From this clearing house in England’s historic old palace, built so long ago by Bluff King Hal, these offerings of the world are sent wherever there is need, to Servia, to Egypt, to South and East Africa, to the Belgians. The work was instituted by the Queen the moment war broke out, and three things are being very carefully insured: That a real want exists, that the clothing reaches its proper destination, and that there shall be no overlapping.
The result has been most gratifying to the Queen, but it was difficult to get so huge a business—for, as I have already said, it is a business now—under way at the beginning. Demand was insistent. There was no time to organise a system in advance. It had to be worked out in actual practice.
One of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting wrote in February, apropos of the human element in the work:
“There was a great deal of human element in the start with its various mistakes. The Queen wished, on the breaking out of war, to start the Guild in such a way as to prevent the waste and overlapping which occurred in the Boer War.... The fact that the ladies connected with the work have toiled daily and unceasingly for seven months is the most wonderful part of it all.”
Before Christmas nine hundred and seventy thousand belts and socks were collected and sent as a special gift to the soldiers at the front, from the Queen and the women of the empire. That in itself is an amazing record of efficiency.
It is rather comforting to know that there were mistakes in the beginning. It is so human. It is comforting to think of this exceedingly human Queen being a party to them, and being divided between annoyance and mirth as they developed. It is very comforting also to think that, in the end, they were rectified.
We had a similar situation during our Civil War. There were mistakes then also, and they too were rectified. What the heroic women of the North and South did during that great conflict the women of Great Britain are doing to-day. They are showing the same high and courageous spirit, the same subordination of their personal griefs to the national cause, the same cheerful relinquishment of luxuries. It is a United Britain that confronts the enemy in France. It is a united womanhood, united in spirit, in labour, in faith and high moral courage, that looks east across the Channel to that land beyond the horizon, “somewhere in France,” where the Empire is fighting for life.
A united womanhood, and at its head a steadfast and courageous Queen and mother, Mary of England.
THE QUEEN OF THE BELGIANS
On the third of August, 1914, the German Army crossed the frontier into Belgium. And on the following day, the fourth, King Albert made his now famous speech to the joint meeting of the Belgian Chamber and Senate. Come what might, the Belgian people would maintain the freedom that was their birthright.