In compiling this record of what I did with my pen in the Great War, as we called it, I have purposely made no attempt to trim it into an academic history or to brush the dust off my own clothes or anyone else’s before coming up for judgment now that the shouting is over, and nothing is still in action except the plundering and ransoming by which the victors are pauperizing themselves.
War necessitates so much lying on the part of the belligerent governments to keep the people in blinkers that at last it becomes a reflex action: if anyone remarks at noon that it is twelve o’clock, some minister automatically articulates a solemn public assurance that there is no ground for any such suspicion, and gives private orders that references to the time of day are to be censored in future.
Their first volley was a wonder of pyrotechny: it produced a vast curtain of white incandescence of dazzling brilliancy, and - at least so we were assured - of such incredibly high temperature that hell itself would have shrivelled up in it. This sounded impressive; but the older officers were contemptuous, declaring that the stuff cooled so suddenly that you could pick it up when it touched ground and put it in your pocket “like a fourpenny bit”.
Childe Harold, in the Peninsula, said of our army and their foes that they had served but “To feed the crow on Talavera’s plain, And fertilize the field that each pretends to gain.” And now, it is said, matters are worse. We sterilize the field that each pretends to gain.
The great secret of our foreign policy is that we have no foreign policy.
The policy proposed in these two articles was accepted twelve years later at Locarno, when it was unanimously applauded as a triumph of British statesmanship. As the war had then taken place, and the policy was so completely out of date that it could do neither good nor harm, everyone felt quite happy about it.
One last word. In calling this book What I Really Wrote About the War, I have exposed myself to the obvious repartee, “Does it matter?”