Moreover, we had our Navy to work for, without which the cause of the Allies would have gone under, must have gone under, at the first shock of Germany. What the workmen of England did in the first year of the war in her docks and shipyards, history will tell some day.
“What’s wrong with the men!” cried a Glasgow employer indignantly to me, one evening as, quite unknown the one to the other, we were nearing one of the towns on the Clyde. “What was done on the Clyde, in the first months of the war, should never be forgotten by this country. Working from six to nine every day till they dropped with fatigue—and Sundays, too—drinking just to keep themselves going—too tired to eat or sleep—that’s what it was—I saw it!”
I, too, have seen that utter fatigue stamped on a certain percentage of faces through the Midlands, or the districts of the Tyne and the Clyde—fatigue which is yet indomitable, which never gives way. How fresh, beside that look, are the faces of the women, for whom workshop life is new! In its presence one forgets all hostile criticism, all talk of strikes and drink, of trade-union difficulties, and the endless worries of the employers.
The English workman is not tractable material—far from it—and he is not imaginative; except in the persons of some of his chosen leaders, he has never seen a ruined French or Flemish village, and he was slow to realise the bitterness of that silence of the guns on the front, when ammunition runs short, and lives must pay. But he has sent his hundreds of thousands to the fighting line; there are a million and a half of him now working at munitions, and it is he, in a comradeship with the brain workers, the scientific intelligence of the nation, closer than any he has yet known, and lately, with the new and astonishing help of women—it is he, after all, who is “delivering the goods,” he who is now piling the great arsenals and private works with guns and shells, with bombs, rifles, and machine-guns, he who is working night and day in the shipyards, he who is teaching the rising army of women their work, and making new and firm friends, through the national emergency, whether in the trenches or the workshops, with other classes and types in the nation, hitherto little known to him, to whom he, too, is perhaps a revelation.
There will be a new wind blowing through England when this war is done. Not only will the scientific intelligence, the general education, and the industrial plant of the nation have gained enormously from this huge impetus of war; but men and women, employers and employed, shaken perforce out of their old grooves, will look at each other surely with new eyes, in a world which has not been steeped for nothing in effort and sacrifice, in common griefs and a common passion of will.
All over England, then, the same quadruple process has now been going on for months: