The English know the power of the great modern newspaper, not only to reflect but to form public opinion. They have watched the American press because they know to what extent it influences American policy.
There is talk of conscription in England to-day. Why? Ask the British people. Ask the London Times. Ask rural England where, away from the tramp of soldiers in the streets, the roll of drums, the visual evidence of a great struggle, patriotism is asked to feed on the ashes of war.
Self-depreciation in a nation is as great an error as over-complacency. Lack of full knowledge is the cause of much of the present British discontent.
Let the British people be told what their army is doing. Let Lord Kitchener announce its deeds, its courage, its vast unselfishness. Let him put the torch of publicity to the national pride and see it turn to a white flame of patriotism. Then it will be possible to tear the recruiting posters from the walls of London, and the remotest roads of England will echo to the tramp of marching men.
ALONG THE GREAT BETHUNE ROAD
Again and again through these chapters I have felt apologetic for the luxurious manner in which I frequently saw the war. And so now I hesitate to mention the comfort of that trip along the British lines; the substantial and essentially British foresight and kindness that had stocked the car with sandwiches wrapped in white paper; the good roads; the sense of general well-being that spread like a contagion from a well-fed and well-cared-for army. There is something about the British Army that inspires one with confidence. It is a pity that those people who sit at home in Great Britain and shrug their shoulders over the daily papers cannot see their army at the front.
It is not a roast beef stolidity. It is rather the steadiness of calm eyes and good nerves, of physically fit bodies and clean minds. I felt it when I saw Kitchener’s army of clear-eyed boys drilling in Hyde Park. I got it from the quiet young officer, still in his twenties, who sat beside me in the car, and who, having been in the war from the beginning, handling a machine gun all through the battle of Ypres, when his regiment, the Grenadier Guards, suffered so horribly, was willing to talk about everything but what he had done.
We went first to Bethune. The roads as we approached the front were crowded, but there was no disorder. There were motor bicycles and side-cars carrying dispatch riders and scouts, travelling kitchens, great lorries, small light cars for supplies needed in a hurry—cars which make greater speed than the motor vans—omnibuses full of troops, and steam tractors or caterpillar engines for hauling heavy guns.
The day was sunny and cold. The rain of the day before had turned to snow in the night, and the fields were dazzling.