Near my own home, a park and a wooded hillside, that two years ago were carefully guarded even from a neighbour’s foot, are now occupied by a large town of military huts, which can be seen for miles round. And fifteen miles away, in a historic “chase” where Catharine of Aragon lived while her trial was proceeding in a neighbouring town, a duke, bearing one of the great names of England, has himself built a camp, housing 1,200 men, for the recruits of his county regiments alone, and has equipped it with every necessary, whether for the soldier’s life or training. But everywhere—East, North, South, and West—the English and Scotch roads are thronged with soldiers and horses, with trains of artillery wagons and Army Service lorries, with men marching back from night attacks or going out to scout and skirmish on the neighbouring commons and through the most sacred game—preserves. There are no more trespass laws in England—for the soldier.
You point to our recruiting difficulties in Parliament. True enough. We have our recruiting difficulties still. Lord Derby has not apparently solved the riddle; for riddle it is, in a country of voluntary service, where none of the preparations necessary to fit conscription into ordinary life, with its obligations, have ever been made. The Government and the House of Commons are just now wrestling with it afresh, and public opinion seems to be hardening towards certain final measures that would have been impossible earlier in the war.[B] The call is still for men—more—and more—men! And given the conditions of this war, it is small wonder that England is restless till they are found. But amid the cross currents of criticism, I catch the voice of Mr. Walter Long, the most practical, the least boastful of men, in the House of Commons, a few nights ago: Say what you like, blame, criticise, as you like, but “what this country has done since August, 1914, is an almost incredible story.” And so it is.
And now let us follow some of these khaki-clad millions across the seas, through the reinforcement camps, and the great supply bases, towards that fierce reality of war to which everything tends.
[B] Since these lines were written the crisis in the Government, the Irish rising, and the withdrawal of the military service bill have happened in quick succession. The country is still waiting (April 28th) for the last inevitable step.
It was about the middle of February, after my return from the munition factories, that I received a programme from the War Office of a journey in France, which I was to be allowed to make. I remember being at first much dissatisfied with it. It included the names of three or four places well known to be the centres of English supply organisation in France. But it did not include any place in or near the actual fighting zone. To me, in my ignorance, the places named mainly represented the great array of finely