A flash!—another!—from what appear to be the ruins at its base. It is the English guns speaking from the lines between us and Ypres; and as we watch we see the columns of white smoke rising from the German lines as the shells burst. There they are, the German lines—along the Messines ridge. We make them out quite clearly, thanks to a glass and Captain ——’s guidance. Their guns, too, are at work, and a couple of their shells are bursting on our trenches somewhere between Vlamertinghe and Dickebusche. Then the rattle of our machine-guns—as it seems from somewhere close below us, and again the boom of the artillery.
The counter-action is in progress, and we watch what can be seen or guessed of it, in fascination. We are too far off to see what is actually happening between the opposing trenches, but one of the chief fields of past and present battle, scenes which our children and our children’s children will go to visit, lie spread out before us. Half the famous sites of the earlier war can be dimly made out between us and Ypres. In front of us is the gleam of the Zillebeke Lake, beyond it Hooge. Hill 60 is in that band of shadow; a little farther east the point where the Prussian Guard was mown down at the close of the first Battle of Ypres; farther south the fields and woods made for ever famous by the charge of the Household Cavalry, by the deeds of the Worcesters, and the London Scottish, by all the splendid valour of that “thin red line,” French and English, cavalry and infantry, which in the first Battle of Ypres withstood an enemy four times as strong, saved France, and thereby England, and thereby Europe. In that tract of ground over which we are looking lie more than 100,000 graves, English and French; and to it the hearts of two great nations will turn for all time. Then if you try to pierce the northern haze, beyond that ruined tower, you may follow in imagination the course of the Yser westward to that Belgian coast where Admiral Hood’s guns broke down and scattered the German march upon Dunkirk and Calais; or if you turn south you are looking over the Belfry of Bailleul, towards Neuve Chapelle, and Festubert, and all the fierce fighting-ground round Souchez and the Labyrinth. Once English and French stood linked here in a common heroic defence. Now the English hold all this line firmly from the sea to the Somme; while the French, with the eyes of the world upon them, are making history, hour by hour, at Verdun.
So to this point we have followed one branch—the greatest—of England’s effort; and the mind, when eyes fail, pursues it afresh from its beginnings when we first stood to arms in August, 1914, through what Mr. Buchan has finely called the “rally of the Empire,” through the early rush and the rapid growth of the new armies, through the strengthening of Egypt, the disaster of Gallipoli, the seizure of the German Colonies; through all that vast upheaval at home which we have seen in the munition areas;