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Private Peat By Harold Reginald Peat Characters: 17303

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Some years ago a British statesman, then great, put on record a phrase which at once is polite and convincing. He wished to convey that a certain statement was a d-- lie, but as he himself had made the statement he was in somewhat of an awkward situation. He got out of the difficulty by calling it a "terminological inexactitude."

Now since I have been back in America, and more especially in the States, I have run to earth any number of terminological inexactitudes uttered by German propagandists. As far as Canada is concerned, the work is not now progressing very favorably. The German inexactitude farmer is sowing seed on barren soil. But I have traveled extensively during some crowded weeks through the States, and I find that among a certain section of the American public the seed of the German propagandist has taken root; not so deeply, however, but that an application of the hoe of truth will remove it. It is there all the same, and his success is spurring the agents to further efforts.

The German in high place is aware that the English are and always have been very friendly to the American people. He knows that the Englishman has regarded the American as of the same family. He also knows that one day, and possibly very soon, there will be a union that will amount almost to an amalgamation of the three greatest races on earth, closely bound now by ties of blood and friendship, that will never be broken: France, America, England. He knows that when that occurs the German day is done, that the sun has set forever on a German Empire.

The German in high place has realized this, and with the usual thoroughness of the race has set out to combat this friendship and prevent this joining. He is trying to do it by the regulation German method. He knows the British dislike of boasting, and that the American and the Britisher are woefully trusting. They themselves abhor deception and they distrust no man until they find him out. The British and the French have discovered the machinations of the German. The people of the United States have yet to be convinced that they have been deliberately deceived, cozened and duped by the Kaiser's government.

I am embarrassed at times as I go from town to town by the intensity of the congratulations poured on me as a representative of our Canadian Army.

"You Canadians have done it all. We know that. We know that the English are hanging back and have done nothing."

I am ashamed when people talk to me in such a strain. I am ashamed of their lack of intelligence, ashamed that they will allow themselves to be so deceived.

"You Canadians were asked by England to go and help her. When you got there they put you in front and stayed in safety themselves."

Think of it! Think of the base lie. Think of believing such twaddle. At first I did not trouble to deny the statement; then, as it was repeated again and again, I began to deny it.

The British Empire is in this fight. Canada is doing her share of it, and nothing more than her share. We were not asked to send men over. We declared war upon Germany ourselves, because we are an independent dominion. We have had on the battle-field at one time some one hundred and ten thousand men-that is the greatest number at any one time, though of course nearly five hundred thousand are in khaki. At Vimy Ridge we held the longest portion of trenches that we have ever held before or since-five miles. To right and left of us there were Imperial troops, Anzacs, Africans, and they held over fifty-five miles of line. We advanced four miles, and papers on this continent blazed with the news. The English advanced nine miles on the same day, and there was not so much as a paragraph about it on this side of the Atlantic.

For every overseas soldier wounded on the western front there are six of the Imperial troops wounded. This is true except at Lens, where the overseas casualties were considerably heavier.

All this about Canada being in front is a German "terminological inexactitude" which is so despicable that we in Canada are ashamed that it should be said of us. It will injure us after the war; it will injure our prestige in the empire, which is now higher than ever before. We are not boasters and egotists, we are fighters. We are fighting men who live straight and who are proud to fight straight, and who are disgusted at lies such as this.

The British, the Imperial troops, have done magnificently. They have done more than their share. The original agreement with France was to place fifty thousand men in that country should Germany ever attack. The British have five million troops under arms, of which only one-fifth are overseas. They have some five hundred thousand more men in France than have the French themselves.

The British are fighting on many fronts. They are not fighting one war; they are fighting in German West Africa, they are in German East Africa. It was English troops who fought in the Cameroons. They are fighting in Mesopotamia and in Egypt. They have an army at Saloniki and in the Holy Land, and they have, of necessity, a large army in India, because the borders of that empire must be protected.

And then we hear that the English are not doing anything! The English are feeding their own prisoners in Germany, because the Germans were starving them. They have been keeping some of their Allies in munitions and money. They have been sheltering refugees from every nation that has been devastated and overrun by the mad Huns. They have Belgians and French and Serbians and Poles-a vast concourse of all nations is sheltered on the little island which is the Motherland. It would be a poor thing if the dominions could not protect themselves.

The British fleet has for three years kept the seas open for the neutral nations. The English fleet has protected Canada and other parts of the empire that have no navies of their own. The English must keep an army in England to protect her own shores. There was danger of invasion-that danger is past to all seeming, but it would not have passed had not the English had men on English soil.

"And, you know, we think it dreadful that our boys are being sent over to France to fight for democracy when England is keeping her men back in safety in England."

Another story this-another "terminological inexactitude." A fairly clever one. There is a half truth here. Yes; England has big reserves in England, and it's well for the world that she has. Well for the neutral world during these three years that England has her men in England.

The English have good reserves and they are in England. They are there because England is nearer to the firing line than is the base in France. They are there because it is easier to transport troops by boat across the English Channel, which is a matter of twenty-one miles, and another twenty or thirty miles in a train on the French side, than it is to transport them in cattle cars over a congested railroad system from a base some twenty-six hours from the front line.

Can not the people who hear these stories disprove them for themselves? Is there not a war-map sold in America? England is closer to the firing line than are portions of France, the portions of France which are used as bases. It takes twenty minutes for a German air-ship to reach England.

Were the English soldiers all to be kept in France, in addition to being farther away from the line, they would still have to be fed. Is it better sense to keep them near to the food supply, or to send the reserves to France and use valuable tonnage to ship foodstuffs to them? There is no surplus food in France.

It makes me tired and it makes every Britisher the same to think that such absurd stories should take effect. Of course the German is keen enough to recognize that there is already the will to think evil of England. He just wishes to season it a little and stir it up. He is wily, is the German propagandist.

Then there is the hoary tale that England is keeping one hundred fifty thousand troops in Ireland to tyrannize over the poor Irish, while the States soldiers are sent to France to fight for democracy.

This I also thought too obvious a lie for denial, but it has been repeated and repeated again. I do not know whether there are any English regiments stationed in Ireland at all. There are good barracks in that country, and good camps, so there may be.

The Royal Irish Constabulary are quite able to cope at this time with any Sinn Fein disturbance which may arise. As far as the true Nationalist or Home Ruler is concerned, he has enlisted in British regimen

ts and is fighting at the front. As far as the Ulsterman is concerned, he has enlisted long ago and is dead already or fighting still. The men of both sides who are over age are enlisted as Home Defense Volunteers, just as are the men of England, Scotland and Wales.

So little is there tyranny over Ireland that when the Conscription Bill was passed in the British Imperial Parliament it was enacted only for England, Scotland and Wales. If it had included Ireland some one might have made the accusation of tyranny.

In the United Kingdom there are no less freedom of action, freedom of speech and freedom of the individual than there are in America, and I include Canada in that word. They are as free as we, but they make no talk about it.

The United Kingdom, with the rest of the empire, is fighting to retain her own democracy. If Germany had won during the three years the Allies have held the safety of the world, then the world would have been under the heel of autocracy.

When I enlisted, and before I went over to England, I had no use for the Englishman myself; that was, the Englishman as we knew him in Western Canada. We had had specimens of "Algy boys," of "de Veres" and "Montmorency lads." These, we soon found out, were not the English true to type. They were ne'er-do-wells, remittance men, sent out of the way to the farthest point of the map.

In England we were treated with wonderful hospitality. I began to change my opinion, but not wholly until I reached France. There I met Tommy Atkins-the soldier and the gentleman. There is no cleaner, cooler, better sport on the fighting line than Mr. Atkins. Occasionally when the Irish are in a brilliant charge, when the Scotch punish the enemy with a bit of dogged fighting, it is reported. When the Canadians do a forward sprint the world rings with it. When the English advance and advance again and hold position and hold yet more positions, there is not a whisper of it-not a word.

I have no English blood in my veins, but I believe in fairness, I believe firmly that all the other nations of the empire put together have not done so much as have the English Tommies by themselves.

There has come about a complete change in the Canadian mind in its attitude to the English. If, before this war, there was ever a possibility of our breaking away from the empire, that possibility is now dead-dead and buried beyond recall.

This statement is not made at random. It is a considered sentence. At the Convention of the Great War Veterans' Association of Canada, the organization of the men returned from the world war, I was a delegate from my home town of Edmonton, Alberta. The first resolution at our first session was in effect-To propagate the good feeling between the dominions of the empire and between them and the Motherland; to continue the loyalty and devotion which have prompted us to fight for the old Union Jack.

After all, the voice of the men who have fought and bled for their country is the voice of the people.

Every criticism leveled at England or any other Ally from this side of the Atlantic is to throw a German stink-bomb for the Kaiser.

Feuds remembered are thoughts which are futile. The England of to-day is not the England of 1812. It is not possible to blame the man of to-day for the work of his great-grandfather. Read history and find out the nationality of the George who ruled in England in those far distant days. He was a German, spoke German, and could not read a word of the language of the country on whose throne he sat.

The Lloyd George of ten years ago was the most hated and hooted man in Britain. He is not the Lloyd George of ten years ago to-day, he is the Lloyd George of the present-the most loved and respected man on earth.

The American people and the British are fundamentally alike. They are of the one stock. They have the same ideals and principles. If the English did not make sacrifices in other days, to-day they are making a sacrifice as great, or maybe greater, than others of the Allies.

The joining of the peoples of America and Britain in a tie which can never be broken is imminent. The knot is in the making.

In keeping with the dastardly methods of "frightfulness" in Europe, the German propagandist has thought on this side to strike at the women-to terrify the mothers.

It is terribly hard for women to let their men go. We know that. Our women know it, but they are ashamed should one of their men attempt to hold back. The German lie-mongers whisper: "It is the last time you will see your boy. It is certain death on the western front."

It is not so. The Canadian troops altogether have used up some four hundred fifty thousand in three years. Of this number, in the three years of severe fighting, only five per cent. have been killed. Of the four and a half million, approximately, who have been wounded in the fighting of three years, only two and a half per cent. have died of their wounds.

It is bad enough, but it is not nearly so bad as the German scare manufacturer would seek to make out. Boys come through without a scratch. Not many, certainly, but they come through. There is every reason to believe that you will get your boy back. There is still more reason to believe that if you hold that thought before him while he is still with you, and hold that thought before yourself when he is gone, he will come back.

Women have a tremendous responsibility in this war. Wars are always women's wars, mothers' wars. We boys have courage and we need it, but we also need the greater courage of those women we have left behind to back us up. They have to bear the brunt of the war, which to them is a fight of endurance and eternal, everlasting waiting-waiting-waiting.

Do not think of the sorrow of his leaving, think of the pride of his going.

The martial spirit is not actively abroad on this side of the Atlantic yet. Wait till the boys get over to France; wait till they see the outrages on women and on nature, and all the blood of their fighting ancestors will boil with indignation and rage. They will thank God that they have come to prevent such a devastation on the soil of their own homeland.

In the trenches the boys compare the merits of their mothers. It is a wonderful thing, that spirit of mother love which surrounds us, blesses us and leads us on to higher things. We gather together in the trench and we talk of mother-mother-mother. The lad whose mother cried and fainted when he left quietly drops out from the group. We always know him. He is just a tiny bit afraid that we will ask him how his mother sent him off. He never shows his letters from home, because it is possible that she writes him laments and moanings. He is ashamed. But those of us who have a home courage of which we talk-how we boast! Mother is a mighty factor in the winning of the war.

Out to France we go for Flag and Country. "Over the top" we go for Mother. And mother, that one simple word, embraces the whole of womanhood.

Remember that your boy is going for you. Talk to the French mother, to the English mother, who has lost all. Ask her about the war, about peace. "Peace, yes, we all want peace, but not a German peace. If all the menfolk die and there is no one else to go, why, we will carry on!"

And here I want to ask: What is the pacifist in this country doing for peace? Nothing. He is only trying to put off this war, for a worse war. Every man, woman or child who talks peace before the complete defeat of Germany is a Kaiser agent, spreading German poison gas to the injury and possible destruction of his own countrymen.

Back at home we must have the United Spirit which is inspiring us at the front. After all, it is not the body which is going to take us through to ultimate victory; it is the Spirit. And because American arms ultimately will be the deciding factor in this war, so will American womanhood. From what I have seen already, I have no hesitation in saying that the American mother will be just as true to herself as the English and French mother has been.

Let him go with a smile, and if you can't smile, whistle. You can never know how much it means to him. We at the front are undaunted. If there ever had been a thought of defeat, to-day, with the American arms beside us, we are certain of a sure and glorious victory.

Because we know that if C?sar crossed the Rhine for Rome, and Napoleon crossed it for France and autocracy, so shall we, the Freemen of the world, not only cross the Rhine, but will march even to Berlin for the sake of Liberty, of Love, of Right and of Democracy.

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