In one of my later letters I hope to give some particulars of this first rush of men, gathered from those who witnessed it and took part in it. One remarkable point in connection with it is that those districts most heavily employed in munition-making and coal-mining, the two industries absolutely indispensable to our Army and Navy, have also sent the largest supply of men to the fighting line—take, for instance, Newcastle and the Clyde. There have been anxious episodes, of course, in the great development. Was your own vast levy in the Civil War without them? And for the last half million men, we have had to resort, as Lincoln resorted, to a modified form of compulsion. There was, no doubt, a good deal of unnecessary waste and overlapping in the first camp and billeting organization of the enormous forces raised. But when all is said, did we not, in the language of a French observer “improvise the impossible"?—and have we not good reason to be proud?—not with any foolish vainglory, but with the sober and resolute pride of a great nation, conscious of its past, determined to correct its mistakes, and looking open-eyed and fearless towards the future?
Then as to munitions: in many ways, as you will perhaps say, and as I agree, a tragic story. If we had possessed last spring the ammunition—both for ourselves and our allies we now possess, the war would have gone differently. Drunkenness, trade-union difficulties, a small—very small—revolutionary element among our work people—all these have made trouble. But the real cause of our shortage lay in the fact that no one, outside Germany, realised till far into the war, what the ammunition needs—the absolutely unprecedented needs—of this struggle were going to be. It was the second Battle of Ypres at the end of April last year which burnt them into the English mind. We paid for the grim knowledge in thousands of our noblest lives. But since then?
In a later letter I propose to draw some picture in detail of the really marvellous movement which since last July, under the impulse given by Mr. Lloyd George, has covered England with new munition factories and added enormously to the producing power of the old and famous firms, has drawn in an army of women—now reckoned at something over a quarter of a million—and is at this moment not only providing amply for our own armies, but is helping those of the Allies against those final days of settlement with Germany which we believe to be now steadily approaching. American industry and enterprise have helped us substantially in this field of munitions. We are gratefully conscious of it. But England is now fast overtaking her own needs.
More of this presently. Meanwhile to the military and equipment effort of the country, you have to add the financial effort—something like $7,500,000,000, already expended on the war; the organising effort, exemplified in the wonderful “back of the army” in France, which I hope to describe to you; and the vast hospital system, with all its scientific adjuncts, and its constantly advancing efficiency.