The War on All Fronts: England's Effort by Mrs. Humphry Ward


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Page 1

Mrs. Ward had marvellous qualifications for this patriotic task. The
granddaughter of Doctor Arnold and the niece of Matthew Arnold, from
childhood up she has been as deeply interested in politics and in public
affairs as she has been in literature, by which she has attained such
world-wide fame, and next to English politics, in American politics and
American opinion. She has been a staunch believer in the greatness of
America's future, and has maintained close friendship with leaders of
public thought on both sides of the water. Her only son is a member of
Parliament, and is fighting in the war, just as all the able-bodied men
she knows are doing.

She has received from the English government special opportunities of
seeing what England has been doing in the war, and has been allowed to go
with her daughter where few English men and no other women have been
allowed to go, to see the very heart of England's preparedness. She has
visited, since the war began, the British fleet, the very key of the whole
situation, without whose unmatched power and ever-increasing strength the
Allies at the outset must have succumbed. She has watched, always under
the protection and guidance of that wonderful new Minister of Munitions,
Lloyd George, the vast activity of that ministry throughout the country,
and finally in a motor tour of five hundred miles, through the zone of the
English armies in France, she has seen with her own eyes, that marvellous
organization of everything that goes to make and support a great army,
which England has built up in the course of eighteen months behind her
fighting line. She has witnessed within three-quarters of a mile of the
fighting line, with a gas helmet at hand, ready to put on, a German
counter attack after a successful English advance something which no
other woman, except herself and her daughter, who accompanied her, has
ever had the opportunity to see.

Mrs. Ward admits that at the beginning England was unprepared, which
itself demonstrated that as a Nation she never wished for war with
Germany, and never expected it. Her countrymen had no faith in Lord
Roberts's ten-year-long agitation for universal national service, based on
the portentous growth of the German army and navy. She never knew of any
hatred of Germany in the country. On the contrary, she realized what
England and all the rest of the world owed to Germany in so many ways.

England was not absolutely unprepared in the sense that the United States
is unprepared, even for self-defence from external attack, but except for
the fleet and her little expeditionary force, England had neither men nor
equipment equal to the fighting of a great Continental war.

The wholly unexpected news of the invasion of Belgium aroused the whole
country to realize that war on a scale never known before had come, and,
as the firing upon Fort Sumter awakened America, convinced England that
she must fight to the death for her liberties, unready as she was;--but
Mr. Balfour, the First Lord of the Admiralty, says that, since the war
began, she has added one million to the tonnage of her navy, and has
doubled its personnel, and is adding more every day.

In the matter of munitions the story that Mrs. Ward tells is wonderful,
almost beyond belief. Much had been done in the first eight months of the
war, in the building of munition shops, and the ordering of vast
quantities from abroad, before the second battle of Ypres, in April, 1915,
which led to the formation of the new Coalition Ministry, including a
wholly new department, the Ministry of Munitions, with Mr. Lloyd George at
its head.

From that time to this the work has been colossal, and almost incredible,
and without serious collision with the working classes. Vast new buildings
have been erected all over England, and a huge staff, running into
thousands, set in action. The new Minister has set out with determination
to get the thing done at whatever cost, and to remove all obstacles that
he found in his way. The Government has absolutely taken control of the
whole work of the creation of munitions and the regulation of workmen,
employed in it by whatever employers, and everything and everybody has had
to submit to his imperious will, and the greatest change of all has been
the employment of women on a vast scale to do the work that only men had
ever done before. France had set about it immediately after the battle of
the Marne, and allowed no Frenchman to remain idle who could do such work.

Mrs. Ward does not fail to do full justice to the working men of Great
Britain, and shows that besides the hundreds of thousands that they have
sent to the fighting line, a million and a half remained at work in the
shops, creating munitions with the aid of skilled experts and the
astonishing help of the women, who never before had expected to have
anything to do with guns and shells, with bombs, rifles, and machine-guns.
The old ways were laid aside, old distinctions of class and sex
forgotten, and all worked with a common and indomitable will for the
saving of the country.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 22nd Sep 2019, 16:37