Page images


demagogues had instilled in
it. And when, during the
autumn of 1915, the produc-
tion of ammunition marvel-
lously increased, the increase
was put down by the partisans
of our politicians to the expert
energy of the newly-established
Ministry of Munitions.
an obvious injustice was done
to Kitchener and the War
Office. As Sir George Arthur
points out, "the rights of the
matter can best be understood
by adducing a concrete fact.
The Ministry of Munitions was
set up during the first week of
June 1915. It was not until
October 1915 that a single
component of ammunition
worth speaking of was de-
livered from the Ministry of
Munitions' factories or orders,
and not until April 1916 that
the first complete round, made
and filled under the orders and
arrangements of the Ministry,
was delivered to the Army
authorities. In other words,
the Army, for a period of
more than eighteen months,
was furnished with continually
increasing supplies under the
arrangements made by the
War Office." Kitchener was
not a man of words, and
with equanimity and with-
out protest he 8&W his
fame besmirched and his
oredit filohed from him by
the politicians.

the difficulty of equipping places labour most dangerthem. The British democracy, ously put into practice the lulled to a false security by its principles which flattering leaders, had refused to provide the material of war. "The starved ordnance firms," as Sir George Arthur says, "whose eyes waited almost entirely on the Lords of the Admiralty for orders, were, with little plant and less material, impotent to meet sudden and staggering demands." Not only was there a dangerous lack of munitions; there existed no machinery to produce them. "Did they remember," asked Kitchener, "when they went headlong into a war like this, that they were without an army, and without any preparation to equip one?" However, what could be done was done. A Cabinet Committee on Munitions was appointed, and the Secretary for War presided over its first meeting. Men of science were bidden to aid the War Office with their knowledge and research. The omnipotent trade unions had to be conciliated, and that was not easy. "While the workmen generally," said Kitchener on March 15, 1915, in the House of Lords, "have worked loyally and well, there have, I regret to say, been instances where absence, irregular time-keeping, and slack work have led to a marked diminution in the output of our factories." Yet upon the supply of war material the safety of the Empire depended, and Kitohener has been blamed because he could not achieve the impossible, because in some


The worst of it was that the discussion concerning thesupply of munitions was exacerbated by partisan rancour and politioaljealousy. There is no doubt

3 I

that the Ministry, when once it was established, admirably justified itself. There is as little doubt that the War Office had given the Ministry the experience by which it prefited and the machinery which it turned to magnificent account. But, says Sir George Arthur, "embedded in the story of the supply of munitions is the unhappy occasion when, from the battle of Festubert, the Commander-in-Chief sent an extra aide-de-camp and a secretary to London, with the double design of effecting a minor coup-d'état and inflaming public opinion against the War Secretary, the man to whom he wrote, "Thank God you are there, and I mean it.' This episode asks no oom.


[ocr errors]

When Kitchener went to the War Office in 1914 he said he would not be content until he had put 70 divisions in the field. By January 1916 he could say with truth that 67 divisions were ready and the other 3 in the making. He had foreseen what was needed, and had given it to the country. Then, with a dramatic unexpectedness, death overtook him. On June 5, 1916, he went on board the Hampshire at Seapa on his way to Russia. In Sir George Arthur's words, "by an unhappy error of judgment, an unswept channel was ohosen for the passage of the oruiser, and Kitchener- the secret of whose journey had been betrayed was to fall into the machinations of England's enemies, and to die



swiftly at their hands. faithful steward must suddenly give an account of his stewardship."

From Sir George Arthur's narrative you may gain not merely a knowledge of what Kitchener did for the Empire, but an insight into his charaeter. He had in him all the elements of grandeur. His aspect, his voice, his gesture, all betokened a great man. He filled more space in a room than other men, as he filled more space in the world. Lord Salisbury, in an excellent preface, describes him as a solitary figure-"solitary in the sense that he stood mentally and morally aloof from other men." And this aloofness was intensified-again to cite Lord Salisbury's words- because "he was a man whose resolution was as inevitable as fate, who would move to his determined end without compunction and even without mercy." As he was resolute, so also he was simple in character. He knew neither trickery nor cunning. Indeed, he was ill equipped for the strife of politics, into which he was led perforce, for he knew nothing of intrigue, and he was always unwilling to talk. He had a rooted aversion from disputes of all kinds. "We are here to fight the Germans,' he would say, and the time and energy spent in disoussion were always, in his judgment, wasted. He resembled other men of action in the instinotiveness of his conclusions. "The important thing in his eyes," says Lord


Salisbury, "was that a decision should be right, not that it could be defended. It did not make it less right because he had never learnt the art of controversy." His devotion to his Sovereign and his country was absolute. He had a soldier's sense of duty, and harboured no other thought than to serve the King and the people, who had put their trust in him angrudgingly.

Thus it was always his work which absorbed him. He had no home, as he said himself, and he knew few of the pleasures which sweeten life for the most of men. He worked without respite until the end, and no better epitaph can be found for him than that quoted by Sir George Arthur: "In life he knew no rest, in death he found no grave."




HE goes by this name in consequence of a a habit of prefacing most of his remarks with "musha," an ejaculation of obscure origin, and one somewhat out of date, at least with the younger generation. But Andy is not young-far from it. It is difficult to guess his age, for as long as I can remember he has looked exactly the same, and that is anything from sixty to eighty. He is a small old man, bent nearly double, with shoulders so round 88 to be almost globular. He has long arms and short legs and immensely strong muscles. He grows a fringe of beard encircling his cheeks and chin, and shaves his upper lip. His gums are toothless, save for three horny front teeth in the upper jaw and a few scattered stumps in the lower. It is said that one of the longest and most pronglike of the upper row was once a horse's tooth, which Andy stuck into the gap left by his own, but for the truth of this I cannot vouch. Yet it may be owing to it that he is inclined to dribble when he speaks. One corner of his mouth has a permanent droop, caused by the pressure of the pipe (a very dirty olay) which is constantly stuck there, alight or not. His clothing consists of a pair of corduroy trousers,


tied below the knee with a wisp of straw or rope, waistcoat with sleeves, huge coarse boots, showing a glimpse of bare leg above them, and laced with string. His coat he usually carries over his shoulder. He may possibly wear a shirt, but he has certainly never worn a collar. He can neither read nor write, his travels have been sircumscribed within five miles, he has never been in a train.

In the days of his youth he was one of the best ploughmen in the country, but he does not follow the plough now, though he can still dig as well and as vigorously as ever, and he is a notable hand with pigs. Pigs, potatoes, and the plough make up the sum of Andy's interest in things terrestrial,-with one addition, fishing. His participation in that sport is peculiar, for to my knowledge he has never possessed a rod or thrown a fly, nevertheless on occasion he has proved himself an efficient if amateurish gillie; and incredible as it may sound, he has been known to gaff a salmon with a pitchfork.

The fisherman's art is frequently accused of engendering unsocial qualities; be this as it may, no one could describe Andy as sociable, He lives absolutely alone in a tumbledown cabin from which, by

[merged small][ocr errors]

death in them with the windas that do be in them."

The aesthetic aspect of these dwellings leaves him quite cold. He does not like roses (rambler or otherwise); he likes manure. "They are so good for the women and children," I remark, in mild extenuation of their existence.

"Ay, musha, 'tis all they are good for."

Andy is not married. The tale runs that far back in his youth he "asked " a girl, but that the financial negotiations incident to marriage having broken down, he walked out of the house with the parting remark to the maiden's father, "Musha faith! ye may keep her," and from that hour lived celibate.

His opinion of women and ohildren has remained permanently coloured by this episode. On being reminded that without women and ohildren the world would speedily come to an end, he makes it olear that his estimation of the world is such that its extinction would be no calamity; yet I think he would be sorry to part with his pigs.

Of the great events which shake the world from time to time, it would be difficult to say how much he knows or understands. In an age when events are so largely manu

[blocks in formation]

"I once seen Par-nell. was a good man. tell me he's dead. be true now?"

Would that

When I reply in the affirmative, he shakes his head.

"It's the good people are taken; th' others are not wanted above or below, and so they're left here to tormint us.

In spite of his disabilities, however, I suspect he knows more about current events and modern conditions than he chooses to admit. It is his humour to pose as one blackly ignorant; nevertheless, the other day he said to me

"There's nothin' cheap but ohat," a summary of economic conditions at present as pithy as it was perspicacious.

"Ay, musha, ye'll always get a bargain of that so long as there's women in the worrld.' Meeting my eye at this point, a twinkle glimmers in his own, and he hastens to add—

"Sure they're always generous, the cratures!"

Not long ago an aeroplane flew over, the first ever seen in our part of the country. Excitement ran high; every one stood gazing up to heaven at this strange and remarkable sight. For perhaps five minutes Andy left off digging, and with

« PreviousContinue »