[From St Stephen's House, 1920]
THE Rev. Studdert-Kennedy, a Church of England Chaplain, after serving for two years with the English Expeditionary Force in Flanders, wrote some blunt truths about war as he had seen it, and added : " My friends . . have said . . that my style is crude and brutal, . . . I would remind you that it is not and could not be as crude as war, or as brutal as a battle. I have not really violated what John Oxenham has finely called the most loving conspiracy of silence the world has ever known, or torn aside the veil of noble reticence behind which our soldiers seek to hide the suffering they endure. I would not if I could, and I could not if I would. I would not if I could because it would be cruel. I could not if I would, because the brutality of war is literally unutterable."
This is true, yet it is right that the results of the war in one of its side issues which can be told should be placed on record, and that we should realise to some extent the things which were going on in thousands of homes in our midst, amongst English-born women and children, and which, because of the more sensational horrors that were taking place across the channel, and also, alas because the victims bore alien names, were too often completely ignored.
There is another reason : the work of the Emergency Committee herein described was carried on by a few hundred men and women at a total outlay of less than ,£100,000. The work was begun with the deliberate intention of obeying the commands of Christ in the treatment of ones enemies, and it has met with a success that is out of all proportion to the efforts put forth. If nothing had resulted but our own hearts being kept soft and tender during those terrible years and comforted in sore trial by the continual sense of the divine guidance, many of us would have felt amply repaid ; but in addition we had the joy of constantly seeing wrongs righted, tears wiped away, desolate homes made bright and sad-eyed little children won back to smiles and gladness.
Here was indeed a rich reward.
But even this was not all. After the war, came the discovery that the work of the Committee, as it became known in Germany had kept alive a belief in the power of good will and the possibility of a better world.
The Emergency Committee has asked me to write the story of our work ; in doing so I have striven above all for accuracy, testing my memories by consultation with my comrades and by reference to Case Reports made at the time. With us accuracy was essential, for our statements were always liable to be challenged, so the records kept were. very full. There was indeed a superabundance of material, the difficulty being to make the best selection.
I was myself in constant attendance at the office during the first three and a half years of the war, and have since continued to be in close touch with it through correspondence and occasional visits to London.
I wish here to acknowledge the help received from Mr. Malcolm Quin, of Penrith, who has most kindly placed the MSS. of his unpublished book, " Friends and Enemies " at our disposal.
In my story very few of our workers are mentioned by name, but I cannot refrain from referring to the happy fellowship which we enjoyed at the office, not amongst the members of our own Society of Friends only, but with all those others of whatever name who were helpers with us. There were hundreds of them, not in London alone, but throughout the provinces, and they gave money and time and personal service freely and unstintingly.
Some told us that they came to help because of kindness rendered in past days to themselves or their loved ones by people of the enemy nations ; others came because of their hatred to war and their faith in a common humanity, but, whatever their motive, they all, I believe, found blessing in the work, and it is especially to these our comrades that I wish to dedicate these short records. A.B.T.