Gerbéviller, the terror which had inspired that frenzied flight became,
as we listened to Soeur Julie, a tangible presence haunting the
ruined town.

Gerbéviller and Soeur Julie are great names in France to-day.
Gerbéviller, with Nomény, Badonviller, and Sermaize, stand in France for
what is most famous in German infamy; Soeur Julie, the "chère soeur" of
so many narratives, for that form of courage and whole-hearted devotion
which is specially dear to the French, because it has in it a touch of
_panache_, of audacity! It is not too meek; it gets its own back when it
can, and likes to punish the sinner as well as to forgive him. Sister
Julie of the Order of St. Charles of Nancy, Madame Rigard, in civil
parlance, had been for years when the war broke out the head of a modest
cottage hospital in the small country town of Gerbéviller. The town was
prosperous and pretty; its gardens ran down to the Mortagne flowing at
its feet, and it owned a country house in a park, full of treasures new
and old--tapestries, pictures, books--as Lorraine likes to have such
things about her.

But unfortunately, it occupied one of the central points of the fighting
in the campaign of Lorraine, after the defeat of General Castelnau's
Army at Morhange on August 20th, 1914. The exultant and victorious
Germans pushed on rapidly after that action. Lunéville was occupied, and
the fighting spread to the districts south and west of that town. The
campaign, however, lasted only three weeks, and was determined by the
decisive French victory of September 8th on the Grand Couronné. By
September 12th Nancy was safe; Lunéville and Gerbéviller had been
retaken; and the German line had been driven back to where we saw it
from the hill of Léomont. But in that three weeks a hell of cruelty, in
addition to all the normal sufferings of war, had been let loose on the
villages of Lorraine; on Nomény to the north of Nancy, on Badonviller,
Baccarat, and Gerbéviller to the south. The Bavarian troops, whose
record is among the worst in the war, got terribly out of hand,
especially when the tide turned against them; and if there is one
criminal who, if he is still living, will deserve and, I hope, get an
impartial trial some day before an international tribunal, it will be
the Bavarian General, General Clauss.

Here is the first-hand testimony of M. Mirman, the Prefét of the
Department. At Gerbeviller, he writes, the ruin and slaughter of the
town and its inhabitants had nothing to do with legitimate war:

"We are here in presence of an inexpiable crime. The crime was signed.
Such signatures are soon rubbed out. I saw that of the murderer--and I
bear my testimony.

"The bandits who were at work here were assassins: I have seen the
bodies of their victims, and taken the evidence on the spot. They shot
down the inhabitants like rabbits, killing them haphazard in the
streets, on their doorsteps, almost at arm's length. Of these victims it
is still difficult to ascertain the exact number; it will be more than
fifty. Most of the victims had been buried when I first entered the
town; here and there, however, in a garden, at the entrance to a cellar
the corpses of women still awaited burial. In a field just outside the
town, I saw on the ground, their hands tied, some with their eyes
bandaged--fifteen old men--murdered. They were in three groups of five.
The men of each group had evidently clung to each other before death.
The clenched hand of one of them still held an old pipe. They were all
old men--with white hair. Some days had elapsed since their murder; but
their aspect in death was still venerable; their quiet closed eyes
seemed to appeal to heaven. A staff officer of the Second Army who was
with me photographed the scene; with other _pièces de conviction_; the
photograph is in the hands of the Governmental Commission charged with
investigating the crimes of the Germans during this war."

The Bavarian soldiers in Gerbéviller were not only murderers--they were
incendiaries, even more deliberate and thorough-going than the soldiers
of Von Kluck's army at Senlis. With the exception of a few houses beyond
the hospital, spared at the entreaty of Soeur Julie, and on her promise
to nurse the German wounded, the whole town was deliberately burnt out,
house by house, the bare walls left standing, the rest destroyed. And
as, _after the fire_, the place was twice taken and retaken under
bombardment, its present condition may be imagined. It was during the
burning that some of the worst murders and outrages took place. For
there is a maddening force in triumphant cruelty, which is deadlier than
that of wine; under it men become demons, and all that is
human perishes.

The excuse, of course, was here as at Senlis--"les civils ont tiré!"
There is not the slightest evidence in support of the charge. As at
Senlis, there was a French rear-guard of 57 Chasseurs--left behind to
delay the German advance as long as possible. They were told to hold
their ground for five hours; they held it for eleven, fighting with
reckless bravery, and firing from a street below the hospital. The
Germans, taken by surprise, lost a good many men before, at small loss
to themselves, the Chasseurs retreated. In their rage at the unexpected
check, and feeling, no doubt, already that the whole campaign was going
against them, the Germans avenged themselves on the town and its
helpless inhabitants.

Our half-hour in Soeur Julie's parlour was a wonderful experience!
Imagine a portly woman of sixty, with a shrewd humorous face, talking
with French vivacity, and with many homely turns of phrase drawn
straight from that life of the soil and the peasants amid which she
worked; a woman named in one of General Castelnau's Orders of the Day
and entitled to wear the Legion of Honour; a woman, too, who has seen
horror face to face as few women, even in war, have seen it, yet still
simple, racy, full of irony, and full of heart, talking as a mother
might talk of her "grands blessés"! but always with humorous asides, and
an utter absence of pose or pretence; flashing now into scorn and now
into tenderness, as she described the conduct of the German officers who
searched her hospital for arms, or the helplessness of the wounded men
whom she protected. I will try and put down some of her talk. It threw
much light for me on the psychology of two nations.

"During the fighting, we had always about 300 of our wounded (_nos chers
blessés_) in this hospital. As fast as we sent them off, others came in.
All our stores were soon exhausted. I was thankful we had some good wine
in the cellars--about 200 bottles. You understand, Madame, that when we
go to nurse our people in their farms, they don't pay us, but they like
to give us something--very often it is a bottle of old wine, and we put
it in the cellar, when it comes in handy often for our invalids. Ah! I
was glad of it for our _blessés_! I said to my Sisters--'Give it them!
and not by thimblefuls--give them enough!' Ah, poor things!--it made
some of them sleep. It was all we had. One day, I passed a soldier who
was lying back in his bed with a sigh of satisfaction. '_Ah, ma Soeur,
ça resusciterait un mort!_' (That would bring a dead man to life!) So I
stopped to ask what they had just given him. And it was a large glass of
Lachryma Christi!

"But then came the day when the Commandant, the French Commandant, you
understand, came to me and said--'Sister, I have sad news for you. I am
going. I am taking away the wounded--and all my stores. Those are
my orders.'

"'But, mon Commandant, you'll leave me some of your stores for the
grands blessés, whom you leave behind--whom you can't move? _What_!--you
must take it all away? Ah, ça--_non_! I don't want any extras--I won't
take your chloroform--I won't take your bistouris--I won't take your
electric things--but--hand over the iodine! (_en avant l'iode_!) hand
over the cotton-wool!--hand over the gauze! Come, my Sisters!' I can
tell you I plundered him!--and my Sisters came with their aprons, and
the linen-baskets--we carried away all we could."

Then she described the evacuation of the French wounded at night--300 of
them--all but the 19 worst cases left behind. There were no ambulances,
no proper preparation of any kind.

"Oh! it was a confusion!--an ugly business!" (_ce n'etait pas rose_!).
The Sisters tore down and split up the shutters, the doors, to serve as
stretchers; they tore sheets into long strips and tied "our poor
children" on to the shutters, and hoisted them into country carts of
every sort and description. "Quick!--Quick!" She gave us a wonderful
sense of the despairing haste in which the night retreat had to be
effected. All night their work went on. The wounded never made a
sound--"they let us do what we would without a word. And as for us, my
Sisters bound these big fellows (_ces gros et grands messieurs_) on to
the improvised stretchers, like a mother who fastens her child in its
cot. Ah! Jésus! the poverty and the misery of that time!"


By the early morning all the French wounded were gone except the
nineteen helpless cases, and all the French soldiers had cleared out of
the village except the 57 Chasseurs, whose orders were to hold the place
as long as they could, to cover the retreat of the rest.

Then, when the Chasseurs finally withdrew, the Bavarian troops rushed up
the town in a state of furious excitement, burning it systematically as
they advanced, and treating the inhabitants as M. Mirman has described.
Soon Soeur Julie knew that they were coming up the hill towards the
hospital. I will quote the very language--homely, Biblical, direct--in
which she described her feelings. "_Mes reins flottaient comme ça--ils
allaient tomber à mes talons. Instantanément, pas une goutte de salive
dans la bouche!_" Or--to translate it in the weaker English idiom--"My
heart went down into my heels--all in a moment, my mouth was dry as
a bone!"

The German officers drew up, and asked for the Superior of the hospital.
She went out to meet them. Here she tried to imitate the extraordinary
arrogance of the German manner.

"They told me they would have to burn the hospital, as they were
informed men had been shooting from it at their troops.

"I replied that if anyone had been shooting, it was the French
Chasseurs, who were posted in a street close by, and had every right
to shoot!"

At last they agreed to let the hospital alone, and burn no more houses,
if she would take in the German wounded. So presently the wards of the
little hospital were full again to overflowing. But while the German
wounded were coming in the German officers insisted on searching the
nineteen French wounded for arms.

"I had to make way for them--I _had_ to say, '_Entrez, Messieurs!_'"

Then she dropped her voice, and said between her teeth--"Think how hard
that was for a Lorrainer!"

So two German officers went to the ward where the nineteen Frenchmen
lay, all helpless cases, and a scene followed very like that in the
hospital at Senlis. One drew his revolver and covered the beds, the
other walked round, poniard in hand, throwing back the bedclothes to
look for arms. But they found nothing--"_only blood_! For we had had
neither time enough nor dressings enough to treat the wounds properly
that night."

A frightful moment!--the cowering patients--the officers in a state of
almost frenzied excitement, searching bed after bed. At the last bed,
occupied by a badly wounded and quite helpless youth, the officer
carrying the dagger brought the blade of it so near to the boy's throat
that Soeur Julie rushed forward, and placed her two hands in front of
the poor bare neck. The officer dropped both arms to his side, she said,
"as if he had been shot," and stood staring at her, quivering all over.
But from that moment she had conquered them.

For the German wounded, Soeur Julie declared she had done her best, and
the officer in charge of them afterwards wrote her a letter of thanks.
Then her mouth twisted a little. "But I wasn't--well, I didn't _spoil_
them! (_Je n'étais pas trop tendre_); I didn't give them our best wine!"
And one officer whose wounds she dressed, a Prussian colonel who never
deigned to speak to a Bavarian captain near him, was obliged to accept a
good many home truths from her. He was convinced that she would poison
his leg unless he put on the dressings himself. But he allowed her to
bandage him afterwards. During this operation--which she hinted she had
performed in a rather Spartan fashion!--"he whimpered all the time," and
she was able to give him a good deal of her mind on the war and the
behaviour of his troops. He and the others, she said, were always
talking about their Kaiser; "one might have thought they saw him sitting
on the clouds."

In two or three days the French returned victorious, to find the burnt
and outraged village. The Germans were forced, in their turn, to leave
some badly wounded men behind, and the French _poilus_ in their mingled
wrath and exultation could not resist, some of them, abusing the German
wounded through the windows of the hospital. But then, with a keen
dramatic instinct, Soeur Julie drew a striking picture of the contrast
between the behaviour of the French officer going down to the basement
to visit the wounded German officers there, and that of the German
officers on a similar errand. She conveyed with perfect success the cold
civility of the Frenchman, beginning with a few scathing words about the
treatment of the town, and then proceeding to an investigation of the
personal effects of the Boche officers.

"Your papers, gentlemen? Ah! those are private letters--you may retain
them. Your purses?"--he looks at them--"I hand them back to you. Your
note-books? _Ah! ça--c'est mon affaire!_ (that's my business). I wish
you good morning."

Soeur Julie spoke emphatically of the drunkenness of the Germans. They
discovered a store of "Mirabelle," a strong liqueur, in the town, and
had soon exhausted it, with apparently the worst results.

Well!--the March afternoon ran on, and we could have sat there listening
till dusk. But our French officers were growing a little impatient, and
one of them gently drew "the dear sister," as every one calls her,
towards the end of her tale. Then with regret one left the plain
parlour, the little hospital which had played so big a part, and the
brave elderly nun, in whom one seemed to see again some of those
qualities which, springing from the very soil of Lorraine, and in the
heart of a woman, had once, long years ago, saved France.

       *       *       *       *       *

How much there would be still to say about the charm and the kindness of
Lorraine, if only this letter were not already too long! But after the
tragedy of Gerbéviller I must at any rate find room for the victory
of Amance.

Alas!--the morning was dull and misty when we left Nancy for Amance and
the Grand Couronné; so that when we stood at last on the famous ridge
immediately north of the town which saw, on September 8th, 1914, the
wrecking of the final German attempt on Nancy, there was not much
visible except the dim lines of forest and river in the plain below. Our
view ought to have ranged as far, almost, as Metz to the north and the
Vosges to the south. But at any rate there, at our feet, lay the Forest
of Champenoux, which was the scene of the three frantic attempts of the
Germans debouching from it on September 8th to capture the hill of
Amance, and the plateau on which we stood. Again and again the 75's on
the hill mowed down the advancing hordes and the heavy guns behind
completed their work. The Germans broke and fled, never to return. Nancy
was saved, the right of the six French Armies advancing across France,
at that very moment, on the heels of the retreating Germans, in the
Battle of the Marne, was protected thereby from a flank attack which
might have altered all the fortunes of the war, and the course of
history; and General Castelnau had written his name on the memory
of Europe.

_But_--the Kaiser was not there! Even Colonel Buchan in his admirable
history of the war, and Major Whitton in his recent book on the campaign
of the Marne, repeat the current legend. I can only bear witness that
the two French staff officers who walked with us along the Grand
Couronné--one of whom had been in the battle of September 8th--were
positive that the Kaiser was not in the neighbourhood at the time, and
that there was no truth at all in the famous story which describes him
as watching the battle from the edge of the Forest of Champenoux, and
riding off ahead of his defeated troops, instead of making, as he had
reckoned, a triumphant entry into Nancy. Well, it is a pity the gods did
not order it so!--"to be a tale for those that should come after."

One more incident before we leave Lorraine! On our way up to the high
village of Amance, we had passed some three or four hundred French
soldiers at work. They looked with wide eyes of astonishment at the two
ladies in the military car. When we reached the village, Prince R----,
the young staff officer from a neighbouring Headquarters who was to meet
us there, had not arrived, and we spent some time in a cottage, chatting
with the women who lived in it. Then--apparently--while we were on the
ridge word reached the men working below, from the village, that we were
English. And on the drive down we found them gathered, three or four
hundred, beside the road, and as we passed them they cheered us
heartily, seeing in us, for the moment, the British alliance!

So that we left the Grand Couronné with wet eyes, and hearts all
passionate sympathy towards Lorraine and her people.



No. 10

_June 1st_, 1917.

DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,--In looking back over my two preceding letters, I
realise how inadequately they express the hundredth part of that vast
and insoluble debt of a guilty Germany to an injured France, the
realisation of which became--for me--in Lorraine, on the Ourcq, and in
Artois, a burning and overmastering thing, from which I was rarely or
never free. And since I returned to England on March 16th, the conduct
of the German troops, under the express orders of the German Higher
Command, in the French districts evacuated since February by
Hindenburg's retreating forces, has only sharpened and deepened the
judgment of civilised men, with regard to the fighting German and all
his ways, which has been formed long since, beyond alteration or recall.

Think of it! It cries to heaven. Think of Reims and Arras, of Verdun and
Ypres, think of the hundreds of towns and villages, the thousands of
individual houses and farms, that lie ruined on the old soil of France;
think of the sufferings of the helpless and the old, the hideous loss of
life, of stored-up wealth, of natural and artistic beauty; and then let
us ask ourselves again the old, old question--why has this happened? And
let us go back again to the root facts, from which, whenever he or she
considers them afresh--and they should be constantly considered
afresh--every citizen of the Allied nations can only draw fresh courage
to endure. The long and passionate preparation for war in Germany; the
half-mad literature of a glorified "force" headed by the Bernhardis and
Treitschkes, and repeated by a thousand smaller folk, before the war;
the far more illuminating manifestoes of the intellectuals since the
war; Germany's refusal of a conference, as proposed and pressed by Great
Britain, in the week before August 4th, France's acceptance of it;
Germany's refusal to respect the Belgian neutrality to which she had
signed her name, France's immediate consent; the provisions of mercy and
of humanity signed by Germany in the Hague Convention trampled, almost
with a sneer, under foot; the jubilation over the _Lusitania_, and the
arrogant defence of all that has been most cruel and most criminal in
the war, as necessary to Germany's interests, and therefore moral,
therefore justified; let none--none!--of these things rest forgotten in
our minds until peace is here, and justice done!

The German armies are capable of "_no undisciplined cruelty_," said the
93 Professors, without seeing how damning was the phrase. No!--theirs
was a cruelty by order, meditated, organised, and deliberate. The
stories of Senlis, of Vareddes, of Gerbéviller which I have specially
chosen, as free from that element of sexual horror which repels many
sensitive people from even trying to realise what has happened in this
war, are evidences--one must insist again--of a national mind and
quality, with which civilised Europe and civilised America can make no
truce. And what folly lies behind the wickedness! Let me recall to
American readers some of the phrases in the report of your former
Minister in Belgium--Mr. Brand Whitlock--on the Belgian deportations,
the "slave hunts" that Germany has carried out in Belgium and "which
have torn from nearly every humble home in the land, a husband, father,
son, or brother."

These proceedings [says Mr. Whitlock] place in relief the German
capacity for blundering almost as sharply as the German capacity for
cruelty. They have destroyed for generations any hope whatever of
friendly relations between themselves and the Belgian people. For these
things were done not, as with the early atrocities, in the heat of
passion and the first lust of war, but by one of those deeds that make
one despair of the future of the human race--a deed coldly planned,
studiously matured, and deliberately and systematically executed, a deed
so cruel that German soldiers are said to have wept in its execution,
and so monstrous that even German officers are now said to be ashamed.

But the average German neither weeps nor blames. He is generally amazed,
when he is not amused, by the state of feeling which such proceedings
excite. And if he is an "intellectual," a professor, he will exhaust
himself in ingenious and utterly callous defences of all that Germany
has done or may do. An astonishing race--the German professors! The year
before the war there was an historical congress in London. There was a
hospitality committee, and my husband and I were asked to entertain some
of the learned men. I remember one in particular--an old man with white
hair, who with his wife and daughter joined the party after dinner. His
name was Professor Otto von Gierke of the University of Berlin. I
gathered from his conversation that he and his family had been very
kindly entertained in London. His manner was somewhat harsh and
over-bearing, but his white hair and spectacles gave him a venerable
aspect, and it was clear that he and his wife and daughter belonged to a
cultivated and intelligent _milieu_. But who among his English hosts
could possibly have imagined the thoughts and ideas in that grey head? I
find a speech of his in a most illuminating book by a Danish professor
on German Chauvinist literature. [_Hurrah and Hallelujah!_ By J. P.
Bang, D.D., Professor of Theology at the University of Copenhagen,
translated by Jessie Bröchner.] The speech was published in a collection
called _German Speeches in Hard Times_, which contains names once so
distinguished as those of Von Wilamovitz and Harnack.

Professor von Gierke's effusion begins with the usual German falsehoods
as to the origin of the war, and then continues--"But now that we
Germans are plunged in war, we will have it in _all its grandeur and
violence_! Neither fear nor _pity_ shall stay our arm before it has
completely brought our enemies to the ground." They shall be reduced to
such a condition that they shall never again dare even to snarl at
Germany. Then German Kultur will show its full loveliness and strength,
enlightening "the understanding of the foreign races absorbed and
incorporated into the Empire, and making them see that only from German
kultur can they derive those treasures which they need for their own
particular life."

At the moment when these lines were written--for the book was published
early in the war--the orgy of murder and lust and hideous brutality
which had swept through Belgium in the first three weeks of the war was
beginning to be known in England; the traces of it were still fresh in
town after town and village after village of that tortured land; while
the testimony of its victims was just beginning to be sifted by the
experts of the Bryce Commission.

The hostages of Vareddes, the helpless victims of Nomény, of
Gerbéviller, of Sermaize, of Sommeilles, and a score of other places in
France were scarcely cold in their graves. But the old white-haired
professor stands there, unashamed, unctuously offering the kultur of his
criminal nation to an expectant world! "And when the victory is won," he
says complacently--"the whole world will stand open to us, our war
expenses will be paid by the vanquished, the black-white-and-red flag
will wave over all seas; our countrymen will hold highly respected posts
in all parts of the world, and we shall maintain and extend our
colonies."

_God, forbid!_ So says the whole English-speaking race, you on your side
of the sea, and we on ours.

But the feeling of abhorrence which is not, at such a moment as this,
sternly and incessantly translated into deeds is of no account! So let
me return to a last survey of the War. On my home journey from Nancy, I
passed through Paris, and was again welcomed at G.H.Q. on my way to
Boulogne. In Paris, the breathless news of the Germans' quickening
retreat on the Somme and the Aisne was varied one morning by the welcome
tidings of the capture of Bagdad; and at the house of one of the most
distinguished of European publicists, M. Joseph Reinach, of the
_Figaro_, I met, on our passage through, the lively, vigorous man, with
his look of Irish vivacity and force--M. Painlevé--who only a few days
later was to succeed General Lyautey as French Minister for War. At our
own headquarters, I found opinion as quietly confident as before. We
were on the point of entering Bapaume; the "pushing up" was going
extraordinarily well, owing to the excellence of the staff-work, and the
energy and efficiency of all the auxiliary services--the Engineers, and
the Labour Battalions, all the makers of roads and railways, the
builders of huts, and levellers of shell-broken ground. And the vital
importance of the long struggle on the Somme was becoming every day more
evident. Only about Russia, both in Paris and at G.H.Q., was there a
kind of silence which meant great anxiety. Lord Milner and General
Castelnau had returned from Petrograd. In Paris, at any rate, it was not
believed that they brought good news. All the huge efforts of the Allies
to supply Russia with money, munitions, and transport, were they to go
for nothing, owing to some sinister and thwarting influence which seemed
to be strangling the national life?

Then a few days after my return home, the great explosion came, and when
the first tumult and dust of it cleared away, there, indeed, was a
strangely altered Europe! From France, Great Britain, and America went
up a great cry of sympathy, of congratulation. The Tsardom was
gone!--the "dark forces" had been overthrown; the political exiles were
free; and Freedom seemed to stand there on the Russian soil shading her
bewildered eyes against the sun of victory, amazed at her own deed.

But ten weeks have passed since then, and it would be useless to
disguise that the outburst of warm and sincere rejoicing that greeted
the overthrow of the Russian autocracy has passed once more into
anxiety. Is Russia going to count any more in this great struggle for a
liberated Europe, or will the forces of revolution devour each other,
till in the course of time the fated "saviour of society" appears, and
old tyrannies come back? General Smuts, himself the hero of a national
struggle which has ended happily for both sides and the world, has been
giving admirable expression here to the thoughts of many hearts. First
of all to the emotion with which all lovers of liberty have seen the all
but bloodless fall of the old tyranny. "It might have taken another
fifty years or a century of tragedy and suffering to have brought it
about! But the enormous strain of this war has done it, and the Russian
people stand free in their own house." Now, what will they do with their
freedom? Ten weeks have passed, and the Russian armies are still
disorganised, the Russian future uncertain. Meanwhile Germany has been
able to throw against the Allies in France, and Austria has been able to
throw against Italy on the Isonzo, forces which they think they need no
longer against Russia, and the pace of victory has thereby been
slackened. But General Smuts makes his eloquent appeal to the Russia
which once held and broke Napoleon:

"Liberty is like young wine--it mounts to your head sometimes, and
liberty, as a force in the world, requires organisation and
discipline.... There must be organisation, and there must be discipline.
The Russian people are learning to-day the greatest lesson of life--that
to be free you must work very hard and struggle very hard. They have the
sensation of freedom, now that their bonds and shackles are gone, and no
doubt they feel the joy, the intoxication, of their new experience; but
they are living in a world which is not governed by formulas, however
cleverly devised, but in a world of brute force, and unless that is
smashed, even liberty itself will suffer and cannot live."

Will the newly-freed forget those that are still suffering and bound?
Will Russia forget Belgium?--and forget Serbia?

"Serbia was the reason why we went to war. She was going to be crushed
under the Austrian heel, and Russia said this shall not be allowed.
Serbia has in that way become the occasion probably of the greatest
movement for freedom the world has ever seen. Are we going to forget
Serbia? No! We must stand by those martyr peoples who have stood by the
great forces of the world. If the great democracies of the world become
tired, if they become faint, if they halt by the way, if they leave
those little ones in the lurch, then they shall pay for it in wars more
horrible than human mind can foresee. I am sure we shall stand by those
little ones. They have gone under, but we have not gone under. England
and America, France and Russia, have not gone under, and we shall see
them through, and shame on us if ever the least thought enters our minds
of not seeing them through."

       *       *       *       *       *

Noble and sincere words! One can but hope that the echoes of them may
reach the ear and heart of Russia.

But if towards Russia the sky that seemed to have cleared so suddenly is
at present clouded and obscure--"westward, look, the land is bright!"

A fortnight after the abdication of the Tsar, Congress met in
Washington, and President Wilson's speech announcing war between Germany
and America had rung through the world. All that you, sir, the constant
friend and champion of the Allies, and still more of their cause, and
all that those who feel with you in the States have hoped for so long,
is now to be fulfilled. It may take some time for your country, across
those thousand miles of sea, to _realise_ the war, to feel it in every
nerve, as we do. But in these seven weeks--how much you have done, as
well as said! You have welcomed the British mission in a way to warm our
British hearts; you have shown the French mission how passionately
America feels for France. You have sent us American destroyers, which
have already played their part in a substantial reduction of the
submarine losses. You have lent the Allies 150 millions sterling. You
have passed a Bill which will ultimately give you an army of two million
men. You are raising such troops as will immediately increase the number
of Americans in France to 100,000--equalling five German divisions. You
are sending us ten thousand doctors to England and France, and hundreds
of them have already arrived. You have doubled the personnel of your
Navy, and increased your Regular Army by nearly 180,000 men. You are
constructing 3,500 aeroplanes, and training 6,000 airmen. And you are
now talking of 100,000 aeroplanes! Not bad, for seven weeks!

       *       *       *       *       *

For the Allies also those seven weeks have been full of achievement. On
Easter Monday, April 9th, the Battle of Arras began, with the brilliant
capture by the Canadians of that very Vimy Ridge I had seen on March
2nd, from the plateau of Notre Dame de Lorette, lying in the middle
distance under the spring sunshine. That exposed hill-side--those
batteries through which I had walked--those crowded roads, and
travelling guns, those marching troops and piled ammunition dumps!--how
the recollection of them gave accent and fire to the picture of the
battle as the telegrams from the front built it up day by day before
one's eyes! Week by week, afterwards, with a mastery in artillery and in
aviation that nothing could withstand, the British Army pushed on
through April. After the first great attack which gave us the Vimy Ridge
and brought our line close to Lens in the north, and to the
neighbourhood of Bullecourt in the south, the 23rd of April saw the
second British advance, which gave us Gravrelle and Guemappe, and made
further breaches in the Hindenburg line. On April 16th the French made
their magnificent attack in Champagne, with 10,000 prisoners on the
first day (increased to 31,000 by May 24th)--followed by the capture of
the immensely important positions of Moronvillers and Craonne.
Altogether the Allies in little more than a month took 50,000 prisoners,
and large numbers of guns. General Allenby, for instance, captured 150
guns, General Home 64, while General Byng formed three "Pan-Germanic
groups" out of his. We recovered many square miles of the robbed
territory of France--40 villages one day, 100 villages another; while
the condition in which the Germans had left both the recovered territory
and its inhabitants has steeled once more the determination of the
nations at war with Germany to put an end to "this particular form of
ill-doing on the part of an uncivilised race."

During May there has been no such striking advance on either the French
or British fronts, though Roeux and Bullecourt, both very important
points, from their bearing on the Drocourt-Quéant line, behind which lie
Douai and Cambrai, have been captured by the British, and the French
have continuously bettered their line and defied the most desperate
counter-attacks. But May has been specially Italy's month! The Italian
offensive on the Isonzo, and the Carso, beginning on May 14th, in ten
days achieved more than any onlooker had dared to hope. In the section
between Tolmino and Gorizia where the Isonzo runs in a fine gorge, the
western bank belonging to Italy, and the eastern to Austria, all the
important heights on the eastern bank across the river, except one that
may fall to them any day, have been carried by the superb fighting of
the Italians, amongst whom Dante's fellow citizens, the Florentine
regiment, and regiments drawn from the rich Tuscan hills have specially
distinguished themselves. While on the Carso, that rock-wilderness which
stretches between Gorizia and Trieste, where fighting, especially in hot
weather, supplies a supreme test of human endurance, the Italians have
pushed on and on, from point to point, till now they are within ten
miles of Trieste. British artillery is with the Italian Army, and
British guns have been shelling military quarters and stores in the
outskirts of Trieste, while British monitors are co-operating at sea.
The end is not yet, for the Austrians will fight to their last man for
Trieste; and owing to the Russian situation the Austrians have been able
to draw reinforcements from Galicia, which have seriously stiffened the
task of Italy. But the omens are all good, and the Italian nation is
more solidly behind its army than ever before.

So that in spite of the apparent lull in the Allied offensive on the
French front, during the later weeks of May, all has really been going
well. The only result of the furious German attempts to recover the
ground lost in April has been to exhaust the strength of the attackers;
and the Allied cause is steadily profited thereby. Our own troops have
never been more sure of final victory. Let me quote a soldier's plain
and graphic letter, recently published:

"This break-away from trench war gives us a much better time. We know
now that we are the top dogs, and that we are keeping the Germans on the
move. And they're busy wondering all the time; they don't know where the
next whack is coming from. Mind you, I'm far from saying that we can get
them out of the Hindenburg line without a lot of fighting yet, but it is
only a question of time. It's a different sensation going over the top
now from what it was in the early days. You see, we used to know that
our guns were not nearly so many as the Germans', and that we hadn't the
stuff to put over. Now we just climb out of a trench and walk behind a
curtain of fire. It makes a difference. It seems to me we are steadily
beating the Boche at his own game. He used to be strong in the matter of
guns, but that's been taken from him. He used gas--do you remember the
way the Canadians got the first lot? Well, now our gas shells are a bit
too strong for him, and so are our flame shells. I bet he wishes now
that he hadn't thought of his flame-throwers! ... Then there's another
thing, and that's the way our chaps keep improving. The Fritzes are not
so good as they used to be. You get up against a bunch now and again
that fight well, but we begin to see more of the 'Kamerad' business.
It's as much up to the people at home to see this thing through as it is
to the men out here. We need the guns and shells to blow the Germans out
of the strong places that they've had years to build and dig, and the
folks at home can leave the rest to us. We can do the job all right if
they back us up and don't get tired. I think we've shown them that too.
You'll get all that from the papers, but maybe it comes better from a
soldier. You can take it from me that it's true. I've seen the
beginning, and I've been in places where things were pretty desperate
for us, and I've seen _the start of the finish_. The difference is
marvellous. I've only had an army education, and it might strike you
that I'm not able to judge. I'm a soldier though, and I look at it as a
soldier. I say, give us the stuff, keep on giving us the tools and the
men to use them, and--it may be soon or it may be long--we'll beat the
Boche to his knees."

The truth seems to be that the Germans are outmatched, first and
foremost, in aircraft and in guns. You will remember the quiet certainty
of our young Flight-Commander on March 1st--"When the next big offensive
comes, we shall down them, just as we did on the Somme." The prophecy
has been made good, abundantly good!--at the cost of many a precious
life. The air observation on our side has been far better and more
daring than that on the German side; and the work of our artillery has
been proportionately more accurate and more effective.

As to guns and ammunition, "the number of heavy shells fired in the
first week of the present offensive"--says an official account--"was
nearly twice as great as it was in the first week of the Somme
offensive, and in the second week it was 6-1/2 times as great as it was
in the second week of the Somme offensive. As a result of this great
artillery fire, which had never been exceeded in the whole course of the
war, a great saving of British life has been effected." And no praise
can be too high for our gunners. In a field where, two years ago,
Germany had the undisputed predominance, we have now beaten her alike in
the supply of guns and in the daring and efficiency of our gunners.

Nevertheless, let there be no foolish underestimate of the still
formidable strength of the Germans. The British and French missions will
have brought to your Government all available information on this point.
There can be no doubt that a "wonderful" effort, as one of our Ministers
calls it, has been made by Germany during the past winter. She has
mobilised all her people for the war as she has never done yet. She has
increased her munitions and put fresh divisions in the field. The
estimates of her present fighting strength given by our military writers
and correspondents do not differ very much.

Colonel Repington, in _The Times_, puts the German fighting men on both
fronts at 4,500,000, with 500,000 on the lines of communication, and a
million in the German depots. Mr. Belloc's estimate is somewhat less,
but not materially different. Both writers agree that we are in presence
of Germany's last and greatest effort, that she has no more behind, and
that if the Allies go on as they have begun--and now with the help of
America--this summer should witness the fulfilment at least of that
forecast which I reported to you in my earlier letters as so general
among the chiefs of our Army in France--_i.e._ "this year will see the
war _decided_, but may not see it ended." Since I came home, indeed,
more optimistic prophecies have reached me from France. For some weeks
after the American declaration of war, "We shall be home by Christmas!"
was the common cry--and amongst some of the best-informed.

But the Russian situation has no doubt: reacted to some extent on these
April hopes. And it is clear that, during April and early May, under the
stimulus of the submarine successes, German spirits have temporarily
revived. Never have the Junkers been more truculent, never have the
Pan-Germans talked wilder nonsense about "annexation" and "indemnities."
Until quite recently at any rate, the whole German nation--except no
doubt a cautious and intelligent few at the real sources of
information--believed that the submarine campaign would soon "bring
England to her knees." They were so confident, that they ran the last
great risk--they brought America into the War!

How does it look now? The situation is still critical and dangerous. But
I recall the half-smiling prophecy of my naval host, in the middle of
March, as we stood together on the deck of his ship, looking over his
curtseying and newly-hatched flock of destroyers gathered round him in
harbour. Was it not, perhaps, as near the mark as that of our airmen
hosts on March 1st has proved itself to be? "Have patience and you'll
see great things! The situation is serious, but quite healthy." Two
months, and a little more, since the words were spoken:--and week by
week, heavy as it still is, the toll of submarine loss is at least kept
in check, and your Navy, now at work with ours--most fitting and
welcome Nemesis!--is helping England to punish and baffle the
"uncivilised race," who, if they had their way, would blacken and defile
for ever the old and glorious record of man upon the sea. You, who store
such things in your enviable memory, will recollect how in the Odyssey,
that kindly race of singers and wrestlers, the Phaeacians, are the
escorts and conveyers of all who need and ask for protection at sea.
They keep the waterways for civilised men, against pirates and
assassins, as your nation and ours mean to keep them in the future. It
is true that a treacherous sea-god, jealous of any interference with his
right to slay and drown at will, smote the gallant ship that bore
Odysseus safely home, on her return, and made a rock of her for ever.
Poseidon may stand for the Kaiser of the story. He is gone, however,
with all his kin! But the humane and civilising tradition of the sea,
which this legend carries back into the dawn of time--it shall be for
the Allies--shall it not?--in this war, to rescue it, once and for ever,
from the criminal violence which would stain the free paths of ocean
with the murder and sudden death of those who have been in all history
the objects of men's compassion and care--the wounded, the helpless, the
woman, and the child.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the rest, let me gather up a few last threads of this second
instalment of our British story.

Of that vast section of the war concerned with the care and transport of
the wounded, and the health of the Army, it is not my purpose to speak
at length in these Letters. Like everything else it has been steadily
and eagerly perfected during the past year. Never have the wounded in
battle, in any war, been so tenderly and skilfully cared for;--never
have such intelligence and goodwill been applied to the health
conditions of such huge masses of men. Nor is it necessary to dwell
again, as I did last year, on the wonderful work of women in the war. It
has grown in complexity and bulk; women-workers in munitions are now
nearly a fifth of the whole body; but essentially the general aspect of
it has not changed much in the last twelve months.

But what has changed is _the food situation_, owing partly to submarine
attack, and partly to the general shortage in the food-supply of the
world. In one of my earlier letters I spoke with anxiety of the still
unsettled question--Will the house-wives and mothers of the nation
realise--in time--our food necessities? Will their thrift-work in the
homes complete the munition-work of women in the factories? Or must we
submit to the ration-system, with all its cumbrous inequalities, and its
hosts of officials; because the will and intelligence of our people,
which have risen so remarkably to the other tasks of this war, are not
equal to the task of checking food consumption without compulsion?

It looks now as though they would be equal. Since my earlier letter the
country has been more and more generally covered with the National War
Savings Committees which have been carrying into food-economy the energy
they spent originally on the raising of the last great War Loan. The
consumption of bread and flour throughout the country has gone down--not
yet sufficiently--but enough to show that the idea has taken
hold:--"_Save bread, and help victory_!" And since your declaration of
war it strengthens our own effort to know that America with her
boundless food-supplies is standing by, and that her man-and sea-power
are now to be combined with ours in defeating the last effort of Germany
to secure by submarine piracy what she cannot win on the battle-field.

Meanwhile changes which will have far-reaching consequences after the
war are taking place in our own home food-supply. The long neglect of
our home agriculture, the slow and painful dwindling of our country
populations, are to come to an end. The Government calls for the sowing
of three million additional acres of wheat in Great Britain; and
throughout the country the steam tractors are at work ploughing up land
which has either never borne wheat, or which has ceased to bear it for
nearly a century. Thirty-five thousand acres of corn land are to be
added to the national store in this county of Hertfordshire alone. The
wages of agricultural labourers, have risen by more than one-third. The
farmers are to be protected and encouraged as they never have been since
the Cobdenite revolution; and the Corn Production Bill now passing
through Parliament shows what the grim lesson of this war has done to
change the old and easy optimism of our people.

As to the energy that has been thrown into other means of food-supply,
let the potatoes now growing in the flower-beds in front of Buckingham
Palace stand for a symbol of it! The potato-crop of this year--barring
accidents--will be enormous; and the whole life of our country villages
has been quickened by the effort that has been made to increase the
produce of the cottage gardens and allotments. The pride and pleasure of
the women and the old men in what they have been able to do at home,
while their sons and husbands are fighting at the front, is moving to
see. Food prices are very high; life in spite of increased wages is
hard. But the heart of England is set on winning this war; and the
letters which pass between the fathers and mothers in this village where
I live, and the sons at the front, in whom they take a daily and hourly
pride, would not give Germany much comfort could she read them. I take
this little scene, as an illustration, fresh from the life of my
own village:

Imagine a visitor, on behalf of the food-economy movement, endeavouring
to persuade a village mother to come to some cookery lessons organised
by the local committee.

Mrs. S. is discovered sitting at a table on which are preparations for a
meal. She receives the visitor and the visitor's remarks with an
air--quite unconscious--of tragic meditation; and her honest
labour-stained hand sweeps over the things on the table.

"Cheese!"--she says, at last--"_eightpence_ the 'arf pound!"

A pause. The hand points in another direction.

"_Lard--sevenpence_--that scrubby little piece! _Sugar_! sixpence
'a'penny the pound. The best part of two shillin's gone! Whatever _are_
we comin' to?"

Gloom descends on the little kitchen. The visitor is at a loss--when
suddenly the round, motherly face changes.--"But _there_ now! I'm goin'
to smile, whatever 'appens. I'm not one as is goin' to give in! And we
'ad a letter from Arthur [her son in the trenches] this morning, to say
'is Company's on the list for leave, and 'e's applied.--Oh dear, Miss,
just to _think_ of it!"

Then, with a catch in her voice:

"But it's not the comin' home, Miss--it's _the goin' back again_! Yes,
I'll come to the cookin', Miss, if I _possibly_ can!"

There's the spirit of our country folk--patriotic, patient, true.


As to labour conditions generally. I spoke, perhaps, in my first letter
rather too confidently, for the moment, of the labour situation. There
has been one serious strike among the engineers since I began to write,
and a good many minor troubles. But neither the Tyne nor the Clyde was
involved, and though valuable time was lost, in the end the men were
brought back to work quite as much by the pressure of public opinion
among their own comrades, men and women, as by any Government action.
The Government have since taken an important step from which much is
hoped, by dividing up the country into districts and appointing local
commissioners to watch over and, if they can, remove the causes of
"unrest"--causes which are often connected with the inevitable friction
of a colossal transformation, and sometimes with the sheer fatigue of
the workers, whose achievement--munition-workers, ship-wrights,
engineers--during these three years has been nothing short of
marvellous.

As to finance, the colossal figures of last year, of which I gave a
summary in _England's Effort,_ have been much surpassed. The Budget of
Great Britain for this year, including advances to our Allies, reaches
the astounding figure of two thousand three hundred million sterling.
Our war expenditure is now close upon six million sterling a day
(£5,600,000). Of this the expenditure on the Army and Navy and munitions
has risen from a daily average of nearly three millions sterling, as it
stood last year, to a daily average of nearly five millions.

But the nation has not spent in vain!

"Compare the first twenty-four days of the fighting on the Somme last
year,"--said Mr. Bonar Law in a recent speech--"with the first
twenty-four days of the operations of this spring. Four times as much
territory had been taken from the enemy in this offensive as was taken
in the Somme, against the resistance of double the number of German
divisions. And of those divisions just one-half have had to be
withdrawn--shattered--from the fighting line while the British
casualties in the offensive have been from 50 to 75 per cent, less than
the casualties in the Somme fighting."

Consider, too, the news which is still fresh as I finish this
letter--(June 11th)--of the victory of Messines; perhaps the most
complete, the most rounded success--so far--that has fallen to the
British armies in the war! Last year, in three months' fighting on the
Somme, we took the strongly fortified Albert ridge, and forced the
German retreat of last February. On April 8th of this year began the
battle of Arras which gave us the Vimy Ridge, and a free outlook over
the Douai plain. And finally, on June 7th, four days ago, the Messines
ridge, which I saw last year on March 2nd--apparently impregnable and
inaccessible!--from a neighbouring hill, with the German trenches scored
along its slopes, was captured by General Plumer and his splendid army
in a few hours, after more than twelve months' preparation, with lighter
casualties than have ever fallen to a British attack before, with heavy
losses to the enemy, large captures of guns, and 7,000 prisoners. Our
troops have since moved steadily forward; and the strategic future is
rich in possibilities. The Germans have regained nothing; and the German
press has not yet dared to tell the German people of the defeat. Let us
remember also the victorious campaign of this year in Mesopotamia; and
the welcome stroke of the past week in Greece, by which King "Tino" has
been at last dismissed, and the Liberal forces of the Greek nation
set free.

       *       *       *       *       *

Aye, we do consider--we do remember--these things! We feel that the goal
is drawing slowly but steadily nearer, that ultimate victory is certain,
and with victory, the dawn of a better day for Europe. But who, least of
all a woman, can part from the tragic spectacle of this war without
bitterness of spirit?

_"Who will give us back our children?"_

Wickedness and wrong will find their punishment, and the dark Hours now
passing, in the torch-race of time, will hand the light on to Hours of
healing and of peace. But the dead return not. It is they whose
appealing voices seem to be in the air to-day, as we think of America.

Among the Celts of ancient Brittany there was a belief which still
survives in the traditions of the Breton peasants and in the name of
part of the Breton coast. Every All Souls' Night, says a story at least
as old as the sixth century, the souls of the dead gather on the cliffs
of Brittany, above that bay which is still called the "Bai des
Trépassés," waiting for their departure across the ocean to a far region
of the west, where the gods sit for judgment, and the good find peace.
On that night, the fishermen hear at midnight mysterious knockings at
their doors. They go down to the water's edge, and behold, there are
boats unknown to them, with no visible passengers. But the fishermen
take the oars, and though they see nothing, they feel the presence of
the souls crowding into the boats, and they row, on and on, into the
west, past the farthest point of any land they know. Suddenly, they feel
the boats lightened of all that weight of spirits, and the souls are
gone--streaming out with solemn cries and longing into the wide
illimitable ocean of the west, in search of some invisible shore.

So now the call of those hundreds of thousands who have given their
young lives--so beloved, so rich in promise!--for their country and the
freedom of men, is in your ears and ours. The dead are witnesses of the
compact between you and us. For that cause to which they brought their
ungrudged sacrifice has now laid its resistless claim on you. Together,
the free peoples of Europe and America have now to carry it to victory
--victory, just, necessary, and final.

MARY A. WARD.





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