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The Audacious War By Clarence W. Barron Characters: 12561

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

The Men at the Front-The Recruiting-English Losses-Horses and

Ships-War Supplies-Barring the Germans.

I really admire the English censorship and the manner in which it can withhold information from the English people, and I see the usefulness of much of the withholdings. You are some days in England before you realize that there are now no weather reports-not even for Channel crossings. Nobody really cared for them in London. Everybody there knew what the weather was, and nobody could tell what it was to be. If reports were printed, they would fool only the German Zeppelins; but cable reports might be quite another thing. So you can't cable your family: "Weather fine, come over."

Of course Germany should not be allowed to know the English forces, their exact number and distribution. I was told over and over again in good newspaper quarters in London that the English had only 100,000 men at the front, and did not propose to have any more until Kitchener led his army of a million men or more to the Continent next spring.

I, of course, said nothing, but I knew a great deal better, both from

War-Office sources and from contact with the English officers in France.

It would not be right, although information was not given me in confidence, to attempt to name the exact number and position of troops Kitchener had on the Continent toward the close of December. But I may tell what anybody was free to pick up on French soil. I asked an English officer of good rank how many men the English had at the front and he responded promptly 220,000 at the front, and 50,000 on the lines of communication. He was right for that date in early December, but later more troops were sent over. Indeed, they were quietly going and coming all the time across the Channel, and, notwithstanding losses, the number at the front was being steadily augmented. There were also troops in training on French soil, and 550,000 in condition for shipment from England.

Kitchener is one of the greatest reserve-supply men in the world. He is a natural-born banker; he keeps his eye on his reserves fully as much as on his activities, and perhaps more so.

When he called for 100,000 troops the British public became weary and demanded to know how long before he would get them. This gave an impression throughout the world that English recruiting was very slow; but when forced to show down his hand, Kitchener had to admit that under the call for 100,000 men he had accepted many more and was still accepting.

Then they raised the call to a million, and in December Kitchener had more than 1,000,000 men under that call, but I was particular to ascertain that he had not made a call for a second million. It was all under the call for 1,000,000 men to arm.

But I did learn from authoritative sources that a house-to-house canvass, and millions of circulars sent out, had received responses that showed the War Office where the number of recruits, or men in training, could be quickly put above 2,000,000 the moment there was need or room for them.

When England sent her first expeditionary force of 100,000 men to the

Continent there was no public report of how steadily it was augmented.

The official announcement was simply that the line should not be

diminished and that all losses should be made good.

An American acquaintance of mine, whom I found in France fighting in the uniform of the English, had made the declaration from his quick perception of the situation at the outset that if before January 1 the English should have sent over only another 100,000 men, they would have only 100,000 left there at the end of the year.

I found his estimate of losses correct. The English casualties at the end of 1914 were over 100,000,-killed, wounded, prisoners, and missing,-or fully the number of the first Expeditionary Force.

Yet every week and every month the forces of the English grew larger and never smaller. The filling in of the gaps and the augmentation of the English forces and their maintenance, munitions, and supplies was but the smaller part of the work of the War Office.

The great problem was to compass the situation as a worldwide war and summon and put into an effective fighting machine the resources of the Empire.

"Not alone the men but the machinery," said Kitchener, "must win this war."

England had to put into operation machinery, financial and diplomatic, machinery of men, guns, and transportation, belting the whole world and bringing the whole forward as a complete organization, yielding here and pressing forward there, but always firmly pressing to the one desired end-the crushing, crumpling and destroying of the war machinery of Germany. At the beginning England could not turn out 10,000 rifles a week; and a rifle can shoot well for only about 1000 rounds. Yet in December a single contractor in England was turning out 40,000 a week, and every possible contractor there and elsewhere had his hands full.

Kitchener must compass every detail from the rifle to the supply base; from the seasoned wood for that rifle right down to the number of troops he must have on the Continent when it comes to a settlement; for, says Kitchener, "You cannot draw unless you hold cards."

The broad sweep of the English preparations may be indicated by this: that when war broke out England not only commandeered horses in every city, village, and highway of England, taking them from carriages and from under the saddle, but started buying them over the seas. Of English shipping she gathered into her war-fold such a number of boats as I do not dare to repeat. She gathered in under the admiralty flag so many steamships from the mercantile marine that those which were found most expensive to operate were soon turned back into the channels of trade. With the many hundred steamers that she commandeered she set about transporting everything needed, including horses, from over the ocean.

The French bought their horses by the thousand in Texas and contracted at good prices for their shipment to Bordeaux. Steamship rates became almost prohibitive, and the horses arrived from their long journey in poor condition. England inspected the horses in America, paid for them, and then put them in char

ge of her own men on her own ships, and landed them by the shortest routes in England and on the Continent, in prime condition.

Although Germany had been buying liberally of horses in Ireland as early as March, when the long arm of Great Britain reached out there was no failure in her mounts for the cannon and cavalry divisions. For good horses at home and abroad she did not hesitate to pay as high as $350.

Americans should not forget that this war has brought about the greatest contraction in ocean tonnage that has ever been seen. I estimate that about one fourth of the world's oversea tonnage has been commandeered, interned, or put out of service. Before the war the Germans had nearly one eighth of the world's mercantile tonnage. That is now interned, destroyed, or tied up, outside the trade on the Baltic. As much more has been taken by the Allies from the mercantile to the war marine. It must also be figured that the Baltic and other seas hold locked-in ships, and the bottom of the sea likewise holds some more.

Considering the sudden demand upon the world's mercantile tonnage and its sudden curtailment, it is surprising that ocean commerce has not been more interfered with or made to pay even higher rates than the abnormal ones now existing.

Of war-tonnage, besides three superdreadnoughts purchased and four finished before the end of 1914, the British have under construction to be finished in 1915 ten battleships of from 25,500 to 27,500 tons, armed with 15-inch guns. The French have finished four of 23,000 tons, with 13 1/2-inch guns, and are finishing three more. The Russians are at work upon six of 23,000 tons, with 12-inch guns. The Japanese are building one superdreadnought of 30,000 tons, with 14-inch guns, and three battle-cruisers of 27,500 tons and 27-knot speed, with 14-inch guns.

Churchill, it will be remembered, figured that England could lose one battleship each month and still maintain her full strength. While the building of war-tonnage seems to be well in hand, there is no corresponding replacement of mercantile tonnage.

I have the highest authority for the statement that the world possesses no machinery at the present time to manufacture war-material at the rate at which the nations of Europe have been using it during the first hundred days of the war.

At one time the German armies were exploding 120,000 shells a day in France and Belgium. The response from the French alone was 80,000 shells a day, and General Joffre made a request that his supply be put up to 100,000 per day. This is for shells of all sizes, and the estimate to me was of an average cost of two pounds, or ten dollars, per shell. Some of the big German shells cost as high as $500 each. In some kinds of shrapnel, holding 300 bullets, there are more than thirty pieces of mechanism.

Within forty-eight hours after England declared war she had engaged the total output of an American manufacturer, whose machinery was an important part of the shell-making business. An American factory in Connecticut received orders for $25,000,000 worth of cartridges which would mean, at five cents a cartridge, 500,000,000 rounds of ammunition. I know of a single order to America from England for 10,000,000 horseshoes.

Through a single agency in America more than $150,000,000 worth of war-supplies was placed several weeks ago. I do not know whether this included a single order, of which I have knowledge, for 3,000,000 American rifles, delivered over three years at $30 a rifle, or $90,000,000. The company receiving this order had to work so quickly to install new machinery that old buildings were dynamited to clear the land.

Such orders to America are bound to tell upon our exports, and, combined with the advance in food-stuffs, the loss in cotton values by the outbreak of the war is offset more than twice over.

America must feel the effect of these orders when the goods go forward in increasing quantities. They are paid for as promptly as shipped. Many an American factory has been put on three eight-hour shifts for the day's work on these orders.

A Southern manufacturer received an order for 5000 dozen pairs of socks to be shipped weekly for six months. The price was under $1.00 per dozen, with ten per cent of wool in them. He complained that he was making only twenty cents per dozen profit, while if he had not been so anxious for the order, he might just as well have got a price that would have shown more than twice this profit.

In boots and shoes, England, instead of giving orders to this country, has been buying leather in America, and filling all her own factories. It is the policy of England to fill every workshop in her tight little island before she permits business to overflow.

To-day there are no unemployed in Great Britain, except in the cotton districts dependent upon German trade. Wage advances and overtime are the rule rather than the exception. The one country that the warring world must turn to for supplies is the United States, and that in increasing measure. Orders for $300,000,000 of war goods already received must be duplicated several times.

Every American automobile manufacturer able to deliver motor-trucks in lots of one hundred, has received his orders for shipments to the Allies.

Germany has now no base from which to get many important supplies. In a long contest the Allies will supply motor-cars, shells, guns, and ammunition to a far greater extent than Germany can manufacture them. Factories for this work are expanding in both Russia and America. The English do not speak against the Germans as a people. They believe them seriously misled by Prussian militarism, which they declare must be crushed absolutely.

Where formerly England was an open door to Germans and suspicions against German spies were laughed at, the bars are now sharply up. Most of the golfing clubs have voted to suspend the activities of members with German antecedents.

At the clubs in Pall Mall, notices have been posted requesting members not to introduce during the war Germans or those of German descent.

Membership on the Stock Exchange is not continuous as in this country, and at the March elections in 1915 there will be a dropping out of German names.

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