The conditions of travelling at the present moment, within the region covered by the English military organisation in France, for a woman possessing a special War Office pass, in addition to her ordinary passport, and understood to be on business which has the good-will of the Government, though in no sense commissioned by it, are made easy by the courtesy and kindness of everybody concerned. From the moment of landing on the French side, my daughter and I passed into the charge of the military authorities. An officer accompanied us; a War Office motor took us from place to place; and everything that could be shown us in the short ten days of our tour was freely open to us. The trouble, indeed, that was taken to enable me to give some of the vividness of personal seeing to these letters is but one of many proofs, I venture to think, of that warm natural wish in British minds that America should understand why we are fighting this war, and how we are fighting it. As to myself, I have written in complete freedom, affected only by the absolutely necessary restrictions of the military censorship; and I only hope I may be able to show something, however inadequately, of the work of men who have done a magnificent piece of organisation, far too little realised even in their own country.
For in truth we in England know very little about our bases abroad; about what it means to supply the ever-growing needs of the English Armies in France. The military world takes what has been done for granted; the general English public supposes that the Tommies, when their days in the home camps are done, get “somehow” conveyed to the front, being “somehow” equipped, fed, clothed, nursed, and mended, and sent on their way across France in interminable lines of trains. As to the details of the process, it rarely troubles its head. The fact is, however, that the work of the great supply bases abroad, of the various Corps and Services connected with them—Army Ordnance, Army Service, Army Medical, railway and motor transport—is a desperately interesting study; and during the past eighteen months, under the “I.G.C.”—Inspector-General of Communications—has developed some of the best brains in the Army.