We regain the motor and speed onwards, my secretary and I, through unknown roads far away from the city and its factories towards the country house where we are to spend the night. In my memory there surge a thousand recollections of all that I have seen in the preceding fortnight. An England roused at last—rushing to factory, and lathe, to shipyard and forge, determined to meet and dominate her terrible enemy in the workshop, as she has long since met and dominated him at sea, and will in time dominate him on land—that is how my country looks to me to-night.
... The stars are coming out. Far away, over what seems like water with lights upon it, there are dim snowy mountains—majestic—rising into the sky. The noise and clamour of the factories are all quiet in the night. Two thoughts remain with me—Britain’s ships in the North Sea—Britain’s soldiers in the trenches. And encircling and sustaining both the justice of a great cause—as these white Highland hills look down upon and encircle this valley.
A million and a half of men—over a quarter of a million of women—working in some 4,000 State-controlled workshops for the supply of munitions of war, not only to our own troops, but to those of our allies—the whole, in the main, a creation of six months’ effort—this is the astonishing spectacle of some of the details of which I have tried, as an eye-witness, to give you in my previous letters a rapid and imperfect sketch.
But what of the men, the Armies, for which these munitions are being made and hurried to the fighting-lines? It was at Aldershot, a few days ago, that I listened to some details of the first rush of the new Armies, given me by a member of the Headquarters Staff who had been through it all. Aldershot in peace time held about 27,000 troops. Since the outbreak of war some million and a quarter of men have passed through the great camp, coming in ceaselessly for training and equipment, and going out again to the theatres of war.
In the first days and weeks of the war—during and after the marvellous precision and rapidity with which the Expeditionary Force was despatched to France—men poured in from all parts, from all businesses and occupations; rich and poor, north and south country men, English, Scotch, Irish, and Welsh; men from the Dominions, who had flung themselves into the first home-coming steamer; men from India, and men from the uttermost parts of Africa and Asia who had begged or worked their way home. They were magnificent material. They came with set faces, asking only for training, training, training!—and “what the peace soldier learns in six months,” said my companion, “they learnt in six weeks. We had neither uniforms nor rifles, neither guns nor horses for them. We did not know how to feed them or to house them. In front of the headquarters at Aldershot, that Mecca of the soldier, where no