On that rough voyage across the North Sea, through the destroyer and armed motor launch patrol, maintained by men who work unflinchingly in the shadow of death, I felt once again the power of the British Navy. I cast my lot with that Navy when I left Holland. I know what its protection means, for I could not have crossed on a neutral Dutch vessel.
It is all very well to complain about a few raiders that manage in thirty months to pierce the British patrols, or the hurried dash of swift destroyers into the Channel, but when you look from the white chalk cliffs of the Kentish coast at hundreds of vessels passing safely off the Downs, when you sail the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and see only neutral and Allied ships carrying on commerce, when you cross the Rhine and stand in food lines hour after hour and day after day, where men and women who gloried in war now whine at the hardships it brings, when you see a mighty nation disintegrating in the shadow of starvation, and then pass to another nation, which, though far less self-sustaining in food, has plenty to eat, you simply have to realise that there are silent victories which are often farther reaching than victories of eclat.
THE LITTLE SHIPS
I have been particularly impressed with two misconceptions which have existed, and to some extent still exist, not only in Germany but in neutral countries. The first is that England lacks virility, is degenerate, has had her day of greatness; the second, that in the present war she is continuing what is alleged to have been her policy in the past, namely, pulling the strings and reaping the benefit while other nations do the fighting. Through personal investigation I find these contentions so thoroughly refuted that to develop the point would be to commence another book instead of finishing this one.
As I write I can look from my desk in the Alexandra Hotel, Bridlington, on to the North Sea where it washes the “Frightfulness Coast,” for Bridlington lies between Hull and Scarborough.
I see trawlers fishing and mine-sweeping whenever I raise my eyes from my writing. Their crews know that they work in the shadow of death in what they describe in the dock-side taverns as the greatest sport in the world. Praise of the big ships often causes us to forget the little ships. I admire the one and reverence the other. For if the men on the humbler craft could be intimidated, the doctrine of Frightfulness would be justified by victory.
Intimidation is a favourite weapon of the people across the Rhine. I was among them when their airmen dropped bombs on Paris early in the war. “It is really humane,” they said, “for it will frighten the civilian population into imploring the military to yield to us to save them.” They thought the same of Zeppelin raids over England. Intimidation was their guiding star in Belgium. The first I heard of the massacre of Louvain was from one of its perpetrators.