War and the Future
H. G. Wells

Part 2 out of 4

vehemently, and then with shoulders eloquent of his feelings, our
chauffeur abandoned the horn altogether and put his whole soul
into the accelerator....


Soissons was in very much the same case as Arras. There was the
same pregnant silence in her streets, the same effect of waiting
for the moment which draws nearer and nearer, when the brooding
German lines away there will be full of the covert activities of
retreat, when the streets of the old town will stir with the
joyous excitement of the conclusive advance.

The organisation of Soissons for defence is perfect. I may not
describe it, but think of whatever would stop and destroy an
attacking party or foil the hostile shell. It is there. Men
have had nothing else to do and nothing else to think of for two
years. I crossed the bridge the English made in the pursuit
after the Marne, and went into the first line trenches and peeped
towards the invisible enemy. To show me exactly where to look a
seventy-five obliged with a shell. In the crypt of the Abbey of
St. Medard near by it--it must provoke the Germans bitterly to
think that all the rest of the building vanished ages ago--the
French boys sleep beside the bones of King Childebert the Second.
They shelter safely in the prison of Louis the Pious. An
ineffective shell from a German seventy-seven burst in the walled
garden close at hand as I came out from those thousand-year-old
memories again.

The cathedral at Soissons had not been nearly so completely
smashed up as the one at Arras; I doubt if it has been very
greatly fired into. There is a peculiar beauty in the one long
vertical strip of blue sky between the broken arches in the chief
gap where the wall has tumbled in. And the people are holding on
in many cases exactly as they are doing in Arras; I do not know
whether it is habit or courage that is most apparent in this
persistence. About the chief place of the town there are ruined
houses, but some invisible hand still keeps the grass of the
little garden within bounds and has put out a bed of begonias.
In Paris I met a charming American writer, the wife of a French
artist, the lady who wrote /My House on the Field of
Honour./ She gave me a queer little anecdote. On account of
some hospital work she had been allowed to visit Soissons--a rare
privilege for a woman--and she stayed the night in a lodging.
The room into which she was shown was like any other French
provincial bedroom, and after her Anglo-Saxon habit she walked
straight to the windows to open them.

They looked exactly like any other French bedroom windows, with
neat, clean white lace curtains across them. The curtains had
been put there, because they were the proper things to put

"Madame," said the hostess, "need not trouble to open the glass.
There is no more glass in Soissons."

But there were curtains nevertheless. There was all the precise
delicacy of the neatly curtained home life of France.

And she told me too of the people at dinner, and how as the
little serving-maid passed about a proud erection of cake and
conserve and cream, came the familiar "Pheeee---woooo---

"That must have been the Seminaire," said someone.

As one speaks of the weather or a passing cart.

"It was in the Rue de la Bueire, M'sieur," the little maid
asserted with quiet conviction, poising the trophy of
confectionery for Madame Huard with an unshaking hand.

So stoutly do the roots of French life hold beneath the
tramplings of war.


Soissons and Arras when I visited them were samples of the
deadlock war; they were like Bloch come true. The living fact
about war so far is that Bloch has not come true--/yet./ I
think in the end he will come true, but not so far as this war is
concerned, and to make that clear it is necessary to trouble the
reader with a little disquisition upon war--omitting as far as
humanly possible all mention of Napoleon's campaigns.

The development of war has depended largely upon two factors.
One of these is invention. New weapons and new methods have
become available, and have modified tactics, strategy, the
relative advantage of offensive and defensive. The other chief
factor in the evolution of the war has been social organisation.
As Machiavelli points out in his /Art of War/, there was
insufficient social stability in Europe to keep a properly
trained and disciplined infantry in the field from the passing of
the Roman legions to the appearance of the Swiss footmen. he
makes it very clear that he considers the fighting of the Middle
Ages, though frequent and bloody, to be a confused, mobbing sort
of affair, and politically and technically unsatisfactory. The
knight was an egotist in armour. Machiavelli does small justice
to the English bowmen. It is interesting to note that
Switzerland, that present island of peace, was regarded by him as
the mother of modern war. Swiss aggression was the curse of the
Milanese. That is a remark by the way; our interest here is to
note that modern war emerges upon history as the sixteenth
century unfolds, as an affair in which the essential factor is
the drilled and trained infantryman. The artillery is developing
as a means of breaking the infantry; cavalry for charging them
when broken, for pursuit and scouting. To this day this triple
division of forces dominates soldiers' minds. The mechanical
development of warfare has consisted largely in the development
of facilities for enabling or hindering the infantry to get to
close quarters. As that has been made easy or difficult the
offensive or the defensive has predominated.

A history of military method for the last few centuries would be
a record of successive alternate steps in which offensive and
defensive contrivances pull ahead, first one and then the other.
Their relative fluctuations are marked by the varying length of
campaigns. From the very outset we have the ditch and the wall;
the fortified place upon a pass or main road, as a check to the
advance. Artillery improves, then fortification improves. The
defensive holds its own for a long period, wars are mainly siege
wars, and for a century before the advent of Napoleon there are
no big successful sweeping invasions, no marches upon the enemy
capital and so on. There were wars of reduction, wars of
annoyance. Napoleon developed the offensive by seizing upon the
enthusiastic infantry of the republic, improving transport and
mobile artillery, using road-making as an aggressive method. In
spite of the successful experiment of Torres Vedras and the
warning of Plevna the offensive remained dominant throughout the
nineteenth century.

But three things were working quietly towards the rehabilitation
of the defensive; firstly the increased range, accuracy and
rapidity of rifle fire, with which we may include the development
of the machine gun; secondly the increasing use of the spade, and
thirdly the invention of barbed wire. By the end of the century
these things had come so far into military theory as to produce
the great essay of Bloch, and to surprise the British military
people, who are not accustomed to read books or talk shop, in the
Boer war. In the thinly populated war region of South Africa the
difficulties of forcing entrenched positions were largely met by
outflanking, the Boers had only a limited amount of barbed wire
and could be held down in their trenches by shrapnel, and even at
the beginning of the present war there can be little doubt that
we and our Allies were still largely unprepared for the full
possibilities of trench warfare, we attempted a war of
manoeuvres, war at about the grade to which war had been
brought in 1898, and it was the Germans who first brought the war
up to date by entrenching upon the Aisne. We had, of course, a
few aeroplanes at that time, but they were used chiefly as a sort
of accessory cavalry for scouting; our artillery was light and
our shell almost wholly shrapnel.

Now the grades of warfare that have been developed since the
present war began, may be regarded as a series of elaborations
and counter elaborations of the problem which begins as a line of
trenches behind wire, containing infantry with rifles and machine
guns. Against this an infantry attack with bayonet, after
shrapnel fails. This we will call Grade A. To this the
offensive replies with improved artillery, and particularly with
high explosive shell instead of shrapnel. By this the wire is
blown away, the trench wrecked and the defender held down as the
attack charges up. This is Grade B. But now appear the dug-out
elaborating the trench and the defensive battery behind the
trench. The defenders, under the preliminary bombardment, get
into the dug-outs with their rifles and machine guns, and emerge
as fresh as paint as the attack comes up. Obviously there is
much scope for invention and contrivance in the dug-out as the
reservoir of counter attacks. Its possibilities have been very
ably exploited by the Germans. Also the defensive batteries
behind, which have of course the exact range of the captured
trench, concentrate on it and destroy the attack at the moment of
victory. The trench falls back to its former holders under this
fire and a counter attack. Check again for the offensive. Even
if it can take, it cannot hold a position under these conditions.
This we will call Grade A2; a revised and improved A. What is
the retort from the opposite side? Obviously to enhance and
extend the range of the preliminary bombardment behind the actual
trench line, to destroy or block, if it can, the dug-outs and
destroy or silence the counter offensive artillery. If it can do
that, it can go on; otherwise Bloch wins.

If fighting went on only at ground level Bloch would win at this
stage, but here it is that the aeroplane comes in. From the
ground it would be practically impossible to locate the enemies'
dug-outs, secondary defences, and batteries. But the aeroplane
takes us immediately into a new grade of warfare, in which the
location of the defender's secondary trenches, guns, and even
machine-gun positions becomes a matter of extreme precision--
provided only that the offensive has secured command of the air
and can send his aeroplanes freely over the defender lines. Then
the preliminary bombardment becomes of a much more extensive
character; the defender's batteries are tackled by the
overpowering fire of guns they are unable to locate and answer;
the secondary dug-outs and strong places are plastered down, a
barrage fire shuts off support from the doomed trenches, the men
in these trenches are held down by a concentrated artillery fire
and the attack goes up at last to hunt them out of the dug-outs
and collect the survivors. Until the attack is comfortably
established in the captured trench, the fire upon the old counter
attack position goes on. This is the grade, Grade B2, to which
modern warfare has attained upon the Somme front. The appearance
of the Tank has only increased the offensive advantage. There at
present warfare rests.

There is, I believe, only one grade higher possible. The success
of B2 depends upon the completeness of the aerial observation.
The invention of an anti-aircraft gun which would be practically
sure of hitting and bringing down an aeroplane at any height
whatever up to 20,000 feet, would restore the defensive and
establish what I should think must be the final grade of war, A3.
But at present nothing of the sort exists and nothing of the sort
is likely to exist for a very long time; at present hitting an
aeroplane by any sort of gun at all is a rare and uncertain
achievement. Such a gun is not impossible and therefore we must
suppose such a gun will some day be constructed, but it will be
of a novel type and character, unlike anything at present in
existence. The grade of fighting that I was privileged to
witness on the Somme, the grade at which a steady successful
offensive is possible, is therefore, I conclude, the grade at
which the present war will end.


But now having thus spread out the broad theory of the business,
let me go on to tell some of the actualities of the Somme
offensive. They key fact upon both British and French fronts was
the complete ascendancy of the Allies aeroplanes. It is the
necessary preliminary condition for the method upon which the
great generals of the French army rely in this sanitary task of
shoving the German Thing off the soil of Belgium and France back
into its own land. A man who is frequently throwing out
prophecies is bound to score a few successes, and one that I may
legitimately claim is my early insistence upon that fact that the
equality of the German aviator was likely to be inferior to that
of his French or British rival. The ordinary German has neither
the flexible quality of body, the quickness of nerve, the
temperament, nor the mental habits that make a successful
aviator. This idea was first put into my head by considering the
way in which Germans walk and carry themselves, and by nothing
the difference in nimbleness between the cyclists in the streets
of German and French towns. It was confirmed by a conversation I
had with a German aviator who was also a dramatist, and who came
to see me upon some copyright matter in 1912. He broached the
view that aviation would destroy democracy, because he said only
aristocrats make aviators. (He was a man of good family.) With a
duke or so in my mind I asked him why. Because, he explained, a
man without aristocratic quality in tradition, cannot possibly
endure the "high loneliness" of the air. That sounded rather
like nonsense at the time, and then I reflected that for a
Prussian that might be true. There may be something in the
German composition that does demand association and the support
of pride and training before dangers can be faced. The Germans
are social and methodical, the French and English are by
comparison chaotic and instinctive; perhaps the very readiness
for a conscious orderliness that makes the German so formidable
upon the ground, so thorough and fore-seeking, makes him slow and
unsure in the air. At any rate the experiences of this war have
seemed to carry out this hypothesis. The German aviators will
not as a class stand up to those of the Allies. They are not
nimble in the air. Such champions as they have produced have
been men of one trick; one of their great men, Immelmann--he was
put down by an English boy a month or so ago--had a sort of
hawk's swoop. He would go very high and then come down at his
utmost pace at his antagonist, firing his machine gun at him as
he came. If he missed in this hysterical lunge, he went on
down.... This does not strike the Allied aviator as very
brilliant. A gentleman of that sort can sooner or later be
caught on the rise by going for him over the German

The first phase, then, of the highest grade offensive, the
ultimate development of war regardless of expense, is the
clearance of the air. Such German machines as are up are put
down by fighting aviators. These last fly high; in the clear
blue of the early morning they look exactly like gnats; some
trail a little smoke in the sunshine; they take their machine
guns in pursuit over the German lines, and the German anti-
aircraft guns, the Archibalds, begin to pattern the sky about
them with little balls of black smoke. From below one does not
see men nor feel that men are there; it is as if it were an
affair of midges. Close after the fighting machines come the
photographic aeroplanes, with cameras as long as a man is high,
flying low--at four or five thousand feet that is--over the enemy
trenches. The Archibald leaves these latter alone; it cannot
fire a shell to explode safely so soon after firing; but they are
shot at with rifles and machine guns. They do not mind being
shot at; only the petrol tank and the head and thorax of the
pilot are to be considered vital. They will come back with forty
or fifty bullet holes in the fabric. They will go under this
fire along the length of the German positions exposing plate
after plate; one machine will get a continuous panorama of many
miles and then come back straight to the aerodrome to develop its

There is no waste of time about the business, the photographs are
developed as rapidly as possible. Within an hour and a half
after the photographs were taken the first prints are going back
into the bureau for the examination of the photographs. Both
British and French air photographs are thoroughly scrutinised and

An air photograph to an inexperienced eye is not a very
illuminating thing; one makes our roads, blurs of wood, and
rather vague buildings. But the examiner has an eye that has
been in training; he is a picked man; he has at hand yesterday's
photographs and last week's photographs, marked maps and all
sorts of aids and records. If he is a Frenchman he is only too
happy to explain his ideas and methods. Here, he will point out,
is a little difference between the German trench beyond the wood
since yesterday. For a number of reasons he thinks that will be
a new machine gun emplacement; here at the centre of the farm
wall they have been making another. This battery here--isn't it
plain? Well, it's a dummy. The grass in front of it hasn't been
scorched, and there's been no serious wear on the road here for a
week. Presently the Germans will send one or two waggons up and
down that road and instruct them to make figures of eight to
imitate scorching on the grass in front of the gun. We know all
about that. The real wear on the road, compare this and this and
this, ends here at this spot. It turns off into the wood.
There's a sort of track in the trees. Now look where the trees
are just a little displaced! (This lens is rather better for
that.) /That's/ one gun. You see? Here, I will show you

That process goes on two or three miles behind the front line.
Very clean young men in white overalls do it as if it were a
labour of love. And the Germans in the trenches, the German
gunners, /know it is going on./ They know that in the
quickest possible way these observations of the aeroplane that
was over them just now will go to the gunners. The careful
gunner, firing by the map and marking by aeroplane, kite balloon
or direct observation, will be getting onto the located guns and
machine guns in another couple of hours. The French claim that
they have located new batteries, got their /tir de
demolition/ upon them in and destroyed them within five
hours. The British I told of that found it incredible. Every
day the French print special maps showing the guns, sham guns,
trenches, everything of significance behind the German lines,
showing everything that has happened in the last four-and-twenty
hours. It is pitiless. It is indecent. The map-making and
printing goes on in the room next and most convenient to the
examination of the photographs. And, as I say, the German army
knows of this, and knows that it cannot prevent it because of its
aerial weakness. That knowledge is not the last among the forces
that is crumpling up the German resistance upon the Somme.

I visited some French guns during the /tir de
demolition/ phase. I counted nine aeroplanes and
twenty-six kite balloons in the air at the same time. There was
nothing German visible in the air at all.

It is a case of eyes and no eyes.

The French attack resolves itself into a triple system of gun-
fire. First for a day or so, or two or three days, there is
demolition fire to smash up all the exactly located batteries,
organisation, supports, behind the front line enemy trenches;
then comes barrage fire to cut off supplies and reinforcements;
then, before the advance, the hammering down fire, "heads down,"
upon the trenches. When at last this stops and the infantry goes
forward to rout out the trenches and the dug-outs, they go
forward with a minimum of inconvenience. The first wave of
attack fights, destroys, or disarms the surviving Germans and
sends them back across the open to the French trenches. They run
as fast as they can, hands up, and are shepherded farther back.
The French set to work to turn over the captured trenches and
organise themselves against any counter attack that may face the
barrage fire.

That is the formula of the present fighting, which the French
have developed. After an advance there is a pause, while the
guns move up nearer the Germans and fresh aeroplane
reconnaissance goes on. Nowhere on this present offensive has a
German counter attack had more than the most incidental success;
and commonly they have had frightful losses. Then after a few
days of refreshment and accumulation, the Allied attack resumes.

That is the perfected method of the French offensive. I had the
pleasure of learning its broad outlines in good company, in the
company of M. Joseph Reinach and Colonel Carence, the military
writer. Their talk together and with me in the various messes at
which we lunched was for the most part a keen discussion of every
detail and every possibility of the offensive machine; every
French officer's mess seems a little council upon the one supreme
question in France, /how to do it best./ M. Reinach has
made certain suggestions about the co-operation of the French and
British that I will discuss elsewhere, but one great theme was
the constitution of "the ideal battery." For years French
military thought has been acutely attentive to the best number of
guns for effective common action, and has tended rather to the
small battery theory. My two companies were playing with the
idea that the ideal battery was a battery of one big gun, with
its own aeroplane and kite balloon marking for it.

The British seem to be associated with the adventurous self-
reliance needed in the air. The British aeroplanes do not simply
fight the Germans out of the sky; they also make themselves an
abominable nuisance by bombing the enemy trenches. For every
German bomb that is dropped by aeroplane on or behind the British
lines, about twenty go down on the heads of the Germans. British
air bombs upon guns, stores and communications do some of the
work that the French effect by their systematic demolition fire.

And the British aviator has discovered and is rapidly developing
an altogether fresh branch of air activity in the machine-gun
attack at a very low altitude. Originally I believe this was
tried in western Egypt, but now it is being increasingly used
upon the British front in France. An aeroplane which comes down
suddenly, travelling very rapidly, to a few hundred feet, is
quite hard to hit, even if it is not squirting bullets from a
machine gun as it advances. Against infantry in the open this
sort of thing is extremely demoralising. It is a method of
attack still in its infancy, but there are great possibilities
for it in the future, when the bending and cracking German line
gives, as ultimately it must give if this offensive does not
relax. If the Allies persist in their pressure upon the western
front, if there is no relaxation in the supply of munitions from
Britain and no lapse into tactical stupidity, a German retreat
eastward is inevitable.

Now a cavalry pursuit alone may easily come upon disaster,
cavalry can be so easily held up by wire and a few machine guns.
I think the Germans have reckoned on that and on automobiles,
probably only the decay of their /morale/ prevents their
opening their lines now on the chance of the British attempting
some such folly as a big cavalry advance, but I do not think the
Germans have reckoned on the use of machine guns in aeroplanes,
supported by and supporting cavalry or automobiles. At the
present time I should imagine there is no more perplexing
consideration amidst the many perplexities of the German military
intelligence than the new complexion put upon pursuit by these
low level air developments. It may mean that in all sorts of
positions where they had counted confidently on getting away,
they may not be able to get away--from the face of a scientific
advance properly commanding and using modern material in a
dexterous and intelligent manner.



I saw rather more of the British than of the French aviators
because of the vileness of the weather when I visited the latter.
It is quite impossible for me to institute comparisons between
these two services. I should think that the British organisation
I saw would be hard to beat, and that none but the French could
hope to beat it. On the Western front the aviation has been
screwed up to a very much higher level than on the Italian line.
In Italy it has not become, as it has in France, the decisive
factor. The war on the Carso front in Italy--I say nothing of
the mountain warfare, which is a thing in itself--is in fact
still in the stage that I have called B. It is good warfare well
waged, but not such an intensity of warfare. It has not, as one
says of pianos and voices, the same compass.

This is true in spite of the fact that the Italians along of all
the western powers have adopted a type of aeroplane larger and
much more powerful than anything except the big Russian machines.
They are not at all suitable for any present purpose upon the
Italian front, but at a later stage, when the German is retiring
and Archibald no longer searches the air, they would be
invaluable on the western front because of their enormous bomb or
machine gun carrying capacity. "But sufficient for the day is
the swat thereof," as the British public schoolboy says, and no
doubt we shall get them when we have sufficiently felt the need
for them. The big Caproni machines which the Italians possess
are of 300 h.p. and will presently be of 500h.p. One gets up a
gangway into them was one gets into a yacht; they wave a main
deck, a forward machine gun deck and an aft machine gun; one may
walk about in them; in addition to guns and men they carry a very
considerable weight of bombs beneath. They cannot of course
beget up with the speed nor soar to the height of our smaller
aeroplanes; it is as carriers in raids behind a force of fighting
machines that they should find their use.

The British establishment I visited was a very refreshing and
reassuring piece of practical organisation. The air force of
Great Britain has had the good fortune to develop with
considerable freedom from old army tradition; many of its
officers are ex-civil engineers and so forth; Headquarters is a
little shy of technical direction; and all this in a service that
is still necessarily experimental and plastic is to the good.
There is little doubt that, given a release from prejudice, bad
associations and the equestrian tradition, British technical
intelligence and energy can do just as well as the French. Our
problem with our army is not to create intelligence, there is an
abundance of it, but to release it from a dreary social and
official pressure. The air service ransacks the army for men
with technical training and sees that it gets them, there is a
real keenness upon the work, and the men in these great mobile
hangars talk shop readily and clearly.

I have already mentioned and the newspapers have told abundantly
of the pluck, daring, and admirable work of our aviators; what is
still untellable in any detail is the energy and ability of the
constructive and repairing branch upon whose efficiency their
feats depend. Perhaps the most interesting thing I saw in
connection with the air work was the hospital for damaged
machines and the dump to which those hopelessly injured are
taken, in order that they may be disarticulated and all that is
sound in them used for reconstruction. How excellently this work
is being done may be judged from the fact that our offensive in
July started with a certain number of aeroplanes, a number that
would have seemed fantastic in a story a year before the war
began. These aeroplanes were in constant action; they fought,
they were shot down, they had their share of accidents. Not only
did the repair department make good every loss, but after three
weeks of the offensive the army was fighting with fifty more
machines than at the outset. One goes through a vast
Rembrandtesque shed opening upon a great sunny field, in whose
cool shadows rest a number of interesting patients; captured and
slightly damaged German machines, machines of our own with scars
of battle upon them, one or two cases of bad landing. The star
case came over from Peronne. It had come in two days ago.

I examined this machine and I will tell the state it was in, but
I perceive that what I have to tell will read not like a sober
statement of truth but like strained and silly lying. The
machine had had a direct hit from an Archibald shell. The
propeller had been clean blown away; so had the machine gun and
all its fittings. The engines had been stripped naked and a good
deal bent about. The timber stay over the aviator had been
broken, so that it is marvellous the wings of the machine did not
just up at once like the wings of a butterfly. The solitary
aviator had been wounded in the face. He had then come down in a
long glide into the British lines, and made a tolerable


One consequence of the growing importance of the aeroplane in
warfare is the development of a new military art, the art of
camouflage. Camouflage is humbugging disguise, it is making
things--and especially in this connection, military things--seem
not what they are, but something peaceful and rural, something
harmless and quite uninteresting to aeroplane observers. It is
the art of making big guns look like haystacks and tents like
level patches of field.

Also it includes the art of making attractive models of guns,
camps, trenches and the like that are not bona-fide guns, camps,
or trenches at all, so that the aeroplane bomb-dropper and the
aeroplane observer may waste his time and energies and the enemy
gunfire be misdirected. In Italy I saw dummy guns so made as to
deceive the very elect at a distance of a few thousand feet. The
camouflage of concealment aims either at invisibility or
imitation; I have seen a supply train look like a row of
cottages, its smoke-stack a chimney, with the tops of sham
palings running along the back of the engine and creepers painted
up its sides. But that was a flight of the imagination; the
commonest camouflage is merely to conceal. Trees are brought up
and planted near the object to be hidden, it is painted in the
same tones as its background, it is covered with an awning
painted to look like grass or earth. I suppose it is only a
matter of development before a dummy cow or so is put up to chew
the cud on the awning.

But camouflage or no camouflage, the bulk of both the French and
British forces in the new won ground of the great offensive lay
necessarily in the open. Only the big guns and the advanced Red
Cross stations had got into pits and subterranean hiding places.
The advance has been too rapid and continuous for the armies to
make much of a toilette as they halted, and the destruction and
the desolation of the country won afforded few facilities for
easy concealment. Tents, transport, munitions, these all
indicated an army on the march--at the rate of half a mile in a
week or so, to Germany. If the wet and mud of November and
December have for a time delayed that advance, the force behind
has but accumulated for the resumption of the thrust.


A journey up from the base to the front trenches shows an
interesting series of phases. One leaves Amiens, in which the
normal life threads its way through crowds of resting men in
khaki and horizon blue, in which staff officers in automobiles
whisk hither and thither, in which there are nurses and even a
few inexplicable ladies in worldly costume, in which restaurants
and cafes are congested and busy, through which there is a
perpetual coming and going of processions of heavy vans to the
railway sidings. One dodges past a monstrous blue-black gun
going up to the British front behind two resolute traction
engines--the three sun-blistered young men in the cart that
trails behind lounge in attitudes of haughty pride that would
shame the ceiling gods of Hampton Court. One passes through
arcades of waiting motor vans, through arcades of waiting motor
vans, through suburbs still more intensely khaki or horizon blue,
and so out upon the great straight poplar-edged road--to the
front. Sometimes one laces through spates of heavy traffic,
sometimes the dusty road is clear ahead, now we pass a vast
aviation camp, now a park of waiting field guns, now an
encampment of cavalry. One turns aside, and abruptly one is in
France--France as one knew it before the war, on a shady
secondary road, past a delightful chateau behind its iron gates,
past a beautiful church, and then suddenly we are in a village
street full of stately Indian soldiers.

It betrays no military secret to say that commonly the rare
tourist to the British offensive passes through Albert, with its
great modern red cathedral smashed to pieces and the great gilt
Madonna and Child that once surmounted the tower now, as everyone
knows, hanging out horizontally in an attitude that irresistibly
suggests an imminent dive upon the passing traveller. One looks
right up under it.

Presently we begin to see German prisoners. The whole lot look
entirely contented, and are guarded by perhaps a couple of men in
khaki. These German prisoners do not attempt to escape, they
have not the slightest desire for any more fighting, they have
done their bit, they say, honour is satisfied; they give
remarkably little trouble. A little way further on perhaps we
pass their cage, a double barbed-wire enclosure with a few tents
and huts within.

A string of covered waggons passes by. I turn and see a number
of men sitting inside and looking almost as cheerful as a
beanfeast in Epping Forest. the make facetious gestures. They
have a subdued sing-song going on. But one of them looks a
little sick, and then I notice not very obtrusive bandages.
"Sitting-up cases," my guide explains.

These are part of the casualties of last night's fight.

The fields on either side are now more evidently in the war zone.
The array of carts, the patches of tents, the coming and going of
men increases. But here are three women harvesting, and
presently in a cornfield are German prisoners working under one
old Frenchman. Then the fields become trampled again. Here is a
village, not so very much knocked about, and passing through it
we go slowly beside a long column of men going up to the front.
We scan their collars for signs of some familiar regiment. These
are new men going up for the first time; there is a sort of
solemn elation in many of their faces.

The men coming down are usually smothered in mud or dust, and
unless there has been a fight they look pretty well done up.
They stoop under their equipment, and some of the youngsters
drag. One pleasant thing about this coming down is the welcome
of the regimental band, which is usually at work as soon as the
men turn off from the high road. I hear several bands on the
British front; they do much to enhance the general cheerfulness.
On one of these days of my tour I had the pleasure of seeing the
---th Blankshires coming down after a fight. As we drew near I
saw that they combined an extreme muddiness with an unusual
elasticity. They all seemed to be looking us in the face instead
of being too fagged to bother. Then I noticed a nice grey helmet
dangling from one youngster's bayonet, in fact his eye directed
me to it. A man behind him had a black German helmet of the type
best known in English illustrations; then two more grey appeared.
The catch of helmets was indeed quite considerable. Then I
perceived on the road bank above and marching parallel with this
column, a double file of still muddier Germans. Either they wore
caps or went bare-headed. There were no helmets among them. We
do not rob our prisoners but--a helmet is a weapon. Anyhow, it
is an irresistible souvenir.

Now and then one sees afar off an ammunition dump, many hundreds
of stacks of shells--without their detonators as yet--being
unloaded from railway trucks, transferred from the broad gauge to
the narrow gauge line, or loaded onto motor trolleys. Now and
then one crosses a railway line. The railway lines run
everywhere behind the British front, the construction follows the
advance day by day. They go up as fast as the guns. One's guide
remarks as the car bumps over the level crossing, "That is one of
Haig's railways." It is an aspect of the Commander-in-Chief that
has much impressed and pleased the men. And at last we begin to
enter the region of the former Allied trenches, we pass the old
German front line, we pass ruined houses, ruined fields, and
thick patches of clustering wooden crosses and boards where the
dead of the opening assaults lie. There are no more reapers now,
there is no more green upon the fields, there is no green
anywhere, scarcely a tree survives by the roadside, but only
overthrown trunks and splintered stumps; the fields are
wildernesses of shell craters and coarse weeds, the very woods
are collections of blasted stems and stripped branches. This
absolutely ravaged and ruined battlefield country extends now
along the front of the Somme offensive for a depth of many miles;
across it the French and British camps and batteries creep
forward, the stores, the dumps, the railways creep forward, in
their untiring, victorious thrust against the German lines.
Overhead hum and roar the aeroplanes, away towards the enemy the
humped, blue sausage-shaped kite balloons brood thoughtfully, and
from this point and that, guns, curiously invisible until they
speak, flash suddenly and strike their one short hammer-blow of

Then one sees an enemy shell drop among the little patch of trees
on the crest to the right, and kick up a great red-black mass of
smoke and dust. We see it, and then we hear the whine of its
arrival and at last the bang. The Germans are blind now, they
have lost the air, they are firing by guesswork and their
knowledge of the abandoned territory.

"They think they have got divisional headquarters there," someone
remarks.... "They haven't. But they keep on."

In this zone where shells burst the wise automobile stops and
tucks itself away as inconspicuously as possible close up to a
heap of ruins. There is very little traffic on the road now
except for a van or so that hurries up, unloads, and gets back as
soon as possible. Mules and men are taking the stuff the rest of
the journey. We are in a flattened village, all undermined by
dug-outs that were in the original German second line. We report
ourselves to a young troglodyte in one of these, and are given a
guide, and so set out on the last part of the journey to the
ultimate point, across the land of shell craters and barbed wire
litter and old and new trenches. We have all put on British
steel helmets, hard but heavy and inelegant head coverings. I
can write little that is printable about these aesthetic crimes.
The French and German helmets are noble and beautiful things.
These lumpish /pans./..

They ought to be called by the name of the man who designed

Presently we are advised to get into a communication trench. It
is not a very attractive communication trench, and we stick to
our track across the open. Three or four shells shiver overhead,
but we decide they are British shells, going out. We reach a
supporting trench in which men are waiting in a state of nearly
insupportable boredom for the midday stew, the one event of
interest in a day-long vigil. Here we are told imperatively to
come right in at once, and we do.

All communication trenches are tortuous and practically endless.
On an offensive front they have vertical sides of unsupported
earth and occasional soakaways for rain, covered by wooden
gratings, and they go on and on and on. At rare intervals they
branch, and a notice board says "To Regent Street," or "To Oxford
Street," or some such lie. It is all just trench. For a time
you talk, but talking in single file soon palls. You cease to
talk, and trudge. A great number of telephone wires come into
the trench and cross and recross it. You cannot keep clear of
them. Your helmet pings against them and they try to remove it.
Sometimes you have to stop and crawl under wires. Then you
wonder what the trench is like in really wet weather. You hear a
shell burst at no great distance. You pass two pages of /The
Strand Magazine./ Perhaps thirty yards on you pass a
cigarette end. After these sensational incidents the trench
quiets down again and continues to wind endlessly--just a sandy,
extremely narrow vertical walled trench. A giant crack.

At last you reach the front line trench. On an offensive sector
it has none of the architectural interest of first line trenches
at such places as Soissons or Arras. It was made a week or so
ago by joining up shell craters, and if all goes well we move
into the German trench along by the line of scraggy trees, at
which we peep discreetly, to-morrow night. We can peep
discreetly because just at present our guns are putting shrapnel
over the enemy at the rate of about three shells a minute, the
puffs follow each other up and down the line, and no Germans are
staring out to see us.

The Germans "strafed" this trench overnight, and the men are
tired and sleepy. Our guns away behind us are doing their best
now to give them a rest by strafing the Germans. One or two men
are in each forward sap keeping a look out; the rest sleep, a
motionless sleep, in the earthy shelter pits that have been
scooped out. One officer sits by a telephone under an earth-
covered tarpaulin, and a weary man is doing the toilet of a
machine gun. We go on to a shallow trench in which we must
stoop, and which has been badly knocked about.... Here we have
to stop. The road to Berlin is not opened up beyond this point.

My companion on this excursion is a man I have admired for years
and never met until I came out to see the war, a fellow writer.
He is a journalist let loose. Two-thirds of the junior British
officers I met on this journey were really not "army men" at all.
One finds that the apparent subaltern is really a musician, or a
musical critic, or an Egyptologist, or a solicitor, or a cloth
manufacturer, or a writer. At the outbreak of the war my guide
dyed his hair to conceal its tell-tale silver, and having been
laughed to scorn by the ordinary recruiting people, enlisted in
the sportsmen's battalion. He was wounded, and then the
authorities discovered that he was likely to be of more use with
a commission and drew him, in spite of considerable resistance,
out of the firing line. To which he always returns whenever he
can get a visitor to take with him as an excuse. He now stood
up, fairly high and clear, explaining casually that the Germans
were no longer firing, and showed me the points of interest.

I had come right up to No Man's Land at last. It was under my
chin. The skyline, the last skyline before the British could
look down on Bapaume, showed a mangy wood and a ruined village,
crouching under repeated gobbings of British shrapnel. "They've
got a battery just there, and we're making it uncomfortable." No
Man's Land itself is a weedy space broken up by shell craters,
with very little barbed wire in front of us and very little in
front of the Germans. "They've got snipers in most of the
craters, and you see them at twilight hopping about from one to
the other." We have very little wire because we don't mean to
stay for very long in this trench, but the Germans have very
little wire because they have not been able to get it up yet.
They never will get it up now....

I had been led to believe that No Man's Land was littered with
the unburied dead, but I saw nothing of the sort at this place.
There had been no German counter attack since our men came up
here. But at one point as we went along the trench there was a
dull stench. "Germans, I think," said my guide, though I did not
see how he could tell.

He looked at his watch and remarked reluctantly, "If you start at
once, you may just do it."

I wanted to catch the Boulogne boat. It was then just past one
in the afternoon. We met the stew as we returned along the
communication trench, and it smelt very good indeed.... We
hurried across the great spaces of rusty desolation upon which
every now and again a German shell was bursting....

That night I was in my flat in London. I had finished reading
the accumulated letters of some weeks, and I was just going
comfortably to bed.



Such are the landscapes and method of modern war. It is more
difficult in its nature from war as it was waged in the
nineteenth century than that was from the nature of the phalanx
or the legion. The nucleus fact--when I talked to General Joffre
he was very insistent upon this point--is still as ever the
ordinary fighting man, but all the accessories and conditions of
his personal encounter with the fighting man of the other side
have been revolutionised in a quarter of a century. The fighting
together in a close disciplined order, shoulder to shoulder,
which has held good for thousands of years as the best and most
successful fighting, has been destroyed; the idea of
/breaking/ infantry formation as the chief offensive
operation has disappeared, the cavalry charge and the cavalry
pursuit are as obsolete as the cross-bow. The modern fighting
man is as individualised as a half back or a centre forward in a
football team. Personal fighting has become "scrapping" again,
an individual adventure with knife, club, bomb, revolver or
bayonet. In this war we are working out things instead of
thinking them out, and these enormous changes are still but
imperfectly apprehended. The trained and specialised military
man probably apprehends them as feebly as anyone.

This is a thing that I want to state as emphatically as possible.
It is the pith of the lesson I have learnt at the front. The
whole method of war has been so altered in the past five and
twenty years as to make it a new and different process
altogether. Much the larger part of this alteration has only
become effective in the last two years. Everyone is a beginner
at this new game; everyone is experimenting and learning.

The idea has been put admirably by /Punch./ That excellent
picture of the old-fashioned sergeant who complains to his
officer of the new recruit; "'E's all right in the trenches, Sir;
'e's all right at a scrap; but 'e won't never make a soldier," is
the quintessence of everything I am saying here. And were there
not the very gravest doubts about General Smuts in British
military circles because he had "had no military training"? A
Canadian expressed the new view very neatly on being asked, in
consequence of a deficient salute, whether he wanted to be a
soldier, by saying, "Not I! I want to be a fighter!"

The professional officer of the old dispensation was a man
specialised in relation to one of the established "arms." He was
an infantryman, a cavalryman, a gunner or an engineer. It will
be interesting to trace the changes that have happened to all
these arms.

Before this war began speculative writers had argued that
infantry drill in close formation had now no fighting value
whatever, that it was no doubt extremely necessary for the
handling, packing, forwarding and distribution of men, but that
the ideal infantry fighter was now a highly individualised and
self-reliant man put into a pit with a machine gun, and supported
by a string of other men bringing him up supplies and ready to
assist him in any forward rush that might be necessary.

The opening phases of the war seemed to contradict this. It did
not at first suit the German game to fight on this most modern
theory, and isolated individual action is uncongenial to the
ordinary German temperament and opposed to the organised social
tendencies of German life. To this day the Germans attack only
in close order; they are unable to produce a real modern infantry
for aggressive purposes, and it is a matter of astonishment to
military minds on the English side that our hastily trained new
armies should turn out to be just as good at the new fighting as
the most "seasoned troops." But there is no reason whatever why
they should not be. "Leading," in the sense of going ahead of
the men and making them move about mechanically at the word of
command, has ceased. On the British side our magnificent new
subalterns and our equally magnificent new non-commissioned
officers play the part of captains of football teams; they talk
their men individually into an understanding of the job before
them; they criticise style and performance. On the French side
things have gone even farther. Every man in certain attacks has
been given a large scale map of the ground over which he has to
go, and has had his own individual job clearly marked and
explained to him. All the Allied infantrymen tend to become
specialised, as bombers, as machine-gun men, and so on. The
unspecialised common soldier, the infantryman who has stood and
marched and moved in ranks and ranks, the "serried lines of men,"
who are the main substance of every battle story for the last
three thousand years, are as obsolete as the dodo. The rifle and
bayonet very probably are becoming obsolete too. Knives and
clubs and revolvers serve better in the trenches. The krees and
the Roman sword would be as useful. The fine flourish of the
bayonet is only possible in the rare infrequent open. Even the
Zulu assegai would serve as well.

The two operations of the infantry attack now are the rush and
the "scrap." These come after the artillery preparation. Against
the rush, the machine gun is pitted. The machine gun becomes
lighter and more and more controllable by one man; as it does so
the days of the rifle draw to a close. Against the machine gun
we are now directing the "Tank," which goes ahead and puts out
the machine gun as soon as it begins to sting the infantry rush.
We are also using the swooping aeroplane with a machine gun.
Both these devices are of British origin, and they promise very

After the rush and the scrap comes the organisation of the
captured trench. "Digging in" completes the cycle of modern
infantry fighting. You may consider this the first or the last
phase of an infantry operation. It is probably at present the
least worked-out part of the entire cycle. Here lies the sole
German superiority; they bunch and crowd in the rush, they are
inferior at the scrap, but they do dig like moles. The weakness
of the British is their failure to settle down. they like the
rush and the scrap; they press on too far, they get outflanked
and lost "in the blue"; they are not naturally clever at the
excavating part of the work, and they are not as yet well trained
in making dug-outs and shelter-pits rapidly and intelligently.
they display most of the faults that were supposed to be most
distinctively French before this war came to revolutionise all
our conceptions of French character.


Now the operations of this modern infantry, which unlike any
preceding infantry in the history of war does not fight in
disciplined formations but as highly individualised specialists,
are determined almost completely by the artillery preparation.
Artillery is now the most essential instrument of war. You may
still get along with rather bad infantry; you may still hold out
even after the loss of the aerial ascendancy, but so soon as your
guns fail you approach defeat. The backbone process of the whole
art of war is the manufacture in overwhelming quantities, the
carriage and delivery of shell upon the vulnerable points of the
enemy's positions. That is, so to speak, the essential blow.
Even the infantryman is now hardly more than the residuary
legatee after the guns have taken their toll.

I have now followed nearly every phase in the life history of a
shell from the moment when it is a segment of steel bar just cut
off, to the moment when it is no more than a few dispersed and
rusting rags and fragments of steel--pressed upon the stray
visitor to the battlefield as souvenirs. All good factories are
intensely interesting places to visit, but a good munition
factory is romantically satisfactory. It is as nearly free from
the antagonism of employer and employed as any factory can be.
The busy sheds I visited near Paris struck me as being the most
living and active things in the entire war machine. Everywhere
else I saw fitful activity, or men waiting. I have seen more men
sitting about and standing about, more bored inactivity, during
my tour than I have ever seen before in my life. Even the front
line trenches seem to slumber; the Angel of Death drowses over
them, and moves in his sleep to crush out men's lives. The
gunfire has an indolent intermittence. But the munition
factories grind on night and day, grinding against the factories
in Central Europe, grinding out the slow and costly and necessary
victory that should end aggressive warfare in the world for ever.

It would be very interesting if one could arrange a meeting
between any typical Allied munition maker on the one hand, and
the Kaiser and Hindenburg, those two dominant effigies of the
German nationalists' dream of "world might." Or failing that, Mr.
Dyson might draw the encounter. You imagine these two heroic
figures got up for the interview, very magnificent in shining
helms and flowing cloaks, decorations, splendid swords, spurs.
"Here," one would say, "is the power that has held you. You were
bolstered up very loyally by the Krupp firm and so forth, you
piled up shell, guns, war material, you hoped to snatch your
victory before the industrialisation and invention of the world
could turn upon you. But you failed. You were not rapid enough.
The battle of the Marne was your misfortune. And Ypres. You
lost some chances at Ypres. Two can play at destructive
industrialism, and now we out-gun you. We are piling up
munitions now faster than you. The essentials of this Game of
the War Lord are idiotically simple, but it was not of our
choosing. It is now merely a question of months before you make
your inevitable admission. This is no war to any great
commander's glory. This gentleman in the bowler hat is the
victor, Sire; not you. Assisted, Sire, by these disrespectful-
looking factory girls in overalls."

For example, there is M. Citroen. Before the war I understand he
made automobiles; after the war he wants to turn to and make
automobiles again. For the duration of the war he makes shell.
He has been temporarily diverted from constructive to destructive
industrialism. He did me the honours of his factory. He is a
compact, active man in dark clothes and a bowler hat, with a
pencil and notebook conveniently at hand. He talked to me in
carefully easy French, and watched my face with an intelligent
eye through his pince-nez for the signs of comprehension. Then
he went on to the next point.

He took me through every stage of his process. In his office he
showed me the general story. Here were photographs of certain
vacant fields and old sheds--"this place"--he indicated the
altered prospect from the window--"at the outbreak of the war."
He showed me a plan of the first undertaking. "Now we have
rather over nine thousand workpeople."

He showed me a little row of specimens. "These we make for
Italy. These go to Russia. These are the Rumanian pattern."

Thence to the first stage, the chopping up of the iron bars, the
furnace, the punching out of the first shape of the shell; all
this is men's work. I had seen this sort of thing before in
peace ironworks, but I saw it again with the same astonishment,
the absolute precision of movement on the part of the half-naked
sweating men, the calculated efficiency of each worker, the
apparent heedlessness, the real certitude, with which the blazing
hot cylinder is put here, dropped there, rolls to its next
appointed spot, is chopped up and handed on, the swift passage to
the cooling crude, pinkish-purple shell shape. Down a long line
one sees in perspective a practical symmetry, of furnace and
machine group and the shells marching on from this first series
of phases to undergo the long succession of operations, machine
after machine, across the great width of the shed in which eighty
per cent of the workers are women. There is a thick dust of
sounds in the air, a rumble of shafting, sudden thuddings,
clankings, and M. Citroen has to raise his voice. He points out
where he has made little changes in procedures, cut out some
wasteful movement.... He has an idea and makes a note in the
ever-ready notebook.

There is a beauty about all these women, there is extraordinary
grace in their finely adjusted movements. I have come from an
after-lunch coffee upon the boulevards and from watching the ugly
fashion of our time; it is a relief to be reminded that most
women can after all be beautiful--if only they would not "dress."
these women wear simple overalls and caps. In the cap is a
rosette. Each shed has its own colour of rosette.

"There is much esprit de corps here," says M. Citroen.

"And also," he adds, showing obverse as well as reverse of the
world's problem of employment and discipline, "we can see at once
if a woman is not in her proper shed."

Across the great sheds under the shafting--how fine it must look
at night!--the shells march, are shaped, cut, fitted with copper
bands, calibrated, polished, varnished....

Then we go on to another system of machines in which lead is
reduced to plastic ribbons and cut into shrapnel bullets as the
sweetstuff makers pull out and cut up sweetstuff. And thence
into a warren of hot underground passages in which run the power
cables. There is not a cable in the place that is not
immediately accessible to the electricians. We visit the dynamos
and a vast organisation of switchboards....

These things are more familiar to M. Citroen than they are to me.
He wants me to understand, but he does not realise that I would
like a little leisure to wonder. What is interesting him just
now, because it is the newest thing, is his method of paying his
workers. He lifts a hand gravely: "I said, what we must do is
abolish altogether the counting of change."

At a certain hour, he explained, came pay-time. The people had
done; it was to his interest and their that they should get out
of the works as quickly as possible and rest and amuse
themselves. He watched them standing in queues at the wickets
while inside someone counted; so many francs, so many centimes.
It bored him to see this useless, tiresome waiting. It is
abolished. Now at the end of each week the worker goes to a
window under the initial of his name, and is handed a card on
which these items have been entered:

Balance from last week.
So many hours at so much.

The total is so many francs, so many centimes. This is divided
into the nearest round number, 100, 120, 80 francs as the case
may be, and a balance of the odd francs and centimes. The latter
is carried forward to the next week's account. At the bottom of
the card is a tear-off coupon with a stamp, coloured to indicate
the round sum, green, let us say, for 100, blue for 130 francs.
This is taken to a wicket marked 100 or 130 as the case may be,
and there stands a cashier with his money in piles of 100 or 130
francs counted ready to hand; he sweeps in the coupon, sweeps out
the cash. "/Next!/"

I became interested in the worker's side of this organisation. I
insist on seeing the entrances, the clothes-changing places, the
lavatories, and so forth of the organisation. As we go about we
pass a string of electric trolleys steered by important-looking
girls, and loaded with shell, finished as far as these works are
concerned and on their way to the railway siding. We visit the
hospital, for these works demand a medical staff. It is not only
that men and women faint or fall ill, but there are accidents,
burns, crushings, and the like. The war casualties begin already
here, and they fall chiefly among the women. I saw a wounded
woman with a bandaged face sitting very quietly in the corner.

The women here face danger, perhaps not quite such obvious danger
as the women who, at the next stage in the shell's career, make
and pack the explosives in their silk casing, but quite
considerable risk. And they work with a real enthusiasm. They
know they are fighting the Bloches as well as any men. Certain
of them wear Russian decorations. The women of this particular
factory have been thanked by the Tsar, and a number of
decorations were sent by him for distribution among them.


The shell factory and the explosives shed stand level with the
drill yard as the real first stage in one of the two essential
/punches/ in modern war. When one meets the shell again it
is being unloaded from the railway truck into an ammunition dump.
And here the work of control is much more the work of a good
traffic manager than of the old-fashioned soldier.

The dump I best remember I visited on a wet and windy day. Over
a great space of ground the sidings of the rail-head spread, the
normal gauge rail-head spread out like a fan and interdigitated
with the narrow gauge lines that go up practically to the guns.
And also at the sides camions were loading, and an officer from
the Midi in charge of one of these was being dramatically
indignant at five minutes' delay. Between these two sets of
lines, shells were piled of all sizes, I should think some
hundreds of thousands of shells altogether, wet and shining in
the rain. French reservists, soldiers from Madagascar, and some
Senegalese were busy at different points loading and unloading
the precious freights. A little way from me were despondent-
looking German prisoners handling timber. All this dump was no
more than an eddy as it were in the path of the shell from its
birth from the steel bars near Paris to the accomplishment of its
destiny in the destruction or capture of more Germans.

And next the visitor meets the shell coming up upon a little
trolley to the gun. He sees the gunners, as drilled and precise
as the men he saw at the forges, swing out the breech block and
run the shell, which has met and combined with its detonators and
various other industrial products since it left the main dump,
into the gun. The breech closes like a safe door, and hides the
shell from the visitor. It is "good-bye." He receives
exaggerated warning of the danger to his ears, stuffs his fingers
into them, and opens his mouth as instructed, hears a loud but by
no means deafening report, and sees a spit of flame near the
breech. Regulations of a severe character prevent his watching
from an aeroplane the delivery of the goods upon the customers

I have already described the method of locating enemy guns and so
forth by photography. Many of the men at this work are like
dentists rather than soldiers; they are busy in carefully lit
rooms, they wear white overalls, they have clean hands and
laboratory manners. The only really romantic figure in the whole
of this process, the only figure that has anything of the old
soldierly swagger about him still, is the aviator. And, as one
friend remarked to me when I visited the work of the British
flying corps, "The real essential strength of this arm is the
organisation of its repairs. Here is one of the repair vans
through which our machine guns go. It is a motor workshop on
wheels. But at any time all this park, everything, can pack up
and move forward like Barnum and Bailey's Circus. The machine
guns come through this shop in rotation; they go out again,
cleaned, repaired, made new again. Since we got all that working
we have heard nothing of a machine gun jamming in any air fight
at all."...

The rest of the career of the shell after it has left the gun one
must imagine chiefly from the incoming shell from the enemy. You
see suddenly a flying up of earth and stones and anything else
that is movable in the neighbourhood of the shell-burst, the
instantaneous unfolding of a dark cloud of dust and reddish
smoke, which comes very quickly to a certain size and then begins
slowly to fray out and blow away. Then, after seeing the cloud
of the burst you hear the hiss of the shell's approach, and
finally you are hit by the sound of the explosion. This is the
climax and end of the life history of any shell that is not a dud
shell. Afterwards the battered fuse may serve as some
journalist's paper-weight. The rest is scrap iron.

Such is, so to speak, the primary process of modern warfare. I
will not draw the obvious pacifist moral of the intense folly of
human concentration upon such a process. The Germans willed it.
We Allies have but obeyed the German will for warfare because we
could not do otherwise, we have taken up this simple game of
shell delivery, and we are teaching them that we can play it
better, in the hope that so we and the world may be freed from
the German will-to-power and all its humiliating and disgusting
consequences henceforth for ever. Europe now is no more than a
household engaged in holding up and if possible overpowering a
monomaniac member.


Now the whole of this process of the making and delivery of a
shell, which is the main process of modern warfare, is one that
can be far better conducted by a man accustomed to industrial
organisation or transit work than by the old type of soldier.
This is a thing that cannot be too plainly stated or too often
repeated. Germany nearly won this way because of her
tremendously modern industrial resources; but she blundered into
it and she is losing it because she has too many men in military
uniform and because their tradition and interests were to
powerful with her. All the state and glories of soldiering, the
bright uniforms, the feathers and spurs, the flags, the march-
past, the disciplined massed advance, the charge; all these are
as needless and obsolete now in war as the masks and shields of
an old-time Chinese brave. Liberal-minded people talk of the
coming dangers of militarism in the face of events that prove
conclusively that professional militarism is already as dead as
Julius Caesar. What is coming is not so much the conversion
of men into soldiers as the socialisation of the economic
organisation of the country with a view to both national and
international necessities. We do not want to turn a chemist or a
photographer into a little figure like a lead soldier, moving
mechanically at the word of command, but we do want to make his
chemistry or photography swiftly available if the national
organisation is called upon to fight.

We have discovered that the modern economic organisation is in
itself a fighting machine. It is so much so that it is capable
of taking on and defeating quite easily any merely warrior people
that is so rash as to pit itself against it. Within the last
sixteen years methods of fighting have been elaborated that have
made war an absolutely hopeless adventure for any barbaric or non-
industrialised people. In the rush of larger events few people
have realised the significance of the rapid squashing of the
Senussi in western Egypt, and the collapse of De Wet's rebellion
in South Africa. Both these struggles would have been long,
tedious and uncertain even in A.D. 1900. This time they have
been, so to speak, child's play.

Occasionally into the writer's study there come to hand drifting
fragments of the American literature upon the question of
"preparedness," and American papers discussing the Mexican
situation. In none of these is there evident any clear
realisation of the fundamental revolution that has occurred in
military methods during the last two years. It looks as if a
Mexican war, for example, was thought of as an affair of rather
imperfectly trained young men with rifles and horses and old-
fashioned things like that. A Mexican war on that level might be
as tedious as the South African war. But if the United States
preferred to go into Mexican affairs with what I may perhaps call
a 1916 autumn outfit instead of the small 1900 outfit she seems
to possess at present, there is no reason why America should not
clear up any and every Mexican guerilla force she wanted to in a
few weeks.

To do that she would need a plant of a few hundred aeroplanes,
for the most part armed with machine guns, and the motor repair
vans and so forth needed to go with the aeroplanes; she would
need a comparatively small army of infantry armed with machine
guns, with motor transport, and a few small land ironclads. Such
a force could locate, overtake, destroy and disperse any possible
force that a country in the present industrial condition of
Mexico could put into the field. No sort of entrenchment or
fortification possible in Mexico could stand against it. It
could go from one end of the country to the other without serious
loss, and hunt down and capture anyone it wished....

The practical political consequence of the present development of
warfare, of the complete revolution in the conditions of warfare
since this century began, is to make war absolutely hopeless for
any peoples not able either to manufacture or procure the very
complicated appliances and munitions now needed for its
prosecution. Countries like Mexico, Bulgaria, Serbia,
Afghanistan or Abyssinia are no more capable of going to war
without the connivance and help of manufacturing states than
horses are capable of flying. And this makes possible such a
complete control of war by the few great states which are at the
necessary level of industrial development as not the most Utopian
of us have hitherto dared to imagine.


Infantrymen with automobile transport, plentiful machine guns,
Tanks and such-like accessories; that is the first Arm in modern
war. The factory hand and all the material of the shell route
from the factory to the gun constitute the second Arm. Thirdly
comes the artillery, the guns and the photographic aeroplanes
working with the guns. Next I suppose we must count sappers and
miners as a fourth Arm of greatly increased importance. The
fifth and last combatant Arm is the modern substitute for
cavalry; and that also is essentially a force of aeroplanes
supported by automobiles. Several of the French leaders with
whom I talked seemed to be convinced that the horse is absolutely
done with in modern warfare. There is nothing, they declared,
that cavalry ever did that cannot now be done better by

This is something to break the hearts of the Prussian junkers and
of old-fashioned British army people. The hunt across the
English countryside, the preservation of the fox as a sacred
animal, the race meeting, the stimulation of betting in all
classes of the public; all these things depend ultimately upon
the proposition that the "breed of horses" is of vital importance
to the military strength of Great Britain. But if the arguments
of these able French soldiers are sound, the cult of the horse
ceases to be of any more value to England than the elegant
activities of the Toxophilite Society. Moreover, there has been
a colossal buying of horses for the British army, a tremendous
organisation for the purchase and supply of fodder, then
employment of tens of thousands of men as grooms, minders and the
like, who would otherwise have been in the munition factories or
the trenches.

To what possible use can cavalry be put? Can it be used in
attack? Not against trenches; that is better done by infantrymen
following up gunfire. Can it be used against broken infantry in
the open? Not if the enemy has one or two machine guns covering
their retreat. Against expose infantry the swooping aeroplane
with a machine gun is far more deadly and more difficult to hit.
Behind it your infantry can follow to receive surrenders; in most
circumstances they can come up on cycles if it is a case of
getting up quickly across a wide space. Similarly for pursuit
the use of wire and use of the machine gun have abolished the
possibility of a pouring cavalry charge. The swooping aeroplane
does everything that cavalry can do in the way of disorganising
the enemy, and far more than it can do in the way of silencing
machine guns. It can capture guns in retreat much more easily by
bombing traction engines and coming down low and shooting horses
and men. An ideal modern pursuit would be an advance of guns,
automobiles full of infantry, motor cyclists and cyclists, behind
a high screen of observation aeroplanes and a low screen of
bombing and fighting aeroplanes. Cavalry /might/ advance
across fields and so forth, but only as a very accessory part of
the general advance....

And what else is there for the cavalry to do?

It may be argued that horses can go over country that is
impossible for automobiles. That is to ignore altogether what
has been done in this war by such devices as caterpillar wheels.
So far from cavalry being able to negotiate country where
machines would stick and fail, mechanism can now ride over places
where any horse would flounder.

I submit these considerations to the horse-lover. They are not
my original observations; they have been put to me and they have
convinced me. Except perhaps as a parent of transport mules I
see no further part henceforth for the horse to play in war.


The form and texture of the coming warfare--if there is still
warfare to come--are not yet to be seen in their completeness
upon the modern battlefield. One swallow does not make a summer,
nor a handful of aeroplanes, a "Tank" or so, a few acres of shell
craters, and a village here and there, pounded out of
recognition, do more than foreshadow the spectacle of modernised
war on land. War by these developments has become the monopoly
of the five great industrial powers; it is their alternative to
end or evolve it, and if they continue to disagree, then it must
needs become a spectacle of majestic horror such as no man can
yet conceive. It has been wise of Mr. Pennell therefore, who has
recently been drawing his impressions of the war upon stone, to
make his pictures not upon the battlefield, but among the huge
industrial apparatus that is thrusting behind and thrusting up
through the war of the gentlemen in spurs. He gives us the
splendours and immensities of forge and gun pit, furnace and mine
shaft. He shows you how great they are and how terrible. Among
them go the little figures of men, robbed of all dominance,
robbed of all individual quality. He leaves it for you to draw
the obvious conclusion that presently, if we cannot contrive to
put an end to war, blacknessess like these, enormities and flares
and towering threats, will follow in the track of the Tanks and
come trampling over the bickering confusion of mankind.

There is something very striking in these insignificant and
incidental men that Mr. Pennell shows us. Nowhere does a man
dominate in all these wonderful pictures. You may argue perhaps
that that is untrue to the essential realities; all this array of
machine and workshop, all this marshalled power and purpose, has
been the creation of inventor and business organiser. But are we
not a little too free with that word "/creation/"? Falstaff
was a "creation" perhaps, or the Sistine sibyls; there we have
indubitably an end conceived and sought and achieved; but did
these inventors and business organisers do more than heed certain
unavoidable imperatives? Seeking coal they were obliged to mine
in a certain way; seeking steel they had to do this and this and
not that and that; seeking profit they had to obey the imperative
of the economy. So little did they plan their ends that most of
these manufacturers speak with a kind of astonishment of the
deadly use to which their works are put. They find themselves
making the new war as a man might wake out of some drugged
condition to find himself strangling his mother.

So that Mr. Pennell's sketchy and transient human figures seem
altogether right to me. He sees these forges, workshops, cranes
and the like, as inhuman and as wonderful as cliffs or great
caves or icebergs or the stars. They are a new aspect of the
logic of physical necessity that made all these older things, and
he seizes upon the majesty and beauty of their dimensions with an
entire impartiality. And they are as impartial. Through all
these lithographs runs one present motif, the motif of the
supreme effort of western civilisation to save itself and the
world from the dominance of the reactionary German Imperialism of
modern science. The pictures are arranged to shape out the life
of a shell, from the mine to the great gun; nothing remains of
their history to show except the ammunition dump, the gun in
action and the shell-burst. Upon this theme all these great
appearances are strung to-day. But to-morrow they may be strung
upon some other and nobler purpose. These gigantic beings of
which the engineer is the master and slave, are neither
benevolent nor malignant. To-day they produce destruction, they
are the slaves of the spur; to-morrow we hope they will bridge
and carry and house and help again.

For that peace we struggle against the dull inflexibility of the
German Will-to-Power.



It is the British who have produced the "land ironclad" since I
returned from France, and used it apparently with very good
effect. I felt no little chagrin at not seeing them there,
because I have a peculiar interest in these contrivances. It
would be more than human not to claim a little in this matter. I
described one in a story in /The Strand Magazine/ in 1903,
and my story could stand in parallel columns beside the first
account of these monsters in action given by Mr. Beach Thomas or
Mr. Philip Gibbs. My friend M. Joseph Reinach has successfully
passed off long extracts from my story as descriptions of the
Tanks upon British officers who had just seen them. The
filiation was indeed quite traceable. They were my grandchildren--
I felt a little like King Lear when first I read about them. Yet
let me state at once that I was certainly not their prime
originator. I took up an idea, manipulated it slightly, and
handed it on. The idea was suggested to me by the contrivances
of a certain Mr. Diplock, whose "ped-rail" notion, the notion of
a wheel that was something more than a wheel, a wheel that would
take locomotives up hill-sides and over ploughed fields, was
public property nearly twenty years ago. Possibly there were
others before Diplock. To the Ped-rail also Commander Murray
Sueter, one of the many experimentalists upon the early tanks,
admits his indebtedness, and it would seem that Mr. Diplock was
actually concerned in the earlier stage of the tanks.

Since my return I have been able to see the Tank at home, through
the courtesy of the Ministry of Munitions. They have progressed
far beyond any recognisable resemblance to the initiatives of Mr.
Diplock; they have approximated rather to the American
caterpillar. As I suspected when first I heard of these devices,
the War Office and the old army people had practically nothing to
do with their development. They took to it very reluctantly--as
they have taken to every novelty in this war. One brilliant
general scrawled over an early proposal the entirely
characteristic comment that it was a pity the inventor could not
use his imagination to better purpose. (That foolish British
trick of sneering at "imagination" has cost us hundreds of
thousands of useless casualties and may yet lose us the war.)
Tanks were first mooted at the front about a year and a half ago;
Mr. Winston Churchill was then asking questions about their
practicability; he filled many simple souls with terror; they
thought him a most dangerous lunatic. The actual making of the
Tanks arose as an irregular side development of the armoured-car
branch of the Royal Naval Air Service work. The names most
closely associated with the work are (I quote a reply of Dr.
Macnamara's in the House of Commons) Mr. d'Eyncourt, the Director
of Naval Construction, Mr. W. O. Tritton, Lieut. Wilson,
R.N.A.S., Mr. Bussell, Lieut. Stern, R.N.A.S., who is now Colonel
Stern, Captain Symes, and Mr. F. Skeens. There are many other
claims too numerous to mention in detail.

But however much the Tanks may disconcert the gallant Colonel
Newcomes who throw an air of restraint over our victorious front,
there can be no doubt that they are an important as well as a
novel development of the modern offensive. Of course neither the
Tanks nor their very obvious next developments going to wrest the
decisive pre-eminence from the aeroplane. The aeroplane remains
now more than ever the instrument of victory upon the western
front. Aerial ascendancy, properly utilised, is victory. But
the mobile armoured big gun and the Tank as a machine-gun
silencer must enormously facilitate an advance against the
blinded enemy. Neither of them can advance against properly
aimed big gun fire. That has to be disposed of before they make
their entrance. It remains the function of the aeroplane to
locate the hostile big guns and to direct the /tir de
demolition/ upon them before the advance begins--
possibly even to bomb them out. But hitherto, after the
destruction of driving back of the defender's big guns has been
effected, the dug-out and the machine gun have still inflicted
heavy losses upon the advancing infantry until the fight is won.
So soon as the big guns are out, the tanks will advance,
destroying machine guns, completing the destruction of the wire,
and holding prisoners immobile. Then the infantry will follow to
gather in the sheaves. Multitudinously produced and--I write it
with a defiant eye on Colonel Newcome--/properly handled/,
these land ironclads are going to do very great things in
shortening the war, in pursuit, in breaking up the retreating
enemy. Given the air ascendancy, and I am utterly unable to
imagine any way of conclusively stopping or even greatly delaying
an offensive thus equipped.


The young of even the most horrible beasts have something piquant
and engaging about them, and so I suppose it is in the way of
things that the land ironclad which opens a new and more dreadful
and destructive phase in the human folly of warfare, should
appear first as if it were a joke. Never has any such thing so
completely masked its wickedness under an appearance of genial
silliness. The Tank is a creature to which one naturally flings
a pet name; the five or six I was shown wandering, rooting and
climbing over obstacles, round a large field near X, were as
amusing and disarming as a little of lively young pigs.

At first the War Office prevented the publication of any pictures
or descriptions of these contrivances except abroad; then
abruptly the embargo was relaxed, and the press was flooded with
photographs. The reader will be familiar now with their
appearance. They resemble large slugs with an underside a little
like the flattened rockers of a rocking-horse, slugs between 20
and 40 feet long. They are like flat-sided slugs, slugs of
spirit, who raise an enquiring snout, like the snout of a
dogfish, into the air. They crawl upon their bellies in a way
that would be tedious to describe to the general reader and
unnecessary to describe to the enquiring specialists. They go
over the ground with the sliding speed of active snails. Behind
them trail two wheels, supporting a flimsy tail, wheels that
strike one as incongruous as if a monster began kangaroo and
ended doll's perambulator. (These wheels annoy me.) They are not
steely monsters; they are painted with drab and unassuming
colours that are fashionable in modern warfare, so that the
armour seems rather like the integument of a rhinoceros. At the
sides of the head project armoured checks, and from above these
stick out guns that look like stalked eyes. That is the general
appearance of the contemporary tank.

It slides on the ground; the silly little wheels that so detract
from the genial bestiality of its appearance dandle and bump
behind it. It swings about its axis. It comes to an obstacle, a
low wall let us say, or a heap of bricks, and sets to work to
climb it with its snout. It rears over the obstacle, it raises
its straining belly, it overhangs more and more, and at last
topples forward; it sways upon the heap and then goes plunging
downwards, sticking out the weak counterpoise of its wheeled
tail. If it comes to a house or a tree or a wall or such-like
obstruction it rams against it so as to bring all its weight to
bear upon it--it weighs /some/ tons--and then climbs over
the debris. I saw it, and incredulous soldiers of experience
watched it at the same time, cross trenches and wallow amazingly
through muddy exaggerations of small holes. Then I repeated the
tour inside.

Again the Tank is like a slug. The slug, as every biological
student knows, is unexpectedly complicated inside. The Tank is
as crowded with inward parts as a battleship. It is filled with
engines, guns and ammunition, and in the interstices men.

"You will smash your hat," said Colonel Stern. "No; keep it on,
or else you will smash your head."

Only Mr. C. R. W. Nevinson could do justice to the interior of a
Tank. You see a hand gripping something; you see the eyes and
forehead of an engineer's face; you perceive that an overall
bluishness beyond the engine is the back of another man. "Don't
hold that," says someone; "it is too hot. Hold on to that." The
engines roar, so loudly that I doubt whether one could hear guns
without; the floor begins to slope and slopes until one seems to
be at forty-five degrees or thereabouts; then the whole concern
swings up and sways and slants the other way. You have crossed a
bank. You heel sideways. Through the door which has been left
open you see the little group of engineers, staff officers and
naval men receding and falling away behind you. You straighten
up and go up hill. You halt and begin to rotate. Through the
open door, the green field, with its red walls, rows of worksheds
and forests of chimneys in the background, begins a steady
processional movement. The group of engineers and officers and
naval men appears at the other side of the door and farther off.
Then comes a sprint down hill. You descend and stretch your

About the field other Tanks are doing their stunts. One is
struggling in an apoplectic way in the mud pit with a cheek half
buried. It noses its way out and on with an air of animal

They are like jokes by Heath Robinson. One forgets that these
things have already saved the lives of many hundreds of our
soldiers and smashed and defeated thousands of Germans.

Said one soldier to me: "In the old attacks you used to see the
British dead lying outside the machine-gun emplacements like
birds outside a butt with a good shot inside. /Now/, these
things walk through."


I saw other things that day at X. The Tank is only a beginning
in a new phase of warfare. Of these other things I may only
write in the most general terms.

But though Tanks and their collaterals are being made upon a very
considerable scale in X, already I realised as I walked through
gigantic forges as high and marvellous as cathedrals, and from
workshed to workshed where gun carriages, ammunition carts and a
hundred such things were flowing into existence with the swelling
abundance of a river that flows out of a gorge, that as the
demand for the new developments grows clear and strong, the
resources of Britain are capable still of a tremendous response.
/If only we do not rob these great factories and works of their

Upon this question certain things need to be said very plainly.
The decisive factor in the sort of war we are now waging is
production and right use of mechanical material; victory in this
war depends now upon three things: the aeroplane, the gun, and
the Tank developments. These--and not crowds of men--are the
prime necessity for a successful offensive. Every man we draw
from munition making to the ranks brings our western condition
nearer to the military condition of Russia. In these things we
may be easily misled by military "experts" We have to remember
that the military "expert" is a man who learnt his business
before 1914, and that the business of war has been absolutely
revolutionised since 1914; the military expert is a man trained
to think of war as essentially an affair of cavalry, infantry in
formation, and field guns, whereas cavalry is entirely obsolete,
infantry no longer fights in formation, and the methods of
gunnery have been entirely changed. The military man I observe
still runs about the world in spurs, he travels in trains in
spurs, he walks in spurs, he thinks in terms of spurs. He has
still to discover that it is about as ridiculous as if he were to
carry a crossbow. I take it these spurs are only the outward and
visible sign of an inward obsolescence. The disposition of the
military "expert" is still to think too little of machinery and
to demand too much of the men. Behind our front at the time of
my visit there were, for example, many thousands of cavalry, men
tending horses, men engaged in transporting bulky fodder for
horses and the like. These men were doing about as much in this
war as if they had been at Timbuctoo. Every man who is taken
from munition making at X to spur-worshipping in khaki, is a dead
loss to the military efficiency of the country. Every man that
is needed or is likely to be needed for the actual operations of
modern warfare can be got by combing out the cavalry, the brewing
and distilling industries, the theatres and music halls, and the
like unproductive occupations. The under-staffing of munition
works, the diminution of their efficiency by the use of aged and
female labour, is the straight course to failure in this war.

In X, in the forges and machine shops, I saw already too large a
proportion of boys and grey heads.

War is a thing that changes very rapidly, and we have in the
Tanks only the first of a great series of offensive developments.
They are bound to be improved, at a great pace. The method of
using them will change very rapidly. Any added invention will
necessitate the scrapping of old types and the production of the
new patterns in quantity. It is of supreme necessity to the
Allies if they are to win this war outright that the lead in
inventions and enterprise which the British have won over the
Germans in this matter should be retained. It is our game now to
press the advantage for all it is worth. We have to keep ahead
to win. We cannot do so unless we have unstinted men and
unstinted material to produce each new development as its use is

Given that much, the Tank will enormously enhance the advantage
of the new offensive method on the French front; the method that
is of gun demolition after aerial photography, followed by an
advance; it is a huge addition to our prospect of decisive
victory. What does it do? It solves two problems. The existing
Tank affords a means of advancing against machine-gun fire and of
destroying wire and machine guns without much risk of loss, so
soon as the big guns have done their duty by the enemy guns. And
also behind the Tank itself, it is useless to conceal, lies the
possibility of bringing up big guns and big gun ammunition,
across nearly any sort of country, as fast as the advance can
press forward. Hitherto every advance has paid a heavy toll to
the machine gun, and every advance has had to halt after a couple
of miles or so while the big guns (taking five or six days for
the job) toiled up to the new positions.


It is impossible to restrain a note of sharp urgency from what
one has to say about these developments. The Tanks remove the
last technical difficulties in our way to decisive victory and a
permanent peace; they also afford a reason for straining every
nerve to bring about a decision and peace soon. At the risk of
seeming an imaginative alarmist I would like to point out the
reasons these things disclose for hurrying this war to a decision
and doing our utmost to arrange the world's affairs so as to make
another war improbable. Already these serio-comic Tanks,
weighing something over twenty tons or so, have gone slithering
around and sliding over dead and wounded men. That is not an
incident for sensitive minds to dwell upon, but it is a mere
little child's play anticipation of what the big land ironclads
/that are bound to come if there is no world pacification/,
are going to do.

What lies behind the Tank depends upon this fact; there is no
definable upward limit of mass. Upon that I would lay all the
stress possible, because everything turns upon that.

You cannot make a land ironclad so big and heavy but that you
cannot make a caterpillar track wide enough and strong enough to
carry it forward. Tanks are quite possible that will carry
twenty-inch or twenty-five inch guns, besides minor armament.
Such Tanks may be undesirable; the production may exceed the
industrial resources of any empire to produce; but there is no
inherent impossibility in such things. There are not even the
same limitations as to draught and docking accommodation that
sets bounds to the size of battleships. It follows, therefore,
as a necessary deduction that if the world's affairs are so left
at the end of the war that the race of armaments continues, that
Tank will develop steadily into a tremendous instrument of
warfare, driven by engines of scores of thousands of horse-power,
tracking on a track scores of hundreds of yards wide and weighing
hundreds or thousands of tons. Nothing but a world agreement not
to do so can prevent this logical development of the land
ironclad. Such a structure will make wheel-ruts scores of feet
deep; it will plough up, devastate and destroy the country it
passes over altogether.

For my own part I never imagined the land ironclad idea would get
loose into war. I thought that the military intelligence was
essentially unimaginative and that such an aggressive military
power as Germany, dominated by military people, would never
produce anything of the sort. I thought that this war would be
fought out without Tanks and that then war would come to an end.
For of course it is mere stupidity that makes people doubt the
ultimate ending of war. I have been so far justified in these
expectations of mine, that it is not from military sources that
these things have come. They have been thrust upon the soldiers
from without. But now that they are loose, now that they are in
war, we have to face their full possibilities, to use our
advantage in them and press on to the end of the war. In support
of a photo-aero directed artillery, even our present Tanks can be
used to complete an invisible offensive. We shall not so much
push as ram. It is doubtful if the Germans can get anything of
the sort into action before six months are out. We ought to get
the war on to German soil before the Tanks have grown to more
than three or four times their present size. Then it will not
matter so much how much bigger they grow. It will be the German
landscape that will suffer.

After one has seen the actual Tanks it is not very difficult to
close one's eyes and figure the sort of Tank that may be arguing
with Germany in a few months' time about the restoration of
Belgium and Serbia and France, the restoration of the sunken
tonnage, the penalties of the various Zeppelin and submarine
murders, the freedom of seas and land alike from piracy, the
evacuation of all Poland including Posen and Cracow, and the
guarantees for the future peace of Europe. The machine will be
perhaps as big as a destroyer and more heavily armed and
equipped. It will swim over and through the soil at a pace of
ten or twelve miles an hour. In front of it will be corn, land,
neat woods, orchards, pasture, gardens, villages and towns. It
will advance upon its belly with a swaying motion, devouring the
ground beneath it. Behind it masses of soil and rock, lumps of
turf, splintered wood, bits of houses, occasional streaks of red,
will drop from its track, and it will leave a wake, six or seven
times as wide as a high road, from which all soil, all
cultivation, all semblance to cultivated or cultivatable land
will have disappeared. It will not even be a track of soil. It
will be a track of subsoil laid bare. It will be a flayed strip
of nature. In the course of its fighting the monster may have to
turnabout. It will then halt and spin slowly round, grinding out
an arena of desolation with a diameter equal to its length. If
it has to retreat and advance again these streaks and holes of
destruction will increase and multiply. Behind the fighting line
these monsters will manoeuvre to and fro, destroying the
land for all ordinary agricultural purposes for ages to come.
The first imaginative account of the land ironclad that was ever
written concluded with the words, "They are the /reductio ad
absurdum/ of war." They are, and it is to the engineers, the
ironmasters, the workers and the inventive talent of Great
Britain and France that we must look to ensure that it is in
Germany, the great teacher of war, that this demonstration of
war's ultimate absurdity is completed.

For forty years Frankenstein Germany invoked war, turned every
development of material and social science to aggressive ends,
and at last when she felt the time was ripe she let loose the new
monster that she had made of war to cow the spirit of mankind.
She set the thing trampling through Belgium. She cannot grumble
if at last it comes home, stranger and more dreadful even than
she made it, trampling the German towns and fields with German
blood upon it and its eyes towards Berlin.

This logical development of the Tank idea may seem a gloomy
prospect for mankind. But it is open to question whether the
tremendous development of warfare that has gone on in the last
two years does after all open a prospect of unmitigated gloom.
There has been a good deal of cheap and despondent sneering
recently at the phrase, "The war that will end war." It is still
possible to maintain that that may be a correct description of
this war. It has to be remembered that war, as the aeroplane and
the Tank have made it, has already become an impossible luxury
for any barbaric or uncivilised people. War on the grade that
has been achieved on the Somme predicates an immense
industrialism behind it. Of all the States in the world only
four can certainly be said to be fully capable of sustaining war
at the level to which it has now been brought upon the western
front. These are Britain, France, Germany, and the United States
of America. Less certainly equal to the effort are Italy, Japan,
Russia, and Austria. These eight powers are the only powers
/capable of warfare under modern conditions./ Five are
already Allies and one is incurably pacific. There is no other
power or people in the world that can go to war now without the
consent and connivance of these great powers. If we consider
their alliances, we may count it that the matter rests now
between two groups of Allies and one neutral power. So that
while on the one hand the development of modern warfare of which
the Tank is the present symbol opens a prospect of limitless
senseless destruction, it opens on the other hand a prospect of
organised world control. This Tank development must ultimately
bring the need of a real permanent settlement within the compass
of the meanest of diplomatic intelligences. A peace that will
restore competitive armaments has now become a less desirable
prospect for everyone than a continuation of the war. Things
were bad enough before, when the land forces were still in a
primitive phase of infantry, cavalry and artillery, and when the
only real race to develop monsters and destructors was for sea
power. But the race for sea power before 1914 was mere child's
play to the breeding of engineering monstrosities for land
warfare that must now follow any indeterminate peace settlement.
I am no blind believer in the wisdom of mankind, but I cannot
believe that men are so insensate and headstrong as to miss the
plain omens of the present situation.

So that after all the cheerful amusement the sight of a Tank
causes may not be so very unreasonable. These things may be no
more than one of those penetrating flashes of wit that will
sometimes light up and dispel the contentions of an angry man.
If they are not that, then they are the grimmest jest that ever
set men grinning. Wait and see, if you do not believe me.


All human affairs are mental affairs; the bright ideas of to-day
are the realities of to-morrow. The real history of mankind is
the history of how ideas have arisen, how they have taken
possession of men's minds, how they have struggled, altered,
proliferated, decayed. There is nothing in this war at all but a
conflict of ideas, traditions, and mental habits. The German
Will clothed in conceptions of aggression and fortified by
cynical falsehood, struggles against the fundamental sanity of
the German mind and the confused protest of mankind. So that the
most permanently important thing in the tragic process of this
war is the change of opinion that is going on. What are people
making of it? Is it producing any great common understandings,
any fruitful unanimities?

No doubt it is producing enormous quantities of cerebration, but
is it anything more than chaotic and futile cerebration? We are
told all sorts of things in answer to that, things without a
scrap of evidence or probability to support them. It is, we are
assured, turning people to religion, making them moral and
thoughtful. It is also, we are assured with equal confidence,
turning them to despair and moral disaster. It will be followed
by (1) a period of moral renascence, and (2) a debauch. It is
going to make the workers (1) more and (2) less obedient and
industrious. It is (1) inuring men to war and (2) filling them
with a passionate resolve never to suffer war again. And so on.
I propose now to ask what is really happening in this matter? How
is human opinion changing? I have opinions of my own and they are
bound to colour my discussion. The reader must allow for that,
and as far as possible I will remind him where necessary to make
his allowance.

Now first I would ask, is any really continuous and thorough
mental process going on at all about this war? I mean, is there
any considerable number of people who are seeing it as a whole,
taking it in as a whole, trying to get a general idea of it from
which they can form directing conclusions for the future? Is
there any considerable number of people even trying to do that?
At any rate let me point out first that there is quite an
enormous mass of people who--in spite of the fact that their
minds are concentrated on aspects of this war, who are at present
hearing, talking, experiencing little else than the war--are
nevertheless neither doing nor trying to do anything that
deserves to be called thinking about it at all. They may even be
suffering quite terribly by it. But they are no more mastering
its causes, reasons, conditions, and the possibility of its
future prevention than a monkey that has been rescued in a
scorching condition from the burning of a house will have
mastered the problem of a fire. It is just happening to and
about them. It may, for anything they have learnt about it,
happen to them again.

A vast majority of people are being swamped by the spectacular
side of the business. It was very largely my fear of being so
swamped myself that made me reluctant to go as a spectator to the
front. I knew that my chances of being hit by a bullet were
infinitesimal, but I was extremely afraid of being hit by some
too vivid impression. I was afraid that I might see some
horribly wounded man or some decayed dead body that would so scar
my memory and stamp such horror into me as to reduce me to a mere
useless, gibbering, stop-the-war-at-any-price pacifist. Years
ago my mind was once darkened very badly for some weeks with a
kind of fear and distrust of life through a sudden unexpected
encounter one tranquil evening with a drowned body. But in this
journey in Italy and France, although I have had glimpses of much
death and seen many wounded men, I have had no really horrible
impressions at all. That side of the business has, I think, been
overwritten. The thing that haunts me most is the impression of
a prevalent relapse into extreme untidiness, of a universal
discomfort, of fields, and of ruined houses treated
disregardfully.... But that is not what concerns us now in this
discussion. What concerns us now is the fact that this war is
producing spectacular effects so tremendous and incidents so
strange, so remarkable, so vivid, that the mind forgets both
causes and consequences and simply sits down to stare.

For example, there is this business of the Zeppelin raids in
England. It is a supremely silly business; it is the most
conclusive demonstration of the intellectual inferiority of the
German to the Western European that is should ever have happened.
There was the clearest /a priori/ case against the gas-bag.
I remember the discussions ten or twelve years ago in which it
was established to the satisfaction of every reasonable man that
ultimately the "heavier than air" machine (as we called it then)
must fly better than the gas-bag, and still more conclusively
that no gas-bag was conceivable that could hope to fight and
defeat aeroplanes. Nevertheless the German, with that dull faith
of his in mere "Will," persisted along his line. He knew
instinctively that he could not produce aviators to meet the
Western European; all his social instincts made him cling to the
idea of a great motherly, almost sow-like bag of wind above him.
At an enormous waste of resources Germany has produced these
futile monsters, that drift in the darkness over England
promiscuously dropping bombs on fields and houses. They are now
meeting the fate that was demonstrably certain ten years ago. If
they found us unready for them it is merely that we were unable
to imagine so idiotic an enterprise would ever be seriously
sustained and persisted in. We did not believe in the
probability of Zeppelin raids any more than we believed that
Germany would force the world into war. It was a thing too silly
to be believed. But they came--to their certain fate. In the
month after I returned from France and Italy, no less than four
of these fatuities were exploded and destroyed within thirty
miles of my Essex home.... There in chosen phrases you have the
truth about these things. But now mark the perversion of thought
due to spectacular effect.

I find over the Essex countryside, which has been for more than a
year and a half a highway for Zeppelins, a new and curious
admiration for them that has arisen out of these very disasters.
Previously they were regarded with dislike and a sort of
distrust, as one might regard a sneaking neighbour who left his
footsteps in one's garden at night. But the Zeppelins of
Billericay and Potter's Bar are--heroic things. (The Cuffley one
came down too quickly, and the fourth one which came down for its
crew to surrender is despised.) I have heard people describe the
two former with eyes shining with enthusiasm.

"First," they say, "you saw a little round red glow that spread.
Then you saw the whole Zeppelin glowing. Oh, it was
/beautiful!/ Then it began to turn over and come down, and
it flames and pieces began to break away. And then down it came,
leaving flaming pieces all up the sky. At last it was a pillar
of fire eight thousand feet high.... Everyone said, 'Ooooo!' And
then someone pointed out the little aeroplane lit up by the flare--
such a leetle thing up there in the night! It is the greatest
thing I have ever seen. Oh! the most wonderful--most wonderful!"

There is a feeling that the Germans really must after all be a
splendid people to provide such magnificent pyrotechnics.

Some people in London the other day were pretending to be shocked
by an American who boasted that he had been in "two /bully/
bombardments," but he was only saying what everyone feels more or
less. We are at a spectacle that--as a spectacle--our
grandchildren will envy. I understand now better the story of
the man who stared at the sparks raining up from his own house as
it burnt in the night and whispered "/Lovely! Lovely!/"


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