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HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR
First Impression July 1919
Second ” July 1919
Third ” August 1919
Fourth ” August 1919
Fifth ” September 1919
Sixth ” October 1919
Seventh ” October 1919
[Illustration: PEACE–THE SOWER]
TO THE READER
_For whatsoever worth or wit appears In this mixed record of five hectic years, This tale of heroes, heroines–and others– Thank first “O. S.” and then his band of brothers Who took their cue, with pencil and with pen, From the gay courage of our fighting men. Theirs be the praise, not his, who here supplies Merely the editorial hooks and eyes
And, rich by proxy, prodigally spends The largess of his colleagues and his friends._
_C. L. G_.
Though a lover of peace, Mr. Punch from his earliest days has not been unfamiliar with war. He was born during the Afghan campaign; in his youth England fought side by side with the French in the Crimea; he saw the old Queen bestow the first Victoria Crosses in 1857; he was moved and stirred by the horrors and heroisms of the Indian Mutiny. A little later on, when our relations with France were strained by the Imperialism of Louis Napoleon, he had witnessed the rise of the volunteer movement and made merry with the activities of the citizen soldier of Brook Green. Later on again he had watched, not without grave misgiving, the growth of the great Prussian war machine which crushed Denmark, overthrew Austria, and having isolated France, overwhelmed her heroic resistance by superior numbers and science, and stripped her of Alsace-Lorraine.
In May, 1864, Mr. Punch presented the King of Prussia with the “Order of St. Gibbet” for his treatment of Denmark.
In August of the same year he portrayed the brigands dividing the spoil and Prussia grabbing the lion’s share, thus foreshadowing the inevitable conflict with Austria.
In the war of 1870-1 he showed France on her knees but defying the new Caesar, and arraigned Bismarck before the altar of Justice for demanding exorbitant securities.
And in 1873, when the German occupation was ended by the payment of the indemnity, in a flash of prophetic vision Mr. Punch pictured France, vanquished but unsubdued, bidding her conqueror “Au revoir.”
[Illustration: GAUL TO THE NEW CAESAR
“Defiance, Emperor, while I have strength to hurl it!”
_(Dec. 17, 1870)_]
More than forty years followed, years of peace and prosperity for Great Britain, only broken by the South African war, the wounds of which were healed by a generous settlement. But all the time Germany was preparing for “The Day,” steadily perfecting her war machine, enlarging her armies, creating a great fleet, and piling up colossal supplies of guns and munitions, while her professors and historians, harnessed to the car of militarism, inflamed the people against England as the jealous enemy of Germany’s legitimate expansion. Abroad, like a great octopus, she was fastening the tentacles of permeation and penetration in every corner of the globe, honeycombing Russia and Belgium, France, England and America with secret agents, spying and intriguing and abusing our hospitality. For twenty-five years the Kaiser was our frequent and honoured, if somewhat embarrassing, guest, professing friendship for England and admiration of her ways, shooting at Sandringham, competing at Cowes, sending telegrams of congratulation to the University boat-race winners, ingratiating himself with all he met by his social gifts, his vivacious conversation, his prodigious versatility and energy.
THE REWARD OF (DE)MERIT
King Punch presenteth Prussia with the Order of “St. Gibbet.”
(_May 7_, 1864)]
Mr. Punch was no enemy of Germany. He remembered–none better–the debt we owe to her learning and her art; to Bach and Beethoven, to Handel, the “dear Saxon” who adopted our citizenship; to Mendelssohn, who regarded England as his second home; to her fairy tales and folk-lore; to the Brothers Grimm and the _Struwwelpeter_; to the old kindly Germany which has been driven mad by War Lords and Pan-Germans. If Mr. Punch’s awakening was gradual he at least recognised the dangerous elements in the Kaiser’s character as far back as October, 1888, when he underlined Bismarck’s warning against Caesarism. In March, 1890, appeared Tenniel’s famous cartoon “Dropping the Pilot”; in May of the same year the Kaiser appears as the _Enfant Terrible_ of Europe, rocking the boat and alarming his fellow-rulers. In January, 1892, he is the Imperial Jack-in-the-Box with a finger in every pie; in March, 1892, the modern Alexander, who
Assumes the God,
Affects to nod,
And seems to shake the spheres;
though unfortunately never nodding in the way that Homer did. (This cartoon, by the way, caused _Punch_ to be excluded for a while from the Imperial Palace.)
In February, 1896, Mr. Punch drew the Kaiser as Fidgety Will. In January, 1897, he was the Imperial actor-manager casting himself for a leading part in _Un Voyage en Chine_; in October of the same year he was “Cook’s Crusader,” sympathising with the Turk at the time of the Cretan ultimatum; and in April, 1903, the famous visit to Tangier suggested the Moor of Potsdam wooing Morocco to the strains of
“Unter den Linden”–always at Home,
“Under the Limelight,” wherever I roam.
GERMANY: “Farewell, Madam, and if–“
FRANCE: “Ha! We shall meet again!”
(_Sept. 27, 1873._)]
In 1905 the Kaiser was “The Sower of Tares,” the enemy of Europe.
In 1910 he was Teutonising and Prussifying Turkey; in 1911 discovering to his discomfort that the Triple Entente was a solid fact.
And in September, 1913, he was shown as unable to dissemble his disappointment at the defeat of the German-trained Turkish army by the Balkan League.
[Illustration: THE STORY OF FIDGETY WILHELM
(Up-to-date Version of “Struwwelpeter”)
“Let me see if Wilhelm can
Be a little gentleman;
Let me sec if he is able
To sit still for once at table!”
“But Fidgety Will
He _won’t_ sit still.”
Just like any bucking horse.
“Wilhelm! We are getting cross!”
_Feb._ 1, 1896.]
THE SOWER OF TARES
(_After Millais, Aug. 23, 1905_)]
So, too, with Turkey. From 1876 to 1913 Mr. Punch’s cartoons on the Near East are one continuous and illuminating commentary on Lord Salisbury’s historic admission that we had “backed the wrong horse,” culminating in the cartoon “Armageddon: a Diversion” in December, 1912, when Turkey says “Good! If only all these other Christian nations get at one another’s throats I may have a dog’s chance yet.” Throughout the entire series the Sick Man remains cynical and impenitent, blowing endless bubble-promises of reform from his hookah, bullying and massacring his subject races whenever he had the chance, playing off the jealousies of the Powers, one against the other, to further his own sinister ends.
GERMANY: “Donnerwetter! It’s rock. I thought it was going to be paper.” (_Aug. 2, 1911_)]
Yet Mr. Punch does not wish to lay claim to any special prescience or wisdom, for, in spite of lucid intervals of foresight, we were all deceived by Germany. Nearly fifty years of peace had blinded us to fifty years of relentless preparation for war. But if we were deceived by the treachery of Germany’s false professions, we had no monopoly of illusion. Germany made the huge mistake of believing that we would stand out–that we dared not support France in face of our troubles and divisions at home. She counted on the pacific influences in a Liberal Cabinet, on the looseness of the ties which bound us to our Dominions, on the “contemptible” numbers of our Expeditionary Force, on the surrender of Belgium. She had willed the War; the tragedy of Sarajevo gave her the excuse. There is no longer any need to fix the responsibility. The roots of the world conflict which seemed obscure to a neutral statesman have long been laid bare by the avowals of the chief criminal. The story is told in the Memoir of Prince Lichnowsky, in the revelations of Dr. Muehlon of Krupp’s, in the official correspondence that has come to light since the Revolution of Berlin. Germany stands before the bar of civilisation as the _reus confitens_ in the cause of light against darkness, freedom against world enslavement.
So the War began, and if “when war begins then hell opens,” the saying gained a tenfold truth in the greatest War of all, when the aggressor at once began to wage it on non-combatants, on the helpless and innocent, on women and children, with a cold and deliberate ferocity unparalleled in history. Let it now be frankly owned that in the shock of this discovery Mr. Punch thought seriously of putting up his shutters. How could he carry on in a shattered and mourning world? The chronicle that follows shows how it became possible, thanks to the temper of all our people in all parts of the Empire, above all to the unwavering confidence of our sailors and soldiers, to that “wonderful spirit of light-heartedness, that perpetual sense of the ridiculous” which, in the words of one of Mr. Punch’s many contributors from the front, “even under the most appalling conditions never seemed to desert them, and which indeed seemed to flourish more freely in the mud and rain of the front line trenches than in the comparative comfort of billets or ‘cushy jobs.'” Tommy gave Mr. Punch his cue, and his high example was not thrown away on those at home, where, when all allowance is made for shirkers and slackers and scaremongers, callous pleasure-seekers, faint-hearted pacificists, rebels and traitors, the great majority so bore themselves as to convince Mr. Punch that it was not only a privilege but a duty to minister to mirth even at times when one hastened to laugh for fear of being obliged to weep. In this resolve he was fortified and encouraged, week after week, by the generous recognition of his efforts which came from all parts of our far-flung line.
This is no formal History of the War in the strict or scientific sense of the phrase; no detailed record of naval and military operations. There have been many occasions on which silence or reticence seemed the only way to maintain the national composure. It is _Mr. Punch’s_ History of the Great War, a mirror of varying moods, month by month, but reflecting in the main how England remained steadfastly true to her best traditions; how all sorts and conditions of men and women comported themselves throughout the greatest ordeal that had ever befallen their race.
Mr. PUNCH’S HISTORY of the GREAT WAR
Four weeks ago we stood on the verge of the great upheaval and knew it not. We were thinking of holidays; of cricket and golf and bathing, and then were suddenly plunged in the deep waters of the greatest of all Wars. It has been a month of rude awakening, of revelation, of discovery–of many moods varying from confidence to deep misgiving, yet dominated by a sense of relief that England has chosen the right course. Sir Edward Grey’s statement that we meant to stand by France and fulfil our obligations to Belgium rallied all parties. “Thrice armed is he that hath his quarrel just.” The Fleet “stands fast” and the vigil of the North Sea has begun. Lord Kitchener has gone to the War Office, and in twelve days from the declaration of War our Expeditionary Force, the best trained and equipped army that England has ever put into the field, landed in France. The Dominions and India are staunch. Every able-bodied public school boy and under-graduate of military age has joined the colours. The Admiralty is crowded with living counterparts of Captain Kettle, offering their services in any capacity, linking up the Merchant Marine with the Royal Navy in one great solidarity of the sea.
The Empire is sound and united. So far the omens are good. But as the days pass the colossal task of the Allies becomes increasingly apparent. Peace-loving nations are confronted by a Power which has prepared for war for forty years, equipped in every detail as no Power has ever been equipped before, with a docile and well-disciplined people trained to arms, fortified by a well-founded belief in their invincibility, reinforced by armies of spies in every country, hostile or neutral. We are up against the mightiest War-machine of all time, wonderful in organisation, joining the savagery of the barbarian to the deadliest resources of modern science. The revelation of the black soul of Germany is the greatest and the most hideous surprise of this month of months, crowning long years of treachery and the abuse of hospitality with an orgy of butchery and devastation–the torture and massacre of old men, women and children, the shooting of hostages, the sack and burning of towns and the destruction of ancient seats of learning. Yet we feel that in trampling upon heroic Belgium, who dared to bar the gate, Germany has outraged the conscience of the world and sealed her ultimate doom.
The month closes in gloom, the fall of Liege, Namur and Brussels, the sack of Louvain, and the repulse of the Russian raid into East Prussia at Tannenberg following in rapid succession. Against these disasters we have to set the brilliant engagement in the Heligoland Bight. But the onrush of the Germans on the Western front is not stayed, though their time-table has been thrown out by the self-sacrifice of the Belgians, the steadfast courage of French’s “contemptible little army” in the retreat from Mons, and the bold decision of Smith-Dorrien, who saved the situation at Le Cateau. In these days of apprehension and misgiving, clouded by alarming rumours of a broken and annihilated army, it sometimes seems as though we should never smile again. Where, in a world of blood and tears, can _Punch_ exercise his function without outraging the fitness of things? These doubts have been with us from the beginning, but they are already being resolved by the discovery–another of the wonders of the time–that on the very fringes of tragedy there is room for cheerfulness. When our fighting men refuse to be downhearted in the direst peril, we at home should follow their high example, note where we can the humours of the fray, and “bear in silence though our hearts may bleed.”
[Illustration: MEDICAL OFFICER: “Sorry I must reject you on account of your teeth.”
WOULD-BE-RECRUIT: “Man, ye’re making a gran’ mistake. I’m no wanting to bite the Germans, I’m wanting to shoot ’em.”]
Germany in one brief month has given us a wonderful exhibition of conscienceless strength, of disciplined ferocity. She has shown an equally amazing failure to read the character of her foes aright. We now know what German Kultur means: but of the soul and spirit of England she knows nothing. Least of all does she understand that formidable and incorrigible levity which refuses to take hard knocks seriously. It will be our privilege to assist in educating our enemies on these and other points, even though, as Lord Kitchener thinks, it takes three years to do it. The Mad Dog of Europe is loose, but we remember the fate of the dog who “to serve some private ends went mad and bit the man.” “The man recovered from his bite, the dog it was that died.” Meanwhile the Official Press Bureau has begun its operations, the Prince of Wales’s Relief Fund for the relief of those who may suffer distress through the war is started, and in the City
Because beneath grey Northern Skies
Some grey hulls heave and fall,
The merchants sell their merchandise All just as usual.
Another month of revelations and reticences, of carnage and destruction, loss and gain, with the miracle of the Marne as the first great sign of the turning of the tide. On September 3 the Paris Government moved to Bordeaux, on the 5th the retreat from Mons ended, on the 13th Joffre, always unboastful and laconic, announced the rolling back of the invaders, on the 15th the battle of the Aisne had begun. What an Iliad of agony, endurance and heroism lies behind these dates–the ordeal and deliverance of Paris, the steadfastness of the “Contemptibles,” the martyrdom of Belgium!
Day by day Germany unmasks herself more clearly in her true colours from highest to lowest. The Kaiser reveals himself as a blasphemer and hypocrite, the Imperial crocodile with the bleeding heart, the Crown Prince as a common brigand, the High Command as chief instigators to ferocity, the rank and file as docile instruments of butchery and torture, content to use Belgium women as a screen when going into action.
THE TWO GERMANIES
Marvellous the utter transformation
Of the spirit of the German nation!
Once the land of poets, seers and sages, Who enchant us in their deathless pages,
Holding high the torch of Truth, and earning Endless honour by their zeal for learning.
Such the land that in an age uncouther Bred the soul-emancipating LUTHER.
Such the land that made our debt the greater By the gift of _Faust_ and _Struwwelpeter_.
Now the creed of Nietzsche, base, unholy, Guides the nation’s brain and guides it solely.
Now Mozart’s serene and joyous magic Yields to RICHARD STRAUSS, the haemorrhagic.[A]
Now the eagle changing to the vulture Preaches rapine in the name of culture.
Now the Prussian _Junker_, blind with fury, Claims to be God’s counsel, judge and jury,
While the authentic German genius slumbers, Cast into the limbo of back numbers.
[Footnote A: Great play is made in Strauss’s _Elektra_ with the “slippery blood” motive.]
The campaign of lies goes on with immense energy in all neutral countries, for the Kaiser is evidently of opinion that the pen is perhaps mightier than the sword.
At home the great improvisation of the New Armies, undertaken by Lord Kitchener in the teeth of much expert criticism, goes steadily on. Lord Kitchener asked for 500,000 men, and he has got them. On September 10 the House voted another half million. The open spaces in Hyde Park are given over to training; women are beginning to take the place of men. Already the spirit of the new soldiers is growing akin to that of the regulars. One of Mr. Punch’s brigade, who has begun to send his impressions of the mobilised Territorials, sums it up very well when he says that, amateurs or professionals, they are all very much alike. “Feed them like princes and pamper them like babies, and they’ll complain all the time. But stand them up to be shot at and they’ll take it as a joke, and rather a good joke, too.” Lord Roberts maintains a dignified reticence, but that is “Bobs’ way”:
He knew, none better, how ‘twould be, And spoke his warning far and wide:
He worked to save us ceaselessly,
Setting his well-earned ease aside.
We smiled and shrugged and went our way, Blind to the swift approaching blow:
His every word proves true to-day, But no man hears, “I told you so!”
Meanwhile General Botha, Boer and Briton too, is on the war-path, and we can, without an undue stretch of imagination, picture him composing a telegram to the Kaiser in these terms: “Just off to repel another raid. Your customary wire of congratulations should be addressed, ‘British Headquarters, German South-West Africa.'”
[Illustration: GOD (AND THE WOMEN) OUR SHIELD
Study of a German Gentleman going into Action]
The rigours of the Censorship are pressing hard on war correspondents. Official news of importance trickles in in driblets: for the rest, newspaper men, miles from the front, are driven to eke out their dispatches with negligible trivialities. We know that Rheims Cathedral is suffering wanton bombardment. And a great many of us believe that at least a quarter of a million Russians have passed through England on their way to France. The number of people who have seen them is large: that of those who have seen people who have seen them is enormous.
[Illustration: PORTER: “Do I know if the Rooshuns has really come to England? Well, sir, if this don’t prove it, I don’t know what do. A train went through here full, and when it came back I knowed there’d been Rooshuns in it, ’cause the cushions and floors was covered with snow.”]
We gather that the Press Bureau has no notion whether the rumour is true or not, and cannot think of any way of finding out. But it consents to its publication in the hope that it will frighten the Kaiser. Apropos of the Russians we learn that they have won a pronounced victory (though not by us) at Przemysl.
Motto for the month: _Grattez le Prusse et vous trouverez le barbare_.
THE KAISER: “So, you see–you’ve lost everything.”
THE KING OF THE BELGIANS: “Not my soul.”]
Antwerp has fallen and the Belgian Government removed to Havre. But the spirit of the King and his army is unshaken.
Unshaken, too, is the courage of Burgomaster Max of Brussels, “who faced the German bullies with the stiffest of stiff backs.” The Kaiser has been foiled in his hope of witnessing the fall of Nancy, the drive for the Channel ports has begun at Ypres, and German submarines have retorted to Mr. Churchill’s threat to “dig out” the German Fleet “like rats” by torpedoing three battleships. Trench warfare is in full and deadly swing, but “Thomas of the light heart” refuses to be downhearted:
He takes to fighting as a game,
He does no talking through his hat Of holy missions: all the same
He has his faith–be sure of that: He’ll not disgrace his sporting breed
Nor play what isn’t cricket. There’s his creed.
Last month Lord Kitchener paid a high tribute to the growing efficiency of the “Terriers” and their readiness to go anywhere. _Punch’s_ representative with the “Watch Dogs” fully bears out this praise. They have been inoculated and are ready to move on. Some suggest India, others Egypt. “But what tempted the majority was the thought of a season’s shooting without having to pay for so much as a gun licence, and so we decided for the Continent.”
News from the front continues scanty, and Joffre’s laconic _communiques_ might in sum be versified as follows:
On our left wing the state of things remains Unaltered on a general review,
Our losses in the centre match our gains, And on our right wing there is nothing new.
Nor do we gain much enlightenment from the “Eyewitness” with G.H.Q., though his literary skill in elegantly describing the things that do not matter moves our admiration.
[Illustration: THE BULL-DOG BREED
OFFICER: “Now, my lad, do you know what you are placed here for?”
RECRUIT: “To prevent the henemy from landin’, sir.”
OFFICER: “And do you think you could prevent him landing all by yourself?”
RECRUIT: “Don’t know, sir, I’m sure. But I’d have a damn good try!”]
The Kaiser’s sons continue to distinguish themselves as first-class looters, and the ban laid on the English language, including very properly the word “gentleman,” has been lifted in favour of Wilhelm Shakespeare.
The prophets are no longer so optimistic in predicting when the War will end. One of Mr. Punch’s young men suggests Christmas, 1918. But 500 German prisoners have arrived at Templemore, co. Tipperary. It’s a long, long way, but they’ve got there at last.
The miracle of the Marne has been followed by another miracle–that of Ypres. Outgunned and outnumbered, our thin line has stemmed the rush to the sea.
The road to Calais has been blocked like that to Paris. Heartening news comes from afar of the fall of Tsing-tau before our redoubtable Japanese allies, and with it the crumbling of Germany’s scheme of an Oriental Empire; of the British occupation of Basra; and of the sinking of the _Emden_, thanks to the “good hunting” of the _Sydney_–the first fruits of Australian aid. A new enemy has appeared in Turkey, but her defection has its consolations. It is something to be rid of an “unspeakable” incubus full of promises of reform never fulfilled, “sick” but unrepentant, always turning European discord to bloody account at the expense of her subject nationalities: in all respects a fitting partner for her ally and master.
At sea our pain at the loss of the _Good Hope_ and _Monmouth_ off Coronel is less than our pride in the spirit of the heroic Cradock, true descendant of Grenville and Nelson, prompt to give battle against overwhelming odds. The soul of the “Navy Eternal” draws fresh strength from his example. So, too, does the Army from the death of Lord Roberts, the “happy warrior,” who passed away while visiting the Western front. The best homage we can pay him is not grief or
Vain regret for counsel given in vain, But service of our lives to keep her free The land he served: a pledge above his grave To give her even such a gift as he,
The soul of loyalty, gave.
Even the Germans have paid reluctant tribute to one who, as Bonar Law said in the House, “was in real life all, and more than all, that Colonel Newcome was in fiction.” He was the exemplar _in excelsis_ of those “bantams,” “little and good,” who, after being rejected for their diminutive stature, are now joining up under the new regulations:
Apparently he’s just as small,
But since his size no more impedes him In spirit he is six foot tall–
Because his country needs him.
[Illustration: THE EXCURSIONIST
TRIPPER WILHELM: “First Class to Paris.”
CLERK: “Line blocked.”
WILHELM: “Then make it Warsaw.”
CLERK: “Line blocked.”
WILHELM: “Well, what about Calais?”
CLERK: “Line blocked.”
WILHELM: “Hang it! I _must_ go _somewhere_! I promised my people I would.”]
We have begun to think in millions. The war is costing a million a day. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has launched a war loan of 230 millions and doubled our income tax. The Prime Minister asks for an addition of a million men to the Regular Army. But the country has not yet fully awakened to the realities of war. Football clubs are concerned with the “jostling of the ordinary patrons” by men in uniform. “Business as usual” is interpreted as “pleasure as usual” in some quarters. Rumour is busy with stories of mysterious prisoners in the Tower, with tales of huge guns which are to shell us from Calais when the Germans get there; with reports (from neutral sources) of the speedy advent of scores of Zeppelins and hundreds of aeroplanes over London. But though
Old England’s dark o’ nights and short Of ‘buses: still she’s much the sort
Of place we always used to know.
OFFICER’S STEWARD: “Will you take your bath, sir, before or after haction?”]
It is otherwise with Belgium, with its shattered homes and wrecked towns. The great Russian legend is still going strong, in spite of the statements of the Under-Secretary for War, and, after all, why should the Germans do all the story telling? By the way, a “German Truth Society” has been founded. It is pleasant to know that it is realised over there at last that there is a difference between Truth and German Truth. The British Navy, we learn from the _Koelnische Zeitung_, “is in hiding.” But our fragrant contemporary need not worry. In due course the Germans shall have the hiding.
In some ways the unchanged spirit of our people is rather disconcerting. One of Mr. Punch’s young men, happening to meet a music-hall acquaintance, asked him how he thought the war was going, and met with the answer: “Oh, I think the managers will have to give in.” And the proposal to change the name of Berlin Road at Lewisham has been rejected by the residents.
In less than six weeks Coronel has been avenged at the battle of the Falkland Islands:
Hardened steel are our ships;
Gallant tars are our men;
We never are wordy
(STURDEE, boys, STURDEE!),
But quietly conquer again and again.
Here at least we can salute the vanquished. Admiral von Spee, who went down with his doomed squadron, was a gallant and chivalrous antagonist, like Captain Mueller, of the _Emden_. Germany’s retort, eight days later, by bombarding Scarborough and Whitby, reveals the normal Hun: Come where you will–the seas are wide; And choose your Day–they’re all alike; You’ll find us ready when we ride
In calm or storm and wait to strike; But–if of shame your shameless Huns
Can yet retrieve some casual traces– Please fight our men and ships and guns, Not womenfolk and watering places.
Austria’s “punitive expedition” has ended in disaster for the Austrians. They entered Belgrade on the 2nd, and were driven out twelve days later by the Serbs. King George has paid his first visit to the front, and made General Foch a G.C.B. We know that the General is a great authority on strategy, and that his name, correctly pronounced, rhymes with Boche, as hero with Nero. He is evidently a man likely to be heard of again. Another hitherto unfamiliar name that has cropped up is that of Herr Lissauer, who, for writing a “Hymn of Hate” against England, has been decorated by the Kaiser. This shows true magnanimity on the part of the Kaiser, in his capacity of King of Prussia, since the “Hymn of Hate” turns out to be a close adaptation of a poem composed by a Saxon patriot, in which Prussia, not England, was held up to execration.
Kitchener’s great improvisation is already bearing fruit, and the New Armies are flocking to the support of the old. Indian troops are fighting gallantly in three continents. King Albert “the unconquerable,” in the narrow strip of his country that still belongs to him, waits in unshaken faith for the coming of the dawn. And as Christmas draws on the thoughts of officers and men in the waterlogged trenches turn fondly homeward to mothers, wives and sweethearts:
Cheer up! I’m calling far away;
And wireless you can hear.
Cheer up! You know you’d have me stay And keep on trying day by day;
We’re winning, never fear.
Christmas at least brings the children’s truce, and that is something to be thankful for, but it is not the Christmas that we knew and long for:
No stir of wings sweeps softly by;
No angel comes with blinding light; Beneath the wild and wintry sky
No shepherds watch their flocks to-night.
In the dull thunder of the wind
We hear the cruel guns afar,
But in the glowering heavens we find No guiding, solitary star.
But lo! on this our Lord’s birthday, Lit by the glory whence she came,
Peace, like a warrior, stands at bay, A swift, defiant, living flame!
Full-armed she stands in shining mail, Erect, serene, unfaltering still,
Shod with a strength that cannot fail, Strong with a fierce o’ermastering will.
Where shattered homes and ruins be
She fights through dark and desperate days; Beside the watchers on the sea
She guards the Channel’s narrow ways.
Through iron hail and shattering shell, Where the dull earth is stained with red, Fearless she fronts the gates of Hell
And shields the unforgotten dead.
So stands she, with her all at stake, And battles for her own dear life,
That by one victory she may make
For evermore an end of strife.
[Illustration: THE CHILDREN’S PEACE
PEACE: “I’m glad that they, at least, have their Christmas unspoiled.”]
Yet we have our minor war gains in the temporary disappearance of cranks and faddists, some of whom have sunk without a ripple. And though the Press Censor’s suppressions and delays and inconsistencies provoke discontent in the House and out of it, food for mirth turns up constantly in unexpected quarters. The Crown Prince tells an American interviewer that there is no War Party in Germany, nor has there ever been. The German General Staff have begun to disguise set-backs under the convenient euphemism that the situation has developed “according to expectation.” An English village worthy, discussing the prospects of invasion, comes to the reassuring conclusion that “there can’t be no battle in these parts, Jarge, for there bain’t no field suitable, as you may say; an’ Squire, ‘e won’t lend ’em the use of ‘is park.” The troubles of neutrality are neatly summed up in a paper in a recent geography examination. “Holland is a low country, in fact it is such a very low country that it is no wonder that it is dammed all round.”
The trials of mistresses on the home front are happily described in the reply of a child to a small visitor who inquired after her mother. “Thank you, poor mummie’s a bit below herself this morning–what with the cook and the Kaiser.”
POMPOUS LADY: “I shall descend at Knightsbridge.”
TOMMY (aside): “Takes ‘erself for a bloomin’ Zeppelin!”]
We have to thank an ingenious correspondent for drawing up the following “credibility index” for the guidance of perplexed newspaper readers:
London, Paris, or Petrograd (official) 100 ” ” ” (semi-official) 50 Berlin (official) 25
It is believed in military circles here that– 24 A correspondent that has just returned from the firing-line tells me that– 18 Our correspondent at Rome announces that– 11 Berlin (unofficial) 10 I learn from a neutral merchant that– 7 A story is current in Venice to the effect that– 5 It is rumoured that– 4 I have heard to-day from a reliable source that– 3 I learn on unassailable authority that– 2 It is rumoured in Rotterdam that– 1 Wolff’s Bureau states that– 0
General von Kluck “never got round on the right.” Calais is Calais still, and the Kaiser, if he still wishes to give it a new name, may call it the “Never, Never Land.” “General Janvier” is doing his worst, but our men are sticking it out through slush and slime. As for the Christmas truce and fraternisation, the British officer who ended a situation that was proving impossible by presenting a dingy Saxon with a copy of _Punch_ in exchange for a packet of cigarettes, acted with a wise candour:
For there he found, our dingy friend, Amid the trench’s sobering slosh,
What must have left him, by the end, A wiser, if a sadder, Boche,
Seeing himself, with chastened mien, In that pellucid well of Truth serene.
There can be no “fraternising” with Fritz until he realises that he has been fooled by his War Lords; and his awakening is a long way off. Lord Kitchener has been charged with being “very economical in his information” vouchsafed to the Lords, but it is well to be rid of illusions. This has not been a month of great events. General Joffre is content with this ceaseless “nibbling.” The Kaiser, nourished by the flattery of his tame professors, encourages the war on non-combatants.
The Turks are beginning to show a gift for euphemism in disguising their reverses in the Caucasus, which shows that they have nothing to learn from their masters; Austria, badly mauled by the Serbians, addresses awful threats to Roumania; and the United States has issued a warning Note on neutral trading. But the American Eagle is not the Eagle that we are up against.
[Illustration: THE FLIGHT THAT FAILED
THE EMPEROR: “What! No babes, Sirrah?”
THE MURDERER: “Alas, Sire, none.”
THE EMPEROR: “Well, then, no babes, no iron crosses.”
(_Exit murderer, discouraged_.)]
The number of Mr. Punch’s correspondents on active service steadily grows. Some of them are at the Western front; others are still straining at the leash at home; another of the _Punch_ brigade, with the very first battalion of Territorials to land in India, has begun to send his impressions of the shiny land; of friendly natives and unfriendly ants; of the disappointment of being relegated to clerical duties instead of going to the front; of the evaporation of visions of military glory in the routine of typing, telephoning and telegraphing; of leisurely Oriental methods. Being a soldier clerk in India is very different from being a civilian clerk in England. Patience, good Territorials in India, your time will come.
[Illustration: THE SHIRKERS’ WAR NEWS
“There! What did I tell you? Northdown Lambs beaten–two to nothing.”]
At home, though the “knut” has been commandeered and nobly transmogrified, though women are increasingly occupied in war work and entering with devotion and self-sacrifice on their new duties as substitutes for men, we have not yet been wholly purged of levity and selfishness. Football news has not receded into its true perspective; shirkers are more pre-occupied with the defeat or victory of “Lambs” or “Wolves” in Lancashire than with the stubborn defence, the infinite discomfort and the heavy losses of their brothers in Flanders.
Overdressed fashionables pester wounded officers and men with their unreasonable visits and futile queries. The enemies in our midst are not all aliens; there are not a few natives we should like to see interned.
The Kaiser has had his first War birthday and, as the Prussian Government has ordered that there shall be no public celebrations, this confirms the rumours that he now wishes he had never been born.
Germany, says the _Cologne Gazette_ in an article on the food question, “has still at hand a very large supply of pigs”–even after the enormous number she has exported to Belgium. Germany, however, does not only export pigs; her trade in “canards” with neutrals grows and grows, chiefly with the United States, thanks to the untiring mendacity of Bernstorff and Wolff. Compared with these efforts, the revelations of English governesses at German courts, which are now finding their way into print, make but a poor show.
As the British armies increase, the moustache of the British officer, one of the most astonishing products of these astonishing times, grows “small by degrees and beautifully less.” Waxed ends, fashionable in a previous generation, are now only worn by policemen, taxi-drivers and labour leaders. The Kaiser remains faithful to the Mephistophelean form. But in proof of his desire to make the best of both worlds, nether and celestial, he continues to commandeer “Gott” on every occasion as his second in command. Out-Heroding Herod as a murderer of innocents, he enters into a competition of piety with his grandfather. For we should not forget that the first German Emperor’s messages to his wife in the Franco-Prussian War were once summed up by Mr. Punch:
Ten thousand French have gone below; Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.
January ended with a knock for the Germans off the Dogger Bank, when the _Bluecher_ was sunk by our Battle-Cruiser Squadron:
They say the _Lion_ and the _Tiger_ sweep Where once the Huns shelled babies from the deep, And _Bluecher_, that great cruiser–12-inch guns Roar o’er his head, but cannot break his sleep.
And now it is the turn of “Johnny Turk,” who has had _his_ knock on the Suez Canal, and failed to solve the _Riddle of the Sands_ under German guidance. Having safely locked up his High Seas Fleet in the Kiel Canal, the Kaiser has ordered the U-boat blockade of England to begin by the torpedoing of neutral as well as enemy merchant ships.
You may know a man by the company he keeps, and the Kaiser’s friends are now the Jolly Roger and Sir Roger Casement.
Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Here are some lines from a damp but undefeated lover in the trenches:
Though the glittering knight whose charger Bore him on his lady’s quest
With an infinitely larger
Share of warfare’s pomp was blest, Yet he offered love no higher,
No more difficult to quench,
Than the filthy occupier
Of this unromantic trench.
[Illustration: RUNNING AMOK
GERMAN BULL: “I know I’m making a rotten exhibition of myself; but I shall tell everybody I was goaded into it.”]
The fusion of classes in the camps of the New Armies outdoes the mixture of “cook’s son and duke’s son” fifteen years ago. The old Universities are now given up to a handful of coloured students, Rhodes’ scholars and reluctant crocks. As a set-off, however, a Swansea clergyman and football enthusiast has held a “thanksgiving service for their good fortune against Newcastle United.” Meanwhile, the Under-Secretary for War has stated that the army costs more in a week than the total estimates for the Waterloo campaign, and that our casualties on the Western front alone have amounted to over 100,000. So what with submarine losses, ubiquitous German spies, the German propaganda in America, and complaints of Government inactivity, the pessimists are having a fine time. Tommy grouses of course, but then he complains far more of the loss of a packet of cigarettes or a tin of peppermints or a mouth-organ than of the loss of a limb.
Germany’s attitude towards the United States tempers the blandishments of the serenader with the occasional discharge of half-bricks. There is no such inconsistency in the expression of her feelings about England. Articles entitled “_Unser Hass gegen England_” constantly appear in the German Press, and people are beginning to wonder whether the _Hass_ is not the Kaiser. Apropos of newspapers, we are beginning to harbour a certain envy of the Americans. Even their provincial organs often contain important and cheering news of the doings of the British Army many days before the Censor releases the information in England. Daylight saving is again being talked of, and it would surely be an enormous boon to rush the measure through now so that the Germans may have less darkness of which to take advantage. And there is a general and reasonable feeling that more use should be made of bands for recruiting. The ways of German musicians are perplexing. Here is the amiable Herr Humperdinck, composer of “Haensel and Gretel,” the very embodiment of the old German kindliness, signing the Manifesto of patriotic artists and professors who execrate England, while Strauss, the truculent “Mad Mullah” of the Art, holds aloof. Dr. Hans Richter, who enjoyed English hospitality so long, now clamours for our extinction; it is even said that he has asked to be allowed to conduct a _Parsifal_ airship to this country.
[Illustration: STUDY OF A PRUSSIAN HOUSEHOLD HAVING ITS MORNING HATE]
A new and possibly momentous chapter has opened in the history of the War by the attempt to force the Dardanelles. At the end of February the Allied Fleet bombarded the forts at the entrance, and landed a party of bluejackets. Since then these naval operations have been resumed, and our new crack battleship _Queen Elizabeth_ has joined in the attack. We have not got through the Narrows, and some sceptical critics are asking what we should do if we got through to Constantinople, without a land force. It is a great scheme, if it comes off; and the “only begetter” of it, if report is true, is Mr. Winston Churchill, the strategist of the Antwerp expedition, who now aspires to be the Dardanelson of our age. Anyhow, the Sultan, lured on by the Imperial William o’ the Wisp, is already capable of envying even his predecessor:
Abdul! I would that I had shared your plight, Or Europe seen my heels,
Before the hour when Allah bound me tight To WILLIAM’S chariot-wheels!
Germany, always generous with other people’s property, has begun to hint to Italy possibilities of compensation in the shape of certain portions of Austro-Hungarian territory. She has also declared that she is “fighting for the independence of the small nations,” including, of course, Belgium. In further evidence of her humanity she has taken to spraying our soldiers in the West with flaming petrol and squirting boiling pitch over our Russian allies. It is positively a desecration of the word devil to apply it to the Germans whether on land, on or under water, or in the air.
We have begun to “push” on the Western front, and Neuve Chapelle has been captured, after a fierce battle and at terrible cost. Air raids are becoming common in East Anglia and U-boats unpleasantly active in the North Sea. Let us take off our hats to the mine-sweepers and trawlers, the new and splendid auxiliaries of the Royal Navy. Grimsby is indeed a “name to resound for ages” for what its fishermen have done and are doing in the war against mine and submarine:
Soles in the Silver Pit–an’ there we’ll let ’em lie; Cod on the Dogger–oh, we’ll fetch ’em by an’ by; War on the water–an’ it’s time to serve an’ die, For there’s wild work doin’ on the North Sea ground. An’ it’s “Wake up, Johnnie!” they want you at the trawlin’ (With your long sea-boots and your tarry old tarpaulin); All across the bitter seas duty comes a-callin’ In the Winter’s weather off the North Sea ground. It’s well we’ve learned to laugh at fear–the sea has taught us how; It’s well we’ve shaken hands with death–we’ll not be strangers now, With death in every climbin’ wave before the trawler’s bow, An’ the black spawn swimmin’ on the North Sea ground.
[Illustration: WILLIAM O’ THE WISP]
These brave men and their heroic brothers in the trenches are true sportsmen as well as patriots, not those who interpret the need of lightheartedness by the cult of “sport as usual” on the football field and the racecourse. And the example of the Universities shines with the same splendour. Of the scanty remnant that remain at Oxford and Cambridge all the physically fit have joined the O.T.C. Boat-race day has passed, but the crews are gone to “keep it long” and “pull it through” elsewhere:
Not here their hour of great emprise; No mounting cheer towards Mortlake roars; Lulled to full tide the river lies
Unfretted by the fighting oars;
The long high toil of strenuous play Serves England elsewhere well to-day.
London changes daily. The sight of the female Jehu is becoming familiar; the lake in St. James’s Park has been drained and the water-fowl driven to form a concentration camp by the sorry pool that remains beside the Whitehall Gate.
Spy-hunting is prevalent in East Anglia, but the amateurs have not achieved any convincing results. Spring poets are suffering from suspended animation; there is a slump in crocuses, snowdrops, daffodils and lambkins. Their “musings always turn away to men who’re arming for the fray.” The clarion and the fife have ousted the pastoral ode. And our military and naval experts, harassed by the Censor, take refuge in psychology.
The _Koelnische Zeitung_ has published a whole article on “Mr. Punch.” The writer, a Herr Professor, finds our cartoons lacking in “modest refinement.” Indeed, he goes so far as to say that the treatment of the Kaiser savours of blasphemy. One is so apt to forget that the Kaiser is a divinity, so prone to remember that Luther wrote, “We Germans are Germans, and Germans we will remain–that is to say, pigs and brutish animals.” This was written in 1528: but “the example of the Middle Ages” is held up to-day by German leaders as the true fount of inspiration.
[Illustration: THE WAR SPIRIT AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM
ARDENT EGYPTOLOGIST (who has lately joined the Civic Guard): “No, I seem to have lost my enthusiasm for this group since I noticed Bes-Hathor-Horus was out of step with the other two.”]
A hundred years ago Bismarck was born on April 1, the man who built with blood and iron, but now only the blood remains. Yet one may doubt whether even that strong and ruthless pilot would have commended the submarine crew who sank the liner _Falaba_ and laughed at the cries and struggles of drowning men and women. Sooner or later these crews are doomed to die the death of rats:
But you, who sent them out to do this shame; From whom they take their orders and their pay; For you–avenging wrath defers its claim, And Justice bides her day.
The tide of “frightfulness” rolls strong on land as on sea. The second battle of Ypres has begun and the enemy has resorted to the use of a new weapon–poison gas. He had already poisoned wells in South West Africa, but this is an uglier outcome of the harnessing of science to the Powers of Darkness. Italy grows restive in spite of the blandishments of Prince Buelow, and as the month closes we hear of the landing of the Allies in Gallipoli, just two months after the unsupported naval attempt to force the Dardanelles. British and Australian and New Zealand troops have achieved the impossible by incredible valour in face of murderous fire, and a foothold has been won at tremendous cost of heroic lives. Letters from the Western front continue cheerful, but it does not need much reading between the lines to realise the odds with which our officers and men have to contend, the endless discomfort and unending din. They are masters of a gallant art of metaphor which belittles the most appalling horrors of trench warfare; masters, too, of the art of extracting humorous relief from the most trivial incidents.
On the home front we have to contend with a dangerous ally of the enemy in Drink, and with the self-advertising politicians who do their bit by asking unnecessary questions. Sometimes, but rarely, they succeed in eliciting valuable information, as in Mr. Lloyd George’s statement on the situation at the front. We have now six times as many men in the field as formed the original Expeditionary Force, and in the few days fighting round Neuve Chapelle almost as much ammunition was expended by our guns as in the whole of the two and three-quarter years of the Boer War.
[Illustration: THE HAUNTED SHIP
GHOST OF THE OLD PILOT: “I wonder if he would drop me _now!_”]
The Kaiser has been presented with another grandson, but it has not been broken to the poor little fellow who he is. It is also reported that the Kaiser has bestowed an Iron Cross on a learned pig–one of a very numerous class.
We often think that we must have got to the end of German “frightfulness,” only to have our illusions promptly shattered by some fresh and amazing explosion of calculated ferocity. Last month it was poison gas; now it is the sinking of the _Lusitania_. Yet Mr. Punch had read the omens some seven and a half years ago, when the records established by that liner had created a jealousy in Germany which the Kaiser and his agents have now appeased, but at what a cost! The House of Commons is an odd place, unique in its characteristics. Looking round the benches when it reassembled on May 10th, and noting the tone and purport of the inquiries addressed to the First Lord, one might well suppose that nothing remarkable had happened since Parliament adjourned. The questions were numerous but all practical, and as unemotional as if they referred to outrages by a newly-discovered race of fiends in human shape peopling Mars or Saturn. The First Lord, equally undemonstrative, announced that the Board of Trade have ordered an inquiry into the circumstances attending the disaster. Pending the result, it would be premature to discuss the matter. Here we have the sublimation of officialism and national phlegm. Of the 1,200 victims who went down in this unarmed passenger ship about 200 were Americans. What will America say or do?
[Illustration: AN OMEN OF 1908
Reproduced from “Christmas Cards for Celebrities,” in _Mr. Punch’s Almanack_ of that year]
[Illustration: HAMLET U.S.A.
SCENE: The Ramparts of the White House.
PRESIDENT WILSON: “The time is out of joint, O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right!”
VOICE OF ROOSEVELT (_off_): “That’s so!”]
In silence you have looked on felon blows, On butcher’s work of which the waste lands reek! Now in God’s name, from Whom your greatness flows, Sister, will you not speak?
Many unofficial voices have been raised in horror, indignation, and even in loud calls for intervention. The leaven works, but President Wilson, though not unmoved, gives little sign of abandoning his philosophic neutrality.
In Europe it is otherwise. Italy has declared war on Austria; her people have driven the Government to take the path of freedom and honour and break the shackles of Germanism in finance, commerce and politics.
Italy has not declared war on Germany yet, but the fury of the German Press is unbounded, and for the moment Germany’s overworked Professors of Hate have focused their energies on the new enemy, and its army of “vagabonds, convicts, ruffians and mandolin-players,” conveniently forgetting that the spirit of Garibaldi is still an animating force, and that the King inherits the determination of his grandfather and namesake.
On the Western front the enemy has been repulsed at Ypres. Lord Kitchener has asked for another 300,000 men, and speaks confidently of our soon being able to make good the shortage of ammunition.
On the Eastern front the Grand Duke Nicholas has been forced to give ground; in Gallipoli slow progress is being made at heavy cost on land and sea. The Turk is a redoubtable trench fighter and sniper; the difficulties of the _terrain_ are indescribable, yet our men continue the epic struggle with unabated heroism. King Constantine of Greece, improved in health, construes his neutrality in terms of ever increasing benevolence to his brother-in-law the Kaiser.
[Illustration: (series of six panels) THE REWARD OF KULTUR]
At home the great event has been the formation of a Coalition Government–a two-handed sword, as we hope, to smite the enemy; while practical people regard it rather as a “Coal and Ammunition Government.” The cost of the War is now Two Millions a day, and a new campaign of Posters and Publicity has been inaugurated to promote recruiting. Volunteers, with scant official recognition, continue their training on foot; the Hurst Park brigade continue their activities, mainly on rubber wheels. An evening paper announces:
VICTORY IN GALLIPOLI.
LATE WIRE FROM CHESTER.
Mr. Punch is prompted to comment:
For these our Army does its bit,
While they in turn peruse
Death’s honour-roll (should time permit) After the Betting News.
More agreeable is the sportsmanship of the trenches, where a correspondent tells of the shooting of a hare and the recovery of the corpse, by a reckless Tommy, from the turnip-field which separated our trenches from those of Fritz.
Amongst other signs of the times the emergence of the Spy Play is to be noted, in which the alien enemy within our gates is gloriously confounded. Yet, if a certain section of the Press is to be believed, the dark and sinister operations of the Hidden Hand continue unchecked.
The Germans as unconscious humorists maintain their supremacy _hors concours_. A correspondent of the _Cologne Gazette_ was with other journalists recently entertained to dinner in a French villa by the Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria. “The party, while dining,” we are told, “talked of the defects of French taste, and Prince Rupprecht said that French houses were full of horrors.” True, O Prince, but the French are determined to drive them out. Better still, in the month which witnessed the sinking of the _Lusitania_ we read this panegyric of the Teuton in _Die Welt_: “Clad in virtue and in peerless nobility of character, unassailed by insidious enemies either within or without, girded about by the benign influences of Kultur, the German, whether soldier or civilian, pursues his destined way, fearless and serene.”
The weeks that have passed since the sinking of the _Lusitania_ have left Germany not merely impenitent but glorying in her crime. “The destruction of the _Lusitania_,” says Herr Baumgarten, Professor of Theology, “should be greeted with jubilation and enthusiastic cheering, and everybody who does not cheer is no real or true German.” Many harsh things have been said of the Germans, but nothing quite so bitter as this suggestion for a test of nationality. But while Germany jubilates, her Government is painfully anxious to explain everything to the satisfaction of America. The conversations between the two Powers are continuous but abortive. President Wilson’s dove has returned to him, with the report “Nothing doing,” and the American eagle looks as if he would like to take on the job.
Germany has had her first taste of real retaliation in the bombardment of Karlsruhe by Allied airmen, and is furiously indignant at the attack on an “unfortified and peaceful” town–which happens to be the headquarters of the 14th German Army Corps and to contain an important arsenal as well as large chemical, engineering and railway works. Also she is very angry with Mr. Punch, and has honoured him and other British papers with a solemn warning. Our performances, it seems, are “diligently noted, so that when the day of reckoning arrives we shall know with whom we have to deal, and how to deal with them effectually.” It is evident that in spite of Italy’s entry into the war the mass of the Germans are still true to their old hate of England.
[Illustration: ON THE BLACK LIST
KAISER (as executioner): “I’m going to hang you.”
PUNCH: “Oh, you are, are you? Well, you don’t seem to know how the scene ends. It’s the hangman that gets hanged.”]
[Illustration: SOME BIRD
THE RETURNING DOVE (to President Woodrow Noah):
THE EAGLE: “Say, Boss, what’s the matter with trying me?”]
But Germany does not merely talk. She has been indulging in drastic reprisals in consequence of Mr. Winston Churchill’s memorandum on the captured submarine crews. As a result 39 imprisoned British officers, carefully selected, have been subjected to solitary confinement under distressing conditions in return for Mr. Churchill’s having hinted at possible severities which were never carried out. Moral: Do not threaten unless you mean to act. The retirement of Mr. Churchill to the seclusion of the Duchy of Lancaster and the appointment of Mr. Balfour to the First Lordship of the Admiralty afford hope that the release of the Thirty-Nine from their special hardship will not be unduly postponed. The Coalition Government is shaking down. A Ministry of Munitions has been created, with Mr. Lloyd George in charge; and members of the Cabinet have decided to pool their salaries with a view to their being divided equally. Mr. McKenna has made his first appearance as Chancellor of the Exchequer and introduced a Bill authorising the raising of a War Loan unlimited in extent, but, being a man of moderate views, will be satisfied if nine hundred millions are forthcoming. Lord Haldane has been succeeded in the Lord Chancellorship by Lord Buckmaster, having caused by one unfortunate phrase a complete oblivion of all the services rendered by his creation of the Territorial system. The cry for “more men” has now changed to one for “more shells,” and certain newspapers, always in search of a scapegoat, have entered on a campaign directed against Lord Kitchener, the very man whom a few short months ago they hailed as the saviour of the situation. Finding that the public cannot live on their hot air, they are doing their best to make our flesh creep and keep our feet cold. Let us hope that K. of K. will find the Garter some slight protection against this hitting below the belt.
The Russian retreat continues, but there is no _debacle._ Greece shows signs of returning sanity in the restoration to power of her one strong man, M. Venizelos. If there were a few more like him then (to adapt Porson) “the Germanised Greek would be sadly to seek.” As it is, he flourishes exceedingly, under the patronage of a Prussianised Court.
In Gallipoli the deadly struggle goes on; our foothold has been strengthened by bitter fighting and our lines pushed forward for three miles by a few hundred yards–a big advance in modern trench warfare. Blazing heat and a plague of flies add to the discomforts of our men, but a new glory has been added to the ever growing vocabulary of the war in “Anzac.” There is a lull on the Western front, if such a word properly can be applied to the ceaseless activities of the war of position, of daily _strafe_ and counter-_strafe_.
At home, khaki weddings are becoming common form. By an inversion of the old order the bride is now eclipsed by the bridegroom:
‘Tis well: the lack of fine array
Best fits a sacrificial altar;
Her man to-morrow joins the fray,
And yet she does not falter;
Simple her gown, but still we see
The bride in all her bravery.
Society is losing much of its snap through the political truce. It is all very well to talk of the lion lying down with the lamb, but of course it makes life a distinctly duller business both for the lion and the lamb when each has lost his or her dearest enemy. For the rest, there is a brisk trade in anti-gas respirators, “lonely soldiers” are becoming victimised by fair correspondents, and a new day has been added to the week–flag day.
Proverb for the month, suggested by the activities of the Imperial infanticide: “The hand that wrecks the cradle rules the world.”
The last month of the first year of the war brings no promise of a speedy end; it is not a month of great battles on land or sea, but rather of omens and foreshadowings, good and evil. To the omens of victory belongs the sinking of the _Pommern_, named after the great maritime province, so long coveted by the Brandenburgers, the makers of Prussia and the true begetters of Prussianism. Of good omen, too, has been the “clean sweep” made by General Botha in German South-West Africa, where the enemy surrendered unconditionally on July 9. And though the menace of the U-boat grows daily, there _may_ be limits to America’s seemingly inexhaustible forbearance. There are happily none to the fortitude of our bluejackets and trawlers.
Pundits in the Press, fortified by warnings from generals in various Home Commands, display an increasing preoccupation with the likelihood of invasion by sea. Mr. Punch naturally inclines to a sceptical attitude, swayed by long adherence to the views of the Blue Water School and the incredulousness of correspondents engaged in guarding likely spots on the East Coast. With runaway raids by sea we are already acquainted, and their growing frequency from the air is responsible for various suggested precautions, official and otherwise–pails of sand and masks and anti-asphyxiation mixtures–which are not viewed with much sympathy in the trenches. _There_ the men meet the most disconcerting situations–as, for example, the problem of spending a night in a flooded meadow occupied by a thunderstorm–with irrelevant songs or fantasias on the mouth-organ.
[Illustration: FIRST TRAWLER SKIPPER (to friend who is due to sail by next tide): “Are ye takin’ any precautions against these submarines, Jock?”
SECOND SKIPPER: “Ay! Although I’ve been in the habit o’ carryin’ my bits of bawbees wi’ me, I went an’ bankit them this mornin’, an’ I’m no taking ma best oilskins or ma new seaboots.”
FIRST SKIPPER; “Oh, _you’re_ a’richt then. Ye’ll hae practically nothin’ tae lose but yer life.”]
Oh, there ain’t no band to cheer us up, there ain’t no Highland pipers To keep our warlike ardure warm round New Chapelle and Wipers, So–since there’s nothing like a tune to glad the ‘eart o’ man, Why Billy with his mouth-organ ‘e does the best ‘e can.
Wet, ‘ungry, thirsty, ‘ot or cold, whatever may betide ‘im, ‘E’ll play upon the ‘ob of ‘ell while the breath is left inside ‘im; And when we march up Potsdam Street, and goose-step through Berlin, Why Billy with ‘is mouth-organ ‘e’ll play the Army in!
[Illustration: THE OLD MAN OF THE SEA
SINBAD THE KAISER: “This submarine business is going to get me into trouble with America; but what can an All-Powerful do with a thing like this on his back?”]
When officers come home on leave and find England standing where she did, their views support the weather-beaten major who said that it was “worth going to a little trouble and expense to keep _that_ intact.” But you can hardly expect people who live in trenches which have had to be rebuilt twice daily for the last few months and are shelled at all hours of the day or night, to compassionate the occasional trials of the home-keeping bomb-dodger. The war, as it goes on, seems to bring out the best and the worst that is in us. South Wales responded loyally to the call for recruits, yet 200,000 miners are affected by the strike fever.
The House, where party strife for a brief space was hushed by mutual consent, is now devastated by the energies of indiscreet, importunate, egotistic or frankly disloyal question-mongers. We want a censorship of Parliamentary Reports. The Press Bureau withholds records of shining courage at the front lest they should enlighten the enemy, but gives full publicity to those
Who give us words in lieu of deeds,
Content to blather while their country bleeds.
There is, however, some excuse for those importunates who wish to know on what authority the Premier declared at Newcastle that neither our Allies nor ourselves have been hampered by an insufficient supply of munitions. In two months’ fighting in Gallipoli our casualties have largely exceeded those sustained by us during the whole of the Boer War. And financial purists may be pardoned for their protests against extravagant expenditure in view of the announcement that the war is now costing well over three millions daily. The idea of National Registration has taken shape in a Bill, which has passed its second reading. The notion of finding out what everyone can do to help his country in her hour of need is excellent. But the Government do not seem to have realised that half a million volunteer soldiers have been waiting and ready for a job for the last six months:
And when at last you come and say
“What can you do? We ask for light On any service you can pay,”
The answer is: “_You_ know all right, And all this weary while you knew it;
The trouble was you wouldn’t let us do it.”
The German Press is not exactly the place where one expects to find occasion for merriment. Yet listen to this from the _Neueste Nachrichten_: “Our foes ask themselves continuously, How can we best get at Germany’s vital parts? What are her most vulnerable points? The answer is, her humanity–her trustful honesty.” Here, on the other hand, thousands of people, by knocking months and years off their real age, have been telling good straightforward lies for their country. At the Front euphemism in describing hardship is mingled with circumlocution in official terminology. Thus one C.O. is reported to refer to the enemy not as Germans but “militant bodies of composite Teutonic origin.”
A new and effectual cure for the conversion of pessimists at home has been discovered. It is simply to out-do the prophets of ill at their own game. The result is that they seek you out to tell you that an enemy submarine has been sunk off the Scillies or that the Crown Prince is in the Tower. It is the old story that optimists are those who have been associating with pessimists and _vice versa_. But seriousness is spreading. We are told that even actresses are now being photographed with their mouths shut, though one would have thought that at such a time all British subjects–especially the “Odolisques” of the variety stage–ought to show their teeth.
Ordinary anniversaries lead to retrospect: after a year of the greatest of all wars it is natural to indulge in a stock-taking of the national spirit, and comforting to find that, in spite of disillusions and disappointments, the alternation of exultations and agonies, the soul of the fighting men of England remains unshaken and unconquerable. Three of the Great Powers of Europe espoused the cause of Liberty a year ago; now there are four, and the aid of Italy in engaging and detaching large Austrian forces enables us to contemplate with greater equanimity a month of continuous Russian withdrawal, and the tragic loss of Warsaw and the great fortresses of Novo-Georgievsk and Brest-Litovsk. And if there is no outward sign of the awakening of Germany, no slackening in frightfulness, no abatement in the blasphemous and overweening confidence of her Ruler and his War-lords who can tell whether they have not moments of self-distrust?
* * * * *
THE WAYSIDE CALVARY. August 4th, 1915.
Now with the full year Memory holds her tryst, Heavy with such a tale of bitter loss
As never Earth has suffered since the Christ Hung for us on the Cross.
If God, O Kaiser, makes the vision plain; Gives you on some lone Calvary to see
The Man of Sorrows Who endured the pain And died to set us free–
How will you face beneath its crown of thorn That figure stark against the smoking skies, The arms outstretched, the sacred head forlorn, And those reproachful eyes?
How dare confront the false quest with the true, Or think what gulfs between the ideals lie Of Him Who died that men may live–and you Who live that man may die?
Ah, turn your eyes away; He reads your heart; Pass on and, having done your work abhorred, Join hands with JUDAS in his place apart, You who betrayed your Lord.
* * * * *
It is the way of modern war that we know little of what is going on, least of all on sea. Some of our sailormen have had their chance in the Heligoland Bight, off the Dogger Bank and Falkland Isles, and in the Dardanelles. It is well that we should remember what we owe to the patient vigil of their less fortunate comrades, the officers and men of the Grand Fleet, and to the indefatigable and ubiquitous activities of the ships officially classified as “Light Cruisers (Old)”:
[Illustration: AFTER ONE YEAR]
From Pole unto Pole, all the oceans between, Patrolling, protecting, unwearied, unseen, By night or by noonday, the Navy is there, And the out-of-date cruisers are doing their share, The creaky old cruisers whose day is not done, Built some time before Nineteen-hundred-and-one.
At any rate, we know for certain that British submarines have made their way into the Baltic, a “sea change” extremely disquieting to the Germans, who, for the rest, have suffered in a naval scrap in the Gulf of Riga with the Russians. On the Western front our troops are suffering from two plagues–large shells and little flies. These troubles have not prevented them from scoring a small though costly success at Hooge. From Gallipoli comes the news of fresh deeds of amazing heroism at Suvla Bay and Anzac.
The war of Notes goes on with unabated energy between Germany and the U.S.A. At home a brief period has been set to the pernicious activities of importunate inquisitors by the adjournment of the House till mid-September. “Dr. Punch” is of opinion that the Mother of Parliaments is sorely in need of a rest and needs every hour of a seven weeks’ holiday. In the Thrift campaign, which has now set in, everybody expects that everybody else should do his duty; and the universal eruption of posters imploring us to subscribe to the War Loan indicates the emergence of a new Art–that of Government by advertisement. To the obvious appeals to duty, patriotism, conscience, appeals to shame, appeals romantic and even facetious are now added. It may be necessary, but the method is not dignified. All that can be said is that “Govertisement,” or government by advertisement, is better than Government by the Press, a new terror with which we are daily threatened.
Mr. Winston Churchill, the greatest of our quick-change political artists, is said to be devoting his leisure to landscape painting. The particular school that he favours is not publicly stated, but we have reason to believe that he intends to be a Leader.
The Archbishop of Cologne says that, on being congratulated on his Eastern successes, the Kaiser “turned his eyes to heaven with the most indescribable expression of intense gratitude and religious fervour.” Yes, we can quite imagine that it beggared description. But there is no difficulty in finding the right phrase for his address to the inhabitants of Warsaw: “We wage war only against hostile troops, not against peaceful citizens.” It is not “_splendide mendax_.” That is the due of boys who overstate, and men who understate, their age in order to serve their country in the field.
[Illustration: OFFICER (to boy of thirteen who, in his effort to get taken on as a bugler, has given his age as sixteen): “Do you know where boys go who tell lies?”
APPLICANT: “To the Front, sir.”]
A correspondent reminds Mr. Punch that four years ago he wrote as follows: “Lord Haldane, in defending the Territorials, declared that he expects to be dead before any political party seriously suggests compulsory military service. We understand that, since making this statement, our War Minister has received a number of telegrams from Germany wishing him long life.” But we suspect that when he said dead he meant politically dead. Still, we owe Lord Haldane the Territorials, and they are doing great work in Europe and most valuable, if thankless, work in India. As “One of the _Punch_ brigade” writes: “The hearts of very few of the Territorials now garrisoning India are in their work, though, of course, we know that actually it is essential duty we are performing.” “They also serve,” who patiently endure the dull routine of existence largely spent in a stifling fort on the blistering and dust-swept plains, and find relief in the smallest incident that breaks the monotony. As, for example, when a quartermaster-sergeant was held up by a native guard at a bridge, and, on demanding an explanation, had his attention directed to the notices on the wall, “Elephants and traction engines are not allowed to cross this bridge.”
The Tsar has succeeded the Grand Nicholas as Generalissimo of his armies, and the great Russian retreat has ended. Yet it would be rash to say that the one event has caused the other. Lord Kitchener’s statement that on the Eastern front the Germans had “almost shot their last bolt” is a better summary, and when we reflect on their enormous superiority in artillery and equipment, that is a great tribute to the strategy of the Grand Duke in conducting the most difficult retreat of modern times. Germany, though a mistress of the entire alphabet of frightfulness, is making increasing play with the _U_’s and _Z_’s, and Admiral Percy Scott, who predicted the dangers of the former, is now entrusted with the task of coping with the latter menace.
Five months have elapsed since the sinking of the _Lusitania_ and the pro-German campaign in the United States is more active than ever, thanks to the untiring efforts of Count Bernstorff and his worthy ally, Dr. Dumba, in promoting strikes and _sabotage_; but President Wilson, “Le Grand Penseur,” declines to be rushed by the interventionists, and is giving his detached consideration to the “concessions” of the German Government in regard to submarine warfare. But three thousand miles of ocean no longer keep America free from strife. The enemy is within her gates, plotting, spying and bribing. The lesser neutrals in Europe find it harder to dissemble their sympathies, but Ferdinand of Bulgaria maintains a vulpine inscrutability.
[Illustration: THE UNSINKABLE TIRP
GERMAN CHANCELLOR: “Well, thank Heaven, that’s the last of Tirpitz.”
TIRPITZ (reappearing): “I don’t think!”]
By way of a sidelight on what happens on the Western front, a wounded officer sends a characteristic account of his experiences after “going over the top” at 3 A.M. “The first remark, as distinct from a shout that I heard after leaving our parapet, came from Private Henry, my most notorious malefactor. As the first attempt at a wire entanglement in our new position went heavenward ten seconds after its emplacement, and a big tree just to our right collapsed suddenly like a dying pig, he turned round with a grin, observing: ‘Well, sir, we _do_ see a bit of life, if we _don’t_ make money.’ I never saw a man all day who hadn’t a grin ready when you passed, and a bit of a _riposte_ if you passed the time of day with him.” Our officers only think of their men, and the men of their officers. In Gallipoli our soldiers have discovered a new method of annoying the Turk:
We go and bathe, in shameless scores Beneath his baleful een,
Disrobe, unscathed, on sacred shores And wallow in between;
Nor does a soldier then assume
His university costume,
And though it makes the Faithful fume, It makes the Faithless clean.
The return of the wounded to England is marked by strange incidents, pathetic and humorous. Thus it has been reserved for an officer, reported dead in the casualty list, to ring up his people on the telephone and correct “this silly story about my being killed.” And the cheerfulness of the limbless men in blue is something wonderful. They “jest at scars,” but not because they “never felt a wound.” It is a high privilege to entertain these light-hearted heroes, one of whom recently presented his partner in a lawn tennis match with a fragment of shell taken direct from his “stummick.” And the recipient rightly treasures it as a love-token.
Parliament has reassembled, the inquisitors returning (unhappily) like giants refreshed after their holiday. But they sometimes contribute to our amusement, as when one relentless and complacent critic declared that, on the matter of conscription, he should himself “prefer to be guided–very largely–by Lord Kitchener.” The concession is something. Most of the importunate questionists are on the other side:
“Take from us any joys you like,” they cry; “We’d bear the loss, however much we missed ’em; Let truth and justice, fame and honour die, But spare, O spare, our Voluntary System!”
Amongst other signs of the times the increase of girl gardeners and the sacrifice of flower beds to vegetables are to be noted. But War changes are sometimes disconcerting, even when they are most salutary. For example, there is the _cri de coeur_ of a passenger on a Clydebank tramcar in Glasgow on Saturday night, with a lady conductor: “I canna jist bottom this, Tam. It’s Seterday nicht an’ this is the Clydebank caur, an’ there’s naebody singin’ an’ naebody fechtin’ wi’ the conductor.” Liquor control evidently does mean something.
[Illustration: A HANDY MAN
MARINE;(somewhat late for parade): “At six o’clock I was a bloomin’ ‘ousemaid: at seven o’clock I was a bloomin’ valet; at eight o’clock I was a bloomin’ waiter; an’ _now_ I’m a bloomin’ soldier!”]
The War vocabulary grows and grows. “Pipsqueaks,” “crumps” and “Jack Johnsons,” picturesque equivalents for unpleasant things, have long been familiar even to arm-chair experts. The strangely named “Archie,” and “Pacifist,” the dismay of scholars–a word “mean as what it’s meant to mean”–now come to be added to the list. A new and admirable explanation of the R.F.A., “Ready for anyfink,” is attributed to a street Arab. Our children are mostly lapped in blissful ignorance, but their comments are often illuminating. As, for instance, the suggestion of a small child asked to give her idea of a suitable future for Germany and the Kaiser: “After the war I wouldn’t let Heligoland belong to anybody. I would put the Germans there, and they should dig and dig and dig until it was all dug into the sea. The Kaiser should be sent to America, and they should be as rude as they liked to him. If he went in a train no one was to offer him a seat; he was to hang on to a strap, and he is to be called Mr. Smith.” Cooks are being bribed to stay by the gift of War Bonds. Smart fashionables are flocking to munition works, and some of them sometimes are not unnaturally growing almost frightened at the organising talents they are developing. So are other people.
A vigorous campaign against flies has been initiated by the journal which describes itself as “that paper which gets things done.” Nothing is too small for it. Meanwhile it is announced that “Lord Northcliffe is travelling and will be beyond the reach of correspondence until the end of next week.” Even he must have an occasional rest from his daily mail.
We have to apologise for any suggestion to the effect that the Huns are devoid of humour. The German Society for the Protection and Preservation of Monuments has held a meeting in Brussels and expressed its thanks to the German Military Authorities for the care they had taken of the Monuments in Belgium. The function ended with an excursion to Louvain, where the delegates, no doubt, enjoyed a happy hour in the Library.
September ended with the Western front once more ablaze, with bitter fighting at Loos and a great French offensive in Champagne. With October the focus of interest and anxiety shifts to the Balkans. Austrian armies, stiffened with Germans, have again invaded Serbia and again occupied Belgrade. The Allies have landed at Salonika, and Ferdinand of Bulgaria has declared war on Serbia. Thus a new theatre of war has been opened, and though it is well to be rid of a treacherous neutral, the conflict enters on a fresh and formidable phase. When Ferdinand went to Bulgaria he is said to have resolved that if ever there were to be any assassinations he would be on the side of the assassins. He has been true to his word ever since the removal of Stamboloff:
Here stands the Moslem with his brutal sword Still red and reeking with Armenia’s slaughter; Here, fresh from Belgium’s wastes, the Christian Lord, His heart unsated by the wrong he wrought her; And you between them, on your brother’s track, Sworn, for a bribe, to stick him in the back.
France and England have declared their intention of rendering all possible help to Serbia in her new ordeal, but Greece, false to her treaty with Serbia, and dominated by a pro-German Court and Government, hampers us at every turn. “‘Tis Greece, but living Greece no more.” So Byron sang, and a Byron _de nos jours_ adds a new stanza to his appeal:
Lo, a new curse–the Teuton bane!
Again rings out the trumpet call; France, England, Russia, joined again,
For freedom fight, for Greece, for all; And Greece–shall she that call ignore? Then is she living Greece no more!
Life in the trenches grows more strenuous as the output of high explosive increases, and the daily toll of our best and bravest makes grievous reading for the elders at home, “who linger here and droop beneath the heavy burden of our years,” though many of them cheerfully undertake the thankless fatigues of guarding the King’s highway as specials. But letters from the front still show the same genius for making light of hardship and deadly peril, the same happy gift of extracting amusement from trivial incidents. So those who spend their days and nights under heavy shell fire and heavy rain write to tell you that “tea is the dominating factor of war,” or that “the mushrooming and ratting in their latest quarters” are satisfactory. And even the wounded, in comparing the hazards of London with those at the front, only indulge in mild irony at the expense of the “staunch dare-devil souls who stay at home.”
In Parliament Sir Edward Carson has explained the reasons of his resignation of office–his difference from his colleagues in the difficulties arising in the Eastern theatre of war; and a resolution has been placed on the order-book proposing the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry on the Dardanelles campaign. No abatement of the plague of questions is yet noticeable, but some slight excuse may be found for the “ragging” of the Censor. This anonymous worthy, it appears, recently excised the words “and the Kings” from the well-known line in Mr. Kipling’s “Recessional”:
The Captains and the Kings depart.
Apparently the Censor cannot admit any reference to the movements of royalty.
(“When I went to Bulgaria I resolved that if there were to be any assassinations I would be on the side of the assassins.” STATEMENT BY FERDINAND.)]
When the Kaiser was at Windsor in 1891 he told the Eton College Volunteers he was glad to see so many of them taking an interest in the study of arms, and hoped that if ever they had to draw their swords in earnest they would use them to some purpose for their country. Now that there are three thousand Etonians at the front he is beginning to be sorry he spoke. The Kaiser, by his own confession, is sorry in another way. He has told a Socialist deputy, “with tears in his eyes,” that he was sincerely sorry for France, which was “the greatest disappointment of his life.” Even crocodiles sometimes speak the truth unwittingly. Meanwhile the Hamburg _Fremdenblatt_ asserts that, “We Germans would gladly follow the Kaiser’s lead through the very gates of hell, were it necessary.” The qualification is surely superfluous, in the light of the murder of the heroic English hospital matron, Edith Cavell, at Brussels on October 12. Her life was one long act of mercy. She died with unshaken fortitude after the mockery of a trial on a charge of having assisted fugitive British and Belgian prisoners to escape. But her great offence was that she was English. The names of her chief assassins are General Baron von Biasing, the Governor of Brussels, General von Sauberschweig, the Military Governor, and the Baron von der Lancken, the Head of the Political Department. Many years will pass before the echoes of that volley fired at dawn in a Brussels prison yard will die away.
[Illustration: LANDLADY; “‘Ere’s the Zeppelins, sir!” LODGER: “Right-o! Put ’em down outside.”]
A new phase has been reached in the Conscription controversy, and the burning question appears to be whether the necessary men are to be compelled to volunteer or persuaded to be compulsorily enrolled. One of our novelist military experts, who is not always lucky with figures, though he thoroughly enjoys them, is alleged to have discovered that there are no more men than can be raised by conscription, but that the same does not, of course, apply to the voluntary system.
The _Daily Mail_ asks, “Have we a Foreign Office?” We understand that a search-party is going carefully through Carmelite House. We have certainly got a Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, so efficient in the discharge of his duties that he has made himself an accomplished landscape painter in three months.
A visitor to a remote East Anglian village in search of rest has found recreation in discussing with the inhabitants the Great War, of which he found some of them had heard. “Them there Zett’lins,” said one old woman, “I almost shruk as I heerd the mucky varmints a-shovellin’ on the coals–dare, dare! How my pore heart did beat!” And an onlooker, who had seen a bomb drop near a church, informed the visitor that it “fared to him like the body of the chach a-floatin’ away–that it did and all! It made a clangin’ like a covey of lorries with their innards broke loose.” Another inhabitant said that he had two boys fighting. “One on ’em is in France, wherever that might be, and Jimmy’s in that hare old Dardelles.” He couldn’t rightly say when the elder had gone out, “but it might be a yare ago come muck-spreadin’.”
More money and more men is still the cry. The war is now costing five millions a day, and the new vote of credit for L400,000,000 will only carry us on till the middle of February. This is “Derby’s Day,” and the new Director of Recruiting inspires confidence in his ability to make good, in spite of the Jeremiads of Lord Courtney and Lord Loreburn. The lot of a Coalition Government is never easy, and public opinion clamours not for Jeremiahs but for Jonahs to lighten the Ship of State. Mr. Winston Churchill, wearying of his sinecure at the Duchy of Lancaster, has resigned office, explained himself in a long speech, and rejoined his regiment at the Western front. Lord Fisher, whose doubts and hesitations about the Dardanelles expedition were referred to by the late First Lord, has been content to leave his record of sixty-one years’ service in the hands of his countrymen. In the briefest maiden speech ever delivered in either House he stated that it was “unfitting to make personal explanations affecting the national interest when my country is in the midst of a great war.” Here at least the traditions of the “Silent Service” have been worthily maintained, just as they are maintained by the Port Officer R.N.R. at an Oriental seaport, a thousand miles from the front, out of the limelight, with no chance of glory, with fever from morn till night, who “worries along by the grace of God and the blessing of cheap cheroots.”
In Flanders the rain has begun its winter session, and, as a military humorist put it, trench warfare is becoming a constant drain. The problem of parapet mending has been reduced to arithmetical form _a la_ Colenso, as follows: “If two inches of rain per diem brings down one quarter of a company’s parapet, and one company, working about twenty-six hours per diem, can revet one-eighth of a company’s parapet, how long will your trenches last–given the additional premisses that no revetments to speak of are to be had, and that two inches of rain is only a minimum ration?” The infantryman finds the men of the R.F.C. interesting and stimulating companions. “These airy fellows talk of war as if it were a day’s shooting, and they the cock pheasants with the best of the fun up aloft. Upon my word, the hen who hatched such birds should be a proud, if anxious, mother.” The same correspondent sends a pleasant account of the mutual estimates of French and English, prompted by their experiences as brothers in arms. “Our idea of our Ally as a soldier is that his _elan_ and gay courage are very much more remarkable even than supposed; but for the dull, heavy work of continued warfare there is wanted, if we may say so without offence, the more stolid qualities of the English. On the other hand, the French opinion of their Ally as a soldier is that his dash and devilment are really astonishing, even to the most expectant critic; but for the sordid, monotonous strain of this trench business it needs (a thousand pardons!) the duller persistence of the French.”
[Illustration: THE PERSUADING OF TINO]
In Greece the quick change of Premiers proceeds with kaleidoscopic rapidity. The attitude of the successive Prime Ministers has been described as (1) Tender and affectionate neutrality toward the Entente Powers; (2) Malevolent impartiality toward the Central Powers; (3) Inert cupidity toward all the belligerent Powers; (4) Genial inability; (5) Strict pusillanimity.
Lord Milner has gone so far in the House of Lords as to say that “such war news as is published has from first to last been seriously misleading.” The Balkan intelligence that is allowed to reach us does not exactly deserve this censure. To call it misleading would be too high praise; it seldom rises beyond a level of blameless irrelevance. It is hardly a burlesque of the facts to say that a cable from Amsterdam informs us that the Copenhagen correspondent of the _Echo de Paris_ learns from Salonika, _via_ Lemnos and Nijni Novgorod, that in high official circles in Bukarest it is rumoured that in Constantinople the situation is considered grave; and then we are warned that too much credence must not be given to this report. The number of Censors at the Press Bureau being exactly forty, and their minute knowledge of English literature having been displayed on several occasions, it is said that Sir John Simon contemplates their incorporation as an Academy of “Immortals–for the duration of the War.”
[Illustration: PADDY (who has had his periscope smashed by a bullet): “Sure there’s seven years’ bad luck for the poor devil that broke that, anyhow.”]
Mr. Punch’s Correspondent “Blanche” sends distressing details of some of the new complaints contracted by smart war workers. These include munition-wrists, shell-makers’ crouch, neuro-committee-itis, and Zeppelin-eye through looking up into the sky too long with a telescope.
A great deal depends on what you look at and what you look through. Thus Mr. Walter Long says that when he reads carping criticisms upon the conduct of the War he looks through his window at the people in the street and is always surprised to see the quiet steadfast manner in which they are going about their business. It is a good plan, but not always successful. The Kaiser got his view of the Irish people through a Casement, and it was entirely erroneous.
The _Cologne Gazette_ has stated that “there is in England no real soldiers’ humour such as we have.” Certainly we have nothing like it, though we confess to preferring the home-grown brand.
Kut and Ctesiphon, Ctesiphon and Kut. Thus may the events of the last month in Mesopotamia, no longer a “blessed word,” be expressed in a bald formula, which takes no account of the unavailing heroism of General Townshend’s small but splendid force. Things have not been going well in the East. The Allies have been unable to save Serbia, Monastir has fallen, and our lines have been withdrawn to Salonika. The experts are now divided into two camps, the Westerners and the Easterners, and the former, pointing to the evacuation of Gallipoli, are loud in their denunciations of costly “side-shows,” and the folly of strengthening Germany’s hold on Turkey by killing out the Turks, instead of concentrating all our forces on killing the Germans on the Western front. The time is not yet come to decide which is right. But all are agreed with the British officer who described the Australian soldier at Gallipoli as “the bravest thing God ever made,” and so prompted these lines:
Bravest, where half a world of men
Are brave beyond all earth’s rewards, So stoutly none shall charge again
Till the last breaking of the swords; Wounded or hale, won home from war,
Or yonder by the Lone Pine laid;
Give him his due for evermore–
“The bravest thing God ever made!”
Though the wings of the angel of Peace cannot be heard, peace kite-flying has already begun in Vienna, but Germany is anxious to represent it as unauthorised and improper. Mr. Henry Ford’s voyage to Europe on the _Oscar II_ with a strangely assorted group of Pacificists does more credit to his heart than his head, and the conflicting elements in his party have earned for his ship the name of “The Tug of Peace.” Anyhow, England is taking no risks on the strength of these irregular “overtures.” A vote has been passed for a further increase of our “contemptible little Army” to four millions; and the manufacture of high explosive goes on in an ever-increasing ratio. Sir Douglas Haig has succeeded Sir John French as Commander-in-Chief of our Armies in France; Sir William Robertson is the new Chief of Staff–Scotsmen both of the finest type–and the appointments are universally approved, even by the _Daily Mail_. The temper of the men in France is well hit off by an officer when he says that “Atkins is really best when an ordinary mortal might be contemplating suicide or desertion.” And officers arriving on leave at Victoria at 2 A.M. are driven to the conclusion that they are sent back to England from time to time to check their optimism, which at the front survives even being sent to so-called rest camps in the middle of a malodorous marsh for nine hours’ military training _per diem_. The “philosophy of Thomas” is inscrutable, but no doubt he derives satisfaction from comparisons:
If we’re standin’ in two foot o’ water, you see Quite likely the Boches are standin’ in three; An’ though the keen frost may be ticklin’ our toes, ‘Oo doubts that the Boches’ ‘ole bodies is froze?
So ‘ere’s our philosophy, simple an’ plain: Wotever we ‘ates in the bloomin’ campaign, ‘Tis balm to our souls, as we grumble an’ cuss, To feel that the Boches are ‘atin’ it wuss.
Hardest of all is the lot of the trooper in the trenches, who “thinks all day and dreams all night of a slap-bang, tally-ho! open fight,” but for the time being “like a blinded mole toils in a furrow and lives in a hole.”
[Illustration: AN UNAUTHORISED FLIRTATION
THE KAISER (to Austrian Emperor): “Franz! Franz! I’m surprised and pained.”]
The National Thrift campaign is carried on with great earnestness in Parliament. Luxury, waste, unnecessary banquets, high legal salaries have all come under the lash of the economy hunters. Of the maxim that “Charity begins, at home,” they have, however, so far shown no appreciation beyond abstaining from voting any addition to their salary of L400 a year. Mr. Asquith’s announcement that he takes his salary, and is going to continue taking it, has naturally lifted a great weight from the minds of these