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Now It Can Be Told by Philip Gibbs

Part 10 out of 10

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ersatz flour with ersatz cream, and not very healthy or nutritious,
though very expensive. But in the side-streets, among the working--
women, there was, as I found, the wolf of hunger standing with open
jaws by every doorway. It was not actual starvation, but what the
Germans call unternahrung (under-nourishment), producing rickety
children, consumptive girls, and men out of whom vitality had gone
They stinted and scraped on miserable substitutes, and never had
enough to eat. Yet they were the people who for two years at least had
denounced the war, had sent up petitions for peace, and had written to
their men in the trenches about the Great Swindle and the Gilded Ones.
They were powerless, as some of them told me, because of the secret
police and martial law. What could they do against the government,
with all their men away at the front? They were treated like pigs,
like dirt. They could only suffer and pray. They had a little hope
that in the future, if France and England were not too hard, they
might pay back for the guilt of their war lords and see a new Germany
arise out of its ruin, freed from militarism and with greater
liberties. So humble people talked to us when I went among them with a
friend who spoke good German, better than my elementary knowledge. I
believed in their sincerity, which had come through suffering, though
I believed that newspaper editors, many people in the official
classes, and the old military caste were still implacable in hatred
and unrepentant.

The German people deserved punishment for their share in the guilt of
war. They had been punished by frightful losses of life, by a
multitude of cripples, by the ruin of their Empire. When they told me
of their hunger I could not forget the hungry wives and children of
France and Belgium, who had been captives in their own land behind
German lines, nor our prisoners who had been starved, until many of
them died. When I walked through German villages and pitied the women
who yearned for their men, still prisoners in our hands, nearly a year
after the armistice, and long after peace (a cruelty which shamed us,
I think), I remembered hundreds of French villages broken into dust by
German gun-fire, burned by incendiary shells, and that vast desert of
the battlefields in France and Belgium which never in our time will
regain its life as a place of human habitation. When Germans said,
"Our industry is ruined," "Our trade is killed," I thought of the
factories in Lille and many towns from which all machinery had been
taken or in which all machinery had been broken. I thought of the
thousand crimes of their war, the agony of millions of people upon
whose liberties they had trampled and upon whose necks they had
imposed a brutal yoke. Yet even with all those memories of tragic
scenes which in this book are but lightly sketched, I hoped that the
peace we should impose would not be one of vengeance, by which the
innocent would pay for the sins of the guilty, the children for their
fathers' lust, the women for their war lords, the soldiers who hated
war for those who drove them to the shambles; but that this peace
should in justice and mercy lead the working-people of Europe out of
the misery in which all were plunged, and by a policy no higher than
common sense, but as high as that, establish a new phase of
civilization in which military force would be reduced to the limits of
safety for European peoples eager to end the folly of war and get back
to work.

I hoped too much. There was no such peace.


For What Men Died


In this book I have written in a blunt way some episodes of the war as
I observed them, and gained first-hand knowledge of them in their
daily traffic. I have not painted the picture blacker than it was, nor
selected gruesome morsels and joined them together to make a jig-saw
puzzle for ghoulish delight. Unlike Henri Barbusse, who, in his
dreadful book Le Feu, gave the unrelieved blackness of this human
drama, I have here and in other books shown the light as well as the
shade in which our men lived, the gaiety as well as the fear they had,
the exultation as well as the agony of battle, the spiritual ardor of
boys as well as the brutality of the task that was theirs. I have
tried to set down as many aspects of the war's psychology as I could
find in my remembrance of these years, without exaggeration or false
emphasis, so that out of their confusion, even out of their
contradiction, the real truth of the adventure might be seen as it
touched the souls of men.

Yet when one strives to sum up the evidence and reach definite
conclusions about the motives which led men of the warring nations to
kill one another year after year in those fields of slaughter, the
ideals for which so many millions of men laid down their lives, and
the effect of those years of carnage upon the philosophy of this
present world of men, there is no clear line of thought or conviction.

It is difficult at least to forecast the changes that will be produced
by this experience in the social structure of civilized peoples, and
in their relations to one another though it is certain, even now, that
out of the passion of the war a new era in the world's history is
being born. The ideas of vast masses of people have been
revolutionized by the thoughts that were stirred up in them during
those years of intense suffering. No system of government designed by
men afraid of the new ideas will have power to kill them, though they
may throttle them for a time. For good or ill, I know not which, the
ideas germinated in trenches and dugouts, in towns under shell--fire
or bomb-fire, in hearts stricken by personal tragedy or world-agony,
will prevail over the old order which dominated the nations of Europe,
and the old philosophy of political and social governance will be
challenged and perhaps overthrown. If the new ideas are thwarted by
reactionary rulers endeavoring to jerk the world back to its old-
fashioned discipline under their authority, there will be anarchy
reaching to the heights of terror in more countries than those where
anarchy now prevails. If by fear or by wisdom the new ideas are
allowed to gain their ground gradually, a revolution will be
accomplished without anarchy. But in any case, for good or ill, a
revolution will happen. It has happened in the sense that already
there is no resemblance between this Europe after-the-war and that
Europe-before-the-war, in the mental attitude of the masses toward the
problems of life. In every country there are individuals, men and
women, who are going about as though what had happened had made no
difference, and as though, after a period of restlessness, the people
will "settle down" to the old style of things. They are merely sleep-
walkers. There are others who see clearly enough that they cannot
govern or dupe the people with old spell-words, and they are
struggling desperately to think out new words which may help them to
regain their power over simple minds. The old gangs are organizing a
new system of defense, building a new kind of Hindenburg line behind
which they are dumping their political ammunition. But their
Hindenburg line is not impregnable. The angry murmur of the mob--
highly organized, disciplined, passionate, trained to fight, is
already approaching the outer bastions.

In Russia the mob is in possession, wiping the blood out of their eyes
after the nightmare of anarchy, encompassed by forces of the old
regime, and not knowing yet whether its victory is won or how to shape
the new order that must follow chaos.

In Germany there is only the psychology of stunned people, broken for
a time in body and spirit, after stupendous efforts and bloody losses
which led to ruin and the complete destruction of their old pride,
philosophy, and power. The revolution that has happened there is
strange and rather pitiful. It was not caused by the will--power of
the people, but by a cessation of will-power. They did not overthrow
their ruling dynasty, their tyrants. The tyrants fled, and the people
were not angry, nor sorry, nor fierce, nor glad. They were stupefied.
Members of the old order joined hands with those of the people's
parties, out to evolve a republic with new ideals based upon the
people's will and inspired by the people's passion. The Germans, after
the armistice and after the peace, had no passion, as they had no
will. They were in a state of coma. The "knock-out blow" had happened
to them, and they were incapable of action. They just ceased from
action. They had been betrayed to this ruin by their military and
political rulers, but they had not vitality enough to demand vengeance
on those men. The extent of their ruin was so great that it
annihilated anger, political passion, pride, all emotion except that
of despair. How could they save something out of the remnants of the
power that had been theirs? How could they keep alive, feed their
women and children, pay their monstrous debts? They had lost their
faith as well as their war. Nothing that they had believed was true.
They had believed in their invincible armies--and the armies had bled
to death and broken. They had believed in the supreme military genius
of their war lords, and the war lords, blunderers as well as
criminals, had led them to the abyss and dropped them over. They had
believed in the divine mission of the German people as a civilizing
force, and now they were despised by all other peoples as a brutal and
barbarous race, in spite of German music, German folk-songs, German
art, German sentiment. They had been abandoned by God, by the
protecting hand of the altes gutes Deutsches Gottes to whom many had
prayed for comfort and help in those years of war, in Protestant
churches and Catholic churches, with deep piety and childlike faith.
What sins had they done that they should be abandoned by God? The
invasion of Belgium? That, they argued, was a tragic necessity.
Atrocities? Those were (they believed) the inventions of their
enemies. There had been stern things done, terrible things, but
according to the laws of war. Francs-tireurs had been shot. That was
war. Hostages had been shot. It was to save German lives from
slaughter by civilians. Individual brutalities, yes. There were brutes
in all armies. The U-boat war? It was (said the German patriot) to
break a blockade that was starving millions of German children to slow
death, condemning millions to consumption, rickets, all manner of
disease. Nurse Cavell? She pleaded guilty to a crime that was
punishable, as she knew, by death. She was a brave woman who took her
risk open-eyed, and was judged according to the justice of war, which
is very cruel. Poison-gas? Why not, said German soldiers, when to be
gassed was less terrible than to be blown to bits by high explosives?
They had been the first to use that new method of destruction, as the
English were the first to use tanks, terrible also in their
destructiveness. Germany was guilty of this war, had provoked it
against peaceful peoples? No! A thousand times no. They had been, said
the troubled soul of Germany, encompassed with enemies. They had
plotted to close her in. Russia was a huge menace. France had entered
into alliance with Russia, and was waiting her chance to grab at
Alsace-Lorraine. Italy was ready for betrayal. England hated the power
of Germany and was in secret alliance with France and Russia. Germany
had struck to save herself. "It was a war of self-defense, to save the

The German people still clung desperately to those ideas after the
armistice, as I found in Cologne and other towns, and as friends of
mine who had visited Berlin told me after peace was signed. The
Germans refused to believe in accusations of atrocity. They knew that
some of these stories had been faked by hostile propaganda, and,
knowing that, as we know, they thought all were false. They said
"Lies-lies-lies!"--and made counter--charges against the Russians and
Poles. They could not bring themselves to believe that their sons and
brothers had been more brutal than the laws of war allow, and what
brutality they had done was imposed upon them by ruthless discipline.
But they deplored the war, and the common people, ex-soldiers and
civilians, cursed the rich and governing classes who had made profit
out of it, and had continued it when they might have made peace with
honor. That was their accusation against their leaders--that and the
ruthless, bloody way in which their men had been hurled into the
furnace on a gambler's chance of victory, while they were duped by
faked promises of victory.

When not put upon their defense by accusations against the whole
Fatherland, the German people, as far as I could tell by talking with
a few of them, and by those letters which fell into our hands,
revolted in spirit against the monstrous futility and idiocy of the
war, and were convinced in their souls that its origin lay in the
greed and pride of the governing classes of all nations, who had used
men's bodies as counters in a devil's game. That view was expressed in
the signboards put above the parapet, "We're all fools: let's all go
home"; and in that letter by the woman who wrote:

"For the poor here it is terrible, and yet the rich, the gilded ones,
the bloated aristocrats, gobble up everything in front of our very
eyes . . . All soldiers--friend and foe--ought to throw down their
weapons and go on strike, so that this war, which enslaves the people
more than ever, may cease."

It is that view, terrible in its simplicity, which may cause a more
passionate revolution in Germany when the people awaken from their
stupor. It was that view which led to the Russian Revolution and to
Bolshevism. It is the suspicion which is creeping into the brains of
British working-men and making them threaten to strike against any
adventure of war, like that in Russia, which seems to them (unless
proved otherwise) on behalf of the "gilded ones" and for the
enslavement of the peoples.

Not to face that truth is to deny the passionate convictions of masses
of men in Europe. That is one key to the heart of the revolutionary
movement which is surging beneath the surface of our European state.
It is a the belief of many brooding minds that almost as great as the
direct guilt of the German war lords was the guilt of the whole
political society of Europe, whose secret diplomacy (unrevealed to the
peoples) was based upon hatred and fear and rivalry, in play for
imperial power and the world's markets, as common folk play dominoes
for penny points, and risking the lives of common folk in a gamble for
enormous stakes of territory, imperial prestige, the personal vanity
of politicians, the vast private gain of trusts and profiteers. To
keep the living counters quiet, to make them jump into the pool of
their own free will at the word "Go," the statesmen, diplomats,
trusts, and profiteers debauch the name of patriotism, raise the
watchword of liberty, and play upon the ignorance of the mob easily,
skillfully, by inciting them to race hatred, by inflaming the brute-
passion in them, and by concocting a terrible mixture of false
idealism and self-interest, so that simple minds quick to respond to
sentiment, as well as those quick to hear the call of the beast, rally
shoulder to shoulder and march to the battlegrounds under the spell of
that potion. Some go with a noble sense of sacrifice, some with blood-
lust in their hearts, most with the herd-instinct following the lead,
little knowing that they are but the pawns of a game which is being
played behind closed doors by the great gamblers in the courts and
Foreign Offices, and committee-rooms, and counting-houses, of the
political casinos in Europe.

I have heard the expression of this view from soldiers during the war
and since the war, at street-corners, in tram-cars, and in
conversations with railway men, mechanics, policemen, and others who
were soldiers a year ago, or stay-at-homes, thinking hard over the
meaning of the war. I am certain that millions of men are thinking
these things, because I found the track of those common thoughts,
crude, simple, dangerous, among Canadian soldiers crossing the
Atlantic, in Canadian towns, and in the United States, as I had begun
to see the trail of them far back in the early days of the war when I
moved among French soldiers, Belgian soldiers, and our own men.

My own belief is not so simple as that. I do not divorce all peoples
from their governments as victims of a subtle tyranny devised by
statesmen and diplomats of diabolical cunning, and by financial
magnates ready to exploit human life for greater gains. I see the evil
which led to the crime of the war and to the crimes of the peace with
deep-spread roots to the very foundation of human society. The fear of
statesmen, upon which all international relations were based, was in
the hearts of peoples. France was afraid of Germany and screwed up her
military service, her war preparations, to the limit of national
endurance, the majority of the people of France accepting the burden
as inevitable and right. Because of her fear of Germany France made
her alliance with Russian Czardom, her entente cordiale with Imperial
England, and the French people poured their money into Russian loans
as a life insurance against the German menace. French statesmen knew
that their diplomacy was supported by the majority of the people by
their ignorance as well as by their knowledge.

So it was in Germany. The spell-words of the German war lords
expressed the popular sentiment of the German people, which was
largely influenced by the fear of Russia in alliance with France, by
fear and envy of the British Empire and England's sea-power, and by
the faith that Germany must break through that hostile combination at
all costs in order to fulfil the high destiny which was marked out for
her, as she thought, by the genius and industry of her people. The
greed of the "bloated aristocrats" was only on a bigger scale than the
greed of the small shopkeepers. The desire to capture new markets
belonged not only to statesmen, but to commercial travelers. The
German peasant believed as much in the might of the German armies as
Hindenburg and Ludendorff. The brutality of German generals was not
worse than that of the Unteroffizier or the foreman of works.

In England there was no traditional hatred of Germany, but for some
years distrust and suspicions, which had been vented in the
newspapers, with taunts and challenges, stinging the pride of Germans
and playing into the hands of the Junker caste.

Our war psychology was different from that of our allies because of
our island position and our faith in seapower which had made us immune
from the fear of invasion. It took some time to awaken the people to a
sense of real peril and of personal menace to their hearths and homes.
To the very end masses of English folk believed that we were fighting
for the rescue of other peoples--Belgian, French, Serbian, Rumanian--
and not for the continuance of our imperial power.

The official propaganda, the words and actions of British statesmen,
did actually express the conscious and subconscious psychology of the
multitude. The call to the old watchwords of national pride and
imperial might thrilled the soul of a people of proud tradition in
sea--battles and land-battles. Appeals for the rescue of "the little
nations" struck old chords of chivalry and sentiment--though with a
strange lack of logic and sincerity Irish demand for self-government
was unheeded. Base passions as well as noble instincts were stirred
easily. Greedy was the appetite of the mob for atrocity tales. The
more revolting they were the quicker they were swallowed. The foul
absurdity of the "corpse-factory" was not rejected any more than the
tale of the "crucified Canadian" (disproved by our own G.H.Q.) or the
cutting off of children's hands and women's breasts, for which I could
find no evidence from the only British ambulances working in the
districts where such horrors were reported. Spy-mania flourished in
mean streets, German music was banned in English drawing-rooms.
Preachers and professors denied any quality of virtue or genius to
German poets, philosophers, scientists, or scholars. A critical
weighing of evidence was regarded as pro-Germanism and lack of
patriotism. Truth was delivered bound to passion. Hatred at home,
inspired largely by feminine hysteria and official propaganda, reached
such heights that when fighting-men came back on leave their refusal
to say much against their enemy, their straightforward assertions that
Fritz was not so black as he was painted, that he fought bravely, died
gamely, and in the prison-camps was well-mannered, decent,
industrious, good-natured, were heard with shocked silence by mothers
and sisters who could only excuse this absence of hate on the score of


The people of all countries were deeply involved in the general blood-
guiltiness of Europe. They made no passionate appeal in the name of
Christ or in the name of humanity for the cessation of the slaughter
of boys and the suicide of nations and for a reconciliation of peoples
upon terms of some more reasonable argument than that of high
explosives. Peace proposals from the Pope, from Germany, from Austria,
were rejected with fierce denunciation, most passionate scorn, as
"peace plots" and "peace traps," not without the terrible logic of the
vicious circle, because, indeed, there was no sincerity of
renunciation in some of those offers of peace, and the powers hostile
to us were simply trying our strength and our weakness in order to
make their own kind of peace which should be that of conquest. The
gamblers, playing the game of "poker," with crowns and armies as their
stakes, were upheld generally by the peoples, who would not abate one
point of pride, one fraction of hate, one claim of vengeance, though
all Europe should fall in ruin and the last legions of boys be
massacred. There was no call from people to people across the
frontiers of hostility: "Let us end this homicidal mania! Let us get
back to sanity and save our younger sons. Let us hand over to justice
those who will continue the slaughter of our youth!" There was no
forgiveness, no generous instinct, no large-hearted common sense in
any combatant nation of Europe. Like wolves they had their teeth in
one another's throats, and would not let go, though all bloody and
exhausted, until one should fall at the last gasp, to be mangled by
the others. Yet in each nation, even in Germany, there were men and
women who saw the folly of the war and the crime of it, and desired to
end it by some act of renunciation and repentance, and by some
uplifting of the people's spirit to vault the frontiers of hatred and
the barbed wire which hedged in patriotism. Some of them were put in
prison. Most of them saw the impossibility of counteracting the forces
of insanity which had made the world mad, and kept silent, hiding
their thoughts and brooding over them. The leaders of the nations
continued to use mob-passion as their argument and justification,
excited it anew when its fires burned low, focused it upon definite
objectives, and gave it a sense of righteousness by the high-sounding
watchwords of liberty, justice, honor, and retribution. Each side
proclaimed Christ as its captain and invoked the blessing and aid of
the God of Christendom, though Germans were allied with Turks and
France was full of black and yellow men. The German people did not try
to avert their ruin by denouncing the criminal acts of their war lords
nor by deploring the cruelties they had committed. The Allies did not
help them to do so, because of their lust for bloody vengeance and
their desire for the spoils of victory. The peoples shared the blame
of their rulers because they were not nobler than their rulers. They
cannot now plead ignorance or betrayal by false ideals which duped
them, because character does not depend on knowledge, and it was the
character of European peoples which failed in the crisis of the
world's fate, so that they followed the call-back of the beast in the
jungle rather than the voice of the Crucified One whom they pretended
to adore.


The character of European peoples failed in common sense and in
Christian charity. It did not fail in courage to endure great agonies,
to suffer death largely, to be obedient to the old tradition of
patriotism and to the stoic spirit of old fighting races.

In courage I do not think there was much difference between the chief
combatants. The Germans, as a race, were wonderfully brave until their
spirit was broken by the sure knowledge of defeat and by lack of food.
Many times through all those years they marched shoulder to shoulder,
obedient to discipline, to certain death, as I saw them on the Somme,
like martyrs. They marched for their Fatherland, inspired by the
spirit of the German race, as it had entered their souls by the memory
of old German songs, old heroic ballads, their German home life, their
German women, their love of little old towns on hillsides or in
valleys, by all the meaning to them of that word Germany, which is
like the name of England to us--who is fool enough to think
otherwise?--and fought often, a thousand times, to the death, as I saw
their bodies heaped in the fields of the Somme and round their pill-
boxes in Flanders and in the last phase of the war behind the
Hindenburg line round their broken batteries on the way of Mons and Le
Cateau. The German people endured years of semi-starvation and a drain
of blood greater than any other fighting people--two million dead--
before they lost all vitality, hope, and pride and made their abject
surrender. At the beginning they were out for conquest, inspired by
arrogance and pride. Before the end they fought desperately to defend
the Fatherland from the doom which cast its black shadow on them as it
drew near. They were brave, those Germans, whatever the brutality of
individual men and the cold-blooded cruelty of their commanders.

The courage of France is to me like an old heroic song, stirring the
heart. It was medieval in its complete adherence to the faith of valor
and its spirit of sacrifice for La Patrie. If patriotism were enough
as the gospel of life--Nurse Cavell did not think so--France as a
nation was perfect in that faith. Her people had no doubt as to their
duty. It was to defend their sacred soil from the enemy which had
invaded it. It was to hurl the brutes back from the fair fields they
had ravaged and despoiled. It was to liberate their brothers and
sisters from the outrageous tyranny of the German yoke in the captured
country. It was to seek vengeance for bloody, foul, and abominable

In the first days of the war France was struck by heavy blows which
sent her armies reeling back in retreat, but before the first battle
of the Marne, when her peril was greatest, when Paris seemed doomed,
the spirit of the French soldiers rose to a supreme act of faith--
which was fulfilled when Foch attacked in the center, when Manoury
struck on the enemy's flank and hundreds of thousands of young
Frenchmen hurled themselves, reckless of life, upon the monster which
faltered and then fled behind the shelter of the Aisne. With bloodshot
eyes and parched throats and swollen tongues, blind with sweat and
blood, mad with the heat and fury of attack, the French soldiers
fought through that first battle of the Marne and saved France from
defeat and despair.

After that, year after year, they flung themselves against the German
defense and died in heaps, or held their lines, as at Verdun, against
colossal onslaught, until the dead lay in masses. But the living said,
"They shall not pass!" and kept their word.

The people of France--above all, the women of France--behind the
lines, were the equals of the fighting-men in valor. They fought with
despair, through many black months, and did not yield. They did the
work of their men in the fields, and knew that many of them--the sons
or brothers or lovers or husbands--would never return for the harvest-
time, but did not cry to have them back until the enemy should be
thrust out of France. Behind the German line, under German rule, the
French people, prisoners in their own land, suffered most in spirit,
but were proud and patient in endurance.

"Why don't your people give in?" asked a German officer of a woman in
Nesle. "France is bleeding to death."

"We shall go on for two years, or three years, or four, or five, and
in the end we shall smash you," said the woman who told me this.

The German officer stared at her and said, "You people are wonderful!"

Yes, they were wonderful, the French, and their hatred of the Germans,
their desire for vengeance, complete and terrible, at all cost of
life, even though France should bleed to death and die after victory,
is to be understood in the heights and depths of its hatred and in the
passion of its love for France and liberty. When I think of France I
am tempted to see no greater thing than such patriotism as that to
justify the gospel of hate against such an enemy, to uphold vengeance
as a sweet virtue. Yet if I did so I should deny the truth that has
been revealed to many men and women by the agony of the war--that if
civilization may continue patriotism is "not enough," that
international hatred will produce other wars worse than this, in which
civilization will be submerged, and that vengeance, even for dreadful
crimes, cannot be taken of a nation without punishing the innocent
more than the guilty, so that out of its cruelty and injustice new
fires of hatred are lighted, the demand for vengeance passes to the
other side, and the devil finds another vicious circle in which to
trap the souls of men and "catch 'em all alive O!"

To deny that would also be a denial of the faith with which millions
of young Frenchmen rushed to the colors in the first days of the war.
It was they who said, "This is a war to end war." They told me so. It
was they who said: "German militarism must be killed so that all
militarism shall be abolished. This is a war for liberty." So soldiers
of France spoke to me on a night when Paris was mobilized and the
tragedy began. It is a Frenchman--Henri Barbusse--who, in spite of the
German invasion, the outrages against his people, the agony of France,
has the courage to say that all peoples in Europe were involved in the
guilt of that war because of their adherence to that old barbaric
creed of brute force and the superstitious servitude of their souls to
symbols of national pride based upon military tradition. He even
denounces the salute to the flag, instinctive and sacred in the heart
of every Frenchman, as a fetish worship in which the narrow bigotry of
national arrogance is raised above the rights of the common masses of
men. He draws no distinction between a war of defense and a war of
aggression, because attack is the best means of defense, and all
peoples who go to war dupe themselves into the belief that they do so
in defense of their liberties, and rights, and power, and property.
Germany attacked France first because she was ready first and sure of
her strength. France would have attacked Germany first to get back
Alsace-Lorraine, to wipe out 1870, if she also had been ready and sure
of her strength. The political philosophy on both sides of the Rhine
was the same. It was based on military power and rivalry of secret
alliances and imperial ambitions. The large-hearted internationalism
of Jean Jaures, who with all his limitations was a great Frenchman,
patriot, and idealist, had failed among his own people and in Germany,
and the assassin's bullet was his reward for the adventure of his soul
to lift civilization above the level of the old jungle law and to save
France from the massacre which happened.

In war France was wonderful, most heroic in sacrifice, most splendid
in valor. In her dictated peace, which was ours also, her leaders were
betrayed by the very evil which millions of young Frenchmen had gone
out to kill at the sacrifice of their own lives. Militarism was
exalted in France above the ruins of German militarism. It was a peace
of vengeance which punished the innocent more than the guilty, the
babe at the breast more than the Junker in his Schloss, the poor
working-woman more than the war lord, the peasant who had been driven
to the shambles more than Sixt von Arnim or Rupprecht of Bavaria, or
Ludendorff, or Hindenburg. It is a peace that can only be maintained
by the power of artillery and by the conscription of every French boy
who shall be trained for the next "war of defense" (twenty years
hence, thirty years hence), when Germany is strong again--stronger
than France because of her population, stronger then, enormously, than
France, in relative numbers of able-bodied men than in August, 1914.
So if that philosophy continue--and I do not think it will--the old
fear will be re-established, the old burdens of armament will be piled
up anew, the people of France will be weighed down as before under a
military regime stifling their liberty of thought and action, wasting
the best years of their boyhood in barracks, seeking protective
alliances, buying allies at great cost, establishing the old spy
system, the old diplomacy, the old squalid ways of inter--national
politics, based as before on fear and force. Marshal Foch was a fine
soldier. Clemenceau was a strong Minister of War. There was no man
great enough in France to see beyond the passing triumph of military
victory and by supreme generosity of soul to lift their enemy out of
the dirt of their despair, so that the new German Republic should
arise from the ruins of the Empire, remorseful of their deeds in
France and Belgium, with all their rage directed against their ancient
tyranny, and with a new-born spirit of democratic liberty reaching
across the old frontiers.

Is that the foolish dream of the sentimentalist? No, more than that;
for the German people, after their agony, were ready to respond to
generous dealing, pitiful in their need of it, and there is enough
sentiment in German hearts--the most sentimental people in Europe--to
rise with a surge of emotion to a new gospel of atonement if their old
enemies had offered a chance of grace. France has not won the war by
her terms of peace nor safeguarded her frontiers for more than a few
uncertain years. By harking back to the old philosophy of militarism
she has re-established peril amid a people drained of blood and deeply
in debt. Her support of reactionary forces in Russia is to establish a
government which will guarantee the interest on French loans and
organize a new military regime in alliance with France and England.
Meanwhile France looks to the United States and British people to
protect her from the next war, when Germany shall be strong again. She
is playing the militarist role without the strength to sustain it.


What of England? . . . Looking back at the immense effort of the
British people in the war, our high sum of sacrifice in blood and
treasure, and the patient courage of our fighting-men, the world must,
and does, indeed, acknowledge that the old stoic virtue of our race
was called out by this supreme challenge, and stood the strain. The
traditions of a thousand years of history filled with war and travail
and adventure, by which old fighting races had blended with different
strains of blood and temper--Roman, Celtic, Saxon, Danish, Norman-
survived in the fiber of our modern youth, country-bred or city-bred,
in spite of the weakening influences of slumdom, vicious environment,
ill-nourishment, clerkship, and sedentary life. The Londoner was a
good soldier. The Liverpools and Manchesters were hard and tough in
attack and defense. The South Country battalions of Devons and
Dorsets, Sussex and Somersets, were not behindhand in ways of death.
The Scots had not lost their fire and passion, but were terrible in
their onslaught. The Irish battalions, with recruiting cut off at the
base, fought with their old gallantry, until there were few to answer
the last roll-call. The Welsh dragon encircled Mametz Wood, devoured
the "Cockchafers" on Pilkem Ridge, and was hard on the trail of the
Black Eagle in the last offensive. The Australians and Canadians had
all the British quality of courage and the benefit of a harder
physique, gained by outdoor life and unweakened ancestry. In the mass,
apart from neurotic types here and there among officers and men, the
stock was true and strong. The spirit of a seafaring race which has
the salt in its blood from Land's End to John o' Groat's and back
again to Wapping had not been destroyed, but answered the ruffle of
Drake's drum and, with simplicity and gravity in royal navy and in
merchant marine, swept the highways of the seas, hunted worse monsters
than any fabulous creatures of the deep, and shirked no dread
adventure in the storms and darkness of a spacious hell. The men who
went to Zeebrugge were the true sons of those who fought the Spanish
Armada and singed the King o' Spain's beard in Cadiz harbor. The
victors of the Jutland battle were better men than Nelson's (the
scourings of the prisons and the sweepings of the press-gang) and not
less brave in frightful hours. Without the service of the British
seamen the war would have been lost for France and Italy and Belgium,
and all of us.

The flower of our youth went out to France and Flanders, to Egypt,
Palestine, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, and Saloniki, and it was a fine
flower of gallant boyhood, clean, for the most part eager, not brutal
except by intensive training, simple in minds and hearts, chivalrous
in instinct, without hatred, adventurous, laughter-loving, and
dutiful. That is God's truth, in spite of vice-rotted, criminal,
degenerate, and brutal fellows in many battalions, as in all crowds of

In millions of words during the years of war I recorded the bravery of
our troops on the western front, their patience, their cheerfulness,
suffering, and agony; yet with all those words describing day by day
the incidents of their life in war I did not exaggerate the splendor
of their stoic spirit or the measure of their sacrifice. The heroes of
mythology were but paltry figures compared with those who, in the
great war, went forward to the roaring devils of modern gun-fire,
dwelt amid high explosives more dreadful than dragons, breathed in the
fumes of poison-gas more foul than the breath of Medusa, watched and
slept above mine-craters which upheaved the hell-fire of Pluto, and
defied thunderbolts more certain in death-dealing blows than those of

Something there was in the spirit of our men which led them to endure
these things without revolt--ideals higher than the selfish motives of
life. They did not fight for greed or glory, not for conquest, nor for
vengeance. Hatred was not the inspiration of the mass of them, for I
am certain that except in hours when men "see red" there was no direct
hatred of the men in the opposite trenches, but, on the other hand, a
queer sense of fellow--feeling, a humorous sympathy for "old Fritz,"
who was in the same bloody mess as themselves. Our generals, it is
true, hated the Germans. "I should like one week in Cologne," one of
them told me, before there seemed ever a chance of getting there, "and
I would let my men loose in the streets and turn a blind eye to
anything they liked to do."

Some of our officers were inspired by a bitter, unrelenting hate.

"If I had a thousand Germans in a row," one of them said to me, "I
would cut all their throats, and enjoy the job.

But that was not the mentality of the men in the ranks, except those
who were murderers by nature and pleasure. They gave their cigarettes
to prisoners and filled their water-bottles and chatted in a friendly
way with any German who spoke a little English, as I have seen them
time and time again on days of battle, in the fields of battle. There
were exceptions to this treatment, but even the Australians and the
Scots, who were most fierce in battle, giving no quarter sometimes,
treated their prisoners with humanity when they were bundled back.
Hatred was not the motive which made our men endure all things. It was
rather, as I have said, a refusal in their souls to be beaten in
manhood by all the devils of war, by all its terrors, or by its
beastliness, and at the back of all the thought that the old country
was "up against it" and that they were there to avert the evil.

Young soldiers of ours, not only of officer rank, but of "other
ranks," as they were called, were inspired at the beginning, and some
of them to the end, with a simple, boyish idealism. They saw no other
causes of war than German brutality. The enemy to them was the monster
who had to be destroyed lest the world and its beauty should perish--
and that was true so long as the individual German, who loathed the
war, obeyed the discipline of the herd-leaders and did not revolt
against the natural laws which, when the war had once started, bade
him die in defense of his own Fatherland. Many of those boys of ours
made a dedication of their lives upon the altar of sacrifice,
believing that by this service and this sacrifice they would help the
victory of civilization over barbarism, and of Christian morality over
the devil's law. They believed that they were fighting to dethrone
militarism, to insure the happiness and liberties of civilized
peoples, and were sure of the gratitude of their nation should they
not have the fate to fall upon the field of honor, but go home blind
or helpless.

I have read many letters from boys now dead in which they express that

"Do not grieve for me," wrote one of them, "for I shall be proud to
die for my country's sake."

"I am happy," wrote another (I quote the tenor of his letters),
"because, though I hate war, I feel that this is the war to end war.
We are the last victims of this way of argument. By smashing the
German war-machine we shall prove for all time the criminal folly of
militarism and Junkerdom."

There were young idealists like that, and they were to be envied for
their faith, which they brought with them from public schools and from
humble homes where they had read old books and heard old watchwords. I
think, at the beginning of the war there were many like that. But as
it continued year after year doubts crept in, dreadful suspicions of
truth more complex than the old simplicity, a sense of revolt against
sacrifice unequally shared and devoted to a purpose which was not that
for which they had been called to fight.

They had been told that they were fighting for liberty. But their
first lesson was the utter loss of individual liberty under a
discipline which made the private soldier no more than a number. They
were ordered about like galley--slaves, herded about like cattle,
treated individually and in the mass with utter disregard of their
comfort and well-being. Often, as I know, they were detrained at rail-
heads in the wind and rain and by ghastly errors of staff-work kept
waiting for their food until they were weak and famished. In the base
camps men of one battalion were drafted into other battalions, where
they lost their old comrades and were unfamiliar with the speech and
habits of a crowd belonging to different counties, the Sussex men
going to a Manchester regiment, the Yorkshire men being drafted to a
Surrey unit. By R.T.O.'s and A.M.L.O.'s and camp commandments and town
majors and staff pups men were bullied and bundled about, not like
human beings, but like dumb beasts, and in a thousand ways injustice,
petty tyranny, hard work, degrading punishments for trivial offenses,
struck at their souls and made the name of personal liberty a mockery.
From their own individuality they argued to broader issues. Was this
war for liberty? Were the masses of men on either side fighting with
free will as free men? Those Germans--were they not under discipline,
each man of them, forced to fight whether they liked it or not?
Compelled to go forward to sacrifice, with machine-guns behind them to
shoot them down if they revolted against their slave-drivers? What
liberty had they to follow their conscience or their judgment--"
Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die"--like all soldiers
in all armies. Was it not rather that the masses of men engaged in
slaughter were serving the purpose of powers above them, rival powers,
greedy for one another's markets, covetous of one another's wealth,
and callous of the lives of humble men? Surely if the leaders of the
warring nations were put together for even a week in some such place
as Hooge, or the Hohenzollern redoubt, afflicted by the usual
harassing fire, poison-gas, mine explosions, lice, rats, and the
stench of rotting corpses, with the certainty of death or
dismemberment at the week-end, they would settle the business and come
to terms before the week was out. I heard that proposition put forward
many times by young officers of ours, and as an argument against their
own sacrifice they found it unanswerable.


The condition and psychology of their own country as they read about
it in the Paris Daily Mail, which was first to come into their
billets, filled some of these young men with distress and disgust,
strengthened into rage when they went home on leave. The deliberate
falsification of news (the truth of which they heard from private
channels) made them discredit the whole presentation of our case and
state. They said, "Propaganda!" with a sharp note of scorn. The breezy
optimism of public men, preachers, and journalists, never downcast by
black news, never agonized by the slaughter in these fields,
minimizing horrors and loss and misery, crowing over the enemy,
prophesying early victory which did not come, accepting all the
destruction of manhood (while they stayed safe) as a necessary and
inevitable "misfortune," had a depressing effect on men who knew they
were doomed to die, in the law of averages, if the war went on. "Damn
their optimism!" said some of our officers. "It's too easy for those
behind the lines. It is only we who have the right of optimism. It's
we who have to do the dirty work! They seem to think we like the job!
What are they doing to bring the end nearer?"

The frightful suspicion entered the heads of some of our men (some of
those I knew) that at home people liked the war and were not anxious
to end it, and did not care a jot for the sufferings of the soldiers.
Many of them came back from seven days' leave fuming and sullen.
Everybody was having a good time. Munition-workers were earning
wonderful wages and spending them on gramophones, pianos, furs, and
the "pictures." Everybody was gadding about in a state of joyous
exultation. The painted flapper was making herself sick with the
sweets of life after office hours in government employ, where she did
little work for a lot of pocket-money. The society girl was dancing
bare-legged for "war charities," pushing into bazaars for the "poor,
dear wounded," getting her pictures into the papers as a "notable
warworker," married for the third time in three years; the middle-
class cousin was driving staff-officers to Whitehall, young gentlemen
of the Air Service to Hendon, junior secretaries to their luncheon.
Millions of girls were in some kind of fancy dress with buttons and
shoulder--straps, breeches and puttees, and they seemed to be making a
game of the war and enjoying it thoroughly. Oxford dons were
harvesting, and proud of their prowess with the pitchfork--behold
their patriotism!--while the boys were being blown to bits on the Yser
Canal. Miners were striking for more wages, factory hands were downing
tools for fewer hours at higher pay, the government was paying any
price for any labor--while Tommy Atkins drew his one-and-twopence and
made a little go a long way in a wayside estaminet before jogging up
the Menin road to have his head blown off. The government had created
a world of parasites and placemen housed in enormous hotels, where
they were engaged at large salaries upon mysterious unproductive
labors which seemed to have no result in front-line trenches.
Government contractors were growing fat on the life of war, amassing
vast fortunes, juggling with excess profits, battening upon the flesh
and blood of boyhood in the fighting-lines. These old men, these fat
men, were breathing out fire and fury against the Hun, and vowing by
all their gods that they would see their last son die in the last
ditch rather than agree to any peace except that of destruction. There
were "fug committees" (it was Lord Kitchener's word) at the War
Office, the Board of Trade, the Foreign Office, the Home Office, the
Ministry of Munitions, the Ministry of Information, where officials on
enormous salaries smoked cigars of costly brands and decided how to
spend vast sums of public money on "organization" which made no
difference to the man stifling his cough below the parapet in a wet
fog of Flanders, staring across No Man's Land for the beginning of a
German attack.

In all classes of people there was an epidemic of dancing, jazzing,
card-playing, theater-going. They were keeping their spirits up
wonderfully. Too well for men slouching about the streets of London on
leave, and wondering at all this gaiety, and thinking back to the
things they had seen and forward to the things they would have to do.
People at home, it seemed, were not much interested in the life of the
trenches; anyhow, they could not understand. The soldier listened to
excited tales of air raids. A bomb had fallen in the next street. The
windows had been broken. Many people had been killed in a house
somewhere in Hackney. It was frightful. The Germans were devils. They
ought to be torn to pieces, every one of them. The soldier on leave
saw crowds of people taking shelter in underground railways, working--
men among them, sturdy lads, panic-stricken. But for his own wife and
children he had an evil sense of satisfaction in these sights. It
would do them good. They would know what war meant--just a little.
They would not be so easy in their damned optimism. An air raid? Lord
God, did they know what a German barrage was like? Did they guess how
men walked day after day through harassing fire to the trenches? Did
they have any faint idea of life in a sector where men stood, slept,
ate, worked, under the fire of eight-inch shells, five-point--nines,
trench-mortars, rifle-grenades, machine-gun bullets, snipers, to say
nothing of poison-gas, long-range fire on the billets in small
farmsteads, and on every moonlight night air raids above wooden
hutments so closely crowded into a small space that hardly a bomb
could fall without killing a group of men.

"Oh, but you have your dugouts!" said a careless little lady.

The soldier smiled.

It was no use talking. The people did not want to hear the tragic side
of things. Bairnsfather's "Ole Bill" seemed to them to typify the
spirit of the fighting-man. .. "'Alf a mo', Kaiser!" . . .

The British soldier was gay and careless of death--always. Shell-fire
meant nothing to him. If he were killed--well, after all, what else
could he expect? Wasn't that what he was out for? The twice-married
girl knew a charming boy in the air force. He had made love to her
even before Charlie was "done in." These dear boys were so greedy for
love. She could not refuse them, poor darlings! Of course they had all
got to die for liberty, and that sort of thing. It was very sad. A
terrible thing--war! . . . Perhaps she had better give up dancing for
a week, until Charlie had been put into the casualty lists.

"What are we fighting for?" asked officers back from leave, turning
over the pages of the Sketch and Tatler, with pictures of race-
meetings, strike-meetings, bare--backed beauties at war bazaars, and
portraits of profiteers in the latest honors list. "Are we going to
die for these swine? These parasites and prostitutes? Is this the war
for noble ideals, liberty, Christianity, and civilization? To hell
with all this filth! The world has gone mad and we are the victims of

Some of them said that below all that froth there were deep and quiet
waters in England. They thought of the anguish of their own wives and
mothers, their noble patience, their uncomplaining courage, their
spiritual faith in the purpose of the war. Perhaps at the heart
England was true and clean and pitiful. Perhaps, after, all, many
people at home were suffering more than the fighting-men, in agony of
spirit. It was unwise to let bitterness poison their brains. Anyhow,
they had to go on. How long, how long, O Lord?

"How long is it going to last?" asked the London Rangers of their
chaplain. He lied to them and said another three months. Always he had
absolute knowledge that the war would end three months later. That was
certain. "Courage!" he said. "Courage to the end of the last lap!"

Most of the long-service men were dead and gone long before the last
lap came. It was only the new boys who went as far as victory. He
asked permission of the general to withdraw nineteen of them from the
line to instruct them for Communion. They were among the best
soldiers, and not afraid of the ridicule of their fellows because of
their religious zeal. The chaplain's main purpose was to save their
lives, for a while, and give them a good time and spiritual comfort.
They had their good time. Three weeks later came the German attack on
Arras and they were all killed. Every man of them.

The chaplain, an Anglican, found it hard to reconcile Christianity
with such a war as this, but he did not camouflage the teachings of
the Master he tried to serve. He preached to his men the gospel of
love and forgiveness of enemies. It was reported to the general, who
sent for him.

"Look here, I can't let you go preaching 'soft stuff' to my men. I
can't allow all that nonsense about love. My job is to teach them to
hate. You must either cooperate with me or go."

The chaplain refused to change his faith or his teaching, and the
general thought better of his intervention.

For all chaplains it was difficult. Simple souls were bewildered by
the conflict between the spirit of Christianity and the spirit of war.
Many of them--officers as well as men--were blasphemous in their scorn
of "parson stuff," some of them frightfully ironical.

A friend of mine watched two chaplains passing by. One of them was a
tall man with a crown and star on his shoulder-strap.

"I wonder," said my friend, with false simplicity, "whether Jesus
Christ would have been a lieutenant--colonel?"

On the other hand, many men found help in religion, and sought its
comfort with a spiritual craving. They did not argue about Christian
ethics and modern warfare. Close to death in the midst of tragedy,
conscious in a strange way of their own spiritual being and of a
spirituality present among masses of men above the muck of war, the
stench of corruption, and fear of bodily extinction, they groped out
toward God. They searched for some divine wisdom greater than the
folly of the world, for a divine aid which would help them to greater
courage. The spirit of God seemed to come to them across No Man's Land
with pity and comradeship. Catholic soldiers had a simpler, stronger
faith than men of Protestant denominations, whose faith depended more
on ethical arguments and intellectual reasonings. Catholic chaplains
had an easier task. Leaving aside all argument, they heard the
confessions of the soldiers, gave them absolution for their sins, said
mass for them in wayside barns, administered the sacraments, held the
cross to their lips when they fell mortally wounded, anointed them
when the surgeon's knife was at work, called the names of Jesus and
Mary into dying ears. There was no need of argument here. The old
faith which has survived many wars, many plagues, and the old
wickedness of men was still full of consolation to those who accepted
it as little children, and by their own agony hoped for favor from the
Man of Sorrows who was hanged upon a cross, and found a mother-love in
the vision of Mary, which came to them when they were in fear and pain
and the struggle of death. The padre had a definite job to do in the
trenches and for that reason was allowed more liberty in the line than
other chaplains. Battalion officers, surgeons, and nurses were patient
with mysterious rites which they did not understand, but which gave
comfort, as they saw, to wounded men; and the heroism with which many
of those priests worked under fire, careless of their own lives,
exalted by spiritual fervor, yet for the most part human and humble
and large-hearted and tolerant, aroused a general admiration
throughout the army. Many of the Protestant clergy were equally
devoted, but they were handicapped by having to rely more upon
providing physical comforts for the men than upon spiritual acts, such
as anointing and absolution, which were accepted without question by
Catholic soldiers.

Yet the Catholic Church, certain of its faith, and all other churches
claiming that they teach the gospel of Christ, have been challenged to
explain their attitude during the war and the relation of their
teaching to the world-tragedy, the Great Crime, which has happened. It
will not be easy for them to do so. They will have to explain how it
is that German bishops, priests, pastors, and flocks, undoubtedly
sincere in their professions of faith, deeply pious, as our soldiers
saw in Cologne, and fervent in their devotion to the sacraments on
their side of the fighting-line, as the Irish Catholics on our side,
were able to reconcile this piety with their war of aggression. The
faith of the Austrian Catholics must be explained in relation to their
crimes, if they were criminal, as we say they were, in leading the way
to this war by their ultimatum to Serbia. If Christianity has no
restraining influence upon the brutal instincts of those who profess
and follow its faith, then surely it is time the world abandoned so
ineffective a creed and turned to other laws likely to have more
influence on human relationships. That, brutally, is the argument of
the thinking world against the clergy of all nations who all claimed
to be acting according to the justice of God and the spirit of Christ.
It is a powerful argument, for the simple mind, rejecting casuistry,
cuts straight to the appalling contrast between Christian profession
and Christian practice, and says: "Here, in this war, there was no
conflict between one faith and another, but a murderous death-struggle
between many nations holding the same faith, preaching the same
gospel, and claiming the same God as their protector. Let us seek some
better truth than that hypocrisy! Let us, if need be, in honesty, get
back to the savage worship of national gods, the Ju-ju of the tribe."

My own belief is that the war was no proof against the Christian
faith, but rather is a revelation that we are as desperately in need
of the spirit of Christ as at any time in the history of mankind. But
I think the clergy of all nations, apart from a heroic and saintly
few, subordinated their faith, which is a gospel of charity, to
national limitations. They were patriots before they were priests, and
their patriotism was sometimes as limited, as narrow, as fierce, and
as bloodthirsty as that of the people who looked to them for truth and
light. They were often fiercer, narrower, and more desirous of
vengeance than the soldiers who fought, because it is now a known
truth that the soldiers, German and Austrian, French and Italian and
British, were sick of the unending slaughter long before the ending of
the war, and would have made a peace more fair than that which now
prevails if it had been put to the common vote in the trenches;
whereas the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Cologne, and
the clergy who spoke from many pulpits in many nations, under the
Cross of Christ, still stoked up the fires of hate and urged the
armies to go on fighting "in the cause of justice," "for the defense
of the Fatherland," "for Christian righteousness," to the bitter end.
Those words are painful to write, but as I am writing this book for
truth's sake, at all cost, I let them stand . . . .


The entire aspect of the war was changed by the Russian Revolution,
followed by the collapse of the Russian armies and the Peace of Brest-
Litovsk, when for the first time the world heard the strange word
"Bolshevism," and knew not what it meant.

The Russian armies had fought bravely in the first years of the war,
with an Oriental disregard of death. Under generals in German pay,
betrayed by a widespread net of anarchy and corruption so villainous
that arms and armaments sent out from England had to be bribed on
their way from one official to another, and never reached the front,
so foul in callousness of human life that soldiers were put into the
fighting-line without rifle or ammunition, these Russian peasants
flung themselves not once, but many times, against the finest troops
of Germany, with no more than naked bayonets against powerful
artillery and the scythe of machine-gun fire, and died like sheep in
the slaughter-houses of Chicago. Is it a wonder that at the last they
revolted against this immolation, turned round upon their tyrants, and
said: "You are the enemy. It is you that we will destroy"?

By this new revelation they forgot their hatred of Germans. They said:
"You are our brothers; we have no hatred against you. We do not want
to kill you. Why should you kill us? We are all of us the slaves of
bloodthirsty castes, who use our flesh for their ambitions. Do not
shoot us, brothers, but join hands against the common tyranny which
enslaves our peoples." They went forward with outstretched hands, and
were shot, down like rabbits by some Germans, and by others were not
shot, because German soldiers gaped, wide-eyed, at this new gospel, as
it seemed, and said: "They speak words of truth. Why should we kill
one another?"

The German war lords ordered a forward movement, threatened their own
men with death if they fraternized with Russians, and dictated their
terms of peace on the old lines of military conquest. But as
Ludendorff has confessed, and as we now know from other evidence, many
German soldiers were "infected" with Bolshevism and lost their
fighting spirit.

Russia was already in anarchy. Constitutional government had been
replaced by the soviets and by committees of soldiers and workmen.
Kerensky had fled. Lenin and Trotzky were the Marat and Danton of the
Revolution, and decreed the Reign of Terror. Tales of appalling
atrocity, some true, some false (no one can tell how true or how
false), came through to France and England. It was certain that the
whole fabric of society in Russia had dissolved in the wildest anarchy
the world has seen in modern times, and that the Bolshevik gospel of
"brotherhood" with humanity was, at least, rudely "interrupted" by
wholesale murder within its own boundaries.

One other thing was certain. Having been relieved of the Russian
menace, Germany was free to withdraw her armies on that front and use
all her striking force in the west. It should have cautioned our
generals to save their men for the greatest menace that had confronted
them. But without caution they fought the battles of 1917, in
Flanders, as I have told.

In 1917 and in the first half of 1918 there seemed no ending to the
war by military means. Even many of our generals who had been so
breezy in their optimism believed now that the end must come by
diplomatic means--a "peace by understanding." I had private talks with
men in high command, who acknowledged that the way must be found, and
the British mind prepared for negotiations, because there must come a
limit to the drain of blood on each side. It was to one man in the
world that many men in all armies looked for a way out of this
frightful impasse.

President Wilson had raised new hope among many men who otherwise were
hopeless. He not only spoke high words, but defined the meanings of
them. His definition of liberty seemed sound and true, promising the
self-determination of peoples. His offer to the German people to deal
generously with them if they overthrew their tyranny raised no quarrel
among British soldiers. His hope of a new diplomacy, based upon "open
covenants openly arrived at," seemed to cut at the root of the old
evil in Europe by which the fate of peoples had been in the hands of
the few. His Fourteen Points set out clearly and squarely a just basis
of peace. His advocacy of a League of Nations held out a vision of a
new world by which the great and small democracies should be united by
a common pledge to preserve peace and submit their differences to a
supreme court of arbitration. Here at last was a leader of the world,
with a clear call to the nobility in men rather than to their base
passions, a gospel which would raise civilization from the depths into
which it had fallen, and a practical remedy for that suicidal mania
which was exhausting the combatant nations.

I think there were many millions of men on each side of the fighting-
line who thanked God because President Wilson had come with a wisdom
greater than the folly which was ours to lead the way to an honorable
peace and a new order of nations. I was one of them . . . Months
passed, and there was continual fighting, continued slaughter, and no
sign that ideas would prevail over force. The Germans launched their
great offensive, broke through the British lines, and afterward
through the French lines, and there were held and checked long enough
for our reserves to be flung across the Channel--300,000 boys from
England and Scotland, who had been held in hand as the last counters
for the pool. The American army came in tidal waves across the
Atlantic, flooded our back areas, reached the edge of the
battlefields, were a new guaranty of strength. Their divisions passed
mostly to the French front. With them, and with his own men,
magnificent in courage still, and some of ours, Foch had his army of
reserve, and struck.

So the war ended, after all, by military force, and by military
victory greater than had seemed imaginable or possible six months

In the peace terms that followed there was but little trace of those
splendid ideas which had been proclaimed by President Wilson. On one
point after another he weakened, and was beaten by the old militarism
which sat enthroned in the council-chamber, with its foot on the neck
of the enemy. The "self-determination of peoples" was a hollow phrase
signifying nothing. Open covenants openly arrived at were mocked by
the closed doors of the Conference. When at last the terms were
published their merciless severity, their disregard of racial
boundaries, their creation of hatreds and vendettas which would lead,
as sure as the sun should rise, to new warfare, staggered humanity,
not only in Germany and Austria, but in every country of the world,
where at least minorities of people had hoped for some nobler vision
of the world's needs, and for some healing remedy for the evils which
had massacred its youth. The League of Nations, which had seemed to
promise so well, was hedged round by limitations which made it look
bleak and barren. Still it was peace, and the rivers of blood had
ceased to flow, and the men were coming home again. . . Home again!


The men came home in a queer mood, startling to those who had not
watched them "out there," and to those who welcomed peace with flags.
Even before their homecoming, which was delayed week after week, month
after month, unless they were lucky young miners out for the victory
push and back again quickly, strange things began to happen in France
and Flanders, Egypt and Palestine. Men who had been long patient
became suddenly impatient. Men who had obeyed all discipline broke
into disobedience bordering on mutiny. They elected spokesmen to
represent their grievances, like trade-unionists. They "answered back"
to their officers in such large bodies, with such threatening anger,
that it was impossible to give them "Field Punishment Number One," or
any other number, especially as their battalion officers sympathized
mainly with their point of view. They demanded demobilization
according to their terms of service, which was for "the duration of
the war." They protested against the gross inequalities of selection
by which men of short service were sent home before those who had been
out in 1914, 1915, 1916. They demanded justness, fair play, and
denounced red tape and official lies. "We want to go home!" was their
shout on parade. A serious business, subversive of discipline.

Similar explosions were happening in England. Bodies of men broke camp
at Folkestone and other camps, demonstrated before town halls,
demanded to speak with mayors, generals, any old fellows who were in
authority, and refused to embark for France until they had definite
pledges that they would receive demobilization papers without delay.
Whitehall, the sacred portals of the War Office, the holy ground of
the Horse Guards' Parade, were invaded by bodies of men who had
commandeered ambulances and lorries and had made long journeys from
their depots. They, too, demanded demobilization. They refused to be
drafted out for service to India, Egypt, Archangel, or anywhere. They
had "done their bit," according to their contract. It was for the War
Office to fulfil its pledges. "Justice" was the word on their lips,
and it was a word which put the wind up (as soldiers say) any staff-
officers and officials who had not studied the laws of justice as they
concern private soldiers, and who had dealt with them after the
armistice and after the peace as they had dealt with them before--as
numbers, counters to be shifted here and there according to the needs
of the High Command. What was this strange word "justice" on soldiers'
lips? . . . Red tape squirmed and writhed about the business of
demobilization. Orders were made, communicated to the men, canceled
even at the railway gates. Promises were made and broken. Conscripts
were drafted off to India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Archangel, against
their will and contrary to pledge. Men on far fronts, years absent
from their wives and homes, were left to stay there, fever-stricken,
yearning for home, despairing. And while the old war was not yet cold
in its grave we prepared for a new war against Bolshevik Russia,
arranging for the spending of more millions, the sacrifice of more
boys of ours, not openly, with the consent of the people, but on the
sly, with a fine art of camouflage.

The purpose of the new war seemed to many men who had fought for
"liberty" an outrage against the "self--determination of peoples"
which had been the fundamental promise of the League of Nations, and a
blatant hypocrisy on the part of a nation which denied self--
government to Ireland. The ostensible object of our intervention in
Russia was to liberate the Russian masses from "the bloody tyranny of
the Bolsheviks," but this ardor for the liberty of Russia had not been
manifest during the reign of Czardom and grand dukes when there were
massacres of mobs in Moscow, bloody Sundays in St. Petersburg, pogroms
in Riga, floggings of men and girls in many prisons, and when free
speech, liberal ideas, and democratic uprisings had been smashed by
Cossack knout and by the torture of Siberian exile.

Anyhow, many people believed that it was none of our business to
suppress the Russian Revolution or to punish the leaders of it, and it
was suspected by British working-men that the real motive behind our
action was not a noble enthusiasm for liberty, but an endeavor to
establish a reactionary government in Russia in order to crush a
philosophy of life more dangerous to the old order in Europe than high
explosives, and to get back the gold that had been poured into Russia
by England and France. By a strange paradox of history, French
journalists, forgetting their own Revolution, the cruelties of
Robespierre and Marat, the September Massacres, the torture of Marie
Antoinette in the Tuileries, the guillotining of many fair women of
France, and after 1870 the terrors of the Commune, were most horrified
by the anarchy in Russia, and most fierce in denunciation of the
bloody struggle by which a people made mad by long oppression and
infernal tyrannies strove to gain the liberties of life.

Thousands of British soldiers newly come from war in France were
sullenly determined that they would not be dragged off to the new
adventure. They were not alone. As Lord Rothermere pointed out, a
French regiment mutinied on hearing a mere unfounded report that it
was being sent to the Black Sea. The United States and Japan were
withdrawing. Only a few of our men, disillusioned by the ways of
peace, missing the old comradeship of the ranks, restless,
purposeless, not happy at home, seeing no prospect of good employment,
said: "Hell! . . . Why not the army again, and Archangel, or any old
where?" and volunteered for Mr. Winston Churchill's little war.

After the trouble of demobilization came peace pageants and
celebrations and flag-wavings. But all was not right with the spirit
of the men who came back. Something was wrong. They put on civilian
clothes again, looked to their mothers and wives very much like the
young men who had gone to business in the peaceful days before the
August of '14. But they had not come back the same men. Something had
altered in them. They were subject to queer moods, queer tempers, fits
of profound depression alternating with a restless desire for
pleasure. Many of them were easily moved to passion when they lost
control of themselves. Many were bitter in their speech, violent in
opinion, frightening. For some time, while they drew their
unemployment pensions, they did not make any effort to get work for
the future. They said: "That can wait. I've done my bit. The country
can keep me for a while. I helped to save it . . . Let's go to the
'movies.'" They were listless when not excited by some "show."
Something seemed to have snapped in them; their will-power. A quiet
day at home did not appeal to them.

"Are you tired of me?" said the young wife, wistfully. "Aren't you
glad to be home?"

"It's a dull sort of life," said some of them.

The boys, unmarried, hung about street-corners, searched for their
pals, formed clubs where they smoked incessantly, and talked in an
aimless way.

Then began the search for work. Boys without training looked for jobs
with wages high enough to give them a margin for amusement, after the
cost of living decently had been reckoned on the scale of high prices,
mounting higher and higher. Not so easy as they had expected. The
girls were clinging to their jobs, would not let go of the pocket-
money which they had spent on frocks. Employers favored girl labor,
found it efficient and, on the whole, cheap. Young soldiers who had
been very skilled with machine-guns, trench-mortars, hand-grenades,
found that they were classed with the ranks of unskilled labor in
civil life. That was not good enough. They had fought for their
country. They had served England. Now they wanted good jobs with short
hours and good wages. They meant to get them. And meanwhile prices
were rising in the shops. Suits of clothes, boots, food, anything,
were at double and treble the price of pre-war days. The profiteers
were rampant. They were out to bleed the men who had been fighting.
They were defrauding the public with sheer, undisguised robbery, and
the government did nothing to check them. England, they thought, was
rotten all through.

Who cared for the men who had risked their lives and bore on their
bodies the scars of war? The pensions doled out to blinded soldiers
would not keep them alive. The consumptives, the gassed, the
paralyzed, were forgotten in institutions where they lay hidden from
the public eye. Before the war had been over six months "our heroes,"
"our brave boys in the trenches" were without preference in the
struggle for existence.

Employers of labor gave them no special consideration. In many offices
they were told bluntly (as I know) that they had "wasted" three or
four years in the army and could not be of the same value as boys just
out of school. The officer class was hardest hit in that way. They had
gone straight from the public schools and universities to the army.
They had been lieutenants, captains, and majors in the air force, or
infantry battalions, or tanks, or trench-mortars, and they had drawn
good pay, which was their pocket-money. Now they were at a loose end,
hating the idea of office-work, but ready to knuckle down to any kind
of decent job with some prospect ahead. What kind of job? What
knowledge had they of use in civil life? None. They scanned
advertisements, answered likely invitations, were turned down by
elderly men who said: "I've had two hundred applications. And none of
you young gentlemen from the army are fit to be my office-boy." They
were the same elderly men who had said: "We'll fight to the last
ditch. If I had six sons I would sacrifice them all in the cause of
liberty and justice."

Elderly officers who had lost their businesses for their country's
sake, who with a noble devotion had given up everything to "do their
bit," paced the streets searching for work, and were shown out of
every office where they applied for a post. I know one officer of good
family and distinguished service who hawked round a subscription--book
to private houses. It took him more courage than he had needed under
shell-fire to ring the bell and ask to see "the lady of the house." He
thanked God every time the maid handed back his card and said, "Not at
home." On the first week's work he was four pounds out of pocket . . .
Here and there an elderly officer blew out his brains. Another sucked
a rubber tube fastened to the gas-jet . . . It would have been better
if they had fallen on the field of honor.

Where was the nation's gratitude for the men who had fought and died,
or fought and lived? Was it for this reward in peace that nearly a
million of our men gave up their lives? That question is not my
question. It is the question that was asked by millions of men in
England in the months that followed the armistice, and it was answered
in their own brains by a bitterness and indignation out of which may
be lit the fires of the revolutionary spirit.

At street-corners, in tramway cars, in tea-shops where young men
talked at the table next to mine I listened to conversations not meant
for my ears, which made me hear in imagination and afar off (yet not
very far, perhaps) the dreadful rumble of revolution, the violence of
mobs led by fanatics. It was the talk, mostly, of demobilized
soldiers. They asked one another, "What did we fight for?" and then
other questions such as, "Wasn't this a war for liberty?" or, "We
fought for the land, didn't we? Then why shouldn't we share the land?"
Or, "Why should we be bled white by profiteers?"

They mentioned the government, and then laughed in a scornful way.

"The government," said one man, "is a conspiracy against the people.
All its power is used to protect those who grow fat on big jobs, big
trusts, big contracts. It used us to smash the German Empire in order
to strengthen and enlarge the British Empire for the sake of those who
grab the oil-wells, the gold-fields, the minerals, and the markets of
the world."


Out of such talk revolution is born, and revolution will not be
averted by pretending that such words are not being spoken and that
such thoughts are not seething among our working-classes. It will only
be averted by cutting at the root of public suspicion, by cleansing
our political state of its corruption and folly, and by a clear,
strong call of noble-minded men to a new way of life in which a great
people believing in the honor and honesty of its leadership and in
fair reward for good labor shall face a period of poverty with
courage, and co-operate unselfishly for the good of the commonwealth,
inspired by a sense of fellowship with the workers of other nations.
We have a long way to go and many storms to weather before we reach
that state, if, by any grace that is in us, and above us, we reach it.

For there are disease and insanity in our present state, due to the
travail of the war and the education of the war. The daily newspapers
for many months have been filled with the record of dreadful crimes,
of violence and passion. Most of them have been done by soldiers or
ex-soldiers. The attack on the police station at Epsom, the
destruction of the town hall at Luton, revealed a brutality of
passion, a murderous instinct, which have been manifested again and
again in other riots and street rows and solitary crimes. Those last
are the worst because they are not inspired by a sense of injustice,
however false, or any mob passion, but by homicidal mania and secret
lust. The many murders of young women, the outrages upon little girls,
the violent robberies that have happened since the demobilizing of the
armies have appalled decent--minded people. They cannot understand the
cause of this epidemic after a period when there was less crime than

The cause is easy to understand. It is caused by the discipline and
training of modern warfare. Our armies, as all armies, established an
intensive culture of brutality. They were schools of slaughter. It was
the duty of officers like Col. Ronald Campbell--"O.C. Bayonets" (a
delightful man)--to inspire blood-lust in the brains of gentle boys
who instinctively disliked butcher's work. By an ingenious system of
psychology he played upon their nature, calling out the primitive
barbarism which has been overlaid by civilized restraints, liberating
the brute which has been long chained up by law and the social code of
gentle life, but lurks always in the secret lairs of the human heart.
It is difficult when the brute has been unchained, for the purpose of
killing Germans, to get it into the collar again with a cry of, "Down,
dog, down!" Generals, as I have told, were against the "soft stuff"
preached by parsons, who were not quite militarized, though army
chaplains. They demanded the gospel of hate, not that of love. But
hate, when it dominates the psychology of men, is not restricted to
one objective, such as a body of men behind barbed wire. It is a
spreading poison. It envenoms the whole mind. Like jealousy

It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.

Our men, living in holes in the earth like ape-men, were taught the
ancient code of the jungle law, to track down human beasts in No Man's
Land, to jump upon their bodies in the trenches, to kill quickly,
silently, in a raid, to drop a hand-grenade down a dugout crowded with
men, blowing their bodies to bits, to lie patiently for hours in a
shell-hole for a sniping shot at any head which showed, to bludgeon
their enemy to death or spit him on a bit of steel, to get at his
throat if need be with nails and teeth. The code of the ape-man is bad
for some temperaments. It is apt to become a habit of mind. It may
surge up again when there are no Germans present, but some old woman
behind an open till, or some policeman with a bull's-eye lantern and a
truncheon, or in a street riot where fellow-citizens are for the time
being "the enemy."

Death, their own or other people's, does not mean very much to some
who, in the trenches, sat within a few yards of stinking corpses,
knowing that the next shell might make such of them. Life was cheap in
war. Is it not cheap in peace? . . .

The discipline of military life is mainly an imposed discipline--
mechanical, and enforced in the last resort not by reason, but by
field punishment or by a firing platoon. Whereas many men were made
brisk and alert by discipline and saw the need of it for the general
good, others were always in secret rebellion against its restraints of
the individual will, and as soon as they were liberated broke away
from it as slaves from their chains, and did not substitute self-
discipline for that which had weighed heavy on them. With all its
discipline, army life was full of lounging, hanging about, waste of
time, waiting for things to happen. It was an irresponsible life for
the rank and file. Food was brought to them, clothes were given to
them, entertainments were provided behind the line, sports organized,
their day ordered by high powers. There was no need to think for
themselves, to act for themselves. They moved in herds dependent on
their leaders. That, too, was a bad training for the individualism of
civil life. It tended to destroy personal initiative and willpower.
Another evil of the abnormal life of war sowed the seeds of insanity
in the brains of men not strong enough to resist it. Sexually they
were starved. For months they lived out of the sight and presence of
women. But they came back into villages or towns where they were
tempted by any poor slut who winked at them and infected them with
illness. Men went to hospital with venereal disease in appalling
numbers. Boys were ruined and poisoned for life. Future generations
will pay the price of war not only in poverty and by the loss of the
unborn children of the boys who died, but by an enfeebled stock and
the heritage of insanity.

The Prime Minister said one day, "The world is suffering from shell-
shock." That was true. But it suffered also from the symptoms of all
that illness which comes from syphilis, whose breeding-ground is war.

The majority of our men were clean-living and clean--hearted fellows
who struggled to come unscathed in soul from most of the horrors of
war. They resisted the education of brutality and were not envenomed
by the gospel of hate. Out of the dark depths of their experience they
looked up to the light, and had visions of some better law of life
than that which led to the world-tragedy. It would be a foul libel on
many of them to besmirch their honor by a general accusation of
lowered morality and brutal tendencies. Something in the spirit of our
race and in the quality of our home life kept great numbers of them
sound, chivalrous, generous-hearted, in spite of the frightful
influences of degradation bearing down upon them out of the conditions
of modern warfare. But the weak men, the vicious, the murderous, the
primitive, were overwhelmed by these influences, and all that was base
in them was intensified, and their passions were unleashed, with what
result we have seen, and shall see, to our sorrow and the nation's

The nation was in great peril after this war, and that peril will not
pass in our lifetime except by heroic remedies. We won victory in the
field and at the cost of our own ruin. We smashed Germany and Austria
and Turkey, but the structure of our own wealth and industry was
shattered, and the very foundations of our power were shaken and
sapped. Nine months after the armistice Great Britain was spending at
the rate of 2,000,000 a day in excess of her revenue. She was
burdened with a national debt which had risen from 645 millions in
1914 to 7,800 millions in 1919. The pre-war expenditure of
200,000,000 per annum on the navy, army, and civil service pensions
and interest on national debt had risen to 750 millions.

Our exports were dwindling down, owing to decreased output, so that
foreign exchanges were rising against us and the American dollar was
increasing in value as our proud old sovereign was losing its ancient
standard. So that for all imports from the United States we were
paying higher prices, which rose every time the rate of exchange
dropped against us. The slaughter of 900,000 men of ours, the
disablement of many more than that, had depleted our ranks of labor,
and there was a paralysis of all our industry, owing to the
dislocation of its machinery for purposes of war, the soaring cost of
raw material, the crippling effect of high taxation, the rise in wages
to meet high prices, and the lethargy of the workers. Ruin, immense,
engulfing, annihilating to our strength as a nation and as an empire,
stares us brutally in the eyes at the time I write this book, and I
find no consolation in the thought that other nations in Europe,
including the German people, are in the same desperate plight, or


The nation, so far, has not found a remedy for the evil that has
overtaken us. Rather in a kind of madness that is not without a
strange splendor, like a ship that goes down with drums beating and
banners flying, we are racing toward the rocks. At this time, when we
are sorely stricken and in dire poverty and debt, we have extended the
responsibilities of empire and of world--power as though we had
illimitable wealth. Our sphere of influence includes Persia, Thibet,
Arabia, Palestine, Egypt--a vast part of the Mohammedan world. Yet if
any part of our possessions were to break into revolt or raise a "holy
war" against us, we should be hard pressed for men to uphold our power
and prestige, and our treasury would be called upon in vain for gold.
After the war which was to crush militarism the air force alone
proposed an annual expenditure of more than twice as much money as the
whole cost of the army before the war. While the armaments of the
German people, whom we defeated in the war against militarism, are
restricted to a few warships and a navy of 100,000 men at a cost
reckoned as 10,000,000 a year, we are threatened with a naval and
military program costing 300,000,000 a year. Was it for this our men
fought? Was it to establish a new imperialism upheld by the power of
guns that 900,000 boys of ours died in the war of liberation? I know
it was otherwise. There are people at the street-corners who know; and
in the tram-cars and factories and little houses in mean streets where
there are empty chairs and the portraits of dead boys.

It will go hard with the government of England if it plays a grandiose
drama before hostile spectators who refuse to take part in it. It will
go hard with the nation, for it will be engulfed in anarchy.

At the present time, in this August of 1919, when I write these words,
five years after another August, this England of ours, this England
which I love because its history is in my soul and its blood is in my
body, and I have seen the glory of its spirit, is sick, nigh unto
death. Only great physicians may heal it, and its old vitality
struggling against disease, and its old sanity against insanity. Our
Empire is greater now in spaciousness than ever before, but our
strength to hold it has ebbed low because of much death, and a strain
too long endured, and strangling debts. The workman is tired and has
slackened in his work. In his scheme of life he desires more luxury
than our poverty affords. He wants higher wages, shorter hours, and
less output--reasonable desires in our state before the war,
unreasonable now because the cost of the war has put them beyond human
possibility. He wants low prices with high wages and less work. It is
false arithmetic and its falsity will be proved by a tremendous crash.

Some crash must come, tragic and shocking to our social structure. I
see no escape from that, and only the hope that in that crisis the
very shock of it will restore the mental balance of the nation and
that all classes will combine under leaders of unselfish purpose, and
fine vision, eager for evolution and not revolution, for peace and not
for blood, for Christian charity and not for hatred, for civilization
and not for anarchy, to reshape the conditions of our social life and
give us a new working order, with more equality of labor and reward,
duty and sacrifice, liberty and discipline of the soul, combining the
virtue of patriotism with a generous spirit to other peoples across
the old frontiers of hate. That is the hope but not the certainty.

It is only by that hope that one may look back upon the war with
anything but despair. All the lives of those boys whom I saw go
marching up the roads of France and Flanders to the fields of death,
so splendid, so lovely in their youth, will have been laid down in
vain if by their sacrifice the world is not uplifted to some plane a
little higher than the barbarity which was let loose in Europe. They
will have been betrayed if the agony they suffered is forgotten and
"the war to end war" leads to preparations for new, more monstrous

Or is war the law of human life? Is there something more powerful than
kaisers and castes which drives masses of men against other masses in
death-struggles which they do not understand? Are we really poor
beasts in the jungle, striving by tooth and claw, high velocity and
poison-gas, for the survival of the fittest in an endless conflict? If
that is so, then God mocks at us. Or, rather, if that is so, there is
no God such as we men may love, with love for men.

The world will not accept that message of despair; and millions of men
to-day who went through the agony of the war are inspired by the
humble belief that humanity may be cured of its cruelty and stupidity,
and that a brotherhood of peoples more powerful than a League of
Nations may be founded in the world after its present sickness and out
of the conflict of its anarchy.

That is the new vision which leads men on, and if we can make one step
that way it will be better than that backward fall which civilization
took when Germany played the devil and led us all into the jungle. The
devil in Germany had to be killed. There was no other way, except by
helping the Germans to kill it before it mastered them. Now let us
exorcise our own devils and get back to kindness toward all men of
good will. That also is the only way to heal the heart of the world
and our own state. Let us seek the beauty of life and God's truth
somehow, remembering the boys who died too soon, and all the falsity
and hatred of these past five years. By blood and passion there will
be no healing. We have seen too much blood. We want to wipe it out of
our eyes and souls. Let us have Peace.

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