(Something slightly different over the next few days some of the war columns that Margaret wrote. Followed up by an analysis (done by my daughter for her A level English Language course work) of her use of language)
A very innocent old lady was expressing the utmost horror of the assaults upon women in Belgium and Northern France, of which we heard so much in the early weeks of the war. Never since the world began, she feigned to believe, had there been such brutes as those Germans.
Lots of our soldiers are no better if they were not rigorously held in check, a nephew reminded her. “Never! Never! “ was her vehement denial: “No Englishman —!” She apparently believed that military discipline — if British — was a school of virtue, and that our soldiers were paragons of honour. In our enthusiastic patriotism, and faith in the righteousness of our cause, we are apt to forget that war encourages the basest passions of men.
I asked the indignant lady if she did not know that crimes against defenceless women have been the invariable accompaniment of every war since the world began. “You don’t say so?” she exclaimed with a simplicity that was transparently genuine.
The sufferings of women and of innocent civilians are more talked of in this latest war than in any previous one, for various reasons. Everybody can read; there is a cheap press; and the poorest knows as much as the richest of the tragic incidents of the great drama unfolding week by week.
But the greatest change of all is that there is a higher moral conscience which does not accept certain of the evils of war as a necessary element of war itself. Hence the Hague Conference, and the Hague Regulations — that most tragic diplomatic failure. No conference of humane men will ever rob war of its horrors. The only way to deprive it of its hideousness is to abolish it altogether. That is the great problem we must all help to solve.
And for how many thousands of years did women accept unquestioningly their inevitable fate when their country was over run by a victorious army? There was no newspaper to write of their anguish; there was no public conscience to cry shame upon their ravagers. It is one of the dark and hidden pages of history at which we can only guess.
But in this modern world women have secured a much higher place, which gives them a right to protest against unnecessary injury they suffer in war time. All the same, I hold firmly the belief that war cannot be purged of its evil, that it is an unnatural mode of life for men, and not conducive to virtue. It is inimical to family life and that alone condemns it.