Let me then give you some account—an eye-witness’s account—of what there is now to be seen by the ordinary intelligent observer in the “Munition Areas,” as the public has learned to call them, of England and Scotland. That great spectacle, as it exists to-day—so inspiring in what it immediately suggests of human energy and human ingenuity, so appalling in its wider implications—testifies, in the first instance, to the fierce stiffening of England’s resolve to win the war, and to win it at a lessened cost in life and suffering to our men in the field, which ran through the nation, after the second Battle of Ypres, towards the close of April, 1915. That battle, together with the disagreement between Mr. Winston Churchill and Lord Fisher at the Admiralty, had, as we all know, momentous consequences. The two events brought the national dissatisfaction and disappointment with the general course of the spring fighting to a head. By May 19th the Ministry which had declared the war and so far conducted it, had disappeared; a National or Coalition Ministry, drawn from the leading men of both parties, reigned in its stead. The statement made by Mr. Asquith, as late, alack, as April 20, 1915, that there was “no truth in the statement” that our efforts at the front “were being crippled or at any rate hampered” by want of ammunition, was seen almost immediately, in the bitter light of events, to be due to some fatal misconceptions, or misjudgments, on the part of those informing the Prime Minister, which the nation in its own interests and those of its allies, could only peremptorily sweep away. A new Ministry was created—the Ministry of Munitions, and Mr. Lloyd George was placed at its head.
The work that Mr. Lloyd George and his Ministry—now employing vast new buildings, and a staff running into thousands—have done since June, 1915, is nothing less than colossal. Much no doubt had been done earlier for which the new Ministry has perhaps unjustly got the credit, and not all has been smooth sailing since. One hears, of course, criticism and complaints. What vast and effective stir, for a great end, was ever made in the world without them?
Mr. Lloyd George has incurred a certain amount of unpopularity among the working classes, who formerly adored him. In my belief he has incurred it for the country’s sake, and those sections of the working class who have smarted under his criticisms most bitterly will forgive him when the time comes. In his passionate determination to get the thing done, he has sometimes let his theme—of the national need, and the insignificance of all things else in comparison with it—carry him into a vehemence which the workmen have resented, and which foreign or neutral countries have misunderstood.