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A STRAIGHT DEAL (chapter14)

2006-08-28 14:08

    CHAPTER XIV: England theSlacker!

    What did England do in the war, anyhow?

    Let us have these disregarded facts also. From the shelves of history I have pulled down and displayed the facts which our school textbooks have suppressed; I have told the events wherein England has stood our timely friend throughout a century; events which our implanted prejudice leads us to ignore, or to forget; events which show that any one who says England is our hereditary enemy might just about as well say twice two is five.

    What did England do in the war, anyhow?

    They go on asking it. The propagandists, the prompted puppets, the paid parrots of the press, go on saying these eight senseless words because they are easy to say, since the man who can answer them is generally not there: to every man who is a responsible master of facts we have——well, how many?——irresponsible shouters in this country. What is your experience? How often is it your luck——as it was mine in front of the bulletin board——to see a fraud or a fool promptly and satisfactorily put in his place? Make up your mind that wherever you hear any person whatsoever, male or female, clean or unclean, dressed in jeans, or dressed in silks and laces, inquire what England "did in the war, anyhow? "such person either shirks knowledge, or else is a fraud or a fool. Tell them what the man said in the street about the Kaiser and our front yard, but don't stop there. Tell them that in May, , England was sending men of fifty and boys of eighteen and a half to the front; that in August, , every third male available between those years was fighting, that eight and a half million men for army and navy were raised by the British Empire, of which Ireland's share was two and three tenths per cent, Wales three and seven tenths, Scotland's eight and three tenths, and England's more than sixty per cent; and that this, taken proportionately to our greater population would have amounted to about thirteen million Americans, When the war started, the British Empire maintained three soldiers out of every  of the population; her entire army, regular establishment, reserve and territorial forces, amounted to seven hundred thousand men. Our casualties were three hundred and twenty-two thousand, one hundred and eighty-two. The casualties in the British Army were three million, forty-nine thousand, nine hundred and seventy-one——a million more than we sent——and of these six hundred and fifty-eight thousand, seven hundred and four, were killed. Of her Navy, thirty-three thousand three hundred and sixty-one were killed, six thousand four hundred and five wounded and missing; of her merchant marine fourteen thousand six hundred and sixty-one were killed; a total of forty-eight thousand killed——or ten per cent of all in active service. Some of those of the merchant marine who escaped drowning through torpedoes and mines went back to sea after being torpedoed five, six, and seven times.

    What did England do in the war, anyhow?

    Through four frightful years she fought with splendor, she suffered with splendor, she held on with splendor. The second battle of Ypres is but one drop in the sea of her epic courage; yet it would fill full a canto of a poem. So spent was Britain's single line, so worn and thin, that after all the men available were brought, gaps remained. No more ammunition was coming to these men, the last rounds had been served. Wet through, heavy with mud, they were shelled for three days to prevent sleep. Many came at last to sleep standing; and being jogged awake when officers of the line passed down the trenches, would salute and instantly be asleep again. On the fourth day, with the Kaiser come to watch them crumble, three lines of Huns, wave after wave of Germany's picked troops, fell and broke upon this single line of British——and it held. The Kaiser, had he known of the exhausted ammunition and the mounded dead, could have walked unarmed to the Channel. But he never knew.

    Surgeons being scantier than men at Ypres, one with a compound fracture of the thigh had himself propped up, and thus all day worked on the wounded at the front. He knew it meant death for him. The day over, he let them carry him to the rear, and there, from blood-poisoning, he died. Thus through four frightful years, the British met their duty and their death.

    There is the great story of the little penny steamers of the Thames——a story lost amid the gigantic whole. Who will tell it right? Who will make this drop of perfect valor shine in prose or verse for future eyes to see? Imagine a Hoboken ferry boat, because her country needed her, starting for San Francisco around Cape Horn, and getting there. Some ten or eleven penny steamers under their own steam started from the Thames down the Channel, across the Bay of Biscay, past Gibraltar, and through the submarined Mediterranean for the River Tigris. Boats of shallow draught were urgently needed on the River Tigris. Four or five reached their destination. Where are the rest?

    What did England do in the war, anyhow?

    During - Britain's armies held the enemy in three continents and on six fronts, and cooperated with her Allies on two more fronts. Her dead, those six hundred and fifty-eight thousand dead, lay by the Tigris, the Zambesi, the AEgean, and across the world to Flanders' fields. Between March st and April th, , the Huns in their drive used  divisions, and of these  were concentrated against the British. That was in Flanders. Britain, at the same time she was fighting in Flanders, had also at various times shared in the fighting in Russia, Kiaochau, New Guinea, Samoa, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, the Sudan, Cameroons, Togoland, East Africa, South West Africa, Saloniki, Aden, Persia, and the northwest frontier of India. Britain cleared twelve hundred thousand square miles of the enemy in German colonies. While fighting in Mesopotamia, her soldiers were reconstructing at the same time. They reclaimed and cultivated more than  square miles of land there, which produced in consequence enough food to save two million tons of shipping annually for the Allies. In Palestine and Mesopotamia alone, British troops in  took , prisoners. In , in Palestine from September th to October th, they took , prisoners.

    What did England do in the war, anyhow?

    With "French's contemptible little army" she saved France at the start-but I'll skip that——except to mention that one division lost , out of , men, and  out of  officers. At Zeebrugge and Ostend——do not forget the Vindictive——she dealt with submarines in April and May, ——but I'll skip that; I cannot set down all that she did, either at the start, or nearing the finish, or at any particular moment during those four years and three months that she was helping to hold Germany off from the throat of the world; it would make a very thick book. But I am giving you enough, I think, wherewith to answer the ignorant, and the frauds, and the fools. Tell them that from  to  Great Britain increased her tillage area by four million acres: wheat  per cent, barley , oats , potatoes ——in spite of the shortage of labor. She used wounded soldiers, college boys and girls, boy scouts, refugees, and she produced the biggest grain crop in fifty years. She started fourteen hundred thousand new war gardens; most of those who worked them had worked already a long day in a munition factory. These devoted workers increased the potato crop in  by three million tons——and thus released British provision ships to carry our soldiers across. In that Boston speech which one of my correspondents referred to, our Secretary of the Navy did not mention this. Mention it yourself. And tell them about the boy scouts and the women. Fifteen thousand of the boy scouts joined the colors, and over fifty thousand of the younger members served in various ways at home.

    Of England's women seven million were engaged in work on munitions and other necessaries and apparatus of war. The terrible test of that second battle of Ypres, to which I have made brief allusion above, wrought an industrial revolution in the manufacture of shells. The energy of production rose at a rate which may be indicated by two or three comparisons: In  as many heavy howitzer shells were turned out in a single day as in the whole first year of the war, as many medium shells in five days, and as many field-gun shells in eight days. Or in other words,  times as many field-gun shells,  times as many medium, and  times as many heavy howitzer shells, were turned out in  as in the first year of the war. These shells were manufactured in buildings totaling fifteen miles in length, forty feet in breadth, with more than ten thousand machine tools driven by seventeen miles of shafting with an energy of twenty-five thousand horse-power and a weekly output of over ten thousand tons' weight of projectiles——all this largely worked by the women of England. While the fleet had increased its personnel from , to about ,, and ,, men by July, , had voluntarily enlisted in the army before England gave up her birthright and accepted compulsory service, the women of England left their ordinary lives to fabricate the necessaries of war. They worked at home while their husbands, brothers, and sons fought and died on six battle fronts abroad-six hundred and fifty-eight thousand died, remember; do you remember the number of Americans killed in action?——less than thirty-six thousand;-those English women worked on, seven millions of them at least, on milk carts, motor-busses, elevators, steam engines, and in making ammunition. Never before had any woman worked on more than  of the  different processes that go to the making of munitions. They now handled

    T. N. T., and fulminate of mercury, more deadly still; helped build guns, gun carriages, and three-and-a-half ton army cannons; worked overhead traveling cranes for moving the boilers of battleships: turned lathes, made every part of an aeroplane. And who were these seven million women? The eldest daughter of a duke and the daughter of a general won distinction in advanced munition work. The only daughter of an old Army family broke down after a year's work in a base hospital in France, was ordered six months' rest at home, but after two months entered a munition factory as an ordinary employee and after nine months' work had lost but five minutes working time. The mother of seven enlisted sons went into munitions not to be behind them in serving England, and one of them wrote her she was probably killing more Germans than any of the family. The stewardess of a torpedoed passenger ship was among the few survivors. Reaching land, she got a job at a capstan lathe. Those were the seven million women of England——daughters of dukes, torpedoed stewardesses, and everything between. Seven hundred thousand of these were engaged on munition work proper. They did from  to  per cent of all the machine work on shells, fuses, and trench warfare supplies, and  of them were trained mechanics to the Royal Flying Corps. They were employed upon practically every operation in factory, in foundry, in laboratory, and chemical works, of which they were physically capable; in making of gauges, forging billets, making fuses, cartridges, bullets——"look what they can do," said a foreman, "ladies from homes where they sat about and were waited upon." They also made optical glass; drilled and tapped in the shipyards; renewed electric wires and fittings, wound armatures; lacquered guards for lamps and radiator fronts; repaired junction and section boxes, fire control instruments, automatic searchlights. "We can hardly believe our eyes," said another foreman, "when we see the heavy stuff brought to and from the shops in motor lorries driven by girls. Before the war it was all carted by horses and men. The girls do the job all right, though, and the only thing they ever complain about is that their toes get cold." They worked without hesitation from twelve to fourteen hours a day, or a night, for seven days a week, and with the voluntary sacrifice of public holidays.

    That is not all, or nearly all, that the women of England did——I skip their welfare work, recreation work, nursing——but it is enough wherewith to answer the ignorant, or the fraud, or the fool.

    What did England do in the war, anyhow?

    On August , , Lord Kitchener asked for , volunteers. He had them within fourteen days. In the first week of September , men enrolled, , in a single day. Eleven months later, two million had enlisted. Ten months later, five million and forty-one thousand had voluntarily enrolled in the Army and Navy.

    In  Britain had in her Royal Naval Air Service  aeroplanes and  airmen. In  she had many thousand aeroplanes and , airmen. In her Royal Flying Corps she had in ,  planes and  men; in , several thousand planes and men by tens of thousands. In the first nine months of  British airmen brought down  enemy machines and drove down  out of control. From July, , to June, ,  enemy machines were destroyed or brought down with a loss of  machines.

    Besides financing her own war costs she had by October, , loaned eight hundred million dollars to the Dominions and five billion five hundred million to the Allies. She raised five billion in thirty days. In the first eight months of  she contributed to the various forms of war loan at the average rate of one hundred and twenty-four million, eight hundred thousand a week.

    Is that enough? Enough to show what England did in the War? No, it is not enough for such people as continue to ask what she did. Nothing would suffice these persons. During the earlier stages of the War it was possible that the question could be asked honestly——though never intelligently——because the facts and figures were not at that time always accessible. They were still piling up, they were scattered about, mention of them was incidental and fugitive, they could be missed by anybody who was not diligently alert to find them. To-day it is quite otherwise. The facts and figures have been compiled, arranged, published in accessible and convenient form; therefore to-day, the man or woman who persists in asking what England did in the war is not honest but dishonest or mentally spotted, and does not want to be answered. They don't want to know. The question is merely a camouflage of their spite, and were every item given of the gigantic and magnificent contribution that England made to the defeat of the Kaiser and all his works, it would not stop their evil mouths. Not for them am I here setting forth a part of what England did; it is for the convenience of the honest American, who does want to know, that my collection of facts is made from the various sources which he may not have the time or the means to look up for himself. For his benefit I add some particulars concerning the British Navy which kept the Kaiser out of our front yard.

    Admiral Mahan said in his book——and he was an American of whose knowledge and wisdom Congress seems to have known nothing and cared less——"Why do English innate political conceptions of popular representative government, of the balance of law and liberty, prevail in North America from the Arctic Circle to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific? Because the command of the sea at the decisive era belonged to Great Britain." We have seen that the decisive era was when Napoleon's mouth watered for Louisiana, and when England took her stand behind the Monroe Doctrine.

    Admiral Sims said in the second installment of his narrative The Victory at Sea, published in The World's Work for October, , at page

    : "…… Let us suppose for a moment that an earthquake, or some other great natural disturbance, had engulfed the British fleet at Scapa Flow. The world would then have been at Germany's mercy and all the destroyers the Allies could have put upon the sea would have availed them nothing, for the German battleships and battle cruisers could have sunk them or driven them into their ports. Then Allied commerce would have been the prey, not only of the submarines, which could have operated with the utmost freedom, but of the German surface craft as well. In a few weeks the British food supplies would have been exhausted. There would have been an early end to the soldiers and munitions which Britain was constantly sending to France. The United States could have sent no forces to the Western front, and the result would have been the surrender which the Allies themselves, in the spring of , regarded as a not remote possibility. America would then have been compelled to face the German power alone, and to face it long before we had had an opportunity to assemble our resources and equip our armies. The world was preserved from all these calamities because the destroyer and the convoy solved the problem of the submarines, and because back of these agencies of victory lay Admiral Beatty's squadrons, holding at arm's length the German surface ships while these comparatively fragile craft were saving the liberties of the world."

    Yes. The High Seas Fleet of Germany, costing her one billion five hundred million dollars, was bottled up. Five million five hundred thousand tons of German shipping and one million tons of Austrian shipping were driven off the seas or captured; oversea trade and oversea colonies were cut off. Two million oversea Huns of fighting age were hindered from joining the enemy. Ocean commerce and communication were stopped for the Huns and secured to the Allies. In ,  mines were swept up and  mine sweepers lost. These mine sweepers and patrol boats numbered  in , and  by . To patrol the seas British ships had to steam eight million miles in a single month. During the four years of the war they transported oversea more than thirteen million men (losing but  through enemy action) as well as transporting two million horses and mules, five hundred thousand vehicles, twenty-five million tons of explosives, fifty-one million tons of oil and fuel, one hundred and thirty million tons of food and other materials for the use of the Allies. In one month three hundred and fifty-five thousand men were carried from England to France.

    It was after our present Secretary of the Navy, in his speech in Boston to which allusion has been made, had given our navy all and the British navy none of the credit of conveying our soldiers overseas, that Admiral Sims repaired the singular oblivion of the Secretary. We Americans should know the truth, he said. We had not been too accurately informed. We did not seem to have been told by anybody, for instance, that of the five thousand anti-submarine craft operating day and night in the infested waters, we had , or  per cent; that of the million and a half troops which had gone over from here in a few months, Great Britain brought over two thirds and escorted half.

    "I would like American papers to pay particular attention to the fact that there are about  anti-submarine craft in the ocean to-day, cutting out mines, escorting troop ships, and making it possible for us to go ahead and win this war. They can do this because the British Grand Fleet is so powerful that the German High Seas Fleet has to stay at home. The British Grand Fleet is the foundation stone of the cause of the whole of the Allies."

    Thus Admiral Sims.

    That is part of what England did in the war.

    Note.——The author expresses thanks and acknowledgment to Pearson's Magazine for permission to use the passages quoted from the articles by Admiral Sims.

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