A traveller’s view I had of Germany in the early period of the war; but I was never with the German army, which made Americans particularly welcome for obvious reasons. Between right and wrong one cannot be a neutral. In foregoing the diversion of shaking hands and passing the time of day on the Germanic fronts, I escaped any bargain with my conscience by accepting the hospitality of those warring for a cause and in a manner obnoxious to me. I was among friends, living the life of one army and seeing war in all its aspects from day to day, instead of having tourist glimpses.
Chapters which deal with the British army in France and with the British fleet have been submitted to the censor. Though the censor may delete military secrets, he may not prompt opinions. Whatever notes of praise and of affection which you may read between the lines or in them spring from the mind and heart. Undemonstratively, cheerily as they would go for a walk, with something of old-fashioned chivalry, the British went to death.
Their national weaknesses and strength, revealed under external differences by association, are more akin to ours than we shall realize until we face our own inevitable crisis. Though one’s ancestors had been in America for nearly three centuries, he was continually finding how much of custom, of law, of habit, and of instinct he had in common with them; and how Americans who were not of British blood also shared these as an applied inheritance that has been the most formative element in the American crucible.
My grateful acknowledgments are due to the American press associations who considered me worthy to be the accredited American correspondent at the British front, and to Collier’s and Everybody’s; and may an author who has not had the opportunity to read proofs request the reader’s indulgence.
Frederick Palmer. British Headquarters, France.
I “Le Brave Belge!”
The rush from Monterey, in Mexico, when a telegram said that general European war was inevitable; the run and jump on board the Lusitania at New York the night that war was declared by England against Germany; the Atlantic passage on the liner of ineffaceable memory, a suspense broken by fragments of war news by wireless; the arrival in England before the war was a week old; the journey to Belgium in the hope of reaching the scene of action!—as I write, all seem to have the perspective of history, so final are the processes of war, so swift their execution, and so eager is everyone for each day’s developments. As one grows older the years seem shorter; but the first year of the Great War is the longest year most of us have ever known.
Le brave Belge! One must be honest about him. The man who lets his heart run away with his judgment does his mind an injustice. A fellow-countryman who was in London and fresh from home in the eighth month of the war, asked me for my views of the relative efficiency of the different armies engaged.