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The Last Million How They Invaded France—and England

The Last Million
How They Invaded France—and England
Author: Hay Ian
Title: The Last Million How They Invaded France—and England
Release Date: 2018-07-28
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 20
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By Ian Hay

THE LAST MILLION. How They Invaded France—andEngland.







HAPPY-GO-LUCKY. Illustrated by Charles E. Brock.

A SAFETY MATCH. With frontispiece.

A MAN’S MAN. With frontispiece.

THE RIGHT STUFF. With frontispiece.


Boston and New York




The Last Million

How They Invaded France—and England


Logo of Houghton Mifflin Company

The Riverside Press Cambridge









A Word to the Dedicatee ix
I. The Argonauts 1
II. Ship’s Company 10
III. The Lower Deck 21
IV. The Danger Zone 29
V. Terra Incognita 36
VI. Social Customs of the Islands 46
VII. Three Musketeers in London 58
VIII. The Promised Land 78
IX. The Exiles 91
X. S.O.S. to Dillpickle 104
XI. The Line 125
XII. Chasing Monotony 138
XIII. An Excursion and an Alarum 148
XIV. The Forest of the Argonne 164
XV. The Eleventh Hour 174
XVI. Gallia Victrix 193




[Note: The following is the substance of a little “Welcome”which the author was requested to write to American soldiersand sailors visiting England for the first time duringthe fateful days of 1918. It was distributed upon the transportsand in various American centres in England. Itspurpose is to set forth some of our national peculiarities—andincidentally the author’s Confession of Faith. It hasno bearing upon the rest of the story, and may be skippedby the reader without compunction.]

I. A Word of Explanation

I write this welcome to you American soldiers andsailors because I know America personally and thereforeI know what the word “welcome” means. And I see rightaway from the start that it is going to be a difficultproposition for us over here to compete with Americain that particular industry. However, we mean to try,and we hope to succeed. Anyway, we shall not fail fromlack of good-will.

Having bid you welcome to our shores, I am nextgoing to ask you to remember just one thing.

We are very, very short-handed at present. Duringthe past four years the people of the British Isles havecontributed to our common cause more than six millionsoldiers and sailors. On a basis of population, the purelyBritish contribution to the forces of the British Empireshould have been seventy-six per cent. The actual contributionhas been eighty-four per cent; and when wecome to casualties, not eighty-four but eighty-six per[x]cent of the total have been borne by those two littleislands, Great Britain and Ireland, which form thecradle of our race. You can, therefore, imagine the strainupon our man-power. Every man up to the age of fiftyis now liable to be drafted. The rest of our male population—roughlyfive millions—are engaged night andday in such occupations as shipbuilding, coal-mining,munition-making, and making two blades of corn growwhere one grew before. They are assisted in everydepartment, even in the war zone, by hundreds andthousands of devoted women.

So we ask you to remember that the England whichyou see is not England as she was, and as she hopes tobe again. You see England in overalls; all her prettyclothes are put away for the duration. Some day wehope once again to travel in trains where there is roomto sit down; in motor omnibuses and trolley cars forwhich you have not to wait in line. We hope again tosee our streets brightly lit, our houses freshly painted,flower boxes glowing in every window, and fountainsplaying in Trafalgar Square. We hope to see the cityonce again crowded with traffic as thick as that on FifthAvenue at Forty-second Street, and the uncanny silenceof our present-day streets banished by the cheerful turmoilof automobiles and taxis. And above all we hope tosee the air-raid shelters gone, and the hundreds of crippledmen in hospital blue no longer visible in our streets,and the long lines of motor ambulances, which assembleevery evening outside the stations to meet the hospitaltrains, swept away forever.

That is the old London—London as we would haveyou see it—London as we hope you will see it whenyou come back to us as holiday visitors. Meanwhile, weknow you will make allowances for us.


Also, you may not find us very hilarious. In some wayswe are strangely cheerful. For instance, you will see littlemourning worn in public. That is because, if black wereworn by all those who were entitled to wear it, you wouldsee little else. Again, you will find our theatres packednight after night by a noisy, cheerful throng. But theseare not idle people, nor are they the same people all thetime. They are almost entirely hard-worked folks enjoyinga few days’ vacation. The majority of them are soldierson leave from the Front. Few of them will be herenext week; some of them will never see a play again.The play goes on and helps the audience to forget for awhile, but it is a different audience every time.

And you will hear little talk about the War. Weprefer to talk of almost anything else. Probably youwill understand why. There is hardly a house in thiscountry which has not by this time made a personalcontribution to our cause. In each of these housesone of two trials is being endured—bereavement, thelesser evil, or suspense, the greater. We cannot, therefore,talk lightly of the War, and being determined notto talk anxiously about it, we compromise—we do nottalk about it at all.

We want you to know this. To know is to understand.

II. First Impressions

Meanwhile, let us ask for your impressions of ourcountry. It is only fair that we should be allowed to dothis, for you know what happens to visitors in theUnited States when the reporters get their hooks intothem.

So far as I have been able to gather, your impressionsamount to something like this:

There is no ice-water, no ice-cream, no soda-fountains,[xii]no pie. It is hard to get the old familiar eats in ourrestaurants.

Our cities are planned in such a way that it is impossibleto get to any place without a map and compass.

Our traffic all keeps to the wrong side of the street.

Our public buildings are too low.

There are hardly any street-car lines in London.

Our railroad cars are like boxes, and our locomotivesare the smallest things on earth.

Our weather is composed of samples.

Our coinage system is a practical joke.

Nobody, whether in street, train or tube, ever entersin conversation with you. If by any chance they do, theygrouch all the time about the Government and thegeneral management of the country.

Let us take the eats and drinks first. There is no ice-water.I admit it. I am sorry, but there it is. There neverwas much, but now that ammonia is mostly commandeeredfor munition work, there is less than ever. As anation we do not miss it. In this country our difficultyis not to get cool, but to keep warm. Besides, it is possiblethat our moist climate, and the absence of steam-heatin our houses, saves us from that parched feelingwhich I have so often experienced in the United States.Anyway, that familiar figure of American domestic life,the iceman, is unknown to us. We drink our water atordinary temperature—what you would call tepid—andwe keep our meat in a stone cellar instead of theice chest. As for ice-cream and soda-fountains, we havenever given ourselves over to them very much. As anation, we are hot-food eaters—that is, when we canget anything to eat! We are living on strict war rationshere, just as you are beginning to do in the States. Soyou must forgive our apparent want of hospitality.


III. The Land We live in

Next, our cities. After your own straight, wide,methodically-numbered streets and avenues, London,Liverpool, Glasgow, and the rest must seem like aChinese puzzle. I can only say in excuse that they havebeen there a very long time, and the people who startedin to build them did not foresee that they would everextend more than a few blocks. If Julius Cæsar hadknown that London was ultimately going to cover anarea of seven hundred square miles, and house a populationof seven and a half millions, I dare say he wouldhave made a more methodical beginning. But JuliusCæsar never visited America, and the science of town-planningwas unknown to him.

The narrow, winding streets of London are not suitedto trolley-car lines. This fact has given us the uniqueLondon motor ’bus, driven with incredible skill, andgay with advertisements. There are not so many ofthese ’buses to-day as there might be, and such asthere are are desperately full. But—c’est la guerre!Hundreds of our motor ’buses are over in Francenow. You will meet them when you get there, doingtheir bit—hurrying reënforcements to some hard-pressedpoint, or running from the back areas to therailhead, conveying happy, muddy Tommies home onleave.

And while we are discussing London, let me recommendyou to make a point of getting acquainted withthe London policeman. He is a truly great man. Watchhim directing the traffic down in the City, or whereWellington Street, on its way to Waterloo Bridge,crosses the Strand. He has no semaphore, no whistle;but simply extends an arm, or turns his back, and thetraffic swings to right or left, or stops altogether. Foreign[xiv]cities, even New York, are not ashamed to sendtheir police to London to pick up hints on traffic controlfrom the London “Bobby.” Watch him handle an unrulycrowd. He is unarmed, and though he carries a club,you seldom see it. If you get lost, ask him to direct you,for he carries a map of London inside his head. He iseverybody’s friend. By the way, if he wears a helmethe is one of the regular force. A flat cap is a sign of a“Special”—that is, a business man who is giving hisspare time, by day or night, to take the place of thosepolicemen who have joined the Colours. But, “Regular”or “Special,” he is there to help you.

There are no skyscrapers in England. The fact is,London is

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