5 MAY 1923, Page 21


to this diary quotes one of the entries as the reason for its

publication :—

" The only way to stop war is to tell these facts in the school history books and cut out the rot about the gallant charges, the victorious returns, and the blushing damsels who scatter roses under the conquering heroes' feet. Every soldier knows that the re-writing of the history books would stop war more effectively than the most elaborately covenanted league which tired political legal minds can conceive."

A still more effective method, in the present reviewer's opinion, would be an international agreement that a nation's

army should consist exclusively of the personnel of its Govern- meat: but this simple arrangement is not likely to be adopted at present. Meimwhile, one of the surest ways of abolishing

• Throngh the Russian Revolution. By Albert My& Williams. London: Labour Pubilahing Co. 17s. 6d4 t A Soldier's Diarj. By Ralph Scott. London: Collins. Os. net.] war is to undermine what even the late War itself did not completely tmdermlne—the romantic conception of war cherished by large numbers of persons who took no part in it. In this direction a book such as this one is especially valuable because it is written not by a professional pacifist or a man who is prepared to erect a strong intellectual case against war, but by a vigorous sport-loving Englishman of ordinary practical intelligence who speaks not from prin- ciples but from hard experience. Many of those who fought in the War will recognize in the fury and bitterness of much of the book a very accurate presentation of their own normal frame of mind under those circumstances. That frame of mind reveals the gulf which separated the attitude of the intelligent fighting man from the rest of his countrymen. Mr. Scott's bitterness breaks out against the patriotic hero- worshipping people at home, against the blunders of the Staff, against what he feels will be the ordinary post-War attitude ; in fact, against almost everybody except his own men and the enemy. He is haunted by the horrors and sacrifices, the sheer heroism and endurance of ordinary men, by all the facts of a soldier's life which, he is convinced, will never be realized and appreciated in their real significance :— " And the pity of all is this—that nobody will ever understand It is hell to be able to see these things, but in two years I know it will all be forgotten. 'It is over,' they will say, 'we must forget it, it was so terrible.' The world will go back into the old grooves. without honour, without heroism, without ideals, and these dear, darling fellows of mine Will be factory men' once more."

The horrors of the line rouse in him disgust not only for the facts themselves but also for the conventional glorification of war :—

" The sergeants found a very good place for their tent, but a dead Hun was in possession of the freehold. They decided to bury him, and deepened a shell-hole accordingly ; then the problem. how to get him into it ? The Sergeant-Major took his boots and the Famer very gingerly took his sleeves ; they lifted, but his arms came out in the Farrier's hands. . . . Finally, the Farrier put his gas mask on and literally buried him in shovelfuls. Pre pairia . . "

That passage is one of many equally horrible, for Mr. Scott does not spare the horrors. And it is well that he does not, not only because to do so would be to falsify his picture of the War, but also because it is extremely necessary that we should bear those horrors in mind. That we should forget the War and all its appalling actualities is counsel suitable only for an ideally perfect Europe. The sooner we forget the War, while human society is what it is, the sooner we shall have another : and in fact, more than once since the Armistice, Europe has been within an ace of another. It is books like th's one, which present hard facts without argument or discussion, that best serve to remind us of what war means. As a picture of the ordinary life in the line in Prance it is vivid, complete, and true to the reality.