But in trying to answer your questions I have gone far beyond my own normal experience. I asked the English Government to give me some special opportunities of seeing what Great Britain is doing in the war, and in matters connected with the war, and they have given them ungrudgingly. I have been allowed to go, through the snow-storms of this bitter winter, to the far north and visit the Fleet, in those distant waters where it keeps guard night and day over England. I have spent some weeks in the Midlands and the north watching the vast new activity of the Ministry of Munitions throughout the country; and finally in a motor tour of some five hundred miles through the zone of the English armies in France, I have been a spectator not only of that marvellous organisation in northwestern France, of supplies, reinforcements, training camps and hospitals, which England has built up in the course of eighteen months behind her fighting line, but I have been—on the first of two days—within less than a mile of the fighting line itself, and on a second day, from a Flemish hill—with a gas helmet close at hand! I have been able to watch a German counter attack, after a successful English advance, and have seen the guns flashing from the English lines, and the shell-bursts on the German trenches along the Messines ridge; while in the far distance, a black and jagged ghost, the tower of the Cloth Hall of Ypres broke fitfully through the mists—bearing mute witness before God and man.
For a woman—a marvellous experience! I hope later on in these letters to describe some of its details, and some of the thoughts awakened by them in a woman’s mind. But let me here keep to the main point raised by your question—the effort of England. During these two months of strenuous looking and thinking, of conversation with soldiers and sailors and munition workers, of long days spent in the great supply bases across the Channel, or of motoring through the snowy roads of Normandy and Picardy, I have naturally realised that effort far more vividly than ever before. It seems to me—it must seem to any one who has seriously attempted to gauge it—amazing, colossal. “What country has ever raised over sixty per cent of its total recruitable strength, for service beyond the seas in a few months?” asks one of our younger historians; and that a country not invaded, protected by the sea, and by a supreme fleet; a country, moreover, without any form of compulsory military service, in which soldiering and the soldier have been rather unpopular than popular, a country in love with peace, and with no intention or expectation of going to war with any one?