Mr. Punch's History of the Great War online

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"Only this little bullet that the doctor took out of my side."

"I wish it had been a German helmet."]

The tenderness with which King Constantine is still treated, even after the
riot in Athens in which our bluejackets have been badly mishandled, is
taxing the patience of moderate men. Mr. Punch, for example, exasperated by
the cumulative effect of Tino's misdeeds, has been goaded into making a
formidable forecast of surrender or exit:

You say your single aim is just to use
Your regal gifts for your beloved nation;
Why, then, I see the obvious line to choose,
Meaning, of course, the path of abdication;
Make up your so-called mind - I frankly would -
To leave your country for your country's good.

The German Emperor was prevented from being present at the funeral of the
late Emperor Francis Joseph by a chill. One is tempted to think that in a
lucid interval of self-criticism William of Hohenzollern may have wished to
spare his aged victim this crowning mockery.

Motto for Meatless Days: "The time is out of joint." This is a _raison de
plus_ for establishing an _Entente_ in the kitchen and getting
Marianne to show Britannia how to cook a cabbage.

_January, 1917_.

Though the chariots of War still drive heavily, 1917 finds the Allies in
good heart - "war-weary but war-hardened." The long agony of Verdun has
ended in triumph for the French, and Great Britain has answered the Peace
Talk of Berlin by calling a War Conference of the Empire. The New Year has
brought us a new Prime Minister, a new Cabinet, a new style of Minister.
Captains of Commerce are diverted from their own business for the benefit
of the country. In spite of all rumours to the contrary Lord Northcliffe
remains outside the new Government, but his interest in it is, at present,
friendly. It is very well understood, however, that everyone must behave.
And in this context Mr. Punch feels that a tribute is due to the outgoing
Premier. Always reserved and intent, he discouraged Press gossip to such a
degree as actually to have turned the key on the Tenth Muse. Interviewers
had no chance. He came into office, held it and left it without a single
concession to Demos' love of personalia.

[Illustration: THE DAWN OF DOUBT

GRETCHEN: "I wonder if this gentleman really is my good angel after all!"]

Germany has not yet changed her Chancellor, though he is being bitterly
attacked for his "silly ideas of humanity" - and her rulers have certainly
shown no change of heart. General von Bissing's retirement from Belgium is
due to health, not repentance. The Kaiser still talks of his "conscience"
and "courage" in freeing the world from the pressure which weighs upon all.
He is still the same Kaiser and Constantine the same "Tino," who, as the
_Berliner Tageblatt_ bluntly remarks, "has as much right to be heard
as a common criminal." Yet signs are not wanting of misgivings in the
German people.

Mr. Wilson has launched a new phrase on the world - "Peace without Victory";
but War is not going to be ended by phrases, and the man who is doing more
than anyone else to end it - the British infantryman - has no use for them:

The gunner rides on horseback, he lives in luxury,
The sapper has his dug-out as cushy as can be,
The flying man's a sportsman, but his home's a long way back,
In painted tent or straw-spread barn or cosy little shack;
Gunner and sapper and flying man (and each to his job say I)
Have tickled the Hun with mine or gun or bombed him from on high,
But the quiet work, and the dirty work, since ever the War began,
Is the work that never shows at all, the work of the infantryman.

The guns can pound the villages and smash the trenches in,
And the Hun is fain for home again when the T.M.B.s begin,
And the Vickers gun is a useful one to sweep a parapet,
But the real work is the work that's done with bomb and bayonet.
Load him down from heel to crown with tools and grub and kit,
He's always there where the fighting is - he's there unless he's hit;
Over the mud and the blasted earth he goes where the living can;
He's in at the death while he yet has breath, the British infantryman!

Trudge and slip on the shell-hole's lip, and fall in the clinging mire -
Steady in front, go steady! Close up there! Mind the wire!
Double behind where the pathways wind! Jump clear of the ditch, jump
Lost touch at the back? Oh, halt in front! And duck when the shells come
Carrying parties all night long, all day in a muddy trench,
With your feet in the wet and your head in the rain and the sodden
khaki's stench!
Then over the top in the morning, and onward all you can -
This is the work that wins the War, the work of the infantryman.

And if anyone should think that this means the permanent establishment of
militarism in our midst let him be comforted by the saying of an old
sergeant-major when asked to give a character of one of his men. "He's a
good man in the trenches, and a good man in a scrap; but you'll never make
a soldier of him." The new armies fight all the harder because they want to
make an end not of this war but of all wars. As for the regulars, there is
no need to enlarge on their valour. But it is pleasant to put on record the
description of an officer's servant which has reached Mr. Punch from
France: "Valet, cook, porter, boots, chamber-maid, ostler, carpenter,
upholsterer, mechanic, inventor, needlewoman, coalheaver, diplomat, barber,
linguist (home-made), clerk, universal provider, complete pantechnicon and
infallible bodyguard, he is also a soldier, if a very old soldier, and a
man of the most human kind."

Parliament is not sitting, but there is, unfortunately, no truth in the
report that in order to provide billets for 5,000 new typists and
incidentally to win the War, the Government has commandeered the Houses of
Parliament. The _Times Literary Supplement_ received 335 books of
original verse in 1916, and it is rumoured that Mr. Edward Marsh may very
shortly take up his duties as Minister of Poetry and the Fine Arts. Mr.
Marsh has not yet decided whether he will appoint Mr. Asquith or Mr.
Winston Churchill as his private secretary. Meanwhile, a full list of the
private secretaries of the new private secretaries of the members of the
new Government may at any moment be disclosed to a long suffering public.

On the Home Front the situation shows that a famous literary critic was
also a true prophet:

O Matthew Arnold! You were right:
We need more Sweetness and more Light;
For till we break the brutal foe,
Our sugar's short, our lights are low.

The domestic problem daily grows more acute. A maid, who asked for a rise
in her wages to which her mistress demurred, explained that the gentleman
she walked out with had just got a job in a munition factory and she would
be obliged to dress up to him.


COOK (who, after interview with prospective mistress, is going to think it

"'Ullo! Prambilator! If you'd told me you 'ad children I needn't have
troubled meself to 'ave come."

THE PROSPECTIVE MISTRESS: "Oh! B-but if you think the place would
otherwise suit you, I dare say we could board the children out."]

Maids are human, however, though their psychology is sometimes
disconcerting. One who was told by her mistress not to worry because her
young man had gone into the trenches responded cheerfully, "Oh, no, ma'am,
I've left off worrying now. He can't walk out with anyone else while he's


_February_ 1917,

The rulers of Germany - the Kaiser and his War-lords - proclaimed themselves
the enemies of the human race in the first weeks of the War. But it has
taken two years and a half to break down the apparently inexhaustible
patience of the greatest of the neutrals. A year and three-quarters has
elapsed since the sinking of the _Lusitania_. The forbearance of
President Wilson - in the face of accumulated insults, interference in the
internal politics of the United States, the promotion of strikes and
_sabotage_ by the agents of Count Bernstorff - has exposed him to hard
and even bitter criticism from his countrymen. Perhaps he over-estimated
the strength of the German-American and Pacificist elements. But his
difficulties are great, and his long suffering diplomacy has at least this
merit, that if America enters the War it will be as a united people.
Germany's decision to resort to unrestricted submarine warfare on February
1 is the last straw: now even Mr. Henry Ford has offered to place his works
at the disposal of the American authorities.

Day by day we read long lists of merchant vessels sunk by U-boats, and
while the Admiralty's reticence on the progress of the anti-submarine
campaign is legitimate and necessary, the withholding of statistics of new
construction does not make for optimism. Victory will be ours, but not
without effort. The great crisis of the War is not passed. That has been
the burden of all the speeches at the opening of Parliament from the King's

Lord Curzon, who declared that we were now approaching "the supreme and
terrible climax of the War," has spoken of the late Duke of Norfolk as a
man "diffident about powers which were in excess of the ordinary." Is not
that true of the British race as a whole? Only now, under the stress of a
long-drawn-out conflict, is it discovering the variety and strength of its
latent forces. The tide is turning rapidly in Mesopotamia. General Maude,
who never failed to inspire the men under his command on the Western front
with a fine offensive spirit, has already justified his appointment by
capturing Kut, and starting on a great drive towards Baghdad.

[Illustration: THE LAST THROW]

On the Salonika front, to quote from one of Mr. Punch's ever-increasing
staff of correspondents, "all our prospects are pleasing and only Bulgar
vile." On the Western front the British have taken Grandcourt, and our
"Mudlarks," encamped on an ocean of ooze, preserve a miraculous equanimity
in spite of the attention of rats and cockroaches and the vagaries of the
transport mule.


HEAD OF GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT (in his private room in recently commandeered
hotel): "Boy! Bring some more coal!"]

At home the commandeering of hotels to house the new Ministries proceeds
apace, and a request from an inquiring peer for a comprehensive return of
all the buildings requisitioned and the staffs employed has been declined
on the ground that to provide it would put too great a strain on officials
engaged on work essential to winning the War.

The criticisms on the late Cabinet for its bloated size have certainly not
led to any improvement in this respect, and one of the late Ministers has
complained that the Administration has been further magnified until, if all
its members, including under-secretaries, were present, they would fill not
one but three Treasury Benches. Already this is a much congested district
at question-time and the daily scene of a great push. Up to the present
there are, however, only thirty-three actual Ministers of the Crown, and
their salaries only amount to the trifle of £133,000. The setting up of a
War Cabinet, "a body utterly unknown to the law," has excited the
resentment of Mr. Swift MacNeill, whose reverence for the Constitution
(save in so far as it applies to Ireland) knows no bounds; and Mr. Lynch
has expressed the view that it would be a good idea if Ireland were
specially represented at the Peace Conference, in order that her delegates
might assert her right to self-government.

England, in February, 1917, seems to deserve the title of "the great Loan
Land." Amateurs of anagrams have found satisfaction in the identity of
"Bonar Law" with "War Loan B." As a cynic has remarked, "in the midst of
life we are in debt." But the champions of national economy are not happy.
The staff of the new Pensions Minister, it is announced, will be over two
thousand. It is still hoped, however, that there may be a small surplus
which can be devoted to the needs of disabled soldiers. Our great warriors
are in danger of being swamped by our small but innumerable officials.

[Illustration: A PLAIN DUTY

"Well, good-bye, old chap, and good luck! I'm going in here to do my bit,
the best way I can. The more everybody scrapes together for the War Loan,
the sooner you'll be back from the trenches."]

The older Universities, given over for two years to wounded soldiers and a
handful of physically unfit or coloured undergraduates, are regaining a
semblance of life by the housing of cadet battalions in some colleges. The
Rhodes scholars have all joined up, and normal academic life is still in

In Tom his Quad the Bloods no longer flourish;
Balliol is bare of all but mild Hindoos;
The stalwart oars that Isis used to nourish
Are in the trenches giving Fritz the Blues,
And many a stout D.D.
Is digging trenches with the V.T.C.

[Illustration: The Brothers Tingo, who are exempted from military service,
do their bit by helping to train ladies who are going on the land.]

It is true that Mr. Bernard Shaw has visited the front. No reason is
assigned for this rash act, and too little has been made of the fact that
he wore khaki just like an ordinary person. Amongst other signs of the
times we note that women are to be licensed as taxi-drivers:

War has taught the truth that shines
Through the poet's noble lines:
"Common are to either sex
_Artifex and opifex_."

A new danger is involved in the spread of the Army Signalling Alphabet. The
names of Societies are threatened. The dignity of Degrees is menaced by a
code which converts B.A. into Beer Ack. Initials are no longer sacred, and
the great T.P. will become Toc Pip O'Connor, unless some Emma Pip
introduces a Bill to prevent the sacrilege.

_March,_ 1917.

With the end of Tsardom in Russia, the fall of Baghdad, and the strategic
retreat of Hindenburg on the Western front, all crowded into one month,
March fully maintains its reputation for making history at the expense of
Caesars and Kaisers. It seems only the other day when the Tsar's assumption
of the title of Generalissimo lent new strength to the legend of the
"Little Father." But the forces of "unholy Russia" - Pro-German Ministers
and the sinister figure of Rasputin - have combined to his undoing, and now
none is so poor to do him reverence. In the House of Commons everybody
seems pleased, including Mr. Devlin, who has been quite statesmanlike in
his appreciation, and the Prime Minister, in one of his angelic visits to
the House, evoked loud cheers by describing the Revolution as one of the
landmarks in the history of the world. But no one noticed that Sir Henry
Campbell-Bannerman's outburst in 1906, just after the dissolution of
Russia's first elected Parliament: "_La Duma est morte; vive la Duma_!
" has now been justified by the event - at any rate for the moment, for
Revolutions are rich in surprises and reactions. The capture of Baghdad
inspires no misgivings, except in the bosoms of Nationalist members, who
detect in the manifesto issued by General Maude fresh evidences of British

The fleet of Dutch merchantmen, which has been sunk by a waiting submarine,
sailed under a German guarantee of "relative security." Germany is so often
misunderstood. It should be obvious by this time that her attitude to
International Law has always been one of approximate reverence. The shells
with which she bombarded Rheims Cathedral were contingent shells, and the
_Lusitania_ was sunk by a relative torpedo. Neutrals all over the
world, who are smarting just now under a fresh manifestation of Germany's
respective goodwill, should try to realise before they take any action what
is the precise situation of our chief enemy: He has (relatively) won the
War; he has (virtually) broken the resistance of the Allies; he has
(conditionally) ample supplies for his people; in particular he is
(morally) rich in potatoes. His finances at first sight appear to be pretty
heavily involved, but that soon will be adjusted by (hypothetical)
indemnities; he has enormous (proportional) reserves of men; he has
(theoretically) blockaded Great Britain, and his final victory is
(controvertibly) at hand. But his most impressive argument, which cannot
fail to come home to hesitating Neutrals, is to be found in his latest
exhibition of offensive power, namely, in his (putative) advance - upon the

A grave statement made by the Under-Secretary for War as to the recent
losses of the Royal Flying Corps on the Western front and the increased
activity of the German airmen has created some natural depression. The
command of the air fluctuates, but the spirit of our airmen is a sure
earnest that the balance will be redressed in our favour. Mr. Punch has
already paid his tribute to the British infantryman. Let him now do his
homage to the heroes whose end is so often disguised under the laconic
announcement: "One of our machines did not return."

[Illustration: ALSO RAN

WILHELM: "Are you luring them on, like me?" MEHMED: "I'm afraid I am!"]

I like to think it did not fall to earth,
A wounded bird that trails a broken wing,
But to the heavenly blue that gave it birth,
Faded in silence, a mysterious thing,
Cleaving its radiant course where honour lies
Like a winged victory mounting to the skies.

The clouds received it, and the pathless night;
Swift as a flame, its eager force unspent,
We saw no limit to its daring flight;
Only its pilot knew the way it went,
And how it pierced the maze of flickering stars
Straight to its goal in the red planet Mars.

So to the entrance of that fiery gate,
Borne by no current, driven by no breeze,
Knowing no guide but some compelling fate,
Bold navigators of uncharted seas,
Courage and youth went proudly sweeping by,
To win the unchallenged freedom of the sky.

Parliament has been occupied with many matters, from the Report of the
Dardanelles Commission to the grievances of Scots bee-keepers. The woes of
Ireland have not been forgotten, and the Nationalists have been busily
engaged in getting Home Rule out of cold storage. Hitherto every attempt of
the British Sisyphus to roll the Stone of Destiny up the Hill of Tara has
found a couple of Irishmen at the top ready to roll it down again. Let us
hope that this time they will co-operate to install it there as the throne
of a loyal and united Ireland. Believers in the "Hidden Hand" have been on
the war-path, and as a result of prolonged discussion as to the
responsibility for the failure of the effort to force the Dardanelles, the
House is evidently of opinion that Lord Fisher might now be let alone by
foes and friends. The idea of blaming _Queen Elisabeth_ for the fiasco
is so entirely satisfactory to all parties concerned that one wonders why
the Commission couldn't have thought of that itself.


Mr. Bernard Shaw, returned from his "joy-ride" at the Front, has declared
that "there is no monument more enduring than brass"; the general feeling,
however, is that there is a kind of brass that is beyond enduring.
Armageddon is justified since it has given him a perfectly glorious time.
He is obliged, in honesty, to state that the style of some of the buildings
wrecked by the Germans was quite second rate. He entered and emerged from
the battle zone without any vulgar emotion; remaining immune from pity,
sorrow, or tears. In short:

He went through the fiery furnace, but never a hair was missed
From the heels of our most colossal Arch-Super-Egotist.

According to the latest news from Sofia, 35,000 Bulgarian geese are to be
allowed to go to Germany. As in the case of the Bulgarian Fox who went to
Vienna, there appears to be little likelihood that they will ever return.



LITTLE GIRL: "Oh, Mummy! They've given me a dirty plate."

MOTHER: "Hush, darling. That's the soup."]

Apropos of food supplies, Lord Devonport has developed a sense of judicial
humour, having approved a new dietary for prisoners, under which the bread
ration will be cut down to 63 ounces per week, or just one ounce less than
the allowance of the free and independent Englishman. The latest morning
greeting is now: "_Comment vous Devonportez-vous?_"

_April_, 1917.

Once more the rulers of Germany have failed to read the soul of another
nation. They thought there was no limit to America's forbearance, and they
thought wrong. America is now "all in" on the side of the Allies. The Stars
and Stripes and the Union Jack are flying side by side over the Houses of
Parliament. On the motion introduced in both Houses to welcome our new
Ally, Mr. Bonar Law, paraphrasing Canning, declared that the New World had
stepped in to redress the balance of the old; Mr. Asquith, with a
fellow-feeling, no doubt, lauded the patience which had enabled President
Wilson to carry with him a united nation; and Lord Curzon quoted Bret
Harte. The memory of some unfortunate phrases is obliterated by the
President's historic message to Congress, and his stirring appeal to his
countrymen to throw their entire weight into the Allied scale. The War,
physically as well as morally, is now _Germania contra Mundum_. Yet,
while we hail the advent of a powerful and determined Ally, there is no
disposition to throw up our hats. The raw material of manpower in America
is magnificent in numbers and quality, but it has to be equipped and
trained and brought across the Atlantic. Many months, perhaps a whole year,
must elapse before its weight can be felt on the battle front. The
transport of a million men over submarine-infested seas is no easy task.
But while we must wait for the coming of the Americans on land, their help
in patrolling the seas may be counted on speedily.


THE NEW-COMER: "My village, I think?"

THE ONE IN POSSESSION: "Sorry, old thing; I took it half-an-hour ago."]


(_It is the intention of our new Ally to assist us in the patrolling of
the Atlantic_.)]

The British have entered Péronne; the Canadians have captured Vimy Ridge.
But the full extent of German frightfulness has never been so clearly
displayed as in their retreat. Here, for once, the German account of their
own doings is true. "In the course of these last months great stretches of
French territory have been turned by us into a dead country. It varies in
width from 10 to 12 or 13 kilometres, and extends along the whole of our
new positions. No village or farm was left standing, no road was left
passable, no railway track or embankment was left in being. Where once were
woods, there are gaunt rows of stumps; the wells have been blown up.... In
front of our new positions runs, like a gigantic ribbon, our Empire of
Death" (_Lokal Anzeiger_, March 18, 1917). The general opinion of the
Boche among the British troops is that he is only good at one thing, and
that is destroying other people's property. One of Mr. Punch's
correspondents writes to say that while the flattened villages and severed
fruit trees are a gruesome spectacle, for him "all else was forgotten in
speechless admiration of the French people.

"Their self-restraint and adaptability are beyond words. These hundreds of
honest people, just relieved from the domineering of the Master Swine, and
restored to their own good France again, were neither hysterical nor
exhausted." The names of the new German lines - Wotan and Siegfried and
Hunding - are not without significance. We accept the omen: it will not be
long before we hear of fresh German activities in the _Götterdämmerung_
line. Count Reventlow has informed the Kaiser that without victory a
continuation of the Monarchy is improbable. The "repercussion" of
Revolution is making itself felt. Even the Crown Prince is reported
to have felt misgivings as to the infection of anti-monarchial ideas,
and Mr. Punch is moved to forecast possibilities of upheaval:

Not that the Teuton's stolid wits
Are built to plan so rude a plot;
Somehow I cannot picture Fritz
Careering as a _sans-culotte_;
Schooled to obedience, hand and heart,
I can imagine nothing odder
Than such behaviour on the part
Of inoffensive cannon-fodder.

And yet one never really knows.
You cannot feed his massive trunk
On fairy tales of beaten foes,
Or Hindenburg's "victorious" bunk;

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