We were placed in contact at once, both in Paris and in London, with the men we wished to see, many of whom were, of course, friends of long standing. We were shown laboratories, manufactories, testing-grounds, and given every imaginable help to get answers to questions and to see undreamed-of investigations. It was a most wonderful experience, to see the mobilization of a nation. There was no one, be he artist, merchant, scientist, or workman, who was not giving his service to his country. Office-hours and work-hours were from seven o’clock on; they had a beginning, but I never saw their end. Each week had seven days; for France and England know that they are at war, and modern warfare does not respect Sundays or festivals.
All the scientific work of the country is organized; there is no lost motion. There is complete coöperation between the staff, the men of science, and the manufacturers. The officer in the Army or Navy states his problem: he wishes to be able to locate the position of a batter of guns or a submarine; the scientific advisers instantly set to work. A geologist thinks his science can be of use to the general at the front; he is at once given an opportunity of proving the correctness of his idea. An airplane pilot thinks he can improve his machine; a manufacturer without a day’s delay, makes the alteration desired. It is wonderful. A whole nation at war is an awe-inspiring sight.
In Paris, which is now the centre of France, as never before, we received our theoretical instruction. We were interested in knowing about maps, for instance. We called, by appointment, to see the chief officer; he received us and at once gave us a lecture, with the clarity and breadth of view of a master, on the administration under his charge, telling us of each stage in the process of acquiring knowledge of the enemy’s country and putting this on the printed map. We asked for more details, and all were explained. Then we were shown the actual working of the machinery; all the instruments, the organization of the personnel, the printing processes themselves.
Or, we wished to know about airplanes. We were shown the experimental laboratories and wind-tunnels, the manufactories, the new engines undergoing their various tests, the aviation fields, and finally, as an illustration of how air-planes were used, we were shown the system for the defense of Paris against raids through the air.
So it was with respect to every subject. Nowhere were we more impressed than in Paris by the fact that the French are a serious people. Each man is keen in his profession, earnest in his work, eager to talk about it to any one like himself, anxious to be of help in any way, and frank in describing defects or lack of perfection. The French army officer is the most wonderful man I met in Europe.