The fact that so many Italians, having lived in England and America, can speak English and know something of us and our ways, accounts for much. For a foreign language is the Great Barrier Reef against the voyages of ordinary people towards international understanding. And the country counts for something, too. Its natural obstacles compel admiration for an Army which has achieved so much in spite of them. And I am sure that no British gunner, however inarticulate, who has served in Italy, and especially those young fellows who, when war broke out, stood only on the threshold of their manhood, with their minds still wide open for new impressions, has not felt some sort of secret thrill at the astounding and incomparable beauty of this country, the very contemplation of which sometimes brings one near to weeping.
I recall, for instance, a tough old Sergeant Major, with twenty-seven years’ service with our Artillery all over the world, an utterly unromantic person. He and I were bringing back my working party on the 10th of August from Versa to Rubbia in a lorry. The men were singing loudly, and greeted an Italian sentry on Peteano bridge with cheerful cries of “Buona sera, Johnny!” And the Sergeant Major suddenly observed to me that “this must be a fine country in peace-time,” and went on to praise the mountains, and the rivers, and the trees, especially the cypresses, and the surface of the roads, and some town behind the lines, Udine I think, which was “very pretty” and “quite all right.” The Italians, too, were “all right,” which from him was most high praise. And then, as though half ashamed of having said so much, he added, rather hastily, “But there’s nothing to touch the old country after all. I think I shall settle down there when this war’s over. I’ve had about enough of foreign parts.”
And what do the Italians think of us, I wonder? I only know that they treat us always with great friendliness, and show great interest in our guns and all our doings. So the international gesture has, I think, begun already to succeed. And its success will grow. For those British graves, which we shall leave behind us—some are dug and filled already—will tell their own story to the future. They will be facts, if only tiny facts, both in British and Italian history, and “far on in summers that we shall not see,” bathed in the warm brilliance of Italian sunshine, they will bear witness to Anglo-Italian comradeship across the years.