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Title: Fields of Victory
Author: Ward, Humphry, Mrs., 1851-1920
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fields of Victory" ***

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FIELDS OF VICTORY

By

Mrs. Humphry Ward



With Illustrations, Colored Map
and Folding Statistical Chart



1919,
by Charles Scribner's Sons
New York

Published September, 1919

1919,
by The Evening Mail Syndicate



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

A WORD OF INTRODUCTION                                    vii

   I. FRANCE UNDER THE ARMISTICE                            3

  II. THE DEFENSIVE BATTLE OF LAST SPRING                  27

 III. TANKS AND THE HINDENBURG LINE                        57

  IV. GENERAL GOURAUD AT STRASBOURG                        92

   V. ALSACE-LORRAINE--THE GLORY OF VERDUN                111

  VI. AMERICA IN FRANCE                                   134

 VII. AMERICA IN FRANCE (_continued_)                     166

VIII. "FEATURES OF THE WAR"                               184

  IX. TANKS AND AEROPLANES--THE STAFF WORK OF THE WAR     213

      EPILOGUE                                            258

      APPENDIX--EXPLANATION OF CHART                      269



A WORD OF INTRODUCTION


_May 26th._

It is a bold thing, I fear, to offer the public yet more letters based
on a journey through the battle-fields of France--especially at a
moment when impressions are changing so fast, when the old forms of
writing about the war seem naturally out of date, or even distasteful,
and the new are not yet born. Yet perhaps in this intermediate period,
the impressions of one who made two journeys over some of the same
ground in 1916 and 1917, while the great struggle was at its height,
and on this third occasion found herself on the Western front just two
months after the Armistice, may not be unwelcome to those who, like
myself, feel the need of detaching as soon as possible some general
and consistent ideas from the infinite complexity, the tragic and
bewildering detail, of the past four years. The motive which sent me
to France three months ago was the wish to make clear to myself if I
could, and thereby to others, the true measure of the part played by
the British Empire and the British Armies in the concluding campaigns
of the war. I knew that if it could be done at all at the present
moment--and by myself--it could only be done in a very broad and
summary way; and also that its only claim to value would lie in its
being a faithful report, within the limits I had set myself, of the
opinions of those who were actually at the heart of things, _i.e._, of
the British Higher Command, and of individual officers who had taken
an active part in the war. For the view taken in these pages of last
year's campaigns, I have had, of course, the three great despatches of
the British Commander-in-Chief on which to base the general sketch I
had in mind; but in addition I have had much kind help from the
British Headquarters in France, where officers of the General Staff
were still working when I paid a wintry visit to the famous Ecole
Militaire at the end of January; supplemented since my return to
London by assistance from other distinguished soldiers now at the War
Office, who have taken trouble to help me, for which I can never thank
them enough.[1] It was, naturally, the aim of the little book which
won it sympathy; the fact that it was an attempt to carry to its
natural end, in brief compass, the story which, at Mr. Roosevelt's
suggestion, I first tried to tell in _England's Effort_, published in
1916. _England's Effort_ was a bird's-eye view of the first two years
of the war, of the gathering of the new Armies, of the passing into
law, and the results--up to the Battle of the Somme--of the Munitions
Act of 1915. In this book, which I have again thrown into the form of
letters--(it was, in fact, written week by week for transmission to
America after my return home from France)--I have confined myself to
the events of last year, and with the special object of determining
what ultimate effect upon the war was produced by that vast military
development of Great Britain and the Empire, in which Lord Kitchener
took the first memorable steps. It seemed to me, at the end of last
year, as to many others, that owing, perhaps, to the prominence of
certain startling or picturesque episodes in the history of 1918, the
overwhelming and decisive influence of the British Armies on the last
stage of the struggle had been to some extent obscured and
misunderstood even amongst ourselves--still more, and very naturally,
amongst our Allies. Not, of course, by any of those in close contact
with the actual march of the war, and its directing forces; but rather
by that floating public opinion, now more intelligent, now more
ignorant, which plays so largely on us all, whether through
conversation or the press.

  [1] My thanks are especially due to Lieut.-Colonel Boraston, of the
  General Staff, and also to my friend Colonel John Buchan, whose
  wonderful knowledge of the war, as shown in his History, has done
  so much during the last four years to keep the public at home in
  touch with all the forces of the Allies, but especially with the
  British Armies and the British Navy, throughout the whole course of
  the struggle.

My object, then, was to bring out as clearly as I could the part that
the British Armies in France, including, of course, the great Dominion
contingents, played in the fighting of last year. To do so, it was
necessary also to try and form some opinion as to the respective
shares in the final result of the three great Armies at work in France
in 1918; to put the effort of Great Britain, that is, in its due
relation to the whole concluding act of the war. In making such an
attempt I am very conscious of its audacity; and I need not say that
it would be a cause of sharp regret to me should the estimate here
given--which is, of course, the estimate of an Englishwoman--offend
any French or American friend of mine. The justice and generosity of
the best French opinion on the war has been conspicuously shown on
many recent occasions; while the speech in Paris the other day of the
If Dean of Harvard as to the relative parts in the war--on French
soil--of the Big Three--and the reception given to it by an audience
of American officers have, I venture to think, stirred and deepened
affection for America in the heart of those English persons who read
the report of a remarkable meeting. But there is still much ignorance
both here at home and among our Allies, on both sides of the sea, of
the full part played by the forces of the British Empire in last
year's drama. So it seemed to me, at least, when I was travelling, a
few months ago, over some of the battle-fields of 1918; and I came
home with a full heart, determined to tell the story--the last chapter
in _England's Effort_--broadly and sincerely, as I best could; It was
my firm confidence throughout the writing of these letters that the
friendship between Britain, France, and America--a friendship on
which, in my belief, rests the future happiness and peace of the
world--can only gain from free speech and from the free comparison of
opinion. And in the brilliant final despatch of Sir Douglas Haig which
appeared on April 12th, after six letters had been written and sent to
America, will be found, I venture to suggest, the full and
authoritative exposition of some at least of the main lines of thought
I have so imperfectly summarised in this little book.

The ten letters were written at intervals between February and May. It
seemed better, in republishing them, not to attempt much recasting.
They represent, mainly, the impressions of a journey, and of the
conversations and reading to which it led. I have left them very much,
therefore, in their original form, hoping that at least the freshness
of "things seen" may atone somewhat for their many faults.



FIELDS OF VICTORY



CHAPTER I

FRANCE UNDER THE ARMISTICE


London, _February, 1919._

A bewildering three weeks spent in a perpetually changing
scene--changing, and yet, outside Paris, in its essential elements
terribly the same--that is how my third journey to France, since the
war began, appears to me as I look back upon it. My dear
daughter-secretary and I have motored during January some nine hundred
miles through the length and breadth of France, some of it in severe
weather. We have spent some seven days on the British front, about the
same on the French front, with a couple of nights at Metz, and a
similar time at Strasburg, and rather more than a week in Paris.
Little enough! But what a time of crowding and indelible impressions!
Now, sitting in this quiet London house, I seem to be still bending
forward in the motor-car, which became a sort of home to us, looking
out, so intently that one's eyes suffered, at the unrolling scene. I
still see the grim desolation of the Ypres salient; the heaps of ugly
wreck that men call Lens and Lieviny and Souchez; and that long line
of Notre Dame de Lorette, with the Bois de Bouvigny to the west of
it--where I stood among Canadian batteries just six weeks before the
battle of Arras in 1917. The lamentable ruin of once beautiful Arras,
the desolation of Douai, and the villages between it and Valenciennes,
the wanton destruction of what was once the heart of Cambrai, and that
grim scene of the broken bridge on the Cambrai--Bapaume road, over the
Canal du Nord, where we got out on a sombre afternoon, to look and
look again at a landscape that will be famous through the world for
generations: they rise again, with the sharpness of no ordinary
recollection, on the inward vision. So too Bourlon Wood, high and dark
against the evening sky; the unspeakable desolation and ruin of the
road thence to Bapaume; Bapaume itself, under the moon, its poor
huddled heaps lit only, as we walked about it, by that strange,
tranquil light from overhead, and the lamps of our standing motor-car;
some dim shapes and sights emerging on the long and thrice-famous road
from Bapaume to Albert, first, the dark mound of the Butte de
Warlencourt, with three white crosses on its top, and once a
mysterious light in a fragment of a ruined house, the only light I saw
on the whole long downward stretch from Bapaume to Albert. Then the
church of Albert, where the hanging Virgin used to be in 1917,
hovering above a town that for all the damage done to it was then
still a town of living men, and is now a place so desolate that one
shrinks from one's own voice in the solitude, and so wrecked that only
the traffic directions here and there, writ large, seem to guide us
through the shapeless heaps that once were streets. And, finally, the
scanty lights of Amiens, marking the end of the first part of our
journey.

These were the sights of the first half of our journey. And as they
recur to me, I understand so well the anxious and embittered mood of
France, which was so evident a month ago;[2] though now, I hope,
substantially changed by the conditions of the renewed Armistice. No
one who has not seen with his or her own eyes the situation in
Northern France can, it seems to me, realise its effects on the
national feeling of the country. And in this third journey of mine, I
have seen much more than Northern France. In a motor drive of some
hundreds of miles, from Metz to Strasburg, through Nancy, Toul, St.
Mihiel, Verdun, Châlons, over the ghastly battle-fields of Champagne,
through Rheims, Chateau-Thierry, Vaux, to Paris, I have always had the
same spectacle under my eyes, the same passion in my heart. If one
tried to catch and summarise the sort of suppressed debate that was
going on round one, a few weeks ago, between Allied opinion that was
trying to reassure France, and the bitter feeling of France herself,
it seemed to fall into something like the following dialogue:

  [2] These pages were written in the first week of February.

"All is well. The Peace Conference is sitting in Paris."

"Yes--_but what about France_?"

"President Wilson and Mr. Lloyd George have gradually brought the
recalcitrant elements into line. The League of Nations is a reality."

"_Yes--but what about France?_ Has the President been to see these
scores of ruined towns, these hundreds of wiped-out villages, these
fantastic wrecks of mines and factories, these leagues on leagues of
fruitful land given back to waste, these shell-blasted forests, these
broken ghosts of France's noblest churches?"

"The President has made a Sunday excursion from Paris to Rheims. He
saw as much as a winter day of snow and fog would allow him to see.
France must be patient. Everything takes time."

"Yes!--so long as we can be sure that the true position is not only
understood, but felt. But our old, rich, and beautiful country, with
all the accumulations on its soil of the labour, the art, the thought
of uncounted generations, has been in this war the buffer between
German savagery and the rest of Europe. Just as our armies bore the
first brunt and held the pass, till civilisation could rally to its
own defence, so our old towns and villages have died, that our
neighbours might live secure. We have suffered most in war--we claim
the first thought in peace. We live in the heart and on the brink of
danger. Our American Allies have a No Man's Land of the Atlantic
between them and the formidable and cruel race which has wreaked this
ruin, and is already beginning to show a Hydra-like power of
recuperation, after its defeat; we have only a river, and not always
that. We have the right to claim that our safety and restoration, the
safety of the country which has suffered most, should at this moment
be the first thought of Europe. You speak to us of the League of
Nations?--By all means. Readjustments in the Balkans and the East?--As
much as you please. But here stands the Chief Victim of the war--and
to the Chief Victim belongs of right the chief and first place in
men's thoughts, and in the settlement. Do not allow us even to _begin_
to ask ourselves whether, after all, we have not paid too much for the
alliance we gloried in?"

Some such temper as this has been showing itself since the New Year,
in the discontent of the French Press, in the irritation of French
talk and correspondence. And, of course, behind the bewildered and
almost helpless consciousness of such a loss in accumulated wealth as
no other European country has ever known before, there is the
ever-burning sense of the human loss which so heavily deepens and
complicates the material loss. One of the French Ministers has lately
said that France has lost three millions of population, men, women,
and children, through the war. The fighting operations alone have cost
her over a million and a half, at least, of the best manhood of France
and her Colonies. _One million and a half!_ That figure had become a
familiar bit of statistics to me; but it was not till I stood the
other day in that vast military cemetery of Châlons, to which General
Gouraud had sent me, that, to use a phrase of Keats, it was "proved"
upon "one's own pulses." Seven thousand men lie buried there, their
wreathed crosses standing shoulder to shoulder, all fronting one way,
like a division on parade, while the simple monument that faces them
utters its perpetual order of the day: "Death is nothing, so long as
the Country lives. _En Avant!_"

And with that recollection goes also another, which I owe to the same
General--one of the idols of the French Army!--of a little graveyard
far up in the wilds of the Champagne battle-field--the "Cimetière de
Mont Muret," whence the eye takes in for miles and miles nothing but
the trench-seamed hillsides and the bristling fields of wire. Here on
every grave, most of them of nameless dead, collected after many
months from the vast battle-field, lie heaped the last possessions of
the soldier who sleeps beneath--his helmet, his haversack, his
water-bottle, his _spade_. These rusty spades were to me a tragic
symbol, not only of the endless, heart-wearing labour which had
produced those trenched hillsides, but also of that irony of things,
by which that very labour which protected the mysterious and spiritual
thing which the Frenchman calls _patrie_, was at the same time ruining
and sterilising the material base from which it springs--the _soil_,
which the Frenchman loves with an understanding tenacity, such as
perhaps inspires no other countryman in the world. In Artois and
Picardy our own British graves lie thickly scattered over the murdered
earth; and those of America's young and heroic dead, in the
battle-fields of Soissons, the Marne, and the Argonne, have given it,
this last year, a new consecration. But here in England our land is
fruitful and productive, owing to the pressure of the submarine
campaign, as it never was before; British farming and the American
fields have cause to bless rather than to curse the war. Only in
France has the tormented and poisoned earth itself been blasted by the
war, and only in France, even where there are no trenches, have whole
countrysides gone out of cultivation, so that in the course of a long
motor drive, the sight of a solitary plough at work, or merely a strip
of newly ploughed land amid the rank and endless waste, makes one's
heart leap.

No!--France is quite right. Her suffering, her restoration, her future
safety, as against Germany, these should be, must be, the first
thought of the Allies in making peace. And it is difficult for those
of us who have not seen, _to feel_, as it is politically necessary, it
seems to me, we should feel.

Since I was in France, however, a fortnight ago, the proceedings in
connection with the extension of the Armistice, and the new
restrictions and obligations laid on Germany, have profoundly affected
the situation in the direction that France desires. And when the
President returns from the United States, whither he is now bound, he
will surely go--and not for a mere day or two!--to see for himself on
the spot what France has suffered. If so, some deep, popular instincts
in France will be at once appeased and softened, and Franco-American
relations, I believe, greatly improved.

No doubt, if the President made a mistake in not going at once to the
wrecked districts before the Peace Conference opened--and no one has
insisted on this more strongly than American correspondents--it is
clear that it was an idealist's mistake. Ruins, the President seems to
have said to himself, can wait; what is essential is that the League
of Nations idea, on which not Governments only, but _peoples_ are
hanging, should be rapidly "clothed upon" by some practical shape;
otherwise the war is morally and spiritually lost.

Certainly the whole grandiose conception of the League, so vague and
nebulous when the President arrived in Europe, has been marvellously
brought out of the mists into some sort of solidity, during these
January weeks. Not, I imagine, for some of the reasons that have been
given. An able American journalist, for instance, writing to the
_Times_, ascribes the advance of the League of Nations project
entirely to the close support given to the President by Mr. Lloyd
George and the British Government; and he explains this support as due
to the British conviction "that the war has changed the whole position
of Great Britain in the world. The costs of the struggle in men, in
money, in _prestige_ (the italics are mine), have cut very deeply; the
moral effect of the submarine warfare in its later phase, and of last
year's desperate campaign, have left their marks upon the Englishman,
and find expression in his conduct.... British comment frankly
recognises that it will never again be within the power of Great
Britain, even if there were the desire, to challenge America in war or
in peace."

In other words, the support given by Great Britain to President
Wilson's ideas means that British statesmen are conscious of a loss of
national power and prestige, and of a weakened Empire behind them.

Hasty words, I think!--and, in my belief, very wide of the mark. At
any rate I may plead that during my own month in France I have been in
contact with many leading men in many camps, English, French, and
American, and both military and diplomatic, especially with the
British Army and its chiefs; and so far from perceiving in the
frankest and most critical talk of our own people--and how critical we
are of our own doings those know who know us best--any sense of lost
prestige or weakened power, my personal impression is overwhelmingly
the other way. We are indeed anxious and willing to share
responsibilities, say in Africa, and the Middle East, with America as
with France. Why not? The mighty elder power is eager to see America
realise her own world position, and come forward to take her share in
a world-ordering, which has lain too heavy until now on England's sole
shoulders. She is glad and thankful--the "weary Titan"--to hand over
some of her responsibilities to America, and to share many of the
rest. She wants nothing more for herself--the Great Mother of
Nations--why should she? She has so much. But loss of prestige? The
feeling in those with whom I have talked, is rather the feeling of
Kipling's _Recessional_--a profound and wondering recognition that the
Imperial bond has indeed stood so magnificently the test of these four
years, just as Joseph Chamberlain, the Empire-builder, believed and
hoped it would stand, when the day of testing came; a pride in what
the Empire has done too deep for many words; coupled with the stubborn
resolution, which says little and means everything--that the future
shall be worthy of the past.

And as to the feeling of the Army--it is expressed, and, as far as I
have been able to judge from much talk with those under his command,
most truly expressed, in Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig's December
despatch--which came out, as it happens, the very day I had the honour
of standing at his side in the Commander-in-Chief's room, at G.H.Q.,
and looking with him at the last maps of the final campaign. "The
effect of the great assaults," says the Field-Marshal, "in which,
during nine days of battle (September 26th--October 5th), the First,
Third, and Fourth Armies stormed the line of the Canal du Nord, and
broke through the Hindenburg line, upon the subsequent course of the
campaign, was decisive.... Great as were the material losses the enemy
had suffered, the effect of so overwhelming a defeat upon a _morale_
already deteriorated, was of even larger importance." Again: "By the
end of October, the rapid succession of heavy blows dealt by the
British forces had had a cumulative effect, both moral and material,
upon the German Armies. The British Armies were now in a position to
force an immediate conclusion." That conclusion was forced in the
battle of the Sambre (1st to 11th November). By that "great victory,"
says Sir Douglas Haig, "the enemy's resistance was definitely broken;"
and thus "in three months of epic fighting the British Armies in
France had brought to a sudden and dramatic end the great wearing-out
battle of the past four years."

[Illustration: British Battles During 1918 (8th Aug. to 11th Nov.,
1918).]

Do these sentences--the utterances of a man conspicuously modest and
reticent in statement, indicate any consciousness of "lost prestige"
in "a last desperate campaign"?

The fact is--or so it seemed to me--that while the British Army
salutes with all its heart, the glorious record of that veteran Army
of France which bore the brunt of the first years of war, which held
the gate at Verdun at whatever cost in heroic lives, and inscribed
upon its shield last year the counter-attacks in the Marne salient,
and the superb stand of General Gouraud in Champagne; and while, at
the same time, it realises and acknowledges to the full the enormous
moral and military effect of the warm American tide, as it came
rushing over France through the early summer of last year, and the
gallantry of those splendid American lads, who, making mock of death,
held the crossing of the Marne, took Bouresches and Belleau Wood,
fought their hardest under General Mangin in the Soissons
counter-attack of July 18th, and gallantly pushed their way, in spite
of heavy losses, through the Argonne to the Meuse at the end of the
campaign--there is yet no doubt in any British military mind that it
was the British Army which brought the war to its victorious end. The
British Army had grown, after the great defensive battle of the
spring, by a kind of national rebound, of which there have been many
instances in our history, to a wonderful military strength and
efficiency, and to it fell, not by any choice of its own, so to speak,
but by the will of the gods, and the natural disposition of events,
the final and decisive strokes of the war. The French had already
"saved Europe by their example," through three bloody and heroic
years, and they were bound, in 1918, to economise, where possible,
their remaining men; while, if the war had lasted another six months,
_or_ if America had come in a year earlier, the decisive battles might
well have fallen to the American Army and General Pershing. But, as it
happened, the British Army was at its zenith of power, numbers, and
efficiency, when the last hammer-blows of the war had to be given--and
our Army gave them. I do not believe there is a single instructed
American or French officer who would deny this. But, if so, it is a
fact which will and must make itself permanently felt in the
consciousness of the Empire.

In one of the bare rooms of that Ecole Militaire, at Montreuil, where
the British General Staff has worked since 1916, I saw on a snowy day
at the end of January a chart covering an entire wall, which held me
riveted. It was the war at a glance--so far as the British Army is
concerned--from January, 1916, to the end. The rising or falling of
our bayonet strength, the length of line held, casualties,
prisoners--everything was there--and when finally the Hindenburg line
is broken, after the great nine days of late September and early
October, the prisoners' line leaps suddenly to such a height that a
new piece has to be added perpendicularly to the chart, and the wall
can hardly take it in. What does that leaping line mean? _Simply the
collapse of the German morale_--the final and utter defeat of the
German Army as a fighting force. I hope with all my heart that the
General Staff will allow that chart to be published before the fickle
popular memory has forgotten too much of the war.[3]

  [3] By the kindness of General Sir Herbert Lawrence, Chief of the
  General Staff, I am able to give a small reproduction of this chart,
  which will be found at the end of the book, with an explanation
  written by Captain W.O. Barton.

Let me then say, in recapitulation, and as presenting the main thesis
of these papers, that to the British mind, at any rate, so
inarticulate often, yet so tenacious, the Western campaign of last
year presents itself as having been fought by three national Armies:

(1) The veteran and glorious French Army, which, while providing in
Marshal Foch the master-spirit of the last unified effort, was yet,
after its huge sacrifices at Verdun, in Champagne, and many another
stricken field, inevitably husbanding its resources in men, and
yielding to the Armies of its Allies the hottest work in the final
struggle;

(2) The British Army, which, after its victorious reaction from its
March defensive, was at the very height of its four years' development
in men, training, and _morale_, and had already shown by the stand of
the Third Army at Arras, at the very fiercest moment of the German
onslaught, that although Germany might still attack, it was now
certain that, so long as the British Army was in the field, she could
not win the war: and finally;

(3) The young and growing American Army, which had only been some six
months in the fighting line, and was still rather a huge _promise_,
though of capital importance, both politically and militarily, than a
performance. It was brave and ardent, like a young eaglet, "with eyes
intentive to bedare the sun;" but it had its traditions to lay down,
its experience to buy, and large sections of its military lesson still
to learn. It could not, as a fighting force, have determined the war
last year; and the war was finally won, under the supreme command of a
great Frenchman, by the British Army, acting in concert with the
French and American armies--and supported by the British naval
blockade, and the British, French, and Serbian military successes in
the East.

In such a summary I am, naturally, merely a _porte-voix_, trying to
reproduce the thoughts of many minds, as I came across them in France.
But if this is the general upshot of the situation, and the general
settled conviction of the instructed British mind, as I believe it to
be, our alliance with France and our friendship with America, so
passionately upheld by all that is best in our respective nations,
have both of them nothing to lose from its temperate statement. Great
Britain, in spite of our national habit of running ourselves down, is
not, indeed, supporting the League of Nations from any sense at all of
lost prestige or weakened power, but from an idealism no less hopeful
and insistent than that of America, coupled with a loathing of war no
less strong.

_The League of Nations!_--A year ago how many of us had given any
serious thought to what was then a phrase, a dream, on which in the
dark days of last spring it seemed a mere waste of time to dwell? And
yet, week by week, since the New Year began, the dream has been slowly
taking to itself body and form.

On the very day (January 25th) when the League of Nations resolution
was passed at the Paris Conference, I happened to spend an interesting
hour in President Wilson's company, at the Villa Murat. Mrs. Wilson,
whose gentle kindness and courtesy were very widely appreciated in
Paris, had asked me to come in at six o'clock, and await the
President's return from the Conference. I found her with five or six
visitors round her, members of the Murat family, come to pay a visit
to the illustrious guest to whom they had lent their house--the
Princesse Murat, talking fluent English, her son in uniform, her
widowed daughter and two delicious little children. In little more
than five minutes, the President came in, and the beautiful room made
a rich setting for an interesting scene. He entered, radiant, and with
his first words, standing in our midst, told us that the Conference
had just passed the League of Nations resolution. The two tiny
children approached him, the little girl curtseyed to him, the little
boy kissed his hand; and then they vanished, to remember, perhaps,
fifty years hence, the dim figure of a tall and smiling man, whom they
saw on a day marked in history.

The President took his seat as the centre of our small circle. I am
not going to betray the confidence of what was a private visit, but
general impressions are not, I think, forbidden. I still seem to see
the Princesse Murat opposite me, in black, her fingers playing with
her pearls as she talked; the French officer with folded arms beside
her; next to him the young widowed lady, whose name I did not catch,
then Mrs. Wilson, with the intelligent face of her secretary, Miss
Benham, in the background, and between myself and Princesse Murat, the
easy, attractive presence of the man whom this old Europe, with one
accord, is now discussing, criticising, blaming or applauding. The
President talked with perfect simplicity and great apparent frankness.
There is a curious mingling in his face, it seemed to me, of something
formidable, at times almost threatening, with charm and sweetness. You
are in the presence of something held in leash; that something is
clearly a will of remarkable quality and power. You are also in the
presence of something else, not less strongly controlled, a
consciousness of success, which is in itself a promise of further
success. The manner has in it nothing of the dictator, and nothing of
the pedant; but in the President's instinctive and accomplished choice
of words and phrases, something reminded me of the talk of George
Eliot as I heard it fifty years ago; of the account also given me
quite recently by an old friend and classmate of the President,
describing the remarkable pains taken with him as a boy, by his
father, to give him an unfailing command of correct and musical
English.

The extraordinary effectiveness lent by this ease and variety of
diction to a man who possesses not only words but ideas, is strongly
realised in Paris, where an ideal interpreter, M. Paul Mantoux, is
always at hand to put whatever the President says into perfect French.
M. Jusserand had given me an enthusiastic account, a few days before
this little gathering at the Villa Murat, of an impromptu speech at a
luncheon given to the President by the Senate, and in listening to the
President's conversation, I understood what M. Jusserand had felt, and
what a weapon at need--(how rare also among public men!)--is this
skilled excellence in expression, which the President commands, and
commands above all, so some of his shrewdest observers tell me, when
he is thrown suddenly on his own resources, has no scrap of paper to
help him, and must speak as Nature and the Fates bid him. It is said
that the irreverent American Army, made a little restive during the
last months of the year by the number of Presidential utterances it
was expected to read, and impatient to get to the Rhine, was settling
down in the weeks before the Armistice, with a half-sulky resignation
to "another literary winter." One laughs, but never were the art and
practice of literature more signally justified as a power among men
than by this former Professor and Head of a college, who is now among
the leading political forces of the world.

Well, we talked of many things--of the future local habitation of the
League of Nations, of the Russian _impasse_, and the prospects of
Prinkipo, of Mr. Lloyd George's speech that day at the Conference, of
Siberia and Japan, of Ireland even! There was no difficulty anywhere;
no apparent concealment of views and opinions. But there was also no
carelessness and no indiscretion. I came away feeling that I had seen
a remarkable man, on one of the red-letter days of his life;
revolving, too, an old Greek tag which had become familiar to me:

"Mortal men grow wise by seeing. But without seeing, how can any man
foretell the future--how he may fare?"

In other words, call no work happy till it is accomplished. Yes!--but
men and women are no mere idle spectators of a destiny imposed on
them, as the Greeks sometimes, but only sometimes, believed. They
themselves _make_ the future. If Europe wants the League of Nations,
and the end of war, each one of us must turn to, _and work_, each in
our own way. Since the day of the first Conference resolution, the
great scheme, like some veiled Alcestis, has come a good deal further
down the stage of the world. There it stands while we debate; as
Thanatos and Heracles fought over the veiled queen. But in truth it
rests with us, the audience, and not with any of the leading
characters in the drama, to bring that still veiled figure into life
and light, and to give it a lasting place in the world's household.

Meanwhile the idea is born; but into a Europe still ringing with the
discords of war, and in a France still doubtful and full of fears.
There is a brooding and threatening presence beyond the Rhine. And
among the soldiers going and coming between the Rhine bridge-heads and
Paris, there is a corresponding and anxious sense of the fierce
vitality of Germany, and of the absence of any real change of heart
among her people. Meanwhile the relations between Great Britain and
America were never closer, and the determination of the leading men in
both countries to forge a bond beyond breaking between us was never so
clear. There are problems and difficulties ahead in this friendship,
as in all friendships, whether national or individual. But a common
good-will will solve them, a common resolve to look the facts of the
moment and the hopes of the future steadily in the face.



CHAPTER II

THE DEFENSIVE BATTLE OF LAST SPRING

I.


_March, 1919._

Among the impressions and experiences of my month in France there are
naturally some that stand out in particularly high relief. I have just
described one of them. But I look back to others not less vivid--an
evening, for instance, with General Horne and his staff; a walk along
the Hindenburg line and the Canal du Nord, north and south of the
Arras-Bapaume road; dinner with General Gouraud in the great building
at Strasbourg, which was formerly the headquarters of the German Army
Corps holding Alsace, and is now the French Préfecture; the eastern
battle-field at Verdun, and that small famous room under the citadel,
through which all the leaders of the war have passed; Rheims Cathedral
emerging ghostly from the fog, with, in front of it, a group of
motor-cars and two men shaking hands, the British Premier and the
Cardinal-Archbishop; that desolate heart of the Champagne
battle-field, where General Gouraud, with the American Army on his
right, made his September push towards Vouziers and Mézières; General
Pershing in his office, and General Pershing _en petit comité_ in a
friend's drawing-room, in both settings the same attractive figure,
with the same sudden half-mischievous smile and the same observant
eyes; and, finally, that rabbit-warren of small, barely furnished
rooms in the old Ecole Militaire at Montreuil, where the British
General Staff worked during the war, when it was not moving in its
staff train up and down behind the front.

But I do not intend to make these letters a mere _omnium gatherum_ of
recollections. All through, my object has been to lay hold of the main
outline of what has happened on the Western front during the past
eleven months, and if I could, to make them clear to other civilians,
men and women, as clearly and rapidly as possible, in this interval
between the régime of _communiqués_ and war-correspondence under which
we have lived so long, and those detailed and scientific histories
which every Army, and probably every corps and division, is now either
writing, or preparing to write, about its own doings in the war.
Meanwhile the official reports drawn up by each Army under the British
Command are "secret documents." The artillery dispositions of the
great battles which brought the war to an end cannot yet be disclosed.
There can, therefore, be no proper maps of these battles for some time
to come, while some of the latest developments in offensive warfare
which were to have been launched upon the enemy had the war continued,
are naturally not for the public for a good while ahead. And
considering that, year by year, we are still discussing and
investigating the battles of a hundred years ago--(look for instance
at the lists of recent books on the Napoleonic campaigns in the
Cambridge Moddern History!)--we may guess at the time mankind will
take hereafter in writing about and elucidating a war, where in many
of the great actions, as a Staff Officer remarked to me, a Waterloo
might have been lost without being missed, or won without being more
than a favourable incident in an otherwise perhaps unfavourable whole.

At the same time, this generation has got somehow--as an ingredient in
its daily life--to form as clear a mental picture as it can of the war
as a whole, and especially just now of its closing months in France. For
the history of those last months is at the present moment an _active
agent in the European situation_. What one may call the war-consciousness
of France, with the first battle of the Marne, glorious Verdun, the
Champagne battle-field, the victorious leadership of Marshal Foch, on
the one hand--her hideous losses in men, her incalculable loss in
material and stored-up wealth, and her stern claim for adequate
protection in future, on the other, as its main elements; the
war-consciousness of Great Britain and the Empire, turning essentially
on the immortal defence of the Ypres salient and the Channel ports,
the huge sacrifices of the Somme, the successes and disappointments of
1917, the great defensive battle of last March, and the immediate and
brilliant reaction, leading in less than five months to the beginning
of that series of great actions on the British front which finished
the war--all interpenetrated with the sense of perpetual growth in
efficiency and power; and finally, the American war-consciousness, as
it emerged from the war, with its crusading impulse intact, its sense
of boundless resources, and its ever-fresh astonishment at the
irrevocable part America was now called on to play in European
affairs:--amid these three great and sometimes clashing currents, the
visitor to France lived and moved in the early weeks of the year. And
then, of course, there was the Belgian war-consciousness--a new thing
for Belgium and for Europe. But with that I was not concerned.

Let me try to show by an illustration or two drawn from my own recent
experience what the British war-consciousness means.

It was a beautiful January day when we started from the little inn at
Cassel for Ypres, Menin, Lille, Lens, and Vimy. From the wonderful
window at the back of the inn, high perched as Cassel is above a wide
plain, one looked back upon the roads to St. Omer and the south, and
thought of the days last April, when squadron after squadron of French
cavalry came riding hot and fast along them to the relief of our
hard-pressed troops, after the break of the Portuguese sector of the
line at Richebourg St. Vaast. But our way lay north, not south,
through a district that seemed strangely familiar to me, though in
fact I had only passed forty-eight hours in it, in 1916. Forty-eight
hours, however, in the war-zone, at a time of active fighting, and
that long before any other person of my sex had been allowed to
approach the actual firing-line on the British front, were not like
other hours; and, perhaps, from much thinking of them, the Salient and
the approaches to it, as I saw them in 1916 from the Scherpenberg
hill, had become a constant image in the mind. Only, instead of seeing
Ypres from the shelter of the Scherpenberg Windmill, as a distant
phantom in the horizon mists, beyond the shell-bursts in the
battle-field below us, we were now to go through Ypres itself, then
wholly forbidden ground, and out beyond it into some of the
ever-famous battle-fields that lie north and south of the Ypres-Menin
road.

One hears much talk in Paris of the multitudes who will come to see
the great scenes of the war, as soon as peace is signed, when the
railways are in a better state, and the food problems less, if not
solved. The multitudes indeed have every right to come, for it is
nations, not standing armies, that have won this war. But, personally,
one may be glad to have seen these sacred places again, during this
intermediate period of utter solitude and desolation, when their very
loneliness "makes deep silence in the heart--for thought to do its
part." The roads in January were clear, and the Army gone. The only
visitors were a few military cars, and men of the salvage corps,
directing German prisoners in the gathering up of live shells and
hand-grenades, of tons of barbed wire and trip wire, and all the other
_débris_ of battle that still lie thick upon the ground. In a few
months perhaps there will be official guides conducting parties
through the ruins, and in a year or two, the ruins of Ypres themselves
may have given place to the rising streets of a new city. As they now
are, a strange and sinister majesty surrounds them. At the entrance to
the town there still hangs the notice: "Troops are not to enter Ypres
except on special duty"; and the grass-grown heaps of masonry are
labelled: "It is dangerous to dig among these ruins." But there was no
one digging when we were there--no one moving, except ourselves. Ypres
seemed to me beyond recovery as a town, just as Lens is; but whereas
Lens is just a shapeless ugliness which men will clear away rejoicing
as soon as their energies are free for rebuilding, Ypres in ruin has
still beauty enough and dignity enough to serve--with the citadel at
Verdun--as the twin symbol of the war. There was a cloud of jackdaws
circling round the great gashed tower where the inner handiwork of the
fifteenth-century builders lay open to sky and sun. I watched them
against the blue, gathering in, also, the few details of lovely work
that still remain here and there on the face of what was once the
splendid Cloth Hall, the glory of these border lands. And one tried to
imagine how men and women would stand there a hundred years hence,
amid what developments of this strange new world that the war has
brought upon us, and with what thoughts.

Beyond, we were in the wide, shell-pocked waste of the huge
battle-field, with many signs on its scarred face of the latest
fighting of all, the flooding back of the German tide in last April
over these places which it had cost us our best lives to gain, and of
the final victorious advance of King Albert and the British Second
Army which sent the Germans flying back through Limburg to their own
land. Beside us, the innumerable, water-logged shell-holes, in which,
at one time or another in the swaying forward and backward of the
fight, the lives of brave men have been so piteously lost, strangled
in mud and ooze; here a mere sign-post which tells you where Hooge
stood; there the stumps that mark Sanctuary Wood and Polygon Wood, and
another sign-post which bears the ever-famous name of Gheluvelt. In
the south-eastern distance rises the spire of Menin church. And this
is _the Menin Road_. How it haunted the war news for months and years,
like a blood-stained presence! While to the south-east, I make out
Kemmel, Scherpenberg, and the Mont des Cats and in the far north-west
a faint line with a few trees on it--_Passchendaele_!

Passchendaele!--name of sorrow and of glory. What were the British
losses, in that three months' fighting from June to November, 1917,
which has been called the "Third Battle of Ypres," which began with
the victory of the Messines ridge and culminated in the Canadian
capture of Passchendaele?[4] Outside the inner circle of those who
know, there are many figures given. They are alike only in this that
they seem to grow perpetually. Heroic, heart-breaking wrestle with the
old hostile forces of earth and water--black earth and creeping water
and strangling mud! We won the ridge and we held it till the German
advance in April last forced our temporary withdrawal; we had pushed
the Germans off the high ground into the marsh lands beyond; but we
failed, as everyone knows, in the real strategic objects of the
attack, and the losses in the autumn advance on Passchendaele were an
important and untoward factor in the spring fighting of 1918.

  [4] Mr. Bonar Law has stated in the House of Commons since these
  lines were written that the losses in the third battle of Ypres,
  from Messines to Passchendaele, July--October, 1917, were 228,000.

How deeply this Ypres salient enters into the war-consciousness of
Britain and the Empire! As I stand looking over the black stretches of
riddled earth, at the half-demolished pill-boxes in front, at the
muddy pools in the shell-holes under a now darkening sky; at the flat
stretches between us and Kemmel where lie Zillebeke and St. Eloi, and
a score of other names which will be in the mouth of history hundreds
of years hence, no less certainly than the names of those little
villages north and south of Thermopylae, which saw the advance of the
Persians and the vigil of the Greeks--a confusion of things read and
heard, rush through one's mind, taking new form and vividness from
this actual scene in which they happened. There, at those cross roads,
broke the charge of the Worcesters, on that most critical day of all
in the First Battle of Ypres, when the fate of the Allies hung on a
thread, and this "homely English regiment," with its famous record in
the Peninsula and elsewhere, drove back the German advance and saved
the line. I turn a little to the south and I am looking towards Klein
Zillebeke where the Household Cavalry charged, and Major Hugh Dawnay
at their head "saved the British position," and lost his own gallant
life. Straight ahead of us, down the Menin road towards Gheluvelt,
came the Prussian Guards, the Emperor's own troops with their master's
eye on them, on November 11th, when the First Division in General
Haig's First Corps, checked them, enfiladed them, mowed them down,
till the flower of the Imperial troops fell back in defeat, never
knowing by how small a fraction they had missed victory, how thin a
line had held them, how little stood between them and the ports that
fed the British Army. Here on these flats to my right were Lord
Cavan's Guards, and on either side of him General Allenby's cavalry,
and General Byng's; while, if one turns to the north towards the
distance which hides Sonnebeke and Bixschoote, one is looking over the
ground so magnificently held on our extreme left by General Dubois and
his 9th French Corps.

Guards, Yorkshires, Lancashires, London Scottish, Worcesters, Royal
Scots Fusiliers, Highlanders, Gordons, Leicesters--all the familiar
names of the old Army are likend with this great story. It was an
English and Scotch victory, the victory of these Islands, won before
the "rally of the Empire" had time to develop, before a single
Canadian or Australian soldier had landed in France.

But that is only the first, though in some ways the greatest, chapter
in this bloodstained book. Memory runs on nearly six months, and we
come to that awful April afternoon, when the French line broke under
the first German gas attack, and the Canadians on their right held on
through two days and nights, gassed and shelled, suffering frightful
casualties, but never yielding, till the line was safe, and fresh
troops had come up. It was not six weeks since at Neuve Chapelle the
Canadians had for the first time, while not called on to take much
active part themselves, seen the realities of European battle; and the
cheers of the British troops at Ypres as the exhausted Dominion troops
came back from the trenches will live in history.

Messines, and the victory of June, 1917--Passchendaele, and the losses
of that grim winter--all the points indeed of this dim horizon from
north-west to south-east have their imperishable meaning for Great
Britain and the Dominions. For quite apart from the main actions which
stand out, fighting and death never ceased in the Ypres salient.

Then, as the great Army of the gallant dead seemed to gather round one
on this famous road, and over these shell-torn flats, a sudden
recollection of a letter which I received in August, 1918, brought a
tightening of the throat. A Canadian lady, writing from an American
camp in the east of France, appealed to myself and other writers to do
something to bring home to the popular mind of America a truer
knowledge of what the British Armies had done in the war. "I see
here," says the writer, "hundreds of the finest remaining white men on
earth every week. They are wonderful military material, and very
attractive and lovable boys. But it discourages all one's hope for the
future unity and friendship between us all to realise as I have done
the last few months that the majority of these men are entering the
fight, firmly believing that 'England has not done her share--that
France had done it all--the Colonials have done all the hard fighting,
etc.'" And she proceeds to attribute the state of things to the
"belittling reports" of England's share in the war given in the
newspapers which reach these "splendid men" from home.

A similar statement has come to me within the last few days, in
another letter from an English lady in an American camp near Verdun,
who speaks of the tragic ignorance--for tragic it is when one thinks
of all that depends on Anglo-American understanding in the
future!--shown by the young Americans in the camp where she is at
work, of the share of Great Britain in the war.

Alack! How can we bring our two nations closer together in this vital
matter? Of course there is no belittlement of the British part in the
war among those Americans who have been brought into any close contact
with it. And in my small efforts to meet the state of things described
in the letters I have quoted, some of the warmest and most practical
sympathy shown has come from Americans. But in the vast population of
the United States with its mixed elements, some of them inevitably
hostile to this country, how easy for the currents of information and
opinion to go astray over large tracts of country at any rate, and at
the suggestion of an anti-British press!

The only effective remedy, it seems to me, would be the remedy of eyes
and ears! Would it not be well, before the whole of the great American
Army goes home, that as many as possible of those still in
France--groups, say, of non-commissioned officers from various
American divisions, representing both the older and the newer levies,
and drawn from different local areas--should be given the opportunity
of seeing and studying the older scenes of the war on the British
front?--and that our own men, also, should be able to see for
themselves, not only the scenes of the American fighting of last year,
but the vast preparations of all kinds that America was building up in
France for the further war that might have been; preparations which,
as no one doubts, changed the whole atmosphere of the struggle?

"_England has not done her share!_"

How many thousands of British dead--men from every county in England
and Scotland, from loyal Ireland, from every British dominion and
colony--lie within the circuit of these blood-stained hills of Ypres?
How many more in the Somme graveyards?--round Lens and Arras and
Vimy?--about Bourlon Wood and Cambrai?--or in the final track of our
victorious Armies breaking through the Hindenburg line on their way to
Mons? Gloriously indeed have the Dominions played their part in this
war; but of all the casualties suffered by the Armies of the Empire,
80 _per cent_ of them fell on the population of these islands. America
was in the great struggle for a year and a half, and in the real
fightingline for about six months. She has lost some 54,000 of her
gallant sons; and we sorrow for them with her.

But through four long years scarcely a family in Great Britain and the
Dominions that possessed men on the fighting fronts--and none were
finally exempt except on medical or industrial grounds--but was either
in mourning for, or in constant fear of death for one or more of its
male members, whether by bullet, shell-fire or bomb, or must witness
the return to them of husbands, brothers, and sons, more or less
injured for life. The total American casualties are 264,000. The total
British casualties--among them from 700,000 to 800,000 dead--are
2,228,000 out of a total white population for the Empire of not much
more than two-thirds of the population of the United States. There is
small room for "belittling" here. A silent clasp of the hands between
our two nations would seem to be the natural gesture in face of such
facts as these.



II.


Such thoughts, however, belong to the emotional or tragic elements in
the British war-consciousness. Let me turn to others of a different
kind--the intellectual and reflective elements--and the changing
estimates which they bring about.

Take for instance what we have been accustomed to call the "March
retreat" of last year. The dispatch of Sir Douglas Haig describing the
actions of March and April last year was so headed in the _Times_,
though nothing of the kind appears in the official publication. And we
can all remember in England the gnawing anxiety of every day and every
hour from March 21st up to the end of April, when the German offensive
had beaten itself out, on the British front at least, and the rushing
over of the British reinforcements, together with the rapid incoming
of the Americans, had given the British Army the breathing space of
which three months later it made the use we know.

"But why," asks one of the men best qualified to speak in our
Army--"why use the words 'retreat' and 'disaster' at all?" They were
indeed commonly used at the time both in England and abroad, and have
been often used since about the fighting of the British Army last
March and April. Strictly speaking, my interlocutor suggests, neither
word is applicable. The British Army indeed fell back some thirty-five
miles on its southern front, till the German attack was finally stayed
before Amiens. The British centre stood firm from Arras to Béthune.
But in the north we had to yield almost all the ground gained in the
Salient the year before, and some that had never yet been in German
hands. We lost heavily in men and guns, and a shudder of alarm ran
through all the Allied countries.

Nevertheless what Europe was then witnessing--I am of course quoting
not any opinion of my own, to which I have no right, but what I have
gathered from those responsible men who were in the forefront of the
fighting--was in truth _a great defensive battle_, long and anxiously
foreseen, in which the German forces were double the British forces
opposed to them (64 to 32 divisions--73 to 32--and so on), while none
the less all that was vitally necessary to the Allied cause was
finally achieved by the British Army, against these huge odds.
Germany, in fact, made her last desperate effort a year ago to break
through the beleaguering British, forces, and failed. On our side
there was no real surprise, though our withdrawal was deeper and our
losses greater than had been foreseen. The troops themselves may have
been confident; it is the habit of gallant men. But the British
command knew well what it had to face, and had considered carefully
weeks beforehand where ground could be given--as in all probability it
would have to be given--with the least disadvantage. Some accidents,
if one may call them so, indeed there were--the thick white fog, for
instance, which "on the morning of March 21st enveloped our outpost
line, and made it impossible to see more than fifty yards in any
direction, so that the machine guns and forward field-guns which had
been disposed so as to cover this zone with their fire were robbed
almost entirely of their effect--and the masses of German infantry
advanced comparatively unharassed, so closely supporting each other
that loss of direction was impossible." Hence the rapidity of the
German advance through the front lines on March 21st, and the alarming
break-through south of St. Quentin, where our recently extended line
was weakest and newest. A second accident was the drying up of the
Oise Marshes at a time when in a normal year they might have been
reckoned on to stop the enemy's advance. A third piece of ill-luck was
the fact that in the newest section of the British line, where the
enemy attack broke at its hottest, there had been no time, since it
had been given over to us by the French--who had held it lightly, as a
quiet sector, during the winter--to strengthen its defences, and to do
the endless digging, the railway construction, and the repair of
roads, which might have made a very great difference. And, finally,
there was the most dangerous accident of all--the break through of
the Portuguese line at Richebourg St. Vaast, just as the tired
division holding it was about to be relieved. Of that accident, as we
all remember, the enemy, hungry for the Channel ports, made his very
worst and most; till the French and British fought him to a final
stand before Hazebrouck and Ypres.

[Illustration: _British Official Photograph_
The St. Quentin Canal which was crossed by the 46th in life-belts.]

Meanwhile, the strategic insight of Marshal Foch, who assumed complete
control of the Allied Armies in France and Belgium on March 26th,
combined with the experienced and cool-headed leadership of the
British Commander-in-Chief, refused to dissipate the French reserves,
so important to the future course of the war, in any small or
piecemeal reinforcement of the British lines. The risks of the great
moment had to be taken, and both the French and British Commanders had
complete faith in the capacity of the British Army to meet them. And
when all is said, when our grave losses in casualties, prisoners, and
guns are fully admitted, what was the general result? The Germans had
failed to gain either of their real objectives:--either the Channel
ports, or the division of the British Armies from the French. They
wore themselves out against a line which recoiled indeed but never
broke, and was all the time filling up and strengthening from behind.
The losses inflicted on their immense reserves reacted on all the
subsequent fighting of the year, both on the Aisne and the Marne. And
when the British Armies had brought the huge attack to a
standstill--which for the centre and south of our line had been
already attained ten days after the storm broke--and knew the worst
that had happened or could happen to them; when the Australians had
recaptured Villers-Bretonneux; when the weeks passed and the offensive
ceased; when all gaps in our ranks were filled by the rush of
reinforcements from home, and the American Army poured steadily across
the Atlantic, the tension and peril of the spring passed steadily into
the confident strength and--expectation of the summer. The British
Army had held against an attack which could never be repeated, and the
future was with the Allies.

Let us remember that at no time in our fighting withdrawal, either on
the Somme or on the Lys, was there "anything approaching a break-down
of command, or a failure in morale." So the Field Marshal. On the
other hand, all over the vast battle-field--in every part of the hard
"waiting game" which for a time the British Armies were called to
play, men did the most impossible and heroic things. Gun detachments
held their posts till every man was killed or wounded; infantry who
had neither rest nor sleep for days together, fought "back to back in
the trenches, shooting both to front and rear." Occasional confusion,
even local panic, occasional loss of communication and misunderstanding
of orders, occasional incompetence and stupidity there must be in such
a vast backward sweep of battle, but skill, purpose, superb bravery
were never lacking in any portion of the field; and the German
_communiqués_ exultantly announcing the "total defeat of the British
Armies" may be compared, _mutatis mutandis_, with the reports from
German Headquarters just before the first battle of the Marne.

"The defeat of the English is complete," said the German High Command
in the latter days of August, 1914. "The English Army is retreating in
the most complete disorder.... The British have been completely
defeated to the north of St. Quentin"--and so on. And yet a week
later, as General Maurice, with much fresh evidence, has lately shown,
the Army thus disposed of on paper had rejoicingly turned upon von
Kluck, and was playing a vital part in the great victory of the Marne.
So last spring, the losses and withdrawals of a vaster defensive
action, coupled with the stubborn and tenacious hold of the British
Army, last March and April, were the inevitable and heroic prelude to
the victorious recoil of August, and the final battles of the war.
Inevitable, because no forethought or exertion on the British side
could have averted the German onslaught, determined as it was by the
breakdown of the whole Eastern front of the war, and the letting loose
upon the Western front of immense forces previously held by the
Russian armies. These forces, after the Russian _débâcle_, were
released against us, week by week, till in March the balance of
numbers, which was almost even in January, had risen on the German
side to a superiority of 150,000 bayonets! The dispatch of divisions
to Italy; the recall of men to the shipyards and the mines to meet the
submarine danger; the heavy fighting in the Salient and at Cambrai in
the latter half of 1917; the lack of time for training new levies,
owing to our depleted line and reserves:--all these causes contributed
to sharpen the peril in which England stood.[5] But it is in such
straits as these that our race shows its quality.

  [5] See the Chart at end of Book.

And in this fighting, for the first time in British history, and in
the history of Europe, Americans stood side by side in battle with
British and French. "In the battle of March and April," says Sir
Douglas Haig, "American and British troops have fought shoulder to
shoulder in the same trenches, and have shared together in the
satisfaction of beating off German attacks. All ranks of the British
Army look forward to the day when the rapidly growing strength of the
American Army will allow American and British soldiers _to co-operate
in offensive action_."

That day came without much delay. It carried the British Army to Mons,
and the young American Army to Sedan.

       *       *       *       *       *

Looking out from the Vimy Ridge six weeks ago, and driving thence
through Arras across the Drocourt-Quéant line to Douai and
Valenciennes, I was in the very heart of that triumphant stand of the
Third and First Armies round Arras which really determined the fate of
the German attack.

The Vimy Ridge from the west is a stiffish climb. On the east also it
drops steeply above Petit Vimy and Vimy, while on the south and
south-east it rises so imperceptibly from the Arras road that the
legend which describes the Commander-in-Chief, approaching it from
that side, as asking of the officers assembled to meet him after the
victory--"And where is this ridge that you say you have taken?" seems
almost a reasonable tale. But to east and west there is no doubt about
it. One climbs up the side overlooking Ablain St. Nazaire through
shell-holes and blurred trenches, over snags of wire, and round the
edges of craters, till on the top one takes breath on the wide plateau
where stands the Canadian monument to those who fell in the glorious
fight of April 9th, 1917, and whence the eye sweeps that wide northern
and eastern plain, towards Lille on the one side and Douai on the
other, which to our war-beaten and weary soldiers, looking out upon it
when the ridge at last was theirs, was almost as new and strange a
world as the Pacific was to its first European beholders.

Westwards across the valley whence our troops stormed the hill, rises
the Bouvigny Wood, and the long, blood-stained ridge of Notre Dame de
Lorette, where I stood just before the battle, in 1917. To the north
we are looking through the horizon shadows to La Bassée, Bailleul, and
the Salient. Immediately below the hill, in the same direction, lie
the ruin heaps of Lens, and of the mining towns surrounding it; while
behind us the ground slopes south and south-east to Arras and the
Scarpe.

It is a tremendous position. That even the merest outsider can see. In
old days the hill must have been a pleasant rambling ground for the
tired workers of the coal-mining districts. Then the war-blast at its
fiercest passed over it. To-day in its renewed solitude, its sacred
peace, it represents one of the master points of the war, bought and
held by a sacrifice of life and youth, the thought of which holds one's
heart in grip, as one stands there, trying to gather in the meaning of
the scene. Not one short year ago it was in the very centre of the
struggle. If Arras and Vimy had not held, things would have been grave
indeed. Had they been captured, says the official report of the Third
Army, "our main lateral communications--Amiens--Doullens--St. Pol--St.
Omer--would have been seriously threatened if not cut." The Germans
were determined to have them, and they fought for them with a
desperate courage. Three assault divisions were to have carried the
Vimy Ridge, while other divisions were to have captured Arras and the
line of the Scarpe. The attack was carried out with the greatest
fierceness, men marching shoulder to shoulder into the furnace of
battle. But this time there was no fog to shield them, or to blind the
British guns. The enemy losses were appalling, and after one day's
fighting, in spite of the more northerly attacks on our line still to
come, the German hopes of _victory_ were in the dust, and--as we now
know--for ever.

That is what Vimy means--what Arras means--in the fighting of last
year. We ponder it as we drive through the wrecked beauty of Arras and
out on to the Douai road on our way to Valenciennes. We passed slowly
along the road to the east of Arras, honeycombed still with dug-outs,
and gun emplacements, and past trenches and wire fields, till suddenly
a mere sign-board, nothing more--"Gavrelle!"--shows us that we are
approaching the famous Drocourt-Quéant switch of the Hindenburg line,
which the Canadians and the 17th British Corps, under Sir Henry Horne,
stormed and took in September of last year. Presently, on either side
of the road as we drive slowly eastward, a wilderness of trenches runs
north and south. With what confident hope the Germans dug and
fortified and elaborated them years ago!--with what contempt of death
and danger our men carried them not six months since! And now not a
sign of life anywhere--nothing but groups of white crosses here and
there, emerging from the falling dusk, and the _débris_ of battle
along the road.

A weary way to Douai, over the worst road we have struck yet, and a
weary way beyond it to Denain and Valenciennes. Darkness falls and
hides the monotonous scene of ruin, which indeed begins to change as
we approach Valenciennes, the Headquarters of the First Army. And at
last, a bright fire in an old room piled with books and papers, a kind
welcoming from the officer reigning over it, and the pleasant careworn
face of an elderly lady with whom we are billeted.

Best of all, a message from the Army Commander, Sir Henry Horne, with
whom we had made friends in 1917, just before the capture of the Vimy
Ridge, in which the First Army played so brilliant a part.

We hastily change our travel gear, a car comes for us, and soon we
find ourselves at the General's table in the midst of an easy flow of
pleasant talk.

What is it that makes the special charm of the distinguished soldier,
as compared with other distinguished men?

Simplicity, I suppose, and truth. The realities of war leave small
room for any kind of pose. A high degree, also, of personal stoicism
easily felt but not obtruded; and towards weak and small things--women
and children--a natural softness and tenderness of feeling, as though
a man who has upon him such stern responsibilities of life and death
must needs grasp at their opposites, when and how he can; keen
intelligence, _bien entendu_, modesty, courtesy; a habit of brevity; a
boy's love of fun: with some such list of characteristics I find
myself trying to answer my own question. They are at least conspicuous
in many leaders of the Allied Armies.

"Why don't you _boom_ your Generals?" said an American diplomatist to
me some eight months ago. "Your public at home knows far too little
about them individually. But the personal popularity of the military
leader in such a national war as this is a military asset."

I believe I entirely agree with the speaker! But it is not the British
military way, and the unwritten laws of the Service stand firm. So let
me only remind you that General Horne led the artillery at Mons; that
he has commanded the First Army since September, 1916; that, in
conjunction with Sir Julian Byng, he carried the Vimy Ridge in 1917,
and held the left at Arras in 1918; and, finally, that he was the
northernmost of the three Army Commanders who stormed the Hindenburg
line last September.

It was in his study and listening to the explanations he gave me, so
clearly and kindly, of the Staff maps that lay before us, that I first
realised with anything like sufficient sharpness the meaning of those
words we have all repeated so often without understanding them--"_the
capture of the Hindenburg line_."

What was the Hindenburg line?



CHAPTER III

TANKS AND THE HINDENBURG LINE


We left Valenciennes on the morning of January 12th. By great luck, an
officer from the First Army, who knew every inch of the ground to be
traversed, was with us, in addition to the officer from G.H.Q., who,
as is always the case with Army visitors, accompanied us most
courteously and efficiently throughout. Captain X took us by a by-road
through the district south of Valenciennes, where in October last year
our troops were fighting a war of movement, in open country, on two
fronts--to the north and to the east. There were no trenches in the
desolate fields we passed through, but many shell-holes, and the banks
of every road were honeycombed with shelters, dug-outs and
gun-emplacements, rough defences that as the German Army retreated our
men had taken over and altered to their own needs; while to the west
lay the valley of the Sensée with its marshes, the scene of some of
the most critical fighting of the war.

From the wrecked centre of Cambrai a short run over field roads takes
you to the high ground north-west of the city which witnessed some of
the fiercest fighting of last autumn. I still see the jagged ruins of
the little village of Abancourt--totally destroyed in two days'
bombardment--standing sharp against the sky, on a ridge which looks
over the Sensée valley; the shell-broken road in which the car--most
complaisant of cars and most skilful of drivers!--finally stuck; and
those hastily dug shelters on the road-side in one of which I suddenly
noticed a soldier's coat and water-bottle lying just as they had been
left two months before. There were no terrible sights now in these
lonely fields as there were then, but occasionally, as with this coat,
the refuse of battle took one back to the living presences that once
filled these roads--the _men_, to whom Marshal Haig expresses the
gratitude of a great Commander in many a simple yet moving passage of
his last dispatch.

And every step beyond Cambrai, desolate as it is, is thronged with
these invisible legions. There to our right rises the long line of
Bourlon Wood--here are the sand-pits at its foot--and there are the
ruined fragments of Fontaine-notre-Dame. There rushes over one again
the exultation and the bitter recoil of those London days in November,
1917, when the news of the Cambrai battle came in; the glorious
surprise of the tanks; the triumphant progress of Sir Julian Byng; the
evening papers with their telegrams, and those tragic joy-bells that
began to ring; and then the flowing back of the German wave; the
British withdrawal from that high wood yonder which had cost so much
to win, and from much else; the bewilderment and disappointment at
home. A tired Army, and an attack pushed too far?--is that the summing
up of the first battle of Cambrai? A sudden gleam had shone on that
dark autumn which had seen the bitter victory and the appalling losses
of Passchendaele, and then the gleam vanished, and the winter closed
in, and there was nothing for the British Army but to turn its steady
mind to the Russian break-down and to the ever-growing certainty of a
German attack, fiercer and more formidable than had ever yet broken on
the Allies.

Bourlon Wood--famous name!--fades behind us. A few rubbish heaps
beside the road tell of former farms and factories. The car descends a
long slope, and then, suddenly, before us runs the great dry trough of
the Canal du Nord; in front, a ruined bridge, with a temporary one
beside it, a ruined lock on the left, and rising ground beyond. We
cross the bridge, mount a short way on the western slope, then in the
darkening afternoon we walk along the front trench of the Hindenburg
line, north and south of the road--a superb trench, the finest I have
yet seen, dug right down into the rock, with concrete headquarters,
dressing and signal stations, machine-gun emplacements and observation
posts; and, in front of it, great fields of wire, through which wide
lanes have been flattened down. Now we have turned eastward, and we
stand and gaze towards Cambrai, over the road we have come. The huge
trench is before us, the waterless canal with its steep banks lies
beyond, and on the further hill-side, trench beyond trench, as far as
the eye can see, the lines still fairly clear, though in some places
broken up and confused by bombardment. The officer beside me draws my
attention to some marks on the ground near me--the track marks of two
tanks as plain almost as when they were made. One of them, after
flattening a wide passage through the wire fields for the advance of
the infantry, had clambered across the trench. At our feet were the
grooved marks of the descent, and we could follow them through the
incredible rise on the further side; after which the protected
monster--of much lighter build, however, than his predecessors on the
Somme--seemed to have run north and south along the trench, silencing
the deadly patter of the machine guns; while its fellow on the west
side, according to its tracks at least, had also turned south, for the
same purpose.

The Hindenburg line!--and the two tanks! The combination, indeed,
suggests the whole story of that final campaign in which the British
Army, as the leading unit in a combination of armies brilliantly led
by a French Generalissimo whom all trusted, brought down the military
power of Germany. There were some six weeks of fighting after the
capture of the Hindenburg line; but it was that capture--"the essential
part" of the whole campaign, to use Marshal Haig's words--to which
everything else was subordinate, which, in truth, decided the struggle.
And the tanks are the symbol at once of the general strategy and the
new tactics, by which Marshal Foch and Sir Douglas Haig, working
together as only great men can, brought about this result, bettered all
that they had learned from Germany, and proved themselves the master
minds of the war. For the tanks mean _surprise_--_mobility_--the power
to break off any action when it has done its part, and rapidly to
transfer the attack somewhere else. Behind them, indeed, stood all the
immense resources of the British artillery--guns of all calibres, so
numerous that in many a great attack they stood wheel to wheel in a
continuous arc of fire. But it was the tanks which cleared the way,
which flattened the wire, and beat down the skill and courage of the
German machine gunners, who have taken such deadly toll of British life
during the war. And behind the tanks, protected also by that creeping
barrage of the great guns, which was the actual invention of that
famous Army Commander with whom I had spent an evening at Valenciennes,
came the infantry lines, those now seasoned and victorious troops, for
whose "stubborn greatness in defence," no less than their "persistent
vigour" and "relentless determination" in attack, General Haig finds
words that every now and then, though very rarely, betray the emotion
of the great leader who knows that he has been well and loyally served.
There is even a certain jealousy of the tanks, I notice, among the men
who form the High Command of the Army, lest they should in any way
detract from the credit of the men. "Oh, the tanks--yes--very useful,
of course--but the _men_!--it was the quality of the infantry did it."

All the same, the tanks--or rather these tell-tale marks beside this
front trench of the Hindenburg line, together with that labyrinth of
trenches, cut by the Canal du Nord, which fills the whole eastern
scene to the horizon--remain in my mind as somehow representative of
the two main facts which, according to all one can read and all one
can gather from the living voices of those who know, dominated the
last stage of the war.

For what are those facts?

First, the combination in battle after battle, on the British front,
of the strategical genius, at once subtle and simple, of Marshal Foch,
with the supreme tactical skill of the British Commander-in-Chief.

Secondly, the decisive importance to the ultimate issue, of this great
fortified zone of country lying before my eyes in the winter twilight;
which stretches, as my map tells me, right across Northern France,
from the Ypres salient, in front of Lille and Douai, through this
point south-west of Cambrai where I am standing, and again over those
distant slopes to the south-west over which the shades are gathering,
to St. Quentin and St. Gobain. These miles of half-effaced and
abandoned trenches, with all those scores of other miles to the
north-west and the south-east which the horizon covers, represent, as
I have said, the culminating effort of the war; the last effective
stand of the German brought to bay; the last moment when Ares,
according to Greek imagination, "the money changer of war," who weighs
in his vast balance the lives of men, still held the balance of this
mighty struggle in some degree uncertain. But the fortress fell; the
balance came down on the side of the Allies, and from that moment,
though there was much fighting still to do, the war was won.

As to the actual meaning in detail of the "Hindenburg" or "Siegfried"
line, let me, for the benefit of those who have never seen even a yard
of it, come back to the subject presently, helped by a captured German
document, and by a particularly graphic description of it, written by
an officer of the First Army.

But first, with the scene still before me--the broken bridge, the
ruined lock, the splendid trench at my feet, and those innumerable
white lines on the far hill-side--let me recall the great story of the
six months which preéceded the attack of Sir Julian Byng's Third Army
on this bank of the Canal du Nord.

It was on Monday, March 25th, that at Doullens, a small manufacturing
town, lying in a wooded and stream-fed hollow not far from Amiens,
there took place the historic meeting of the leading politicians and
generals of the war, which ended in the appointment of Marshal Foch to
the supreme military command of the Allied forces in France. I
remember passing Doullens in 1917, dipping down into the hollow,
climbing out of it again on to the wide upland leading to Amiens, and
idly noticing the picturesqueness of the place. But there must be a
house and a room in Doullens, which ought already to be marked as
national property, and will certainly be an object of travel in years
to come for both English and French; no less than that factory to the
west of Verdun where Castelnau and Pétain conferred at the sharpest
crisis of the immortal siege. For there--so it is generally
believed--the practical sense and generous temper of the British
Commander brought about that change in the whole condition of the war
which we know as the "unity of command." Sunday, March 24th, had been
a particularly bad day in that vast defensive battle which, in General
Haig's phrase, "strained the resources of the Allies to the
uttermost." There had been difficulties and misunderstandings
also--perfectly natural in the circumstances--with the French Army on
the right of the British line. Yet never was a perfect co-ordination
of the whole Allied effort in face of the German attack so absolutely
essential.

Sir Douglas Haig took the lead. A year before this date he had refused
in other circumstances, as one supremely responsible for the British
Army, to agree to a unified command under a French general, and the
events had justified him. But now the hour had arrived, and the man.
The proposal that General Foch should take the supreme control of the
four Allied armies now fighting or gathering in France was made and
pressed by Sir Douglas Haig. There was anxious debate, some opposition
in unexpected quarters, and finally a unanimous decision. General
Foch, waiting in an adjoining room, was called in and accepted the
task with the simplicity of the great soldier who is also a man of
religious faith. For Foch, the devout Catholic and pupil of the
Jesuits, and Haig the Presbyterian, are alike in this: there rules in
both of them the conviction that this world is not an aimless scene of
chance, and that man has an Unseen Helper.

Such, at least, is the story as it runs; and, at any rate, from that
meeting at Doullens dates the transformation of the war. For five
weeks afterwards the German attack beat against the British front,
bending and denting but never breaking it. Then at the end of April the
attack died down, brought up against the British and French reserves
which Ludendorff had immensely underrated, and--strategically--it had
failed.

A month later came the "violent surprise attack" on the Aisne, which,
as we all know, carried the enemy to the Marne and across it, and on
the 7th of June the French were again attacked between Noyon and
Montdidier. The strain was great. But Foch was making his plans; the
British Army was being steadily reorganised; the drafts from England
were being absorbed and trained under a Commander-in-Chief who, by the
consent of all his subordinates, is a supreme manipulator and trainer
of fighting men, while never forgetting the human reality which is the
foundation of it all. Soon the number of effective infantry divisions
on the British front had risen from forty-five to fifty-two. And
meanwhile American energy was pouring men across the Atlantic, and
everywhere along the Allied front and in the Allied countries, but
especially in ravaged, war-weary France, the news of the weekly
arrivals, 80,000, 100,000, 70,000 men, was exactly the stimulus that
the older armies needed.

It was a race between the German Army and the growing strength of the
Allies--and it was presently a duel between Ludendorff and Foch.
"Attack! attack!" was the German military cry, "or it will be too
late!" And on July 15th Ludendorff struck again to the east and
south-west of Rheims. General Gouraud, who was in command of the
Fourth French Army to the east of Rheims, told me at Strasbourg the
dramatic story of that attack and of its brilliant and overwhelming
repulse. I will return to it in a later letter. Meanwhile the German
Command in the Marne salient plunged blindly on, deepening the pocket
in which his forces were engaged--striking for Montmirail, Meaux, and
Paris.

But Foch's hour had come, and on July 18th he launched that
ever-famous counter-offensive on the Soissons-Château-Thierry front,
which, in Sir Douglas Haig's quiet words, "effected a complete change
in the whole military situation."

After a moment of bewilderment, attacked on both flanks by
irresistible forces of French, British, and Americans, von Boehm
turned to escape from the hounds on his track. He fought, as we all
know, a skilful retreat to the Vesle, leaving prisoners and guns all
the way, and on the Vesle he stood. But the last German offensive was
done, and Foch was already thinking of other prey.

On the 23rd of July there was another conference of the military
leaders, held under other omens, and in a different atmosphere from
that of March 25th. At that conference Foch disclosed his plans and
gave each army its task. The French and American Armies--the American
Army now in all men's mouths because of its gallant and distinguished
share in the June and July fighting on the Marne--were to attack
towards Mézières and Metz, while the British Armies struck towards St.
Quentin and Cambrai--in other words, looked onward to the final
grapple with the "great fortified zone known as the Hindenburg line."
So long as Germany held that she was undefeated. With that gone she
was at the mercy of the Allies.

But much had to be done before the Hindenburg line could be attacked.
Foch and Haig, with Debeney, Mangin, Gouraud, and Pershing in support,
played a great _arpeggio_--it is Mr. Buchan's word, and a most graphic
one--on the linked line of the Allies. On the British front four great
battles, involving the capture of more than 100,000 prisoners and
hundreds of guns, had to be fought before the Hindenburg line was
reached. They followed each other in quick succession, brilliantly
intercalated or supported by advances on the French and American
fronts, Mangin on the Aisne, Gouraud in Champagne, Pershing at St.
Mihiel.

_The Battle of Amiens_ (August 8th-13th), fought by the Fourth British
Army under General Rawlinson, and the First French Army under General
Debeney, who had been placed by Marshal Foch under the British
command, carried the line of the Allies twelve miles forward in a
vital sector, liberated Amiens and the Paris-Amiens railway, and
resulted in the capture of 22,000 prisoners and 400 guns, together
with the hurried retreat of the enemy from wide districts to the
south, where the French were on his heels. These were great days for
the Canadian and Australian troops. Four Canadian divisions under Sir
Arthur Currie, on the right of an eleven-mile front, four Australian
divisions under Sir John Monash in the centre, with the Third British
Corps under General Butler on the left, led the splendid advance. The
Field Marshal in his dispatch speaks of the "brilliant and
predominating part" played by the two Dominion Corps--the "skill and
determination of the infantry," the "fine performance" of the cavalry.
By this victory the British Army recovered the initiative it had
temporarily lost. All was changed. And even more striking than the
actual gains in ground, prisoners, and guns, was the effect upon the
_morale_ of both German and British troops. The Germans could hardly
believe their defeat; the British exultantly knew that their hour had
come.

In _the Battle of Bapaume_ (August 21st-September 1st) the Third and
Fourth British Armies, twenty-three divisions against thirty-five
German divisions, drove the enemy from one side of the old Somme
battle-field to the other, recovered all the ground lost in the
spring, and took 34,000 prisoners and 270 guns. The enemy's _morale_
was now failing; surrenders became frequent, and there were many signs
of the exhaustion of the German reserves. And again, by the turning of
his line, large tracts of territory were recovered almost without
fighting. By September 6th, five months after we had stood "with our
backs to the wall" in defence of the Channel ports, the Lys salient
had disappeared, and the old Ypres line was almost restored.

In _the Battle of the Scarpe_ (August 26th-September 3rd) General
Horne's First Army, with the Canadian Corps and the Highlanders in its
ranks, drove eastwards, north and south of the Scarpe, till they had
come within striking distance of the Drocourt-Quéant line. In twelve
hours, on the 2nd of September, the Canadian Corps, with forty tanks,
Canadian cavalry and armoured cars, had captured "the whole of the
elaborate system of wire, trenches, and strong points," which runs
north-west from the Hindenburg line proper to the Lens defences at
Drocourt; while the 17th Corps attacked the triangle of fortifications
marking the junction of the Drocourt-Quéant line with the Hindenburg
line proper, and cleared it magnificently, the 52nd (Lowland) Division
especially distinguishing itself. There was "stern fighting" further
south that day, right down to the neighbourhood of Peronne; but during
the night the enemy "struck his tents," and began a hasty retreat to
the line of the Canal du Nord. Sixteen thousand prisoners and 200 guns
had been the spoil of the battle.

_The Battle of Havrincourt_ (September 12th-18th) was a struggle for
the outer defences of the Hindenburg line, which had to be carried
before the line itself could be dealt with. Six days secured the
positions wanted for the final attack, and in those six days fifteen
British divisions had defeated twenty German divisions, and captured
nearly 12,000 prisoners and 100 guns.

That rapid summary has brought me back to the point from which I
started. In three months and a half the "mighty conflict," in which,
on the British side, something short of 700,000 bayonets were engaged,
had rushed on from victory to victory; Foch and Haig working together
in an ideal marriage of minds and resources; the attack retaining
everywhere by the help of the tanks--of which, in the Battle of
Amiens, General Rawlinson had 400 under his command--the elements of
surprise and mobility. The harassed enemy would find himself hard
pressed in a particular section, driven to retreat, with heavy losses
in ground, guns and prisoners; and then, as soon as he had discovered
a line on which to stand and had thrown in his reserves, the attack
would be broken off, only to begin again elsewhere, and with the same
energy, unexpectedness, and success. British Staff work and British
tactics were at their highest point of excellence, and the spirit of
the men, fanned by that breeze which Victory and Hope bring with them,
were, in the Commander-in-Chief's word, "magnificent."

And so we come to the evening of the 26th of September. Along these
hill-sides, where we stand, on the west side of the Canal du Nord, lay
Sir Julian Byng and the Third Army. To his right, on the south-east,
was General Rawlinson, facing the strongest portion of the Hindenburg
line, with two American divisions, led by Major-General Read, under
his command; while on his left, and to the north, the First Army,
under General Home, held the line along the Canal du Nord, and the
marshes of the Sensée.

The most critical moment in the campaign had arrived. For in the
assault on the Hindenburg line heavy risks had to be run. It is clear,
I think, from the wording of Marshal Haig's dispatch, that in respect
to the attack he took a special responsibility, which was abundantly
vindicated by the event. The British War Cabinet was extremely
anxious; the French Generalissimo was content to leave it to the
British Commander-in-Chief; and Sir Douglas Haig, confident "that the
British attack was the essential part of the general scheme, and that
the moment was favourable," had the decision to make, and made it as
we know. It is evident also from the dispatch that Sir Douglas was
quite aware, not only of the military, but of the political risk. "The
political effects of an unsuccessful attack upon a position so well
known as the Hindenburg line would be large, and would go far to
revive the declining _morale_, not only of the German Army, but of the
German people." This aspect of the matter must, of course, have been
terribly present to the mind of the British War Cabinet.

Moreover, the British Armies had been fighting continuously for nearly
two months, and their losses, though small in proportion to what had
been gained and to the prisoners taken, were still considerable.

Nevertheless, with all these considerations in mind, "_I decided_,"
says General Haig, "_to proceed with the attack_."[6]

  [6] The italics are mine.

There lie before me a Memorandum, by an officer of the General Staff,
on the Hindenburg line, drawn up about a month after the capture of
the main section of it, and also a German report, made by a German
officer in the spring of 1917. The great fortified system, as it
subsequently became, was then incomplete. It was begun late in 1916,
when, after the battle of the Somme, the German High Command had
determined on the retreat which was carried out in February and March
of the following year. It was dug by Russian prisoners, and the forced
labour of French and Belgian peasants. The best engineering and
tactical brains of the German Army went to its planning; and both
officers and men believed it to be impregnable. The whole vast system
was from four miles to seven miles deep, one interlocked and
inter-communicating system of trenches, gun emplacements, machine-gun
positions, fortified villages, and the rest, running from north-west
to south-east across France, behind the German lines. In front of the
British forces, writes an officer of the First Army, before the
capture of the Drocourt-Quéant portion of the line, ran "line upon
line, mile upon mile, of defences such as had never before been
imagined; system after complicated system of trenches, protected with
machine-gun positions, with trench mortars, manned by a highly-trained
infantry, and by machine-gunners unsurpassed for skill and courage.
The whole was supported by artillery of all calibres. The defences
were the result of long-trained thought and of huge work. They had
been there unbroken for years; and they had been constantly improved
and further organised." And the great canals--the Canal du Nord and
the Scheldt Canal, but especially the latter, were worked into the
system with great skill, and strongly fortified. It is evident indeed
that the mere existence of this fortified line gave a certain high
confidence to the German Army, and that when it was captured, that
confidence, already severely shaken, finally crumbled and broke.
Indeed, by the time the British Armies had captured the covering
portions of the line, and stood in front of the line itself, the
_morale_ of the German Army as a whole was no longer equal to holding
it. For our casualties in taking it, though severe, were far less than
we had suffered in the battle of the Scarpe; and one detects in some
of our reports, when the victory was won, a certain amazement that we
had been let off--comparatively--so lightly. Nevertheless, if there
had been any failure in attack, or preparation, or leadership, we
should have paid dearly for it; and a rally on the Hindenburg line,
had we allowed the enemy any chance of it, might have prolonged the
war for months. But there was no failure, and there was no rally.
Never had our tried Army leaders, General Horne, General Byng, and
General Rawlinson carried out more brilliantly the general scheme of
the two supreme Commanders; never was the Staff work better; never
were the subordinate services more faultlessly efficient. An American
officer who had served with distinction in the British Army before the
entry of his own country into the war, spoke to me in Paris with
enthusiasm of the British Staff work during this three months'
advance. "It was simply _marvellous!_--People don't understand."
"Everything was ready," writes an eye-witness of the First Army.[7]
The rapidity of our advance completely surprised the enemy, some of
whose batteries were captured as they were coming into action. Pontoon
and trestle bridges were laid across the canal with lightning speed.
The engineers, coming close behind the firing line, brought up the
railways, light and heavy, as though by magic--built bridges, repaired
roads. The Intelligence Staff, in the midst of all this rapid movement
"gathered and forwarded information of the enemy's forces in front,
his divisions, his reserves, his intentions." Telephones and
telegraphs were following fast on the advance, connecting every
department, whether stationary or still on the move. News was coming
in at every moment--of advances, captures, possibilities in new
country, casualties, needs. All these were being considered and
collated by the Staff, decisions taken and orders sent out.

  [7] The following paragraphs are based on the deeply interesting
  account of the First Army operations of last year, written by
  Captain W. Inge, Intelligence and Publicity Officer on Sir Henry
  Home's Staff.

Meanwhile divisions were being relieved, billets arranged for,
transport organised along the few practicable roads. Ambulances were
coming and going. Petrol must be accessible everywhere; breakdown
gangs and repair lorries must be ready always to clear roads, and mend
bridges. And the men doing these jobs must be handled, fed, and
directed, as well as the fighting line.

Letters came and went. The men were paid. Records of every kind were
kept. New maps were made, printed, and sent round--and quickly, since
food and supplies depended on them. "One breakdown on a narrow road,
one failure of an important message over a telephone wire--and how
much may depend on it!"

"Yet thanks to intelligent and devoted work, to experience and
resource, how little in these later stages of the war has gone wrong!"

The fighting men, the Staff work, the auxiliary services of the
British Army--the long welding of war had indeed brought them by last
autumn to a wonderful efficiency. And that efficiency was never so
sharply tested as by the exchange of a stationary war for a war of
movement. The Army swept on "over new but largely devastated country,"
into unknown land, where all the problems, as compared with the long
years of trench war, were new. Yet nothing failed--"except the
astounded enemy's power of resistance."

So much from a first-hand record of the First Army's advance. It
carries me back as I summarise it to my too brief stay at
Valenciennes, and the conversations of the evening with the Army
Commander and several members of his Staff. The talk turned largely on
this point of training, Staff work, and general efficiency. There was
no boasting whatever; but one read the pride of gallant and devoted
men in the forces they had commanded. "Then we have not muddled
through?" I said, laughing, to the Army Commander. Sir Henry smiled.
"No, indeed, we have _not_ muddled through!"

And the results of this efficiency were soon seen. Take first the
attack of the First and Third Armies on this section. North of
Moeuvres the Canadians, under General Home, crossing the Canal in the
early morning of September 27th, on a narrow front, and spreading out
behind the German troops holding the Canal, by a fan-shaped manoeuvre,
brilliantly executed, which won reluctant praise from captured German
officers, pushed on for Bourlon and Cambrai. The 11th Division,
following close behind, turned northward, with our barrage from the
heavy guns, far to the west, protecting their left flank, towards the
enemy line along the Sensée, taking ground and villages as they went.
Meanwhile the front German line, pinned between our barrage behind
them and the Canal, taken in front and rear, and attacked by the 56th
Division, had nothing to do but surrender.

"The day's results," says my informant of the First Army, "were the
great Hindenburg system (in this northern section) finally broken, the
height before Cambrai captured, thousands of prisoners and great
quantities of guns taken, and our line at its furthest point 7,000
yards nearer Germany. A great triumph!"

Meanwhile in the centre--just where I have asked the reader of this
paper to stand with me in imagination on the hill-side overlooking the
Canal du Nord--General Byng's Third Army, including the Guards'
Division, forced the Canal crossings in face of heavy fire, and moving
forward towards Cambrai in the half light of dawn, took trenches and
villages from the fighting and retreating enemy. After the forward
troops were over, the engineers rushed on, bridging the Canal, under
the fire of the German guns, rapidly clearing a way for infantry and
supplies. A map issued by the Tank Corps shows that close to this
point on the Cambrai-Bapaume road six tanks were operating--among them
no doubt that agile fellow, whose tracks still show on the
hillside!--while on the whole front of the Third and First Armies
sixty-five tanks were in action. By the end of that long day 10,000
prisoners had been taken, and 200 guns, an earnest of what was to
follow.

It was on the front of the Fourth Army, however, in the section from
St. Quentin to Gouzeaucourt, that the heaviest blow was planned by the
Commander-in-Chief. Here the "exceptional strength of the enemy's
position made a prolonged bombardment necessary." So while the First
and Third Armies were advancing, on the north, with a view to
lightening the task of the Fourth Army, for forty-eight hours General
Rawlinson maintained a terrible bombardment, which drove the defenders
of the famous line underground, and cut them off from food and
supplies. And on the morning of the 29th the Fourth Army attacked.

But I have no intention of repeating in any detail the story of that
memorable day. The exploit of the 46th Division under General Boyd, in
swimming and capturing the southern section of the Canal below
Bellenglise, will long rank as one of the most amazing stories of the
war. Down the steep banks clambered the men, flung themselves into the
water, and with life-belts, and any other aid that came handy, crossed
the Canal under fire, and clambered up the opposite bank. And the
achievement is all the more welcome to British pride in British pluck,
when it is remembered that, according to the German document I have
already quoted, it was an impossible one. "The deep canal cutting from
the southern end of the canal tunnel ... with its high steep banks
constitutes a strong obstacle. _The enemy will hardly attack here._"
So writes the German officer describing the line.

But it was precisely here that "the enemy" did attack!--capturing
prisoners (4,000 of them by the end of the day, with 70 guns) and
German batteries in action, before the German Command had had time to
realise the direction of the attack.

It was not, however, at this point that the severest fighting of the
battle occurred. Across the great tunnel to the north of Bellicourt,
where the Canal passes for nearly two miles underground, ran the main
Hindenburg system, carrying it eastwards over the Canal itself, and it
was here that the fiercest resistance was put up. The two American
divisions had the post of honour and led the advance. It was a heavy
task, largely owing to the fact that it had not been possible to
master the German outpost line completely before the advance started,
and numerous small bodies of the enemy, left behind in machine-gun
posts, tunnels, and dug-outs, were able to harass it seriously for a
time. But the "Americans fought like lions"--how often I heard that
phrase from our own men in France! The American losses were no doubt
higher than would have been the case with more experienced troops,
seasoned by long fighting,--so I have understood from officers present
at the battle. It was perhaps partly because of "their eagerness to
push on" without sufficiently clearing up the ground behind them that
they lost so heavily, and that advanced elements of the two divisions
were for a time cut off. But nothing daunted these fresh and gallant
men. Their sacrifices, as Marshal Haig has recently said, addressing
General O'Ryan, who commanded the 27th Division in this fight, were
"made with a courage and devotion unsurpassed in all the dread story
of this war. The memory of our great attack on the Hindenburg line on
September 29th, 1918, in which the 27th American division, with troops
from all parts of the British Empire, took so gallant and glorious a
part, will never die, and the service then rendered by American troops
will be remembered with gratitude and admiration throughout the
British Empire."

That misty September day marks indeed a culminating moment in the
history of the Empire and the war. It took six more days of sharp
fighting to capture the last remnants of the Hindenburg line, and six
more weeks before Germany, beaten and demoralised by sea and land,
accepted the Armistice terms imposed by the Allies. But on September
29th, the war was for all practical purposes won. General Gouraud at
the time was making his brilliant advance in Champagne. The Americans
were pushing forward in the Argonne. Both movements were
indispensable; but it was the capture of this great fortified system
which really decided the war. "No attack in the history of the world,
was ever better carried out," said Marshal Foch to Mr. Ward Price, in
Paris, on April 16th last--"than the one made on the Hindenburg line
near St. Quentin and Cambrai, by the Fourth, Third and First British
Armies, on September 27th-29th. The enemy positions were most
formidable. Nothing could stop the British. They swept right over
them. It was a glorious day for British arms." It was also the climax
of two months' fighting in which French, British, and Americans had
all played to the full the part laid down for them by the history of
the preceding years, and in which it fell to the British Army to give
the final and victorious blow.

    _Non nobis, Domine!--non nobis!_

It will, I think, be of use to the non-military reader if I append to
the sketch I have just given of the last phase of the British effort,
the following paragraphs written last January by an officer of the
General Staff, in response to the question indicated in the opening
sentence.

"I have been asked to say what in my opinion were the most critical
and anxious stages of the series of great successful battles opened on
the 8th August, 1918. The question is not easy, for the whole period
was one of high tension, calling for continuous and unsparing effort.

"From one point of view, the opening battle east of Amiens was
decisive, for it marked the turning point of the campaign on the
British front. Its moral effects, both on our own troops and on the
enemy, were far-reaching and give the key to the whole of the
succeeding struggle. Nothing less than a sweeping success, such as
that actually achieved, could have produced this result. The days
preceding the attack, therefore, constituted a most anxious period. On
the other hand, from the purely military point of view, our chances of
success were exceedingly good. The attack was to be delivered by fresh
troops, second to none in the world in fighting qualities, assisted by
an unprecedented concentration of mechanical aids to victory.
Preparations had been long and careful, every contingency had been
thought out, and there was every reason to expect that our attack
would be a complete surprise.

"Militarily, the more critical period was that which immediately
followed the battle when, having reached the line of the old Somme
defences of 1916, it was decided to switch the point of attack to the
area north of the Somme. On the success of this manoeuvre depended
whether the attack of the 8th August was to be a single isolated
victory comparable to the battle of Messines in June, 1917, or whether
it was to develop into something very much greater. The decision was a
grave one, and was in some sense a departure from previous practice.
The enemy was now on the alert, the troops to be employed had already
been severely tried in the earlier fighting of the year, and failure
would have called down severe criticism upon the wisdom of abandoning
so quickly the scene of our first great success.

"It was only after the first days of heavy fighting (in the battle of
Bapaume), during which progress was comparatively slow and the
situation full of anxiety, that the event proved that the step had
been wisely taken.

"Then, when the success of this bold manoeuvre had declared itself,
and the enemy had begun the first stages of his great retreat, the
next critical period arrived on the 2nd September, when the powerful
defences of the Drocourt-Quéant line were attacked and broken. The
effect of this success was to render the whole of the enemy's
positions to the south untenable and to throw him back definitely upon
the Hindenburg line.

"Undoubtedly the most critical and anxious period of the whole advance
arrived at the end of September. The culminating attacks of the 27th
and 29th of that month on the Canal du Nord and Hindenburg line
defences shattered the most formidable series of field defences that
military science has yet devised and drove the enemy into open
country. These attacks, indeed, accomplished far more than this. They
definitely broke the power of resistance of the German Armies in the
field. In the battles which followed, our troops were able to take
greater and greater risks, and on every occasion with complete
success.

"Yet again, the risk was great. If the enemy had succeeded in holding
the Hindenburg position, he would have been little, if anything, worse
off, territorially at any rate, than he had been before he began his
great adventure of the spring. It was clearly a time for him to pull
himself together and hold on at all costs.

"On the other hand and with all its difficulties, so favourable an
opportunity of securing immediate and decisive victory, by pressing
our advantage, could scarcely be expected to present itself again. The
decision was therefore taken and was justified by success.

"After this battle, our chief anxieties lay rather in the ability of
our supply system to keep pace with our Armies than in any resistance
that the enemy could offer. In the succeeding battles our troops
accomplished with comparative ease feats which earlier in the struggle
it would have been madness to attempt; and in the final battle of the
war, begun on the 4th November, the crossing of the Sambre and the
clearing of the great Mormal Forest furnished a wonderful tribute to
the complete ascendency which their earlier victories had enabled our
troops to establish over the enemy."



CHAPTER IV

GENERAL GOURAUD AT STRASBOURG


The Maine--Verdun--Champagne--it is in connection with these three names
that the French war consciousness shows itself most sensitive and most
profound, just as the war consciousness of Great Britain vibrates most
deeply when you test it with those other names--Ypres--Arras--the
Somme--Cambrai. As is the name of Ypres to the Englishman, so is that
of Verdun to the Frenchman, invested even with a more poignant
significance, since the countryside where so many sons of France laid
down their lives was their own adored mother-land, indivisibly part of
themselves, as those grim, water-logged flats north and south of the
Menin road could never be to a Lancashire or London boy. And no other
French battle-field wears for a Frenchman quite the same aureole that
shines for ever on those dark, riven hills of Verdun. But it seemed to
me that in the feeling of France, Champagne came next--Champagne,
associated first of all with Castelnau's victory in the autumn of 1915,
then with General Nivelle's tragic check in 1917, with the serious
crisis in the French Army in May and June of that year; and finally
with General Gouraud's brilliant successes in the summer and autumn of
1918.

Six weeks ago I found myself in Strasbourg, where General Gouraud is
in command of the Fourth Army, now stationed in Alsace. Through a long
and beautiful day we had driven south from Metz, across the great
fortified zone to the south of that town; with its endless trenches
and wire-fields, its camouflaged roads, its railway stations packed
with guns, its ammunition dumps and battery-emplacements, which
Germany had prepared at the outset of the war, and which still awaited
the Americans last November, had the Allies' campaign not ended when
it did. There was a bright sun on all the wide and lovely landscape,
on the shining rivers, the flooded spaces and the old towns, and
magnificent clouds lay piled above the purple Vosges, to the south
and east. We caught up a French division on the march, with long lines
of lorries, artillery wagons, guns and field-kitchens, and as our car
got tangled up with it in passing through the small towns and
villages, we had ample time to notice the behaviour of the
country-folk, and the reception given to the troops. Nothing, it
seemed to me, could have been warmer and more spontaneous, especially
as soon as we crossed the boundary of Alsace. The women came running
out to their door-steps, the children formed a tumultuous escort, men
and women peered smiling out of the covered country carts, and
tradesmen left their counters to see the show.

[Illustration: _British Official Photograph_
The wonderful exploit of one Brigade of the 46th Division, consisting
of the South Staffords and North Staffords Regts., who crossed the St.
Quentin Canal, which is part of the Hindenburg Line, by swimming in
life-belts. They gained their objectives and also captured two bridges
which allowed the guns to be taken across. The Brigade is seen on the
steep slope of the Canal.]

At Metz I was conscious of a hostile and bitter element in the town,
not to be wondered at when one remembers that Metz has a population of
25,000 immigrant Germans out of a population of less than 70,000. But
in the country towns of Alsace and in Strasbourg itself, my own
impression, for what it is worth, was everywhere an impression of
solid and natural rejoicing in the new order of things. That there are
a large number of Germans in Strasbourg and Alsace generally is, of
course, true. There were some 450,000 before the war, out of a
population of rather more than two millions, and there are now at a
rough estimate about 300,000, of whom nearly 100,000 are to be found
in Metz and Strasbourg. The whole administration of the two provinces,
with very few exceptions, was a German administration, imported from
Germany, and up to the outbreak of war, the universities and the
schools--_i.e._, the whole teaching profession--were German, and many
of the higher clergy. The leading finance of the provinces was German.
And so on. But I cannot see any reason to doubt that the real feeling
of the native population in the two provinces, whether in town or
country, has remained throughout these forty-eight years strongly and
passionately French. "Since when did you expect the French to come
back?" asked M. Mirman, the present Commissioner of the French
Republic at Metz, of an old peasant whom he came across not long ago
on an official inspection. The old man's eyes kindled--"_Depuis
toujours!_" he said--"I knew it would come, but I was afraid it
mightn't come till I was dead, so I used to say to my son: 'If I am
dead, and the French come back, you will go to the cemetery, you will
knock three times on my grave--I shall hear!' And my son promised."

My present concern, however, is not with the Alsace-Lorraine question,
but with the brilliant Army Commander who now occupies what used to be
the Headquarters of the German Army Corps which held Alsace. My
acquaintance with him was due to a piece of audacity on my part. The
record of General Gouraud in Champagne, and at the Dardanelles, was
well known to me, and I had heard much of his attractive and romantic
personality. So, on arriving at our hotel after a long day's motoring,
and after consulting with the kind French Lieutenant who was our
escort, I ventured a little note to the famous General. I said I had
been the guest of the British Army for six days on our front, and was
now the guest of the French Army, for a week, and to pass through
Strasbourg without seeing the victor of the "front de Champagne" would
be tantalising indeed. Would he spare an Englishwoman, whose love for
the French nation had grown with her growth and strengthened with her
years, twenty minutes of his time?

The note was sent and I waited, looking out the while on the gay and
animated crowd that filled the Platz Gutenberg in front of the hotel,
and listening to the bands of children, shouting the "Marseillaise,"
and following every French officer as he appeared. Was there ever a
more lovely winter evening? A rosy sunset seemed to have descended
into the very streets and squares of the beautiful old town. Wisps of
pink cloud were tangled in the narrow streets, against a background of
intensely blue sky. The high-roofed burgher houses, with their
decorated fronts, had an "unsubstantial faery" look, under the strange
rich light; and the front of the Cathedral, with its single delicate
spire, soared, one suffusion of rose, to an incredible height above
the narrow street below.

"_Allons, enfants de la patri-e!_" But a motor-car is scattering the
children, and an _ordonnance_ descends. A note, written by the
General's own left hand--he lost his right arm in consequence of a
wound at the Dardanelles--invites us to dinner with him and his staff
forthwith--the motor will return for us. So, joyously, we made what
simple change we could, and in another hour or so we were waiting in
the General's study for the great man to appear. He came at once, and
I look back upon the evening that followed as one of the most
interesting that Fate has yet sent my way.

As he entered I saw a man of slight, erect figure, lame, indeed, and
with that sad, empty sleeve, but conveying an immediate and startling
impression as of some fiery, embodied force, dominating the slender
frame. He had a short beard, brown and silky, dark hair, and a pair of
clear blue eyes, shrewd, indeed, and penetrating, but singularly
winning. A soldier, a most modern soldier, yet with an infusion of
something romantic, a touch of thoughtful or melancholy charm that
recalled old France. He was dressed in a dark blue mess coat, red
breeches, and top boots, with three or four orders sparkling on his
breast. His manners were those of an old-fashioned and charming
courtesy.

As is well known, like Marshal Foch and General Castelnau, General
Gouraud is a Catholic. And like General Mangin, the great Joffre
himself, Gallieni, Franchet d'Esperey, d'Humbert, and other
distinguished leaders of the French Army, he made his reputation in
the French Colonial service. In Morocco, and the neighbouring lands,
where he spent some twenty-two years, from 1892 to 1914, he was the
right-hand of General Lyautey, and conspicuous no less for his
humanity, his peace-making, and administrative genius than for his
brilliant services in the field. When the war broke out General
Lyautey indeed tried for a time to keep him at his side. But the
impulse of the younger soldier was too strong; and his chief at last
let him go. Gouraud arrived in France just after the Marne victory,
and was at once given the command of a division in the Argonne. He
spent the first winter of the war in that minute study of the ground,
and that friendly and inspiring intercourse with his soldiers, which
have been two of the marked traits of his career, and when early in
1915 he was transferred to Champagne, as Commander of a Corps d'Armée,
he had time, before he was called away, to make a survey of the
battle-field east of Rheims, which was of great value to him later
when he came to command the Fourth French Army in the same district.
But meanwhile came the summons to the Dardanelles, where, as we all
remember, he served with the utmost loyalty and good will under
General Sir Ian Hamilton. He replaced General d'Amade on the 10th of
May, led a brilliant and successful attack on the 4th of June, and
was, alas! terribly wounded before the end of the month. He was
entering a dressing-station close to his headquarters to which some
wounded French soldiers had just been brought when a shell exploded
beside him. His aide-de-camp was knocked over, and when he picked
himself up, stunned and bewildered, he saw his General lying a few
yards away, with both legs and an arm broken. Gouraud, during these
few weeks, had already made his mark, and universal sympathy from
French and English followed him home. His right arm was amputated on
the way to Toulon; the left leg, though broken below the knee, was not
seriously injured, but the fracture of the right involved injury to
the hip, and led to permanent lameness.

Who would have imagined that a man so badly hurt could yet have
afterwards become one of the most brilliant and successful generals in
the French Army? The story of his recovery must rank with the most
amazing instances of the power of the human will, and there are
various touches connected with it in current talk which show the
temper of the man, and the love which has been always felt for him.
One of his old masters of the College Stanislas who went to meet him
at the station on his arrival at Paris, and had been till then unaware
of the extent of the General's wounds, could not conceal his emotion
at seeing him. "_Eh, c'est le sort des batailles_," said Gouraud
gaily, to his pale and stumbling friend. "One would have said he was
two men in one," said another old comrade--"one was betrayed to me by
his works; the other spoke to me in his words." The legends of him in
hospital are many. He was determined to walk again--and quickly. "One
has to teach these legs," he said impatiently, "to walk naturally, not
like machines." Hence the steeple-chases over all kinds of
obstacles--stools, cushions, chairs--that his nurses must needs
arrange for him in the hospital passages; and later on his determined
climbing of any hill that presented itself--at first leaning on his
mother (General Gouraud has never married), then independently.

He was wounded at the end of June, 1915. At the beginning of November
he was sent at the head of a French Military Mission to Italy, and on
his return in December was given the command of the Fourth French
Army, the Army of Champagne. There on that famous sector of the French
line, where Castelnau and Langle de Cary in the autumn of the same
year had all but broken through, he remained through the whole of
1916. That was the year of Verdun and the Somme. Neither the Allies
nor the enemy had men or energy to spare for important action in
Champagne that year; but Gouraud's watch was never surprised, and
again he was able to acquaint himself with every military feature, and
every local peculiarity of the desolate chalk-hills where France has
buried so many thousands of her sons. At the end of 1916, his old
chief, General Lyautey, now French Minister for War, insisted on his
going back to Morocco as Governor; but happily for the Army of
Champagne, the interlude was short, and by the month of May, Lyautey
was once more in Morocco and Gouraud in Champagne--to remain there in
command of his beloved Fourth Army till the end of the war.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such then, in brief outline, was the story of the great man whose
guests we were proud to be on that January evening. Dinner was very
animated and gay. The rooms of the huge building was singularly bare,
having been stripped by the Germans before their departure of
everything portable. But _en revanche_ the entering French, finding
nothing left in the fine old house, even of the _mobilier_ which had
been left there in 1871, discovered a _château_ belonging to the Kaiser
close by, and requisitioned from it some of the necessaries of life.
Bordeaux drunk out of a glass marked with the Kaiser's monogram had a
taste of its own. In the same way, when on the British front we drew
up one afternoon, north of St. Omer, at a level crossing to let a
goods train go by, I watched the interminable string of German trucks,
labelled Magdeburg, Essen, Düsseldorf, and saw in them, with a bitter
satisfaction, the first visible signs of the Reparation and
Restitution to be.

The relations between the General and his Staff were very pleasant to
watch; and after dinner there was some interesting talk of the war. I
asked the General what had seemed to him the most critical moment of
the struggle. He and his Chief of the Staff looked at each other
gravely an instant and then the General said: "I have no doubt about
it at all. Not May 27th (the break through on the Aisne)--not March
21st (the break through at St. Quentin)--but May and June, 1917--'_les
mutineries dans l'armée_,' _i.e._, that bitter time of '_dépression
morale_,' as another French military critic calls it, affecting the
glorious French Army, which followed on General Nivelle's campaign on
the Aisne--March and April, 1917--with its high hopes of victory, its
initial success, its appalling losses, and its ultimate check. Many
causes combined, however--among them the leave-system in the French
Army, and many grievances as to food, billeting, and the like: and the
discontent was alarming and widespread. But," said General Gouraud,
"Pétain stepped in and saved the situation." "How?" one asked. "_Il
s'occupa du soldat_--(he gave his mind to the soldier)--that was all."
The whole leave-system was transformed, the food supply and the
organisation of the Army canteens were immensely improved--pay was
raised--and everything was done that could be done, while treating
actual mutiny with a stern hand, to meet the soldiers' demands. "In
our army," said General Gouraud, "a system of discipline like that of
the German Army is impossible. We are a democracy. We must have the
consent of the governed. In the last resort the soldier must be able
to say: '_J'obéis d'amitié._'"

That great result, according to General Gouraud, was finally achieved
by General Pétain's reforms. He gave as a proof of it that on the
night of the Armistice, he and his Staff, at Châlons, unable to sit
still indoors, went out and mingled with the crowd in the streets of
that great military centre, apparently to the astonishment and
pleasure of the multitude. "Everywhere along the line," said the
General, "the soldiers were cheering Pétain! '_Vive Pétain! Vive
Pétain!_'" Pétain was miles away; but it was the spontaneous
recognition of him as the soldiers' champion and friend.

Gouraud did not say, what was no doubt the truth, that the army at
Châlons were cheering Gouraud no less than Pétain. For one can rarely
talk with French officers about General Gouraud without coming across
the statement: "He is beloved by his army. He has done so much for the
soldiers." But not a word of his own share appeared in his
conversation with me.

The talk passed on to the German attack on the French front in
Champagne on July 15th, that perfectly-planned defence in which, to
quote General Gouraud's own stirring words to his soldiers: "You
broke the strength and the hopes of the enemy. That day Victory
changed her camp. She has been faithful to us ever since." It makes
one of the most picturesque stories of the war. The German offensive
which broke out, as we know, along the whole of their new Marne front
on July 15th, had been exactly anticipated for days before it began
by General Gouraud and his Staff. The Fourth French Army, which
Gouraud commanded, was lying to the north-east of Rheims, and the
German attack on the Monts de Champagne, already the scene in 1916
and 1917 of so much desperate fighting, was meant to carry the German
line down to the Marne that same day. Gouraud was amply informed by
his intelligence staff, and his air service, of the enemy preparations,
and had made all his own. The only question was as to the exact day
and hour of the attack. Then by a stroke of good fortune, at eight
o'clock on the very evening preceding the attack, twenty-seven prisoners
were brought in--of whom some are said to have been Alsatian--and
closely questioned by the Staff. "They told us," said Gouraud, "that
the artillery attack would begin at ten minutes past midnight, and the
infantry attack between three and four o'clock that very night. I
thereupon gave the order for our bombardment to begin at 11.30 p.m. in
order to catch the assembling German troops. I had 200 _batteries
secretes_ ready--of which the enemy had no idea--which had given
beforehand no sign of their existence. Then we sat with our watches in
our hands. Was it true--or not true? 12.5--12.6--12.8--12.9.--Probably
it was a mare's nest. 12.10--_Crac!_--the bombardment had begun. We
sprang to our telephones!" And presently, as the captured German
officers began to come in, their French captors were listening to
their bewildered astonishment "at the number of our batteries they had
never discovered, which were on none of their maps, and only revealed
themselves at the very moment of their own attack."

Meanwhile, the first French position was not intended to be held. The
advance posts were told to delay and break up the enemy as much as
possible, but the famous Monts were to be abandoned and the real
resistance was to be offered on a position intermediate between the
first and second position, and so densely held that no infiltration of
the enemy was to be possible. Everything happened, for once, really
"according to plan." The advance posts, whose order was "to sacrifice
themselves," and each member of which knew perfectly well the duty
laid upon him, held out--some of them--all day, and eventually fought
their way back to the French lines. But on the prepared line of
resistance the German attack was hopelessly broken, and men and
reserves coming on fast from behind, ignorant of what had happened to
the attacking troops, were mown down by the French artillery. "By
midday," says the typed _compte-rendu_ of operations, which, signed by
General Gouraud's own left hand, lies before me--"the enemy appeared
entirely blocked in all directions--and the battle-position fixed by
the General Commanding the Army was intact."

Gouraud's army had, in fact, according to the proclamation of its
General, broken the attack of fifteen German divisions, supported by
ten others. The success, moreover, was of the greatest strategical
importance. Thus secured on his right, Foch at once transferred troops
from the Fourth Army, in support of General Mangin's counter-attack of
the 18th, to the other side of the Marne salient, and Gouraud remained
firmly on the watch in the position he had so victoriously held, till
the moment came for his own advance in September.

I seem still to see him insisting--in spite of his lameness--on
bringing the Staff maps himself from his study, marking on them the
points where the fighting in the September advance was most critical,
and dictating to one of his Staff the itinerary it would be best for
us to take if we wished to see part, at least, of the battle-field.
"And you won't forget," he said, looking up suddenly, "to go and see
two things--the great cemetery at Châlons, and the little 'Cimetière
du Mont Muret.'" He described to me the latter, lying up in what was
the main fighting line, and how they had gathered there many of the
"unidentifiables"--the nameless, shattered heroes of a terrible
battle-field, so that they rest in the very ground where they gave
their lives. He might have told me,--but there was never a word of it,
and I only knew it later--that it was in that very scene of
desolation, from May, 1917, to March, 1918, that he lived among his
men, building up the spirit of troops that had suffered much,
physically and morally, caring for everything that concerned them,
restoring a shaken discipline and forging the army which a year later
was to fight with an iron steadiness under its brilliant chief.

To fight both in defence and attack. From July 15th to September 26th
Gouraud remained passive in Champagne. Then on September 26th, the day
before the British attack at Cambrai, he moved, with the First
American Army on his right, against the strong German positions to the
east of Rheims, which since the beginning of the war had barred the
French way. In a battle of sixteen days, the French captured the whole
of the fortified zone on this portion of the front, took 21,000
prisoners, 600 cannon and 3,500 machine guns. At the very same moment
Sir Douglas Haig was driving through the Hindenburg line, and up to
the west bank of the Selle, taking 48,000 prisoners and 600 guns;
while the Americans were pushing through the difficult forest country
of the Argonne, and along both sides of the Meuse.

The German strength was indeed weakening fast. Between July 16th and
the Armistice, the British took 188,700 prisoners, the French 137,000,
and the Americans 43,000.



CHAPTER V

ALSACE-LORRAINE

THE GLORY OF VERDUN


Before we left Strasbourg on our way to the "front de Champagne,"
armed with General Gouraud's maps and directions, an hour or two of
most interesting conversation threw great light for me on that other
"field of victory"--Alsace-Lorraine.

We brought an introduction to Dr. Pierre Bucher, a gentleman in whom
Alsatian patriotism, both before the war and since the Armistice, has
found one of its most effective and eloquent representatives. A man of
a singularly winning and magnetic presence,--with dark, melancholy
eyes, and the look of one in whom the flame of life has burnt in the
past with a bitter intensity, fanned by winds of revolt and suffering.
Before the war Dr. Bucher was a well-known and popular doctor in
Strasbourg, recognised by Alsatian and German alike as a champion of
the French spirit and French traditions in the lost provinces. He
belonged to that _jeunesse_ of the nineties, which, in the absence of
any reasonable grounds for expecting a reversal of the events of 1871,
came to the conclusion that autonomous liberties would be at any rate
preferable to the naked repression, at the hands of Bismarck and
Manteuffel, of the eighties and early nineties. The young men of his
date decided that the whole government of the province could not any
longer be left to the German bureaucrat, and a certain small number of
them entered the German administration, which was imposed on the
province after 1871 and had been boycotted thence-forward up to nearly
the end of the century by all true Alsatians. But this line of action,
where it was adopted, was taken entirely without prejudice to the
national demand, which remained as firm as ever, supposing
circumstances should ever admit of reunion with France.

Two causes in particular contributed to the irreconcilable attitude of
the provinces:--first, the liberal tendencies of the population, the
general sympathy, especially in Alsace, with the revolutionary and
Napoleonic doctrines of Liberal France from 1789 onward; and secondly,
the amazing lack of political intelligence shown by their new masters.
"Even if you could ever have annexed us with success"--said Dr. Bucher
long before the war, to a German publicist with whom he was on
friendly terms--"you came, as it was, a hundred years too late. We had
taken our stand with France at the Revolution. Her spirit and her
traditions were ours. We were not affected by her passing fits of
reaction, which never really interfered with us or our local life.
Substantially the revolutionary and Napoleonic era laid the
foundations of modern France, and on them we stand. They have little
or nothing in common with an aristocratic and militarist Germany. Our
sympathies, our traditions, our political tendencies are all
French--you cannot alter them."

"But, finally--what do you expect or wish for?" said the German man of
letters, after he and Dr. Bucher had talked through a great part of
the night, and the German had listened to the Alsatian with an evident
wish to understand Alsatian grievances.

Dr. Bucher's answer was prompt and apparently unexpected.

"Reunion with France," he said quietly--"no true Alsatian wishes
anything else."

The German first stared and then threw himself back with a
good-natured laugh.

"Then indeed there's nothing to be done." (_Dann ist ja freilich gar
nichts zu machen!_)

The tone was that of a strong man's patience with a dreamer; so
confident did the Germans feel in their possession of the
"Reichsland."

But whatever chance the Germany of Bismarck and William II. might have
had of winning over Alsace-Lorriane--and it could never have been a
good one--was ruined by the daily and tyrannous blundering of the
German Government. The prohibition of the teaching of French in the
primary schools, the immediate imposition of German military service
on the newly-annexed territories, the constant espionage on all those
known to hold strong sympathies with France, or views antagonistic to
the German administration, the infamous passport regulations, and a
hundred other grievances, deepened year by year the regret for France,
and the dislike for Germany. After the first period of "protestation,"
marked by the constant election of "protesting" deputies to the
Reichstag, came the period of repression--the "graveyard peace" of the
late eighties and early nineties--followed by an apparent acquiescence
of the native population. "Our young people in those years no longer
sang the 'Marseillaise,'" said Dr. Bucher. Politically, the Alsatians
despaired and--"we had to live together, _bon gré, mal gré_. But deep
in our hearts lay our French sympathies. When I was a young student,
hating my German teachers, the love for France beat in my pulses, like
a ground wave" (_comme une vague de fond_).

Then after 1900 the Germans "changed greatly." They became every year
richer and more arrogant; Germany from beyond the Rhine developed
every year an increasing _appétit_ for the native wealth and commerce
of Alsace; and the methods of government became increasingly
oppressive and militarist. By this time some 400,000 native Alsatians
had in the course of years left the country, and about the same number
of immigrant Germans had taken their places. The indifference or
apathy of the old population began again to yield to more active
feelings. The rise of a party definitely "Anti-Allemand," especially
among the country people, made itself felt. And finally came, in Dr.
Bucher's phrase, the period of "la haine" after the famous Saverne
incident in 1912. That extraordinary display of German military
insolence seemed to let loose unsuspected forces.

"All of a sudden, and from all sides, there was an explosion of fury
against the Germans."

And as the Doctor spoke, his sensitive, charming face kindling into
fire, I remembered our slow passage the day before, through the
decorated streets of the beautiful old town of Saverne, in the wake of
a French artillery division, and amid what seemed the spontaneous joy
of a whole population!

Through all these years Dr. Bucher was a marked man in the eyes of the
German authorities, but he was careful to give them no excuse for
violence, and so great was his popularity, owing clearly to his
humanity and self-devotion as a doctor, that they preferred to leave
him alone. The German prefect once angrily said to him: "You are a
real _poison_ in this country, Herr Doctor!"--and not very long before
the war a German official to whom he was applying for leave to invite
M. Andre Tardieu to lecture in Strasbourg, broke out with pettish
exasperation: "For twenty years you have been turning my hair grey, M.
le Docteur!"--and permission was refused. At the outbreak of war, he
naturally escaped from Strasbourg, and joined the French army; while
during the latter part of the struggle, he was French military attache
at Berne, and, as I understand, the head of a most successful secret
service. He was one of the first Frenchmen to re-enter Strasbourg, and
is now an invaluable _liaison_ official between the restored French
Government and the population.

The practical difficulty of the moment, in January last, was how to
meet the Alsatian impatience to get rid of their German masters, bag
and baggage, while at the same time maintaining the ordinary services.
Every night, meetings were being held in the Strasbourg squares to
demand the immediate departure of the Germans. "_Qu'ils
partent--qu'ils partent tous--et tout de suite!_" The French officials
could only reply that if an immediate clearance were made of the whole
German administration--"we can't run your trains--or carry your
posts--or deliver your goods." But the German employés were being
gradually and steadily repatriated--no doubt with much unavoidable
hardship to individuals. Strasbourg contained then about 65,000
Germans out of 180,000. Among the remaining German officials there was
often a curious lack of realisation of what had happened to Germany
and to them. "The Germans are very _gauche_--their tone is still just
the same!" And the Doctor described a scene he had witnessed in one of
the bureaux of the prefecture only the day before. A German official
was at his desk. Enter an Alsatian to make an inquiry about some point
in a bankruptcy case. The German answered him with the curt rudeness
which was the common official tone in old days, and finally,
impatiently told the applicant to go. The Alsatian first opened his
eyes in astonishment, and then--suddenly--flamed up. "_What!_--you
think nothing is changed?--that you are the masters here as you used
to be--that you can treat us as you used to treat us? We'll show you?
We are the masters now. Get out of that chair!--Give it me!--while I
talk to you. Behave civilly to me, _ou je vais vous flanquer un coup
dans le dos!_" And the Alsatian went threateningly forward. But the
German looked up--grew white--and said slowly--"Monsieur--you are
right! I am at your service. What is your business?"

I asked about the amount of inter-marriage that had taken place during
the forty years. Dr. Bucher thought it had been inconsiderable--and
that the marriages, contracted generally between German subalterns and
girls of the inn-keeping or small farming class, had been rarely
happy. The Alsatian strain was the stronger, and the wife's relations
despised the German intruder. "Not long before the war I came upon two
small boys fighting in a back street." The boy that was getting the
worst of it was abusing the other, and Dr. Bucher caught the
words--"dirty Prussian!" (_sale Prussien!_) The boy at whom this was
hurled, stopped suddenly, with a troubled face, as though he were
going to cry. "No--no!--not me!--not me! _my father!_" Strange, tragic
little tale!

As to the Church, a curious situation existed at that moment in
Strasbourg. The Archbishop, a good man, of distinguished German birth,
was respected and liked by his clergy, who were, however, French in
sympathies almost to a man. The Archbishop, who had naturally excused
himself from singing the victors' Te Deum in the Cathedral, felt that
it would be wiser for him to go, and proposed to Rome that he should
resign his see. His clergy, though personally attached to him, were
anxious that there should be no complications with the French
Government, and supported his wish to resign. But Rome had refused.
Why? No doubt because the whole position of the Church and of
Catholicism in these very Catholic provinces represents an important
card in the hand of the Vatican, supposing the Papacy should desire at
any time to reopen the Church and State question with Republican
France. What is practically the régime of the Napoleonic Concordat
still obtains in the recovered provinces. The clergy have always been
paid by the State, and will be still paid, I understand, in spite of
the Combes laws, by a special subvention, for the distribution of
which the bishops will be responsible. And M. Clemenceau, as the
French Prime Minister, has already nominated one or more bishops, as
was the case throughout France itself up to 1905.

Everything indeed will be done to satisfy the recovered provinces that
can be done. They are at present the spoiled children of France; and
the poor devastated North looks on half enviously, inclined to think
that "Paris forgets us!"--in the joy of the lost ones found. But Paris
knows very well that there are difficulties ahead, and that the French
love of symmetry and logic will have to make substantial concessions
here and there to the local situation. There are a number of
institutions, for instance, which have grown up and covered the
country since 1871, which cannot be easily fitted to the ordinary
_cadre_ of French departmental government. The department would be too
small a unit. The German insurance system, again, is far better and
more comprehensive than the French, and will have, in one way or
another, to be taken over.

But my own strong impression is that goodwill, and the Liberal _fond_,
resting on the ideas of 1789, which, in spite of their Catholicism,
has always existed in these eastern provinces (Metz, however, has been
much more thoroughly Germanised than Strasbourg since the annexation),
will see France through. And meanwhile the recovery of these rich and
beautiful countries may well comfort her in some degree for her
desolate fields and ruined towns of the North and Centre. The capital
value of Alsace-Lorraine is put roughly at a thousand millions, and
the Germans leave behind them considerable additions to the wealth of
the province in the shape of new railway-lines and canals, fine
stations, and public buildings, not to speak of the thousands of
fruit-trees with which, in German fashion, they have lined the
roads--a small, unintentional reparation for the murdered fruit-trees
of the North.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few days after our Strasbourg visit we drove, furnished with General
Gouraud's notes and maps, up into the heart of the "front de
Champagne." You cross the wide, sandy plains to the north of Châlons,
with their scanty pine-woods, where Attila met his over-throw, and
where the French Army has trained and manoeuvred for generations. And
presently, beyond the great military camp of pre-war days, you begin
to mount into a region of chalk hills, barren and lonely enough before
the war, and now transformed by the war into a scene which almost
rivals the Ypres salient and Verdun itself in tragic suggestiveness.
Standing in the lonely graveyard of Mont Muret, one looks over a
tortured wilderness of trenches and shell-holes. Close by are all the
places famous through years of fighting--Souain, Navarin Farm, Tahure,
the Butte de Tahure, and, to the north-west, Somme-Py, Ste. Marie-Py,
and so on to Moronvilliers and Craonne. In the south-western distance
I could just descry the Monts de Champagne, while turning to the north
one faced the slopes of Notre Dame des Champs, and recalled the
statement of General Gouraud that on that comparatively open ground
the fiercest fighting of last October had taken place.

And now, not a soul, not a movement! Everywhere lay piles of unused
shell, German and French, small heaps of hand-grenades and bundles of
barbed wire. The camouflaged battery positions, the deep dug-outs and
strong posts of the enemy were all about us; a dead horse lay not far
away; and in front, the white crosses of the graveyard. A grim scene,
under the January sky! But in the very middle of the little cemetery
some tender hand had just recently fastened a large bunch of white
narcissus to one of the crosses. We had passed no one that I could
remember on the long ascent; yet the flowers were quite fresh and the
thought of them--the only living and beautiful thing for miles in that
scarred wilderness, over which a creeping fog was beginning to
gather--stayed with me for days.

The Champagne-battle-field is indeed deeply interwoven with the whole
history of the war. The flower of the French Army and almost all the
leading French Generals--Castelnau, Pétain, Nivelle, Gouraud, have
passed through its furnace. But famous as it is, and for ever
associated with the remarkable and fascinating personality of General
Gouraud, which gives to it a _panache_ of its own, it has not the
sacredness of Verdun.

We had spent the day before the expedition to Champagne at St. Mihiel
and Verdun. To St. Mihiel I will return in my next chapter. Verdun I
had never seen, and the impression that it makes, even in a few hours,
is profound. In March, 1916, I well remember at Havre, at Boulogne, at
St. Omer, how intent and absorbed a watch was kept along our front
over the news from Verdun. It came in hourly, and the officers in the
hotels, French and English, passed it to each other without much
speech, with a shrug, or a look of anxiety, or a smile, as the case
might be. When we arrived on March 6th at the Visitors' Château at
G.H.Q.--then, of course, at St. Omer--our first question was:
"Verdun?" "All right," was the quick reply. "We have offered help, but
they have refused it."

No--France, heroic France, trod that wine-press alone; she beat back
her cruel foe alone; and, at Verdun, she triumphed alone. Never,
indeed, was human sacrifice more absolute; and never was the spiritual
force of what men call patriotism more terribly proved. "The _poilu_
of Verdun," writes M. Joseph Reinach, "became an epic figure"--and the
whole battle rose before Europe as a kind of apocalyptic vision of
Death and Courage, staged on a great river, in an amphitheatre of
blood-stained hills. All the eyes in the world were fixed on this
little corner of France. For a Frenchman--"Verdun was our first
thought on waking, and was never absent from us through the day."

The impression made by the battle--or rather, the three battles--of
Verdun does not depend on the numbers engaged. The British Battle of
the Somme, and the battles of last year on the British front far
surpassed it in the number of men and guns employed. From March 21st
last year to April 17th, the British front was attacked by 109
divisions, and the French by 25. In the most critical fighting at
Verdun, from February 21st to March 21st, the French had to face 21
divisions, and including the second German attack in June and the
triumphant French advance in December, the total enemy forces may be
put at 42 divisions. But the story is incomparable! Everything
contributed--the fame of the ancient fortress, the dynastic and
political interests involved, the passion of patriotism which the
struggle evoked in France, the spendthrift waste of life on the part
of the German Command.

After the French rally, indeed, from the first terrific bombardment,
which nearly gave the German Command its coveted prey, the thing
became a duel, watched by all Europe, between Pétain and the Crown
Prince; between the dynastic interests of the Hohenzollerns, served by
a magnificent army, and the finest military and patriotic traditions
of France. From day to day the public in this country watched the
fluctuations of the struggle with an interest so absorbing that the
names of Douaumont, Vaux, Mort Homme, Cumières, the Goose's Crest,
came to ring in our ears almost as the names of Hougoumont, La Haye
Sainte, La Belle Alliance, rang in those of an earlier time.

Verdun, from a distance, produces the same illusion as Rheims. The
Cathedral and the town are apparently still in being. They have not
lost their essential outlines, and the veils of grey and purple haze
between the spectator and the reality disguises what both have
suffered. Then one draws nearer. One enters the famous fortress,
through the old Vauban fortifications, and over the Vauban
bridge--little touched, to all appearance. And presently, as one
passes along the streets, one sees that here is not a town, but only
the ghost, the skeleton of a town. The roofless, windowless houses, of
which the streets still keep, as in Rheims, their ancient lines, stare
at you like so many eyeless skulls--the bare bones of a city. Only the
famous citadel, with its miles of underground passages and rooms, is
just as it was before the battle, and as it will be, one may hope,
through the long years to come; preserved, not for any active purpose
of war, but as the shrine of immortal memories. Itself, it played a
great part in the struggle. For here, in these dormitories and
mess-rooms and passages so far underground that even the noise of the
fierce struggle outside never reached them, it was possible for troops
worn out by the superhuman ordeal of the battle, to find complete
rest--_to sleep_--without fear.

We entered through a large mess-room full of soldiers, with, at its
further end, a kitchen, with a busy array of cooks and orderlies. Then
someone opened a door, and we found ourselves in a small room, very
famous in the history of the war. During the siege, scores of visitors
from Allied and neutral countries--statesmen, generals, crowned
heads--took luncheon under its canopy of flags, buried deep
underground, while the storm of shell raged outside. There, in the
visitors' book, one might turn to the two signatures--one of them then
only a fortnight old--that all France knows:

    "March, 1916--_On les aura! Pétain_"

    "January, 1918--_On les a! Pétain_"

A courteous Commandant, telephoned to from below, came from some upper
region to greet us and to show us something of the endless labyrinth
of rooms, passages and dormitories, which during the siege often
sheltered thousands of men. The veteran Colonel Duhay, who was in
command of the citadel during the greater part of the year-long
battle--a splendid, square-built tower of a man--I saw later in Paris.
It was ill-luck not to have been able to walk with him over the tragic
battle-field itself, for few men can have memories of it at once so
comprehensive and so close. From the few words I had with him I retain
a shuddering impression as of a slaughter-house; yet nothing could be
cheerfuller or humaner than the broad soldier-face. But our talk
turned on the losses of Verdun, and although these losses--_i.e._, the
proportion of death to the square yard--were probably exceeded in
several later battles, in none, it seems to me, has the massacre of
men on both sides left so terrible a mark on the survivors. There came
a time when the French were sick of slaying, and the German dead were
piled mètres high on the slopes of Mort Homme and Cumières; in those
weeks at the end of May, when the Germans, conscious that their
prestige had suffered irreparably in the hundred days--which were to
have been four!--of desperate and indecisive fighting, were at the
opening of that fierce last effort which gave them Fort Vaux and its
hero-commander, Commandant Raynal, on June 7th--put them in
short-lived possession of Thiaumont and Fleury later--and was then
interrupted at the end of the month by the thunder of the Allied
attack on the Somme.

After leaving the citadel and the much-injured cathedral, beneath the
crypt of which some of the labyrinthine passages of the old fortress
are hewn, we drove through the eastern section of the battle-field,
past what was once Fort Souville, along an upper road, with Vaux on
our right, and Douaumont on the northern edge of the hill in front of
us; descending again by Froide Terre, with the Côte de Poivre beyond
it to the north; while we looked across the Meuse at the dim lines of
Mort Homme, of the Bois des Corbeaux and the Crête de l'Oie, of all
that "chess-board" of hills which became so familiar to Europe in
those marvellous four months from February to June, 1916. Every yard
of these high slopes has been fought over again and again, witnessing
on the part of the defenders a fury of endurance, a passion of
resolve, such as those, perhaps, alone can know who hear through all
their being the mystic call of the soil, of the very earth itself, the
actual fatherland, on which they fight. "_We are but a moment of the
eternal France_:"--such was once the saying of a French soldier, dying
somewhere amid these broken trenches over which we are looking. What
was it, asks M. Reinach, that enabled the French to hold out as they
did? _Daring_, he replies--the daring of the leaders, the daring of
the troops led. The word hardly renders the French "_audace_" which is
equally mis-translated by our English "audacity." "_Audace_" implies a
daring which is not rashness, a daring which is justified, which is,
in fact, the military aspect of a great nation's confidence in itself.
It was the spirit of the "Marseillaise," says M. Reinach again--it was
the French soul--_l'ame française_--the soul of country and of
freedom, which triumphed here.

And not for France alone. At the moment when the attack on Verdun
began, although the British military power was strengthening month by
month, and the Military Service Act of May, 1916, which put the
finishing touch to Lord Kitchener's great work, was close at hand, the
French Army was still not only the principal, but the essential
element in the Western campaign. France, at Verdun, as in the Battle
of the Marne, was defending not only her own freedom, but the freedom
of Europe. A few months later, when the British Army of the Somme went
over its parapets at daybreak on July 1st, Verdun was automatically
relieved, and it was clear to all the world that Britain's
apprenticeship was past, and that another great military power had
been born into Europe, on whom, as we now know, the main
responsibilities of final victory were to rest. But at Verdun France
fought for _us_--for England and America no less than for herself; and
that thought must always deepen the already deep emotion with which
English eyes look out upon these tortured hills.

That dim line on the eastern ridge, which marks the ruins of Fort
Vaux, stands indeed for a story which has been entrusted by history to
the living memory of France's Allies, hardly less than to that of
France herself. As we pause among the crumbling trenches and
shell-holes to look back upon the height of Vaux, I seem to see the
lines of French infantry creeping up the hill, through the
communication trenches, in the dark, to the relief of their comrades
in the fort; the runners--eager volunteers--assuring communications
under the incessant hail of shell; the carrier-pigeons, when the fort
is altogether cut off, bringing their messages back to Headquarters;
the red and green signal lights shooting up from the ridge into the
night. One of these runners, when the siege was nearing its end,
arrived at an advance post, having by a miracle got through a terrible
barrage unhurt. "You might have waited a few instants," said the
Colonel, kindly. But the runner, astonished, showed the envelope. "My
Colonel, look--it is written--'_urgent!_'"

That was the spirit. Or listen to this fragment from the journal of
Captain Delvert, defending one of the redoubts that protect Fort Vaux:

    "Six o'clock--the bombardment has just begun again. The
    stretcher-bearer, L----, has just been leaning a few
    moments--worn out--against the wall of my dug-out. His good,
    honest face is hollow, his eyes, with their blue rims, seem
    starting out of his head. '_Mon Capitaine_, I'm used up. There
    are only three stretcher-bearers left. The others are dead or
    wounded. I haven't eaten for three days, or drunk a drop of
    water.' His frail body is only held together by a miracle of
    energy. Talk of heroes--here is a true one!

    "Eight o'clock. We are relieved.

    "Eleven o'clock. Message from the Colonel. 'Owing to
    circumstances the 101st cannot be relieved.'

    "_Merci!_

    "What a disappointment for my poor fellows! Lieutenant X---- is
    lost in admiration of them. I daresay--but I have only
    thirty-nine of them left."

Eighteen hours later.

    "The order for relief has come. We shall leave our dead behind us
    in the trench. Then-comrades have carefully placed them out of
    the passage-way.... There they are--poor sentinels, whom we leave
    behind us, in a line on the parados, in their blood-stained
    uniforms--solemn and terrible guardians of this fragment of
    French soil, which still in death they seem to be holding against
    the enemy."

But the enemy advances inexorably, and within the fort the dead and
dying multiply.

    "Captain Tabourot fought like a lion," says another witness. "He
    was taller than any of us. He gave his orders briefly, encouraged
    us, and placed us. Then he plunged his hand into the bag of bombs,
    and, leaning back, threw one with a full swing of the arm, aiming
    each time. That excited us, and we did our best."

But meanwhile the enemy is stealing up behind, between the trench and
the fort. Captain Tabourot is mortally hit, and is carried into the
dressing-station within the fort. Commandant Raynal, himself wounded,
comes to see him. "No word of consolation, no false hope. The one
knows that all is over; the other respects him too deeply to attempt a
falsehood." A grasp of the hand--a word from the Commandant: "Well
done, _mon ami_!" But the Captain is thinking of his men. "_Mon
Commandant_--if the Boches get through, it is not the fault of my
company. They did all they could." Then a last message to his wife.
And presently his name is carried through the dark by a carrier-pigeon
down to the Headquarters below: "The enemy surrounds us. I report to
you the bravery of Captain Tabourot, seriously wounded. We are holding
out." And a few hours later: "Captain Tabourot of the 142nd has died
gloriously. Wound received in defending the north-eastern breach.
Demand for him the Legion of Honour."

For five days the heroic defence goes on. All communications are cut,
the passages of the fort are choked with wounded and dying men, the
water is giving out. On the 4th, a wounded pigeon arrives at
Headquarters. It brings a message, imploring urgently for help.

"This is my last pigeon." The following day communication is partly
re-established, and a few fragmentary messages are received. "The
enemy"--signals the fort--"is working on a mine to the west of the
fort. Turn on the guns--quick." ... "We don't hear your artillery. Are
attacked by gas, and flame throwers. Are at the last extremity." Then
one message gets through from below--"Courage! we shall soon attack."
The fort waits, and at night another fragmentary message comes from
Raynal asking for water and relief. "I am nearly at the end of my
powers. The troops--men and officers--have in all circumstances done
their duty.... You will come, no doubt ... before we are completely
exhausted. _Vive la France!_"

But death and thirst--thirst, above all--are victors. On the 6th, a
few hours before the inevitable end, Marshal Joffre flashed his
message to the heights--in the first place, a message of thanks to
troops and Commander for their "magnificent defence," in the next,
making Commandant Raynal a Commander of the Legion of Honour.

On the 7th a last heroic effort was made to relieve the fort. It
failed, and Raynal--wounded, with a handful of survivors--surrendered,
the Germans, in acknowledgment of the heroism of the defence, allowing
the Commandant to retain his sword.

What manner of men were they that fought this fight? What traditions
did they represent? What homes did they come from?

M. Henri Bordeaux, himself an eye-witness, to whose admirable and
moving book on _The Last Days of Fort Vaux_, I am indebted for the
preceding details, to some extent answers the question by quoting a
letter, addressed by his mother to the stretcher-bearer, Roger Vamier,
decorated in 1915 by General Joffre himself.

    "_Et toi, mon trésor_--you must have a great deal to do.... Well,
    do all you can to save those poor wounded!--left there in the snow
    and blood. My blood boils to be staying on here, when there is so
    much to do over there, in picking up those poor fellows. Why won't
    they have a woman?--there, where she could really help! It is the
    business of mothers to pick up those poor lads, and give them a
    good word. Well, you must replace the mothers, you, _mon chéri_,
    you must do all you can--do the impossible--to help. I see you
    running--creeping along--looking for the wounded. If I could
    only be there too!--Yes, it is my place, _mon petit_, near you.
    Courage, courage!--I know it is the beginning of the end--and
    the end will be grand for all those who have fought in the just
    cause."

A month later thousands of English, Scotch, Welsh and Irish lads, men
from Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, were passing on
the Somme through a similar furnace of death and suffering to that
borne by the French at Verdun. But the English ways of expression are
not the French; and both differ from the American. The instinct for
ringing and dramatic speech rarely deserts the Frenchman--or
Frenchwoman. It is present in the letter written by Roger Vamier's
mother, as in the _Ordres du Jour_ of Castelnau or Pétain. Facility of
this kind is not our _forte_. Our lack of it suggests the laughter in
that most delightful of recent French books, _Les Silences du Colonel
Bramble_, which turns upon our national taciturnities and our
minimising instinct in any matter of feeling, an instinct which is
like the hiding instinct, the protective colouring of birds--only
anxious to be mistaken for something else. The Englishman, when
emotion compels him, speaks more readily in poetry than prose; it is
the natural result of our great poetic tradition; and in the
remarkable collections of war poetry written by English soldiers we
have the English counterpart to the French prose utterance of the
war--so much more eloquent and effective, generally, than our own.

       *       *       *       *       *

One more look round the slopes over which the light is fading. The
heroism of the defence!--that, here, is the first thought. But on the
part of the attackers there was a courage no less amazing, though of
another sort; the effect of an iron discipline hypnotising the
individual will, and conferring on the soldier such superhuman power
of dying at another man's will as history--on such a scale--has
scarcely seen equalled. In the first battle of Verdun, which lasted
forty-eight days (February 21st to April 9th), the German casualties
were over 200,000, with a very high proportion of killed. And by the
end of the year the casualties at Verdun, on both sides, had reached
700,000. Opinion in Germany, at first so confident, wavered and
dropped. Why not break off? But the dynasty was concerned. Fortune,
_toute entière à sa proie attachée_, drove the German Army again and
again through lanes of death, where the French 75's worked their
terrible will--for no real military advantage. "On the 10th of March,"
says M. Henri Bordeaux, "the enemy climbed the northern slopes of Fort
Vaux. He was then from two to three hundred mètres from the
counter-scarp. He took three months to cross these two to three
hundred mètres--three months of superhuman effort, and of incredible
losses in young men, the flower of the nation." The German strategic
reserves were for the first time seriously shaken, and by the end of
this wonderful year Pétain, Nivelle, and Mangin between them had
recovered from the assailants all but a fraction of what had been lost
at Verdun. Meanwhile, behind the "shield" of Verdun, which was thus
attracting and wasting the force of the enemy, the Allied Armies had
prepared the great offensive of the summer. Italy struck in the
Trentino on the 25th of June, Russia attacked in June and July, the
British attacked on the Somme on July 1st. The "wearing-down" battle
had begun in earnest. "Soldiers of Verdun," said Marshal Joffre, in
his order of the 12th of June, "the plans determined on by the
Coalition are in full work. It is your heroic resistance that has made
this possible. It was the indispensable condition, and it will be the
foundation, of our coming victories." "Germany"--says M.
Reinach--"during ten months had used her best soldiers in furious
assaults on Verdun.... These troops, among the finest in the world,
had in five of these months gained a few kilometres of ground on the
road to the fortress. This ground, watered with blood as no field of
carnage had ever been, which saw close upon 700,000 men fall, was lost
in two actions (October 24th--November 3rd and December 15th--18th),
and Germany was brought back to within a few furlongs of her starting
point.... Douaumont and Louvemont were certainly neither Rocroy nor
Austerlitz; but Verdun, from the first day to the last, from the rush
stemmed by Castelnau to the battles won by Nivelle and Mangin; Verdun,
with her mud-stained _poilu_, standing firm in the tempest, who said:
"They shall not pass!" _(passeront pas!_), and they have not passed;
Verdun, for the Germans a charnel-house, for us a sanctuary, was
something greater by far."

With these thoughts in mind we dropped down the long hill to Verdun
again, and so across the bridge and on to that famous road, the _Voie
Sacrée_, up which Pétain, "the road-mender" (_Le Cantonnier_), brought
all his supplies--men, food, guns, ammunition--from Bar-le-Duc by
motor-lorry, passing and repassing each other in a perpetual
succession--one every twenty seconds. The road was endlessly broken
up, sometimes by the traffic, sometimes by shell, and as endlessly
repaired by troops specially assigned to the task. And presently we
are passing the Moulin des Regrets, where Castelnau and Pétain met on
the night of the 25th, and the resolution was taken to counter-attack
instead of withdrawing. Verdun, indeed, is the classic illustration of
the maxim that attack is the best defence, or, as the British
Commander-in-Chief puts it in his latest dispatch, that "defensive
success in battle can be gained only by a vigorous offensive." The
long battle on the Meuse, "the greatest single action in history," was
in one aspect a vast school, in which a score of matters belonging to
the art of war were tested, illustrated, and explained, with the same
general result as appears throughout the struggle, a result insisted
on by each great commander, British or French, in turn; _i.e._, that
in the principles of war there is nothing new to be learnt.
Discipline, training, co-operation, attack; these are the unchanging
forces the great general has at command. It depends on his own genius
what he makes of them.

Verdun fades behind us, and we are on our way to the Marne. In the
strange isolation of the car, passing so quickly, as the short winter
twilight comes on, through country one has never seen before and will
perhaps never see again, the war becomes a living pageant on the
background of the dark. Then, with the lights of Château-Thierry,
thought jumps in a moment from the oldest army in the war to the
youngest. This old town, these dim banks of the Marne, have a long
history. But in the history of last year, and the closing scenes of
the Great War, they belong specially to America. This is American
ground.

To realise what that means, we must retrace our steps a little.



CHAPTER VI

AMERICA IN FRANCE


On March 2nd, 1917, I found myself lunching at Montreuil, then the
General Headquarters of the British Expeditionary Force, with the
Staff of the Intelligence Department. After lunch I walked through the
interesting old town, with the Chief of the Department, and our talk
turned on the two subjects of supreme importance at that
moment--America and Russia. When would America come in? For that she
would come in was clear. It was now a full month since diplomatic
relations between Germany and the United States had been broken off,
and about a week since President Wilson had asked Congress to arm
American vessels in self-defence against the new submarine campaign
announced by Germany in January. "It can't be long," said my companion
quietly; "Germany has gone too far to draw back. And the President
will have the whole country with him. On the whole I think he has been
right to wait. It is from Americans themselves of course that one
hears the sharpest criticism of the President's 'patience.'"

My own correspondence of the winter indeed with American friends had
shown me the passion of that criticism. But on the 2nd of March there
was small further need for it. Germany was rushing on her fate. During
the course of the month, England and America watched the piling up of
the German score as vessel after vessel was sunk. Then on the 1st of
April came the loss of twenty-eight American lives in the _Aztec_, and
the next day but one we opened our London newspapers to find that on
April the 2nd President Wilson had asked Congress for a Declaration of
War.

"America is in," wrote an officer at G.H.Q., "and the faces of
everybody one sees show a real bit of spring sunshine. People begin to
say: 'Now we shall be home by Christmas.'"

But something else had happened in that fateful month of March. March
the 9th saw the strange, uncertain opening of the Russian revolution,
followed by a burst of sympathy and rejoicing throughout Europe. Only
those intimately acquainted with the structure of Russian society felt
the misgivings of those who see the fall of a house built on rotten
foundations and have no certainty of any firm ground whereon to build
its successor. But the disappointment and exasperation of the Allies
at that moment, as to all that had happened in Russia during the
preceding months, under the old régime, was so great that the mere
change bred hope; and for a long time we hoped against hope. All the
more because the entry of America, and the thrilling rapidity of her
earlier action put the Russian business into the shade, may, indeed,
have dulled the perceptions of the Allies with regard to it. In forty
days from the declaration of war the United States had adopted
Conscription, which had taken us two years; General Pershing and his
small force had sailed for France within eighty days; and by the end
of June, or within ninety days, America had adopted the blockade
policy of Great Britain, and assented to the full use of that mighty
weapon which was to have so vast an influence on the war. President
Wilson's speech, when he came to Congress for the Declaration of War,
revealed him--and America--to England, then sorely brooding over "too
proud to fight," in an aspect which revived in us all that was kinship
and sympathy, and put to sleep the natural resentments and
astonishments of the preceding years. Nay, we envied America a man
capable of giving such magnificent expression to the passion and
determination of all free nations, in face of the German challenge.

Then came the days of disappointment. Troops arrived at a more
leisurely pace in France than had been hoped. Ships and aeroplanes,
which American enthusiasm in the early weeks of the war had promised
in profusion, delayed their coming; there was congestion on the
American railways, interfering with supplies of all kinds; and the
Weather God, besides, let loose all his storm and snow battalions upon
the Northern States to hamper the work of transport. We in England
watched these things, not realising that our own confidence in the
military prospects and the resisting power of the Allies, was partly
to blame for American leisureliness. It was so natural that American
opinion, watching the war, should split into two phases--one that held
the war was going to be won quickly by negotiation, before America
could seriously come in; the other that the war would go on for
another three years, and therefore there would be ample time for
America to make all her own independent plans and form her own
separate army with purely American equipment. English opinion wavered
in the same way. I well remember a gathering in a London house in
November, 1917, just after the first successful attack in the Battle
of Cambrai. It was a gathering in honour of General Bliss, and other
American officers and high officials then in London. General Bliss was
the centre of it, and the rugged, most human, most lovable figure of
Mr. Page was not far away. The Battle of Cambrai was in progress, and
English expectations, terribly depressed, at any rate among those who
knew, by the reports which had been coming through of the severe
fighting in the Salient, during the preceding weeks, were again rising
rapidly. Everybody was full of the success of the initial attack, of
the tanks above all, and what they might mean for the future. At last
Sir Julian Byng had achieved surprise; at last there had been open
fighting; if by happy chance we took Cambrai what might not happen? A
flash of optimism ran through us all. Victory and peace drew nearer.
Yet in the background there were always those dim rumours of the
appalling losses at Passchendaele, together with the smarting memory
of Caporetto, and of the British divisions sent to Italy.

And in ten days more we knew that the German counter-attack had
checked the Cambrai advance, that Bourlon Wood was lost, that Cambrai
was still inaccessible, and we retained only a portion of the ground
gained by the dash and skill of the first days. The moral was, as
always--"more men!" and we settled down again to a stubborn waiting
for our own new recruits, then in the training camps, and for the
first appearance of the American battalions. Meanwhile the news from
Russia grew steadily worse; the Russian Army had melted away under the
Kerensky regulations; and the country was rapidly falling into chaos.
Brest-Litovsk was acutely realised for the German triumph that it was;
and the heads of the Army were already calculating with some precision
the number of German divisions, then on the Eastern front, which must
inevitably be transferred to France for the spring offensive of the
German Army.

It was natural that those really acquainted with the situation should
turn feverishly towards America. When was her Army coming? In the
matter of money America had done nobly towards all the Allies. In this
field her help had been incalculably great. In the matter of munitions
and stores for the Allies she had done all that the state of her
railways, the weather of her winter, and the drawbacks of the American
Constitution, considered as a military machine, as yet allowed her to
do. Meanwhile one saw the President, aided by a score of able and
energetic men, constantly at work removing stones in the path, setting
up a War Industries Board, reorganising the Shipping Board and the Air
Service, and clearing the way for those food supplies from the great
American and Canadian wheatfields without which Europe could not
endure, and which were constantly endangered by the pressure of the
submarine attack. Perhaps in all that anxious winter the phase of
American help which touched us English folk most deeply was the
voluntary rationing by which hundreds and thousands of American
families, all over the vast area of the States, eagerly stinted
themselves that they might send food overseas to Great Britain and the
Allies--sixty million bushels of wheat by January 1st--ninety millions
before the 1918 harvest. We knew that it was only done by personal
sacrifice, and we _felt_ it in our hearts.

Meanwhile, on this side of the sea, the anxiety for _men_ grew
steadily stronger. Who knew what the coming spring campaign would
bring forth? The French Army during 1917 had passed through that
_dépression morale_ of which I have spoken in an earlier letter. Would
a country which had borne such a long and terrible ordeal of death and
devastation be capable of yet another great effort during the coming
year, whatever might be the heroic patriotism of her people? One heard
of the enormous preparations that America was making in France--of the
new docks, warehouses, and railways, of the vast depots and splendid
camps that were being laid out--with a mixture of wonder and
irritation. A friend of mine, on coming back from France, described to
me his going over a new American dock with two French officers:
"Magnificent!" said the Frenchmen, in a kind of despair--"but when are
they going to _begin_? Suppose the war is over, and France swallowed
up, _before_ they begin?" A large section of American opinion was
shaken with the same impatience.

American letters to English friends, including those of Mr. Roosevelt to
his many English correspondents, among whom, to some small extent, I was
proud to reckon myself, expressed an almost fierce disappointment with
the slow progress of things. Ultimately, of course, an independent
American Army, under its own Commander-in-Chief, and fully equipped
from American factories. But why not begin by sending men in as large
numbers as possible to train with the British and French Armies, and to
take their places as soon as possible in the fighting line, as integral
parts of those armies, allowing the Allies to furnish all equipment
till America was really ready? It was pointed out that Canada and
Australia, by sending officers and men over at once to train and fight
with the British, and leaving everything else to be supplied by the
Allies, had in nine months from the outbreak of war already taken part
in glorious and decisive battles. Or why not adopt a two-fold
policy--of supplying men to the Allies as rapidly as possible, for
immediate aid, carrying on preparations the while for an independent
American Army with all its own supplies, as the ultimate goal? Time, it
was urged, was of the utmost importance. And what object was served by
experimenting with new types of munitions, instead of adopting the
types of the Allies, which the American factories were already turning
out in profusion? And so on.

With such feelings did many of us on this side of the water, and a
large section apparently of American friends of the Allies on the
other side, watch the gradual unravelling of America's tangled skeins.
The _North American Review_ asked in December, 1917: "Are we losing
the war? No. But we are not winning it." In January, 1918, the editor
warned his readers: "The Allied forces are not in condition to
withstand the terrific onslaught which Germany is bound to make within
six months. America must win the war." In April the _New York Bankers'
Bulletin_ said: "We have not made progress as far as we might or
could," while months later, even in its September number (1918), the
_North American Review_ still talked of "our inexplicable military
sluggishness," and rang with appeals for greater energy. There was of
course an element of politics in all this; but up to March last year
it is clear that, in spite of many things not only magnificently
planned, but magnificently _done_, there was a great deal of sincere
anxiety and misgiving in both countries.

But with the outbreak of the German offensive in March, as we all
know, everything changed. American troops began to _rush_
over:--366,000 in round numbers, up to the end of March, and 440,000
more, up to the end of June, 70 per cent, of them carried in British
ships; a million by the end of July, nearly a million and a half
before the Armistice. Wonderful story! Nobody, I think, can possibly
exaggerate the heartening and cheering effect of it upon the Allies in
Europe, especially on France--wounded and devastated France--and on
Italy, painfully recovering from Caporetto. How well I remember the
thrill of those days in London, the rumours of the weekly landings of
troops--70,000--80,000 men--and the occasional sight of the lithe,
straight-limbed, American boys marching through our streets!

And yet, curiously enough--what _was_ exaggerated all the time, on
both sides of the Atlantic, both here and in America, was the extent
of the British set-back hi March and April, and its effect on the
general situation. That is clear, I think, when we look back on our
own Press at home, and still more on American utterances, both in the
States and in France. In _August_ of last year Mr. Secretary Baker
said: "We are only just beginning"--and he pointed to the millions of
men that America would have in France by 1919. On August 7th General
March, Chief of the American General Staff, said in the Senate
Committee, that America would have four millions of men in France,
with one million at home, for the campaign of 1919. "The only way that
Germany can be whipped is by America going into this thing with her
whole strength. It is up to us to win the war.... We must force the
issue and win." The editor of the _North American Review_ wrote in
August, and published in his September number, phrases like the
following: "But the hand of the enemy cannot be struck down for a long
time to come." "Virtually impregnable positions" are still held by
him. "No military observer is so sanguine as to anticipate anything
like conclusive results from the present campaign. The real test will
come next year, in the late spring and summer of 1919." By then the
Allies must have "a great preponderance of men and guns. These America
must supply."

But when General March said in August: "It is up to us to win the
war," and the _North American Review_ talked of "virtually impregnable
positions," and the impossibility of "anything like conclusive results
from the present campaign"--the capture of those "impregnable
positions" by the British Army, and thereby the winning of the war,
were only a few weeks away! Similar phrases could be quoted from the
British Press, and from prominent Englishmen, though not, unless my
memory plays me false, from any of our responsible military leaders.
The fact is that the view I represented, in my second article, as the
view taken by the heads of the British Army, of the March retreat, had
turned out by the summer to be the true one. The German armies _had_
to a large extent beaten themselves out against the British defensive
battle of the spring: and while the Americans were making their
splendid spurt from April to August, and entering the fighting field
in force for the first time, the British Army, having absorbed its
recruits, taken huge toll of its enemies, and profited by all there
was to be learnt from the German offensive, was getting ready every
day to give the final strokes in the war, aided, when the moment came,
by the supreme leadership of Marshal Foch, by the successes of
Generals Mangin and Dégoutte on the Marne, by the masterly campaign of
General Gouraud in Champagne, and the gallant push of General Pershing
in the Argonne. This position of things was not sufficiently realised
by the general public in England, still less by the American public,
as is shown by the extracts I have quoted. So that the continuous
series of British victories, from August 8th onward, which ended in
the Armistice, came as a rather startling surprise to those both here
and abroad who, like von Kluck in 1914, had been inclined to make too
much of a temporary British retreat.

Moreover, behind the military successes of Great Britain--and not only
on the French front, but in the East also--stood always the deadly
pressure of the British blockade. When after the capture of the
Hindenburg positions, the line indicating "prisoners," on that chart
at G.H.Q., a reduced copy of which will be found at the end of this
book, leapt up to a height for which the wall in the room of the
Director of Operations could hardly find space, it meant not only
victory over Germany in the field, but also the disintegration of
German _morale_ at home; owing first and foremost to that deadly watch
which the British Navy, supported during the last year of the war by
the American embargo, had kept over the seas of the world, to
Germany's undoing, since the opening of the struggle. The final
victory of the Allies when it came was thus in a special sense Great
Britain's victory, achieved both by her mastery of the sea, and the
military expansion forced upon her by the German attack; conditioned,
of course, by the whole earlier history of the war, in which France
had led the van and borne the brunt, and immensely facilitated by the
"splendid American adventure," to use the phrase of an American.

For to show that, in a strictly military sense, the British and
Dominion Armies, backed by the British Navy, brought the war to a
successful end--a simple matter of figures and dates--is not all, or
nearly all. The American intervention, and especially the marvellous
speeding-up of American action, from March to the end of the war,
quite apart from the brilliant promise of America's first appearances
in the field, had an effect upon Europe--Great Britain, France,
Italy--akin to that which the American climate and atmosphere produces
on the visitor from this side of the Atlantic. It breathed new life
into everything, and especially into the heart of France, the chief
sufferer by three years of atrocious war. As weary and devastated
France watched the American stream of eager and high-hearted youth,
flowing from Bordeaux eastwards, column after column, regiment after
regiment, of men admirable in physique, fearless in danger, and full
of a laughing and boundless confidence in America's power to help, and
resolve to win--at last it seemed that the long horror of the war must
be indeed coming to an end. "Three thousand miles!" said the French
villager or townsman to himself, as he turned out to see them
pass--"they have come three thousand miles to beat the Boche. And
America is the richest country in the world--and there are a hundred
millions of them." Hope rose into flood, and with it fresh courage to
endure.

Nor was the effect less marked on the British nation, which had not
known invasion, and on the British Army, for all its faith in itself.
The rapid growth of American strength in France from March onward in
response to the call of the Allies, provided indeed a moral support to
the two older armies, which was of incalculable value and "influenced
the fighting qualities of both; while the knowledge of these mounting
reserves enabled the Allied Commanders to take risks which otherwise
could hardly have been faced." I am quoting a British military
authority of high rank.

It was at Metz that--outside Paris--I first came in contact with this
"America in France," which History will mark on her coming page with
all the emphasis that belongs to new chapters in the ever-broadening
tale of man. It was in the shape of some "Knights of Columbus,"
pausing at Metz for a night on their way to Coblenz. We only exchanged
a few words on the steps of the hotel, but I had time to feel the
interest and the strangeness of this American Catholicism in Europe,
following in the track of war, and looking with its New World eyes at
those old, old towns, those ancient churches in which American
Catholics were at home, yet not at home. At Strasbourg I saw no
Americans that I can remember. But our arrival at Nancy at midnight,
very weary after a long day in the car, during which we had missed our
way badly at least once, is linked in my recollection with the
apparition of two young American officers just as we were being told
for the third time that there was no room in the hotel to which we had
driven up. Should we really have to sleep in the car? There seemed to
be not a single vacant bedroom in Nancy; and there had been snow
showers during the day! But these two Americans heard from our French
Lieutenant that there were two English ladies in the car, and they
came forward at once, offering their rooms. Luckily we found shelter
elsewhere; but I shall not soon forget the kind readiness of the two
young men, and the thrill of the whole scene. There we stood in the
beautiful Place Stanislas, that workmen from Versailles built for the
father-in-law of Louis Quinze. A flickering moonlight touched the
gilding of the famous _grilles_ that shut in the square; and the only
light in the wide space seemed to come from this one hotel taken by
the American authorities for the use of their officers and Red Cross
workers passing to and from the Rhine. When that square was built,
George Washington was a youth of twenty, and after one hundred and
seventy years it stood within the war-zone of an American Army, which
had crossed the Atlantic to fight in Europe!

Next day we spent entirely in the American sector, between Nancy and
Toul, where American road directions and sign-boards, and fine,
newly-built camps and depots for the American forces met us in all
directions. A military policeman from a coloured regiment put us into
the right road for St. Mihiel after leaving Toul--a strongly-built,
bronzed fellow, dealing with the stream of military and civil traffic
at a cross roads in Eastern France with perfect ease and _sang-froid_.
The astonishment and interest of this American occupation of a country
so intensely and ultimately national, so little concerned in ordinary
times with any other life than its own as France, provincial France
above all, never ceased to hold me as we drove on and on through the
American sector; especially when darkness and moonlight returned, and
again and again as we passed through wrecked villages where a few
chinks of light here and there showed a scattered billet or two, the
American military policeman on duty would emerge from the shadows,
tall, courteous, self-possessed, to answer a question, or show the
way, and we left him behind, apparently the only human being under the
French night, in sole possession of the ruins round him.

But before darkness fell, during the central part of the day, we had
crossed the southern lines of the convergent American attack on St.
Mihiel. Trenches and wire-fields and artillery positions had all
belonged to the French battle-zone before the Americans took them
over, and there had been fierce fighting here by the French in 1915.
But for three years the position had changed but little, till the
newly-formed First American Army undertook in September the clearing
of the Salient.

We left the car near the village of Beaumont, and walked to the brow
of the low ridge from which the American attack started. Standing
among what had been the _tranckées de départ_, with the ruins of the
village of Seichprey below us to the right, we had before us the
greater part of the American battle-field--Thiaucourt in the far
north-east; the ridge of Vigneulles, which had been the meeting-point
of the converging American attacks coming both from the north-west and
the south-east; while in the near foreground rose the once heavily
fortified Mont Sec. The American troops went over the parapet at five
o'clock on the morning of September 12th, and by the morning of the
13th their forces had met at Vigneulles, and the Salient, with its
perpetual threat to the French line, had disappeared. In three more
days the Heights of the Meuse had been cleared, and the foremost
Americans were already under the fire of the fortified zone protecting
Metz.

It was a brilliant but happily not a costly victory. Von Gallwitz, the
German Commander, had probably already determined on retirement, when
the American attack forestalled him. So that the American troops with
certain French units supporting them achieved a great result with
small losses; and as the first battle of an independent American Army
the operation must always remain one of extraordinary interest and
importance, even though, in British military opinion, the palm of
difficulty and of sacrifice must be given rather to the splendid
fighting on the Marne in June and July, when the Americans were still
under French direction, or to the admirable performance of the two
American divisions, the 27th and the 30th, serving under Sir Henry
Rawlinson, a fortnight after St. Mihiel, on the Hindenburg line. "The
original attack," at St. Mihiel, says one of the keenest of British
military observers--"was carried out with extraordinary dash by very
eager and physically magnificent soldiers." Possibly, he adds, a more
seasoned army--the American troops had only had six months' experience
in the fighting line!--might have turned the effects of a successful
action to greater military advantage than was the case at St. Mihiel.
The British or French critic, mindful of the bitter lessons of four
years of war, is inclined to make the same criticism of most of the
American operations of last year, except the fighting on the Marne in
June and July, when French caution and experience found a wonderful
complement in the splendid fighting qualities of the American
infantry. "But"--adds one of them--"undoubtedly the American Command
was learning _very rapidly_." What an army the American Army would
have been, if the war had lasted through this year! The qualities of
the individual soldier, drawn many of them from districts among the
naturally richest in the world, together with the vast resources in
men and wealth of the nation behind them, and the mastery of the
lessons of modern war which was already promised by the American
Command, during the six months' campaign of 1918--above all, the
comparative freshness of the American effort--would, no doubt, have
made the United States Army the leading force among the Allies, had
the war been prolonged. That is one line of speculation, and an
interesting one. Another, less profitable, asks: "Could the Allies
have won without America?" The answer I have heard most commonly given
is: "Probably yes, considering, especially, the disintegration we now
know to have been going on in Germany, and the cumulative effects of
the British blockade. But it would have taken at least six months more
fighting, the loss of thousands more precious and irreplaceable lives,
and the squandering of vast additional wealth in the bottomless waste
of war."

Thank God, we did not win without America! The effects, the
far-reaching effects, of America's intervention, of her comradeship in
the field of suffering and sacrifice with the free nations of old
Europe, are only now beginning to show themselves above the horizon.
They will be actively and, as at least the men and women of faith
among us believe, beneficently at work, when this generation has long
passed away.



CHAPTER VII

AMERICA IN FRANCE (CONTINUED)


It was late when we left Verdun, on the afternoon of the day which saw
us at its beginning on the southern edge of the St. Mihiel
battle-field, and the winter daylight had passed into darkness before
we began to run through a corner of the Argonne, on our way to St.
Menehould and Châlons, passing by the wholly ruined village of
Clermont in Argonne. The forest ran past us, a wintry fairyland, dimly
lit by our quickly moving lamps, and apparently impenetrable beyond
their range, an optical effect, however, that may be produced in
darkness by a mere fringe of trees along the roadside. But I knew
while I watched the exquisite effects of brown and silver, produced by
the succession of tall, pale trunks rising above the lace-work of the
underwood, as scene after scene pressed upon us out of the dark, that
we were indeed in a forest country, only some twenty miles away from
the scene of General Pershing's drive at the end of last September,
when he achieved on the first day an advance of seven miles through
difficult country, while General Gouraud was pushing forward in
Champagne; and I found myself speculating in the dark on the many
discussions I had heard both among English and Americans of that
advance, and of the checks and difficulties which, as I suppose is now
generally admitted, followed on the first brilliant operations.

During the last few weeks further information has been forthcoming
about the Meuse-Argonne battle, as the American operations between the
Argonne and the Meuse from September 26th to November 11th are
apparently to be known. But a good deal of obscurity still hangs over
the details of the fighting. In the British Army I came across the
very general belief that the staff and transport work of the advance
had been--in the words of a well-known historian of the war--"as was
natural with a new army, scarcely adequate to the fighting qualities
of the troops engaged." And I often heard regret expressed that the
American Command had not been more willing to avail itself of the
staff experience of either or both of the older armies, which
might--so the British or French spectator thinks--have lessened the
casualty lists among extraordinarily gallant but inexperienced troops.
"Replacements fresh from home were put into exhausted divisions with
little time for training," says General Pershing's report. And "some
of the divisions were fighting their first battle." They were faced
also at the beginning of the advance by some of the best remaining
German troops. When one thinks of all the long and bitter training in
the field that went to the perfecting of French or British staff work,
and then of the difficult nature of the ground over which the First
American Army had to make its way, one can only feel the deepest
sympathy for the losses sustained by the fresh and eager troops. The
Argonne forest itself had long been recognised as impenetrable to
frontal attack, and on the Argonne side of the American twenty-mile
front, along the western edge of the valley of the Aire, the ground is
still heavily wooded and often very hilly. As one of the ablest
military critics, himself a soldier of great distinction, expressed it
to me: "Foch had set the Americans an uncommonly hard task!"

But if there was some failure in those matters where neither bravery
nor natural intelligence can take the place of long training, and
experience in the field, there was no failure in ardour or in spirit.
In spite of heavy losses, General Pershing never failed to push on.
Starting from a line on the northern edge of the great Verdun
battle-field, Montfaucon, the German headquarters during the Verdun
fighting of 1916, was captured in three days. Then came severe
fighting against fierce counter-attacks, and great difficulties with
transport over shell-torn ground and broken roads, difficulties
increased by bad weather. But on October 4th the gallant attack was
renewed, and by October 10th, owing to the combined effects of the
British drive in the north and the pressure on both sides of the
Argonne, from General Gouraud on the west and the Americans on the
east, the enemy fell back and the famous forest was cleared.

The third and last phase of the fighting began on the 23rd of October.
The enemy was now weakening rapidly along the whole of his line. For
while the American Army had been stubbornly fighting its way north
from Varennes to Grandpré, where it stood on November 1st, the British
Armies, in the great Battles of Cambrai-St. Quentin, Ypres, and
Courtrai, had not only captured the Hindenburg line and some fifty
thousand prisoners, but had brought about--without fighting--the
evacuation of Laon and the retreat of the Germans to the line of the
Aisne; the German withdrawal, also, to the Scheldt, involving the
freeing of Lille and the great industrial district of France; and
finally, in concert with Belgian, French, and some American units, the
clearing of the Belgian coast, and the recovery of Ostend, Zeebrugge
and Bruges. The end, indeed, was rushing on. Co-operation was
everywhere maintained, and blow followed blow. "During this period"
(6th to 31st October), says the British Commander-in-Chief, "our
Allies had been pushing forward steadily on both sides of the Argonne.
The enemy was held by their attacks on his southern flank, while to
the north the British offensive was driving forward rapidly behind his
right."

Then, with November, the British Army, in the Battle of the Sambre,
"struck at and broke the enemy's last important lateral
communications, divided his forces into two parts on either side of
the Ardennes, and initiated a pursuit which only stopped with the
Armistice." About one hundred thousand prisoners had been taken by the
British Armies since September 26th. "Victory, indeed," in General
Gouraud's phrase, "had changed her camp!" Led by her, the British,
French, and American Armies streamed east and north through the few
days that remained, pursuing a beaten and demoralised enemy. The final
American advance was begun on November 1st, and on November 7th
patrols of the 42nd Division reached the Meuse at Wadelincourt,
opposite Sedan; while the Fifth Division was in the Forest of Woevre,
and the 90th Division had captured Stenay.

Some very interesting figures have lately been given as to the forces
under General Pershing's command. Altogether some 770,000 men seem to
have been employed--both east and west of the Meuse--of whom 138,000
were French. Forty-six German divisions, amounting, according to the
American estimate, to about 350,000 men, opposed the American advance.
The casualties are given as 115,000--among them 26,000 killed[8]--for
the American troops, and 7,000 for the French. The enemy casualties
are estimated at 75,000, and 16,000 prisoners were taken.

  [8] According to the latest estimate I have seen.

One incident, relatively unimportant, but wonderfully picturesque, is
sure to find a place in the American song and story of the future. It
was during the rapid advance of the last days, when the far vision of
the Rhine was already beckoning forward the victorious Allies, and
giving wings to the feet of youth. On the night of November 3rd, after
a successful day, the 9th and 23rd Infantry of the Second Division
found themselves in column formation on the road leading north to
Beaumont, a small town south of Sedan. The way lay open, and they took
it. They marched on and on through the night, throwing out the usual
advance guard and flank patrols, but otherwise unprotected. By all the
rules of war the brigade should have been cut off. But in this
twilight-time--this _Götterdämmerung_ of the end, conditions were
abnormal, and the two regiments marched on through forest country,
right through the enemy lines towards the Meuse, for about eight
kilometres, capturing machine-gunners asleep at their guns, and
rounding up parties of the enemy on the roads, till in the early dawn
they reached a farm where German officers were sitting round tables
with lights burning--only to spring to their feet in dismay, as the
Americans surrounded them. The cold autumn morning--the young bronzed
faces emerging from the darkness--the humbled and astonished foe:
surely Old and New, Europe and America, were never brought together in
a moment more attractive to the story-teller. A touch of romance amid
the tragedy and the glory! But how welcome it is!

The full history, however, of the Argonne fighting will probably not
be accurately known for some little time to come. No such obscurity
hangs over the glorious fighting on the Marne, through the scenes of
which I passed both on the railway journey from Paris to Metz, and in
motoring from Châlons to Paris on our return. Colonel Frederick
Palmer's book[9] gives an account of these operations, which, it seems
to me, ought to be universally read in the Allied countries. The
crusading courage of whole-hearted youth, the contempt of death and
suffering, the splendid and tireless energy which his pages describe,
if they touch other English hearts as deeply as they have touched
mine, will go a long way towards that spiritual bond between our
nations which alone can make real and lasting things out of Leagues
and Treaties.

  [9] _America in France_, by Lt.-Col. Frederick Palmer, S.C., U.S.A.

It was on our way from Rheims to Paris after our drive through the
Champagne battle-field that we passed rapidly through the places and
scenes which Colonel Palmer describes.

As we approached Rheims about midday, a thick white fog rolled
suddenly and silently over the chalk uplands that saw General
Gouraud's campaign of last September and October. We ran through it,
past a turning to Moronvilliers on the left--famous name!--and within
a short distance of Nogent l'Abbesse, the fort which did most to wreck
Rheims Cathedral, and so down in a dreary semi-darkness into Rheims
itself.

Thirty-five years ago I was in Rheims for the first and only time,
before this visit. It was in September, not long before the vintage.
The town and the country-side were steeped in sunlight, and in the
golden riches of Mother Earth. The air indeed, as it shimmered in the
heat above the old town, and the hill slopes where the famous
vineyards lie, seemed to "drop fatness." Wealth, wine, the body and
its pleasures, the cunning handicraft and inherited lore of hundreds
of years and many generations seemed to take visible shape in the fine
old town, in its vast wine-cellars, and in the old inn where we stayed
with its Gargantuan bill of fare, and its _abonnés_ from the town,
ruddy, full-fleshed citizens, whose achievements in the way of eating
and drinking we watched with amazement. Even the cathedral seemed to
me to breathe the richness and gaiety of this central France; the
sculptures of the façade with its famous "laughing angel" expressed
rather the joy of living, of fair womanhood, of smiling maternity, and
childhood, of the prime of youth and the satisfied dignity of age,
than those austerer lessons of Christianity which speak from Beauvais,
or Chartres or Rouen. But how beautiful it all was, how full, wherever
one looked, of that old spell of _la douce France_! And now! Under the
pall of the fog we drove through the silent ruin of the streets, still
on their feet, so to speak, as at Verdun, but eyeless, roofless, and
dead, scarcely a house habitable, though here and there one saw a few
signs of patching up and returning habitation. And in the great square
before the Cathedral instead of the old comeliness, the old stir of
provincial and commercial life--_ruin!_--only intensified by a group
of motors, come to bring distinguished Sunday visitors from Paris and
the Conference, to see as much of it as an hour's wait would enable
them to see. There in front of the great portal stood the Prime
Minister of England and the Cardinal-Archbishop--heroic Cardinal
Luçon, who, under the daily hail of fire, had never left his church or
his flock so long as there was a flock in Rheims to shepherd. And
above the figure of the Cardinal soared the great West Front,
blackened and scarred by fire, the summits of the towers lost in mist,
and behind them, the wrecked and roofless church.

The destruction of irreplaceable values, other than human life, caused
by the war, is summed up, as far as France is concerned, in this West
Front of Rheims; so marred in all its beautiful detail, whether of
glass or sculpture, yet still so grand, so instinct still with the
pleading powers of the spirit. The "pity of it!" and at the same time,
the tenacious undying life of France--all the long past behind her,
the unconquerable future before her--these are the ideas one carries
away from Rheims, hot in the heart. Above all, for the moment, the
pity of it--the horror of this huge outrage spreading from the North
Sea to Switzerland, of what the French call so poignantly _nos
mines_--symbolised, once for all, by the brutal fate of this poem in
stone, built up by the French generations, which is Rheims Cathedral.
And as we passed away from Rheims, through the country roads and the
bombarded villages of the Tardenois, another district of old France,
which up to May last year was still intact, with all its farms and
village and country houses, and is now but little different from
Artois and Picardy, I found myself thinking with a passionate anxiety,
almost, of the Conference sitting in Paris and of its procedure.
"France is right--is _right_," I caught myself saying for the
hundredth time. "Before anything else--justice to her!--protection and
healing for her! Justice on the criminal nation, that has ravaged and
trampled on her, 'like a wild beast out of the wood,' and healing for
wounds and sufferings that no one can realise who has not witnessed
for himself the state of her richest provinces. It was she who offered
her breast to the first onslaught of the enemy, she who fought for us
all when others had still their armies to make, she who has endured
most and bled most, heavily as others--Britain, Italy, Belgium,
Serbia--have endured. Her claim must come first--and let those in
England and America who wish to realise why _come and see_."

We drove down diagonally through the Marne salient as it was last
summer after the German break-through on the Marne, to Dormans and so
across the river. In the darkening afternoon we passed over the
Montagne de Rheims, and crossed the valley of the Ardre, near the spot
where the 19th British Division, in the German attack of last June,
put up so splendid a fight in defence of an important position
commanding the valley--the Montagne de Bligny--that the General of the
Fifth French Army, General de Mitry, under whose orders they were,
wrote to General Haig: "They have enabled us to establish a barrier
against which the hostile waves have beaten and shattered themselves.
This none of the French who witnessed it will ever forget."

For if the Montagne de Bligny had gone, the French position on the
Montagne de Rheims, south-west of Rheims, and the Cathedral city
itself would have been endangered, no less than by the attack on the
north-east of the town, which General Gouraud a month later pinned to
earth. And when we reached Dormans, on the south bank, turning
west-ward to Chateau Thierry, we were on ground no less vital, where
in July the American troops in General Pershing's words wrote "one of
the most brilliant pages in our military annals." The story is well
known. The Germans were attempting to cross the river in force between
Donnans and Château Thierry, and then to thrust their way down the
valley of the Surmelin to Montmirail and the great main road to Paris,
which passes through that town. A single regiment of the 3rd American
Division held up the enemy, on the river bank to the east of Mézy,
fighting at the same time east and west against German parties who had
managed to get a footing at other points on the south side, and
finally counter-attacking, throwing two German divisions into complete
confusion, and capturing six hundred prisoners. No episode in the war
is more likely to ring in the memory of after-times. "In the bend of
the Marne at the mouth of the Surmelin," says Colonel Palmer, "not a
German was able to land. In all twenty boats full of the enemy were
sunk or sent drifting harmlessly down the stream." To the east of
Mézy also, four American platoons did incredible things in defence of
the Paris-Nancy railway. "They were not going to yield that track
alive--that was the simple fact." And their losses were appalling. In
the second platoon of the four engaged, all were killed except three
who were wounded, and half of the third were down before they had
driven the enemy from the embankment. The American graves lie all on
the south side of the line--the German on the north. "We actually took
over four hundred prisoners between the railroad and the river--the
6th German Grenadier Regiment was annihilated...." And the Germans
never reached the Surmelin valley, or that Montmirail road on which
they had set their hearts. "The deciding factor," says Colonel Palmer,
"was the unflinching courage of our men, and their aggressive spirit."
And the action, small as were the numbers engaged, could not have been
bettered. "It is a military classic."

Over this hard-fought ground, consecrated by the graves of men who had
thus bravely--thus gaily--laid down their lives for a cause of which
they had no doubt, we ran on to Chateau Thierry, and that western
flank of the Marne salient, where in June, while the Germans were
still pressing south, and in July when Foch turned upon his trapped
foe, the Americans, most of whom were for the first time in real
battle, bore themselves to the astonishment and admiration of all the
watching Allies. In June especially, when matters were at their worst.
The capture of Bouresches, and Belleau Wood, the capture of Vaux on
July 1st, the gallant help which an American machine-gun battalion
gave the French in covering the French retreat across the bridge at
Château Thierry, before it was blown up, and foiling the German
attempts to cross, and the German move towards Paris, were perhaps,
writes a British military authority, "the most splendid service, from
a military standpoint, the Americans rendered to the Allied Cause. It
was certainly the first occasion on which they really made themselves
felt, and brought home to the Germans the quality of the opposition
they were likely to encounter from the American Armies."

As we approached Château Thierry, the fog had cleared away and the
night was not dark. On our railway journey to Metz a week earlier, we
had seen the picturesque old place, with Hill 204 behind it, and the
ruins of Vaux to the north-west, in daylight, from the south bank of
the river. Now daylight had gone, but as we neared the Marne, the high
ground on the curving north bank, with its scattered lights and their
twinkling reflections in the water, made still a dimly beautiful
setting for the much injured but still living and busy town. We
crossed the temporary bridge into the crowded streets, and then as we
had come a long way, we were glad to dip for tea and a twenty minutes'
break into an inn crowded with Americans. Handsome, friendly fellows!
I wished devoutly that it were not so late, and Paris not so far away,
that I might have spent a long evening in their company. But we were
all too soon on the road again for Meaux and Paris, passing slowly
through the ruined streets of Vaux, with Bouresches and Belleau Wood
to our right, and behind us the great main road from Soissons to
Chateau Thierry, for the command of which in its northern sector, the
American divisions under General Mangin, and in its southern portion
those commanded by General Dégoutte, had fought so stoutly last July.
Altogether seven American divisions, or close upon 200,000 men, were
concerned in Foch's counter-attack, which began on July 18th; and as
General Pershing notes with just pride: "The place of honour in the
thrust towards Soissons on the 18th was given to our 1st and 2nd
divisions, in company with chosen French divisions. These two
divisions captured 7,000 prisoners and over 100 guns."

What one may call the "state entry" of America into the war had thus
been made, and Germany had been given full warning of what this new
element in the struggle must ultimately mean, were it given time to
develop. And during all these weeks of June and July, British and
American ships, carrying American soldiers, came in a never-ending
succession across the Atlantic. An American Army of 5,000,000 men was
in contemplation, and, "Why," said the President at Baltimore in
April, "limit it to 5,000,000?" While every day the British Navy kept
its grim hold on the internal life of Germany, and every day was
bringing the refreshed and reorganised British Army, now at the height
of its striking power, nearer to the opening on August 8th of that
mighty and continuous advance which ended the war.



CHAPTER VIII

"FEATURES OF THE WAR"


_April 15th._

In these April days Sir Douglas Haig's latest Despatch, dated the 21st
March, 1919--the first anniversary of those black days of last
year!--has just been published in all the leading English newspapers.
It is divided into three parts: "The Advance into Germany," "Features
of the War," and "My Thanks to Commanders and Staffs." It is on the
second part in particular that public attention has eagerly fastened.
Nothing could well be more interesting or more important. For it
contains the considered judgment of the British Commander-in-Chief on
the war as a whole, so far, at least, as Great Britain is concerned.
The strong and reticent man who is responsible for it broke through
the limitations of official expression on two occasions only during
the war: in the spring of 1917, in that famous and much criticised
interview which he gave to certain French journalists, an incident, by
the way, on which this Despatch throws a good deal of light; and in
the impassioned Order of last April, when, like Joffre on the Marne,
he told his country: that England had her back to the wall.

But here, for the first time, the mind on which for three and a half
years depended the military fortunes, and therewith the future destiny
of the British Empire, reveals itself with much fullness and freedom,
so far as the moment permits. The student of the war cannot read these
paragraphs too closely, and we may be sure that every paragraph in
them will be a text for comment and illustration in the history
schools of the future. The Despatch, moreover, is full of new
information on points of detail, and gives figures and statistics
which have never yet been made public. There are not, however, many
persons outside the Armies who will give themselves to the close study
of a long military despatch. Let me try, then, before I wind up these
letters of mine, to bring out very shortly both some of the fresh
points of view and the new detail which make the Despatch so
interesting. It will be seen, I think, that the general account given
in my preceding letters of British conclusions on the war, when tested
by the Despatch, may still hold its own.

In the first place, the Field Marshal dwells in words of which the
subdued bitterness is unmistakable, on Great Britain's unpreparedness
for the war. "We were deficient in both trained men and military
material, and, what is more important, had no machinery ready by which
either men or material could be produced in anything like the
necessary quantities." It took us, therefore, "two and a half years to
reach the high-water mark of our infantry strength," and by that time
we had lost thousands of lives, which, had we been better prepared,
need never have been lost.

And, moreover, our unpreparedness, and the fact that we were not able
to take a full share in the war till the summer of 1916, terribly
wasted the man-power of France. "The excessive burden," says Marshal
Haig, "thrown upon the gallant Army of France during that period
caused them losses the effect of which has been felt all through the
war and directly influenced its length." Meanwhile, what might have
been "the effect of British intervention on a larger scale, in the
earlier stages of the war, is shown by what was actually achieved by
our original Expeditionary Force."

Who was responsible for this unpreparedness?

Sir Douglas Haig does not raise the question. But those of us who
remember the political history of the years from 1906 to 1914 can
hardly be in doubt as to the answer. It was the Radical and
anti-militarist group of the Liberal party then in power, who every
year fought the Naval and Military Estimates--especially the
latter--point by point, and stubbornly hampered the most necessary
military provision, on whom, little as they intended or foresaw it, a
tragic responsibility for the prolongation of the war, and the
prodigal loss of life it involved, must always rest. Lord Haldane,
indeed during his years of office as the War Minister of the Liberal
Government, made a gallant fight for the Army. To him we owe the
Expeditionary Force, the Territorials, the organisation of the General
Staff, the Officers' Training Corps; and without his reforms our case
would have been black indeed when the storm broke. No one has repelled
more indignantly the common Tory charges against Lord Haldane than Sir
Douglas Haig himself. But, during his years at the War Office Lord
Haldane was fighting against heavy odds, attacked on the one hand by
the upholders of Lord Roberts's scheme, in which neither he nor the
General Staff believed, and under perpetual sniping on the other from
the extreme section of his own party. The marvel is that he was able
to do what he did!

Granting, however, the unpreparedness of England, what a wonderful
story it is on which Sir Douglas Haig looks back! First, the necessary
opening stage of this or any war--_i.e._, a preliminary phase of
manoeuvring for position, on both sides, which came to an end with
"the formation of continuous trench lines from the North Sea to the
Swiss frontier." Then, when British military power had developed,
followed "the period of real struggle," in which the main forces of
the two belligerent Armies were pitted against each other in close and
costly combat--_i.e._, "the wearing-down battle" which must go on in
this war, as in all wars where large and equal forces are engaged,
till one or the other combatant begins to weaken. And, finally, the
last stage, when the weakening combatant stakes "on a supreme effort
what reserves remain to him," and must abide by the issue. Germany
staked her last reserves in the "great sortie" of her beleaguered
Armies, which lasted from April to July of 1918. She lost the game,
and the end, which was inevitable, followed quickly.

For the British Commander-in-Chief insists that we must look upon the
war as a whole. In the earlier part of the wearing-down battle which
occupied its central years, we did what we could till our new armies
were ready, and without us France could not have held out. Without the
British Navy, in particular, the war must have collapsed in a month.
But the main brunt of the struggle on land had to be borne--and was
superbly borne--by France up to the summer of 1916, when we entered on
our full strength. Thenceforward the chief strain lay on the
constantly developing Armies of Great Britain. From July, 1916, to the
Armistice, Sir Douglas Haig bids us conceive the long succession of
battles fought by the Allies in France as "one great and continuous
engagement." "Violent crises of fighting" within such a conflict may
appear individually as "indecisive battles." But the issue is all the
time being slowly and inexorably decided. And as soon as the climax is
reached, and the weakening of one side or the other begins, nothing
but the entry of some new and unexpected factor can avert the
inevitable end. When Russia broke down in 1917, it looked for a time
as though such a new factor had appeared. It prolonged the war, and
gave Germany a fresh lease of fighting strength, but it was not
sufficient to secure victory. She did her utmost with it in 1918, and
when she failed, the older factors that had been at work, through all
the deadly progress of the preceding years of the war, were seen at
last for the avengers, irresistible and final, that they truly were.
"The end of the war," says the Commander-in-Chief, "was neither
sudden, nor should it have been unexpected." The rapid collapse of
Germany's military powers in the latter half of 1918 was the logical
outcome of the fighting of the previous two years. _Attrition_ and
_blockade_ are the two words that explain the final victory. As to the
cost of that victory, the incredible heart-rending cost, Sir Douglas
Haig maintains that, given the vast range of the struggle, and the
vital issues on which it turned--given also the unpreparedness of
England, and the breakdown of Russia, the casualties of the war could
not have been less. The British casualties in all theatres of war are
given as 3,000,000--2,500,000 on the Western front; the French at
4,800,000; the Italians, including killed and wounded only, 1,400,000;
a total of _nine million, two hundred thousand_. On the enemy side,
the Field Marshal gives the German and Austro-Hungarian losses at
approximately eleven millions. And to these have to be added the
Russian casualties before 1917, a figure running into millions; the
Serbian, Roumanian, and Turkish losses, and, lastly, the American.

Some _seven million young men_ at least have perished from this
pleasant earth, which is now again renewing its spring life in beauty
and joy, and millions of others will bear the physical marks of the
struggle to their graves. Is there anything to console us for such a
spectacle? The reply of the British Commander-in-Chief is that "the
issues involved in this stupendous struggle were far greater than
those concerned in any other war in recent history. Our existence as
an Empire, and civilisation itself as it is understood by the free
Western nations was at stake. Men fought as they had never fought
before."

"Go, stranger, and tell the Lacedaemonians that we lie here, obedient
to their will." So the Greek epitaph that all men know. In the same
spirit, for country and home, for freedom and honour--at the Will of
that Power by whom "the most ancient heavens are fresh and
strong"--these fighters of our day laid down their ardent and obedient
lives. There is but one way in which we can truly honour them. A
better world, as their eternal memorial:--shame on us if we cannot
build it!

_May 20th._

Since the preceding paragraphs were written, the French General Staff
has published an illuminating analysis of those military conditions in
the concluding months of the war which compelled the German Command
and the German Government to sue for an Armistice. The German
proclamation, when the conclusion of the Armistice allowed those
armies to retreat, proclaimed them "unconquered." Our own
Commander-in-Chief declares, it will be remembered, on the other hand,
that the fighting along the front of the British Armies from November
1st to November 11th had "forced on the enemy a disorderly retreat.
Thereafter he was neither capable of accepting nor refusing battle.
The utter confusion of his troops, the state of his railways,
congested with abandoned trains, the capture of huge quantities of
rolling-stock and material--all showed that our attack had been
decisive.... The strategic plan of the Allies had been realised with a
completeness rarely seen in war. When the Armistice was signed, his
defensive powers had already been definitely destroyed. A continuance
of hostilities could only have meant disaster to the German Armies,
and the armed invasion of Germany."

To this statement from the leader of those armies to whom it fell to
strike the last decisive blows in the struggle may now be added the
testimony of the admirably served Intelligence Department of the
French General Staff, as to the precise condition of the German Armies
before the Armistice. "The strategic plan of the Allies," of which Sir
Douglas Haig speaks, was the supreme business of Marshal Foch, and the
facts and figures now given show how closely the great Frenchman was
informed and how "completely," to use Marshal Haig's word, his plans
were carried out. On the 3rd of October Hindenburg had written to
Prince Max of Baden, that "as a result ... of our complete inability
to fill up the gaps caused by the very heavy losses inflicted on us
during the recent battles, no hope is left ... of forcing the enemy to
make peace." How true this was is made plain by the details just
published. On September 25th--that is to say, the day before the
British attack on the Hindenburg line, and the French and American
attacks east and west of the Argonne--the Intelligence Department of
the French General Staff reported to Marshal Foch that since July
15th, in the Marne salient, at St. Mihiel, and in the British battles
of Amiens, Bapaume, and the Scarpe, the enemy had engaged 163
divisions. His reserves were reduced to 68 divisions--as against 81 in
July--and of these only 21 were fresh troops. The German line had been
shortened by 125 miles, but so weakened were the German Armies, that
the same number of divisions had to be kept in the line as before the
shortening--each division representing only some three-quarters of its
former strength, and 16 divisions having been broken up to fill the
ranks in those that remained.

_Following immediately on this report came the three converging
attacks of the Allies._ On October 9th the German Army, under British
pressure, abandoned the whole Hindenburg position, and entered upon a
general retreat from the North Sea to the Meuse. At that moment 44 of
the German divisions in line were not to be depended on for further
serious fighting, and there were only 22 divisions available to
replace them, of which 15 were of inferior quality, holding "quiet"
sectors. On October 11th the French Intelligence Bureau reported that
"it is impossible for the enemy, with the forces that he has at
present in line, to stop and face any considerable attack for an
appreciable time."

On October 4th, the day after Hindenburg's letter to Prince Max, the
German Chancellor cabled to President Wilson, asking for an Armistice.
_Already, on September 28th_, in the very midst of the British attack
on the Hindenburg line, and on the morrow of General Gouraud's and
General Pershing's first advances in Champagne and the Argonne, the
German Command had warned the Chancellor that this step must be taken,
and from October 9th onward there was no more heart left in the German
Armies. The "prisoners" line in the chart,[10] brought daily up to date
at the Headquarters of the British Army, shows what the demoralisation
had become in the German ranks. After the British battle of the Sambre
(November 4th) there were practically no reserves left, and Marshal
Foch had plans in store which, had there been any further resistance,
must have led to the wholesale capitulation of all that was left of
the German Armies.

  [10] See reproduction.

       *       *       *       *       *

So in ignominy and shame the German onslaught on the liberties of
Europe came--militarily--to its bitter end. The long-drawn agony of
four and a half years was over, and the "wearing-out battle" had done
its work. Now, six months later, we are in the midst of that stern
Epilogue--in which a leagued Europe and America are dictating to
Germany the penalties by which alone she may purge her desperate
offence. A glance at the conditions of Peace published to the world on
May 11th, the anniversary of the-sinking of the _Lusitania_, will form
the natural conclusion to this imperfect survey of the last and most
glorious stage in "England's Effort." But for the moment, let me
return to the "Features of the War," and Marshal Haig's comments on
them in his last Despatch. Many, many books will be written about them
in the future! All I can do here is to single out a few of those that
seem to be most commonly in the minds of those who are still thinking
about the war.

       *       *       *       *       *

Take, first, the value of cavalry in modern battle. In his April
Despatch, Sir Douglas Haig enters on a strong defence of it--the plea
of a great cavalry leader. Since the stabilisation of the trench
system in the West, it has been, as we can all remember, a commonplace
of the newspapers and of private conversation that cavalry were played
out--a mere useless or ornamental excrescence on armies that, by the
help of tanks and aeroplanes, could now excellently do without them.
"Not at all," replies Sir Douglas Haig. If the German Command had had
at their disposal last March and April "even two or three well-trained
cavalry divisions, a wedge might have been driven between the French
and British armies." In any case, the difficulties of our task would
have been greatly increased. On the other hand, our cavalry were
enormously useful to us in the same battle. "So great indeed became
the need for mounted men that certain units which had been dismounted
were hurriedly provided with horses and did splendid service.
Frequently when it was impossible to move forward other troops in time
our mounted troops were able to fill gaps in our line and restore the
situation." During the long trench battle of the middle years "the
absence of room for manoeuvre made the importance of cavalry less
apparent." But in the last stage of the struggle, when the Germans
"were falling back in disorganised masses," the moral effect of
British cavalry pressing on the heels of the enemy was "overwhelming,"
and had not the Armistice stopped the cavalry advance, it would have
turned the enemy's disorganised retreat "into a rout."

This is strong testimony, and will probably be stoutly fought by the
eager advocates of "mechanical contrivances." But Sir Douglas Haig
stands to it that no form of mechanical contrivance can ever either
make the cavalryman useless, or the infantryman, who is "the backbone
of defence and the spearhead of attack," less important. He admits,
indeed, fully that machine guns, tanks, aeroplanes, and motor
transport "have given a greater driving power to war," and that the
country which possesses most of such things has an advantage over its
opponents. But he insists that their only "real function" is to assist
the infantry to get to grips with their opponents, and that of
themselves "they cannot possibly obtain a decision." To imagine that
tanks and aeroplanes can ever take the place of infantry and cavalry
is to do these marvellous tools themselves a disservice by expecting
of them more than they can perform. "Only by the rifle and bayonet of
the infantry can the decisive victory be won." For, as the
Commander-in-Chief lays down no less strongly than this great French
colleague, Marshal Foch, "this war has given no new principles." But
it has greatly complicated the application of the old. Every new
invention makes the problem of co-operation--of interaction between
the different armies and services--more difficult and more imperative.

       *       *       *       *       *

As to the artillery history of the war, the Field Marshal gives the
most amazing figures. When in 1916, at the suggestion of Mr.
Roosevelt, and by the wish of our Government, I went through some of
our leading munition districts, with a view to reporting what was
being done in them to England's friends in America, the great
development which started from the Munitions Act of 1915 was still
only in its earlier stages. Everywhere the Government factories were
rising with what seemed incredible rapidity, and the older works were
doubling and trebling their output. But the output was still far
behind the need. By the date of the Somme Battle, indeed--in the
autumn, that is, of the same year--it had risen enormously. I may
quote my own words in _England's Effort_ (October, 1916): "The total
amount of heavy guns and ammunition manufactured in Great Britain in
the first ten months of the war would not have kept the British
bombardment on the Somme _going for a single day_."

And now?

On that first day of the Somme Battle, July, 1916, says the Despatch,
"13,000 tons of ammunition were fired by us on the Western front. On
the _31st of July_, 1917, in the Third Battle of Ypres, _the British
Armies used_ 23,000 _tons of ammunition_." _Last year_, from August to
November, 700,000 _tons of ammunition_ were expended by the British
Armies on the Western front. On the days of most active fighting
20,000 _tons a day_ was a common ration. The supply never failed. In
the three months' offensive of last autumn all the Army Commanders had
to think of in the matter of artillery and ammunition was transport
and distribution. The amount was unlimited. While in the matter of
guns, the British Army, which on August 4th, 1914, possessed 486
pieces of different calibres, all told, at the tune of the Armistice
was employing 6,437 guns and howitzers of all kinds, including the
heaviest monsters of the battle-field.

And with this vast increase in material had gone perpetual advance in
organisation. Artillery commanders were introduced into all armies and
corps, with staffs acting under them. Hence a greater concentration of
brain and energy on the special artillery problems--very soon
justified by results. Science and experience had full play, and the
continuous artillery battle begun on the Somme ended, as it deserved
to end, "in the defeat of the enemy's guns." To that defeat new
inventions--or the marvellous development of old ones--were
perpetually tending. Take sound-ranging for instance, which, with
flash-spotting and air photography, has enabled the gunner more and
more certainly to locate his enemy's gun while concealing the position
of his own. For "the object of a gun or howitzer is to throw a
projectile to some spot the position of which is _known_." The older
way of knowing was by registration--throwing round after round, and by
the help of aeroplane or other observation of the results, getting
nearer and nearer to the target till the range was exactly found. By
this method, not only is the enemy warned, but your own position is
revealed. The newer method aims at _surprise_--the supreme aim of
modern war.

"The principle of the location of guns by sound," writes an artillery
officer, "is simple enough. Suppose there are two observers in the
British lines, one at each end of a long line. Bisect this base, and
from the middle point draw a line at right angles to the base and
towards the German lines. Now, if a hostile gun fires from a position
on this line, the sound will reach both observers simultaneously. If
the gun fires from a position to the right of the line, the sound will
reach the right-hand observer first, and vice versa. Then, by
measuring exactly the time-interval between the arrival of the sound
at each observation post, the bearing to the gun can be calculated."

"Until quite recently the Germans used four human observers, who timed
the sound intervals with stop watches. The British used six
microphones of a special type, connected electrically with a
photographic-recording apparatus. Instead of stop watches, therefore,
we used a timing device capable of recording the most minute
time-intervals with perfect precision. The whole system was
immeasurably superior to the German, and at least twenty times as
accurate, for the British system was absolutely automatic. It recorded
the arrival of the sound at the various microphones instantaneously on
a permanent record; while the German system, apart from its crude
method of measuring time, was subject to the combined errors of four
human 'microphones.' The British system requires only one forward
observer, placed well ahead of the base, and all he has to do is to
press a button and start the apparatus before the sound reaches the
microphones.

"The photographic record is ready for the computer in from six to ten
seconds, and the gun position can be found and plotted in three or
four minutes.

"Sound ranging also can be used for ranging our own guns with great
accuracy. When a record has been obtained of a hostile gun, all that
need be done is to record the burst of our own shell and give
corrections to our battery until the record of our shell-burst is
identical with that of the hostile gun. The shell must then be on the
target.

"The system works equally well by day or by night, in rain or in fog.
Its one enemy is a wind which blows towards the hostile gun and
prevents the sound reaching the recording apparatus. It can detect a
gun as easily if it is in a wood or in a building as if it were on a
hill-top.

"Simple as it appears, however, it is not so easy as one might think
to make a practical ally of sound ranging. We have succeeded. The
Germans failed. Towards the end of the war at least ninety per cent,
of the German artillery was marked down accurately by these means; and
the staff employed on sound-ranging and flash-spotting (the last a
kindred method depending on a mixture of observation and mathematics)
had grown from _four_ in 1914 _to four thousand five hundred_ in 1918.

"Casualties have been heavy, and the work arduous. But those
responsible for it have, at any rate, 'done their bit.'"

This is just one instance, such as we ignorant at home can more or
less follow, of that concentration of British wit and British
perseverance on the terrible business of war which carried us to our
goal. Germany prided herself, above all, on "scientific war." But the
nation she despised as slow-witted and effete has met her again and
again on her own boasted ground, and, brain for brain, has won.

With the ever-growing importance of artillery has gone, of course, a
constant increase in artillery _personnel_, and in the proportion of
gunners to infantry. The Third Battle of Ypres in the autumn of 1917
was "one of intense struggle for artillery supremacy," says the Field
Marshal. Germany had put out all her strength in guns, and was
determined to beat down the British artillery. The British Command met
the attack and defeated it, in a long-drawn battle, in which,
naturally, the proportion of artillery _personnel_ to infantry was
exceptionally high--at one time eighty-five per cent. Last spring, for
a short time, owing to the transference of batteries from the Russian
front, the enemy command succeeded in establishing "a definite local
artillery superiority." But it was soon over. Before the breakdown of
the March offensive "our guns had regained the upper hand," and in the
later battles of the year the German artillery was finally mastered.

But immense as was the growth of the artillery factor, the ultimate
problem was the old problem of co-operation and combination of _all
factors_. "Deep study of work other than one's own," "understanding of
the other man's job"--for the highest success in any branch of the
Army, these were and are indispensable. Only so can the vast machine
work satisfactorily; only so can the human intelligence embodied in it
come to its own.

To the two subsidiary services most in the public eye--tanks and
aeroplanes--I will return presently. As to the Signal Service, the
"nervous system" of the Army, on which "co-operation and combination"
depend, it has grown, says the Field Marshal, "almost out of
recognition." At the outbreak of war it consisted of 2,400 officers
and men; by the end of the war it had risen to 42,000. Cables,
telegrams, wireless, carrier-pigeons and dog messengers--every kind of
device was used for keeping up the communications, which mean
everything in battle. The signal officer and his men creeping out over
No Man's Land to mend a wire, or lay down a new one, in the very heart
of the fighting, have carried the lives of thousands in their hands,
and have risked their own without a thought. Sir Douglas Haig, from
his Headquarters, spoke not only to every unit in the British Army,
but to the Headquarters of our Allies--to London, Paris, and
Marseilles. An Army Headquarters was prepared to deal with 10,000
telegrams and 5,000 letters in twenty-four hours; and wherever an army
went, its cables and telephones went with it. As many as 6,500 miles
of field cable have been issued in a single week, and the weekly
average over the whole of 1918 was 3,000.

As to the Rearward and Transport Services, seeing that the Army was
really the nation, with the best of British intelligence everywhere at
its command, it is not surprising perhaps that a business people,
under the pressure of a vital struggle, obtained so brilliant a
success. In 1916, I saw something of the great business departments of
the Army--the Army Service, Army Ordnance, and Motor Transport depots
at Havre and Rouen. The sight was to me a bewildering illustration of
what English "muddling" could do when put to the test. On my return to
London, Dr. Page, the late American Ambassador, who during the years
when America was still neutral had managed, notwithstanding, to win
all our hearts, gave me an account of the experience of certain
American officers in the same British bases, and the impression made
on them. "They came here afterwards on their way home," he said--I
well remember his phrase, "with the eyes starting out of their heads,
and with reports that will transform all our similar work at home." So
that we may perhaps trace some at least of those large and admirable
conceptions of Base needs and Base management, with which the American
Army prepared its way in France, to these early American visits and
reports, as well as to the native American genius for organisation and
the generosity of American finance.

But if the spectacle of "the back of the Army" was a wonderful one in
1916, it became doubly wonderful before the end of the war. The
feeding strength of our forces in France rose to a total approaching
2,700,000 men. The Commander-in-Chief tries to make the British public
understand something of what this figure means. Transport and shipping
were, of course, the foundation of everything. While the British Fleet
kept the seas and fought the submarine, the Directorate of Docks
handled the ports, and the Directorate of Roads, with the Directorates
of Railway Traffic, Construction and Light Railways, dealt with the
land transport. During the years of war we landed ten and a half
millions of persons in France, and last year the weekly tonnage
arriving at French ports exceeded 175,000 tons. Meanwhile four
thousand five hundred miles of road were made or kept up by the
Directorate of Roads. Only they who have seen with their own eyes--or
felt in their own bones!--what a wrecked road, or a road worn to
pieces by motor lorries, is really like, can appreciate what this
means. And during 1918 alone, the Directorate of Railway Traffic built
or repaired 2,340 miles of broad-gauge and 1,348 miles of narrow-gauge
railway. Everywhere, indeed, on the deserted battle-fields you come
across these deserted light railways by which men and guns were fed.
May one not hope that they may still be of use in the reconstruction
of French towns and the revival of French agriculture?

As to the feeding and cooking and washing of the armies, the story is
no less wonderful, and I remember as I read the great camp laundry at
Étaples that I went through in 1917, with its busy throng of
Frenchwomen at work and its 30,000 items a day. Twenty-five thousand
cooks have been trained in the cookery schools of the Army, while a
jealous watch has been kept on all waste and by-products under an
Inspectorate of Economies. As to the care of the horses, in health or
in sickness, the British Remount and Veterinary Service has been famed
throughout Europe for efficiency and humanity.

Of the vast hospital service, what can one say that has not been said
a thousand tunes already? Between the spring of 1916, when I first saw
the fighting front, and November, 1918, the hospital accommodation in
France rose from 44,000 to 175,000 persons. That is to say, we kept
our wounded in France during the height of the submarine campaign,
both to protect them from the chance of further suffering, and to
economise our dwindling tonnage, and fresh hospitals had to be built
for them. Of the doctors and nurses, the stretcher-bearers and
orderlies, whose brave and sacred work it was to gather the wounded
from the battle-line, and to bring to bear upon the suffering and
martyrdom of war all that human skill and human tenderness could
devise, Sir Douglas Haig has said many true and eloquent things in the
course of his despatches. He sums them all up in his last despatch in
the plain words: "In spite of the numbers dealt with, _there has been
no war in which the resources of science have been utilised so
generously and successfully for the quick evacuation and careful
tending of the sick and wounded, or for the prevention of disease_."

Most true--and yet? Do not let us deceive ourselves! The utmost
energy, the tenderest devotion, the noblest skill, can go but a
certain way when measured against the sum total of human suffering
caused by war. The ablest of doctors and nurses are the first to admit
it. Those of us whose wounded brothers and sons reached in safety the
haven of hospital comfort and skilled nursing, and were thereby
brought back to life, are, thank Heaven, the fortunate many. But there
are the few for whose dear ones all that wonderful hospital and
nursing science was of no avail. I think of a gallant boy lying out
all night with a broken thigh in a shell-hole amid the mud and under
the rain of Flanders. Kind hands come with the morning and carry him
to the advanced dressing station. There is still hope. But miles of
mud and broken ground lie between him and the nearest hospital.
Immediate warmth and rest and nursing might have saved him. But they
are unattainable. Brave men carry the boy tenderly, carefully, the
three miles to the casualty clearing station. The strain on the
flickering life is just too much, and in the first night of hospital,
when every care is round it, the young life slips away--lost by so
little--by no fault!

Is there any consolation? One only--the boy's own spirit. A comrade
remembers one of his last sayings--a simple casual word: "I don't
expect to come through--but--it's worth it."

There one reaches the bed-rock of it all--the conviction of a just
cause. What would it avail us--this pride of victory, of organisation,
of science, to which these great despatches of our great
Commander-in-Chief bear witness, without that spiritual certainty
behind it all--the firm faith that England was fighting for the right,
and, God helping her, "could do no other."



CHAPTER IX

TANKS AND AEROPLANES

THE STAFF WORK OF THE WAR


I have quoted in the preceding chapter the warning words of Sir
Douglas Haig on the subject of "mechanical appliances." The gist of
them is that mechanical appliances can never replace men, and that the
history of tanks in the war shows that, useful as they have been,
their value depends always upon combination with both infantry and
artillery. So far from their doing away with artillery, the
Commander-in-Chief points out that the Battle of Amiens, August 8th,
in which the greatest force of tanks was used, and in which they were
most brilliantly successful, was "an action in which more artillery
ammunition was expended than in any action of similar dimensions in
the whole war."

The tank enthusiasts will clearly not be quite satisfied with so
measured a judgment! They point to the marked effect of the tanks on
the strategy of the last three months of the war, to the extraordinary
increase in the elements of mobility and surprise which their use made
possible, to the effect of them also on German opinion and _morale_,
and they believe that in any future war--if war there be!--they are
certain to play, not a subsidiary, but a commanding part.

One of the most distinguished officers of the Tank Corps, who was
wounded and decorated before he joined the corps, was severely wounded
twice while he belonged to the corps, and was an eye-witness of the
incidents he describes, allows me to print the following letter:

    "You ask me for a short account of what tanks have done in the
    war. In doing so, you set me a difficult problem! For three years
    I have thought of practically nothing else but tanks, so that I
    find it very difficult to deal with the subject briefly. However,
    I will try.

    "The basic idea and purpose of tanks is a very simple one: to save
    infantry casualties. A new tank can be built in a few months; a
    new soldier cannot be produced under eighteen years. This idea--of
    the use of mechanical means to save casualties--undoubtedly had
    much to do with the production in the Tank Corps, a new unit and
    without traditions, of the very high _esprit de corps_ it has
    always shown, and without which it could not have developed
    successfully.

    "Tanks were first used by the British on the 15th September, 1916,
    in the Battle of the Ancre. They had, however, been designed to
    meet the conditions which existed _in the preceding year_, before
    the tremendous artillery bombardments of the middle stages of the
    war reduced the ground to a series of shell-holes and craters,
    which were so closely continuous over a large area of ground that
    they could not possibly be avoided. Compared with the latest type
    of tank, our first effort--known as Mark I.--may appear crude; but
    much genius had been expended upon it, and it is worth noting that
    both the French and German tanks, produced long after this tank,
    were much inferior to it.

    "The Ypres salient, let me begin by saying, was never favourable
    to the employment of tanks. In the Third Battle of Ypres (31st
    July to November, 1917), which I personally believe to have been
    the hardest battle of the whole war, the tanks were unable to cope
    with the wet and shelled ground."

Nevertheless, towards the end of the Ypres battle the tank attack in
the first Battle of Cambrai was being planned, and there, at last, the
enthusiasts of the Tank Corps had the conditions for which they had
been long hoping--a good ground and a surprise attack.

    "It is important to remember, the letter continues, that the
    Hindenburg line at that time presented an insoluble problem. The
    _sea of wire_ which protected its well-developed trenches and
    machine-gun positions was placed almost throughout on the _reverse
    slope_ of the hills or rising ground of which the line took
    advantage. The artillery observer could hardly get a view of the
    wire at all; beside which, it was so deep it would have taken a
    month to cut it by artillery fire.

    "_The tank provided the solution_--the only solution. The tank, by
    _crushing down the wire_--in a few minutes--was able to do what
    there seemed no other way of doing. And the tank success at
    Cambrai was not a mere flash in the pan. To the end of the war the
    Hindenburg line, or any other line organised in the same way, was
    entirely at the mercy of the tanks.

    "The tanks, however, did not make their full weight felt until
    August, 1918. They had become a very important factor before that,
    and had saved thousands of lives; but from the beginning of the
    counter-offensive of last year they were a dominating feature of
    the war. Ludendorff had already recognised their importance in
    July, after the French use of them in the Battle of Soissons, when
    he wrote to his Army Commanders that 'the utmost attention must be
    paid to combating tanks. Our earlier successes against tanks led
    to a certain contempt for this weapon of warfare. We must now
    reckon with more dangerous tanks.'"

The "earlier successes" mentioned were those of the Third Battle of
Ypres. In the Ypres salient, however, the real anti-tank defence was
the mud, and the general conclusions which the German Higher Command
drew from the derelict tanks they captured during the fighting of
October, 1917, were entirely misleading, as they soon discovered to
their cost, a few weeks later, in the First Battle of Cambrai. They
showed, indeed, throughout a curious lack of intelligence and
foresight with regard to the new weapon, both as to its possibilities
and as to the means of fighting it. They were at first entirely
surprised by their appearance in the field; then they despised them;
and it was not till July and August, 1918, at the beginning of the
last great Allied offensive--when it will be remembered that Sir Henry
Rawlinson had 400 tanks under his command--that the Germans awoke--too
late--to the full importance of the new arm.

Thenceforward "the enemy was overcome by a great fear of the Allied
tanks, and in some cases even over-estimated their effect." But it was
now too late to put up an adequate defence against "the more dangerous
tanks," which were already available in large numbers on the Allied
side. It seems incredible, but it is true, that _the Germans never
possessed at any time more than fifteen tanks of their own_, plus some
twenty-five captured and repaired British tanks; and the only action
in which they employed them with any considerable success was at the
capture of Villers Bretonneux, April 24th, 1918 (the success which was
so quickly turned into defeat by the Australians). After last July,
however, the German panic with regard to them grew rapidly, and on the
15th of August we find it stated that everything possible must be done
to give the artillery "freedom of action _in its main rôle_, viz., the
engagement of tanks." "Its main rôle!" The phrase shows that under the
pressure of the tanks, the two chief pillars and axioms of the former
German defence system--"protective barrages" and "immediate
counter-attack"--were giving way, in the case at least of tank
attacks, with, of course, the natural result of confusion and
weakness. After the Battle of Amiens (August 8th) the German Command
issued an explanation of the defeat, signed by Ludendorff. Chief among
the reasons given appears: "The fact that the troops were surprised by
the massed attack of tanks, and lost their heads when the tanks
suddenly appeared behind them, having broken through under cover of
fog and smoke." The Crown Prince's group of armies reports on the same
battle: "That during the present fighting large numbers of tanks broke
through on narrow fronts, and, pushing straight forward, rapidly
attacked battery positions and the headquarters of divisions. In many
cases no defence could be made in time against the tanks, which
attacked them from all sides."

And the peremptory order follows:

    "Messages concerning tanks will have priority over all other
    messages or calls whatsoever."

Naturally the German Army and the German public had by this time begun
to ask why the German Command was not itself better equipped with
tanks before the opening of the Allied offensive. The answer seems to
be, first of all, that they were originally thought little of, as "a
British idea." "The use of 300 British tanks at Cambrai," says a
German document, "was a 'battle of material.' The German Higher
Command decided from the very outset not to fight a 'battle of
material.'" They preferred instead their habitual policy of "massed
attack"--using thereby in the fighting line a number of inferior men,
"classified as fit for garrison or labour duties," but who, if they
"can carry a rifle, must fight." The German Command were, therefore,
"not in a position to find the labour for the construction of new and
additional material such as tanks." For the initial arrogance,
however, which despised the tanks, and for the system which had
prevented him from building them in time, when their importance was
realised, the enemy was soon plunged in bitter but unavailing regrets.
All he could do was to throw the blame of failure on the Allies' new
weapon, and to issue despairing appeals to his own troops. The Allies
were sometimes stated to have captured such and such a place "by the
use of masses of tanks," when, as a matter of fact, very few tanks had
been used. And this convenient excuse, as it appeared in the official
_communiqués_, began soon to have some strange and disastrous results.
The German regimental officer began to think that as soon as tanks
appeared, it was _a sufficient reason for the loss of a position_. For
the German Army last year might be divided into three categories: "A
small number of stout-hearted men (chiefly machine-gunners), who could
be depended on to fight to the last; men who did not intend to fight,
and _did_ intend to put up their hands on the first occasion; and,
thirdly, the 'great middle class,' who were prepared to do their duty,
and had a sense of discipline, but who could not be classed as
heroes.... It was they who came to consider that when tanks arrived,
'there was nothing to be done.'"

Moreover, the failure of the German Higher Command to produce tanks
themselves to fight those of the Allies had a very serious effect, not
only on the faith of the troops in their generals, but also on the
_morale_ of the public at home. German war correspondents and members
of the Reichstag began to ask indignant questions, and the German War
Office hurriedly defended itself in the Reichstag. As late as October
23rd General Scheuch, the German War Minister, declared: "We have been
actively engaged for a long period in producing this weapon (which is
recognised as important) in adequate numbers." It seems to be true
that efforts were then being made, but not true that these efforts
were of long standing. "Altogether 'slowness' was the keynote
throughout of the German attitude towards the tank idea." He neither
appreciated their true use nor the best means of fighting them; and
even when we presented him with derelict tanks, as was soon the case
on the Ancre in 1916, he failed to diagnose the creature accurately.

    "It is natural, I think," my correspondent continues, "that the
    British should pride themselves on being the introducers and
    leading exponents of this weapon. What the future will bring no
    one knows; but if war is to persist, there can be no doubt that
    mechanical means in general, and tanks in particular, must develop
    more and more. If any civilised state is compelled to use force,
    it will, if really civilised, strive to sacrifice its wealth and
    its material as far as possible, rather than its human lives.

    "As to incidents, you asked me for some recollections of those
    which had particularly impressed themselves upon me. It is hard to
    choose. The Third Battle of Ypres, to which I have referred,
    brought out many wonderful deeds of deliberate self-sacrifice.
    Take the following:

    "In one case a section of three tanks were the only ones available
    to support an infantry attack. The ground over which they had to
    proceed was in a terrible state, and their chances of success were
    small. Their only chance of success, in fact, depended on their
    finding in the early dawn, and in the fog of battle, one single
    crossing over the marshy stream. The enemy front line was actually
    in front of this stream. The officer commanding the section
    considered that the only way of finding the route was on foot.
    With the knowledge that this meant certain death, he led his
    section of tanks through the bad ground under very heavy fire. He
    found the bridge safely, and was killed as he reached it. The
    tanks went on and succeeded in their mission, and many infantry
    lives were saved by this act of sacrifice."

Then take the case of the incident of General Elles at the First
Battle of Cambrai. As my correspondent of the Tank Corps, who was in
the battle, says: "In modern warfare the place of the General
Commanding is almost invariably in the rear of his troops, in a
position where communications are good, and where he can employ his
reserves at the right moment. At this battle all the available Tanks
(about four hundred) were being used. There were no reserves. So the
General Commanding led the attack, flying the Tank Corps flag. He came
safely through the attack, which undoubtedly owed some measure of its
success to the inspiration which this act gave to the troops."

A quiet account!--given by a man who was certainly not very far away
from his General in the affair. Let me supplement it a little by the
story of Mr. Philip Gibbs, who seems to have seen as much as any
correspondent might, of this wonderful "show" of the Tanks.

"For strange, unusual drama, far beyond the most fantastic
imagination, this attack on the Hindenburg line before Cambrai has
never been approached on the Western Front; and the first act began
when the Tanks moved forward, before the dawn, towards the long wide
belts of wire which they had to destroy before the rest could follow.
These squadrons of Tanks were led into action by the General
Commanding their corps, who carried his flag on their own Tank--a most
gallant gentleman, full of enthusiasm for his monsters and their brave
crews, and determined that this day would be theirs. They moved
forward in small groups, several hundreds of them, rolled down the
Germans' wire and trampled down its lines, and then crossed the deep
gulf of the Hindenburg main line, pitching nose downward as they drew
their long bodies over the parapets, and rearing themselves again with
forward reach of body, and heaving themselves on to the German parados
beyond.... The German troops, out of the gloom of the dawn, saw these
grey inhuman creatures bearing down upon them, crushing down their
wire, crossing their impregnable lines, firing fiercely from their
flanks and sweeping the trenches with machine-gun bullets." A captured
German officer thought "he had gone mad," as he watched the Tanks,
while his men ran about in terror, trying to avoid the bursts of fire,
and crying out in surrender. "What could we do?"

Meanwhile, our own men, English, Irish, and Scottish troops, went
behind the Tanks, "laughing and cheering when they saw them get at the
German wire and eat it up, and then head for the Hindenburg line, and
cross it as though it were but a narrow ditch."

And yet, after this experience, the Germans still delayed to make
Tanks! No doubt they argued that, after all, the Cambrai attack, in
spite of the Tanks, had ended in a check for the British, and in the
loss of much of the ground which had been gained by the surprise
attack of the "grey monsters." Meanwhile, the Russian front was
rapidly breaking down, and in their exultant anticipation of the fresh
forces they would soon be drawing from it to throw against the British
Armies, the standing contempt of the German Command for "British
ideas" and a "battle of material" won the day.

The German General Staff, therefore, maintained its refusal to spare
labour and material to make Tanks, and the refusal must have seemed to
them fully justified by the initial success of their March offensive.
Tanks played practically no part in the fighting withdrawal of the
British Armies in March and April, 1918. But all this time Tank
development was going on; and the believers in Tanks were working away
at the improvement of the types, convinced now, as ever, that their
day would come. It dawned with the Australian attack at
Villers-Bretonneux on April 24th, when the fortunes of battle were
already changing; it rose higher on July 4th, when the Australians
again took Hamel and Vaire Wood, the Tanks splendidly helping; it was
at the full on and after August 8th, at the Battle of Amiens, the
first page in the last chapter of the war.

The next incident described by my correspondent occurred at the taking
of the St. Quentin section of the Hindenburg line by the 4th British
Army, two American divisions leading the way.

"The attack," he writes, "had been a very difficult one, and had only
been successful in certain sectors. As usual, the attack had been
launched at dawn, and the morning had been exceptionally misty. Later
on the mist began to roll away rather quickly, and it was found that
in one sector where the attack had made no progress, the Germans were
in a position"--owing to the ridge they occupied having been till then
shrouded in mist--"to bring very heavy machine-gun fire to bear on the
backs of the troops advancing in a sector where the attack had gone
well. Unless something were done at once to drive the Germans from the
ridge they were holding, not only would many lives be lost, but the
result of the attack which had gone well would be jeopardised. Without
waiting for orders and on their own initiative, two Tanks, which were
standing by in order to attack with fresh troops later in the day,
drove straight for the ridge.[11] _Two Tanks, without either infantry
or artillery support, went straight for an unbroken portion of the
German line._ They reached the ridge, and drove the Germans off it.
Both Tanks were hit by several shells, and caught fire. The survivors
of the crews, with a few infantry soldiers, organised the ridge for
defence, turned the German machine guns round, and when the Germans
counter-attacked, this small but determined garrison poured so hot a
fire on them from their own guns that they were driven back, and the
important post secured."

  [11] The italics are mine.

There is nothing, I think, that need prevent me from pointing out,
what there is no hint of in the letter itself--that the writer of it
was in one of the Tanks, and was severely wounded.

In the last actions of the war, even the semblance of a Tank was
sometimes enough! "Supply Tanks"--writes my informant--"were then
being used, which looked like the real thing, but were only very
slightly armoured. They were intended to carry material, sometimes
munitions, and even food. Three of these pseudo-tanks were carrying up
material to rebuild a bridge which had been destroyed. They
discovered, when they neared the place, that the enemy were holding it
in some strength, and our infantry could not advance. Moreover
directly the Tanks appeared, they began to draw fire--which they were
not meant to face--and the situation was threatening. But, with great
pluck and resource, the Tanks decided just to go on, and trust to
their looks, which were like those of the fighting Tanks, to drive the
enemy from the position.... One Tank became a casualty; but the other
two went straight for the German lines; and the Germans, under the
impression that they were being attacked by fighting Tanks, either put
up their hands or fled."

Thus, in its last moments of resistance, the German Army, now but the
ghost of itself, was scattered by the ghost of a Tank! What was being
prepared for it, had the struggle gone on, is told in a memorandum on
Tanks organisation which has come my way, and makes one alternately
shudder at the war that might have been, and rejoice in the peace that
is. In the last weeks of the war, Tank organisation was going rapidly
forward. A new Tank Board, consisting of Naval, Military, and
Industrial members, was concentrating all its stored knowledge on "the
application of naval tactics to land warfare," in other words, on the
development of Tanks, and had the war continued, the complete
destruction of the German Armies would have been brought about in 1919
by "a Tank programme of some _six thousand machines_." When one
considers that for the whole of the three last victorious months in
which Tanks played such an astonishing part, the British Armies never
possessed more than four hundred of them, who travelled like a circus
from army to army, the significance of this figure will be understood.
Nor could Germany, by any possibility, have produced either the labour
or the material necessary, whereby to meet Tank with Tank. The game
was played out and the stakes lost.

       *       *       *       *       *

But of fresh headings in this last tremendous chapter of _England's
Effort_, there might be no end. I can only glance at one or two of
them.

The Air Force? Ah, that, indeed, is another story--and so great a one,
that all I can attempt here is to put together[12] a few facts and
figures, in one of those comparisons of the "beginning," with the
"end," of time with time, by which alone some deposit from the stream
of history in which we are all bathed filters into the mind, and--with
good luck: stays there. Here, in Hertfordshire, in the first summer of
the war, how great an event was still the passage of an aeroplane over
these quiet woods! How the accidents of the first two years appalled
us, heart-broken spectators, and the inexorable military comment upon
them: "Accidents or no accidents, we have got to master this thing,
and master the Germans in it." And, accidents or no accidents, the
young men of Britain and France steadily made their way to the
aviation schools, having no illusions at all, in those early days, as
to the special and deadly risks to be run, yet determined to run them,
partly from clear-eyed patriotism, partly from that natural call of
the blood which makes an Englishman or a Frenchman delight in danger
and the untried for their own sakes. Thenceforward, the wonderful tale
ran, mounting to its climax. At the beginning of the war the military
wing of the British Air Service consisted of 1,844 officers and men.
At the conclusion of the war there were, in round numbers, 28,000
officers and 264,000 other ranks employed under the Air Board. From
under 2,000 to nearly 300,000!--and in four years! And the uses to
which this new Army of the Winds was put, grew perpetually with its
growth. Let us remember that, while aeroplane _reconnaissance_ was of
immense service in the earliest actions of the war, _there was no
artillery observation by aeroplane till after the first Battle of the
Marne_. There is the landmark. Artillery observation was used for the
first time at the Battle of the Aisne, in the German retreat from the
Marne. Thenceforward, month by month, the men in the clouds became
increasingly the indispensable guides and allies of the men on the
ground, searching out and signalling the guns of the enemy, while
preventing his fliers from searching out and signalling our own. Next
came the marvellous development of aerial photography, by which the
whole trench world, the artillery positions and _hinterland_ of the
hostile army could be mapped day by day for the information of those
attacking it; the development of the bombing squadrons, which began by
harassing the enemy's communications immediately behind the fighting
line, and developed into those formidable expeditions of the
Independent Force into Germany itself, which so largely influenced the
later months of the war. Finally, the airman, not content with his own
perpetual and deadly fighting in the air, fighting in which the
combatants of all nations developed a daring beyond the dreams of any
earlier world, began to take part in the actual land-battle itself,
swooping on reserves, firing into troops on the march, or bringing up
ammunition.

  [12] From the recent Official Report issued by the Air Board.

And while the flying Army of the Winds was there developing, the
flying Army of the Seas, its twin brother, was not a whit behind. The
record of the Naval Air Service, as the scouts for the Fleet, the
perpetual foe of, and ceaseless spy upon, the submarine, will stir the
instincts for song and story in our race while song and story remain.
It was the naval airmen who protected and made possible the safe
withdrawal of the troops from Suvla and Helles; it was they who
discovered and destroyed the mines along our coasts; who fought the
enemy seaplanes man to man, and gun to gun; who gave the pirate nests
of Zeebrugge and Ostend no rest by day or night, who watched over the
ceaseless coming and going of the British, Dominion, and American
troops across the Channel; who were the eyes of our coasts as the
ships, laden with the men, food, and munitions, which were the
life-blood of the Allied Cause, drew homeward to our ports, with the
submarines on their track, and the protecting destroyers at their
side.

Nor did we only manufacture planes and train men for ourselves. "The
Government of the United States," says the Air Service Report, "has
paid a striking tribute to the British Air Service by adopting our
system of training. The first 500 American officer cadets to be
trained went through the School of Military Aeronautics at Oxford,
afterwards graduating at various aerodromes in England. These officers
formed the nucleus of American schools, which were eventually started
both in the United States and in France.... In all about 700 American
pilots have passed through our schools.... And when the question of
producing a standardised engine was considered every facility was
given and all our experience placed at the disposal of the American
Government, with the result that the Liberty engine was evolved."

Meanwhile the constant adaptation to new conditions required in the
force stimulated the wits of everybody concerned. Take aerial
photography. The first successful photograph was taken in November,
1914, of the village of Neuve Chapelle. The photographic section then
consisted of two officers and three men, with two cameras and a
portable box of chemicals. At the present day it contains 250 officers
and 3,000 men--with a large training school; and its prints have been
issued by the million.

Meanwhile the development of our aircraft fire had driven the aerial
photographer from a height of 3,000 feet up to a height of 22,000,
where, but for invention, he might have perished with cold, or found
it impossible to breathe. But intelligence pursued him, providing him
with oxygen and with electric heating apparatus in the upper air. And
when, on the other hand, he or his comrade swooped down to within a
few hundred feet of the earth, in order to co-operate in attack with
infantry or Tanks, again intelligence came into play, inventing a
special armoured machine for the protection of the new tactics.

The growth of "wireless," as a means of air-communication, is another
astounding chapter in this incredible story. Only _one_ of the
machines which left with the original Expeditionary Force was fitted
with "wireless" apparatus, and it was not used till the first Battle
of the Aisne, when co-operation with the artillery first began. There
are now 520 officers in the "wireless" branch and 6,200 other ranks;
while there are 80 "wireless" stations in France alone and several
hundred battery stations. "Wireless" telephony, too, has been made
practical since 1917; and over a range of some 75 miles has been of
deadly use to the artillery, especially at night, when the watcher in
the skies becomes aware of lighted aerodromes, or railway stations,
behind the enemy lines.

"Many wonders there be, but none more wonderful than man," said
Sophocles, in the fifth century before Christ, and he gives the
catalogue of man's discoveries, as the reflective Greek saw it, at
that moment of the world's history. Man, "master of cunning," had made
for himself ships, ploughs, and houses, had tamed the horse and the
bull; had learned how to snare wild creatures for food, had developed
speech, intelligence, civilisation. Marvels indeed! But had it ever
occurred to such a Greek to ponder the general stimulus given to human
faculty by war? Probably, for the wise Greek had thought of most
things, and some reader of these pages who knows his rich literature
better than I do, will very likely remember how and where. Modern
history, indeed, is full of examples, from the Crusades onward. But
there can never have been any such demonstration of it as this war has
yielded. The business of peace is now, largely, to turn to account the
discoveries of the war--in mechanics, chemistry, electricity, medical
science, methods of organisation, and a score of other branches of
human knowledge, and that in the interests of life, and not of death.
For the human loss of the war there is no comfort, except in those
spiritual hopes and convictions by which ultimately most men live. But
for the huge economic waste, the waste of money and material and
accumulated plant, caused by the struggle, there _is_ some comfort, in
this development of faculty, this pushing forward of human knowledge
into regions hitherto unmapped, which the war has seen. This week, for
instance,[13] American and British airmen are competing in the first
Atlantic flight, and the whole world is looking on. Again there is
risk of danger and death, but the prizes sought are now the prizes of
peace, the closer brotherhood of men, a truer knowledge one of
another, the interchanges of science and labour; and they are sought
by means taught in the furnace of war. Thus, from the sacrifices of
the terrible past may spring a quickened life for the new world. Will
that new world be worthy of them?--there is the question on which all
depends. A certain anguish clings to it, as one measures the loss, and
cannot yet measure the gain.

  [13] May 19th.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have dwelt on some of the accomplished wonders--the _results_ of the
war, in the material field--guns, Tanks, and aeroplanes. But just as
mechanical devices were and are, in the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief,
of no avail without the fighting men who use them; so behind the whole
red pageant of the war lie two omnipresent forces without which it
could not have been sustained for a day--Labour at the base, Directing
Intelligence at the top. In the Labour battalions of the Army there
has been a growth in numbers and a development in organisation only
second to that of the fighting Army itself. Labour companies were
already in being in 1914, but they chiefly worked at the ports, and
were recruited mainly from dock labourers. Then it was realised that
to employ the trained soldier on many of the ordinary "fatigue" duties
was to waste his training, and Labour began to be sent plentifully to
the front. For trench-digging, for hut-building, for the making and
repair of roads and railways, for the handling and unloading of
supplies and ammunition, for sanitation, salvage, moving the wounded
at casualty clearing stations, and a score of other needs, the demand
on the Labour battalions grew and grew.

How well I remember the shivering Kaffir boys and Indians at work on
the handling of stores and ammunition in the cold spring of 1917!--and
the navvy battalions on the roads before the Chinese had arrived in
force, and before the great rush of German prisoners began. Between
the British navvy battalions, many of them elderly men past military
age, or else unfit in some way for the fighting line, and their
comrades in the trenches, there were generally the friendliest
relations. The fighting man knew well what he owed to the "old boys."
I have before me an account by a Highland officer of the relation
between a navvy and a regular battalion in the Ypres salient. "Their
huts stretched along the side of the road which led us towards our
trenches; and every time we passed that way the sound of the pipes
would bring them out of their billets in crowds to cheer us in, or to
welcome us back if we were returning. They kept that road in splendid
repair, despite the heavy wear and tear of the endless traffic which
used it, and we blessed them many times. There was a two-miles stretch
across shell-torn, muddy country just behind the fighting line. Tired
men, just relieved from the trenches, and carrying heavy equipment,
naturally loathed it as a Slough of Despond; but when we struck the
good, honest surface of the navvy battalion's road, though there were
many miles still between us and rest, we felt the journey was as good
as over, so easy, by comparison, had marching become. A close
friendship grew up between our battalions. Our officers invited their
officers to dinner. Our men saluted their officers, and if one of our
officers happened to come on the scene of their operations, some old
veteran, wearing perhaps the medal ribbon of campaigns dating back a
generation, would call his gang to attention, and gravely give the
salute after the manner of thirty years ago. And when one realised
what the age of these men must be, who were wearing decorations of
Egyptian and Indian frontier campaigns, with not a few Zulu ribbons
among them, one marvelled at the skill and strength with which the old
fellows wielded pick and shovel. They could not march any great
distance, and we helped them along in motor buses; but once set them
down by their tracks, though the road might be chaos and the
shell-holes innumerable, obstacles were cleared away, holes filled up,
and the new surface well and truly laid with a magical rapidity....
The idea of taking shelter never seemed to occur to them; they openly
rejoiced at being under fire.... Perhaps though they mended our roads
and gave us easy walking, they helped us most by the quiet
steadfastness of their example. One never saw them toiling away in the
deathtrap of the Ypres salient without realising that they were the
fathers of our generation, men who had already spent themselves in
Britain's cause when we were children, and had now come out to serve
her again, at her call, and to watch how we young ones played up."

Some more recent notes from G.H.Q. dwell warmly on the invaluable
services rendered by the Labour Corps in the Battle of Cambrai,
November, 1917, in the defensive battle of last spring, and in the
autumn attacks which ended the war. In the Cambrai attack the Labour
men were concentrated 1,000 yards behind the line, so as to be ready
for immediate advance. A light railway was run into Marcoing within
twenty-four hours of its capture, and another into Moeuvres under
heavy fire, while the approaches to the bridges over the Canal du Nord
were carried out by men working only 1,000 yards from the enemy
machine guns posted on one of the locks of the Canal. In the
withdrawals of last March and April, throughout the heavy defensive
fighting of those dangerous weeks, no men were steadier. Theirs was
the heavy work of digging new defence lines--at night--with long
marches to and from their billets. Casualties and wastage were heavy,
but could not be helped, as fighting men could not be spared. Yet the
units concerned behaved "with the greatest gallantry." "One company,"
says a report from G.H.Q., "worked day and night in a forward
ammunition dump for three days, and then marched seventy miles in six
days, working a day and night in another ammunition dump on the way,
with no transport but one G.S. wagon to help them; in their
retirements, effected as they were with almost no transport, they lost
practically all their equipment, and yet without getting time to rest
and re-equip, they had to be moved at once to work on defence lines."

The total number of Labour men employed in stemming the German rush on
Amiens, by the construction of new lines of defence, was no less than
62,000--two-thirds, nearly, of the whole British Army at Waterloo!

Then, when our counter-attack began, the task of the Labour men was
reversed. Now it was for them to go forward, well ahead of the
reserves, and some 1,000 yards ahead of the skilled transport troops
and the construction trains that were laying the line for which the
Labour men prepared the way. Death or wounds were always in the day's
risks, but the Labour men "held on." By this time there were 350,000
men under the Labour Directorate--a force about equal to our whole
Territorial and Regular Army before the war. They were a strange and
motley host!--95,000 British, 84,000 Chinese, 138,000 Prisoners of
War, 1,500 Cape Coloured, 4,000 West Indians, 11,000 South African
natives, 100 Fijians, 7,500 Egyptians, 1,500 Indians--so run the
principal items. The catalogue given of their labours covers all the
rough work of the war household. They were the handy men everywhere,
adding on occasion forestry and agriculture to their war-work, and the
British Labour battalions were, of course, the stiffening and
superintending element for the rest.

In the handling of the Coloured Labour Units there were naturally many
new and occasionally surprising things to be learnt by the British
soldiers directing them. A party of Nagas, for instance, were among
the Indian Labour Units. "They were savages from a country which has
only recently been brought thoroughly under British rule," writes an
officer of the A.G.'s department. "Their pastime is head-hunting, and
their 'uniform' when at home is that bestowed on them by Nature. They
were extraordinarily cheerful, willing workers, and gave no trouble at
all. The trouble of providing the special kind of food which in
general the natives of India require, was entirely absent in the case
of the Nagas. They have a strong liking for rats, and the only food
they object to is monkeys. A company of Nagas, about May, 1917, after
the advance at Arras in April, were sent up to somewhere near Boisleux
to bury dead horses. The dead horses were disposed of--but not by
burial. And in addition an Infantry Brigade in the neighbourhood had
soon to mourn the loss of all their dogs."

The Chinese were a constant source of amusement and interest to the
British. All that neatness and delicacy of finger which is shown in
Chinese art and hand-work, the infinite pains, the careful finish
which the Chinaman inherits from his age-long, patient past, were to
be seen even in the digging of trenches. Their defence lines were a
marvel of finish, in spite of the fact that in hard manual labour they
were ahead of any other unit--shifting, often, 240 cubic feet of soil
per day, per man. As porters, too, they were beyond rivalry; and their
contempt for the German prisoners' capacity in this direction was
amusing. A Chinese coolie, watching two prisoners handle a stack of
cased goods, could not at last contain himself. He walked up to them,
saying: "Hun no damn good," and proceeded to show them how it should
be done. The stolidity of the Chinaman is generally proof against
surprise, but some of those coming from the backwoods of Northern
China were occasionally bewildered and overwhelmed when set down amid
the amazing and to them terrifying wonders of the "back" of a European
Army. One company of such men arrived at their appointed camp, and the
next day there was a fight with enemy aeroplanes overhead. One of the
poor coolies was so terrified that he went and hanged himself, and the
rest could only be pacified with great difficulty. On the other hand,
a flying officer once offered a ride to a Chinese ganger who, with his
men, had been doing some work on an aerodrome for the R.A.F. "The
ganger went up with glee; and the pilot's feelings may be imagined
when, at a good height, he looked round and saw the ganger standing
up, as happy as could be, looking over the edge and pointing down to
the camp where his company lived, and other landmarks he was able to
recognise."

       *       *       *       *       *

Of the noble army of women, who, since 1917, have formed part of that great
force behind the fighting lines I have been rapidly sketching--what shall
one say but good and grateful things?

In 1917, as our car wound through the narrow streets of Montreuil, I
remember noticing a yellow car in front of us, unlike the usual Army
car, and was told that it contained the new head of the Women's Army
Auxiliary Corps, and that 10,000 women were now to be drafted into
France, to take the place of men wanted for the fighting line. And a
little later at Abbeville I found General Asser, then Inspector-General
of the Lines of Communication, deep in the problems connected with the
housing and distribution of the new Women's Contingent. "Two women
want the accommodation of three men; but three women can only do the
work of two men." That seemed to be the root fact of the moment, and
accommodation and work were being calculated accordingly. Then the
women came, and took their place in the clerical staffs of the various
military departments, of Army or other Headquarters, in the Army
canteens, in the warehouses and depôts of the ports. It is clear that,
during the concluding year of the war, they rendered services of which
British women may reasonably be proud; and in the retreat of last
March, by universal testimony, they bore themselves with special
coolness and pluck. Many of them were suddenly involved in the rush
and confusion of battle, which was never meant to come near them. They
took the risks and bore the strain of it with admirable composure. The
men beside whom they marched or rode when depôts canteens, and
headquarters disappeared in the general over-running of our fighting
lines, took note! It was yet another page in that history of a new
Womanhood we are all collaborating in to-day. And I will add a last
touch, within my personal knowledge, when in January, at Montreuil, in
a room at G.H.Q., an officer of A. described to me how he had recently
interviewed a gathering of women belonging to Queen Mary's Auxiliary
Army Corps, and had asked them whether they wished to be immediately
demobilised. Almost without exception the answer came: "Not while we
can be useful to the Army." They had enlisted for the war; the war was
not over, in spite of the Armistice; and, though it would be pleasant
to go home, they still stuck to their job.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus hastily I have run through the labour of various kinds which was
the base and condition of the fighting force. I have left myself room
for only a few last words as to that Directing Intelligence which was
its brain and soul--_i.e._, the Staff work of the Army--from the
brilliant and distinguished men at General Headquarters immediately
surrounding the Commander-in-Chief, down to the Brigade and Battalion
Staffs, the members of which actually conduct the daily and nightly
operations of war from the close neighbourhood of the fighting line.
In a preceding chapter I have given a general outline of the duties
falling to the Staff of the First Army in the attack on the Hindenburg
line. The range and variety of them was immense. But their success, no
less than the success of the campaign as a whole, depended on the
faithful execution of all the minor Staff work of the Army, from the
battalion upward. The skill, precision and personal bravery required
from the officers concerned are not as much realised, I think, as they
ought to be by the public at home. An officer engaged as a
Brigade-Major in the fight on the Ancre, September, 1917, has written
me a detailed account of four days' experience in that battle,
involving the relief of one brigade by another, and a successful but
difficult attack, which gives a vivid idea of Staff work as carried on
in the actual fighting line itself. We see, first, the night journey
of the four infantry battalions and their machine-gun company and
trench-mortar battery, from Albert to Pozières by motor-bus, then the
four-mile march of the troops in darkness and rain along a duck-board
track, to the trenches they were to relieve. The Brigade-Major
describes the elaborate preparation needed for every movement of the
relief and the attack, and the anxiety in the Brigade Headquarters, a
dug-out twenty feet below the ground, when the telephone--which is
constantly cut by shell fire--fails to announce the arrival of each
company at its appointed place. Presently, the left company of the
battalion on the left is missing. In the darkness, and the congestion
of men moving up to and back from the trenches on the narrow track,
clearly something has gone wrong. The Brigade-Major sets out to
discover the why and wherefore. The attack is to start at 6 A.M., and
from 9 P.M. till nearly 5 A.M.--that is, _for close on eight hours_,
the Brigade-Major is up and down the track, inquiring into the causes
of delay--(a trench, for instance, has been blown in at one point, and
the men forced into the mud beside it)--watching and helping the
assembly of the troops, and "hunting" for the company which has not
arrived, and is "apparently lost." About five he returns to his
brigade, hoping for the best.

Then, half an hour before the moment appointed for the advance, "we
heard a bombardment starting. The enemy had either discovered the hour
of our attack, or were about to attack us." The Brigadier and his
Brigade-Major anxiously go up to the top of their dug-out to survey
the field. It is clear that the British line is being heavily
attacked. Messages begin to arrive from the battalion commander on the
left to say that all communication with his companies has now been
cut. The commander on the right also rings up to report heavy
casualties. Then the telephone wires on both sides are broken, and the
Staff signal officer goes out to repair them under fire. At last,
precisely at the moment appointed, five minutes past six, in the rainy
autumn dawn, our own guns--an enormous concentration of them--open a
tremendous fire, and the earth-shaking noise "helps men to forget
themselves, and go blind for the enemy." Then steadily the artillery
barrage goes forward, one hundred yards every four minutes, and the
infantry advance behind it, past the German front trench, to a ravine
about three hundred yards further, which is known to be strongly held.
The final objective is a strong German position protecting a village
in the valley of the Ancre.

Meanwhile, in the headquarters' dug-out, messages come pouring in "by
telephone, by lamp-signal, by wireless, by pigeon, by runners, and
reports dropped from aeroplanes." The progress of the battle is marked
on the maps spread out on a table in the dug-out, and the Brigadier
has to decide when his reserve battalion must be sent forward to
assist. Information is scanty and contradictory, but "at half-hourly
intervals the situation, as we believed it to be, was telephoned to
our Divisional Headquarters and to the brigades on either flank."
Reports come in of success at certain places and a check at others;
also of a German counter-attack. All reports agree that casualties
have been heavy. The ravine, indeed, has been taken with seven hundred
prisoners, but the situation is still so obscure that "the Brigadier
sent me out to find out the real situation."

"So I started out with an orderly." The direct route to be taken was
under fire and had to be circumvented. "I was making for an old
dug-out in a small ravine, where some men of our left attacking
battalion had suffered heavily whilst assembling prior to the attack.
The area was still being shelled, and we made a bolt for the dug-out,
which we reached safely." In the dug-out is the commander of the
support battalion, who reports that the commanders of the attacking
battalions have gone forward to the big ravine. "I found out all I
could from him, and then went forward with him to the ravine." On the
way the Staff officer notices that the wire entanglements in front of
the German trenches are still formidable and have not been properly
cut by our artillery. "When we reached the big ravine we crawled down
the steep bank to the bottom of it, and the first sight that we saw
was the entrance to a German dug-out, with its previous occupants
lying at the mouth of it.... I then found the commander of the left
attacking battalion, who had established his headquarters in an old
German dug-out." From him the Brigade-Major hears a ghastly tale of
casualties. Not a single officer left, with any of his four attacking
companies! Yet in spite of the loss of all their company officers, and
of the fact that the left company of the battalion had been
practically wiped out before the attack started, the greater portion
of the battalion, led by their regimental sergeant-major, had reached
their final objective.... "It was certainly," says the Brigade-Major
quietly, "a very magnificent performance."

Meanwhile he finds the commander of the right battalion further up the
ravine. The greater portion of the support battalion is also in the
ravine. Here there were elements of three battalions, considerably
disorganised, suffering from want of sleep and a terribly hard time.
The commanders, dead beat, want reinforcements, and take a pessimist
view. The Brigade-Major, coming fresh, thinks, on the contrary, that
there are already too many men on the ground, who only want
reorganising. To satisfy himself he goes forward, with the adjutant of
the right battalion, to find out "exactly where our leading troops
were and in what condition."

    "I satisfied myself of the exact situation, and having visited the
    troops of the brigades on both flanks, went back to the ravine,
    and from one of the battalion headquarters telephoned to my
    Brigadier and told him what I had found out. I mentioned that both
    the battalion commanders said they needed more troops to reinforce
    them, but added that in my opinion there were already sufficient
    troops on the spot, and that all that was necessary was that they
    should be placed under the command of one officer, and reorganised
    by battalions, to hold their present positions. I told him
    everything I knew, and tried to give him a good idea of the
    condition of the troops on the spot. He then sent orders to me
    that the senior battalion commander was to assume command of all
    troops on the brigade front, and that under his orders they were
    to be reorganised into battalions and companies, in order that the
    defence should be as strong and efficient as possible. I then
    returned to Brigade Headquarters to tell my Brigadier more fully
    what I had seen."

The following night the brigade was relieved, after what was on the
whole a very successful action. All the officers responsible for its
Staff work seem to have been on duty, without rest or sleep, for some
thirty-six hours, and after the attack was over there were still
German prisoners to be examined.

Such is Staff work in the actual battle-line. What it needs of will,
courage, and endurance will be clear, I think, to anyone reading this
account, and the experience may be taken as typical of thousands like
it at every stage of the war, so long as it was a war of trenches and
positions. And what is also typical is that while the personal risks
of the writer are scarcely hinted at, his mind, amid all his cares of
superintendence and organisation, is still passionately alive to the
individual risks and sufferings of his comrades. He ends on what he
calls "another small point which deserves mention":

    "When the officers and men of those two attacking battalions lay
    in the mud on that pitch-black night, soaked to the skin and
    shivering with cold, as they lay there waiting for the awful hour
    when it seems as if horror itself has been let loose, and as they
    wondered in their own minds what lay before them, gradually the
    German bombardment started, and then by degrees increased in
    intensity, until for fully thirty minutes before zero hour it
    became perfect hell. Every one of those officers and men, without
    a doubt, realised that the enemy had discovered that he was going
    to be attacked, and that he would be on the alert and waiting for
    them. Yet did any one of them falter, did any one of them for a
    single moment dream of not starting with the rest of his comrades
    and doing what he knew it was his duty to do?"

    "I only know two things: Firstly, that a very great number of
    them, if not all, realised only too well that the enemy had
    discovered our plans; and, secondly, that the only ones who did
    not start were those who could not, because they had been either
    killed or wounded."

And now turn with me to the top of all--the General Staff of the Army
in France--the brain of the whole mighty movement. It was with no
light emotion that I found myself last January, on a bitter winter
day, among a labyrinth of small rooms running round the quadrangle of
the old Ecole Militaire at Montreuil, while they were still full of
Staff officers gathering up the records of the war. Here, or in the
Staff train moving with the Commander-in-Chief along the front, the
vast organisation of battle culminated in a few guiding brains from
which energising and unifying direction flowed out to all parts of the
field of war. Here were the heads of Q., of A., of G.--in other words,
of Supply, Reinforcement, and Operations. In a bare room, with a few
chairs and tables and an iron stove, the Director of Operations was at
work; close by was the office of the Quartermaster-General, while up
another staircase and along another narrow passage were the quarters
of the Adjutant-General; and somewhere, I suppose, in the now historic
building, was or had been the office of the Commander-in-Chief
himself. The Intelligence Department was not far off, I knew, in the
old town; I had been its grateful guest in 1917. The directing
Intelligence of the Army flowed out from here to the front, while from
the front, at the same time, there came back a constant stream of
practical knowledge and experience, keeping the life of G.H.Q.
perpetually fresh, correcting theory by experience and kindling
experience by theory. The complexities and responsibilities of the
work done were vast indeed.

    "At any time," says an officer of the General Staff, "during the
    operations of the past year, work was commenced here in the
    office, or on the train, when G.H.Q. was advanced nearer the
    battle-line, at any hour before nine o'clock. The work to be done
    consists, in general terms, of co-ordinating all the arrangements
    for the operations undertaken and carried out by the several
    armies; the issuing of general orders and instructions for
    operations, the details of which were worked out by the armies
    concerned; the issuing of orders for the movement of divisions, of
    artillery units, cavalry, and Tanks--in fact, all the different
    services which go to make up the Army. These orders must be so
    arranged as to fit in with the roads and railway facilities, or
    the mechanical transport available, and must be so couched as not
    to interfere or clash with arrangements made by the armies in the
    Army areas. This necessitates very intimate _liaison_ with the
    armies and with the departments concerned. Maps have to be kept up
    to date, showing the dispositions of troops at all times, both on
    the battle-front and in back areas.

    "In addition, there are the arrangements with our Allies, the
    fixing of areas between ourselves and our Allies, and between our
    own armies and the lines of communication. During operations
    messages have to be sent out giving information of the situation
    to the troops, to the public, and to the War Office at home.
    Schemes are worked out beforehand to deal with any possible
    eventuality, so that in the event of a hostile attack the movement
    of troops may be carried out with the least possible delay.
    Similar schemes are worked out for operations to be undertaken by
    ourselves, and methods of attack are thrashed out in consultation
    with the Army Commanders and Staff. The various details of this
    work fill in the day very thoroughly. This office (of Operations)
    rarely closes before midnight, and the principal officers are
    frequently at work until the small hours of the morning. There is,
    of course, an officer on duty all night.

    "During the German attack in March the officer responsible here
    for the movement of troops by rail did not leave the office even
    for meals for a number of days on end."

So the long ascent climbs, from the humblest platoon in the field,
through company, battalion, division, corps, and Army to the General
Staff, and the British Commander-in-Chief, moving and directing the
whole; with beyond these, again, as the apex of the great
construction, the figure of the illustrious Frenchman, who for the
last six months of the war, by the common consent of the Allies, and
especially by the free will of England and her soldiers, held the
general scheme of battle in his hands. In the British Army what we
have been watching is an active hierarchy of duty, discipline,
loyalty, intelligence--the creation of a whole people, bent on victory
for a great cause. Must it, indeed, vanish with the war, like a dream
at cock-crow, or shall we yet see its marvellous training, its
developments of mind and character, gradually take other shapes and
enter into other combinations--for the saving and not the slaying of
men?



EPILOGUE


_June 1st._

I have thus brought these rapid notes--partly of things seen, partly
of things read--to an end. They might, of course, go on for ever, and
as I write I seem to see rising before me those libraries of the
future, into which will come crowding the vast throng of books dealing
in ever greater and greater detail with the events of the war and the
causes of victory. But this slight summary sketch of the military
events, and especially of the final "effort" of England and the
Empire, in the campaign of last year, which I set myself to do, is
accomplished, however inadequately. Except, indeed, for one huge
omission which every reader of these few pages will at once suggest. I
have made only a few references here and there to the British Navy.
Yet on the British Navy, as we all know, everything hung. If the Navy
could not have protected our shores, and broken the submarine peril;
if the British Admiralty had not been able to hold the Channel against
the enemy and ward him off from the coasts and ports of France; if the
British ships and British destroyers had not been there to bring over
70 per cent of the American Armies, and food both for ourselves and
the Allies; if the sea-routes between us and our Colonies, between us
and the East, could not have been maintained, Germany at this moment
would have been ruling triumphant over a prostrate world. The
existence and power of the Navy have been as vital to us as the air we
breathed and the sun which kept us alive, and the pressure of the
British blockade was, perhaps, the dominating element in the victory
of the Allies. But these things are so great and so evident that it
seemed in this little book best to take them for granted. They have
been the presuppositions of all the rest. What has not yet been so
clear--or so I venture to think--to our own people or our Allies, has
been the full glory of the part played by the Armies of the British
Empire in the concluding phases of the war. The temporary success of
the German sortie of last spring--a mere episode in the great
whole--made so deep an impression on the mind of this nation, that the
real facts of an _annus mirabilis_, in their true order and
proportion, are only now, perhaps, becoming plain to us. It was in
order to help ever so little in this process that I have tried to
tell, as it appears to me, the end of that marvellous story of which I
sketched the beginnings in _England's Effort_.

These main facts, it seems to me, can hardly be challenged by any
future pressure from that vast critical process which the next
generation, and generations after, will bring to bear upon the war.
The mistakes made, the blunders here, or shortcomings there, of
England's mighty effort, will be all canvassed and exposed soon
enough. The process indeed has already begun. And when the first mood
of thankful relief from the constant pre-occupation of the war is
over, we may expect to see it in full blast. It would have been easy
here to repeat some of the current discontents of the day, all of
which will have their legitimate hearing in future discussion. But
this is not the moment, nor is mine the pen. We are but just emerging
from the shadow of that peril from which the British and Imperial
Armies--bone of our bone and flesh or our flesh--have saved us. Let us
now, if ever, praise the "famous men" of the war, and gather into our
hearts the daily efforts, the countless sacrifices of countless
thousands, in virtue of which we now live our quiet lives.

Nor have I dwelt much upon the terrible background of the whole scene,
the physical horror, the anguish and suffering of war. Our noblest
dead, to judge from the most impassioned and inspired utterances of
the men who have suffered for us, would bid us indeed remember these
things,--remember them with all the intensity of which we are
capable--but with few words. They never counted the cost, though they
knew it well; and what they set out to do, they have done.

Let us then, at this particular moment, dwell, above all, on _the
thing achieved_. To that end, a few colossal figures must still be
added to those already given. Since the beginning of the war, the
total forces employed by the British Empire in the various theatres of
war, have amounted to a total of _eight million, six hundred and
fifty-four thousand_ (24 per cent of the total white male population),
of which the United Kingdom supplied 5,704,416 (25.36 per cent), and
the Dominions, and Colonies, 1,425,864. The Indian and Coloured troops
amounted to 1,524,000. If the Navy, the Merchant Service, and the men
and women employed in various auxiliary military services at home are
added, the total recruiting effort of the Empire reaches to much more
than _ten millions_.

As to the financial part of this country in the war, by March 22nd,
1919, the war expenditure of Great Britain had reached a total of
£9,482,442,482, of which rather more than _two thousand five hundred
millions_ have been raised by taxation. Included in this total are
sums amounting to £1,683,500,000, lent to our Allies and Dominions.
For the total casualties of the war, in an earlier chapter I have
given the approximate figures so far as they can as yet be
ascertained, amounting to at least some _twenty millions_. At such
appalling cost then, in death, suffering and that wealth which
represents the accumulated labour of men, have the liberties of Europe
been rescued from the German attack. We are victors indeed; we have
won to the shore; but the wreck of the tempest lies all round us; and
what is the future to be?

It is four months now, since, in the splendid rooms of the Villa
Murat, I listened to President Wilson describing the sitting of the
Conference at which the Resolution was passed constituting the League
of Nations--four months big with human fate. The terms of peace are
published, and at the present moment no one knows whether Germany will
sign them or no. The League of Nations is in existence. It has a home,
a Constitution, a Secretariat. But the outlook over Europe is still
dark and troubled, and the inner League of Three is still the surest
ground in the chaos, the starting-point of the future. The Peace Terms
are no final solution--how could they be? On their practical
execution, on their adaptation year by year to the new world coming
into being, all will depend. German militarism has met its doom. The
triumph of the Allies is more absolute than any of them could have
dreamed four years ago. Nor can the German crime ever be forgotten in
this generation, or the German peril ignored. The whole civilised
world must be--will be--the shield of France should any fresh outrage
threaten her. But after justice comes mercy. Because Germany has shown
herself a criminal nation, not all Germans are criminal. That same
British Army which as it fought its victorious way through the German
defences in the last four months of the war, and, while it fought the
enemy, fed and succoured at the same time 800,000 French
civilians--men and officers dividing their rations with starving women
and children, and in every pause of fighting, spending all their
energies in comforting the weak, the hungry, and the sick:--that very
Army is sorry now for the German women and children, as it sees them
in the German towns. It is our own soldiers who have been demanding
food and pity.

The Allies, indeed, have been for some time sending food to their
starving enemies. Mr. Hoover--all honour to the great man!--is
ceaselessly at work. If only no hitch in the Peace interrupts the
food-trains and the incoming ships, so that no more children die!

Some modifications in the Peace Terms would, clearly, be accepted by
the public opinion of the Allied countries. No one, I believe, who has
seen the Lens district, and the deliberate and cruel destruction of
the French industrial north, will feel many qualms about the Saar
valley. We may hold a personal opinion that it might have been wiser
for France in her own interests to claim the coal only. But it is for
France to decide, and it will be for the League of Nations to watch
over the solution she has insisted on, in the common interest. But
concessions as to Upper Silesia and East Prussia would be received, I
have little doubt, with general relief and assent; and the common
sense of Europe will certainly see both the wisdom and expediency of
setting German industry to work again as speedily as possible, and of
so arranging and facilitating the payment of her huge money debt to
the Allies that it should not weigh too intolerably on the life of an
unborn generation--an innocent generation, who will grow up, as it is,
inevitably, under one of the darkest shadows ever cast by history.

Meanwhile now that the just and stern verdict of Europe has been given
on the war and its authors, the second and greater half of the Allied
task remains. Vast questions are left to the League of Nations,
outside the Peace; the re-settlement, politically, of large tracts of
Europe; the whole problem of disarmament, involving the future of
British and American sea-power; the responsibilities of America in
Europe; the economic adjustment of the world. But perhaps the greatest
problem of all is the ethical one. How long shall we keep our wrath?
Germany has done things in this war which shame civilisation, and seem
to make a mockery of all ideas of human progress. But yet!--we must
still believe in them; or the sun will go out in heaven. We must still
believe that in the long run hatred kills the civilised mind, and to
put it at its lowest, is a mortal waste of human energies. Has
Christianity, swathed as it is in half-decayed beliefs, any longer
power to help us? Yet whatever else in the Christian system is
breaking down, the Christian idea of a common fellowship of man holds
the field as never before. And both the Christian idea and common
sense tell us that till there is again some sort of international life
in Europe, Europe will be unsound and her wounds unhealed. We call it
impossible. But the good man, the just man, the merciful man is still
among us, and--

    "What he wills, he does; and does so much
    That proof is called impossibility."

MARY A. WARD.



APPENDIX[14]

A CHART OR DIAGRAM OF THE WAR PROM JANUARY, 1916, TO THE ARMISTICE,
WITH AN EXPLANATION

  [14] As I have already stated, in a footnote, I owe permission to
  publish this small reproduction of an interesting and unique
  document to the kindness of Lieut.-General the Hon. Sir Herbert
  Lawrence, K.C.B., etc., Chief of the General Staff.



APPENDIX

EXPLANATION OF CHART[15]

  [15] [My readers will be as grateful as I am to Captain W.O. Barton,
  lately at work at G.H.Q., for this vivid explanation of the Chart.]


THE CHART.--This Chart is a small scale reproduction of one used and
corrected from day to day at British G.H.Q. in France. It shows
graphically the actual position at any given date of the British
forces in FIGHTING STRENGTH, FRONT HELD, and HEAVY GUN POWER: when big
operations are in progress it gives at a glance the number of CASUALTIES
incurred and PRISONERS taken, perhaps the surest indication of the
measure of success gained. Owing to the size of the reproduction, the
horizontal scale lines of the original Chart cannot be given. To
calculate a number at any particular date from the Chart as reproduced,
it is only necessary to measure with a rule the height of the desired
line at the given date. Reference to the appropriate numerical scale at
the side will then give the number.

1916, STRENGTH AND FRONT.--Begin with the FRONT and FIGHTING STRENGTH
lines. The _Strength_ line tells the Commander his actual numbers (by
reference to scale 2), but he needs more. He looks at the line
representing _Front_ and marks the proportion it bears to _Fighting
Strength_. Measure these lines in mid-June, 1916. Since January, FRONT
(scale 1) has expanded by about one-fifth--from 67 to 90 miles. The
Chart shows the reason. But meanwhile _Fighting Strength_, then the
vital factor for attack, has risen from 470,000 to 680,000, nearly
one-half. The Army has been built up by new Divisions for the great
Somme offensive.

CASUALTIES.--The battle opens. The red line of casualties leaps into
prominence and, with its ascent, STRENGTH falls. Reinforcements are
needed. They arrive to replace casualties, and STRENGTH goes up again.
So through the long conflict these lines act and react. Ground is won,
but hardly and at great cost: the ascent of the Front line is slow.

PRISONERS.--What are the enemy losses? How are his men fighting? The
PRISONERS line (scale 5) tells best. Gradually the proportion of
prisoners to (British) casualties increases: his casualties are
growing, his resistance becoming less effective: the wearing-out
process tells. Mark the concluding phases of the Somme battle. The
PRISONERS line is nearer to that of casualties. The Tank has been
introduced, and here is ocular evidence of its effectiveness. More
tanks is one of the lessons of the lines.

1917, ARRAS.--The Somme fighting ends. Again our armies are built up,
until the 760,000 point is reached. FRONT, increased to nearly 120
miles by a relief of French troops, falls again to 105, owing to the
German retirement about ARRAS. Heavy guns have increased from just
over 300 to 1,500. Again our armies are ready, and the Battle of ARRAS
opens the ALLIED SPRING OFFENSIVE. It is immediately effective, for
casualties never reach the same height as in the Somme, and prisoners
are much more numerous. The lines for the two battles show the
difference vividly. But mark the big curve downward of the STRENGTH
line. Casualties are now not so easily replaced.

MESSINES, YPRES, PASSCHENDAELE.--Before STRENGTH is fully restored the
Messines ridge is rent with mines (June 7th) and taken. July is
devoted to preparation: STRENGTH reaches its zenith, guns still
increase, and on July 31st the Battle of YPRES opens the great
northern offensive. Fighting is bitter, and more costly than at Arras;
CASUALTIES are at first high in relation to prisoners, but the
PRISONERS line, as in the Somme, but more consistently, tends upward.
The German is not "sticking" the terrible conditions and fierce
fighting so well as the Britisher.

CAMBRAI.--Then, in December, comes our surprise attack at Cambrai: it
is effective, for PRISONERS nearly approaches CASUALTIES. LINE
increases, owing to the salient formed by the British advance. Then,
the _German_ counter-attack, with CASUALTIES high, PRISONERS few, and
LINE decreasing. The Germans have reduced the salient made by our
attack.

ITALY'S PLIGHT.--But meanwhile, the enemy has struck at Italy, and
Italy, reeling under his blows, is clamant for aid. Division after
Division hurries off! STRENGTH falls, never again to ascend. The
handicap is permanent.

1918. With STRENGTH almost at its lowest since 1916, after a year of
ceaseless fighting and heavy casualties, with five Divisions diverted
to Italy, miles of FRONT have to be taken over from the French. Line
held reaches its maximum, 130 miles. _Fighting strength_ has fallen by
mid-March--when Divisions have been reorganised from 12 to 9
battalions, owing to the dwindling of reinforcements--to 580,000.

THE GERMAN THRUSTS.--The Chart has shown when we might attack. Now it
gives the warning to expect attack. Now, if ever, is Germany's moment,
and her first great blow falls on March 21st--the thrust at Amiens.
CASUALTIES soar to a height never before approached. The red line
predominates--STRENGTH falls and falls. Divisions are summoned from
Italy and Egypt. The second German blow falls on the Lys. CASUALTIES
are again immense, though not so high as in the first attack. STRENGTH
falls again. The Lys salient increases the line held, but by the end
of May the Line is firm throughout. Some few thousand Americans for a
time reinforce the war-weary British Divisions; but the Portuguese
cease to be reckoned in our _fighting strength_, though still in
France. Reorganisation follows. STRENGTH is built up a little, though
CASUALTIES are still heavy. The IXth Corps is fighting fiercely on the
French Front to stem the Paris Thrust in May, and four British
Divisions help in Foch's July counter-thrust. Guns, despite our losses
to the enemy, have again increased. Guns are now more easily replaced
than men.

THE FINAL PHASES.--Then the final phase. With decreased FIGHTING
STRENGTH but with abundant GUNS (and, be it added, Tanks), we strike
our first great blow in the Battle of Amiens on August 8th. STRENGTH
falls abruptly, CASUALTIES are many, but high above the casualty line
soars--for the first time--the line of PRISONERS. The toll taken of
the German armies increases, as Bapaume and the Scarpe swiftly follow
Amiens.

THE VITAL LINE.--Now the PRISONERS line has become vital. Consider the
position in December before what is, perhaps, the decisive battle of
the world war, the breaking of the Hindenburg line. GUNS are ever
increasing, LINE has fallen somewhat, but lower even than in the dark
days of spring has fallen the line of FIGHTING STRENGTH. To the
General, studying this line alone, attack upon a position vaunted as
impregnable would seem sheer madness. But he sees the Chart as a
whole, with the PRISONERS line dominating everything in its sustained
height. The enemy's total casualties are incalculable; never have ours
been so few in comparison with prisoners taken: the hammering of
previous years has borne fruit: the German _morale_, such is the
lesson of the line, has gone irretrievably.

THE GREAT DECISION.--So, despite his own weakness, despite heavy
losses not made good, the Commander takes the great decision and
stakes all. He strikes, lets loose the tempest of his guns, and his
infantry, diminished but indomitable, sweep through the vast
fortresses of the Hindenburg line, hurl the enemy from defence after
defence, pass from victory to victory.

Such is the story of the Chart.





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