IN 1920-AFTER THE WAR.
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Being a Letter Written from London by James Weldon to His Friend, Fred Grey, in Sydney, N.S.W.
Landon, 15th November, 1920. DEAR FRED.—Your letter is indeed welcome, as I have not heard from you now for over a year, when you told of your safe arrival in Sydney with the last of the Anzac boys, and I am indeed glad to hear you have settled down to work again, and that not only your own fellows,but the Tummies who elected to make Australia. their home, are doing well on the new land which has been opened up for them.
So far as we at home are concerned, although the war has now been over the better part of two years, matters have not yet fully returned to the normal, and the process of reconstruction is still in progress. Ever since we got over the first few months dislocation of trade which followed theydeclaration of peace, we have had a tremendous boom='-and an increasing boom up to now—in trade. ,
Effect of Government Organization.
We have had our troubles, of course, during this reconstruction period, and are not yet out of them. Undoubtedly the chief one has been in connection with labour. When the war stopped, the people, ignorantly and illogically, thought that, as by the touch of a fairy wand, we should almost attonce return to nor. mal conditions, and that food and other commodities would once more be cheap and plentiful. Because, owing -to the world shortage and to the shortage of ships, this was not the case, and they found that it was still difficult to get all supplies required, that prices remained where they were, and that distribution was still under Government control, they could. not understand it, and listened readily to the vapor-, ings of the agitators, whilst the hot-heads in the engineering shops and other producing trades urged the return to en canny methods and other shibboleths of pre-war trades utu.on ways, and the big strike followed. This, as no doubt you know, paralysed the trade of this country for months, and gave our American and Japanese Allies such a big chance in the world's markets, and helped, indeed, to enable German trade in foreign lands once more to gain a footing.
In this respect, it is worthy of note that the war has had somewhat of an equalizing•effect on the wage earnings of the workers of the world, as in this country
insisted nsisted on counting the-war bonus and war advances in wages generally as permanent wage increases, and this was one of the exciting causes of the strike. The result, of course, is—apart from the effect of the world shortage—that this in itself keeps, and. will continue to keep, prices high. This the workers cannot understand, ancliare grumbling, so we may yet have more trouble, although the new system which is giving the workers an interest in their work by payment on results rather than on time, is beginning to have a beneficial effect in making men more contented.
Still, Government organization has been useful in many ways, and particularly in regard to shipping control, which has only recently, indeed: ceased. But for the continuance of this, we should have had a wild scramble for shipping, both for import and export, freights would have risen to prohibitive heights, and tonnage would only have been obtainable by the big monopolist concerns. As it is, the close war control of exports and imports continued for six months, and was then gradually relaxed as more shins became available. The transports which took our Colonials and the American troops home were made to bring cargoes of foodstuffs and other necessaries baek, 8,nd, So far as America was concerned, the stoppage of war
material shipments threw open a lot of space for commercial goods. On the other band, the ships which were used to bring our own men home from all the far-flung centres of war and garrison work, were loaded up with exports on the outward voyages, and, although this delayed demobilization somewhat, this was an advantage so far as the home labour market was concerned, and the shipping position really righted itself much sooner -than might have been expected.
British Vehicles Hold Their Own.
But, you ask, how has motoring been affected with us ? Well, here.,:we have been experiencing a great boom in all classes of cars, as with other manufactured goods. Our manufacturers wisely made no effort to compete with the purely price propositions of the States ; but several of our largest firms, the output facilities of whose factories, as well as their capital, had been enormously increased by their war-time activities, came out • with really high-class, cars of moderate power, but of great completeness of detail and refinement, at prices very little in excess of the Ameaicau home prices of the medium or semi-popular types. Hence,1 when the heavy freights with which car exporters in all countries are still faced, were considered in conjunction with the preferential duties -throughout the British Empire, British cars were able to hold their own in both the British Empire and the European and many other overseas markets which are nearer us than the -States, pnrchasers being prepared to give preference to British goods when the difference in price was but slight, the quality generally being higher. Of course, it took some little time to reorganize the factories and get theni on to the new work, and here the American manufacturers had some advantage at first, but this was to a large extent nullified by the fact that, owing to the reduction of output in the American factories during 1918 due to the war, and the big money made during that period by everybody in trade in the States, the home demandstwhen full operations were resumed, was so great that, with one or two-exceptions, they had little time to give to earpert business,. In the lorry trade, as well as in the Motorcycle trade, much less time was taken in switching on to private business, as most of those factories had been kept on their usual work and had not been put on to other munitions during the war.
It was some.titne after the war, however, before all the ireetrictions on motoring were removed, as the tank ships had been so reduced that supplies of fuel continued short for full reqmirements, in spite of the .cessation of .Government demand for the aero and. war truck service, a-nd a large quantity of fuel was brought over in barrels as aeck cargo on general cargo ships. This fuel shortage has, however, long ago been relieved, as the result of the Government development and the exploitation under licence of the Persian oil fields, whieh bid fair to rank as the largest and most productive in the world. Gas, of course, by reason of its cheapness, has come into very large use, and is carried chiefly in corapressed form, although many commercial vehicles continue to employ. the gas bag, where their work is within a narrow area, on account of the lower initial cost.
Benzole is now a powerful competitor to petrol, and the plan has been addpted of distributing it in bulk drums instead of two-gallon tins. It is, indeed, now, where liquid fuel is employed., almost exclusively used on touting cars. Yet the price of petrol has not come clown to anything like pre-war figures, largely because of the very heavily-increased demand for fuel oil for our shipping and for paraffin for farm tractors and other heavy machinery, so that the oil people have been content to do the enormous trade they are still doing without cutting down their own profits, for they recognize that they can never drive their competitors out af the field now and demand is taking comfortable care of all their available supplies. The use of the motor in all its forms has enormously increased here Since the war, and this is especially the case in regard to the commercial vehicle. Owing to shortage of rolling stock and the need for re-laying most of the lines on account of neglect during the war, the railway companies at last—under Government and public pressure—put into operation the scheme for a central clearing house for goods which had been advocated before the war. This scheme is now just completed, and it has meant a very large increase in the number of lorries and vans of all kinds employed.
In:the interim, the automobile lorry has had to aupplement to a very large extent the work of the railways., especially in the opening up of country distriets, a movement which was largely assisted by the great scheme of highway reconstruction which was inaugurated immediately after the war, under the control of the Itoad Board, largely with a view to finding immediate work for discharged soldiers. In many districts a system of plateways of ferro-concrete was laid down, which has greatly facilitated heavy traffic, and, of course, the improved read surfaces generally have been a very good thing for motoring of all kinds, quite apart from motor transport work. This scheme is now in full swing, and when complete, which it is expected, to be in two or three years time, we shall have a road system which will surpass any other in the world.
All this has resulted in very great -changes. As it is, the old type country eaarier, with his sleepy horse, has • practically disappeared, and his place is "being taken by regular services of motor trucks and passenger cars and composite vehicles, which are opening up the countryside and bringing the villages nearer the towns, a development which is doing much to assist the "back to the land " movement, which, with the better recognition of the value of the farms and the farmer to the community and the higher wages and improved housing accommodation which is now being provided in country places, is already checking the migration into the towns and is re-peopling the countryside ; whilst the greater use of ears generally is spreading our urban population over a wider area, all of which is good for the country, good for the people, and good for the motor trade.
But if we have had important developments in motoring, we have had much greater and more astonishing developments in the air. The enormously rapid improvement and development of the aeroplane which took place during the war found us with machines which had reached' a remarkable degree of reliability; with almost as great a reliability, indeed, as we are to-day accustomed to associate with the motorcar itself. Moreover, the development of high power which has taken place has enabled speeds not far short of 200 miles per hour to be attained by purely speed machines of great power and great lightness, and has enabled men to take the air" in constructions of enormous size and weight and capable of carrying loads in the way of crew, passengers, and light freights, in addition to huge supplies of fuel. Not far off 50 tons in the aggregate can be carried by such machines, which are _capable of travelling long distances at speeds of from 70 to 100 miles an hour and even faster, and great developments have already taken place.
Now, there are some who say we shall shortly have a regular eross-Atlantie air service established, which will run weekly or monthly during the summer months
and carry 20 or 30 passengers in -comfortable cabins, with capable attendants, and perhaps 8 or 10 tons of special mails as well. It is also said that such a service could be maintained and made to pay on fares which would not require greatly to exceed those charged for the best berths in some of our transatlantic palace liners. As the trip would be made in about 30 hours, it would well pay the big business men on both sides of the Atlantic, quite apart from wealthy pleasure seekers, owing to the saving in time, to. cross by air. Long-distance mail and passenger services are also working.
• Trading with the Hun.
One transcontinental service is being established in Canada, and now a service is' being talked of which shall run from Neiy York to Panama and, possibly, go further and connect up with Beath America.
In addition to all this special heavy work, quite a substantial trade is being built up in private aeroplanes carrying from one to four passengers: You see, whea the war stopped, we had thousands of trained sad experienced flying men, who could handle a 'plane as freely as a car, and as many of these -were men of means, or the sons of wealthy people and they had taken up flying as much for their love Of it as for patriotism, when demobilization came these men had 'planes built for themselves, and the aerodromes all over the country soon became aeroplane garages and landing places, most of the war aerodromes and training grounds of Europe becoming such centres of air activity, as well as the stages or halting and changing stations, for the great flying 'liners." Indeed, there
is a boom setting in in this direction just now. ..
In your letter you ask me if I think we have really " outecl" the Hun in the markets of the world, as he is already beginning to try and gain a footing again in Australia. Perhaps, if I relate a little incident that occurred last week, it may serve to explain the position to-day. As you know, our Government, in deference to President Wilsods declaration that the Allies were not at war with the German people, declined to impose trading disabilities on our enemies, trusting to the amour propre of the people to keep the wily German at arm's length, and a strong. effort was made by business men to organize on their own an effective boycott, of the Hun.
However, as I say, the other day an unmistakable Teuton, smiling all over his face and trying to look as beamingly good-natured as if he were welcoming long-lost brother, walked into the office and offered to sell me spark-plugs at oo. At first he would not take a somewhat surly "No "for an answer, and was very persistent, till I lost patience and ripped out at him that he must take' us for lunatics to trade with his beastly country again after what had happened.' •
My! the cheek of the fellow ! He never turned a hair, but told me if I did not buy plenty of others would.; business was business after all, and Smialison down the street had given him an order for 50 gross. Money was money after all, and if he could supply cheaper than I could buy elsewhere, why worryl tela him he ought to be 'satisfied with the beating we had given his nation and keep at home, and he, still unabashed and evidently trying to appeal, to my sporting nature, said : "Anyhow, they had put up a good fight." That got my goat, and I "said things" as to their way of fighting and then, as the Hun does and always did, he turned nasty and boastful and told me it was true we did beat Germany, but it took all the world-to do it, and their time woUld come yet, when we should not have all the world with us. In the end, he went down my office stePs a great deal faster than he intended, and his hat followed him. But it will take a lot to squelch the Hun, and I fear you cannot suppress him. He is not built that way.
. Well, I fear I have wearied you with this long letter, but you asked-me how things have gone and are joing and I have told you. Lea me have another line soon, and remember me kindly to the other boys. Au revoir I , Yours sineerely,, Jamas. •