Home > Uncategorized > Eric Ambler: It is not good for those who fight to know too much. Speeches, yes. The truth, no!

Eric Ambler: It is not good for those who fight to know too much. Speeches, yes. The truth, no!


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Eric Ambler: The Law did not think killing for money was insane


Eric Ambler
From Journey into Fear

“Most armies commit what are called atrocities at some time or other. They usually call them reprisals.”

“Including the British army, perhaps?”

“You would have to ask an Indian or an Afrikaner about that. But every country has its madmen. And when you give a license to kill they are not always particular about the way they kill….”


“You are right. It is not for us to ask questions. And why? Because the only people who can give the answers are the bankers and the politicians at the top, the boys with the shares in the big factories who make war materials, They will not give us answers. Why? Because they know that if the soldiers of France and England knew those answers they would not fight.”

His wife reddened. “You are mad! Naturally the men of France would fight to defend us from the filthy Bosche.” She glanced at Graham. “It is bad to say France would not fight. We are not cowards.”

“No, but neither are we fools.” He turned quickly to Graham. “Have you heard of Briey, Monsieur? From the mines of the Briey district comes ninety per cent of France’s iron ore. In nineteen fourteen those mines were captured by the Germans, who worked them for the iron they needed. They worked them hard. They have admitted since that without the iron they mined at Briey they would have been finished in nineteen seventeen. Yes, they worked Briey hard. I, who was at Verdun, can tell you that. Night after night we watched the glare in the sky a few kilometres away; the blast furnaces that were feeding the German guns. Our artillery and our bombing aeroplanes could have blown those furnaces to pieces in a week. But our artillery remained silent; an airman who dropped one bomb on the Briey area was court-martialled. Why?” His voice rose. “I will tell you why, Monsieur. Because there were orders that Briey was not to be touched. Whose orders? Nobody knew. The orders came from someone at the top. The Ministry of War said that it was the generals. The generals said that it was the Ministry of War. We did not find out the facts until after the war. The orders had been issued by Monsieur de Wendel of the Comité des Forges who owned the Briey mines and blast furnaces. We were fighting for our lives, but our lives were less important than that the property of Monsieur de Wendel should be preserved to make fat profits. No, it is not good for those who fight to know too much. Speeches, yes. The truth, no!”

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