My Year of the War Including an Account of Experiences with the Troops in France and the Record of a Visit to the Grand Fleet Which is Here Given for the First Time in its Complete Form

Biography & Autobiography/
#Biography & Autobiography #Personal Memoirs & Diaries
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Excerpt I"Le Brave Belge!" The rush from Monterey, in Mexico, when a telegram said that general European war was inevitable; the run and jump on board the Lusitania at New York the night that war was declared by England against Germany; the Atlantic passage on the liner of ineffaceable memory, a suspense broken by fragments of war news by wireless; the arrival in England before the war was a week old; the journey to Belgium in the hope of reaching the scene of action!—as I write, all seem to have the perspective of history, so final are the processes of war, so swift their execution, and so eager is everyone for each day's developments. As one grows older the years seem shorter; but the first year of the Great War is the longest year most of us have ever known. Le brave Belge! One must be honest about him. The man who lets his heart run away with his judgment does his mind an injustice. A fellow-countryman who was in London and fresh from home in the eighth month of the war, asked me for my views of the relative efficiency of the different armies engaged. "Do you mean that I am to speak without regard to personal sympathies?" I asked. "Certainly," he replied. When he had my opinion he exclaimed: "You have mentioned them all except the Belgian army. I thought it was the best of all." "Is that what they think at home?" I asked. "Yes, of course." "The Atlantic is broad," I suggested. This man of affairs, an exponent of the efficiency of business, was a sentimentalist when it came to war, as Anglo-Saxons usually are. The side which they favour—that is the efficient side. When I ventured to suggest that the Belgian army, in a professional sense, was hardly to be considered as an army, it was clear that he had ceased to associate my experience with any real knowledge. In business he was one who saw his rivals, their abilities, the organization of their concerns, and their resources of competition with a clear eye. He could say of his best personal friend: "I like him, but he has a poor head for affairs." Yet he was the type who, if he had been a trained soldier, would have been a business man of war who would have wanted a sharp, ready sword in a well-trained hand and to leave nothing to chance in a battle for the right. In Germany, where some of the best brains of the country are given to making war a business, he might have been a soldier who would rise to a position on the staff. In America he was the employer of three thousand men— a general of civil life. "But look how the Belgians have fought!" he exclaimed. "They stopped the whole German army for two weeks!" The best army was best because it had his sympathy. His view was the popular view in America: the view of the heart. America saw the pigmy fighting the giant rather than let him pass over Belgian soil. On that day when a gallant young king cried, "To arms!" all his people became gallant to the imagination. When I think of Belgium's part in the war I always think of the little Belgian dog, the schipperke who lives on the canal boats....
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