And now came the day in which they were to motor forty miles to be the guests of the G.H.Q. Soon they seemed to be in the midst of the battle, “our own guns were thundering away behind us, and the road was more and more broken up by shell holes.” The British lines are just beyond, cottages close by, and the German lines just in front of a wood near them, three-quarters of a mile away. Already they had been nearer than any woman, even a nurse, had been in this war, to the actual fighting on the English line, and the cup of impressions was full. They actually saw the brave boys whom they had passed an hour before, sitting in the fields waiting for orders, now marching into the trenches to take their turn there—they knew that they were marching into the jaws of death, but they walked as quietly and as cheerfully as if they were going to a parade, the guns crashing close by them all the time. The firing being too hot for the women, the captain in charge of them was relieved when they elected to turn back.
The next day, their second as guests of G.H.Q., as they came down from breakfast, our ladies were surprised to find the motor at the door, a simple lunch being packed up, and gas-helmets got ready for them to use, for the captain greeted them in the best of spirits with the news that a very successful action had been fought that morning, “we had taken back some trenches on the Ypres-Comines Canal that we lost, a little while ago, and captured about two hundred prisoners; and if we go off at once we shall be in time to see the German counter attack.” The one impossible thing for any woman ever to have hoped to see!
Somehow or other they very quickly got to the very post of danger. Soon they got close to the Tower of Ypres, which Mrs. Ward well describes as “mute witness of a crime that beyond the reparation of our own day, history will revenge through years to come.” Then the English guns spoke, and they watched and saw the columns of white smoke rising from the German lines as the shells burst. The German lines are right in sight, and soon their shells begin to burst on the English trenches. The German counter attack is on. All the famous sites of the early part of the war are then in sight, but all they can fully see is the bursting German shells, as from moment to moment they explode.
In her final letter Mrs. Ward shows other great efforts which Great Britain has made since the war began; that the taxes imposed for the support of the war and cheerfully borne demand a fourth part of his income from every well-to-do citizen; that five hundred million sterling, or twenty-five hundred million dollars have been already lent by Britain to her allies, a colossal portion of her income; that she has spent at the yearly rate of three thousand million dollars on the army, a thousand million dollars on the navy, while the munition department is costing about four hundred million sterling, and is employing close upon two million workers, one-tenth, I think, women; that the export trade of the country, in spite of submarines and lack of tonnage, is at this moment greater than it was in the corresponding months of 1913; she has raised an army of four millions of men, and will get all she wants.