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Title: Great Britain at War
Author: Farnol, Jeffery, 1878-1952
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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 GREAT BRITAIN
 AT WAR

 BY
 JEFFERY FARNOL

 BOSTON
 LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
 1918



 _Copyright, 1917_,
 BY THE RIDGEWAY CO., IN THE UNITED STATES AND
 GREAT BRITAIN.

 _Copyright, 1917_,
 BY THE OUTLOOK COMPANY.

 _Copyright, 1917_,
 THE TRIBUNE ASSOCIATION.

 _Copyright, 1918_,
 BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

 _All rights reserved_

 Published, March, 1918

 Norwood Press
 Set up and electrotyped by J. S. Cushing Co., Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
 Presswork by S. J. Parkhill & Co., Boston, Mass., U.S.A.



GREAT BRITAIN AT WAR



_BY JEFFERY FARNOL_

 THE BROAD HIGHWAY
 THE AMATEUR GENTLEMAN
 THE HONOURABLE MR. TAWNISH
 BELTANE THE SMITH
 THE DEFINITE OBJECT



To

ALL MY

AMERICAN FRIENDS



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                               PAGE

    I FOREWORD                                           1
   II CARTRIDGES                                         6
  III RIFLES AND LEWIS GUNS                             12
   IV CLYDEBANK                                         24
    V SHIPS IN MAKING                                   33
   VI THE BATTLE CRUISERS                               40
  VII A HOSPITAL                                        58
 VIII THE GUNS                                          69
   IX A TRAINING CAMP                                   88
    X ARRAS                                            103
   XI THE BATTLEFIELDS                                 115
  XII FLYING MEN                                       125
 XIII YPRES                                            144
  XIV WHAT BRITAIN HAS DONE                            156



GREAT BRITAIN AT WAR



I

FOREWORD


In publishing these collected articles in book form (the result of my
visits to Flanders, the battlefields of France and divers of the
great munition centres), some of which have already appeared in the
press both in England and America, I do so with a certain amount of
diffidence, because of their so many imperfections and of their
inadequacy of expression. But what man, especially in these days, may
hope to treat a theme so vast, a tragedy so awful, without a sure
knowledge that all he can say must fall so infinitely far below the
daily happenings which are, on the one hand, raising Humanity to a
godlike altitude or depressing it lower than the brutes. But, because
these articles are a simple record of what I have seen and what I
have heard, they may perhaps be of use in bringing out of the
shadow--that awful shadow of "usualness" into which they have
fallen--many incidents that would, before the war, have roused the
world to wonder, to pity and to infinite awe.

Since the greater number of these articles was written, America has
thrown her might into the scale against merciless Barbarism and
Autocracy; at her entry into the drama there was joy in English and
French hearts, but, I venture to think, a much greater joy in the
hearts of all true Americans. I happened to be in Paris on the
memorable day America declared war, and I shall never forget the
deep-souled enthusiasm of the many Americans it was my privilege to
know there. America, the greatest democracy in the world, had at last
taken her stand on the side of Freedom, Justice and Humanity.

As an Englishman, I love and am proud of my country, and, in the
years I spent in America, I saw with pain and deep regret the
misunderstanding that existed between these two great nations. In
America I beheld a people young, ardent, indomitable, full of the
unconquerable spirit of Youth, and I thought of that older country
across the seas, so little understanding and so little understood.

And often I thought if it were only possible to work a miracle, if it
were only possible for the mists of jealousy and ill-feeling, or
rivalry and misconception to be swept away once and for all--if only
these two great nations could be bonded together by a common ideal,
heart to heart and hand to hand, for the good of Humanity, what
earthly power should ever be able to withstand their united strength.
In my soul I knew that the false teaching of history--that great
obstacle to the progress of the world--was one of the underlying
causes of the misunderstanding, but it was an American Ambassador who
put this into words. If, said he, America did not understand the aims
and hopes of Great Britain, _it was due to the textbooks of history
used in American schools_.

To-day, America, through her fighting youth and manhood, will see
Englishmen as they are, and not as they have been represented. Surely
the time has come when we should try and appreciate each other at our
true worth.

These are tragic times, sorrowful times, yet great and noble times,
for these are days of fiery ordeal whereby mean and petty things are
forgotten and the dross of unworthy things burned away. To-day the
two great Anglo-Saxon peoples stand united in a noble comradeship for
the good of the world and for those generations that are yet to be, a
comradeship which I, for one, do most sincerely hope and pray may
develop into a veritable brotherhood. One in blood are we, in speech,
and in ideals, and though sundered by generations of misunderstanding
and false teaching, to-day we stand, brothers-in-arms, fronting the
brute for the freedom of Humanity.

Americans will die as Britons have died for this noble cause;
Americans will bleed as Britons have bled; American women will mourn
as British women have mourned these last terrible years; yet, in
these deaths, in this noble blood, in these tears of agony and
bereavement, surely the souls of these two great nations will draw
near, each to each, and understand at last.

Here in a word is the fulfilment of the dream; that, by the united
effort, by the blood, by the suffering, by the heartbreak endured of
these two great English-speaking races, wars shall be made to cease
in all the world; that peace and happiness, truth and justice shall
be established among us for all generations, and that the united
powers of the Anglo-Saxon races shall be a bulwark behind which
Mankind may henceforth rest secure.

Now, in the name of Humanity, I appeal to American and to Briton to
work for, strive, think and pray for this great and glorious
consummation.



II

CARTRIDGES


At an uncomfortable hour I arrived at a certain bleak railway
platform and in due season, stepping into a train, was whirled away
northwards. And as I journeyed, hearkening to the talk of my
companions, men much travelled and of many nationalities, my mind was
agog for the marvels and wonders I was to see in the workshops of
Great Britain. Marvels and wonders I was prepared for, and yet for
once how far short of fact were all my fancies!

Britain has done great things in the past; she will, I pray, do even
greater in the future; but surely never have mortal eyes looked on an
effort so stupendous and determined as she is sustaining, and will
sustain, until this most bloody of wars is ended.

The deathless glory of our troops, their blood and agony and scorn of
death have been made pegs on which to hang much indifferent writing
and more bad verse--there have been letters also, sheaves of them, in
many of which effusions one may discover a wondering surprise that
our men can actually and really fight, that Britain is still the
Britain of Drake and Frobisher and Grenville, of Nelson and Blake and
Cochrane, and that the same deathless spirit of heroic determination
animates her still.

To-night, as I pen these lines, our armies are locked in desperate
battle, our guns are thundering on many fronts, but like an echo to
their roar, from mile upon mile of workshops and factories and
shipyards is rising the answering roar of machinery, the thunderous
crash of titanic hammers, the hellish rattle of riveters, the
whining, droning, shrieking of a myriad wheels where another vast
army is engaged night and day, as indomitable, as fierce of purpose
as the army beyond the narrow seas.

I have beheld miles of workshops that stand where grass grew two
short years ago, wherein are bright-eyed English girls, Irish
colleens and Scots lassies by the ten thousand, whose dexterous
fingers flash nimbly to and fro, slender fingers, yet fingers
contriving death. I have wandered through a wilderness of whirring
driving-belts and humming wheels where men and women, with the same
feverish activity, bend above machines whose very hum sang to me of
death, while I have watched a cartridge grow from a disc of metal to
the hellish contrivance it is.

And as I watched the busy scene it seemed an unnatural and awful
thing that women's hands should be busied thus, fashioning means for
the maiming and destruction of life--until, in a remote corner, I
paused to watch a woman whose dexterous fingers were fitting finished
cartridges into clips with wonderful celerity. A middle-aged woman,
this, tall and white-haired, who, at my remark, looked up with a
bright smile, but with eyes sombre and weary.

"Yes, sir," she answered above the roar of machinery, "I had two boys
at the front, but--they're a-laying out there somewhere, killed by
the same shell. I've got a photo of their graves--very neat they
look, though bare, and I'll never be able to go and tend 'em,
y'see--nor lay a few flowers on 'em. So I'm doin' this instead--to
help the other lads. Yes, sir, my boys did their bit, and now they're
gone their mother's tryin' to do hers."

Thus I stood and talked with this sad-eyed, white-haired woman who
had cast off selfish grief to aid the Empire, and in her I saluted
the spirit of noble motherhood ere I turned and went my way.

But now I woke to the fact that my companions had vanished utterly;
lost, but nothing abashed, I rambled on between long alleys of
clattering machines, which in their many functions seemed in
themselves almost human, pausing now and then to watch and wonder and
exchange a word with one or other of the many workers, until a kindly
works-manager found me and led me unerringly through that riotous
jungle of machinery.

He brought me by devious ways to a place he called "holy
ground"--long, low outbuildings approached by narrow, wooden
causeways, swept and re-swept by men shod in felt--a place this,
where no dust or grit might be, for here was the magazine, with the
filling sheds beyond. And within these long sheds, each seated behind
a screen, were women who handled and cut deadly cordite into needful
lengths as if it had been so much ribbon, and always and everywhere
the same dexterous speed.

He led me, this soft-voiced, keen-eyed works-manager, through
well-fitted wards and dispensaries, redolent of clean, druggy smells
and the pervading odour of iodoform; he ushered me through dining
halls long and wide and lofty and lighted by many windows, where
countless dinners were served at a trifling cost per head; and so at
last out upon a pleasant green, beyond which rose the great gates
where stood the cars that were to bear my companions and myself upon
our way.

"They seem to work very hard!" said I, turning to glance back whence
we had come, "they seem very much in earnest."

"Yes," said my companion, "every week we are turning out--" here he
named very many millions--"of cartridges."

"To be sure they are earning good money!" said I thoughtfully.

"More than many of them ever dreamed of earning," answered the
works-manager. "And yet--I don't know, but I don't think it is
altogether the money, somehow."

"I'm glad to hear you say that--very glad!" said I, "because it is a
great thing to feel that they are working for the Britain that is,
and is to be."



III

RIFLES AND LEWIS GUNS


A drive through a stately street where were shops which might rival
Bond Street, the Rue de la Paix, or Fifth Avenue for the richness and
variety of their contents; a street whose pavements were thronged
with well-dressed pedestrians and whose roadway was filled with motor
cars--vehicles, these, scornful of the petrol tax and such-like
mundane and vulgar restrictions--in fine, the street of a rich and
thriving city.

But suddenly the stately thoroughfare had given place to a meaner
street, its princely shops had degenerated into blank walls or grimy
yards, on either hand rose tall chimney stacks belching smoke;
instead of dashing motor cars, heavy wains and cumbrous wagons
jogged by; in place of the well-dressed throng were figures
rough-clad and grimy that hurried along the narrow sidewalks--but
these rough-clad people walked fast and purposefully. So we hummed
along streets wide or narrow but always grimy, until we were halted
at a tall barrier by divers policemen, who, having inspected our
credentials, permitted us to pass on to the factory, or series of
factories, that stretched themselves before us, building on
building--block on block--a very town.

Here we were introduced to various managers and heads of departments,
among whom was one in the uniform of a Captain of Engineers, under
whose capable wing I had the good fortune to come, for he, it seemed,
had lived among engines and machinery, had thought out and contrived
lethal weapons from his youth up, and therewith retained so kindly
and genial a personality as drew me irresistibly. Wherefore I gave
myself to his guidance, and he, chatting of books and literature and
the like trivialities, led me along corridors and passage-ways to
see the wonder of the guns. And as we went, in the air about us was a
stir, a hum that grew and ever grew, until, passing a massive swing
door, there burst upon us a rumble, a roar, a clashing din.

We stood in a place of gloom lit by many fires, a vast place whose
roof was hid by blue vapour; all about us rose the dim forms of huge
stamps, whose thunderous stroke beat out a deep diapason to the ring
of countless hand-hammers. And, lighted by the sudden glare of
furnace fires were figures, bare-armed, smoke-grimed, wild of aspect,
figures that whirled heavy sledges or worked the levers of the giant
steam-hammers, while here and there bars of iron new-glowing from the
furnace winked and twinkled in the gloom where those wild, half-naked
men-shapes flitted to and fro unheard amid the thunderous din. Awed
and half stunned, I stood viewing that never-to-be-forgotten scene
until I grew aware that the Captain was roaring in my ear.

"Forge ... rifle barrels ... come and see and mind where you tread!"

Treading as seemingly silent as those wild human shapes, that
straightened brawny backs to view me as I passed, that grinned in
the fire-glow and spoke one to another, words lost to my stunned
hearing, ere they bent to their labour again, obediently I followed
the Captain's dim form until I was come where, bare-armed,
leathern-aproned and be-spectacled, stood one who seemed of some
account among these salamanders, who, nodding to certain words
addressed to him by the Captain, seized a pair of tongs, swung open a
furnace door, and plucking thence a glowing brand, whirled it with
practised ease, and setting it upon the dies beneath a huge
steam-hammer, nodded his head. Instantly that mighty engine fell to
work, thumping and banging with mighty strokes, and with each stroke
that glowing steel bar changed and changed, grew round, grew thin,
hunched a shoulder here, showed a flat there, until, lo! before my
eyes was the shape of a rifle minus the stock! Hereupon the
be-spectacled salamander nodded again, the giant hammer became
immediately immobile, the glowing forging was set among hundreds of
others and a voice roared in my ear:

"Two minutes ... this way."

A door opens, closes, and we are in sunshine again, and the Captain
is smilingly reminiscent of books.

"This is greater than books," said I.

"Why, that depends," says he, "there are books and books ... this
way!"

Up a flight of stairs, through a doorway, and I am in a shop where
huge machines grow small in perspective. And here I see the rough
forging pass through the many stages of trimming, milling, turning,
boring, rifling until comes the assembling, and I take up the
finished rifle ready for its final process--testing. So downstairs we
go to the testing sheds, wherefrom as we approach comes the sound of
dire battle, continuous reports, now in volleys, now in single
sniping shots, or in rapid succession.

Inside, I breathe an air charged with burnt powder and behold in a
long row, many rifles mounted upon crutches, their muzzles levelled
at so many targets. Beside each rifle stand two men, one to sight and
correct, and one to fire and watch the effect of the shot by means of
a telescope fixed to hand.

With the nearest of these men I incontinent fell into talk--a chatty
fellow this, who, busied with pliers adjusting the back-sight of a
rifle, talked to me of lines of sight and angles of deflection, his
remarks sharply punctuated by rifle-shots, that came now slowly, now
in twos and threes and now in rapid volleys.

"Yes, sir," said he, busy pliers never still, "guns and rifles is
very like us--you and me, say. Some is just naturally good and some
is worse than bad--load up, George! A new rifle's like a kid--pretty
sure to fire a bit wide at first--not being used to it--we was all
kids once, sir, remember! But a bit of correction here an' there'll
put that right as a rule. On the other hand there's rifles as Old
Nick himself nor nobody else could make shoot straight--ready,
George? And it's just the same with kids! Now, if you'll stick your
eyes to that glass, and watch the target, you'll see how near she'll
come this time--all right, George!" As he speaks the rifle speaks
also, and observing the hit on the target, I sing out:

"Three o'clock!"

Ensues more work with the pliers; George loads and fires and with one
eye still at the telescope I give him:

"Five o'clock!"

Another moment of adjusting, again the rifle cracks and this time I
announce:

"A bull!"

Hereupon my companion squints through the glass and nods: "Right-oh,
George!" says he, then, while George the silent stacks the tested
rifle with many others, he turns to me and nods, "Got 'im that time,
sir--pity it weren't a bloomin' Hun!"

Here the patient Captain suggests we had better go, and unwillingly
I follow him out into the open and the sounds of battle die away
behind us.

And now, as we walked, I learned some particulars of that terrible
device the Lewis gun; how that it could spout bullets at the rate of
six hundred per minute; how, by varying pressures of the trigger, it
could be fired by single rounds or pour forth its entire magazine in
a continuous, shattering volley and how it weighed no more than
twenty-six pounds.

"And here," said the Captain, opening a door and speaking in his
pleasant voice, much as though he were showing me some rare flowers,
"here is where they grow by the hundred, every week."

And truly in hundreds they were, long rows of them standing very
neatly in racks, their walnut stocks heel by heel, their grim, blue
muzzles in long, serried ranks, very orderly and precise; and
something in their very orderliness endowed them with a certain
individuality as it were. It almost seemed to me that they were
waiting, mustered and ready, for that hour of ferocious roar and
tumult when their voice should be the voice of swift and terrible
death. Now as I gazed upon them, filled with these scarcely definable
thoughts, I was startled by a sudden shattering crash near by, a
sound made up of many individual reports, and swinging about, I
espied a man seated upon a stool; a plump, middle-aged, family sort
of man, who sat upon his low stool, his aproned knees set wide, as
plump, middle-aged family men often do. As I watched, Paterfamilias
squinted along the sights of one of these guns and once again came
that shivering crash that is like nothing else I ever heard. Him I
approached and humbly ventured an awed question or so, whereon he
graciously beckoned me nearer, vacated his stool, and motioning me to
sit there, suggested I might try a shot at the target, a far disc
lighted by shaded electric bulbs.

"She's fixed dead on!" he said, "and she's true--you can't miss. A
quick pull for single shots and a steady pressure for a volley."

Hereupon I pressed the trigger, the gun stirred gently in its clamps,
the air throbbed, and a stream of ten bullets (the testing number)
plunged into the bull's-eye and all in the space of a moment.

"There ain't a un'oly 'un of 'em all could say 'Hoch the Kaiser' with
them in his stomach," said Paterfamilias thoughtfully, laying a hand
upon the respectable stomach beneath his apron, "it's a gun, that
is!" And a gun it most assuredly is.

I would have tarried longer with Paterfamilias, for in his own way,
he was as arresting as this terrible weapon--or nearly so--but the
Captain, gentle-voiced and serene as ever, suggested that my
companions had a train to catch, wherefore I reluctantly turned away.
But as I went, needs must I glance back at Paterfamilias, as
comfortable as ever where he sat, but with pudgy fingers on trigger
grimly at work again, and from him to the long, orderly rows of guns
mustered in their orderly ranks, awaiting their hour.

We walked through shops where belts and pulleys and wheels and cogs
flapped and whirled and ground in ceaseless concert, shops where
files rasped and hammers rang, shops again where all seemed riot and
confusion at the first glance, but at a second showed itself ordered
confusion, as it were. And as we went, my Captain spoke of the
hospital bay, of wards and dispensary (lately enlarged), of sister
and nurses and the grand work they were doing among the employees
other than attending to their bodily ills; and talking thus, he
brought me to the place, a place of exquisite order and tidiness, yet
where nurses, blue-uniformed, in their white caps, cuffs and aprons,
seemed to me the neatest of all. And here I was introduced to Sister,
capable, strong, gentle-eyed, who told me something of her work--how
many came to her with wounds of soul as well as body; of griefs
endured and wrongs suffered by reason of pitiful lack of knowledge;
of how she was teaching them care and cleanliness of minds as well
as bodies, which is surely the most blessed heritage the unborn
generations may inherit. She told me of the patient bravery of the
women, the chivalry of grimy men, whose hurts may wait that others
may be treated first. So she talked and I listened until, perceiving
the Captain somewhat ostentatiously consulting his watch, I presently
left that quiet haven with its soft-treading ministering attendants.

So we had tea and cigarettes, and when I eventually shook hands with
my Captain, I felt that I was parting with a friend.

"And what struck you most particularly this afternoon?" enquired one
of my companions.

"Well," said I, "it was either the Lewis gun or Paterfamilias the
grim."



IV

CLYDEBANK


Henceforth the word "Clydebank" will be associated in my mind with
the ceaseless ring and din of riveting-hammers, where, day by day,
hour by hour, a new fleet is growing, destroyers and torpedo boats
alongside monstrous submarines--yonder looms the grim bulk of
Super-dreadnought or battle cruiser or the slender shape of some huge
liner.

And with these vast shapes about me, what wonder that I stood awed
and silent at the stupendous sight. But, to my companion, a shortish,
thick-set man, with a masterful air and a bowler hat very much over
one eye, these marvels were an everyday affair; and now, ducking
under a steel hawser, he led me on, dodging moving trucks, stepping
unconcernedly across the buffers of puffing engines, past titanic
cranes that swung giant arms high in the air; on we went, stepping
over chain cables, wire ropes, pulley-blocks and a thousand and one
other obstructions, on which I stumbled occasionally since my awed
gaze was turned upwards. And as we walked amid these awesome shapes,
he talked, I remember, of such futile things as--books.

I beheld great ships well-nigh ready for launching; I stared up at
huge structures towering aloft, a wild complexity of steel joists and
girders, yet, in whose seeming confusion, the eye could detect
something of the mighty shape of the leviathan that was to be; even
as I looked, six feet or so of steel plating swung through the air,
sank into place, and immediately I was deafened by the hellish racket
of the riveting-hammers.

"... nothing like a good book and a pipe to go with it!" said my
companion between two bursts of hammering.

"This is a huge ship!" said I, staring upward still.

"H'm--fairish!" nodded my companion, scratching his square jaw and
letting his knowledgeful eyes rove to and fro over the vast bulk that
loomed above us.

"Have you built them much bigger, then?" I enquired.

My companion nodded and proceeded to tell me certain amazing facts
which the riotous riveting-hammers promptly censored in the following
remarkable fashion.

"You should have seen the rat-tat-tat. We built her in exactly
nineteen months instead of two years and a half! Biggest battleship
afloat--two hundred feet longer than the rat-tat-tat--launched her
last rat-tat-tat--gone to rat-tat-tat-tat for her guns."

"What size guns?" I shouted above the hammers.

"Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-inch!" he said, smiling grimly.

"How much?" I yelled.

"She has four rat-tat-tat-tat inch and twelve rattle-tattle inch
besides rat-tat-tat-tat!" he answered, nodding.

"Really!" I roared, "if those guns are half as big as I think, the
Germans--"

"The Germans--!" said he, and blew his nose.

"How long did you say she was?" I hastened to ask as the hammers died
down a little.

"Well, over all she measured exactly rat-tat feet. She was so big
that we had to pull down a corner of the building there, as you can
see."

"And what's her name?"

"The rat-tat-tat, and she's the rattle-tattle of her class."

"Are these hammers always quite so noisy, do you suppose?" I
enquired, a little hopelessly.

"Oh, off and on!" he nodded. "Kick up a bit of a racket, don't they,
but you get used to it in time; I could hear a pin drop. Look! since
we've stood here they've got four more plates fixed--there goes the
fifth. This way!"

Past the towering bows of future battleships he led me, over and
under more steel cables, until he paused to point towards an empty
slip near by.

"That's where we built the _Lusitania_!" said he. "We thought she was
pretty big then--but now--!" he settled his hat a little further over
one eye with a knock on the crown.

"Poor old _Lusitania_!" said I, "she'll never be forgotten."

"Not while ships sail!" he answered, squaring his square jaw, "no,
she'll never be forgotten, nor the murderers who ended her!"

"And they've struck a medal in commemoration," said I.

"Medal!" said he, and blew his nose louder than before. "I fancy
they'll wish they could swallow that damn medal, one day. Poor old
_Lusitania_! You lose any one aboard?"

"I had some American friends aboard, but they escaped, thank
God--others weren't so fortunate."

"No," he answered, turning away, "but America got quite angry--wrote
a note, remember? Over there's one of the latest submarines. Germany
can't touch her for speed and size, and better than that, she's got
rat-tat--"

"I beg pardon?" I wailed, for the hammers were riotous again, "what
has she?"

"She's got rat-tat forward and rat-tat aft, surface speed rat-tat-tat
knots, submerged rat-tat-tat, and then best of all she's
rattle-tattle-tattle. Yes, hammers are a bit noisy! This way. A
destroyer yonder--new class--rat-tat feet longer than ordinary. We
expect her to do rat-tat-tat knots and she'll mount rat-tat guns.
There are two of them in the basin yonder having their engines
fitted, turbines to give rat-tat-tat horse power. But come on, we'd
better be going or we shall lose the others of your party."

"I should like to stay here a week," said I, tripping over a steel
hawser.

"Say a month," he added, steadying me deftly. "You might begin to see
all we've been doing in a month. We've built twenty-nine ships of
different classes since the war began in this one yard, and we're
going on building till the war's over--and after that too. And this
place is only one of many. Which reminds me you're to go to another
yard this afternoon--we'd better hurry after the rest of your party
or they'll be waiting for you."

"I'm afraid they generally are!" I sighed, as I turned and followed
my conductor through yawning doorways (built to admit a giant, it
seemed) into vast workshops whose lofty roofs were lost in haze. Here
I saw huge turbines and engines of monstrous shape in course of
construction; I beheld mighty propellers, with boilers and furnaces
big as houses, whose proportions were eloquent of the colossal ships
that were to be. But here indeed, all things were on a gigantic
scale; ponderous lathes were turning, mighty planing machines swung
unceasing back and forth, while other monsters bored and cut through
steel plate as it had been so much cardboard.

"Good machines, these!" said my companion, patting one of these
monsters with familiar hand, "all made in Britain!"

"Like the men!" I suggested.

"The men," said he. "Humph! They haven't been giving much trouble
lately--touch wood!"

"Perhaps they know Britain just now needs every man that is a man," I
suggested, "and some one has said that a man can fight as hard at
home here with a hammer as in France with a rifle."

"Well, there's a lot of fighting going on here," nodded my companion,
"we're fighting night and day and we're fighting damned hard. And now
we'd better hurry; your party will be cursing you in chorus."

"I'm afraid it has before now!" said I.

So we hurried on, past shops whence came the roar of machinery,
past great basins wherein floated destroyers and torpedo boats, past
craft of many kinds and fashions, ships built and building; on I
hastened, tripping over more cables, dodging from the buffers of
snorting engines and deafened again by the fearsome din of the
riveting-hammers, until I found my travelling companions assembled
and ready to depart. Scrambling hastily into the nearest motor car I
shook hands with this shortish, broad-shouldered, square-jawed man
and bared my head, for, so far as these great works were concerned,
he was in very truth a superman. Thus I left him to oversee the
building of these mighty ships, which have been and will ever be the
might of these small islands.

But, even as I went speeding through dark streets, in my ears, rising
high above the hum of our engine was the unceasing din, the
remorseless ring and clash of the riveting-hammers.



V

SHIPS IN MAKING


 Build me straight, O worthy Master!
   Staunch and strong, a goodly vessel,
 That shall laugh at all disaster
   And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!
                      --_Longfellow._

He was an old man with that indefinable courtliness of bearing that
is of a past generation; tall and spare he was, his white head bowed
a little by weight of years, but almost with my first glance I seemed
to recognise him instinctively for that "worthy Master Builder of
goodly vessels staunch and strong!" So the Master Builder I will call
him.

He stood beside me at the window with one in the uniform of a naval
captain, and we looked, all three of us, at that which few might
behold unmoved.

"She's a beauty!" said the Captain. "She's all speed and grace from
cutwater to sternpost."

"I've been building ships for sixty-odd years and we never launched a
better!" said the Master Builder.

As for me I was dumb.

She lay within a stone's throw, a mighty vessel, huge of beam and
length, her superstructure towering proudly aloft, her massive
armoured sides sweeping up in noble curves, a Super-Dreadnought
complete from trucks to keelson. Yacht-like she sat the water all
buoyant grace from lofty prow to tapering counter, and to me there
was something sublime in the grim and latent power, the strength and
beauty of her.

"But she's not so very--big, is she?" enquired a voice behind me.

The Captain stared; the Master Builder smiled.

"Fairly!" he nodded. "Why do you ask?"

"Well, I usually reckon the size of a ship from the number of her
funnels, and--"

"Ha!" exclaimed the Captain explosively.

"Humph!" said the Master Builder gently. "After luncheon you shall
measure her if you like, but now I think we will go and eat."

During a most excellent luncheon the talk ranged from ships and books
and guns to submarines and seaplanes, with stories of battle and
sudden death, tales of risk and hardship, of noble courage and heroic
deeds, so that I almost forgot to eat and was sorry when at last we
rose from table.

Once outside I had the good fortune to find myself between the
Captain and the venerable figure of the Master Builder, in whose
company I spent a never-to-be-forgotten afternoon. With them I stood
alongside this noble ship which, seen thus near, seemed mightier than
ever.

"Will she be fast?" I enquired.

"Very fast--for a Dreadnought!" said the Captain.

"And at top speed she'll show no bow wave to speak of," added the
veteran. "See how fine her lines are fore and aft."

"And her gun power will be enormous!" said the Captain.

Hard by I espied a solitary being, who stood, chin in hand, lost in
contemplation of this large vessel.

"Funnels or not, she's bigger than you thought?" I enquired of him.

He glanced at me, shook his head, sighed, and took himself by the
chin again.

"Holy smoke!" said he.

"And you have been building ships for sixty years?" I asked of the
venerable figure beside me.

"And more!" he answered; "and my father built ships hereabouts so
long ago as 1820, and his grandfather before him."

"Back to the times of Nelson and Rodney and Anson," said I, "great
seamen all, who fought great ships! What would they think of this
one, I wonder?"

"That she was a worthy successor," replied the Master Builder,
letting his eyes, so old and wise in ships, wander up and over the
mighty fabric before us. "Yes," he nodded decisively, "she's
worthy--like the men who will fight her one of these days."

"But our enemies and some of our friends rather thought we had
degenerated these latter days," I suggested.

"Ah, well!" said he very quietly, "they know better now, don't you
think?"

"Yes," said I, and again, "Yes."

"Slow starters always," continued he musingly; "but the nation that
can match us in staying power has yet to be born!"

So walking between these two I listened and looked and asked
questions, and of what I heard, and of what I saw I could write much;
but for the censor I might tell of armour-belts of enormous
thickness, of guns of stupendous calibre, of new methods of defence
against sneaking submarine and torpedo attack, and of devices new and
strange; but of these I may neither write nor speak, because of the
aforesaid censor. Suffice it that as the sun sank, we came, all
three, to a jetty whereto a steamboat lay moored, on whose limited
deck were numerous figures, divers of whom beckoned me on.

So with hearty farewells, I stepped aboard the steamboat, whereupon
she snorted and fell suddenly a-quiver as she nosed out into the
broad stream while I stood to wave my hat in farewell.

Side by side they stood, the Captain tall and broad and sailor-like
in his blue and gold--a man of action, bold of eye, hearty of voice,
free of gesture; the other, his silver hair agleam in the setting
sun, a man wise with years, gentle and calm-eyed, my Master Builder.
Thus, as the distance lengthened, I stood watching until presently
they turned, side by side, and so were gone.

Slowly we steamed down the river, a drab, unlovely waterway, but a
wonderful river none the less, whose banks teem with workers where
ships are building--ships by the mile, by the league; ships of all
shapes and of all sizes, ships of all sorts and for many different
purposes. Here are great cargo boats growing hour by hour with
liners great and small; here I saw mile on mile of battleships,
cruisers, destroyers and submarines of strange design with torpedo
boats of uncanny shape; tramp steamers, windjammers, squat colliers
and squatter tugs, these last surely the ugliest craft that ever
wallowed in water. Mine layers were here with mine sweepers and
hospital ships--a heterogeneous collection of well-nigh every kind of
ship that floats.

Some lay finished and ready for launching, others, just begun, were
only a sketch--a hint of what soon would be a ship.

On our right were ships, on our left were ships and more ships, a
long perspective; ships by the million tons--until my eyes grew
a-weary of ships and I went below.

Truly a wonderful river, this, surely in its way the most wonderful
river eyes may see, a sight I shall never forget, a sight I shall
always associate with the stalwart figure of the Captain and the
white hair and venerable form of the Master Builder as they stood
side by side to wave adieu.



VI

THE BATTLE CRUISERS


Beneath the shadow of a mighty bridge I stepped into a very smart
launch manned by sailors in overalls somewhat grimy, and, rising and
falling to the surge of the broad river, we held away for a destroyer
that lay grey and phantom-like, low, rakish, and with speed in every
line of her. As we drew near, her narrow deck looked to my untutored
eye a confused litter of guns, torpedo tubes, guy ropes, cables and
windlasses. Howbeit, I clambered aboard, and ducking under a guy rope
and avoiding sundry other obstructions, shook hands with her
commander, young, clear-eyed and cheery of mien, who presently led me
past a stumpy smokestack and up a perpendicular ladder to the bridge
where, beneath a somewhat flimsy-looking structure, was the wheel,
brass-bound and highly be-polished like all else about this crowded
craft as, notably, the binnacle and certain brass-bound dials, on the
faces whereof one might read such words as: Ahead, Astern, Fast,
Slow, etc. Forward of this was a platform, none too roomy, where was
a gun most carefully wrapped and swaddled in divers cloths,
tarpaulins, etc.--wrapped up with as much tender care as if it had
been a baby, and delicate at that. But, as the commander casually
informed me, they had been out patrolling all night and "it had blown
a little"--wherefore I surmised the cloths and tarpaulins aforesaid.

"I should think," I ventured, observing her sharp lines and slender
build, "I should think she would roll rather frightfully when it does
blow a little?"

"Well, she does a bit," he admitted, "but not so much--Starboard!"
said he, over his shoulder, to the bearded mariner at the wheel.
"Take us round by the _Tiger_."

"Aye, aye, sir!" retorted the bearded one as we began to slide
through the water.

"Yes, she's apt to roll a bit, perhaps, but she's not so bad," he
continued; "besides, you get used to it."

Here he fell to scanning the haze ahead through a pair of binoculars,
a haze through which, as we gathered speed, ghostly shapes began to
loom, portentous shapes that grew and grew upon the sight, turret,
superstructure and embattled mast; here a mighty battle cruiser,
yonder a super-destroyer, one after another, quiet-seeming on this
autumn morning, and yet whose grim hulks held latent potentialities
of destruction and death, as many of them have proved but lately.

As we passed those silent, monstrous shapes, the Commander named them
in turn, names which had been flashed round the earth not so long
ago, names which shall yet figure in the histories to come with
Grenville's _Revenge_, Drake's _Golden Hind_, Blake's _Triumph_,
Anson's _Centurion_, Nelson's _Victory_ and a score of other
deathless names--glorious names that make one proud to be of the
race that manned and fought them.

Peacefully they rode at their moorings, the water lapping gently at
their steel sides, but, as we steamed past, on more than one of them,
and especially the grim _Tiger_, I saw the marks of the Jutland
battle in dinted plate, scarred funnel and superstructure, taken when
for hours on end the dauntless six withstood the might of the German
fleet.

So, as we advanced past these battle-scarred ships, I felt a sense of
awe, that indefinable uplift of soul one is conscious of when
treading with soft and reverent foot the dim aisles of some cathedral
hallowed by time and the dust of our noble dead.

"This afternoon," said the Commander, offering me his cigarette case,
"they're going to show you over the _Warspite_--the German Navy have
sunk her so repeatedly, you know. There," he continued, nodding
towards a fleet of squat-looking vessels with stumpy masts, "those
are the auxiliaries--coal and oil and that sort of thing--ugly
beggars, but useful. How about a whisky and soda?"

Following him down the perpendicular ladder, he brought me aft to a
hole in the deck, a small hole, a round hole into which he proceeded
to insert himself, first his long legs, then his broad shoulders,
evidently by an artifice learned of much practice. Finally his
jauntily be-capped head vanished, and thereafter from the deeps below
his cheery voice reached me.

"I have whisky, sherry and rum--mind your head and take your choice!"

I descended into a narrow chamber divided by a longish table and
flanked by berths with a chest of drawers beneath each. At the
further end of this somewhat small and dim apartment and
northeasterly of the table was a small be-polished stove wherein a
fire burned; in a rack against a bulkhead were some half-dozen
rifles, above our head was a rack for cutlasses, and upon the table
was a decanter of whisky he had unearthed from some mysterious
recess, and he was very full of apologies because the soda had run
out.

So we sat awhile and quaffed and talked, during which he showed me a
favourite rifle, small of bore but of high power and exquisite
balance, at sight of which I straightway broke the tenth commandment.
He also showed me a portrait of his wife (which I likewise admired),
a picture taken by himself and by him developed in some dark nook
aboard.

After this, our whisky being duly despatched, we crawled into the air
again, to find we were approaching a certain jetty. And now, in the
delicate manoeuvre of bringing to and making fast, my companions,
myself and all else were utterly forgotten, as with voice and hand he
issued order on order until, gently as a nesting bird, the destroyer
came to her berth and was made fast. Hereupon, having shaken hands
all round, he handed us over to other naval men as cheery as he, who
in due season brought us to the depôt ship, where luncheon awaited
us.

I have dined in many places and have eaten with many different folk,
but never have I enjoyed a meal more than this, perhaps because of
the padre who presided at my end of the table. A manly cleric this,
bright-eyed, resolute of jaw but humorous of mouth, whose white
choker did but seem to offset the virility of him. A man, I judged,
who preached little and did much--a sailor's padre in very truth.

He told me how, but for an accident, he would have sailed with
Admiral Cradock on his last, ill-fated cruise, where so many died
that Right and Justice might endure.

"Poor chaps!" said I.

"Yes," said he, gently, "and yet it is surely a noble thing to--die
greatly!"

And surely, surely for all those who in cause so just have met Death
unflinching and unafraid, who have taken hold upon that which we call
Life and carried it through and beyond the portals of Death into a
sphere of nobler and greater living--surely to such as these strong
souls the Empire they served so nobly and loved so truly will one
day enshrine them, their memory and deeds, on the brightest, most
glorious page of her history, which shall be a monument more enduring
than brass or stone, a monument that shall never pass away.

So we talked of ships and the sea and of men until, aware that the
company had risen, we rose also, and donning hats and coats, set
forth, talking still. Together we paced beside docks and along piers
that stretched away by the mile, massive structures of granite and
concrete, which had only come into being, so he told me, since the
war.

Side by side we ascended the broad gangway, and side by side we set
foot upon that battle-scarred deck whose timbers, here and there,
showed the whiter patches of newer wood. Here he turned to give me
his hand, after first writing down name and address, and, with mutual
wishes of meeting again, went to his duties and left me to the
wonders of this great ship.

Crossing the broad deck, more spacious it seemed than an ocean liner,
I came where my travelling companions were grouped about a grim
memorial of the Jutland battle, a huge projectile that had struck one
of the after turrets, in the doing of which it had transformed itself
into a great, convoluted disc, and was now mounted as a memento of
that tremendous day.

And here it was I became acquainted with my Midshipmite, who looked
like an angel of sixteen, bore himself like a veteran, and spoke
(when his shyness had worn off a little) like a British fighting man.

To him I preferred the request that he would pilot me over this great
vessel, which he (blushing a little) very readily agreed to do.
Thereafter, in his wake, I ascended stairways, climbed ladders,
wriggled through narrow spaces, writhed round awkward corners, up and
ever up.

"It's rather awkward, I'm afraid, sir," said he in his gentle voice,
hanging from an iron ladder with one hand and a foot, the better to
address me. "You see, we never bring visitors this way as a rule--"

"Good!" said I, crushing my hat on firmer. "The unbeaten track for
me--lead on!"

Onward and upward he led until all at once we reached a narrow
platform, railed round and hung about with plaited rope screens which
he called splinter-mats, over which I had a view of land and water,
of ships and basins, of miles of causeways and piers, none of which
had been in existence before the war. And immediately below me, far,
far down, was the broad white sweep of deck, with the forward turrets
where were housed the great guns whose grim muzzles stared patiently
upwards, nuzzling the air almost as though scenting another battle.

And standing in this coign of vantage, in my mind's eye I saw this
mighty vessel as she had been, the heave of the fathomless sea below,
the whirling battle-smoke about her, the air full of the crashing
thunder of her guns as she quivered 'neath their discharge. I heard
the humming drone of shells coming from afar, a hum that grew to a
wail--a shriek--and the sickening crash as they smote her or threw up
great waterspouts high as her lofty fighting-tops; I seemed to hear
through it all the ring of electric bells from the various
fire-controls, and voices calm and all unshaken by the hellish din
uttering commands down the many speaking-tubes.

"And you," said I, turning to the youthful figure beside me, "you
were in the battle?"

He blushingly admitted that he was.

"And how did you feel?"

He wrinkled his smooth brow and laughed a little shyly.

"Really I--I hardly know, sir."

I asked him if at such times one was not inclined to feel a trifle
shaken, a little nervous, or, might one say, afraid?

"Yes, sir," he agreed politely, "I suppose so--only, you see, we were
all too jolly busy to think about it!"

"Oh!" said I, taking out a cigarette, "too busy! Of course! I see!
And where is the Captain during action, as a rule?"

"As a matter of fact he stood--just where you are, sir. Stood there
the whole six hours it was hottest."

"Here!" I exclaimed. "But it is quite exposed."

My Midshipmite, being a hardy veteran in world-shaking naval battles,
permitted himself to smile.

"But, you see, sir," he gently explained, "it's really far safer out
here than being shut up in a gun-turret or--or down below, on account
of er--er--you understand, sir?"

"Oh, quite!" said I, and thereafter thought awhile, and, receiving
his ready permission, lighted my cigarette. "I think," said I, as we
prepared to descend from our lofty perch, "I'm sure it's
just--er--that kind of thing that brought one Francis Drake out of so
very many tight corners. By the way--do you smoke?"

My Midshipmite blushingly confessed he did, and helped himself from
my case with self-conscious fingers.

Reaching the main deck in due season, I found I had contrived to miss
the Chief Gunner's lecture on the great guns, whereupon who so
agitated and bitterly apologetic as my Midshipmite, who there and
then ushered me hastily down more awkward stairs and through narrow
openings into a place of glistening, gleaming polish and furbishment
where, beside the shining breech of a monster gun, muscular arm
negligently leaning thereon, stood a round-headed, broad-shouldered
man, he the presiding genius of this (as I afterwards found) most
sacred place.

His lecture was ended and he was addressing a few well-chosen closing
remarks in slightly bored fashion (he had showed off his ponderous
playthings to divers kings, potentates and bigwigs at home and
abroad, I learned) when I, though properly awed by the gun but more
especially by the gunner, ventured to suggest that a gun that had
been through three engagements and had been fired so frequently must
necessarily show some signs of wear. The gunner glanced at me, and I
shall never forget that look. With his eyes on mine, he touched a
lever in negligent fashion, whereon silently the great breech slipped
away with a hiss and whistle of air, and with his gaze always fixed
he suggested I might glance down the bore.

Obediently I stooped, whereon he spake on this wise:

"If you cast your heyes to the right abaft the breech you'll observe
slight darkening of riflin's. Now glancin' t'left of piece you'll
per-ceive slight darkening of riflin's. Now casting your heyes right
forrard you'll re-mark slight roughening of riflin's towards muzzle
of piece and--there y'are, sir. One hundred and twenty-seven times
she's been fired by my 'and and good for as many more--both of us.
Arternoon, gentlemen, and--thank ye!"

Saying which he touched a lever in the same negligent fashion, the
mighty breech block slid back into place, and I walked forth humbly
into the outer air.

Here I took leave of my Midshipmite, who stood among a crowd of his
fellows to watch me down the gangplank, and I followed whither I was
led very full of thought, as well I might be, until rousing, I found
myself on the deck of that famous _Warspite_, which our foes are so
comfortably certain lies a shattered wreck off Jutland. Here I
presently fell into discourse with a tall lieutenant, with whom I
went alow and aloft; he showed me cockpit, infirmary and engine-room;
he showed me the wonder of her steering apparatus, and pointed to the
small hand-wheel in the bowels of this huge ship whereby she had been
steered limping into port. He directed my gaze also to divers vast
shell holes and rents in her steel sides, now very neatly mended by
steel plates held in place by many large bolts. Wherever we went were
sailors, by the hundred it seemed, and yet I was struck by the size
and airy spaciousness between decks.

"The strange thing about the Hun," said my companion, as we mounted
upward again, "is that he is so amazingly accurate with his big guns.
Anyway, as we steamed into range he registered direct hits time after
time, and his misses were so close the spray was flying all over us.
Yes, Fritz is wonderfully accurate, but"--here my companion paused to
flick some dust from his braided cuff--"but when we began to knock
him about a bit it was funny how it rattled him--quite funny, you
know. His shots got wider and wider, until they were falling pretty
well a mile wide--very funny!" and the lieutenant smiled dreamily.
"Fritz will shoot magnificently if you only won't shoot back. But
really I don't blame him for thinking he'd sunk us; you see, there
were six of 'em potting away at us at one time--couldn't see us for
spray--"

"And how did you feel just then?" I enquired.

"Oh, rotten! You see I'd jammed my finger in some tackle for one
thing, and just then the light failed us. We'd have bagged the lot
if the light had held a little longer. But next time--who knows? Care
for a cup of tea?"

"Thanks!" I answered. "But where are the others?"

"Oh, by Jove! I fancy your party's gone--I'll see!"

This proving indeed the case, I perforce took my leave, and with a
midshipman to guide me, presently stepped aboard a boat which bore us
back beneath the shadow of that mighty bridge stark against the
evening sky.

Riding citywards through the deepening twilight I bethought me of the
Midshipmite who, amid the roar and tumult of grim battle, had been
"too busy" to be afraid; of the round-headed gunner who, like his
gun, was ready and eager for more, and of the tall lieutenant who,
with death in many awful shapes shrieking and crashing about him,
felt "rotten" by reason of a bruised finger and failing light.

And hereupon I felt proud that I, too, was a Briton, of the same
breed as these mighty ships and the splendid fellows who man
them--these Keepers of the Seas, who in battle as in tempest do their
duty unseen, unheard, because it is their duty.

Therefore, all who are so blest as to live within these isles take
comfort and courage from this--that despite raging tempest and
desperate battle, we, trusting in the justice of our cause, in these
iron men and mighty ships, may rest secure, since truly worthy are
these, both ships and men, of the glorious traditions of the world's
most glorious navy.

But, as they do their duty by Britain and the Empire, let it be our
inestimable privilege as fellow Britons to do our duty as nobly both
to the Empire and--to them.



VII

A HOSPITAL


The departure platform of a great station (for such as have eyes to
see) is always a sad place, but nowadays it is a place of tragedy.

He was tall and thin--a boyish figure--and his khaki-clad arm was
close about her slender form. The hour was early and their corner
bleak and deserted, thus few were by to heed his stiff-lipped,
agonised smile and the passionate clasp of her hands, or to hear her
heartbreaking sobs and his brave words of comfort; and I, shivering
in the early morning wind, hasted on, awed by a grief that made the
grey world greyer.

Very soon London was behind us, and we were whirling through a
countryside wreathed in mist wherein I seemed to see a girl's
tear-wet cheeks and a boy's lips that smiled so valiantly for all
their pitiful quiver; thus I answered my companion somewhat at random
and the waiter's proffer of breakfast was an insult. And, as I stared
out at misty trees and hedgerow I began as it were to sense a
grimness in the very air--the million-sided tragedy of war; behind me
the weeping girl, before me and looming nearer with every mile, the
Somme battle-front.

At a table hard by a group of clear-eyed subalterns were chatting and
laughing over breakfast, and in their merriment I, too, rejoiced. Yet
the grimness was with me still as we rocked and swayed through the
wreathing mist.

But trains, even on a foggy morning, have a way of getting there at
last, so, in due season, were docks and more docks, with the funnels
of ships, and beyond these misty shapes upon a misty sea, the gaunt
outlines of destroyers that were to convoy us Francewards. Hereupon
my companion, K., a hardened traveller, inured to customs, passports
and the like noxious things, led me through a jostling throng, his
long legs striding rapidly when they found occasion, past rank upon
rank of soldiers returning to duty, very neat and orderly, and
looking, I thought, a little grim.

Presently the warps were cast off and very soon we were in the lift
and roll of the Channel; the white cliffs slowly faded, the wind
freshened, and I, observing that every one had donned life belts,
forthwith girded on one of the clumsy contrivances also.

In mid-channel it blew hard and the destroyers seemed to be making
heavy weather of it, now lost in spray, now showing a glistening
height of freeboard, and, as I watched, remembering why they were
there, my cumbrous life belt grew suddenly very comfortable.

Came a growing density on the horizon, a blue streak that slowly and
little by little grew into roofs, chimneys, docks and shipping, and
France was before us, and it was with almost reverent hands that I
laid aside my clumsy cork jacket and was presently on French soil.
And yet, except for a few chattering porters, the air rang with good
English voices hailing each other in cheery greetings, and khaki was
everywhere. But now, as I followed my companion's long legs past
these serried, dun-coloured ranks, it seemed to me that they held
themselves straighter and looked a little more grim even than they
had done in England.

I stood, lost in the busy scene before me, when, hearing K.'s voice,
I turned to be introduced to Captain R., tall, bright-eyed,
immaculate, and very much master of himself and circumstances it
seemed, for, despite crowded customs office, he whisked us through
and thence before sundry officials, who glared at me and my passport,
signed, stamped, returned it and permitted me to go.

After luncheon we drove to a great base hospital where I was
introduced to the Colonel-Surgeon in charge, a quiet man, who took
us readily under his able guidance. And indeed a huge place was this,
a place for me of awe and wonder, the more so as I learned that the
greater part of it had come into being within one short year.

It lies beside the sea, this hospital, where clean winds blow, its
neat roadways are bordered by green lawns and flanked by long, low
buildings that reach away in far perspective, buildings of corrugated
iron, of wood and asbestos, a very city, but one where there is no
riot and rush of traffic, truly a city of peace and brooding
quietude.

And as I looked upon this silent city, my awe grew, for the Colonel,
in his gentle voice, spoke of death and wounds, of shell-shock,
nerve-wrack and insanity; but he told also of wonderful cures, of
miracles performed on those that should have died, and of reason and
sanity won back.

"And you?" I questioned, "have you done many such wonders?"

"Few!" he answered, and sighed. "You see, my duties now are chiefly
administrative," and he seemed gently grieved that it should be so.

He brought us into wards, long, airy and many-windowed, places of
exquisite neatness and order, where calm-faced sisters were busied,
and smart, soft-treading orderlies came and went. Here in white cots
lay many bandaged forms, some who, propped on pillows, watched us
bright-eyed and nodded in cheery greeting; others who lay so
ominously still.

But as I passed between the long rows of cots, I was struck with the
look of utter peace and content on so many of the faces and wondered,
until, remembering the hell whence they had so lately come, I thought
I understood. Thus, bethinking me of how these dire hurts had been
come by, I took off my hat, and trod between these beds of silent
suffering as softly as I could, for these men had surely come "out of
great tribulation."

In another ward I saw numbers of German wounded, most of them
bearded; many there were who seemed weakly and undersized, and among
them were many grey heads, a very motley company. These, the Colonel
informed us, received precisely the same treatment as our own
wounded, even to tobacco and cigarettes.

We followed our soft-voiced conductor through many other wards where
he showed us strange and wondrous devices in splints; he halted us by
hanging beds of weird shape and cots that swung on pulleys; he
descanted on wounds to flesh and bone and brain, of lives snatched
from the grip of Death by the marvels of up-to-date surgery, and as I
listened to his pleasant voice I sensed much of the grim wonders he
left untold. We visited X-ray rooms and operating theatre against
whose walls were glass cases filled with a multitudinous array of
instruments for the saving of life, and here it was I learned that in
certain cases, a chisel, properly handled, was a far more delicate
tool than the finest saw.

"A wonderful place," said I for the hundredth time as we stepped out
upon a trim, green lawn. The Colonel-Surgeon smiled.

"It took some planning," he admitted, "a little while ago it was a
sandy wilderness."

"But these lawns?" I demurred.

"Came to me of their own accord," he answered. "At least, the seed
did, washed ashore from a wreck, so I had it planted and it has done
rather well. Now, what else can I show you? It would take all the
afternoon to visit every ward, and they are all much alike--but there
is the mad ward if you'd care to see that? This way."

A strange place, this, divided into compartments or cubicles where
were many patients in the familiar blue overalls, most of whom rose
and stood at attention as we entered. Tall, soldierly figures they
seemed, and yet with an indefinable something in their looks--a
vagueness of gaze, a loose-lipped, too-ready smile, a vacancy of
expression. Some there were who scowled sullenly enough, others who
sat crouched apart, solitary souls, who, I learned, felt themselves
outcast; others again crouched in corners haunted by the dread of a
pursuing vengeance always at hand.

One such the Colonel accosted, asking what was wrong. The man looked
up, looked down and muttered unintelligibly, whereupon the Sister
spoke.

"He believes that every one thinks him a spy," she explained, and
touched the man's bowed head with a hand as gentle as her voice.

"Shell-shock is a strange thing," said the Colonel-Surgeon, "and
affects men in many extraordinary ways, but seldom permanently."

"You mean that those poor fellows will recover?" I asked.

"Quite ninety per cent," he answered in his quiet, assured voice.

I was shown over laundries complete in every detail; I walked through
clothing stores where, in a single day, six hundred men had been
equipped from head to foot; I beheld large machines for the
sterilisation of garments foul with the grime of battle and other
things.

Truly, here, within the hospital that had grown, mushroom-like,
within the wild, was everything for the alleviation of hurts and
suffering more awful than our fighting ancestors ever had to endure.
Presently I left this place, but now, although a clean, fresh wind
blew and the setting sun peeped out, the world somehow seemed a
grimmer place than ever.

In the Dark Ages, humanity endured much of sin and shame and
suffering, but never such as in this age of Reason and Culture. This
same earth has known evils of every kind, has heard the screams of
outraged innocence, the groan of tortured flesh, and has reddened
beneath the heel of Tyranny; this same sun has seen the smoke and
ravishment of cities and been darkened by the hateful mists of
war--but never such a war as this of cultured barbarity with all its
new devilishness. Shell-shock and insanity, poison gas and slow
strangulation, liquid fire and poison shells. Rape, Murder, Robbery,
Piracy, Slavery--each and every crime is here--never has humanity
endured all these horrors together until now.

But remembering by whose will these evils have been loosed upon the
world, remembering the innocent blood, the bitter tears, the agony of
soul and heartbreak, I am persuaded that Retribution must follow as
sure as to-morrow's dawn. The evil that men do lives after them and
lives on for ever.

Should they, who have worked for and planned this misery, escape the
ephemeral justice of man, there is yet the inexorable tribunal of the
Hereafter, which no transgressor, small or great, humble or mighty,
may in any wise escape.



VIII

THE GUNS


A fine, brisk morning; a long, tree-bordered road dappled with
fugitive sun-beams, making a glory of puddles that leapt in
shimmering spray beneath our flying wheels. A long, straight road
that ran on and on unswerving, uphill and down, beneath tall,
straight trees that flitted past in never-ending procession, and
beyond these a rolling, desolate countryside of blue hills and dusky
woods; and in the air from beyond this wide horizon a sound that rose
above the wind gusts and the noise of our going, a faint whisper that
seemed in the air close about us and yet to be of the vague
distances, a whisper of sound, a stammering murmur, now rising, now
falling, but never quite lost.

In rain-sodden fields to right and left were many figures bent in
diligent labour, men in weatherworn, grey-blue uniforms and
knee-boots, while on the roadside were men who lounged, or sat
smoking cigarettes, rifle across knees and wicked-looking bayonets
agleam, wherefore these many German prisoners toiled with the
unremitting diligence aforesaid.

The road surface improving somewhat we went at speed and, as we
lurched and swayed, the long, straight road grew less deserted. Here
and there transport lorries by ones and twos, then whole convoys
drawn up beside the road, often axle deep in mud, or lumbering
heavily onwards; and ever as we went that ominous, stammering murmur
beyond the horizon grew louder and more distinct.

On we went, through scattered villages alive with khaki-clad figures
with morions cocked at every conceivable angle, past leafy lanes
bright with the wink of long bayonets; through country towns, whose
wide squares and narrow, old-world streets rang with the ordered
tramp of feet, the stamp of horses and rumble of gun wheels, where
ruddy English faces turned to stare and broad khaki backs swung
easily beneath their many accoutrements. And in street and square and
by-street, always and ever was that murmurous stammer of sound more
ominous and threatening, yet which nobody seemed to heed--not even
K., my companion, who puffed his cigarette and "was glad it had
stopped raining."

So, picking our way through streets a-throng with British faces,
dodging guns and limbers, wagons and carts of all descriptions, we
came out upon the open road again. And now, there being no surface at
all to speak of, we perforce went slow, and I watched where, just in
front, a string of lorries lumbered heavily along, pitching and
rolling very much like boats in a choppy sea.

Presently we halted to let a column go by, officers a-horse and
a-foot with the long files behind, but all alike splashed and
spattered with mud. Men, these, who carried their rifles anyhow, who
tramped along, rank upon rank, weary men, who showed among them here
and there grim evidence of battle--rain-sodden men with hair that
clung to muddy brows beneath the sloping brims of muddy helmets; men
who tramped ankle-deep in mud and who sang and whistled blithe as
birds. So they splashed wearily through the mud, upborne in their
fatigue by that indomitable spirit that has always made the Briton
the fighting man he is.

At second speed we toiled along again behind the lorries who were
making as bad weather of it as ever, when all at once I caught my
breath, hearkening to the far, faint skirling of Highland bagpipes,
and, leaning from the car, saw before us a company of Highlanders,
their mud-splashed knees a-swing together, their khaki kilts swaying
in rhythm, their long bayonets a-twinkle, while down the wind came
the regular tramp of their feet and the wild, frenzied wailing of
their pipes. Soon we were up with them, bronzed, stalwart figures,
grim fighters from muddy spatter-dashes to steel helmets, beneath
which eyes turned to stare at us--eyes blue and merry, eyes dark and
sombre--as they swung along to the lilting music of the pipes.

At the rear the stretcher-bearers marched, the rolled-up stretchers
upon their shoulders; but even so, by various dark stains and marks
upon that dingy canvas, I knew that here was a company that had done
and endured much. Close by me was a man whose hairy knee was black
with dried blood--to him I tentatively proffered my cigarette case.

"Wull ye hae one the noo?" I questioned. For a moment he eyed me a
trifle dour and askance, then he smiled (a grave Scots smile).

"Thank ye, I wull that!" said he, and extracted the cigarette with
muddy fingers.

"Ye'll hae a sore leg, I'm thinking!" said I.

"Ou aye," he admitted with the same grave smile, "but it's no sae
muckle as a' that--juist a wee bit skelpit I--"

Our car moved forward, gathered speed, and we bumped and swayed on
our way; the bagpipes shrieked and wailed, grew plaintively soft, and
were drowned and lost in that other sound which was a murmur no
longer, but a rolling, distant thunder, with occasional moments of
silence.

"Ah, the guns at last!" said I.

"Yes," nodded K., lighting another cigarette, "I've been listening to
them for the last hour."

Here my friend F., who happened to be the Intelligence Officer in
charge, leaned forward to say:

"I'm afraid we can't get into Beaumont Hamel, the Boches are strafing
it rather, this morning, but we'll go as near as we can get, and then
on to what was La Boiselle. We shall leave the car soon, so better
get into your tin hats." Forthwith I buckled on one of the morions we
had brought for the purpose and very uncomfortable I found it. Having
made it fairly secure, I turned, grinning furtively, to behold K.'s
classic features crowned with his outlandish-seeming headgear, and
presently caught him grinning furtively at mine.

"They're not so heavy as I expected," said I.

"About half a pound," he suggested.

Pulling up at a shell-shattered village we left the car and trudged
along a shell-torn road, along a battered and rusty railway line, and
presently struck into a desolate waste intersected by sparse
hedgerows and with here and there desolate, leafless trees, many of
which, in shattered trunk and broken bough, showed grim traces of
what had been; and ever as we advanced these ugly scars grew more
frequent, and we were continually dodging sullen pools that were the
work of bursting shells. And then it began to rain again.

On we went, splashing through puddles, slipping in mud, and ever as
we went my boots and my uncomfortable helmet grew heavier and
heavier, while in the heaven above, in the earth below and in the air
about us was the quiver and thunder of unseen guns. As we stumbled
through the muddy desolation I beheld wretched hovels wherein
khaki-clad forms moved, and from one of these damp and dismal
structures a merry whistling issued, with hoarse laughter.

On we tramped, through rain and mud, which, like my helmet, seemed to
grow momentarily heavier.

"K.," said I, as he floundered into a shell hole, "about how heavy
did you say these helmets were?"

"About a pound!" said he, fierce-eyed. "Confound the mud!"

Away to our left and high in air a puff of smoke appeared, a
pearl-grey, fleecy cloud, and as I, unsuspecting, watched it writhe
into fantastic shapes, my ears were smitten with a deafening report,
and instinctively I ducked.

"Shrapnel!" said F., waving his hand in airy introduction. "They're
searching the road yonder I expect--ah, there goes another! Yes,
they're trying the road yonder--but here's the trench--in with you!"

I am free to confess that I entered that trench precipitately--so
hurriedly, in fact, that my helmet fell off, and, as I replaced it, I
was not sorry to see that this trench was very deep and narrow. As we
progressed, very slowly by reason of clinging mud, F. informed us
that this trench had been our old front line before we took Beaumont
Hamel; and I noticed many things, as, clips of cartridges, unexploded
bombs, Lewis-gun magazines, parts of a broken machine gun, and
various odds and ends of accoutrements. In some places this trench
had fallen in because of rain and other things and was almost
impassable, wherefore, after much floundering and splashing, F.
suggested we should climb out again, which we did forthwith, very
moist and muddy.

And thus at last I looked at that wide stretch of country across
which our men had advanced unshaken and undismayed, through a hell
the like of which the world had never known before; and, as I stood
there, I could almost see those long, advancing waves of khaki-clad
figures, their ranks swept by the fire of countless rifles and
machine guns, pounded by high explosives, blasted by withering
shrapnel, lost in the swirling death-mist of poison gas--heroic ranks
which, rent asunder, shattered, torn, yet swung steadily on through
smoke and flame, unflinching and unafraid. As if to make the picture
more real, came the thunderous crash of a shell behind us, but this
time I forgot to duck.

Far in front of us I saw a huge puff of smoke, and as it thinned out
beheld clouds of earth and broken beams that seemed to hang suspended
a moment ere they fell and vanished. After a moment came another puff
of smoke further to our right, and beyond this another, and again,
beyond this, another.

"A battery of heavies," said F.

Even as he spoke the four puffs burst forth again and upon exactly
the same ground.

At this juncture a head appeared over the parapet behind us and after
some talk with F., came one who tendered us a pair of binoculars, by
whose aid I made out the British new line of trenches which had once
been German. So I stood, dry-mouthed, to watch the burst of those
huge shells exploding upon our British line. Fascinated, I stared
until F.'s hand on my arm aroused me, and returning the glasses with
a hazy word of thanks I followed my companions, though often turning
to watch the shooting which now I thought much too good.

And now we were traversing the great battlefield where, not long
since, so many of our bravest had fallen that Britain might still be
Britain. Even yet, upon its torn and trampled surface I could read
something of the fight--here a broken shoulder belt, there a
cartridge pouch, yonder a stained and tattered coat, while everywhere
lay bombs, English and German.

"If you want to see La Boiselle properly we must hurry!" said F., and
off he went at the double with K.'s long legs striding beside him,
but, as for me, I must needs turn for one last look where those
deadly smoke puffs came and went with such awful regularity.

The rain had stopped, but it was three damp and mud-spattered
wretches who clambered back into the waiting car.

"K.," said I, as we removed our cumbrous headgear, "about how much do
you suppose these things weigh?"

"Fully a ton!" he answered, jerking his cap over his eyes and
scowlingly accepting a cigarette.

Very soon the shattered village was far behind and we were threading
a devious course between huge steam-tractors, guns, motor-lorries and
more guns. We passed soldiers a-horse and a-foot and long strings of
ambulance cars; to right and left of the road were artillery parks
and great camps, that stretched away into the distance. Here also
were vast numbers of the ubiquitous motor-lorry with many
three-wheeled tractors for the big guns. We sped past hundreds of
horses picketed in long lines; past countless tents smeared crazily
in various coloured paints; past huts little and huts big; past
swamps knee-deep in mud where muddy men were taking down or setting
up other tents. On we sped through all the confused order of a mighty
army, until, chancing to raise my eyes aloft, I beheld a huge
balloon, which, as I watched, mounted up and up into the air.

"One of our sausages!" said F., gloved hand waving. "Plenty of 'em
round here; see, there's another in that cloud, and beyond it
another."

So for a while I rode with my eyes turned upwards, and thus I
presently saw far ahead many aeroplanes that flew in strange, zigzag
fashion, now swooping low, now climbing high, now twisting and
turning giddily.

"Some of our 'planes under fire!" said F., "you can see the shrapnel
bursting all around 'em--there's the smoke--we call 'em woolly bears.
Won't see any Boche 'planes, though--rather not!"

Amidst all these wonders and marvels our fleet car sped on, jolting
and lurching violently over ruts, pot-holes and the like until we
came to a part of the road where many men were engaged with pick and
shovel; and here, on either side of the highway, I noticed many
grim-looking heaps and mounds--ugly, shapeless dumps, depressing in
their very hideousness. Beside one such unlovely dump our car pulled
up, and F., gloved finger pointing, announced:

"The Church of La Boiselle. That heap you see yonder was once the
Mairie, and beyond, the schoolhouse. The others were houses and
cottages. Oh, La Boiselle was quite a pretty place once. We get out
here to visit the guns--this way."

Obediently I followed whither he led, nothing speaking, for surely
here was matter beyond words. Leaving the road, we floundered over
what seemed like ash heaps, but which had once been German trenches
faced and reinforced by concrete and steel plates. Many of these last
lay here and there, awfully bent and twisted, but of trenches I saw
none save a few yards here and there half filled with indescribable
débris. It was, indeed, a place of horror--a frightful desolation
beyond all words. Everywhere about us were signs of dreadful
death--they came to one in the very air, in lowering heaven and
tortured earth. Far as the eye could reach the ground was pitted with
great shell holes, so close that they broke into one another and
formed horrid pools full of shapeless things within the slime.

Across this hellish waste I went cautiously by reason of torn and
twisted tangles of German barbed wire, of hand grenades and huge
shells, of broken and rusty iron and steel that once were deadly
machine guns. As I picked my way among all this flotsam, I turned to
take up a bayonet, slipped in the slime and sank to my waist in a
shell hole--even then I didn't touch bottom, but scrambled out, all
grey mud from waist down--but I had the bayonet.

It was in this woeful state that I shook hands with the Major of the
battery. And as we stood upon that awful waste, he chattered, I
remember, of books. Then, side by side, we came to the battery--four
mighty howitzers, that crashed and roared and shook the very earth
with each discharge, and whose shells roared through the air with the
rush of a dozen express trains.

Following the Major's directing finger, I fixed my gaze some distance
above the muzzle of the nearest gun and, marvel of marvels, beheld
that dire messenger of death and destruction rush forth, soaring,
upon its way, up and up, until it was lost in cloud. Time after time
I saw the huge shells leap skywards and vanish on their long journey,
and stood thus lost in wonder, and as I watched I could not but
remark on the speed and dexterity with which the crews handled these
monstrous engines.

"Yes," nodded the Major, "strange thing is that a year ago they
_weren't_, you know--guns weren't in existence and the men weren't
gunners--clerks an' all that sort of thing, you know--civilians,
what?"

"They're pretty good gunners now--judging by effect!" said I, nodding
towards the abomination of desolation that had once been a village.

"Rather!" nodded the Major, cheerily, "used to think it took three
long years to make a gunner once--do it in six short months now!
Pretty good going for old England, what? How about a cup of tea in my
dugout?"

But evening was approaching, and having far to go we had perforce to
refuse his hospitality and bid him a reluctant good-by.

"Don't forget to take a peep at the mine craters," said he, and
waving a cheery adieu, vanished into his dugout.

Ten minutes' walk, along the road, and before us rose a jagged mount,
and beyond it another, uncanny hills, seared and cracked and
sinister, up whose steep slopes I scrambled and into whose yawning
depths I gazed in awestruck wonder; so deep, so wide and huge of
circumference, it seemed rather the result of some titanic convulsion
of nature than the handiwork of man.

I could imagine the cataclysmic roar of the explosion, the smoke and
flame of the mighty upheaval and war found for me yet another horror
as I turned and descended the precipitous slope. Now, as I went, I
stumbled over a small mound, then halted all at once, for at one end
of this was a very small cross, rudely constructed and painted white,
and tacked to this a strip of lettered tin, bearing a name and
number, and beneath these the words, "One of the best." So I took off
my hat and stood awhile beside that lonely mound of muddy earth ere I
went my way.

Slowly our car lurched onward through the waste, and presently on
either side the way I saw other such mounds and crosses, by twos and
threes, by fifties, by hundreds, in long rows beyond count. And
looking around me on this dreary desolation I knew that one day
(since nothing dies) upon this place of horror grass would grow and
flowers bloom again; along this now desolate and deserted road people
would come by the thousand; these humble crosses and mounds of muddy
earth would become to all Britons a holy place where so many of our
best and bravest lie, who, undismayed, have passed through the
portals of Death into the fuller, greater, nobler living.

Full of such thoughts I turned for one last look, and then I saw that
the setting sun had turned each one of these humble little crosses
into things of shining glory.



IX

A TRAINING CAMP


The great training camp lay, a rain-lashed wilderness of windy levels
and bleak, sandy hills, range upon range, far as the eye could see,
with never a living thing to break the monotony. But presently, as
our car lurched and splashed upon its way, there rose a sound that
grew and grew, the awesome sound of countless marching feet.

On they came, these marching men, until we could see them by the
hundred, by the thousand, their serried ranks stretching away and
away until they were lost in distance. Scots were here, Lowland and
Highland; English and Irish were here, with bronzed New Zealanders,
adventurous Canadians and hardy Australians; men, these, who had come
joyfully across half the world to fight, and, if need be, die for
those ideals which have made the Empire assuredly the greatest and
mightiest this world has ever known. And as I listened to the
rhythmic tramp of these countless feet, it seemed like the voice of
this vast Empire proclaiming to the world that Wrong and Injustice
must cease among the nations; that man, after all, despite all the
"Frightfulness" that warped intelligence may conceive, is yet
faithful to the highest in him, faithful to that deathless,
purposeful determination that Right shall endure, the abiding belief
of which has brought him through the dark ages, through blood and
misery and shame, on his progress ever upward.

So, while these men of the Empire tramped past through blinding rain
and wind, our car stopped before a row of low-lying wooden buildings,
whence presently issued a tall man in rain-sodden trench cap and
burberry, who looked at me with a pair of very dark, bright eyes and
gripped my hand in hearty clasp.

He was apologetic because of the rain, since, as he informed us, he
had just ordered all men to their quarters, and thus I should see
nothing doing in the training line; nevertheless he cheerfully
offered to show us over the camp, despite mud and wind and rain, and
to explain things as fully as he could; whereupon we as cheerfully
accepted.

The wind whistled about us, the rain pelted us, but the Major heeded
it nothing--neither did I--while K. loudly congratulated himself on
having come in waders and waterproof hat, as, through mud and mire,
through puddles and clogging sand, we followed the Major's long
boots, crossing bare plateaux, climbing precipitous slopes, leaping
trenches, slipping and stumbling, while ever the Major talked,
wherefore I heeded not wind or rain, for the Major talked well.

He descanted on the new and horribly vicious methods of bayonet
fighting--the quick thrust and lightning recovery; struggling with me
upon a sandy, rain-swept height, he showed me how, in wrestling for
your opponent's rifle, the bayonet is the thing. He halted us before
devilish contrivances of barbed wire, each different from the other,
but each just as ugly. He made us peep through loopholes, each and
every different from the other, yet each and every skilfully hidden
from an enemy's observation. We stood beside trenches of every shape
and kind while he pointed out their good and bad points; he brought
us to a place where dummy figures had been set up, their rags
a-flutter, forlorn objects in the rain.

"Here," said he, "is where we teach 'em to throw live bombs--you can
see where they've been exploding; dummies look a bit off-colour,
don't they?" And he pointed to the ragged scarecrows with his whip.
"You know, I suppose," he continued, "that a Mills' bomb is quite
safe until you take out the pin, and then it is quite safe as long as
you hold it, but the moment it is loosed the lever flies off, which
releases the firing lever and in a few seconds it explodes. It is
surprising how men vary; some are born bombers, some soon learn, but
some couldn't be bombers if they tried--not that they're cowards,
it's just a case of mentality. I've seen men take hold of a bomb,
pull out the pin, and then stand with the thing clutched in their
fingers, absolutely unable to move! And there they'd stand till Lord
knows when if the Sergeant didn't take it from them. I remember a
queer case once. We were saving the pins to rig up dummy bombs, and
the order was: 'Take the bomb in your right hand, remove the pin, put
the pin in your pocket, and at the word of command, throw the bomb.'
Well, this particular fellow was so wrought up that he threw away the
pin and put the bomb in his pocket!"

"Was he killed?" I asked.

"No. The sergeant just had time to dig the thing out of the man's
pocket and throw it away. Bomb exploded in the air and knocked 'em
both flat."

"Did the sergeant get the V.C. or M.C. or anything?" I enquired.

The Major smiled and shook his head.

"I have a good many sergeants here and they can't all have 'em! Now
come and see my lecture theatres."

Presently, looming through the rain, I saw huge circular structures
that I could make nothing of, until, entering the larger of the two,
I stopped in surprise, for I looked down into a huge, circular
amphitheatre, with circular rows of seats descending tier below tier
to a circular floor of sand, very firm and hard.

"All made out of empty oil cans!" said the Major, tapping the nearest
can with his whip. "I have 'em filled with sand and stacked as you
see!--good many thousands of 'em here. Find it good for sound
too--shout and try! This place holds about five thousand men--"

"Whose wonderful idea was this?"

"Oh, just a little wheeze of my own. Now, how about the poison gas;
feel like going through it?"

I glanced at K., K. glanced at me. I nodded, so did K.

"Certainly!" said I. Wherefore the Major led us over sandy hills and
along sandy valleys and so to a dingy and weatherworn hut, in whose
dingy interior we found a bright-faced subaltern in dingy uniform and
surrounded by many dingy boxes and a heterogeneous collection of
things. The subaltern was busy at work on a bomb with a penknife,
while at his elbow stood a sergeant grasping a screwdriver, who,
perceiving the Major, came to attention, while the cheery sub. rose,
beaming.

"Can you give us some gas?" enquired the Major, after we had been
introduced, and had shaken hands.

"Certainly, sir!" nodded the cheerful sub. "Delighted!"

"You might explain something about it, if you will," suggested the
Major. "Bombs and gas is your line, you know."

The sub. beamed, and giving certain directions to his sergeant, spake
something on this wise.

"Well, 'Frightful Fritz'--I mean the Boches, y'know, started bein'
frightful some time ago, y'know--playin' their little tricks with
gas an' tear-shells an' liquid fire an' that, and we left 'em to it.
Y'see, it wasn't cricket--wasn't playin' the game--what! But Fritz
kept at it and was happy as a bird, till one day we woke up an'
started bein' frightful too, only when we did begin we were
frightfuller than ever Fritz thought of bein'--yes, rather! Our gas
is more deadly, our lachrymatory shells are more lachrymose an' our
liquid fire's quite tophole--won't go out till it burns out--rather
not! So Frightful Fritz is licked at his own dirty game. I've tried
his and I've tried ours, an' I know."

Here the sergeant murmured deferentially into the sub.'s ear,
whereupon he beamed again and nodded.

"Everything's quite ready!" he announced, "so if you're on?"

Here, after a momentary hesitation, I signified I was, whereupon our
sub. grew immensely busy testing sundry ugly, grey flannel gas
helmets, fitted with staring eye-pieces of talc and with a hideous
snout in front.

Having duly fitted on these clumsy things and buttoned them well
under our coat collars, having shown us how we must breathe out
through the mouthpiece which acts as a kind of exhaust, our sub.
donned his own headpiece, through which his cheery voice reached me
in muffled tones:

"You'll feel a kind of ticklin' feelin' in the throat at first, but
that's all O.K.--only the chemical the flannel's saturated with. Now
follow me, please, an' would you mind runnin', the rain's apt to
weaken the solution. This way!"

Dutifully we hasted after him, ploughing through the wet sand, until
we came to a heavily timbered doorway that seemingly opened into the
hillside, and, beyond this yawning doorway I saw a thick,
greenish-yellow mist, a fog exactly the colour of strong absinthe;
and then we were in it. K.'s tall figure grew blurred, indistinct,
faded utterly away, and I was alone amid that awful, swirling vapour
that held death in such agonising form.

I will confess I was not happy, my throat was tickling provokingly,
I began to cough and my windpipe felt too small. I hastened forward,
but, even as I went, the light grew dimmer and the swirling fog more
dense. I groped blindly, began to run, stumbled, and in that moment
my hand came in contact with an unseen rope. On I went into gloom,
into blackness, until I was presently aware of my companions in front
and mightily glad of it. In a while, still following this invisible
rope, we turned a corner, the fog grew less opaque, thinned away to a
green mist, and we were out in the daylight again, and thankful was I
to whip off my stifling helmet and feel the clean wind in my hair and
the beat of rain upon my face.

"Notice the ticklin' feelin'?" enquired our sub., as he took our
helmets and put them carefully by. "Bit tryin' at first, but you soon
get used to it--yes, rather. Some of the men funk tryin' at
first--and some hold their breath until they fairly well burst, an'
some won't go in at all, so we carry 'em in. That gas you've tried is
about twenty times stronger than we get it in the open, but these
helmets are a rippin' dodge till the chemical evaporates, then, of
course, they're no earthly. This is the latest device--quite a
tophole scheme!" And he showed us a box-like contrivance which, when
in use, is slung round the neck.

"Are you often in the gas?" I enquired.

"Every day--yes, rather!"

"For how long?"

"Well, I stayed in once for five hours on end--"

"Five hours!" I exclaimed, aghast.

"Y'see, I was experimentin'!"

"And didn't you feel any bad effects?"

"Yes, rather! I was simply dyin' for a smoke. Like to try a
lachrymatory?" he enquired, reaching up to a certain dingy box.

"Yes," said I, glancing at K. "Oh, yes, if--"

"Only smart for the time bein'," our sub. assured me. "Make you weep
a bit!" Here from the dingy box he fished a particularly
vicious-looking bomb and fell to poking at it with a screwdriver. I
immediately stepped back. So did K. The Major pulled his moustache
and flicked a chunk of mud from his boot with his whip.

"Er--I suppose that thing's all right?" he enquired.

"Oh, yes, quite all right, sir, quite all right," nodded the sub.,
using the screwdriver as a hammer. "Only wants a little fixin'."

As I watched that deadly thing, for the second time I felt distinctly
unhappy; however, the refractory pin, or whatever it was, being fixed
to his satisfaction, our sub. led the way out of the dingy hut and
going some few paces ahead, paused.

"I'm goin' to give you a liquid-fire bomb first!" said he. "Watch!"

He drew back his hand and hurled the bomb. Almost immediately there
was a shattering report and the air was full of thick, grey smoke and
yellow flame, smoke that rolled heavily along the ground towards us,
flame that burned ever fiercer, fiery yellow tongues that leapt from
the sand here and there, that writhed in the wind-gusts, but never
diminished.

"Stoop down!" cried the sub., suiting the action to word, "stoop down
and get a mouthful of that smoke--makes you jolly sick and
unconscious in no time if you get enough of it. Tophole bomb,
that--what!"

Then he brought us where those yellow flames leapt and hissed; some
of these he covered with wet sand, and lo! they had ceased to be; but
the moment the sand was kicked away up they leapt again fiercer than
ever.

"We use 'em for bombing Boche dugouts now!" said he; and remembering
the dugouts I had seen, I could picture the awful fate of those
within, the choking fumes, the fire-scorched bodies! Truly the
exponents of Frightfulness have felt the recoil of their own vile
methods.

"This is a lachrymatory!" said the sub., whisking another bomb from
his pocket. "When it pops, run forward and get in the smoke. It'll
sting a bit, but don't rub the tears away--let 'em flow. Don't touch
your eyes, it'll only inflame 'em--just weep! Ready? One, two,
three!" A second explosion louder than the first, a puff of blue
smoke into which I presently ran and then uttered a cry. So sharp, so
excruciating was the pain, that instinctively I raised hand to eyes
but checked myself, and with tears gushing over my cheeks, blind and
agonised, I stumbled away from that hellish vapour. Very soon the
pain diminished, was gone, and looking up through streaming tears I
beheld the sub. nodding and beaming approval.

"Useful things, eh?" he remarked. "A man can't shed tears and shoot
straight, an' he can't weep and fight well, both at the same
time--what? Fritz can be very frightful, but we can be more so when
we want--yes, rather. The Boches have learned that there's no
monopoly in Frightfulness."

In due season we shook hands with our cheery sub., and left him
beaming after us from the threshold of the dingy hut.

Britain has been called slow, old-fashioned, and behind the times,
but to-day she is awake and at work to such mighty purpose that her
once small army is now numbered by the million, an army second to
none in equipment or hardy and dauntless manhood.

From her Home Counties, from her Empire beyond the Seas, her millions
have arisen, brothers in arms henceforth, bonded together by a spirit
of noble self-sacrifice--men grimly determined to suffer wounds and
hardship and death itself, that for those who come after them, the
world may be a better place and humanity may never again be called
upon to endure all the agony and heartbreak of this generation.



X

ARRAS


It was raining, and a chilly wind blew as we passed beneath a
battered arch into the tragic desolation of Arras.

I have seen villages pounded by gun-fire into hideous mounds of dust
and rubble, their very semblance blasted utterly away; but Arras,
shell-torn, scarred, disfigured for all time, is a city still--a City
of Desolation. Her streets lie empty and silent, her once pleasant
squares are a dreary desolation, her noble buildings, monuments of
her ancient splendour, are ruined beyond repair. Arras is a dead
city, whose mournful silence is broken only by the intermittent
thunder of the guns.

Thus, as I paced these deserted streets where none moved save myself
(for my companions had hastened on), as I gazed on ruined buildings
that echoed mournfully to my tread, what wonder that my thoughts were
gloomy as the day itself? I paused in a street of fair, tall houses,
from whose broken windows curtains of lace, of plush, and tapestry
flapped mournfully in the chill November wind like rags upon a
corpse, while from some dim interior came the hollow rattle of a
door, and, in every gust, a swinging shutter groaned despairingly on
rusty hinge.

And as I stood in this narrow street, littered with the brick and
masonry of desolate homes, and listened to these mournful sounds, I
wondered vaguely what had become of all those for whom this door had
been wont to open, where now were the eyes that had looked down from
these windows many and many a time--would they ever behold again this
quiet, narrow street, would these scarred walls echo again to those
same voices and ring with joy of life and familiar laughter?

And now this desolate city became as it were peopled with the souls
of these exiles; they flitted ghostlike in the dimness behind
flapping curtains, they peered down through closed jalousies--wraiths
of the men and women and children who had lived and loved and played
here before the curse of the barbarian had driven them away.

And, as if to help this illusion, I saw many things that were
eloquent of these vanished people--glimpses through shattered windows
and beyond demolished house-fronts; here a table set for dinner, with
plates and tarnished cutlery on a dingy cloth that stirred damp and
lazily in the wind, yonder a grand piano, open and with sodden music
drooping from its rest; here again chairs drawn cosily together.

Wherever I looked were evidences of arrested life, of action suddenly
stayed; in one bedroom a trunk open, with a pile of articles beside
it in the act of being packed; in another, a great bed, its sheets
and blankets tossed askew by hands wild with haste; while in a room
lined with bookcases a deep armchair was drawn up to the hearth,
with a small table whereon stood a decanter and a half-emptied glass,
and an open book whose damp leaves stirred in the wind, now and then,
as if touched by phantom fingers. Indeed, more than once I marvelled
to see how, amid the awful wreckage of broken floors and tumbled
ceilings, delicate vases and chinaware had miraculously escaped
destruction. Upon one cracked wall a large mirror reflected the ruin
of a massive carved sideboard, while in another house, hard by, a
magnificent ivory and ebony crucifix yet hung above an awful twisted
thing that had been a brass bedstead.

Here and there, on either side this narrow street, ugly gaps showed
where houses had once stood, comfortable homes, now only unsightly
heaps of rubbish, a confusion of broken beams and rafters, amid which
divers familiar objects obtruded themselves, broken chairs and
tables, a grandfather clock, and a shattered piano whose melody was
silenced for ever.

Through all these gloomy relics of a vanished people I went
slow-footed and heedless of direction, until by chance I came out
into the wide Place and saw before me all that remained of the
stately building which for centuries had been the Hotel de Ville, now
nothing but a crumbling ruin of noble arch and massive tower; even
so, in shattered façade and mullioned window one might yet see
something of that beauty which had made it famous.

Oblivious of driving rain I stood bethinking me of this ancient city:
how in the dark ages it had endured the horrors of battle and siege,
had fronted the catapults of Rome, heard the fierce shouts of
barbarian assailants, known the merciless savagery of religious wars,
and remained a city still only for the cultured barbarian of to-day
to make of it a desolation.

Very full of thought I turned away, but, as I crossed the desolate
square, I was aroused by a voice that hailed me, seemingly from
beneath my feet, a voice that echoed eerily in that silent Place.
Glancing about I beheld a beshawled head that rose above the littered
pavement, and, as I stared, the head nodded and smiling wanly,
accosted me again.

Coming thither I looked into a square opening with a flight of steps
leading down into a subterranean chamber, and upon these steps a
woman sat knitting busily. She enquired if I wished to view the
catacombs, and pointed where a lamp burned above another opening and
other steps descended lower yet, seemingly into the very bowels of
the earth. To her I explained that my time was limited and all I
wished to see lay above ground, and from her I learned that some few
people yet remained in ruined Arras, who, even as she, lived
underground, since every day at irregular intervals the enemy fired
into the town haphazard. Only that very morning, she told me, another
shell had struck the poor Hotel de Ville, and she pointed to a new,
white scar upon the shapeless tower. She also showed me an ugly rent
upon a certain wall near by, made by the shell which had killed her
husband. Yes, she lived all alone now, she told me, waiting for that
good day when the Boches should be driven beyond the Rhine, waiting
until the townsfolk should come back and Arras wake to life again:
meantime she knitted.

Presently I saluted this solitary woman, and, turning away, left her
amid the desolate ruin of that once busy square, her beshawled head
bowed above feverishly busy fingers, left her as I had found
her--waiting.

And now as I traversed those deserted streets it seemed that this
seemingly dead city did but swoon after all, despite its many
grievous wounds, for here was life even as the woman had said;
evidences of which I saw here and there, in battered stovepipes that
had writhed themselves snake-like through rusty cellar gratings and
holes in wall or pavement, miserable contrivances at best, whose
fumes blackened the walls whereto they clung. Still, nowhere was
there sound or sight of folk save in one small back street, where, in
a shop that apparently sold everything, from pickles to picture
postcards, two British soldiers were buying a pair of braces from a
smiling, haggard-eyed woman, and being extremely polite about it in
cryptic Anglo-French; and here I foregathered with my companions. Our
way led us through the railway station, a much-battered ruin, its
clock tower half gone, its platforms cracked and splintered, the iron
girders of its great, domed roof bent and twisted, and with never a
sheet of glass anywhere. Between the rusty tracks grass and weeds
grew and flourished, and the few waybills and excursion placards
which still showed here and there looked unutterably forlorn. In the
booking office was a confusion of broken desks, stools and overthrown
chairs, the floor littered with sodden books and ledgers, but the
racks still held thousands of tickets, bearing so many names they
might have taken any one anywhere throughout fair France once, but
now, it seemed, would never take any one anywhere.

All at once, through the battered swing doors, marched a company of
soldiers, the tramp of their feet and the lilt of their voices
filling the place with strange echoes, for, being wet and weary and
British, they sang cheerily. Packs a-swing, rifles on shoulder, they
tramped through shell-torn waiting room and booking hall and out
again into wind and wet, and I remember the burden of their chanting
was: "Smile! Smile! Smile!"

In a little while I stood amid the ruins of the great cathedral; its
mighty pillars, chipped and scarred, yet rose high in air, but its
long aisles were choked with rubble and fallen masonry, while through
the gaping rents of its lofty roof the rain fell, wetting the
shattered heap of particoloured marble that had been the high altar
once. Here and there, half buried in the débris at my feet, I saw
fragments of memorial tablets, a battered corona, the twisted remains
of a great candelabrum, and over and through this mournful ruin a
cold and rising wind moaned fitfully. Silently we clambered back over
the mountain of débris and hurried on, heedless of the devastation
around, heartsick with the gross barbarity of it all.

They tell me that churches and cathedrals must of necessity be
destroyed since they generally serve as observation posts. But I have
seen many ruined churches--usually beautified by Time and hallowed by
tradition--that by reason of site and position could never have been
so misused--and then there is the beautiful Chateau d'Eau!

Evening was falling, and as the shadows stole upon this silent city,
a gloom unrelieved by any homely twinkle of light, these dreadful
streets, these stricken homes took on an aspect more sinister and
forbidding in the half-light. Behind those flapping curtains were
pits of gloom full of unimagined terrors whence came unearthly
sounds, stealthy rustlings, groans and sighs and sobbing voices. If
ghosts did flit behind those crumbling walls, surely they were very
sad and woeful ghosts.

"Damn this rain!" murmured K. gently.

"And the wind!" said F., pulling up his collar. "Listen to it! It's
going to play the very deuce with these broken roofs and things if it
blows hard. Going to be a beastly night, and a forty-mile drive in
front of us. Listen to that wind! Come on--let's get away!"

Very soon, buried in warm rugs, we sped across dim squares, past
wind-swept ruins, under battered arch, and the dismal city was behind
us, but, for a while, her ghosts seemed all about us still.

As we plunged on through the gathering dark, past rows of trees that
leapt at us and were gone, it seemed to me that the soul of Arras was
typified in that patient, solitary woman who sat amid desolate
ruin--waiting for the great Day; and surely her patience cannot go
unrewarded. For since science has proved that nothing can be utterly
destroyed, since I for one am convinced that the soul of man through
death is but translated into a fuller and more infinite living, so
do I think that one day the woes of Arras shall be done away, and she
shall rise again, a City greater perhaps and fairer than she was.



XI

THE BATTLEFIELDS


To all who sit immune, far removed from war and all its horrors, to
those to whom when Death comes, he comes in shape as gentle as he
may--to all such I dedicate these tales of the front.

How many stories of battlefields have been written of late, written
to be scanned hastily over the breakfast table or comfortably lounged
over in an easy-chair, stories warranted not to shock or disgust,
wherein the reader may learn of the glorious achievements of our
armies, of heroic deeds and noble self-sacrifice, so that frequently
I have heard it said that war, since it produces heroes, is a goodly
thing, a necessary thing.

Can the average reader know or even faintly imagine the other side
of the picture? Surely not, for no clean human mind can compass all
the horror, all the brutal, grotesque obscenity of a modern
battlefield. Therefore I propose to write plainly, briefly, of that
which I saw on my last visit to the British front; for since in
blood-sodden France men are dying even as I pen these lines, it seems
only just that those of us for whom they are giving their lives
should at least know something of the manner of their dying. To this
end I visited four great battlefields and I would that all such as
cry up war, its necessity, its inevitability, might have gone beside
me. Though I have sometimes written of war, yet I am one that hates
war, one to whom the sight of suffering and bloodshed causes physical
pain, yet I forced myself to tread those awful fields of death and
agony, to look upon the ghastly aftermath of modern battle, that, if
it be possible, I might by my testimony in some small way help those
who know as little of war as I did once, to realise the horror of it,
that loathing it for the hellish thing it is, they may, one and all,
set their faces against war henceforth, with an unshakeable
determination that never again shall it be permitted to maim, to
destroy and blast out of being the noblest works of God.

What I write here I set down deliberately, with no idea of
phrase-making, of literary values or rounded periods; this is and
shall be a plain, trite statement of fact.

And now, one and all, come with me in spirit, lend me your mind's
eyes, and see for yourselves something of what modern war really is.

Behold then a stretch of country--a sea of mud far as the eye can
reach, a grim desolate expanse, its surface ploughed and churned by
thousands of high-explosive shells into ugly holes and tortured heaps
like muddy waves struck motionless upon this muddy sea. The guns are
silent, the cheers and frenzied shouts, the screams and groans have
long died away, and no sound is heard save the noise of my own going.

The sun shone palely and a fitful wind swept across the waste, a
noxious wind, cold and dank, that chilled me with a sudden dread even
while the sweat ran from me. I walked amid shell craters, sometimes
knee-deep in mud; I stumbled over rifles half buried in the slime, on
muddy knapsacks, over muddy bags half full of rusty bombs, and so
upon the body of a dead German soldier. With arms wide-flung and
writhen legs grotesquely twisted he lay there beneath my boot, his
head half buried in the mud, even so I could see that the maggots had
been busy, though the ....[1] had killed them where they clung. So
there he lay, this dead Boche, skull gleaming under shrunken scalp,
an awful, eyeless thing, that seemed to start, to stir and shiver as
the cold wind stirred his muddy clothing. Then nausea and a deadly
faintness seized me, but I shook it off, and shivering, sweating,
forced myself to stoop and touch that awful thing, and, with the
touch, horror and faintness passed, and in their place I felt a deep
and passionate pity, for all he was a Boche, and with pity in my
heart I turned and went my way.

[Footnote 1: Deleted by censor. J. F.]

But now, wherever I looked were other shapes, that lay in attitudes
frightfully contorted, grotesque and awful. Here the battle had raged
desperately. I stood in a very charnel-house of dead. From a mound of
earth upflung by a bursting shell a clenched fist, weather-bleached
and pallid, seemed to threaten me; from another emerged a pair of
crossed legs with knees up-drawn, very like the legs of one who dozes
gently on a hot day. Hard by, a pair of German knee-boots topped a
shell crater, and drawing near, I saw the grey-green breeches, belt
and pouches, and beyond--nothing but unspeakable corruption. I
started back in horror and stepped on something that yielded
underfoot--glanced down and saw a bloated, discoloured face, that,
even as I looked, vanished beneath my boot and left a bare and
grinning skull.

Once again the faintness seized me, and lifting my head I stared
round about me and across the desolation of this hellish waste. Far
in the distance was the road where men moved to and fro, busy with
picks and shovels, and some sang and some whistled and never sound
more welcome. Here and there across these innumerable shell holes,
solitary figures moved, men, these, who walked heedfully and with
heads down-bent. And presently I moved on, but now, like these
distant figures, I kept my gaze upon that awful mud lest again I
should trample heedlessly on something that had once lived and loved
and laughed. And they lay everywhere, here stark and stiff, with no
pitiful earth to hide their awful corruption--here again, half buried
in slimy mud; more than once my nailed boot uncovered mouldering
tunic or things more awful. And as I trod this grisly place my pity
grew, and with pity a profound wonder that the world with its so many
millions of reasoning minds should permit such things to be, until I
remembered that few, even the most imaginative, could realise the
true frightfulness of modern men-butchering machinery, and my wonder
changed to a passionate desire that such things should be recorded
and known, if only in some small measure, wherefore it is I write
these things.

I wandered on past shell holes, some deep in slime, that held
nameless ghastly messes, some a-brim with bloody water, until I came
where three men lay side by side, their hands upon their levelled
rifles. For a moment I had the foolish thought that these men were
weary and slept, until, coming near, I saw that these had died by the
same shell-burst. Near them lay yet another shape, a mangled heap,
one muddy hand yet grasping muddy rifle, while, beneath the other lay
the fragment of a sodden letter--probably the last thing those dying
eyes had looked upon.

Death in horrible shape was all about me. I saw the work wrought by
shrapnel, by gas, and the mangled red havoc of high explosive. I only
seemed unreal, like one that walked in a nightmare. Here and there
upon this sea of mud rose the twisted wreckage of aeroplanes, and
from where I stood I counted five, but as I tramped on and on these
five grew to nine. One of these lying upon my way I turned aside to
glance at, and stared through a tangle of wires into a pallid thing
that had been a face once comely and youthful; the leather jacket had
been opened at the neck for the identity disc, as I suppose, and
glancing lower, I saw that this leather jacket was discoloured,
singed, burnt--and below this, a charred and unrecognisable mass.

Is there a man in the world to-day who, beholding such horrors, would
not strive with all his strength to so order things that the hell of
war should be made impossible henceforth? Therefore, I have recorded
in some part what I have seen of war.

So now, all of you who read, I summon you in the name of our common
humanity, let us be up and doing. Americans--Anglo-Saxons, let our
common blood be a bond of brotherhood between us henceforth, a bond
indissoluble. As you have now entered the war, as you are now our
allies in deed as in spirit, let this alliance endure hereafter.
Already there is talk of some such League, which, in its might and
unity, shall secure humanity against any recurrence of the evils the
world now groans under. Here is a noble purpose, and I conceive it
the duty of each one of us, for the sake of those who shall come
after, that we should do something to further that which was once
looked upon as only an Utopian dream--the universal Brotherhood of
Man.

     "The flowers o' the forest are a' faded away."

Far and wide they lie, struck down in the flush of manhood, full of
the joyous, unconquerable spirit of youth. Who knows what noble
ambitions once were theirs, what splendid works they might not have
wrought? Now they lie, each poor, shattered body a mass of loathsome
corruption. Yet that diviner part, that no bullet may slay, no steel
rend or mar, has surely entered into the fuller living, for Death is
but the gateway into Life and infinite possibilities.

But, upon all who sit immune, upon all whom as yet this bitter war
has left untouched, is the blood of these that died in the cause of
humanity, the cause of Freedom for us and the generations to come,
this blood is upon each one of us--consecrating us to the task they
have died to achieve, and it is our solemn duty to see that the
wounds they suffered, the deaths they died, have not been, and shall
not be, in vain.



XII

FLYING MEN


A few short years ago flying was in its experimental stage; to-day,
though man's conquest of the air is yet a dream unrealised, it has
developed enormously and to an amazing degree; to-day, flying is one
of the chief factors of this world war, both on sea and land. Upon
the Western front alone there are thousands upon thousands of
aeroplanes--monoplanes and biplanes--of hundreds of different makes
and designs, of varying shapes and many sizes. I have seen giants
armed with batteries of swivel guns and others mounting veritable
cannon. Here are huge bomb-dropping machines with a vast wing spread;
solid, steady-flying machines for photographic work, and the light,
swift-climbing, double-gunned battle-planes, capable of mounting two
thousand feet a minute and attaining a speed of two hundred
kilometres. Of these last they are building scores a week at a
certain factory I visited just outside Paris, and this factory is
but one of many. But the men (or rather, youths) who fly these
aerial marvels--it is of these rather than the machines that I would
tell, since of the machines I can describe little even if I would; but
I have watched them hovering unconcernedly (and quite contemptuous
of the barking attention of "Archie") above white shrapnel
bursts--fleecy, innocent-seeming puffs of smoke that go by the name
of "woolly bears." I have seen them turn and hover and swoop, swift
and graceful as great eagles. I have watched master pilots of both
armies, English and French, perform soul-shaking gyrations high in
air, feats quite impossible hitherto and never attempted until
lately. There is now a course of aerial gymnastics which every flier
must pass successfully before he may call himself a "chasing" pilot;
and, from what I have observed, it would seem that to become a pilot
one must be either all nerve or possess no nerve at all.

Conceive a biplane, thousands of feet aloft, suddenly flinging its
nose up and beginning to climb vertically as if intending to loop the
loop; conceive of its pausing suddenly and remaining, for perhaps a
full minute, poised thus upon its tail--absolutely perpendicular.
Then, the engines switched off, conceive of it falling helplessly,
tail first, reversing suddenly and plunging earthwards, spinning
giddily round and round very like the helpless flutter of a falling
leaf. Then suddenly, the engine roars again, the twisting,
fluttering, dead thing becomes instinct with life, rights itself
majestically on flashing pinions, swoops down in swift and headlong
course, and turning, mounts the wind and soars up and up as light, as
graceful, as any bird.

Other nerve-shattering things they do, these soaring young demigods
of the air, feats so marvellous to such earth-bound ones as
myself--feats indeed so wildly daring it would seem no ordinary
human could ever hope to attain unto. But in and around Paris and at
the front, I have talked with, dined with, and known many of these
bird-men, both English, French and American, and have generally found
them very human indeed, often shy, generally simple and unaffected,
and always modest of their achievements and full of admiration for
seamen and soldiers, and heartily glad that their lives are not
jeopardised aboard ships, or submarines, or in muddy trenches; which
sentiment I have heard fervently expressed--not once, but many times.
Surely the mentality of the flier is beyond poor ordinary
understanding!

It was with some such thought in my mind that with my friend N., a
well-known American correspondent, I visited one of our flying
squadrons at the front. The day was dull and cloudy, and N., deep
versed and experienced in flying and matters pertaining thereto,
shook doubtful head.

"We shan't see much to-day," he opined, "low visibility--_plafond_
only about a thousand!" Which cryptic sentence, by dint of
pertinacious questioning, I found to mean that the clouds were about
a thousand feet from earth and that it was misty. "_Plafond_", by the
way, is aeronautic for cloud strata. Thus I stood with my gaze lifted
heavenward until the Intelligence Officer joined us with a youthful
flight-captain, who, having shaken hands, looked up also and stroked
a small and very young moustache. And presently he spoke as nearly as
I remember on this wise:

"About twelve hundred! Rather rotten weather for our
business--expecting some new machines over, too."

"Has your squadron been out lately?" I enquired (I have the gift of
enquiry largely developed).

"Rather! Lost four of our chaps yesterday--'Archie' got 'em. Rotten
bad luck!"

"Are they--hurt?" I asked.

"Well, we know two are all right, and one we think is, but the
other--rather a pal of mine--"

"Do you often lose fellows?"

"Off and on--you see, we're a fighting squadron--must take a bit of
risk now and then--it's the game, y'know!"

He brought me where stood biplanes and monoplanes of all sizes and
designs, and paused beside a two-seater, gunned fore and aft, and
with ponderous, wide-flung wings.

"This," he explained, "is an old battle-plane, quite a veteran
too--jolly old bus in its way, but too slow; it's a 'pusher', you
see, and 'tractors' are all the go. We're having some over
to-day--tophole machines." Here ensued much technical discussion
between him and N. as to the relative merits of traction and
propulsion.

"Have you had many air duels?" I enquired at last, as we wandered on
through a maze of wheels and wings and propellers.

"Oh, yes, one or two," he admitted, "though nothing very much!" he
hastened to add. "Some of our chaps are pretty hot stuff, though.
There's B. now; B.'s got nine so far."

"An air fight must be rather terrible?" said I.

"Oh, I don't know!" he demurred. "Gets a bit lively sometimes. C.,
one of our chaps, had a near go coming home yesterday--attacked by
five Boche machines, well over their own territory, of course. They
swooped down on him out of a cloud. C. got one right away, but the
others got him--nearly. They shot his gear all to pieces and put his
bally gun out of commission--bullet clean through the tray. Rotten
bad luck! So, being at their mercy, C. pretended they'd got him--did
a turn-over and nose-dived through the clouds very nearly on two more
Boche machines that were waiting for him. So, thinking it was all up
with him, C. dived straight for the nearest, meaning to take a Boche
down with him, but Hans didn't think that was playing the game, and
promptly hooked it. The other fellow had been blazing away and was
getting a new drum fixed, when he saw C. was on his tail making
tremendous business with his useless gun, so Fritz immediately dived
away out of range, and C. got home with about fifty bullet holes in
his wings and his gun crocked, and--oh, here he is!"

Flight-Lieutenant C. appeared, rather younger than his Captain, a
long, slender youth, with serious brow and thoughtful eyes, whom I
forthwith questioned as diplomatically as might be.

"Oh, yes!" he answered, in response to my various queries, "it was
exciting for a minute or so, but I expect the Captain has been
pulling your leg no end. Yes, they smashed my gun. Yes, they hit
pretty well everything except me and my mascot--they didn't get that,
by good luck. No, I don't think a fellow would mind 'getting it' in
the ordinary way--a bullet, say. But it's the damned petrol catching
alight and burning one's legs." Here the speaker bent to survey his
long legs with serious eyes. "Burning isn't a very nice finish
somehow. They generally manage to chuck themselves out--when they
can. Hello--here comes one of our new machines--engine sounds nice
and smooth!" said he, cocking an ear. Sure enough, came a faint purr
that grew to a hum, to an ever-loudening drone, and out from the
clouds an aeroplane appeared, which, wheeling in graceful spirals,
sank lower and lower, touched earth, rose, touched again, and so,
engine roaring, slid smoothly toward us over the grass. Then appeared
men in blue overalls, who seized the gleaming monster in unawed,
accustomed hands, steadied it, swung it round, and halted it within
speaking distance.

Hereupon its leather-clad pilot climbed stiffly out, vituperated the
weather and lit a cigarette.

"How is she?" enquired the Captain.

"A lamb! A witch! Absolutely tophole when you get used to her." The
tophole lamb and witch was a smallish biplane with no great wing
spread, but powerfully engined, whose points N. explained to me
as--her speed, her climbing angle, her wonderful stability, etc.,
while the Captain and Lieutenant hastened off to find the Major,
who, appearing in due course, proved to be slender, merry-eyed and
more youthful-looking than the Lieutenant. Indeed, so young seeming
was he that upon better acquaintance I ventured to enquire his age,
and he somewhat unwillingly owned to twenty-three.

"But," said he, "I'm afraid we can't show you very much, the
weather's so perfectly rotten for flying."

"Oh, I don't know," said the Captain, glancing towards the
witch-lamb, "I rather thought I'd like to try this new machine--if
you don't mind, sir."

"Same here," murmured the Lieutenant.

"But you've never flown a Nieuport before, have you, eh?" enquired
the Major.

"No, sir, but--"

"Nor you either, C.?"

"No, sir, still--"

"Then I'll try her myself," said the Major, regarding the witch-lamb
joyous-eyed.

"But," demurred the Captain, "I was rather under the impression
you'd never flown one either."

"I haven't--yet," laughed the Major, and hasted away for his coat and
helmet.

"Can you beat that?" exclaimed the Lieutenant.

The Captain sighed and went to aid the Major into his leathern
armour. Lightly and joyously the youthful Major climbed into the
machine and sat awhile to examine and remark upon its unfamiliar
features, while a sturdy mechanic stood at the propeller ready to
start the engine.

"By the way," said he, turning to address me. "You're staying to
luncheon, of course?"

"I'm afraid we can't," answered our Intelligence Officer.

"Oh, but you must--I've ordered soup! Right-oh!" he called to his
mechanician; the engine hummed, thundered, and roaring, cast back
upon us a very gale of wind; the witch-lamb moved, slid forward over
the grass, and gathering speed, lifted six inches, a yard, ten
yards--and was in flight.

"Can you beat that?" exclaimed the Captain enthusiastically, "lifted
her clean away!"

"I rather fancy he's about as good as they're made!" observed the
Lieutenant. Meanwhile, the witch-lamb soared up and up straight as an
arrow; up she climbed, growing rapidly less until she was a gnat
against a background of fleecy cloud and the roar of the engine had
diminished to a whine; up and up until she was a speck--until the
clouds had swallowed her altogether.

"Pity it isn't clear!" said the Captain. "I rather fancy you'd have
seen some real flying. By the way, they're going to practise at the
targets--might interest you. Care to see?"

The targets were about a yard square and, as I watched, an aeroplane
rose, wheeling high above them. All at once the hum of the engine was
lost in the sharp, fierce rattle of a machine gun; and ever as the
biplane banked and wheeled the machine gun crackled. From every angle
and from every point of the compass these bullets were aimed, and
examining the targets afterwards I was amazed to see how many hits
had been registered.

After this they brought me to the workshops where many mechanics were
busied; they showed me, among other grim relics, C.'s broken machine
gun and perforated cartridge tray. They told me many stories of
daring deeds performed by other members of the squadron, but when I
asked them to describe their own experiences, I found them diffident
and monosyllabic.

"Hallo!" exclaimed C., as we stepped out into the air, "here comes
the Major. He's in that cloud--know the sound of his engine." Sure
enough, out from a low-lying cloud-bank he came, wheeling in short
spirals, plunging earthward.

Down sank the aeroplane, the roaring engine fell silent, roared
again, and she sped towards us, her wheels within a foot or so of
earth. Finally they touched, the engine stopped and the witch-lamb
pulled up within a few feet of us. Hereupon the Major waved a
gauntleted hand to us.

"Must stop to lunch," he cried, "I've ordered soup, you know."

But this being impossible, we perforce said good-by to these
warm-hearted, simple-souled fighting men, a truly regrettable
farewell so far as I was concerned. They escorted us to the car, and
there parted from us with many frank expressions of regard and stood
side by side to watch us out of sight.

"Yesterday there was much aerial activity on our front.

"Depôts were successfully bombed and five enemy machines were forced
to descend, three of them in flames. Four of ours did not return."

I shall never read these oft recurring lines in the communiqués
without thinking of those three youthful figures, so full of life and
the joy of life, who watched us depart that dull and cloudy morning.

Here is just one other story dealing with three seasoned
air-fighters, veterans of many deadly combats high above the clouds,
each of whom has more than one victory to his credit, and whose
combined ages total up to sixty or thereabouts. We will call them X.,
Y. and Z. Now X. is an American, Y. is an Englishman, whose
peach-like countenance yet bears the newly healed scar of a bullet
wound, and Z. is an Afrikander. Here begins the story:

Upon a certain day of wind, rain and cloud, news came that the Boches
were massing behind their lines for an attack, whereupon X., Y. and
Z. were ordered to go up and verify this. Gaily enough they started
despite unfavourable weather conditions. The clouds were low, very
low, but they must fly lower, so, at an altitude varying from fifteen
hundred to a bare thousand feet, they crossed the German lines, Y.
and Z. flying wing and wing behind X.'s tail. All at once "Archie"
spoke, a whole battery of anti-aircraft guns filled the air with
smoke and whistling bullets--away went X.'s propeller and his machine
was hurled upside down; immediately Y. and Z. rose. By marvellous
pilotage X. managed to right his crippled machine and began, of
course, to fall; promptly Y. and Z. descended. It is, I believe, an
unwritten law in the Air Service never to desert a comrade until he
is seen to be completely "done for"--hence Y. and Z.'s hawk-like
swoop from the clouds to draw the fire of the battery from their
stricken companion. Down they plunged through the battery smoke,
firing their machine guns point-blank as they came; and so, wheeling
in long spirals, their guns crackling viciously, they mounted again
and soared cloudward together, but, there among the clouds and in
comparative safety, Z. developed engine trouble. Their ruse had
served, however, and X. had contrived to bring his shattered biplane
to earth safely behind the British lines. Meanwhile Y. and Z.
continued on toward their objective, but Z.'s engine trouble becoming
chronic, he fell behind more and more, and finally, leaving Y. to
carry on alone, was forced to turn back. And now it was that, in the
mists ahead, he beheld another machine which, coming swiftly down
upon him, proved to be a German, who, mounting above him, promptly
opened fire. Z., struggling with his baulking engine, had his hands
pretty full; moreover his opponent, owing to greater speed, could
attack him from precisely what angle he chose. So they wheeled and
flew, Z. endeavouring to bring his gun to bear, the German keeping
skilfully out of range, now above him, now below, but ever and always
behind. Thus the Boche flying on Z.'s tail had him at his mercy; a
bullet ripped his sleeve, another smashed his speedometer, yet
another broke his gauge--slowly and by degrees nearly all Z.'s gear
is either smashed or carried away by bullets. All this time it is to
be supposed that Z., thus defenceless, is wheeling and turning as
well as his crippled condition will allow, endeavouring to get a shot
at his elusive foe; but (as he told me) he felt it was his finish, so
he determined if possible to ram his opponent and crash down with him
through the clouds. Therefore, waiting until the Boche was aiming at
him from directly below, he threw his machine into a sudden dive.
Thus for one moment Z. had him in range, for a moment only, but the
range was close and deadly, and Z. fired off half his tray as he
swooped headlong down upon his astonished foe. All at once the German
waved an arm and sagged over sideways, his great battle-plane
wavering uncertainly, and, as it began to fall, Z. avoided the
intended collision by inches. Down went the German machine, down and
down, and, watching, Z. saw it plunge through the clouds wrapped in
flame.

Then Z. turned and made for home as fast as his baulking engine would
allow.

These are but two stories among dozens I have heard, yet these, I
think, will suffice to show something of the spirit animating these
young paladins. The Spirit of Youth is surely a godlike spirit,
unconquerable, care-free, undying. It is a spirit to whom fear and
defeat are things to smile and wonder at, to whom risks and dangers
are joyous episodes, and Death himself, whose face their youthful
eyes have so often looked into, a friend familiar by close
acquaintanceship.

Upon a time I mentioned some such thought to an American aviator, who
nodded youthful head and answered in this manner:

"The best fellows generally go first, and such a lot are gone now
that there'll be a whole bunch of them waiting to say 'Hello, old
sport!' so--what's it matter, anyway?"



XIII

YPRES


Much has been written concerning Ypres, but more, much more, remains
to be written. Some day, in years to come, when the roar of guns has
been long forgotten, and Time, that great and beneficent consoler,
has dried the eyes that are now wet with the bitter tears of
bereavement and comforted the agony of stricken hearts, at such a
time some one will set down the story of Ypres in imperishable words;
for round about this ancient town lie many of the best and bravest of
Britain's heroic army. Thick, thick, they lie together, Englishman,
Scot and Irishman, Australian, New Zealander, Canadian and Indian,
linked close in the comradeship of death as they were in life; but
the glory of their invincible courage, their noble self-sacrifice
and endurance against overwhelming odds shall never fade. Surely,
surely while English is spoken the story of "Wipers" will live on for
ever and, through the coming years, will be an inspiration to those
for whom these thousands went, cheering and undismayed, to meet and
conquer Death.

Ypres, as all the world knows, forms a sharp salient in the British
line, and is, therefore, open to attack on three sides; and on these
three sides it has been furiously attacked over and over again, so
very often that the mere repetition would grow wearisome. And these
attacks were day-long, week- and sometimes month-long battles, but
Britain's army stood firm.

In these bad, dark days, outnumbered and out-gunned, they never
wavered. Raked by flanking fire they met and broke the charges of
dense-packed foemen on their front; rank upon rank and elbow to elbow
the Germans charged, their bayonets a sea of flashing steel, their
thunderous shouts drowning the roar of guns, and rank on rank they
reeled back from British steel and swinging rifle-butt, and German
shouts died and were lost in British cheers.

So, day after day, week after week, month after month they endured
still; swept by rifle and machine-gun fire, blown up by mines, buried
alive by mortar bombs, their very trenches smitten flat by high
explosives--yet they endured and held on. They died all day and every
day, but their places were filled by men just as fiercely determined.
And ever as the countless German batteries fell silent, their troops
in dense grey waves hurled themselves upon shattered British trench
and dugout, and found there wild men in tunics torn and bloody and
mud-bespattered, who, shouting in fierce joy, leapt to meet them
bayonet to bayonet. With clubbed rifle and darting steel they fought,
these men of the Empire, heedless of wounds and death, smiting and
cheering, thrusting and shouting, until those long, close-ranked
columns broke, wavered and melted away. Then, panting, they cast
themselves back into wrecked trench and blood-spattered shell hole
while the enemy's guns roared and thundered anew, and waited
patiently but yearningly for another chance to "really fight." So
they held this deadly salient.

Days came and went, whole regiments were wiped out, but they held on.
The noble town behind them crumbled into ruin beneath the shrieking
avalanche of shells, but they held on. German and British dead lay
thick from British parapet to Boche wire, and over this awful litter
fresh attacks were launched daily, but still they held on, and would
have held and will hold, until the crack of doom if need be--because
Britain and the Empire expect it of them.

But to-day the dark and evil time is passed. To-day for every German
shell that crashes into the salient, four British shells burst along
the enemy's position, and it was with their thunder in my ears that I
traversed that historic, battle-torn road which leads into Ypres,
that road over which so many young and stalwart feet have tramped
that never more may come marching back. And looking along this road,
lined with scarred and broken trees, my friend N. took off his hat
and I did the like.

"It's generally pretty lively here," said our Intelligence Officer,
as I leaned forward to pass him the matches. "We're going to speed up
a bit--road's a bit bumpy, so hold on." Guns were roaring near and
far, and in the air above was the long, sighing drone of shells as we
raced forward, bumping and swaying over the uneven surface faster and
faster, until, skidding round a rather awkward corner, we saw before
us a low-lying, jagged outline of broken walls, shattered towers and
a tangle of broken roof-beams--all that remains of the famous old
town of Ypres. And over this devastation shells moaned distressfully,
and all around unseen guns barked and roared. So, amidst this
pandemonium our car lurched into shattered "Wipers", past the
dismantled water-tower, uprooted from its foundations and leaning at
a more acute angle than will ever the celebrated tower of Pisa, past
ugly heaps of brick and rubble--the ruins of once fair buildings, on
and on until we pulled up suddenly before a huge something, shattered
and formless, a long façade of broken arches and columns, great roof
gone, mighty walls splintered, cracked and rent--all that "Kultur"
has left of the ancient and once beautiful Cloth Hall.

"Roof's gone since I was here last," said the Intelligence Officer,
"come this way. You'll see it better from over here." So we followed
him and stood to look upon the indescribable ruin.

"There are no words to describe--that," said N. at last, gloomily.

"No," I answered. "Arras was bad enough, but this--!"

"Arras?" he repeated. "Arras is only a ruined town. Ypres is a
rubbish dump. And its Cloth Hall is--a bad dream." And he turned
away. Our Intelligence Officer led us over mounds of fallen masonry
and débris of all sorts, and presently halted us amid a ruin of
splintered columns, groined arch and massive walls, and pointed to a
heap of rubbish he said was the altar.

"This is the Church St. Jean," he explained, "begun, I think, in the
eleventh or twelfth century and completed somewhere about 1320--"

"And," said N., "finally finished and completely done for by 'Kultur'
in the twentieth century, otherwise I guess it would have lasted
until the 220th century--look at the thickness of the walls."

"And after all these years of civilisation," said I.

"Civilisation," he snorted, turning over a fragment of exquisitely
carved moulding with the toe of his muddy boot, "civilisation has
done a whole lot, don't forget--changed the system of plumbing and
taught us how to make high explosives and poison gas."

Gloomily enough we wandered on together over rubbish piles and
mountains of fallen brickwork, through shattered walls, past
unlovely stumps of mason-work that had been stately tower or belfry
once, beneath splintered arches that led but from one scene of ruin
to another, and ever our gloom deepened, for it seemed that Ypres,
the old Ypres, with all its monuments of mediæval splendour, its
noble traditions of hard-won freedom, its beauty and glory, was
passed away and gone for ever.

"I don't know how all this affects you," said N., his big chin jutted
grimly, "but I hate it worse than a battlefield. Let's get on over to
the Major's office."

We went by silent streets, empty except for a few soldierly figures
in hard-worn khaki, desolate thoroughfares that led between piles and
huge unsightly mounds of fallen masonry and shattered brickwork,
fallen beams, broken rafters and twisted ironwork, across a desolate
square shut in by the ruin of the great Cloth Hall and other once
stately buildings, and so to a grim, battle-scarred edifice, its roof
half blown away, its walls cracked and agape with ugly holes, its
doorway reinforced by many sandbags cunningly disposed, through which
we passed into the dingy office of the Town Major.

As we stood in that gloomy chamber, dim-lighted by a solitary oil
lamp, floor and walls shook and quivered to the concussion of a
shell--not very near, it is true, but quite near enough.

The Major was a big man, with a dreamy eye, a gentle voice and a
passion for archæology. In his company I climbed to the top of a high
building, whence he pointed out, through a convenient shell hole,
where the old walls had stood long ago, where Vauban's star-shaped
bastions were, and the general conformation of what had been
present-day Ypres; but I saw only a dusty chaos of shattered arch and
tower and walls, with huge, unsightly mounds of rubble and brick--a
rubbish dump in very truth. Therefore I turned to the quiet-voiced
Major and asked him of his experiences, whereupon he talked to me
most interestingly and very learnedly of Roman tile, of mediæval
rubble-work, of herringbone and Flemish bond. He assured me also that
(_Deo volente_) he proposed to write a monograph on the various
epochs of this wonderful old town's history as depicted by its
various styles of mason-work and construction.

"I could show you a nearly perfect aqueduct if you have time," said
he.

"I'm afraid we ought to be starting now," said the Intelligence
Officer; "over eighty miles to do yet, you see, Major."

"Do you have many casualties still?" I enquired.

"Pretty well," he answered. "The mediæval wall was superimposed upon
the Roman, you'll understand."

"And is it," said I as we walked on together, "is it always as noisy
as this?"

"Oh, yes--especially when there's a 'Hate' on."

"Can you sleep?"

"Oh, yes, one gets used to anything, you know. Though, strangely
enough, I was disturbed last night--two of my juniors had to camp
over my head, their quarters were blown up rather yesterday
afternoon, and believe me, the young beggars talked and chattered so
that I couldn't get a wink of sleep--had to send and order them to
shut up."

"You seem to have been getting it pretty hot since I was here last,"
said the Intelligence Officer, waving a hand round the crumbling ruin
about us.

"Fairly so," nodded the Major.

"One would wonder the enemy wastes any more shells on Ypres," said I,
"there's nothing left to destroy, is there?"

"Well, there's us, you know!" said the Major gently, "and then the
Boche is rather a revengeful beggar anyhow--you see, he wasted quite
a number of army corps trying to take Ypres. And he hasn't got it
yet."

"Nor ever will," said I.

The Major smiled and held out his hand.

"It's a pity you hadn't time to see that aqueduct," he sighed.
"However, I shall take some flashlight photos of it--if my luck
holds. Good-by." So saying, he raised a hand to his weather-beaten
trench cap and strode back into his dim-lit, dingy office.

The one-time glory of Ypres has vanished in ruin but thereby she has
found a glory everlasting. For over the wreck of noble edifice and
fallen tower is another glory that shall never fade but rather grow
with coming years--an imperishable glory. As pilgrims sought it once
to tread its quaint streets and behold its old-time beauty, so in
days to come other pilgrims will come with reverent feet and with
eyes that shall see in these shattered ruins a monument to the
deathless valour of that brave host that met death unflinching and
unafraid for the sake of a great ideal and the welfare of unborn
generations.

And thus in her ruin Ypres has found the Glory Everlasting.



XIV

WHAT BRITAIN HAS DONE


The struggle of Democracy and Reason against Autocracy and Brute
Force, on land and in the air, upon the sea and under the sea, is
reaching its climax. With each succeeding month the ignoble foe has
smirched himself with new atrocities which yet in the end bring their
own terrible retribution.

Three of the bloodiest years in the world's history lie behind us;
but these years of agony and self-sacrifice, of heroic achievements,
of indomitable purpose and unswerving loyalty to an ideal, are surely
three of the most tremendous in the annals of the British Empire.

I am to tell something of what Britain has accomplished during these
awful three years, of the mighty changes she has wrought in this
short time, of how, with her every thought and effort bent in the one
direction, she has armed and equipped herself and many of her allies;
of the armies she has raised, the vast sums she has expended and the
munitions and armaments she has amassed.

To this end it is my privilege to lay before the reader certain facts
and figures, so I propose to set them forth as clearly and briefly as
may be, leaving them to speak for themselves.

For truly Britain has given and is giving much--her men and women,
her money, her very self; the soul of Britain and her Empire is in
this conflict, a soul that grows but the more steadfast and
determined as the struggle waxes more deadly and grim. Faint hearts
and fanatics there are, of course, who, regardless of the future,
would fain make peace with the foe unbeaten, a foe lost to all shame
and honourable dealing, but the heart of the Empire beats true to the
old war-cry of "Freedom or Death." In proof of which, if proof be
needed, let us to our figures and facts.

Take first her fighting men: in three short years her little army has
grown until to-day seven million of her sons are under arms, and of
these (most glorious fact!) nearly five million were _volunteers_.
Surely since first this world was cursed by war, never did such a
host march forth voluntarily to face its blasting horrors. They are
fighting on many battle-fronts, these citizen-soldiers, in France,
Macedonia, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Western Egypt and German East
Africa, and behind them, here in the homeland, are the women, working
as their men fight, with a grim and tireless determination. To-day
the land hums with munition factories and huge works whose countless
wheels whirr day and night, factories that have sprung up where the
grass grew so lately. The terrible, yet glorious, days of Mons and
the retreat, when her little army, out-gunned and out-manned, held up
the rushing might of the German advance so long as life and
ammunition lasted, that black time is past, for now in France and
Flanders our countless guns crash in ceaseless concert, so that here
in England one may hear their ominous muttering all day long and
through the hush of night; and hearkening to that continuous
stammering murmur one thanks God for the women of Britain.

Two years ago, in June, 1915, the Ministry of Munitions was formed
under Mr. David Lloyd George; as to its achievements, here are
figures which shall speak plainer than any words.

In the time of Mons the army was equipped and supplied by three
Government factories and a very few auxiliary firms; to-day gigantic
national factories, with miles of railroads to serve them, are in
full swing, beside which, thousands of private factories are
controlled by the Government. As a result the output of explosives in
March, 1917, was over _four times_ that of March, 1916, and
_twenty-eight times_ that of March, 1915, and so enormous has been
the production of shells that in the first nine weeks of the summer
offensive of 1917 the stock decreased by only seven per cent. despite
the appalling quantity used.

The making of machine guns to-day as compared with 1915 has increased
_twenty-fold_, while the supply of small-arm ammunition has become so
abundant that the necessity for importation has ceased altogether. In
one Government factory alone the making of rifles has increased
_ten-fold_, and the employees at Woolwich Arsenal have increased from
a little less than _eleven thousand_ to nearly _seventy-four
thousand_, of whom _twenty-five thousand_ are women.

Production of steel, before the war, was roughly seven million tons;
it is now ten million tons and still increasing, so much so that it
is expected the pre-war output will be doubled by the end of 1918;
while the cost of steel plates here is now less than half the cost in
the U.S.A. Since May, 1917, the output of aeroplanes has been
quadrupled and is rapidly increasing; an enormous programme of
construction has been laid down and plans drawn up for its complete
realisation.

With this vast increase in the production of munitions the cost of
each article has been substantially reduced by systematic examination
of actual cost, resulting in a saving of £43,000,000 over the
previous year's prices.

Figures are a dry subject in themselves, and yet such figures as
these are, I venture to think, of interest, among other reasons for
the difficulty the human brain has to appreciate their full meaning.
Thus: the number of articles handled weekly by the Stores Departments
is several hundreds of thousands above fifty million: or again, I
read that the munition workers themselves have contributed
£40,187,381 towards various war loans. It is all very easy to write,
but who can form any just idea of such uncountable numbers?

And now, writing of the sums of money Britain has already expended, I
for one am immediately lost, out of my depth and plunged ten
thousand fathoms deep, for now I come upon the following:

"The total national expenditure for the three years to August 4th,
1917, is approximately £5,150,000,000, of which £1,250,000,000 is
already provided for by taxation and £1,171,000,000 has been lent to
our colonies and allies, which may be regarded as an investment."
Having written which I lay down my pen to think, and, giving it up,
hasten to record the next fact.

"The normal pre-war taxation amounted to approximately £200,000,000,
but for the current financial year (1917-1918) a revenue of
£638,000,000 has been budgeted for, but this is expected to produce
between £650,000,000 and £700,000,000." Now, remembering that the
cost of necessaries has risen to an unprecedented extent, these
figures of the extra taxation and the amounts raised by the various
war loans speak louder and more eloquently than any words how
manfully Britain has shouldered her burden and of her determination
to see this great struggle through to the only possible
conclusion--the end, for all time, of autocratic government.

I have before me so many documents and so much data bearing on this
vast subject that I might set down very much more; I might descant on
marvels of enterprise and organisation and of almost insuperable
difficulties overcome. But, lest I weary the reader, and since I
would have these lines read, I will hasten on to the last of my facts
and figures.

As regards ships, Britain has already placed six hundred vessels at
the disposal of France and four hundred have been lent to Italy, the
combined tonnage of these thousand ships being estimated at two
million.

Then, despite her drafts to Army and Navy she has still a million men
employed in her coal mines and is supplying coal to Italy, France and
Russia. Moreover, she is sending to France one quarter of her total
production of steel, munitions of all kinds to Russia and guns and
gunners to Italy.

As for her Navy--the German battle squadrons lie inactive, while in
one single month the vessels of the British Navy steamed over one
million miles; German trading ships have been swept from the seas and
the U-boat menace is but a menace still. Meantime, British shipyards
are busy night and day; a million tons of craft for the Navy alone
were launched during the first year of the war, and the programme of
new naval construction for 1917 runs into hundreds of thousands of
tons. In peace time the building of new merchant ships was just under
2,000,000 tons yearly, and despite the shortage of labour and
difficulty of obtaining materials, 1,100,000 tons will be built by
the end of 1917, and 4,000,000 tons in 1918.

The British Mercantile Marine (to whom be all honour!) has
transported during the war, the following:--

  13,000,000 men,
  25,000,000 tons of war material,
   1,000,000 sick and wounded,
  51,000,000 tons of coal and oil fuel,
   2,000,000 horses and mules,
 100,000,000 hundredweights of wheat,
   7,000,000 tons of iron ore,

and, beyond this, has exported goods to the value of £500,000,000.

Here ends my list of figures and here this chapter should end also;
but, before I close, I would give, very briefly and in plain
language, three examples of the spirit animating this Empire that
to-day is greater and more worthy by reason of these last three
blood-smirched years.

                         No. I

There came from Australia at his own expense, one Thomas Harper, an
old man of seventy-four, to help in a British munition factory. He
laboured hard, doing the work of two men, and more than once fainted
with fatigue, but refused to go home because he "couldn't rest while
he thought his country needed shells."

                         No. II

There is a certain small fishing village whose men were nearly all
employed in fishing for mines. But there dawned a black day when news
came that forty of their number had perished together and in the same
hour. Now surely one would think that this little village, plunged in
grief for the loss of its young manhood, had done its duty to the
uttermost for Britain and their fellows! But these heroic fisher-folk
thought otherwise, for immediately fifty of the remaining
seventy-five men (all over military age) volunteered and sailed away
to fill the places of their dead sons and brothers.

                         No. III

Glancing idly through a local magazine some days since, my eye was
arrested by this:

"In proud and loving memory of our loved and loving son ... who fell
in France ... with his only brother, 'On Higher Service.' There is no
death."

Thus then I conclude my list of facts and figures, a record of
achievement such as this world has never known before, a record to be
proud of, because it is the outward and visible sign of a people
strong, virile, abounding in energy, but above all, a people clean of
soul to whom Right and Justice are worth fighting for, suffering for,
labouring for. It is the sign of a people which is willing to endure
much for its ideals that the world may be a better world, wherein
those who shall come hereafter may reap, in peace and contentment,
the harvest this generation has sowed in sorrow, anguish and great
travail.

                         THE END



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors;
otherwise, every effort has been made to remain true to the author's
words and intent.





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